Reason, by Ethan Allen

Chapter x.

Section i. Observations on the State of Man, in Moses’s Paradise on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and on the Tree of Life: With Speculations on the Divine Prohibition to Man, Not to Eat of the Fruit of the Former of Those Trees, Interspersed with Remarks on the Mortality of Innocent Man.

The mortality of animal life, and the dissolution of that of the vegetable, has been particularly considered in chapter three, section four, treating on physical evils. We now proceed to make an application of those arguments, in the case of our reputed first parents, whose mortality is represented by Moses to have taken place in consequence of their eating of the forbidden fruit.

Moses in his description of the garden of Eden acquaints us with two chimerical kinds of fruit trees, which, among others, he tells us were planted by God in the place appointed for the residence of the new made couple; the one he calls by the name of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” and the other by the name of “the tree of life.” And previous to his account of the apostacy, he informs us, that God expressly commanded the man and woman, saying, “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth; and God said, behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon, the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat.” Again, “and the Lord commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” “And the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone, I will make him an help meet for him; and the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and he took out one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman.”

Thus it appears from Moses’s representation of the state of man’s innocency, that he was commanded by God to labor, and to replenish the earth; and that to him was given the dominion over the creatures, and that at two several times he was licensed by God himself to eat of every of the fruit of the trees, and of the herbage, except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; and because it was not good that the man should be alone, but that he might multiply and replenish the earth, our amorous mother Eve, it seems, was formed, who I dare say well compensated father Adam for the loss of his rib.

This short description of man’s state and condition in innocency, agrees with the state and circumstances of human nature at present. Innocent man was required to labor and subdue the earth, out of which he was to be subsisted; had a license to eat of the fruit of the trees, or herbage of the garden, which pre-supposeth that his nature needed refreshment the same as ours does; for otherwise it would have been impertinent to have granted him a privilege incompatible with his nature, as it would have been no privilege at all, but an outright mockery, except we admit, that innocent human nature was liable to decay, needed nutrition by food, and had the quality of digestion and perspiration; or in fine, had the same sort of nature as we have; for otherwise he could eat but one belly-full, which without digestion would remain the same, and is too romantic to have been the original end and design of eating. And though there is nothing mentioned by Moses concerning his drinking, yet it is altogether probable, that he had wit enough to drink when he was thirsty. That he consisted of animal nature is manifest, not only from his being subjected to subdue the earth, out of which he was to be subsisted, and from his eating and drinking, or his susceptibility of nutrition by food, but also from his propensity to propagate his kind; for which purpose a helpmate was made for him.

Nothing could more fully evince, that Moses’s innocent progenitors of mankind, in that state, were of a similar nature to ours, than their susceptibility of propagating the species; and as they required nutrition, their nature must have had the quality or aptitude of digestion and perspiration, and every property that at present we ascribe to an animal nature; from hence we infer, that death, or mortality, must have been the necessary consequence. What would have prevented them from having been crushed to death by a fall from a precipice, or from suffering death by any other casualty, to which human nature is at present liable? will any suppose that the bodies of those premised innocent progenitors of the human race were invulnerable; were they not flesh and blood? surely they were, for otherwise they could not have been male and female; as it was written, “male and female created he them:” and inasmuch as animal life has, from its original, consisted of the same sort of nature, and been propagated and supported in the same manner, and obnoxious to the same fate, it would undoubtedly, in the premised day of Adam, required the same order in the external system of nature, which it does at present, to answer the purposes of animal life.

Was it possible that the laws of nature, which merely respect gravitation, could be and were suspended, so as not to be influential on matter, our world would be immediately disjointed and out of order, and confusion would succeed its present regularity; in the convulsions whereof animal life could not subsist. So that not only the laws which immediately respect animal nature in particular, but the laws which respect our solar system, must have been the same in man’s innocency, as in his whimsically supposed state of apostacy; and consequently, his mortality the same. From hence we infer, that the curses, which Moses informs us of in chapter three: as being by God pronounced upon man, saying, “dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” could not have been any punishment, inflicted as a penalty for eating the forbidden fruit; for turn to dust he must have done, whether he eat of it or not; for that death and dissolution was the inevitable and irreversible condition of the law of nature, which wholly precludes the curse, of which Moses informs us, from having any effect on mankind.

The story of the “tree of life” is unnatural. And there being but one of the kind, it may be called an only tree, the world not having produced another of the sort; the fruit of which, according to Moses, had such an efficacious quality, that had Adam and Eve but eaten thereof, they would have lived forever. “And now lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” To prevent which, they are said to be driven out of the garden, that the eating thereof might not have reversed the sentence of God, which he had previously pronounced against them, denouncing their mortality. “So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turneth every way to keep the way of the tree of life.” A bite of this fruit it seems would have reinstated mankind, and spoiled priestcraft. Yet it is observable, that there are no travellers or historians, who have given any accounts of such a tree, or of the cherubims or flaming sword, which renders its existence disputable, and the reality of it doubtful and improbable; the more so, as that part of the country, in which it is said to have been planted, has for a long secession of ages been populously inhabited.

Yet it may be objected, that the tree may have rotted down and consumed by time. But such conjectures derogate from the character of the quality of the tree. It seems, that so marvellous a tree, the fruit of which would have preserved animal life eternally, would have laughed at time, and bid defiance to decay and dissolution, and eternally have remained in its pristine state under the protection of the flaming sword, as a perpetual evidence of the divine legation of Moses, and the reality of man’s apostacy for ever. But alas! it is no where to be found, it is perished from off the face of the earth, and such a marvellous fruit is no more, and consequently no remedy against mortality remains.

Section ii. Pointing Out the Natural Impossibility of All and Every of the Diverse Species of Biped Animals, Commonly Termed Man, to have Lineally Descended from Adam and Eve, or from the Same Original Progenitors.

It is altogether improbable and manifestly contradictory to suppose, that the various and diverse nations and tribes of the earth, who walk upon two legs, and are included under the term man, have or possibly could have descended by ordinary generation, from the same parents, be they supposed to be who they will.

Those adventurers,-who have sailed or travelled to the several parts of the globe, inform us, in their respective histories, that they find the habitable part of it more or less populated by one kind or other of rational animals, and that considered as tribes or nations, there is evidently a gradation of intellectual capacity among them, some more exalted and others lower in the scale of being; and that they are specially diverse from each other with respect to their several animal natures, though in most respects they appear to have one sort of nature with us, viz: more like us that like the brute creation; as they walk erect, speak with man’s voice, and make use of language of one sort or other, though many of them are more or less inarticulate in their manner of speaking: and in many other particulars bear a general likeness to us. They are nevertheless considered as distinct tribes or nations, are of different sizes, and as to complexion, they vary from the two extremes of white and black, in a variety of tawny mediums.

The learned nations can trace their genealogies, (though somewhat incorrect) for a considerable time, but are certain to be sooner or later lost in the retrospect thereon, and those that are of an inferior kind, or destitute of learning or science have no other knowledge of their genealogies, than they retain by their respective traditions, which are very inconsiderable. They are likewise diverse from each other in their features and in the shape of their bodies and limbs, and some are distinguished from others by their rank smell and the difference in their hair, eyes and visage, but to point out the distinctions would exceed my design.

The Ethiopians, though of a shining black complexion, have regular and beautiful features, and long black hair (one of those female beauties captivated the affections of Moses) they differ very materially from the negro blacks, so that it appears impossible that they should have descended in a lineal succession from the same ancestors. They are uniformly in their respective generations essentially diverse from each other, so that an issue from a male and female of the two nations would be a mongrel, partaking partly of the kind of both nations. So also concerning the difference which subsists between us and the negroes; their black skin is but one of the particulars in which they are different from us; their many and very essential differences fully evince, that the white nations, and they, could not according to the law of their respective generations, have had one and the same lineal original, but that they have had their diverse kind of original progenitors.

It is true that the several nations and tribes of the earth, comprehended under the general term man, notwithstanding their diversity to each other in bodily shape and mental powers, bear a nearer resemblance to one another than the brute kind, for which reason they are known by one common appellation: though it is manifest that they could never have lineally descended from the same first parents, whether their names were Adam and Eve, or what not.

But inasmuch as our genealogies are wholly insufficient for the purpose of explaining our respective originals or any or either of them, or to give us or any of us, considered as individuals or nations, who fall under the denomination of the term man, any manner of insight or knowledge from whom we are lineally descended, or who were our respective original ancestors, or what their names were: we must therefore reason on this subject from the facts and causes now existing, which abundantly evince, that we are of different kinds, and consequently are not of the same lineage.

The acquaintance, which we have had with the negro nation in particular, fully evinces the absurdity of supposing them to be of the same blood and kindred with ourselves. But that there are some original intrinsic and hereditary diversity or essential difference between us and them, which cannot be ascribed to time, climate, or to mere contingence.

