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moment.' And the Almighty smote and slew fifty thousand men of Bethshemesh, because they irreverently looked into the Ark.f
These instances are amply sufficient to convince you, not merely of the universal presence of the Deity, but of his decided abhorrence of all impurity and carelessness of living. If therefore, as masons, you are willing to be the objects of his fatherly superintendence, let these reflections accompany all your labours, all your recreations;—and when the business of the day is about to be closed; let us with all humility and reverence return our grateful acknowledgements to the Great Architect of the Universe, for favours already received, and supplicate his support on our endeavours to adorn and cement our lives and actions, with every moral and social virtue.
• 2 Sam. vi. 6. 11 Sam. vi. 19.
ON THE SERPENT.
The Serpent is universally esteemed a legitimate Symbol of Freemasonry; yet though commonly introduced into all the groups of emblematical characters, which the fancy of ingenious brethren may have designed, either for amusement or instruction, its origin and secret reference are not satisfactorily accounted for in the peculiar Lectures of Masonry. The subject may be involved in some uncertainty, but an attention to the general principles on which our Science has been founded, may do much towards unravelling the mystery; and may chance to produce a genuine illustration. One great result of the enquiry will certainly be, that the emblematical Serpent will be found to have had a place in the most ancient systems of primitive Masonry, and was a Symbol almost coequal with its institution on this globe, by the first created man.
You are not ignorant that the Serpent has an established place amongst our emblems; altho' its true allegorical reference is not given in our accustomed disquisitions. It may be urged that this animal is the Symbol of Wisdom, as the Dove is of Innocence, because our Saviour connects these qualities with the same creatures.. But this is to be satisfied with a very contracted explanation of a significant emblem, which certainly represents our fall in Adam, and our restoration in Christ; a subject of no ordinary importance; but one which embraces a comprehensive scheme, framed by the divine hand; and conveying the blessing of eternal happiness in a future state.
When our first parents were placed in the garden of Eden, as the abode of purity and peace, with angels for associates, and honoured with the peculiar presence of th6 deity; their tenure was secured by the observance of one single condition, which was imposed merely as a test of their obedience;—they were forbidden to eat of the fruit which grew upon the Tree of Knowledge. How simple soever this prohibition may appear, they were induced by the flattering wiles of the Devil, who assumed the form of A Serpent for this specific purpose, to forego, or at least, to render precarious all the actual felicity they enjoyed, for the deceitful hope of some greater acquisition of knowledge or power, which was promised by the tempter, as the certain result of violating the divine command.
Various have been the opinions advanced by theorists on this knotty question; by what kind of animal was our great mother betrayed? I shall lay before you a few of the most remarkable speculations of learned men, because they bear upon the subject under our notice, and may engage your attention or curiosity. "Some believe that the Serpent had then the use of speech, and conversed familiarly with the woman, without her conceiving any distrust of him; and that God, to punish the malice with which he had abused Eve, deprived him of the use of speech. Others believe that the devil transformed himself into a Serpent, and spoke to Eve under the figure of this animal. Others maintain that a real and common Serpent having eaten of the forbidden fruit, Eve from thence concluded that she too might eat of it without danger; that in effect, she did eat of it, and incurred the displeasure of God by her disobedience. This, say these authors, is the plain matter of fact, which Moses would relate under the allegorical representation of the Serpent conversing with Eve. Cajetan will have this whole story, as it is related by Moses in the way of dialogue between the woman and the serpent, to be figurative only, to signify the inward suggestions of the devil, and the woman's weak resistance. Others affirm that the Serpent's speech was nothing but hissing; and that Eve understanding all creatures by their voices, apprehended what this animal had to say to her by the noise it made. Lyranus reports the opinion of some to be, that the Serpent put on the face of a beautiful young woman to tempt Eve. And some Rabbins believe that Samael, prince of devils, came in person to tempt Eve, mounted on a Serpent as large as a Camel!"* Eugubinus thinks the animal was a basilisk ;f and to crown this mass of absurdity, Dr. Adam Clarke, gravely tells his readers that the tempter was not a serpent, but an ape!!! J
* Matt. x. 16.
However this may be, and perhaps I may offer a suggestion to clear the difficulty before I conclude, it is certain that our first parents lost their innocence, and instead of the expected good, gained in return the certainty only that they had forfeited the protection of God, and were in reality blind and miserable, naked and in despair. Driven now accursed into a world of troubles and calamities, the unhappy consequences of their want of faith, their eyes were indeed opened, but it was to a bitter sense of misery and shame; they were become liable to sin and sorrow, sickness and death; they beheld with deep remorse the dying agonies of those animals which were slain for sacrifice, pursuant to the divine command, certain that their own dissolution must follow, attended probably with similar pangs; and with broken hearts and uplifted hands, they cried to their offended God for mercy. The deity listened to the humble petition of his fallen creatures, because he saw that their repentance was sincere; and gave them a revelation, that the effects of their
* Calm. Diet. vol. i. p. 37. t Brown's Vulg. Err. b. v. c. 4.
J Family Bible. Note on Gen. iii. 1.