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THE FORBIDDEN TREE.
GEN. III, 1–6. THERE have ever been scoffers it had been required, as a pewho have derided this history, say- riodical acknowledgment of their ing, that the idea of our first pa- entire dependence upon God, that rents, and all their descendants, at certain times they should abhaving been damned, or sentenced stain from all food, or should eat to everlasting destruction, merely bitter herbs, something might then, for so very trivial an act as eating in the case of disobedience, peran apple, is perfectly incredible. haps, haye been pleaded by way of But in reply to these scoffers, let me excuse for human frailty ; but with first ask, whether the fact be as the great plenty and variety our thus stated by them. Were man- parents enjoyed, the refraining from kind, in reality, damned merely for this single fruit could scarcely be eating an apple? This I take upon considered as any act of mortificame positively to answer in the ne- tion at all. So that, even upon the gative : for let us consider all the supposition that the punishment incircumstances of the case.
flicted was merely for eating the In the 16th and 17th verses of forbidden fruit, these scoffers may the preceding chapter we read, perceive there was still blame “ The Lord God commanded the enough to justify the pronouncing man, saying, Of every tree of the of the sentence that had been pregarden thou mayest freely eat; but viously threatened, in case of their of the tree of knowledge of good disobedience. and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: But let us now inquire, how for in the day that thou eatest there. came they to do this, or what moof thou shalt surely die.”
tive incited them to it? Had they And here it may be remarked, accidentally passed this tree, and that it signifies little whether the been tempted by the beauty or fratest of obedience were great or grance of the fruit, and thus unsmall: it is sufficient that God posi- thinkingly led to commit the trestively commanded our progenitors pass, the case would not have been to refrain from one article out of so highly aggravated as will herethe great abundance he had freely after appear ; they would then, given them; that he threatened probably, as soon as they had sathem with death as the penalty for tisfied their appetite, or their curiodisobedience; and that they, in de- sity, immediately have humbled fiance of such command and threat, themselves to the dust, and have did not refrain, but ate of the fruit shown the utmost contrition. But of the forbidden tree. And as to it happened otherwise; “ The serthe triviality of the act which causes pent beguiled them, and they did the disbelief of the scoffer, surely eat.” And who was the serpent ? the trifling nature of the thing for- “ That old serpent, who is the devil bidden may, in one point of view, and Satan,” Rev. XX. 2; who took be said rather to increase than di- upon himself to declare, “ Ye shall minish the guilt of the transgres- not surely die.” Here was a manision. The easier the command, fest contradiction: God had said, the more inexcusable was its vio- Ye shall not eat of the fruit of the lation : for, to adopt the lan- tree of knowledge : for" on the day guage of Naaman's servants, “ If that thou eatest thereof thou shalt the prophet had bid thee do some surely die;" whereas the serpent great thing, wouldst thou not have said, “ Ye shall not die." Could done it?" Suppose, for instance, there, therefore, be any doubt as to
which of the two they ought to Could they possibly have supposed, have believed ? the almighty God that he would have concealed any who created them, and had fur- thing material for them to have nished them with every blessing known; or that he would have left they then enjoyed, with a promise it to be revealed by a reptile, or an to continue the same as long as evil spirit ? Had they thought at they refrained from disobeying his all, this must have been the result; commands; or a reptile, animated but, it too frequently happens that by an evil spirit, as they must at when once our passions are strongly least have supposed, if they knew excited, all thought and reflection not that it was Satan himself is driven away, and we rush headthat addressed them. Their thus long into sin; we usually transgress, giving immediate credence to this not so much from ignorance of our arch fiend, in preference to the po- duty, as because our reasoning sitive command of their great Crea- faculties are overpowered and subtor and Benefactor was the strongest dued by our passions. . aggravation of the case that could One would, however, yet have be; as they not only disobeyed thought, that after Eve, as the God's command, but, as it were, “ weaker vessel,” who first took leagued themselves with the fallen the fruit, and had (probably unconangels in their opposition to him; trolled by her husband) rashly tasted so that, in fact, they were so de- it, he would still have held back, graded and punished, not for the and, having thus preserved his inmere act of eating an apple, but be- nocence, might have had some cause, in so doing, they joined with hopes that his fervent prayers, with the great adversary of mankind in the contrition of his fallen wife, his rebellion against the Almighty. might have averted the threatened And having thus withdrawn their consequences of the act; but he, allegiance to their Creator, and en- perhaps, acted upon the system of listed themselves under the banners what the world calls honour and of Satan, they justly became entitled generosity, and might have thus, in to be sharers with him and his as- thought, addressed her: “ Poor sociates in their punishment and foolish woman, thou hast indeed degradation.
most heinously transgressed; but, We may here, however, pause to whatever may be the consequence ask, how it happened that they could of it, thou shalt not suffer alone: possibly credit the simple assertion for, as I have hitherto shared in thy of the arch fiend, in preference to happiness, I will now also be a the command of their beneficent sharer in thy punishment, whatever Creator? as no one would surely it may be." serve the devil for nothing, and . And what was the immediate there consequently must have been consequence ? Their eyes were some motive for so extraordinary a opened. And what did they see? determination. Let us, therefore, “They knew that they were naked.” attend to the remainder of the ser- They indeed instantly perceived, pent's speech : “ For God doth that they were "wretched, and know, that in the day ye eat there- miserable, and poor, and blind, of, then your eyes shall be opened; and naked.” Rev. ii. 17. But and ye shall be as gods, knowing how comes it, they had not before good and evil.” So, then, their perceived that they were naked, curiosity and their ambition were as that, at least, was not literally a excited; their eyes were to be consequence of their disobedience? opened, and they were to be as They then perceived it not, because gods. But how came it, that God they had hitherto been clothed with should have said nothing of all this? the robes of innocence, which they
now perceived were withdrawn, serpent (ver. 15), “ I will put enand had left them naked indeed. mity between thee and the woman,
Let us next see what excuses and between thy seed and her seed; they had to make for their trans- it shall bruise thy head, and thou gression. “ And the Lord God shalt bruise his heel.” called unto Adam, and said unto Here it may be observed, that him, Where art thou? And he said, although the descendants of each I heard thy voice in the garden, are to bruise the other, yet there and I was afraid, because I was is this difference: the seed of the naked; and I hid myself. And serpent shall only bruise the heel of he said, who told thee thou wast that of the woman, or shall only naked ? hast thou eaten of the annoy, without destroying them; tree whereof I commanded thee but the seed of the woman, in the that thou shouldest not eat? And person of Jesus Christ (the Son of the man said, The woman whom David, &c.), shall bruise his (i. e. thou gavest to be with me, she gave Satan's) head; or, in due time, put a me of the tree, and I did eat. And final end to his power and malignity. the Lord God said unto the woman, Thus, again, we read (John, iii. What is this that thou hast done? 16), “God so loved the world, that And the woman said, The serpent he gave his only begotten Son, to beguiled me, and I did eat.” the end, that all that believe in him
And was this all they had to say should not perish, but have everfor themselves? “The woman gave lasting life.” Although, therefore, me of the tree, and the serpent be- it is justly said by St. Paul; that guiled me, and we did eat?” Had “ In Adam all die,” yet he immethey no plea whatever to urge in diately adds, “ In Christ shall all extenuation of their crime? No; they be made alive;" so that, to all such stood self-convicted and ashamed as believe in the atonement for the to show their faces, for they hid sins of mankind, made by our themselves from God's presence in blessed Saviour, the sentence prothe garden; and who, therefore, nounced against our first parents shall attempt to vindicate the cause and their descendants, in respect to of those who had nothing to say their future state, is totally done for themselves? And yet God's away. gracious mercy, which they did not , Let all such, then, as feel a venture to implore, was now all they hearty desire to avail themselves had to trust to for exemption from of the benefit of this atonement, not eternal punishment. Nor was it fail to comply, to the utmost of long before his mercy began to their power, with his commands; show itself; for, no sooner had they to repent of their sins, to place their transgressed in the heinous manner dependence solely on the merits of before mentioned, than, instead of Jesus Christ, to seek for the regeimmediately destroying them, as he nerating influence of the Holy Spihad given them reason to expect, rit, to cultivate holiness and purehe took pity on the forlorn condi- ness of life, and brotherly love, as tion they were now reduced to, and the natural and necessary fruits of clothed them himself with skins. that faith by which alone they can
But the infinite mercy of their be united to the second Adam, and great Creator was most abundantly restored to that divine favour and shown in his immediately raising those blessed enjoyments which the them above the party they had so first Adam forfeited for himself and unwittingly joined, by predicting a his posterity, by partaking of the remedy for the evil, and their future forbidden tree. restoration to their former state, in
CAUTUS. that memorable declaration to the
THE RULE OF DUTY. To the Editor of the Christian rules or glosses which do not con
Guardian. . form to that original standard. SIR,
Do not misunderstand me, Sir: I As I am not much accustomed very willingly conform “ to every to write for the edification or in- ordinance of man for the Lord's struction of the readers of Maga- sake;" but, very clearly, this maxzines, though I have occasionally im, whether law or custom framed contributed an article for that pur- it into a law, can relate only to matpose, you will please to overlook ters not settled in the word of God, the homely garb in which I address or to things which men have estayou. I am a plain man, used to blished in conformity with that the plain directions of my Bible, word. I do not think that any law and unaccustomed to inventions by or any custom can make that to be which the evident dictates of the my duty which the word of God word of truth may be explained condemns, or can excuse me in the away or evaded. I have lived, I adhering to any habits, maxims, or trust, many years upon the blessed customs which are not sanctioned doctrines and promises which our by scriptural precept or scriptural heavenly Father has given us in the practice. Scriptures; and I can find no peace The ground of all moral obligato my soul, but in proportion as I tion, then, and the rule by which cleave to and feed upon his truths, we must be guided, is the law of plainly and literally understood. God recorded in his word. ConIf the doctrines are pared away or formity to that rule is right; and frittered down to Eastern meta- whatever is not in conformity with phors; if the promises are made that rule is evidently wrong. At chiefly to belong to the early con- least, so I have been used to view verts from paganism, or are confined the matter. I do not find that the to the Apostles, or to their times, divine law makes any reference to, my comforts are gone; because a or allowance of my will, pleasure, misapplied promise can only foster interest, or convenience; but, plaindelusion and self-deceit. "I take ly, directly, and unreservedly orders pleasure, therefore, in believing, me to do my duty, and to judge of that as Christ and his Apostles de- that duty by the sacred canon. livered their instructions for the These observations, Sir, both you benefit of all ranks and classes, and and your readers will, of course, particularly assure us, that they are think not only obvious, but trite accessible and intelligible to the and commonplace; such as every poor and unlearned, their doctrines one consents to, and every one apand consolations were intended for proves: for all admit the Bible, our times, and all times, and that I and not human laws or customs, to may and ought to possess and en- be the sole rule of moral obligation. joy the benefit of them.
So, Mr. Editor, I had been in the But, Mr. Editor, I am led by the habit of thinking. I fancied, at same Scriptures to look for pre- least as to our Protestant country, cepts for the formation and guid- that the law of the Most High was ance of my thoughts, words, and our great standard of reference, and actions; and as I dare not put the that all our own plans, views, inteleast confidence, as it respects my rests, and wishes are to be tried, comfort or salvation, in any promise and approved or found guilty, as or doctrine not referrible to that they correspond with or deviate sacred volume, so I dare not regu- from that great, invariable, and unlate my temper and conduct by any erring guide.
Judge, then, of my surprise and council of the nation---the House confusion, Sir, when I tell you that of Commons-the inquiry was not, all my old habits of thinking and “What is my duty towards my judging upon this subject, have, neighbour?” (at least, it was not by within these last few weeks, been the persons to whom I now allude, assaulted in a way, and from quar- and amongst whom were found ters, which I tremble to contem- some of His Majesty's Ministers,) plate. If individuals are bound by but, What is policy and interest God's law, so is the Church, and One (if I mistake not) of Mr. Canso is the state and the nation. ning's resolutions included someWhat then am I to think, or to say, thing like these words, “ due conwhen I behold man's interest and sideration being had to the proman's convenience made the ground perty of the planters, which has of human duty ? and when I hear several times been sanctioned by and read of grave discussions taking the British Legislature.” place, upon subjects which affect Here, Sir, if I am not deceived, the present and eternal welfare of the scriptural ground of duty is forour fellow-creatures ; and those dis- saken, and the interest of man subcussions making duty to turn upon stituted in its place. If it be true interest: and those discussions, that the property" here alluded moreover, not conducted by the to, is the possession of our fellowignorant or the vulgar, the adven- creatures as slaves, violently torn turer or the warrior, but by clergy- from their country, and by force remen and esquires, by bishops and tained in bondage; to speak of senators ?
them as “ property," to which the Sir, this matter is important, and West Indians have a right, is a it lies near my heart. If we forsake direct violation of the Scripture, the word and law of God, may we the only rule of human judgment not fear that God will forsake us ? respecting these matters. If, inIf we make our interest, and not deed, it be true, (and who will deny his will, the rule of our duty, may it?) that the planters are in posseswe not apprehend that divine judg- sion of stolen “ property," and the ments will overtake us in our pur- British Legislature have sanctioned suits, and subvert our sinful and this possession, the only duty which carnal projects? But that I may remains, to both planter and Legisnot be suspected of speaking gra- lature, now, is to make restitution, tuitously upon this subject, I will and to imitate the conduct of the state a few instances in evidence- Roman oppressor, when convinced instances not of private or indivi- of his extortion as tax-gatherer, by dual transactions, but some of them his conversion to Christianity: “ If such as are, or have been, pub- I have done any wrong to any man, lished to the world. I attended I restore four-fold.” one of those many meetings which Remember, Sir, I am not now have been lately held to petition discussing the duty of immediate against the perpetuity of slavery in emancipation, but the ground upon our West Indian colonies. How which some of our first legislators was I surprised to find several (not form their obligations and their a few), both gentlemen and clergy conduct, relative to the continuance men, enter upon the inquiry, not as of slavery in our West Indian coloa matter of duty to be determined nies. If our interest cannot form by the word of God, but as a duty an item in the estimate of moral to be suspended upon the contin obligation, all arguments and pleas, gence of civil policy and individual founded upon the consideration of advantage! When also, this same loss and gain, are utterly and absosubject was discussed in the great lutely irrelevant and inadmissible.