« VorigeDoorgaan »
devil or a fallen angel having any concern with either sin or death by Adam. But in 1 Tim. ii. 13, 14. the apostle directly alludes to the third chapter of Genesis. " But Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression.” The apostle here says, Eve was deceived, but not a word about her being deceived by a fallen angel. He told us, 2 Cor. xi. 3. that the serpent beguiled her, and this is just what Eve said herself, “ the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Gen. iii. 13.
Such are the references made in Scripture, to the account given us by Moses in the third chapter of Genesis, except two or three passages, where we read of that old serpent, the devil and satan. These will be considered in Section 8.
6th. But admitting it true, that such an evil spirit did exist, call him by what name you please, how is the character of God to he defended, in not forewarning our first parents again his evil devices. It is very evident, not a word of caution was afforded them. They have to learn his existence, by the mischief he does them, and if God gives them information afterwards concerning him, it comes too late to be of any benefit to them. Was God ignorant of the fall of this angel from heaven? Or, could he be ignorant of his evil devices, and not foresee the ruin of our first parents by him? This is impossible. Are we then to conclude, that God willingly concealed the knowledge of such a being from them, that they might be seduced and ruined ? I should rather conclude that no such being existed, about which God could give them information. He did foresee the consequences of their being seduced, and he guarded them against the true tempter, as we shall presently see.
7th. The fall of an angel from heaven, and his becoming a devil, is certainly a very remarkable event
in the history of God's creation. It is rendered more so, by its connexion with the fall of man, in making him a sinner, and entailing, according to many, eternal misery on his posterity. The very nature of the case leads us to think, that Moses would have related the fall of this angel, before he introduced the fall of man. But notbing like this is found, nor is the one related as having any connexion with the other. Moses says just as much about the ascent of a devil to heaven, and becoming a good angel, as he does about the fall of an angel from heaven, and becoming a devil ; and the deception of Eve, is just as much ascribed to the former as to the latter. Nor, does any later scripture writer teach the doctrine of a fallen angel, or ascribe the fall of man to his evil influence. But allowing the existence of such a being we would notice,
8th. There is no evidence in this account, that a fallen angel knew that one tree of the garden was prohibited, and it is not easy to understand how a mere serpent could know it. Did God inform the devil about the probibition ? Or was he present when it was given? It does not appear that Éve informed him, for the serpent began the conversation with her, and seems to have known all about it. This very circumstance, representing the serpent as perfectly acquainted with ihe prohibition, suggests a hint, that Moses merely used the serpent to represent something else, which will rationally account for this.
9ih. Admitting for a moment, that the devil did assume the likeness of a serpent, how does this accord with the good policy which this arch deceiver is supposed to possess? This is the more surprising, as his advocates affirm, that he can assume a much more agreeable likencss than that of a vile, contemptible reptile. Besides, he does not seem to have chosen this appearance often since, for people represent him
as appearing in various forms, but seldom if ever in that of a serpent.
10th. Unless we believe that Eve was on familiar terms with the devil, and knew that serpents spoke and reasoned in those days, she was more likely to be frightened than deceived. A speaking serpent, or the devil under this likeness, would terrify the most courageous female among us. But Eve showed no signs of fear, or even suspicion on this occasion. She conversed with the devil, or the serpent, with as much apparent composure, as she could have done with Adam. The common belief makes her, a perfect holy creature, to fall before a temptation, and that by means of agents, which almost all her sinful posterity would have resisted. What man, what female, now, would be deceived into disobedience by a speaking serpent, or the devil under this likeness? If she, then, could not resist such a temptation, how can it be expected now, that her offspring can resist any temptation ? All these things lead me to suspect, that this account of the deception of Eve by a serpent, was intended to teach us something else; and that we are indebted to Milton, rather than Moses, for the common opinions entertained on this subject.
I shall now state for candid consideration my own opinion of this passage. We find it then said, chap. ii. 1.- Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field.”—The question to be considered is-What serpent did Moses mean? Chap. ii. 19. would lead us to conclude it was a beast of the field. But it will be asked—What! could serpents speak and reason in those days? I answer, we have no evidence to believe that they did. It will be asked, what then did he mean by the serpent? I would answer this by asking-did not Moses in this account mean to inform us how Eve was deceived, and how sin was first introduced ? To this all will readily agree. Well, the serpent was
more subtile than any beast of the field, and was the fittest creature which could be chosen to illustrate how Eve was deceived. Let it be recollected, that Moses wrote this account more than two thousand years after it happened, and selects the serpent celebrated for its subtilty among mankind, when he wrote. And why might not Moses select this creature as a figure for deception, as other seripture writers do the lion for ferocity, the lamb for meekness, and the dove for harmlessness?
It will now be said, allowing all this to be true, what was it that deceived Eve, and which Moses here represents by the subtilty of the serpent ? I answer, lust or desire in Eve, for what is lust but desire ? That Adam and Eve were created with appetites or desires will not be questioned. They desired, or lusted after the fruit of the other trees of the garden, and ate of them. Nor would there have been any sin in lusting after and eating the fruit of the prohibited tree more than the others, but for the prohibition. It was this, and this alone, which could render it criminal. Before the prohibition was given, there was no sin in either. But this only provokes the question,-How came Eve to desire the fruit of the prohibited tree? Answer; she could no more prevent herself having desires, than she could have prevented herself being made, or made just such a creature with such appetites; and the very prohibition not to eat of this tree, was calculated to excite curiosity in her about it and create desire. What man has not known the truth of this from experience? The evil did not lie in Eve's hav. ing appetites and desires, but her appetites and desires took occasion from the very prohibition, and in this way she was deceived and eventually sinned. What Paul says, Rom. vii. 7. Eve might have said “ I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust except the law had said thou shalt not eat.
But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought i me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me.” What does Paul here say deceived him ? It was sin taking occasion by the commandment, or desire which is the origin of sin ; for lust or desire · when it hath conceived bringeth forth sin.” James i. 15. So in regard to Eve. There could be no difference betwixt Paul and her, unless we suppose one of two things. First, That Eve was created without lust or desire altogether, which was certainly not the case. Or, secondo That she was incapable of desiring what God had prohibited. If so, then she would have been incapable of sinning. The event proved that she was not. It should ever be kept in view, that sin does not consist in having lust or desire, nor even in being tempted to gratify desire contrary to the commandment, but in complying with the temptation. Jesus Christ had desire, was tempted, but resisted the temptation, as will appear in Section 7.
If the serpent then was more subtile than any beast of the field, it was the fittest creature which could be selected to show the deceit of lust. In this view, the whole dialogue between Eve and her own lust, is both striking and natural. The serpent or Eve's lust after the fruit says— Yea, hạth God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?" Thus her lust takes occasion by the commandment to desire the fruit. But Eve knew the commandment, hence she replies to her lust—“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." To