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THE TREE OF LIFE.
MY DEAR FRIEND, In the last letter which I addressed to you, I proposed to consider in one or two following letters, the spiritual intent of the two allegorical trees, which Jehovah Aleim planted in the garden which he prepared for the reception of his rational creature, man. As I contemplate Paradise and all its scenery in the character of an allegory, the two trees which are particularly specified, appear as the principal features of that allegory.
The subject of this letter is the allegorical intent of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The account given in Genesis is very sho
short: For when the historian had related the plantation of that Garden, and the removal of Adam into it, he only adds, “ And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; THE TREE OF LIFE ALSO IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
The word life is here plural, as it is also in the account given (verse 7) of the production of man: and if, in the latter case, the use of the plural number may be considered as describing man in his animal and rational capacities; perhaps it is used, when attributed to this lifegiving tree, with a reference to the support it was intended to afford both to the body and soul
It has been supposed by some learned men, that a peculiar virtue was communicated to this tree, so that its fruit was adapted to prolong life. But I see no reason for such a supposition. It was I conceive, like "the Tree of knowledge of good and evil,"* a sacramental tree, or an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, ordained by God himself, and given to Adam as a means whereby he was to receive that grace, and a pledge to assure him thereof. To what species the tree belonged, it is in vain to inquire, as it is not revealed; and the information, could we obtain it, would be of little value; I shall not therefore trouble you with the conjectures which have been formed on the subject.
In prosecuting our inquiry respecting the symbolic character of the Tree of Life, we shall consider what was its object as it stood in the Garden of Eden during the period of man's
* See the following Letter.
innocence ;-and then, the design of its introduction in subsequent Scriptures, or, the instruction it was intended to afford to us, since the fall of our nature in the first Adam.
With the name by which this tree is distinguished, we may compare other things to which the same attribute is given in Scripture. There we read of “living,” or rather life-giving “bread,” and of “living,” or life-giving“ water.” The mystery of this epithet evidently lies in this, that, as bread and water are necessary to the life of the body, so the things signified by these symbols are essential to the life of the soul. The animal life of our first parents was to be supported by the fruits of Paradise; and by the appropriation of this Tree to a special purpose they were taught, that what the Tree represented was indispensable to spiritual life and the continuance of its enjoyment.
To eat of the fruit of this tree, then, was an act of obedience to the revealed will of God, and stood connected with man's own eternal interests. God seems to have said to them though not in words, “This do in remembrance of me,-of what I have done for you, of the relation in which I stand to
of your entire dependance upon me for life and breath and all things. While eating, sacramentally, of this food which I have prepared for your use, you will have a continual pledge of my favour, and the means of perpe
tuating its enjoyment, by resisting temptation to disobedience, during your period of probation in this earthly paradise ; and that, when this period is expired, I shall raise you to a state of more exalted happiness in nearer communion with myself, where the fruits of Eden shall be no longer necessary to the sustentation of animal life, nor sacramental tokens for maintaining the life of the soul."
But you may ask, of what, in a closer view of the subject, was this Tree the symbol? In answer to this question Moses has given us no information in his very concise memoirs, the Spirit of Inspiration intending that we should interpret the more obscure parts of Scripture by others which are more explicit, or, in other words, that we should “ compare spiritual things with spiritual.” The science of Divinity calls for attention and study in common with every other science. The New Testament, then, sheds light on the words of Moses by its allusions to the Tree of Life, which it invariably introduces as a symbol of CHRIST.
What, you may further ask, had Adam to do with a symbol of Christ, before his fall? I reply, the Tree of Life was a symbol of the ALEIM, and especially of the second person, not in the character which he now bears of the Redeemer,*
* 138, or Katape, as St. Paul calls him, Gal. iii. 13. more on this subject in Letter XIX.
but as one of the covenanting THREE IN ONE, by whom and for whom all things were created, and by whom all things consist. (Col. i. 16, 17.) The word Aleim, the plural name of God the Creator, implies a covenant between the parties described by it,* and this covenant was in operation, in one of its two forms, during the state of innocence; p and doubtless Adam was made acquainted with its tenour. It was perhaps, in consequence of this knowledge that he and his guilty partner, after the fall, sought refuge in the midst of the Tree | OF THE GARDEN, under its
* See Letter XIX.
t “ That the great progenitor of mankind himself might, in his state of innocence, be indulged in still higher privileges (viz. than those to which the other patriarchs were admitted) even so far as to have been allowed an intimate knowledge of the nature of that awful Being in whose august image he is said to have been formed, is a supposition at which neither piety nor reason will revolt. The supposition will be still more readily acquiesced in, when what I have elsewhere remarked shall have been fully considered, that, in that pure primeval condition of man, his faculties were better calculated, than those of his fallen posterity, to bear the influx of great celestial truths, and that profound meditation on the Divine perfections at once formed his constant employment and constituted his sublimest delight." Maurice's Indian Antiquities. Vol. iv. p. 20.
# The word pv Tree, in this passage, is in the singular number, and seems to point out some particular Tree; and whither is it probable that the criminals would fee but to the refuge of that tree, which had been Divinely denominated “ the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden?” The feminine 1789 is used in a collective sense; but I am not aware that the masculine py is so used. It may also be remarked, that dan is constantly