CHAP. II.

A further Illustration of the same

BEING thus deluded before the Fall, it is no wonder if their conceptions were deceitful, and could scarce speak without an Error after. For, what is very remarkable (and no man that I know hath yet observed) in the relations of Scripture before the Flood, there is but one speech delivered by Man, wherein there is not an erroneous conception; and, strictly examined, most hainously injurious unto truth. The pen of Moses is brief in the account before the Flood, and the speeches recorded are but six.[1] The first is that of Adam, when upon the expostulation of God, he replied; I heard thy voice in the Garden, and because I was naked I hid my self.[2] In which reply, there was included a very gross Mistake, and, if with pertinacity maintained, a high and capital Error. For thinking by this retirement to obscure himself from God, he infringed the omnisciency and essential Ubiquity of his Maker. Who as he created all things, so is he beyond and in them all, not only in power, as under his subjection, or in his presence, as being in his cognition; but in his very Essence, as being the soul of their causalities, and the essential cause of their existencies. Certainly, his posterity at this distance and after so perpetuated an impairment, cannot but condemn the poverty of his conception, that thought to obscure himself from his Creator in the shade of the Garden, who had beheld him before in the darkness of his Chaos, and the great obscurity of Nothing; that thought to fly from God, which could not fly himself; or imagined that one tree should conceal his nakedness from Gods eye, as another had revealed it unto his own. Those tormented Spirits that wish the mountains to cover them,[3] have fallen upon desires of minor absurdity, and chosen ways of less improbable concealment. Though this be also as ridiculous unto reason, as fruitless unto their desires; for he that laid the foundations of the Earth, cannot be excluded the secrecy of the Mountains; nor can there any thing escape the perspicacity of those eyes which were before light, and in whose opticks there is no opacity. This is the consolation of all good men, unto whom his Ubiquity affordeth continual comfort and security: And this is the affliction of Hell, unto whom it affordeth despair, and remediless calamity. For those restless Spirits that fly the face of the Almighty, being deprived the fruition of his eye, would also avoid the extent of his hand; which being impossible, their sufferings are desperate, and their afflictions without evasion; until they can get out of Trismegistus his Circle,[4] that is, to extend their wings above the Universe, and pitch beyond Ubiquity.

The Second is that speech of Adam unto God: The woman whom thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the Tree, and I did eat.[5] This indeed was an unsatisfactory reply, and therein was involved a very impious Error, as implying God the Author of sin, and accusing his Maker of his transgression. As if he had said, If thou hadst not given me a woman, I had not been deceived: Thou promisedst to make her a help, but she hath proved a destruction unto me: Had I remained alone, I had not sinned; but thou gavest me a Consort, and so I became seduced. This was a bold and open accusation of God, making the fountain of good, the contriver of evil, and the forbidder of the crime an abettor of the fact prohibited. Surely, his mercy was great that did not revenge the impeachment of his justice; And his goodness to be admired, that it refuted not his argument in the punishment of his excusation, and only pursued the first transgression without a penalty of this the second.

The third was that of Eve; The Serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.[6] In which reply, there was not only a very feeble excuse, but an erroneous translating her own offence upon another; Extenuating her sin from that which was an aggravation, that is, to excuse the Fact at all, much more upon the suggestion of a beast, which was before in the strictest terms prohibited by her God. For although we now do hope the mercies of God, will consider our degenerated integrities unto some minoration of our offences; yet had not the sincerity of our first parents so colourable expectations, unto whom the commandment was but single, and their integrities best able to resist the motions of its transgression. And therefore so heinous conceptions have risen hereof, that some have seemed more angry there-with, than God himself: Being so exasperated with the offence, as to call in question their salvation, and to dispute the eternal punishment of their Maker. Assuredly with better reason may posterity accuse them than they the Serpent or one another; and the displeasure of the Pelagians must needs be irreconcilable, who peremptorily maintaining they can fulfil the whole Law, will insatisfactorily condemn the non-observation of one.[7]

The fourth, was that speech of Cain upon the demand of God, Where is thy brother? and he said, I know not.[8] In which Negation, beside the open impudence, there was implied a notable Error;[9] for returning a lie unto his Maker, and presuming in this manner to put off the Searcher of hearts, he denied the omnisciency of God, whereunto there is nothing concealable. The answer of Satan in the case of Job, had more of truth, wisdom, and Reverence, than this; Whence comest thou Satan? and he said, From compassing of the Earth.[10] For though an enemy of God, and hater of all Truth, his wisdom will hardly permit him to falsifie with the All-mighty. For well understanding the Omniscience of his nature, he is not so ready to deceive himself, as to falsifie unto him whose cognition is no way deludable. And therefore when in the tentation of Christ he played upon the fallacy, and thought to deceive the Author of Truth, the Method of this proceeding arose from the uncertainty of his Divinity; whereof had he remained assured, he had continued silent; nor would his discretion attempt so unsucceedable a temptation. And so again at the last day, when our offences shall be drawn into accompt, the subtility of that Inquisitor shall not present unto God a bundle of calumnies or confutable accusations, but will discreetly offer up unto his Omnisciency, a true and undeniable list of our transgressions.[11]

