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When the term of gestation was completed, the infant broke through its bars into the waiting world. From this vegetable maternity he passed slowly through childhood and youth to a mute manhood. For several generations he and his descendants had only a vegetable respiration. Their only language was the inaudible movements of the lips with the gesticulations of the face and fingers, and their only hearing throngh the mouth and by the Eustachian tube.
But the vegetable kingdom, according to the best lights of science, holds no maternal relation to the animal, nor filial to the mineral. God, as Creator, is, indeed, man's Father; but nature is not his mother. And the birth of one kingdom or species from another is contradicted equally by the sacred record and the natural sciences.
From all the diverse theories of spontaneous generation, of transmutation, natural selection and developinent, the historical and scientific thought turns away more and more unsatisfied and dissatisfied, to the simple announcements of the divine Word: “So God created man in his own image.” He starts thence, not as a philosopher, but with natural intuitions far better than inventions or mere tuitions. He possesses a rich mental and moral furniture, adequate both to the acquisition and the use of knowledge.
It is an extravagance to say with South, that “an Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam,” though in some respects the Adam was better than the Aristotle. For it is not mere conjecture that the first type of humanity, the starting-point of history, was neither barbarism nor infancy, but the beginning of a high moral and religious civilization.
What is civilization if its elements are not found in this period ? Here, at the very first, by admission of the pliilologists, is language sufficient in its social and zoologic use, for both science and society. Here is the marriage relation, in the purest and most sacred monogamy--a relation which barbarism always corrupts and which modern civilization does not entirely restore, or even preserve in its primitive purity. Here, in the care of the garden, is horticulture, with its hygienic and refining influence; and here is monotheism in its simple grandeur,—the central educating power of all that
is noble and true, of which polytheism, and pantheism, and fetichism are barbaric perversions. And here, too, is the Sabbath of rest,-a heart-worslip of the Supreme by souls erect in good and in God's image, as yet unmarred.
Man's first great movement harmonizes with this view. It shows him to be a rational being and a subject of definite law. In the keeping and culture of the garden of which he was the sole human proprietor, there was the largest liberty of enjoyment. These first occupants of the fertile and blooming earth were full of loyalty to their sovereign and happiness in each other. But their loyalty was untried.
"This one, this easy charge of all the trees
So near grows death to life." Perhaps it is God's ordinance that no finite virtue can be entirely firm and trustworthy till it has passed the ordeal of temptation. Certainly it cannot be heroic till it has fought with evil and conquered. The subjects of moral government cannot become conscious of their full loyal power till they have complied with probibitory as well as requiratory law. Neither can they attain the highest development of their upright faculties and the greatest nobleness of character, but by shunning error and evil as well as by aspirations after the good and the true. Hence every wise ruler finds it necessary to include the disciplinary force of the probibition of wrong with the requisition of right.
These fundamental principles were operative in Paradisiacal history, and give trial as the characteristic of this first movement. All the trees of the garden were permitted to its occupants except one. The fruit of that was forbidden, and under penalty: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thon shalt surely die.”
The object of this discipline and of all wise prohibitory law, is the preservation of loyalty to truth and good, and the reenforcement of virtue by a more distinct consciousness of its worth. The positive command is the formulated moral principle. It is another of the uses of this prohibition, to illustrate
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, way. 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 trial.
The woman is taken very adroitly in the absence of her
more reasoning husband. A natural curiosity puts her on a venture.
"Let us divide our labors; thou where choice
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon." In her conscious innocence, she feels more than equal to any temptation that might fall in her way :
“Let us pot, then, suspect our happy state,
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 furbidden tree.
The admission, at this point, of a third factor in historya 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 narrative, 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 poctic 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 Ruier 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