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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 3

 

 

Verse 4

DISCOURSE: 4

THE SERPENT BEGUILING EVE

Genesis 3:4. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.

IN reference to the fact before us, St. Paul says, “The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty.” And great is the subtilty which appears throughout the whole of his conduct on this occasion. He took an opportunity of addressing himself to Eve when she was alone, that so she might become an easier victim to his wiles. He insinuated his temptation first in a way of inquiry only; “Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” By this he intimated, that she had made some mistake respecting the supposed prohibition, since it was scarcely probable that her Maker, who had granted her every thing else in the garden, should impose such an unnecessary restriction upon her. When, in answer to this, Eve informed him, that not only was the restriction really given, but that it was enforced with the most tremendous sanction that could possibly be imagined, he again insinuated that she must be under a mistake, since it could not be that so good a God should inflict so heavy a judgment for so slight an offence: “Ye shall not surely die.”

Now this is the very temptation with which he has ever since, even to this present hour, assaulted unwary men, and by which he is yet daily ruining millions of the human race. We will therefore endeavour to put you on your guard against it, by shewing,

I. The falsehood of the suggestion—

Two things were here insinuated, namely, That the threatening was not of such a terrific import as she imagined; and that, whatever it might import, it should not be eventually executed. But in both these things “he lied unto her;” for,

1. God will fulfil his threatenings to whatsoever they may relate—

[See his threatenings to individuals—Ahab, in dependence on his false prophets, and on Satan who inspired them, thought to come off victorious: but, notwithstanding his device to escape the notice of the Syrians, he was slain, according to the prediction of the prophet Micaiah. Hiel the Bethelite would rebuild the city of Jericho: but did he escape the judgment denounced, many hundred years before, against any person who should presume to make the attempt? Did he not lay the foundation in the death of his first-born, and raise up the gates in the death of his youngest son [Note: Joshua 6:26 with 1 Kings 16:34.] ? See his threatenings against the whole nation of Israel: Were they not carried captive to Babylon, according to His word? and is not the dispersion of the Jews at this day a proof, that no word of God shall ever fall to the ground? See his threatenings against the whole world—Did not the deluge come according to the prediction, and sweep away every living creature (those only excepted that were in the ark) from the face of the earth? Let us be sure that God is true: and that whatever He has spoken shall surely come to pass.]

2. He will fulfil them in the extent that is here declared—

[Death temporal, spiritual, and eternal were included in the sentence denounced against transgression: and on our first parents it came, the very day that they ate of the forbidden tree. They did not, it is true, cease on that day to live, because God had purposes to serve by their continuance in life: but the seeds of death were that day implanted in their constitution; and in due time they returned to their native dust. That they died at that very moment a spiritual death, is evident from their conduct: for they foolishly hoped to hide themselves among the trees of the garden from the eyes of the omniscient God; and offered vain excuses for their transgression, instead of humbling themselves for it before God. To eternal death also they were subjected; and to it they would have been consigned, had not God, of his infinite mercy, provided a way of deliverance from it, through that seed of the woman, who was in due time to bruise the serpent’s head. If it be doubted whether God will execute so heavy a judgment on the sinners of mankind, I hesitate not to declare, that he most assuredly will; since he has himself declared it in terms that admit of no reasonable doubt [Note: See Matthew 25:46 the Greek—and Mark 9:43-48—and Revelation 14:10-11.] —and “he is not a man that he will lie, nor the son of man that he will repent.”]

But since so many are deceived by this suggestion, I will endeavour to shew, more distinctly,

II. The danger of listening to it—

The effect of this sad delusion is visible in all around us. It is entirely owing to this that Satan retains so many in bondage, and leads them captive at his will.

1. Hence it is that men make so light of sin—

[Whence is it, I would ask, that men are drawn aside by every temptation, and that for a momentary gratification they will offend their God? Is it not from a secret persuasion, that God will not fulfil his threatenings, and that they may sin against him with impunity? If men saw before their eyes the instruments of torture whereby the violators of a law were to be put to a lingering and cruel death, and knew at the same time that there was no possibility of escape to any one who should transgress the law, would they incur the penalty with the same indifference that they now transgress the laws of God? How much less then would they rush into wretchedness, if they saw hell open before them, and heard the groans of those who are now suffering under the wrath of God? No verily: they would not then “make a mock at sin, but would tremble at it, and flee from it as from the face of a serpent. If then you would be preserved from sin, listen not a moment to this accursed suggestion: and if the whole world should unite in saying, “Ye shall not surely die,” reply to them, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” for “thou art a liar from the beginning.”]

2. Hence it is also that men make so light of salvation—

[Salvation by Christ is offered to a ruined world. But who believes our report? Who receives it with that gratitude which it might well be expected that a perishing sinner should feel towards his reconciled God and Saviour? With the exception of a few, the whole world regard the Gospel as little better than a cunningly devised fable; so faint are the emotions it excites, and so transient the effects which it produces. And what is the reason of this? Is it not that men do not feel their need of such a Saviour, and that they do not believe that God’s threatenings will ever be executed upon them? Yes: to this source must it be traced: for if they verily believed, that the wrath of God, which is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, would fall upon them, and that all their hope of escaping it was by embracing the Gospel, they would flee to Christ with their whole hearts, and cleave unto him with their whole souls, and not rest a moment till they saw themselves within the gates of the city of refuge. Were they duly sensible of their danger, even a hope, a mere peradventure that God might have mercy upon them, would be sufficient to make them weep before him day and night. Not a word of mercy was mixed in Jonah’s message to Nineveh: yet the most distant hope of mercy was sufficient to encourage that whole city to repent in dust and ashes. What then would not all the promises of the Gospel effect, if men really felt the greatness of their guilt and danger?. It is evident, that all the indifference of men about the Gospel must be traced to this one source, their believing of Satan’s lie in preference to the truth of God: and, if ever the Gospel is to have a saving influence on our hearts, we must begin by rejecting this suggestion of the devil, and by believing that all the threatenings of God against sin and sinners shall assuredly be accomplished.]

