Georgetown, Ky., Jan. 1, 1862.
"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." Rom. v. 14.
BROTHER BEEBE: - By the request of a highly esteemed brother I hereby submit the following remarks on the foregoing text of scripture for publication in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, provided you deem it expedient to publish them.
In this fifth chapter to the Romans the apostle exhibits two respective heads of families, and though different in many respects, one is the figure of the other; and as they differ in so many particulars, he may be considered a figure by way of contrast. Each one is called ADAM in the scriptures. One is denominated the first Adam, the other the second Adam. The first is not so called because of priority of existence, but because he was first developed here; for the second was before all things, and by him all things consist. Our text brings to view in the first place one of the consequences of the act of the first Adam. In the twelfth verse it is said, "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." The little adverb so shows how death passed upon all men. How was it? Why, by one man sin entered into the world, and as death is the effect or consequence of sin, so, just that way, death passed upon all men. The thirteenth verse reads, "For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law." Sin could not be in the absence of law, for, "where no law is, there is no transgression." "Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses." Now, death could not reign in the absence of sin, because it is the effect of sin, and no effect can occur without a cause to produce it; and sin, the cause of death, could not exist in the absence of law; (as sin is the transgression of the law.) Hence, it is evident that the law given to Adam stood in all its force from him to Moses; and therefore, it is equally clear that this one man's transgression or sin, from that very circumstance, fell like a death-pall upon all his unborn progeny then and there embodied in him, and so death reigned from Adam to Moses when the law was more fully proclaimed and its justice and terror more gloriously displayed amid the flaming lightning, rumbling thunder, lowering smoke, and convulsive quaking of Mount Sinai. "When lust is conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death;" and thus death reigned from Adam to Moses.
"Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." Theologians differ on this portion of the text; and of course I must differ with some; and I know not but that my views are peculiar to myself, or nearly so, and hope they will be strictly compared with the standard of truth. Some contend that the expression alludes exclusively to infants, that they are those who did not sin after the similitude of Adam's transgression. That infants are included in the number is readily admitted; but that no others are included I cannot concede for a moment. The question is, who ever did, since Adam, sin after the similitude of his transgression? By taking a scriptural view of the subject, I think it will appear evident that none since him have ever sinned after that similitude. Let us look at his case. There he stood before his Creator in all that primeval state of uprightness in which he came from the hand of his Maker, who pronounced him "very good." While occupying that exalted state of innocence, a law, high and holy as he, was given him, securing to him innumerable blessings and privileges while loyal, with but one prohibitory clause, by the violation of which he hurled himself with all the myriads of his unborn lineage in him, down from that state of innocency into the dismal vortex of sin and death. That act was the forfeiture of his life, and of the life of all his posterity in him, for it was previously said to him, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Death signifies a separation, and this separation was Adam's death. He did not die a spiritual death, as some say; this could not be, because he "was not spiritual, but natural." His death, then, consisted in his separation from God in that day when he partook of the forbidden evil. He is driven out of Eden to wander in transgression and sin, or in other words, "Dead in trespasses and sins;" and as it is an item in the law of God that the soul that sinneth shall die, we soon hear the annunciation of his Creator in the awful sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." His transgression then consisted in stepping out of a state of complete uprightness into one of sin and depravity, by violating the plain prohibitory clause of the law of his God, bringing upon himself and all his then fallen family death with all its woes. None since him have ever stood in that exalted position; none could thus fall when all were already down, and therefore none could sin after the similitude of his transgression, and the inevitable consequence was death reigned from Adam to Moses over them all.
The reign of death between Adam and Moses was conspicuously displayed "when God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually;" and therefore "bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly," exhibiting but a part of the sad and awful picture of the dominion of death in its reign from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, or, in other words, over them all.
