teresting and instructive. “That it was the devil who tempted Eve, is acknowledged,” he says, “by all. It is the general opinion,”-the Rev. Dr. goes on,—“either that he entered into one of the serpents of the field, actuated its body, gave it speech, and made it his instrument in the temptation; or else that he assumed the form of one of them, and appeared in its likeness. Had either of these been the case, Eve could scarcely have failed to be surprised and terrified ; the serpents of the field were familiar to her: when she heard one of them speaking, and speaking rationally, she would immediately have run away, and knowing him only to be one of the brutes, she would not have easily allowed herself to be by him persuaded out of her obedience to God.

“Some are therefore of opinion, that the devil did not, on this occasion, either employ any of the brute serpents, or appear in the form of any of them. That he did, seems indeed to be implied in the words with which the history is introduced, Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field. But it seems to be implied in them only as they stand in our translation ; the original may with equal propriety be rendered, Now there was a serpent more subtile than any beast, or, than all the beasts of the field : * not one of the beasts of the field, but a being far more intelligent than any of them, than of them altogether, a being of a higher order, the devil.”—“But why does Moses call the devil a serpent, if he neither assumed the form of one, nor used one as his instrument? He might very properly call him a serpent, without any regard to his form, on account of his subtlety. It is common to express a rational being by the name of some animal to whose qualities his disposition bears a resemblance; there are instances of it in parts of Scripture not the most figurative ;t the serpent has been considered in all ages as an emblem of malice and cunning; the Scripture insinuates this very reason for giving the name to the devil; he is that old serpent called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”* In the same book he is also called a dragon; a mere fanciful animal, as we understand it; but we are doubtful of the nature of the creature referred to by this name in the original.† Dr. Gerard farther informs us, that in Scripture—“all the names of intellectual things and spiritual beings are figurative, being taken from those material and sensible things which hear an analogy to them.” When we read also of the fiery serpents which destroyed the Israelites, we are as much at a loss what to understand by them, for in the same place that the Hebrew word 'Wn737 ha nechashim (serpents) is used, the term D'Hw7 sera phimf (seraphs) is coupled with it as applying to them. Moses is commanded on that occasion to make 77w saraph,ş and it is afterwards said that he made wn) nachash, (a serpent,) as if they were intended to be convertible terms. Now, we understand an order of angels or angelic beings, by seraphs, and it is nowise improbable that what are called fiery serpents in the passage referred to, were powerful and supernatural agents of divine wrath, of a visible fiery appearance, or smiting with fire those they were sent against. Whatever was the actual form of the figure of brass made by Moses, it was an image which continued among the Jews for eight hundred years, and was worshipped by them until it was destroyed by Hezekiah.|| Our Saviour tells us that it was a type of himself, f and since it was so, it is more natural to believe it to have represented a seraphic Being than a serpent, which is typical of the foe of God and man. Painters have drawn the fiery serpents as reptiles with flames issuing from their mouths ; while, to complete them according to their own fancies, some have added wings to them, in the same manner as in a picture of the temptation of Eve, Fuseli has put on the serpent the head of a young man, with wings. The reptile is there of the size of a Boa constrictor, smiling to fascinate, and twisting round the fatal tree! With the same degree of attention to literal construction, such painters, if they intended to represent a scene in the land of Canaan, might characterise it, probably with equal truth, by a river of milk and another of honey, along with whatever else might in their ideas add to the effect. If the fiery serpents are to be considered literally, then we must suppose them to have had fire somewhere about them, or perhaps a luminous glow-worm sort of appearance; but very few will concur in this, if they consider well the scriptural style, and will rather fancy it to have been owing to their brilliant red colour, or the sense of heat arising from their bite, if they believe them to have been real serpents at all. From the term saraph being applied to them, Dr. Gerard supposes that in the temptation—“the devil probably appeared to Eve in the form of a seraph; she took him for an angel of light, conversed with him as such, and therefore listened to him without surprise, without suspicion, and was easily persuaded by him.”—“This supposition,” he adds, "agrees perfectly with the whole tenor of the history, and clears it from many

* Dr. G. justifies this interpretation still further in a note. # Matt. iji. 7.--xii. 34.-xxiii. 33.; Luke iji. 7.--xiii. 32.; Tim. iv. 17.