Observe then, on the whole,

1. What need there is of fidelity in ministers—

[Satan at this time, no less than formerly, suggests to men, “Ye shall not surely die:” and his emissaries all the world over are re-echoing the, delusive sound. Every friend we have, father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, the very instant we begin to dread the wrath of God, unite their endeavours to compose our minds, by saying, ‘There is no such penalty against sin as ye suppose, nor have you any reason to fear that it shall be inflicted on you.’ Our own wicked hearts also are but too ready to adopt a sentiment so gratifying to the mind, and to speak peace to us on insufficient grounds. And what would be the consequence if ministers also favoured such delusions, and, through fear of alarming you, neglected to warn you of your danger? Would not Satan triumph to a far greater extent than he already does? Would he not be secure of his prey? Is not this the very effect produced, wherever the Gospel, instead of being preached with apostolic fidelity, is kept upon the back ground, and modified to the taste of a deluded world? Be thankful then if you hear your guilt and danger faithfully set before you: be thankful, as you would be if a man, seeing your house on fire, roused you from your slumbers, and saved you from death. And, if God have vouchsafed to you this mercy, improve it with all diligence, by fleeing from the wrath to come, and laying hold on eternal life.]

2. What a mercy it is, that, notwithstanding the truth of God in his threatenings, there is a way o salvation opened for us in the Gospel—

[Yes; God can be true, and yet absolve the sinner from his guilt: for, in Christ Jesus, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The penalty of death has been inflicted upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as the surety and substitute of sinners: and, if we believe in him, all that he has done and suffered for us shall be so imputed to us as to be accepted of God in our behalf, so that God shall be “a just God, and yet a Saviour,” yea “just, and yet the justifier” of sinful man. O blessed tidings! amply sufficient to pacify the most afflicted mind, and to warrant in our hearts the most joyful hope! Brethren, only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I will adopt with confidence the very words of Satan, and say, “Ye shall not surely die.” I will go further still, and from a doubtful suggestion turn them to a direct affirmation, and say, ‘Surely ye shall not die.’ So says our blessed Lord himself: “My sheep shall never perish:” St. Paul also says, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” On this, therefore, you may rely, with the fullest possible assurance: for, if the threatenings of God shall be fulfilled, so shall also His promises be: not one of them shall ever fail, as long as the world shall stand. Fear not then to see the worst of your state: fear not to acknowledge the extent of your guilt and danger, since the provision for you in Christ Jesus is fully commensurate with your necessities, and suited to your wants. Only believe in Him, and you shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.]


Verse 6-7

DISCOURSE: 5

THE FALL OF MAN

Genesis 3:6-7. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened.

THE happiness of our first parents in Paradise must have far exceeded any thing which we can conceive. Formed in the image of God, they had not a desire or thought contrary to His holy will. There was no cloud upon their understanding; no undue bias on their will, nothing inordinate in their affections. With respect to outward comforts, they possessed all that they could wish. God himself had planted a garden for them, and given them the whole produce, except one tree, for their support. Above all, they enjoyed the freest intercourse with their Maker, and conversed with Him as a man converseth with his friend. But this happiness, alas! was of short continuance: for Satan, who had left his first estate, and, from being a bright angel before the throne of God, was become an apostate spirit and a wicked fiend, he, I say, envied their felicity, and sought to reduce them to the same misery with himself. An opportunity for making his attempt soon occurred. He saw the woman near the forbidden tree, and at a distance from her husband. So favourable an occasion was not to be lost. He instantly took possession of a serpent; which being confessedly the most subtle of all animals, was least likely to create suspicion in her mind, and fittest to be employed in so arduous a service. Through the instrumentality of this creature, Satan entered into conversation with her; and, as we learn from the history before us, succeeded in withdrawing both her and her husband from their allegiance to God. In the text we have a summary of the fatal tragedy: in it, as connected with the context, the whole plot is developed, and the awful catastrophe declared.

That we may have a just view of the conduct of our first parents, we shall consider,

I. Their temptation—

The scope of Satan’s conversation with Eve was to persuade her that she might partake of the forbidden tree,

1. With safety—

[With this view, his first attempt was to raise doubts in her mind respecting the prohibition. And here his subtilty is very conspicuous; he does not shock her feelings by any strong assertion; but asks, as it were for information, whether such a prohibition as he had heard of had been really given. Nevertheless, his mode of putting the question insinuates, that he could scarcely credit the report; because the imposing of such a restraint would be contrary to the generosity which God had shewn in other respects, and to the distinguished love which he had professed to bear towards them.

Now, though he did not so far prevail as to induce her to deny that God had withheld from her the fruit of that tree, yet he gained much even in this first address: for, he led her to maintain a conversation with him: he disposed her also to soften the terms in which the prohibition had been given [Note: God had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:” and she, in reporting it, said,” Ye shall not eat of it or touch it, lest ye die; “thus converting a most positive threatening of instant and certain death, into a gentle caution against a possible, or probable, misfortune: “Touch not, for fear ye die.”]: and though she might intend nothing more than to prevent his entertaining any hard thoughts of God, she hereby emboldened him to prosecute his purpose in a more direct and open manner.

Improving the advantage he had already gained, he proceeded to question in direct terms the grounds of her fears, in relation to the penalty: “Ye shall not surely die.” He here intimates, that she must be mistaken with respect both to the extent and certainty of the penalty. God could never threaten “death” for such an offence as that: he could threaten nothing worse even for the most heinous transgression that could be committed: how then could he annex that to so small a matter as the eating of a piece of fruit? At least, if he did put forth his threat, he certainly would never execute it; “Ye shall not surely die:” it could not be, that a just and good God should ever proceed to such rigorous measures on so slight an occasion. By this daring assertion, he quite disarmed her; and persuaded her, that she must have misunderstood the divine declaration, or, at least, that it never could be carried into effect.]

