« AnteriorContinuar »
has been carried on with a view of showing the truth of the Christian religion, particularly, the truth and credibility of the evangelical history, and the antiquity, genuineness, and authority of the books of the New Testament, the original records of the doctrine and miracles of our Saviour and his apostles. And all along great care has been taken to distinguish genuine and supposititious writings. Which I now reflect upon with much satisfaction. In this method, witnesses, when produced, appear in their true time and character. And every one is able to judge of the value of their testimony.'
END OF THE DISSERTATION.
ON THE MOSAIC ACCOUNT OF THE
CREATION AND FALL OF MAN.
here are not a few difficulties in the account, which Moses has given of the creation of the world, and of the formation, and temptation, and fall of our first parents. Some by the six days of the creation have understood as many years. Whilst others have thought the creation of the world instantaneous : and that the number of days mentioned by Moses is only intended to assist our conception, who are best able to think of things in order of succession.
No one part of this account is fuller of difficulties than that which relates to man. And some learned Jews, as well as Origen, and others among Christians, have supposed the account before us, not to be a history, but an allegory. The present prevailing opinion is, that what relates to man is fact. And it is argued, that, as the true character of Moses is that of an historian; it would be unbecoming his judgment and exactness, to insert an allegory in the midst of historical facts, without giving any intimation of it.
I shall take the account in the literal sense, and shall go over it under these several heads or divisions.
1. The formation of man. 2. The trial upon which he was put in paradise. 3. The temptation he met with. 4. His transgression. 5. The consequences of that, with the sentence passed by God upon the tempter, and upon the transgressors, our first parents.
1. The first thing in order is the creation of man. For with that I begin, not intending to survey the other works of God, before made.
Gen. i. 26. “ And God said, Let us make man, in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Ver. 27. “ So God created man in his own image : in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.”
This may be reckoned a summary account of the creation of man, which is more largely and particularly related again in the next chapter.
“ And God said : Let us make man, in our image, after our likeness.”
It is common for Christians to say, that here is a proof of a Trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead. To which others answer, that the Jews never understood these expressions after this manner, who always believed one God, and that God to be one person only, except when they fell into gross idolatry, after the manner of their heathen neighbours. And many learned Christians are clearly of opinion, that the doctrine of the trinity was not revealed in the Old Testament.
These interpreters therefore suppose that the style common to princes and great men, who often speak in the plural number, is here ascribed to God. Nor need the consultation, here represented, be supposed to be between equals. But God may be rather supposed to declare his mind to his angels, as counsellors. Nor will it be an invincible objection, that in this history there is no notice taken of the creation of angels. For there follow expressions, which may be reckoned to imply their existence and their dignity, and that they were not unknown unto man.
But indeed we need not to suppose any real discourse or consultation at all. The meaning is no more thân this : “ All other things being made, God proceeded to the creation of man; or,
he * purposed now, at the conclusion, to make man.' And it may be reckoned probable, that Moses introduces God in this peculiar manner, deliberating and consulting upon the creation of man, to intimate thereby, that he is the chief of the works of God, which are here described. Or, in other words, according to Patrick upon ver. 26. • God not only reserved man for the • last of his works, but does, as it were, advise and consult, or deliberate about his production : • the better to represent the dignity of man, and that he was made with admirable wisdom and prudence.'
It is here also worthy to be observed, that according to the account of Moses, a different method was taken in forming man, from that in which other animals were formed. Ver. 20. “ And God said : Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” And afterwards, ver. 24. “ And God said : Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth.” They were produced by the Divine power, and command. But God is represented, as making man himself, immediately, to denote his dignity, and superior prerogative above the rest of the creatures.
Still at ver. 26. “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." By which two-fold expression, it is likely, one and the same thing is intended. For when the result or execution of this deliberation and purpose is described and related, it is in this manner : ver. 27. “ So God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him.”
What is the “ image," or likeness of God, intended by Moses, is not clear, because he has not distinctly expressed it: and we may now conjecture things which were not in the mind of the writer. Nevertheless I think the coherence leads us to understand hereby, as somewhat suitable to the mind of Moses, “ dominion over the rest of the creatures of this earth,” together with that reason and understanding, which is a main part of the superiority of the human nature above brute creatures, and qualities man to rule over them, and subdue them, and make them subservient to his own use and benefit. So are the words of this twenty-sixth verse: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.” And the eminence of man is thus described, Job xxxv. 11. “ He teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.”
Ver. 27. “ So God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him : male and female created he them.” What we are first led to observe here, as connected with what was just said, is that the woman was made after the image of God, as well as the man.
And from inserting, in this summary account of man's creation, on the sixth day, this par. ticular, that “God created man male and female,” it may be concluded, that the woman too was made on that day; which, I reckon, is the general opinion of interpreters: though there are some things in the next chapter, containing a more particular account of the formation of man, that might occasion some doubt about it. Patrick, in particular, says, God made woman • the same day he made man: as he did both sexes of other creatures, and as he made herbs and • plants with seeds in them, to propagate their species.'
