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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Genesis 3

 

 

Verses 1-6

Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field

The first great temptation

I.
THAT THE HUMAN SOUL IS FREQUENTLY TEMPTED BY A DIRE FOE OF UNUSUAL SUBTLETY.

1. The tempter of human souls is subtle.

2. Malignant.

3. Courageous.

II. THAT THE TEMPTER SEERS TO ENGAGE THE HUMAN SOUL IN CONVERSATION AND CONTROVERSY.

1. He seeks to hold controversy with human souls, that he may render them impatient of the moral restrictions of life.

2. That he may insidiously awaken within them thoughts derogatory to the character of God.

3. That he may lead them to yield to the lust of the eye.

III. THAT THE TEMPTER SEEKS TO MAKE ONE SOUL HIS ALLY IN THE SEDUCTION OF ANOTHER.

IV. THAT THE HUMAN SOUL SOON AWAKENS FROM THE SUBTLE VISION OF TEMPTATION TO FIND THAT IT HAS BEEN DELUDED AND RUINED (see Genesis 3:7).

1. That the human soul soon awakes from the charming vision of temptation. Temptation is a charming vision to the soul. The tree looks gigantic. The fruit looks rich and ripe, and its colour begins to glow more and yet more, then it is plucked and eaten. Then comes the bitter taste. The sad recollection. The moment of despair. To Adam and Eve sin was a new experience. No man is the better for the woeful experience of evil.

2. That the human soul, awakening from the vision of temptation, is conscious of moral nakedness. Sin always brings shame, a shame it deeply feels but cannot hide. How sad the destitution of a soul that has fallen from God.

3. That the human soul awakening from the vision of temptation, conscious of its moral nakedness, seeks to provide a clothing of its own device. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make them aprons. Sin must have a covering. It is often ingenious in making and sewing it together. But its covering is always unworthy and futile. Man cannot of himself clothe his soul. Only the righteousness of Christ can effectually hide his moral nakedness. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

How could God justly permit satanic temptation?

We see in this permission not injustice but benevolence.

1. Since Satan fell without external temptation, it is probable that man’s trial would have been substantially the same, even though there had been no Satan to tempt him.

2. In this case, however, man’s fall would perhaps have been without what now constitutes its single mitigating circumstance. Self-originated sin would have made man himself a Satan.

3. As, in the conflict with temptation, it is an advantage to objectify evil under the image of corruptible flesh, so it is an advantage to meet it as embodied in a personal and seducing spirit.

4. Such temptation has in itself no tendency to lead the soul astray. If the soul be holy, temptation may only confirm it in virtue. Only the evil will, self determined against God, can turn temptation into an occasion of ruin. As the sun’s heat has no tendency to wither the plant rooted in deep and moist soil, but only causes it to send down its roots the deeper and to fasten itself the more strongly, so temptation has in itself no tendency to pervert the soul. The same temptation which occasions the ruin of the false disciple stimulates to sturdy growth the virtue of the true Christian. Contrast with the temptation of Adam the temptation of Christ. Adam had everything to plead for God, the garden and its delights, while Christ had everything to plead against Him, the wilderness and its privations. But Adam had confidence in Satan, while Christ had confidence in God; and the result was in the former case defeat, in the latter victory. How could a penalty so great be justly connected with disobedience to so slight a command.

To this question we may reply:

1. So slight a command presented the best test of the spirit of obedience.

2. The external command was not arbitrary or insignificant in its substance. It was a concrete presentation to the human will of God’s claim to eminent domain or absolute ownership.

3. The sanction attached to the command shows that man was not left ignorant of its meaning or importance.

4. The act of disobedience was therefore the revelation of a will thoroughly corrupted and alienated from God--a will given over to ingratitude, unbelief, ambition, and rebellion. The motive to disobedience was not appetite, but the ambition to be as God. The outward act of eating the forbidden fruit was only the thin edge of the wedge, behind which lay the whole mass--the fundamental determination to isolate self and to seek personal pleasure regardless of God and His law. So the man under conviction for sin commonly clings to some single passion or plan, only half-conscious of the fact that opposition to God in one thing is opposition in all.

Consequences of the fall, so far as respects Adam

1. Death. This death was two fold. It was partly--

(a) Negatively, the loss of man’s moral likeness to God, or that underlying tendency of his whole nature toward God which constituted his original righteousness.

(b) Positively, the depraving of all those powers which, in their united action with reference to moral and religious truth, we call man’s moral and religious nature; or, in other words, the blinding of his intellect, the corruption of his affections, and the enslavement of his will. Seeking to be a god, man became a slave; seeking independence, he ceased to be master of himself. In fine, man no longer made God the end of his life, but chose self instead. While he retained the power of self-determination in subordinate things, he lost that freedom which consisted in the power of choosing God as his ultimate aim, and became fettered by a fundamental inclination of his will toward evil. The intuitions of the reason were abnormally obscured, since these intuitions, so far as they are concerned with moral and religious truth, are conditioned upon a right state of the affections; and--as a necessary result of this obscuring of reason--conscience, which, as the moral judiciary of the soul, decides upon the basis of the law given to it by reason, became perverse in its deliverances. Yet this inability to judge or act aright, since it was a moral inability springing ultimately from will, was itself hateful and condemnable.

2. Positive and formal exclusion from God’s presence. This included--

The temptation

Observe, in general, its nature and subtlety

1. He concealed his true character as the enemy of God. He appears to pay a deference to the Creator, not presuming to insinuate any question about His right to give laws, such laws as seemed good in His sight, to His intelligent creatures. He does not begin to tell of his own fall, and to speak boastfully of his own rebellion. He pretends great regard and friendly wishes for them, and at the same time carefully conceals his enmity against God.

2. He assails Eve, as would appear, when alone; in the absence of Adam. He thus took her at the greatest disadvantage, knowing well that in such a case “two are better than one”; that what was yielded by one might have been resisted by them both.

3. There is a probability, amounting as nearly as possible to certainty, that he assaulted her at a moment when she was near the tree, so that there might be no length of time allowed her for reflection and deliberation.

4. Mark the ingredients included in the temptation itself. There is, first, an insinuation of unkindness of an unnecessary and capricious restriction, put in the form of a question of surprise, as if it were a thing be found difficult to believe, and for which he could imagine no reason. There was, secondly, a direct contradiction of the assurance she gave him of the consequence of eating, as having been intimated to them by Jehovah. (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

The nature of the test to which Adam’s allegiance was put

1. So far as we are capable of judging, it was a thing in itself indifferent, having nothing in it of an intrinsically moral character. Now, in this view of it, it was peculiarly appropriate. It was a test of subjection to the Divine will; a test, simply considered, of obedience to God.

2. It has been remarked that the circumstances in which Adam was, at his creation, were such as to remove him from all temptations to, and, in some instances, from all possibility of, committing those sins which now most frequently abound amongst his posterity; “which is one thought of considerable importance to vindicate the Divine wisdom in that constitution under which he was placed.”

3. We further observe that it was specially appropriate in this, that, from the comparatively little and trivial character of the action prohibited, it taught the important lesson that the real guilt of sin lay in its principle, the principle of rebellion against God’s will; not in the extent of the mischief done, or of the consequences arising out of it.

4. I might notice also its precision. The language of Dr. Dwight on another part of this subject may be fairly applied here. “It brought the duty which he (Adam) was called to perform up to his view in the most distinct manner possible, and rendered it too intelligible to be mistaken. No room was left for doubt or debate. The object in question was a sensible object, perfectly defined, and perfectly understood.” No metaphysical or philosophical discussion was demanded or admitted.

5. A test of this particular kind being once admitted to be suitable, the one actually selected was one which, from its obvious connection with the condition in which our first parents were placed, was, in the highest degree, natural. “Considering they were placed in a garden, what so natural, what so suitable to their situation, as forbidding them to eat of the fruit of a certain tree in that garden?” “The liberal grant of food was the extent of their liberty; this single limitation the test of their obedience.”

6. It was, besides, an easy test. It was neither any mighty thing they were to do, nor any mighty indulgence they were to deny themselves, that was made the criterion of their subjection to God. (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

Observations

I. IT IS THE USUAL CUSTOM OF SATAN TO ATTEMPT MEN BEFORE THEY BE CONFIRMED, AND SETTLED IN A COURSE OF GODLINESS.

II. SATAN CONTRIVES MISCHIEF, EVEN AGAINST SUCH AS NEVER PROVOKED HIM. Hope not for peace with wicked men, who being Satan’s seed, must needs resemble his nature, as our Saviour testifies they do John 8:44), seeing a good man’s peace with them is--

1. Impossible, because of the contrariety between good and evil men every way. As,--

III. NO PLACE NOR EMPLOYMENT CAN FREE US FROM SATAN’S ASSAULTS.

IV. THOUGH SATAN BE THE AUTHOR AND PERSUADER TO EVERY SINFUL MOTION, YET HE LOVES NOT TO BE SEEN IN IT. In casting of evil thoughts into the heart, he makes use of inward and indiscernible suggestions; that though we find the motion in our hearts, yet we cannot discover how they entered into our minds. Thus he stirred up David to number the people 1 Chronicles 21:1), entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), was a lying spirit in the mouth of Zedekiah, though he knew not which way he entered into him (1 Kings 22:23-24). But oftentimes he makes use of some outward instruments by which he conveys his counsels, sometimes taking on him the shape of unreasonable creatures, as he always doth in dealing with witches and conjurers, and as we see he dealt with Eve in this place, although more usually he makes use of men to beguile men by, as he did in tempting Ahab by Jezebel his wife (1 Kings 21:25), and by his false prophet.

V. SATAN USUALLY MAKES CHOICE OF THOSE INSTRUMENTS WHICH HE FINDS FITTEST FOR THE COMPASSING OF HIS OWN WICKED ENDS. Thus he makes use of the wise and learned to persuade, of men of power and authority to command, and to compel men to evil practices, of beautiful women to allure to lust, of great men to countenance, and of men of strength and power to exercise violence and oppression. And this he doth upon a double reason.

1. That whereas God hath therefore given great abilities to some above others, to enable them the better for His service, that He might have the more honour thereby, Satan, as it were, to despite God the more, turns his own weapons against himself to dishonour him all he can in that wherein he seeks, and out of which he ought to receive his greatest glory.

2. Necessity enforceth him to make the best choice he can of able instruments, because carrying men in sinful courses, he must needs have the help of strong means, the work being difficult in itself, as crossing all God’s ways.

VI. CUNNING AND SUBTLE PERSONS ARE DANGEROUS INSTRUMENTS TO DECEIVE AND THEREBY TO DO MISCHIEF. Such a one was Jonadab, to show Amnon the way to defile his own sister (2 Samuel 13:1-39). Ahitophel to further Absalom’s treason against his own father (2 Samuel 15:1-37; 2 Samuel 16:23). Such were the scribes and Pharisees, our Saviour’s enemies, and murderers at last, whom He everywhere taxeth for their pride, covetousness, and subtle dissimulation: with whom we may join Elymas the sorcerer, fall of all subtilty, whom the devil made use of, to turn away the people’s hearts from receiving Paul’s ministry. But what are those to Satan himself, that sets them all on work, called the old serpent, more subtle, and consequently more dangerously mischievous than all his agents?

VII. NO ADVANTAGE CAN ASSURE A CHILD OF GOD FROM THE ASSAULTS AND TEMPTATIONS OF SATAN.

VIII. OUR WEAKNESS IS SATAN’S ADVANTAGE.

IX. SOLITARINESS IS OFTEN A SNARE.

1. It yields advantage to temptations (as appears in David’s entangling himself with lust after Bath-sheba when he was alone); whence it was, that our Saviour, to give Satan all the advantage that might be, that thereby He might make His victory over him the more glorious, went out to encounter with him in the solitary wilderness.

2. Solitariness gives the greater opportunity to commit sin unespied of men; an advantage upon which Joseph’s mistress attempts him to commit adultery with her (Genesis 39:11-12).

3. It deprives men of help, by advice and counsel to withstand the temptation. So, Ecclesiastes 4:10; Ecclesiastes 4:12.

4. Man was ordained for society, and fitted with abilities for that purpose, and as he is most serviceable that way, so he is most safe, as being secured by God’s protection in that way and employment, to which the Lord hath assigned him.

X. SATAN’S MAIN END IS MAN’S DESTRUCTION, BY TURNING AWAY HIS HEART FROM GOD.

XI. IT IS USUAL WITH SATAN AND HIS INSTRUMENTS TO PRETEND THE GOOD OF THOSE WHOM THEY INTEND WHOLLY TO DESTROY.

XII. SATAN AND HIS AGENTS IN TEMPTING MEN TO SIN, ARE VERY WARY IN DISCOVERING THEIR FULL INTENTIONS AT FIRST, TILL THEY SEE HOW THEY WILL BE ENTERTAINED.

XIII. DISCRETION AND WARINESS IN MEN’S ACTIONS OUGHT NOT TO HINDER THE EFFECTUAL PROSECUTION OF THAT WHICH THEY INTEND.

XIV. THE FORGETTING OF GOD’S MERCIES IS A GREAT MEANS TO TAKE OFF A MAN’S HEART FROM CLEAVING TO HIM.

XV. IT IS A DANGEROUS SNARE TO A MAN TO HAVE HIS EYES TOO MUCH FIXED UPON HIS WANTS.

XVI. THE NATURE OF MAN, BY THE ART AND POLICY OF SATAN, IS APT TO BE CARRIED AGAINST ALL RESTRAINT AND SUBJECTION.

XVII. AMBIGUOUS AND DOUBTFUL EXPRESSIONS MAY BE AND MANY TIMES ARE DANGEROUS SNARES. If they be purposely used. As--

1. Betraying an ill mind and affection in him that proposeth them, seeing men that think well and sincerely have no cause to cover their intentions with the darkness of doubtful terms.

2. And being dangerous means to lead men into error, if they be not wisely and heedfully observed. (J. White, M. A.)

But why did God give Adam this law, seeing God did foresee that Adam would transgress it?

I. It was Adam’s fault that he did not keep the law; God gave him a stock of grace to trade with, but he of himself broke.

II. Though God foresaw Adam would transgress, yet that was not a sufficient reason that Adam should have no law given him; for, by the same reason, God should not have given His written word to men, to be a rule of faith and manners, because He foresaw that some would not believe, and others would be profane. Shall not laws be made in the land, because some break them?

III. God, though He foresaw Adam would break the law, He knew how to turn it to a greater good, in sending Christ. The first covenant being broken, He knew how to establish a second, and a better. (T. Watson.)

The woman and the serpent

I. THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD. Among the maxims of this wisdom are these--

1. That happiness is the end of human existence.

2. That nature is a sufficient source of happiness.

3. That man’s chief happiness lies in forbidden objects.

4. That God is what we fancy or desire Him to be.

II. THE QUALITIES OF SIN.

1. The elements of all sin are here--sensuality, covetousness, ambition.

2. Sin originates in unbelief.

3. It wears a specious appearance of goodness.

III. THE RESULTS OF SIN. It--

1. Transforms its victims into Satanic incarnations.

2. Reveals its own deceptiveness.

3. Covers its victims with confusion. (J. A. Macdonald.)

Little sins, if not prevented, bring on greater, to the ruin of the soul

Thieves, when they go to rob a house, if they cannot force the doors, or that the wall is so strong that they cannot break through, then they bring little boys along with them, and these they put in at the windows, who are no sooner in, but they unbolt the doors and let in the whole company of thieves. And thus Satan, when by greater sins he cannot tell how to enter the soul, then he puts on and makes way by lesser, which, insensibly having got entrance, set open the doors of the eyes and the doors of the ears, and then comes in the whole rabble: there they take up their quarters, there, like unruly soldiers, they rule, domineer, and do what they list, to the ruin of the soul so possessed. (J. Spencer.)

The great danger of not keeping close to God’s Word

It is a thing very well known in the great and populous city of London, that when children, or some of bigger growth newly come out of the country, and so not well acquainted with the streets, are either lost or found straying from their home, there is a sort of lewd, wicked people (commonly called “spirits”) that presently fasten upon them, and, by falsehood and fair language, draw them further out of their way, then sell them to foreign plantations, to the great grief of their parents and friends, who, in all likelihood, never afterwards hear what is become of them. Thus it is that, when men and women are found straggling from God their Father, the Church their mother, and refuse to be led by the good guidance of the blessed Spirit--when they keep not to the Law and to the Testimony, nor stick close to the Word of God, which is in itself a lantern to their feet and a light unto their paths--then no marvel if they meet with wicked spirits, seducers and false teachers, that lead them captive at their will, and that, not receiving the truth in the love of the truth, God gives them over to strong delusions, to believe a lie. (J. Spencer.)

The serpent

Here is the devil--that apostate spirit--that accursed being--that arch rebel--that daring adversary of God--that merciless foe of man. Eden’s serpent truly is the devil. His work declares him. God’s Word denounces him.

1. The devil is a real person. This relation is no myth--no dream--no vision--no fable--no allegory. It narrates the real conduct of a real person. Works prove a workman. Acts show an agent. So real performances stamp a real devil. Watch then, and pray. He is always personally near; for he “walketh about seeking whom he may devour” 1 Peter 5:8). Bar the portals of your heart. He seeks to make that heart his personal home. He is the “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

2. The devil is a hater of God. Who hates God most? Surely he who most contravenes His will. Of the devil’s antecedent rebellion nothing should be said, for nothing can be proved. But here a patent fact evidences his enmity. He aims directly to upset God’s plans. He arms himself in the panoply of bold opposition. Thus he schemes; thus he uplifts his arm boldly to fight against God. See, then, how he hates God. Reader, you profess to love God. Where is your evidence? Do you abhor the fiend, who from the beginning has strained his every power to subvert God’s kingdom?

3. The devil is a hater of man. Who hates man most? Surely he who most contrives his misery. In Eden there was sweet bliss. Every faculty was the inlet of God. Every thought--full of Him--was only joy. Satan beholds and writhes. What I shall man share the peace which he has lost: and joy in joys, which never can be his again? Such bliss is torture to him. He will not rest till he uproot it. Sad that the sons of men should ]end their ears so gladly to their deadliest foe, and drink so readily this viper’s poison! What madness to court the embrace of such an enemy--to admit the sure murderer to our abode--to open the door to the known robber!

4. The devil is most daring. Truly nothing daunts him. His case is hopeless, therefore he is reckless.

5. The devil is consummate in skill. He watches for the fit opportunity; and then applies the fit snare.

6. The devil shrinks not from the blackest sin. His first appearance shows that there is no iniquity so foul, but he will handle it; no depth of evil so profound, but he will fathom it. He commences with trampling down all truth. “Ye shall not surely die.” He rises upon earth the meridian orb of crime. He blushes not--nor trembles--nor pauses--nor scruples. His earliest words are the lie of lies. So now he allures each victim to the extremest extremity of evil.

7. The devil has awful power. Weak agents fail. Difficulties baffle them. But he is not baffled. His first victory was hard to win. But he quickly won it. Reader, beware. All his mighty arts plot your destruction. (Dean Law.)

Original state of man

Now, in respect of this I cannot but believe that we often impose upon ourselves, and cherish a picture which is not consonant with the reality, and foster an illusion which is not a little heightened and strengthened by the strong language commonly used in speaking or writing of man’s condition paradise as one of absolute perfection. From such language we are apt to carry away the notion that Adam was a being not only physically complete and perfect, but also a being whose intellectual and moral nature was in its highest degree developed,--a being, in short, to whom nothing needed to be added to render him perfect in all his parts. Along with this, we are apt to fancy that his condition in paradise was one of the most perfect felicity which the human nature is capable of enjoying. Now, that this is an illusive view of man’s primitive condition, will, I think, appear from the following considerations:

1. On a mere general survey, and looking at man simply in his physical and intellectual aspect, it must strike one that the highest state of man is not and cannot be that of a naked animal, with nothing to do but to keep a garden, already richly furnished with all that is “pleasant to the eye and good for food.” It is inconceivable that with capacities for thought and work, such as man even in the lowest state of civilization is seen to possess, the perfection of his nature and his supreme felicity can have been realized in a state of such simplicity and in a sphere so limited as that which paradise afforded to our first parents.

2. It must also, I think, strike one that if Adam was the perfect being intellectually and morally he is often represented as having been, it is inconceivable that he should have fallen before so slight a temptation, or yielded to so trifling an impulse as that by which he was led to transgress the Divine prohibition.

3. The law of man’s nature is that he reaches perfection only by a slow process of growth and gradual development, secured through the due exercise of his faculties. This is inseparable from his constitution as a free intelligent agent. That God could create an intelligent being from the first absolutely perfect, so that he neither needed to become nor could become more complete either intellectually or morally than he was at the moment of his creation, is not to be denied, for with God all things are possible. But such a being would not be like any of those whom God has formed. It was not so that God made man. Man, as he came from the hand of his Maker, was a free, intelligent, self-governing agent, capable of development, and needing experience, trial, and use in order to attain both the proper growth of his physical and mental faculties, and the strengthening, maturing, and perfecting of his moral nature. Of every such being it is in a very important sense true that he is his own maker. From God he receives the faculties and capacities by which he is to be enabled to fulfil the functions of his position; but he must himself use these, and use them wisely and well, if he is really to advance in culture and rise towards the perfection of his being. Now, we have no reason to believe that it was otherwise with our first parents. Their nature was the same as ours, and it is to be presumed that the same law applied to them in this respect as to us. They could reach perfection only by the continuous use of the faculties they possessed. It would seem even that their moral perceptions needed the discipline of evil before it could be fully developed; for it was after they had sinned that God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil,” i.e., to make moral distinctions, to discern between good and evil Genesis 3:22). Not that they needed personally to sin in order to attain to this, but that it was only by experience that they could arrive at an apprehension of the distinction between good and evil. And as it was only by experience that their moral nature could be fully matured, so we may safely affirm of their whole nature that it could reach perfection only by the free and intelligent use of those faculties, physical, intellectual, and moral, with which God had endowed them. “Mere animal natures are finished from the first; God took everything that concerned them upon Himself, and left them nothing to do. But it was His will that man should be His fellow worker in the great feat of his own creation, and thereby in the completion of all creation; the Father left the mighty work unfinished, so to speak, until the child should set his seal on it.” We must think of man, then, in his first estate, as he came from the hand of his Creator, not as a perfect, fully matured being, but rather as a man-child,--a man with noble capacities, but these as yet undeveloped, and with everything to learn--an innocent, pure, guileless being, with no bias to evil, without any knowledge of evil, with affections tending naturally to good, and with a soul capable of rising to a freedom like that of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin, and who cannot be tempted of evil. Adam was placed in paradise as in a school, a training place suited to a beginner, and where the lessons and the discipline were such as his almost infantile condition required. (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

Probation, temptation, and fall of man

1. The probation.

1. And, first, there are some who seem to stumble at the littleness of the trial to which man was thus exposed, and on which such mighty results were made to depend. If so, they must be prepared to object to one of the most manifest of those laws under which this world is administered; for nothing can be more obvious and certain than that the mightiest and most permanent effects are constantly resulting from the most apparently trivial and transient causes. Or do they object to so feeble a test of man’s obedience being imposed? If this be their meaning, it is obvious to reply that so much the more was the arrangement favourable to man, and therefore beneficent and gracious. The more insignificant the self-denial required in order to obedience, the easier the obedience and the more probable the success of the probationer. Never, we may say, was a moral experiment conducted under circumstances more favourable to the subject of it.

2. As others advance this objection, it assumes the shape of a protest against the dishonour which it is alleged is done to God by the representation of Him as a being who would make a condition of spiritual advantage dependent on an external act. A mere physical act as such has no moral character at all; and though it may be the index of a man’s moral state or tendencies, it is not, nor ever can be, an adequate test of them. The test to which Adam and Eve were subjected was not so much whether they would eat or not eat this particular fruit, but whether they would respect and obey or neglect and transgress God’s prohibition. It was not, therefore, on any mere external act that man’s fate depended; it was on such an act as connected with, flowing from, and giving evidence of a particular state of mind. The hinge in Adam’s testing turned really not so much on his eating or abstaining from this fruit or that, but on his obeying or transgressing

God’s commandment. Was such a test unfair to man? Was it unworthy of God?

3. Another form in which the objection to the Mosaic account of the trial of our first parents is presented is that in which stress is laid on the purely positive and apparently arbitrary character of the test by which their obedience was to be tried. This was the only arrangement possible; for how is the virtue of a sinless being to be tested but by means of some positive precept? In such a being moral truth is so perfectly a part of the inner life, that it is only when a positive duty is enjoined that the mind comes to a consciousness of objective law and extrinsic government so as to render obedience. But even supposing a moral test could have been proposed, was it not much more in Adam’s favour that his obedience should have been tested by a positive enactment? What God required of him was thus clearly and unmistakably brought before him.

4. Some profound thinkers have started the doubt whether it be possible for a limited intelligence, left to the freedom of its own will, to avoid transgressing the boundaries of duty, and so falling into sin. Without entering at present into so difficult a speculation, we may admit that a limited intelligence is, from the very fact of its limitation, very likely to be exposed to a strong inducement from mere curiosity, not to speak of other motives, to pass beyond the limits within which it may be confined. What lies on the other side of this barrier which I am forbidden to pass? Why am I forbidden to pass it? What will be the result to me if I do pass it? These and such like questionings, working in the mind, are very likely to result in a daring attempt to remove the barrier, or to overleap it, and thereby, if it be a moral barrier, to plunge into sin. Obviously, therefore, the kindest and best arrangement for man in his state of primeval probation was one which should reduce the action of such provocative curiosity to the lowest possible form, which should hem him in by no vague, mystic, uncertain prohibition, but by one perfectly single and intelligible, and which should leave him in no doubt as to the certain misery into which he would bring himself if he suffered any motive to carry him beyond the limits which that prohibition prescribed. Such an arrangement the wisdom and the goodness of God instituted for our first parents in their probationary state; their continuance in happiness was made to depend on their submission to one simple and most intelligible restriction; they had but to refrain from the fruit of one tree, while of all the others they might freely eat; and they knew beforehand what the consequences would be of their violating this restriction. (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

Eastern ideas regarding the serpent

1. Almost throughout the East, the serpent was used as an emblem of the evil principle, of the spirit of disobedience and contumacy. A few exceptions only can be discovered. The Phoenicians adored that animal as a beneficent genius; and the Chinese consider it as a symbol of superior wisdom and power, and ascribe to the kings of heaven (tien-hoangs)
bodies of serpents. Some other nations fluctuated in their conceptions regarding the serpent. The Egyptians represented the eternal spirit Kneph, the author of all good, under the mythic form of that reptile; they understood the art of taming it, and embalmed it after death; but they applied the same symbol for the god of revenge and punishment (Tithrambo), and for Typhon, the author of all moral and physical evil; and in the Egyptian symbolical alphabet the serpent represents subtlety and cunning, lust and sensual pleasure. In Greek mythology, it is certainly, on the one hand, the attribute of Ceres, of Mercury, and of AEsculapius, in their most beneficent qualities; but it forms, on the other hand, a part of the terrible Furies or Eumenides: it appears, in the form of Python, as a fearful monster, which the arrows of a god only were able to destroy; and it is the most hideous and most formidable part of the impious giants who despise and blaspheme the power of heaven. The Indians, like the savage tribes of Africa and America, suffer and nourish, indeed, serpents in their temples, and even in their houses; they believe that they bring happiness to the places which they inhabit; they worship them as the symbols of eternity; but they regard them also as evil genii, or as the inimical powers of nature which is gradually depraved by them, as the enemies of the gods, who either tear them to pieces, or tread their venomous head under their all-conquering feet. So contradictory is all animal worship. Its principle is, in some instances, gratitude, and in others fear; but if a noxious animal is very dangerous, the fear may manifest itself in two ways, either by the resolute desire of extirpating the beast, or by the wish of averting the conflict with its superior power: thus the same fear may, on the one hand, cause fierce enmity, and, on the other, submission and worship. Further, the animals may be considered either as the creatures of the powers of nature, or as a production of the Divine will; and those religious systems, therefore, which acknowledge a dualism, either in nature or in the Deity, or which admit the antagonism between God and nature, must almost unavoidably regard the same animals now as objects of horror, and now of veneration. From all these aberrations, Mosaism was preserved by its fundamental principle of the one and indivisible God, in whose hands is nature with all its hosts, and to whose wise and good purposes all creatures are subservient
. (M. M.Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Yea, hath God said

The devil’s questions

I. IT IS DANGEROUS TO LAY OPEN OURSELVES FREELY TO PERSONS UNKNOWN, OR SUCH OF WHOM WE HAVE NO ASSURANCE.

II. IT IS A DANGEROUS THING TO QUESTION OR DEBATE EVIDENT AND KNOWN TRUTHS. Principles in all sciences are exempted from dispute, much more should they be in divinity. Amongst which we may account--

1. The dictates of nature, written by the finger of God in all men’s hearts, as, that there is a God (Romans 1:19-20); that He judgeth the world Psalms 58:11), and that in righteousness, which is a principle that Jeremy will not dispute (Jeremiah 12:1); and that consequently it shall be well with the good, and ill with the wicked at last (Ecclesiastes 12:13), as being truths, which every man’s conscience within his own breast gives testimony unto.

2. Such truths as are delivered by God Himself, either recorded in His Word (as the creation of the world and that great mystery of man’s redemption by Jesus Christ, etc.), or made known unto us by any special message from God. And by this assenting unto the truths of God, without questioning or admitting them into debate,

III. BLASPHEMOUS AND FOUL SUGGESTIONS OUGHT NOT TO BE HEARD WITHOUT INDIGNATION AND DETESTATION.

1. To manifest our zeal for God’s honour and for His truth.

2. By it we secure ourselves from a farther assault, which we easily invite when we bear such blasphemies with too much softness of spirit and patience.

3. And harden our own hearts against such wicked suggestions by abhorring the very mention of them.

4. And oftentimes terrify the suggesters themselves, or at least put them to shame.

IV. WHEN GOD’S MERCIES ARE MENTIONED WE MUST WITHAL BE CAREFUL TO REMEMBER HIS NAME THAT BESTOWS THEM.

1. That by entitling God unto, and prefixing His own name before His works of mercy, wherewith men’s hearts are most affected, He may be highly advanced above all things, and held out and proclaimed to the world as the fountain of all goodness, when all the good things which we enjoy, and in which we rejoice, are still laid down at His foot.

2. There is an evil disposition in men’s hearts to forget God in His mercies Deuteronomy 32:18; Psalms 106:21), and to ascribe them to themselves (Daniel 4:25).

V. GOD’S MERCIES OUGHT NOT, WHEN THEY ARE SPOKEN OF, TO BE REPRESENTED IN COLD AND WEAK EXPRESSIONS.

1. Because they, having their hearts enlarged in the apprehension of them inwardly, cannot but speak as they think of them.

2. It is our duty to advance the Lord by all the means we can, that His name alone may be excellent (Psalms 148:13), and great (Malachi 1:11). Now, nothing advanceth His name more than His mercies, which therefore must be set out as the mercies of God, high, and without comparison.

3. When all is done, and we have made use of all our art and abilities, to set out God’s mercies in the largest manner that we can devise, all our words come infinitely short of the full extent of those things which we desire to represent.

4. In the meantime, while we strive to set out things in the fullest measure, we warm our own hearts, and quicken our affections the more, and fill our hearts with the greater admiration of those things which exceed all our expressions. (J. White, M. A.)

Satan’s question

I. SATAN’S TEMPTATIONS BEGIN BY LAYING A DOUBT AT THE ROOT. He does not assert error; he does not contradict truth; but he confounds both. He makes his first entries, not by violent attack, but by secret sapping; he endeavours to confuse and cloud the mind which he is afterwards going to kill.

II. THE PARTICULAR CHARACTER OF THESE TROUBLESOME AND WICKED QUESTIONINGS OF THE MIND VARIES ACCORDING TO THE STATE AND TEMPERAMENT AND CHARACTER OF EACH INDIVIDUAL.

1. In order to combat them, everyone should have his mind stored and fortified with some of the evidences of the Christian religion. To these he should recur whenever he feels disquieted; he should be able to give “a reason for the hope that is in him,” and an answer to that miserable shadow that flits across his mind, “Yea, hath God said?”

2. A man must be careful that his course of life is not one giving advantage to the tempter. He must not be dallying under the shadow of the forbidden tree, lest the tempter meet him and he die.

III. THE FAR END OF SATAN IS TO DIMINISH FROM THE GLORY OF GOD. To mar God’s designs he insinuated his wily coil into the garden of Eden; to mar God’s designs he met Jesus Christ in the wilderness, on the mountain top, and on the pinnacle of the temple; to mar God’s design he is always leading us to take unworthy views of God’s nature and God’s work. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The temptation, the fall, and the promise

I. THE PARTIES TO BE TESTED.

II. THE TEMPTER.

1. The instrument was a serpent.

2. The real agent was Satan.

III. THE TEMPTATION. Literally the tempter says, “Then it is so that God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden.’” As if so incredible a report could be believed only on the positive assertion of Eve herself. He then insinuates that God had issued this prohibition from other motives than love. He hints at something strange, if not unjust or unkind, on the part of God. Like other trees, Eve perceives that the forbidden one is “good for food and pleasant to the sight.” Unlike other trees, she is now informed that it is capable of affording wisdom; that eating from it gives knowledge of good and evil; that while other trees minister to the sense, this ministers also to the reason. Thus all parts of Eve’s sensitive nature are wrought upon; her fancy is aroused, curiosity awakened, desire for knowledge excited.

IV. THE SIN. Eve sought knowledge in a way foreign to God’s will. He would have her know good by adopting it, and evil by resisting it. By disobedience she came to know good as a forfeited possession, and evil as a purchased bane. She found that unlawful knowledge was dearly bought, and that a stolen likeness to God brought sorrow.

V. THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. Conscious of their sin, they fancy that their guilty bosoms are open to every eye. But the accuser is in their own breasts. They have opened the door, and the sweet-songed bird of innocence has flown.

VI. THE SENTENCE. In God’s dealings with the human pair there was a mingling of justice and mercy. By their sin they had become spiritually dead--had died in the sense in which God declared they should. Their true life--that of holiness--was gone. Existence now was but partial andabnormal. For this altered moral state God made for them a change externally. The world which they and their sinful seed were to inhabit, must be adapted to a race of sinners. Hence God made it, not a place of punishment, but of discipline; the end being to restore to the race their lost holiness. Bodily fatigue, the thorn-infested ground, and the dread of dying (an event which, but for the Fall, would have had no terror), all these were designed as chastisements for man’s sins, and at the same time as agencies to reclaim him from it.

VII. THE PROMISE OF A DELIVERER. (P. B. Davis.)

Man’s enemy makes his appearance

The passage takes for granted that there was already an enemy in existence. There had been sin before, somewhere, though where is not said. There had been an enemy somewhere; but how he had become so, or where he had hitherto dwelt, or how he had found his way to this world, is not recorded. That he knew about our world, and that he had some connection with it, is evident; though whether as its original possessor, or a stranger coming from far in search of spoil, we cannot discover. All that is implied in the narrative is, that there did exist an enemy--one who hated God, and who now sought to get vent to that hatred by undoing His handiwork. This enemy now makes his appearance. He has not been bound; he has not been prohibited entrance: he gets free scope to work. He shall be bound hereafter, when the times of restitution of all things commence, but not yet. He shall not be permitted to enter the “new earth,” but he is allowed to enter and do his work of evil in the first earth. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

God not the author of sin

Thus we learn, even at the outset, that God is not the author of sin. It is the creature that introduces it. God, no doubt, could have hindered it, but for wise ends He allows it. We know also how sin spreads itself. It is always active. It multiplies and propagates itself. Every fallen being becomes a tempter, seeking to ruin others--to drag them down to the same death into which he has himself been driven. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The process of temptation

1. We may consider that the fact is established that man was created with a nature capable of temptation, and placed in the highest possible probation for the discipline of that nature. Our first parents stood as a stately oak upon a plain, beat upon by an impetuous storm, but meeting it with all the vigour and power of original uprightness. The hurricane beneath which they sunk may have been more severe than ours, but the bias of their nature made their probation less difficult. What, then, is that nature in us to which temptation addresses itself?

2. Who is the being that applies that temptation? And what are the instruments and modes of his attacks, and of our self-defence? These are questions of no small moment. Temptation implies the existence of two natures to which adverse powers and influences appeal, and in Holy Scripture these two natures in us are called the “flesh and spirit”; that they exist in more or less activity in every one of us an examination of ourselves will prove. We all know it; but more than this, they are contrary one to the other. It is this very perverseness in our nature which shows more than anything the contradictoriness of sin, and the warfare between the flesh and the spirit.

3. The personality and individuality of the tempter are points which it is most important to establish. That tempter is our constant companion, he has gauged his word to bring his one victim a bound captive to the gate of hell. The only solace, if we may use such a term, to his miserable eternity will be the consciousness that by his side is one who shares forever the intensity of his agony, though not one throb of anguish will be alleviated in himself. It will be something that every throe is but a reflex of the torture of his companion; his delight is in suffering, his sympathy is in woe; he rejoices, if joy can be felt in hell, in iniquity and pain. That tempter, if he loses his one victim, has no other which he can effect, unless he can regain his entrance into the home from which he has been expelled.

4. But I pass on to the next point, the medium through which the tempter acts. That he has power to affect every portion of our being, and to cast the deepest shadow over it, as an evening cloud can obscure the radiance of the setting sun on the marble columns of some eastern temple, there is no doubt. The lustful thought, the disrelish for heaven, the positive dislike for goodness, the deep despondency, are, with a thousand other infirmities and sins, traceable to the connection of the spirit with the body; and in proportion as that body is subjugated by discipline, the power of those sins will be weakened, and when the spirit will be freed from the present corruptible body, it will be wholly liberated. But all this is widely different from the doctrine which would teach that the bodies of men or matter generally are materially and actually wicked. They are instruments, and that is all. We have the same kind of power over them as we have over the staff we lean on, or the glass we use to aid the eyesight. Let us conceive the case of some instrument which has the greatest possible degree of connection with ourselves, and the greatest possible power to influence us, yet over which we have perfect control: such a case will be a very fair analogy for our relation with the body. Our bodies are temples; we may neither worship them nor despise them. They are instruments, as we use them, for good or evil. They are given for the discipline of the soul; for its aid, or for its hindrance. They are its school house, in which it is taught to spell the syllables of heaven. But more, it is manifest that Satan affects the spirit independently of the body. There are dreams when the soul realizes that awful state of separation from its physical condition, and ranges unfettered up and down the universe. Then sometimes Satan pursues it in its flight, and suggests awful thoughts. There are sudden unaccountable bursts of passion; injuries long since forgotten; exciting feelings for vengeance; dislikes for holiness, for good men; unaccountable desires to swear; without a cause to curse; for its own sake to steal, though the next instant the object for which honesty was bartered is thrown unvalued aside to rot and decay; there are strange wanderings when we would pray, in the church, in the chancel, at the altar, the spirit yet wings her flight to every region of the imagined universe, the corners furthest removed from God: all these are influences of Satan. Satan does tempt the spirit independently of the body; for these temptations, many of them, show no trace of physical cause. But that spirit, too, is in our power to bear us heavenward, or to the gate of hell, as we would have it. It may be the wing of the archangel soaring to the gate of paradise, or, it may be as the waxen wing of Icarus bringing us down to destruction. It is as we would have it. Has Satan ever power to tempt body or spirit in such a manner as we have no power to resist? It seems that he has. There are faint foreshadowings of that power in the cases of Pharaoh and Judas. There are cases in the experience of most of us, where the drunkard, after years of resisted conscience, has so entirely become the victim of the tempter, that the resolution formed daily with the bitter weeping of remorse, pales off each evening before the fire of the tempter, until at last, he passes from the hell on earth to the hell of eternity.

5. Satan binds us first with cords of silk; ere long they have become coils of rope; a little while and they are cables, scarcely to be bent; another interval, and the rope has become a chain, and the chain a bar of iron which no human power can resist. He creeps upon us.

6. Another favourite mode of his attack will be, as Jeremy Taylor quaintly illustrates, through the outward circumstances of a man. Adam, says he, so fascinated by the beauty and meekness of his new wife, was easily ensnared by her solicitations, and Satan consequently made use of her as the instrument of the fall of man. Over the stumbling stones of their partial affection for their younger born, even Rebecca and Jacob successively fell; and the same overweening love which the mother bore to her child was inherited and transmitted to its cost to Joseph and Benjamin. To us a favourite scheme, an idolized child, a friend on whom we lean, an honest calling, a noble aim, a brilliant yet well-directed talent, may, each one of them, from at first being planets clear and radiant in our sky, turn into baseless meteors and falling stars. They may be the fire damps of our ruin when they were the guiding stars of our salvation.

7. But I must mention a third mode through which the tempter will affect our spiritual nature independently alike of disposition or circumstance. He often acts, as was suggested above, in a sudden and unaccountable manner, and, as the Arab who kneels at the muezzin on the sand of the desert, over whose crimson sea the setting sun is shedding its ray without a cloud in the sky or an object on the earth, would be startled at the sight of a shadow fleeting over the bosom of the wilderness; so we are often startled by the sudden suggestion of lust, of doubt, of anger, of intense pride, of ruthless bitterness against another, of dislike to God, when within five minutes of the passing shade we thought we were kneeling in the cloudless sunshine of prayer, meditation, or communion. Nothing so shows the actual existence of the tempter as this. Against these unexpected attacks the habit of holiness and prayer can alone be a protection. We cannot tell where the weed will grow in the most highly cultivated garden; at any point may spring couch grass and the nettle; it is only by a state of general cultivation and purity that we can depend on the produce of our soil. The fever, the pestilence, may fall on the best ordered house and the most abstemious body, yet we know cleanliness and temperance are the best preservers. Apply the same rule to your spiritual life. One word of high encouragement and I have done. The eyes that watch us like lamps around our path; the watching eyes of the holy and the just, like starlight gleaming above us; the quiet gaze of the blessed in paradise, beaming like the moon that shines in softness with its borrowed lustre; the hosts of unfallen angels, like the sun that shines in its strength; the eye of Jesus and the Father from the great white throne, watch us daily. The page of man’s brief annals teems with instances of suffering, borne to its last throb without a sigh, and all because the world around or the generations to come would smile on or admire the deed. The eyes that gaze on us are more radiant and more holy; they are the eyes of eternity; let us not disappoint them, they watch us. Perhaps but another day and our strife may be ended! (E. Monro, M. A.)

Temptation of the first and of the second man

I invite you to notice how exactly parallel the temptation of the second Adam was to the temptation of the first. This cannot fail to concern us very greatly: for it is a clear intimation, afforded us by the person best qualified to make it, viz., by the devil, of our special liability, through certain avenues of choice, to fall away from God.

1. We are to note that the rebellion of the lower appetites against the powers of reason and the dictates of conscience, must be the prevailing form of human sin: for it was the seductiveness of the fruit of one particular tree which originally moved our first mother to disobey. And this is what the beloved disciple calls “the lust of the flesh.”

2. There is the illusion produced in our higher nature when outward things are seen otherwise than in the light of God. Eve was seduced by the prospect of enlarged views, and the promise that her eyes should be opened. And this is that “lust of the eyes” of which the same apostle speaks.

3. There is the spiritual snare of becoming to oneself the highest object, the standard to which all other things are to be referred. Man thus becomes a god to himself, and straightway directs his proceedings by reference to himself instead of to God. And to this, Eve’s desires tended when her pride (that special work of the devil) was called forth by the representation “ye shall be as gods.” St. John calls this the “pride of life.”. . .”God doth know” (said the tempter) “that in the day ye eat thereof”--here was the first seduction: “your eyes shall be opened”--there was the second: “and ye shall be as gods”--there was the third. Accordingly, it was “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,” that “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.” How exactly in our Lord’s case Satan addressed himself to the same three instincts, seeking first to inspire sensual distrust; next spiritual presumption; lastly worldly ambition; needs hardly to be pointed out. The order of the last two temptations was however inverted in the case of the second Adam. And why? I presume because the first of the three temptations had been resisted. Accordingly, from the seduction of sensuality the transition is made at once to the seduction of pride, these being the two extremes between which the fallen nature of man oscillates continually. Let us further note, in both cases (in paradise, I mean, and in the wilderness), that the instrument with which the reason is plied is still the same, namely, calumnious insinuation. A misrepresentation of the truth, and that couched in the modest form of an inquiry, was the tempter’s device. He at first asserted nothing. He asked, as if for information. He might have known, he did know, the truth . . . I am much mistaken if something very similar to this is not Satan’s method still. “It is most important to observe this first origin of evil. It is in the form of a question. It is not a direct denial of God’s truth or faithfulness, but a questioning of it. Because faith in God is the foundation of all good, it is to unsettle the foundation that this attempt is made. The poison is inserted in the way the question is stated. Thus also in dealing with our Divine Lord, Satan begins with a like questioning of what God had just declared. ‘If Thou be,’ which implies, ‘Art Thou then indeed the Son of God?’” And next, he insinuated what he dared not openly to proclaim: for by calumniously imputing to God a base motive for withholding the fruit of the one forbidden tree, he misrepresented God’s whole nature. But he did it by insinuation. And here, again, I recognize a favourite device of the enemy of souls in these last days. And then, the point to which his seductive speech tended, was, to make the creature desire to be as God: to be himself the standard, himself supreme, himself as God unto himself. It was a suggestion that the bondage of external law should be thrown aside, and that the conscience should henceforth become a law unto itself. Further--You are invited to note how the mischief began with an attempt to tamper with God’s Word. “Yea, hath God said?” But God had not said it! And then you will note that Satan beguiled Eve’s understanding by the seductive avenue of an increase of knowledge in prospect . . . Knowledge--that first appetite of man--and his last!. . .And is not “knowledge” good then? Yea, surely, most good: for indeed what were life without it? But like every other creature of God, it is good only when it subordinates to God’s revealed mind and will. Yet once more, and for the last time, death was the penalty of all; and yet, “Ye shall not surely die,” was the promise wherewith Satan sought to silence the fears of our first mother What but that, what but the assurance “Ye shall not surely die,” is Satan’s cry at this very hour to a willing world? (Dean Burgon.)

The temptation

There are in this question two things equally dangerous to the soul of Eve, a fatal doubt of the truth of the Word of God, and a perfidious exaggeration, calculated to insinuate distrust. I say, first, a doubt of the truth of the Word of God. “Hath God said?” Here is an insinuation calculated to sap the foundation of all faith, all obedience, all morality, all established order. Here is the most powerful weapon of the devil and of our own wicked heart; the weapon by which thousands and thousands are smitten and plunged into ruin. Hath God said that the “friendship of the world is enmity against God; and that whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God”? Hath God said that we must forsake all and follow Him, bearing our cross; that “if we love father or mother, or sister or brother, or house, or lands, more than Him, we are not worthy of Him”? Hath God said that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” that we have within us an evil and corrupt heart, that “the carnal mind in us is not subject to the law of God,” that our life is polluted with sin? Hath God said that “He doth not hold the sinner guiltless, that He hateth sin, that the broad road leadeth to destruction”? No, no, God is not so severe; He is too good a Father to punish the weaknesses of His children; beware of taking in the letter, the figurative language of the threatenings of the Bible, or at least, reserve them for the wicked or great criminals. God well knows that we are weak; be honest, repent of your faults, and all will go well. When doubt has thus despoiled the Word of God of its immutable sanctity, weakened the obligation and responsibility of the creature towards the Creator, opened a wide door to passion, which hurries us along and paves the way for temptation; these same truths, which the deadly breath of doubt has not yet been able to destroy, because they contain aid immortal force, are presented to the already wavering soul with an exaggeration which shall soon engender distrust. Hath God said, “Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden”? These delicious fruits which the earth produces, which seem to have been placed before you to spread in your abode abundance, beauty, and well being, shall ye not taste of any of these gifts? Are they only here to excite in you useless desires? Has He whom you adore as your God imposed upon you such hard laws? It is thus in the present day also; they who insinuate doubts of the truths of God’s Word, guard against presenting them faithfully and in their true light. They are skilful in disfiguring them, in showing that observance to the laws of God is incompatible with our weakness, that the morality of the gospel is not made for men, and that there would be injustice in chastisement inflicted upon those who do not conform their lives to them. They are skilful in throwing ridicule upon those who let the Bible speak for itself, believe it in its whole extent, and abandon the multitude to range themselves under the banner of obedience to their God. They are skilful in presenting, under a false light, the vital doctrines of the gospel, in showing that they are contrary to reason, and that we must, as soon as possible, apply to them the amendments of human wisdom. They are skilful in persuading those who hear them, that a living and a true faith is a renunciation of reason, that filial submission is bondage, and that to give up the world, its joys, and its vanities, is to throw a veil of gloom and melancholy over the whole life. They would willingly say to the God of the Bible, if they were as sincere as the unprofitable servant in the parable, “I know that thou art an austere master, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.” Now let the temptation present itself; everything in the heart of the unhappy being who has lent an ear to the lying insinuations of the tempter, is prepared for the fatal hour of seduction . . . and of ruin. Know ye, my brethren, the power of temptation? It is present, it presses the poor heart, in which it finds but too much sympathy: it draws it along by the charm of sin, decked in seducing colours; conscience lifts up its voice; the conflict begins; you resist, for the thunders of God’s word against sin echo from afar, and bring trouble into the depths of your soul. But, in the head of the conflict, a doubt arises; Hath God said? Will He be offended at this weakness? Will He care for it? Will He punish? Thus is broken the last restraint imposed upon the impetuosity of the temptation; the barrier of the Word of God is overthrown: you yield . . . And thus you are delivered over to the torments of remorse; you come forth from a vortex, to taste all the bitterness of that which, a moment before, appeared to you so sweet! (L. Bonnet.)

