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all; and, where slavery is permitted by the law of the land, by bartering his own liberty, to condemn his innocent posterity to servitude The good of society at large often seems to require such economy, in order thus to inspire parents with a greater horror of crimes--so big with fatal consequences to the interests of their children, and children, in their turn, with gratitude to a parent, who, by his irreproachable demeanour, has placed them beyond the reach of such vexatious circumstances.
The sacred historian has again incurred the jeering sarcasms of profane cavillers—in relating how Eve was tempted, and the melancholy result of her prevarication. To these wise speculatists, the narrative appears, in many instances, absurd. First, they do not conceive the serpent to be more sagacious than the rest of his fellow-animals, nor how he could enter into conversation with Eve, or be said to be accursed more than other reptiles like himself.— With respect to the superior sagacity of the serpent, we are not sufficiently acquainted with the serpentinian species, to pronounce how far precisely it may extend: the extraordinary facts authentically recorded of some other animals, appear at first not less fictitious and incredible. Doubtless, the wicked spirit may have been permitted to converse with Eve through the organ of the serpent; and Eve, very possibly, had not yet experience enough to know whether an animal were naturally capable, or altogether incapable of speech.
That there exists a great variety of this species of creatures, is a fact well known to naturalists, and to travellers: somewinged and extremely beautiful, which, like the feathered race, can waft themselves with great facility through the air. Consequently it is not certain, that some which now crawl upon
the ground, did so originally ; nor whether the serpent spoken of in the book of Genesis might not belong to the latter class. Again, we are not sure that none among the different species of serpents actually eat earth for their food; were this a fact, it would sufficiently verify the malediction pronounced against that species for tempting Eve to sin.
À thousand other idle exceptions might be started against the authority of the word of God, which merit no reply. But then, was not the chastisement of Adam's disobedience too severe? We can only here remark, that it is absurd to judge of the grievousness of a fault by any other criterion than by the greatness of its punishment on the part of God. Besides, the miseries of this life, and even concupiscence itself, are ap. pendages of our very nature: the exemption from death; the perfect subordination of the flesh to the spirit, were privileges by no means due to our first parents; and of course Almighty God, with perfect justice, could deprive them and their pos
terity of these prerogatives, in consequence of their guilt. Nor is it an article of faith,
that infants who have died under the guilt of original sin are doomed to suffer torments in the world to come. They will not enter, it is true, into the kingdom of God; (John iii. 5.) but we are not informed by holy writ whether or not they shall be destined to a place of punishment. This is a point left undecided by the church. Our personal crimes indeed, will subject us to the most dreadful chastisement; but then these are voluntary and by our free choice, and not entailed on us by Adam. Finally, when we speak of Adam's fall, and the punishment which followed his transgression, we must not lose sight of the glorious reparation made by our divine Redeemer Jesus Christ. The fathers of the church here remind us in the first place, that the promise of a Redeemer was as ancient as the fall of man. Previously to his condemnation to sufferings and to death, Almighty God had pronounced already his maledictions against the serpent, and had said to him--the seed of the woman shall bruise thy head. In virtue of this promise, say the holy fathers, and of the merits of the Redeemer, Adam and his posterity were sentenced only to a temporary punishment; and thus did the future redemption begin to operate its effect from the very instant it was first announced. They represent to us in the second place, that sufferings and death are the expiation of sin, and a subject of merit through the passion of our Divine Saviour; whence they conclude that, under this view, even the condemnation of man was an act of clemency on the part of God"; Jesus Christ, according to the apostle, having converted the bitterness of death into a subject of real triumph, in the assured prospect of a glorious resurrection unto life-with Him, and after his divine example. (1 Cor. xv. v. 54, 55.)
They observe, moreover, that the grace so plentifully diffused by Jesus Christ renders us victorious over our concupiscence; that by this conflict virtue becomes more meritorious, and is made worthy of a recompence equal with that originally designed for our first parents. By so many different considerations do the ancient fathers make us understand the high dignity to which our nature has been elevated by its union with the divine Word. The greatness of the evil of sin they endeavour to demonstrateby the powerfulness of the antidote deemed neces sary in order to its cure.
According to sacred writ, Adam's penitential course was very long: he lived nine hundred and thirty years, (Gen. c. v. v. 5.) This long life Almighty God was pleased to grant him, in order the more easily to perpetuate among his descendants, the tradition of those grand truths to which he himself was qualified to give the strongest attestation, as having received them personally from his Maker: 'and could mankind desire. an instructor more vene
rable, or more worthy their attention ?
But without that promise of his merciful Creator, respecting the Redeemer to be revealed in future ages, Adam must oft have been exposed to the temptation of despair, upon witnessing the frightful evils of every description, which his sin had unfortunately entailed upon mankind." None, however, among the fathers of the church, have ever entertained a doubt of his salvation : all without exception were persuaded, that this inestimable blessing was secured to him by our common mediator Jesus Christ.
