Page images

sufficient, nor attribute to Moses, ag an bistorian, a supernatural guidance to which he bimself made no pretensions, have believed the source of his information to be oral tradition. Others have preferred the supposition of written documents, transmitted to the times of the great Hebrew legislator, and by him compiled and sanctioned. The ingenuity of some modern critics has attempted to distinguish these supposed documents into classes, on principles of internal evidence; but without arriving at precisely the same results.

We pass over, too, the history of the six days' creation, as not essential to our present object. We will only remark, that some have imagined an absolute creation out of nothing to be described; while others find in it only an account of the redemption of the earth from a state of chaos, and its preparation for the residence of mankind. Some maintain that it relates strictly a positive fact: while others see in it nothing but a fine picture of the gradual effects that were produced upon our planet, when it was rescued from its primaeval emptiness and darkness. However this may be, it exhibits a perfect model of simple sublimity : interpreted according to the rules, which we should apply to every other record of so remote an antiquity, it is philosophically beautiful; and as far transcends every other cosmogony, which tradition has preserved as sacred, or mere speculation has devised, as the holy light of which it speaks transcended the shapeless gloom that it dispelled.

Having thus defined the view we are to take, let us turn to the representation of Moses, and say simply what it is. It declares that but a single pair were originally created, from whom have descended all the human race. They were made in the likeness of God. They were good; a praise, which they shared with all the works of the common Creator. pears in a garden abounding with delights, prepared for him by bis maker; and all nature is subject to him.

He had passed through no helpless infancy, no gradual steps of progress toward maturity. At once he thinks and speaks, he walks and labours. The Lord himself is his immediate teacher. He yet knows no wishes, no feelings, that are not innocent as they are natural. He is not wild and rude; nor yet cultivated : not without free. dom of will; but not yet exercised in the use of it. yet to be seen whether this freedom would continue to consist with his bappiness, or whether its abuse would bring on sorrow, toil and suffering. The first woman is taken out of man ; an image, which illustrates the tenderness of the connexion, that was to exist between them: and the principle of life, of thought, and of will within them both, is the breath of God.

The first man ap

It was

Such is the history: and there are allusions to it in various parts of the sacred writings. David, when he looked up to the starry heavens, expressed his grateful wonder that God should so exalt the feeble children of earth as to give them dominion over the works of his hands, and to put all things under their feet; creating them little lower than the angels, and crowning them with glory and honour. In, the 139th Psalm, man is described as “ having been curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth," before he stood erect and living upon it, as its delegated lord : a description evidently drawn from the Mosaic idea of his having been moulded out of the dust. Elihu says in the book of Job, “the spirit of God bath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. I also am formed out of the clay.” The genealogies, 1 Chron. i. 1, are deduced from Adam as the common ancestor. In the same spirit the late Jewish authors wrote; as may be seen in the apocryphal books of the Old Testament : Ecclesiasticus, xvii. 1-3. Wisdom of Solomon x. 1. and xv. 8; and in Philo, who regarded the Mosaic account as historically exact, and yet allegorized every part of it. The era of christianity succeeded. References are now found more frequent, and the style of them is unchanged. Our blessed Lord himself enforced the strong obligation of the marriage covenant, by citing two passages from Moses' history of the creation, Genesis i. 27, and ii. 24. St. Paul frequently borrows from the same source. He speaks of man, 1 Corinthians xi. 7, as the image and glory of God :" and James in his epistle, declaring the iniquity of the tongue, says, " therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are inade after the similitude of God.These representations inspire high conceptions of the dignity and worth of human nature. They exalt as much as is possible the import of that celebrated expression, " the image of God," which is used by the Hebrew historian and lawgiver no less than four times in two verses ; the 26th and 27th of his first chapter. Indeed, is not the whole tendency of the gospel to show that our nature is elevated in itself, as well as to elevate it infinitely more? Is it not its doctrine, that the Son of God himself was man, and died for man? And does it not intreat all, that they should not judge themselves “unworthy of the resurrection from the dead ?

To give even a compendious history of the opinions, that have found advocates, concerning the original constitution of man, would be to repeat the innumerable interpretations that have been given in ancient and modern times, of the account in the first chapter of Genesis : an enumeration that instead of

being capable of compression into an essay, would require one of those folios, that were so readily filled in the ages of dark- . ness and controversy. The fathers of the church, the schoolmen, and many later writers, connected with the subject many subtle questions, which were nowise involved in it, and wbich it would be wasting our time to attempt to disentangle. The turning point of dispute was the phrase, “the image of God :" on this the whole of it was in fact suspended : our labour will therefore be made simple, by directing our attention to this alone.

Before the fifth century there was no schism on this subject. The fathers beld different opinions, but without bringing ihem in any degree into contact with each other. They were unanimous in the assertion, that we are perfectly free to choose and to do either good or evil. Most of them understood by the image of God the gift of understanding, and freedom of will. Some, however, refining on this idea, and availing themselves of the twofold expression, Genesis i. 26, "let us make man in our image, after our likeness," maintained that a difference was intended to be implied between them. The likeness they supposed to consist in the endowments abovementioned. The divine image was entirely distinct. Some saw it in the erect form and beavenward countenance of the human race : others sought it in their destination to immortality : and others still, among whom was St. Chrysostom, the most eloquent of the Greek fathers, imagined it to be exhibited in their " dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the face of the earth.” The heads of the church at Alexandria, and especially Clement and Origen, asserted that the “Logos" was here referred to, the original pattern, according to which the human soul was formed; and by the divine likeness” they understood those moral virtues, by the cultivation of which we may approach to a moral resemblance of the Deity.

