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and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it." So that we find, this worship of the Egyptian Oub, or Serpent, was general 800 years after the time of Moses; the very serpent he had set up in the wilderness having been preserved among them, to which they burnt incense.
Among the idolatrous nations, who descended from Ham, and who inhabited the principal countries of the east, the serpent was universally worshipped. In the history of the degradation of man, as recorded in scripture, who undignified his nature by bowing to stocks, stones, and inanimate things; there does not appear to be any species of idolatry, so ancient as that of the serpent; which was, no doubt, the most prevailing worship of the Antediluvian world. We have an account of no more than eight persons who were saved in the ark, one of whom began the abomination of the old world, by introducing this worship instead of that of the living God.
To some it may appear wonderful, that the serpent,* an animal so disgusting above all others, should become an object of adoration. But such persons will do well to remember, that things of this nature are not done at once, but by degrees. The history of the subtilty of the serpent in Paradise, was preserved by the posterity of Adam, and in process of time, by way of visible representation, the figure was placed in their temples to remind
* Some writers have said that they cannot believe the serpent is more remarkable for its craft or subtilty, than any other beast of the field; and thus have attempted to invalidate the divine testimony. But for a particular account of the craft or subtilty of the serpent, proving that passage to be true, where it is said, "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field;" see ' the Ophion, or the theology of the Serpent.'
them of the certainty of this transaction, and at length became the object of their adoration. This was the reason why the Israelites were commanded to "destroy their altars, cut down their groves, and to burn their graven images with fire."
But when the Israelites were led by Moses through the wilderness, when the brazen serpent was set up by which they- were cured, the fame thereof spread to the distant nations of the eastern world like a flood: this was a confirmation to them that it possessed a virtue above every other creature.
Nothing was grand or dignified without the image of the serpent; it became an idol, was placed among the constellations, and divine honors were paid to it. This was the original cause in after-time of that universal veneration for the serpent: it crept into every corner of the east, and the temples of the heathen nations swarmed with images of serpents.
The allegory of the ancient Mercury appears to have had its rise from the serpent. He was represented with a caduceus, around which were two serpents; and had also wings at his head, as was said above.
I have frequently remarked, that this species of idolatry, in its origin, did not consist in the unmeaning adoration of the image, or figure, but was introduced to represent the passions and affections in man; such was the principle of circumspection, subtilty, or prudence of the sensual principle. For which qualities it was then, and is allowed by the best writers on those subjects, to be more famous than any other animal: and therefore, a more proper subject could not have been chosen in outward nature, to represent those qualities in man. This was the custom of the first race of men, as is obvious from the scriptures, where we find that clean and un? clean beasts, are introduced by the inspired writers, to signify the pure and impure affections; agreeing" with the natural propensities of the animals mentioned. Thus, as the serpent among the primeval people, signified.in a good sense the principle of circumspection, or prudence, to watch over the appearance of evil; so in an opposite sense it also was meant by them to represent the subtilty of the sensual principle in those, who were perpetually watching to commit evil, by the gratification of that passion to the injury of others; for perpetual watching is a peculiar property of this creature. Hence they understood by the wings at the head of the ancient Mercury, the affections; which are best signified by wings, the head being the seat of the affections, and wings were used as descriptive of the swiftness, with which the mind flies to the object of its affection. By the serpents around the caduceus, the sensual principle is meant; and by the caduceus, or rod, in the hand of the image, a rod being the ancient emblem of power, they meant that power which man ought to acquire, that he might bring the sensual principle into due order, so as to govern himself according to the precepts of the scripture. The evil therefore did not consist in figuratively interpreting these things; but by confining their views to that visible personification, which led them to look on them only externally, instead of viewing them, as representing the conquest of their own passions and evil propensities. Thus, at length, these visible representations became so familiar, and the indulgence of their vices so agreeable, that they contented themselves with external worship, and adored only the idol.
THE PATRIARCH ISAAC,
According to the law of primogeniture, was the appointed branch, from whom the promised Messiah was to come: therefore it is said, "cast out this bond woman and her son, for the son of this bond woman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." Agreeably to ancient custom, the bond son, who is one not born in lawful wedlock, had no right to inherit, as is the case at this day in all civilized nations.
Some deistical writers have thought that there was a degree of cruelty in the conduct of Abraham towards Hagar, when he thus complied with the request of Sarah. But this was nothing more than what is lawful and right in the present day. Ishmael was not a child; he was at this time fourteen years old; neither does it appear that either Hagar, or Ishmael, were neglected by Abraham. It is said of Ishmael, "he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt," i. e. of the lineage of Hagar, who was an Egyptian. Now as Abraham was a shepherd king, and the richest man in all the east, there can be no doubt that he provided sufficiently for his son Ishmael. This will appear evident, if we turn to the 25th chapter of Genesis, where we find, that, though Abraham had six sons besides Ishmael and Isaac, yet these two only were present, and performed the chief rite at the burial of their father, ver. 9th. "and his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him." In the 13th and following verses, the sons of Ishmael, twelve in number, are said to be princes of the country: "These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their towns, and by their castles, twelve princes, according to their nations," which could not have been the case, unless they had received great riches from Abraham.
Abraham, having observed that Ishmael had given countenance to the idolatry of Canaan, by marrying the daughter of an idolater, determined to prevent any thing" of this nature happening to his son Isaac, by giving him a wife of his own kindred, who had not joined the gross idolatry of the age. He accordingly commissioned his confidential servant to go on that business, saying, "thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac." This being done, the dispensation which God had deigned to give to Abraham, was delivered to Isaac, who in process of time had two sons,
ESAU AND JACOB.
Esau, according to custom, and the law of the land, being the first-born, was to have succeeded his father Isaac, as the visible head of the true church. It is therefore necessary to ascertain, what was the real cause of the rejection of Esau from the government of church and state.
Deists have said, because we read, Mal. i. 2, 3. "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau," that Esau could not be blamed if this were true, and thus they have endeavoured to represent the scriptures as inconsistent with the philanthropy, which must necessarily be exercised by the divine Being. But there appears to be sufficient reason for the rejection of Esau, even as the narrative stands in the translation. It is said, that ". Esau took to wife Ju