The fifth is another reply of Cain upon the denouncement of his curse, My iniquity is greater than can be forgiven:[12] For so it is expressed in some Translations. The assertion was not only desperate, but the conceit erroneous, overthrowing that glorious Attribute of God, his Mercy, and conceiving the sin of murder unpardonable. Which how great soever, is not above the repentance of man, but far below the mercies of God, and was (as some conceive) expiated in that punishment he suffered temporally for it. There are but two examples of this error in holy Scripture, and they both for Murder, and both as it were of the same person; for Christ was mystically slain in Abel, and therefore Cain had some influence on his death as well as Judas; but the sin had a different effect on Cain, from that it had on Judas; and most that since have fallen into it. For they like Judas desire death, and not unfrequently pursue it: Cain on the contrary grew afraid thereof, and obtained a securement from it.[13] Assuredly, if his dispair continued, there was punishment enough in life, and Justice sufficient in the mercy of his protection. For the life of the desperate equalls the anxieties of death; who in uncessant inquietudes but act the life of the damned, and anticipate the desolations of Hell. 'Tis indeed a sin in man, but a punishment only in Devils, who offend not God but afflict themselves, in the appointed despair of his mercies. And as to be without hope is the affliction of the damned, so is it the happiness of the blessed; who having all their expectations present, are not distracted with futurities: So is it also their felicity to have no Faith; for enjoying the beatifical vision, there is nothing unto them inevident; and in the fruition of the object of Faith, they have received the full evacuation of it.

The last speech was that of Lamech, I have slain a man to my wound, and a young man to my hurt: If Cain be avenged seven fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold.[14] Now herein there seems to be a very erroneous Illation: from the Indulgence of God unto Cain, concluding an immunity unto himself; that is, a regular protection from a single example, and an exemption from punishment in a fact that naturally deserved it. The Error of this offender was contrary to that of Cain, whom the Rabbins conceive that Lamech at this time killed. He despaired in Gods mercy in the same Fact, where this presumed of it; he by a decollation of all hope annihilated his mercy, this by an immoderancy thereof destroyed his Justice. Though the sin were less, the Error was as great; For as it is untrue, that his mercy will not forgive offenders, or his benignity co-operate to their conversions; So is it also of no less falsity to affirm His justice will not exact account of sinners, or punish such as continue in their transgressions.

Thus may we perceive, how weakly our Fathers did Erre before the Floud, how continually and upon common discourse they fell upon Errors after;[15] it is therefore no wonder we have been erroneous ever since. And being now at greatest distance from the beginning of Error, are almost lost in its dissemination, whose waies are boundless, and confess no circumscription.


NOTES

* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [I count at least 11 recorded utterances by Man (and Woman) between the Creation and the Flood: in addition to the six noted by Browne, there are Gen. 2:23, Gen. 3:2-3, Gen. 4:1, Gen. 4:25, and Gen. 5:29. Browne notes that there is one speech "wherein there is not an erroneous conception" and proceeds to demonstrate erroneous conceptions in six speeches — the total number of speeches he says is recorded. There are nine utterances recorded between the Fall and the Flood, of which three seem generally unobjectionable: Gen. 4:1, 4:25, and 5:29, recording respectively the births of Cain, of Seth, and of Noah. Perhaps Browne simply distrusts the two statements by Eve on principle or because she invokes the name of the Lord; in that case, only the statement of Lamech would be simply true. In addition, in Gen. 4:8 Cain is said to have said something, as it were, when he invites Abel into the field and kills him; the revised version even puts the words into his mouth, "Let us go into the field". But this, however respectable on its surface, would no doubt fall into the category of statements of erroneous conception, as being intended to deceive.]

2 [Gen. 3:10]

3 [Ho 10:18]

4 [A favorite of Browne's; a circle "whose center is every where, & circumference no where", as Browne says in Christian Morals, Part III, Section II.]

5 [Gen. 3:12]

6 [Gen. 3:13]

7 [The Pelagian heresy holds, among other things, the Christianized Stoic belief that all men are capable of avoiding any sin through the exercise of their free will. The corollary is a rejection of the concept of original sin (and of infant baptism). Hence, they would essentially say that post-Fall men are the equal of Adam and Eve, who, innocent from birth, had only to exercise their will to avoid sin. Now Adam and Eve had only the one Law (which they broke lickety-split), but we post-lapsarians have the entire body of post-Flood Laws. Ergo, Pelagians must look upon Adam and Eve as being weaker and more sinful than we are, says Browne, and unendingly ("insatisfactorily") condemn them for their one sin, which broke all the Laws of their time.]

8 [Gen. 4:9: I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? ]

9 [1672 reads "there was implied a notable Error? for returning" etc.; and in the next line, "to put off the Searcher- /linebreak/ of hearts".]

10 [Job 1:7 and 2:2]

11 [Referring to Rev. 12:9-10: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."

Despite this somewhat ambiguous Biblical authority, the notion that the Devil will be the prosecutor is not orthodox (except among certain Democrats, who hold this belief for reasons of their own), as the acts of men are already written in the (Lamb's) Book of Life.]

12 [Gen. 4:13-14, as in I.i]

13 [Or at least from being murdered; Gen. 4:15]

14 [Gen. 4:23-24]

15 [Some editors most reasonably suggest emending "Flood" to "Fall", since the discussion has not yet dealt with post-Flood error: "we see how weakly our fathers erred before the Fall, and continually thereafter". But all editions read "Flood".]


This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.


Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional