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yond his comprehension, and therefore to him incredible; let him reflect seriously on the work of creation. God is a Spirit, and between his infinite perfections, power, wisdom, holiness, and truth; and the known properties of matter, hardness, extension, solidity, and figure; no resemblance can be traced: yet we believe, that he not only gave to matter its existence; but caused it to assume that immense variety of forms, which it exhibits in the mineral, vegetable, and animated world. Since all this has certainly taken place; why should it be thought a thing impossible for Almighty God, so to unite himself to the man Christ Jesus; as that he, who every day displayed proofs of his humanity, should nevertheless be entitled, not merely by office, but by virtue of this union, to the title of Immanuel, God with us? We should learn, however, from our incapacity to comprehend this wonderful event, to abstain, as much as possible, in discussing this subject, from the use of unscriptural expressions; and to hazard no assertions concerning it, which are unsupported by the easiest interpretation of the word of God.
The motives which influence a wise man, are always supposed to bear some just proportion to the magnitude of the work he undertakes: we must therefore conclude, that the manifestation of Deity in the flesh, was the effect of causes that deserve to be investigated. As they do not, however, all of them, lay open to our view; the vast imagination of Milton has endeavoured to supply this deficiency; and has enabled him, with but a few scattered passages of scripture to guide him, to produce an epic poem, that has raised him, in the judgment of some critics, to a level with Virgil and Homer. A brief statement and examination of his hypothesis, will assist us in arranging our own ideas on the subject, and determining how far the generally received opinion is consistent with revelation.
Before this world was made; while chaos occupied the space, which is now possessed by the heavens and earth; the Almighty Father was pleased to summon, round the place where his more immediate presence was displayed, the innumerable hosts of angels and archangels, and other exalted spirits who inhabited the regions of bliss. He then presented to them his only begotten Son, clothed in unspeakable brightness, and announced him as the king whom they were all to honour and obey. With this command they all appeared well pleased, and expressed their satisfaction by
With Satan, however, this satisfaction was only seeming for having persuaded the third part of the angels to withdraw with him, far from the holy throne; he found means, by declaiming against the new decree, and insinuating that they were uncreated beings, and therefore served only from choice; to induce them to shake off their allegiance to the Father, and oppose, by force of arms, the dignity of the Son. A long battle was fought in heaven; in which, though the good angels on the whole prevailed, the issue continued dubious; till at length, the Son, for whom the Father had reserved the glory of that victory, came with irresistible power; and commanding his legions to stand still on either side, drove, with his chariot and thunder, into the midst of his enemies; and pursued them, unable to resist, to the farthest extremity of heaven. Incapable of remaining here, they fell into that dreadful abyss, which was prepared as their place of punishment. Here Satan and his angels lay for a considerable time, on the surface of a burning lake; overwhelmed with horror, confusion, and astonishment. At length, their chief recovering his spirits; addressed his companions, comforting them with the hope of yet regaining heaven; telling them of a new world and new kind of creatures, which, according to a report current among the angels, were about that time to be created; and exhorting them to find out the truth of this latter prediction, and how they might turn it the most to their advan
tage, After several projects had been discussed and abandoned by the infernal assembly; it was at length resolved, that Satan should undertake the long and perilous voyage, which was necessary to accomplish the design that he himself had suggested. The flight of Satan was not unperceived by the eternal Father; who declared to his Son, that though man was free to stand, Satan would be able to accomplish his fall; yet not into utter ruin, as there was reserved for him a portion of mercy. The Son of God rendered praises to his heavenly Father, for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards the human race; but was answered, that grace could not be extended to man, without the satisfaction of divine justice; that man would offend the majesty of God, by aspiring to divinity; and therefore, with all his progeny, must die; unless some one could be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offered himself a ransom for man; the Father accepted him; ordained his incarnation; pronounced his exaltation above all names in heaven and on earth, and commanded all the angels to adore him. They obeyed; and singing to their harps in full chorus, celebrated the praises of the Father and the Son. In the mean time, Satan, after having encountered various difficulties, found his way to the garden of Eden, and obtained a sight of Adam and Eve. He, at first, pitied tlieir unsuspecting innocence; then fell into many doubts in what way to proceed; and endured much torment from the passions of fear, envy, and despair: but at length confirming himself in evil, resolved to take such measures as might accomplish their destruction. Overhearing