After God comes the devil

In the former chapters we have heard nothing but the Lord said, the Lord said; but now come we to hear the serpent said, and the serpent said. So see we plainly how after the Word of God cometh the word of the devil. It was not so then only, but it hath so continued ever since. When the Lord hath spoken by the mouth of His minister, prophet, apostle, pastor, or teacher, then speaketh Satan by his serpents contrary. They in the Church, these as soon as they be out of the Church, yea, many times even in the Church they will be hissing in their ears that sit next them. If God have spoken to a child by his parents, to a servant by his master, to a man by his friend what is true and good, straight cometh a serpent, one or other, and overthroweth all, leading them captive to a contrary course. What, say these serpents, wilt thou be thus used, will you bear all this? you are now no child, do this and do that, you shall not die, but you shall live and be like gods, knowing good and evil, etc. But as Eve sped by this serpent, so shall you by those, if you avoid them not. Such serpents were those counsellors that made Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, do contrary to the advice of the old counsellors, to his great loss. Again, mark here which was first, the word of God or the word of Satan. Dixit Dominus, the Lord said, goeth before Dixit serpens, the serpent said, and so you see truth is elder than falsehood, and God’s Word before Satan’s lies: that is Tertullian’s rule to know truth by, namely, to look which was first; “Quodcunque primum illud verum, quodcunque posterius illud falsum.” Whatsoever was first, that is true, whatsoever was latter that is false, and that is first that was from the beginning, and that was from the beginning, that in the writings of the apostles may find his warrant. Let it not blind you then that such an error hath continued a thousand years, if it be to be proved that a contrary truth is elder far. (Bp. Babington.)

Satan attacks the weakest point

Satan tempteth the woman as the weaker vessel, and if you have anything wherein you are weaker than in another, beware, for he will first assault you there. It is his manner like a false devil to take his advantage. Happily you are easier drawn to adultery than murder: that then shall please him, he will begin there. So did he with David, and then brought him to murder after. David was weaker to resist the one than the other. Think of your frailties and be godly wise, where the wall is lowest he will enter first. (Bp. Babington.)

Satan’s subtlety in tempting

Satan did break over the hedge, where it was weakest; he knew he could more easily insinuate and wind himself into her by a temptation. An expert soldier, when he is to storm or enter a castle, observes warily where there is a breach, or how he may enter with more facility; so did Satan the weaker vessel. (T. Watson.)

A crafty question

With well-feigned surprise and incredulity he puts the question, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” meaning thereby to insinuate the harshness of the injunction which he pretended hardly to believe. Is it possible that God can have said so? Is it conceivable that He who has just made you, and provided you with such abundance, should grudge you a little fragment of that plenty, and debar you from the garden’s choicest fruits; making you lords of creation, yet not allowing you to put forth your lordship; nay, refusing you access to that tree, the fruit of which would enable you rightly to exercise wise dominion? In this his object was to calumniate God; at least, cunningly to suggest an idea which would misrepresent His character to man. He keeps out of sight all that God had done for man, all the proofs of love, so manifold, so vast; he fixes on one thing which seemed inconsistent with this; he brings up this before man in the way most likely to awaken evil thoughts of God. His object is to isolate the one fact, and so to separate it from all God’s acts of love as to make it appear an instance of harsh and unreasonable severity. Man had hitherto known the prohibition; but he had put no such construction on it; he had not imagined it capable of being so interpreted. Now Satan brings it up, and sets it out in an aspect likely to suggest such constructions as these: “God is not your friend after all; He but pretends to care for you. He is a hard Master, interfering with your liberty, not leaving you a free agent, but constraining you, nay, fettering you. He mocks you, making you creation’s head, yet setting arbitrary limits to your rule; placing you in a fair garden, yet debarring you from its fruits. He grudges you His gifts, making a show of liberality, while withholding what is really valuable.” Thus Satan sought to calumniate God, to malign His character, to represent Him as the enemy, not the friend, of man. If he can succeed in this, then man will begin to entertain hard thoughts of God, then he will become alienated from Him; then he will disobey; and then comes the fall, the ruin, the guilt, the doom, the woe! Man is lost! Hell gets another inmate. The devil gets another companion. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The woman said unto the serpent

Eve parleying with the tempter

We wish on the present occasion to examine with all carefulness the workings of Eve’s mind at that critical moment, when the devil, under the form of a serpent, sought to turn her away from her allegiance unto God. This is no mere curious examination; as it might indeed be, had Eve, before she yielded to temptation, been differently constituted from one of ourselves. But there was not this different constitution. A piece of mechanism may have its springs disordered, and its workings deranged, but it is not a different piece of mechanism from what it was whilst every part was in perfect operation. And we may find, as we go on, that the workings of Eve’s mind were wonderfully similar to those of our own; so that we may present our common mother as a warning, and derive from her fall instruction of the most practical and personal kind. Now the point of time at which we have to take Eve, is one at which she is evidently beginning to waver. She has allowed herself to be drawn into conversation with the serpent, which it would have been wise in her, especially as her husband was not by, to have utterly declined; and there is a sort of unacknowledged restlessness and uneasiness of feeling, as though God might not be that all-wise and all-gracious Being, which she had hitherto supposed. She has not yet, indeed, proceeded to actual disobedience, but she is certainly giving some entertainment to doubts and suspicions; she has not yet broken God’s commandment, but she is looking at that commandment with a disposition to question its goodness, and to depreciate the risk of setting it at nought. There are certain preludes, certain approaches, towards sin, which, even in ourselves, are scarcely to be designated sin, and which must have been still further removed from it in the unfallen Eve. You remember how St. James speaks: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed; then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” The apostle, you observe, does not give the name of sin to the first motions. If these motions were duly resisted, as they might be, the man would have been tempted, but he would not have actually sinned. And if so much may be allowed of ourselves, in whom the inclinations and propensities are corrupted and depraved through original sin, much more must it have been true of Eve, when, if not fallen, she was yet tottering from her first estate. She was then still innocent; but there were feelings at work which were fast bringing her to the very edge of the precipice; and it is on the indications of these feelings, that for the sake of warning and example we wish especially to fix your attention.

I. IT WAS A LARGE AND NOBLE GRANT, WHICH THE ALMIGHTY HAD MADE TO MAN OF THE TREES OF THE GARDEN. “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” It is true, indeed, there was one exception to this permission. Man was not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; but of every other tree he might not only eat, he was told to eat “freely,” as though God would assure him of their being all unreservedly at his disposal. Now observe, that when Eve comes to recount this generous grant, she leaves out the word “freely,” and thus may be said to depreciate its liberality. It is a disposition in all of us to think little of what God gives us to enjoy, and much of what He appoints us to suffer. It may be but one tree which He withholds, and there may be a hundred which He grants; but, alas! the one, because withheld, will seem to multiply into the hundred; the hundred, because granted, to shrink into the one. If He take from us a single blessing, how much more ready are we to complain, as though we had lost all, than to count up what remains, and give Him thanks for the multitude! He may but forbid us a single gratification, and presently we speak as though He had dealt with us in a churlish and niggardly way; though, were we to attempt to reckon the evidences of His loving kindness, they are more in number than the hairs of our head. And when we suffer ourselves in any measure to speak or think disparagingly of the mercies of God, it is very evident that we are making way for, if not actually indulging suspicions as to the goodness of God; and it cannot be necessary to prove, that he who allows himself to doubt the Divine goodness, is preparing himself for the breach of any and of every commandment. Learn, then, to be very watchful over this moral symptom. Be very fearful of depreciating your mercies.

II. But we may go further in tracing in Eve the workings of a dissatisfied mind--of a disposition to suspect God of harshness, notwithstanding the multiplied evidences of His goodness. You are next to observe HOW SHE SPEAKS OF THE PROHIBITION WITH REGARD TO “THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.” She left out a most important and significant word in stating God’s permission to “eat of the trees of the garden,” and thus did much to divest that permission of its generous character; but she put in words when she spoke of the prohibition, and thereby invested it with strictness and severity. You would have argued from her version of the prohibition, that God had altogether closed and shut up the tree, guarding it with the most extreme jealousy and rigour, so that there was no possibility of detecting any of its properties; whereas the restriction was only on examining the fruit in and through that sense, which would make it bring death, and there was the warrant of the Divine word, that to taste would be to die. All that could be learnt--and it was very considerable--from sight and touch and scent, Adam and Eve were at liberty to learn, whilst what the taste could have taught was distinctly revealed; and thus the single prohibition did not so much withhold them from the acquisition of knowledge, as from the endurance of disaster. But now, then, was Eve single in the misrepresenting the prohibition of God? Was she not rather doing what has been done ever since; what is done every day by those, who would excuse themselves from the duties and the obligations of religion? As though He had given them appetites, which were never to be gratified; desires, which were only to be resisted, and yet, all the while, had surrounded them with what those appetites craved, and those desires sought after. Whereas, there is nothing forbidden by the Divine law, but just that indulgence of our appetites and desires, which because excessive and irregular, would from our very constitution, be visited with present disappointment and remorse, and, from the necessary character of a retributive government, with future vengeance and death.

III. It was bad enough to depreciate God’s permission, or to exaggerate His prohibition; BUT IT WAS WORSE TO SOFTEN THE THREATS. This showed the workings of unbelief; and there could have been but a step between our common mother and ruin, when she brought herself to look doubtingly on the word of the Lord. And this symptom was more strongly marked than even those which we have already examined. The declaration of God had been, “Thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But what is Eve’s version of this strong and unqualified declaration? “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” “Lest ye die!” This is what she substitutes for--“In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” “Lest ye die!” An expression which implies a sort of chance, a contingency, a bare possibility; what might happen, or might not happen; what might happen soon, or might not happen for years. It is thus she puts a denunciation as express, as explicit, as language can furnish, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Alas! now, for Eve. Harbouring the thought that God would not carry His threatenings into execution--and this she must have harboured, ere she could have softened His threatening into “lest ye die,”--no marvel that she gave a ready ear to the lie of the serpent, “Ye shallnot surely die.” She had whispered this lie to herself, before it was uttered by Satan. The devil could do little then, and he can do little now, except as openings are made for him by those upon whom he endeavours to work. It was probably the incipient unbelief manifested by the “Lest ye die” of Eve, which suggested, as the mode of attack, the “Ye shall not surely die” of Satan. The devil may well hope to be believed, as soon as he perceives symptoms of God’s being disbelieved. And if we could charge upon numbers in the present day, the imitating Eve in the disparaging God’s permission, and the exaggerating God’s prohibition, can we have any difficulty in continuing the parallel, now that the thing done is the making light of His threatenings? Why, what fills hell, like the secretly cherished thought, that perhaps, after all, there may be no hell to fill? What is a readier or more frequent engine for the destruction of the soul, than the false idea of the compassion of God, as sure to interfere, either to shorten the duration, or mitigate the intenseness of future punishment, if not altogether to prevent its inflictions? God hath said, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” When men come to give their version of so stern and solemn a denunciation, they put it virtually into some such shape as this: “The soul should not sin lest it die.” Christ hath said, “He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Men often practically throw this sweeping and startling affirmation into a much smoother formula: “Believe upon Christ lest ye die.” “Lest ye die!” Is this, then, all? Is there any doubt? Is it a contingency? Is it a “maybe”? “Lest ye die!”--when God hath said, “Ye shall surely die!” “Lest ye die!” when God hath said, “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the people that forget God!” “Lest ye die!” when God hath said, “Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God!” Nay, sirs, ye may give the paragraph a smoother turn, but ye cannot give the punishment a shorter term. Ye may soften away the expression; ye can neither abbreviate nor mitigate the vengeance. “If we believe not,” says Paul, “yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Observations

I. MEN’S WORDS AND SPEECHES ARE USUALLY PROPORTIONED ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF THE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.

1. First, because words being ordained to be the means of representing the thoughts of the heart within, it is agreeable to all reason that they should express them in their full proportion, as the glass doth the face.

2. Secondly, because although the understanding be, or at least should, hold the reins of the tongue, yet the affections add the spurs unto it, as indeed they do many times give the measure to our actions themselves, as we run according to our fear, fight according to our anger, and wake according to our hope and desire; and so in many other of our actions.

II. WHEN WE REMEMBER ANY LAW OF GOD, WE OUGHT WITHAL TO SET BEFORE US THE SANCTION ANNEXED THEREUNTO.

1. Together with God’s name is represented unto us His authority, and withal both His wisdom and goodness, which will be an effectual means to stay and silence all carnal reasonings, which otherwise will very hardly be answered, considering how hard a matter it is for the wisdom of the flesh to submit to the law (Romans 8:7). But against God Himself, who dare dispute with the apostle (Romans 9:20).

2. By the same means we are quickened to obedience with cheerfulness, when we consider that they are the commandments of that God who gave us our being and in whom we subsist, to whom we owe ourselves and all we have, and from whom we expect glory and immortality and eternal life. See David’s answer to his scoffing wife (2 Samuel 6:21).

3. Only this looking upon God in all His commandments makes our services duties of obedience when they are performed at the command and in submission to the will of Him whose we are, whereby we acknowledge both His authority and besides His will to be the rule of righteousness. Lastly, it wonderfully stirs us up to watchfulness, diligence, and sincerity in all our carriage, when we behold the presence, majesty, and holiness of Him to whom we perform our duties, serving Him with reverence and fear and with a single heart, as being the God who sees in secret, and whose eyes are purer than to behold evil.

III. WHEN WE LAY THE LAW OF GOD BEFORE US, WE MUST WITHAL FIX OUR THOUGHTS UPON HIM THAT GIVES IT.

1. For God’s honour, that all our obedience may be tendered to Him, both in faith and fear.

2. For our own necessity, whose dead hearts need such effectual means to quicken us.

IV. IT IS A HARD MATTER TO BRING MAN’S HEART TO SUBMIT UNTO AND BEAR WITH PATIENCE AND CHEERFULNESS ANY YOKE OF RESTRAINT.

V. WHOSOEVER WILL NOT BE ENTANGLED BY ALLUREMENTS TO SIN, MUST NOT COME NEAR THEM. We may not stand in the council of the ungodly Psalms 1:1), nor come near their paths, as Solomon adviseth Proverbs 4:14); and we are commanded to hate the very garment spotted with the flesh (Jude 1:23). And this we must do--

1. Out of the conscience of the weakness of our corrupt nature, which as easily takes fire by the least allurement to sin as gunpowder doth by any spark that falls into it, or rather of itself draws towards it, as iron doth towards an adamant: now we know that he that will not be burnt must carry no coals in his bosom (Proverbs 6:27).

2. That we may manifest our perfect detestation of evil, which every man that will approve himself to be a lover of God must hate (Psalms 97:10).

VI. THE SLIGHTING OF THE CURSE OF THE LAW MAKES WAY TO THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW. (J. White, M. A.)

Deceitfulness of sin

It is not only a crime that men commit when they do wrong, but it is a blunder. “The game is not worth the candle.” The thing that you buy is not worth the price you pay for it. Sin is like a great forest tree that we sometimes see standing up green in its leafy beauty, and spreading a broad shadow over half a field; but when we get round on the other side there is a great dark hollow in the very heart of it, and corruption is at work there. It is like the poison tree in travellers’ stories, tempting weary men to rest beneath its thick foliage, and insinuating death into the limbs that relax in the fatal coolness of its shade. It is like the apples of Sodom, fair to look upon, but turning to acrid ashes on the unwary lips. It is like the magician’s rod that we read about in old books. There it lies; and if tempted by its glitter or fascinated by the power that it proffers you, you take it in your hand, the thing starts into a serpent, with erect crest and sparkling eyes, and plunges its quick barb into the hand that holds it, and sends poison through all the veins. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Danger of the eye

Satan turned Eve’s eye to the apple; Achan’s eye to the wedges of gold; Ahab’s eye to Naboth’s vineyard; and then what work did he make of them! (Alleine.)

Use of the eye

The eye, as it is used, will either be a help or a snare; either it will let in the sparks of temptation, or enkindle the fire of true devotion. These are the windows which God hath placed in the top of the building, that man from them may contemplate God’s works and take a prospect of heaven, the place of an eternal residence. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Tests designed for the strengthening of virtue

I know not whether all soldiers love the thought of war, but there are many who pant for a campaign. How many an officer of low rank has said, “There is no promotion, no hope of rising, no honours, as if we had to fight. If we could rush to the cannon’s mouth, there would be some hope that we might gain promotion in the ranks.” Men get few medals to hang upon their breasts who never knew the smell of gunpowder. The brave days, as men call them, of Nelson and Trafalgar have gone by, and we thank God for it; but still we do not expect to see such brave old veterans, the offspring of this age, as those who are still to be found lingering in our hospitals, the relics of our old campaigns. No, brethren, we must have trials if we are to get on. Young men do not become midshipmen altogether through going to the school at Greenwich and climbing the mast on dry land; they must go out to sea. We must go out to sea and really be on deck in the storm; we must have stood side by side with King David; we must have gone down into the pit to slay the lion, or have lifted up the spear against the eight hundred. Conflicts bring experience, and experience brings that growth in grace which is not to be attained by any other means.

A talk about temptation

So paradise had a tempter in it. Then, one thing is quite certain--get where we may in this world, we cannot get beyond temptation. Do you think that life would have been a great deal better if there had been no possibility of evil? Certainly we might have been made without any will, blindly obeying instinct, an animated machine. Then we should never have fallen. But as certain is it that then we could never have risen. Or we might have been placed in circumstances where the will could never have exerted itself; where no temptation could have met us. Then, again, we could not have fallen; and then, again, we should not have risen. Innocence is not a virtue until it has had temptation and opportunity to sin; then innocence is strengthened by resistance, and exalted by victory into virtue. Everywhere and in everything that is a poor, languid, sickly kind of life, which knows no resistance; a flabby thing, not worthy the name of a man, is he who has never had a chance of overcoming. Temptation overcome is the way, the only way, to the very throne of God. Amongst the brave men of old there was a notion that when one conquered an enemy the strength of the enemy went into the conqueror, and he became so much stronger by every conquest, and thus went on from strength to strength. It is thus that God grows His heroes, by overcoming.

Is not this the great law of all success? A young man comes to London for business or for study. He does not expect to get on without any struggle. He knows that if he would succeed he must be watchful, hard working, ready to resist and to overcome. If he is worth his salt he rejoices in real difficulties rightly dealt with; in real hard work to be done. It knits the muscle of his character; it developes in him courage, resoluteness, heroism. Again, there was a serpent in paradise--one. But there are a great many in the wilderness outside--fiery flying serpents! So then all men know the devil on one side or the other. On the resisting side they know him as a tempter only; but on the other side, the yielding side, they know him as infinitely more than that--as the cruel tyrant, the bitterly hard master, Apollyon the Destroyer. Today the saddest people in the world, the hardest worked, who spend most and earn least, who find life an awful weariness, are those who have let the tempter lead them furthest by his promises of pleasure. It is true, there is one serpent in the garden of God--but there are a great many outside. Learn the lesson of his devices. “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field.” Subtlety is his stock-in-trade. He is a doctor in philosophy, a master in logic; and if he were subtle and skilful at the first, how much more so today, when for six thousand years he has been diligently practising his art and perfecting it? Whenever any course wants a very clever man to defend it, be quite sure that is not the path for you. The way of God is a narrow way, but it is not a crooked way, nor is it a by-path; it is a highway. Trace his subtlety in his methods. He comes to the woman first; perhaps because she is less suspicious; possibly because she was less able to withstand his wiles; probably because he knew the best way to get the man was to get the woman. The tempter finds her near to the tree, looking at it and desiring it; so her eyes and her longing were on the side of the enemy. If we would keep free from the tempter, keep out of the way of temptation. Some do really tempt the tempter to destroy them. The tempter begins by questioning--for he knows how innocently to begin--“So, is it true that God hath said that ye may not eat of every tree of the garden?” “It is written, Thou shalt”; “it is written, Thou shalt not.” The absolute surrender of ourselves to God for an utter obedience is our perfect safety. But to loosen the authority of the law is to fall an easy prey to the adversary. It is to come forth from our stronghold and to stand unharmed and helpless, face to face with the old Lion. “I really am quite concerned about you,” he seems to say, “to see such gifted and noble creatures as you are kept from your true position and sacred rights?” See how Eve might have reasoned if only she had kept in mind the goodness of God. “What, then, hast thou done for us, sir, since thou art so concerned for our welfare? Where are the tokens and proofs of thine eagerness to serve us? He who said, ‘Thou shalt not eat of this tree,’ hath made this fair earth and all that is therein. He planted this paradise, and hath given us all things richly to enjoy. Canst thou be more generous, more gracious than He? Against thy single word, behold, He sets ten thousand glorious assurances of His regard. If thou, indeed, wert seeking our good, wouldst thou beget these doubts of Him whom we have found all love, and who hath so perfect a claim upon us?” This completes our safety, when to our utter obedience to His law there is added this abiding confidence in His love. (M. G. Pearse.)

Longing for the forbidden

Speaking of the craving of colonists for dispossessing the Indians of their lands, a modern writer says: “On their way to the Kansas border, they passed over thousands of desirable acres, convenient to markets and schools, which they might have had at low rates and on long credits. But they had a special craving for Indian lands, and lands ‘kept out of market’; the simple desire to enter this territory is sufficient to make them think it the fairest portion of the universe.”

Sin, a deceiver

Martha Browning, a young woman, aged twenty-four, was executed many years ago for murder. The fatal deed was committed to obtain possession of a £5 note; but when the tempting bait was at last really possessed, it proved to be not a note of the Bank of England, but a flash note of the Bank of Elegance!

Ye shall not surely die

The first lie

I. THE AUTHOR OF THIS FIRST LIE. Satan. Devil. Deceiver.

II. THE NATURE OF THE LIE UTTERED. Direct falsification of God’s threatening.

III. A MOST DARING AND PRESUMPTUOUS LIE. A challenge of the Almighty.

IV. A MOST MALIGNANT AND ENVIOUS LIE.

V. A DESTRUCTIVE, MURDEROUS LIE. It slew our first parents: destroyed their innocency--blinded their minds--defiled their consciences--and overspread their souls with leprous defilement and guilt.

VI. THE GERM OF ALL UNREALNESS AND DECEPTION THAT SHOULD CURSE MANKIND.

VII. A LYING ENTANGLEMENT FROM WHICH HUMANITY COULD NOT EXTRICATE ITSELF.

VIII. JESUS, THE DIVINE TRUTH, CAME TO DELIVER US FROM THIS LIE AND ITS RESULTS.

IX. THE GOSPEL IS THE DELIVERING POWER FROM SATAN’S FALSEHOODS. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Satan’s counter-assertion

I. THERE ARE MANY THINGS AGAINST WHICH GOD HAS UTTERED HIS VOICE IN EVERY MAN’S HEART in which, even independently of written revelation, He has not left Himself without witness. He who lives in concealed or open sin knows full well that God hath said he shall surely die. But in the moment of temptation the certainty of ruin is met by a counter assertion of the tempter--“Thou shalt not surely die”: “Do the act and cast the consequences to the winds.” We have a notable instance of this in the case of the prophet Balaam. Men with the full consciousness that God is against them persist in opposition to Him, till they perish; persuading themselves, from one step to another, that matters shall not turn out so badly as God’s words and God’s monitor within tell them that they shall.

II. THERE ARE OTHER CLASSES OF PERSONS, BESIDES NOTORIOUS PROFLIGATES WHO ARE CAUGHT BY THIS DEVICE, “Thou shalt not surely die.”

1. God has declared, “To be carnally minded is death.” To be carnally minded is to be of the mind of the children of this world, to view things through a worldly medium, to pass day by day without a thought beyond this world, and as if there wore no life after this life. Of this kind of life God has said that it is death, that those who live it shall surely die--nay, are dying now; and by this is meant that such a life is the immortal spirit’s ruin, that it breaks up and scatters and wastes all man’s best and highest faculties. “Ye shalt not surely die” is the tempter’s fallacy with which he deludes the carnally minded. He persuades them that they can give this life to God’s enemy, and yet inherit life eternal.

2. God has said, “He that hath the Son hath life; but he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”--i.e., “If ye have not the Son of God ye shall surely die.” How many of us have any persuasion of the reality of this sentence of death? How many have eared enough about it to ascertain what it is to have the Son of God? Whosoever has not by his own personal act taken Christ as his, has not life, and must certainly die eternally: first by the very nature of things, for the desire for God has never been awakened in his heart, the guilt of sin has not been removed from him, nor its power over him broken; and then by solemn declarations of the God of truth--“He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, for the wrath of God abideth on him.”

III. Mysterious as the history of our fall is, its greatest wonder is this: THAT GOD OUT OF RUIN DROUGHT FORTH FRESH BEAUTY out of man’s defeat, his victory; out of death, life glorious and eternal. Thou shalt surely live is now the Divine proclamation to man’s world. “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” (Dean Alford.)

Satan’s character shown by the first temptation

I. SUBTLE.

1. Tempted the woman.

2. When alone.

3. Concealed himself, and spoke through the serpent.

II. A LIAR. “Ye shall not surely die.”

III. A SLANDERER. “God doth know,” etc.

IV. A DECEIVER. “Ye shall be as gods,” etc. (J. McConnell.)

Satan’s temptations

Eve was vanquished by three crafty thrusts. Three poisoned arrows gave the deadly wounds. The flesh was seduced to lust--the eyes to long--and pride to covet. The forbidden fruit was exhibited first, as good for food--next, as pleasant to the eyes--then, as desirable to make one wise. Now, just as in the acorn, the monarch of the forest lives; as a small seed contains the planks for mansions, ships, and mighty works--so, in the earliest temptation there lies the embryo of sin’s whole progeny.

I. THE FLESH IS MIGHTY TO CORRUPT THE INNER MAN. Its doors are countless. Its casements are seldom closed. Through these there is quick access to the heart. It also is our encompassing mantle. We cannot escape its close embrace. We never move but in its company. There is no time when it is absent. Hence its prodigious power.

II. THE EYE IS ALSO AN INLET OF SOLICITATIONS. Eve warns again. She fixed her eyes upon the fruit, and soon its beauty put forth fearful fascination. The attraction strengthened. Resistance melted, as snow before the sun. The enchanting appearance bewitched. The outward show injected sparks of longing. The fire kindled. The bait was taken. The eye betrayed. From that day he has been diligent to exhibit fascinating scenes, to gild externals with bewitching beauty, and to lead through them into sin’s vilest paths.

3. There is another broad road open for temptation’s feet. It is the desire to be great--the ambition to be distinguished--the lust of admiration. The Spirit names it, “The pride of life” (1 John 2:16). This net too was first spread in Eden. The devil showed the fruit--and whispered that the taste would enlarge the faculties--give nobler wings to intellect--communicate new stores of knowledge. While she beheld, the poisonous thought took root, the tree is “to be desired to make one wise.” But was not her intelligence enough? She knew God. In that knowledge is the joy of joys, and life for evermore. (Dean Law.)

Lessons

1. Once yielding to the tempter’s charm gives him boldness to greater violence.

2. It is the devil’s method to draw souls from doubting of God’s truth to deny it.

3. It is a strong delusion of Satan to persuade a sinner that he shall not die.

4. It is the initial property of the tempter to be a lair, to deny what God affirms (Genesis 3:4).

5. It is Satan’s wile to deceive by urging God against God; and so make him vain.

6. It is Satan’s falsehood to persuade that God either allows man’s sin, or envies man’s good and comfort.

7. The tempter dealeth in equivocations with double words and senses.

8. The time and cause of misery set by God is made the time and cause of good by Satan. That day’s eating shall bring you good.

9. It is a strong temptation on man to persuade inlightning by sinning.

10. In all the light pretended, Satan intends nothing but experience of nakedness and shame.

11. Parity to God in place, not in nature, is a shrewd argument for Satan to tempt with.

12. In such arguments the devil intends to make sinners like himself.

13. Knowledge of all states and things is a powerful engine to draw man to sin (Genesis 3:5).

14. Experience of all evil and miseries is the mark that Satan aims at in it. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Is death a reality?

1. Let us first consult reason. It says, God is good, and as to die would be painful, and to be attended with all the ills of sickness, confinement, abstinence--as it necessarily includes the privation of accustomed pleasures, the abandonment of gay associates--the absence of every eye to admire, and every tongue to praise--it is not reasonable to suppose that He would inflict it whose name is love. He is just--must the righteous be slain with the wicked? Must the infant and the aged perish together? But what is death? Has anyone ever seen or heard it? Can any tell where it is? Till all these difficulties be removed, reason rebels against the assumption that we must all die.

2. It is true, Scripture asserts “It is appointed unto men once to die,” and that “Death has passed upon all men,” but is it not also said in Scripture, “Ye shall not surely die”? David plainly says in Psalms 118:1-29; Psalms 17:1-15 th verse, “I shall not die,” and Habakkuk, giving extension to the opinion and including his brethren, exclaims,” We shall not die” (Habakkuk 1:12). In what other sense are we to receive the declaration of St. Paul, “We shall not all sleep”? (1 Corinthians 15:51) and does not God Himself assure us that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, much less therefore in the death of the righteous? Now, my friends, I have quoted for you Scripture for Scripture--You may impugn my manner of doing it--you may say I mould and mutilate it for my purpose--that I sacrifice its spirit to its letter, and make the one contradict the other. To this I answer, whatever contrivance my method exhibits, it is not mine--it is in use by thousands and millions of rational beings for the settlement of every question involving the paramount interests of their immortal souls.

3. Passing from Scripture, let us turn to the last test by which I propose to try the validity of my assumption--general observation. Were there such a formidable enemy as death to be encountered by all, it would be but natural to expect to find it the subject of general conversation and the object of universal alarm, its very name filling all faces with dismay, and occupying all heads with devices either to evade or successfully resist it. Can there therefore be such an enemy as death, not only in existence, but continually in our very neighbourhood, and not a whisper regarding it issue from the lips of its assumed victims in their most crowded assemblies, or an apprehension of its approach blanch for an instant the cheek or interrupt the ceaseless smile of the most sensitive among the daughters of mirth, who nightly record their satisfaction with the joys of time, and their scepticism regarding those of eternity? Both reason and precedent reject the supposition. Now, my friends, let us suppose the position established, that death is only an empty name--a bugbear to terrify the ignorant and superstitious; what do you suppose would be its effect on yourselves? Doubtless, you would consider it expedient to erase every serious impression which your mind had received, under the discipline of an imaginative subject of apprehension--to shake off the trammels of a vulgar superstition, and assert the freedom of a more enlightened judgment. How would you proceed? Considering the world now as your inalienable possession--you would rush freely into the intoxication of business, pleasure, or ambition. Self would be your only idol, earth its capacious temple, and every achievable gratification its justly due and most appropriate offering: to ensure the admiration of your fellows would be your highest ambition, and to evade their censure your most anxious solicitude. The All-wise and All-gracious Being who created you and the world you inhabit, who bestowed upon you all the sources of gratification you possessed, and the ability to enjoy them, would naturally be disregarded. Oh, my friends, what an awful picture have I permitted my imagination to draw! Surely it could never be realized, except on the supposition that there was no death--no judgment--no eternity! What if I undertake to convince you that such a supposition must prevail now? But meanwhile the besom of a long-insulted, but long suffering God, is sweeping our land. Wrath has gone out from the Lord, and hundreds are dying in the plague; but where are the evidences of its recognition--of the hand from whence it issues, or the object for which it is sent? Where is the ear, attentive to the lesson of mortality it conveys?--where the fleeing, under the convictions it awakens, for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us? Where the awaking of the soul from its slumber of ignorance and death? You have heard the fiat of Jehovah--“The wages of sin is death.” To this Satan replies, addressing the soul, as he did before the body--“You shall not surely die”; and here again he employs reason, Scripture,and experience, to substantiate his assertion.

I. Reason testifies that the God with whom we have to do, is merciful, loving, and just, but when under the dominion of Satan, it exacts as the price of this admission the privilege of representing Him in an attitude of falsehood--as too tenderly alive to the well-being of His creatures, to expend a thought upon what is due to his own Divine attributes--upon the demands of His justice, holiness, and truth. Its solution of a human difficulty is the degradation of Him who dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto.

II. Let us now advert to the mode by which Scripture is made to countenance a practical denial of God’s repeated admonition to the wicked--“thou shalt surely die.” This, then, is two fold.

1. By taking refuge behind particular characters or occurrences which bear a fancied analogy to ourselves and our actions, in some case under reprehension, and from their acknowledged exemption from Divine censure, feeling satisfied that we establish our own. The character and conduct of Him who was “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), are, strange to say, the most usual refuge of “revellers, banqueters, and such like,” from an assumption that He indulged on particular occasions in the society of the worldly and profane--engaging in their festivities and partaking of their cheer.

2. Another and very common mode of arguing the point with Jehovah out of His own Scriptures, is by reminding Him of such examples of his long suffering mercy and forbearance, as they represent to have been admitted by a late repentance to the forgiveness of their accumulated guilt, and thence asserting a claim to similar indulgence to be followed by a similar result.

III. The sect of the Sadducees, as it existed in our Saviour’s time, is now fully represented by the generality of professing Christians, in their notions of that spiritual kingdom of which Christ is the head. Still earth and its constitutions, its laws, its maxims, and its incidents, supply to them their only conceivable model of the things which must be hereafter; and, consequently, Satan finds a ready basis for his falsehood, in the apparent discrepancy between the character of God, as revealed in His providences here, and such as it is represented in the Bible. Here His hatred of sin is but faintly delineated, and His vengeance against the sinner by no means strikingly displayed: many who confine their view to the results of conduct here, are ready to exclaim--“The ways of the Lord are not equal,” since His chastisements do not seem proportioned to the number or depravity of the offences committed. From this the believers of the tempter often infer, that there is no positive law to “regulate the adjudications of eternal punishment. (S. A. Walker, B. A.)

The subtlety of the first temptation, as impeaching the goodness, justice, and holiness of God

The art of this temptation is very much the same as that which still prevails over men in whom there is an evil heart of unbelief, leading them to depart from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). It is by arguments of unbelief that the tempter solicits Eve to sin.

I. Thus, in the first instance, he insinuates his DOUBTS REGARDING THE EQUITY AND GOODNESS OF GOD AS A BENEFACTOR, and the liberality of His gifts--“Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Can it be? Has He really subjected you to so unreasonable a restraint? And the insinuation takes effect. Suspicion begins to rankle in the woman’s breast.

II. Then, again, in the second place, the tempter suggests DOUBTS REGARDING THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTH OF GOD AS A LAWGIVER:” “Ye shall not surely die.” And for this he seems to find the woman already more than half prepared. She has very faintly and inadequately quoted the threat.

III. And, thirdly, he has A PLAUSIBLE REASON TO JUSTIFY DOUBT AND UNBELIEF ON THIS POINT. It cannot be that ye shall be so harshly dealt with, “for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). This, then, was the order of the temptation: First, The goodness of God must be disbelieved; secondly, His justice; and, lastly, His holiness. It begins with a rebellion of the will, or the heart, against the moral attributes of God, as the Governor of His creatures. It ends in blindness of the understanding, or the mind, as to His natural and essential perfections as the infinite and eternal Creator. God ceases to be recognized as good, and just, and holy. Man, at the suggestion of Satan, would himself be as good, as just, as holy as God. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Observations

I. A LITTLE YIELDING TO SATAN IN HIS TEMPTATIONS, INVITES AND ENCOURAGETH HIM TO A STRONGER AND MORE VIOLENT ASSAULT. If a man yield so far as to stand in sinners’ counsels, Satan will not leave till he have brought him to walk in sinner’s ways, till at last he sit down in the seat of scorners. The first reason hereof may be taken from Satan’s diligence and vigilancy, to make the best of, and pursue to the uttermost all advantages (like Benhadad’s messengers-- 1 Kings 20:23), as waters, where the bank begins to yield, lie upon it with the greater weight, especially if we join with his diligence his malice, which sets him on, and is never satisfied till he have brought men to destruction (1 Peter 5:8). Secondly, it is just with God to punish men’s haltings and want of zeal with more dangerous errors and backslidings. Let us then be careful to resist Satan strongly in his first encounters, as we are advised (1 Peter 5:9), with resolute denials. This resolute opposing of sinful motions--

1. Keeps our hearts free from all defilement by sin.

2. Moves God to strengthen us with a greater measure of grace, as did St. 2 Corinthians 12:9).

3. And daunts the devil, and makes him fly from us when he is readily opposed and resisted (James 4:7).

II. EVEN THOSE WHO SEEM MODEST IN SIN AT THE FIRST, GROW BOLD AND SHAMELESS IN IT AT THE LAST.

1. Because use and custom makes sin so familiar unto men, that it takes away, first the sense, and then the shame that follows it, which as they feel not in themselves, so they fear it not from others.

2. By this means God brings all evils to light, that the committers of them may be abhorred of all men, and His justice may be the more clearly manifested in their deserved punishment.

III. THERE IS NO TRUTH OF GOD SO CLEAR AND MANIFEST, WHICH SATAN AND HIS AGENTS DARE NOT TO CONTRADICT.

1. Seeing Satan is both a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44), so that by his own nature he must needs be opposite to the truth.

2. Besides, it concerns him above all things to contradict fundamental truths, upon which God’s honour and man’s salvation most depend, both which Satan labours to overthrow with all his power.

3. And lastly, he well understands by experience, the corruption of man’s nature, which inclines him to embrace darkness rather than light, to believe lies rather than to love the truth, which gives him great hope of prevailing, even in suggesting the foulest untruths to such favourable hearers.

IV. SATAN AND HIS AGENTS NEVER MAKE USE OF GOD’S WORK BUT FOR MISCHIEF. (J. White, M. A.)

Satan’s commentary

Said a quaint New England preacher: “Beware of Bible commentators who are unwilling to take God’s words just as they stand. The first commentator of that sort was the devil in the Garden of Eden. He proposed only a slight change--just the one word ‘not’ to be inserted--‘Ye shall not surely die.’ The amendment was accepted, and the world was lost.” Satan is repeating that sort of commentary with every generation of hearers. He insists that God couldn’t have meant just what he said. To begin with, Satan induced one foolish woman to accept his exegesis; now he has theological professors who are of his opinion on these points; and there are multitudes of men and women who go on in the ways of sin because they believe Satan’s word, and do not believe the Word of God.

A serpent-like trick

A clever serpent, truly, to begin using words in a double sense! That is preeminently a serpent-like trick. Observe how the word “die” is played upon. It is used by the serpent in the sense of dropping down dead, or violently departing out of this world; whereas the meaning, as we all know by bitter experience, is infinitely deeper. We lose our life when we lose our innocence; we are dead when we are guilty; we are in hell when we are in shame. Death does not take a long time to come upon us; it comes in the very day of our sin--“in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Dearth

A heathen exercised his genius in the formation of a goblet, in the bottom of which he fixed a serpent, whose model he had made. Coiled for the spring, a pair of gleaming eyes in its head, and in its open mouth fangs raised to strike, it lay beneath the ruby wine. As Guthrie says: “Be assured that a serpent lurks at the bottom of guilt’s sweetest pleasure.” (W. Adamson.)

Treachery of sin

Anthony Burgess says that sin is a Delilah, a sweet passion tickling while it stabs. Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eye, and from its fragrance likely to be good for food, a delicious morsel. Dr. Cuyler forcibly illustrates this by reference to the Judas tree. The blossoms appear before the leaves, and they are of a brilliant crimson. The flaming beauty of the flowers attracts innumerable insects; and the wandering bee is drawn after it to gather honey. But every bee which alights upon the blossom, imbibes a fatal opiate, and drops dead from among the crimson flowers to the earth. Well may it be said that beneath this tree the earth is strewn with the victims of its fatal fascinations. (W. Adamson.)

Ye shall be as gods.

Observations

I. SATAN IN ALL HIS PROMISES, GIVES MEN NO GROUND TO BUILD UPON, BUT HIS OWN BARE WORD. It is true, that God Himself doth affirm things upon His own Word alone, and justly may, seeing His Word is the standard of truth, and therefore the only ground of faith: but this is a peculiar privilege to Him alone, incommunicable to any creature, not to men who are all liars (Romans 3:4), much less to Satan, who is the father of lies John 8:44). Indeed Satan sometimes imitates God in this way, and offers also, and makes show, to confirm by experiments what he suggests, as that proud men are happy because they prosper (Malachi 3:15), by which means he prevails much upon wicked men, to harden their hearts Ecclesiastes 8:11; Jeremiah 44:17-18). Yea, and sometimes shakes the faith of the godly themselves, as he did David’s (Psalms 73:2-3; Psalms 73:13). But therein he plays the notable sophister.

1. In representing wicked men’s prosperity so as if it were the reward of their wickedness, whereas, it is either the blessing of God upon their provident care and industry, in managing their affairs according to His own decree (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 14:23), or for the manifesting of His goodness to all (Matthew 5:45), and His justice in their condemnation who abuse His mercies, and provoke Him by their sins, when He doth them good; or for the fatting of them against the day of slaughter (Jeremiah 12:3), and raising them up on high unto eminent places, their casting down into sudden and horrible destruction may be the more observed (Psalms 73:18).

2. He deceives men, by making the world believe that to be their happiness which is indeed their plague, as Solomon had found it in his own experience (Ecclesiastes 5:13).

II. IT IS SATAN’S CUSTOM AND POLICY TO CAST SUSPICIONS OF EVIL ENDS, ON THAT WHICH HE CANNOT BLAME OR DISCREDIT OTHERWISE. In the like manner he hath dealt with the Church of God in all ages, and cloth unto this day. The reasons whereof may be--

1. Because evil intentions are, in true estimation, the greatest of all evils, wherewith men can be charged.

2. Because nothing can be laid unto men’s charge (especially where their lives and actions are without offence) with so much advantage, because things that appear not in themselves may with as much probability be affirmed as they can be denied.

III. IT IS USUAL WITH SATAN AND HIS AGENTS TO CHARGE UPON OTHER MEN THOSE EVILS FALSELY WHEREOF THEMSELVES ARE TRULY GUILTY.

1. Those who have false and evil hearts of their own, are apt to suspect that to be in other men which they find in themselves.

2. By casting suspicions upon other men, they hope in some measure to clear themselves, as if they might in all probability be free from those evils which they tax in other men; or at least they hope to gain thus much, that their own evils may seem the less heinous, when other men appear to be little better then they.

IV. DISCONTENT AT OUR PRESENT CONDITION IS A DANGEROUS TEMPTATION OF SATAN. It is indeed directly contrary to God’s express direction (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5), and unto the practice of all godly men (see the apostle’s example, Philippians 4:11); and is the daughter of pride and self-love, which makes us think ourselves worthy of much more than we have, and is the parent--

1. Of unthankfulness to God for what we have received, which proceeds from an undervaluing of those blessings which we enjoy.

2. Of unquietness in our hearts, when our desires are not satisfied, as Ahab had no rest in himself, when he could not get Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:3-4).

3. Of envy at and contention with our neighbours, who possess that which we desire to enjoy, and are consequently looked on by us with an evil eye, as standing in our way to the obtaining of that which we aim at.

4. Of unconscionable dealing, and taking up ways of dishonest gain, that we may purchase that by any means, without which we think ourselves not sufficiently supplied, according to our worth.

V. BLINDNESS AND IGNORANCE IS A GREAT MISERY.

1. Ignorance abases a man to the condition of a beast.

2. Ignorance makes a man unuseful and unserviceable every way, in all his undertakings, for only a wise man’s eyes are in his head, but a fool walks in darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:14), which we know hinders all manner of employments.

3. Ignorance leaves a man without comfort, for it is the light that is sweet, that is comfortable (Ecclesiastes 11:7), and the light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart (Proverbs 15:30).

VI. IT IS GREAT INJUSTICE IN ANY MAN, TO KEEP UNDER AND HINDER OTHERS FOR HIS OWN ADVANTAGE.

VII. IT IS FALSE LIBERALITY TO WITHHOLD THINGS THAT ARE OF TRUE VALUE AND TO BESTOW THAT WHICH IS OF LITTLE WORTH. Let us, upon this ground admire the infinite and incomprehensible love of God unto man, upon whom He hath bestowed His own beloved Son, His choicest jewel, His delight daily (Proverbs 7:30), and that from all eternity.

VIII. MAN’S LEANING TO THE CREATURE MUST NECESSARILY UTTERLY DIVIDE HIS HEART FROM GOD. Let us therefore in this sin consider--

1. The indignity, both in respect of God, whom we abase below His own creatures (see Jeremiah 2:12-13), and in relation to ourselves, when we stoop to those things, which are either far below us, or at the best but equal to us.

2. The folly, in forsaking the fountain of living waters, and digging cisterns that hold no water, which makes them prove fools in the event Jeremiah 17:11-13).

3. The danger of provoking God’s jealousy, which no man is able to endure.

IX. SELF-LOVE AND SEEKING IS ONE OF SATAN’S MOST DANGEROUS SNARES.

1. First, because it most easily seizeth upon man’s heart, as it is clearly manifested unto any that will take notice of men’s ways, and of the scope whereat they aim, not only men that live without God in this present world, or without any form of godliness, whose character is to be lovers of themselves (2 Timothy 3:2), inquiring after nothing else, but who will show them any good (Psalms 4:6), referring all unto themselves with the king of Babylon (Daniel 4:30).

2. Secondly, as this evil disposition easily seizeth upon us, and possesseth us strongly, so is it of all others most injurious.

X. SATAN USUALLY LAYETH HIS SNARES FOR MEN IN THOSE THINGS WHEREIN THEY NATURALLY TAKE MOST DELIGHT.

1. First, because by this means he prevails upon men much more easily, as having a help within our own breasts, to let in those temptations wherewith he assails us.

2. And secondly, because such snares, when they have entangled us, hold us of all others most strongly, as indeed love is strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6).

XI. SATAN TEMPTS US TO SIN, NOT ONLY IN OUR PLEASURES AND DELIGHTS, BUT EVEN IN OUR DUTIES TOO.

1. Because we are in such ways most secure, and therefore most easily ensnared.

2. Satan desires most to corrupt our best endeavours, for the greater dishonour to God and religion.

3. Because there be many easy and dangerous errors in circumstances of duty, even where the substance of the action is warrantable in itself.

XII. THE SEARCHING AFTER THE KNOWLEDGE OF UNNECESSARY THINGS, IS ONE OF SATAN’S SNARES, AND UNPROFITABLE TO US. Let us then learn to be wise to sobriety (as the words, Romans 12:3, may not improperly be rendered), contenting ourselves with the knowledge--

1. Of such things as God hath revealed in His Word, which belong to us Deuteronomy 29:29).

2. Which are most proper and useful to us, as our Saviour intimates in His answer to St. Peter (John 21:21-22).

3. As are profitable to edification both of ourselves and others (see Ephesians 4:29). These the apostle calls wholesome words (1 Timothy 6:3). As for the searching after the knowledge of future events, which God hath sealed up in His own breast, and oppositions of sciences 1 Timothy 6:20), they must needs occasion--

XIII. THE PROMISES OF SATAN, OR HIS AGENTS, ARE OF SUCH THINGS AS ARE EITHER EVIL OR UNPROFITABLE.

XIV. THE SPECIAL END THAT SATAN PERSUADES WICKED MEN TO AIM AT IS THAT THEY MAY BE AS GODS. This was not only the high thought of the proud king of Babel (Isaiah 14:13-14), or of antichrist his antitype (2 Thessalonians it. 4), but is the desire of every wicked man, to have or do that which is peculiar to God Himself.

1. To excel alone, and to get themselves a name, that may be admired and spoken of by all men, not only the builders of Babel (Genesis 11:4), and Absalom (2 Samuel 18:18), but generally all proud men, as they are described unto us (Psalms 49:11).

2. To be independent, and to have sufficiency in their own hand, as that fool thought himself to have (Luke 12:19), which is the desire of all covetous persons.

3. To be commanded by none, but to be their own lords (Psalms 12:4), to follow only their own counsel, and be guided by their own wills Jeremiah 44:16).

4. To give account to none but themselves, with those rebellious Jews, that desire to have the Holy One of Israel cease from them (Isaiah 30:11), and Amaziah, who will not be called to account by the prophet (2 Chronicles 25:16).

5. To refer all to themselves, and to their own glory, with proud Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30), and to do well to themselves (Psalm xlix. 18).

XV. IT IS SATAN’S POLICY TO DRAW MEN TO DEPEND UPON THE CREATURE, FOR THAT WHICH ONLY GOD CAN GIVE. Let all that are wise take notice of the least motion of their hearts, that tends that way, abhorring the very least inclination of our affections that way, as a dangerous evil.

1. Dishonourable both to God and ourselves.

2. Uncomfortable, when our hearts cannot be assured of that which we depend upon, as having no firm ground to support our hopes.

3. Unprofitable, when men gain nothing by such a kind of dependence, more than they do by a dream of a great feast, who find themselves empty and hungry when they are awake.

4. Most dangerous, by drawing us from the service of God, to the service of the creature, upon which we have our dependence.

XVI. SELF-SEEKING AND DEPENDENCE ON THE CREATURE ARE EVILS THAT BE INSEPARABLE. Now this comes to pass--

1. By necessity, because man as well as all other creatures, wanting sufficiency in himself for self-subsistence, having now in a sort departed from God, and thereby lost his dependence upon Him, hath nothing else left him but the creature to fly unto for his support.

2. Because God by His just judgment cannot bring upon a man a fitter plague to avenge the dishonour done to Him, by lifting up ourselves against Him, than by abasing us to submit to things below ourselves.

XVII. SATAN’S PREFERMENTS ARE IN TRUE ESTIMATION ABASEMENTS AND BASE SLAVERIES.

XVIII. HASTY RESOLUTIONS PROVE COMMONLY DANGEROUS IN THE ISSUE.

1. Because in the thoughts of our heart natural motions, which are full of error, come first to hand; upon which if we settle our resolutions, we must needs be mistaken, and err dangerously ere we be aware.