For that we and they are in nature inherently and uniformly diverse from each other in our respective constitutions and generations, and have been so time immemorial. So that the negroes are of a different species of rational beings from us, and consequently must have had their distinct lineal original; was it not so, there could be no such thing as a mongrel or a mulatto, who is occasioned by a copulation between the males and the females of the respective diverse species, the issue partaking of both natures.

Had all the nations and tribes of the world, who are denominated rational, been lineally descended from the same progenitors, mongrelism could never have taken place among them, as in this case they would have been all of the same kind: from hence we infer, that they have had their respective original progenitors. The Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope have enacted laws to punish with death such of their Dutch subjects as may be convicted of copulating with the Hottentots: for that their nature is adjusted to be of an inferior species to theirs, so that mixing their nature with them would essentially degenerate and debase their own.

Section iii. Of the Origin of the Devil or of Moral Evil and of the Devil’s Talking with Eve; with a Remark that the Doctrine of Apostacy is the Foundation of Christianity

Inasmuch as the devil is represented to have had so great and undue an influence in bringing about the apostacy of Adam, and still to continue his temptations to mankind, it may be worth our while to examine into the nature and manner of his being and the mode of his exhibiting his temptations.

John’s gospel, verse 1 and 3, the Christian’s God is the creator of the devil and consequently the original cause of evil in heaven — and among men he planted the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and knew at the time he planted it of the awful consequences that would follow.

But if it be admitted, that the creature called the devil (who must be supposed to be under the divine government, as much as any other creature) could become inflexible, and perpetually rebellious and wicked, incapable of a restoration, and consequently subjected to eternal punishment (which to me appears to be inconsistent with the wisdom and goodness of the divine government, and the nature, end and design of a probationary agent) yet it would by no means follow from hence, that so stubbornly wicked and incorrigible a creature would have been permitted, by the providence of God, to tempt, ensnare or seduce mankind, by plying his temptations to their weak side. One thing we are certain of, viz. that the devil does not visit our world in a bodily or organized shape, and there is not in nature a second way, in which it is possible for him to make known himself to us, or that he could have done it to our progenitors, nor could he ever have communicated to them or to us, any temptations or ideas whatever, any otherwise than by making a proper application to our external senses, so that we could understand him, or receive the ideas of his temptations in a natural way. For supernatural intercourse with the world of spirits or invisible beings has been shown to be contradictory and impossible in the arguments contained in the sixth chapter, to which the reader is referred. Those arguments will hold equally good as applied to either good or evil spirits, and are demonstrative of the utter impossibility of mankind’s holding any manner of intercourse or intelligence with them.

But should we premise, that, according to the history of Moses, it was in the power of the devil to assume a bodily shape, and that he did in very deed transform himself into the figure, likeness and organization of a snake, yet by and with that organ he could not have spoken or uttered the following articulate words, which Moses charged him with, to wit, “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die, for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, that your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods knowing good and evil.”

Who speaks the truth in the above passages, the devil, for neither the man nor the woman died for many years after they are said to have eaten of the forbidden fruit, for death is the annihilation of life, and they did not die on the day they eat.

As the serpent is by nature incapable of speech, it must have put the devil into the same predicament; admitting that he transformed himself into the same figure or likeness, and consequently for want of the proper and adequate organs of speech, he must necessarily have been incapable of any other language than that of rattling his tail, and therefore could never have spoken those recited words unto Eve, or communicated any of his temptations unto her by language, while in that similitude. However, admitting that the first parents of mankind were beguiled by the wiles of the devil to transgress the divine law, yet of all transgressions it would have been the most trivial (considered under all the particular circumstances of it) that the mind of man can conceive of.

Who in the exercise of reason can believe, that Adam and Eve by eating of such a spontaneous fruit could have incurred the eternal displeasure of God, as individuals? Or that the divine vindictive justice should extend to their unoffending offspring then unborn? And sentence the human progeny to the latest posterity to everlasting destruction? As chimerical as Moses’s representation of the apostacy of man manifestly appears to be, yet it is the very basis, on which Christianity is founded, and is announced in the New Testament to be the very cause why Jesus Christ came into this world, “that he might destroy the works of the devil,” and redeem fallen man, alias, the elect, from the condemnation of the apostacy; which leads me to the consideration of the doctrine of imputation.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59