17 Genesis


Edward Madeley



THE first chapters of Genesis, to the history of Abram, are a series of pure divine allegories, which can only be explained by the science of correspondences, according to which they are written as to the most minute particulars. The progress of natural science compels those who admit them as a revelation from heaven, to regard them as divine allegories, in which spiritual subjects are presented to our view under the form of historical facts. For instance, the account of the creation in the first chapters of Genesis, cannot have been designed to be a literal history of the formation of the universe ; for, if thus considered, it is full of insurmountable perplexity and inconsistency, and opposed to the numerous and incontrovertible facts which researches in geology, astronomy, and archaeology have brought to light.

But if we contemplate it as a plenarily inspired description of the most ancient church, and the gradual process of man s regeneration, till, by the creation of new heavens and a new earth, from the natural degree he advances to the celestial, then we shall behold it full of the most beautiful instruction, and teeming with spiritual life. By days are denoted states of mind, days of labor, states of trial and temptation, in appearance attributed to the Lord, because without his divine presence and assistance man could not become regenerate ; and the day of rest, or Sabbath, a state of victory, and consequently of sacred rest and eternal peace. By the evening and the morning are signified advancements from one holy state to another.

By the greater luminaries are signified the principles of love and faith, and their establishment within the soul in order to rule the day and the night, or to regulate and control the varied states of the heart and life. By the inanimate objects which were educed, or created, are meant the orderly arrangement of such things as are corporeal and natural ; by the vegetables, such as have relation in general to the understanding and intelligence ; and by the animals, such as have reference to the will and the affections. To create and form these, signifies thus to regenerate the whole man, to “make all things new,” to restore the soul ; and the work is, lastly, pronounced very good.

Again, it is seen by this science that the garden of Eden (Gen. ii. 15), with its beautiful scenery and delightful fruits, corresponds to the mind of man, which Adam is therefore commanded “to dress and to keep.” The rivers signify the inflowing of divine wisdom and truths, which promote the refreshment, growth, and fruitfulness of all the powers and principles, virtues and graces of the mind. ” The tree of life in the midst,” signifies the Lord Himself, and his Word, and thence celestial joy, together with an inmost perception and acknowledgment that all life, all good, all knowledge, and all delight, are derived from Him, for He alone is life itself, and the source of all life.

” The tree of knowledge of good and evil ” signifies the mere pleasure of knowledge for selfish purposes and for selfish considerations, together with the fallacious and sinful persuasion that life, goodness, knowledge, and pleasure are self-derived ; of the fruit of which man is solemnly warned ” not to eat, lest he die.” Thus a tendency towards God and goodness, and a contrary tendency towards self and self-dependence, are denoted by these two remarkable trees.

By the serpent tempting and seducing the woman, is signified the sensual nature and principle of the mind, which is ever prompting man to throw off all allegiance to God, all reverence for his Word, all reliance on the Divine Providence, and to depend upon his own miserable prudence and self-will, thus to regard himself as the source of his life and the fountain of all that is worth calling good. When thus the sanctity of goodness and truth was voluntarily profaned, man lost his innocence, integrity, and tranquillity, and was self-expelled from Eden ; and instead of the glorious trees of paradise, his mind produced nothing but “thorns and thistles,” and with a wrathful spirit, he became a tiller of the ground. Hence originated all evil ; and it is still the same serpentine principle that lurks in every bosom, and tempts man to every act of disobedience against the divine commandments, to substitute fallacious appearances for realities, and, given up to their uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to ” change the truth of God into a lie ” (Rom. i. 25). Wherefore the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, ” I am jealous over you with godly jealousy : I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ ” (2 Cor. xi. 3).

