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ground, from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man. And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
The design of all which seems to be to intimate, that the sentence of death, pronounced upon man, was peremptory and irreversible. He was by no means to attain to immortality in this world, but suffer the change of death, or the dissolution of soul and body, and return to the dust, out of which he was taken.
The text speaks expressly of "man" only. But all allow that the "woman" is included, and must be understood. And are we not also to conclude, that the living creatures were all to follow Adam, and leave paradise. There was no need to mention them. They accompanied him who had dominion over them.
Man is sent forth to till the ground," in doing which he would have more labour than he would have had in paradise. His employment is described by tilling the ground. For that would be his main work, as his diet, for some while at least, would be chiefly vegetable. At the entrance into Eden, by which Adam was driven out, were placed cherubim, or angels, with a bright appearance, more than ordinary, which rendered it awful.
It would be too curious, I apprehend, to inquire what became of that delightful garden, or spot of ground, in which Adam and Eve were first placed by their bountiful Maker. If it subsisted for a while, it may be supposed to have been destroyed by the flood, and possibly before.
I have now surveyed the account of the creation and fall of man. And though I have not made use of the notion of its being allegorical, which usually leaves too much room for fancy, and for a variety of imaginations, many of which, if not all, would be conjectural: yet, possibly, all is not exact history, nor every thing put in order of time.
One instance of this, I think, we have plainly seen in the latter part of this chapter: where God's making coats for Adam and Eve is mentioned before their expulsion from paradise: whereas it is very probable it was after it.
Another thing seems to be transposed in the Mosaic account. The living creatures are represented to be brought to Adam, to see how he would call them, before Eve was made. But it is not easy to conceive how that should be done on the very sixth day of the creation, when Eve was made. It might be rather done some time after it. But Moses places that transaction as he has done, the more to show the importance of the woman's creation, though it might in time succeed it.
And there might be some other things instanced in, which need not to be literally taken, as here related in the utmost strictness of interpretation.
In this account of Moses we have the origin of things. It is what speculative minds, in all ages, and in almost all parts of the world, have been employed about. God is good; but how to account, then, for evil, is a difficulty which has greatly engaged and perplexed mankind.
In this relation of Moses is set before us the origin of moral and penal evil of sin, and diseases, and death, of the uncommon pains of child-bearing women, and of the great pains and labour which man takes for the providing the necessaries of life.
And though, as has been owned, the Mosaic account is not free from difficulties, there never was a better given by any. And consider Moses only as a philosopher, or law-giver separate from the character of an inspired writer, his account of the creation, and of the primitive state of man, and his fall, is worthy of respect. And we have reason to be thankful for it.
I shall now mention some observations in the way of corollary.
I. All things were originally as they came out of the hand of God, good, and were made by him in great wisdom.
After the history of the six days' creation, and of man in particular, it is added by Moses, at the end of the first chapter of this book: "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. And Solomon, having with great diligence employed his active and capacious mind in surveying the affairs of this world, and having observed many instances of vanity and vexation therein, and particularly the great degeneracy of mankind, says: "This have I found," of this I see reason to be fully satisfied, "that God made man upright: but they have sought out many inven tions," Ecc. vii. 29.
II. We are here led to observe the dignity of the human nature, which is so set before us, that it might not be overlooked, but might be regarded, and taken notice of by every one.
Gen. i. 26." And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Every word shows the dignity of the human nature. God is represented as proceeding to the formation of man with deliberation and consultation. He makes him himself. He does not say: "Let the earth now bring forth man." "But, "Let us make man." And still farther: "in our image, after our likeness." His dignity is also signified in what follows. "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." This thought, of man's having dominion over all things in this earth, and being lord of all the creatures therein, seldom occurs, as I apprehend, in heathen writings, but it is a great and just notion, and is a privilege which man still enjoys in great measure.
This notion of the dignity of the human nature leads us to two reflections: first, man, who has been made so excellent, and has dominion over other creatures, should act according to his dignity, as reasonable, and superior to other creatures on this earth, and should scorn every thing that is mean, base, impure, and cruel.