2. Because our understanding, being weak in itself, is not able at once to take in, and lay before it all things, upon which a well-grounded judgment should be settled; so that we need some time to search out and lay together all those circumstances and evidences which must guide us in all that we take in hand.

XIX. THE NEARER THINGS ARE TO BE ENJOYED, THE MORE STRONGLY THE HEART IS AFFECTED TOWARDS THEM.

1. Let us be careful to fix our eyes upon the present examples of mercies or judgments upon ourselves or others, especially upon those which are inward and spiritual, laying hold of eternal life, upon the sense of God’s present favours, as the Prophet David seems to do (Psalms 73:24), and beholding and trembling at the very face of hell in present judgments.

2. Labour to work those experiments upon our hearts, till they awaken faith by which only those things which are to come are made present Hebrews 11:1), so that they affect men with joy, as if they were possessed already (1 Peter 1:8), and with like fear on the other side.

3. Let us often recount with ourselves the shortness of this present life. Meditation may and will show a man’s life unto him but a span long, and may make a thousand years seem unto him, as God accounts them, but as one day. (J. White, M. A.)

A poisoned honour

If we are to credit the annals of the Russian empire, there once existed a noble order of merit, which was greatly coveted by the princes and noblesse. It was, however, conferred only on the peculiar favourites of the Czar, or on the distinguished heroes of the kingdom. But another class shared in its honour in a very questionable form. Those nobles or favourites who either became a burden to the Czar or who stood in his way, received this decoration only to die. The pin point was tipped with poison--and when the order was being fastened on the breast by the imperial messenger, the flesh of the person was “accidentally” pricked. Death ensued, as next morning the individual so highly honoured with imperial favour was found dead in bed from apoplexy. Satan offered to confer a brilliant decoration upon Adam and Eve--“Ye shall be as gods.” It was poisoned; the wages of sin is death. (W. Adamson.)

The devil’s bait

He telleth her, “they shall be like gods,” etc. And it is his continued practice still with hope of higher climbing, to throw down many a man and woman. He will tickle you with honour, with wealth, with friends, and many gay things that you shall get by yielding to him, but whilst you so look to mount aloft to better your state, and to enjoy promises, down shall you fall from heaven to hell, and find a false serpent when it is too late to call again yesterday, that is, to undo what you have done. Our mother Eve whilst she looked to become like God, and her husband with her, she became like the devil, and cast away her husband also; even so shall you if any vain hope, promise, or speech tickle your heart to offend the Lord, and to undo yourself and your friends. (Bp. Babington.)

She took of the fruit thereof

The moral aspect of the senses

I. THAT MAN REQUIRES A BOUNDARY FOR HIS SENSES. By prohibiting one tree, God declares that there must be a limitation to the gratification of the senses. This is a most important doctrine, and fearfully overlooked. But why should the senses be restricted?

1. Because an undue influence of the senses is perilous to the spiritual interests of men. The senses, as servants, are great blessings; as sovereigns, they become great curses. Fleshly lusts “war against the soul.”

2. Because man has the power of fostering his senses to an undue influence. Unlike the brute, his senses are linked to the faculty of imagination. By this he can give new edge and strength to his senses. He can bring the sensual provisions of nature into new combinations, and thereby not only strengthen old appetites, but create new ones. Thus we find men on all hands becoming the mere creatures of the senses--intellect and heart running into flesh. They are carnal.

II. THAT MAN’S MORAL NATURE IS ASSAILABLE THROUGH THE SENSES. Thus Satan here assailed our first parents, and won the day. Thus he tempted Christ in the wilderness, and thus ever. His address is always to the passions. By sensual plays, songs, books, and elements, he rules the world. “Lust, when it is finished, bringeth forth sin.” This fact is useful for two purposes:

1. To caution us against all institutions which aim mainly at the gratification of the senses. We may rest assured, that Satan is in special connection with these.

2. To caution us against making the senses the source of pleasure. It is a proof of the goodness of God that the senses yield pleasure; but it is a proof of depravity when man seeks his chief pleasure in them. Man should ever attend to them rather as means of relief than as sources of pleasure. He who uses them in this latter way, sinks bruteward.

III. THAT MAN’S NIGHEST INTERESTS NAVE BEEN RUINED BY THE SENSES. “She took of the fruit.” Here was the ruin. History teems with similar examples. Esau, the Jews in the wilderness, and David, are striking illustrations. Men’s highest interests--of intellect--conscience--soul--and eternity--are everywhere being ruined by the senses. (Homilist.)

Stages to ruin

In Genesis 3:1-7 are indicated the human stages through which evil entered the world.

I. INDETERMINATION. This afforded the tempter an opportunity of doing three things.

1. Insinuating a doubt as to the truth of the prohibition.

2. Contradicting the sanction of the prohibition.

3. Impiously reflecting on the kindness of the prohibition. Parleying with the tempter has ever been the ruin of man.

II. SELFISM. Two impulses arose within her to an undue power.

1. Appetite.

2. Ambition.

III. SEDUCTIVENESS. Eve no sooner falls, than she becomes a tempter. (Homilist.)

The fatal choice

I. THE PROCESS OF TEMPTATION AND FALL.

1. The first step towards ruin was, and is, willingness to parley with the tempter.

2. Desire.

3. Change of opinion regarding the expediency or morality of the sin.

4. The overt act of sin.

II. THE TRAIN OF CONSEQUENCES.

1. The tempted becomes at once a tempter of others.

2. Knowledge of sin works shame.

3. Knowledge of sin makes one especially afraid of God.

4. Sin brings the sentence of Divine displeasure.

III. THE INTERVENTION OF DIVINE GRACE. (The Homiletic Review.)

Temptation and Fall of man

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. The instrument used for the temptation. A tree.

2. The agent in conducting the temptation. The serpent.

3. The mode by which the temptation was conducted to its issue.

II. THE MORAL CHANCE which the success of this great temptation produced and perpetuated.

1. The nature of the change. A change of character. Depravity and alienation from God.

2. The extent and application of this change beyond those who submitted to it. Universal.

III. THE PENAL INFLICTIONS which in consequence of the success of the great temptation and its attendant moral changes have been incurred.

1. Exclusion from paradise.

2. Corporeal sorrow and toil.

3. The consignment of the body to death.

4. Exposure to future and eternal punishment.

CONCLUDING LESSONS:

1. The voluntariness of sin. Let no one for a moment suppose that man sins by decree; he is saved by decree, but he is not lost by decree. Besides the voluntariness of sin which is one truth which requires to be acknowledged, another is the universality of sin. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

2. But it is vastly important, that the remedy provided against the consequences of man’s fall should be at once and gratefully embraced. (James Parsons, M. A.)

Observations

I. THINGS USUALLY APPEAR UNTO US AS WE STAND AFFECTED TOWARDS THEM IN OUR HEARTS.

II. SIN PROCEEDS NOT FROM THE OUTWARD OBJECT, BUT FROM THE CORRUPTION OF THE HEART WITHIN.

III. IT IS DANGEROUS TO A MAN TO FIX HIS SENSES UPON ENTICING OBJECTS.

IV. MEN BY NATURE ARE MORE APT TO GIVE CREDIT UNTO LIES THAN UNTO THE TRUTH OF GOD.

V. MEN ARE EASILY DRAWN TO BELIEVE AND HOPE ANYTHING OF THAT WHICH THEY AFFECT AND DESIRE.

VI. THE TERRORS OF WRATH TO COME CANNOT PREVAIL AGAINST STRONG AND VIOLENT AFFECTIONS TO THINGS THAT ARE PRESENT.

VII. OUTWARD SENSE IS AN ILL AND A DANGEROUS GUIDE.

1. Sense was never given men for a judge or counsellor to determine and direct, but only for an informer.

2. Sense can show us nothing but the outward forms of such things as it represents, upon which we shall never be able to lay the ground of a right judgment: wherefore judgment according to appearance, is opposed to God’s true and infallible judgment (1 Samuel 16:7).

VIII. A MAN CANNOT NATURALLY DESIRE ANYTHING BUT UNDER A SHOW AND APPEARANCE OF GOOD.

IX. MAN IS AN ILL CHOOSER OF HIS OWN GOOD.

X. IT IS A GROSS EVIL TO CHOOSE NOT WHAT IS GRANTED US, BUT WHAT WE LIKE ESPECIALLY, OUT OF RESPECT TO OURSELVES IN PARTICULAR.

XI. LUST, ONCE CONCEIVED, WILL AT LAST BRING FORTH ACTUAL SIN IN FULL PERFECTION. First, it cannot be otherwise, because inward desires and affections are the ground of all outward actions and performances, as Solomon tells us (Proverbs 4:23), which therefore must needs follow, unless there be some impediment cast in the way, especially in this corruption of man’s nature, wherein they bear all the sway. Secondly, God is pleased it shall be so, that men may be made known by their actions, as a tree is known by his fruit.

XII. IT IS NOT IN THE POWER OF SATAN HIMSELF, TO DRAW ANY MAN TO SIN WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.

XIII. THEY THAT SIN THEMSELVES, ARE COMMONLY SEDUCERS OF OTHERS TO SIN.

XIV. ONE WHO HAS FALLEN INTO SIN, IS OFTEN MOST DANGEROUS TO HIS NEAREST FRIENDS.

XV. IT IS THE PROPERTY OF TRUE LOVE TO COMMUNICATE TO OTHERS WHATSOEVER ITSELF EMBRACETH AS GOOD.

XVI. THE STRONGEST MAN IS NOT ABLE TO STAND AGAINST SATAN, IF GOD LEAVE HIM TO HIMSELF. (J. White, M. A.)

Temptation and Fall

Should it occur to any to ask, how it can be consistent with the Divine wisdom and goodness to place creatures in the beginning of their life in a condition of such exposure and peril, we must allow that the question is not unattended with difficulty. We know it, however, to be a fact, imperfectly as we may be able to reconcile it with the acknowledged character of God, that the beginning or early part of every human life, and probably of the life of every moral being, is especially fraught with temptations and dangers. The sacred writer may have had this idea in his mind when he said, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” Childhood and youth are, in most cases, seasons of temptation. The entrance on early manhood is a time of temptation. Principles are then to be settled and habits to be formed, which will do much toward shaping the character for all the future life. Viewed in relation to God and religion, the first part of life is important. It is the period of moral formation; and the principles which then gain an ascendency are likely to be permanent. Hence the solicitude which parents feel in relation to their children, and especially their sons, when they go from them to enter on a course of study in a public institution, or to engage as clerks and apprentices in the employment of others, or to begin life for themselves. The young cannot wholly escape these trials and dangers; and they greatly resemble the temptations through which Adam and Eve passed. They are inseparable from the responsibilities of self-government, until a stable and well-tried character is formed. Men are put into the world to meet its duties, and to discipline themselves, amidst difficulties and moral hazards, for a better state. The sooner in life they learn this truth, the better will it be for them. The plan of God is not to shield any of us from temptation; but to teach us to pass through it undamaged and with advantage. But it may help somewhat to reconcile us to this part of the Divine government, if we inquire whether it is possible for us to conceive of a better constitution? All creatures must begin to exist. They must therefore either be as perfect as they ever can be at first, or they must have scope to grow and to unfold themselves. Would we, any of us, choose to be created so perfect at the beginning, as to preclude the idea of any improvement, or even of any change? Would we be in favour of a constitution, supposing it possible, which would permit no increase of knowledge, of virtue, or of happiness? Would we prefer to be wholly without hope? Would we account a dead, stagnant monotony, an unvarying sameness of existence, an improvement on our present state? I cannot think we should any of us so elect, were the election in our power. And yet all these ideas belong to the notion of a creature made at the outset as perfect as he ever can be. (D. N. Sheldon.)

The husband tempted through the wife

Agrippina poisoned the Emperor Commodus with wine in a perfumed cup; the cup being perfumed and given him by his wife, it was the less suspected. Satan knew a temptation coming to Adam from his wife, would be more prevailing, and would be less suspected: O bitter! Sometimes relations prove temptations: a wife may be a snare, when she dissuades her husband from doing his duty, or enticeth him to evil. “Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness, whom his wife Jezebel stirred up.” She blew the coals and made his sin flame out the more. Satan’s subtlety was in tempting Adam by his wife, he thought she would draw him to sin. (T. Watson.)

The Fall of man

I. MAN’S FALL FROM A STATE OF INNOCENCE. Mark the steps of the transgression. She “saw”: she should have turned away her eyes from beholding vanity; but she enters into temptation by looking with pleasure on the forbidden fruit. “She took”: it was her own act and deed. Satan may tempt, but he cannot force us into sin. She “did eat”: when first she looked, perhaps she meant not to touch, or if she took, not to eat; but who can say, So far I will go in sin, and no further? It is a downward road. Our only safety is to stop the first thought, the first beginning. She “gave also unto her husband with her.” No sooner was Eve a sinner than, like the devil, she became a tempter. Adam, it seems, had joined her now; and he listened to her persuasion, “and he did eat.” And will any dare to think the sin a small one? God had given him a plain and easy command; had made him with a will free, a nature holy and good. His act, then, showed unbelief in God’s word, discontent with his state, aspiring pride; in a word, it was disobedience. He sinned against the clearest light, the highest knowledge, the greatest goodness, the dearest love. He turned aside quickly. And will any ask, as men do now, What great harm was there?

II. THE UNHAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF THE FALL.

1. Shame.

2. Fear.

3. Pride. Adam attempts to hide his offence from God.

4. Judgment. Sorrow, misery, death. Every sinner finds it so.

III. THE ONLY REMEDY PROVIDED--in Jesus Christ our Saviour. God has stooped from heaven to redeem man. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

Sin and death

This narrative teaches us great facts regarding temptation and sin.

I. REGARDING TEMPTATION.

1. Temptation often comes through Satanic influence. As in the cases of Eve, Judas, Ananias, so today Satan is busy in placing temptation before us. How he does it we know not, but he evidently has supernatural power to instill evil thoughts into our minds.

2. But the narrative teaches that, though there be Satanic influence from without, there is a greater temptation from within (see James 1:14). Eve thought she should be as God if she ate the forbidden fruit. She reasoned as do so many foolish young people in these days who say about places of evil resort: “I want to see for myself. It isn’t going to do me any harm, and I want to know about it.” And so young men--bent on being as smart as their fellows and on knowing as much of the world as any body, and seeing the gilded apple, fair to look upon and promising temporal advantage, hanging in the liquor saloon, or the gambling resort, or the house of death--pluck and eat.

II. REGARDING SIN.

1. The question at once arises--Why did God forbid the eating of the fruit of this tree? The injunction was not arbitrary, we may be sure. The inherent wrong we do not know, but we are certain that it was essential to the character and destiny of man that there should be something prohibited. There must be law: first, because some things are inherently right and others inherently wrong; second, because without law, enjoining or forbidding, character can neither be tested nor developed.

2. We see again from the narrative that the essence of sin consists in unbelief. Why does God forbid this and enjoin that? Because He loves us and knows a contrary course would do us harm. What subtle conviction justifies us when we allow ourselves in disobedience to God’s laws? Either that we know better than God, or that God lays His commands on us from selfish and ungenerous motives. It is hard to tell which conviction is the worse, but probably the latter is the more common. At any rate, it is clear that all sin originates in distrust of God. Doubting His wisdom or His truthfulness, or above all, His love, we rush on, heedless of His warnings, to our destruction.

3. There is a lesson in this narrative regarding the propagation of sin. No sooner did Eve eat the forbidden fruit than she offered it to Adam and persuaded him to be a sinner also. In this she did but carry out instinctively an inevitable law of sin. Sin is a contagious disease.

4. The penalty of sin is death. (A. P. Foster, D. D.)

The first sin

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE FIRST SIN. The strength of the first sin was the law of God. There was no intrinsic poison in the forbidden fruit, for God cannot produce an essentially evil thing; the creature’s disobedience gave to it its deadly power.

II. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIRST SIN. So long as the creature’s love for God was perfect, the first law remained unbroken; but even as in Elijah’s days, there arose out of the sea a vapour, not larger than a man’s hand, which gathered unto itself other clouds, until the whole heaven was covered with blackness; so there arose in the horizon of Eden, as a little cloud, a doubt of God’s love, and behold now the sky is overcast above our heads, even with the shadow of death. Yes, Eve began to think that her Maker had withholden from her that which was good. She, looking upon the forbidden tree, formed an independent judgment upon its qualities; she pronounced that it was good for food, pleasant to the sight, and of a nature to communicate wisdom to the partaker thereof. This was the first step in the development of her sin. Next, she desired it. It was “a tree to be desired.” There is something wonderful in the typicality of the first sin; how distinctly do we see the shadow of that, which is now in the world, as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of an intellectual life. In the full and final development of sin the woman took of the fruit and ate. The deed of wickedness followed the unholy thought; and the ruin of the world was completed.

III. THE PROLIFIC NATURE OF THE FIRST SIN. “Gave unto her husband, and he did eat.” No sooner is one sin truly born, or brought forth in its maturity, than it becomes the parent of a thousand or a million of other transgressions. There is no point which should make us dread sin more than its hydra-like multiplication. It branches forth in every direction; it is impossible to check its rapidity of reproduction.

IV. THE PERPETUITY OF ITS EFFECT ON POSTERITY. (The Protoplast.)

I. THE NATURE OF THE SIN.

1. Ingratitude.

2. Disbelief.

3. Disobedience.

The first sin

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SIN.

1. Our first parents were not the same afterwards.

2. That one sin paved the way for other sins. For insincerity and untruth.

3. It estranged them from God.

4. It broke up the home.

5. It shut them out of life.

III. THE REMEDY FOR SIN. In Christ. (J. Ogle.)

Ten sins in Adam’s disobedience

1. Incredulity. Our first parents did not believe what God had spoken was truth.

2. Unthankfulness, which is the epitome of all sin. Adam’s sin was committed in the midst of paradise.

3. In Adam’s sin was discontent: had he not been discontented, he would never have sought to have altered his condition. How wide was Adam’s heart, that a whole world could not fill it.

4. Pride, in that he would be like God. But, by climbing too high, he got a fall.

5. Disobedience. How could God endure to see His laws trampled on before His face? This made God place a flaming sword at the end of the garden.

6. Curiosity: to meddle with that which was out of his sphere, and did not belong to him. Adam would be prying into God’s secrets, and tasting what was forbidden.

7. Wantonness: though Adam had a choice of all the other trees, yet his palate grew wanton, and he must have this tree. Adam had not only for necessity, but for delight; yet his wanton palate lusted after forbidden fruit.

8. Sacrilege: the tree of knowledge was none of Adam’s, yet he took of it, and did sacrilegiously rob God of His due. Sacrilege is a double theft.

9. Murder: Adam was a public person, and all his posterity were involved.

10. Presumption. One sin may have many sins in it. As in one volume there may be many works bound up, so there may be many sins in one sin. The dreadfulness of the effect: it hath corrupted men’s nature. How rank is that poison a drop whereof could poison a whole sea! And how deadly is that sin of Adam, that could poison all mankind, and bring a curse upon them, till it be taken away by Him who was “made a curse for us.” (T. Watson.)

The first sin

I. THE GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIRST SIN.

1. Creating uncertainty in the mind as to duty towards God.

2. Nourishing the hope that God is not in earnest.

3. Producing a doubt as to God’s goodness and sincerity.

II. THE SOCIAL ASPECTS OF THE FIRST SIN.

1. Contaminating.

2. Destructive to human love.

3. Bringing men morally to the same level.

4. The precursor of physical suffering.

III. THE IMMEDIATE EFFECT OF THE FIRST SIN.

1. Burdening the soul with guilt.

2. Disturbing its peace with fear.

3. Obliterating its true conceptions of God.

IV. THE PUNISHMENT OF THE FIRST SIN.

1. Its punishment shows that sin is foreign to our nature.

2. That sin and punishment are linked together.

3. That God is just in its punishment.

4. That God is willing to pardon sin.

5. That liberty is not without its attendant risks.

6. That knowledge without holiness is dangerous. (Homilist.)

I. THE TEST OF OBEDIENCE WHICH GOD INSTITUTED.

1. It was just and reasonable.

2. Simple and plain.

3. Practicable and easy.

The Fall

II. THE MANNER OF ITS VIOLATION.

1. The serpent tempted.

2. The woman transgressed.

3. She gave also to Adam, and he did eat.

III. THE MORAL EVIL IT INVOLVED.

1. Great credulity, yet great unbelief.

2. Great discontent.

3. Great pride.

4. Great disobedience and presumption.

5. Great ingratitude.

IV. THE CALAMITOUS RESULTS IT PRODUCED.

1. Overwhelming fear and shame.

2. Open exposure and correction.

3. The Divine displeasure and punishment.

16).

APPLICATION:

1. Learn the origin of human sin.

2. Its disastrous effects.

3. Our natural connection with it.

4. The only way of deliverance from it.

By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was manifested in the flesh to destroy the work of the devil (see Romans 5:12-17). (J. Burns, D. D.)

Man’s moral conflict

I. THE GREAT MORAL CONFLICT APPOINTED FOR MAN. In Eden and in every human history there is a collision between appetite and conscience, between right and wrong, between God’s will and human wilfulness. Things know nothing of such oppositions. In self-governments and to wills they are inevitable.

1. That it was waged between powers both good in themselves for the exclusive rule and supremacy of the lower over the life.

2. It begins with a suggestion from without and from beneath.

3. We are assailed from the most unlikely quarters, and are injured by the most unlikely instruments.

4. The danger in this case arose from a lawless desire for knowledge,

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF MAN’S MORAL DEFEAT. Given the fact of sin, the fact of a fatal change in the condition and circumstances follows of necessity.

1. The harmonious and beautiful subordination of the powers of the human constitution is destroyed.

2. Native innocence is lost.

3. Sin shuts out the light of heaven and prevents the enjoyment of the vision of God.

4. Sin changes the face of nature to the guilty, and banishes the spirit from the regions of Divine joy. Men in the first consciousness of guilt dare not pray. (The Preachers Monthly.)

Lessons from the Fall of man

I. TEMPTATION LIES IN THE DIRECTION OF PLEASURE.

II. GUILT OPENS MEN’S EYES.

III. GUILT VAINLY TRIES TO HIDE ITS DEFORMITY. (The Homiletic Review.)

A warning from Eve’s Fall

She was thus tempted, seduced, and overthrown in paradise; and it may well admonish us, that if that paradise could not free them from temptation, surely our paradises here shall never do it. But even in our princely palaces, our glittering chambers, our dainty and delicate gardens, the devil will be chatting with us, and seeking to work our woe forever and ever if he can. Nay, would God these painted paradises were not rather the places and means of our woful falls than poorer places be, we giving ourselves so much to the pleasures of them that God is forgotten, and the passage to Satan’s pleasure laid open a thousand ways. Oh, how have they fallen swimming in pleasures, that stood most holy when they had fewer delights! Oh, how have courts of princes robbed them of virtue, whom in country and meaner places no devil could violate or defile! Beware we then of Satan even in our paradises, yea, rather I say, than in poorer cots: when everything about us is bright and brave, beware we that enemy that is black and foul. Many pleasures should effect many desires to please the Giver, God Almighty, and no pleasures should make me wanton, lusting and longing for unlawful things. Let Eve be remembered where she was deceived, and I say no more, it was in paradise. (Bp. Babington.)

A three-fold temptation

There were three things that wrought upon her.

1. The tree was good for food. A strong reason, had she been famishing, but none when surrounded with the plenty of the rich garden. Strange that she should have cared for it on such an account! She is in no need of food, yet it is on this account that she covets it! She is without excuse in her sin. It was the lust of the flesh that was at work (Ephesians 2:3; 1 John 2:16). She saw in the tree the gratification of that lust, and in God a hinderer of it. Thus she fell.

2. It was a desire of the eyes. And had she no other objects of beauty to gaze upon? Yes; thousands. Yet this forbidden one engrossed her, as if it had acquired new beauty by having been prohibited. Or can she not be satisfied with looking? Must she covet? Must she touch and taste? It is plain that hers was no longer the natural and lawful admiration of a fair object, but an unlawful desire to possess what she admired. It was “the lust of the eye.”

3. It was a tree to be desired for imparting wisdom. This was the crowning allurement. She must have wisdom, and she must have it at all risks, and she must have it without delay. She made haste to be wise. She would not in faith wait for God’s time and way of giving wisdom. Such was the desire (or lust) of the mind (Ephesians 2:3). These three reasons prevailed. She plucked the fruit, and did eat. Nay, more, she gave also to her husband, who was with her, and he did eat. She was not content to sin alone. Even the dearest on earth must be drawn into the same snare.

Let us mark here such lessons as the following:--

1. The danger of trifling with objects of temptation. To linger near them; to hesitate about leaving them; to think of them as harmless--these are the sure forerunners of a fall.

2. The three sources of temptation: the lust of the flesh, of the eye, of the mind. Strictly speaking, they are not in themselves sinful, but in their excess, or disorderly indulgence.

3. The swift progress of temptation. She listened, looked, took, ate! These were the steps. All linked together, and swiftly following each other. The beginning how small and simple; the end how terrible! (James 1:25). You begin with a look, you end in apostasy from God. You begin with a touch, you end in woe and shame. You begin with a thought, you end in the second death. Yet of all these steps God protests solemnly that He is not the Author (James 1:13). It is man that is his own ensnarer and destroyer. Even Satan cannot succeed unless seconded by man himself.

4. The tendency of sin to propagate itself. No sooner has the tempted one yielded than he seeks to draw others into the snare. He must drag down his fellows with him. There seems an awful vitality about sin; a fertility in reproduction, nay, a horrid necessity of nature for self-diffusion. It never lies dormant. It never loses its power of propagation. Let it be the smallest conceivable, it possesses the same terrific diffusiveness. Like the invisible seeds that float through our atmosphere, it takes wing the moment it comes into being, flying abroad, and striking root everywhere, and becoming the parent of ten thousand others. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Apostasy

I. THE TEMPTATION BY WHICH ADAM WAS ASSAILED.

II. THE GREATNESS OF HIS GUILT. A fearful complication.

1. Disbelief of the Creator.

2. Rebellion against the highest authority.

3. The most criminal ambition.

4. The basest and vilest ingratitude.

5. A sin against his own soul, and against all his posterity.

III. THE SCRUTINY TO WHICH HE WAS SUBJECTED.

IV. THE SENTENCE PRONOUNCED ON ADAM.

1. Exclusion from paradise must have been a painful evil considered in itself.

2. But the sentence included death also. The death of the body, the precursor, if grace prevent not, of the death of the soul. (H. Burder, M. A.)

Paradise lost; or, man’s Fall

I. THE SUBTLE TEMPTER. Changed the tree of probation into a tree of temptation.

II. THE FATAL TRANSGRESSION. Eve hesitated, and was drawn into the tempter’s net. Then sin reproduces sin.

III. THE SAD DISCOVERY. Innocence gone: in its place was shame. LESSONS:

1. To obey God’s word, even when it contradicts our own inclinations.

2. To be humble and patient, waiting God’s time and will, as to His “secret things.”

3. To refuse to listen to temptation from without, and to evil lusts in ourselves. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)

Temptation and Fall of man

Corroborative of the Mosaic account of the Fall are numerous ancient corrupted traditions. Thus--

1. On an ancient bas-relief of the story of Prometheus and Pandora, a man and woman are represented standing naked and disconsolate under a tree; and a figure seated on a rock is strangling a serpent.

2. Apollo destroys the serpent Python, and is crowned with laurel.

3. Hercules--who in his infancy had destroyed a serpent--gathered the apples of Hesperides, having killed the serpent that kept the tree.

4. Many gems, etc., represent Hercules killing a serpent entwined about a fruit-laden tree.

I. THE FIRST TEMPTATION.

1. To be tempted, and to sin, two different things. Christ was tempted but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

2. Its source--

3. Appeared thus to Eve, whose knowledge was partial. Speech used by a serpent would have “opened the eyes” of Adam, who had named the beasts according to their nature.

4. Concealed the real death that would be introduced. Told a partial truth: “your eyes shall be opened.” Half truths are the devil’s most successful lies. Thus Tennyson says:--

“That a lie, which is part a truth, is ever the blackest of lies;

That a lie, which is all a lie, may be met, and fought with, outright;

But a lie, which is part a truth, is a harder matter to fight.”

II. THE FIRST SIN. Apparently small, and by the thoughtless often spoken lightly of, as such. But as all sin is a violation of principle, injures the moral sense, imperils the soul, and dishonours God, no transgression can be truly called a little sin. Sin is the transgression of law (1 John 3:4). This was the only sin that could be committed, since there was but one law Romans 4:15). It was great, because the only one possible. It contained the elements of all evil: disobedience (Romans 5:19), pride, unbelief, blindness, ingratitude, selfishness, covetousness, etc. As from small fountains, mighty rivers nave their beginning; so from this sin, all transgression took its rise and character (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22). (J. C. Gray.)

Adam; or, human nature

I. ADAM, OR MAN. First, to trace this path in that world of thought and will which is within; for, to this day, when we sin nothing else is done but what is here set forth in the man, the woman, and the serpent. In this view the man is the understanding, the woman the will, the serpent some animal faculty or emotion in us--good when in subjection, but which may be a means, under the influence of the evil spirit, to tempt the will and lead it to disobedience and independence, and so to misery. For the will, not the understanding is that in us which is first assailed, seduced by some lower sense or emotion, which seems to promise more happiness. But for the will, the emotions would not be felt, but only thought about: but they are felt: hence they are passions; for we really suffer, though we should command, them. Only thus is man led away.

II. MAN’S WAY. From God to self and independence.

III. THE FRUIT OF MAN’S WAY.

1. A bad conscience.

2. An attempt to hide from God.

3. An attempt to clear self by throwing blame on some other one.

4. But there are other fruits of sin, more external, and having to do with man’s body and his dwelling place. The earth is cursed, and henceforth sorrow and toil are to be man’s due portion until he return to the dust whence he was taken; a lot which seems hard, and yet is mercy; by toil to draw man out of self, and then by death to destroy him that hath the power of death, that is the devil.

5. One consequence of sin remains, characteristic of the lot of man as man, namely, exclusion from paradise. Fallen man is driven out, lest as fallen he eat and live forever. This, too, is love. Old Adam is shut out, but the Seed can enter through the flaming sword and past the cherubim.

IV. THE REMEDY FOR MAN. This too has stages, all of God; first a call, then a promise, then a gift, from Him.

1. First comes a call, a voice which will be heard, to convince man of his state, saying, “Where art thou?” A voice which may sound in different ways, but which in all is crying to draw man back again; at first only convicting of sin, yet by this very conviction laying the foundation for man’s recovery; leading man to come to himself before it is too late, that he may come to his Father, and from Him receive another life; and asking, though man oft turns a deaf ear, why we are not with Him, who still loves and yearns over us.

2. Then comes a promise, full of grace and truth, touching the woman’s Seed; a promise not to old Adam, for the old man is fallen and must pay the penalty--no reprieve is given to the flesh: the cross which saves us is Adam’s condemnation--but a promise to the Seed or New Man, who shall be born, in and by whom man shall regain paradise.

3. God adds a gift--“The Lord God made them coats of skins and clothed them.” Again He works, for sin had broken His rest; working, as ever, to restore blessedness; to cover not with fig-leaf screens only that part of our nakedness which is before each of us; but to give us, upon us, in token of our state--for the skins spoke of death, and so confessed trespass--a covering which, while it puts us in our place as sinful creatures, yet shelters us. (A. Jukes.)

The peril of capacity

Why did God make man capable of falling? Because God could not have made man upon any other condition: He made the sun incapable of falling, and all the stars incapable of falling; but the moment you pass from matter to life you multiply your danger; increased life means increased risk. I drive a nail into this piece of wood to hold some article until I return for it; I also request a child to watch another article for a time. On my return I find the nail where I put it, I also find the child where I left him, do I say to the nail, “You are very good for doing what I wanted to have done”? Certainly not. But I may say to the child, “You have been good, and I thank you for doing me this kindness.” But why not express my thanks to the nail? Simply because the nail had no will in the matter. The child had a will, and could have foregone his charge; and by so much as he could have broken his promise he was honourable in keeping it. But put the case the other way. Suppose that on my return I discovered that the child had abandoned his position; then I should see that in passing from matter to life I pass from comparative certainty to probable uncertainty; yet even the bad child is greater than the nail, for his capacity of badness is also his capacity of goodness. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Man fallen

You see a beautiful capital still bearing some of the flowers and some of the vestiges of the foliage which the sculptor’s chisel had carved upon the marble. It lies on the ground, half-buried under rank weeds and nettles, while beside it the headless shaft of a noble column springs from its pedestal. Would you not at once conclude that its present condition, so base and mean, was not its original position? You say the lightning bolt must have struck it down; or an earthquake had shaken its foundations; or some ignorant barbarian had climbed the shaft, and with rude hand hurled it to the ground. Well, we look at man, and arrive at a similar conclusion. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Original sin

A minister having preached on the doctrine of original sin, was afterwards waited on by some persons, who stated their objections to what he had advanced. After hearing them he said, “I hope you do not deny actual sin too?” “No,” they replied. The good man expressed his satisfaction at their acknowledgment; but, to show the absurdity of their opinions in denying a doctrine so plainly taught in Scripture, he asked them, “Did you ever see a tree growing without a root?”

Consciousness of the Fall

The degenerate plant has no consciousness of its own degradation, nor could it, when reduced to the character of a weed or a wild flower, recognize in the fair and delicate garden plant the type of its former self. The tamed and domesticated animal, stunted in size, and subjugated in spirit, could not feel any sense of humiliation when confronted with its wild brother of the desert, fierce, strong, and free, as if discerning in that spectacle the noble type from which itself had fallen. But it is different with a conscious moral being, Reduce such an one ever so low, yet you cannot obliterate in his inner nature the consciousness of falling beneath himself; you cannot blot out from his mind the latent reminiscence of a nobler and bettor self which he might have been, and which to have lost is guilt and wretchedness. (J. Caird.)

The Fall

1. Temptation comes like a serpent; like the most subtle beast of the field; like that one creature which is said to exert a fascinating influence on its victims, fastening them with its glittering eye, stealing upon them by its noiseless, low, and unseen approach, perplexing them by its wide circling folds, seeming to come upon them from all sides at once, and armed not like the other beasts with one weapon of offence--horn or hoof, or teeth--but capable of crushing its victim with every part of its sinuous length.It lies apparently dead for months together, but when roused it can, as the naturalist tells us, “outclimb the monkey, outswim the fish, outleap the zebra, outwrestle the athlete, and crush the tiger.”

2. Temptation succeeds at first by exciting our curiosity. It is a wise saying that “our great security against sin lies in being shocked at it. Eve gazed and reflected when she should have fled.” The serpent created an interest, excited her curiosity about this forbidden fruit. And as this excited curiosity lies near the beginning of sin in the race, so does it in the individual. I suppose if you trace back the mystery of iniquity in your own life and seek to track it to its source, you will find it to have originated in this craving to taste evil. No man originally meant to become the sinner he has become. He only intended, like Eve, to taste. It was a voyage of discovery he meant to make; he did not think to get nipped and frozen up and never more return from the outer cold and darkness. He wished before finally giving himself to virtue, to see the real value of the other alternative.

3. Through this craving for an enlarged experience unbelief in God’s goodness finds entrance. In the presence of forbidden pleasure we are tempted to feel as if God were grudging us enjoyment. The very arguments of the serpent occur to our mind. No harm will come of our indulging; the prohibition is needless, unreasonable, and unkind; it is not based on any genuine desire for our welfare.

4. If we know our own history we cannot be surprised to read that one taste of evil ruined our first parents. It is so always. The one taste alters our attitude towards God and conscience and life. It is a veritable Circe’s cup.

5. The first result of sin is shame. The form in which the knowledge of good and evil comes to us is the knowing we are naked, the consciousness that we are stripped of all that made us walk unabashed before God and men. The promise of the serpent while broken in the sense is fulfilled to the ear; the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Self-reflection begins, and the first movement of conscience produces shame.

6. But when Adam found he was no longer fit for God’s eye, God provided a covering which might enable him again to live in His presence without dismay. Man had exhausted his own ingenuity and resources, and exhausted them without finding relief to his shame. If his shame was to be effectually removed, God must do it. It is also to be remarked that the clothing which God provided was in itself different from what man had thought of. Adam took leaves from an inanimate, unfeeling tree; God deprived an animal of life, that the shame of His creature might be relieved. This was the last thing Adam would have thought of doing. To us life is cheap and death familiar, but Adam recognized death as the punishment of sin. Death was to early man a sign of God’s anger. And he had to learn that sin could be covered not by a bunch of leaves snatched from a bush as he passed by and that would grow again next year, but only by pain and blood. Sin cannot be atoned for by any mechanical action nor without expenditure of feeling. Suffering must ever follow wrong-doing. From the first sin to the last, the track of the sinner is marked with blood. (M. Dods, D. D.)

The allurements of the temptation

If we translate these words in a language more metaphysical, we shall find that they include the three elements which are considered to constitute perfection: goodness, beauty, and truth. Goodness in that which pleases the taste, beauty in that which delights the sight, truth in that which gives knowledge or wisdom. And remark, that in seeking this perfection the woman obeyed an impulse which God Himself had given to her nature. Yes, it was the eternal destination of man to love, admire, and appropriate to himself all that is good, all that is beautiful, all that is true. It was his destination to grow in that perfection which he already possessed by nature, but which might be developed to infinity by his union with Him who is Goodness, Beauty, Truth, and Sovereign Perfection. It was, therefore, in Him alone, and in the harmony of their will with His, that our first parents were to seek perfection. The commandment which God had given them was intended to lead them to this perfection, by placing them in a state of dependence and responsibility. It was designed to unite them to their Creator and to give them the consciousness of all that is good, beautiful, and true in the moral, as well as in the visible world, which was their habitation. But, alas! a doubt has entered into the mind of Eve, already guilty through the admission of it; the word of her God is no longer her light and the sole object of her confidence; she is going to seek out of God, goodness, beauty, and truth; yea, she expects to find them in the very object whose enjoyment has been forbidden her under pain of death, in disobedience, and in sin! Henceforward all is changed in the objects of her desires, because all is changed in her heart; henceforward we see in her pursuit of a false perfection and of a false happiness, nothing but what St. John calls, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” (L. Bonnet.)


Verses 1-24

THE FALL

Genesis 3:1-24

PROFOUND as the teaching of this narrative is, its meaning does not lie on the surface. Literal interpretation will reach a measure of its significance, but plainly there is more here than appears in the letter. When we read that the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made, and that he tempted the woman, we at once perceive that it is not with the outer husk of the story we are to concern ourselves, but with the kernel. The narrative throughout speaks of nothing but the brute serpent; not a word is said of the devil, not the slightest hint is given that the machinations of a fallen angel are signified. The serpent is compared to the other beasts of the field, showing that it is the brute serpent that is spoken of. The curse is pronounced on the beast, not on a fallen spirit summoned for the purpose before the Supreme; and not in terms which could apply to a fallen spirit, but in terms that are applicable only to the serpent that crawls. Yet every reader feels that this is not the whole mystery of the fall of man: moral evil cannot be accounted for by referring it to a brute source. No one, I suppose, believes that the whole tribe of serpents crawl as a punishment of an offence committed by one of their number, or that the whole iniquity and sorrow of the world are due to an actual serpent. Plainly this is merely a pictorial representation intended to convey, some general impressions and ideas. Vitally important truths underlie the narrative and are bodied forth by it; but the way to reach these truths is not to adhere too rigidly to the literal meaning, but to catch the general impression which it seems fitted to make.

No doubt this opens the door to a great variety of interpretation. No two men will attach to it precisely the same meaning. One says, the serpent is a symbol for Satan, but Adam and Eve are historical persons. Another says, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a figure, but the driving out from the garden is real. Another maintains that the whole is a picture, putting in a visible, intelligible shape certain vitally important truths regarding the history of our race. So that every man is left very much to his own judgment, to read the narrative candidly and in such light from other sources as he has, and let it make its own impression upon him. This would be a sad result if the object of the Bible were to bring us all to a rigid uniformity of belief in all matters; but the object of the Bible is not that, but the far higher object of furnishing all varieties of men with sufficient light to lead them to God. And this being so, variety of interpretation in details is not to be lamented. The very purpose of such representations as are here given is to suit all stages of mental and spiritual advancement. Let the child read it and he will learn what will live in his mind and influence him all his life. Let the devout man who has ranged through all science and history and philosophy come back to this narrative, and he feels that he has here the essential truth regarding the beginnings of man’s tragical career upon earth.

We should, in my opinion, be labouring under a misapprehension if we supposed that none even of the earliest readers of this account saw the deeper meaning of it. When men who felt the misery of sin and lifted up their hearts to God for deliverance, read the words addressed to the serpent, "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" - is it reasonable to suppose that such men would take these words in their literal sense, and satisfy themselves with the assurance that serpents, though dangerous, would be kept under, and would find in the words no assurance of that very thing they themselves were all their lifetime striving after, deliverance from the evil thing which lay at the root of all sin? No doubt some would accept the story in its literal meaning, -shallow and careless men, whose own spiritual experience never urged them to see any spiritual significance in the words, would do so; but even those who saw least in the story, and put a very shallow interpretation on its details, could scarcely fail to see its main teaching.

The reader of this perennially fresh story is first of all struck with the account given of man’s primitive condition. Coming to this narrative with our minds coloured by the fancies of poets and philosophers, we are almost startled by the check which the plain and sober statements of this account give to an unpruned fancy. We have to read the words again and again to make sure we have not omitted something which gives support to those glowing descriptions of man’s primitive condition. Certainly he is described as innocent and at peace with God, and in this respect no terms can exaggerate his happiness. But in other respects the language of the Bible is surprisingly moderate. Man is represented as living on fruit, and as going unclothed, and, so far as appears, without any artificial shelter either from the heat of the sun or the cold of night. None of the arts were as yet known. All working of metals had yet to be discovered, so that his tools must have been of the rudest possible description; and the arts, such as music, which adorn life and make leisure enjoyable, were also still in the future.

But the most significant elements in man’s primitive condition are represented by the two trees of the garden; by trees, because with plants alone he had to do. In the centre of the garden stood the tree of life, the fruit of which bestowed immortality. Man was therefore naturally mortal, though apparently with a capacity for immortality. How this capacity would have actually carried man on to immortality had he not sinned, it is vain to conjecture. The mystical nature of the tree of life is fully recognised in the New Testament, by our Lord, when He says: "To him that overcometh wilt I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God"; and by John, when he describes the new Jerusalem: "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Both these representations are intended to convey, in a striking and pictorial form, the promise of life everlasting. And as of the tree of life which stands in the Paradise of the future it is said "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life"; so in Eden man’s immortality was suspended on the condition of obedience. And the trial of man’s obedience is imaged in the other tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From the child-like innocence in which man originally was, he was to pass forward into the condition of moral manhood, which consists not in mere innocence, but in innocence maintained in presence of temptation. The savage is innocent of many of the crimes of civilised men because he has no opportunity to commit them; the child is innocent of some of the vices of manhood because he has no temptation to them. But this innocence is the result of circumstance, not of character; and if savage or child is to become a mature moral being he must be tried by altered circumstances, by temptation and opportunity. To carry man forward to this higher stage trial is necessary, and this trial is indicated by the tree of knowledge. The fruit of this tree is prohibited, to indicate that it is only in presence of what is forbidden man can be morally tested, and that it is only by self-command and obedience to law, and not by the mere following of instincts, that man can attain to moral maturity. The prohibition is that which makes him recognise a distinction between good and evil. He is put in a position in which good is not the only thing he can do; an alternative is present to his mind, and the choice of good in preference to evil is made possible to him. In presence of this tree childlike innocence was no longer possible. The self-determination of manhood was constantly required. Conscience, hitherto latent, was now evoked and took its place as man’s supreme faculty.

It is in vain to think of exhausting this narrative. We can, at the most, only remark upon some of the most salient points.

(1) Temptation comes like a serpent; like the most subtile beast of the field; like that one creature which is said to exert a fascinating influence on its victims, fastening them with its glittering eye, stealing upon them by its noiseless, low, and unseen approach, perplexing them by its wide circling folds, seeming to come upon them from all sides at once, and armed not like the other beasts with one weapon of offence-horn, or hoof, or teeth - but capable of crushing its victim with every part of its sinuous length. It lies apparently dead for months together, but when roused it can, as the naturalist tells us, "outclimb the monkey, outswim the fish, out-leap the zebra, outwrestle the athlete, and crush the tiger." How naturally in describing temptation do we borrow language from the aspect and movements of this creature. It does not need to hunt down its victims by long-continued pursuit, its victims come and put themselves within its reach. Unseen, temptation lies by our path, and before we have time to think we are fascinated and bewildered, its coils rapidly gather round us and its stroke flashes poison through our blood. Against sin, when once it has wreathed itself around us, we seem helpless to contend; the very powers with which we could resist are benumbed or pinned useless to our side-our foe seems all round us, and to extricate one part is but to become entangled in another. As the serpent finds its way everywhere, over every fence or barrier, into every corner and recess, so it is impossible to keep temptation out of the life; it appears where least we expect it and when we think ourselves secure.

(2) Temptation succeeds at first by exciting our curiosity. It is a wise saying that "our great security against sin lies in being shocked at it. Eve gazed and reflected when she should have fled." The serpent created an interest, excited her curiosity about this forbidden fruit. And as this excited curiosity lies near the beginning of sin in the race, so does it in the individual. I suppose if you trace back the mystery of iniquity in your own life and seek to track it to its source, you will find it to have originated in this craving to taste evil. No man originally meant to become the sinner he has become. He only intended, like Eve, to taste. It was a voyage of discovery he meant to make; he did not think to get nipped and frozen up and never more return from the outer cold and darkness. He wished before finally giving himself to virtue, to see the real value of the other alternative.

This dangerous craving has many elements in it. There is in it the instinctive drawing towards what is mysterious. One veiled figure in an assembly will attract more scrutiny than the most admired beauty. An appearance in the heavens that no one can account for will nightly draw more eyes than the most wonderful sunset. To lift veils, to penetrate disguises, to unravel complicated plots, to solve mysteries, this is always inviting to the human mind. The tale which used to thrill us in childhood, of the one locked room, the one forbidden key, bears in it a truth for men as well as for children. What is hidden must, we conclude, have some interest for us-else why hide it from us? What is forbidden must have some important bearing upon us. Else why forbid it? Things which are indifferent to us are left in our way, obvious, and without concealment. But as action has been taken regarding the things that are forbidden, action in view of our relation to them, it is natural to us to desire to know what these things are and how they affect us.

There is added to this in young persons, a sense of incompleteness. They wish to be grown up. Few boys wish to be always boys. They long for the signs of manhood, and seek to possess that knowledge of life and its ways which they very much identify with manhood. But too commonly they mistake the path to manhood. They feel as if they had a wider range of liberty and were more thoroughly men when they transgress the limits assigned by conscience. They feel as if there were a new and brighter world outside that which is fenced round by strict morality, and they tremble with excitement on its borders. It is a fatal delusion. Only by choosing the good in presence of the evil are true manhood and real maturity gained. True manliness consists mainly in self-control, in a patient waiting upon nature and God’s law, and when youth impatiently breaks through the protecting fence of God’s law, and seeks growth by knowing evil, it misses that very advancement it seeks, and cheats itself out of the manhood it apes.

(3) Through this craving for an enlarged experience unbelief in God’s goodness finds entrance. In the presence of forbidden pleasure we are tempted to feel as if God were grudging us enjoyment. The very arguments of the serpent occur to our mind. No harm will come of our indulging; the prohibition is needless, unreasonable, and unkind; it is not based on any genuine desire for our welfare. This fence that shuts us out from knowing good and evil is erected by a timorous asceticism, by a ridiculous misconception of what truly enlarges human nature; it shuts us into a poor narrow life. And thus suspicions of God’s perfect wisdom and goodness find entrance; we begin to think we know better than He what is good for us, and can contrive a richer, happier life than He has provided for us. Our loyalty to Him is loosened, and already we have lost hold of His strength and are launched on the current that leads to sin, misery, and shame. When we find ourselves saying Yes, where God has said No; when we see desirable things where God has said there is death; when we allow distrust of Him to rankle in our mind, when we chafe against the restrictions under which we live and seek liberty by breaking down the fence instead of by delighting in God, we are on the highway to all evil.

(4) If we know our own history we cannot be surprised to read that one taste of evil ruined our first parents. It is so always. The one taste alters our attitude towards God and conscience and life. It is a veritable Circe’s cup. The actual experience of sin is like the one taste of alcohol to a reclaimed drunkard, like the first taste of blood to a young tiger, it calls out the latent devil and creates a new nature within us. At one brush it wipes out all the peace, and joy, and self-respect, and boldness of innocence, and numbers us among the transgressors, among the shame-faced, and self-despising, and hopeless. It leaves us possessed with unhappy thoughts which lead us away from what is bright, and honourable, and good, and like the letting out of water it seems to have tapped a spring of evil within us. It is but one step, but it is like the step over a precipice or down the shaft of a mine; it cannot be taken back, it commits to an altogether different state of things.

(5) The first result of sin is shame. The form in which the knowledge of good and evil comes to us is the knowing we are naked, the consciousness that we are stripped of all that made us walk unabashed before God and men. The promise of the serpent while broken in the sense is fulfilled to the ear; the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened and they knew that they were naked. Self-reflection begins, and the first movement of conscience produces shame. Had they resisted temptation, conscience would have been born, but not in self-condemnation. Like children they had hitherto been conscious only of what was external to themselves, but now their consciousness of a power to choose good and evil is awakened and its first exercise is accompanied with shame. They feel that in themselves they are faulty, that they are not in themselves complete; that though created by God, they are not fit for His eye. The lower animals wear no clothes because they have no knowledge of good and evil; children feel no need of covering because as yet self-consciousness is latent, and their conduct is determined for them; those who are re-made in the image of God and glorified as Christ is, cannot be thought of as clothed, for in them there is no sense of sin. But Adam’s clothing himself and hiding himself were the helpless attempts of a guilty conscience to evade the judgment of truth.