It is always supposed, that God made man in maturity of body and understanding. And some have been so curious as to inquire at what age: or what was the age he appeared to have. And in conformity to the great length of the lives of the antediluvians, they have supposed, he might have the appearance of a man of fifty or sixty years of age according to that time.
Ver. 28. “ And God blessed them, and God said unto them: Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” The Jewish writers are generally disposed to understand that expression, “ be fruitful and multiply," as implying a precept universally binding. But the coherence rather leads us to understand it of a blessing or power: the like to which was bestowed upon the brute creatures, at ver. 22, which are not the subjects of a précept.
And here the privilege of dominion over the creatures is again expressed, denoting it to be common to both sexes, and designed to appertain to their posterity, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
It follows in ver. 29, and 30. « And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree, yielding seed. To you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth on the earth wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat. And it was so. Hence it is argued by many, that meat, or food of animal flesh, was not used before the flood. But that does not seem certain. It may be allowed, that for a good while, flesh was forborn. As animals were made by pairs only, it was not convenient that
any should be slain till they were increased. It may be allowed also, that vegetables were very much the diet of those who lived before the flood : when, probably, all things were in greater vigour and perfection than afterwards. But here is no prohibition of animal food. And it is observable, that Abel and Seth, and all who were of the family of God, were keepers of cattle. And, if they were not allowed to make use of them for food, it would be difficult to show, how keeping cattle, not fit for draught or burden, especially in any large number, could turn to a good account. If it be said, they might use their milk; I answer, that is more than is clearly expressed in the grant. Moreover, sacrifices of living creatures were in use very early. It is not reasonable to think, they were all whole burnt-offerings. It may be reckoned proba. ble, that they who brought to God sacrifices and offerings of living creatures, did partake of their offerings : which, certainly, was the custom in after times.
The first chapter of Genesis concludes thus: “And God saw every thing that he had made : and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Every thing was now formed according to the will, and purpose, and command of God. And every part of each day's creation, man in particular, was good, and such as God approved and designed.
Thus we have surveyed the summary account of man's creation, which is in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. At the beginning of the second chapter is introduced an account of tie sabbath, and a description of Paradise, which I forbear to insist on : but I would observe what is farther said of the formation of the first pair.
Ch. ii. 7. “ And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And man became a living soul.” Man is made of the “ dust of the ground.” But thereby is supposed to be meant moist earth. And whereas it is said, " God breathed into him the breath of life,” which is not said of any other animals: it is hence argued, that the soul of man is different from the body, and that it is a more excellent spirit than that of brute creatures.
Ver. 18. “ And the Lord God said : It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make Jim an help meet for him.” Here, I apprehend, we are led to the same observation that was mentioned before, upon occasion of those words, which represented God as consulting about the creation of man. . The design of those expressions was to intimate the great dignity, and superior excellence of man above brute creatures, whose creation was before related. In like manner, when God proceeds to the making of the woman, he is represented as consulting, and resclving what to do: that the man might be the more sensible of the goodness of the Creator in providing for him so suitable a help.
Ver. 19. “ And out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam, to see what he would call them. And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” Ver. 20. “ And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” This bringing the living creatures to Adam, and his giving tlem names, is a proof of his dominion over them.
This representation of things would lead us to suppose, that Eve was not formed on the sixth day, but some time after, because her formation is here related after the living creatures had been shown to Adam. Nevertheless, as before hinted, that argument is not conclusive. Here we have only a more distinct account of what was before related in general. This may be strongly argued from the seventh verse of this chapter before taken notice of, concerning the formation of Adam, who, certainly, was created on the sixth day.
It follows at ver. 21. “ And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept. And he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof." By this “sleep,” as is supposed, all pain was prevented. It is needless to multiply words here, or nicely to weigh objections. It seems most probable, that in the first formation there was somewhat superfluous in Adam. It has been supposed, that he had a superfluous rib on each side, and that God took away one pair, with the muscular parts adhering to them, and out of them made Eve.
Ver. 22. “ And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” Ver. 23. “And Adam said: This is now bone of my bones, and fleshi of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.'
It has been thought not improbable, that Adam had an ecstasy, during the time of his deep sleep, showing him what was done upon him: which enabled him to speak so properly, when Eve was brought to him.
Ver. 24. “ Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife. And they shall be one flesh."
This is sometimes called Adam's prophecy. For certain, if these are the words of Adam, he must have been inspired. For he could not at this time, in an ordinary way, have distinct ideas of the relations of father and mother. But many good interpreters think, that these should rather be understood as words of Moses, who by divine direction here inserted this law.