2. With advantage—

[Finding that Eve did not revolt at his impious assertions, he went on to direct and open blasphemy. He knew, that to an intelligent and holy being nothing was so desirable as knowledge: he therefore affirmed, that there was in the fruit of that tree a virtue capable of wonderfully enlarging her views, so that she and her husband should “become as gods,” and possess a self-sufficiency and independence suited to that high character. In confirmation of this, he appeals to God himself; and blasphemously insinuates, that God, in withholding the fruit from them, had been actuated by nothing but envy, and a jealousy, lest they should become as wise and happy as himself.

Such was the temptation with which that “old serpent” assaulted Eve; hoping that, if he could prevail with her, he might, through her influence, overcome her husband also.]

Happy would it have been, if we could have reported of them, as we can of the second Adam, that they repelled the Tempter. But, in following the course of their history, we are constrained to notice,

II. Their sin—

Eve, overpowered by the alluring aspect of the fruit, and the hope of attaining a knowledge as superior to what she already possessed, as this serpent’s was to that of all the rest of the creation, ate of the fruit, and prevailed upon her husband to partake with her [Note: A variety of questions might be asked respecting different parts of this history; but where God has not been pleased to inform us, we should be contented to be ignorant: and where no certainty can be attained, we judge it better to pass over matters in silence, than to launch out into the boundless and unprofitable regions of conjecture.].

Without inquiring how she prevailed with him, or what would have been the effect if she alone had fallen, let it suffice to know, that Adam transgressed in eating the forbidden fruit, and that this was the sin whereby he and all his posterity were ruined. That the offence may not be thought trivial, let us consider of what malignant qualities it was composed:

1. What pride!

[Our first parents were endowed with facilities unknown to any other creatures. While, in common, with all the rest, they possessed a beautifully constructed frame of body, they had a rational soul also, which assimilated them to God; so that they were a connecting link between God and the brute-creation, a kind of compound of both. Moreover, they were constituted lords of this lower world; and all other creatures were subjected to their dominion. None was above them but God himself. But they chose to have no superior: they affected to be as gods. What daring presumption! What criminal ambition! It was time indeed that “their loftiness should be bowed down, and their haughtiness be made low.”]

2. What unbelief!

[God had spoken with a perspicuity which could not admit of misconstruction, and an energy that precluded doubt. Yet they listen to the suggestions of a wicked fiend, and believe the lies of Satan in preference to Jehovah’s word. Can any thing be conceived more insulting to the Majesty of heaven than this? Can an offence be deemed light which offers such an indignity to the God of truth?]

3. What ingratitude!

[What could God have done more for them than he had done? What could they have, to augment their felicity? And, if any restraint at all was to be laid upon them for the purpose of trying their fidelity and obedience, what smaller restraint could be conceived than the prohibition of one single tree amidst ten thousand? Was one tree too much for Him to reserve, who had created all the rest for their use? Were they to think much of so small an act of self-denial, where so much was provided for their indulgence? Were they to be so unmindful of all which He had done for them, and of all the good things which He had in store for them, as to refuse Him so small a testimony of their regard? Amazing! Incredible! that such favours should be so requited!]

4. What rebellion!

[God had an undoubted right to command; and, whatever His injunctions were, they were bound to obey them. But how do they regard this single, this easy precept? They set it at nought: they transgress it: they violate it voluntarily, immediately, and without so much as a shadow of reason. They lose sight of all the considerations of duty, or interest: they are absorbed in the one thought of personal gratification; and upon that they rush, without one moment’s concern, how much they may displease their Friend and Benefactor, their Creator and Governor, their Lord and Judge. Shall not God visit for such rebellion as this?]

After their transgression, we are naturally led to inquire into,

III. Their recompence—

Satan had told them, that “their eyes should be opened:” but little did they think in what sense his words should be verified! “Their eyes were now opened;” but only like the eyes of the Syrian army when they saw themselves in the heart of an enemy’s country [Note: 2 Kings 6:20.], or those of the rich man when he lifted them up in hell torments. [Note: Luke 16:23.] They beheld now, what it was their happiness not to know, the consequences of sin. They beheld,

1. The guilt they had contracted—

[Sin, while yet they were only solicited to commit it, appeared of small malignity: its present pleasures seemed to overbalance its future pains. But when the bait was swallowed, how glad would they have been if they had never viewed it with desire, or ventured to trespass on what they knew to have been forbidden! Now all the aggravations of their sin would rush into their minds at once, and overwhelm them with shame. It is true, they could not yet view their conduct with penitence and contrition, because God had not yet vouchsafed to them the grace of repentance: they could at present feel little else than self-indignant rage, and self-tormenting despondency: but their anguish, though not participating the ingenuous feelings of self-lothing and self-abhorrence, must have been pungent beyond all expression: and they must have seemed to themselves to be monsters of iniquity.]

2. The misery they had incurred—

[Wherever they cast their eyes, they must now see how awfully they were despoiled. If they lifted them up to heaven, there they must behold the favour of their God for ever forfeited. If they cast them around, every thing must remind them of their base ingratitude; and they would envy the meanest of the brute creation. If they looked within, O what a sink of iniquity were they now become! The nakedness of their bodies, which in innocence administered no occasion for shame, now caused them to feel what need they had of covering, not for their bodies merely, but much more for their souls. If they thought of their progeny, what pangs must they feel on their account; to have innumerable generations rise in succession to inherit their depravity, and partake their doom! If they contemplated the hour of dissolution, how terrible must that appear! to be consigned, through diseases and death, to their native dust; and to protract a miserable existence in that world, whither the fallen angels were banished, and from whence there can be no return! Me-thinks, under the weight of all these considerations, they wept till they could weep no more [Note: 1 Samuel 30:4.] ; and till their exhausted nature sinking under the load, they fell asleep through excess of sorrow [Note: Luke 22:45.].]