their, conversation, he learned that the continuance of their happiness depended on their abstaining from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He therefore, in a dream, suggested such thoughts to Eve, as might prepare her to disobey the divine command. He was, however, for the present, disappointed; and the angel Raphael descended from heaven, to acquaint our first parents with their danger. After some considerable delay, Satan entered the body of a serpent; in that disguise presented himself to Eve, and began with flattering her beauty. Pleased with the flattery, and astonished at the speech and sagacity of the serpent; she enquired by what means he acquired this superiority of reason and utterance over the other animals. He ascribed it to eating the forbidden fruit; and conducting her to the fatal tree, persuaded her to try the experiment. She consented; and having tasted, found herself exhilarated by a kind of intoxication; and fancying that she was now elevated to a divine dignity, sought out her husband, and persuaded him to follow her example, that he might enjoy her happiness. He saw her state to be utterly deplorable; but perceiving her lost, resolved, through excess of love, to perish with her, and partook also of the fruit. They, after experiencing a very transient pleasure, became sensible of their loss, sought to cover their nakedness, and then fell to variance and accusing one another. Satah, however, and his hateful companions, only found their misery increased by the success of their designs; but sin and death immediately took possession of this world, and various alterations were produced in the seasons and elements. After giving way, for some time, to discord and despair; the two great parents of mankind sought peace with God, by repentance and supplication. The Son presented their prayers to his Father, and interceded for their pardon; God accepted them, but declared they must no longer continue in Paradise ; and sent Michael with a band of cherubim to dispossess them, but first to comfort them. with the prospect of futurity. This errand Michael performed, shewing to Adam, in vision, the history of mankind till the universal deluge ; and then telling him of the most important events which should happen to the world till the call of Abraham, and to the chosen people of God till the incarnation of the Messiah.. Having described the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God; and communicated something of the same intelligence to Eve, in her sleep: he
led them out of Paradise, the fiery sword waving behind them, and the cherubim taking their station to guard the place. Our first parents submitted with humble resignation, having the wide world before them, and confiding in the merciful pro» tection of providence.
The fall of our first parents, for which Milton thus ingeniously labours to account; is related by Moses with the utmost conciseness and simplicity. He tells us, that God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul. He was immediately placed, by his Creator, in a gärden, which was planted in Eden, to dress and to keep it. As it was proper that his obedience should have some trial, and the circumstances in which he was placed were so widely different from those of succeeding generations, as to render impossible the exercise of the virtues, and the commission of those vices, which have since been deemed of the greatest importance; he received a single prohibition, every way suitable to the infancy of human nature. God commanded him, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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, Eve was afterwards created, to be a companion to Adam: she shared with him in the enjoyment, of Eden, and the government of the inferior animals; and we naturally suppose, was instructed by her husband, concerning the tenure by which their happiness was held. After recording the creation of woman; Moses proceeds, in the following words, to give us the history of the fall. Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made: and he said unto the woman, yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And 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. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil. 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 cat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
Though the serpent only is here mentioned as the tempter; yet, as the conduct attributed to him is very different from that which might be expected of a brute, it has been almost universally believed by Christians, that he was only the involuntary instrument, employed by one of those angels who did not keep their first estate, but are reserved in chains of darkness against the judgment day, This opinion is confirmed by different passages of scripture. In the book of Revelations, the names of old serpent, devil, and Satan, are used as synonymous; and Jesus Christ, in his conversation with the Jews, as recorded in the eighth chapter of John, says, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, hè speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. Thus far, therefore, the hypothesis of Milton appears to be well founded, but we dare not be equally answerable for the whole of his system. How moral evil first found residence in heaven, is an inquiry, which in this state of imperfection, we shall never be able to pursue as far as certainty; and the battle of Michael and his companions with the apostate spirits, Es described in the Apocalypse, is evidently a prophetical representation of some remarkable event, in which both the church and world were to be deeply interested.
The following are some of the consequences ascribed, in scripture, to the first act of disobedience. I. The sentiment of shame, which is scarcely to be accounted for on any other principal. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they
were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 2. A disposition to cast the blame of our evil actions, as much as possible, on others. And the man said, The woman that thou gavest me, to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? and the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did cat. 3. The distressing and dangerous circumstances attending the birth of infants. Unto the woman he said, I` will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. 4. Perhaps the inequality of the sexes. And thy desire shall be to thy husbund, and he shall rule over thee. 5. The increase of labour, necessary for the cultivation of the earth. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not cat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: Thorns, also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. 6. Temporal death. For dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return. 7. Moral evil. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For, until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Finally, as every act of transgression justly exposes us to the wrath of God; we may add the everlasting punishment of those, who have deviated from the divine law, in consequence of the evil example of our first parents, and the depraved nature which we have received. from them.
To mitigate and ultimately to remove this long train of evils, the Son of God became incarnate. His teaching, his miracles, his example, the common and extraordinary sufferings of his life, his agonizing death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his exaltation to the right hand of his Father; here, all contributed to the fulfilment of these merciful designs. He has brought life, and immortality to light; and informed us,. that though we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God; we may obtain, through him, not only pardon and peace; but an everlasting residence, in those delightful regions, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Our bodies, which are here the subjects of disease and death; shall, on a distant but certainly appointed day, be raised in glory and power; this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality; so that death shall be swallowed up in victory. Nor ought we to repine at the various troubles we may here endure, since all things shall work together for our good, for them that love God, and are called according to his purpose. These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
To any who may esteem it wonderful, that since the manifestation of our Lord in the flesh, was thus intended as a remedy for the evil consequences of the fall, these two events should be separated by an interval of four thousand years: we reply, since Christ is denominated, in the book of Revelations, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and he is expressly spoken of by Peter, as delivered up to crucifixion, by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God: the same way of salvation, which has produced. so many benefits to Christians of succeeding ages, was open to the faithful who lived: in the most early times. Neither did the long period, which has now been mentioned, pass away in vain;. since the light of divine revelation was gradually breaking in upon the world, and many important changes took place in the affairs of men; which contributed to display, with greater lustre, the wisdom and mercy. of God, in the gift. of his Son. To prove the truth of this observation, by the con sideration of facts, is the end to which the remainder of this chapter will be devotedi
The sentence pronounced upon the serpent, before the expulsion of our first parents from Eden, is very remarkable, And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all 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. And 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. These words have been generally considered, as not merely predicting any alteration that was to be made in the food and locomotion of the serpent, and the enmity which has ever since subsisted between that race of animals and the human species; but also to include some dark prophetic hint concerning Jesus Christ, who was to be born of a virgin, the persecution which he and his followers were to experience from wicked men, and the victory which he should obtain over the powers of darkness, at the very moment when they were bruising his heel, by the bitter agonies he suffered on the cross.
Though the books ascribed to Adam, Seth, and Enoch, are undoubtedly apocryphal; it is probable, that the antediluvians were favoured with, at least, a traditional revelation or species of instruction; which, considering the long lives of the patriarchs, may be thought fully adequate to their wants. Cain is said, by our Saviour, to have slain his brother Abel; because the works of Abel were righteous, and his own were wicked. And the Lord God said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Concerning the depravity of the old world it is said, And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations; and Noah walked with God. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. All these passages seem clearly to indicate, that the antediluvians had further information concerning the distinc tion between good and evil, than was contained in the prohibition which was given to our first parents in Eden. They worshipped God, not only by calling upon his name, but also by sacrifices. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof; and the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect; and Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. The shedding the blood of innocent animals, by way of satisfaction to God, would scarcely have been ever thought of by Abel, or been accepted by the Almighty; unless it had been performed in consequence of a divine appointment ; and this appointment seems intended to impress mankind with this truth, that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. The observation is confirmed by Hebrews xi. 4, 5, 6. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous; God testifying of his gifts, and by it, he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him; for before his translation, he had this_testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Add to all this, the observation of Noah's parents upon the observation of his birth; and it will appear, that they had some expectation of a deliverer. from the curse. And Lamech lived an hundred, eighty and two years, and begat a son · And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work: C