"Who is the figure of him that was to come." This figure next claims our attention, and it has been so frequently discussed through the press, in the pulpit, and in social circles, demonstrated by intellectual abilities so far superior to mine, that it will not be expected that I can reflect any new light on the subject. One prominent feature in the figure is, that he was the head and embodiment of all his natural family, as the substance is the head and embodiment of all his spiritual family. They are both frequently spoken of, too, by many, as representatives. Indeed, the expression "head and representative" is so often used that I know not but it may be called a "hackneyed" phrase. Now, that Adam and Christ were the heads, and each the embodiment of his offspring, is, in the light of scripture, as clear as a sunbeam; but that either, (as the term is used and understood by many,) is a representative, is to my weak capacity about as clear as mud. I believe that neither is thus denominated in the scriptures. I have heard it argued that we were not to suppose that Adam's family really existed in him, that our standing there was only a representative one. Convince me that that is a fact, and then I will be an advocate for infantile purity. Adam was placed under a law, and I cannot conceive how his violation of that law as an individual representative could criminate any but himself. Can our representative in Congress or the State Legislature criminate us by an unlawful act? Suppose he perjures himself in taking his oath of office, does that perjure us? By no means. So with Adam; had he been but a representative, his violation of the law could not have involved all his progeny in guilt, nor could David have said with propriety, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" nor that, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." The fact is that we all as really sinned in Adam, having our life-existence in, and being the component parts of him, as did Levi pay tithes in Abraham, being in his loins when Melchisedec met him. As by the disobedience of one many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Thus the figure stands; we were in and one with Adam, and therefore his sin is ours; we were in and one with Christ, and therefore his righteousness is ours. But again, dispersed as we are over the face of the earth, we are still in Adam - are but Adam multiplied. For, "in the likeness of God made he him, male and female created he them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created." Hence it is, that our natural life is still in Adam - our sin is in Adam, and in Adam all (his posterity) die. And so with the substance: In Christ we have our spiritual life, our righteousness is in him, and, "in Christ shall all be made alive." But, although there are striking similitude’s in the figure and substance, there is a vast contrast between them. By one fell act, Adam the first entailed upon all his children all the curses and misery that flesh is heir to, involved them deeply in debt with nothing to pay, reduced them to the most degraded state of abject slavery, incarcerated them in a doleful prison-house, and bound them there with the manacles of sin to groan and writhe and wail beneath the intolerable burden, remediless, helpless, hopeless.
By the glorious deeds of the second Adam he entailed upon all his children all the spiritual blessings and heart-soothing joy of an eternal and incorruptible inheritance, he removed the dreadful curse, by being made a curse for them – canceled their enormous debt, he breaks the yoke of bondage and snaps asunder the fetters of sin that bind them in the dungeon of death, and lets them go free; then binds up the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and announces the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn.
By the disobedience of the first Adam all his children are lost in the desert, goaded by thorns and pierced by the thistles while entangled in a waste howling wilderness, exposed to roaring winds and raging tempests, in a parched ground and a thirsty land, scorched beneath the burning sunbeams, without a shelter or a shade.
By the obedience of the second Adam the lost is found and saved, the wilderness and solitary place is made glad, the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose, the parched ground becomes a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; and this man becomes a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land to shelter them from the weltering sunbeams, and the boisterous tempests.
Following in the wake of the first are the degraded fruits of "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings." &c. Ranged along the pathway of the second are the dulcified fruit of "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, faith, temperance; against such there is no law." The first sinks his children into a horrible pit and miry clay, where all is toil and misery, and such toil as sinks them deeper and deeper into the sickening quag, and where not even a requiem is heard to indicate the smallest respite. The second takes his children up out of the horrible pit and miry clay, sets their feet on a rock, establishes their goings, and puts in their mouth new anthems of joy and songs of praise to their great Deliverer. We accompany the first to the threshold of desolation, who opens wide the gate that leads to destruction, launches us into the dreary regions and environs us with the walls of desolation. Borne by the second we are carried to the gates of the paradise of God, the everlasting doors are uplifted, and the King of glory enters with his heavenly train into the celestial mansions; he environs us there with the palisades of safety, the walls of everlasting salvation. In the regions of the first stalks the gaunt ghost famine, or flung into the air are the pestilential vapors, or walking in our midst is the cruel god of war. In the presence of the second is a blissful abode; no famine is there, for the undiminished plenitude of boundless grace perpetuates a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees well refined. No pestilential vapors shall ever pollute that salubrious climate. "And the inhabitants shall not say, I am sick."
"No chilling winds or poisonous breath,
Shall reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more."
The angry clouds of war shall never lower over to darken the lucid plains, but the bright sheen of eternal glory emanating from the SUN of Righteousness will forever illuminate the Lamb-like myriads, and bless them there with the smiles of perpetual peace.
Thus hath God displayed the glory of his justice in the condemnation, and that "by one man's disobedience," of all his children; and the riches of his grace "by the obedience of one" in the free justification of all his children; and the sum of the whole is, "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Yours, as ever,
J. F. JOHNSON.