(6) But when Adam found he was no longer fit for God’s eye, God provided a covering which might enable him again to live in His presence without dismay. Man had exhausted his own ingenuity and resources, and exhausted them without finding relief to his shame. If his shame was to be effectually removed, God must do it. And the clothing in coats of skins indicates the restoration of man, not indeed to pristine innocence, but to peace with God. Adam felt that God did not wish to banish him lastingly from His presence, nor to see him always a trembling and confused penitent. The self-respect and progressiveness, the reverence for law and order and God, which came in with clothes, and which we associate with the civilised races, were accepted as tokens that God was desirous to cooperate with man, to forward and further him in all good.

It is also to be remarked that the clothing which God provided was in itself different from what man had thought of. Adam took leaves from an inanimate, unfeeling tree; God deprived an animal of life, that the shame of His creature might be relieved. This was the last thing Adam would have thought of doing. To us life is cheap and death familiar, but Adam recognised death as the punishment of sin. Death was to early man a sign of God’s anger. And he had to learn that sin could be covered not by a bunch of leaves snatched from a bush as he passed by and that would grow again next year, but only by pain and blood. Sin cannot be atoned for by any mechanical action nor without expenditure of feeling. Suffering must ever follow wrongdoing. From the first sin to the last, the track of the sinner is marked with blood. Once we have sinned we cannot regain permanent peace of conscience save through pain, and this not only pain of our own. The first hint of this was given as soon as conscience was aroused in man. It was made apparent that sin was a real and deep evil, and that by no easy and cheap process could the sinner be restored. The same lesson has been written on millions of consciences since. Men have found that their sin reaches beyond their own life and person, that it inflicts injury and involves disturbance and distress, that it changes utterly our relation to life and to God, and that we cannot rise above its consequences save by the intervention of God Himself, by an intervention which tells us of the sorrow He suffers on our account.

For the chief point is that it is God who relieves man’s shame. Until we are certified that God desires our peace of mind we cannot be at peace. The cross of Christ is the permanent witness to this desire on God’s part. No one can read what Christ has done for us without feeling sure that for himself there is a way back to God from all sin-that it is God’s desire that his sin should be covered, his iniquity forgiven. Too often that which seems of prime importance to God seems of very slight importance to us. To have our life founded solidly in harmony with the Supreme seems often to excite no desire within us. It is about sin we find man first dealing with God, and until you have satisfied God and yourself regarding this prime and fundamental matter of your own transgression and wrong-doing you look in vain for any deep and lasting growth and satisfaction. Have you no reason to be ashamed before God? Have you loved Him in any proportion to His worthiness to be loved? Have you cordially and habitually fallen in with His will? Have you zealously done His work in the world? Have you fallen short of no good He intended you should do and gave you opportunity to do? Is there no reason for shame on your part before God? Has His desire to cover sin no application to you? Can you not understand His meaning when He comes to you with offers of pardon and acts of oblivion? Surely the candid mind, the clear-judging conscience can be at no loss to explain God’s solicitous concern for the sinner; and must humbly own that even that unfathomable Divine emotion which is exhibited in the cross of Christ, is no exaggerated and theatrical demonstration, but the actual carrying through of what was really needed for the restoration of the sinner. Do not live as if the cross of Christ had never been, or as if you had never sinned and had no connection with it. Strive to learn what it means; strive to deal fairly with it and fairly with your own transgressions and with your present actual relation to God and His will.


Verse 7

Genesis 3:7

The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked

The dawn of guilt

I.
A CONSCIOUS LOSS OF RECTITUDE. Moral nudity (Revelation 3:17).

1. They deeply felt it.

2. They sought to conceal it.

II. AN ALARMING DREAD OF GOD.

1. This was unnatural.

2. Irrational.

3. Fruitless. God found Adam out.

III. A MISERABLE SUBTERFUGE FOR SIN. The transferring of our own blame to others has ever marked the history of sin. Some plead circumstance, some their organization, and some the conduct of others. (Homilist.)

The fruits of the temptation

I. They suffered together. The immediate effects of their act of disobedience were of a sense of shame--“the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7); and a dread of judgment--“Adam and his wife hid themselves,” through fear, as Adam afterwards admits--“I was afraid” (Genesis 3:8; Genesis 3:10). They were ashamed, then, and they were afraid. This was the fulfilment of the threatening--“Thou shalt surely die--dying, thou shalt die.” There was present death felt, and future death feared. And as shame and fear drive them away from God, so, when they are brought into His presence, the same feelings still prevail, and prompt the last desperate expedient, of deceit or guile, which marks the extent of their subjection to bondage, the bondage of corruption. They do not deny, but they palliate, and extenuate, their sin. The attempt to excuse their sin only proves how helplessly they are debased by it, as the slaves of a hard master, who, having them now at a disadvantage, through their forfeiture of the free favour of God, presses unrelentingly upon them, and compels them to be as false and as unscrupulous as himself. Shame, therefore, fear, and falsehood, are the bitter fruits of sin. Guilt is felt; death is dreaded; guile is practised. The consciousness of crime begets terror; for “the wicked flee when no one pursueth.” How degrading is the bondage of sin! How entirely does it destroy all truth in the inward parts! The sinner, once yielding to the tempter, is at his mercy, and having lost his hold of the truth of God, he is but too glad, for his relief from despair, to believe and to plead the lies of the devil.

II. God, however, has a better way. He has thoughts of love towards the guilty parents of our race. For the sentence which He goes on to pronounce, when He has called them before Him, is not such as they might have expected. It is not retributive, but remedial, and in all its parts it is fitted exactly to meet their case.

1. In the first place, their complaint against the serpent is instantly attended to. He is judged and condemned.

2. Having disposed of the serpent, the sentence proceeds, secondly, to deal with his victims more directly, and announces both to the woman and to the man a period of forbearance and long suffering on the part of God. Their fear is, in so far, postponed. The woman is still to bear children, the man is still to find food. But there are these four tokens of the doom they feared still abiding on them:

III. And now, Satan being put aside, who, as the father of lies, prompted guile, and death being postponed, so as to give hope instead of fear, the sentence goes on to provide for the removal of the shame which sin had caused: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Observations

I. MAN CAN DISCERN NOTHING BUT WHAT AND WHEN, AND HOW FAR GOD IS PLEASED TO DISCOVER IT UNTO HIM.

II. IT IS A GREAT FOLLY IN MEN NOT TO FORESEE EVIL BEFORE IT BE TOO LATE TO HELP IT. Wise men beforehand see a plague and prevent it Proverbs 22:3), and hearken for time to come (Isaiah 42:23), and indeed for this special end was wisdom given, that men having their eyes in their head (Ecclesiastes it. 14) they might foresee both good and evil to come, that they might lay hold on the one while it may be had, and avoid and prevent the other before it comes. As for after-wisdom, it is of no use but to increase our misery, by looking back upon our misery when it is too late to help it.

III. SATAN NEVER DISCOVERS ANYTHING UNTO US, BUT TO DO MISCHIEF. Thus he shows us the baits of sin to allure us; as he did to our Saviour Christ the glory of all the kingdoms of the earth, to entice Him to fall down and worship him (Matthew 4:8). Thus he discovers the means of affecting what our inordinate lusts move us unto, to encourage us to sin, as by Jonadab he showed Ammon the means how he might satisfy his lust upon his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:5), and by Jezebel to Ahab the means of getting Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:7), and if he shows the foulness of sin, after it is acted, it is to drive men, if possibly he can, into despair, when the case is desperate.

IV. EVEN THOSE WHICH DISCOVER NOT BEFOREHAND THE EVILS WHICH THE ERRORS OF THEIR WAYS LEAD THEM INTO, YET THEY SHALL SEE IN THE END, AND FEEL TOO THE MISERY INTO WHICH THEY BRING THEM.

V. SIN IS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOST EXCELLENT AND GLORIOUS OF GOD’S CREATURES VILE AND SHAMEFUL.

1. It defaces the image of God in them, which especially consists in righteousness (Ephesians 4:24), which sin perverts (Job 33:27).

2. It separates a man from God (as all sin doth, Isaiah 59:2) who is our Isaiah 60:19; Isaiah 28:5).

3. It disorders all the faculties of the soul, and parts of the body, and consequently all the motions and actions that flow from them, and subjects us to our own base lusts and vile affections, to do things that are not comely (Romans 1:4; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28).

VI. MEN ARE MORE APT TO BE SENSIBLE OF, AND TO BE MORE AFFECTED WITH THE OUTWARD EVILS THAT SIN BRINGS UPON THEM, THAN WITH THE SIN THAT CAUSETH THEM.

VII. GARMENTS ARE BUT THE COVERS OF OUR SHAME.

1. The first occasion of the use of clothing was to cover our shame.

2. The materials of it are things much baser than ourselves, in just estimation.

3. The apparel at the least doth but grace the body, but adorns not the soul at all, which is the only part wherein man is truly honourable.

4. And the outward person they commend also, only to men of vain minds, but to no wise or sober man.

5. And withal, do more discover the vanity of our minds than they cover the shame of our bodies.

VIII. MOST OF OUR NECESSITIES ARE BROUGHT UPON US BY SIN.

IX. WHEN MEN ARE ONCE FALLEN OFF FROM GOD, THEIR NATURE THEREBY CORRUPTED, CARRIES THEM STRONGLY FORWARDS TO SEEK HELP FROM THE CREATURE.

1. They Ere wholly carnal and sensual in their dispositions, and therefore easily carried after sensual and carnal things.

2. They cannot but be enemies to God, from whom they are driven away by the guiltiness of their own consciences, as having no cause to depend on Him whose yoke they have cast off, and therefore have ground to expect no help from Him, to whom they resolve to do no service.

3. And they are by the just judgment of God delivered over to abase themselves to vile things far below them.. selves, because they have not advanced God, nor glorified Him as God, as they ought.

X. SIN BESETS MEN AND MAKES THEM FOOLS.

XI. ALL THE CARE THAT MEN TAKE, IS USUALLY RATHER TO HIDE THEIR SIN THAN TO TAKE IT AWAY.

XII. ALL SATAN’S FAIR PROMISE, PROVE IN THE EVENT NOTHING ELSE BUT LIES AND MERE DELUSIONS. (J. White, M. A.)

Sin known by its fruit

The real nature of sin, its disgrace and misery and ruin, are never fully known till it has been committed. The tempter veils it in a false and delusive garb, which can never be entirely stripped off but by actual experience. As a matter of assurance, Adam and Eve knew beforehand the miserable consequences of their breach of the Divine command: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” They could, therefore, have no possible reason to doubt on this point; the terrible result lay open before them; perhaps revealed in many more particulars than are recorded, for the history of this eventful period is exceedingly short; yet still nothing was known, or could be known, of the awful reality, till it was felt in the stricken heart, till the accursed step had been taken, and the wretched working stood confessed in all the blight and agony. And in similar ways he continues to deceive mankind: every temptation to evil is an instrument in his hand, promising by its appearance, or else in our imagination, some pleasure or some gain: this is the whisper of the same great adversary of souls, this a reflection of his deceitful image. Let us now seek, in the spirit of humility, to learn and apply the moral lesson of the text; which teaches us the direful consequences of sin, the evils with which it makes us acquainted, as the foretaste and assurance of the dreadful end to which it infallibly leads. It was not till the commission of their sin, but it was instantly after, that the eyes of our parents were opened; that the evils of guilt and disobedience flashed upon them in all their terribleness and extent. Their conscience was immediately smitten: new thoughts entered their minds, new and painful feelings arose instantly in their bosom: there was in them a sense of disgrace and degradation; love and confidence were gone, and shame had taken possession, and fear and trembling. We must all have felt, on manifold occasions, the sudden and painful effects of sin; the sharp convictions, the uneasiness and wretchedness, and not seldom the injury thereby inflicted upon us; the disgrace attending it when brought to light; our altered position in the esteem of men, nay, even in our own esteem. How often has the fairest character been blasted by only one transgression! and the humbled offender suddenly brought to perceive the truth of all the denunciations and threatenings against sin; what would he not give to retrace that one step, to recall that one word, to undo that one miserable deed? How sad and complete was his folly! How could he have been thus deceived and betrayed? What shame, what indignation, what grief, what abasement, what violent self-accusation, yea, what astonishment is raised within him! That he, a man of reason, a man of faith, a man of religious profession, one of the people of God, should have flung such discredit upon the whole cause, should have so sinned against the majesty and holiness, the goodness and long suffering of the Lord; should have admitted such corruption into that body which Christ has redeemed, which was made one with Christ, should thus have disordered and dishonoured and endangered his soul. I say, how many a servant of God has been distressed by such feelings and sentiments; sometimes hurried into wretchedness, lowered to the dust! I speak not of the hardened and abandoned sinner: of those whose consciences are, as the apostle describes it, “seared with a hot iron”: when the mind and affections have grown long familiar with vice and iniquity, and have become inured to its effects, we must expect the feeling to be blunted, the moral eye to be judicially closed: the Spirit of God, which keeps alive the conscience, withdraws from the bosom of the determined offender, leaves it ordinarily incapable of emotion: I say ordinarily, because there are seasons, when even the vilest transgressors are suddenly roused and awakened to a sense of guilt and ruin; led, like the prodigal, to look back upon the happiness they have lost; and mourn, after a godly sort, over their evil and perishing condition. But this is a conviction not to be trusted to, often appearing too late: bringing disturbance and distress, but no comfort, no living hope of salvation. How blessed are they, whose conscience is quickly moved and opened to the perception of evil: there is a hope of their speedy recovery; no one, who is truly alive to the wretchedness of sin, can be content to abide in it: it is every way hateful and distressful, as well as dangerous, to the soul that is humbled under a sense of it: and the consciousness and sorrow and vexation of spirit frequently, as in the case of our first parents, follow the offence in rapid succession, and the heart is overwhelmed. (J. Slade, M. A.)

Sad results of the Fall

The Fall of man was most disastrous in its results to our entire being. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” was no idle threat; for Adam did die the moment that he transgressed the command--he died the great spiritual death by which all his spiritual powers became then and evermore, until God should restore them, absolutely dead. I said all the spiritual powers, and if I divide them after the analogy of the senses of the body, my meaning will be still more clear. Through the Fall, the spiritual taste of man became perverted, so that he puts bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; he chooses the poison of hell and loathes the bread of heaven; he licks the dust of the serpent and rejects the food of angels. The spiritual hearing became grievously injured, for man naturally no longer hears God’s Word, but stops his ears at his Maker’s voice. Let the gospel minister charm never so wisely, yet is the unconverted soul like the deaf adder, which hears not the charmer’s voice. The spiritual feeling, by virtue of our depravity, is fearfully deadened. That which would once have filled the man with alarm and terror no longer excites emotion. Whether the thunders of Sinai or the turtle notes of Calvary claim his attention, man is resolutely deaf to both. Even the spiritual smell with which man should discern between that which is pure and holy and that which is unsavoury to the Most High has become defiled, and now man’s spiritual nostril, while unrenewed, derives no enjoyment from the sweet savour which is in Jesus Christ, but seeks after the putrid joys of sin. As with other senses, so is it with man’s sight. He is so spiritually blind, that things most plain and clear he cannot and will not see. The understanding, which is the soul’s eye, is covered with scales of ignorance, and when these are removed by the finger of instruction, the visual orb is still so affected that it only sees men as trees walking. Our condition is thus most terrible, but at the same time it affords ample room for a display of the splendours of Divine grace. Dear friends, we are naturally so entirely ruined, that if saved the whole work must be of God, and the whole glory must crown the head of the Triune Jehovah. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The effects of the Fall

I. The effects of the Fall may be arranged under three divisions: the loss of God’s special gifts; the corruption of man’s own nature; and his new position of guiltiness in the sight of God. And for our present purpose it will be most convenient to consider these now under two heads--the internal, which will cover the first and second; and the external, which corresponds to the third.

1. Viewed internally then, the effects of the Fall must be regarded as two fold. The one was negative--the immediate loss of that original righteousness which we have learnt to connect immediately with God’s supernatural gift of grace. The other was positive--the wound, which struck instantly to the very heart of man’s nature, carried poison along with it, which tainted all that nature with immediate corruption. The will had rebelled, therefore the channel of God’s grace was closed. So much was negative. But within that cast off and isolated will there lurked a prolific power of fatal mischief, which immediately burst forth into positive evil. Hence sprung at once that “concupiscence and lust” which “hath of itself the nature of sin”; hence “the flesh” learnt immediately to lust against “the spirit”; hence came “the sin” that reigns in our mortal bodies; hence that other “law in our members,” which wars against the law of our minds.

2. But all this evil was man’s own work. It was man himself who closed the door of grace. It was man himself who severed his will from his only safeguard, by withdrawing it from dependence upon God. It was man himself who thus introduced rebellion into his nature, who caused this outburst of trouble and confusion in his heart. We must look to another quarter for the penalty which God imposed. And this is the external aspect, which, as I have said, demands a separate consideration. Man no sooner fell than he recognized the immediate certainty of punishment, and fruitlessly strove to conceal himself from the vengeance of his offended Creator. So weak and worthless was his new-found knowledge. It told him how he might hide his shame on earth; it could not aid him when he wished to escape the wrath of God. God’s sentence may be briefly said to involve three different judgments; the first to toil and sorrow; the second to exile; and the third, which completes them, to death.

II. Let us pass then to that closing portion of our subject--the extension of the sin of Adam to ourselves, in connection with the doctrine of the Atonement of our Lord. (Archdeacon Hannah.)

Lessons

1. Yielding to Satan and suffering in evil are the twins of the same day.

2. Man and woman are equal in vengeance as well as sin.

3. Sin blinds to good, but opens mind and sight to experience evil.

4. Sin makes men very knowing in misery; wise to see their fall from heaven to hell.

5. Sin strips stark naked of spiritual and bodily good, and makes sensible of nothing but shame.

6. Sin is ashamed of itself, and seeks a covering.

7. Sin is very foolish in patching a veil or covering to hide from God--Leaves (Genesis 3:7).

8. The voice of God pursueth sinners after guilt; sometimes inward and outward.

9. God hath His fit time to visit sinners.

10. God walks sometimes in wind and storms to find out the guilty.

11. Conscience hears and trembles at God’s voice pursuing.

12. The face of the Lord God, which is life to His, is terrible to the guilty.

13. Sin persuades souls as if it were possible to hide from God.

14. All carnal shifts will sin make to shun God’s sight; if leaves do not, then trees must closet them (Genesis 3:8). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Opened eyes

What an opening of the eyes was this, my brethren! What disclosures followed! How much is contained in these few words, “The eyes of them both were opened”! Various are the circumstances under which men may open their eyes. After a dark, dreary, stormy night, the eyes may be opened to behold the dawn of a fine day, and the heart may be gladdened by the bright rays of the sun gilding the chambers of the east and restoring warmth and comfort to all around. After a night of pain and weariness on a bed of sickness, the eyes of the sufferer from a gentle slumber may be opened to a sense of relief at the return of light with respite from suffering. After a tedious and dangerous sea voyage, the eyes may be opened some morning to behold with joy the desired port at hand. Under these and a thousand such-like circumstances the eyes of a man may be opened with emotions of various kinds; but no case that we can imagine can be a parallel with the one now before us--even the condition of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, immediately after their fatal disobedience, when, yielding to the wiles of Satan, they ate of the forbidden fruit, and proved the truth of the Divine warning and declaration. The eyes of them both were opened to see the snare which had been artfully spread for them, and in which they had been caught; and what did they see? They saw misery before them; horror and dismay attended the sight, and their discovery was accompanied with the most galling bitterness. For all men are naturally more ashamed of being detected in sin than of committing it; and more desirous of keeping up a good opinion of themselves than of obtaining pardon from God, though they can hide nothing from Him, and can neither elude His justice nor recover His favour by any device or contrivance of their own. What a discovery must Adam and Eve have made when their eyes were opened! How appalling the conviction of their condition! They were fallen, degraded creatures; no longer holy, pure, innocent, perfect, but unholy, defiled, guilty, depraved. They recognized sin in themselves, they felt it: and although they vainly attempted to excuse it, yet they denied it not. They were fallen beings; guilt lay upon them, the anger of God pressed hard on them; their expectations were disappointed; instead of delicious enjoyment, they had bitterness to reward their pains; and although natural death did not instantly take place, the prospect of it was set before them, hung over them in suspense, and spiritual death was theirs. In this sad state we are all born, children of wrath, slaves of Satan, enemies to God, and by nature we are not sensible of it. Adam and Eve felt their change instantly; they had known innocence and happiness; they perceived at once the difference occasioned by guilt and misery. But we by nature are not sensible of our guilt and danger; our eyes are not open to behold our wretchedness: and hence we are not disposed to flee to that Refuge promised to Adam, and fulfilled and set before us in Christ Jesus. Like the church of the Laodiceans, we are disposed to say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Our eyes must be opened to a sense of our danger and guilt; we must see spiritual things in a spiritual light; and then we shall not only see our guilt and danger, but the mercy, goodness, and love of God in stretching out an arm of salvation, and raising up a Saviour in the person of Jesus Christ. Having drawn your attention to man’s wretchedness, and the cause of it, I must now invite you to consider the remedy provided for it, and freely set before us in the gospel. This St. Paul sets forth very forcibly (Romans 5:1-21): “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”; “therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” The “Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (T. R. Redwar.)

The covering of fig leaves

This one act, this one feeling, was, above all things, expressive of the fall of the whole condition of man as he now is; it is the sense of something within which we wish to hide. For it has been said that there is no man who would not rather die than that all which he knows of himself should be known to the world. It is the want of a covering which we so deeply and thoroughly feel. Our souls must needs dwell apart, isolated in this their own consciousness of ill. So that when we turn for sympathy to each other, yet language conceals as much as it expresses; and when we turn to God, our prayers immediately take the form of confession, though it be but to confess what we know that He knows; yet it is expressive of a burden which we feel, and which we most of all wish to get rid of; and in turning to Him our feeling is, “Thou art a place to hide me in”: “Thou shalt hide me by Thine own Presence.” “Hide me,”--but from what? Not from other men only, but from ourselves. And what are the pursuits of busy life, but to hide from ourselves this our internal want and shame? “Thou sayest I am rich, and knowest not that thou art miserable, and blind, and naked.” And what is the great dread of death? It is chiefly connected with this divesting and stripping off of all disguises, and going naked into the land of spirits. “For in this, our earthly house, we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon”; “if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.” Hence the glory of the redeemed is to be “clothed”--to be “clothed in white raiment before the throne,” and to “walk with Christ in white.” The law of nature has become hallowed into the law of grace. “Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked.” Our great care is that we be not “found naked.” The judgment and condemnation is, “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered.” Further, another expression here in the text is remarkable and emphatic--“made for themselves”; “made for themselves,” in distinction from the covering of God. It is fruitless, and worse, to strive to hide ourselves from ourselves and God. “Woe unto him, saith the Lord, that cover with a covering, but not of My spirit.” It is in this our great want He has visited us: “When thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee”; under the sense of sin I succoured thee, and “thou shalt see greater things than these.” His comings to us are called Epiphanies and Manifestations, as dissipating all vain disguises of the soul. It is said, “He will destroy the face of the covering east over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” He unclothes us, that we may be clothed upon by Himself, “that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (I. Williams, B. D.)

The terrible disease introduced by the Fall

Sin had, like a snake from hell, crossed over and darkened human nature. A disease had appeared on earth of the most frightful and inveterate kind, moral in its nature, destined to be universal in its prevalence, deep seated in its roots, varied in its aspects, hereditary in its descent, defying all cures save one, and issuing where that one cure was not sought for or applied--in everlasting death.

1. The disease was a moral disease. This grand disease of sin combines all the evil qualities of bodily distempers in a figurative yet real form--the continual fretting heat of fever, the loathsomeness of smallpox, the fierce torments of inflammation, and the lingering decay of consumption, and infects with something akin to these diseases, not the material, but the immaterial part, and turns not the body but the soul into such a mass of malady that from the “crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in us; nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.”

2. Again, the disease introduced by the sin of Adam is universal in its ravages. It has infected not only all Adam’s sons and daughters, but all of them in almost every moment of their existence. Their very dreams are infected with this distemper. The boa constrictor binds only the outer part of the body of its victim, although he binds it all; but the serpent of sin has seized on and knitted together individual man--body, soul, and spirit--and even collective man, into a knot of selfish, malignant, mortal distemperatures. The entire being is encrusted with this leprosy.

3. Again, the disease introduced by man’s first disobedience is deep seated in its roots. It is in the very centre of the system, and infects all the springs of life. It makes us cold, and dead, and languid, in the pursuit of the things that are good. It, in fine, pollutes the fountain of the heart, and turns it into a “cistern for foul toads,” instead of being a sweet and salubrious source of living waters.

4. Again, this disease is a hereditary disease. It is within us as early as existence; it descends from parent to child more faithfully than the family features, or disposition, or intellect. As the tree in the seed, so lies the future iniquity of the man in the child, and in this sense “the boy is father of the man.” And even as letters are sometimes traced in milk on white paper, and are only legible when placed before the fire, so the evil principles in man’s heart are often not disclosed till they are exposed to the flame of temptation, and then they come forth in black prominency and terrible distinctness.

5. Again, this is a disease which assumes various forms and aspects. Its varieties are as numerous as the varieties of man and of sinner. Each particular sin is a new species of this disorder. It has one aspect in the ambitious man who sacrifices millions in his thirst for renown. It has another in the petty tyrant of a village or factory. It has one aspect in the openly profane, and another in the hypocrite and secret sinner.

6. Again, this is a disease which defies all human means of cure. Many attempts, indeed, have been made to check its ravages and abate its power. Empires innumerable have stood up, each with his several nostrum in his hand as an infallible remedy for the evil; all differing from each other as to the nature of the grand specific, but all agreeing in this, that they offer a cure apart from the help of God. When we think of the enormous number of remedies which have been proposed, and are still being proposed, to effect the cure of the world, we seem standing in an immense laboratory, where, however, there are more labels than medicines; where even the medicines are, in general, exploded or powerless, and where we miss the true and sovereign remedy, the “Balm of Gilead.” Yes, that bloody Balm, and balmy Blood, as it was in the beginning, two thousand years ago, is still the one thing that can effectually mitigate the evil of the disease of sin, as well as the only remedy that has the authoritative stamp of God.

7. We remark, again, that this disease, if not cured, will terminate in everlasting death and destruction from the presence of the Lord. And what a termination this must be! If men are at all moved by regarding this world as a vast bed of disease, they must surely be moved immensely more when they look to the next as a vast bed of death. (G. Gilfillan.)

Open eyes

Some time ago passengers in the streets of Paris were attracted to the figure of a woman on the parapet of a roof in that city. She had fallen asleep in the afternoon, and under the influence of somnambulism had stepped out of an open window on to the edge of the house. There she was walking to and fro to the horror of the gazers below, who expected every moment to witness a false step and terrible fall. They dared not shout, lest by awakening her inopportunely they should be only hastening on the inevitable calamity. But this came soon enough; for moving, as somnambulists do, with eyes open, the reflection of a lamp lit in an opposite window by an artisan engaged in some mechanical operation, all unconscious of what was going on outside, aroused her from sleep. The moment her eyes were opened to discover the perilous position in which she had placed herself, she tottered, fell, and was dashed below. Such is the sleep of sin; it places the soul on the precipice of peril, and when the spell is broken it leaves the sinner to fall headlong into the gulf of woe. (W. Adamson.)

Men covering their sins with specious pretences reproved

As when Adam had tasted of the forbidden fruit, he espied his own nakedness, poverty, and how that he was miserably fallen, for remedy whereof he went about to hide it with fig leaves, and so shroud himself amongst the trees of the garden, so it is that too, too many of Adam’s sons now living go about to cloak their sins with the fig leaves of their foolish inventions, and to hide their treacherous designs in the thicket of their wicked imaginations, covering their vices with the cloak of virtue. And hence it comes to pass that murder is accounted manhood; pride looked on as decency; covetousness as frugality; drunkenness as good fellowship, etc. (J. Spencer.)

Opened eyes

Wonderful in its depth of meaning is this expression, “the eyes of them both were opened”! They saw before; no new organs of vision were created; yet they saw what they had never seen, as we ourselves have done. Temptation blinds us, guilt opens our eyes; temptation is night, guilt is morning. In guilt we see ourselves, we see our hideousness, we see our baseness: we see hell! “Their eyes were opened,” and they saw that their character was gone! You can throw away a character in one act, as you throw away a stone. Can you go after it and recover it? Never! You may get something back by penitence and strife, but not the holy thing exactly as it was. A stone that is thrown along the road you may recover, but a stone thrown at night time into the sea who can get back again! (J. Parker, D. D.)

Clothes

“They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” And this we have been doing ever since! We try to replace nature by art. When we have lost the garment sent from heaven we try to replace it with one woven from earth. But our deformity shows through the finest robe! The robe may be ample, brilliant, luxurious, but the cripple shows through its gorgeous folds. Ever since this fig-leaf sewing, life has become a question of clothes. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A sense of shame is not natural to man

A sense of shame either in regard to soul or body is not natural. It does not belong to the unfallen. It is the fruit of sin. The sinner’s first feeling is, “I am not fit for God, or man, or angels to look upon.” Hence the essence of confession is, being ashamed of ourselves. We are made to feel two things; first, a sense of condemnation; and secondly, a sense of shame; we are unfit to receive God’s favour, and unfit to appear in His presence. Hence Job said, “I am vile”; and hence Ezra said, “I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God” (Ezra 9:6). Hence also Jeremiah describes the stout-hearted Jews, “They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” Jeremiah 6:15). Hence Solomon’s reference to the “impudent face” of the strange woman (Proverbs 7:13), and Jeremiah’s description of Israel, “Thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusest to be ashamed” Jeremiah 3:3). It was the shame of our sin that Christ bore upon the cross; and therefore it is said of Him that He “despised the shame.” It was laid upon Him, and He shrank not from it. He felt it, yet He hid not His face from it. He was the well-beloved of the Father, yet He hung upon the tree as one unfit for God to look upon; fit only to be cast out from His presence. He took our place of shame that we might be permitted to take His place of honour. In giving credit to God’s record concerning Him we are identified with Him as our representative; our shame passes over to Him, and His glory becomes ours forever. It was this sense of shame that led Adam and Eve to have recourse to fig leaves for a covering. What is it but this same consciousness of shame that leads men to resort to ornaments? These are intended by them to compensate for the shame or the deformity under which men are lying. They feel that shame belongs to them; nay, confusion of face. They feel that they are not now “perfect in beauty,” as once they were. Hence they resort to ornament in order to make up for this. They deck themselves with jewels that their deformity may be turned into beauty. But there is danger here--danger against which the apostle warns us, specially the female sex (1 Peter 3:3-4). There is nothing, indeed, innately sinful in the gold, or the silver, or the gems which have been wrought by the skill of men into such forms of brightness. But in our present state they do not suit us. They are unmeet for sinners. They speak of pride, and they also minister to pride. They are for the kingdom, not for the desert. They are for the city of the glorified, not for the tent of the stranger. They will come in due time, and they will be brilliant enough to compensate for the shame of earth. But we cannot be trusted with them now. (H. Bonar, D. D.)


Verse 8

Genesis 3:8

They heard the voice of the Lord God

God’s voice in nature

Whether their ears as well as their hearts heard God’s voice does not much matter.
It would have mattered if their ears and not their hearts had heard. They doubtless often heard Him in the evening hour--the twilight which all the faiths of all cultivated nations have chosen as their special season of devotion. When they heard, and when men now hear God’s voice in garden, meadow, wood, of what does it tell?

I. OF GOD’S PRESENCE. Nature is a kingdom, in which the King resides as well as reigns: a house in which the Father dwells as well as which He supports.

II. OF GOD’S POWER AND WISDOM.

III. OF GOD’S BOUNTY AND LOVE. Profusion of life.

IV. OF MAN’S MORTALITY. Nature is a sepulchre as well as a shrine.

V. OF MAN’S RETRIBUTION FOR BROKEN LAW. (Urijah R. Thomas.)

Observations

I. IF MEN WILL NOT DRAW NEAR UNTO GOD, YET HE WILL FIND THEM OUT IN THEIR SINS, AND BRING THEM INTO JUDGMENT BEFORE HIM. Let all those that have sinned come and prepare to meet their God (Amos 4:12), who can neither be blinded not escaped, nor resisted, that they may take hold of His strength to make peace with Him, considering--

1. That it is more credit to come in voluntarily than to be drawn in by force.

2. A readier way to obtain pardon, as Benhadad’s lords found by experience (1 Kings 20:32), and David much more in submitting unto Psalms 32:5).

3. If we come not in voluntarily, God will bring us in by force, which will be worse for us every way.

II. GOD, WHO HATH ALL THE WRONG WHEN HE IS PROVOKED BY OUR SINS, IS THE FIRST THAT SEEKS TO MAKE PEACE WITH US.

1. He allures us by His mercies, as He promised to deal with His people Hosea 2:14-15).

2. By the inward and secret persuasions of His Spirit, in giving them hearts to return (Zechariah 12:12).

3. By the effectual ministry of the gospel, wherein He doth not only offer unto us, but persuade and beseech us to embrace those terms of peace which He offers, as the apostle speaks (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The reason is--

1. Necessity, seeing we cannot turn our hearts unto Him unless He draws John 6:44), which moves the Church to pray, “Turn us, and weshall be turned” (Jeremiah 31:18).

2. The fitness of this way, to advance the free mercy of God the more, that all men’s boasting may be taken away (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that he that rejoiceth may rejoice in God alone (1 Corinthians 1:31), who, as He loves us first, so He seeks us first (Isaiah 61:1), and recovers us oftwhen we go astray.

III. GOD, WHEN HE DEALS WITH MEN, DELIGHTS TO BE HEARKENED UNTO WITH REVERENCE AND FEAR.

IV. GOD, IN REPRESENTING HIS MAJESTY TO MEN, SO DEALS WITH THEM THAT HE MAY HUMBLE BUT NOT CONFOUND THEM.

1. In dispensing His Word by the ministry of men (and not of angels, whose presence might affright us), and that, too, in such a manner, that whereas it is in itself like a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29), mighty inoperation through God, sharper than any two-edged sword (2 Corinthians 10:5), able, if it were set on by the strength of His hand, to break the heart in pieces, yet is so tempered in the dispensation thereof, by men like unto ourselves, and therefore sensible by experience of human infirmities, that it only pricks the heart (Acts 2:27), but cuts it not in pieces.

2. In the terrors of conscience, which being in themselves unsupportable Proverbs 18:14), yet are so moderated unto us, that though we be perplexed, we are not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8), burned but yet not consumed, like Moses’ bush (Exodus 2:2), walking safely in the flames of fire with the three children (Daniel 3:25).

3. In afflictions, which God lays on us in such a measure proportioned to our strength (1 Corinthians 10:13) that they only purge us, but do not destroy us (Isaiah 27:8-9).

V. GOD MANY TIMES CALLS MEN TO ACCOUNT, AND PROCEEDS IN JUDGMENT AGAINST THEM IN THE MIDST OF THEIR DELIGHTS.

VI. IT IS VERY NEEDFUL TO OBSERVE A FIT SEASON IN DEALING WITH OFFENDERS AFTER THEY HAVE SINNED. VII. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS TERRIBLE TO A SINNER.

1. Behold, then, the miserable condition into which sin hath brought us, which hath changed our greatest desire (Psalms 42:2), and joy (16:11), and content (17:15), into the greatest terror, especially unto the wicked, who neither can fly from God’s presence (139:7) nor endure His revenging hand.

2. Behold the comfort of a good conscience, wherein we may behold the face of God with comfort and confidence (1 John 3:21); but not in ourselves, but in the name of Jesus Christ, who hath by His mediation established with us a covenant of peace between God and us (Romans 5:1) and purchased unto us access with boldness to the throne of grace Hebrews 4:16), so that we can not only rejoice at present in God’s presence with us in His ordinances, but withal love and long for His appearance, when He shall come in His glory (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20).

VIII. WHEN MEN ARE ONCE FALLEN AWAY FROM GOD, THEY ARE LEFT TO MISERABLE AND UNPROFITABLE SHIFTS.

1. It cannot be otherwise when men are once gone away from God, in whom only is true comfort and safety, and His name a strong tower, which they that run unto are safe, and from whom is the efficacy of all means, which without Him can do neither good nor evil.

2. God, in His just judgment, when men honour Him not as God, deprives them of that wisdom.

IX. MEN ARE NATURALLY APT TO FLY FROM THE MEANS OF THEIR OWN GOOD. The reason is--

1. Men’s ignorance of spiritual things, wherein their true good consists.

2. The wisdom of the flesh being enmity against God: as many as are of the flesh must needs hate Him, and therefore cannot submit unto Him.

3. The ways of attaining true good are by denial of one’s self and all the lusts of the flesh, which is impossible for any man to do, remaining in his natural condition.

X. THE TERRORS OF GOD SHALL FIRST OR LAST SHAKE THE HEARTS OF ALL THOSE THAT DO MOST SLIGHT HIS JUDGMENTS. Indeed, unless God should in this manner deal with the wicked of the world, He should--

1. Suffer His honour to be trampled under foot, and His authority and power despised.

2. Harden the hearts of wicked men in mischief (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

3. There is no fitter judgment, nor more proportionable to the sin, than to punish security and contempt with fear and terror.

XI. A GUILTY CONSCIENCE IS FILLED WITH TERRORS UPON EVERY OCCASION.

XII. WHATSOEVER WE TRULY FEAR WE CANNOT BUT ENDEAVOUR TO FLY FROM AND AVOID.

XIII. THERE IS A WONDERFUL PRONENESS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN TO CONCEIVE OF GOD AS THEY DO OF A MORTAL MAN. (J. White, M. A.)

God’s call to Adam

Our text suggests--

I. MAN’S DEPARTURE FROM GOD. Adam was in a state of--

1. Alienation from God.

2. Fear of Him.

3. Delusion about Him.

4. Danger.

II. GOD’S CONCERN ABOUT MAN’S DEPARTURE. God is concerned about man’s departure from Him, because it involves--

1. Evil; and He is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.”

2. Suffering; and He “is love.”

III. GOD’S PERSONAL DEALING WITH THE WANDERER. (H. J. Martyn.)

The garden of the Lord concealing the Lord of the garden

The garden of the Lord concealed from Adam and Eve the Lord of the garden. God did not turn Adam out of paradise till Adam had turned God out. It is a long lesson to learn to be able to keep the garden of the Lord, and the Lord of the garden both. Adam’s felicities were of an innocent nature, to be sure. There is no blessing so blessed that the unilluminated side of it will not fall off and darken down into a curse. All the planets that dance even about the sun are black on their off side. The better a thing is, the more harm it is capable of doing. The very results yielded by Christianity, in the shape of respectability, and wealth, and power, and culture, and elegant refinements, come in to obscure the root itself out from which they are sprung. It is like a tree shaded and hindered by its own verdure. It is like the sun waking up the mists in the morning; its beams, like so many nimble fingers, weaving a veil to hang across the face of the sun, till it defeats its brightness by its own shining. We become indifferent to the cause in our engrossment with its effects, and the old fact becomes true again, that the garden of the Lord conceals from us the Lord of the garden.

1. One of the trees behind which the face of the Lord becomes hidden from us is the tree of knowledge. We shall mention only two or three of these briefly; but there is propriety in mentioning that first. It is the first historic instance wherein a good thing demonstrated its capacity for mischief. The tree was of God’s planting, to be sure, and knowledge is no doubt good; but from the first the devil has been a learned devil, and has posed as the patron of erudition. That “knowledge puffeth up” was known by Satan before it was stated by Paul. Consciousness of knowledge is more stultifying than ignorance, and is essentially atheistic; atheistic in this sense: that it converts present cognitions into a barrier that blocks the entrance of the heavenly light and thwarts the Holy Ghost. The tree grew in God’s garden; so our schools have been planted and fostered by the Christian Church. Still, the multitudinousness of books, ideas, theories, and philosophies, out into which the schools have blossomed, tends to work that intellectual complacency, and that conceit of knowledge, which blurs every heavenly vision, discredits the wisdom that is from above, and routs the Redeemer. “Not many wise men after the flesh are called.” One single electric light out here on Madison Square extinguishes the stars, and the shining of the low-lying moon snuffs out all the constellations of the firmament. The garden of the Lord grows up at length into such prodigality of leaf and flower as to conceal the Lord of the garden.

2. Another tree behind which the face of the Lord becomes hidden from us is that of affluence. The tree of wealth, verily, like the tree of knowledge, has its best rooting in the soil of paradise. We should no sooner think of speaking a disparaging word of money than we should of knowledge. But as knowledge trails behind it its shadow (as we have seen), so money is regularly attended by its shadow. Money is just as holy a thing in one way as wisdom is in another. But it makes not the slightest difference how holy a thing is, if, like Adam, the Lord is on one side of it and you are on the other. And the more this consciousness of money is developed, the more truly the man becomes encased in a little world that is all his own, and the more impervious to any influences that bear upon him from without. The verdure becomes so thick that the sky gets rubbed out, and the tree so broad and massive that the Lord God shrinks into invisibility behind it.

3. I mention only one other tree in God’s garden, and that is the tree of respectability. More evidently, perhaps, than either of the others, it is the outcome of heavenly soil. The devil of decency is more incorrigible than the devil of dirt. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

No hiding from God

It was said of the Roman empire under the Caesars that the whole world was only one great prison for Caesar, for if any man offended the emperor it was impossible for him to escape. If he crossed the Alps, could not Caesar find him out in Gaul? If he sought to hide himself in the Indies, even the swarthy monarchs there knew the power of the Roman arms, so that they could give no shelter to a man who had incurred imperial vengeance. And yet, perhaps, a fugitive from Rome might have prolonged his miserable life by hiding in the dens and caves of the earth. But, O sinner, there is no hiding from God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sinner shuns God

A burglar, not long ago, rifled an unoccupied dwelling by the seaside. He ransacked the rooms, and heaped his plunder in the parlour. There were evidences that here he sat down to rest. On a bracket in the corner stood a marble bust of Guido’s “Ecce Homo”--Christ crowned with thorns. The guilty man had taken it in his hands and examined it. It bore the marks of his fingers; but he replaced it with its face turned to the wall, as if he would not have even the sightless eyes of the marble Saviour look upon his deeds of infamy. So the first act of the first sinner was to hide himself at the sound of God’s voice. (Professor Phelps.)

A bad conscience embitters comforts

There is no friend so good as a good conscience. There is no foe so ill as a bad conscience. It makes us either kings or slaves. A man that hath a good conscience, it raiseth his heart in a princely manner above all things in the world. A man that hath a bad conscience, though he be a monarch, it makes him a slave. A bad conscience embitters all things in the world to him, though they be never so comfortable in themselves. What is so comfortable as the presence of God? What is so comfortable as the light? Yet a bad conscience, that will not be ruled, it hates the light, and hates the presence of God, as we see Adam, when he had sinned, he fled from God (Genesis 3:8). A bad conscience cannot joy in the midst of joy. It is like a gouty foot, or a gouty toe, covered with a velvet shoe. Alas! what doth ease it? What doth glorious apparel ease the diseased body? Nothing at all. The ill is within. There the arrow sticks. (R. Sibbes.)

The sinner afraid of God

I once met a little boy in Wales, crying bitterly at his father’s door, afraid to go in. I asked him what was the matter. He told me that his mother had sent him out clean in the morning, but that he had got into the water, and made his clothes dirty. So he feared to go in, because his father would punish him. We have soiled our characters by sin, and therefore is it that we fear death--dread the meeting with our Father. (Thomas Jones.)

An ill conscience

An ill conscience is no comfortable companion to carry with thee. An ill conscience is like a thorn in the flesh. A thorn in the hedge may scratch you as you pass by it, but a thorn in the flesh rankles with you wherever you go; and the conscience, the ill conscience, the conscience that is ill at ease, it makes you ill at ease. You cannot have peace so long as you have an evil conscience, so long as there is that continual monition flashing across your mind: Judgment cometh, death cometh--am I ready? Many a time, when you go to your worldly scenes of pleasure, this conscience, like the finger writing on the wall of the palace of the king of Babylon, alarms and frightens you. You tell nobody about it. Strange thoughts strike across your mind. You have no rest. Can a man rest on a pillow of thorns? Can a man rest with the heartache? Can a man rest with his soul disturbed with the horrors of guilt? I tell thee there is no rest to thee till thou comest to Christ. He alone can calm a conscience. (S. Coley.)

A troubled conscience

As the stag which the huntsman has hit flies through bush and brake, over stock and stone, thereby exhausting his strength, but not expelling the deadly bullet from his body, so does experience show that they who have troubled consciences run from place to place, but carry with them wherever they go their dangerous wounds. (Gotthold.)

The voice of God

The voice of God was heard, it seems, before anything was seen; and as He appears to have acted towards man in His usual way, and as though He knew of nothing that had taken place till He had it from his own mouth, we may consider this as the voice of kindness, such, whatever it was, as he had used to hear beforetime, and on the first sound of which he and his companion had been used to draw near, as sheep at the voice of the shepherd, or as children at the voice of a father. The voice of one whom we love conveys life to our hearts; but, alas, it is not so now! Not only does conscious guilt make them afraid, but contrariety of heart to a holy God renders them averse to drawing near to Him. The kindest language to one who is become an enemy will work in a wrong way. “Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.” Instead of coming at His call as usual, “they hide themselves from His presence among the trees of the garden.” Great is the cowardice which attaches to guilt. It flies from God, and from all approaches to Him in prayer or praise; yea, from the very thoughts of Him, and of death and judgment when they must appear before Him. But wherefore flee to the trees of the garden? Can they screen them from the eyes of Him with whom they have to do? Alas, they could not hide themselves and their nakedness from their own eyes; how, then, should they elude discovery before an omniscient God! (Gotthold.)

Suppose (what is not to be supposed) that they could have run from God, yet this would not do, unless they could have run from themselves too, for the wounded deer, whither ever he runs, carries with him the fatal arrow sticking fast in his sides. The guilt of their souls and the terror of their consciences went along with them, whither ever they went. So would only have been like the angled and entangled fish with the hook of the fisherman, that may indeed swim away all the length of the line, but the hook in her mouth hales her back again; so God summons in sinful man: Adam, where art thou? (Genesis 3:9). (C. Ness.)

The cool of the day

Evening

I. THE PRIVILEGES OF EVENING.

1. Evening has calmness.

2. Evening has leisure.

3. Evening is social.

II. THE DUTIES OF EVENING.

1. It is a season for review.

2. It is a season for settlement.

3. It is a season for preparation.

III. THE TEACHING OF EVENING. A type of the close of life. Night is death, and the morrow the day which will break beyond the grave. (Homilist.)

God appearing, in the wind

It was “in the wind of the day” that Jehovah was heard. Meaning thereby, either at the time that the breeze was blowing, or in the breeze; or, more probably, both. It is generally in connection with the wind, or whirlwind, that Jehovah is said to appear Ezekiel 1:4). In 2 Samuel 22:11 we read, “He was seen upon the wings of the wind”; in Psalms 18:10 we read, “He did fly upon the wings of the wind”; in Psalms 104:3 we read, “Who walketh upon the wings of the wind.” In these passages we note the difference of expression, yet the identity of the general idea--He was seen upon the wind; He did fly upon the wind; He did walk upon the wind; which last is the very expression in the passage before us. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Evening the time for reflection

“The cool of the day,” which to God was the season for visiting His creatures, may, as it respects man, denote a season of reflection. We may sin in the daytime; but God will call us to account at night. Many a one has done that in the heat and bustle of the day which has afforded bitter reflection in the cool of the evening; and such in many instances has proved the evening of life. (A. Fuller.)


Verses 9-12

Genesis 3:9-12

Where art thou?
--

God’s question

I. The speaker is God; the person spoken to is the representative of us all.

II. The call is--

1. Individual.

2. Universal.

III. God calls in three ways.

1. In conscience.

2. In providence.

3. In revelation.

IV. His call is--

1. To attention.

2. To recognition of God’s being.

3. To reflection on our own place and position.

V. It is a call which each must answer for himself, and which each ought to answer without delay. (Dean Vaughan.)

An important question

Here God asks an important question: “Where art thou?”

1. Where are you?--are you in God’s family or out of it? When you are baptized, you are put into God’s family upon certain conditions--that you will do certain things; and it depends upon you how you live, because if you do not love God you cannot be God’s child.

2. Supposing you are one of God’s children, “Where art thou?”--near to thy Father or far from Him?--because some children are nearer to their fathers than others. Mary and Martha were sisters, and they were both Christians, but one was much nearer to Christ than the other. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha was “troubled about many things.” If we delight to tell Jesus everything, than we shall be near God.

3. Are you in the sunshine or the shade? If you follow Christ you will always be in the sunshine, because He is the Sun.

4. Are you in the path of duty? Are you where you ought to be? The path of duty is a narrow path sometimes a steep path. God could say to many of us, as He said to Elijah, “What doest thou here?”--thou art out of the path of duty.

5. How have you progressed? The surest way to know that we get on is to be very humble. When the wheat is ripe it hangs down; the full ears hang the lowest. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The first question in the Bible

This is the first question in the Bible. It was addressed by God to the first man, and likewise to you.

I. THAT GOD THINKS ABOUT YOU. A watchmaker sells the watches which he has made, and thinks no more of them. The same with a ship builder and his ships, a shepherd and his sheep. Some say that as these men have acted, so does God. He has made you, but He never thinks about you. This is an error. The text proves that He thought of Adam, and there are many things which show that He thinks of you. A mother thinks of her children, and causes the gas to be lighted for them when the shadows of the evening have come. For the same reason God sends forth the sun every morning. As He thinks about you, so you ought to think about Him; in the morning when you awake, often during the day, and always before you sleep.

II. THAT GOD SPEAKS TO YOU. He spoke to Adam. In what manner? Not like the severe slave holder, the stern master, the passionate father; but like a loving mother to her children. He addresses you also, though not exactly in the same way. Men have many methods by which they communicate their thoughts to one another. The telegraph; letters; signs; the living voice. As it is with men in this respect so with the Lord. He speaks to you in nature, in events great and small. By conscience, parents, teachers, ministers. Sometimes thoughts come into your minds directly from God. Think of the honour thus put on you. The Queen speaking to that little boy. This is nothing when compared with the great God speaking to the same boy.

III. THAT GOD KNOWS WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR RIGHT PLACE. More than all, Calvary. The Divine Father is there to meet you and save you. Have you never been there?

IV. THAT GOD WISHES YOU TO TELL HIM WHY YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR RIGHT PLACE. As He dealt with Adam, so He deals with you. To Him you are responsible for all your actions as well as your words. (A. McAuslane, D. D.)

The position of man as a sinner

I. A CHANGE IN MAN’S MORAL POSITION.

1. His one sin brought guilt upon his conscience, and anarchy into his heart.

2. This developed itself in a dread of God.

II. A DIVINE INTEREST IN MAN, NOTWITHSTANDING HIS ALTERED POSITION.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF MAN FEELING HIS MORAL POSITION. (Homilist.)

Where art thou?

1. The Christian ought always to be at his proper and assigned work. God fails not to mark every dereliction, to note every hour, every gift and power not given to the work of salvation.

2. The Christian ought ever to be in his proper place. He has his own place in the family circle, in the Church of Christ, in every sphere of Christian duty and enterprise, and in the world of guilt, misery, and ignorance around him.

3. The Christian ought ever to be in a state of mind to seek the Divine blessing. Sin cherished, Or duty neglected, not only loses us the favour of God, but what is, if possible, worse still, robs us of the disposition to desire or seek it.

4. The Christian ought ever to be where he can meet God in judgment without fear.

I. THE SINNER.

1. In his sins.

2. In the pathway of eternal ruin.

3. In a state of awful condemnation.

4. In a land of darkness and gloom.

5. Ever under God’s immediate eye.

6. In the hands of an angry God. (W. B. Sprague, D. D.)

The voice of God

I. THE VOICE HERE WAS DOUBTLESS AN AUDIBLE VOICE. And God has yet His voice. He can speak by awful providences; He can speak by terrific judgments; or He can speak by the “still, small voice” of love.

II. THE VOICE OF GOD IS ALWAYS A TERRIFIC VOICE TO THE SOUL THAT IS OUT OF CHRIST. The voice of God is the voice of a holy God--the voice of a just God--the voice of a faithful God. And how can an unpardoned, unjustified, and unsanctified soul hear that voice and not tremble?

III. HOW IS IT, THEN, THAT THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST JESUS CAN LISTEN TO THOSE WORDS, “WHERE ART THOU?” AND CAN HEAR THEM IN PEACE? What answer does he give? “Where art thou?”--In Christ. In Christ? Then “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Observations

I. TERRORS MAY PREPARE A MAN’S HEART, BUT IT IS ONLY THE WORD OF GOD THAT INFORMS AND SUBDUES IT.

1. That this is God’s ordinance, wherein He hath both discovered His will unto us, and annexed unto it the power of His Spirit, to subdue every thought in us to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

2. That it is the only means to bring unto God His due honour, by bearing witness to His truth in His promises, and to His righteousness in His laws, and to His authority in submitting to His directions.

II. THE WAY TO GET OUR HEARTS AFFECTED WITH WHAT WE HEAR, IS TO APPREHEND OURSELVES TO BE SPOKEN UNTO IN PARTICULAR.

1. Because self-love is so rooted in us, that we slight and make little account of those things in which ourselves have not a peculiar interest.

2. Because it much advanceth God’s honour (1 Corinthians 14:25), when by such particular discoveries and directions it is made manifest unto us that God oversees all our ways, and takes care of our estates in particular, which cannot but work in us both fear, and care, and confidence,

III. THOSE WHO ENDEAVOUR TO FLY FROM GOD, YET CAN BY NO MEANS SHIFT THEMSELVES OUT OF HIS PRESENCE. Let it then be every man’s care and wisdom to take hold of God’s strength, to make peace with Him, as Himself adviseth us (Isaiah 27:5), seeing He cannot be--

1. Resisted (Isaiah 27:4).

2. Nor escaped (Jeremiah 25:35).

3. Nor entreated (1 Samuel 2:25).

4. Nor endured (Isaiah 33:14).

IV. GOD LOVES A FREE AND VOLUNTARY ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SIN FROM HIS CHILDREN, WHEN THEY HAVE TRESPASSED AGAINST HIM.

1. Because it brings God most honour, when we clear Him, and take the blame unto ourselves (See Joshua 7:19), whereby every mouth is stopped, and His ways acknowledged, and His judgments to be just, in visiting men’s transgressions upon them; and His mercies infinite, in sparing men upon their repentance.

2. It most justifies ourselves, when we condemn our own ways and actions 2 Corinthians 7:11), and are grieved in our own hearts, and ashamed of our folly, in the errors of our ways.

V. GOD IS FULL OF MILDNESS AND GENTLENESS IN HIS DEALING WITH OFFENDERS, EVEN IN THEIR GREATEST TRANSGRESSIONS.

1. To clear Himself, that the whole world may acknowledge, that He afflicts not willingly (Lamentations 3:33)..

2. Because the sin itself is burthen some and bitter enough to a tender conscience, so that there needs no mixture with it of gall and wormwood.

VI. THE KNOWLEDGE AND CONSIDERATION OF ONE’S ILL CONDITION IS AN EFFECTUAL MEANS TO BRING HIM ON TO TRUE REPENTANCE. VII. ALL THOSE THAT DESIRE TO GET OUT OF THEIR MISERY MUST SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WITH THEMSELVES WHAT WAS THE MEANS THAT BROUGHT THEM INTO IT.

1. There can be no means of removing evil but by taking away the cause of it, neither is there any means to take that away till it be known.

2. Besides, God can no way gain so much honour, as when men, by searching out the cause of the evils that befall them, find and acknowledge that their destruction is from themselves (Hosea 13:9). Hence it is that the Lord oftentimes makes the judgment which He inflicts to point it out, either by the kind of the judgment, or by some circumstance of the time, place, instrument, or the like, by the observation whereof the evil itself that brought that judgment on us may be made manifest, especially if we take with us for the discovery thereof the light of God’s Word. (J. White, M. A.)

Lessons

1. Jehovah may suffer sinners to abuse His goodness, but He will call them to judgment.

2. The eternal God only, who is the cause of every creature, who hath made, and knows man, He will be Judge.

3. Adam and all his sons shall be made to judge themselves by the Lord.

4. God is not ignorant of the lurking places of sinners (Psalms 139:1-24).

5. God’s inquiries are invincible criminations on sinners.

6. He that hides, cannot hide, and he that flieth, cannot fly from God.

7. Foolish sinners think themselves safe in hiding and flying from God, but God teacheth it must be by coming to Him.

8. Sin deals falsely in its speaking to the inquisition of God.

9. It is sin alone that makes God’s voice so terrible, which sinners would conceal.

10. Sinners pretend their fear rather than their guilt to drive them from God.

11. Sinners pretend their punishment, rather than their crime, to cause them hide.

12. Sin makes souls naked, and yet souls cover sin.

13. How hard it is to bring a soul to the true acknowledgment of sin! (G. Hughes, B. D.)

God’s first words to the first sinner -

1. Mark the alienation of heart which sin causes in the sinner. Adam ought to have sought out his Maker. He should have gone through the garden crying for his God, “My God, my God, I have sinned against Thee. Where art Thou?” But instead thereof, Adam flies from God. The sinner comes not to God; God comes to him. It is not “My God, where art Thou?” but the first cry is the voice of grace, “Sinner, where art thou?” God comes to man; man seeks not his God.

2. And while the text manifestly teaches us the alienation of the human heart from God, so that man shuns his Maker and does not desire fellowship with Him, it reveals also the folly which sin has caused. How we repeat the folly of our first parent every day when we seek to hide sin from conscience, and then think it is hidden from God; when we are more afraid of the gaze of man than of the searchings of the Eternal One, when because the sin is secret, and has not entrenched upon the laws and customs of society, we make no conscience of it, but go to our beds with the black mark still upon us, being satisfied because man does not see it, that therefore God does not perceive it.

3. But now, the Lord Himself comes forth to Adam, and note how He comes. He comes walking. He was in no haste to smite the offender, not flying upon wings of wind, not hurrying with His fiery sword unsheathed, but walking in the garden. “In the cool of the day”--not in the dead of night, when the natural gloom of darkness might have increased the terrors of the criminal; not in the heat of the day, lest he should imagine that God came in the heat of passion; not in the early morning, as if in haste to slay, but at the close of the day, for God is long suffering, slow to anger, and of great mercy; but in the cool of the evening, when the sun was setting upon Eden’s last day of glory, when the dews began to weep for man’s misery, when the gentle winds with breath of mercy breathed upon the hot cheek of fear; when earth was silent that man might meditate, and when heaven was lighting her evening lamps, that man might have hope in darkness; then, and not till then, forth came the offended Father.

I. We believe that the inquiry of God was intended in an AROUSING SENSE--“Adam, where art thou?” Sin stultifies the conscience, it drugs the mind,so that after sin man is not so capable of understanding his danger as he would have been without it. One of the first works of grace in a man is to put aside this sleep, to startle him from his lethargy, to make him open his eyes and discover his danger. “Adam, where art thou?” Lost, lost to thy God, lost to happiness, lost to peace, lost in time, lost in eternity. Sinner, “Where art thou?” Shall I tell thee? Thou art in a condition in which thy very conscience condemns thee. How many there are of you who have never repented of sin, have never believed in Christ? I ask you, is your conscience easy?--is it always easy? Are there not some times when the thunderer will be heard? Thy conscience telleth thee thou art wrong--O how wrong, then, must thou be! But man, dost thou not know thou art a stranger from thy God? You eat, you drink, you are satisfied; the world is enough for you: its transient pleasures satisfy your spirit. If you saw God here, you would flee from Him; you are an enemy to Him. Oh! is this the right case for a creature to be in? Let the question come to thee--“Where art thou?:” Must not that creature be in a very pitiable position who is afraid of his Creator? You are in the position of the courtier at the feast of Dionysius, with the sword over your head suspended by a single hair. Condemned already! “God is angry with the wicked every day.” “If he turn not, He will whet His sword: He hath bent His bow and made it ready.” “Where art thou?” Thy life is frail; nothing can be more weak. A spider’s line is a cable compared with the thread of thy life. Dreams are substantial masonry compared with the bubble structure of thy being. Thou art here and thou art gone. Thou sittest here today; ere another week is past thou mayest be howling in another world. Oh, where art thou, man? Unpardoned, and yet a dying man! Condemned yet going carelessly towards destruction! Covered with sin, yet speeding to thy Judge’s dread tribunal!

II. Now, secondly, the question was meant to CONVINCE OF SIN, and so to lead to a confession. Had Adam’s heart been in a right state, he would have made a full confession of his sinfulness. “Where art thou?” Let us hear the voice of God saying that to us, if today we are out of God and out of Christ.

III. We may regard this text as the VOICE OF GOD BEMOANING MAN’S LOST ESTATE.

IV. But now I must turn to a fourth way in which no doubt this verse was intended. It is an arousing voice, a convincing voice, a bemoaning voice; but, in the fourth place, it is a SEEKING VOICE. “Adam, where art thou?” I am come to find thee, wherever thou mayest be. I will look for thee, till the eyes of My pity see thee, I will follow thee till the hand of My mercy reaches thee; and I will still hold thee till I bring thee back to myself, and reconcile thee to My heart.

V. And now, lastly, we feel sure that this text may be used, and must be used, in another sense. To those who reject the text, as a voice of arousing and conviction, to those who despise it as the voice of mercy bemoaning them, or as the voice of goodness seeking them, it comes in another way; it is the voice of JUSTICE SUMMONING THEM. Adam had fled, but God must have him come to His bar. “Where art thou, Adam? Come hither, man, come hither; I must judge thee, sin cannot go unpunished.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)

I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself

The sad effects of yielding to temptation

I. THAT A YIELDING TO TEMPTATION IS GENERALLY FOLLOWED BY A SAD CONSCIOUSNESS OF PHYSICAL DESTITUTION.

II. THAT A YIELDING TO TEMPTATION IS GENERALLY FOLLOWED BY A GRIEVOUS WANDERING FROM GOD.

1. After yielding to temptation, men often wander from God by neglecting

2. By increasing profanity of life.

III. THAT A YIELDING TO TEMPTATION IS GENERALLY FOLLOWED BY SELF-VINDICATION.

1. We endeavour to vindicate ourselves by blaming others. This course of conduct is

2. By blaming our circumstances.

IV. THAT IN YIELDING TO TEMPTATION WE NEVER REALIZE THE ALLURING PROMISES OF THE DEVIL.

1. Satan promised that Adam and Eve should become wise, whereas they became naked.

2. Satan promised that Adam and Eve should become gods, whereas they fled from God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The wanderer from God

I. WHERE IS MAN?

1. Distant from God.

2. In terror of God.

3. In delusion about God.

4. In danger from God.

II. GOD’S CONCERN FOR HIM.

1. His condition involves evil--God is holy.

2. His condition involves suffering--God is love.

III. GOD’S DEALINGS WITH HIM.

1. In the aggregate--“Adam,” the genius.

2. Personally. “Where art thou?” (W. Wythe.)

The dawn of guilt

I. A CONSCIOUS LOSS OF RECTITUDE. They were “naked.” It is moral nudity--nudity of soul--of which they are conscious. The sinful soul is represented as naked (Revelation 3:17). Righteousness is spoken of as a garment (Isaiah 61:3). The redeemed are clothed with white raiment. There are two things concerning the loss of rectitude worthy of notice.

1. They deeply felt it. Some are destitute of moral righteousness, and do not feel it.

2. They sought to conceal it. Men seek to hide their sins--in religious professions, ceremonies, and the display of outward morality.

II. AN ALARMING DREAD OF GOD. They endeavour, like Jonah, to flee from the presence of the Lord.

1. This was unnatural. The soul was made to live in close communion with God. All its aspirations and faculties show this.

2. This was irrational. There is no way of fleeing from omnipresence. Sin blinds the reason of men.

3. This was fruitless. God found Adam out. God’s voice will reach the sinner into whatever depths of solitude he may pass.

III. A MISERABLE SUBTERFUGE FOR SIN. “The woman,” etc. And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me,” etc. What prevarication you have here! Each transferred the sinful act to the wrong cause. It is the essential characteristic of moral mind that it is the cause of its own actions. Each must have felt that the act was the act of self. (Homilist.)

I. THE SENSE OF GUILT BY WHICH THEY WERE OPPRESSED.

Sad results of disobedience

1. There were circumstances which aggravated their guilt--they knew God--His fellowship--were perfectly holy--happy--knew the obligations--knew the consequences of life and death.

2. They felt their guilt aggravated by these circumstances. Their consciences were not hardened. Their present feelings and condition were a contrast with the past. In these circumstances they fled. They knew of no redemption, and could make no atonement.

II. THE MELANCHOLY CHANGE OF CHARACTER WHICH HAD RESULTED FROM THEIR FALL.

1. Our moral attainments are indicated by our views of God--progressive. The pure in heart see God. Our first parents fell in their conceptions of God--omnipresence. “Whither shall I go?” etc. This ignorance of God increased in the world with the increase of sin Romans 1:21-32). This ignorance of God is still exemplified. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” He may worship outwardly; and there are gradations of the foolish--some shut God within religious ordinances--some exclude Him.

III. THAT THEY HAD LOST THEIR COMMUNION WITH GOD.

1. One barrier interposed was guilt.

2. Another barrier was moral pollution. (James Stewart.)

Hiding after sin

I. ADAM REPRESENTS THE AVERAGE SINNER. A man may do worse than Adam--hide from God after outraging Him by sin. Sense of God’s presence, awfulness, greatness, still intact in soul.

II. THEY HID THEMSELVES. An instinct; not the result of a consultation. Two motives:

1. Fear.

2. Shame. The greatness of God was the measure of Adam’s fear; his own lost greatness was the measure of his shame.

III. AMONGST THE TREES OF THE GARDEN.

1. Pleasure.

2. Occupation.

3. Moral rationalism.

IV. ADAM’S CONDUCT WAS FOOLISH AND IRRATIONAL.

1. Attempting the impossible.

2. Flying from the one hope and opening for restoration and safety. (Canon Liddon.)

Hiding from God

As the account of Eve’s temptation and fall truly represents the course of corruption and sin, so the behaviour of our first parents afterwards answers exactly to the feelings and conduct of those who have forfeited their innocence and permitted the devil to seduce them into actual sin.

I. Any one sin, wilfully indulged, leads to profaneness and unbelief, and tends to blot the very thought of God out of our hearts.

II. Much in the same way are backsliding Christians led to invent or accept notions of God and His judgment, as though He in His mercy permitted them to be hidden and covered, when in truth they cannot be so.

III. The same temper naturally leads us to be more or less false towards men also, trying to seem better than we are; delighting to be praised, though we know how little we deserve it. Among particular sins it would seem that two especially dispose the heart towards this kind of falsehood;

IV. When any Christian person has fallen into sin and seeks to hide himself from the presence of the Lord, God is generally so merciful that He will not suffer that man to be at ease and forget Him. He calls him out of his hiding place, as He called Adam from among the trees. No man is more busy in ruining himself, and hiding from the face of his Maker, than He, our gracious Saviour, is watchful to awaken and save him. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to Tracts for the Times. )

Two kinds of retreats

I. THE SINNER’S RETREAT.

1. Complete thoughtlessness.

2. The occupations of life.

3. The moralities of life.

4. The forms and observances of religion.

II. THE SAINT’S RETREAT. “I flee unto Thee to hide me”--

Hiding places

I. Note here the anticipative sentence of the human conscience pronouncing doom on itself. The guilty rebel hides from the Divine Presence.

II. The inexorable call which brings him immediately into the Divine Presence.

III. The bringing to light of the hidden things of darkness. The soul has many hiding places. There are--

The unconscious confession

I. ADAM’S HASTE TO MAKE EXCUSE WAY A PROOF OF HIS GUILT. The consciousness of evil leads to self-condemnation.

II. ADAM’S CONFESSION OF FEAR PROVED HIS GUILT. If a child dreads its parent, either the child or the parent must be wrong.

III. ADAM’S MORBID MORAL SENSITIVENESS PROVED HIS GUILT. The worst kind of indelicacy is in being shocked at what is natural and proper. Conclusion:

1. Sin cannot escape from God.

2. Sin cannot stand before God.

3. Sin may find compassion from God. (A. J. Morris.)

Observations

I. ALL MEN MUST APPEAR BEFORE GOD, AND ANSWER ALL THAT THEY ARE CHARGED WITHAL, WHEN HE COMES TO JUDGMENT.

1. That God by His power can enforce and draw all men before Him, and to confess Him too, no man can deny (Romans 14:11).

2. Besides, it is fit that God should do it, for the clearing of His justice, both in rewarding His own and punishing the wicked and ungodly, when every man’s work is manifest, and it appears that every man receives according to his deeds (Romans 2:8). Of this truth there can be no clearer evidence than the observation of that judgment which passeth upon every man in the private consistory of his own conscience, from which none can fly nor silence his own thoughts, bearing witness for him, or against him, no, not those which have no knowledge of God or His law Romans 2:15).

II. ALL MEN BY NATURE ARE APT TO COLOUR AND CONCEAL ALL THAT THEY CAN AND THAT EVEN FROM GOD HIMSELF.

1. Because all men desire to justify themselves, and are by nature liars Romans 3:4), and therefore easily fall into that evil to which their nature inclines them.

2. The want of the full apprehension of God’s Providence.

III. ONE SIN COMMONLY DRAWS ON ANOTHER.

1. Any sin committed weakens the heart, and consequently leaves it the more unable to withstand a second assault--as a castle is the more easily taken when the breach is once made.

2. And sins are usually fastened one to another, like the links of a chain; so that he who takes hold of one of them necessarily draws on all the rest.

3. And God in justice may punish one sin with another, and to that end both withdraw His restraining grace from wicked men, that being delivered over to the lusts of their own hearts they may run on to all excess of riot, that they may fill up the measure of their sin, that God’s wrath may come upon them to the uttermost, and many times for a while withholds the power of His sanctifying grace from His own children.

IV. GOD’S WORD IS TERRIBLE TO A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.

V. IT IS A HARD MATTER TO BRING MEN TO CONFESS ANY MORE THAN IS EVIDENT IN ITSELF.

VI. MEN MAY BE BROUGHT MORE EASILY TO ACKNOWLEDGE ANYTHING THAN THEIR SIN.

VII. NO MEANS CAN WORK ANY FARTHER THAN THEY ARE ACTED AND CARRIED ON BY GOD HIMSELF. (J. White, M. A.)

Conscience

I. In briefly adverting then to the fact THAT IT IS THE VOICE OF THE LORD WHICH AWAKENS CONVICTION, LET US ATTEMPT TO ASCERTAIN EXACTLY WHAT IS INTENDED BY SUCH AN EXPRESSION. In the case of Adam it was, of course, the direct and audible voice of the Lord whereby he was aroused. There is no doubt that that voice had struck home to his conscience long before it fell upon his ear--as is prevent by his sense of nakedness, which he pleaded as an excuse for his concealment; but that conviction of sin which drove him to the shade of the foliage immediately after he had eaten the fruit, and before the Lord called him from his hiding place, was but the echo of the Almighty’s previous warning, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” If it was the voice of God which awakened conviction in Adam, how does He make that voice heard by us? Is there not a steady monitor within us, and which at times the most hardened of us cannot stifle--which is constantly telling us, “thou shalt surely die”--which is ever reminding us that God’s law requires perfection, absolute and unblemished purity, without which we cannot enter into His rest--which also shows us our own hearts, and forces us to bear them to the standard of God’s law (a light in which we see in every part of ourselves the elements of eternal perdition and utter ruin)--which proclaims death to us at every step--which haunts our rest, disturbs our thoughts, distracts our minds, and terrifies our souls with the unceasing warning, “thou shalt surely die”?

II. THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY THE VOICE--FEAR. “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid.” There are two kinds of fear--the one generally termed reverence, or, as it is scripturally called, “godly fear,”--the other dread, or terror, induced by fear of punishment The former always results from a suitable attitude before God in the contemplation of His majesty and power, and forms one of the most indispensable and becoming attributes in the character of the true disciple of God. The latter is an infallible indication of the absence of the Spirit from the heart, and of the consciousness of guilt without the wish for, or hope of, a remedy. It was this fear which engendered the slavish obedience of the Israelites, and induced that dogged and sullen compliance with the law’s demands which characterized the spirit in which their services were rendered. A fear which urges nothing more than a bare fulfilment of a demand from a sense of coercion and compulsion, cannot fail to beget a spirit of enmity against its object. Hence it is that our churches are filled with unwilling worshippers, and the altar of Jehovah is insulted with constrained oblations.

III. The next consideration suggested by the text was, THE MISERABLE AND HUMILIATING SENSE AWAKENED BY THE CONVICTION OF SIN--NAKEDNESS. It is a feeling which manifests itself under three aspects--bringing with it a sense of ignorance, of a want of righteousness, and of impurity. We may be extensively versed in what this world calls knowledge--may be widely acquainted with the works of philosophers and poets,and may even be deeply read in the Oracles of God; able to descant with subtilty and power upon the doctrines of revealed truth; but no sooner does the abiding conviction of sin break in upon us, than these attributes, upon which we once rested a hope of preference before our less favoured brethren, become only as so many scorpions to sting us with the reproach of baying abused them, and leave us under a sense of ignorance even in the possession of the gifts of knowledge. But it is not only upon such as these that the sense of ignorance accompanies the voice of conviction. It creeps over those who, without worldly as well as spiritual knowledge of any kind, have never felt their ignorance before. There are many who, while they are of the night and know nothing, think there is nothing which their own strength is not sufficient to perform, and that there is no degree of excellence to which they cannot of their own power attain. When conscience speaks to such as these, the helplessness which they feel partakes largely of this sense of ignorance. They look back upon that career of self-sufficiency during which they have been arrested, like awakened sleepers upon the visions of a dream; and yet, amidst the realities to which they have been aroused, they feel a need; but know not where to turn for help. Our helplessness under conviction of sin is increased by a feeling of our want of righteousness being super-added to this sense of ignorance. Self-dependence is the invariable accompaniment of an ungodly life. Ungodliness itself consists chiefly, if not entirely, in a want of faith in Christ; and if this want of faith in Him exists, our trust must be reposed elsewhere; we either consider ourselves too pure to need a Saviour, or else we trust in future virtue to redeem past transgression. When the floods of conviction all at once break down the sandy barriers of self-trust behind which we have sought to screen ourselves, one of the principal elements in the sense of helplessness resulting from it is a void within ourselves which we find widening more and more as conviction becomes the stronger. It brings with it, too, in an equal degree, a feeling of impurity. Before conviction has firmly fastened hold upon the mind; when, as it were, its first strivings for audience are all that can be experienced, it is apt to be checked by the trite expedient of comparing our own godliness with that of others. But such specious delusions are all overthrown when conscience has us completely in its chains. It leads us to measure ourselves, not by a relative standard, or by the contrast we present to our brethren around us; but by the contrast we present to the requirements of that law which demands perfect purity; a purity to which we feel we can never attain, and a law whereby we know we shall be ultimately judged. We look within, and see ourselves stained with every sin which that law condemns, and we feel that the very lightest of our transgressions is sufficient to crush us beneath its curse. It is in vain that we make future resolves. But, terrible as the situation of a mind thus disturbed may seem, it is in a far more enviable condition than that which is reposing in the lap of sin, and saying, “Peace, peace, when God has not spoken peace.”

IV. But it will be necessary now to glance at the next head of discourse, namely, THE VAIN EXPEDIENT FOR ESCAPE MENTIONED IN THE TEXT. “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” This attempt at personal concealment on the part of our first parents, furnishes a striking example of the deceitfulness of sin. The supposition that the mere shade of the leaves could conceal them from the eye of God would have appeared to their reason, while unwarped by sin and shame, as preposterous and absurd; but now that the taint of guilt was on their souls they were ready to believe in the efficacy of any miserable subterfuge to cheat the omniscience of the Almighty. In like manner does sin lead its victims now from one degree of dissimulation to another, commending the mask of hypocrisy in its most attractive forms, and deluding the sinner into every species of sophistry, from which the purer mind would instinctively recoil. A more rigid observance of Divine ordinances is often resolved upon as a means of propitiating the monitions of the conscience. A mare serious and attentive demeanour is likewise assumed. A closer vigil kept upon the words and actions. And determinations are made to conform more literally to the demands of the Divine law. Such resolves in themselves are admirable, and, inasmuch as they evidence a dissatisfaction with present godliness, are highly commendable. But in what spirit and for what reason are these reforms undertaken? Is it a glowing desire for the promotion of the glory of God; a zeal for the advancement of His kingdom; and an anxiety for the spread of His cause which animates us? Are these high resolves prompted by an indignant sense of our ingratitude to a merciful and beneficent Creator, and a childlike desire to return to Him from whom we have departed? No, my friends. It is from no contrition for past unthankfulness towards the giver of every good and perfect gift that these resolves are made; but their fulfilment is set about from a sullen and constrained sense of compulsion to satisfy the exorbitant demands of a hard taskmaster whose laws we hate, and whose sway we would fain be freed from; they are undertaken in our own strength, and prompted by a slavish fear of death. We have before seen that this servile dread, though productive of great apparent submission and obedience, generates enmity instead of love in the heart. It is only the light of revelation which can dispel that enmity, and shed abroad that love in the soul. (A. Mursell.)

Hidings

I. Let us contemplate THE SINNER “HIDING HIMSELF.” For is not this flight and concealment of Adam among the trees of the garden like a symbolical representation of what sinners have been doing ever since?--have they not all been endeavouring to escape from God, and to lead a separated and independent life? They have been fleeing from Divine Presence, and hiding themselves amid any trees that would keep that Presence far enough away.

1. One of the most common retreats of the sinner is that of complete thoughtlessness. What countless thousands of human beings have fled to this retreat; and how easily and naturally does a man take part and place with “all the nations that forget God!” We have said complete thoughtlessness; but it is not complete. If it were, there would be no conscious hiding, no more flight; the forest would then be so deep and dense that no Divine voice would be heard at all, and no Divine visitation of any kind felt or feared. But it is not so. Now and again a gleam of light will come piercing through. Now and again a voice from the Unseen Presence will summon the fugitive back.

2. The occupations of life furnish another retreat for man when fleeing from God. Man works that he may be hidden. He works hard that he may hide himself deep. The city is a great forest, in which are innumerable fugitives from God, and sometimes the busiest are fleeing the fastest; the most conspicuous to us may be the farthest away from Him. Work is right--the allotment of God, the best discipline for man. Trade is right--thedispenser of comforts and conveniences, the instrument of progress and civilization; and from these things actual benefits unnumbered do unceasingly flow; and yet there can be little doubt that the case is as we say. These right things are used at least for this wrong end--as a screen, a subterfuge, a deep retreat from the voice and the presence of the Lord.

3. The moralities of life form another retreat for souls hiding from God. Some men are deeply hidden there, and it is hard to find them; harder still to dislodge them. This does not appear to be an ignominious retreat; a man seems to retire (if, indeed, he may be said to retire at all) with honour. Speak to him of spiritual deficiency, he will answer with unfeigned wonder, “In what?” And if you say again, “In the keeping of the commandments,” he will give you the answer that has been given thousands and thousands of times since the young man gave it to Jesus, “All these things have I kept from my youth up. Not perfectly, not as an angel keeps them, but as well as they are usually kept among men; and what lack I yet?” So fair is the house in which the man takes shelter. So green is the leafage of the trees amid which he hides. He does not profess to be even “afraid,” as Adam was. He hears the Voice, and does not tremble. Why, then, should it be said that he is hiding? Because in deep truth he is. He is attending to rules, but not adopting soul principles of life. He is yielding an outward and mechanical compliance to laws, but be has not the spirit of them in his heart.

4. The forms and observances of religion constitute sometimes a hiding place for souls. Men come to God’s house to hide from Him. They put on “the form of godliness, but deny its power.” They have a name to live, but continue dead. They seem to draw near, but in reality “are yet a great way off.” They figure to themselves an imaginary God, who will be propitiated and pleased by an outward and mechanical service--by the exterior decencies of the Christian life--when all the while they are escaping from the true God, whose continual demand is, “My son, give Me thine heart.” Ah, the deceitfulness of the human heart! that men should come to God to flee from Him! Yet so it is, and therefore let a man examine himself, whether he be in the faith or merely in the form; whether he have a good hope through grace, or a hope that will make him ashamed, whether he be in the very Presence reconciled, trustful, and loving, or yet estranged, deceiving himself, and fleeing from the only true Shelter. For we may depend upon it that in all these ways men do fly from God. And God seeks them, for He knows they are lost. He pursues them, not in wrath, but in mercy; not to drive them away into distance, condemnation, despair; but to bring them out from every false refuge and home to Himself, the everlasting and unchanging shelter of all the good.

II. And many do turn and flee to Him to hide them. Adam is the type of the flying sinner. David is the type of THE FLEEING SAINT (Psalms 143:9). Here we have the very heart and soul of conversion, “I flee unto Thee.” The man who says this has been turned, or he is turning.

1. “I flee unto Thee to hide me” from the terrors of the law. He alone can hide us from these terrors. But He can. In His presence we are lifted, as it were, above the thunders of the mountain; we see its lightnings play beneath our feet. He who finds his hiding place with God in Christ does not flee from justice; he goes to meet it. In God, the saint’s refuge justice also has eternal home; and purity, over which no shadow can ever pass; and law--everlasting, unchanging law--so that the trusting soul goes to meet allthese and to be in alliance with all these.

2. “I flee unto Thee to hide me” from the hostility and the hatred of men. This was a flight that David often took, and, in fact, this is the fleeing mentioned in the text. “Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies. I flee unto Thee to bide me.” Believer, if you have David’s faith you have David’s Refuge. The Name of the Lord is an high tower, into which all the righteous run and are safe.

3. “I flee unto Thee to hide me” from the trials and calamities of life. A storm comes to a ship in mid-voyage. She is driven far out of her course, and is glad at last to find shelter in some friendly port. But there would soon have been shipwreck in the fair weather. The sunken rock, the unknown current, the treacherous sand, were just before the ship. The storm was her salvation. It carried her roughly but safely to the harbour. And such is affliction to many a soul. It comes to quench the sunshine, to pour the pitiless rain, to raise the stormy wind and drive the soul away to port and refuge, away to harbour and home within the circle of Divine tranquillity--in the deep calm of the everlasting Presence.

4. “I flee unto Thee to hide me” from the fear and from the tyranny of death. This is the very last flight of the godly soul. It has surmounted or gone through every evil now but one: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Terrors of conscience, and remedies

There is no cure for the terrors of conscience but from God.

1. Because these fears are seated in the soul, and are awakened there by the voice of God. “I heard Thy voice,” said Adam. It is the voice of God in the mind that makes it so terrified: no created being can strike fear or convey comfort into the conscience.

2. The fears of the mind, being supernatural and spiritual, can admit only of a spiritual remedy. All outward applications will never cure inward distempers: the sickness of the mind can only be cured by Him who seeth into it. Jesus only can raise and comfort those whom the terrors of the Almighty have cast down and dejected. His peculiar work and office it is to release us from the terrors of conscience. He is entitled to the merit of doing it; He was made acquainted with fear, with trouble, with amazement, with agony of mind, that He might merit comfort for us under our fears. Christ is the end of the law for comfort, by conferring pardon; which pardon He is more fitted to give by reason of that compassion which is in Him; that pity and tenderness with which He is moved toward all that are under any kind of want, or sorrow, or misery. Another way to lessen our fears is to maintain our peace with God by such a regard to His law as will not suffer us to persevere in any known sin. For the conscience can never be at rest so long as wilful sin remains in the heart. The man who is at peace with God “fears no evil tidings,” his “heart is fixed.” I add this further rule: acquaint thyself much with God, and then thou wilt be less afraid when He visits Thee. If He be new and strange to thee, every appearance of Him will be fearful; but if thou art acquainted with Him, thou mayest then be confident. Next to this, nourish a voluntary religious fear of God in the heart, and that will prevent those other violent and enforced Years which bring torment. Feared He will be; all knees must bow to Him, all hearts must yield to Him; therefore a devout fear is the best way to prevent a slavish dread. The humble spirit that bows itself shall not be broken. Above all, take care to be of the number of those to whom His promises are made--that is, the Church. To them it is said, “they shall dwell safely,” and none shall make them afraid.

1. In much pity and tenderness, like as a father catches up a child that is fallen, yea, “like as a father pitieth his own children, so is the Lord merciful to them that fear Him.” He “taketh pleasure in the prosperity of His servants,” and loves to see them in a comfortable condition. “For a small moment,” saith He, “have I forsaken thee, but witch great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”

2. They are assured also of His care over them, lest they should be swallowed up and overwhelmed with grief and fear. Hear His words: “For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wrath; for the spirit should fail before Me and the souls which I have made. I will restore comforts to him and to his mourners.” God brings His servants seasonably out of their distresses; because in them they are unfit and unable for any service. I have now only to observe that all these things are contrariwise with the wicked. No relief in their extremity, but fear and anguish. (W. Jones, M. A.)

Divine vision

Adam forgot that God could see him anywhere. Dr. Nettleton used to tell a little anecdote, beautifully illustrating that the same truth which overwhelms the sinner’s heart with fear, may fill the renewed soul with joy. A mother instructing her little girl, about four years of age, succeeded, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, in fastening upon her mind this truth, “Thou God seest me!” She now felt that she “had to do” with that Being “unto whose eyes all things are naked,” and she shrank in terror. For days she was in deep distress; she wept and sobbed, and would not be comforted. “God sees me, God sees me!” was her constant wail. At length one day, after spending some time in prayer, she bounded into her mother’s room, and with a heavenly smile lighting up her tears, exclaimed, “Oh, mother, God sees me, God sees me!” Her ecstasy was now as great as her anguish had been. For days her soul had groaned under the thought, “God sees me; He sees my wicked heart, my sinful life, my hatred to Him and to His holy law”: and the fear of a judgment to come would fill her soul with agony. But now a pardoning God had been revealed to her, and her soul exclaimed exultingly, “God sees me, takes pity on me, will guide and guard me.” (W. Adamson.)

Afraid of God

So there is a consistency in sin: they who hid themselves from one another hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. Sin is the only separating power. Goodness loves the light. Innocence is as a bird that follows the bidding of the sun. When your little child runs away from you, either you are an unlovely parent or the child has been doing wrong. Adam was afraid of the Lord (Genesis 3:10). Afraid of Him who had made the beautiful garden, the majestic river, the sun, and the moon and the stars! How unnatural! Instead of running to the Lord, and crying mightily to Him in pain and agony of soul, he shrunk away into shady places, and trembled in fear and shame. We do the same thing today. We flee from God. Having done some deed of wrong, we do not throw ourselves in utter humiliation before the Lord, crying for His mercy, and promising better life; we stand behind a tree, thinking He will pass by without seeing us. This sin makes a fool of a man as well as a criminal--it makes him ridiculous as well as guilty. It makes its own judgment day. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Who told thee that thou wast naked?--

The moral sense

What is significant, as I think, in the Bible narrative, is that the moment when man hears the voice of God in the garden is the moment when he feels himself estranged from Him; he is not happy in the presence of his Maker; he shrinks from Him, and seeks any covering, however feeble, to hide him from his God. And he who looks across the page of history, and seeks to read the secret of the human soul, will find everywhere, I think, this same contrariety between man’s duty and his desire, the same consciousness that he has not performed the work God has given him to do. For what can be told as a truer truth of the human story, than that man has high desires and cannot attain to them; that he is living between two worlds, and is often false to what he knows to be most Divine in himself; or, in a word, that he has tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and yet that between him and the tree of life stands a flaming sword which turns every way?

I. THE HUMAN CONFESSION. It is not a little strange, upon the face of it, that man, who is the lord of the physical world, or counts himself so, should be visited by a haunting sense of failure. Why should he be ashamed of himself? Why conceive a Power needing propitiation? Why waste his time in penitence for sin? What is sacrifice--that venerable institution--but an expression of the discordance between man and his environment? We know we are sinners; we cannot escape the chiding of conscience.

II. THE DIVINE INTERROGATION. Whence comes, then, this sense of sin, this longing for holiness? It is a testimony to the Divinity of our human nature. If the prisoner sighs for liberty and flight in the prison, the reason is that the prison is not his home. If the exile gazes with yearning eyes upon the waste of waters which parts him from his native land, the reason is that his heart is there beyond the seas. And if the human heart here in the body sighs and yearns for a perfectness of love and a joy Divine, the reason is, it is the heir of immortality. (J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)

God’s question

“Who told thee that thou wast naked?” or how is it that this nakedness is now a cause of shame to thee? Wast thou not clothed with innocence, with light, and with glory? Didst thou not bear the image of thy God, in whom thou gloriedst? Didst thou not rejoice in all the faculties which He had given thee? Why, then, art thou despoiled, covered with shame, and miserable? Hast thou sullied the garment of innocence and purity which I bestowed upon thee? Hast thou lost the crown with which I adorned thy brow? Who, then, hath reduced thee to this state? “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” Adam is confounded and speechless before his Judge. It is necessary, then, to deepen the conviction which he feels in his troubled conscience. It is necessary to give him a nearer view of the evil which he has committed, by putting to him a still more home question. It is necessary to set full before his eyes the mirror of the Divine law. “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” My brethren, what instructive lessons does this simple question contain! Let us pause here for a moment, and direct our thoughts to this important subject. And, first, remark that God, in order that “He might be justified even when He condemned,” with a condescension which was intended to redound to His own glory, pronounces no curse, nor even a sentence of condemnation upon man, until He has first convicted him in his own conscience. But this condescension of the Lord towards man was also intended to subserve the happiness of the creature, by leading him to repentance, and, through repentance, unto salvation. The Lord, by the question which He puts to Adam, confronts him with His holy law. Man, the sinner, will then no longer be able to withhold the confession of his guilt, under the plea of ignorance. “I commanded thee,” saith his Judge, “thou knewest thy duty, the full extent of thy responsibility, even the tremendous sanction of the law and the penalty of its violation.” If, then, Adam perish, it is his own fault. But the Almighty, in reminding man in so solemn a manner of the command which He had given him, designed not merely to lead him to confess that he had sinned knowingly and willingly, and that he had made no account of his awful responsibility, but also to show him the real nature of his sin. “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” I gave thee a command, hast thou violated it? This is sin--the violation of the law of God, disobedience, rebellion. That sin would have been the same, in point of nature, whatever had been the object of the command. For us, as well as for Adam, for every responsible being, sin is simply that which is opposed to the Divine law. (L. Bonnet.)

Hast thou eaten of the tree?--

Observation

I. MAN’S FROWARDNESS CANNOT OVERCOME GOD’S LOVE AND PATIENCE.

II. GOD CAN EASILY, WITHOUT ANY OTHER EVIDENCE, CONVINCE MEN BY THEMSELVES.

III. GOD SEES US EVEN WHEN WE SEE NOT HIM, AND TAKES NOTICE OF ALL OUR WAYS, AND OBSERVES THEM. Let all men walk as in God’s presence, always beholding Him that is invisible (Hebrews 11:27), as sitting in His throne of majesty and power, and observing the ways of men with those eyes which are purer then to behold evil. This is indeed the only way--

1. To give unto God the honour due to His glorious attributes.

2. To keep our hearts low that we may walk humbly with our God, as we are required (Micah 6:8).

3. To make us watchful in all our ways, that we may do nothing that may provoke the eyes of His glory (see Exodus 23:21).

4. To encourage us in well-doing, when we know we walk in the sight of our Master, who both approves us, and will reward us, when our ways please Him (Psalms 18:24), and takes notice of a cup of cold water bestowed in His name upon any of His children (Matthew 10:42), or the least faithful service performed by a servant to his Master Ephesians 6:6), and will defend and stand by us while we do Him service (Exodus 23:22-23).

IV. GOD ACCEPTS OF NO CONFESSION TILL MEN SEE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE SIN OF THEIR ACTIONS, AND THAT TOO AS IT IS SIN.

1. Because without such a confession, God hath neither the honour of His justice in punishing sin (wherefore Joshua requires Achan to confess his sin, that he might give glory to God, Joshua 7:19), as David doth Psalms 51:4), nor of His mercy in pardoning it.

2. We cannot otherwise be in any state of security after we have sinned, but by suing out our pardon; which if He should grant, without our condemning and abhorring of our own evil ways, it would neither further our own reformation, nor justify God in pardoning such sins, as we have neither acknowledged, nor grieved for at all.

V. MEN MUST BE DEALT WITHAL IN PLAIN TERMS BEFORE THEY WILL BE BROUGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND BE MADE SENSIBLE OF THEIR SINS.

1. Because the heart is never affected with sin till it be represented unto them in full proportion, but it may appear shameful and odious.

2. Because all men being by nature lovers of themselves, do all that they may to maintain their own innocency, and therefore endeavour what they can to hide sin from their own eyes, as well as from other men, as being unwilling to look upon their own shame.

VI. WHOSOEVER WILL CONVINCE A MAN OF SIN MUST CHARGE HIM PARTICULARLY WITH THE VERY ACT IN WHICH HE HATH SINNED. VII. IN SINFUL ACTS OUR HEARTS OUGHT ONLY TO BE FIXED UPON OUR OWN ACTIONS, AND NOT UPON OTHER MEN’S SOLICITATIONS AND PROVOCATIONS THEREUNTO.

1. Because of the proneness of our own hearts to shift off the evil of our actions from ourselves, if possibly we can.

2. And while we do this, we harden our own hearts, and make them insensible of our sins, which affect us not, when we think the evil proceeds not from ourselves, but charge it upon other men that provoke us.

3. Other men’s provocations cannot excuse us, seeing it is the consent of our own hearts and nothing else that makes it a sin.

VIII. THE BREACH OF GOD’S COMMANDMENT IS THAT WHICH MAKES ANY ACT OF OURS A SIN.

1. Disobedience is not only an injury to God, but an injury to Him in the highest degree, wherein His authority is rejected, His wisdom slighted, His holiness despised, and His providence, and power, and justice, both in rewarding and punishing not regarded.

2. Disobedience knows no bounds, no more than waters do that have broken down their banks. (J. White, M. A.)

She gave me of the tree and I did eat.

Adam’s mean excuse

1. Adam, we find, was not content to be in the image of God. He and his wife wanted to be as gods, knowing good and evil. He wanted to be independent, and show that he knew what was good for him: he ate the fruit which he was forbidden to eat, partly because it was fair and well-tasted, but still more to show his own independence. When he heard the voice of the Lord, when he was called out, and forced to answer for himself, he began to make pitiful excuses. He had not a word to say for himself. He threw the blame on his wife. It was all the woman’s fault--indeed, it was God’s fault. “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

2. What Adam did once we have done a hundred times, and the mean excuse which Adam made but once we make again and again. But the Lord has patience with us, as He had with Adam, and does not take us at our word. He knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust. He sends us out into the world, as He sent Adam, to learn experience by hard lessons, to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow till we have found out our own weakness and ignorance, and have learned that we cannot stand alone, that pride and self-dependence will only lead us to guilt and misery and shame and meanness; that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved from them, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)

A tardy and reluctant confession

Here is, it is true, a confession of his sin. It comes out at last, I did eat; but with what a circuitous, extenuating preamble, a preamble which makes bad worse. The first word is, “the woman,” aye the woman; it was not my fault, but hers. The woman whom “Thou gavest to be with me”--It was not me; it was Thou Thyself! If thou had’st not given me this woman to be with me, I should have continued obedient. Nay, and as if he suspected that the Almighty did not notice his plea sufficiently, he repeats it emphatically: “She gave me, and I did eat!” Such a confession was infinitely worse than none. Yet such is the spirit of fallen man to this day. It was not me . . . it was my wife, or my husband, or my acquaintance, that persuaded me; or it was my situation in life, in which Thou didst place me! Thus “the foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” It is worthy of notice, that God makes no answer to these perverse excuses. They were unworthy of an answer. The Lord proceeds, like an aggrieved friend who would not multiply words: “I see how it is; stand aside!” (A. Fuller.)

Observations

I. NO MAN CAN BEAR OUT SIN BEFORE GOD, HOWSOEVER HE MAY FOR AWHILE OUT-FACE IT BEFORE MEN.

II. WHEN MEN’S SINS ARE SO MANIFEST THAT THEY CANNOT DENY THEM, THEY WILL YET LABOUR BY EXCUSES, TO EXTENUATE THEM WHAT THEY MAY.

III. A MAN, IN THIS STATE OF CORRUPTION, RESPECTS NONE BUT HIMSELF, AND CARES NOT ON WHOM HE LAYS THE BURTHEN, SO HE MAY EASE HIMSELF.

IV. SEDUCERS ARE JUSTLY CHARGEABLE WITH ALL THE SINS COMMITTED BY THOSE THAT ARE SEDUCED BY THEM. Beware, then, of that dangerous employment, to become a solicitor, or factor in sin, and tremble at the very motion of it, and avoid carefully the society of such agents--

1. Who carry the mark and character of Satan, who is styled by the name of the tempter, and is the father of all that walk in that waver seducing.

2. Show themselves much more dangerous enemies to mankind than murderers, who destroy only the body, whereas these lay wait for the soul Proverbs 22:25).

3. Proclaim war against God, whom they fight against, not only by their own sins, but much more, by making a party against Him, by drawing as many as they can procure, to be companions with them in their evils.

4. And therefore are above others, children of wrath, reserved unto them by the just judgment of God, in a double proportion, according to the measure of their sins acted by themselves, and furthered in other men by their procurement.

V. IT IS USUAL WITH MEN, WHEN THEMSELVES HAVE COMMITTED THE SIN, TO LAY THE BLAME OF IT IN PART EVEN UPON GOD HIMSELF.

VI. IT IS A USUAL PRACTICE WITH MANY MEN TO CAST GOD’S BLESSINGS IN HIS TEETH WITH DISCONTENT.

1. Because, many times, common blessings suit not with men’s private ends and desires, so that we judge many things, which are blessings in themselves, to be crosses unto us.

2. Because our unthankful hearts, being not satisfied in all that they inordinately desire, scorn that which they have as a trifle, because it answers not to the full of what is desired.

VII. MEN MAY EASILY BY THEIR OWN FOLLY TURN THE MEANS ORDAINED BY GOD FOR THEIR GOOD INTO SNARES FOR THEIR DESTRUCTION. Let it warn every one of us to use all the helps and blessings which we receive from God with fear and trembling.

1. Purging our own hearts carefully, for to those which are defiled nothing is pure (Titus 1:15).

2. Sanctifying unto ourselves the blessings themselves, by the word and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5).

3. Using all things according to the rule laid down to us in the Word, and referring them to the end for which He gives them, His own glory, and the furthering of our sanctification, that He may bless us in those things, the fruit whereof returns unto Himself at last.

VIII. IT IS VERY DANGEROUS TO EMBRACE ANY MOTION PRESENTED UNTO US WITHOUT EXAMINING THE WARRANT AND GROUND OF IT. (J. White, M. A.)

