« ПретходнаНастави »
by the sterner firmer qualites of her husband, Eve had walked forth, secure in her innocence, in the consciousness of love lingering within, and all around her; -the young animals gambolling about her, calling forth her caresses and her smile-the little birds springing from tree to tree in joyous greeting, or nestling in her bosom without one touch of fear-the gorgeous flowers, in all their glowing robes and exquisite fragrance, clustering richly around her-the very buds seeming to look up into her sweet loving face, to reflect increase of beauty from the gaze, so may our fancy picture her, as she neared that tree under whose fair branches so much of misery lurked. Coiled at its root, or twisted in rainbow-coloured folds around its trunk, lay the serpent, "who 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 in the garden? And the woman said, 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 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 she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat."
Such are the brief, yet emphatic words in which the inspired prophet of the Lord detailed those incidents on which the whole after-history of the world is founded
-the mournful detail of that first sin, from which every other sprung, DISOBEDIENCE. Of the various speculations and opinions concerning the instrumentality of the serpent we shall take no heed, save the humble endeavour to reconcile the ways of the Lord. He permitted the trial, but He commanded not the evil interposition of the subtlest of His creatures, the serpent, any more than He commanded the subtlety of Jacob in obtaining his father's blessing. Both events were permitted to take place; but the evil means of their accomplishment were NOT of the LORD, and consequently their agents were both subject to His displeasure, and condemned to punishment and wrath.
In one brief hour, the whole nature of Eve was changed the seeds of frailty, of whose very existence she had been scarcely conscious before, sprang up into influencing poison. Curiosity, presumption, an overweening trust in her own strength, a desire to act alone, independent of all control, to become greater, wiser, higher than the scale of being, than the station in which God's love had placed her-discontent-scorn of the blessings which a moment before had seemed so precious, simply because imagination portrayed others more alluring the attraction of novelty, beauty, those idol shrines at which woman so often sacrifices her better, her immortal self-such (and are they not the characteristics of woman, even as she is now?)--such were the emotions excited by the wily tempter, through whose baneful influence she fell. Where, at that moment, was the voice of the spirit, warning her of the God she disobeyed? Where the whisper of the mind, telling her that the sources of wisdom, of knowledge, already open,
were the purest and the best? Where the fond tones of the heart, urging her to seek the protection, the counsel, the support, of her earthly lord? Hushed, drowned in the wild tumult of a new and terrible excitement of feelings, whose very novelty fascinated and held her chained. The voice of the tempter was in her ear. Sight and smell were filled with the exquisite fruit, the delicious fragrance; and if such were revealed, what must be its taste and touch, when to pluck and eat would make her "as gods, knowing good and evil"? Weak, frail, unguarded, for the still small voice of the soul was lost in that hour's tempest, was it marvel that she fell? Could she have done otherwise? The bulwark of FAITH was shivered, her heart was open and defenceless-she was alone, alone-for even the guardian within, if not fled, was silent. The God of infinite love and compassion beheld, but approached not; and wherefore? If He permitted,
ordained, why did He punish? O had the voice of His creature called on Him in that terrible hour; had but the faintest cry ascended for help, for strength, for mercy; had but the struggling murmur arisen, " Father, thy words are truth, let me but believe,” strength, help, faith, would have poured their reviving rays into her sinking soul, and she had been saved-saved for immortality, saved to glorify her God! It was not that she had not the power so to pray. Free-will was her ownto obey, or disobey—to adhere, or to rebel. Of herself, indeed, she could not have resisted; but she had equal power to call upon the Lord, as to listen to the tempter. According to the path she chose, would have been the issue. Infinite, measureless, as is the love of the
Eternal, yet how dare we believe He will grant us help and strength, unless they are implored? How dare we believe He will come forward to our aid, if we stand forth in our own strength, as if we needed nought; nay, through presumption, arrogance, self-righteousness, rebel against, and defy Him? He had said, "Eat not of the tree of knowledge, for on the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." He had not commanded only, thongh that should have been sufficient from a loving Father to his children; but the command was enforced with a warning, that love should be strengthened by reverential fear. He had given the power to resist temptation, by CALLING UPON HIM; but if that power were trampled upon and utterly disregarded ; and the creature of His hand, whose whole existence, felicity, strength, wisdom, had their being but in Him, so depended upon herself, as to be satisfied with her own strength, believing it was in her power to become as a god, and so defying Him, is it contradiction to assert, that the All-wise, All-merciful, All-Just, permitted, and yet punished? Surely, surely, there is not one portion of this mournful history, which, on mature consideration, will be found irreconcileable with the attributes of the Eternal, or with His dealings with His
"She took of the fruit thereof and did eat." For a brief interval, we may suppose, the tumult within, the struggle between virtue and vice, innocence and guilt, was stilled in a strange fearful intoxication of sinful joy. She had broken through the barrier, which, at the words of the serpent, seemed suddenly of iron, it so degraded her by its harshness and injustice. She was INDE
PENDENT, had acted by herself, had shaken off all control; and the full tide of guilty pleasure so swept over her soul, as to permit, for the moment, no thought but of herself. But this lasted not long: the reaction came with the one thought-her husband. Terror of his anger was, in all probability, the first emotion-how might she evade it? Fear, notwithstanding her independence, deadened, banished, frustrated every feeling of remorse; repentance, sorrow-all would avail her nothing now; there was but one way to avert her husband's wrath-to make him disobedient as herself. The crime would appear less, could another share it. She recollected the influence she possessed; nay, that she had been created to be his help, to soften his sterner and less yielding nature, and would it fail her now? There was no pause, there could be none; guilt ever hurries on its victims. On her arguments, her persuasions, holy writ is silent. It was enough-" she gave also unto her husband with her and he did eat.”
The crime was consummated. Love itself, the purest, noblest, most influencing of those spiritual blessings vouchsafed to man by his Creator-love, deeper for the creature than the Creator, deeming the gift more precious than the Giver-love it was which to Adam was the tempter, and so converted the richest blessing to the direst curse. The specious offers, the dazzling allurements of the serpent, had, perhaps, to his stronger, more stedfast nature, been of no avail. He had no need of ambition, for he was lord over the whole created world. A glance from his eye, a stern rebuke from his lips, had awed even the subtlest of the beasts into silence, and banished him for ever; but strength and firmness fled