Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

equal contest, and always most unequal, where brute force was most powerful, and ignorance most dense ;)—that her penalties were grievous, and that her claims, or her disobedience, were fatal to her happiness, and ruinous to her liberty!

Such is the moral of the profane story of Oriental antiquity. But there is a history antecedent to all other written records of human actions extant, an authentic transcript of the human mind in the earliest stages of society, which authoritatively establishes the accredited dogma of the East, by a most important illustration. This record, in giving the history of a single family, (a history in its influence upon the opinions and interests of the species, the most marked and miraculous ever known,) redeems the fault of the first created woman so awfully punished, by assigning to her sex that great spiritual mis. sion, which made woman a sublime agent in the redemption of mankind. To this fact, scriptural story bears evidence from the first to the last of its inspired pagesand to these pages a reference, reverential but truth-seek. ing, may, it is hoped, be addressed, without incurring the imputation of presumption.

CHAPTER IV.

Women of the Hebrews-under the Patriarchs.

The Mosaic history of the creation assigns to the East the first scene of human existence, and places the first pair, created in perfect equality, in a Paradise, which

“ of God the garden was,
By him in the East of Eden planted.”

“ For God created man in his own image, male and fema created he them,” « to be a mate and a help to each other.” To the male, to Adam,* it appears, was assigned a first

* Adam, in the Hebrew-Red Earth, -Eve-Life. But the Reverend Dr. Conyers Middleton, in his allegorical explanations of the first chapters of Genesis, represents Adam to be the Mind, Eve the Senses, and the Serpent Pleasure or Passion.-See Dr. Middleton's Letters to Dr. Waterland, vol. 2, p. 149.

intellect

2

task of corporeal performance ; for “ he was put into the garden to dress and keep it.” To the female, Eve, was permitted the first exercise of mind, in the call made on her intellect, by one who (whether considered as a “ fallen spirit, second only to the first,” or as a “creature more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord had made,”)* sought to influence human action by intel. lectual means, though for evil purposes. The selection of the female for the experiment of a superhuman sophistry, indicated on her part a difficulty, rather than a facility to be won over; and the reward offered, for risking the awful penalty of death “ by disobedience,” was no less than that “ she should be as are the Gods, knowing good from evil!”

The woman, (“ seeing that the tree was to be desired, to make one wise,) took the fruit accordingly thereof and did eat."

The man only followed the example of the woman; and “ the woman thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat,” was the weak and reproachful answer of Adam to the interrogation of his Creator.f The crime was common, but the motive was peculiar to the

woman.

The penalty, too, of disobedience to both was death ; but a sublime and prophetic distinction was made in favour of the future “ mother of all living," of whom was to proceed one who should “swallow up death in victory,” &c.

The temporal punishments inflicted on Eve were marked

The word “subtle,” in Hebrew, is said to denote metaphorically quickness of mind, discriminative sagacity. (See Bochart de serpente tentatore, p. 841.)- Archbishop Tillotson “ supposes that Satan, on this occasion, assumed the form of a bright, glorious, and winged serpent, of that kind which in Scripture is called Seraph.” See also Bishop Horsley's Biblical Criticisms, vol. 1.

# In the early part of the fifteenth century, the question was started among controversialists, " qui, d'Adam ou d'Eve, avait peché le plus grievement, en mangeant du fruit defendu.” A learned Venetian, Luigi Foscali, made a vehenient defence for Adam; and the equally learned and infinitely more witty Isotta Nogarola, of Verona, (a profound theologian, says her biographer, the friend and correspondent of Cardinal Bessanion,) and most of the great churchmen of that age, undertook the defence of Eve. See Vita d'Isotta Nogarola. She died in 1468.

Isaiah.

by an intellectual pre-eminence in suffering—Adam's, by personal degradation : to Adam was assigned the task of physical labour ; " in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground from whence thou wert taken ; for out of it was thou taken, for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return."* A humiliating vocation-a humiliating reminiscence, both spared as denun. ciations to Eve. Her retribution, on the contrary, was founded on the affections and on the mind—" sorrow,” that was to be “multiplied," and " pain," (corporeal indeed in the first instance,) but connected with grief and anxieties still more harassing, Her desire, also, was decreed to be “to her husband,” (that devotedness, the attribute of her peculiar and finer organization); and her “ submission” to his “ rule” was the penalty of her sensi. bility, no less than the token of physical inferiority.