Adam’s admission, not confession

He makes no direct and honest answer to God in freely confessing that he had eaten; yet he cannot deny the deed, and therefore, in the very act of admitting (not confessing), he casts the blame upon the woman--nay, upon God, for giving him such a tempter. Here let us mark such truths as these.

1. The difference between admitting sin and confessing it. Adam admits it--slowly and sullenly--but he does not confess it. He is confronted witha Being in whose presence it would be vain to deny what he had done; but he will go no father than he can help. He will tacitly concede when concession is extorted from him, but he will make no frank acknowledgment. It is so with the sinner still. He does precisely what Adam did; no more, till the Holy Spirit lays His hand upon his conscience and touches all the springs of his being. Up till that time he may utter extorted and reluctant concessions, but he will not confess sin. He will not deal frankly with God.

2. The artfulness of an unhumbled sinner. Even while admitting sin, he shakes himself free from blame; nay, he thrusts forward the name of another, even before the admission comes forth, as if to neutralize it before it is made. How artful! yet how common still! Ah! where do we find honest, unreserved acknowledgment of sin? Nowhere, save in connection with pardon.

3. The self-justifying pride of the sinner. He admits as much of his guilt as cannot be denied, and then takes credit to himself for what he has done. He is resolved to take no more blame than he can help. Even in the blame that he takes, he finds not only an extenuation, but a virtue, a merit; for he fled because it was not seemly for him to stand before God naked! Nay, even in so much of the blame as he takes, he must divide it with another, thus leaving on himself but little guilt and some considerable degree of merit. Had it not been for another, he would not have had to admit even the small measure of blame that he does!

4. The hardened selfishness of the sinner. He accuses others to screen himself. He does not hesitate to inculpate the dearest; he spares not the wife of his bosom. Rather than bear the blame, he will fling it anywhere, whoever may suffer. And all this in a moment! How instantaneous are the results of sin!

5. The sinner’s blasphemy and ingratitude to God. “The woman whom Thou gavest me,” said Adam. God’s love in giving him a helpmeet is overlooked, and the gift itself is mocked at.

6. The sinner’s attempt to smooth over his deed. “The woman gave me the fruit, and I ate of it; that was all. Giving, receiving, and eating a little fruit; that was all! What more simple, natural, innocent? How could I do otherwise?” Thus he glosses over the sin. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Excuses

“Say not thou,” says the son of Sirach, “it is through the Lord that I fell away; for thou oughtest not to do the things that He hateth. Say not thou, He hath caused me to err.” This is just what Adam and Eve did say. When accused of disobedience they retorted, and dared to blame God for their sin. “If only Thou hadst given me a wife proof against temptation,” says Adam. “If only the serpent had never been created,” says Eve. Very similar are most of the excuses we make. We blame the gifts that God gives us rather than ourselves, and turn that free will which would make us only a little lower than the angels if rightly used into a “heritage of woe.” A man has a bad temper, is careless about his home, and is led to eat the forbidden fruit of unlawful pleasures. When his conscience asks him, “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” he answers, “It’s all my wife’s fault. She provokes my temper by her extravagance, carelessness, and fondness for staying away from home. She does not make my home home-like, so I am driven to solace myself with unlawful pleasures.” “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” And wives are not less ready to make the conduct of husbands an excuse for a low tone of thought and religion. They ask how it is possible for them to retain their youthful desire of serving Christ when their husbands make home wretched and sneer at everything high and holy. “Easy it is for others to be good, but for myself I find that a wife cannot be better than her husband will allow her to be.” How often is ill health pleaded as an excuse for bad temper and selfishness! If we are rich, we allow ourselves to be idle and luxurious. If poor, we think that while it is easy to be good on ten thousand a year, it is impossible for us to resist the temptations of poverty. Is a man without self-restraint and self-control? He thinks it enough to say that his passions are very strong. In the time of joy and prosperity we are careless and thoughtless. When sorrow comes to us, we become hard and unbelieving, and we think that the joy and the sorrow should quite excuse us. Again, evil-doers say that no man could do otherwise were he in their position, that there is no living at their trade honestly, that their health requires this and that indulgence, that nobody could be religious in the house in which they live, and so on. If God wanted us to fight the good fight of faith in other places and under other circumstances, He would move us; but He wishes us to begin the battle where we are, and not elsewhere. There subdue everything that stands in conflict with the law of conscience, and the law of love, and the law of purity, and the law of truth. Begin the fight wherever God sounds the trumpet, and He will give you grace, that as your day is, so your strength shall be. As long as people say, “I cannot help it,” they will not help it; but if they will only try their best they will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” On comparing the excuses which we modern sinners make with those attributed in the text to the first sinners, Adam and Eve, we find one circumstance characterizing them both. We, as well as they, virtually say, that only for difficulty and temptation we would be very good. And yet how absurd it would be to give a Victoria Cross for bravery in the absence of the enemy. We would all laugh if we heard a man greatly praised for being honest and sober when in prison, because we would know that it was impossible for him to be anything else. It is just because the Christian life is not an easy thing that at our baptism we are signed with the sign of the Cross, in token that we shall have to fight manfully under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil. (E. J. Hardy, M. A.)

Adam’s vain excuse for his sin

We have here the antiquity of apologies: we find them almost as ancient as the world itself. For no sooner had Adam sinned, but he runneth behind the bush.

I. First, we will anatomize and dissect this excuse of Adam’s.

II. Next we will look into ourselves; take some notice of our own hearts, and of those excuses which we commonly frame.

III. And then, to make an exact anatomy lecture, we will lay open the danger of the disease, that we may learn to avoid what was fatal to our parents,, and, though we sin with Adam, yet not with Adam to excuse our sin. Of these in their order.

I. “And the man said, The woman,” etc. I told you this was no answer, but an excuse; for indeed an excuse is no answer. An answer must be fitted to the question which is asked; but this is quite beside it. The question here is, “Hast thou eaten of the forbidden tree?” The answer is wide from the purpose, an accusation of the woman, yea, of God Himself: “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” “I have eaten,” by itself, had been a wise answer; but it is, “I did eat,” but “the woman gave it,” a confession with an extenuation; and such a confession is far worse than a flat denial. His apology upbraideth him, and he condemneth himself with his excuse.

1. For, first, Mulier dedit, “The woman gave it me,” weigh it as we please, is an aggravation of his sin. We may measure sin by the temptation: it is always the greatest when the temptation is least. A great sin it would have been to have eaten of the forbidden fruit though an angel had given it: what is it, then, when it is the woman that giveth it? What a shame do we count it for a man of perfect limbs to be beaten by a cripple! for a son of Anak to be chased by a grasshopper! (Numbers 13:33); for Xerxes’ army, which drank up the sea, to be beaten out of Greece by three hundred Spartans! Certainly he deserveth not power who betrayeth it to weakness. “The woman gave it me,” then, was a deep aggravation of the man’s transgression.

2. Again: It is but, “The woman gave it.” And a gift, as we commonly say, may be either taken or refused; and so it is in our power whether it shall be a gift or no. Had the man been unwilling to have received, the woman could have given him nothing. “The gods themselves have not strength enough to strive against necessity”; but he is weaker than a man who yieldeth where there is no necessity. “The woman gave it me,” then, is but a weak apology.

3. Further yet: What was the gift? Was it of so rich a value as to countervail the loss of paradise? No; it was “the fruit of the tree.” We call it “an apple”: some would have it to be an Indian fig. The Holy Ghost vouchsafeth not once to name it, or to tell us what it was. Whatever it was, it was but fruit, and of that tree of which man was forbidden to eat upon penalty of death (Genesis 2:17). “An evil bargain is an eyesore, because it always upbraideth him with folly who made it.” And such a bargain here had our first father made. He had bought gravel for bread, wind for treasure, “hope for a certainty,” a lie for truth, an apple for paradise. The woman, the gift, the gift of an apple--these are brought in for an excuse, but are indeed a libel.

4. Further still: To aggrandize Adam’s fault, consider how the reason of his excuse doth render it most unreasonable. Why doth he make so busy a defence? Why doth he shift all the blame from himself upon the woman? Here was no just detestation of the offence, but only fear of punishment.

5. In the last place: That which maketh his apology worse than a lie, and rendereth his excuse inexcusable, is, that he removeth the fault from the woman on God Himself. Not the woman alone is brought in, but “The woman whom Thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Which indeed is a plain sophism: that is made “a cause which is not a cause,” but an occasion only. It is a common axiom, “That which produceth the cause, produceth also the effect of that cause”; and it is true in causes and effects essentially co-ordinate. But here it is not so. God, indeed, gave Adam the woman; but He gave him not the woman to give him the apple. “He gave her for a companion, not for a tempter”; and He gave her not to do that which He had so plainly forbidden.

II. And now I wish that the leaves of those trees among which Adam hid himself had cast their shadow only upon him. But we may say, as St. Ambrose doth of the story of Naboth and Ahab, “This history of Adam is as ancient as the world; but is fresh in practice, and still revived by the sons of Adam.” We may therefore be as bold to discover our own nakedness as we have been to pluck our first father from behind the bush. We have all sinned “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” and we are as ready to excuse sin as to commit it. Do we only excuse our sin? No; many times we defend it by the gospel, and even sanctify it by the doctrine of Christ Himself. Superstition we commend for reverence, profaneness for Christian liberty, indiscretion for zeal, will worship for obedience. To come close home therefore, we will stay a little, and draw the parallel, and show the similitude that is betwixt Adam and his sons. We shall still find a Mulier dedit to be our plea as well as his. Some “woman,” something weaker than ourselves, overthroweth us, and then is taken in for an excuse. “We all favour ourselves, and our vices too; and what we do willingly we account as done out of necessity of nature.” If we taste the forbidden fruit, we are ready to say, “The woman gave it us.” Again: it is some gift, some proffer, that prevaileth with it, something “pleasant to the eye,” something that flattereth the body and tickleth the fancy, something that insinuateth itself through our senses, and so by degrees worketh upward, and at last gaineth power over that which should “command”--our reason and understanding. Whatsoever it is, it is but a gift, and may be refused. Further: As it is something presented in the manner of a gift which overcometh us, so commonly it is but an apple; something that cannot make us better, but may make us worse; something offered to our hope, which we should fear; something that cannot be a gift till we have sold ourselves, nor be dear to us till we are vile and base to ourselves; at the best but a gilded temptation; an apple with an inscription, with an Eritis sicut dii, upon it; with some promise, some show, and but a show and glimpse, of some great blessing; but earthy and fading, yet varnished with some resemblance of heaven and eternity. Lastly. The Tu dedisti will come in too. For, be it the world, God created it; be it wealth, He openeth His hand and giveth it; be it honour, He raiseth the poor out of the dust; be it our flesh, He fashioneth it; be it our soul, He breathed it into us; be it our understanding, it is a spark of His Divinity; be it our will, He gave it us; be it our affections, they are the impressions of His hand. But, be it our infirmities, we are too ready to say that that is a woman too of God’s making. But God never gave it. For, suppose the flesh be weak, yet the spirit is strong. “If the spirit be stronger than the flesh,” saith Tertullian, “it is our fault if the weaker side prevail.” And therefore let us not flatter ourselves, saith he, because we read in Scripture that “the flesh is weak”; for we read also that “the spirit is ready” (Matthew 26:41); “that we might know that we are to obey, not the flesh, but the spirit.”

III. And thus ye see what a near resemblance and likeness there is between Adam and his posterity; that we are so like him in this art of apologizing that we cannot easily tell whether had most skill to paint sin with an excuse, the father or the children. Adam behind the bush, Adam with a Mulier dedit, is a fair picture of every sinner; but it is not easy to say that it doth fully express him. But now, to draw towards a conclusion, that we may learn “to cast off the old man,” and to avoid that danger that was fatal to him, we must remember that we are not only of the first Adam, but also of the second; not only “of the earth, earthy,” but also of “the Lord from heaven: and as we have borne the image of the earthy, so we must also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). We must remember that we are born with Christ, that we are baptized and buried with Christ, and that we must rise with Christ; that the woman was given to be in subjection, the flesh to be subdued by us, and the world to be trodden under our feet; that we must not count these as enforcements and allurements before sin, lest we take them up as excuses after sin; that we must not yield to them as stronger than ourselves, that we may not need to run and shelter ourselves under them in time of trouble.

1. To conclude: my advice shall be--First, that of Arsenius the hermit: “Command Eve, and beware of the serpent, and thou shalt be safe; but, if thou wilt be out of the reach of danger, do not so much as look towards the forbidden tree.”

2. But, if thou hast sinned, if thou hast tasted of the forbidden fruit, if thou hast meddled with the accursed thing, then, as Joshua speaketh to Achan, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him” (Joshua 7:19). Run not behind the bush, study not apologies; make not the woman, who should help thee to stand, an excuse of thy fall; nor think that paint nor curtains can hide thy sin from Him whose “eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun” (Sirach 23:19), and in whose bosom thou art, even when thou runnest into the thicket of excuses. No; “Give glory to God,” that God may seal a pardon to thee. Open thy sin by confession to God, and the mercy of God will hide it: condemn it, and judge thyself for it; and thy excuse is made, thou shalt never be judged for it by the Lord: lay it open before the Lord, and He will blot it out forever. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

The resistance of temptation

You will observe how in this expression Adam directs attention to Eve as the more guilty of the two; as, if it had not been for her, had she not pressed and persuaded him to eat, that awful and fatal fruit would have remained untouched; as if she, the first to disobey, had urged him on, she leading, and he only following; she daring to pluck, to eat, and to give, and he only consenting to receive what she had taken. And no doubt he stated the case as it really was; the guilt did not begin with him; Eve led the way; her foot first crossed the forbidden line. But the question for us to consider is this: Did this defence, strictly true as it was, and in some sort placing with justice the greater blame on her, free him from condemnation in God’s sight? Nay, however it was that he came to sin, sin was condemned in him; the sentence was passed, in all its awfulness, that he should die; there was no lesser death, no milder punishment decreed against him. When Eve enticed, it was his part to have withstood, to have resisted all the beguiling words; it was his to have refused the fruit, to have held back his hand, to have kept his hold of the commandments of God; concession to her was sin; and whether or not the greater blame was his, there was blame enough to bring down upon himself the awful vengeance of the Lord, and the awful decree of death. And should we not dwell upon this point, and see how, when Adam pleaded his wife’s first step in sin as the cause and excuse for his, God’s wrath fell upon him as well as her? For in this, as in all former times, men often weave the same flimsy web of self-defence, and think to screen themselves behind others who have led them into sin, to lighten their load of iniquity, and to blunt the sharper edge of the sword of punishment. The young, when pursuing youthful sins, point to the young already before them on the same sinful course, saying, “See you not that it was always so, that I am but as the young have ever been, that I am only doing what has been done by those before me?” The middle-aged, busied with the world, and in their worldly dealings showing a sharp, a grasping, an unscrupulous spirit, wanting in all that is generous, simple, and high-minded, point to what they call “the ways of the world,” shelter themselves behind the customs of the age, the habits of other men, the examples that are around them, saying that others gave them of this low standard of morals, these sharp ways of dealing, these lax principles, and they did eat; that they did not of themselves begin thus to deal, thus to push their way; that they even wish things were different, but that they found the world a pushing world, and that they only followed in the train, doing what others did, and following in the lead. But what is the use of such defences of ourselves? How will this bear the light? How do we clear ourselves by such means as this? If it be sin to tempt, it is also sin to yield; if it be sin to give of forbidden fruit, it is also sin to take; if it be sin to Suggest evil counsel, it is also sin to follow it. It is this very point that the ease of Adam urges on us all. It may be our part to hear evil counsel, to have evil friends, to live in an atmosphere of evil principles, to be offered in some form other forbidden fruit, to see others eating of it themselves; but are we at once to be led by the evil friend, to act on the evil advice, to imbibe the evil principles, to yield to the evil ways which others tread? Nay, we are called to the very opposite course; we are called to resist evil, to quit ourselves like men, to endure temptation, to drive off tempters, to bear witness to our Saviour, to confess Him in the world by opposing the spirit of the world. Yes, this often is our part, and to this we are called by God, to bear witness to the truth, to be surrounded by tempters and temptations, wrong views, wrong ways of going on, wrong habits, unchristian conduct, unchristian patterns, and, amid all this darkness of the world, to see by faith the true and narrow way, not to be beguiled, but to steer our vessel straight. We each, in one sense, stand alone. Every man has his own appointed course, to which the Spirit leads him on; from which, if he would be saved, he must not swerve to the right hand or to the left, whatever influences may be at work on either side. (Bishop Armstrong.)

False excuses for sin

The first thing which strikes us, on the perusal of this passage, is the extreme readiness and proneness of man to urge an excuse for sin, and to shift the blame from himself upon some other person or thing. One of the commonest grounds on which men rest their apology for irreligion and laxity is a defective education. They were not trained in youth to the way wherein they should go; parents did not teach it, did not walk in the way before them. Others, again, are thinking to throw the fault of their disobedience or their sinful habits upon the circumstances in which they are placed, upon their profession or trade, upon the maxims and habits of society, upon the companions with whom they must associate. And it is undeniable that many strong temptations are thus presented. But this can by no means justify a yielding to sin. Not a few there are who account for the frequency of their offences from an untowardness of disposition and temper, from the violence of passion, or from bodily infirmities; and there are allowances to be made on these grounds; but no free pardon, no license hereby for sin. (J. Slade, M. A.)

Man’s readiness to invent excuse for sin

A traveller in Venezuela illustrators the readiness of men to lay their faults on the locality, or on anything rather than on themselves, by the story of a hard drinker who came home one night in such a condition that he could not for some time find his hammock. When this feat was accomplished, he tried in vain to get off his big riding boots. After many fruitless efforts, he lay down in his hammock, and soliloquized aloud, “Well, I have travelled all the world over; I lived five years in Cuba, four in Jamaica, five in Brazil; I have travelled through Spain and Portugal, and been in Africa, but I never yet was in such an abominable country as this, where a man is obliged to go to bed with his boots on.” Commonly enough are we told by evil-doers in excuse for their sins that no man could do otherwise were he in their position; that there is no living at their trade honestly; that in such a street shops must be open on a Sunday; that their health required an excursion to Brighton on the Sabbath because their labours were so severe; and so on, all to the same effect, and about as truthful as the soliloquy of the drunkard of Venezuela. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 13-21

Genesis 3:13-21

What is this that thou hast done?
--

The general results of the Fall

I. ETERNAL ENMITY BETWEEN SATAN AND HUMANITY (Genesis 3:14).

1. This curse was uttered in reference to Satan.

2. This address is different from that made to Adam and Eve.

3. There was to commence a severe enmity and conflict between Satan and the human race.

II. THE SORROW AND SUBJECTION OF FEMALE LIFE.

1. The sorrow of woman consequent upon the Fall.

2. The subjection of woman consequent upon the Fall.

3. The subjection of woman consequent upon the Fall gives no countenance to the degrading manner in which she is treated in heathen countries.

III. THE ANXIOUS TOIL OF MAN, AND THE COMPARATIVE UNPRODUCTIVENESS OF HIS LABOUR.

1. The anxious and painful toil of man consequent upon the Fall.

2. The comparative unproductiveness of the soil consequent upon the Fall.

3. The sad departure of man from the earth by death consequent upon the Fall.

IV. THE GRAND AND MERCIFUL INTERPOSITION OF JESUS CHRIST WAS RENDERED NECESSARY BY THE FALL. Lessons:

1. The terrible influences of sin upon an individual life.

2. The influences of sin upon the great communities of the world.

3. The severe devastation of sin.

4. The love of God the great healing influence of the world’s sorrow.

5. How benignantly God blends hope with penalty. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The first sin

I. THE RECORD BEFORE US IS THE HISTORY OF THE FIRST SIN. It needed no revelation to tell us that sin is, that mankind is sinful. Without, within, around, and inside us, is the fact, the experience, the evidence, the presence of sin. It is sin which makes life troublous and gives death its sting. The revelation of the Fall tells of an entrance, of an inburst of evil into a world all good, into a being created upright--tells, therefore, of a nature capable of purity, of an enemy that may be expelled, and of a holiness possible because natural. From man’s fall we infer a fall earlier yet and more mysterious. Once sin was not; and when it entered man’s world it entered under an influence independent, not inherent.

II. THE FIRST SIN IS ALSO THE SPECIMEN SIN. It is in this sense, too, the original sin, that all other sins are copies of it. Unbelief first, then disobedience; then corruption, then self-excusing; then the curse and the expulsion. Turn the page, and you shall find a murder!

III. THE ORIGINAL SIN IS ALSO THE INFECTIOUS SIN. Not one man of all the progeny of Adam has drawn his first breath or his latest in an atmosphere pure and salubrious. Before, behind, around, and above there has been the heritage of weakness, the presence and pressure of an influence in large part evil. Fallen sons of a fallen forefather, God must send down His hand from above if we are to be rescued ever out of these deep, these turbid waters. (Dean Vaughan.)

The moral and renal results of the Fall

I. ITS MORAL RESULTS.

1. Separation from nature (Genesis 3:7). Things naturally innocent and pure become tainted by sin. The worst misery a man can bring on himself by sin is that those things which to pure minds bring nothing but enjoyment are turned for him into fuel for evil lusts and passions, and light the flames of hell within his soul.

2. Separation from God (Genesis 3:8). Let the sceptic enjoy his merriment. To us there is something most touching in the statement that to our first parents in the most hallowed hour of the whole day the voice of God seemed like the thundering of the Divine anger. A child might interpret that rightly to himself. When he has done wrong he is afraid, he dares not hear a sound; a common noise, in the trembling insecurity in which he lives, seems to him God’s voice of thunder. To the apostles the earthquake at Philippi was a promise of release from prison; to the sinful jailer, a thing of judgment and wrath--“Sirs, what shall I do to be saved?”

3. Selfishness (Genesis 3:12-13). The culprits are occupied entirely with their own hearts; each denies the guilt which belongs to each; each throws the blame upon the other. The agriculturist distinguishes between two sorts of roots--those which go deep down into the ground without dividing, and those which divide off into endless fibrils and shoots. Selfishness is like the latter kind; it is the great root of sin from which others branch out--falsehood, cowardice, etc.

II. THE PENAL CONSEQUENCES.

1. Those inflicted on the man.

2. Those inflicted on the woman. In sorrow she was to bring forth children, and her desire was to be to her husband, and he was to rule over her. This penalty of suffering for others, which is the very triumph of the Cross, know we not its blessing? Know we not that in proportion as we suffer for one another we love that other; that in proportion as the mother suffers for her child, she is repaid by that love? Know we not that that subjection which man calls curtailment of liberty is in fact a granting of liberty, of that gospel liberty which is born of obedience to a rule which men venerate and love? (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Lessons of the Fall

1. It is profoundly significant that this narrative traces the first sin to an external tempter. Evil does not spring spontaneously in the unfallen heart. Sin is not, as some would have it, a necessary step in man’s development, nor does it spring from his own nature; it is an importation.

2. Whatever more may be taught by the serpent form of the tempter, we may safely regard it as a kind of parable of the nature of evil. The reptile is a symbol both of temptation and of sin. Its colours, sometimes brilliant, but always weird; its lithe, insinuating motions; its slimy track, its sudden spring; its sting so slender, and leaving so minute a puncture, but so deadly; its poison, which kills, not by hideous laceration, as in a lion’s rending, but by passing the fatal drop into the very life blood--all these points have their parallels in the sinuous approaches, the horrid fascinations, the unnoticed wounds, and the fatal poison of sin. If we turn to the story, we find that it falls into three parts.

I. THE SUBTLE APPROACHES OF TEMPTATION. Notice that we have here, however, a picture of the way in which a pure nature was led away. The way taken with one which has already fallen may be much shorter. There is no need for elaborate and gradual approaches then, but it is often enough to show the bait, and the sinful heart dashes at it. Here more caution has to be used.

1. First comes an apparently innocent question, “Is it so that God has said, Ye shall not eat?” The tempter might as well have asked whether the sun shone at midday. To cloud the clear light of duty with the mists of doubt is the beginning of falling. A sin which springs with a rush and a roar is less dangerous than one which slides in scarcely noticed. When the restrictions of law begin to look harsh, and we begin to ask ourselves, “Is it really the case that we are debarred from all these things over the hedge there?” the wedge has been driven a good way in. Beware of tampering with the plain restrictions of recognized duty, and of thinking that doubt may be admissible as to them.

2. The next speech of the tempter dares more. Questioning gives place to assertion. There is a fiat lie, which the tempter knows to be a lie, to begin with. There is a truth in the statement that their eyes will be opened to know good and evil, though the knowledge will not be, as he would have Eve believe, a blessing, but a misery. So his very truth is more a lie than a truth. And there is a third lie, worse than all, in painting the perfect love of God, which delights most in making men like Himself, as grudging them a joy, and keeping it for Himself. In all these points we have here a picture of sin’s approaches to the yielding will. Strange that tricks so old, and so often found out, should yet have power to deceive us to our ruin. But so it is, and thousands of young men and women today are listening to these old threadbare lies as if they were glorious new truths, fit to be the pole stars of life!

II. THE FATAL DEED. The overwhelming rush of appetite, which blinds to every consideration but present gratification of the senses, is wonderfully set forth in the brief narrative of the sin. The motives are put at full length. The tree was “good for food”; that is one sense satisfied. It was “pleasant to the eyes”; that is another. If we retain the translation of the Authorized and Revised Versions, it was “to be desired to make one wise”; that appealed to a more subtle wish. But the confluent of all these streams made such a current as swept the feeble will clean away; and blind, dazed, deafened by the rush of the stream, Eve was carried over the falls, as a man might be over Niagara. This is the terrible experience of everyone who has yielded to temptation. For a moment all consequences are forgotten, all obligations silenced, every restraint snapped like rotten ropes. No matter what God has said, no matter what mischief will come, no matter for conscience or reason; let them all go! The tyrannous craving which has got astride of the man urges him on blindly. All it cares for is its own satisfaction. What of remorse or misery may come after are nothing to it.

III. THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES. These are two fold:

1. The change on the physical world which followed on man’s sin is a distinct doctrine of both Old and New Testaments, and is closely connected with the prophecies of the future in both. Here it comes into view only as involving the necessity of a life of toilsome conflict with the sterile and weed-bearing soil. The simple life of the husbandman alone is contemplated here, but the law laid down is wide as the world.

2. The sentence of death is repeated in unambiguous terms. Physical death, and nothing else, is meant by the words. Observe the significant silence as to what is to become of the other part of man. The words distinctly refer to Genesis 2:7, but nothing is said now as to the living soul. The curse of death is markedly limited to the body. The very silence is a veiled hint of immortality.

God is death. When He withdraws His hand from the body it dies; when the soul withdraws itself from Him it dies.

3. Finally, the temptation in the garden reminds us of the temptation in the wilderness. Christ had a sorer temptation than Adam. The one needed nothing; the other was hungered. The one had nothing of terror or pain hanging over him, which he would escape by yielding; the other had His choice between winning His kingdom by the cross, and getting rule by the easy path of taking evil for His good. The one fell, and, as the most godless scientists are now preaching, necessarily transmitted a depraved nature to his descendants. The other stood, conquered, and gives of His spirit to all who trust Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Observations

I. NO ACTOR IN ANY SIN CAN ESCAPE GOD’S DISCOVERY.

1. He is able to search into the deepest secrets, seeing all things are naked in His sight (Hebrews 4:13).

2. It concerns Him to do it, that the Judge of all the world may appear and be known to do right, to which purpose He must necessarily have a distinct knowledge, both of the offenders and of the quality and measure of their offences, that everyone’s judgment may be proportioned in number, weight, and measure, according to their deeds.

II. MEN’S SINS MUST AND SHALL BE SO FAR MANIFESTED AS MAY CONDUCE TO THE ADVANCING OF GOD’S GLORY. Let it be our care--

1. To take heed of dishonouring God by committing of any sin.

2. If by human infirmity we fall into any sin by which the name of God may be blasphemed or the honour of it impaired, let us endeavour to take off the dishonour done to Him by laying all the shame upon ourselves.

III. A GOOD MAN’S HEART OUGHT TO BE DEEPLY AND TENDERLY AFFECTED WITH THE SENSE OF HIS OWN SIN. Such a manner of the affecting of the heart by the sense of sin--

1. Brings much honour to God.

2. Proclaims our own innocence (2 Corinthians 7:11).

3. Moves God to compassion towards us (Joel 2:17).

4. Furthers our reformation.

5. Makes us more watchful over our ways for time to come.

IV. THE SEDUCING, ESPECIALLY OF ONE’S NEAREST FRIENDS, IS A FOUL, AND SHOULD BE AN HEART-BREAKING SIN.

V. SIN AND THE ENTICEMENTS THEREUNTO ARE DANGEROUS DECEITS AND SO WILL PROVE TO BE AT THE LAST. Now this deceit of sin is two fold. First, in proposing evil under the name of good, calling light darkness and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20), or at least the shadows of good, instead ofthat which is really and truly good, like the passing of gilded brass for perfect gold. Secondly, in proposing unto us a reward in an evil way, which we shall never find (see Proverbs 1:13; Proverbs 1:18), as they are justly accounted deceivers who promise men largely that which they never make good in performance. (J. White, M. A.)


Verse 14

Genesis 3:14

Upon thy belly shalt thou go

The Divine sentence on the serpent

1.
I lay down the position that no punishment in the way of physical degradation was inflicted by God in His sentence upon the serpent tribe. No doubt this idea has been held by most of those in past days who knew very little of natural history or of science; and it is held still by some who have no capacity of understanding scientific evidence. They cherish still, it may be, some strange notion that serpents, once upon a time, walked upright and ate fruits in an innocent and becoming manner. I cannot argue with such. The testimony of science on this subject is so absolutely overwhelming, that one might just as well call in question the revolution of the earth round the sun, or the circulation of the blood. Unless all science is a lie, there were plenty of serpents on the earth ages before man was made, and these serpents precisely like the present ones in their general construction. If our serpents may be said to go on their bellies and eat dust, so might those. From the creation of the world--long ages ago--it has been “their nature to.” Further, I must maintain that the structure and habits of the serpent tribe bear no trace of any designed degradation. To the eye of one who has studied the “ways of God” in His fair and marvellous book of nature, who has learnt to recognize on every hand the exquisite adaptation of each tribe to the place of each, the serpent is as beautiful and perfect a piece of workmanship as any other creature. Admitting the fact (which no thoughtful observer could deny) that the animal tribes were made to prey upon one another to a great extent, and so to maintain the balance of life upon the earth.

admitting this palpable fact, it is obvious that the serpent is most wonderfully adapted to play his own part and fulfil his own ends upon the earth. There is no more degradation about his means of progression, surprisingly swift and easy as it is, than about the downward swoop of an eagle, the ponderous rush of a lion, or the noiseless flight of an owl. Nor is his food in reality of a more disgusting nature than theirs; the creatures which he swallows, great or small, are as much his natural food as their prey is to the eagle, the lion, and the owl. He would not condescend to eat carrion like the vulture or the jackal. It may indeed be true, as St. Paul seems to teach us, that the whole creation suffers in some little-understood way from the fall of man; and no doubt the lower animals often suffer severely from the sinful passions of man; but to acknowledge this is a totally different thing from acknowledging that God deliberately and judicially decreed degradation and punishment upon a creature which had not really sinned. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

2. I lay down the position, which I think no one will seriously dispute, that the real tempter was not the serpent at all, but the devil. It is true that there is no hint of this in Genesis, and this is very important to my argument. Had we no other information, we should have to assume that the serpent was in truth an intelligent being, supremely wicked, and capable of pursuing a most crafty policy. But the testimony of other Scriptures is clear and positive that it was the devil who tempted Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2; John 8:44). There can be but one way of understanding the inspired testimony: the devil availed himself of the form of the serpent, and of his known character for natural cunning, to speak by his mouth, and so to gain a safer audience. Just as the demoniacs of the New Testament and the evil spirits who possessed them seemed to have a mixed personality which is reflected in the very words of the Evangelists, so the tempter and the serpent remain, as it were, confounded, and the one is called by the name of the other--“that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan.” Nevertheless, the witness is clear that the devil was the real agent in the temptation of our first parents.

3. I conclude from the foregoing positions, and conclude with confidence, that the serpent was not really cursed at all, while the devil was. All I know of God tells me that He would not--all I know of nature tells me that He did not--inflict punishment on the unwitting victim of another’s craft. All I know from reason or from revelation of His ways assures me that He would not and did not leave unpunished the malice which wrecked (for the time) His fairest work.

4. I proceed to argue that while the form of the sentence was accommodated to the outward and visible form of which the tempter made use, the real meaning of the sentence applied to the tempter himself, and to the tempter alone. To the educated eye, as I have said, there is no trace of degradation about the structure or habits of the serpent; he does not in any real sense go upon his belly or eat dust. But to the untutored eye of the “unlearned,” i.e., to the vast bulk of mankind in all ages, he appears to do both, and he is an object of natural loathing and disgust. As the upright position of man seems to raise him in dignity above the general level of animal life, so the prone and sinuous position of the snake seems to sink him below that level; having nothing degrading about it in reality, it is yet the accepted symbol of contempt. We, who are unacquainted with snakes, speak of a man as a “reptile” if we wish to express utter contempt and abhorrence of his ways; but a “reptile” is one that “goes upon his belly.” Again, every student of nature knows that the serpent does not eat dust, but small animals which he often catches out of the dust and dirt; but, because he has neither hands nor anything in the nature of hands, he appears to swallow with his food a great deal of dust and dirt. The great difficulty we have to encounter in this Divine sentence on the serpent is that it is not really fulfilled in the literal serpent, though it is apparently. This difficulty seems to me to vanish wholly when we perceive that it is really fulfilled in the mystical serpent, the devil.

5. I am greatly confirmed in this understanding of the phrase by what we read in Isaiah 65:25. In that passage we are told that in the time of the “new heavens and new earth” “dust shall be the serpent’s meat.” It makes no difference to my argument whether we understand the prophecy to refer to the millennium or (as I think) to the future world. No one surely will maintain that serpents are to eat dust in that blessed state. Why should the unfortunate creatures be so ill-fated? Is it not clearly to be spiritually interpreted, that then, as now, only more clearly and absolutely then than now, disgrace, disappointment, and disgust will be the portion of the tempter and accuser? And if this “eating dust” on the part of the serpent be of spiritual interpretation in Isaiah, why should it not be the same in Genesis? It is admitted by all that the latter part of the sentence must be applied parabolically to the tempter himself--why not the former part also, in which the parable is quite as simple and as easy to read?

6. Two other conclusions seem to be necessary in order to complete the subject, and in order to “justify” on every side the heavenly “Wisdom” which pronounced and recorded this ancient doom.

Observations

I. GOD MANY TIMES WILL NOT SO MUCH AS REASON THE CASE WITH SUCH AS HE DESTINES TO DESTRUCTION.

II. WHOMSOEVER HATH A HAND IN ANY SIN SHALL BE SURE TO HAVE A SHARE IN THE PUNISHMENT.

1. God is able both to convince and punish; and nothing can be hid from His pure eye, or escape His revenging hand.

2. The respect to His own honour necessarily moves Him to declare Himself to be just, in rendering to every man according to his deeds, and according to his works (Psalms 62:12).

III. EVERY INSTRUMENT IN THE ACTING OF SIN, AND WHATSOEVER IS DEFILED THEREBY, IS LIABLE TO GOD’S CURSE.

IV. ONE MAN’S PUNISHMENT OUGHT TO BE OTHER MEN’S INSTRUCTION. Whether inflicted by men in a course of justice (Deuteronomy 13:14), or laid on by God’s immediate hand (Zephaniah 3:5-6).

V. GOD LAYS HIS JUDGMENT UPON NO CREATURE BUT UPON JUST DESERTS. Reason--

1. His nature; fury is not in Him (Isaiah 27:4), but long suffering and abundant goodness (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 103:13).

2. Respect to His own honour, infinitely advanced by manifesting His justice, mercy, faithfulness, and truth, which appears when He dispenseth all His administrations according to men’s deserts.

3. Neither could He otherwise encourage men to His service, but by accepting and rewarding them in well-doing, and punishing only their errors, and that too with so much moderation that it tends only to their good, and not to their destruction.

VI. GOD’S CURSE UPON ANY CREATURE IS THE FOUNTAIN OF ALL PLAGUES AND MISERIES.

VII. IT IS USUAL, WITH GOD IN HIS JUDGMENTS SO TO ORDER THEM THAT THEY MAY POINT AT THE SIN FOR WHICH THEY ARE INFLICTED.

1. To justify Himself, that by such lively characters His righteousness in all His ways may be read by him that runs.

2. To farther men’s repentance, by pointing out unto them the sin that brings the judgment upon them.

VIII. IT IS ONLY SIN THAT MAKES ONE MORE VILE THAN ANOTHER.

IX. IT IS A SHAMEFUL ABASEMENT TO BE GLUED TO THE EARTH. (J. White, M. A.)

The tempter in the presence of God

The serpent is now, so to speak, summoned into court. It would appear as if the power of fascination supposed to reside in his race had been reversed, and as if he had been compelled to draw near by the mightier fascination of justice, descended in the person of the great I AM. He has left, at least, the lurking place into which he seems to have crept after the eating of the fruit, and appears now a crushed and crest-fallen worm, writhing in the sunlight of the face of his Creator. How singular the meeting in such circumstances of the two grand foes, the archangel of darkness and the God of light! It is their first meeting, probably, since Lucifer was thrust out of heaven. And what a contrast! Then Lucifer was a powerful, magnificent, though lost being; now he is in the form of a snake, in the likeness of one of earth’s basest reptiles; then he had the trace of the morning on his brow; now his eye and bearing are sunken and sullen: then he was the ruined angel; now he is the mean tempter and base deceiver: then he was striking, or had newly struck, at the throne of God; now he has succeeded in ruining the peace, and injuring the position of a happy human pair; then he was raging in defiance, and lifting up his voice against the Highest; now he is cowering in His presence, and not daring to utter a word in his own defence. It is significant that during this scene the serpent is quite silent; no question is asked of him, no reply is given; he is caught, as it were, in the fact, and there is no need of trial. Judgment is immediately pronounced. And what waves of torment, shame, self-loathing, disappointment, and fear cross his soul, as he listens, helpless, hopeless, speechless, to the words of God. (G. Gilfillan.)

The curse

Though the serpent was but the instrument, yet he is cursed. And the words, “above all cattle,” imply that the rest of the animal creation were made to share the curse which had come down upon it as Satan’s special agent in the plot against man. And why this universal curse?

1. To show the spreading and contaminating nature of sin. One sin is enough to spread over a world. There is something in the very nature of sin that infects and defiles. It is not like a stone dropped in a wilderness, upon the sand, there to lie motionless and powerless. It is like that same stone cast into a vast waveless lake, which raises ripple upon ripple, and sends its disturbing influence abroad, in circle after circle, for miles on every side, till the whole lake is in motion.

2. To show how all the manifold parts of creation hang together and depend upon each other. One being displaced, all are ruined. The arch is not more dependent on the keystone than are the different parts of creaturehood dependent on each other for stability and perfection. It is as if the unity of the Godhead had its counterpart in the unity of creation. And, strange to say, it is the Fall that has so fully discovered this oneness, and made us acquainted with its manifold relations.

3. To be a monument of the evil of sin. Sin needs something visible, something palpable, to make known both its existence and its “exceeding sinfulness.” It must exhibit itself to our senses. It must stand forth to view, branded with the stroke of God’s judgment, as the abominable thing which He hates. Thus He has strewn the memorials of sin all over the earth. He has affixed them to things animate and inanimate, that we may see and hear and feel the vileness and the bitterness of the accursed thing. (H. Bonar, D. D.)


Verse 15

Genesis 3:15

I will put enmity between thee and the woman

The believer’s conflict with Satan

I.
THAT THERE IS A CONTINUAL CONFLICT BETWEEN SATAN AND EVERY BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST, WHOM HE REPRESENTED IN THE FIRST PROMISE, ACCORDING TO THE PURPOSE AND GRACE OF ALMIGHTY GOD.

II. In that stern combat which the Lord of glory, God manifest in the flesh, was to wage with Satan, it was declared that the enemy should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, and that Jesus should not get the victory unwounded. And thus it is with His spiritual offspring; as “He was, so are they in this world.” We learn, therefore, secondly, THE CHRISTIAN’S SUFFERING IN HIS CONFLICT WITH THE OLD SERPENT.

III. But although the conflict may be fierce, and long, and stubborn, we are not permitted to doubt on which side the victory will fall. Hence I would observe, thirdly, THE ASSURANCE OF TRIUMPH GIVEN IN THE TEXT TO THE SEED OF THE WOMAN--THE BELIEVING MEMBERS OF CHRIST. Satan will bruise their heel, but, as assuredly, they shall bruise his head. As Jesus assumed human nature, that He might avenge Himself and His people upon Satan, so shall they triumph in Christ. The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, who are in Christ Jesus. (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)

The first promise

Here, in this verse, first springs a river which flows right through the broad wilderness of Time, refreshing every generation as they pass; and will yet, beyond the boundary, make glad forever the city of our God. In this verse the gospel of grace takes its rise. If we saw only the tiny spring we should not be able fully to estimate its importance. It is our knowledge of the kingdom in its present dimensions and its future prospects that invests with so much grandeur this first, short message, of mercy from God to man. We know the import of that message better than they who heard it first. And yet, as the negro native on the mountains near the sources of the Nile can drink and satisfy his thirst from the tiny rill that constitutes the embryo river, while he who sails on its broad bosom near the sea can do no more; so those who lived in the earliest days of grace might satisfy their souls at the narrow stream then flowing, as well as those who shall be found dwelling on the earth at the dawn of the millennial day. From the feeble stream that burst through the stony ground near the closed gate of paradise righteous Abel freely drank the water of life: the same, and no more, shall they do who shall see the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth in the latter day. God opened a spring in the desert as soon as there were thirsty souls sojourning there. Here, as we have said, the gospel springs. But this is not the beginning of mercy. Its date is more ancient; its fountainhead is higher. “God is love”: there, if you will trace mercy to its ultimate source--there Redemption springs, thence Redemption flows. One or two things of an introductory character must be at least stated, inasmuch as they are essential to the comprehension of the main lesson. And the first of these is the existence and agency of an evil spirit, the enemy of man. “Didst thou not sow good seed in thy ground?” said the surprised and grieved servants to their Master; “whence, then, hath it tares?” “An enemy hath done this,” said the Lord. Man has been damaged by the impact of evil after he came from his Maker’s hands: and the damage, now that help has been laid on the Mighty, may be removed. There is a healing for the deadly wound. The enemy, in this text and in other instances all through the Scripture, is impersonated as the serpent. Now a series of lessons directly practical.

1. There is a kind of friendship or alliance between the destroyer and his dupe. The root of the ailment lies here. If the first pair had not entered into a covenant with the wicked one, there would not have been a fall. Neither at the first nor at any subsequent period has the enemy come forward as an enemy, declaring war, and depending on the use of force. Not the power, but the wiles of the devil have we cause to dread. If either he or we should assume the attitude of adversary, our cause were won.

2. Enmity must be engendered between these two friends. The first and fundamental necessity of the case is that the friendship should be dissolved. As long as the adversary by his wiles succeeds in making it sweet, and as long as the dupe loves it, so long is the captive held. Nothing in heaven or earth can do a sinner any good until he has fallen out with his own sin!

3. God will put enmity between a man and the enemy who has enticed, and so overcome him. When created beings are involved in sin, as a law of their being they cannot break off by an effort or wish of their own. The spirit that launches once into rebellion against God, goes on helplessly in rebellion forever, unless an almighty arm, guided by infinite love, be stretched out to arrest the fallen--the falling star. It is profitable to remember that we are helpless. It is only a cry out of the depths that will reach heaven, and bring help from One that is mighty. “Lord, save me, I perish,” is a prayer that reaches the Redeemer’s ear: it melts His heart, and moves His hand. To put enmity between a man and the devil who inhabits his heart--to change his affections, so that he shall henceforth loathe what he formerly loved, and love what he formerly loathed--this is God’s prerogative. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

4. Notice now the relation which Christ our Redeemer bears to the breach of peace between a man and his Tempter. Over and above the promise that enmity will be put between the serpent and the woman, it is said in the text that enmity will be put between his seed and hers. We are guided by the Spirit of inspiration in the interpretation of this clause. We know certainly from Scripture “her seed” means first and chiefly the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. As enmity between the two friends must be generated, and as only God can efficiently kindle that enmity, so it is only through Christ the Mediator that such a breach could be made. He is Mediator between God and man, for reconciling the alienated; He is Mediator between man and Satan, for alienating the united. As His acceptance with the Father is our acceptance with the Father, when we are found in Him; so His breach with the adversary is our breach, when we are found in Him. His two-fold mission is to break up one friendship and begin another.

5. The part which Christians act in the quarrel. Christ was the first fruits in this enmity; but, afterwards they that are Christ’s. In Him the strife began; and it is continued in His members after the Head is exalted. The feud is hereditary, inextinguishable, eternal. The Church on earth is the Church militant; that is, the Church soldiering. There is another wing of the grand army, called the Church triumphant. Those who remain in the body wield the sword: those who have been admitted into heaven wave the palm and wear the crown. The real business in hand for Christians is not heaven, but holiness. The issue may be left in the Leader’s hands: the duty of the soldiers is to stand where they are placed, and strike as long as they see a foe. Until the trumpet shall sound, calling the weary to rest, our part is to fight. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The beginning of the gospel

These words have been appropriately called the “Protevangelium,” the first gospel. At first sight it seems strange that these words should be considered the beginning of the gospel. The form is not that of a gospel but of a curse. It is the first curse that we meet with in reading the Bible. But think a moment. On whom, on what is it a curse? It is a curse on the great adversary of mankind. It is a curse upon evil--on sin, and death and hell. It is a curse upon our curse. You will observe, and it is well worth noticing, that there is no curse pronounced upon the man, nor upon the woman either. But can the gospel come in the form of a curse? It can--nay, it must. There are those who, shutting their eyes to the terrible fact of sin with all its dreadful consequences, as they are seen in the world, please themselves and try to please others by preaching a gospel of easy good nature, of love and mercy and goodwill to all mankind--a sort of universal salvation on the easiest terms possible, or withoutany terms at all. But sin and its terrible consequences are fearful facts that cannot be ignored. “Love is the fulfilling of the law,” and the end of the gospel; but hatred--hatred of sin--is the only portal to true, and pure, and holy love. When the Spirit, the Comforter, comes, what is the first thing He does? He convinces of sin (John 16:8-9).

I. As soon as we look at it, we recognize, speaking generally, A GREAT CONFLICT ENDING IS VICTORY. Of this conflict there is a threefold presentation.

1. First, there is a personal conflict: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” Here it is worth while to notice that the Hebrew tense admits of a present as well as a future interpretation. So it is not only, “I will put enmity”; but, “I am putting and will put enmity between thee and the woman.” The work is begun. The unholy alliance, into which Eve had been beguiled by the Evil One, is already broken. She is already a changed woman. She is no longer on the serpent’s side. She is on the Lord’s side. There is enmity between her and the serpent.

2. After the personal comes the general conflict: “Enmity between thy seed and her seed.” What is meant by the two “seeds”? We would not have very much difficulty in guessing, but we are not left to guess work. We are very plainly told in the later Scriptures. For example, in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Jews had been congratulating themselves on belonging to the promised seed--“We be Abraham’s seed” (verse 33). Our Saviour said, in reply: “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill Me.” That is a strange thing for Abraham’s seed. You may be Abraham’s seed literally, but certainly not spiritually. “They answered and said unto Him: Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them: If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” Notice how distinctly He recognized the spiritual sense of the term, not the literal. “If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham.” “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning. That is the reason ye seek to kill Me.” Or turn to Matthew 23:33, where, addressing the same kind of people, the Saviour says--“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers” (i.e., ye seed of the serpents)
, “how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Or take the parable of the tares (
Matthew 13:38): “The good seed are the children of the kingdom. But the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Perhaps most definite of all is a passage in the 3rd chapter of the 1st Epistle of John. Read from the 8th verse: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Then follows something like a definition of the two seeds. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one and slew his brother.” You see how plainly it is stated that the seed of the serpent are those who follow the deeds of the serpent; they are those who inherit the wickedness of their father the devil, as it is put here. And, of course, if the seed of the serpent are those who inherit the wickedness of the evil one, the seed of the woman are those that inherit the saintliness of the woman. It is as plain as anything can be, that it is the spiritual, and not the literal, seed that is meant; that character is in view, and not simple descent.

3. Not only is there a personal and a general conflict, but there is a special one. “Thee and the woman”--personal. “Thy seed and her seed”--general. “It” (or he, because the pronoun is masculine) “shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”--special. Now, I do not say that Christ is very plainly indicated here. The time had not yet come for this. The hope of the coming personal Saviour was only gradually unfolded. But I do say that certain lines are drawn which, when produced, are found to converge on Christ, who occupies the point of sight, away on the distant horizon. Observe, further, that it is only at this point that victory comes in: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” only conflict there; no victory. “And between thy seed and her seed,” only enmity, no victory. But come to the point of sight, and there is not only conflict, but victory--“He shall bruise thy head.” Apart from the Captain of our Salvation, there was nothing for us but defeat. Though victory is finally assured to all the true seed of the woman, it will be His victory, made theirs by faith.