Another thought, which the dignity of the human nature leads us to, is this: that we can thence argue with great probability, if not with absolute certainty, that God will not lose this creature man, or suffer him to be for ever and totally lost. If man perish and be lost, to what purpose was this earth formed? And of what use are all things therein, if man, to whom dominion over them was given, be taken away? and if he live not to take pleasure in, admire, use, and improve, the rich and costly furniture with which this earth is adorned? It is moreover highly probable, that his time on this earth is not the whole period of his existence. So we may argue from the consideration of the superior dignity of the human nature. And we may see hereafter, that the argument is not inconclusive but rightly framed.
III. All mankind have proceeded from one pair.
Of this we could not be now absolutely sure, without some good authority, or well attested tradition; but it is the account of Moses, the greatest law-giver that ever was, and an inspired prophet of God. The great resemblance of mankind in the several parts of the world might be some ground of this supposition; but it would not be full proof. For many pairs, resembling each other, might have been formed by God, the Creator, at once, in several, and remote countries, that the earth might be soon peopled thereby. But the account of Moses, I suppose, may be relied upon. Nor ought difference of complexion, and some other lesser things, to be reckoned a valid objection: for difference of climates, with the varieties of air, earth, water, and the lesser or greater degrees of the sun's heat, will make sensible alterations and differences in one and the same species. St. Paul observes to the Athenians, that "God had made of one blood, all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth," Acts xvii. 26. And though, as before said, the great resemblance of the human frame and powers in the several parts of the world may not be a demonstrative argument to us, that all came from one pair: yet this account of Moses is much confirmed by the great agreement between the several nations of the carth in bodily frame, and intellectual powers, like desires, and passions, and diseases, and in universal liableness to death.
This leads us to two reflections. One is, the remarkable effect of the Divine blessing, bestowing such fruitfulness, that by one pair the vast circumference of this earth should be gradually peopled, manured, and improved.
The second is, that all men ought to love one another as brethren, for they are all descended from the same parents, and cannot but have like powers, and weaknesses, and wants. Solomon says, Prov. xxvii. 19. "As in water," or any other mirror, "face answers to face, so the heart of man to man." By considering ourselves we may know others: what they want, how we may relieve and comfort them. And this thought should abate exorbitant pride; for, notwithstanding some differences of outward condition, we have all the same nature, and are brethren.
IV. The Mosaic account teaches the only right order of marriage, that is, of one man, and
When the pharisees came to our Lord with a question about divorce, they being then accustomed to polygamy, and to frequent and easy divorces, he immediately answers them, and puts them to silence, by referring them to the Mosaic account of the creation of the first pair, and the Divine institution of marriage. Careful observations upon the increase of mankind have
shown us, that the number of males and females born into the world is near equal. Conse quently, great inconveniences would ensue from a perversion of the right order of marriage. Nevertheless, nothing can be so effectual, to put and keep things in a right course, as Divine authority, like that in the Mosaic account of the creation.
V. Another thing taught in this account of the origin of things, is the lawfulness, purity,
and innocence of the married state.
For God made man male and female, and marriage was instituted in the primitive state of innocence. Chap. i. 27, 28. " And God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it." Not now to recite again the farther account of the formation of the woman in the second chapter. Doubtless this account of Moses has been of great service in all ages, to remove or prevent scruples, and to restrain those, who from mistaken notions, or wrong views, have been disposed to prohibit, or to discourage marriage.
But though all are at liberty to marry, if they please, yet our Saviour, as well as St. Paul, seems to intimate the commendableness of the single life in some, if they are masters of their own purpose, and if they prefer it, that they may serve God with less distraction, and greater freedom from the cares of this life: if they choose to deny themselves, and to give themselves wholly up to the service of others in spreading the principles of religion, or promoting the interest of civil society, in any cases of emergency: provided also, that they herein act without ostentation, and do not overvalue themselves on this account, nor at all despise others; then there may be some commendableness in the single life. Nevertheless, after all, it may be reckoned probable, that there are not, and cannot be, many instances of the single life with all the above-mentioned qualifications.