This harmonious dissonance in the church, experienced for 400 years, was now to be changed into the barshest and most violent discord. The Pelagian heresy, as it has since been called, broke out; and the western part of Christendom was shaken with it. Pelagius was a monk of Wales, who, conceiv. ing that the prevailing doctrines, which had become connected with the representations of Moses, were dangerous to good morals, and tended to encourage a false presumption, openly opposed them. This engaged him in a controversy with Augustin, which it has filled volumes to describe.

The disputants were agreed in this; that Adam was made in the image of God, New Series-vol. I.


and that this consisted partly in the intellectual nature that was bestowed on him, and partly in the freedom of will. They differed in this : Augustin affirmed that the immortalily of the budy was included in the image of God; while Pelagius contended that man was made mortal, and bad been from the beginning as he now is. From this time, the opinion concerning the original nature of man was suspended on that concerning the fall, original sin, and the doctrine of grace : in a word, on the triumph of Pelagianism, or ORTHODOXY; for so the synod of Carthage and other councils named the parties, by de. creeing the victory. The ideas of the perfections and the happiness of the first human pair, and consequently the change that was produced by the fall, seemed now to grow more and more excessive. John of Damascus, who died in the middle of the 8th century, and who was accustomed to follow in all doctrine the most approved guides, gives on this subject the most highly wrought descriptions.*

We have now come down to the schoolmen ; of whom it can offend no one to say, that they

worse confounded” the whole “confusion.” They proposed gravely a thousand impertinent questions, which, to us at the present day, it would seem as ridiculous to attempt to answer, as it was to ask them. The most celebrated among

these were,

-wbether man was created “in puris naturalibus ?” whether the divine image was immediately created with him, or afterwards superadded? whether it was natural, or preternatural ? Many, among whom was Duns Scotus, the great Franciscan, declared that it was natural : an opinion, which tended towards Pelagianism, and somewhat reduced the lofty conceptions that were then prevalent, of the original divipe "image. They were met, however, by other scholastics, with Thomas Aquinas, “the angelical doctor" of the Dominicans, at their head. Aquinas taught that man might have been created “in puris naturalibus ;" but that the preternatural gifts of heavenly grace came upon him immediately at his creation. He upheld the opinions, which Augustin had first reduced, or rather expanded into a system. George Calixtus, a Lutheran divine of the 16th century, next struck out a middle course, with the hope of reconciling all differences: but he was rewarded with the reproachful name of Pelagian, and had not many followers.

The name of Isaac Peyrere, a Protestant of Bordeaux, now claims notice. Some of his opinions were most bold and singular : but the cogent logic of a prison persuaded him to abjure them with his protestantism, at the feet of Pope Alexander VII. He taught that there were men before Adam, wbo was the progenitor of the Jews only, and not of the Gentiles; that men were created at the beginning all over the earth; that Adam and Eve were not nade at once mature, but grew up like their posterity, from childhood; that they could not possibly attain to holiness and immortality through their original creation ; and that no man ever died on account of Adam's transgression. *

* De fide Orthodoxa, ii. 12.

The symbolical books of the Lutheran church are in sentimeni with Thomas Aquinas : and the theologians of that coinmunion have been so fond of dreaming wonders respecting the condition of the first pair in paradise, that they have scarcely fallen short in extravagance of the schoolmen themselves. Two of Luther's earliest disciples, Francowitz, or Flacius, and Andrew Osiander, made themselves heads of parties: but the point in dispute between them is not worth the trouble of describing to our readers, and we pass on to the Socinians. Socinus, and the Polish divines who were confederate with him, refused to consult on this subject any other authority, than that of their own understanding. They regarded all the bigh notions of the perfection of virtue and bliss in the paradisiacal state, as superstitious fancies : they denied that a terrestrial jounortality, or an immortality to be reached without tasting of death, was ever designed for man, had be continued obedient: they interpreted “ the image of God,” in which he was made, to mean the permission which he had to command the use of all created things, and to exercise sovereignty over this lower world.

We have said that the Socinians professed, to follow their reason only. We should do them injustice, however, not to add, that they avowed this in opposition to human traditions, creeds and commandments, not to the sacred writings. They did not set aside the scriptures, nor appeal to them as less decisive than their brethren of other denominations.

If it was their fault to lean too much to their own understandings, we may ask what sect ever existed, that did not claim to be supported by reason? Did not Augustin, as well as Pelagius, reason? Did not Duns and Thomas at least believe they were reasoning ?

We have thus said what we intended on the creation of the first man; cursorily of necessity, but we hope without confu

* Præadamitæ, sive exercitatio super versibus 12, 13 et 14, cap. 5, epist. ad Romanos : quibus inducuntur primi homines ante Adam conditi. A. S. 1655, also, Systema theol. ex Präadamitarum hypothesi, A. S. 1655.

This work may be found in the Library of Harvard University.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »