Слике страница
PDF
ePub

before the endearing influence of the being whom, created to perfect his happiness, he loved better than himself. Excuse for his weakness, indeed, there is none; but if such may be the extent of woman's influence (and it is as powerful even now) how fearful is her responsibility, and how deep should be her humility, how fervent her petitions for grace to guide aright.

Not long might the triumph of guilt last. Day declined the hour of evening came, which they were wont so joyfully to welcome, for it brought with it the voice of God. Remorse had come with all its horrors'; and now for the first time the extent of their sin stood before them. Terror banished all of love, as all of joy; and when the first sound of the Eternal's voice reached them, they fled in anguish to hide themselves amid the trees of the garden. Vain hope; but proving how all of spirit and of mind was crushed and buried in this first and awful sway of guilt. "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And the Lord God said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And the man said, The woman thou gavest to be with me, gave me of the fruit, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

Though to him all was known, yet would not the beneficent, the ever-loving, ay, even at that moment, still loving God condemn without question, judge without permitting defence. And how unupbraiding, how

C

loving the appeal, "What is this that thou hast done?" breathing a Father's sorrowing mercy in the very midst of justly deserved punishment. There was no consuming wrath, no terrifying anger, nought to betray that mighty and awful being at whose first word might be ⚫ annihilation.

The Eternal pronounced not sentence without requiring and waiting for reply: but what was that reply? Accusation of another, not self-abhorrence and lowly repentance. How fearful was the change wrought in the heart, as well as in the spirit of man, by his sin. Where now was his deep love for Eve, that he could say, vainly hoping to exculpate himself, "The woman thou didst give me, she gave me of the fruit, and I did eat." She had led him by the power of his love into sin; but from that moment her power was at an end, and he cared not to give her up to justice, so he excused himself. How terrible a commencement of her punishment must have been her husband's words to the still loving heart of Eve. It was true she had done as he had said; but was he to be her accuser? And to her were those words of sorrowing compassion said, "What is this that thou hast done?" Hast thou indeed so used the power, the beauty, the influence with which I endowed thee, for so different a purpose? She denied it not: she said not one word to justify her sin towards her husband; his words had entered her heart with the first sharp pang which human affection knew, and there was no attempt at defence or evasion,-"The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." If Adam had stooped to lay the blame of his own weakness upon one whom he had loved, instead of bewailing his own sin, it was no

wonder Eve, not yet awakened to what she should have done to avert the temptation, conscious but of increasing misery, thought only of what might seem excuse, “The serpent beguiled me." The Eternal knew she had spoken truth; and, still guided by that mercy and justice which in God alone are so perfectly united that there is no need of "man's ways" to reconcile them, proceeded to pronounce sentence according to the degrees of guilt.

This is not the place to enter into a dissertation on the punishment awarded to the serpent; suffice it that there seems no hidden or allegorical meaning in the inspired historian's simple words. The serpent, as a beast of the field, beguiled, and, as a beast of the field, was punished. Nor can an Israelite acknowledge any allusion to, or any necessity for a crucified and atoning Saviour, in the very simple words, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." For a Hebrew, the words can only be taken in their purely literal sense. We are particular on this point because thus early, in the perusal of the sacred Scriptures, the Jewish and Gentile readings differ; and from childish readings of Bible histories by Gentile writers, we may find ourselves giving credence to an assertion, for which we have no Mosaic authority, and which, in after years, we would gladly root out from the mystical and contradictory opinions with which it con fuses our ideas.

Eve's chastisement was severer than her husband's, and it was just that so it was, for she was the first transgressor. Death, indeed,-that the dust of which the frame was composed should return to dust,-was the

awful sentence pronounced on both; for such had been threatened from the first if they disobeyed: but during their sojourn upon earth, the sharper and severer trial of pain, of multiplied sorrows, of sinking comparatively in the scale of strength and intellect, of becoming subject to her husband, not as before, from the sweet obedience of love, but from the sterner mandate of duty; of being exposed, as a mother, to a hundred sources of anguish of which man knows nothing; for his deepest dearest love for his offspring is not like a mother's, subject to the thousand petty anxieties and cares which, independent of severer maternal trials, fill her heart from the moment she hears the first faint cry of the new-born until death. And these trials were Eve's, and they are woman's. Man had, indeed, his work; the earth was cursed through his sin, and forbidden to yield her fruit without the severest labour; he was to go forth from the Paradise of innocence and love, to till the ground whence he was taken— banished and for ever.

The voice of their God, for the first time heard in reproachful though still forbearing enquiry, and then in fearful condemnation, removed the blackening veil of sin. The spirit, burst from the chains of guilt and sin, and while it bowed in agony and remorse before the Father and the Judge, and acknowledged this awful sentence just, drew them once more to each other. Love was not given only for the happy: to the sorrowing, the repentant, it comes soothing while it softens, seeming, even while it deepens the heavy floods of grief, to banish all of harshness, of selfishness, and of despair. The justice of the Eternal marked the woman as the greater sinner- Adam's further wrath was needless;

remorse too told him that, as the stronger, the firmer, he should have resisted her persuasions, that his disobedience was his own sin, not her's; and we may believe that, as weak, trembling, bowed to the very dust, not from the thoughts of her own chastisement so much as from the reflection of what she had hurled upon her husband, for such still is woman, Adam once more received her to his heart, the sharer of his future toils, the soother of his threatened cares, even as she had before been the help-meet of his joy.

And already Eve needed all of strength and comfort her earthly lord might give. Still remembering mercy, the Eternal clothed them for their departure, endowing them with those faculties of invention, alike for their personal comfort as for the tillage of the ground, for which they had no need in Eden; but the very gift betrayed the bleak and desert world they were about to seek. Could they but remain in the home of their past innocence and joy, the anguish of the present might be sooner healed. Who that thinks a moment of what we now feel in turning from a beloved home, the scene of all our early hopes and joys and love, adorned with all of nature and of art, to seek another, impoverished, and fraught with toil and danger, apart from every object, animate or inanimate, which has twined round our hearts and bound us there,—who, that pictures scenes like these, will refuse our general mother the meed of sympathy as she turned from Eden. A change perhaps her sin had wrought even there. The birds flew aloft, trembling to approach that gentle bosom which had before been their resting-place; the young animals fled in terror from her step; and there was that

« ПретходнаНастави »