That the serpent, in all its varieties, is a true type of the sensual principle of the human mind, under its various phases, might be proved from the most abundant evidence. Distinguished for its subtlety and watchfulness, its incapability of locomotion, except by writhing upon its belly, its peculiar power of fascination by which it seeks its prey, its poison-fang, and its voracious appetite, no other animal is so complete a representative of the sensual principle of man’s mind and life. “A wicked and adulterous generation” the Lord calls “a generation of vipers” (Matt. iii. 7; xii. 34) ; and they are also described in Deuteronomy, where it is said, “Their wine is the wine of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps” (xxxiii. 33). This principle, like the serpent in a bad sense, is distinguished for its wily prudence, its fascinating influence, and its deadly venom ; in its sensuous reasonings it always cleaves to the ground, and is ravenous after all kinds of carnal pleasure. And when man listens to the serpent s voice, he eats of the forbidden fruit, and forfeits his purity and peace.

From this interpretation of the serpent, we may see the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in the earliest prophecy of the Word respecting Him, is represented under the figure of ” the seed of the woman ” that should ” bruise the serpent’s head.” For He came and assumed human nature with all its hereditary infirmities, being born of a woman, that He might subdue the sensual principle, and thus destroying in his Humanity what the apostle calls “the works of the devil, that He might give authority to all that believe on Him to do likewise” (1 John iii. 8). The same was signified by the serpent of brass which Moses, by divine direction, set upon a pole, that the people, when grievously bitten by the poisonous fiery serpents of the wilderness, might look thereunto and be healed (Num. xxi. 8, 9). In a good sense, by brass, or, as it should be rendered, copper, is signified natural goodness, flowing from the rational discernment of the truth ; as by gold is signified goodness of a celestial quality, flowing from the inmost perceptions of love and faith.

Hence, in describing a highly advanced state of the human mind and the church, the prophet says, ” For brass I will bring gold ” (Isa. lx. 17). It was from this signification of brass, that it was required to be presented to the Lord in the free-will offerings for the tabernacle, and that the altar of burnt-offering was made of this metal (Ex. xxv. 3 ; xxxix. 39). The serpent of brass, therefore, pointed out that sin of the Israelites which was the immediate cause of their distress, and directed their attention to the only certain means of restoration.

They had loathed the bread of heaven, and desired the means of indulging their gross sensual appetites. This sensualism was represented by the venomous serpents which bit them. But Moses made a serpent of brass, and elevated it on a pole. The Holy Word, as the great prophet of God, instructs us that we can only escape the deadly fangs of sensuality by subjugating the natural mind, becoming circumspect in all our conduct, and receiving from the Lord new external as well as internal principles of goodness, which will sanctify our lowest desires, and exalt them into connection with Himself. The Lord, in this respect, is our Divine exemplar. He bruised, in his Human Nature, the serpent s head. By his inherent omnipotence He subdued all things to Himself. He glorified his Humanity, and united it forever to Himself; thus He became the very divine good even to the last and lowest principles of rational and sensual life. He alone is omnipresent, infinitely circumspect, and provident over all, so that to Him, under the deadly plague of sin, are we to look for deliverance with faithful and obedient hearts ; that, like as He conquered the serpent and glorified his Humanity, so we may experience, through the influence of his Spirit, a full renewal of our carnal minds, that they may no longer be at enmity with Him. He therefore says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have*eternal life” (John iii. 14, 15).

When, however, the true signification was lost, the Israelites, prone to adopt the idolatry of the nations around them, worshipped the serpent of brass as a god, and burnt incense to it, and its meaning thon became reversed ; wherefore, Hezekiah, the good king of Israel, broke it in pieces (2 Kings xviii. 4). To instruct us that, if we pervert these holy truths by inwardly cherishing sensual affections, and substitute for real goodness the specious appearance of an empty morality, we shall be tempted to look to it in the dangerous spirit of vainglory, and even to rely upon it for acceptance with God. Under this superstitious pretext of holiness we shall become worshippers of ourselves, and make our lusts our lawgiver. In this sad state, like the wise and good king of Israel, we must break our idol in pieces, whatsoever false semblance it may assume. We must renounce the infatuated delusions of self-righteousness, to which such worship gives birth ; and in the spirit of true repentance and humility we must conform, from inward motives as well as in outward life, to the instructions of true wisdom. For outward conformity to truth, without inward goodness, is corrupt, empty ” as the sounding brass ;” and, instead of being available to promote our advancement in the regenerate life, will only bring us into states of eternal condemnation.