Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

prove an occasion of sin, as well as the sin itself. Others suppose, that there is a degree of unbelief contained in that expres sion, Lest ye die *; which may be rendered, Lest peradventure ye die, as implying, that it was possible for God to dispense with his threatning, and so death would not certainly ensue; whereas God had expressly said, In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. But passing by this, as an uncertain conjecture, let us farther consider,

(2.) After this, Satan proceeds from questioning, as though he desired information, to a direct and explicit confronting the divine threatning, endeavouring to persuade her, that God would not be just to his word, when he says, Ye shall not surely die. He then proceeds yet farther, 'to cast an open reproach on the great God, when he says, God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil. Here we may observe,

1st, That he prefaces this reproach in a most vile and wicked manner, with an appeal to God for a confirmation of what he was about falsely to suggest, God doth know, &c. 2dly, He

puts her in mind, that there were some creatures above her, with an intent to excite in her pride and envy: and it is as though he had said; notwithstanding your dominion over the creatures in this lower world, there are other creatures above you; for so our translation renders the words, gods, meaning the angels. And Satan farther suggests, that these excel man, as in many other things, so particularly in knowledge, thereby tempting her to be discontented with her present condition; and, since knowledge is the highest of all natural excellencies, he tempts her hereby to desire a greater degree thereof, than God had allotted her, especially in her present state, and so to desire to be equal to the angels in knowledge; which might seem to her a plausible suggestion, since knowledge is a desirable perfection. He does not commend the knowledge of fallen angels, or persuade her to desire to be like those who are the greatest favourites of God. From whence it may be observed, that it is a sin to desire many things that are in themselves excellent, provided it be the will of God that we should not enjoy them.

But it may be observed, that a different sense may be given of the Hebrew word, which we translate gods : for it may as well be rendered, Ye shall be like God, that is, Ye shall have a greater degree of the image of God; particularly that part of it that consists in knowledge. But however plausible this suggestion might seem to be, she ought not to have desired this privilege,

The words of the prohibition, in Gen. ii. 17. are, Ye shall surely die: whereas in the account she gives thereof to the serpent, her words are, jinon jo which onkelos, in his Targum, renders, Ne forte moriamini. VOL. II.

0

if God did not design to give it, especially before the condition of the covenant she was under was performed; much less ought she to have ventured to have sinned against God to obtain it.

3dly, Satan farther suggests, that her eating of the tree of knowledge would be a means to attain this greater degree of knowledge; therefore he says, In the day you eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, &c. We cannot suppose, that he thought her so stupid as to conclude that there was a natural virtue in the fruit of this tree, to produce this effect; for none can reasonably suppose that there is a natural connexion between eating and increasing in knowledge. Therefore we may suppose, that be pretends that the eating thereof was God's ordinance for the attaining of knowledge; so that, as the tree of life was a sacramental ordinance, to signify man's attaining eternal life, this tree was an ordinance for her attaining knowledge; and therefore that God's design in prohibiting her from eating of it, was, that she should be kept in ignorance, in comparison with what she might attain to by eating of it: Vile and blasphemous insinuation ! to suggest, not only that God envied her a privilege, which would have been so highly advantageous, but that the sinful violation of his law was an ordinance to obtain it.

It is farther supposed, by some, though not mentioned in scripture, that Satan, to make his temptation more effectual, took and ate of the tree himself, and pretended, as an argument to persuade her to do likewise, that it was by this means, that he, being a serpent, and as such on a level with other animals of the same species, had arrived to the faculty of talking and reasoning, so that now he had attained a kind of equality with man; therefore if she eat of the same fruit, she might easily suppose she should attain to be equal with angels. By these temptations, Eve was prevailed on, and so we read, that she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; it may be, the fruit was plucked off by the serpent, and held out to her, and she, with a trembling hand, received it from him, and thereby fell from her state of innocency.

