« PreviousContinue »
undertaken to personate their heavenly Father. 6 Is it your
kind and benevolent Creator, or some cruel impostor, who hath said, “ Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden P” Not your God, surely; but an enemy has laid upon you this unnecessary, and cruel restriction. God, certainly, had no hand in this matter."
Eve replied, however, as if well satisfied with her God." The woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.” We have fruit in rich abundance, in great variety, and of the most excellent kinds. We stand in need of nothing more than is freely permitted. 6 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.” Satan found he had an arduous task before him. Still he pressed his temptation ; and declared positively, * Ye shall not surely die.” And he appeared to Eve, to be able to prove his declaration. For it is natural to suppose, that he set her an example of eating the forbidden fruit, and gave her to understand, that this precious fruit had the wonderful effect, to elevate him from brutality, to the rank of rational beings. 6 And God doth know," said the deceiver, “ that in the day ye eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”" Now therefore, let who will endeavor to restrain you, in the laudable pursuit of knowledge; regard him not. He is envious, and hostile to your best interests. He defrauds
dearest rights. Will you tamely submit to remain in darkness and ignorance, while an inexhaustible fund of knowledge is attainable ? and attainable only by tasting of the most delicious fruit? Away with all your groundless scruples ! Will you, indeed, neglect the knowledge of good and evil ? How then will you be able to choose the good, and to refuse the evil? Only taste of this most precious fruit, this tree of knowledge of good and evil, and you will find yourself in a new world, you will be full of light and joy, happy beyond expression !
Thus the arch deceiver, the father of lies, beguiled the mother of us all." And the woman, being deceived,
was in the transgression." Eve, as well as others, everi in her innocency, had a natural desire of knowledge; a desire, worthy to be cultivated and improved ; but not by forbidden means. She had also, in her innocency, a natural curiosity, which strongly impelled her to make the experiment of the forbidden fruit. These passions of the mind were also capable of being greatly excited. Satan was aware of this, and laid his plan accordingly. Eve was a stranger to falsehood and deception; and was too unsuspicious of an evil design in the tempter. The adversary, of course, had greatly the advantage of her; which advantage be improved in the most crafty manner: and his temptation was, alas ! fatally successful! For it is added, that " When the woman saw, that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat.”
This is the scriptural account of the temptation and fall of Eve; and we easily perceive, by the view which we have taken of the subject, why she partook of the forbidden fruit. She became an unbeliever in her Creator, and a believer in the serpent. “ The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat,” said the woman. This was the best reason which she could offer. She conceived, that the serpent was possessed of miraculous power, which gave him a claim to divine authority. She imagined, that there was demonstration in all the suggestions of the tempter; and that there must have been a mistake, respecting the prohibition of the tree of knowledge. For, of all the trees in the garden, or even in the world, this appeared to be the most important.
Thus having cast off that implicit confidence in God, which reason and prudence would dictate, she presumed to claim a natural right to avail herself of the virtues and benefits of that wonderful tree. Her natural desires were inflamed, and she became impatient of divine restraint. : Lust had now conceived in her heart; and, in heart, prior to the external act, she revolted from God her Creator and Preserver. She hesitated no longer ;
but made the dreadful esperiment. She ate, and her sin was finished. It brought forth death. Satan had persuaded her to quit the ground of implicit faith and confidence in God, and to rely on human reason, and follow the dictates of a carnal heart. Now she renounced the divine command, and ventured herself on new ground, the ground of infidelity. Thus the woman apostatized from God.
