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himself into the depths of misery, in complaisance to her, in her sorrows:* But we rather think, that the apostle does not speak of Adam's not being deceived, but rather of his not being first deceived, or first in the transgression.
Now this deception or temptation, was from the devil, who, because of his subtilty, is called, That old serpent, Rev. xii. 9. chap. xx. 2. and he is said to make use of wiles, Eph. vi. 11. that is, various methods of deceit in suiting his temptations, so that men may be ensnared by them; which leads us to consider,
IV. The methods he took to deceive our first parents, as we have a particular account thereof, and of their compliance therewith, in Gen. iii. 1-6. in which we shall take occasion to observe who the tempter was; and the way and manner how he assaulted them.
There are two extremes of opinion, which some run into, which are equally to be avoided. On the one hand, some suppose that it was a beast, or natural serpent, that was the tempter, and that the devil had no hand in the temptation; whereas others suppose that there was no serpent made use of, but that the devil did all without it, and that he is styled a serpent, in that scripture, from his subtilty. This we call another extreme of opinion, and, indeed, the truth lies in a medium between them both; therefore we must suppose, that there was really a natural serpent, a beast so called, made use of, as an instrument, by the devil, by which he managed the temptation, and accordingly that he possessed and spake by it, which is the most common opinion, and agrees best with the account given of it in the above-mentioned scripture; and it is also consistent with what our Saviour says of him, when describing him as a murderer from the beginning, John viii. 44.
That it was not only, or principally, the natural serpent that tempted our first parents, will appear, if we consider,
(1.) That, though the serpent, indeed, is said to be more subtile than all the beasts of the field, yet it never was endowed with speech,† and therefore could not, unless actuated by a spirit, hold a discourse with Eve, as he is said to have done.
(2.) Brute creatures cannot reason, or argue, as the serpent did; for, whatever appearance of reason there may be in them,
*This is beautifully described by Milior, (in his paradice lost, Book IX.) and many others have asserted the same thing for substance, as thinking it below the wisdom of the man to be imposed on; thereby insinuating, though without sufficient ground, that he had a greater degree of wisdom allotted to him than his wife.
† Josephus indeed, (See Antiq. Lib. I. cap. 2.) intimates, that the serpent was, at first, endowed with speech, and that his loss of it was inflicted for his tempting mm; but it is a groundless conjecture arising from a supposition, that those things spoken of in Gen. iii. which are attributed to the devil, were done without him, which is not only his opinion, but of many other Jewish writers, and several modern once.
Because thou hast done this, saith God, thou art cursed av: cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life, Gen. iii. 14. which is only applicable to the beast so called, and this we see evidently fulfilled at this day. Some, from hence, infer, not, I think, without reason, that the serpent, before this, went erect; whereas afterwards, as containing the visible mark of the curse, it is said to go on its belly. This part of the curse therefore respected the natural serpent only; whereas that contained in the following words, 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, ver. 15. respects the devil, that actuated, or spake by it; though I am not insensible that some Jewish writers, and others, who would exempt the devil from having any hand in the temptation, and throw all the blame on the brute creature, the natural serpent, give a very jejune and empty sense of this text, as though it were to be taken altogether, according to the letter thereof, as importing, that there should be a war between man and the serpent, that so he might be revenged on him, which should never cease till he had slain him, or had bruised his head. But it seems very plain, that as the former verse respects the instrument made use of, viz. the natural serpent, so this respects the devil, and contains a prediction, that his malice should be defeated, and his power destroyed, by our Saviour, who is here promised, and described as the seed of the woman. From all which we are bound to conclude, that the devil making use of the serpent, was the tempter, by whom our first parents were seduced, and led astray from God, to the ruin of themselves, and all their posterity.
There are several things that may be observed in the method Satan took in managing this temptation, by which he seduced and overcame our first parents, of which we have an account in the scripture before-mentioned.
1. He concealed his character as a fallen spirit, and pre
himself into the be in circumstances not unlike to those in her sorrows: parents were, at least in this, that he seemed to speak of Ance to the great God, so far as to allow that he first dece to give laws to his creatures; and it is more than
Now that this was done immediately after his fall, and that becaust parents knew nothing of this instance of rebellion in chen, and did not, in the least, suppose that there were any teatures who were enemies to God, or were using endeavours to render them so. Had the devil given Eve an historical narration of his sin and fall, and begun his temptation with open blasphemy, or reproach cast on God, whom he had rebelled against, he could not but apprehend that our first parents would have treated him with the utmost abhorrence, and fled from him as an open enemy; but he conceals his enmity to God, while he pretends friendship to them, which was a great instance of subtilty; inasmuch as an enemy is never more formidable, that when he puts on a specious pretence of religion, or conceals his vile character as an enemy to God, and at the same time, pretends a great deal of friendship to those whom he designs to ruin.
