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with good reason assert both k; and do thereby obviate all pretended difficulties. What the author therefore urges in page 387, against such as do not admit a real serpent in the case, as well as the Devil, is only so much impertinence. He asks, 1" Whether it was the Devil “ that is said to be more subtil than any beast of the “ field ?” No; it was the serpent. And because the serpent was more reinarkably subtil m, he was the fittest emblem of Satan's subtilty: and he was also the properest instrument for the tempter to make choice of to deceive by; since the apprehension Eve had of his subtilty, might make her the less surprised at the hearing him reason and discourse with her. The tempter therefore chose the serpent as his instrument to work by, as his cover to conceal his fraud; because he might more easily impose upon her under that disguise than in any other.
What kind of serpent it was, or how beautiful a creature, I take not upon me to say: neither do I much incline to the opinion of some very worthy and learned persons, who have thought that the serpent was so like a seraph, that Eve mistook it for a good angel. For while that hypothesis tends to show how easy it was, by such an angelic form, to deceive Eve, it seems to me to make it too easy, and to push the point too far towards the other extreme, so as almost to render the deception inevitable. Besides, had that been the case, she could not, one would think, have failed to have pleaded it in her excuse afterwards : whereas she had nothing to plead, but that “ the “ serpent had beguiled her n.” She very well knew, then at least, that it was a serpent, and gives not the least hint that she had ever suspected any other. It is natural enough to suppose, that, for want of longer time and experience, she might not know whether the brute creatures
* Pfeiffer. Dub. Vexat. p. 22.
m Of the suhtilty of serpents, see Bochart, Oper. tom. i. 838, 846, &c. tom. ii. 28, &c.
n Gen. iii, 13.
were any of them capable of reason and speecho, or being taken at a disadvantage, and under a sudden surprise, might not stay to consider of it. It is an article of aggravation against her, that she so easily submitted to the persuasion of a creature much inferior to herself, and which, however plausibly he talked, might be presumed to know less of the important question in debate than she did. Let the fatal example be a warning to others, how they listen to sophistry in opposition to Divine truths : for though the tempter, since that time, has no more made use of serpents in such a way, as he has had no such occasion, yet he has other instruments proper to work with, and often does the same thing by the tongues or pens of serpentine men. But to return.
The Objector “ thinks the matter not a jot mended, by “ substituting a devil” (so he crudely or crossly expresses it) " instead of a serpent; since he cannot see, “ how an infinitely good God could permit a most mali“ cious cunning spirit to work on the weakness of a wo
man, just placed in a new world, without interposing “ in this unequal conflict, or giving notice of any such “ wicked spirit: angels, neither good nor bad, being men“ tioned in the history of the creation p.” Now as to what the author cannot see, if he wants spectacles to look into the depths of the Divine counsels and government, we can help him to no such: but by that light of reason which God has given him, and which he often boasts of, he may see enough to learn modesty in such high things. God, who endowed the first pair with a liberty of choice, and strength also sufficient to withstand temptations, he knew how far it was both wise and proper to suffer them to be tempted. There was no occasion for telling them of angels, good or bad: they had received a plain command from God himself, and it was their duty to obey. If they did not know who it was that tempted them, yet
• See Cyrill. contra Julian. p. 86. Bochart, vol. i. p. 843. Natal. Alexand. Hist. Eccl. vol. i. p. 70. Conf. Pfeiffer, p. 23.
P Christianity as Old, &c. p. 388.
