« PreviousContinue »
received, and which seems the most probable, is that Satan was the agent and a real serpent the instrument. Satan is a most malignant spirit; by creation an angel of light, but by sin he became an apostate from his first state, and a rebel against God's crown and dignity. Multitudes of them fell, but he that attacked our first parents was surely the prince of the devils, the ringleader in rebellion. No sooner was he a sinner but he was a Satan, no sooner a traitor but a tempter, a liar, and a murderer.
$ 8. It is generally supposed that the devil was urged to tempt our first parents by two strong and powerful passions, hatred and envy. His hatred to God is implacable; for being fallen under a final and irrevocable doom, he looked upon God as an irreconcileable enemy; and not being able to injure his essence, he struck at his image; he singled out Adam as the mark of his malice, that by seducing him from his duty he might defeat God's design, which was, to be honored by man's free and cheerful obedience, and so eclipse the lustre of his excellencies, as though he had made man in vain.
Envy, the first native of hell, is considered the second motive that urged Satan to tempt our first parents. Having lost the friendship and favor of God, and being cast out of heaven, the happy region of blessedness and joy, the sight of Adam's felicity highly exasperated him, and excited his grief, that man, who by the condition of his nature was in. ferior to him, should be prince of the world and the special friend and favorite of heaven, whilst he himself was a mi. serable prisoner under those fatal chains which restrained and tormented him, the power and the wrath of God. This made his state and condition more intolerable. His torinent could only be allayed by rendering man as miserable as himself.
9. It may not be unprofitable to notice the subtilty and art of Satan manifested in the management of the temptation. In the matter of the temptation, which had nothing in it
self to deter, but much to allure and entice. Had he proposed the breach of a moral law, to love and worship him instead of God, or to kill her husband, &c. the woman, shocked at the thought, would have exclaimed, “Go behind me, Satan!" But he chose a positive precept, which had nothing in itself either good or evil, only as God had commanded it.
10. Another part of his subtilty was in attacking the woman rather than the man. As an experienced general, in taking a castle, seeks for the weakest part of the walls, where it is easiest to enter, so did Satan; he assaulted the weaker vessel. "Though Eve was perfect in kind, yet," saith. Mr. Henry, "we may suppose she was inferior to Adam in knowledge, and strength, and presence of mind." Some think · Eve received the command not immediately from God, but at second-hand, by her husband, and therefore might the easier be persuaded to discredit it. It seems also most likely that he attacked Eve when she was alone, and had no time to consult with or take advice of her hus-. band; for, as the wise man observed, “Wo unto him that is alone when he falleth: two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken." Had she kept close to the side out of which she was lately taken, she would not have been so much exposed.
11. We may notice further, his skill in the instrument he chose. Many are the conjectures concerning the speeies, nature, properties, &c. &c. of this serpent, all of which I shall pass by, except the following: " It is supposed, and that not very improbably, that more discourse passed between the serpent and Eve than is recorded in Gen. 3, and it is thus represented: "The serpent catching the opportunity of the woman's being alone, makes his address to lier with a short speech, saluting her as the empress of the world, and giving her a great many encomiums and dignifying titles. She wonders, and inquires what this meant ? and whether he was not a brute creature? and how he came
to be endowed with understanding and speech? The serpent replies that he was nobler than a brute, and did indeed once want both these gifts; but by eating a certain fruit in this garden he had got both. She immediately asks what fruit and tree that was which had such a surprising influ. ence and virtue; which when he had showed her, she replied, this, no doubt, is an excellent fruit, but God hath strictly forbidden us the use of it. To which the serpent presently replied, " Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?” The way how these words are introduced plainly shows that something had passed previous thereto. And some suppose that the serpent, to confirm the truth of his assertion, pulled off some of the fruits of the tree, ate one in her presence, and presented another to Eve, who, before eating it, had the discourse with the serpent which is recorded in the subsequent verses.”—Boston.
