Grace and Government With Adam

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In Genesis 3 we find man a sinner — a ruined, guilty, naked sinner. But here, too, we find God in grace, to remedy the ruin, to cleanse the guilt, to clothe the nakedness. All this He does in His own way. He silences the serpent and consigns him to eternal ignominy. He establishes His own eternal glory and provides both life and righteousness for the sinner — all through the bruised seed of the woman. Now, this was grace — unqualified grace — free, unconditional, perfect grace — the grace of God. The Lord God gives His Son to be, as “the seed of the woman,” bruised for man’s redemption — to be slain to furnish a robe of divine righteousness for a naked sinner. This, I repeat, was grace of the most unmistakable nature.
But then, be it carefully noted that, in immediate connection with this first grand display of grace, we have the first solemn act of divine government. It was grace that clothed the man. It was government that drove him out of Eden. “Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we have an act of purest grace. But then we read, “So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Here we have a solemn act of government. The coat of skin was the sweet pledge of grace. The flaming sword was the solemn ensign of government. Adam was the subject of both. When he looked at the coat, he could think of divine grace; when he looked at the sword, he was reminded of divine government.
How was it that the Lord God drove out the man, if he had previously forgiven him? Grace forgives, but the wheels of government roll on in all their terrible majesty. Adam was perfectly forgiven, but his sin produced its own results. The guilt of his conscience was removed, but not the “sweat of his brow.” He went out pardoned and clothed, but it was into the midst of “thorns and thistles” he went.
It too frequently happens that grace and government are confounded, and as a necessary consequence, grace is robbed of its charms, and government is shorn of its solemn dignities; the full and unqualified forgiveness of sins, which the sinner might enjoy, on the ground of free grace, is rarely apprehended, because the heart is occupied with the stern enactments of government. The two things are as distinct as any two things can be, and this distinctness is as clearly maintained in the third chapter of Genesis as in any other section of God’s inspired Word. Did the “thorns and thistles” with which Adam found himself surrounded, on his expulsion from Eden, interfere with that full forgiveness of which grace had previously assured him? Clearly not. His heart had been gladdened by the bright beams of the lamp of promise and his person clothed in the robe which grace had fashioned for him, before he was sent forth into a cursed and groaning earth, there to toil and struggle, by the just decree of the throne of government. God’s government “drove out the man,” but not until God’s grace had pardoned and clothed him. That sent him forth into a world of gloom, but not until this had placed in his hand the lamp of promise to cheer him through the gloom. He could bear the solemn decree of government in proportion as he experienced the rich provision of grace.
C. H. Mackintosh (adapted)