* Rev. xij. 9.
1 Numb. xxi. 6.
|| 2 Kings xviii. 4.

+ Chap. xx. 2.
§ Verse 8.

John iii. 14.

difficulties in which other suppositions have involved it.

“ If we consider the sentence as passed on the brute serpents, it is liable to endless difficulties, but if we consider it as respecting only the devil, it has great propriety and dignity. He appeared now, as he had appeared while tempting Eve, in the seraphic form. Upon thy belly shalt thou go; this is not meant against the brute serpents; it is not true of all of them, for flying serpents, it is said, continued to exist after this ; * of the other serpents, going on their bellies was essential from their construction. This figurative expression, at least one similar to it, is used elsewhere in Scripture, to signify a reduction to the lowest affliction : it is very deep affliction which the Psalmist intends to describe when he says, Our soul is bowed down to the dust ; our belly cleaveth unto the earth.t Its meaning is—Thou shalt be de

* Their existence at any time is very doubtful, and the creatures called so, are believed to have been quite distinct from the serpent tribe.

+ Ps xliv. 25.

graded from all thine original dignity and celestial glory, and reduced to an abject condition. And dust shalt thou eat, &c. signifying a state of bondage, captivity, and the lowest depression, such as Micah means when he says that the nations shall lick the dust like a serpent.* David prophesying of the Messiah, says, his enemies shall lick the dust.t Thus the devil was to be thenceforth in a state of the most abject depression, and overwhelmed with dreadful expectations." I

That the devil, in order to deceive Eve, actually transformed himself from an angel of darkness into the form of an angel of light, receives farther confirmation from a passage in St. Paul's 2d Epistle to the Corinthians : "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.'S

It would appear that after the act had been committed, the devil remained in company with his victims, perhaps for the pleasure of hearing their doom pronounced by God, and from the expectation that they would be abandoned to his power; but a greater punishment fell on himself. He continues, nevertheless, still to exercise a limited power here over man, when the latter yields to his temptations, but works in an unseen manner, going invisibly to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it, seeking whom he may destroy.||

Although it was sinful to do any thing they were commanded to abstain from, still, the first pair must have been in some way more to blame than the seemingly metaphorical account of Moses would imply. There must have been a deeper mystery attending original sin than we can now fathom, since it was visited with so great a punishment, both on the parties themselves and on their descendants

$;since their Creator himself became a man and suffered as a

Chap. vii. 17.

+ Ps. lxxii. 9. | Abridged from a Sermon by Dr. Gerard, from the text, Gen. iii. 15. § 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14.

|| Job i. 7.; 1 Pet. v. 8.

mortal, in order that those who repented and believed on him might be saved from eternal punishment in a future state. The first man and woman do not appear to have been endowed with greater powers of resisting temptation than their posterity, many of whom we read of in Scripture as living for years in open disobedience both to divine and human laws, yet were forgiven on repentance, and the threatened retribution departed from,—all which would induce us to infer that the crime which involved the whole human race, was greatly more in reality than literally eating of a forbidden fruit, or assuming forbidden knowledge, very wrong although this must be allowed to have been.

From our first parents finding no necessity for clothing in their days of innocence, we may infer that in such a state none is required; if in heaven we are to wear any, it will assuredly be of a different nature from the production of earthly looms; and if so, then we can form but little conception of it; but it is not probable that when we are again in a state of sinless purity and innocence, we shall wear what was not used in Eden until sin and shame first suggested and made it necessary. So associated in our ideas of propriety, however, has clothing since been, that when angelic beings appeared on earth in former times, they chose to seem in our eyes to have garments of a dazzling whiteness : we may afterwards wear such in heaven ourselves, but we may be assured that disembodied souls, at least, require none, although in metaphorical language they are said to receive white robes, from these being indicative of their having left all earthly contaminations. We read of being clothed with light as with a garment,—and with innocence, without attaching a literal meaning to these expressions.

« VorigeDoorgaan »