they very well knew what he tempted them to; and that if an angel from heaven, speaking in his own name, and without authority from God, had endeavoured to persuade them, in that case they ought to have resisted; because nothing but the saine Divine authority which gave the law, could either repeal it or dispense with it. However, God was pleased to lay no such stumbling-block before them: he considered their weakness, and their want of experience, and their being so lately brought into a new world : and therefore he tried them only by a “ beast of the field,” and by such sophistry as the tempter could convey through that channel; that the quality of the speaker should by no means serve to recommend his rhetoric. To such persuasion, that is, to false pretences and false views, with all their reason and understanding about them, they yielded ; against the express command of God, lately received, and yet fresh and strong upon their minds. Who does not see how kind and indulgent God was in the whole proceeding, and how much to blame they? Nevertheless, I must insist upon it, that it is not necessary for us to account a priori in such cases for the Divine conduct, which we are not competent judges of 9. It is sufficient, that he who made man, best knew. what was in man, and how far it was reasonable he should be tried. Virtue is proved and perfected by trials : so far we know. And we know also, that the brightest human virtue
may be shocked or overcome by some kind of trials; especially if often repeated, or of long continu
But the security we have to rest on is this, that God will not suffer honest men to be tempted above what they are able ; and he knows their abilities. Whenever men yield too far, so as to offend God, he is offended only because they were able to have held out longer, and did not; or because they might have done better, and would not. These are true and certain principles to stand upon, and these are sufficient. But to inquire farther into every
o See Tertullian on this head, contr. Marc. lib. ii. c. 5.
particular of the Divine conduct, and to demand a reason a priori, why he permits wicked spirits to range about, deceiving mankind; why he does not interpose to drive them away, chain them up, deprive them of being, or the like; this is presuming too far, forgetting our distance, and making too familiar with an all-wise Governor of the world. At the best, it is vain curiosity and impertinent cavilling.
The Objector has some other slighter cavils against the history of the fall, which may be dispatched in fewer words. He thinks it “ would be unworthy of God to “talk to a serpent.” He does not consider, that it was in the hearing of man, and for the use of mans. Besides, that in the visible serpent was contained an invisible fiend, seen only by God: and God, in cursing one, laid a curse upon both. That is to say, the words of the curse have both a literal and a mystical intendment; as is well known to Divines, and has been often proved. The Objector is offended, that God should " cause mankind to fall by the “ folly of Adam, which infinite wisdom could not but 6 foresee u.” This again is going out of his sphere, to pass a crude censure upon the unsearchable counsels, works, and ways of God. We have not data to go upon in such cases : we cannot look through the Divine dispensations from end to end; otherwise we should per. ceive marvellous wisdom in every part, and should discern the admirable beauty, harmony, and perfection of the whole. The governing of moral agents in a way suitable to their liberty, and to God's unspotted holiness, wisdom, and purity, is one of the finest and most mysterious parts of the Divine conduct; and will be the admiration both of men and angels to all eternity.
The Objector further askss, “ What dignity, what
r Christianity as Old, &c. p. 253. • Bochart. Oper. vol. i. p.
850. * See Bochart, vol. i. p. 852. Nat. Alexand. vol. i. p. 71. Pfeiffer, p. 27. u Christianity as Old, &c. p. 389. * Ibid. VOL. VI.
“ perfection could Adam's nature have, that the nature of « his posterity has not ?" To which I answer, that Adam had dignity and perfection, both natural and supernatural, which his posterity, as such, have not. He was naturally less prone to evil, less subject to sinful appetites, though capable of sinning: and he was supernaturally vested with great clearness of understanding as to Divine things, and rectitude of will, and immortality so far as to be under no sentence of death, no necessity of dying. The Objector next asks, whether Adam's descendants
are not as much framed after the image of their Ma“ ker?" No, not after the same perfection of that image as Adam was, in point of rectitude and immortality ; though in other respects, or in a lower degree, all men are framed after the image of God. Some other more trifling questions of the author, in page 389, I pass over : and if the reader is disposed to look deeper into the state of man before the fall, I refer him to an excellent discourse, professedly upon that subject, written by the incomparably learned and judicious Bishop Bully.
The two principal doctrines which Bishop Bull there maintains are as follows:
1. “ That Paradise was to Adam a type of heaven ; and “ that the never-ending life of happiness promised to our “ first parents, if they had continued obedient, and grown
to perfection under that economy wherein they were placed, should not have been continued in the earthly « Paradise, but only have commenced there, and been "perpetuated in a higher state: that is to say, after such “ trial of their obedience, as should seem sufficient to the “ Divine wisdom, they should have been translated from “ earth to heaven.”
2. “ That our first parents, besides the seeds of natural “ virtue and religion, sown in their minds in the very “ creation; and besides the natural innocence and recti“ tude wherein also they were created; were endowed
y Bull's Opera Posth. vol. iv. disc. 5. p. 1065, &c.