Infer,

1. How deplorable is the state of every unregenerate man!

[Any one who considers the state of our first parents after their fall, may easily conceive that it was most pitiable. But their case is a just representation of our own. We are despoiled of the divine image, and filled with all hateful and abominable dispositions: we are under the displeasure of the Almighty: we have nothing to which we can look forward in this world, but troubles, disorders, and death; and in the eternal world, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish for evermore. Why do we not endeavour to get our minds suitably affected with this our melancholy condition? Why do we not see ourselves, as in a glass; and apply to ourselves that commiseration which we are ready to bestow on our first parents? Alas! “the god of this world hath blinded our minds:” else we should smite upon our breasts with sorrow and anguish, and implore without delay the mercy which we so much need.]

2. How astonishing was the grace of God in providing a Saviour for us!

[It is needless to say that our first parents could do nothing to repair the evil which they had committed. And how far they were from attempting to make reparation for it, we see, when they fled from God, and cast the blame on others, yea even on God himself, rather than acknowledge their transgressions before him. But God, for His own great name sake, interposed, and promised them a Saviour, through whom they, and their believing posterity, should be restored to his favour. To this gracious promise we owe it, that we are not all involved in endless and irremediable misery. Let heaven and earth stand astonished at the goodness of our God! And let all the sinners of mankind testify their acceptance of his proffered mercy, by fleeing for refuge to the hope set before them.]

3. How vigilant should we all be against the devices of Satan!

[He who “beguiled Eve under the form of a serpent,” can assume any shape, for the purpose of deceiving us. He is sometimes “transformed into an angel of light,” so that we may be ready to follow his advice, as if he were a messenger from heaven. But we may easily distinguish his footsteps, if only we attend to the following inquiries:—Does he lessen in our eyes the sinfulness of sin? Does he weaken our apprehensions of its danger? Does he persuade us to that which is forbidden? Would he make us think lightly of that which is threatened? Does he stimulate our desires after evil by any considerations of the pleasure or the profit that shall attend it? Does he calumniate God to us, as though He were unfriendly, oppressive, or severe? If our temptations be accompanied with any of these things, we may know assuredly that “the enemy hath done this,” and that he is seeking our destruction. Let us then be on our guard against him. Let us watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. However remote we may imagine ourselves to be from the love of evil, let us not think ourselves secure: for if Satan vanquished our first parents under all the advantages they enjoyed, he will certainly overcome us, unless “we resist him,” “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”]


Verses 11-13

DISCOURSE: 6

EXCUSES MADE BY OUR FIRST PARENTS, AFTER THEIR FALL

Genesis 3:11-13. Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

THE immediate effects of sin are not easily discovered by us at this time: for if we look for them in ourselves, our partiality and self-love conceal them from us; and if we look for them in others, the universal prevalence of those effects prevents us from ascribing them to their proper cause. To see them in their true colours, we should be able to contrast the habits of some person during a state of innocence with those which he manifests after the commission of sin. Doubtless there are glaring instances of iniquity, from the investigation of which we may gather instruction: but we shall make our observations to the greatest advantage, if we examine the records respecting the conduct of our first parents after their unhappy fall. The accounts given of them are not indeed very full and circumstantial; yet the narration, brief as it is, is sufficient to elucidate the immediate influence of sin upon the mind, as well as its remoter consequences in the destruction of the soul. There are two things in particular which we shall be led to notice from the words before us;

I. The way in which men betray their consciousness of guilt—

Mark the conduct of our first parents. While they were innocent, they were strangers either to shame or fear: but instantly after their transgression, they made coverings for themselves of fig-leaves, and fled from the presence of their God. Here we may behold ourselves as in a glass: they have set a pattern to us which all their posterity have followed: however men may affect to be innocent, they all be-tray their consciousness of guilt in these two things;

1. They conceal themselves from themselves, and from each other—

[Knowing that their hearts are depraved, and that, if narrowly inspected, they would exhibit a most disgusting appearance, men will not turn their eyes inwards. They will not examine the motives and principles of their actions: they cast a veil over the workings of pride and ambition, of envy and malice, of falsehood and covetousness, of carnality and selfishness: and then, because they see no evil in their actions, they hastily conclude there is none. And so successful are they in hiding from themselves their own deformity, that when all around them are even amazed at the impropriety of their conduct, they take credit to themselves for virtuous principles and laudable deportment.

If we should attempt to open their eyes, and to set before them their own picture, they would not even look at it, but would be offended with our fidelity, and condemn us as destitute of either charity or candour.

Now, would men act in this manner if they had not a secret consciousness that all was not right within? Would they not rather be glad of any assistance whereby they might discover any latent evil; or, at least, be glad to “come to the light, that their deeds might be made manifest that they were wrought in God?”

There is the still greater anxiety in men to hide their shame from each other. The whole intercourse of mankind with each other is one continued system of concealment. All endeavour to impose on others, by assuming the appearances of virtue; but no one will give credit to his neighbour for being as guiltless in his heart as he seems to be in his conduct. A thorough knowledge of a person whose principles have been tried, will indeed gain our confidence: but who has so good an opinion of human nature in general as to commit his wife or daughter to the hands of a perfect stranger; or to give him unlimited access to all his treasures; or even to take his word, where he can as easily obtain a legal security? But, if men were not conscious of depravity within themselves, why should they be so suspicious of others? The fact is, they know themselves to have many corrupt propensities; and justly concluding that human nature is the same in all, they feel the necessity of withholding confidence where they have not been warranted by experience to place it.]