2. As he tempted our first parents soon after his own fall, which shews his restless malice against God and goodness; so it was not long after their creation, in which he shewed his subtilty, not barely, as some suppose, because he was apprehensive, that the longer man stood, the more his habits of grace would be strengthened, and so it would be more difficult for the temptation to take effect. But that which seems to be the principal reason, was, either because he was apprehensive that man might soon have an intimation given him, that there were some fallen spirits, who were laying snares for his ruin, and therefore he would have been more guarded against him; or principally because he did not know but that man might soon be confirmed in this state of holiness and happiness; for how long God would continue him in a state of probation, was not revealed, and the devil knew very well that, upon his obtaining the grace of confirmation, after he had yielded obedience for a time, all his temptations would prove ineffectual; therefore he applied himself to his work with the greatest expedition.
3. He assaulted Eve when she was alone. This, indeed, is not expressly mentioned in scripture; but yet it seems very probable, inasmuch as he directed his discourse to, and held a conference with her, and not with Adam, which doubtless, he would have done, had he been present; and then it could hardly have been said, as the apostle does in the scripture beforementioned, that the woman was first in the transgression, and that she was first deceived by the serpent; and, indeed, had he
been with her, though she might have been first in eating the forbidden fruit; yet he would have sinned, as being a partaker with her therein, by suffering her to comply with the temptation, and not warning her of her danger, or endeavouring to detect the devil's sophistry, and restrain her from compliance therewith. As the law deems every one to be principals in traiterous conspiracies against a prince, if they are only present, provided they do not use those proper means which they ought to prevent it; accordingly if Adam had been with Eve, he would have sinned with her, before he received the forbidden fruit from her hand; which we do not find him charged with; therefore she was alone, on which account the devil took her at the greatest disadvantage; for, as the wise man well observes, Two are better than one; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, Eccles. iv. 9, 10.
4. The instrument Satan made use of, was, as was before observed, the serpent: Probably he was not suffered to take a human shape; or, if he had, that would not so well have answered his end, since it would have tended to amuse and surprise our first parents, and have put them upon enquiries who he was, and whence he came, for they knew that there were no human creatures formed but themselves. If he had made use of an inanimate creature, it would have been more surprising to hear it speak and reason about the providence of God; and if he had not assumed any visible shape, he could not have managed the temptation with that success; for there was no corrupt nature in our first parents to work upon, as there is in us. Therefore some are ready to conclude, that no temptation can be offered to an innocent creature, in an internal way, by the devil; therefore it must be presented to the senses, and consequently it was necessary that he should assume some shape, and particularly that of some brute creature, that he might more effecttually carry on his temptation. And it was expedient to answer his design, that he should not make use of any brute creature, that is naturally more stupid, and therefore less fit for his purpose; accordingly he made use of the serpent, concerning which it is observed, that it is more subtil than any beast of the field; and, as some suppose, it was, at first, a very beautiful creature, however odious it is to mankind at present, and that it had a bright shining skin curiously painted with variety of colours, which, when the sun shone upon it, cast a bright reflection of all the colours of the rainbow. But passing this by, as what is uncertain;
5. It is probable that the devil took that opportunity to discourse with Eve about the tree of knowledge, when she was standing by, or at least, not far from it, that so he might pre
vail with her to comply with the temptation in haste; whereas, if he had given her room for too much deliberation, it might have prevented his design from taking effect: If she had been at some distance from the tree, she would have had time to consider what she was going about; she did not want understanding to detect the fallacy, had she duly weighed matters, and therefore would hardly have complied with the temptation. Again, that she was, at least, within sight of the tree appears from hence, that the serpent takes occasion, from the beholding of it, to discourse about it, and commend it; and, while he was speaking about it to her, she saw that it was pleasant to the eye, and good for food.
6. As to what respects the matter of the temptation, we may observe, that the devil did not immediately tempt her to blaspheme God, to proclaim open war against him, or to break one of the commandments of the moral law; but to violate a positive law, which, though heinous in its own nature, as it was a practical disowning or denying the sovereignty of God, and had many other aggravations attending it; yet the breach of positive laws, founded on God's arbitrary will, are generally reckoned less aggravated, or we are inclined to entertain the temptation thereunto with less abhorrence than when we are tempted to break one of the moral laws, which are founded on the nature of God. Had he tempted her to deny that there was a God, or that there was any worship due to him; or had it been to have murdered her husband, or to commit any other crime, which is in itself shocking to human nature, he would have had less ground to conclude that his temptation would have taken effect.
And here we may observe, that he proceeded, in a gradual way, from less to greater insinuations, brought against God.
(1.) He does not immediately and directly, in his first onset, bring a charge against God, or his providence, but pretends ignorance, and speaks as one that wanted information, when he says, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden, q. d. Here is a garden well stored with fruit, the trees whereof are designed for your food; are there any of which you are prohibited to eat? This question occasions her reply; The woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it; neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. Some think, that her sin began here, and that she misrepresents the divine prohibition, for she was not forbid to touch it; it is only said, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, Gen. ii. 17. But I cannot see that this was any other than a just inference from the prohibition itself, as every thing is to be avoided that may