VI. The Mosaic account of the origin of things teaches the duty of the sexes to each other in the married state.
This account teaches this, and is designed so to do. The design is so apparent, that it may possibly, lead some to question, whether there is not some studied contrivance in the narration. And if all is history, and things were so performed in the order here related, it may be esteemed unquestionable, that things were so done, particularly, that God created the man and the woman in this manner, and in this order, on purpose to convey these instructions. So therefore argues St. Paul. 1 Cor. xi. 7, 8, 9. "For the man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man." And in another place, 1 Tim. ii. 12, 13, 14. "But I suffer not a woman to teach, or to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve." Here he adds also: "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
Indeed all nations by their own reason and observation have discerned the same, and have allotted to men the cabinet of princes, the senate, and courts of judicature, as well as the command of navies and armies. But there are two ways of teaching one and the same thing. One is by reason, the other is by facts related in a certain order, and clothed with certain circumstances. And this latter method may be least offensive, and as effectual as the other. For comparisons between equals, or nearly so, are odious and disagreeable. Few or none can bear to insist upon majesty of countenance, bulk and strength of body, compass of knowledge, and solidity of judgment, as grounds of superiority and pre-eminence: when too there may be on the other side advantages of a different kind, that will bring the balance very nigh, if not quite, to an equilibre. The Mosaic narration affords a better, as it is a softer, argument. 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." Afterwards ver. 18. " And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him an help meet for him." Ver. 21, 22." And he took one of his ribs And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." All which affords excellent instruction. And if this account teaches yielding of will and desire on the one hand, it does as strongly enforce protection, love and tenderness on the other: the performance of which, suitably, on each side, it is likely, will secure mutual comfort and happiness.
↑ Matt. xix.
1 Cor. vii.
VII. Man was put upon a fair and equitable trial, and fell from his primitive state of happiness by his own fault.
Ch. ii. 16, 17. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.'
Divines of all denominations, I think, are agreed that Adam had freedom of will, power to choose and to refuse. Good and evil were set before him. Nor was it a difficult thing to avoid the prohibited fruit; and yet he was induced to eat of it.
VIII. If Adam, who was made upright, was overcome by temptation, we ought to be upon our guard.
This is a duty inculcated upon all of us by our excellent Lord and Master. Especially ought we to guard against disadvantageous and dishonourable thoughts of the Deity. By this means, as much as any, the subtle serpent prevailed upon and deceived Eve. Ch. iii. 1.Yea has God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"— Ver. 5. "For God does know, that in the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." All dishonourable sentiments of God, as unmerciful, illiberal, rigid, and inexorable, except upon terms of strict justice, are as false as those here suggested by the serpent, or rather by Satan: and if hearkened to, will have a bad influence upon us, and lead us astray from him who is the source of our happiness.
IX. The fall of our first parents is not only an argument to watch ourselves, but also to watch over others. Says St. Paul, 2 Cor. xi. 2, 3. "I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy For I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
X. The sentence pronounced by God upon our first parents for their transgression was mild and equitable: or it was a just sentence tempered with mercy.
The whole process of the judgment shows this, as related by Moses. First, Adam is summoned. He could not deny that he had eaten the forbidden fruit: but he has an excuse; not a very good one, yet an excuse it is. "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." The woman too had tasted of the forbidden fruit, and had first tasted. She likewise has an excuse and apology; and though not sufficient, yet of some moment. "And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Still farther, God begins with pronouncing sentence upon the serpent, which must have been exceeding comfortable to our first parents. And an intimation is given, that the "seed of the woman" should prevail against the serpent: or, that the cause of truth and innocence, religion and virtue, and the true interest and happiness of man, should prevail and take place in the end.
And though afterwards there are distinct and several sentences pronounced upon each, even upon Adam and Eve; and the sentence of death, as common to both: yet they are not immediately destroyed, but have time afforded for repentance.
We cannot forbear therefore to observe the justice and equity of the Divine Being. Man must die, but not immediately. And he would meet with arguments to establish his resolutions for obedience to the will of God, and for performing the duties of his present condition. The angels that fell appear not to have had any mercy shown them: they, it is likely, had no tempter. Herein, then, there is a difference between man and them. God in his great goodness and equity considers this, and treats man accordingly. This, as well as other things, should induce us to acknowledge the goodness of God, and to guard against all those sentiments that impeach it. God is the fountain of goodness. God therefore is the most merciful and most equitable being in the universe.