Ver. 25. “ And they were both naked, the man and his wife. And they were not ashamed.” This, certainly, must have been the case in a state of innocence. And therefore was proper to be mentioned.
And thus concludes the account of the formation of the first pair.
Ch. ii. 9. “ And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree, that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food : the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Of what kind, or for what use “ the tree of life” was, we cannot certainly say: though the name of it might lead us to think, it would have been of use upon occasion of eating any thing noxious, or for restoring decays, and preserving the vigour of life.
“ And the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It is doubted, why this tree was so called : whether it received its denomination from the event : or whether it was at first so called from the design, for which it was made and instituted, that it might be a trial of man's virtue.
In the 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 verses is the description of Paradise, which I pass over.
Ver. 15. “ And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” Not that he was made out of Paradise, and then brought into it. But, when made, he was placed therein, to keep it in good order.
Ver. 16. “ And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat.” Ver. 17. “ But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
Adam, as a rational creature, was subject to the law and will of God. He was necessarily bound by all moral laws and rules, and thereby obliged to love, honour, worship his Creator, and to love every creature of the same species or kind with himself, and to be merciful and tender of inferior beings, in subjection to him. But God was pleased to try him also by a positive law. And this would be likewise a trial of his virtue. For there can be no doubt but he was obliged to respect this law and restraint of his bountiful maker. And if he should disobey this law, it must be owing to some defect or failure of virtue. There cannot be conceived any reason, why he should transgress this command, unless some wrong temper, or evil thought, or irregularity and exorbitance of desire, (which, certainly, is immoral and sinful) first arose in him.
“ In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Literally, in the original, “dying thou shalt die." Which our translators have well expressed, “ thou shalt surely die.”
Hereby some expositors have understood death spiritual, natural and eternal. But I do not see any good reason they have for it. We seem rather to be justified in taking it in the sense of natural death only, or the dissolution of this frame, the separation of soul and body. We are led to this by the words of the sentence pronounced after the transgression : “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
“ In the day that thou eatest thereof thou salt surely die." By which may be meant, that very day thou shalt become mortal, and be liable to pains and diseases, which will issue in death. Or, that very day thou shalt actually die. Which last sense may be as probable as the other.
That is the trial, upon which man was put in Paradise, and in his state of innocence.
3. The next point, the third in order, is the temptation which he met with : the account of which is at the beginning of the third chapter of the book of Genesis. How long it was after the creation of Adam and Eve, before this happened, is not said. But it is likely, that some days had passed. The serpent found Eve alone, and attempted her in the absence of the man. Nor would his insinuations have been received, we may suppose, if he had suggested disobedi. ence to a command, that was but just then given.
Chap. iii. 1. “ Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, which God had made." It is generally allowed, that here was the contrivance and agency of Satan. But Moses speaks only of the outward appearance : and therein, as I apprehend, refers to, or in. tends the winding, insinuating motion of serpents. 66 And he said unto the woman: Yea has God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?” This is somewhat abrupt, and, pos. sibly, some other discourse had preceded. However, it is very artful: not denying what was most true and certain : but insinuating, that it was very strange, if such a prohibition had been delivered to them. And, possibly, Eve concluded, that she was now addressed by some angel, who wished them well.
Ver, 2." And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.” Ver. 3. “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." By which we perceive, that the woman was well apprized of the command, and the strictness of it. And, probably, she was by, when it was delivered : though Adam only be particularly mentioned.
Ver. 4. “ And the serpent said unto the woman : Ye shall not surely die.” Ver. 5. “ For God does know, that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Which last words may be thought to imply, that Éve was not without an apprehension of other intelligent beings, distinct from God the creator and man, and of an intermediate order between both.
In this discourse the serpent insinuates a wrong and disadvantageous opinion of the Deity, as envious of the high happiness and dignity which they might attain to. And Eve was much to blame, for admitting suspicions of the benevolence of him that made them.
4. I proceed immediately to our first parents' trangression, the accounts of that and the temptation being closely connected.
Ver. 6. " And 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 indeed strange. But from the serpent's insinuations she had admitted a dishonourable and disrespectful thought of the Deity, and then soon lost a just regard to the command he had given. She views this dangerous and deadly fruit with complacence. She looked upon this prohibited fruit, till she had an appetite to it, conceived of it as good food, and was taken with its beautiful colour, and possessed with a persuasion, that her curiosity would be gratified with an increase of knowledge. And according to the Mosaic account, which is concise, when Adam came up, and Eve presented him with some of the same forbidden fruit, he took it at her hand, and did eat of it. The account, I say, is concise. But it was needless to be more particular, after the clear account before given of the strict prohibition. Which sets Adam's fault in a conspicuous view. Possibly, the woman gave Adam an account of what the serpent had said to her, and represented it to him, with tokens of her approbation. He could have no temptation beyond what had been