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The Worship of the Serpent


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Corissa
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« Reply #30 on: November 25, 2009, 01:18:19 pm »

But here it may be objected, upon the very principle of our argument,--if Adam committed sin in consequence of a natural instinct--a desire of enlarging his understanding--with this desire about him, prompting him to sin,--can he be said to have been created pure? And if he had not been created pure, there is no necessity for believing that he ever fell, in the peculiar manner related by Moses; for the sinfulness of man would be sufficiently accounted for by the imperfection of his origin. To this we may reply, that the desire of enlarging his understanding did not necessarily induce Adam to sin: sin was, indeed, the consequence of his indulging


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this desire, but not the necessary consequence. He might have indulged it by communion with GOD, instead of finding its gratification by communion with Satan. That Adam, by too great a thirst after knowledge, fell, does not prove that he was prone to sin; but it certainly does prove that he was liable to it: and while we deny the proneness, we not only admit, but maintain his liability to fall. Being created, expressly, for the greatest glory of Gov, it follows that Adam was created with that nature which was best adapted to this purpose. He was, therefore, created pure, perfect, and free. For Omnipotence itself cannot produce a nobler being than one in Gods own spiritual likeness; perfectly sinless, and perfectly a free agent. But, however free and pure, such a person cannot be without a liability to sin: for if he be without a liability, he is without responsibility, which is an attribute suited to the Creator alone, and incommunicable to a creature. It could not, therefore, be otherwise, than that Adam should have been liable, though not prone, to sin: for that would have made his nature imperfect, and anticipated the corruption which did not exist in him until after his fall. What, before the fall,

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Corissa
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« Reply #31 on: November 25, 2009, 01:18:36 pm »

was only a liability, became afterwards a proneness to sin. Had Adam been placed in Paradise in any other state, he would either not have been a free agent, or too free to be responsible. If not a free agent, the gift of reason was superfluous, and every superfluity detracts from perfection. If too free to be responsible, he would not have been a creature; for to be a creature implies subordination, and subordination implies responsibility. The only condition, therefore, in which Adam could have been placed, was that of a free agent, responsible for his actions; with obedience or disobedience, and their respective consequences, before his eyes, and with the power to choose either. Being a free agent, it was necessary that he should be placed in a state of trial. For his free agency consisting in a capability of choice between obedience and disobedience, his happiness would consist in a wise employment of this power 1. And since real happiness is inseparable from holiness, Adam, to be happy, must have been holy. But holy or obedient (for it is the same thing,) he could not be, unless something were enjoined to which he might be disobedient. Adam, therefore,


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being a free agent, was necessarily placed in a state of trial.

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Corissa
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« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2009, 01:18:48 pm »

It appears, then, that the fall of man may be rationally explained, without having recourse to any allegorical interpretation; indeed, what allegory can render the circumstances more intelligible? or of what can the eating of a forbidden tree be allegorical? The only mysterious part of the transaction, after the assumption of the serpent's form by Satan, was the communication of intellectual knowledge by the taste of a tree. That the fruit of the forbidden tree did not affect the body, seems evident from the circumstance of God's dooming the body to corruption, after the fruit had been tasted, and "the eyes were opened." "The return to dust" was an effect of the curse of God, and not of any poisonous quality in the tree. The poison of the tree infected the mind alone: but the manner is a mystery.

There is, however, a method of explaining away the difficulty of the communication of knowledge by means of a tree, of which the advocate of literal interpretation may avail himself. With the learned and acute KENNICOT, he may consider that the tree in question was not to make

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Corissa
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« Reply #33 on: November 25, 2009, 01:18:59 pm »

any change in the intellectual faculties of the recipient. By substituting the word "test" for "knowledge"--a substitution which, he contends, the original will allow--the text will become, "and the tree which is the test of good and evil:" that is, "the tree by which God would try them, and by which it should appear whether or no they would own the sovereignty of their Maker, and obey or disobey his commands 1." Notwithstanding this ingenious, and not unsatisfactory, explanation, I prefer the received version, because it is more in accordance with the context. The effect produced upon the guilty pair is described under the metaphor, "their eyes were opened." This certainly implies that their minds had undergone a change; for their corporeal eyes could have seen "their nakedness" as easily before the Fall, as after; but the mind conceived no shame from the circumstance. This effect was produced by the fruit of the tree; for "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


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eat: And their eyes were opened 1." Between the action, "they did eat," and the effect, "their eyes were opened," there is no room for interpolating any other cause for the illumination, than the eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The copulative conjunction and points out the cause--namely, the fruit of the tree.