2. They shun, rather than desire, the presence of their God—

[God comes to all of us in his word, and speaks to us in the language of love and mercy: He bids us to draw nigh to Him, and to enjoy “fellowship with him, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” But are these employments suited to the taste of all? or do the habits of the generality evince any regard for these inestimable privileges? Nay, if we endeavour to set God before them, and to make known to them his will, do they consider us as their friends and benefactors? They may bear with us, indeed, in the exercise of our public ministry: but will they be pleased, if we come home to their houses, and labour to bring them, as it were, into the presence of their God? Will they not be ready to say to us, as the demoniac did to Christ, “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time;” or, like the Jews of old, “Prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits; make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us?”

Now would this be the conduct of men, if they were not conscious of much guilt within? Would a man who had just received gold from the mint, be afraid of having it tried by a touchstone? or one who was perfectly innocent of a crime, be afraid of being interrogated in relation to it? Would not rather the knowledge of God be desirable to one who had no wish but to perform his will? Would he not account it his highest happiness to gain an increasing acquaintance with his Saviour, and a more entire conformity to his image?]

When the guilt of men can no longer be concealed, they have many refuges of lies to which they flee; to expose which, we shall shew,

II. The way in which they endeavour to palliate and excuse it—

Our first parents confessed indeed their transgression, but in a way which clearly shewed, that they were not humbled for it. Thus, when we cannot deny our guilt,

1. We cast it upon others—

[Doubtless we all are accessory to the production of much guilt in others: and it is well to take shame to ourselves in that view. But to take occasion from this to excuse our own wickedness, is only to add sin to sin. Yet who does not betake himself to this refuge? Mark persons in the early stage of life; they will deny their faults as long as there remains for them any hope of concealment; and, when they are clearly detected, they will do their utmost to shift the blame off from themselves: according to the nature of the crime alleged, they will impute it to accident, or inadvertence, or mistake, or, like our first parents, to the instigation and example of their accomplices. What is the disposition which shews itself in persons of riper years, when they are called to account for any evil that they have committed, or when their angry passions have involved them in dispute and quarrel: is it not the endeavour of each to criminate the other, in hopes thereby to exculpate himself? Or when no particular ill-will is exercised towards others, is not the same system prevalent; and do not men justify their own conduct from the habits and examples of those around them? But what folly is this! Did the Serpent compel Eve to eat the fruit? or was Adam necessitated to follow her example? They were free agents in what they did: and they should have rejected with abhorrence the first proposals of sin, however specious they might be, and by whomsoever they might be made. And in the same manner, it is no excuse to us that the ways of iniquity are crowded; for we are to withstand the solicitations that would allure us from God, and stem the torrent that would drive us from him.]

2. We cast it even upon God himself—

[There is peculiar force in those words of Adam, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat:” it is no less than a reflection upon God himself for giving him the woman; and a casting of the blame upon him as accessory at least to his fall, if not also as the original cause of it. It is thus also that we account for our transgressions from the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed, and thus ascribe them rather to the dispensations of Providence, than to our own willful depravity. One is poor, and therefore has not leisure to consult the welfare of his soul; or is under the authority of others, and cannot serve God without subjecting himself to their displeasure. Another is rich, and cannot deviate so far from the habits of the world, as to conform to the precise rules which God has prescribed. In this manner, persons endeavour to persuade themselves that a life of entire devotedness to God is incompatible with their worldly duties; and that their deviations or defects are rather their misfortune than their fault. Some indeed will be yet more bold in accusing God; and, when condemned for giving the rein to their appetites, will say, ‘Why did God give me these passions? I cannot act otherwise than I do.’

How far these excuses will avail in the day of judgment, it becomes every one to consider with fear and trembling. They may stifle the accusations of a guilty conscience now; but there is not a man in the universe so stupid as seriously to believe that his conscience will acquit him at the tribunal of his God.]

We shall conclude with an address,

1. To those who are unhumbled for their sins—

[Some are so impious, that “they declare their sin as Sodom: the very shew of their countenance witnesses against them.” To such persons we say with the prophet, “Woe unto them [Note: Isaiah 3:9.] !” Nor can we deliver any milder message to those who “cover their transgressions, as Adam, and hide their iniquity in their bosom [Note: Job 31:33]:” for God’s word to them is plain; “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. [Note: Proverbs 28:13.] ” It is absolutely indispensable that we humble ourselves before God, and that we repent in dust and ashes. God has noted our transgressions, whether we have observed them or not: for “there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves [Note: Job 34:22.].” God is extremely earnest in endeavouring to impress this thought upon our minds [Note: Isaiah 29:15 with Amos 9:2-3.]. It is equally certain that we cannot impose upon him by any vain excuses. The day is coming, when he will not only ask in general, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” but will interrogate us, as he did Eve, with holy indignation, saying, “What is this that thou hast done?” Art thou aware of its malignity? art thou prepared to meet the consequences? O let us, every one of us, humble ourselves before him, while yet the effects of his displeasure may be averted from us: but if yet we remain impenitent and stout-hearted, a sudden and irremediable destruction shall come upon us [Note: Proverbs 29:1.].]

2. To those whose hearts are beginning to relent—

[Do not think that a small and transient humiliation is sufficient. If you could weep “rivers of tears,” it would be no more than the occasion calls for. You may perhaps comfort yourselves with the thought of not having committed many or great offences: but consider what it was that brought guilt and ruin upon the whole race of mankind; it was not many offences, but one; nor was it what would appear to us a very heinous sin, but only the violation of a positive precept, the eating of a forbidden fruit: reflect on this, and you will derive little consolation from the thought that you are not so bad as others. But, whether your sins have been more or less heinous, there is one Refuge, and only one, to which you must flee for safety. The refuge provided for our first parents was, “The seed of the woman, who was in due time to bruise the serpent’s head.” The same is provided for you. Jesus was born into the world for this very end: He has made a full atonement for your sin: and if “only you acknowledge your transgressions,” and believe in him, they shall be “remembered against you no more for ever.”]


Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 7

THE SEED OF THE WOMAN

Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

THIS was the first promise that was ever given to fallen man. The occasion on which it was given was this: Satan had beguiled our mother Eve, and, through her, had prevailed on Adam to transgress: and he had thereby destroyed both them and all their posterity: for, since they were corrupt, nothing but what was corrupt could proceed from them. But God, in his abundant mercy, interposed for our fallen race, who must without such interposition have been involved in all the misery of the fallen angels. Against Satan he denounced a curse suited to his crime: and at the same time informed him, that, though for the present he had prevailed over the woman, a seed should spring from her who should execute on him the vengeance he deserved, and rescue mankind from the misery he had entailed upon them.

Now, as the oak with all its luxuriant branches is contained in the acorn, so was the whole of salvation, however copiously unfolded in subsequent revelations, comprehended in this one prophecy; which is, in fact, the sum and summary of the whole Bible. And on this promise all the Saints lived, during the space of 2000 years: yes, all from Adam to the time of Abraham were encouraged, comforted, and saved by this promise alone, illustrated as it was by sacrifices appointed by the Lord.

In explaining this prophecy, I shall call your attention to,

I. The person here predicted—

[It was the Lord Jesus Christ; who was in a peculiar way “the seed of the woman:” for he was formed in the womb simply by the agency of the Holy Ghost, and was born of a pure virgin altogether without the intervention of man. And this was necessary: for, had he been born like other men, he would have been in the loins of Adam, like other men; and therefore would, like them, have been partaker of his guilt and corruption. But, being the sole and immediate workmanship of God, he was absolutely perfect, and therefore capable of sustaining the office of a Saviour for fallen man: whereas, if he had been otherwise formed, he would have needed a Saviour for himself, and been incapable of effecting salvation for others. Thus you see, that when it was impossible for man to restore himself to God, God “laid help for him upon One that was Mighty;” on one who, being God and man in one person, was able to effect for men all that their necessities required. As man, he could atone for sin; and as God, he could render that atonement available for all who should trust in him.]

At the same time that this prophecy announced the Messiah’s advent, it declared,

II. The conflicts he should sustain—

[Between Satan and him, God put an irreconcilable enmity; which, without a moment’s intermission, has raged, from that very time even to the present hour. Satan, having, thus introduced sin into the world, instigated every child of Adam to the commission of it. And how far he prevailed, may be seen in this, that he induced the very first-born of man to murder his own righteous brother, for no other reason than because he was more righteous than himself. At times he had so entirely reduced the whole race of man to his dominion, that scarcely a righteous man existed upon earth. And, when God sent prophets to reclaim the world, Satan stirred up the people of every age and place to destroy them. At last, when the promised Seed himself came, Satan only exerted himself the more violently against him, if by any means he might prevail to destroy the Saviour himself. No sooner was Jesus born into the world, than Satan stimulated Herod to destroy all the males around Bethlehem from two years old and under, that so it might be impossible for Jesus to escape. And, when Jesus was entering upon his ministry, he urged him to cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, if peradventure he might thus induce him, under an idea of trusting in God, to destroy himself. Afterwards he stirred up Peter to dissuade him from executing the work he had undertaken; saying, “Master, spare thyself.” When he could not prevail in any of these ways, he put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, and stirred up all the Priests and Elders to put him to death. In like manner has this wicked adversary still prosecuted his malignant work even to the present hour, blinding the eyes of men, and hardening their hearts, and “leading them captive at his will:” and if any have dared to resist his will, he has stirred up all his own agents, to persecute them, and to put them to death.

On the other hand, Christ has also fought against him from the beginning, rescuing men from his dominion, and “turning millions from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” In the days of his flesh especially he shewed his superiority to Satan, by dismissing him from many whom he had possessed, and constraining him to relinquish the hold which he had gained, both of their bodies and their souls. And though he seemed himself to sink under Satan’s attacks, yet did he, in fact, defeat Satan by the very means which that adversary had used for his destruction: for by death he overcame death, and “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil [Note: Hebrews 2:14.]:” yes, “on the very cross itself he spoiled all the principalities and powers of hell, triumphing over them openly in it [Note: Colossians 2:15.].” And in his ascension, “he led captivity itself captive;” and has bound all the hosts of hell, “reserving them in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” In his people, too, he gets the victory from day to day, enabling them to resist him manfully, and to trample both Satan and all his hosts under their feet.

This conflict is still passing from day to day. The God of this world, and the God of heaven, are contending for us, and in us [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6.]: and as long as the world shall stand, will this contest continue.]

But in our text we are informed, that Jesus will prevail, and enjoy at last,

III. The victory assured to him—

[In the conflict, the Saviour’s “heel is bruised:” but “he bruises the head” of his great adversary, and breaks his power for evermore. Behold the Saviour on his throne of glory, far above all the principalities and powers, whether of heaven or hell! Behold the progress of his Gospel in every age! and see in heaven the multitudes which no man can number, continually increased by fresh accessions from every quarter of the globe, from the most blinded votaries of Satan amongst the Heathen, as well as from his more specious servants amongst ourselves! See the weakest of the children of men enabled to triumph over him, and, though persecuted like their divine Master, “made more than conquerors through him that loved them!” This is going forward amongst ourselves: so that you see the most devoted vassals of Satan casting off his yoke, and “brought into the liberty of the sons of God:” and soon shall you behold those whom once he held in the most miserable bondage, seated upon thrones of glory, and actually sitting in judgment upon the angels, as assessors with their divine Master [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.]. Yes: it is but a little time, and the seed of Christ, as well as Christ himself, will be seated upon thrones of glory; whilst Satan, and his seed, shall be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Such is the prophecy before us: and in this way is it accomplishing yet daily; and shall be accomplished, till the final destinies of each shall terminate the contest for evermore.]

Behold then, brethren,

1. How marvellous is the grace of God!

[Think under what circumstances he made this promise to man. He had placed our first parents in Paradise, where there was every thing that could conduce to their happiness; and he himself visited and communed with them, as a friend. Yet did they, on the very first temptation, violate his express command: and then, instead of humbling themselves before him, they fled from him; and, when summoned into his presence, excused themselves, and even cast the blame of their iniquity on him:—“The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat: The woman, whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” What might we expect now that he should do unto them? surely, that he should consign them over to the misery they deserved. But no: unsought and unsolicited, he promised them a Saviour, even his only dear Son, who should rescue both them and all their believing posterity out of the hands of their great adversary. Now then, I ask, If God, unsolicited, bestowed the Saviour himself on these impenitent offenders, will he refuse salvation to any penitent who calls upon him?— — —Let no sinner in the universe despond: but let every one see in this prophecy how abundant and inconceivable is the grace of God — — —]

2. How complete shall be the victory of all who believe in Christ!

[You appear to be in a hopeless condition, because your corruptions are so great and your enemies so mighty. Go, then, to the cross of Christ, and there see the Saviour himself hanging, an helpless and inanimate corpse! What hope has he of victory? Wait a moment, and you will see. Behold him rising from the grave, ascending to heaven, sending down the Holy Spirit, establishing his kingdom upon earth, surrounded in heaven by myriads of his redeemed, and sealing up his great adversary, with his hosts, in the bottomless abyss of hell! See all this; and then know what shall be the issue of your conflicts. You are fighting with a vanquished enemy: and it is but a little time, and he, your Almighty Saviour, “will bruise Satan under your feet,” and will elevate you to thrones of glory, like unto his own. Only follow him in his conflicts, and you shall be partakers with him in all his victories and triumphs for evermore.]


Verses 21-24

DISCOURSE: 8

THE WAY OF SALVATION ILLUSTRATED TO OUR FIRST PARENTS

Genesis 3:21-24. Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

THE works of God are extremely different from those which are carried on by man. Creatures of limited capacity are compelled to act as unforeseen occasions require; and hence their works are, for the most part, independent and detached, without being regulated by any fixed system: but the works of God are all united and harmonious, as parts of one grand whole. In the structure of the tabernacle and all its diversified rites, there was not any thing, however minute or obscure, which did not shadow forth some mystery. This appears from the strict injunction given to Moses to “make every thing according to the pattern shewn to him in the mount.” It is thus also with respect to all the most remarkable events recorded in the Bible, whether they relate to the Jewish, patriarchal, or antediluvian ages; they were all, in some respect, figurative and emblematical. Amongst these we must certainly number the fall of man, with all its attendant circumstances: the covenant made with him, the means by which he was induced to violate it, the way provided for his recovery, were all of lasting and universal importance. In like manner, the facts specified in our text must be regarded, not as mere uninteresting casualties, but as occurrences of most mysterious import. In God’s conduct towards our first parents, as it is here related, we may see,

I. The manner in which He illustrated to them his promised salvation—

Our first parents, feeling in themselves the sad effects of their fall, “sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons,” or rather, twined together the tender branches of the fig-tree for girdles. But God was pleased to clothe them in another manner, even with the skins of beasts; and thus to direct their attention to,

1. The blood of atonement—

[We are not expressly told, that the animals which were slain on this occasion were offered in sacrifice; but if we duly weigh the reasons for believing that God ordered them to be slain for this purpose, we can scarcely entertain any doubt upon the subject.

In the first place, we may be sure that the offering of sacrifices was not an institution of man’s device; and that, if it were, it could not be pleasing and acceptable to God. How could it enter into the mind of man to imagine, that the blood of a beast could make any satisfaction to God for sin? What connexion is there between the blood of a beast and the sin of man? There was much more reason to think that God would be displeased with the unauthorized destruction of his creatures, than that he would be so pleased with it as to forgive the iniquities of mankind on account of it. Moreover, had not God himself enjoined this method of propitiating his anger, we cannot doubt but that he would have answered the presumptuous offerer, as he did the Jews, “Who hath required this at your hands [Note: Isaiah 1:12.] ?” But we know that when a bleeding sacrifice was offered to him by Abel, he testified his acceptance of it in a visible manner, probably by sending fire from heaven to consume it. We cannot doubt, therefore, but that the institution of sacrifices was of divine appointment.

In the next place, if sacrifices were not now instituted, we can scarcely account for the slaughtering of the animals, and much less for God’s direction respecting it. It is thought indeed by some, that the flesh was given to our first parents for food: but this seems very improbable, because God told Adam at this very time, that he should henceforth subsist, not upon the fruits of the garden as before, but on “the herb of the field,” which should be produced only by constant and laborious cultivation [Note: Genesis 3:18-19.]. Nor was it till after the flood that God gave to man the liberty of eating the flesh of animals [Note: Genesis 9:3.]. Hence, if the animals were not offered to God in sacrifice, they were killed merely for their skins, which seems to be by no means an adequate reason for God’s interposition. On the contrary, if they were by God’s commandment offered in sacrifice, we see, what we are in no other place informed of, the origin of the institution; and at the same time we behold abundant reason for God’s special interference. We see what instruction and consolation our first parents must derive from such an ordinance: for while they beheld their own desert in the agonies and death of an unoffending creature, they must be encouraged to look forward to that Seed of the Woman, who was in due time to offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

We cannot doubt therefore but that this was the time when sacrifices were instituted; and that, as they were appointed of God to prefigure the great sacrifice, they were enjoined at this time for the express purpose of directing the views of fallen man to that atonement which Christ should afterwards offer to God upon the cross. In this sense, as well as in the divine purpose, may Christ be called, “The Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world [Note: Revelation 13:8.].”]

