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THE TREE OF LIFE.
GENESIS, 11. Part of Verse 9.
The tree of life also in the midst of the garden.
Some arguments were offered upon a former occasion, tending to prove that the garden of Eden, laid out and planted by the hand of the Almighty, for the habitation of our first parents in a state of innocence and felicity, was of a figurative and sacramental nature; that, like the temple under the law, and the church under the Gospel, it was, to its happy possessors, a place chosen for the residence of God; a place designed to represent and furnish them with ideas of heavenly things; a place sacred to contemplation and devotion.
Among the objects presented to us, there is one, which, though then taken into the general account with the rest, may seem to claim a more particular attention. It stands conspicuous in the Mosaic description, the capital figure in that beautiful piece. It is said to have been placed in the centre of Eden, like the sun of the little system, and bears a name sufficiently calculated to awaken curiosity. The inspired historian having informed us, that “the Lord
“God caused to grow out of the ground every tree “ that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food;" every thing in the vegetable way either useful or ornamental, adds—“ The tree of life also in the inidst “ of the garden.”
Life, we know, as it relates to man, is twofold; that of the body and that of the soul; animal and spiritual; temporal and eternal. Each requires to be supported by a nutriment adapted to its nature, and supplied by something external to itself. The food of the body is, like the body, material, and cometh out of the earth; the food of the soul is, like the soul, spiritual, and cometh down from heaven. The tree of life was, doubtless, a material tree, producing material fruit, proper, as such, for the nourishment of the body. The question will be, whether it was intended to be eaten, in common for that end alone; or whether it was not rather set apart, to be partaken of, at a certain time or times, as a symbol or sacrament of that celestial principle which nourishes the soul unto immortality; meaning, by that term, not a natural immortality, or bare existence, but that divine, spiritual, eternal life, which was lost by the fall, and the restitution of which is now " the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
If it be supposed that the tree of life was designed solely for the support of the body of man, there will appear no reason for its being distinguished, as it is, by its appellation, from the other trees of the garden, which were all, in that sense, equally trees of life, being, as we are told, “ good for food.” And, indeed, the matter seems to be clearly determined
otherwise, by the twenty-second verse of the third chapter, where we find fallen man excluded from Paradise, “lest he should put forth his hand, and “ take also of the fruit of the tree of life, and eat and
live for EVER“.” Immortality, therefore, was to have been obtained, according to God's original appointment, by eating the fruit of the tree of life; not, surely, as the Jews idly talk, by any medicinal quality or virtue, preserving the eater from sickness and death, neither of which, by the way, was in the world, till introduced by sin. No; the thing speaks itself. A material tree could only confer eternal life as a divinely instituted symbol or sacrament; as “outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace,
given to Adam, as a means whereby he was to re“ceive the same, and a pledge to assure him there“of.” Hereby he would be continually reminded of the truth communicated to him, without all doubt, from the beginning; that there was another and a better life than that led by him in the terrestrial and figurative Paradise; a life on which he was to set his affections, and to which he was to look as the end, the reward, the crown of his obedience; a life supported, as it was given, by emanation from that Being who only bath life in himself, and is the fountain from which, in various ways, it flows to all his creatures. Of Him, as the glorious sun of the intellectual world, and of his gracious gift, streaming, like light through the heavens, to enliven and bless the spiritual system, the tree of life, with its fruit, in the
midst of Eden, is apprehended to have been ordained as an instructive and comfortable symbol; that so a memorial of his abundant goodness might be shown upon earth, and new created man might sing of his righteousness.
The sacramental designation of the tree of life in Paradise, may be farther evinced, perhaps, by a passage or two in the book of St. John's Revelation. “ To bim that overcometh,” says the Captain of our salvation, “ will I give to eat of the tree of life, " which is in the midst of the Paradise of Godb." And again" Blessed are they that do his command" ments, that they may have right to the tree of " life.” By "eating of the tree of life in the Para“ dise of God,” is here evidently meant a participation of eternal life with God in heaven. Of this eternal life, the faithful followers of their great Leader are to be put in possession, as the reward of their labours, when those labours shall have been accomplished; when they shall have walked to the end of their journey in the path of Christ's commandments, and shall have finally overcome their spiritual enemies. May we not, therefore, by parity of reason, infer from hence the signification and intent of the tree of life in Eden? By means of that sacrament, had Adam gone happily through his probation, and persevered in obedience unto the end, he would have been admitted, in the kingdom of heaven, to that state of eternal life with God for which he was always designed, and of which Paradise was the
c Rev. xxii. 14.
b Rev. ii. 7. VOL. II.
earthly resemblance. He would have been removed from the shadows of this world to the realities of a better. His removal must have differed in the manper of it, from that in which we now live, or ought to live, in expectation. Without sin, death could have had no power over him. He would have been translated alive, as Enoch and Elijah, for particular pure poses, afterwards were. The change would have been wrought in him at once, as it was in them, and as it will be in those who shall be found alive at the coming of our Lord to judgement.
When transgression had subjected Adam to a sentence of condemnation, the case was altered. Glory and immortality could no longer be obtained upon the terms of the first covenant, now broken and void. The very attempt became criminal. Man was to be put under a new covenant, and in a new course of trial. He was to suffer in the flesh for sin, and to pay the penalty of death. But, through the merits of a surety, that death was to be made the gate of immortality. By faith he was to acquire, upon the mediatorial plan, a fresh right or power to eat of the tree of life, and live for ever, after the resurrection from the dead, with his propitiated and reconciled Maker. In mercy, therefore, he was exclụded from the garden of Eden, and from the original symbol of that eternal life, which was now to be sought after by other means, and represented by other sacrą, ments. He was sent forth into the world, to pass his time in toil, pain, and sorrow; in mourning, con: trition, and penance; till death should set him free, and introduce him to the joys purchased and pre