on the assertion uttered by the arch-deceiver? It is worthy of remark, that if the serpent is correct, men may dismiss all their uneasiness on account of sin, and be no longer perplexed with fearful apprehensions respecting a future state of punishment. But if there be no foundation for the assurance given, and it turns out to be an arrogant and audacious falsehood, then it is hazardous in the extreme to put any confidence in it, or to permit it to have the least influence on the mind or conduct. To assist in determining this matter, let us advert, for a few moments, to the character of him from whom proceeds this bold and confident assertion.

It contributes not a little to the credibility of any testimony to learn, that the person testifying is of good repute, and that on his character there is no stain. If any charge or suspicion of falsehood lies against him, or if he has been convicted of an intentional violation of the truth, his assertion however peremptorily or solemnly made, has but little influence in regulating our opinion. Accordingly, it has ever been deemed a matter of consequence, in courts of law and equity, to inquire into the credibility of witnesses, and learn their general character for truth and veracity. If any thing material can be alleged which affects the credibility of a witness his testimony is rejected as of no avail. This is a common, a rational, and an approved line of procedure among men, in the investigation of secular concerns. Will any deny the propriety of applying the same rule to an inquiry into spiritual concerns?

Let us act thus rationally in the case we have under consideraa tion. The being who speaks is, in the passage before us, denominated “ the serpent.” This, no one will doubt, refers to the great adversary of God and man, who is elsewhere termed the devil and Satan. To invalidate his testimony it is proper to consider, that he was the enemy of God, and disposed, if possible, to destroy or mar his works: he was also the enemy of all good, and disposed to ruin the happiness of others. Malice against God, and envy against man, would prompt him to form and execute the most diabolical purposes. Having lost heaven and happiDess himself, he was solicitous to draw others into the same share, and to make them as unhappy and wretched as himself.

With such propensities and exercises, view him approaching our first parents, fraught with the wiles of a subtle and malevolent foe. Finding the woman alone, and judging it a favourable season to commence his attack, hear him accost her with all the craft and softness which ingenuity affords: “ Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Then, by suggesting a query which seemed to denote astonishment in the inquirer, he began to stagger her faith in the kindness of her Maker. After assuring the serpent, that this was indeed the fact, that God had laid them under such a prohibition, and annexed the penalty of death to their disobedience, the woman is addressed in the following more bold and decisive terms: “ Ye shall not surely die.” One would have thought, that the woman must have suspected some design in this direct and unqualified contradiction of God. The words of the threatening were positive. The language in which the serpent retorts is equally plain and decisive. One stands in direct opposition to the other.

Now, is this enemy of God and man, who is rationally suspected of some evil design, entitled to any credit? Does not the strength of his assertion lose its principal force, when we consider the light in which he is to be viewed ? His character is exhibited in a very unfavourable light in the word of God. If we put any confidence in the declarations of the Saviour respecting kim, we shall see at once, that nothing is more preposterous than to place confidence in his word. Besides the consideration, that he had strong inducements to falsify the truth, we are assured, by the mouth of him who cannot lie, that this very being who is termed by Moses “ the serpent,” is “ a liar from the beginning; that he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; that he is a liar and the father of it.” Admitting the justness of this statement, we can need no further testimony to prove, that the author of the doctrine which thus charges the lie upon God, is entitled to no manner of confidence, and that, on every principle of fair and equitable decision, his declaration is to be rejected. From this quarter, therefore, we gather nothing to render it even probable, that there was the least foundation for the assertion of the serpent.

But, let us turn our thoughts to the character of the Being opposed, and consider that the negative assurance given is in direct contradiction of the highest possible authority. God had a little before asserted, that death should be the consequence of disobedience. We are bound, in reason, and in duty, to believe this assertion, till we have some equal or superior authority for withholding our belief. Till some one comes, vested with sufficient authority from God himself, or who can lay claim to a higher measure of credibility, we are not at liberty to distrust, for a moment, the correctness of what God has stated to us. The character of God is such as to carry him above the suspicion of any attempt

or design to deceive his creatures. There is not the shadow of evidence, that he ever uttered a falsehood. The scriptures assure us, that he is “ a God of truth and without iniquity;" and it is said to be impossible for him to lie. When, therefore, an unauthorised and seducing enemy comes and undertakes to contradict what God has certified, to say the least, we should be extremely cautious how we listen to his assertions or admit his testimony.

The thought is inadmissible, that God could, through mistake, express himself differently from what he intended. His meaning was originally conveyed, and it has not varied to suit the humours of depraved men.

The circumstances in this case, relative to the characters of the parties concerned, are glaring with respect to the absurdity of being any way swayed in our faith by such impudent effrontery as marks the language of the serpent. Since God was never convicted of advancing a false position, and since he has not, in the least degree, forfeited his claim to confidence, the conclusion irresistibly follows, that his words are to be taken for truth, notwithstanding a thousand opposers should a thousand times affirm the contrary. We further observe, that there is nothing in the nature and circumstances of the case which admits the supposition, that the threatening has in it no significancy or truth. Could any thing new be stated, showing that God had altered his purpose, or that he was not determined to treat sin in the manner he had promised, this would be something to urge in vindication of a contrary statement. But nothing of this kind is even pretended. The adversary first jeers at the prohibition, and then flatly denies the truth of the threatening with which it stands connected. Now, what circumstance can be alleged which shall render it probable, or bring it within the compass of credibility, that God had given a misrepresentation or uttered an untruth?