XI. The Mosaic account may lead us to think, that some magnify the consequences of the fall of our first parents.
The sin of Adam was the introduction of death, and of the miseries of this life. And so far his sin is imputed to his descendants, that they all become liable to the sentence of natural death. As St. Paul says, Rom. v. 12. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death," a sentence of death, "passed upon all men." This is not to be denied; nor is it any impeachment of the Divine justice or goodness. For God might have made man at first mortal, only supposing a future state: and that all things here, comforts and sorrows, be designed and ordered, as preparatory and disciplinary for another and better state.
But beside this, some assert, that the descendants of Adam derive from him a vitiated and corrupted nature, unable and averse to good, and inclined to evil. But where is this taught, either in this origin of things now before us, or in any other part of scripture? And would not this be, in reality, to make God the author of sin? Is not this imitating guilty Adam, who said: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me, and I did eat. But if men could allege a vitiated nature, it would be a better apology than that of Adam. The bad conduct, and the solicitations of the woman, could be no more at the utmost than a temptation from without. But nature is inborn, and the man himself. If a bad nature be derived to him without his own fault, the evil is past remedy, and quite out of his power. And if bad actions flow from a bad nature, he is scarce accountable for them. They must be put to the account of nature, and the author of it.
Besides, what reason is there to apprehend so great an alteration made in the nature and powers of man by Adam's transgression? Is there an immense difference between Adam and his posterity? Adam was made innocent: but his virtue was not confirmed. How easily were Adam and Eve misled and drawn into transgression! Is it not very strange that, in their circumstances, they should not be satisfied without tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil : when the prohibition was so express and strict, and they enjoyed great plenty of other things? The positive law, delivered to Adam, forbidding him to touch the fruit of that one tree, was a proper trial of his virtue. For it cannot be doubted, that he was obliged to respect this law of his Creator; and if he should disobey it, that must be owing to some defect or failure of moral virtue, as before observed.
Let us, then, not be unwilling to consider, whether the consequences of the fall of our first parents be not aggravated by some: and let us be careful not to admit any schemes which are derogatory to God's honour, and which countenance or justify men in their allowed weaknesses, or wilful transgressions.
XII. Finally, from the Mosaic account of the origin of things, and the explication which has been now given of it, we may be enabled to perceive, that the permission of the fall of our first parents, with the consequences of it, is no reflection upon the wisdom of the Divine government.
For rational creatures must be put upon trial. They cannot be without freedom of will, which may be abused. And as our first parents did not sin without a tempter, or of their own motion, as many of the angels seem to have done, God in his treatment of them has joined mercy with justice. Hence will arise glory to God, and good to men. God by his long suffering and patience, and the instructions afforded to them, and other methods of his Providence, the result of his unsearchable wisdom and goodness, will bring many of the sons of Adam to repentance, true holiness, eminent virtue, and heavenly glory and happiness, exceeding what could have been enjoyed on this earth, even in Paradise itself.
The virtue of true penitents is sometimes very great. They gain an establishment in the love and fear of God, and a full resolution for all goodness. The steady virtue of men amidst the temptations of this world will exceed the virtue of Adam in Paradise. It is true they are not innocent as he was; but they are upright, and fully resolved, and they overcome strong temptations and the moment of their virtue, according to equitable construction, (and such is that of the Divine judgment) may equal, and even surpass the virtue of an angel, who has not so great temptations. I am the more led to this, considering the great recompenses which God in the gospel has proposed to the faithful, the steady and victorious in this state of trial: and if we may attain to such excellence here, and such glory hereafter, we are greatly to blame, and much wanting to ourselves, if we do not "strive against sin," Heb. xii. 4. to the utmost, and resolutely, though humbly, and without ostentation, maintain our integrity amidst all the solicitations of this world.
END OF THE MOSAIC ACCOUNT.