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the liberty of will in finite agents, without which freedom they could not be the subjects of moral government.
Many there be," says Milton, "that complain of Divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues! When God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing; he had been else a mere artificial Adam."
Here are some of the great principles of government, the seeds of history. And the simplicity, the apparent insignificance even of the form of the trial, instead of a stumblingblock, is a beautiful instance of that wisdom by which the weightiest results are often reached through means, to human reason, most inadequate and unfit. That this law was so simple, concise, and so perfectly intelligible, and that the consequences of disobedience were so explicitly stated, is a signal proof of Divine wisdom. Where great interests are staked on obedience, it is incompetency or despotism that leaves confusion or unnecessary complexity in legal enactments. This first statute is admirable in every quality of legislation.
Here, now, is the race introduced upon the world's great movements, in a dual unity; with their Maker for their Teacher, and the heavens and the earth for their illustrated text-books.
For a time they abide in obedience and felicity. But a dark scene soon opens. A new and disturbing agent makes his appearance. The third chapter of Genesis records a conversation between the new-made woman and a tempter in the form of the serpent. It indicates a rationality as real and palpable on the one side as the other,-inexperienced guilelessness assailed by malignant cunning and craftiness.
The term serpent, from serpo, to creep, very inadequately conveys the content of the Hebrew word, wn. The former expresses only brute being, and the latter an investigating and shrewdly reasoning creature. The rational rules in the whole scene, and is the sole tempting force. A bold impeachment of the infinite Lawgiver, on the injustice and unreasonableness of his prohibitory enactment, opens the great
The woman is taken very adroitly in the absence of her
more reasoning husband. A natural curiosity puts her on a
In her conscious innocence, she feels more than equal to any temptation that might fall in her way :
"Let us not, then, suspect our happy state,
Left so imperfect by the Maker wise,
As not secure to single or combined."
But the tempter came. First she listens, then wavers. Can it be sin to know? Next, she wishes to be wiser, then, disbelieving, puts forth her hand to the forbidden tree.
The admission, at this point, of a third factor in history— a distinct, personal agent-is objected to by about all sceptical schools. The narrative is divided by some into fact and fiction, and by others, resolved into pure fancy. Others allegorize and find a moral with its machinery,—some great facts dressed in fable.
But what are the facts and what the fancies? On this, the objectors are not agreed. One party understands by the nar rative, the lapse of man into some sort of evil; and another party his advancement in freedom up to true manhood. The prohibition, the garden, the trees, and a personal tempter are poetic drapery. What is the value of this criticism?
As the discoveries in natural science vindicate the historic character of the creative period in Genesis, so also do the principles of historical science discredit, with equal explicitness, the idea of allegoric machinery and poetic fancy in respect to the temptation and fall in this trial period.
The actual presence of sin and of death in the world, and hence their commencement somewhere, is one of the most patent events in history. And these two facts are clearly traceable to this first human pair. As sin, in its nature, is a transgression of order and law, it must have had its beginning in the infraction of command. This infraction supposes in man an antecedent condition of loyalty and of trial. It sup
poses also a prohibitory law and circumstances of temptation, in harmony with this trial. And just this concurrence of particulars is found in the record in minute detail.
There is the garden, its geographic boundaries, its rivers, and its mineral treasures,-all historic verities. There are the many trees that are permitted, and among them, the tree of life, the sacramental symbol of primitive obedience and communion. There stands the forbidden tree, whose fruit, to the eaters, made it the tree of knowledge,—of good, sorrowfully, from a sense of its loss; and of evil, by its bitter experience. What more natural than this grouping of elements, and what more harmonious?
If this is not all veritable history, who shall tell where the history ends and the fiction begins? The garden,--who knows that it was not a real, but only a poetic, garden? And the trees,-what proof that they were only fancy and not real trees? The tempted,-was she not a veritable body-and-soul woman? Why, then, was not her tempter a veritable, personal instigator to evil?
