"And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."—Gen. 5:21-24
Enoch is one of this world's representative men. It is written of him by the writer of Genesis, that he was not found amongst the dead; it is written of him by the writer to the Hebrews, that he was "translated that he should not see death." Such a contingency could never have befallen any man who was not essentially a representative of his race, could never have been attributed to any man who had not impressed his race with a sense of his representative character. In the world of literature, in the world of philosophy, in the world of morals, there are men who, spiritually speaking, may be said to have been translated that they should not see death, but these have all, without exception, been representative men. Time has not touched their fame, their eye is not dim nor their natural strength abated, but that is because their lives were universal lives. They were not men of a party, of a sect, of a school. They did not walk round the mere environments of their subject of study. They did not occupy themselves with the ephemeral and accidental questions which floated in their contemporaneous atmosphere; they laid hold of that element in their atmosphere which was to constitute the breath of every life and to form the being of every time. By that grasp of the universal in humanity, they being dead are yet speaking.
But just because the representative men of the world have refused to occupy themselves with the accidental questions ot their own day, they have incurred the fate involved in Mr. Carlyle's aphorism; they have had short biographies. Let us look at this man Enoch as his figure looms down upon us through the mist of six millenniums. He stands amidst a group of antediluvians but his form is easily distinguishable from all beside. He is unquestionably and confessedly the hero of the band, the one life amongst them whom posterity has judged worthy to inherit everlasting youth; but this is on the heavenly side of his being. When we look at the earthly side we are impressed with a contrast between him and his contemporaries of a totally different kind. From the spiritual standpoint Enoch is the greatest man of the band, but from the earthly standpoint he is the least; he has a short biography. The test of earthly greatness in that day was the duration of years, and measured by that test, Enoch sinks far beneath his contemporaries. He cannot touch the longevity of the Adams, the Seths, the Cainans, the Methuselahs; his life embraces but a golden year of circling suns. The measurement of the man must be estimated on other grounds than those of duration, and his greatness must be determined by another standard than that of the world. His physical life is weaker than all the physical lives around him. The days of his earthly pilgrimage reach not to the days of those who went before nor of those who followed, yet he has an immortality that belongs not to them; he is not found among the dead.
Now in all this there is. nothing accidental; it is the law of the spiritual life in every age. The leading men of the world have from the physical side had the least eventful lives. In the earliest recorded history of the human race the thought appears with marked emphasis. The opening chapters of Genesis contain the narrative of two contemporaneous orders of human life; they are called in that record respectively the Sons of God and the Sons of Men, but we of modern times should best describe them as the men of matter and the men of spirit. The one race is represented by Cain, the other is prefigured in Abel, and even in their first representatives their distinctive marks appear. "Cain" means possession; "Abel" signifies vanity; the one typifies the fulness of worldly gain, the other represents the sense of worldly emptiness. All down the stream of the antediluvian centuries the characteristics of these races are manifest. All the historical interest centres in the sons of Cain. They are the inventors of musical instruments, the forgers of brass and iron, the discoverers of a mode of architecture, the initiators of an art of poetry, the earliest builders of walled cities; they laid hold of the civilization of this world and therefore they have deservedly the higher place in the world's history.
With the order of Abel, on the other hand, it is all the reverse. The men of this school make no figure in the world and do not seek to make any figure. We know nothing about them but their names and genealogies. Whatever eventfulness belonged to their lives must have been an eventfulness of spiritual experience; it does not manifest itself on the surface. Their life is a hidden life; the changes and revolutions of their being are all within, and just because they are subsisting on that which is universal to humanity there is nothing in experience which can catch the historian's eye.
I. We have implied that in the lives of these representative men the absence of an outward eventfulness may be at once supplied and explained by an eventfulness of inward experience. Now, in the case of this man Enoch, it is emphatically so. Brief as is the record of his life it is long enough to give us a glimpse behind the scenes, and in the case of a representative man it is only behind the scenes that any one cares to see. The whole narration of his history is summed up in the simple words of a single sentence—"And Enoch lived sixty and five years and begat Methuselah; and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred year? and begat sons and daughters." Yet in that artless and primitive narrative, so simple, so compressed, so unadorned, there is revealed a volume of rich human experience. We are made to see that in the heart of this uneventful life there was indeed transacting one of the most marvellous events which the universe can ever witness—the birth of a human soul from darkness into light. It is by no accident that after the close of the first sixty-five years the words "Enoch lived" are changed into the words "Enoch walked with God;" it is the expression of a great and solemn fact which sooner or later every spiritual man must learn.
