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of his own will, but by reason of the will of his Maker who saw fit, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, to subject the creature to all the vanity of this mortal state in hope of a better and more perfect state hereafter.
Let us, in the next place, proceed to examine the account which inspiration has given of the first temptation and sin; and let us do this with honest and candid minds, with a determination to be satisfied with the scripture account.
"Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made, and he said unto the woman, yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" To this question the woman returned the true answer, to which the serpent replied; "Ye shall not surely die. For 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." Here is the whole account of the first temptation. And here let the question be honestly and candidly examined, (viz.) What is there in this account about an Angel's falling from heaven to hell, and coming from hell to the earth, and of his tempting Eve? Surely there is not a word that so much as intimates any thing on the subject. But it is contended, that the serpent could not have tempted Eve, if some evil agent had not been in him and moved him to perform so crafty a work. Why then does the account say that the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field? If the temptation was the craftiness of some other creature, and not the subtlety of the serpent, it was different from the scripture representation, which suggests no other subtlety in the case than that of the serpent. Moreover, if it had been scme invisible agent, who, entering into the serpent, wrought the temptation in question, it was that invisible agent, and not the serpent that was the tempter, and ought to have been the subject of the malediction which was pronounced on the serpent. the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above
every beast of the field : upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” All this was said to the serpent, but there was nothing said to that abominable wicked Angel that sinned in heaven, and who was banished to hell for his sin, and from hell came to this earth and tempted Eve!
By this time the hearer will ask if the speaker really supposes that a literal serpent did actually talk to the woman and influence her to eat of a forbidden fruit ? No, he does not. He humbly conceives that this account is given in a scriptural allegory, which may all be explained by a little attention to the scriptures. In scripture, the serpent is a hieroglyphic of wisdom.Jesus conimanded his disciples to be wise as serpents. As there are two sorts of wisdom mentioned in scripture, so they are represented by two kinds of serpents. The Apostle James speaks of wisdom as follows; "Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show, out of a good conversation, his works with meekness and wisdom. But if ye have bitter envy and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confuand every
evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."
The wisdom of God is represented by the rod of Moses which became a serpent; and the wisdom of this world which cometh to naught, is represented by the rods of the wise men and sorcerers of Egypt, which, likewise became serpents. The superiority of the wisdom of God over the wisdom of the flesh is represented by Aaron's rod swallowing up the magicians' rods. Another representation of these two wisdoms we have in the account given of the fiery serpents that bit and destroyed the Israelites in the wilderness, and that bra
zen serpent which Moses made by the special com-
Let us look in the next place, and ascertain if possible, the source of this sensual wisdom which is enmity against the wisdom of God, and which tempts us to sin. St. James says; "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."— To the Galatians St. Paul says; "I say then, walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Is not the account given by St. Paul and St. James, a plain, reasonable representation of the power of the fleshly nature to strive against the spirit of divine wisdom in us, to tempt us and to lead us into sin which produces death? And if this be the way that we are tempted, have we any reason to believe that it is not the way in which Eve was tempted in the beginning? Yea, is not this contentious, sensual wisdom of the flesh, the serpent which beguiled the woman? And is it not the same serpent which now beguiles
St. Paul says,
both men and women and leads them into sin and death? Furthermore, St. Paul says; “ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions
, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." These works are all the natural productions of our fleshly, earthly nature, and the wisdom which is earthly, sensual, devilish, is the serpent which beguiles us. Now if we have found the real source of our own temptations, we have also found the source of the temptations of all mankind, not excepting the mother of our race. Flesh and blood was the same in the beginning as it is now, its powers were the same,
its lusts were the same, its wisdom was the same, and it is to the powers and appetites of the flesh that every sin we commit may be traced.
“ The woman being deceived, was in the transgression.” Could she have been deceived if she had been truly wise ? No, but she was made subject to vanity. If she had been perfectly satisfied with her condition would she have disobeyed her Maker for the sake of being more wise?
And was it not perfectly natural for her to wish to have her husband with her in this wisdom? There appears nothing in this whole account that differs from our common experience and observation. There is no condition in which man can be placed, in the present state, that can bound his desires, or render him perfectly satisfied with what he possesses. There has been much said concerning the happy, the consummately happy state in which Adam and Eve were placed in the garden; long accounts have been dressed up in all the beauties of rhetoric concerning the felicity of the happy pair before transgression. But to describe the dreadful consequences of the first sin, the calamitous change which it effected in all nature here on earth, and the endless wo to which the whole posterity of Adam was exposed by it , has exhausted all the powers of human imagination. And yet, if we look for these things in the scrip
tures we find them not. What is said of the happy
All the vain notions which the earthly, sensual wisdom of this world has framed on this subject are evidences in support of what we have endeavoured to make evident, namely, that imperfection and sin manifest themselves in our strife to be wise by violating the word of God; and that vanity to which man is the most inclined, is seen in his inventions by which he renders truth, which is perfectly simple in itself, obscure and mysterious.
But shall it be said, because God has made the creature subject to all this vanity, that he is therefore unfriendly to his offspring ? No, my brethren, this is not the case. Blessed be God, though in his infinite wisdom he saw best to subject his creatures to vanity in this mortal state, he has made extensive and ample provisions in his providence to render this vain state convenient in an infinite variety of ways, and has so bountifully scattered down his blessings that we