2. The righteousness of Him who made that atonement—

[When we are told that “the Lord God made them coats of skins, and clothed them,” can we suppose that nothing was intended by him but to provide more conveniently for their decency and comfort? Impossible! There was in this a deep stupendous mystery. Adam and Eve thought only of a covering for their bodies: God pointed out to them a covering for their souls. They were despoiled of their original righteousness; and they needed a robe to cover their naked souls, that they might again stand before God “without spot or blemish.” All means which they could devise for this purpose would be ineffectual. God therefore was pleased to shadow forth to them the righteousness of Christ; of Him who was “to be the propitiation for their sins,” and emphatically to be “called, The Lord our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” How far they beheld the substance in the shadow, we cannot say: but there is abundant proof that the same means were used in subsequent ages to represent the Saviour to the world. All the vestments of the priests, sprinkled with the blood of sacrifices, clearly shewed in what manner all were to be clothed who would be “an holy priesthood to the Lord.” And the language of Prophets, and Apostles, and of Christ himself, has so strict an analogy with the event before us, that we cannot but discern their harmony and agreement. Isaiah speaks of being “clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with a robe of righteousness [Note: Isaiah 61:10.]:” St. Paul, enjoying the fuller light of the Gospel, says more plainly, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 13:14.]:” And our blessed Lord more plainly still, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear [Note: Revelation 3:18.].”

We need only further observe, that in this marvellous appointment God taught our fallen parents to look to Him through one Mediator, and to make that one object the only ground of all their hopes; or, in other words, to expect pardon only through His atoning blood, and acceptance only through His meritorious and perfect righteousness.]

Having seen how strongly God illustrated to them his promised salvation, let us notice,

II. The means he used to secure their acceptance of it—

He banished his guilty creatures from Paradise, and, by the ministration of angels, prohibited effectually their return to it. This he did,

1. Partly in judgment—

[The ironical and sarcastic expressions which purport to be the reason of this dispensation, are certainly strong indications of his heavy displeasure. The flattering hope of “becoming as Gods,” had led Adam and his wife to transgress the divine command. Now therefore God casts it, as it were, in their teeth, with holy indignation, in order that they might see what they had gained by their folly and presumption. And whereas they had hitherto enjoyed the liberty of eating all the fruits of Paradise, and especially that which was a pledge and earnest to them of God’s eternal favour, he drives them out from the garden, to live in a far different manner by the sweat of their brow, and to feel that they were cut off from that life, which, had they maintained their innocence, would have been consummated in glory.

Thus we behold them driven as outcasts from God and happiness, and doomed to a life of labour and sorrow which should issue in a painful death, and (if repentance intervened not) in everlasting misery.]

2. Partly in mercy—

[God’s judgments in this world have always been tempered with mercy; yea so tempered, as to be capable of being turned into the richest blessings. Thus it was in the case before us. Our first parents had been accustomed to consider the tree of life as a pledge of the divine favour; and would be likely to regard it in the same view after their fall, as they had done before. Under this delusion they would be ready to embrace these means of reconciliation with their offended God, and would be led thereby to neglect the means which God had prescribed. Persisting in this mistake, they would pacify their own consciences; and having lulled themselves asleep under the guilt of their transgressions, they would perish in the midst of all the mercy which God had offered them through the mediation of his Son. To prevent these fatal consequences, God cuts them off from all access to the tree of life, and thus necessitates them to seek for mercy in his appointed way. Precisely as, in destroying the Jewish nation and polity, God punished his people indeed, but at the same time consulted their truest interests, by rendering it impossible for them to fulfil the righteousness of the Mosaic law, and thereby “shutting them up unto the faith of Christ [Note: Galatians 3:23.] ;” so did he expel our first parents from Paradise, that they might have nothing to divert their attention from that “Seed of the Woman who was in due time to bruise the Serpent’s head.”

Thus did God “in judgment remember mercy;” and, in the very hottest exercise of his anger, provide means for the richest display of his unmerited, unsought kindness.]

From this subject we may learn,

1. The antiquity of the Gospel—

[Whenever Salvation by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus is insisted on, it is exclaimed against as a new doctrine: but it is none other than “the good old way [Note: Jeremiah 6:16.],” which has been pointed out by our Reformers, by the Apostles, by the Prophets, and by God himself from the beginning of the world. God shewed it to our first parents immediately after their fall: he shewed it them not only by a prophetical declaration, but also by an emblematical exhibition. And our very clothing in which we are so apt to pride ourselves, would, if we considered the origin and occasion of it, lead us to that way, even to Jesus, in whom alone we can find righteousness and life. Let us then hold fast the Gospel, without regarding the senseless cavils of the world: and while “the proud make it only a stumbling-block, and the conceited reject it as foolishness,” let us receive and glory in it as “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”]

2. The necessity of embracing it—

[Like our first parents, we are ready to rest in the seals of the covenant (as baptism and the Lord’s supper), instead of fleeing to the Saviour himself. But whatever devices we use for the reconciling of ourselves to God, they will all prove vain and useless: we shall find them “a bed too short to stretch ourselves upon, and a covering too narrow to wrap ourselves in [Note: Isaiah 28:20.].” There was one way appointed from the beginning: that way has been progressively displayed, and illustrated in different ages; but it has never been altered, no not in the slightest degree. “There never has been any other name whereby we could be saved, but that of Jesus Christ [Note: Acts 4:12.] ;” and the only difference between us and the Jews, or us and Adam, is, that we behold in meridian splendour the truths, of which they saw only the early dawn. Let us be persuaded then that all access to life by the first covenant is stopped; and that all plans for covering our own shame will be in vain. We must all be accepted through one sacrifice, and all be clothed in one righteousness; and all comply with that direction of the prophet, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 3:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-3.html. 1832.

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