Will you say, that the threatening was too severe, and therefore could not be executed by a God of justice and benevolence? Or, will you say, that the serpent knew better than God himself what was the design of man's Creator, and what would, in fact, take place? Either of these suppositions is fraught with absurdity and impiety. The reason stated by the adversary, in his temptation, is so far from favouring the case, or rendering probable what he affirmed, that it directly contributed to prove the contrary. “ For," says he, “ God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil.” If this would be the effect, it is not to be doubted that God, who knew the whole operation, meant to guard against it, and continue man on a footing more becoming the station he held in the scale of being. And if, to court the pride, the ambition, and the aspiring views of creatures was placing them, as the adversary insinuates, on a footing more acceptable to their Maker, and more deserving of his notice, then the right plan is suggested by the serpent. But if, to make them uneasy with their present condition; to fill them with the vainest hopes, and inflame them with the most impious desires was calculated to destroy them, and the system of God, then we have before us a specimen of that diabolical art, which adopts the most flattering, and, at the same time, the most false and preposterous arguments. In the case stated in the connected passage, the gratification of a sinful desire is urged as a reason for the commission of a sinful act; and the exaltation of the creature, even to the degree of a deified state, is pleaded as a motive for sacrificing the truth and disobeying the command of the most high God. I see nothing here, which is not at once, impious, extravagant, and abominable. No circumstance is presented to view, in this case, which does not exhibit proof, that the whole was applied to the basest and vilest purposes; and that all was calculated and designed to alienate the affections of the creature from his Creator, and to further the object of a most audacious and blasphemous falsehood. This being the case, we see on what ground rests the credibility of the assurance given by the serpent. Neither the character of him who confronts the authority of God; nor the character of the Being opposed; nor any other condition or circumstance attending the case, contributes, in the least, to render probable the negative assertion which was made. It is, therefore, exhibited as the first, the greatest, and the most pernicious of all lies. It is the origin of all falsehood in this world, and is from him who is emphatically “ a liar from the beginning.” We are, of consequence, emboldened to set aside his declaration, and to exhibit the truth of God as most directly and materially concerned in fulfilling his threatening. “ Ye shall surely die," is as true now, in reference to us and all other offenders, as when first uttered and applied to the case of Adam and Eve. The conclusion of the whole matter, then, is this, that God had threatened the penalty of death, in its fullest and most extensive sense, to the violators of his law; and that this threatening remains in full force, having never been repealed or done away. Thus it stands in the book of Genesis, and the account is not reversed by any counter-statement throughout the Holy Bible. Whoso eateth the fruit of disobedience, must expect the awful penalty which God's justice demands.

In reflecting on the foregoing remarks we can hardly fail to notice the daring presumption, and arrogant impiety, to which sin prompts and conducts its votaries.

The conduct of the adversary, in opposing and contradicting the God of heaven, shows to what heights of audacious insult and bold effrontery sin will carry those in whom it reigns. The subject also, in the view which we have taken of it, helps us to discover the ground on which infidels in the word of God, and opposers of his truth and government, rest their hopes of deliverance from future evil. By infidels, we do not here intend merely deists, those who wholly reject the authority of divine revelation, but a certain class of unbelievers who reject only a part, and deny what does not accord with their wishes and hopes. Of this class are those, who subscribe to the doctrine promulgated by the enemy of God and man, and who hold, that there will be either no infliction of evil upon the impenitent, or such as will not amount to that idea of death which we have given above.

Precarious and fallacious is the basis of their hopes. They have no better, nor a more ancient, support for their opinion than the declaration of the arch-deceiver; and this declaration confronting the most positive assurance of Him whose word is truth. Should it be said, that the promise of God, afterwards made, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, is the foundation of such comforting hope with the wicked; then it will appear, that this promise is only a repetition of what had before been advanced by the enemy of all good; and so a confirmation, or, as it were, a second declaration of the doctrine taught by the serpent in his temptation previous to the fall of man. On this ground we must look back to the father of lies as the inventor and first propagator of this sentiment. In this view, that promise of God to our first parents, which is an epitome of the whole gospel, becomes synonymous with the tempter's denial of his truth. This construction, not only admits the strange idea, that God seconded and confirmed what his aciversary had advanced in opposition to him; but it exhibits him in the preposterous condition of one contradicting and opposing himself. It is not, I think, an uncharitable, but a fair and an equitable suggestion, grounded on a scriptural view of the case, that the doctrine of universal and promiscuous salvation radically springs from the first error broached in the garden of Eden, and, with serpentine adroitness, infused into the mind of our too credulous mother Eve. Those modifications of this doctrine, which to save appearances, and make it more plausibly consonant with the representations of scripture, admit

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