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The last poem ever written by his own hand, “a little before bis death,” possesses a peculiar interest. The fire of his youth is gone, but the grace and sweetness are still present; it is now the subdued language of one full of years and earthly experience, who only desires to fulfil his Maker's will and depart in peace: How long, how often, shall I pray, Take all iniquity away ; And give the plenitude of good, — The blessing bought by Jesus' blood; Coucupiscence and pride remove, And fill me, Lord, with humble love. Again I take the words to me Prescribed, and offer them to thee: Thy kingdom come, to root out sin, And perfect holiness bring in ; And swallow up my will in thine, And human change into divine. So shall I render thee thine own, And te'l the wonders thou hast done; The power and faithfulness declare Of God, who hears and answers prayer; Extol the riches of thy grace, And spend my latest breath in praise. O that the joyful hour were come, Which calls thy ready servant home, Unites me to the church above, Where angels chant the song of love, And saints eternally proclaim The glories of the heavenly Lamb!
He died March 29th, 1788, in his eightieth year. The epitaph placed over his remains had been written by himself for another:
With poverty of spirit blest,
(To be continued.)
THE SERPENT OF EDEN, FROM THE POINT OF VIEW
OF ADVANCED SCIENCE.
BY TIE REV. JOIN DCNS, D.D., FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND,
" And the Serpent has been more subtle than any least of the field which the Lord God hath made, and he saith unto the woman, “Is it true that God hath said, “ Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?”. And the woman saith to the serpent, • Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, but of the fruit of the tree which in midst of the garden God liath said, “ Ye shall not eat of it, nor touch it, lest ye die?” And the serpent saith unto the woman, · Ye do not surely die, for God doth know that, in the day of your eating thereof, your eyes have been opened, and ye have been as god, knowing good and evil. ..... And the Lord God saith to the woman, • What this thou hast done ?' And the woman saith,. The serpent bath caused me to forget, and I do eat. And the Lord God saith unto the serpent, 'Because thou hast done this, cursed thou above all the cattle, and above every beast of the field; on thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life. And I put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed : He shall bruise thee the head, and thou shalt bruise him the heel.” — Gen. iii. 1 – 4,13, 14 (Literal Translation).
Recent interpreters have approached this passage with considerable hesitancy. They are not sure of their ground. Their remarks indicate a strong latent suspicion that, though it would not do to disturb popular impressions, the view of the serpent given here will not stand the test of modern science. We hope to show that they are mistaken. The subject is one of much importance. It has not, however, so far as we are aware, been hitherto set in lights wbich harmonize with other passages of scripture, or even with the demands of the popular Christianized intelligence. Critics and commentators satisfy themselves by repeating what those who have gone before them have said, and adding a few common-place remarks about alleged changes of structure in this 6 wisest of the beasts of the field.” The truth
seems to be, that the explanation of this transaction given by Josephus, and the pictures of the poets, have influenced many most learned students of the Bible, when they were little aware of it. “God,” says the Jewish historian (A1tiq. I. i. 4), “ commanded that Adam and his wife should eat of all the rest of the plants, but to abstain from the tree of knowledge; and foretold to them that, if they touched it, it would prove their destruction. But while all the living creatures had one language, at that time the serpent, which then lived together with Adam and his wife, showed an envious disposition at his supposal of their living happily, and in obedience to the coinınand of God; and imagining that, when they disobeyed him they would fall into calamities, he persuaded the woman, out of a malicious intention, to take of the tree of knowledge. . . . . . He also deprived the serpent of speech, out of indignation at his malicious disposition towards Adam. Besides this, he inserted poison under his tongue, and made him an enemy of men; and suggested to them that they should direct their stroke against his head, that being the place wherein lay his mischievous designs towards man, and it being easiest to take vengeance on him in that way; and when he had deprived him of the use of his feet, he made him to go rolling all along, and dragging himself upon the ground.” “ Hence it appears,” gravely adds Whiston, the learned translator," that Josephus thought several, at least, of the brute animals, particularly the serpent, could speak before the Fall. And I think few of the more perfect kinds of those animals want the organs of speech at this day. Many inducements there are also to a notion that the present state they are in is not their original state; and that their capacities were once much greater than we now see them, and are capable of being restored to their former condition.” The place of the serpent in the temptation has influenced all men's thoughts in regard to it; and, instead of studying it as they would do other animals, many theologians have imagined a natural history for it. Thus Cruden, from the heading of whose
valuable Concordance so niany are willing to take their knowledge of scripture, has, under the word “ Serpent,” recorded such notes from its nature as the following: “ When he is old he has the secret of growing young again, and of stripping off his old skin, by squeezing himself between two rocks. He assaults a man if he has bis clothes on, but flees if he finds him naked. When he is assaulted, his chief care is to secure his head, because his heart being under his throat, and very near his head, the readiest way to kill him is to squeeze or cut off his head. And many suppose that his chief subtlety, or wisdom, as the gospel calls it, consists in this, that he chooses to expose his whole body to danger, that he may save his head. When be goes to drink at a fountain, he first vomits up all his poison, for fear of poisoning himself as he is drinking. Though this observation be not assented to by everybody, it has nevertheless a great many defenders.” And referring to the words : “ They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth his ear," the illustration is at hand : “It is said,” continues Cruden, " it applies one of its ears hard to the ground, and stops up the other with the end of its tail.” Then as to the words: “ Dust shall be the serpent's meat,” he says: “ It is true, however, that they eat Aesh, birds, frogs, fish, fruits, grass, etc. ; but as they continually creep upon the earth, it is impossible but that their food must be often defiled with dust and dirt. Some of them may really eat earth out of necessity, or at least earth-worms, which they cannot swallow without a good deal of dirt with them !” Many more like remarks might be quoted from commentaries on the holy scriptures.
Poetry has also helped to convey erroneous impressions as to this passage. An old poet (1580) introduces Satan as assuming many forms ere he took to that of the serpent:
• The fountain of our sorrow,
Then in a nimble hart himself to shroud ;
And with their breath, look, tongue, or train, they slay vs." Milton, in “ Paradise Lost," follows the older poet, as regards the changes of Satan, and with even less regard to natural history. Thus, after describing the prowling wolf's method of getting at the shepherd's folded fock, when he
Leaps o'er the fence with ease into the fold,” he continues the description of Satan's entrance:
“ So clomb this first grand thief into God's fold.
Sat like a cormorant." — Book IV. Afterwards the guardian angels, Ithuriel and Zephon, are represented hastening
" To the bower direct
The animal spirits.” Book IV. Taking to himself in the long run the destinctive form, he is described, in lines of unmatched beauty, " addressing his way toward Eve":
“ Not with indented wave,