It tells us that to this man there came that time which comes to every developed soul when the life of the vegetable is transformed into the life of the human, when the man ceases to be a mere living and breathing apparatus, and begins to manifest himself as a working force and power. For five and sixty years—the period, let us say, of an antediluvian youth—Enoch simply lived. He grew, as the plants grew, by the force of a spontaneous nature unconscious of its own native majesty. He entered into relation with the physical world, and had no glimmering of a suspicion that there was aught within him which had a right to transcend that world; through all these years he was but of the earth earthy. But at the end of these years there came a change, and from the manner in which the dates are marked we may infer that it was a sudden change. Had it been gradual it would have been no more possible to have fixed its year than it is possible to fix the year when the natural child becomes the natural man. How it came we know not; whether it was suggested by circumstances from without, or whether it arose incomprehensibly from within, we have not the data to determine. When a soul is ready to take fire a very slight external cause will be sufficient to ignite it—a cause which for any incombustible spirit would be simply non-existent.
Probably to the eyes of his contemporaries the change in the life of Enoch had that look of unaccountability which we call madness. It matters not; the important question is not its cause, but its nature. It is described in the narrative of Genesis as the transition into a new world, a spiritual world, a world incapable of being perceived by the merely physical life; for sixty-five years he had lived, for the next three hundred years he was to walk with God. He had been in union with the region of the five senses, and he had asked for nothing more, but now there were opening within him new senses leading into other regions—an eye that was cognisant of a light which never shone on land or sea, an ear which caught the sound of a music unutterable by earthly voices, a heart which had wakened into thoughts which the human imagination had not conceived. He was beginning to seek for objects beyond experience, to set his affections on things above, to look towards a life which was unseen and eternal. In that hour, though he knew it not, he had entered upon the process of vanquishing death; the beginning of his translation was the hour of his walk with God.
II. Here, then, was a mystery in the life of Enoch, a mystery which is repeated in every regenerated life. But let us look deeper into the narrative before us, and we shall find, if possible, a still greater mystery. Previous to that day on which Enoch became the subject of a great spiritual revolution he had already begun to discharge the ordinary duties of a householder; he had become the educator of a family. When the spiritual change passes over him we expect to hear that he has abandoned these commonplace cares. We expect to hear that, after the manner of Eastern devotees, his walk with God has become a desertion of man. We look for his translation out of the world even before his death. When we are told that at a definite period of life he walks with God, or strikes out into a spiritual pathway, we fully expect the sequel to be that he walks no more with men and participates no longer in the ways of men; that is the sequel which Brahmanism, which Buddhism, which the great mass of Eastern religions would have deemed imperative.
But this man reverses all our expectations. He is not of the East Eastern; he is no Brahman, no Buddhist, no ascetic. He goes up into the life of God, to walk in the spiritual regions, and we expect to see him vanish in the clouds of heaven, but presently he re-appears in the world of men and resumes the life of common day. He ascends up into the mountain, but it is only to come down again into the valley perfumed with the fragrance of the mountain air. When the great spiritual change first comes to him it finds him engaged in the duties of a householder; when the great spiritual change is completed it leaves him resuming those duties. The three hundred years of his walk with God are years of family life; he brings up sons and daughters. His life in its outward aspect in no respect differs from the lives of those around him. His walk with God lies not over a different road from the common walk with men; the difference lies not in the road but in the companionship, not in the steps taken but in the spirit with which they are taken. Before he saw God he had a sphere in a human family; after he saw God he had still the same sphere. But it was no longer the same man that filled it, and therefore it was no longer filled in the same way.
The walk with God leads through the paths of earth as well as the paths of heaven, but he who has entered upon that walk can no longer separate these paths; the atmosphere of heaven penetrates everywhere. It does not unsphere the lives of men; it purifies the old spheres. It makes better fathers, better sons. It makes the soldier a more loyal soldier, the philosopher a more true philosopher, the legislator a more just legislator; the triumph of eternity is the sublimation of time. That is the great truth which Enoch was the first to see, the great truth which he was to make the distinctive principle of the coming Jewish nation. This man standing at the head of the stream is at once the representative and the prophecy of that which constitutes the genius of Judaism.
That religion, almost alone amongst the faiths of the East, maintains from beginning to end that the sacred has its province in the secular. It is a protest against the Brahman, against the Buddhist, against the ascetic of every age. In opposition to all theories of mysticism and transcendentalism, it declares that the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. It claims for God all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them: every government is His government, every law is His law, every political institution is an ordinance from Him. There is no difference between treason and impiety; there is no distinction between anarchy and atheism. God is not only the supreme ruler of the earth—He is the only ruler; He is without rival and without second. Therefore it is that to the Jew, that man who had most of the Divine life was the man who had the best right to fill the largest secular spheres.
Of all spheres that which he had most right to fill was the circle of family life, for the family was the beginning of the kingdom and the kingdom was the reign of the Theocracy. The goal of Jewish religion was morality, and the beginning of its morality was the life of home. The essence of Jewish religion was a walk, and the first steps of the walk were around the domestic altar. The sacred fire which illuminated the saints of the Old Testament burned not on the mountain-tops; it enshrined itself in the valleys of their lives. It lighted up the family circle, it warmed up the domestic duties, it irradiated the sphere of household commonplaces. It is not without significance • that when we would describe in a single word the greatest leaders of that primitive age we call them by the one name of patriarch or father.
III. But there is one other point of significance in this brief narrative of Enoch's life, and a point in which, more than all others, he stands out as a representative of his nation. We have seen that in him is first revealed that great principle of Jewish faith—the identity of religion with morality. We have now to see revealed in him that other characteristic doctrine of his race—the connection between morality and immortality. That connection is expressed in one pregnant utterance: "he walked with God; and he was not." We have nothing to do here with that in the narrative which is miraculous; we are concerned with that which is non-miraculous, representative, universal. We wish to find what is that element in the life of Enoch which has constituted to posterity the fact of his immortality. When we read this fifth chapter of Genesis we seem to be walking through a cemetery perusing the inscriptions on the antediluvian tombstones. Each life contains a common epitaph—a record of birth, parentage, and length of years, closed by the one universal statement, "and he died."
But here, in the midst of the cemetery, there is a vacant space where a tombstone was meant to be, and instead of the common inscription of death there are found the words, "he was not, for God took him." He was not; he never became a thing of the past, it always can be written of him—he is: such was the deep significance of the primitive epitaph on Enoch. It tells us that he is not numbered amongst the things that have been, that he has not passed away with the shadows of a bygone time, that he lives in a perpetual present, in an everlasting now, in an eternity of immortal youth; and then it completes the picture by declaring that this immortality was to him no accident, no capricious destiny, no arbitrary fate; that he received immunity from death just because there was in him that which could not die—" he walked with God, and he was not."
Now here is the great truth which the world in general has grasped, and which Judaism in particular has made her own—the connection between morality and immortality. To the consciousness of mankind the freshest and greenest thing in this world is the pure heart. It is independent of all time; it is independent of all space. When we meet it on the page of history we refer it to no age or clime; we accept it as a fact of humanity. The heroism of moral purity is never antiquated; it is always modern. The men who have walked through this world by the power of faith are, even in a spiritual sense, translated that they should not see death. They are not to us men of the past; we shake hands with them across the centuries as by the bond of a present continuity. They never recede with the years; they are as young today as they were a thousand years ago. The life which they lived was not the life of their time but the life of humanity. Their walk through the world was a walk with God, and the walk with God never becomes a beaten path; it is perpetually trodden, yet to every soul that treads it it is ever new. The man who treads that path is abreast of every age; it always can be said of him, he is!
Here, then, is the grand principle which Enoch bequeathed to the Jewish nation and to posterity—the power of. morality to transcend the limits of time. He taught by his life, he illustrated by the survival of his life, that the evergreen element of humanity is conscience, that marvellous power which, call it by what name you will, issues the categorical imperative, "thou shalt; thou shalt not." The one life amongst the antediluvians which does not come to us as an echo of the past, is that life which is a walk with God. Seth, and Enos, and Cainan may have been greater men as the world counts greatness, and their lives may have been more eventful to their day and generation, but for that very reason they are less eventful to humanity. The distinctive merit of Enoch weighed against his contemporaries is the fact that his life laid hold of that which belonged not to his age, nor to any age, but which constituted the basis of human nature itself; by this, he being dead yet speaketh. He bequeathed to his countrymen a revelation of the truth that morality is man's hope of immortality. Judaism appropriated that lesson, and in theory never swerved from it. Of a future state in itself she speaks little, and of the nature of the future existence she does not tell. But the one point which this religion grasps is the message borne down to her by the life of Enoch, that the way to escape death is the walk with God. "Who shall abide in His tabernacle, who shall dwell in His holy hill? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully; he that doeth thus shall never be moved." The one eternal object in this world to the heart of the Jew was the life of God; the very name of Jehovah means the Eternal. The one hope of human immortality to the heart of the Jew lay in union with this life of God; to walk outside of Him was to die, to walk with Him was to live for evermore. Where was the place of the dead he knew not nor cared to inquire; all he knew was that even from that region the Divine Omnipresence was not excluded: "If I make my bed in Hades, Thou art there." The problem for Judaism was to get near to God, to touch the secret of that Divine holiness in which lay the Fountain of life. To be holy as He was holy, to be pure as He was pure; to meditate on His law day and night; to keep His commandments one by one: that was the sum of her creed, that was the substance of her hope. Her religion was a walk with God, and the walk with God was the road to immortality.