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« Reply #34 on: November 25, 2009, 01:19:09 pm »

The seduction of Eve by the SERPENT is as far from being allegorical as the other circumstances of the Fall. Satan had determined to bring about the destruction of man, and, therefore, would approach to the accomplishment of it in the most subtil manner. For this purpose, we are taught to believe that he assumed the form of the serpent, probably because the nature of that animal most nearly resembled his own: for "the serpent was more subtil than all the beasts of the field." His own form was spiritual; he could not, therefore, have shown himself to Eve as he really was. He appeared, consequently, under a disguise to which she had been accustomed, and at which she would not be startled.

A beautiful but mute animal crossed her path, ascended the tree of knowledge, and plucked


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« Reply #35 on: November 25, 2009, 01:19:19 pm »

its fruit; and in an instant appeared gifted with the powers of reason and of speech 1. He spoke to her; desired her to taste the same fruit which had opened his mind; and when, at length, having overcome her first astonishment, she refused, on the plea that God had forbidden her to touch it, he said unto her, "Yea! hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

If such should appear to have been the nature of the temptation which assailed Eve, who shall deny, that it was the most powerful which could be presented to the human mind? A mute and irrational creature, having tasted the fruit of this forbidden tree, became gifted with speech and reason; and how surpassing must be the knowledge which they would acquire by following the same course! Well, then, might she believe "that they would be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Such an interpretation of the temptation of Eve appears not only the most reasonable which can be offered to our belief, but it is, probably, the most correct, from the very language of the Scripture which describes the Fall. The third


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« Reply #36 on: November 25, 2009, 01:19:29 pm »

chapter of Genesis opens in an abrupt manner; and the first words of the serpent induce the inference, that something had previously passed between him and Eve, which is not mentioned in the narrative. The words, "Yea! hath God said?" appear to be the continuation of a conversation already begun. This will explain the reason why the woman expresses no surprise in hearing, for the first time, a brute animal speak with the voice of a man--an explanation more natural than that adopted by Bishop Patrick. He was of opinion that the tempter assumed the form of a beautiful winged serpent, whose bright golden colour made him, when flying, to be resplendent like fire. Of this kind, he informs us, were the serpents in the wilderness which destroyed the rebellious Israelites 1. They are called seraphim, from a root which signifies "to burn." "The angels of the presence" were also called seraphim, from a similar glorious appearance 2. The advocates of this opinion suppose that Eve took the serpent-tempter for one of these heavenly messengers, come down to enlighten her; "for she was not so simple as to think that beasts could speak 3." This opinion is




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defended by the expression of St. Paul (2 Cor. xi. 14),--"Satan is transformed into an angel of light." In the same chapter, he previously expresses his fears lest, "as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty," so the Corinthians "should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ." It is contended that St. Paul, in noticing the transformation of Satan into an "angel of light," alludes to the deception of Eve by the serpent. But this does not necessarily appear from the argument of the apostle: it is quite as likely that he refers to the temptation of our Lord, when Satan did probably appear "as an angel of light."

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« Reply #37 on: November 25, 2009, 01:19:41 pm »

But if Eve took the serpent for a seraph--a divine messenger sent to remove the prohibition from the tree of knowledge--how happened it that, when questioned by her Creator, "What is this that thou hast done?" she answered, unhesitatingly, "the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." A reply which amounts to conclusive evidence that she believed the tempter to be a real serpent. As a terrestrial animal, the deceiver is cursed--"Upon thy belly thou shalt go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." This curse applies not to a spiritual being.

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« Reply #38 on: November 25, 2009, 01:19:49 pm »

Moreover the word, which we translate "serpent," is, in the original, not "seraph," but "nachash" throughout. Conformably to which, the Septuagint employ the word ὄφις.

There is every ground, therefore, for accepting the temptation and fall of man in the literal sense of the Scripture, which reveals them to our faith.

That the devil, on this occasion, assumed the form of one of tile angelic seraphim, was a tradition of the East, adopted or invented by the Doctors of the Jewish Church. Rabbi Bechai, on Gen. iii. 14, observes: "This is the secret (or mystery) of the holy language, that a serpent is called saraph, as an angel is called saraph;" and "hence the Scriptures called serpents seraphim (Numb. xxi. 6-8), because they were the offspring of this old saraph 1." The seraphim of the wilderness are proved by Bochart to have been the same as those called in Isaiah (xix. 29. and xxx. 6), "fiery flying serpents." Whether the epithet "flying" was a metaphor for velocity, or whether it meant that these creatures had actually wings, is uncertain; it is certain, however, that tradition had invested both the celestial


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« Reply #39 on: November 25, 2009, 01:20:01 pm »

and terrestrial seraphim with wings: and hence the notion that the Paradisiacal serpent was a "winged" creature. Hence, also, the poetical fiction of winged dragons, as guardians of treasure and protectors of female innocence. For, singularly enough, the malevolent actions of the Paradisiacal serpent had a colouring given by heathen mythologists diametrically opposite to the reality. The seducer of Eve is thus perversely termed the protector of maiden virtue; and the tempter, who induced her to pluck the forbidden fruit, is the guardian of the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides. So powerful is "the Prince of this World" to delude his victims!

