The old word spoken to the father of the race was "have dominion." (Gen. 1:28) In the midst of a wondrous creation God set man. The creation in which man found himself had not yet realized all the possibilities of its own being. It waited the touch of man in cooperation with God for that realization. God put man into a garden to dress it, and to keep it. The preparation of man's work was of God, the creation of the worker was of God, there was perfect fitness between the work to be done, and the workman prepared, and while man lived in fellowship with God, and cooperated with God, all creation recognized his leadership, yielded to his dominion, and moved along the line of a new progress towards a yet more wondrous beauty and perfection.
These truths are yet evidenced by the power of man even in a fallen condition. All the cultivation of flowers, all the inventions of science, are in the last analysis, but man's cooperation with God, issuing in new forms of beauty, and fresh forces of utility. A very simple illustration in floral culture is that of the chrysanthemum. But a very few years ago it was looked upon as an old-fashioned garden flower, very sweet, but very simple. Today it is one of the most gorgeous and marvelous of decorative blossoms, so beautiful in the length and delicacy of its petals, so poetic in its restless waviness of beauty, and so splendid in its possibility of color, that it has well been described as "a rose gone wild with joy." (Dr. Joseph Parker) The possibility of this beauty always lay within the modest garden flower, and the development thereof has been wholly due to man's discovery of certain laws of Nature, which laws are eves the thoughts of God.
So also in the realm of scientific discovery. Let a map of the world be taken, and let the hand be placed upon the centers where such discoveries have been made, and it will invariably be found that the hand is resting on a land where the light of the Christian revelation has most brightly shined. These things but go to prove that it is in cooperation with God that man is capable of highest activity, because in cooperation with God he realizes the perfection of character. UNFALLEN MAN, THEN, WAS A BEING LIKE GOD, IN THE ESSENTIALS OF HIS NATURE, IN THAT HE WAS A SPIRIT HAVING INTELLIGENCE, EMOTION, AND WILL. UNFALLEN MAN REALIZED THE HIGHEST POSSIBILITY OF HIS BEING IN A LIFE OF PERSONAL FELLOWSHIP AND COOPERATIVE ACTIVITY WITH GOD.
There yet remains one other fact to remember, concerning the unfallen condition of man. He was placed in circumstances of probation. That is to say, the stronghold of his nature was his will. It was for him to choose whether he would abide in that relation to God, which would ensure his fullest realization of possibility, or whether he would by severance from God encompass his own ruin. It was a terrible and awful alternative. Yet unless it were offered to man, the highest fact of his being would be atrophied, for will power, having no choice, ceases to be of value. Thus in the garden of his activity God marked the limit of his possibility by two sacramental symbols. Both were trees. The one was the tree of life, (Gen. 2:9; Prov. 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4 and Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19) of which he was commanded to eat. The other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, (Gen. 2:9) which was forbidden. Between these lay an endless variety of which he might or might not eat, as pleased himself. Of the tree of life he must eat, and thus he was reminded, in a positive symbol, of his dependence for the sustenance of his being upon God. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was forbidden to eat, and thus he was reminded of the limitation of his freedom within the government of God. Finite will is to be tested, and it will stand or fall as it submits to, or rebels against the Infinite Will of the Infinite God. Thus unfallen man was a being created in the image of God, living in union with God, cooperating in activity with God, having the points of the limitation of his being marked by simple and definite commands laid upon him, gracious promises luring him to that which was highest on the one hand, and a solemn sentence warning him from that which was lowest on the other. He was a sovereign under a Sovereignty, independent, but dependent. He had the right of will, but this could only be perfectly exercised in perpetual submission to the higher will of his God. The whole fact is summarized concerning essential human nature in the exquisite couplet,
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours to make them Thine." (Tennyson)