Having considered the fall of Eve, who was the first in the transgression, we are now to speak of the fall of Adam: This is expressed more concisely in the fore-mentioned chapter, ver. 6. She gave also unto her husband, and he did eat. We are not to suppose that she gave him this fruit to eat, without his consent to take it; or that she did not preface this action with something not recorded in scripture : but it is most probable that she reported to him what had passed between her and the serpent, and prevailed on him by the same arguments which she was overcome by; so that Adam's fall was, in some respect, owing to the devil, though Eve was the more immediate instrument thereof. And to this we may add, that, besides her

alleging the arguments which the serpent had used to seduce her, it is more than probable she continued eating herself, and commending the pleasantness of the taste thereof, above all other fruits, as it might seem to her, when fallen, to be much more pleasant than really it was ; for forbidden fruit is sweet to corrupt nature. And besides, we may suppose, that, through a bold presumption, and the blindness of her mind, and the hardness of her heart, which immediately ensued on her fall, she might insinuate to her husband, that what the serpent had suggested was really true ; for as he had said, Ye shall not surely die, so now, though she had eaten thereof, she was yet alive; and therefore that he might eat thereof, without fearing any evil consequence

that would attend it: by this means he was prevailed upon, and hereby the ruin of mankind was completed. Thus concerning their sin and fall.

V. We shall now consider what followed thereupon, as contained in that farther account we have of it, in Gen. iii. 7, &c. And here we may observe,

1. 'That they immediately betray and discover their fallen state, inasmuch as they, who before knew not what shame or fear meant, now experienced these consequences inseparable from sin: They knew that they were naked, and accordingly they were ashamed ; (a) and had a sense of guilt in their consciend -5, and therefore were afraid. This appears, in that,

(a) Ta cout, and had been given to Adam : he was the representative of Eve and his posterity, accordingly, upon her eating, no change was discovered: but as soon as he ati, the eyes of them both were opened.They instantly felt a conscious loss of innocenca, na they were ashamed of their condition.

This affection may be enher good or evil as its exciting callse. The one spe.. cies is praise-wortry, the oiher culpable. When there exists shame of evil, the honour of the party has been vunded.

Honour, the boust of the irreligious, is the vanguard of virtue, and is always set for her defence, while she is contented with her own station. But when honour assumes the authority, which buiongs 19 conscience and reason, the man becomes un idoiater. For conscience aims at God's giory, bonour at man's; conscience leads to perfect integrity, whilst horoir is contenied with the reputation of it: the one makes us good, the othe: dures to become respectable. Conscience and religion will produce that, which honour aims at the name of Honour without virtue, is mere hypocrisy.

But honour as ancilary to virtue, will detect and vanquish temptation, before virtue may apprehend danger : she is therefo.e to be regarded and fostered, but to be restrained within her own precincts.

Shame of good is rather an evidence of a want of honour, and springs from dastardly cowardice: it argues weak faith, superfic knowledge, and languid desires of good. Such knowledge and desires are barely enough to aggravate the guilt, and show it was deliberate.

The religious man must count upon opposition from a world bostile to holiness. His conduct and character will necessarily, by contrast, condemn those of the wicked. But he is neither to abandon tus daty, but cause his light to shine; nor purposely affict the sensibility of his enemies, but treat them with mildness and kindness. The demure and dejected countenance is to be avoided, not only because the christian bas a right to be cheerful, but because when yoluntary, it

2. God calls them to an account for what they had done, and they, through fear, hide themselves from his presence ; which shews how soon ignorance followed after the fall. How unreasonable was it to think that they could hide themselves from Gods since there is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves, Job xxxiv. 22.

3. God expostulates with each of them, and they make excuses ; the man lays the blame upon his wife, ver. 12. The woman, whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat; which contains a charge against God himself, as throwing the blame on his providence, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me. And here was an instance of a breach of affection between him and his wife : as sin occasions breaches in families, and, an alienation of affection in the nearest relations, he complains of her, as the cause of his ruin, as though he had not been active in this matter himself.

