« 前へ次へ »
now concerned with boasts of in his preface: it is to ease every libertine, if possible, of his just and well-grounded fears, and to steel his heart against a judgment to come. It is not to secure him against the danger of hell, (that is impracticable,) but it is to tell him how to fence, with subtilties or sophistries, against the dismal apprehensions of it: not to preserve him froin it, but to lead him blindfold into it. This is the contrivance of our new teachers, their real and only aim, whatever masks they put on, or whatever shows and pretences they are pleased to make. It is to bring down the laws of God to the lusts and passions of corrupt man, and to find some pretext or other for taking off religious restraints, that they may be at liberty to follow their pleasures, and to do only what is right in their own eyes, instead of attending to the voice of God.
The author whose work I have now in hand, though he studiously disguises himself, and takes great pains to put fair glosses upon what he is doing, yet sometimes unawares discovers the very secrets of his heart. He gives broad hints in one place , that he looks upon “ in
continence in single persons” as one of the “ rights and “ liberties which God has allowed by the law of nature :" and in another place o he declares flatly and plainly against our Lord's doctrine of " loving those that hate us,” upon some weak and slender surmises of his own, which shall be considered in due time and place. I mention it now only to show what the author is aiming at, namely, abatements and relaxations of the laws of Christ, to make them suit the better with corrupt nature.
Lust and malice are very strong and impetuous passions, and where they take any deep root, will of course incline men to principles of infidelity. How far they have influenced our author, he best knows: but by his indecent slandering and reviling persons of the greatest worth, it is easy
Christianity as Old, &c. p. 119. Compare also p. 345, where speaks very mysteriously on the same subject.
• Ibid. p. 342.
to perceive how much the black passions have got the ascendant over him. His reviling the clergy now signifies little; he has himself answered it. He has made it very plain, that it is their profession, and the religion they teach, which he has taken offence at: for, as occasion offers, he rails as much against the primitive martyrs and fathers of the Church; against Apostles, Prophets, and holy Patriarchs: but his keenest sarcasms and invectives, like Rabshakeh's and Julian's, are directly pointed at the God of Israel. This is so far frank and open; and though most false as to other particulars, yet gives us a true and just idea of the spirit and principles of the writer. His spleen and malice against the Bible appears to be very great, though his attacks are feeble, and his artillery contemptible. He discovers no genius nor taste of literature; no acquaintance with the original languages, nor so much as with common critics or commentators. Several of his objections are pure English objections, such as affect only our translation: and the rest are generally of the lowest and most trifling sort; either because he had a mind to suit them to the vulgar taste, or because he could rise no higher. But such as they are, they must be taken notice of, and answered, lest they should have an ill effect upon the unlearned and unstable, and tend to lessen the reverence due to Scripture among common Christians. I proceed therefore to vindicate such Scripture texts as this author has abused or misrepresented, taking them in order, not as they lie in his book, but in Scripture itself, beginning with Genesis, and so on.
Gen. II. 19. WHATSOEVER Adam called CREATURE, THAT WAS THE NAME THEREOF.
The Objector hereupon says, “ One would be almost apt to imagine that the author of the Book of Genesis
thought that words had ideas naturally fixed to them, “ and not by consent; otherwise, say they, how can we
account for his supposing that God brought all animals “ before Adam, as soon as he was created, to give them “names, and that the serpent and Eve, almost as soon “ as created, entertained one another in the same lan
The difficulty which the author here raises is very slight : for the case is plain ; God himself first gave names to some things b, and he taught Adam to call those things by the same names : thus language began. Afterwards God permitted or ordered Adam to give names to animals; and accordingly Adam did soc; which was no more than making use of that faculty of reason and of speech, which God had endowed him with. Adam had ideas of the animals brought to him before he named them: and so this author may please to observe, that ideas were not naturally fixed to words, because words were not naturally fixed to ideas. Ideas were antecedent to words; but words by appointment and consent became the signs or outward expressions of ideas. After Adam
b Gen, i. 5, 8, 10.
Christianity as Old, &c. p. 254. + Gen. ii. 19, 20.
had thus got words, partly from God, and partly from his own ingenuity, Eve came next, and learned the same language from her husband : and no doubt but he and she together invented more words, and enriched the language. How long this affair was transacting is no where declared. Let it be a month, a week, or a day, the longer it was a doing, the more natural was the effect; or if it took less time, then it was the more miraculous : but either way the pretended difficulty is sufficiently obviated. There remains only the serpent's talking to be accounted for. That serpent, as we have abundant reason to assert, was the Devil possessing and actuating a real serpent: a wicked spirit was the inward agent, and a serpent the outward organ. Upon this supposition, there appears no just objection against the serpent's entertaining Eve in her own language. If the Objector will undertake to prove, either that the Devil had not himself time enough to learn the language, or that he had not power sufficient to form articulate sounds, making use of a serpent as the instrument of conveying them, he will then do something to the purpose. But we shall have more of what concerns Eve and the serpent in what is to follow,
Gen. III. I.
The Objector asks , “ How can we conceive a serpent “ could talk to Eve, and delude the mother of mankind, “ when in the high state of perfection; even though the
Apostle says, THE SERPENT DECEIVED EVE BY HIS
SUBTILTY e;" so it seems, that neither Moses nor St. Paul have any credit with this writer; but upon some very weak and slender suspicions, he points his satire against both. But why might not a serpent, being directed, managed, and actuated by the Devil, talk with Eve, and
Christianity as Old, &c. p. 253.
2 Cor. xi. 3.
delude her? There is nothing absurd, or so much as improbable, in the supposition. Moses related the fact as it appeared in the outward instrument: he had no occasion to say any thing of the inward agent. As to St. Paul, why might he not say, that the SERPENT (meaning the old serpent, namely, the Devil AND SATANf) DECEIVED EVE BY HIS SUBTILTY? the Devil, acting in and by a serpent, did it; and therefore it is, that St. Paul gives him the name of serpent, as St. John does also.
The Objector is further “at a loss to conceive, how “Eve could entertain a conference with a serpent,” (incapable of human voice,) " even before consent had given
any meaning to sounds 8.” These objections are stale and trivial, and have been answered a hundred times over; though it is easy for men that know little of Scripture or theology to be “at a loss to conceive" common things. But to the point. As to a serpent's being incapable of human voice, which was the mean objection of the apostate h Julian, it has been already obviated. The serpent was not capable of it by himself; but the Devil was capable of speaking by or through him. The other part of the Objection has been also obviated before: and as the Objector knows nothing of the chronology of that affair, so neither can he give any reason to persuade us, that Eve had not had time enough to learn as much language as she had need of.
The Objector i adds, that the “ Christians are now “ ashamed of the literal interpretation of this story.” If he means, that they reject the notion of a mere serpent's doing all that is there told; his report may be true : but if he means, that Christians do not admit that any serpent at all was concerned in it, I
for a calumny. There was a real serpent actuated ; and there was also Satan actuating. Christian interpreters
f Rev. xii. 9. XX. 2. Compare John viii. 44. Wisd. ii. 24. & Christianity as Old, &c. p. 385. h Cyrill. contra Julian. p. 86. edit. Spanh. i Christianity as Old, &c. p. 386.