The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.
Before the entrance of evil there was peace and joy throughout the universe. So long as all created beings acknowledged the allegiance of love, there was perfect harmony. But a change came over this happy state. There was one who perverted the freedom that God had granted to His creatures. Sin originated with him who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God and was highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven. Lucifer, "son of the morning," was first of the covering cherubs, holy and undefiled.
In great mercy, according to His divine character, God bore long with Lucifer. God permitted him to carry forward his work until the spirit of disaffection ripened into active revolt. It was necessary for his plans to be fully developed, that their true nature and tendency might be seen by all.
Then there was war in heaven. The Son of God, the Prince of heaven, and His loyal angels engaged in conflict with the archrebel and those who united with him. The Son of God and true, loyal angels prevailed; and Satan and his sympathizers were expelled from heaven.
Even when he was cast out of heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy Satan. The inhabitants of heaven and of the worlds, being unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then have seen the justice of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted out of existence, some would have served God from fear rather than from love. The influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been utterly eradicated.
The Father and the Son consulted in regard to carrying out at once the mighty, wondrous work they had contemplated—of creating the world.
As the earth came forth from the hand of its Maker, it was exceedingly beautiful. Its surface was diversified with mountains, hills, and plains, interspersed with noble rivers and lovely lakes. Graceful shrubs and delicate flowers greeted the eye at every turn. The air was clear and healthful. The angelic host viewed the scene with delight, and rejoiced at the wonderful works of God.
After the earth with its teeming animal and vegetable life had been called into existence, man, the crowning work of the Creator, and the one for whom the beautiful earth had been fitted up, was brought upon the stage of action. "So God created man in His own image... male and female created He them." Though formed from the dust, Adam was "the son of God." He was holy and happy, bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will.
In six days the great work of creation had been accomplished. And God "rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made."
Our first parents, though created innocent and holy, were not placed beyond the possibility of wrongdoing. They were to enjoy communion with God and with holy angels; but before they could be rendered eternally secure, their loyalty must be tested. The tree of knowledge, which stood near the tree of life in the midst of the garden, was to be a test of their obedience and their love to God. While permitted to eat freely of every other tree, they were forbidden to taste of this. Satan could have access to them only at the forbidden tree.
So long as they remained loyal to the divine law, their capacity to know, to enjoy, and to love would continually increase. They would be constantly gaining new treasures of knowledge, discovering fresh springs of happiness, and obtaining clearer and yet clearer conceptions of the immeasurable, unfailing love of God.
No longer free to stir up rebellion in heaven, Satan's enmity against God found a new field in plotting the ruin of the human race. In the happiness and peace of the holy pair in Eden, he beheld a vision of the bliss that to him was forever lost. Moved by envy, he determined to incite them to disobedience, and bring upon them the guilt and penalty of sin. Thus he would not only plunge these innocent beings into the same misery which he was himself enduring, but would cast dishonor upon God, and cause grief in heaven.
Our first parents were not left without a warning of the danger that threatened them. Heavenly messengers opened to them the history of Satan's fall.
Satan commenced his work with Eve, to cause her to disobey. Entering the garden in the disguise of a serpent, he told her that God was mistaken, that the fruit of the forbidden tree would not bring death, but wisdom. Eve yielded to this lying sophistry. She ate the fruit, and realized no immediate harm. She then plucked the fruit for herself and for her husband. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."
Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God. He told Eve he was quite certain that this was the foe they had been warned against, and if so, that she must die. Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator—all were overborne by love to Eve. He resolved to share her fate; if she must die, he would die with her. He seized the fruit and quickly ate.
By their one sin in partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve opened the floodgates of death and untold woe upon the world.
The transgression caused a fearful separation between God and man. To Adam in his innocence was granted communion, direct, free, and happy, with his Maker. Heaven and earth had been connected by a path that the Lord loved to traverse. But the sin of Adam and Eve separated earth from heaven, so that man could not have communion with his Maker.
The Plan of Redemption
The fall of man filled all heaven with sorrow. The world that God had made was blighted with the curse of sin and inhabited by beings doomed to misery and death. There appeared no escape for those who had transgressed the law. Angels ceased their songs of praise. Throughout the heavenly courts there was mourning for the ruin that sin had wrought.
But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be redeemed. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son.
The plan by which alone man's salvation could be secured, involved all heaven in its infinite sacrifice. In grief and wonder the angels listened to His words as He told them how He must descend from heaven's purity and peace, its joy and glory and immortal life, and come in contact with the degradation of earth, to endure its sorrow, shame, and death. He must be delivered into the hands of wicked men and be subjected to every insult and torture that Satan could inspire them to inflict. He must die the cruelest of deaths, as a guilty sinner. He must endure anguish of soul, the hiding of His Father's face, while the guilt of transgression—the weight of the sins of the whole world—should be upon Him; yet few would receive Him as the Son of God.
Adam and his companion were assured that notwithstanding their great sin, they were not to be abandoned to the control of Satan. The Son of God had offered to atone, with His own life, for their transgression.
The sacrifice demanded by their transgression revealed to Adam and Eve the sacred character of the law of God; and they saw, as they had never seen before, the guilt of sin and its dire results. The sacrificial offerings were to be to man a perpetual reminder and a penitential acknowledgment of his sin and a confession of his faith in the promised Redeemer. They were intended to impress upon the fallen race the solemn truth that it was sin that caused death. To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take life, which only God could give. It was the first time he had ever witnessed death, and he knew that had he been obedient to God, there would have been no death of man or beast. As he slew the innocent victim, he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. And he marveled at the infinite goodness that would give such a ransom to save the guilty.
But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose. The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin.