« FöregåendeFortsätt »
profusion of delights? And was not wilful and presumptuous disobedience, from unbelief, hard thoughts of God, sensual concupiscence, and ambition of independence, a most flagrant act of rebellion and ingratitude? For who can deny that the easier the command the more atrocious the violation of it? They who vindicate or palliate such conduct must have a very feeble sense of their obligations to God, whatever they argue about moral obligations among men.
But do all mankind deserve damnation for Adam's sin? Instead of answering such a bold interrogation, I would only say, "Nay but, O man, "who art thou that repliest against God?" It is undeniable, that pain, sorrow, and death exist; and that men are prone to wickedness in every age and country. The greatest philosophers can give no satisfactory account, how the world was brought into its present deplorable condition: and the scriptural narration is at least as reasonable as any hitherto devised. Now, if Adam by transgression became sinful and mortal, his whole posterity must fall in and with him; for every creature propagates its own nature, and all its essential properties. Accordingly children are liable to pain, sickness and death; and the state of the world accords exactly to the sentence denounced on Adam.1 Children likewise shew precisely the same propensities to pride, envy, sensuality, and other corrupt passions, as appear more strongly marked in grown persons. If then all men actually sin and deserve punishment, if they be in
Gen. iii. 16-19.
capable of a holy felicity in the enjoyment of God, and if there be a future state of righteous retribution; they must be condemned in consequence of Adam's sin, unless mercy and grace deliver them. Would it not then better become us to leave these matters to a world of clearer light, and to employ ourselves in seeking mercy, and victory over our evil propensities, or in alleviating the miseries of mankind; than in disputing about what we do not understand, and in ridiculing what we cannot disprove? Could it even be demonstrated that the Mosaic account of the fall was false, the wickedness and misery of our race would not be in the least diminished: and the difficulty, arising from the admission of sin and misery into the creation of an infinitely good and powerful God, must press equally upon all men who acknowledge his existence. Unrepented sin must surely expose men to the wrath of God: and, as to the consequences after death, even infidels have at times their misgivings, and few can permanently exclude the fears of a future awful judgment; as the death-beds of many unbelievers, most fully prove.-With respect to infants who die without actually transgressing the divine law, we are not bound to determine any thing, but may safely leave them in the hands of infinite justice and mercy.
The circumstance of Eve's not expressing wonder at the serpent's speaking may be accounted for by the brevity of the narrative, and the extraordinary sagacity before observed in that animal;
1 And among them, according to all the accounts we have received, is to be numbered that of Mr. P. himself. (1820.)
and by supposing, with great probability, that Satan ascribed this gift, bestowed on the serpent, to the salutary tendency of the forbidden fruit.
Mr. P. can clearly see the doctrine of evil spirits in the scriptures: and so far he is right. But, as Satan's kingdom is "the power of darkness," and as he is most successful when least suspected; it is not impossible but Mr. P. may be indebted for his most brilliant thoughts especially such as bolt into the mind of their own accord," to Satan's suggestions: and he may abundantly repay his obligations, even while he denies the existence of evil spirits, by endeavouring to set men against the religion of Him who "was manifested to destroy the works of the devil."
Take away from Genesis,' says Mr. P., 'the 'belief that Moses was the author, on which only 'the strange belief that it is the word of God hath 'stood; and nothing remains but an anonymous 'book of stories, absurdities, or downright lies. The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah ' and his ark, drop to a level with the Arabian tales, without the merit of being entertaining; ' and the account of men living to eight or nine "hundred years becomes as fabulous as the im'mortality of the giants.'-But it is not more wonderful that God should at all destroy the work of his own hands, than that he should preserve his creatures for many hundred years ?-The opinion of the divine inspiration of the book of Genesis is not supported only, or principally, by the opinion that Moses wrote it, but rests on other evidence.
! P. i. p. 43.
Traces and traditions of the general deluge are found among all nations: and this despised book contains the most satisfactory account of the creation, the entrance of sin, the origin of the nations dispersed through the earth, and the history of the remote ages, extant in the world: with many most extraordinary prophecies, fulfilling at this day. And the story of Joseph is, in the opinion of the most competent judges, the most pathetic and interesting that ever was related
Mr. P. has given a fair specimen of his candour and caution, in his observations on the conduct of Moses and the Israelites respecting the Midianitish women and children.-The Lord prohibited the Israelites to assault or distress the Moabites and Ammonites, with whom the Midianites were intimately connected: yet Balak, king of Moab, when they approached his land, instead of sending an ambassador to desire peace, or openly making war upon them, sent for Balaam to curse them. When that project did not answer, he followed Balaam's counsel, and by incans of the Midianitish women seduced the Israelites into fornication, and then into idolatry, in order that they might provoke the Lord to curse them. In this diabolical design he so far succeeded, that twenty four thousand of them were cut off by divine judgments in one day. Moses was therefore commanded to avenge Israel on the Midianites, who seem to have been most criminal: and twelve thousand Israelites were sent into the country of Moab and Midian, who were completely successful, and did not so
much as lose a single man. Mr. P. calls this a 'plundering excursion,' though, even if Moses had acted by his own authority, the war would have been completely justifiable.
But, after the return of the detachment with the spoil and prisoners, Moses ordered all the grown women to be put to death; and this excites most dreadful exclamations. The sword of war indeed should distinguish between armed opponents and those who make no resistance: but the sword of justice knows no such distinction. Deliberate insidious temptation to sin must appear, to all wise and virtuous men, the greatest of injuries. The sex of the culprit does not in other cases excuse guilt, or exempt from punishment: and, if the women, in defiance of modesty and decency, openly suffered themselves to be hired by the princes and priests of Baal to become prostitutes to the Israelites, in order to promote idolatry, and to bring guilt and wrath upon the worshippers of Jehovah ; was it meet that the tempters should escape with impunity, while the tempted were severely punished? The project of thus seducing Israel was reasonably adjudged the national sin of Midian and Moab and was it proper that the principal criminals should escape? Moses could not possibly know the individual transgressors; and the Lord commonly involves many in public calamities who are not equally criminal: by his orders therefore the virgins were mercifully spared, and the rest were righteously punished.
But Mr. P. says, that an order was given 'to de'bauch the daughters,' as well as to slay the mothers; and he calculates that thirty two thousand