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used in the seventeenth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, it might have signified, that in the very day of their eating, they should, without further delay, have been put to death : but the general expression, in the day, may very obviously claim to have a larger signification, and intend no more, than that from the time of their transgression they should become mortal; bave in themselves the sentence of death, sure to take effect and be executed in its time, which He who made them would appoint.
It was now determined, that they should inevitably die; but the instant, hour, or day when, was still left in God's power; and we may easily apprehend great and wise reasons why God was not pleased to bring our first parents, and their immediate descendants, to a more early dissolution. God in no wise made man for nought ;P and although he made not death for us,9 but man sought it in the error of his life,' yet herein God's abundant goodness has provided for us. It could not be consistent with the liberty of reason, and the freedom of our natures, that he should absolutely force upon us either wisdom or virtue. Being such creatures as he intended, it was more suitable for us to be admitted to '. grow up, if we would, as our faculties were capable of improvement in both, under the universal influence of his Spirit, in and by which, agreeably to their respective natures, all things are, and do consist ;' and conse
: Ver. 12.
• 2 Cor. i. 9. p Psalm lxxxix. 47. 9 Wisdom i. 13.
y See and consider John i. 9. Job xxxii. S. 2 Cor. xi. 5. Coloss. i. 17.
quently time would be necessary for our increasing in all knowledge as well as virtue. What I shall here offer, shall chiefly concern the former,
We have now, indeed, lives but as a shadow, short as a dream, in comparison of the duration of the first men; but we have much light from the experience of ages ; all the knowledge we want for life, is not so far from us as it was from them, who lived in the beginning. Had our first parents, and their immediate descendants, come to decline as precipitately as we do; their knowledge of life would have been cut down too fast, for any shoots to be made which might yield a produce of arts and sciences necessary for the improvement of the world. Therefore, if we duly think of mankind, what we came from, and how we are come up to what we now are; we may see, respecting our present life, that it is long enough, ordinarily speaking, for what is to be our work in the world ;t and also that the early ages must have required a more extended period, for human attainments to be gradually opened and displayed ; that man, as far as he was made capable, if he , should have time to come up to it, might not absolutely be cut off from, in not being allowed a sufficient term to attain it. The complaint, that life is not long enough for man to reap all the fruits" of his labours under the sun, might be as sensibly felt by our earliest forefathers, as it is by us. They lived, as I may say, nearer the ground: their prospects were not so elevated, (things
+ See Sherlock upon Death, c. 3. §. 2.
not having been tried for common use and benefit,) as our sight of things are. The schools of literature, or the shops of artificers, can at once put us, even in our younger years, upon a progress in science above what they could come near to in all their centuries; and excepting, that if they would fear God, and keep his commandments, they had herein all that they wanted for a life to come; and we in all our attainments, more than this, have nothing worthy to be compared with it; they must have felt concerning their life, when over, though, they did not feel it so soon as we do, that, in comparison of what they might have hoped from it, few, after all, and evil, were the days of their pilgrimage. A pilgrimage it was, which, however long we may think it, in counting over the days of the
of it, unquestionably seemed to them, when they had passed through it, but as a tale that was told; and it brake off, at last, short of that human perfection, which they might perceive was far more extensive than what they had attained ; and that had their lives been shortcr, they would not have had room to lay the foundation for what God intended they should contribute to human science, and the improvement of the world.
In the day that our first parents ate of the tree, they died, or became mortal. It is frivolously inquired by
* Jacob said this of his days, when he was one hundred and thirty years old: Gen. xlvii. 9. And can we think, that if he had lived to the days of the years of the life of his progenitors, he would have found in human life, to use Tully's language, the quod est diu? Cic. de Senectute.
some, whether the food of the tree was not of a deadly or poisonous nature; deceitful to the eye; appearing to be good for food, but inwardly a
treacherously full of those malignant juices, which would have a natural effect to cause mortality? I
'Y Gen. iji. 6.
z The epithet, fallax, here used by Virgil, is, I think, peculiar. I do not remember any herb described by the naturalists as being remarkably tempting to the eye or taste, and inwardly a treacherous and deceitful poison; yet this seems the intention of Virgil's epithet. Mr. Pope well enough calls it the herb that conceals poison. See the notes on his Eclogue, Messiah. Had he had a word which would have hinted that the herb had been tempting, to induce men to be deceived and poisoned, he had more fully come up to Virgil's expression. The annotators upon Virgil say, " Fallax herba, quia mortales fallaciter iis utuntur." I do not see the spirit of Virgil's poetry in this explication. It rather creeps to human artifice in the use of the medicine, to represent the deceit of it, than it gives a lively hint, that the herb itself had an innate quality, both to hurt and to tempt to deceit and ruin, those who should be inclined to use it. The learned generally suppose that Virgil wrote his Pollio upon hints taken from some prophetic poems among the Romans, which had originally been formed from some sentiments taken out of the Jewish scriptures. And as Virgil introduces the serpent in the same line, occidet et serpens et fallax herba veneni; if it may be supposed that any fragment or sacred book of the heathens had hinted any thing of a serpent's having deceived mankind, by eating what he had offered to them; or if Virgil bad, by
should rather think, that, as yet, every thing which God had made was intrinsically good;" that there was nothing naturally nocent and baleful; nothing that would hurt or destroy;" and the mortality of man is in no wise hinted by Mosós, as being the natural event of his having eaten of the tree. He rather suggests, that the frame of man would of course not be eternal, unless God was pleased further to make it so enduring. Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return, was the de. claration now made to Adam. Undoubtedly Ile who upholdleth all things by the word of his power ; in whom we livé, move, and have our being, and by whom all thing's consist;d could have spoken the word, and the mortal of our first parents would have put on immortality; of wbich he gave them a sign, in the appointment of the tree of life. But this word was not as yet spoken; for they had not yet, under the direction of it,
any search after the notions of the Jewish literature, formed any thought of such an ancient sentinent, he may be conceived very poetically to have thence written his fallax herba rencni. a Gen, i. 31.
Things were, I apprehend, at first universally innocuous; as the prophetic writings, and best comments upon them, (see Isaiah ii. 4.-xi. 6-9. Ixv. 25, &c.) hint they will in their time be restored to be; of which happy state of things to come, Virgil had collected many sentiments almost verbatim, and thought them an ornament to his poem. See Pope's notes on his Messiah : and, more particularly, Bishop Chandler's Defence of Christianity. c Gen. iii. 19.
d Heb. i. 3. Acts xvii. 28. Col. i. 17.
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