But, not to exceed too much our intended brevity by indulging in theological discussion, we will now simply recapitulate the recital of that most ancient and divinely inspired writer Moses. This venerable historian informs us, that an All-Powerful Intelligence created heaven and earth, and all things which they contain, and that this Supreme Being enlightened man, became his legislator, and proposed to him rewards and punishments of his good or evil actions. He tells us, that unhappy man transgressed the laws which had been thus enjoined him ; relates the dreadful sentence denounced against him by the Almighty, and entailed upon the entire human race individually ; recounts the disorders of his late posterity; and the severe chastisement of their irregularities by the universal flood, which engulphed the whole earth beneath its raging billows, and overwhelmed in one vast ruin all the inhabitants of the globe, with the exception only, of faithful Noe and his family. This sad catastrophe took place in the year of the creation 1656. For a more detailed account we beg leave to refer our readers to the book of Genesis.
Of the restoration of the human race after the universal flood. SCARCELY had the waters of the universal deluge well subsided, when again all flesh began to corrupt its ways.
Already the Chaldeans, like almost every other nation of the earth, had abandoned themselves to idol worship, before the lapse of four hundred and twenty-six years from the flood, when Almighty God caused Abraham to quit his native country, and to fix his residence in the land of Canaan. Here, he was pleased to make a covenant or alliance with this patriarch, by which he promised to give to his posterity the territory he then inhabited; and this same promise he confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob, Abraham's son and grandson. (Gen. xii. Deut. vi.)
A series of events, directed by the hand of Providence, conducted Jacob and his family into Egypt, where the patriarch, on his death-bed, predicted to his children their various des
tinies in future ages ; announced the distant coming of the great Messiah ; marked his distinctive characters, and declared that the sceptre should not depart from the tribe of Juda, until this promised Saviour of mankind should come to dwell amongst us.
The miraculous deliverance of the Hebrere people from their
IN Egypt, the children of Jacob multiplied exceedingly;
There is but one only God, who created heaven and earth, and who governeth all things by his providence: he alone is worthy of our love; he alone, above all other objects, is to be revered, and his holy name held in supreme veneration. He beholdeth all things, even the inmost secrets of the heart : he is good, and merciful, and just. Man he hath created in a state of liberty, and hath left to him the free and un-necessitated choice of good or evil. It is the duty of man to receive with gratitude, all kinds of blessings, as coming from the hand of God; and all calamities with submission, as paternal chastisements, or as certain tests of his fidelity. But, although Almighty God is merciful and good, the Hebrew people must not flatter themselves with the hopes of impunity, or of seeing an end of the evils brought upon them by their disorders, without a sincere sorrow for their crimes.
Such was the religion, such the sublime morality of the Jewish nation; a people without arts or sciences, and in every other respect ignorant and rude ; while the most polished nations of the universe, with all their boasted skill in literature and the polite arts, lay engulphed in impenetrable darkness, as to the existence and the nature of a Supreme Being, the true origin of things, and the destiny of man !
To the most exalted ideas, the Hebrew people joined hopes the most magnificent and elevated. They were taught to believe, that—of the tribe and family of King David, would be born a Saviour, destined to deliver them from all their evils, and to
bring the entire human race to the knowledge of the true and living God.
(Gen. xlix. v. 10. Kings 2. c. vii. v. 12. Ps. xxi. v. Ig. xi. 8. 10. Ezech. xxxiv. v. 23.)
The religion, however, of this cherished nation, did not consist in the bare profession of these grand truths; it had its peculiar rites, its ceremonies, and its sacrifices ; its holocausts, puri. fications and expiatory observances. It prescribed laws admirably calculated to promote social intercourse, and the happiness of the people: in a word, every thing in church and state was here divine, because the Deity himself was the immediate author-not less of their political, than he was of their religious institutions. The observance of the laws which God had prescribed, was followed with sensible and speedy recompence, besides the consoling prospect of future reward in a better world. At the head of the church presided a sovereign pontiff, whose lips were the repositories of wisdom and truth; before his breast were suspended the Urim and the Thurim, through the medium of which Almighty God thought fit to deliver his sacred oracles to men.
The Jewish nation, enclosed within its mountains, and precluded from every species of connection with idolaters by its legislative code, seemed destined to preserve its religion unaltered and unimpaired: every thing that could bear reference to religion, to morality, to social life, --was carefully inculcated to the people from their infancy, and diligently explained by the prophets or the Levites, each Sabbath day, and on all the solemn festivals : a frightful portrait was depicted on these occasions, of the mythology of other nations; and they were prohibited, under the severest penalties, to receive from them their education in polite literature and the sciences. Their place of worship was confined to one single city, and to one temple only, which was the common centre of religion. The uninterrupted succession of the priesthood; the continual attention of the ministers in their various sacrifices of victims; the general obligation imposed upon all of offering their children in the temple, and of attending there personally every year, in order to their purification, were means well adapted to perpetuate among the Jews the religion of their ancestors. All these precautions, however, proved insufficient to prevent its corruption; and at Jerusalen itself were seen idolatrous kings, and even the very ministers of God, profaning the temple and religion with the motley worship of false divinities, in conjunction with the Supreme Being.
The Almighty, thus provoked, withdraws his protection from this infidel race; and Jerusalem falls a prey to the Assyrians. The furious conquerors dismantle the city, level its venerable temple with the ground, and lead away the captive Jews to Babylon. After a long and tedious captivity, they are suffered to return, and to re-build their city and their temple. When Alexander he Great had conquered Asia, vast numbers of the Jews passeil