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much in perspicuity : and this could be but ill afforded in giving an epitome of subtle and contending opinions. We wish to present each point in dispute as simple and distinct as is possible : for in labouring to be short, there is danger of becoming obscure; and we are aware that a topic, which has been much agitated and contested, is as naturally involved in something of confusion, as the blinding dust rises with the wind, or an embattled field will be overhung with the smoke of its own affray.
We have first to look at the narrative, which Moses himself has written, or perhaps quoted, of the temptation by the serpent, the disobedience of our first parents, and the effects of their fall; and to examine the different principles of interpretation, which have been applied to it. Some have been contented to rest in its literal import, and suppose it to be a plain narrative of facts just as they happened: some bave maintained it to be a true history poetically embellished : and some have regarded it as entirely a fiction of poesy. It bas been treated by many as a mythos or apologue, either philosophical, or political, or moral. Others have attempted to illustrate it on the idea that the account was originally transmitted in hieroglyphical characters; which were undoubtedly the first that were employed in writing, and long preceded the formation of any alphabet. These characters presented the figures of a tree, a serpent, and a woman ; which were transferred, as they will have it, from the picture to the story that composes the third chapter of Genesis.- Whatever theory we adopt concerning its origin, still the story itself contains some leading thoughts that cannot be mistaken ; and there is scarcely room for controversy respecting its main design. It is evidently intended to bear upon that great problem, which in every succeeding age has been a theme of perplexed and anxious discussion,—the origin of evil. Attention must have been called, even in the earliest ages of the world, to the physical and moral ills, with which it abounds; and inquiry must have been excited as to the cause of so much iniquity and woe. We here have it referred to the disobedience and punishment of the parents of our race ; which was certainly ihe most simple and natural explanation that could have been devised; and one that commended itself to the universal wish of finding in the primeval generations of man, a period, however short, of an innocence and a bliss, which the earth in its present state no where presents or allows. This little history, or whatever else any may wish to call it, carries with it the idea, that sin is the transgression of a law expressiy given by God (v. 3); that it is detestable, as the description of the
tempter shows ; that it is shameful (v.7); and that, whatever the temptation, it deserves the severest punishment (v. 16, 17). The idea of divine justice also cannot but be recognized ; according to which, natural evil is visited upon mankind in retribution for their offences. The manner in which it describes the seduction of Adam and Eve, inay pass for a just and not inelegant representation of the manner in which evil propeasities commonly mislead. The guilty possessors of paradise are driven from it into the open and thorny world : but nothing is said of the divine image being lost ; nothing to induce the supposition that we are boro more frail than our great progenitor. The origin of evil is traced to the wiliness of an adversary, who was from the beginning : not a word is dropped implying any transmission of the consequences of the fall of Adam to his unborn posterity.
We pointed out several instances, in which the Mosaic account of man's creation was referred to in the Jewish scriptures : but there is not one, in which is the most distant allusion to his fall. We may read from Job, the oldest, to Daniel the youngest of them ail, and shall find nothing that can fairly be claimed as recognizing the relation in Genesis of the loss of Paradise. Remarks on the tendency of man to do evil, on the universality of sin, and strength of irregular passions, (1 Kings viii. 46. Proverbs sx. 9. Eccles. vii. 20. Ps. li. 5. and xiv. 2, 3.) cannot certainly be construed into any such reference. Such reflections are true on any system; and would have been made, had the whole history of the world before the flood been obliterated even to the last trace of record or tradition.
On leaving the canon of the Old Testament, we come to Jesus the son of Sirac ; whose admirable book called Ecclesias. ticus is contained in the Apocrypha, and was composed somewhat more than a century before the birth of our Saviour. He mentions explicitly, though incidentally, the circumstance of the fall; (xxv. 24.) “of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” He maintains, however, with the whole ancient scriptures, that all are free to will and to choose ; and that sin arises from the abuse of this freedom. His doctrine is entirely that of the apostle James, who tells us that “ God teinpteib no man," neither is any malevolent being the agent of temptation, but that "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lusts." His language is very strong and not to be misunderstood : “say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away: for thou oughtest not to do the things that he hateth. He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel. If thou wilt, thou shalt keep the commandments, and perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy band unto whether thou wilt.” Here no moral difference is acknowledged between Adam and his posterity : man is made as he was " from the beginning.” With respect to the influence of the evil principle, bis words are very remarkable : “ when the ungodly curseth Satan, he cursetb his own soul.” (xxi: 27.) In the apocryphal book called the Wisdoin of Solomon, written by some Platonizing Jew, of considerably later but uncertain date, we find the following passage, ii. 23, 24. “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless, through envy of the devil came death into the world; and they that do hold of his side do find it.” A spiritual life and death, however, seems here to be spoken of, in contradistinction to a natural one.