Besides, tried by the highest literary and scientific tests, this providential record is accredited as an historical and not a poetic document. The writer has every appearance of a plain narrator of fundamental facts. No such writer mingles, confusedly, fiction with facts. If the serpent be resolved into an impersonal, mythical tempter, by the same rule, the tempted will fall into an impersonal, mythical woman. By the same logic, we must construe the prohibition and her disobedience into allegory. Then why not construe the creation of the race, the origin of moral government, and the Great Ruler himself,—all into allegory? For allegory, as well as history, demands of those who write it, harmony and self-consistency. This narrative must be one or the other; it cannot be both.
Upon these general principles, the inspired record vindicates itself in respect to the trial and fall of man, as thoroughly historic, both in its drift and detail. It is a simple and continuous narrative. It has not a single element of poetry, or sign of allegory or mythology. It is consistent with itself throughout, and with all subsequent history. And
it accounts for the origin of moral evil and death, to which, otherwise, we have no historical or ethical clew.
Other important events make it evident that here comes into the movements of the world a third class of actors. The prince of these is called, in the Hebrew, Satan, and in the Greek, Diabolus, both expressing the same idea of tempter, adversary, a lier-in-wait. And because of his first appearance in human history in the guise of the serpent, John, the reve lator, designates him as "the great dragon, that old serpent, the devil, and Satan." Christ, referring to his diabolical agency in the temptation, calls him "a murderer from the beginning, a liar, and the father of it.”
In the later history, when the woman, which is the church, fled into the wilderness from the face of the serpent, the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after her. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus." Here, the ineradicable antagonism, which appears so early in history between these two representative personages, is seen to continue with unabated force in its later stages.
But what are the qualities of this new element which comes into history, as disclosed in the events immediately following? Crest-fallen shame, in the place of open-faced innocence; a patchwork of fig-leaves instead of the robes of heavenly purity; gloomy fear of him who, before, was the object of their reverent and joyous love. Then came black falsehood,a schism of the soul from truth, assigning nakedness instead of guilt as a reason for this fear. The man meanly excuses himself by inculpating his wife, and wickedly reflecting on his Maker. She palliates her case by casting the blame on the serpent, the mover of all these schisms and seditions.
On the next page of the record the dark drama opens into what is still more tragic. The new element is not a mere atom, without links or length, but has continuity as a positive force in human nature. The schism between these first parents and their Maker, and also between themselves, extends to their children. Here lies the second born, a martyr, and there stands the eldest born, his murderer,-speedy harvest of that
first sad seed sowing. In the fratricidal son re-appears, and in bolder characters, the same scene of crimination, falsehood, and impugning of God's justice. How complete the separation of man from his fellow, in this separation from God, his Maker.
But in this trial period, another character appears, whose influence also sweeps through the whole historic course. In the curse pronounced upon the serpent-tempter, God says to him," 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.”
In this pre-announced hostility of these two parties, is given the cause and the programme of the conflicts of the ages. The introduction of a new representative personage-the seed of the woman, makes more clear and certain the personality of the serpent-tempter, who is confronted by him.
But who is this seed of the woman, thus introduced as the moral and historical opponent of the great tempter and deceiver?
Recall here the primal condition of man, in perfect harmony with himself and his Maker, as the key to the temptation and the fall. Then this degeneracy places itself in our hand as a clew to the regeneracy which follows. Notice also, that both these personages-the seed of the woman and the serpenttempter-are presented under the law of pedigree. The lineage of the tempter is ethical only, au affinity of evil. Those are his children who do his works. The genealogy of the seed of the woman is both physical and moral. It commences with her who fell from her primeval loyalty and drew her hus band along with her. It introduces the idea of a suffering, but finally conquering Messiah, an idea, which, like a thread of light, prophecy and history make more and more visible as the plan of Providence unfolds.
Here, then, among these trees of Paradise, opens the great drama of providence and history. The chief dramatis personæ, as now introduced, are the seed of the woman and the serpenttempter. Two competing kingdoms take their rise here. Two antagonistic forces,-truth and error, freedom and oppression, order and anarchy, meet here, of which these per