Lest any should think to excuse the weak and unexperienced woman, under so strong temptations, let it be considered, that the Lord, whom she had, from the first day of her existence, known to be the true God, had most solemnly warned and admonished her, respecting the fruit of that tree. He had given her to understand clearly, that the interdiction of this single tree, was to be the ground of her probation for a blessed eternity; and that all her posterity, as well as herself, should be sharers in the consequences of her probation. She had, therefore, reason to expect some small trials of her patience, and proofs of her constancy, and fidelity to God. In her case, reason and prudence would have dictated, that whatever trials and temptations awaited her, she ought to have suspended eating of that one tree, until the Lord was further consulted on the subject. And least of all ought she to have consulted her husband, on a point of such infinite magnitude, and importance. The tempter was, indeed very plausible: but can any one excuse her in embracing the first temptation ? and this without any advice or deliberation ? And especially, when nothing but self-exaltation was proposed as a motive ? " Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
With regard to God's interposing, by his kind providence, to prevent the fatal evil, it is a sufficient reply, that he so distinctly and solemnly warned her, from the very birth of her existence, to look to him for wisdom and direction, in every case of doubt or difficulty. How absurd was it for her, on the first trial of her fidelity, to listen to the wiles of a talking serpent, rather than to the instructions of her heavenly Father! It was surely unreasonable to hope, that God would take any further meas
ures to prevent her apostavy. If she became disposed, so unadvisedly, and so rashly, to fall in with the suggestions of Satan, it proved, that lust had already conceived in her heart; and in this case, God was perfectly clear and justifiable, in leaving her to act out her own wicked choice, and to forfeit his favor forever.
How much Adam shared in the temptations of the serpent, or whether he had any share at all in them, or ever saw the serpent, in the character of the tempter ; we are not informed. It is generally supposed, however, and perhaps will appear evident from the historic account of the matter, that Adam was induced to eat of the forbidden fruit, by the influence of his wife, and his confidence in her, as a help meet for him, in all cases of doubt or difficulty. Probably a separation from his beloved wife, or a state of alienation from her, was viewed by him as the greatest of all trials or temptations; and as being absolutely intolerable. And since no visible evil, no death nor sorrow, had yet happened to his wife, in consequence of her eating of the fruit; he was emboldened to receive it from her hands, believing as she did, that it was not only harmless, but very useful. " He hearkened unto the voice of his wife ;" placing more confidence in her wicked advice, than in the positive instruction and prohibition of his God. Accordingly we find, that when he was arraigned before the Lord, and called to an account for his conduct, his only apology was this, “ The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” The fact was, that both of them, in one and the same day, yielded to those temptations which they considered to be absolutely irresistible. Both of them, so far as we can judge from the history, were about equally guilty in the sight of God. Both died, the same day, a spiritual death; and both became exposed to temporal and eternal death.
We now proceed to a solution of seeming difficulties which attend this intricate subject. The difficulties have been stated in part already, but not discussed. How could our first parents, who were perfectly holy in heart, be disposed to comply with the temptations of Satan?
And how could a kind and benevolent God, who per fectly foresaw the consequences, permit the adversary to assault them, in the infancy of their existence, and exult in their ruin?
Some suppose, that God has no control of the hearts and wills of moral agents, whether men or devils. Of course, all that could
be done in the case, was to forbid the temptations of Satan, and forbid the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to our first parents, setting before them the proper motives to obedience and fidelity. They consider 'all' moral beings as possessing a power of self determination, whereby they act, in a sense, independently. They hold also, that God could not perfectly foreknow the part that Adam and Eve would act, under the temptation
of Satan, till they acted their part in a fatal apostacy. But this method of accounting for the fall of man, or of angels, is altogether unsatisfactory. In a great measure, it represents the Most High to be like unto ourselves, frail and ignorant, and liable to innumerable disappointments. This method of solving the difficulty, is grossly inconsistent with reason and scripture. Certainly, “ All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” And as certainly, all hearts, as well as the king's heart, are in the hand of the Lord : as the rivers of water, he turneth them whithersoever he will."' 6 Thou understandest my thoughts afar off,” says the Psalmist. From the holy scriptures we learn that God, in his providence, controls all his creatures, and even all their actions. 66 He hath done as he hath pleased, in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth.” Christ had, evidently, the control of devils, when he was in the flesh; and, in the temptation of our first parents, satan was equally within the reach of his controlling power.
Now therefore, whether we can particularly account for the introduction of sin into this world, by the fall of man, or not, is not of the greatest consequence:
We can believe the fact that man did fall, by the temptation of satan. We can believe it understandingly, so far as God has seen fit to explain it: and some things may now