This appears evident from the last clause, and is confirmed by the whole context. Still the Jews who lived near the time of our Saviour, distinctly taught, that, on account of Adam's transgression, the sentence of temporal death passed on all, even the holiest. * -Pbilo of Alexandria, a contemporary with the apostles, next claims attention. He received and explained the narrative in the third chapter of Genesis, as allegorically and bistorically, though not literally true. Even bis historical exposition is in fact but little removed from an allegorical one. Figuratively, Paradise is, according to him, virtue and the moral nature of man; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is prudence and understanding ; the tree of life is the fear of God; the serpent is evil desire; the man is the intellectual, and the woman ihe sensual part of our nature. Through these leading points we may easily trace the outlines of his theory. This philosopher taugbi, that all men are by nature wicked ; that sin is handed down from generation to generation ; that it is impossible by the utmost exertions, and the highest advances in goodness, to free ourselves wholly from this tendency of our nature ; that man sins, not through the influence of sense, but through appetite and passion, although these would not invade were not the soul imprisoned in the flesh; and finally, that God is not to be cbarged with the blame of this evil propension, and has imparted to every one of his rational creatures the capacity of being virtuous.
The New Testament is now opened to us; andour inquiries turn toward the teacbing of Jesus and his apostles. And here a difficulty meets us. We cannot attempt to define what their teaching is, without seeming to prejudge the whole controversy, of which we have to treat. It is easy to decide what the son of Sirac and Philo, what Pelagius and Augustin meant; but when we approach the sacred records, we are immediately engaged in interpreting the decision of those, whom all acknowledge to be authorized arbiters. But for the very reason that they have been so much appealed to, we cannot pass them over: and the few words which we have to offer, we shall advance the more confidently, as it is far from our intention to dogmatize. The doctrine of the New Testament certainly is, that we are frail beings, and prone to offend ; that no one is or can be absolutely perfect; but still, that the sins of each individual arise from his own heart, from the abuse of his free-will, and are therefore on his own head. Direct references to the subject of the first transgression are not very frequent. There is a passage in the first epistle to Timothy, (ii. 13, 14, 15) relating to the seduction of Eve; but it has no doctrinal bearing, and contains not so much an argument, as an illustration in the Jewish manner. Be-, sides this, there are three conspicuous texts, that are often quoted and require particular notice. The first is in John, viii, 44; and presents us with the declaration of our Lord himself: "ye are of your father the devil, and he was a murderer from the begioning.” But if we consider the occasion on which it was spoken, to those who sought his life; we may conclude that he had not in his mind the introduction of death by sin, which would have been irrelevant, but the perpetration of the first murder, which was prompted by the most diabolical passions. The second example is in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, XV. 21, 22, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”, Many understand by this transmitted death, only the inheritance of an earthly, animal and corruptible frame : and according to the authorities collected by Scbleusner, we might translate the latter clause: as like Adam all die, even so like Christ, * &c. The other passage is in Romans, v, 12-19. “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” &c. The verses are too many to be quoted, and too familiar to our readers to make that necessary. Perhaps it would not be easy to prove any thing more from ihem than this, that sin superadds to bodies previously mortal, another cooperating principle of decay ; boih causing preternatural death, and aggravating dissolution by the sting which it adds to ilit However this inay be, we will offer but one remark :-it is acknowledged even by Mr. Pyle in his Paraphrase, though he believed the universal mortality of mankind to be the consequence of the fall,” that the apostle is here reasoning with the Jews upon their own principles; and that his argument is what logicians call “ ad hominem.” In that case, it is evident that nothing can be inferred respecting his own private opinion.
* For authorities Wetstein may be consulted, ad Rom. v. 12–14.
The fathers of the church now begin their order. In the first periods of christianity, there prevailed a diversity of opinion respecting the consequences of Adam's transgression, analogous to ihat which has already been mentioned concerning his original state. But it was a diversity, that attracted little atiention, and stirred up no disputes. Each followed bis own convictions with freedom, and in peace. In certain points, however, there was a perfect accordance; and it is remarkable that they were those, which were in direct opposition to the theory, that afterwards gained the ascendency under the name and influence of St. Augustin. The opinions of the fathers on this subject were connected with those, which they entertained of the origiu of the soul. The Gnostics, it is well known, held that mat. ter, and of course the human body, was wicked, and tbe source of all wickedness: and many of the fathers agreed with them, at least so far as to maintain, that since the time of Adám the frame of man was so constituted, as to excite him perpetually and vehemently to evil. To this cause of corruption, they added the agency of malignant spirits. Still, with respect to every individual, they traced the absolute source of bad deeds to his acknowledged free-will. This was the case with Justin Martyr, though he professes strongly his faith, that the corruption of mankind is universal. Irenæus deduces our mortality from Adam's disobedience, and ever advances the position that in him all have sinned; but he says not a word of any hereditary depravity, and even acknowledges a perpetual freedom in the human will. Clement of Alexandria declares the same with great precision and force : he goes so far as to remonstrate against those interpretations of some passages .in Scripture, according to which sin is sometbing born with us, and independent of any volition of ours. Origen supposed, with the Platonists, that our souls had transgressed in a preexistent state, and are imprisoned in these bodies by way of punishment. According to him, the history of the fall is only a description of every man's experience; the transmission of sin is chiefly the result of education; and the animal frame is but an incidental cause of moral evil. In Tertullian, so early as the second century, there appear some hints of original sin; but they are slight, and accompanied by the most express recognition of human freedom. It is now indeed, universally conceded, that all the ancient fathers taught this last great doctrine. Indume