The woman, on the other hand, lays the whole blame on the serpent, ver. 13. The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. There was, indeed, a deception or beguiling; for, as has been already observed, an innocent creature can hardly sin, but through inadvertency, as not apprehending the subtilty of the temptation, though a fallen creature sins presumptuously, and with deliberation; however, she should not have laid the whole blame on the serpent, for she had wisdom enough to have detected the fallacy, and rectitude of nature sufficient to have preserved her from compliance with the temptation, if she had improved those endowments which God gave her at first. We shall now consider

the aggravations of the sin of our first parents. It contained in it many other sins. Some have taken pains to shew how they broke all the Ten Commandments, in particular instances : But, passing that by, it is certain, that

is hypocritical; and because also it injures the cause by exciting disgust and contempt, and provoking persecution, where a mild and evenly deportment would command the respect and admiration even of the evil themselves.

Contempt and ridicule will come. But the christian should know that this indicates detect in the authors of them. If religion were, as the infidel hopes it will prove, without foundation, to ridicule the conscientious man for his weakness, is rudeness, weakness, and want of generosity. If religion be doubtful, to ridicule it is to run the hazard of Divine resentment, and highly imprudent. If it be cer. tain, it is to rush upon the bosses of God's buckler, and the most horrid inso. fence.

Ridicule is no test of truth, for the greatest and most important truths may be subjected to wit; it is no index of strength of understanding; and wit and great knowledge almost never are found together. - It indicates nothing noble or genetous, but a little piddling genius, and contemptible pride.

He who yields to the slame of that which is good, weakens his powers of resistance, provokes the Spirit of grace, hardens his conscience, strengthens the bands of the enemy, excites the contempt of the wicked themselves, grieves liis fellow christians, affronts God to his face, and incurs the judgment of Christ : 5* Whosoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will í be ashamed."

they broke most of them, and those both of the first and second table; and it way truly be said, that, by losing their innocency, and corrupting, defiling, and depraving their nature, and rendering themselves weak, and unable to perform obedience to any command, as they ought, they were virtually guilty of the breach of them all, as the apostle says, Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, James ii. 10. But, more particularly, there were several sins contained in this complicated crime; as,

(1.) A vain curiosity to know more than what was consistent with their present condition, or, at least, a desire of increasing in knowledge in an unlawful way.

(2.) Discontentment with their present condition; though without the least shadow of reason leading to it.

(3.) Pride and ambition, to be like the angels, or like God, in those things, in which it was unlawful to desire it: it may be, they might desire to be like him in independency, absolute sovereignty, &c. which carries in it downright Atheism, for a creature to desire thus to be like to him.

(4.) There was an instance of profaneness, in supposing that this tree was God's ordinance, for the attaining of knowledge, and accounting that, which was in itself sinful, a means to procure a greater degree of happiness.

(5.) It contained in it unbelief, and a disregard, either to the promise annexed to the covenant given to excite obedience, or the threatening denounced to deter from sin; and, on the other hand, they gave credit to the devil, rather than God.

(6.) There was in it an instance of bold and daring presumption, concluding that all would be well with them, or that they should, notwithstanding, remain happy, though in open rebellion against God, by the violation of his law; concluding, as the serpent suggested, that they should not surely die.

(7.) It was the highest instance of ingratitude, inasmuch as it was committed soon after they had received their being from God, and that honour of having all things in this world put under their feet, and the greatest plenty of provisions, both for their satisfaction and delight, and no tree of the garden prohibited, but only that which they ate of, Gen. ii. 16, 17.

(8.) It was committed against an express warning to the contrary; therefore whatever dispute might arise concerning other things being lawful, or unlawful, there was no question but that this was a sin, because expressly forbidden by God, and a caution given them to abstain from it.

(9.) If we consider them as endowed with a rectitude of nature, and in particular that great degree of knowledge which God gave them: This must be reckoned a sin against the greatest light; so that what inadvertency soever there might

« PredošláPokračovať »