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REIGN OF DEATH.

BROTHER E. E. HAWKINS, of Kentucky, has requested our views on Rom. v. 14. “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”

In presenting the deliverance of the church from the dominion and wrath of the law, and establishing her justification upon the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle in this place dwells with great beauty and comfort on the two headships - Adam and Christ. The fact being established that Adam was a type of Christ, by the record handed down of the creation of the world, that God made man in his own likeness, image, &c., and that that image was not in all its bearings completed until man had followed the woman in the transgression, and had “become as one of us,” knowing good and evil. Had the likeness in which Adam was created consisted, as some have supposed, in righteousness and true holiness, he would have been spiritual, and consequently immutable; and therefore could not have fallen. He was never designed to be like his Maker in the peculiar perfections of the divine nature, for that would have been to make him a god and not a man. Nor could he have been like God in point of holiness, as immutability, omnipotence, eternity and self-existence are essential attributes of the Holy One; these holy qualities man did not originally possess; and the apostle Paul, inspired by God himself, declares that Adam was not spiritual. By the terms likeness of God, and image of God, we are therefore to understand that Adam is the figure of him that was to come. An image or likeness is a figure or type; the terms in this case are perfectly synonymous, and are used as convertible terms throughout the scriptures.

The two very lucid communications in this number on this part of our subject, written by brethren Flint, of Ohio, and West, of Pennsylvania, will supercede the necessity of our tracing the general analogy of the figure. It will suffice, in this place, to repeat what has often been insisted on in our paper, viz: that Adam, as the head and representative of all the human race, comprising the entire family of mankind in himself as he came from the hand of his Maker, was a lively figure of that spiritual Head and representative of the whole spiritual family which were created in him; who in a spiritual life is the beginning of the creation of God, and the first-born of every creature; and who being set up - from everlasting, did contain in himself a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, to which people the Psalmist says he has been a dwelling-place in all generations, even from everlasting, &c. As therefore all the natural life of all his posterity was created in Adam, and all the long succession of generations down from him to the end of time will develop or bring into formation no more human beings or life than what were created in Adam, so neither will length of days, use of means, or powers on high, or powers below, bring forward one single soul, in the scale of spiritual being, that was not fully represented in Christ before the heavens were garnished by his hand; or one particle of spiritual life, light, joy or faith that was not hid with Christ in God from the ancients of eternity. Therefore in regard to the people of God, when they are born into this world by ordinary generation they are quickened into that natural life in which they were created and represented in the natural Adam; but when they are born again they are quickened by extraordinary generation by the Holy Ghost, with spiritual life, in which they were created in Christ Jesus before the world began. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” “As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”

In the subject under consideration the apostle shows the application of the atonement to all the spiritual seed of Christ, by the figure of Adam’s involving his whole natural posterity in death by his transgression. “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For until the law sin was in the world, (that is, prior to the giving of the law by Moses,) but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Is it not easy to perceive the design of the apostle’s argument in this connection? To Adam God gave a law in the day of his creation, describing the extent of his liberty, and the penalty for exceeding such limitation. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” As we have shown that all the natural seed, or human family, were in the loins of Adam when he was created under the law, when he received the law, and when he transgressed the law, so we prove that all the human family were created under that law, they all received it, they all transgressed it, and consequently death passed on them all, because all had sinned.

“Death was the sentence - death began
To take possession of the man;
His unborn race received the wound,
And heavy curses smote the ground.”

Those who lived from Adam to Moses were sinners, and subject to and under the reigning dominion of death, although they had not personally sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; and this was a proof that all were involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin, for until, or before, the law, which Moses gave, sin was in the world; but as sin could not be imputed where there was no law, the imputation of sin and death to them anterior to the law by Moses, shows their identity with Adam in the sin and in the curse. By the similitude of Adam’s transgression, we understand the likeness, or in the same manner; for it was beyond the power of man, from Adam to Moses, to sin as Adam sinned. Where there is no law there can be no transgression. To understand correctly a similitude, we must examine the original. Adam’s sin consisted in a transgression of a law which God had given him in express terms. “Thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” With a perfect understanding of this law, (for Adam was not deceived,) he ate of the forbidden fruit; but from Adam to Moses, (a lapse of about 2300 years,) neither the law that Adam had transgressed, nor that which Moses brought, had been by any authorized proclamation enjoined on the sons of men. That given to Adam was for a test of creature perfection; it had accomplished this, and there remained no further necessity for its promulgation. Hence the very existence of sin and death in the world from Adam to Moses established the point for which Paul contended, viz: that they were not held under the reigning power of sin and death by personally eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but that by one offence, many were made sinners, and by the disobedience of one man, &c. The original transgression of Adam was therefore the transgression of all his natural seed, and the dreadful sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” was as emphatically passed on all that Adam represented as on himself personally.

The apostle further continues the subject in this chapter, showing that the Sinai covenant, or the law of Moses, was not added either as a test of creature excellency or as a way of life; for all human excellency was prostrated in the original violation of divine authority, and man irretrievably (by human power or providence) consigned to the curse and to the dark domain of death. But Paul adds, “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound,” &c. Not that offences might abound, nor that man should become a greater sinner. There could have been no call for such an entrance; but as by the law is the knowledge of sin, so the law which was given on Sinai, which Paul says was holy, just and good, showed that we were carnal, i. e., fleshly, or having a fleshly nature derived from Adam, and consequently sold under sin. Hence also the law, emanating from and being, to some extent at least, a transcript of the perfections of God, shows sin to be exeedingly sinful, as the plumb-line and the rule will show the imperfection of a defective piece of work. The plumb-line does not make the work or building disproportionate, but shows the enormity of the fault. Thus also in the christian’s experience, “I was alive once without the law; but when the commandment came, sin revived (or abounded) and I died.” “I had not known sin except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Finally, in the concluding clause of the text, the apostle gives us to understand very definitely the object of his tracing so minutely all the prominent features of the man Adam, as the head of mankind, viz: he is the figure of him that was to come. As he and the natural posterity which he represented could not be separated in the transgression, guilt and consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, so neither is it possible to divide between Christ and his spiritual seed, body, bride, or church; and as the one offence of one man, legally representing all natural men, involved them, legally, justly and indiscriminately, in the ruin of his apostacy, so the obedience of one, even the man Christ Jesus, as necessarily, as legally, and emphatically must extend deliverance to all the spiritual family.

From the letter of brother Hawkins, which we intend to publish hereafter should opportunity serve, we conclude there is some difference between us and some of our western brethren on the subject of the headships, and of the seeds which they respectively represent. Where our Lord says that certain characters are not of God; that they are from beneath, of their father the devil, &c., we understand him to speak not of their creation; but of the spirit by which they are actuated, and of their spiritual relation to the prince of darkness; of their utter destitution of any part or lot in the provisions of the gospel, or the inheritance of the saints. Serpents, vipers, goats and wolves are used figuratively to set forth their fixed opposition to God and the economy of his grace. And when our Lord says, “I am from above, and my kingdom is from above, Jerusalem which is above or coming down from God out of heaven,” &c., he alludes to the spiritual life and grace given to the people of the saints in him before the world began. Both the elect and reprobate of mankind are on an even level in their Adamic natures, hence their bodies are alike corruptible; but the heaven-born child is born of God; a life which is hid with Christ in God is communicated to him, Christ dwells within him the, hope of glory. All others of the human stock are under the influence of that spirit which is from beneath; and the ministers of anti-christ are from these considerations called the angels of the devil, the children of the devil, serpents, scorpions, vipers, &c.

ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
April 1,1840.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 602 – 607