§ 12. The subtilty, as well as the wickedness of Satan, is further manifested in the gradation of his temptation. He does not adventure all at once to contradict the divine word; but only, with an air of modesty, insinuates a suspicion concerning it, and speaks as if he wished to receive information; for thus he addresses the woman : “ Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden ?" Next he grows bolder, and assures her, in direct opposition to God's threatening, that though she did eat, yet she should not die. “God indeed did say so, to keep you in awe. But do not entertain-such hard and unworthy thoughts of that God who is infinitely good and gracious. Do not think, that, for such a trifle as the eating of a little fruit, he will undo you, and all your posterity for ever, and so suddenly destroy the most excellent piece of his own workmanship, wherein his image shines in a most resplendent manner.” Further, he represents God as their enemy, who is desirous to prevent their happiness. For God does know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." As if he had
said, "God's design in that prohibition is only this: he knows that you shall be so far from dying, that thereby you shall certainly enter into a new and more noble and excellent kind of life. The eyes of your
understandings, which are now shut in a great measure, as lo the knowledge of many things, shall then be wide opened, and ye shall see more clearly and distinctly than you now do. You shall be as God, and shall attain to a kind of omniscience.” Here is the Devil's true character; first “an angel of light," then “a liar," and last of all, “a murderer." It was Satan's master-piece, first to weaken her faith, and when he had shaken that, and brought her once to distrust God, then she was easily overcome, and presently put forth her hand to pluck the forbidden fruit. By these pretences he ruined Innocence itselt; for the woman being deceived by these insinuations, swallowed down the poison of the serpent; and having tasted death herself, she became a tempter to Adam ; for “she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” Thus by one sin, the covenant of works was broken, its precepts violated, and its penalty incurred.
§ 13. The sentence pronounced on the tempter will be considered hereafter; we proceed to take a more particular view of the immediate consequences of the fall on our first parents themselves. See Gen. 3, 7-24. 1. As soon as they sinned, they fell under the curse of the law which the covenant denounced, viz. death. I have shown already, in a former letter, that the death threatened was temporal, or corporal; spiritual and eternal. Man became mortal, and subject to diseases, and pain of body, and to numberless griefs and distresses of soul. “Who can make a list," saith Dr. Bates, “ of the evils to which the body is liable, by the disagrecing elements that compose it? The fatal seeds of corruption are bred in itself. It is a prey to all diseases, from the torturing stone to the dying consumption. It feels the stroke of death a thousand times before it can die once. At last life is swallowed up of death ; and if death were a de.
liverance from miseries, it would lessen its terror; but alas ! it is the consummation of all. . The first death transmits to the second." Spiritual, or moral death, seized on all the powers and faculties of the soul. His understanding became darkened, his mind and conscience defiled, his affections inordinate, his will biased to that which is evil, and lifeless to every good work. Adam became also subject to eternal death, the just wages of sin, which consists in the wrath and displeasure of God revealed against all unrightcousness, and which comes upon the children of disobedience. As the body dies by the soul forsaking it, so the soul, by separation from God, its true life, dies to its well being and happiness for ever.
§ 14. 2. They lost the Divine image in which they were created. The image of God consisted, as has been shown above, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Instead of gaining the knowledge unlawfully sought after, Adam lost much of what he had. In the place of divine knowledge, darkness filled his mind. What ignorance and folly did he manifest by attempting to flee from the presence of the Omnipresent Jehovah, and by hiding himself from his all-seeing eye. They lost their original righteousness and holiness, and became altogether unrighteous and unholy. The nakedness of their bodies was a true emblem of the nakedness of their souls.
§ 15. 3. Their minds were filled with guilt, shame, and fear. Adam, whilst obedient, enjoyed peace with God, a sweet serenity of mind, a divine calm upon the conscience, and full satisfaction in himself. But after his sin he trembled at God's voice, and was tormented at his presence. “I heard thy voice, and was afraid,” saith guilty Adam. He looked on God as angry, and armed against him, ready to execute the severe sentence. Conscience began an early hell within. Paradise, with all its pleasures. could not rescue him from that sting in his breast, and that sharpened by the hand of God. What confusion of thought,