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« Reply #40 on: November 25, 2009, 01:20:16 pm »

Adam, then, was free, as created for God's glory; pure, as the similitude of his spotless nature; perfect, as the temple of his Holy Spirit. Of created things, the last and best on earth, he came into existence on the eve of God's holy rest; and the first duty to which he was called, was the celebration of the Sabbath. Constituted, as he was, with the capacity to comprehend, and the inclination to adore his Maker, he was created to be happy. The most perfect soul in the most perfect body, and each endued

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with ability to enjoy the most perfect happiness of its nature, characterized the noblest of terrestrial beings. Had he continued in obedience, he would have continued in happiness; but, alas! the union of excellence, which conciliated the goodwill of the good angels, excited and exasperated the envy of the bad. In an hour of weakness, the tempter came: with the voice of kindness, he insinuated distrust in God; the insidious appeal was heard; the forbidden tree was tasted:--"the eyes" of man "were opened"--but his soul was lost! And in this state it continued, until, by the sacrifice of THE REDEEMER--by the bruising of HIS heel, who should bruise the serpent's head--that which had been "dead" was alive again;" that which had been "lost" was "found."

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« Reply #41 on: November 25, 2009, 01:20:40 pm »

II. Allusions to the original Innocence, and subsequent Fall of Man, by Heathen Authors.
We have regarded the Fall of Man as an historical fact, dæmonstrable by reason. We may, therefore, very properly require traces of this

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event in the opinions and traditions of people upon whom the light of revelation never shone. All are descended from the same family in the ark, and it is more than probable that some vestiges of the original history of man were preserved in the traditions of the more enlightened Gentiles. Such is the conclusion of unprejudiced reason; and, in full accordance, it has been ascertained, that the philosopher, the mythologist, and the uneducated idolater of every nation, bears witness in his writings, in his fables, or in his religion, to the truth of the Mosaic history.

It is unnecessary to remind the classical reader, that the degeneracy of mankind is a common topic of complaint with the philosophers of Greece and Rome. But a few brief references to establish this position may not be deemed superfluous, as they will greatly illustrate the arguments of the subsequent pages.

1. The writings of Plato abound with allusions to the degeneracy of mankind. So closely do his ideas on this subject approach the truth, that Bishop Stillingfleet has not scrupled to affirm, "he must have known more of the lapse of mankind than he would openly discover 1:" and


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« Reply #42 on: November 25, 2009, 01:20:53 pm »

Gale was so persuaded of the same thing, that he made it the chief object of his elaborate work to show that the Gentile philosopher had drank deeply of the fountain of sacred truth. He cites with approbation a saying of Numenius, the Pythagorean, Τί γάρ ἐστι Πλάτων ἢ Μωυσῆς ἀττικίζων; "What is Plato, but Moses speaking the language of Athens?" Led away by the glare of this strong resemblance, the learned Gale ascribed the agreement to plagiarism: but it is more than probable that the fountain at which Plato drank the truth, was the broad but troubled stream of patriarchal tradition, which irrigated alike the fertile and the barren mind, in every region of the globe.

Among other striking passages in the writings of that philosopher, is the following:--"These causes of our wickedness are derived from our parents, and from our constitutions, rather than from ourselves; for while we recoil from the works of our ancestors they are not idle 1:" as much as to say, that there is within us, by inheritance, a principle of sin, continually at war with the principle of righteousness; "a law in our members warring against the law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin,


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« Reply #43 on: November 25, 2009, 01:21:02 pm »

which is in our members 1." This notion is very nearly allied to the dogma of the Persians concerning the two innate principles, the good and the evil, of which we read in the very interesting story of Araspes and Panthea, related by Xenophon 2.

This state of the soul the philosopher terms "a moral or spiritual death;" and upon the authority of "wise men," by whom Gale conjectures that he must have meant "Jewish priests:" more probably, perhaps, Egyptian, with whom he is known to have conversed familiarly.--"I have heard from wise men, that we are now dead, and that the body is our sepulchre 3."

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« Reply #44 on: November 25, 2009, 01:21:10 pm »

The change of nature which ensued immediately after the fall of man, may be alluded to by the same philosopher in his discourse of the imaginary island of Atlantis, which, upon the division of the earth between the gods, fell to the lot of Vulcan and Minerva 4. There they created mortals of a superior mould, who lived in the unbounded enjoyment of happiness and peace.--"For many ages, as long as they were under the influence of this divine nature, they were





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