In this sacred history of the origin of the species,t whether viewed through the interpretations of faith, or the glosses of philosophy—as a literal fact, or a prophetic parable as a tradition beyond all cotemporary record, or as an image of the astronomical aspect of the heavenstthere is a strict accordance with the great dogma of the East, that woman was a creature of high intellectual as. pirations: and every subsequent epoch in saered history produces evidences of her spiritual agency and mental energies, in carrying on the great moral economy of the Creation.

In the course of 2000 years, which, according to the Mosaic history, filled up the interval to the Flood, it is said of man " that his heart was only evil continually," and that it even “ repented the Lord that he had made him.” In this corruption the women must have shared with their masters, as subordinate to their discipline; and it is recorded of them, seemingly as a reproach, that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair, and they took them wives of all they chose.”

* Genesis.

+ The polemic disputants of all times have filled volumes in discussing the important question," whether the Mosaic relation of the fall of man be a figurative representation, or an authentic and literal history.” --See Dissertation on the Fall, by the Reverend J. Holden. Doctor Geddes considers this passage of the Bible as a mere poetical mythos, historically adapted to the intellect of a rude, unphilosophical people.See Dr. Geddes's Critical Remarks, &c. p. 33.

The history of the creation and of the fall of man is also considered as a philosophical mythos concerning the origin of the human race, and the causes of moral and physical evil by a host of foreign writers; among others by Bauer, Kant, Schelling, and Lessing.

| Hinc vides in primis Ecclesiæ Christianæ sæculis quibus vixit Cel. sus, et apud Judæos etiam ante Christum natum, æquiores interpretes à literà narrationis Mosaicæ recessisse. --The Rev. Doctor Burnett's Archæologia Philosophica.

From the awful epoch of the Deluge, the sacred historian concentrates the history of mankind, in that of a single race or family; and Abraham, blessed by the divine promise made him from the mouth of the Creator himself, became the founder “ of a great nation,” whose religion and whose laws, though instituted (according to Moses) for a particular people, have spread their influence over the known world, to the present day.

Thus far holy writ, the unclosed book of reference of countless generations ; but profane history, likewise, attests that, while the religious harmony, or the indifference, of the antique world, indeed, the most hostile nations to embrace or respect each other's particular mode of worship, marking their toleration at the expense of their zeal, there existed a people, who, though standing apart from the rest of mankind, asserted themselves to be the elect of heaven,—the heirs of a covenant made to their fathers by the Most High himself,—the exclusive professors of one true and pure dogma, the unity of the Deity. These were the Hebrews, Israelites, or Jews.

Philosophically considered, this people present a splendid instance of the unchangeable physiology of isolated races. Historically viewed, they are, in fact, among the most ancient, as they are the earliest recorded of all the Asia. tic tribes ; having been traced by human learning into the night of time, as a débris of that one original and sublime sect, the worshippers of the Sun. By their own inspired historians, the Hebrews are recorded as descended from Abraham,* who, under the influence of a Divine command, left “ his country,” “Ur, of the Chaldees, "* and “his kindred,” and “ his father's house,” and went forth, in faith, to found that“ great nation” which was to “make his name great for ever,” “ for in him was to be blessed all the families of the earth.”+

*“The Patriarch Abraham, on issuing from the cave in which he had been confined by his father, is said to have adored the planet Venus.”Burnett's Archäology, p. 140.

From this first emigration out of the land of their nativity,” the Father of the Faithful, his family, and his descendants, were destined to a precarious existence, which forms the interest and excitement of their history. Professing a pure theism, opposed to the more tangible worship of other nations, they clung to it with that good faith and bad policy which have ever prevented their amalgamation with the various populations with which they have had intercourse. These primeval conservatives, whose impressionable temperaments (humanly speaking) so greatly aided the accomplishment of their own miraculous story, from the first striking of their tents in Chaldea, to their settlement in Palestine, (whether as wanderers in perilous deserts, sojourners in hostile regions, captives in powerful states, or, as a small, though warlike community, dropped in the midst of mighty empires,) were indebted for their preservation, and for their independence, to the exclusive knowledge and spiritual influence of the priesthood.

This priesthood, a caste apart,† asserted for themselves an immediate communion with the Most High, and applied to the great purposes of their holy calling all the higher excitements of which the nature of man is susceptible : they left no hidden source of intellectual power untouched, they commanded all the springs by which society is moved or fettered, and they usurped all endowments which raise man above his fellows. Priests, prophets, poets, legislators, warriors, and historians, presiding over the past, the present, and the future, they still accepted into their sublime mission the aid and agency of woman!

Through every marking era of Jewish story, in times of the deepest exigency, or direst danger, whether under

* The region of Fire.

+ Genesis. “For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth. For he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts."Malachi, chapter ii.

« ZurückWeiter »