II. Let us now look at THE FACTS IN HISTORY, TO WHICH THE PROPHECY POINTS, AND WHICH CONSTITUTE ITS FULFILMENT. In the first place, we see the development of this conflict right along from the time of its first beginning; “from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias, slain between the temple and the altar”; and from the days of the first martyr, Stephen, down to the present time, when in heathen lands converts still must seal, at times, their testimony with their blood, and when in Christian lands “those that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer” certain kinds of persecution, and keep up a constant conflict with the powers of evil. The conflict will go on, and will not cease until the last of Satan’s captives shall be rescued from his grasp and brought as sons to glory; when there shall be the great gathering of the people around Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, the Captain of our Salvation. But of all that long conflict, the crisis, the decisive action, is that to which our attention is specially called in the prophecy--the conflict that the Lord Jesus had to wage against the powers of darkness and the machinations of evil men when He was here upon the earth. Our Saviour, having taken our place, had this warfare to fight all through His life. Have you not often asked yourself the reason of the great difference between the death of the Lord Jesus and the death of so many martyrs, who endured unheard of tortures without flinching or uttering a cry? Had the Master less courage than the servants? Was He less able to endure suffering than Stephen, or any of the martyrs? Oh, no! It was because He had sufferings to bear that none of them had any knowledge of. He had their battle to fight as well as His own. As the Captain of their Salvation and ours, He stood in the front and thickest of the battle, and by His strong agony gained the victory for them and us. Now that He has gained the victory, that victory is secured for all the rest, who may well face death in any form bravely, now that the Captain of their Salvation has conquered all its terrors for them. It is secured for all the seed; and we have a picture of its consummation in the book of Revelation, where is celebrated in thrilling imagery the final victory of the saints of the Lord “by the blood of the Lamb.” But while victory has been secured for us, it must also be accomplished in us. There must be a conflict and a victory in every human heart. There is not only the special conflict, which the Lord Jesus so victoriously waged, and the general conflict ending so triumphantly for all the seed, but there must be a personal conflict in each individual soul. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

Christ the conqueror of Satan

The promise plainly teaches that the Deliverer would be born of a woman, and, carefully viewed, it also foreshadows the Divine method of the Redeemer’s conception and birth. So also is the doctrine of the two seeds plainly taught here--“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” There was evidently to be in the world a seed of the woman on God’s side against the serpent, and a seed of the serpent that should always be upon the evil side even as it is unto this day. The church of God and the synagogue of Satan both exist.

I. THE FACTS. The facts are four, and I call your earnest attention to them.

1. The first is, enmity was excited. Satan counted on man’s descendants being his confederates, but God would break up this covenant with hell, and raise up a seed which should war against the Satanic power. Thus we have here God’s first declaration that He will set up a rival kingdom to oppose the tyranny of sin and Satan, that He will create in the hearts of a chosen seed an enmity against evil, so that they shall fight against it, and with many a struggle and pain shall overcome the prince of darkness. The Divine Spirit has abundantly achieved this plan and purpose of the Lord, combating the fallen angel by a glorious man: making man to be Satan’s foe and conqueror.

2. Then comes the second prophecy, which has also turned into a fact, namely, the coming of the champion. The seed of the woman by promise is to champion the cause, and oppose the dragon. That seed is the Lord Jesus Christ. The conflict our glorious Lord continues in His seed. We preach Christ crucified, and every sermon shakes the gates of hell. We bring sinners to Jesus by the Spirit’s power, and every convert is a stone torn down from the wall of Satan’s mighty castle.

3. The third fact which comes out in the text, though not quite in that order, is that our Champion’s heel should be bruised. Do you need that I explain this? You know how all His life long His heel, that is, His lower part, His human nature, was perpetually being made to suffer. He carried our sicknesses and sorrows. But the bruising came mainly when both in body and in mind His whole human nature was made to agonize; when His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and His enemies pierced His hands and His feet, and He endured the shame and pain of death by crucifixion. Before the throne He looks like a lamb that has been slain, but in the power of an endless life He liveth unto God.

4. Then comes the fourth fact, namely, that while His heel was being bruised, He was to braise the serpent’s head. By His sufferings Christ has overthrown Satan, by the heel that was bruised He has trodden upon the head which devised the bruising.

II. Let us now view over EXPERIENCE AS IT TALLIES WITH THESE FACTS. He means to save us, and how does He work to that end?

1. The first thing He does is, He comes to us in mercy, and puts enmity between us and the serpent. That is the very first work of grace. You began to hate sin, and you groaned under it as under a galling yoke; more and more it burdened you, you could not bear it, you hated the very thought of it. So it was with you: is it so now? Is there still enmity between you and the serpent? Indeed you are more and mere the sworn enemies of evil, and you willingly acknowledge it.

2. Then came the Champion, that is to say, “Christ was formed in you the hope of glory.” You heard of Him and you understood the truth about Him, and it seemed a wonderful thing that He should be your substitute and stand in your room and place and stead, and bear your sin and all its curse and punishment, and that He should give His righteousness, yea, and His very self, to you that you might be saved.

3. Next, do you recollect how you were led to see the bruising of Christ’s heel and to stand in wonder and observe what the enmity of the serpent had wrought in Him? Did you not begin to feel the bruised heel yourself? Did not sin torment you? Did not the very thought of it vex you? Did not your own heart become a plague to you? Did not Satan begin to tempt you? Did he not inject blasphemous thoughts, and urge you on to desperate measures; did he not teach you to doubt the existence of God, and the mercy of God, and the possibility of your salvation, and so on? This was his nibbling at your heel. He is at his old tricks still. He worries whom he can’t devour with a malicious joy.

4. But, brethren, do you know something of the other fact, namely, that we conquer, for the serpent’s head is broken in us? How say you? Is not the power and dominion of sin broken in you? Do you not feel that you cannot sin because you are born of God? Some sins which were masters of you once, do not trouble you now. Oftentimes the Lord also grants us to know what it is to overcome temptation, and so to break the head of the fiend. I ought to add that every time any one of us is made useful in saving souls we do as it were repeat the bruising of the serpent’s head. In all deliverances and victories you overcome, and prove the promise true--“Thou shall tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shall thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name.”

III. Let us speak awhile upon THE ENCOURAGEMENT which our text and the context yields to us; for it seems to me to abound.

1. I want you, brethren, to exercise faith in the promise and be comforted. The text evidently encouraged Adam very much. Adam acted in faith upon what God said, for we read, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve (or Life); because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). She was not a mother at all, but as the life was to come through her by virtue of the promised seed, Adam marks his full conviction of the truth of the promise though at the time the woman had borne no children.

2. Notice by way of further encouragement that we may regard our reception of Christ’s righteousness as an instalment of the final overthrow of the devil.

3. Next, by way of encouragement in pursuing the Christian life, I would say to young people, expect to be assailed. If you have fallen into trouble through being a Christian be encouraged by it; do not at all regret or fear it, but rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy, for this is the constant token of the covenant.

4. Still further encouragement comes from this. Your suffering as a Christian is not brought upon you for your own sake; ye are partners with the great SEED of the woman, ye are confederates with Christ. You must not think the devil cares much about you; the battle is against Christ in you. I have heard of a woman who was condemned to death in the Marian days, and before her time came to be burned a child was born to her, and she cried out in her sorrow. A wicked adversary, who stood by, said, “How will you bear to die for your religion if you make such ado?” “Ah,” she said, “Now I suffer in my own person as a woman, but then I shall not suffer, but Christ in me.” Nor were these idle words, for she bore her martyrdom with exemplary patience, and rose in her chariot of fire in holy triumph to heaven. If Christ be in you, nothing will dismay you, but you will overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil by faith.

5. Last of all, let us resist the devil always with this belief, that he has received a broken head. I am inclined to think that Luther’s way of laughing at the devil was a very good one, for he is worthy of shame and everlasting contempt. Luther once threw an inkstand at his head when he was tempting him very sorely, and though the act itself appears absurd enough, yet it was a true type of what that great Reformer was all his life long, for the books he wrote were truly a flinging of the inkstand at the head of the fiend. That is what we have to do: we are to resist him by all means. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The curse of Satan including a blessing to man

There are four things here intimated which are each worthy of notice--

1. The ruin of Satan’s cause was to be accomplished by one in human nature. This must have been not a little mortifying to his pride. If he must fall, and could have had his choice as to the mode, he might rather have wished to have been crushed by the immediate hand of God: for however terrible that hand might be, it would be less humiliating than to be subdued by one of a nature inferior to his own. The human nature especially appears to have become odious in his eyes. It is possible that the rejoicings of eternal wisdom over man was known in heaven, and first excited his envy; and that his attempt to ruin the human race was an act of revenge. If so, there was a peculiar fitness that from man should proceed his overthrow.

2. It was to be accomplished by the seed of the woman. This would be more humiliating still. Satan had made use of her to accomplish his purposes, and God would defeat his schemes through the same medium: and by how much he had despised and abused her, in making her the instrument of drawing her husband aside, by so much would he be mortified in being overcome by one of her descendents.

3. The victory should be obtained not only by the Messiah Himself, but by all His adherents, blow if it were mortifying for Satan to be overcome by the Messiah Himself, considered as the seed of the woman, how much more when in addition to this every individual believer shall be made to come near, and as it were set his feet upon the neck of his enemy?

4. Finally: though it should be a long war, and the cause of the serpent would often be successful, yet in the end it should be utterly fumed. The “head” is the seat of life, which the “heel” is not: by this language therefore is intimated, that the life of Christ’s cause should not be affected by any part of Satan’s opposition; but that the life of Satan’s cause should be that of Christ. (A. Fuller.)

Blessings through Messiah

Through the promised Messiah a great many things pertaining to the curse are not only counteracted, but become blessings. Under His glorious reign, “the earth shall yield its increase, and God, our own God, delight in blessing us.” And while its fruitfulness is withheld, it has a merciful tendency to stop the progress of sin: for if the whole earth were like the plains of Sodom in fruitfulness, which are compared to the garden of God, its inhabitants would be as Sodom and Gomorrah in wickedness. The necessity of hard labour too in obtaining a subsistence, which is the lot of the far greater part of mankind, tends more than a little, by separating men from each other, and depressing their spirits, to restrain them from the excesses of evil. All the afflictions of the present life contain in them a motive to look upwards for a better portion: and death itself is a monitor to warn them to prepare to meet their God. These are things suited to a sinful world: and where they are sanctified, as they are to believers in Christ, they become real blessings. To them they are but light afflictions, and last but for a moment; and while they do last, “work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” To them, in short, death itself is introductory to everlasting life. (A. Fuller.)

It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel

Bruising the head of evil; or, the mission of Christianity

That there were two grand opposing moral forces at work in the world, “the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent,” is manifest from the following conceptions:--

1. The universal beliefs of mankind. All nations believe in two antagonistic principles.

2. The phenomena of the moral world. The thoughts, actions, and conduct of men are so radically different that they must be referred to two distinct moral forces.

3. The experience of good men.

4. The declaration of the Bible. Now in this conflict, whilst error and evil only strike at the mere “heel” of truth and goodness, truth and goodness strike right at the “head.” Look at this idea in three aspects:--

I. AS A CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIANITY. Evil has a “head” and its “head” is not in theories, or institutions, or outward conduct; but in the moral feelings. In the liken and dislikes, the sympathies and antipathies of the heart. Now it is against this “head” of evil, that Christianity, as a system of reform, directs its blows. It does not seek to lop off the branches from the mighty upas, but to destroy its roots. It does not strike at the mere forms of murder, adultery, and theft; but at their spirit, anger, lust, and covetousness. This its characteristic.

II. AS A TEST OF INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANITY. Unless Christianity has bruised the very “head” of evil within us it has done nothing to the purpose.

1. It may bruise certain erroneous ideas, and yet be of no service to you.

2. It may bruise certain wrong habits, and yet be of no real service to you.

III. AS A GUIDE IN PROPAGATING CHRISTIANITY. The great failure of the Church in its world-reforming mission may be traced to the wrong direction of its efforts. (Homilist.)

God’s great patience, not withstanding man’s provocations

Suppose a man should come into a curious artificer’s shop, and there with one blow dash in pieces such a piece of art as had cost many years’ study and pains in the contriving thereof. How could he bear with it? How would he take on to see the workmanship of his hands so rashly, so wilfully destroyed? He could not but take it ill and be much troubled thereat. Thus it is that as soon as God had set up and perfected the frame of the world, sin gave a shrewd shake to all; it unpinned the frame, and had like to have pulled all in pieces again; nay, had it not been for the promise of Christ, all this goodly frame had been reduced to its primitive nothingness again. Man by his sin had pulled down all about his ears, but God, in mercy, keeps it up; man by his sin provokes God, but God, in mercy, passeth by all affronts whatsoever. Oh, the wonderful mercy--oh, the omnipotent patience of God! (J. Spencer.)

The first promise

The first promise (Genesis 3:15) is like the first small spring or head of a great river, which the farther it runs the bigger it grows by the accession of more waters to it. Or like the sun in the heavens, which the higher it mounts the more bright and glorious the day still grows. (J. Flavel.)

First things

What delight there is to us in first things! The first primrose pushing through the clods telling of winter gone, and summer on the way: the first view of the sea in its wondrous expanse of power: the first sense of peace that came by a view of Christ as Saviour. A certain authoress who became very famous, speaks of the exquisite sense of delight she felt when she began her first literary work in the reviewing of books: the opening of the first parcel was as the “bursting of a new world” on her eyes. (H. O. Mackey.)

The gospel preached in paradise

The words are considerable--

1. For the person who speaketh them, the Lord God Himself, who was the first preacher of the gospel in paradise. The draught and plot was in His bosom long before, but now it cometh out of His mouth.

2. For the occasion when they were spoken. When God hath been but newly provoked and offended by sin, and man, from His creature and subject, was become His enemy and rebel, the offended God comes with a promise in His mouth. Adam could look for nothing but that God should repeat to him the whole beadroll of curses wherein he had involved himself, but God maketh known the great design of His grace. Once more, the Lord God was now cursing the serpent, and in the midst of the curses promiseth the great blessing of the Messiah. Thus doth God “in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). Yea, man’s sentence was not yet pronounced. The Lord God had examined him (verse 8-10), but before the doom there breaketh out a promise of mercy. Thus mercy gets the start of justice, and triumpheth and rejoiceth over it in our behalf: “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13).

3. They are considerable for their matter, for they intimate a victory over Satan, and that in the nature which was foiled so lately. In the former part of the verse you have the combat; in the text the success.

(a) What the seed of the woman doth against the serpent, “He shall bruise thy head”;

(b) What the serpent doth against the seed of the woman, “Thou shalt bruise his heel.”

(c) There is something common to both; for the word bruise is used promiscuously both of the serpent and the seed of the woman. In this war, as usually in all others, there are wounds given on both sides; the devil bruiseth Christ, and Christ bruiseth Satan.

(d) There is a disparity of the event, “He shall bruise thy head,” and “Thou shalt bruise his heel”; where there is a plain allusion to treading upon a serpent. Wounds on the head are deadly to serpents, but wounds on the body are not so grievous or dangerous; and a serpent trod upon, seeketh to do all the mischief it can to the foot by which it is crushed. The wound given to the head is mortal, but the wound given to the heel may be healed. The seed of the woman may be cured, but Satan’s power cannot be restored. The devil cannot reach to the head, but the heel only, which is far from any vital part. (1st.) For the first clause, “It shall bruise thy head.” The seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head, whereby is meant the overthrow and destruction of his power and works (John 12:31; 1 John 3:8). The head being bruised, strength and life is perished. (2nd.) For the other clause, “Thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Where--

I. That Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman. That He is one of her seed is past doubt, since He was born of the Virgin, a daughter of Eve. That He is “The seed,” the most eminent of all the stock, appeareth by the dignity of His Person, God made flesh (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16). As also by His miraculous conception (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:23). Now, if you ask what necessity there was that the conqueror should be the seed of the woman, because the flesh of Christ is the bread of life, and the food of our faith? I shall a little insist upon the conveniency and agreeableness of it.

1. That thereby He might be made under the law, which was given to the whole nature of man (Galatians 4:4).

2. That He might in the same nature suffer the penalty and curse of the law, as well as fulfil the duty of it, and so make satisfaction for our sins, which as God He could not do. He was “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13; Philippians 2:8). “He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.”

3. That in the same nature which was foiled He might conquer Satan.

4. That He might take compassion of our infirmities, having experimented them in His own person (Hebrews 2:17-18).

5. That He might take possession of heaven for us in our nature (John 14:2-3).

6. That after He had been a sacrifice for sin, and conquered death by His resurrection, He might also triumph over the devil, and lead captivity captive, and give gifts to men in the very act of His ascension into heaven Ephesians 4:8).

II. That Christ is at enmity with Satan, and hath entered into the conflict with him.

1. We must state the enmity between Christ and His confederates, and Satan and his instruments.

2. The enmity being such between the seeds, Christ sets upon His business to destroy Satan’s power and works.

III. That in this conflict His heel was wounded, bitten, or bruised by the serpent.

1. Certain it is that Christ was bruised in the enterprise; which showeth how much we should value our salvation, since it costs so dear as the precious blood of the Son of God Incarnate (1 Peter 1:18-19).

2. But how was He bruised by the serpent? Certainly on the one hand Christ’s sufferings were the effects of man’s sin and God’s hatred against sin and His governing justice; for it is said, “It pleased the Father to bruise Isaiah 53:10). Unless it had pleased the Lord to bruise Him, Satan could never have bruised Him. On the Other side, they were also the effects of the malice and rage of the devil and his instruments, who was now with the sword’s point and closing stroke with Christ, and doing the worst he could against Him. In His whole life He endured many outward troubles from Satan’s instruments; for all His life long He was a man of sorrows, wounded and bruised by Satan and his instruments (John 8:44). But the closing stroke was at last; then did the serpent most eminently bruise His heel. When Judas contrived the plot, it is said, the devil entered into him (Luke 22:3). When the high priest’s servants came to take Him, He telleth them, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). The power of darkness at length did prevail so far as to cause His shameful death; this was their day.

3. It was only His heel that was bruised. It could go no further; for though His bodily life was taken away, yet His head and mediatory power was not touched (Acts 2:36). Again, His bodily life was taken away but for a while. God would not leave His soul in the grave (Psalms 16:10). Once more, though Christ was bruised, yet He was not conquered. So for Christians, He may divers ways wound and afflict us in our outward interests, but the inner man is safe (2 Corinthians 4:16).

IV. Though Christ’s heel was bruised in the conflict, yet it endeth in Satan’s final overthrow; for his head was crushed, which noteth the subversion of his power and kingdom. To explain this, we must consider--

1. What is the power of Satan.

2. How far Satan was destroyed by Christ. First: What is the power of Satan? It lieth in sin. And Christ destroyed him, as He “made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness, and made reconciliation for iniquities” (Daniel 9:24). Secondly: How far was Satan destroyed or his head crushed?

1. Negatively.

(1) Non ratione essentiae, not to take away his life and being. No; there is a devil still, and shall be, even when the whole work of Christ’s redemption is finished (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41). Then eternal judgment is executed on the head of the wicked state.

(2) Non ratione malitiae, not in regard of malice; for the enmity ever continueth between the two seeds, and Satan will be doing though it be always to loss, “The devil sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8).

Therefore he is not so destroyed as if he did no more desire the ruin and destruction of men. He is as malicious as ever.

2. Affirmatively, it remaineth that it is ratione potentiae, in regard of his power. But the question returneth, How far is his power destroyed? for he still governeth the wicked, and possesseth a great part of the world. Therefore the devils are called “The rulers of the darkness of this world” Ephesians 6:12). He molesteth the godly, whether considered singly or apart, or in their communities and societies. Singly and apart he may sometimes trouble them and sorely shake them as wheat is winnowed in a sieve. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). And in their communities and societies. “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say; many a time have they afflicted me from my youth” (Psalms 129:1-2).

Use 1. Thankfulness and praise to our Mediator.

1. Satan’s design was to dishonour God by a false representation, as if envious of man’s happiness (Genesis 3:5). And so to weaken the esteem of God’s goodness. Now in the work of our redemption God is wonderfully magnified, and represented as amiable to man; not envying our knowledge and delight, but promoting it by all means, even with great care and cost (1 John 4:8).

2. To depress the nature of man, that in innocency stood so near God. Now that the human nature, so depressed and abased by the malicious suggestions of the devil, should be so elevated and advanced, and be set up far above the angelical nature, and admitted to dwell with God in a personal union, oh! let us now cheerfully remember and celebrate this victory of Christ. Our praise now is a pledge of our everlasting triumph.

Use 2. To exhort us to make use of Christ’s help for our recovery out of the defection and apostasy of mankind. Oh! let Satan be crushed in you, and the old carnal nature destroyed.

Use 3. To show us the nature of Christ’s victory, and wherein it consisteth; not in an exemption from troubles, nor in a total exemption from sin for the present.

1. Not in an exemption from troubles. No; you must expect conflicts. Though Satan’s deadly power be taken away, our heel may be crushed.

2. It is not a total exemption from sin. Necessary vital grace is only absolutely secured; yon shall receive no deadly wound to destroy your salvation. Use:

4. To animate and encourage Christ’s servants in their war against Satan’s kingdom, at home and abroad, within and without: “Not to give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27). Christ whom we serve is more able to save than Satan is to destroy. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Man’s restoration promised

The promise of the recovery of mankind out of Satan’s bondage, and from under God’s curse, contains in it these principal heads, all of them expressed or implied in those few words, being so many grounds of our faith.

1. That God’s promise of grace is every way free, not solicited by Adam, and much less deserved, as being made unto him now, when he had offended God in the highest degree, and stood in enmity against Him, and therefore must needs proceed from God’s free will.

2. That it is certain and infallible, as depending, not upon man’s will, but upon God’s, who speaks not doubtfully or conditionally, but positively and peremptorily, that He will do it Himself.

3. That it shall be constant and unchangeable: the inward hatred and outward wars between Satan and the holy seed shall not cease till they end at last in Satan’s total and final ruin.

4. That it shall not extend to all the seed of the woman according to the flesh, but to some that are chosen out of her seed. For some of them shall join with Satan against their own brethren.

5. The effect of this gracious promise shall be the sanctifying of their hearts, whom God will save, manifested in the hatred of Satan and all his ways; which though they had formerly embraced, yet now they should abhor.

6. This work of sanctification shall not be wrought upon them as a statuary fashions a stone into an image; but God shall make use of their wills and affections to stir them up and to set them against Satan, as this word--enmity--necessarily implies.

7. Those affections shall not be smothered and concealed in the inward motions of the heart, but shall outwardly manifest themselves in serious endeavours for the opposing of Satan and his power, as the war here mentioned and intimated by the wounds on both sides, necessarily supposeth.

8. The work of sanctification, though it shall be infallible and unchangeable, yet shall be imperfect, as is implied in the bruises which the godly shall receive by Satan’s hand, not only by outward afflictions, but by inward temptations, which shall wound their souls by drawing them into divers sins, all implied in that phrase of bruising the heel.

9. Those wounds which they receive at Satan’s hands shall not be deadly, nor quench the life of grace, which the devil shall not be able to destroy, as is intimated in that part of the body which shall be wounded, which is the heel, far enough from any vital part.

10. The author of this work of sanctification shall not be themselves, but God by His Spirit. For it is He that shall put enmity into their hearts against Satan and his seed, as the words import.

11. This work of sanctification by the Spirit shall be established by their union with Christ their Head, with whom they shall be joined into one body, as is implied when Christ and His members are termed one seed.

12. By virtue of this union the holy seed shall have an interest in and a title to all that Christ works. For so, in effect, Christ’s victory over Satan is called their victory, when it is said the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, that is, Christ and His members shall do it.

13. For the making way to this union and communion between Christ and His members, He shall take on Him the very nature of man, so that He shall truly and properly be called the seed of the woman. (J. White, M. A.)

Lessons

1. Let us mark how God proceeds in His inquiries after sin. He first traces it out step by step, tracks it in all its windings, ere He utters one word of judgment. His dealings hitherto had been with Adam, as the head of creation. Therefore He speaks first to him. Then from Adam sin is traced to the woman, then from the woman to the serpent. By this process it was brought solemnly before the conscience of the transgressors, that they might see what they had done. Even in the order of judgment, how careful to mark His sense of the different kinds of criminality! Such is a specimen of the way in which He will judge the world in righteousness!

2. Let us mark the circumstances in which the sentence was given. It was given in the hearing of our parents. It was not specially directed to them. They were but hearers. Yet the scene was designed for them. This curse on the serpent was spoken in their ears, because “it contained in it God’s purpose of grace towards them.”

3. Let us mark how God hated that which Satan had done. “Because thou hast done this,” are the words of awful preface to the sentence. God had no pleasure in the snare or the ruin it had wrought. His words are the expression of deep displeasure against him who had done the horrid deed, and at the deed which had been done. And let us not forget how much of that which Satan has since then been doomed to suffer, as well as of that which be shall hereafter suffer, has its origin here. His sin, by means of which he succeeded in casting man out of Eden, shall be the sin by which he himself shall be cast wholly out of earth, to deceive the nations no more.

4. In undoing the evil God begins at its source. The drying up of the stream will not do; the source must be reached. Sin was the real enemy, and love to the sinner must proceed at once against this enemy, not resting till it is utterly destroyed.

5. God shows that Satan shall not be allowed to triumph. His victory is only temporary and partial. God is taking the sinner’s side; and this is the assurance that Satan’s victory shall be reversed!

6. God Himself undertakes man’s cause. It is not, “there shall be enmity”; but “I will put” it. God Himself will now proceed to work for man. The serpent’s malice and success have but drawn forth the deeper love and more direct interposition in man’s behalf.

7. God promises a seed to the woman. All that this implied she could not know at the time. But it is evidently declared that she was not to die immediately. The salvation was to come from God, and yet it was to come through man.

8. God is to put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed.

9. There is not only to be enmity, but conflict. That these two parties should keep aloof from each other was not enough. There must be more than this. There must be alienation and hatred; nay, there must be warfare, and that of the most desperate kind. Satan and the Church must ever be at open warfare.

The world and the Church must ever be foes to each other.

1. The bruising of the heel of the woman’s seed. It is not the woman’s heel that is to be bruised, but the heel of her seed; neither is it the woman that is to bruise the serpent’s head, but her seed--“it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” It was an inferior part that was to be wounded, not a vital one. Yet still there was to be a wound. The serpent’s seed was to have a temporary triumph, and this was fulfilled when Jesus hung on the cross. Then the heel was bruised. Then Satan seemed to conquer. That was the hour and power of darkness. Then “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” Then that wound was given which defeated him who gave it, and began our victory.

2. The bruising of the serpent’s head. It was his most vital as well as his most honourable part that was to be bruised. An intimation this of utter defeat and ruin. He has received many a stroke. His deadly wound was given upon the cross, in that very stroke by which he bruised the heel of the woman’s seed. So that from that moment our victory was secure, But the final blow is reserved for the Lord’s second coming. Then it is that the great dragon, that old serpent, is to be bound in chains, and shut up in the abyss. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The remedy

Near the manchaneel, which grows in the forests of the West Indies, and which gives forth a juice of deadly poisonous nature, grows a fig, the sap of which, if applied in time, is a remedy for the diseases produced by the manchaneel. God places the gospel of grace alongside the sentence of death. (W. Adamson.)


Verse 16

Genesis 3:16

In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children

Motherhood a blessing and an education

I.
IN MATERNITY A WOMAN COMPLETES HER NATURE. Every sorrow of body or soul is made into a new thread in the web of affection which she weaves round the life of the child for whom she suffers.

II. SHE HAS ANOTHER BLESSING IN A CERTAIN EASE IN LOSING SELF. Men find it less natural to be unselfish. The mother almost spontaneously drops off the robe of self.

III. HER SORROW OF MATERNITY BRINGS A BLESSING TO THE WORLD. What silent, forceful lessons of the blessed life has motherhood given to the world!

IV. THIS SORROW HAS BEEN AN EDUCATION TO THE WORLD. The great thought of Christianity is that only through sacrifice of self can life be given to others, or life be realized by the giver. Motherhood permits woman to live her life in another life. It is the likest thing to God’s life.

V. THE SORROW OF MATERNITY IS A PROPHECY. Her joy in self-surrender for another life, and her better life so won is the joy in which the whole world shall he when, leaping from the womb of the past, it will break into the perfect life--born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Observations

I. ALL THE AFFLICTIONS OF CHRIST’S MEMBERS ARE DISPENSED UNTO THEM UNDER THE COVENANT OF GRACE.

II. THOUGH GOD HAVE THROUGH CHRIST REMITTED TO HIS CHILDREN THE SENTENCE OF DEATH, YET HE HATH NOT FREED THEM FROM THE AFFLICTIONS OF THIS LIFE.

III. ALL THE AFFLICTIONS THAT GOD LAYS UPON HIS CHILDREN IN THIS LIFE HAVE MIXED WITH THEIR BITTERNESS SOME SWEETNESS OF MERCY. As there is some mixture of mercy with the bitterness of the afflictions of this life, so is there a mixture of bitterness with the blessings of this life. It is the wife’s duty to be subject to the will and direction of her husband. The subjection of the wife to the husband must be, not only in outward obedience to his commands, but besides in the inward affection of the heart.

1. It is a duty to be performed to God, who will be served, not only with the outward man, but with the heart (Colossians 3:22-23).

2. Else the subjection must needs be burdensome, and the services done therein like that of Zipporah in circumcising her child (Exodus 4:25). (J. White, M. A.)

The sentence on the woman

His sentence on the woman is, in part, a reversal of the first blessing, “Multiply and replenish the earth.” God’s blessing alone went out at first with the command to multiply, but now sortie drops of the curse are to be infused into it in remembrance of sin. The race was still to go on increasing; but henceforth it was to be in sorrow. The very perpetuation of the species was to be accompanied with marks of the displeasure of God. The dark cloud of sorrow was to take up its station above each man as he came into the world. And, kindred to these pangs of her corporeal frame, are the other varied sorrows which overshadow her lot--the weakness, the dependence, the fear, the rising and sinking of heart, the bitterness of disappointed hope, the wounds of unrequited affection--all these, as drops of the sad cup now put into her hands, woman has, from the beginning, been made to taste. The sentence falls on her specially as woman, not as one with the man, and part of the human race, but as woman. The things which mark her out as woman are the things which the sentence selects, It is as the mother and as the wife that she is to feel the weight of the sentence now pronounced. A mother’s pangs (which otherwise would have been unknown); a wife’s dependence (which, in all save Christian countries, is utter degradation); sorrow, not joy, in that appointed process through which the promised seed is to be born into the world; inferiority, instead of equality, in that relationship in reference to which it had been said by her husband, “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh”; not henceforth the husband “cleaving to the wife,” as at the first (Genesis 2:24), but the wife cleaving to the husband, and the husband ruling over the wife. Such are the sad results of sin! (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Woman’s subjection to man

The subjection of the woman to the man and his rule over her was a just check of that bold taking upon her, both to talk so much with the serpent and also to do as he bade her, without any privity and knowledge of her husband. And it is as much as if God should have said to her: Because thou tookest so much upon thee without advice of thy husband, hereafter thy desire shall be subject unto him, and he shall rule over thee. Yet this authority of the man may not embolden him any way to wrong his wife, but teacheth him rather what manner of man he ought to be--namely, such an one as for gravity, wisdom, advice, and all government is able to direct her in all things to a good course. And her subjection should admonish her of her weakness and need of direction, and so abate all pride and conceit of herself, and work true honour in her heart toward him whom God hath made stronger than herself and given gifts to direct her by. This, I say, this authority in the man and subjection in the woman should effect. But alas, many men are rather to be ruled than to rule, and many women fitter to rule than to be ruled of such unruly husbands. On the other side, many men for ability most fit and able to rule, yet for pride in the heart, where subjection should be, shall have no leave to rule. So fit we sometimes to the order appointed of Almighty God. Amendment is good on both sides, for fear of His rod, whose order we break. (Bishop Babington.)


Verse 17

Genesis 3:17

Cursed is the ground for thy sake

A curse which proves a blessing

This was almost the first curse revealed to us as pronounced by God, and yet it is almost the first blessing.

I. AT FIRST SIGHT WE ARE NOT PREPARED TO ADMIT THAT LABOUR IS A BLESSING. We shrink from the misery of task work which must be got through when we are least fitted to carry it on; the very word “repose” suggests all that is most coveted by men. It was a true instinct which led the old mythologist to invent the fable of Sisyphus and his stone, and to see in that punishment an image of horrible torture. Labour which is only laborious is and always must be grievous to endure.

II. ON ALL THE SONS OF ADAM THERE IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF LABOUR IMPOSED. We may recognize the necessity and submit to it with gratitude, and then we find in it every hour a blessing; or we may rebel against it, and then we turn it as far as we can into a curse. The sweetness of leisure consists in the change from our ordinary employments, not in a cessation of all employment.

III. LYING SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE BLESSING OF LABOUR THERE IS ALSO A CURSE--“Thorns also and thistles,” etc. Work is grievous and irksome when unfruitful--when, after much toil, there is nothing to show. But let us be sure that if the work is done for God’s glory, and in His name, the fruit will spring up in His time. (A. Jessopp, D. D.)

Need of toil

The ground is our first lesson book, Notice--

1. A man does not cultivate the land by waving his hand majestically over it. The land says, “If you want anything out of me you must work for it. I answer labour, I respond to industry, I reply to the importunity of toil.” That is the great law of social progress.

2. The ground does not obey the dashing and angry passions of any man. The green field does not turn white, though you curse over it till you foam again at the mouth. We cannot compel nature to keep pace with our impatience; man cannot hasten the wheel of the seasons; he cannot drive nature out of its calm and solemn movement; his own fields keep him at bay.

3. Then I see God stooping and writing with His finger on the ground, and when He erects Himself and withdraws, behold the Bible He has written. “Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain”; “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” See the earth inscribed with terms like these, and learn from the land how to live.

4. Spiritual cultivation, like the culture of the land, cannot be hastened. You cannot extemporise moral greatness; it is a slow growth.

5. Spiritual cultivation is sometimes very hard. Circumstances are heavily against us; we are not placed in favourable localities, or under very gracious conditions. Let us be thankful to God if, though faint, we are still pursuing. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A curse, yet a blessing

I. The text suggests some of the mysteries by which we are surrounded. There is

II. The text supplies a solution by which these mysteries are brought into reconciliation with right views of the nature and character of the Eternal. Out of man’s evil and man’s transgression God contrives blessing. Sorrow in itself is an apparent evil; as God manages it, it is the harbinger of joy. It was the curse, but it also brings the blessing. There is hardness and difficulty in toil, but in occupation God has given us enjoyment. It keeps the mind and heart in active and energetic power. Even the curse of sin becomes in God’s hands a blessing. There is no brighter happiness for man than the sense of being forgiven. (A. Boyd.)

The curse on the ground for man’s sake

The king is punished by a curse upon his kingdom in addition to the personal woe falling on himself, just as Pharaoh was cursed in the plagues inflicted on his people. The ground, out of which he was taken, is cursed on his account, as if all pertaining to him had become evil. It is not he that suffers on account of his connection with the soil, but it is the soil that suffers on account of its connection with him, affording proof that it is not from matter that evil flows into spirit, but that it is from spirit that evil flows into matter. That soil from which he had sprung, that soil which God had just been strewing with verdure and flowers, that soil whose fruitfulness had produced the tree whose beauty and desirableness had been the woman’s beguilement and his own ruin, that soil must now be scourged and sterilized on his account; as if God had thus addressed him: “I can no longer trust thee with a fruitful soil, nor allow the blessing with which I have blessed the earth to abide upon it; thou art to remain here for a season, but it shall not be the same earth; in mercy I will still leave it such an earth as thou canst inherit, not a wilderness nor a chaos as at first, but still with enough of gloom and desolation and barrenness to remind thee of thy sin, to say to thee continually, O man, thou hast ruined the earth over which I had set thee as king.”

1. The earth is to bring forth the thorn and the thistle. Whether these existed before we do not undertake to say, nor whether they are given here merely as the representatives of all noxious plants or weeds, nor whether the object of the curse, in so far as they were concerned, was to turn them into abortions, which they really are. Taking the words as they lie before us, we find that the essence of the curse Was the multiplication of these prickly abortions till they should become noxious to man and beast and herb of the field; mere nuisances on the face of the ground. Elsewhere in Scripture they are referred to as calamities. As the effects of judgments Job refers to them (Job 31:40), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:13). As the true offspring of a barren soil the apostle speaks of them (Hebrews 6:8). As injurious to all around our Lord Himself alludes to them Matthew 13:7-22). And it is evident that all these passages connect themselves with the original curse, and are to be interpreted by a reference to it. They are tokens of God’s original displeasure against man’s sin, so that the sight of them should recall us to this awful scene in Eden, and make us feel how truly God hates sin, and how impossible it is for Him to change in His hatred of it.

2. Man is to eat the herb of the field. Originally, the fruit of the various trees was to have been man’s food; the “herb” was for the lower creation, if not exclusively, at least chiefly. But now he is degraded. He is still, of course, to eat fruit, but in this he is to be restricted. Whether it were that, the earth being less productive in fruit, he must betake himself to inferior sustenance; or whether it might also be from a change in bodily constitution, requiring something else than fruit, we cannot say. The sentence is, “Thou shalt eat the herb of the field, not the pleasant fruits of paradise.”

3. He is to eat in sorrow. There was to be no glad feasting, but a bitter eating, or, if there might be feasting, it should be like Israel’s, “with bitter herbs”--the sweet and the bitter mingling.

4. He is to eat in toil--to wring a stinted subsistence out of the reluctant earth with sore labour and weariness. He cannot live but in a way which reminds him of his primal sin. Each day he hears the original sentence ringing in his ears. And yet all this hard toil serves barely to sustain a “dying life; “ and even that only for a little, until he return to the dust. This is the end of his earthly toil!

5. He is to die. Grace does not remit the whole penalty. It leaves a fragment behind it in pain, weakness, sickness, death, though at the same time it extracts blessing out of all these relics of the curse. Besides, in thus leaving men subject to death, it leaves open the door by which the great Deliverer was to go in and rob the spoiler of his prey. By death is death to be destroyed. Man must die! He came from the dust, and he must return to it. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The first transgression condemned

I. THE CRIME PROVED. The judge condemns the criminal’s conduct in several particulars.

1. His listening and yielding to temptation.

2. His neglect of God’s Word.

3. His open, positive transgression of a known law.

II. THE SENTENCE PRONOUNCED.

1. Deprivation of all the fruits and pleasures of Eden.

2. Toil.

3. Disappointment.

4. Sorrow.

5. Increasing infirmity.

6. Death.

7. Justice is tempered with mercy.

Let the subject teach us--

1. A lesson of humility. We are the degenerate children of such a parent.

2. A lesson of caution.

3. A lesson of encouragement. Respited, we may recover our Eden, by means of “the second Adam, the Lord from heaven.” Contrast--the first involving himself and us in guilt, pollution, and misery--the second the reverse of this (Romans 5:12-21). (Sketches of Sermons.)

Observations

I. THE CURSE, AS WELL AS THE BLESSING UPON ALL CREATURES, PROCEEDS FROM THE WILL AND DECREE OF GOD ALONE.

1. It can be no otherwise, seeing in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17), and have their being (Acts 17:28).

2. And it is fit it should be so, that all men might fear before Him Jeremiah 5:24), depend on Him (Jeremiah 14:22), and praise Him Psalms 107:32-34).

3. And it is every way best for us, who know that God judgeth righteously Psalms 67:4), and that those that fear Him shall want no good thing Psalms 84:1).

II. IT IS OUR OWN SIN THAT BRINGS THE CURSE OF GOD UPON ALL THAT WE ENJOY.

1. God’s mercies are over all His works (Psalms 145:9), and His hand in itself is not shortened (Isaiah 59:1), neither is there anything that He hates but sin, or for sin (Psalms 5:4-5).

2. And it is fit that God should so show His detestation of sin, by manifesting His wrath every way against such as provoke Him thereby, as He did in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and upon His own land Deuteronomy 29:23; Deuteronomy 29:25).

III. THE GREATEST OF ALL CREATURES ARE UNDER GOD’S COMMAND

1. They are all creatures (Jeremiah 14:22), even the work of His hand Job 34:19).

2. He could not otherwise be an absolute Lord over all (Psalms 103:19) if any creature were out of His command.

IV. THE CURSE OF GOD UPON THE CREATURES IS A PART OF MAN’S PUNISHMENT.

1. We have interest in them, so that their destruction is our loss.

2. Our subsistence is by them, so that to lose them, is to lose the means by which our lives should be supported.

V. MAN’S LIFE IN THIS WORLD IS A LIFE OF PAIN AND SORROW.

1. To make us the more sensible of sin, by our daily tasting the bitter fruits of it.

2. To move to a holy delight, and earnest seeking after things that are spiritual, the ways whereof are pleasant and the paths peace (Pr Psalms 119:165).

VI. THE SHORT PLEASURE OF SIN DRAWS AFTER IT A LONG AND LASTING PUNISHMENT.

VII. MAN’S FOOD IS OUT OF THE EARTH. (J. White, M. A.)

Weeds

It is the law of nature that plants should be diffused as widely as possible wherever the circumstances are favourable for their growth and welfare. For this purpose they are provided with the most admirable contrivances to maintain their own existence, and to propagate the species. But man interferes with this law in his processes of gardening and horticulture. His object is to cultivate beautiful or useful plants within enclosures, from which all other plants are excluded, and where an artificial soil and climate have been prepared. He wishes to separate from the struggle of the elements, and from the competition of other species, certain kinds of flowers or vegetables which are good for food or pleasant to the eye. In this he is only partially successful, for into the plot of ground which he has set apart from the waste common of nature a large number of plants intrude; and with them he has to maintain a constant warfare. These plants are known by the common name of weeds, a term which, curious enough, is etymologically connected with Wodan or Odin, the great god of the northern mythology, to whose worship in former ages, in this country, our Wednesday, or Odinsday, was specially dedicated. Any plant may become a weed by being accidentally found in a situation where its presence is not desired; but true weeds form a peculiar and distinct class. They are at once recognized by their mean and ragged appearance; their stems and foliage being neither fleshy nor leathery, but of a soft, flaccid description, and by the absence in most of them of conspicuous or beautiful blossoms. A look of vagabondage seems to characterize most of the members of the order, which at once stamps them as belonging to a pariah class. In the vegetable kingdom they are what gipsies are in the human world, and the same mystery surrounds them which is connected with that remarkable race. Like the gipsies they are essentially intruders and foreigners; never the native children of the soil on which they flourish. They may have come from long or short distances, but they have always been translated. There is no country where they are not found, and everywhere they have to encounter the prejudices which the popular mind invariably entertains against foreigners. There is one peculiarity about weeds which is very remarkable, viz., that they only appear on ground which, either by cultivation or for some other purpose, has been disturbed by man. They are never found truly wild, in woods or hills, or uncultivated wastes far away from human dwellings. They never grow on virgin soil, where human beings bare never been. No weeds exist in those parts of the earth that are uninhabited, or where man is only a passing visitant. The Arctic and Antarctic regions are destitute of them; and above certain limits on mountain ranges they have no representatives. To every thoughtful mind the questions must occur, “Have the plants we call weeds always been weeds? If not, what is their native country? How did they come into connection with man, and into dependence upon his labours?” No satisfactory answer can be given to these questions. As a class there can be no doubt that weeds belong to the most recent flora of the globe. Their luxuriant and flaccid look indicates their modern origin; for the plants of the older geological ages are characterized by dry leathery leaves, and a general physiognomy like that of the existing flora of Australia. Indeed, the flora of Europe during the Eocene period bears a close resemblance to that of Australia at the present day; so that in paying a visit to our southern colony, we are transporting ourselves back to the far-off ages when our own country had a climate and vegetation almost identical. The flora of Australia is the oldest flora at present existing on our globe. Our weeds came upon the scene long subsequent to this Australian or Eocene vegetation. In our own country they form part of the Germanic flora which overspread our low grounds after the passing away of the last glacial epoch, driving before them to the mountain tops the Alpine and Arctic plants, suited to a severer climate, which previously had covered the whole of Europe. They came from Western Asia and Northern Africa. They made their appearance in company with the beautiful and fruitful flora that is specially associated with the arrival of man, and spread from the same region which is supposed to be the cradle of the human race. In this way they are co-related with the Scripture account of the fall of man. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,” was the sentence pronounced by God upon man’s sin. We are not to suppose from this circumstance that these noxious plants were specially created then and there for the express purpose of carrying out the punishment of man. They were previously in existence, though they may be said to belong very specially to the human epoch; but since that mournful event they have received a new significance, and are bound up with man in a new moral relation. Most of our weeds possess all the characteristics of a desert flora; special adaptations to a dry soil and arid climate. And the reason why they find a congenial home in our gardens and cultivated fields is because the soil of such places is made artificially like the natural soil of their native country. Our fields and gardens are divested of all unnecessary vegetation, and drained of all superfluous moisture, and thus are possessed of the dry, warm, exposed soil, to which the provisions for drought with which weeds are specially furnished are admirably adapted, and where in consequence they luxuriate and overcome other plants less specially endowed. They follow in the train of man, and show a remarkable predilection for his haunts, become domesticated under his care, not merely because of the abundance of the nitrogenous and calcareous substances to be found in the vicinity of human dwellings and in manured fields and gardens, but chiefly because he provides them with the dry soil and climate in which they can best grow. It is an essential qualification of a weed that it should grow and spread with great rapidity. For this purpose it is endowed with marvellous contrivances in the way of buds and seeds. A very large number of our weeds, such as the thistle, groundsel, dandelion, colts-foot, scabious, daisy, ragwort, are composite flowers. The apparently single blossom is in reality a colony of separate blossoms, compressed by the obliteration of their floral stems around one central axis. In most of our weeds the floral parts are small and inconspicuous. The reproductive act is so arranged as to economise material and to exhaust the vital force as little as possible, and the organs concerned in it are reduced to the simplest forms consistent with efficiency. Most of the species can be fertilized by the wind, which is always available, or by the help of insects that have a wide range of distribution and are abundant everywhere. In consequence of this floral economy, the vegetative system acquires a greater predominance in this class of plants than in almost any other, so that the life of the individual is carefully preserved even amid the most untoward conditions. A weed, by reason of the strength of its vegetative system, is able to stand extremes of heat and cold, and to recover from the roughest usage. It will hold on to life in circumstances which would prove fatal to most other plants; and in this way it can abide the most favourable time for the development of its blossoms and seeds. Nay, it can propagate itself as well without blossoms as with them. Many of our weeds form long creeping stems, giving off at every joint buds which will produce perfect plants, and greatly extend the area which they occupy. That weeds belong to the most recent and specialized flora of the world is evident from their wide distribution and wonderful powers of colonization. In our own country they number about two hundred and thirty, and constitute about a seventh part of our native flora. We are constantly receiving accessions from the continent, along with the seeds of our cultivated plants. In company with the wheat and barley that can be cultivated in India down to the tropic zone, because they can be sowed and reaped during the coldest quarter of the year, have been introduced a crowd of the common annual weeds of our country, such as the shepherd’s purse, the chickweed, the spurge, and the corn-pimpernel, which also run through the cycle of their lives in the winter quarter. Half the weeds of American agriculture have been imported from Europe; and of the 2,100 flowering plants of the Northern United States, 320 are European. Australia and New Zealand have sent us no weeds, and America only a very few. The solution of this mystery, as Dr. Seemann clearly proves, is not to be found in any consideration of climate, soil, or circumstances. It is a question of race. The present flora of the United States and of Australia is older than the Germanic flora which now constitutes the principal vegetation of Europe. It is very similar to, if not absolutely identical with, that of Europe during the Miocene and Eocene epochs. America and Australia have not yet arrived at the degree of floral development to which Europe has attained; consequently plants coming to our country from Australia and America would not come as colonists, with a new part to play in it, but as survivors of an older flora whose cycle of existence had ages ago run out there. Our system of the rotation of crops is based upon the fact that the soil which has borne one kind of harvest will not produce the same next year, but requires another kind of crop to be grown on it. And Nature in her wilds carefully observes the same law. Whatever our weeds were in the original state, they are now like the corn which man sows in the same field with them, endowed with habits so long acquired that they will part with their life sooner than abandon them. The original wild plant of the corn--if there ever was such a thing, and this admits of grave doubts--from which our corn was developed, may have been able to propagate and extend itself freely independent of man; but we know that without man’s agency, the corn, as it is now modified, would perish. It does not grow of its own accord, or by the natural dispersion and germination of its seed. Left to itself, it would quickly disappear and become extinct. The one condition of its permanency in the world, of its growth in quantities sufficient for man’s food, is that it be sown by man in ground carefully prepared beforehand to receive it. The same rule would appear to hold good in regard to the weeds which, in spite of himself, he cultivates along with it, and whose persistent presence makes the cultivation of the soil so difficult to him. We know them only in an artificial condition as abnormal forms of original wild types; and as such as they are incapable of continuing themselves without man’s help. Left to grow in soil that has reverted to its original wild condition, they would soon be overpowered by the surrounding vegetation, the grasses and mosses, and in a shorter or longer space of time they would inevitably disappear. I have seen many ruins of dwellings in upland glens from which the nettles and all the weeds that once grew in the field and garden plot have utterly vanished, leaving only a dense thicket of bracken, or a lovely smooth carpet of greensward, to indicate among the heather that man had once inhabited the place. We are bound, therefore, to believe that so long as man cultivates the ground, so long will these weeds make their appearance, and in striking correlation with the primeval curse, compel him in the sweat of his face to eat his bread. When he ceases to till the ground, they will cease to grow in it. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Consequences of the Fall

The world was made for man, and man for God. The upper link gave way, and all that depended on it fell. Man rebelled, and carried away from its allegiance a subject world. (W. Arnot.)

The Fall robbed man of his glory

The harp of Eden, alas! is broken. Unstrung and mute an exiled race have hung it on the willows; and Ichabod stands written now in the furrows of man’s guilty forehead, and on the wreck of his ruined estate. Some things remain unaffected by the blight of sin, as God made them for Himself; the flowers have lost neither their bloom nor fragrance; the rose smells as sweet as it did when bathed in the dews of paradise, and seas and seasons, obedient to their original impulse, roll on as of old to their Maker’s glory. But from man, alas! how is the glory departed? Look at his body when the light of the eye is quenched, and the countenance is changed, and the noble form is festering in corruption--mouldering into the dust of death. Or, change still more hideous, look at the soul! The spirit of piety dead, the mind under a dark eclipse, hatred to God rankling in that once loving heart, it retains but some vestiges of its original grandeur, just enough, like the beautiful tracery and noble arches of a ruined pile, to make us feel what glory once was there, and now is gone. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Testimony to man’s Fall

No man that takes a view of his own dark and blinded mind, his slow and dull apprehension, his uncertain staggering judgment, roving conjectures, feeble and mistaken reasonings about matters that concern him most; ill inclinations, propension to what is unlawful to him and destructive, aversion to his truest interests and best good, irresolution, drowsy sloth, exorbitant and ravenous appetites and desires, impotent and self-vexing passions, can think human nature, in him, is in its primitive integrity, and as pure as when it first issued from its high and most pure original. (J. Howe.)

The doctrine of the Fall, commended to man' reason

The two great systems of nature and revelation are sometimes supposed to clash--to be opposed to each other; as if the revealings of the one were inconsistent with the discoveries of the other; as if they were two volumes, of which the principles and details of one were opposed to the principles and details of the other. The truth of this matter seems to be, that revelation differs from nature only in this, that revelation pours a broader and a clearer light upon the mysteries of creation. When we look forth upon the face of nature in the dim and shadowy twilight of morning, and when again we look forth upon the same scene in the bright and unclouded splendour of noon, there is no actual change in the landscape; the mountains have not changed their place, the forests have not changed their trees, the rivers have not changed their course; the only difference is, that the splendour of noon has flung a brighter and a clearer light than the grey mists of the morning. We are too often met with high panegyrics upon the qualities and the powers of man, and we are told in every variety of language of the lofty virtues of man--of the dignity of human nature--of the towering intellect, the refined feeling, and the virtuous heart of man; and we are told of all this, as if his powers had never been impaired, or as if his intellect had never been shattered, or as if his virtues had never been blighted, or his heart been corrupted, or his feelings debased, and his whole nature become the wreck and ruin of what it once had been. The line of argument, along which we shall endeavour to conduct you, shall go to prove that this great principle of revelation is also a principle of nature; and that though it lies unexplained in the pages of natural religion, it is explained and accounted for in the pages of revealed religion. We shall consider the subject, first, in reference to the world, and then in reference to man.

1. And first we argue, that nature is ever presenting to us evidences of the Fall, and that those evidences discover themselves to us in the present aspect of our world. It is very true, that as the eye wanders throughout all the departments of nature, it can trace the evidences of the love and the benevolence of the great Creator. In the language of the apostle, “He gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And not only this, but we find that the smallest flower of the field has all that is required for its existence and its loveliness, as much as the stateliest tree of the forest; and the minutest insect of creation has all that enables it to fulfil the ends of its being, as much as the mightiest and the noblest in the animal world. But in the midst of all this living and breathing evidence, he will discover evidences of an opposite character; he will discover evidences of the going forth of wrath--that some evil has befallen our world; and he will discover that the evidences of Divine benevolence are not more palpable than these evidences of Divine wrath. We allude not now to the poverty, the wretchedness, the helplessness, the diseases, the deaths, that press and crush the family of man; but we allude to those physical phenomena, that are everywhere discoverable throughout all the fields of creation. If there be lands where all is beauty and fertility, there are also lands whore all is waste and sterility. If there be climates where all is balmy and delicious and calm, there are also climates where all is darkened with clouds and disturbed by storms. There are wide regions of our globe, so enwrapped in the mantle of eternal snows, and so defended by vast icy barriers, that like the very battlements of nature, they resist the foot of man. There are wide regions of our globe, even in the most delicious climes, where the stateliest trees of the forest and the loveliest flowers of the field and the richest fruits of the ground grow spontaneously with a strange luxuriance, where yet at the same time the fatal vapours and the envenomed atmosphere preclude the presence of man, as effectually as the angel with the flaming sword precluded him at the gate of paradise. And while these characteristics are discernible throughout the face of creation, there are at the same time mighty and tremendous agents of evil, called into existence by the Creator and sent abroad into our world; agents more destructive than the angel of the Passover that slew the firstborn of Egypt; and more terrible than the angel of destruction that smote the host of Sennacherib. If the going forth of these angels from heaven is to be regarded as a going forth of wrath from the Creator, what shall we think of the spirit of the simeon, that from time to time has lifted the sands of the African deserts, and has borne them onward like the waves of the sea, till the stateliest cities of Egypt and the most gigantic architecture the world has ever seen, lie even to this hour buried deep, deep, within their bosom? What shall we think of the spirit of the volcano, pouring forth rivers of burning lava and clouds of smoking dust, enwrapping whole regions in terrific conflagration, and, as in Italy, beautiful Italy, burying cities with all their miserable inhabitants? What shall we think of the spirit of the earthquake by which whole districts have been wasted, mighty nations submerged beneath the waves, stately cities sunk into ruins, and whole continents “frighted from their propriety”? But where nature is thus silent, revelation speaks. Where the volume of nature closes, the volume of revelation opens. Nature reveals to us the fact that our world is a fallen and a ruined world; revelation gives the explanation of that fact: that in consequence of sin our world has fallen under the curse of its Creator, that it has been a bright and a beautiful and a happy world, but that in consequence of sin a curse was uttered, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life,” and that from henceforth a darkening destiny has been enchained to our planet. Wrath has gone forth against it; and our once beautiful world has become a fallen world.

2. But, as we intimated at the commencement, this argument may be carried further, and may be applied to the moral condition of man, quite as conclusively as to his physical condition. Or perhaps, to speak more correctly, it may be applied to the present condition of man, quite as conclusively as to the present condition of the world in which he lives. The destiny of man is a destiny of trouble. The experience of every man justifies the statement of the patriarch, that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” It is the belief of the heathen; it is the creed of the Christian; it is the record of the historian; it is the maxim of the philosopher; it is the song of the poet. We will not believe--we cannot believe, that a God of benevolence and love, a God who must delight Himself in the comforts and not in the sorrows, in the happiness and not in the miseries of His creatures, originally created man for so melancholy a doom. And the same remark will apply to his moral condition. There are in the heart of every man the workings of evil passions, the strugglings of carnal tendencies, the violence of feelings that are not good: licentiousness of thought, the constant resistance to the empire of holiness, the striving of the flesh against the spirit. There are the anger, the malice, the hatred, the revenge, the covetousness, the ambition, the wars, the bloodshed, that characterize the whole history of man, so that it is little else than a history of the wars and the bloodshed that ambition and pride and revenge and every foul and hateful passion have called into existence. We will not believe--we cannot believe--that a God of benevolence and love, a God of holiness and of peace, could have originally created man in this state, or planted in his heart unholy passions like these. This sad condition of man is a fact that may be read in the pages of natural religion; but the explanation of the fact, and the causes of this sad condition, are a mystery in natural religion. But it is here that revelation interposes and resolves the mystery, Natural religion, like the astrologers of Chaldea, could not read the mysterious handwriting on the wall: but revealed religion, like the prophet of the Lord, reads and interprets the writing. The words of the Creator, as addressed to Adam, were--“In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life”; and again--“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”; and again, to the woman--“In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” (M. H. Seymour, M. A.)

Natural evidence of the curse

I. If this sentence was executed upon man and the earth, without all doubt it may at this day be distinguished; therefore let us inquire in the first place whether there are any signs of a “curse upon the ground”? Towards the latter end of the fifth chapter of Genesis we read, that when a son was born to Lamech, he called his name Noah, which signifies comfort, because he was to “comfort them concerning their work, and toil of their hands, because of the ground which the Lord had cursed.” Lamech knew, therefore, that a curse had been pronounced upon the ground, for the transgression of Adam; and he knew also, either by tradition, or the spirit of prophecy, that it should take place more fully in the days of Noah, whose favour and acceptance with God should give comfort to men, and render more tolerable that toil and labour which should be the necessary consequence of this curse upon the ground; which, therefore, was brought upon the earth by the general deluge. When the wickedness and violence of the human race had wearied out the patience and long suffering of God, and obliged His justice to inflict the punishment which had been threatened, He declared in His revelation to Noah that He would destroy man with the earth. St. Peter also confirms the same, where he takes occasion to inform ungodly men, that the “world which then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” Whence it appears that the flood should, and actually did, amount to a destruction of the earth, of which destruction and the manner of it, the earth in all parts has so many signs at this day, that a man endued with eyesight, understanding, and a very little experience, cannot choose but to see and acknowledge it.

II. A second consequence of the Fall, as it stands in the words of the text is, Sorrow to man in the eating of the fruit of the ground. And here it may be useful to observe how the punishment of man is suited to the nature of his crime. His first and great act of disobedience was eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree; and it was surely just and proper that he who had eaten in sin should thenceforth eat in sorrow. We are indeed upon terms with our Creator quite different from the lilies of the field, or the fowls of the air: they are now as He made them at first, but we are not so; and hence it comes to pass that labour and travel is a law of universal obligation, and that “If any man will not work neither should he eat.”

III. The third part of the sentence pronounced upon man’s disobedience, is the prevailing of thorns and thistles upon the ground. If the powers and properties of these two sorts of vegetables be well considered, it will soon appear how well they are fitted to propagate a curse, by increasing the trouble and labour we are obliged to bestow in the cultivation of the earth. For these are much more strong and fruitful than such herbs and grain as are of the greatest use; and they are more apt to disperse themselves abroad and overrun the ground. With respect to thistles in particular, we shall discover a very plain reason for this, if we compare their seeds with the seeds of wheat. For the grain of wheat ought to be lodged at some little depth in the earth, to which it cannot easily reach without human assistance. It can only be shed, and fall down from the ear upon the surface of the ground, where it would be exposed, and ready to be devoured by the birds of the air, or the vermin of the earth, or perhaps lie till it rotted and perished with rain and frost for want of being covered with earth. But the seeds of thistles presently strike down roots in the earth wherever they happen to light, and need no such care and assistance. Then again the grains of wheat are naked and heavy, and can fall only as a dead weight at the foot of the plant which bore them, without being able to stir any farther, and shift themselves to a place fit for their reception and growth. But the case is much otherwise with the seeds of thistles. These are small and light, and are furnished with a fine downy plume, which serves them as wings, by means of which they are borne up and wafted about from place to place by every breath of wind, till they are transplanted to every corner of the field where the parent thistle grew, insomuch that when this plant is ripe, and its seeds hanging loose and disposed to fall off, it is common to see large fields covered all over with them, after any little wind. Nor ought it to be passed over that there is a great difference in the multiplication of these two kinds of seed. Some sorts of thistles bear thirty, some fifty, and some upwards of a hundred heads, with a hundred (and in some kinds several hundred) seeds in each of the heads. And if a moderate reckoning be made, and we suppose all the seeds to take rightly, grow up and fructify, then one single plant would produce at the first crop above twenty thousand: which succeeding in like manner, would bring a second crop of several hundreds of millions; an increase so enormous as can hardly be imagined: and it is plain that a few crops more, if not hindered by some means, but carried regularly on, would in a very short time stock the whole globe of the earth in such a manner as scarcely to leave room for anything else. But some thistles have other ways of planting and spreading themselves, besides that of propagating by their seeds. The common way-thistle, as it is called, besides its innumerable seeds, all winged and prepared for flight, hath its roots spreading to great lengths, and sending up suckers or new plants on every side of it. In a little while these, if suffered to continue, send up others, and they more, without tale or end. So that by this method only, one plant will overrun a vast tract of land in a very short time, suppressing, stifling, and destroying all other good and useful herbage. Besides, it is not every soil that is fit for the nourishment of wheat, and scarcely any will produce it for more than two or three years together, without great expense being bestowed on its cultivation: whereas there is hardly any ground or soil whatsoever, high or low, hill, valley, or plain, where thistles will not take and flourish for ages together. Having said so much upon thistles, I may be shorter in my remarks upon thorns; the rather because a great deal of what has been offered concerning the former is as true of the latter; which grow in almost every kind of soil, running on and increasing of themselves, and endued with the same worthless nature and mischievous qualities. For a proof of this we need only look upon the bramble, which occurs everywhere, and throws itself about without measure. The berries it bears are innumerable, and each of them contains a large mass of seeds. The roots push forward under ground, and the branches and suckers running on to great lengths, trail upon the ground, and send down fresh roots out of their sides; by which means they are diffused about, and multiplied without bounds. But as to thorns, the chief example we have is in that species which is known by the name of the gorse or furze. This is the vilest and most mischievous shrub upon the face of the earth. It will let nothing thrive or prosper, or so much as grow near it. It is so beset with prickles, that it is hardly possible to approach it in any way without hurt: and so fruitful withal, that for almost half the year it is covered or rather loaded with flowers, all of which go off into pods, charged with seeds. It shoots forth stubborn roots far and near, from which other young plants are growing up: these send up others as fast as the mother plant, so that we need the less wonder to see this noxious thorn so plentifully abounding, and such large tracts of land wholly covered and overrun by it. Other thorns are of so hard and stubborn a nature as to render it exceedingly difficult, and always impracticable without great labour and expense and patience, ever wholly to extirpate and clear the ground of them. If these things are duly reflected upon, it must be allowed that the sentence upon Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it, thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,” was effectually put in execution; and that not only upon him, but more especially upon us, his posterity to the end of the world. When we think of this curse upon the ground, we should also remember that it extends to our own heart, which, since the Fall, is by nature barren and unprofitable. It is a soil in which every ill weed will take root and spread itself. There the thorns of worldly care, and the thistles of worldly vanity, will grow and flourish. As the husbandman watches his land, so should the Christian search and examine his heart, that he may cast out of it all those unprofitable weeds and roots of bitterness which will naturally get possession of it. If this work is rightly performed, the soil will be ready for the good seed of the word of God, which will spring up and prosper under the influence of Divine grace, as the corn groweth by a blessing of rain and sunshine from the heaven above. (W. Jones. M. A.)

Thorns the curse of Adam and the crown of Christ

Nature is a mirror in which we behold both the skill and character of the Divine Artificer; but the reflected image--owing to the peculiarity of the material, or of the angle of vision--is not always a true one. In every part of creation we find examples of wasted energy and frustrated design; foundations laid, but the building never completed; the skeleton formed, but never clothed with living flesh; an unceasing production of means that are never used, embryos that are never vivified, germs that are never developed. We cannot, however, in such things, measure the Divine proceedings by our human standards; for, taking a larger view of the subject, we find that the imperfection of particular parts is necessary for the perfection of the whole scheme, and all instances of failure are made to work together for the general good. It is to this tendency of nature to overflow its banks, to attempt more than she can execute, to begin more than she can finish, that we owe our own daily bread. For if the corn plant produced only a sufficient number of seeds barely to perpetuate the species, there would be no annual miracle of the multiplication of the loaves; and man, always at the point of starvation, could neither replenish and subdue the earth, nor accomplish any of the great purposes of his existence. Thorns are among the most striking examples of failure on the part of nature to reach an ideal perfection. They are not essential organs, perfect parts, but in every case altered or abortive structures. They are formed in two different ways.

When the hairs that occur on the stem of a plant are enlarged and hardened, they form rigid opaque conical processes such as those of the rose and the bramble. The so-called thorns of these plants are not, however, true thorns, but prickles, for they have only a superficial origin, being produced by the epidermis only, and having no connection with the woody tissue. They may be easily separated from the stem, without leaving any mark or laceration behind. True thorns or spines, on the contrary, have a deeper origin and cannot be so removed. They are not compound hardened hairs, but abnormal conditions of buds and branches. A branch, owing to poverty of soil, or unfavourable circumstances, does not develop itself; it produces no twigs or leaves; it therefore assumes the spinous or thorny form, terminating in a more or less pointed extremity, as in the common hawthorn. In some cases, as in the sloe, we see the transformation going on at different stages; some branches bearing leaves on their lower portions and terminating in spines. A bud by some means or other becomes abortive; there is a deficiency of nutriment to stimulate its growth; it does not develop into blossom and fruit. Its growing point, therefore, is hardened; its scaly envelopes are consolidated into woody fibre, and the whole bud becomes a sharp thorn. Leaves are also occasionally arrested in their development and changed into thorns, as in the stipules of Robinia, of the common barberry, and of several species of acacia. The middle nerve of the leaf in a few instances absorbs to itself all the parenchyma or green cellular substance, and therefore hardens into a thorn; and in the holly all the veins of the leaves become spiny. In all these cases thorns are not necessary, but accidental appendages, growths arrested and transformed by unfavourable circumstances; and nature, by the law of compensation, converts them into means of defence to the plants on which they are produced--not very effective defences in most instances, but still analogous to the spines of the hedgehog and the quills of the porcupine, and typical of the plan according to which nature supplies some method of preservation to every living thing that is liable to be injured. By cultivation many thorny plants may be deprived of their spines. The apple, the pear, and the plum tree, in a wild state are thickly covered with thorns; but when reared in the shelter of the garden, and stimulated by all the elements most favourable for their full development, they lose these thorns, which become changed into leafy branches, and blossoming and fruit-bearing buds. In this way man acquires the rights assigned to him by God, and nature yields to him the pledges of his sovereignty, and reaches her own ideal of beauty and perfection by his means. But when, on the other hand, he ceases to dress and keep the garden, nature regains her former supremacy, and brings back the cultivated plants to a wilder and more disordered condition than at first. A garden abandoned to neglect, owing to the absence or the carelessness of the owner, presents a drearier spectacle than the untamed wilderness; everything bursting out into rank luxuriance; stems originally smooth covered with prickles, and buds that would have burst into blossoms changed into thorns. It is a remarkable circumstance that whenever man cultivates nature, and then abandons her to her own unaided energies, the result is far worse than if he had never attempted to improve her at all. No country in the world, now that it has been so long let out of cultivation, has such a variety and abundance of thorny plants, as the once-favoured heritage of God’s people, the land flowing with milk and honey. Travellers call the Holy Land “a land of thorns.” This tendency of nature to produce a greater variety of thorny plants in ground let out of cultivation, as illustrated by the present vegetation of Palestine, throws considerable light upon the curse pronounced upon Adam when he had sinned: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” Many individuals believe that we have in this curse the origin of thorns and thistles--that they were previously altogether unknown in the economy of nature. It is customary to picture Eden as a paradise of immaculate loveliness, in which everything was perfect, and all the objects of nature harmonized with the holiness and happiness of our first parents. The ground yielded only beautiful flowers and fruitful trees--every plant reached the highest ideal of form, colour, and usefulness of which it was capable. Preachers and poets in all ages have made the most of this beautiful conception. It is not, however, Scripture or scientific truth, but human fancy. Nowhere in the singularly measured and reticent account given in Genesis of man’s first home do we find anything, if rightly interpreted, that encourages us to form such an ideal picture of it. It was admirably adapted to man’s condition, but it was not in all respects ideally perfect. The vegetation that came fresh from God’s hand, and bore the impress of His seal that it was all very good, was created for death and reproduction; for it was called into being as “the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree bearing fruit, whose seed was in itself.” We must remember, too, that it was before and not after the Fall that Adam was put into the garden to “dress and keep it.” The very fact that such a process of dressing and keeping was necessary, indicates in the clearest manner that nature was not at first ideally perfect. The skill and toil of man called in, presuppose that there were luxuriant growths to be pruned, tendencies of vegetation to be checked or stimulated, weeds to be extirpated, tender flowers to be trained and nursed, and fruits to be more richly developed. The primeval blessing consisted in replenishing the earth and subduing it; and in no other way could man subdue the earth than by cultivating it. But the process of cultivation of necessity implies the existence of thorns and weeds. For in cultivating any spot we have to contend against the great law of nature which spreads every plant as widely as its constitution will permit. What then, we may ask, is implied in the language of the curse, “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee”? The Hebrew form of the curse implies, not that a new thing should happen, but that an old thing should be intensified and exhibited in new relations. Just as the rainbow, which was formerly a mere natural phenomenon, became after the flood the symbol of the great world covenant; just as death, which during all the long ages of geology had been a mere phase of life, the termination of existence, became after the Fall the most bitter and poisonous fruit of sin: so thorns, which in the innocent Eden were the effects of a law of vegetation, became significant intimations of man’s deteriorated condition. It is in relation to man, solely, that we are to look at the curse; for though the production of briers and thorn-bearing plants may add to man’s labour and distress, it supplies food and enjoyment for multitudes of inferior creatures, and especially birds and insects. Man, in Eden, was placed in the most favourable circumstances. It was a garden specially prepared by God Himself for his habitation, and stocked with all that he could reasonably require. It was to be a pattern after which his own efforts in improving the world were to be modelled--a coign of vantage, a select and blessed centre, from which he was by degrees to subdue the wild prodigality of nature, and make of the earth an extended paradise. And, therefore, though the native tendencies of vegetation were not altogether eradicated, they were so far restrained that the dressing and keeping of the garden furnished him with healthful employment for all his powers of body and mind, and conferred upon him the dignity of developing the perfection, which potentially, though not actually, existed in nature, and thus becoming a fellow worker with God. But when excluded from Eden, he had to encounter, with powers greatly weakened by sin, the full, merciless force of nature’s untamed energies; energies, too, excited into greater opposition against him by his own efforts to subdue them. For, as I have already said, the very process of cultivation, while it removes the thorns and briers of the soil, will, if it be given up, produce a greater variety and luxuriance of thorns and thistles than the ground originally produced. The very fertility imparted to the soil would, if allowed to nourish its native vegetation, result in a greater rankness of useless growth. And therefore the tiller of the ground must never relax his efforts. I believe that the thorns and briers thus introduced in connection with the human epoch, but before the Fall, were anticipative consequences, prophetic symbols of that Fall. We err greatly, if we suppose that sin came into the world unexpectedly--produced a sudden shock and dislocation throughout nature, and took God as it were by surprise--that the atonement was a Divine after thought to remedy a defect in God’s creative foresight and natural law. He who sees the end from the beginning, knew that such a mournful moral lapse would happen--that Creation would fall with its king and high priest, and had therefore made preparations for it, not only, in the plans of heaven, but also in the objects and arrangements of earth. There are many things in the scheme of nature which have a reference to the fact of sin before it became a fact; which remind us unmistakeably that God, in fitting up this world to be the habitation of a moral being who should fall through sin, and be restored through suffering, had filled it with types and symbols of that fall and that restoration. When God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,” He acted according to a plan uniformly pursued by Him in all His subsequent dispensations and dealings with men; by which in gracious condescension to our two-fold nature, and to the carnal and spiritual classes of mankind, He associated the natural with the spiritual, gave the outward sign of the inward spiritual truth. He set the field of nature with types of degeneracy and arrested growth, which should symbolize to man the consequences upon his own nature of his own sin. What then are the thorns, looking at them in this typical aspect, produced by the sinful, accursed soil of man’s heart and life?

1. Labour is one of the thorns of the curse. “All things,” says the wise man, “are full of labour.” Without it life cannot be maintained. Unremitting labour from day to day and from year to year--except in the case of a few races into whose lap nature pours, almost unsolicited, her prodigal stores, and who therefore continue children in body and mind all their lives--is the condition upon which we receive our daily bread. Much of this labour is indeed healthy. In work alone is health and life; and it is for work that God has created faculties. But how much of it, nevertheless, is terrible drudgery, effectually hindering the development of the higher faculties of the mind and soul, wearisome effort, vanity, and vexation of spirit! How much of failure is there in it, of disproportion between desires and results! How much of it is like rolling the fabled stone of Sisyphus up the steep hill only to roll down again immediately--like weaving ropes of sand! How often does the heart despair amid the unprofitableness of all its labour under the sun! We plough our fields and sow our seed; but instead of a bountiful harvest to reward us, too often comes up a crop of thorns and thistles, to wound the toiling hand and pierce the aching brow.

2. Then there is the thorn of pain--the darkest mystery of life. Some maintain that pain exists by necessity, that it has its root in the essential order of the world. It is the thorn that guards the rose of pleasure--the sting that protects the honey of life. But ask any martyr to physical suffering if that explanation satisfies him. Why, if the purpose of pain is a purely benevolent one, should it be so excessive? Why should it rend and rack the frame with agony? Why should it last so long? Methinks, if pain were meant merely to warn us of the presence of evil, and guard us against it, that a much less degree and a shorter duration of it would suffice. The Bible, and the Bible alone, tells us the cause and the origin of it. It tells us that it is nothing else than a witness for sin--the thorn which man’s body, weakened and palsied by sin, produces. Man feels in his body the physical consequences of the death which his soul has died. He has the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, that he may be reminded continually of his sin and mortality, and be induced to walk softly all the days of his life.

3. Then there is the thorn of sorrow. Every branch of the human tree may be arrested and transformed by some casualty into a thorn of sorrow. The staff of friendship upon which we lean may break and pierce the hand. The bud of love which we cherish in our heart, and feed with the life blood of our affections, may be blighted by the chill of death, and become a thorn to wound us grievously. That civilization which has lessened physical troubles, has rendered us more susceptible to mental ones; and side by side with its manifold sources of enjoyment, are opened up manifold sources of suffering. And why is all this? Why is man, so highly cultivated, the possessor of such vast resources of science and art, still born to trouble as the sparks fly upward? There is no possible way of accounting for it save by the primeval curse: “In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”

4. And lastly, as the climax of all life’s evils, is death, the prospect and the endurance of it, from both of which our whole nature, originally made in the image of God, and destined to live forever, revolts with the utmost abhorrence. Such are the thorns which man’s nature, under the withering, distorting curse of sin, produces. Cursed is the ground within, as well as the ground without, for man’s sake; and in labour, in pain, in sorrow, and in death, does he eat of its fruit. From all these thorns Jesus came to deliver us. The second Adam in the poverty of His condition has recovered for us all that the first Adam in the plenitude of his blessings lost. The Roman soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it upon the head of Jesus; but they little knew the significance of the act. Upon the august brow of man’s Surety and Substitute was thus placed in symbol, what was done in spiritual reality, a chaplet woven of those very thorns which the ground, cursed for man’s sake, produced. None of these thorns grew in the sacred soil of Jesus’ heart. But He who knew no sin was made sin for us. He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. He could, no doubt, by the exercise of His almighty power, remove the thorns of man’s life. He who created the world by a word, had only to command, and it should be done. But not in this way could the necessities of the case be met. It was no mere arbitrary power that called the thorns into existence; it was justice and judgment: and, therefore, mere arbitrary power could not eradicate them; it required mercy and truth. And mercy and truth could be reconciled with justice and judgment only by the obedience and sacrifice of the Son of God. Jesus had, therefore, to wear the thorns which man’s sin had developed, in order that man might enjoy the peaceful fruits of righteousness which Christ’s atonement had produced. And what is the result? By wearing these thorns He has blunted them, plucked them out of our path, out of our heart, out of our life. By enduring them He conquered them. The crown of pain became the crown of triumph; and the submission to ignominy and suffering became the assertion and establishment of a sovereignty over every form of suffering. Evil is now a vanquished power. Every woe bears upon it the inscription “overcome.” He bore the thorny crown of labour, and labour is now a sacred thing, a precious discipline, a merciful education. It is the lowest step of the ladder by which man ascends the Edenic height from which he fell. He wore the thorny crown of pain, and pain is now robbed of the element that exasperates our nature against it. By His own example He teaches us that we must be made perfect through suffering; and knowing this, we do not feel pain to be less, but we feel a strength and a patience which enable us to rise superior to it. As the Prince of sufferers, He wore the thorny crown of sorrow, and He has made, in the experience of His afflicted ones, that abortive thorn to produce the blossom of holiness and the fruit of righteousness. Sorrow is no more to the Christian the curse of Adam, but the cross of Christ. It is the crown and badge of his royal dignity, the proof of Divine sonship. And, lastly, He wore the thorny crown of death; and therefore He says, “If a man keep My sayings, he shall not see death.” He has indeed to pass through the state, but the bitterness of death for him is past. He has only to finish his course with joy; to fall asleep in Jesus; to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

A lesson from the ground

“If my horse, if my ox, if my dog, do not do as I want them to do,” says the angry man, “I make them,” and then with his blood boiling hot he goes out into the fields and he can do nothing! The ground says, “If you want to do anything with me you must do it with hopeful patience; I am a school in which men learn the meaning of patient industry, patient hopefulness. I never answer the anger of a fool or the passion of a demented man. I rest.” We cannot compel nature to keep pace with our impatience; man cannot hasten the wheel of the seasons; man cannot drive nature out of its calm and solemn movement; his own fields keep him at bay. He would like to get on faster, faster--it would please him to have three wheat harvests every year, it would delight him to have an orchard stripping on the first day of every month. He makes his dog go out when he likes--his own trees put out their branches without him and mock his fury. Nature says, “I must have my long holiday”; nature says, “I must have my long, long sleep.” Without recreation and rest, man’s life would not be solidly and productively developed; he may be lashed and scourged and overdriven and maddened, but broad, massive, enduring growth he never can realize unless he operates upon the law of steady slowness. Such is the great lesson of nature. We sometimes think we could improve the arrangements of Providence in this matter of the ground. A man standing in his wheat field is apt to feel that it would be an exceedingly admirable arrangement if he could have another crop of wheat within the year. He thinks it could be managed: he takes up the roots out of the earth and he says, “This will never do; why, I have lost my year herein--now I will command the ground to bring forth another crop,” and this agricultural Canute, having waved his hand over the fields, is answered with silence. That must be your law of progress. There is the very great temptation to hasten to be rich. I see a man in yonder corner, not half so able as I am, never had half the education I have had, and by a lucky swing of the hand he makes ten thousand pounds, and I am labouring at my mill, or at my counter, or in my field, and am getting very little--and very slowly. I look in the other corner and see exactly such another man, and he, too, by a lucky twist of the hand, makes ten thousand a year; and I never make one, by long, patient, steady work. I know what I will do; I’ll put off this old labourer’s coat, and buy a new fine one, and go and join these men and do as they do, and I will have a hundred thousand pounds in a month, and horses and carriages and estates, and I will not go at this slow snail pace any longer--why should I? I go--and I fail, as I deserve to do. Society never could be built upon the action of such men as have now been described. They may be doing nothing dishonourable, they may be acting in a very proper way, there are no laws that have not exceptions attached to them--I broadly acknowledge the honourableness of many exceptions to this law of land like slowness of cultivation and growth, but the solid everlasting law of human life is labour, patience, expenditure, hopefulness, little to little, a step at a time, line upon line, and if you trifle with that law you will bring yourself into a state of intellectual unhealthiness, into a condition of moral exaggeration, and you will labour upon wrong principles, and reach, by rapid strides, unhappy conclusions. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Spiritual cultivation

So it is in spiritual cultivation--you cannot grow a character in a week. There are some long thin stalks that you can buy in a garden market for about a shilling a dozen, and you put up these, and say, “Do grow, if you please; do get up, and do broaden yourselves and make something like a garden about us,” and the long thin stalks, spindle shanks, look at you, and cannot be hastened, though you mock them with their leanness, and scourge them with your unruly tongue. Look at those grand old cedars and oaks and wide-spreading chestnuts. Why are they so noble? Because they are so old. They have been rocked by a hundred wintry nurses, blessed by a thousand summer visitants, and they express the result of the long processes. They have told their tale to fifty winters, caught the blessing of fifty summers, waved musically in the storm, guested the birds of the air, and all the while have been striking their roots deeper and deeper, farther and farther into the rich soil. So must it be with human character; you cannot extemporise moral greatness, it is a slow growth. Money cannot take the place of time; time is an element in the development and sublimising of character; time stands alone and cannot be compounded for by all the wealth in all the gold mines of creation. This spiritual cultivation not only cannot be hastened, but sometimes it is very hard. As a general rule, indeed, it is very difficult; it is not easy to grow in grace. Some of us live too near the smoke ever to be very great trees, or even very fruitful bushes. Circumstances are heavily against us; we are not placed in favourable localities or under very gracious conditions. The house is small, the income is little, the children are many and noisy, the demands upon time and attention and patience are incessant, health is not very good and cheerful, the temperament is a little despondent and very susceptible to injurious influences, and how to grow in Christ Jesus under such circumstances as these, the Saviour Himself only knows. Be thankful to God, therefore, that the bruised reed is not broken, that though you are faint, still you are pursuing, that though you are very weak in the limb and cannot run hard in this uphill race, your eyes are fixed in the right quarter; and the fixing and sparkling of your eye has a meaning which God’s heart knows well. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Observations

I. THORNS AND THISTLES, AND ALL UNPROFITABLE WEEDS, ARE THE EFFECT OF GOD’S CURSE UPON MAN FOR SIN.

1. Seeing all creatures are His servants, as David calls them (Psalms 119:91), He can bring them up, and plant them where He pleaseth, who doth whatsoever He will in heaven and earth (Psalms 135:6).

2. Neither can God in respect to His own honour, do less injustice than to withhold His blessing from the creatures, that should be for our service, as we withhold from Him our service of obedience, which we owe Him by our covenant.

II. AS WE ARE MORE OR LESS SERVICEABLE UNTO GOD, SO WE MAY EXPECT THAT THE CREATURE SHALL BE MORE OR LESS SERVICEABLE UNTO US.

1. God’s blessing upon the creatures, is that only by which they are made useful unto us. Now God in justice can do no less than recompense all men according to their deeds (Isaiah 59:17-18; Psalms 62:12), and that not only in that great day of judgment, but even at present, and in outward things, that men may see and acknowledge it, as Psalms 58:11.

2. Neither is there a means more effectual to prevail with men in general, to walk in a course of obedience, than when they find all the creatures against them in a course of rebellion.

III. GOD MAKES GOOD HIS PROMISES, BY WHICH HE HATH ENGAGED HIMSELF UNTO US, THOUGH WE FAIL IN OUR COVENANT BY WHICH WE ARE ENGAGED UNTO HIM. See Psalms 78:37-38; Psalms 89:32-34; 2 Timothy 2:13. Reason--

1. God’s promises are founded upon His own goodness and truth which cannot fail (Psalms 119:89-90; Psalms 119:160).

2. God knew beforehand what we are, even before He engaged Himself unto us (see Psalms 103:13-14).

3. And if He should take advantage of every forfeiture, He must necessarily undo His children, who trespass daily against Him.

4. And hath therefore given His Son Christ to take away our sins; if we hold fast the covenant, and do not wickedly depart from it though we fail many ways (1 John 2:1-2).

IV. THOUGH GOD WHEN HE PARDONS OUR SIN, RESTORES US HIS BLESSINGS WHICH WE FORFEITED THEREBY, YET WE ENJOY THEM WITH SOME DIMINUTION AND ABATEMENT. (J. White, M. A.)

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread

The ordinance of toil

I. THE NECESSITY OF TOIL IS AT FIRST CONNECTED WITH TRANSGRESSION. Like death, the child of sin. Yet there is blessing in toil to him who can get up into the higher regions, and see how out of the wry extremity of human pain and endurance God can bring forth fruits which shall be rich and fair throughout eternity.

II. CONSIDER WHAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF THIS ORDINANCE OF TOIL.

1. Toil is ordained to restore man to a true and living relation with the whole system of things around him. On this sentence of labour God bases all His culture of our spirits; by this He keeps alive the desire and the hope of deliverance.

2. Toil is ordained to draw forth the full unfolding of the whole power and possibility of man’s being, with a view to the system of things before him, the world of his eternal citizenship, his perfect and developed life. Be sure that it is the last strain that drags out the most precious fibre of faculty, or trains the organs to the keenest perception, the most complete expansion, the most perfect preparation for the higher work and joy of life. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Labour an earthward pilgrimage

I. LOOK AT THE HOPELESSNESS OF MEN’S LABOUR ON THE EARTH.

1. It cannot revoke the sentence of death.

2. It is degrading because of its necessarily sordid aims and occupations.

3. It is itself a living, lingering death.

II. THINE OF THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THIS SORROW, SUFFERING, AND HOPELESSNESS.

1. To convince men of the fruitlessness of the life he had chosen.

2. To show him his need of the mercy of God, and prepare him to receive it. (St. J. A. Frere.)

Observations

I. MAN’S EMPLOYMENT IN THIS LIFE IS IN WEARISOME AND PAINFUL LABOURS.

1. The curse that is laid upon the earth for sin, by which without hard labour it yields no fruits for the sustaining of man’s life.

2. The Lord hath so appointed it for man’s good.

First, this reproves all idle slothful persons living without callings, or idle in their callings, or in unprofitable callings. Secondly, and should stir us up to diligence in such employments as we are called unto.

1. In obedience to God’s command.

2. And as therein serving God, and not men (Ephesians 6:7).

3. And being profitable (Proverbs 14:23) to ourselves (Proverbs 10:4) and others (Proverbs 21:5).

4. And thereby procuring us a just title to what we possess (2 Thessalonians 3:12). Only--

II. THERE IS PROFIT IN ALL THE DUTIES WHICH GOD ENJOINS US.

1. God who is in Himself all-sufficient and perfectly blessed, neither needs, nor can be profited by any creature.

2. Neither is it for His honour that His service should be unprofitable, as wicked men unjustly slander Him (Job 21:15).

3. Neither could His servants have otherwise any encouragement to go on in His service with cheerfulness, which God requires (Deuteronomy 28:47) and delights in (2 Corinthians 9:7).

III. WHATSOEVER WE UNDERTAKE IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMANDMENT SHALL NOT WANT EFFECT.

1. That God is able to give success, and by His blessing to prosper men’s endeavours, no man can deny.

2. That it concerns Him in point of honour to prosper that which He commands, is as clear as the former.

3. It is needful to be so, lest otherwise men should be discouraged in His service, if they should labour therein without bringing anything to effect.

IV. GOD’S SANCTIONS ARE CERTAIN, AS WELL OF JUDGMENT AS OF MERCY.

1. Both the threats of judgment, as well as the promises of mercy, are founded on the same grounds of God’s truth, and immutability, and power.

2. And have the same scope, the honouring of God in the manifestation as well of His justice as of His mercy, giving to every man according to his deeds (see Psalms 58:11; Isaiah 59:18-19).

V. THOUGH GOD HATH FREED HIS CHILDREN FROM ETERNAL DEATH, YET HE HATH LEFT THEM AS WELL AS OTHERS, UNDER THE SENTENCE OF TEMPORAL DEATH.

1. That by it they might be put in mind of sin that brought death upon them Romans 5:12).

2. They have no harm by death, which is at present but a sleep, wherein they rest from their labours (Isaiah 53:2), and which severs them not from Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14), through whom it is sanctified to them (see 1 Corinthians 15:55), and is made an entrance into life Revelation 14:13), and hurts not the body, which shall be raised up in 1 Corinthians 15:42-43).

VI. MEN’S BODIES ARE BASE EVERY WAY, BOTH IN THEIR ORIGINAL, IN THEIR PRESENT CONDITION, AND IN THEIR DISSOLUTION.

1. To humble us (Genesis 18:27).

2. To magnify God’s mercy, in abasing Himself to look on such vile wretches (see Psalms 113:6-8), to give His Son for them, to advance dust and ashes to such a glorious condition, as the apostle describes (Corinthians 15:42, 43, 49).

3. To move us to long for heaven (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

VII. THE DISPOSING OF MAN’S LIFE IS IN GOD’S HAND. Which God challengeth to Himself (Deuteronomy 32:39). David acknowledgeth Psalms 31:15). Daniel testifies to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:23), and is clearly manifested by all experience (Psalms 104:29); so that it is not in the power of men to cut it off at their pleasure (1 Kings 19:1-21; Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:22), though God use them to that end sometimes as His executioners (Psalms 17:13-14).

VIII. THOUGH DEATH BE CERTAIN TO ALL MEN, YET THE TIME OF DEATH IS UNCERTAIN.

1. That men might not be hardened in sin, as usually they are when judgment is deferred (Ecclesiastes 8:11), but walk in fear, as being not assured of life for one moment of an hour.

2. To be assured of the term of life would not profit us any way.

IX. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ARE JUST AND EQUAL, ALL OF THEM IN ALL THINGS.

1. He cannot wrong His own creatures, no more than the potter can the clay; nay, much less.

2. His nature will not suffer Him to do otherwise; He that is God must necessarily do good (Psalms 119:68); out of the Lord’s mouth proceed not good and evil (Lamentations 3:38).

3. Nor the respect to His own honour, magnified as well in His justice Psalms 64:8-9), as in His mercy and truth.

4. It would otherwise discourage His own servants (see Matthew 25:24-25), as the opinion of God’s favouring of the wicked and afflicting His own servants, had almost discouraged David (Psalms 73:13-14). (J. White, M. A.)

The curse and the blessing of labour

I. The universal necessity of labour. The earth no longer produces fruit independently of labour.

II. The fact, asserted in the text, that labour is a curse. It is part of our punishment for the Fall that it should be so.

III. The manner in which we may lighten this curse, and cause it to be borne. We may not escape from it; but it may be lightened by--

1. Religion--personal, practical, and real.

2. The cultivation of knowledge.

3. The maintenance of good health.

4. The practice of economy. (J. Maskell.)

The penal clauses

Then come the penal clauses, and it is wonderful how the curse is tempered with mercy, so much so indeed that it is difficult to tell whether there is not more blessing than cursing in the sentence. The seed of the woman is to be mighty enough to crush the serpent; and the ground is to be difficult of tillage for man’s sake. Hard agriculture is a blessing. To get harvests for nothing would be a pitiless curse indeed. To be sentenced to “hard labour” is really a blessing to great criminals; it breaks in upon the moodiness that would become despair; it taxes invention; it keeps the blood moving; it rouses energy. Many a man has been made by the very hardness of his task. But terrible are the words--“unto dust shalt thou return.” According to these words it is plainly stated that man was to be exactly what he was before he was made at all--he was to be dead dust, by reason of his sin. Whether any way of escape can be found out remains to be seen. The law is plain; whether mercy can modify it will be revealed as we proceed in the wondrous story. Perhaps there may yet be made a Man within a man, a Spirit within a body, a Son within a slave. That would be glorious, surely! Night has fallen upon the guilty pair, but in the night there are stars, large, bright, like tender eyes shining through the darkness--perhaps these stars will lead on to a manger, a Child, a Saviour! (J. Parker, D. D.)

The curse in labour

The curse in labour is the excess of it: labour itself is enjoyment. You will find that the horse feels it enjoyment to put forth its strength; and so man felt it enjoyment to put forth his energies in rearing the flowers that God had planted in the midst of Eden. The curse is not labour, but the excess of labour. It is a very absurd notion that prevails, that labour is a sort of mean thing: it is a most honourable thing; it was a feature of Adam in his innocent and Eden state; and the poorest labourer is just as honourable as the greatest noble, if he be a Christian. We must not estimate men as we do the cinnamon tree, the whole of whose value is in its bark, but by the heart that beats beneath, and the intellect that thinks, and the life that shines out in obedience to the will of God. (J. Cunningham, D. D.)

Labour a blessing to man

Man is condemned to eat his bread in the sweater his brow. He is doomed to procure it with labour and fatigue. But what would he have become, had he not been subjected to that salutary labour, which distracts his thoughts from himself, occupies his mind, mortifies his passions, and puts a certain restraint upon the corruption which dwells within him? A prey to his own reflections, master of his own life, and burdened with the weight of his days, he would have become the sport of his passions, and have plunged into every species of iniquity which a corrupt imagination could have invented. The punishment of sin, to a certain extent, deprives him of the power and opportunity of doing evil, in spite of himself, and sometimes becomes, in the hands of God, the means of bringing him to salvation. And what dissatisfaction, what weariness, what an insupportable feeling of emptiness must continually have attended an idle and useless existence! On the contrary, what a source of enjoyment and satisfaction, what a means of developing and perfecting his faculties does he now find in a life consecrated to useful labour! Blessed be God! Blessed be God for the thunders of His justice! Blessed be God for His curse denounced against sin! (L. Bonnet.)

Labour necessary to success

Turner, the great painter, was once asked the secret of his success. He replied, “I have no secret but hard work.”

Labour the best seasoning

Dionysius the tyrant, at an entertainment given to him by the Lacedaemonians, expressed some disgust at their black broth. “No wonder,” said one of them, “for it wants seasoning.” “What seasoning?” asked the tyrant. “Labour,” replied the citizen, “joined with hunger and thirst.”

Eminence and labour

When we read the lives of distinguished men in any department, we find them almost always celebrated for the amount of labour they could perform. Demosthenes, Julius Caesar, Henry of France, Lord Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Franklin, Washington, Napoleon, different as they were in their intellectual and moral qualities, were all renowned as hard workers. We read hove many days they could support the fatigues of a march; how early they rose; how late they watched; how many hours they spent in the field, in the cabinet, in the court; how many secretaries they kept employed; in short, how hard they worked. (Everett.)

The idealization of labour

The conception of labour as the creative intention, or “end” of human nature, is a comparatively late one, due to revelation or to philosophic reflection upon an already lengthened experience. And the feelings of persons born in these later ages of the world are not to be taken as an infallible guide as to what may have been the primitive instinct, the motive that impelled to human activity and invention. Carlyle, for instance, in a letter to his mother, when he was at the commencement of his career (1821), asks the striking question, “Why do we fret and murmur and toil, and consume ourselves for objects so transient and frail? Is it that the soul, living here as in her prison house, strives after something boundless like herself, and finding it nowhere, still renews the search? Surely we are fearfully and wonderfully made!” Now, as the process of idealization in respect of the aims of labour is closely connected with the sense of its influence upon temporal well-being, we cannot be far wrong in concluding that it is largely due to the experience of the advantages it secures. Work is the most direct and certain avenue to the satisfaction of bodily wants, to the acquisition of wealth, and to the social consideration and general influence that attend the possession of wealth. Upon the industrial energy of its people a city or a nation in the main builds its prosperity and its political power. Another source of dignity and consideration consists in the tendency labour reveals to enlarge the scope and the possibilities of life. In this respect it meets and fosters the growing, expanding faculties of our nature. To the young it opens up many a vista for vague longings and ambitions; and the great centres of industry are invested with a romantic, indefinite fascination, because of the careers they hold forth. Not only the legitimacy, but the social consideration of trades, professions, and occupations, is determined by their perceived tendency to promote civilization. Were it not for this criterion the secondary products of human skill and effort would go to the wall. So much of their value, their worth, is relative only to the circumstances and culture of their owners, that it would otherwise be all but impossible to appraise them. When the day’s task is seen to be a Divine appointment Psalms 104:23) equally with birth and death, then shall a man rejoice in it, and labour on “as in the great Taskmaster’s eye,” looking diligently the meanwhile for the message it may enshrine, the glimpse of higher things it is sure to give, and waiting patiently for the last, the sure reward. In the great book manifold histories and teachings set forth for us the ideals of labour, and the commonest occupation is seen to have some spiritual significance. The diligence and faith of the husbandman, the daring quest of the miner (Job 28:1-28), the far venture of the mariner, the thoroughness of the builder, the care and compassion of the shepherd, are all given in illustration of the qualities and duties of our heavenly service. But not until that service itself is, according to our gifts and adaptation, revealed as our individual vocation, is the idealization of labour perfected.”

That is a new day, the dawn of a new life to the boy, when he has taken himself out of the routine of the child, and resolved to be something in lessons, or play, or conduct; and the thrill with which the young man puts his hand on his earnest life work tingles yet along the very nerves of age. It makes us almost a giant to feel the birth throe of a living purpose. The lioness reproached because she gave but one at a birth, replied, ‘Yes, but that a lion.’ And the one lion purpose born to a man, to grow into the one thing of life, is a birth to be proud of and never forgotten. After it we are never the same. It has lifted out of old conditions, limitations; it has put a new spirit in us, as the new inspiration towards a broader life, the quick play of whose pulses, vibrating through the whole man, impels us to thought and deed . . . It is a proud, a solemn, a sublime moment that sees the soul register its purpose and write it as with imperishable letters, ‘This one thing I do, come weal, come woe, come ban of man or shock of time, come sorrow and distress and loss, though I stand alone, here I stand, this I do’; and the life of slow, earnest, arduous toil that follows partakes of the grandeur of the birth.” (Homiletic Magazine.)

Man, labour, sorrow

Look into the country fields, there you see toiling at the plough and scythe; look into the waters, there you see tugging at oars and cables; look into the city, there you see a throng of cares, and hear sorrowful complaints of bad times and the decay of trade; look into studies, and there you see paleness and infirmities, and fixed eyes; look into the court, and there are defeated hopes, envyings, underminings, and tedious attendance. All things are full of labour, and labour is full of sorrow; and these two are inseparably joined with the miserable life of man. (Timothy Rogers.)

Fallen man

In some respects manifestly made for a sphere higher than he fills, he appears to us like a creature of the air which a cruel hand has stripped of its silken wings. How painfully he resembles this hapless object which has just fallen on the pages of a book that we read by the candle on an autumn evening! It retains the wish, but has lost the power, to fly. Allured by the taper’s glare, it has brushed the flame, and, dropping with a heavy fall, now crawls wingless across the leaf, and seeks the finger of mercy to end its misery. Compare man with any of the other creatures, and how directly we come to the conclusion that he is not, nor can be, the same creature with which God crowned the glorious work of creation. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Man fallen

No man in his senses will venture to assert that man is today just as man originally was. He is a dismantled fane, a broken shrine, still lingering about him some gleams of the departed glory sufficient to give an idea of what he once was, and probably left as faint prophecy of what he will again be. But notwithstanding this, man is a changed, and fallen, and degenerate creature. Nothing we know explains this seemingly inexplicable phenomenon, except the Word of God, which tells us that man sinned, and fell, and has become what we now find him. The gold, in the language of a prophet, is become dim, and the crown is fallen from his head. He has exchanged the beautiful, the fertile, the happy Eden which earth once was, for the desert and the bleak and blasted condition in which we now find it. He must now water it with the tears of his weeping eyes, and fertilize it with the sweat of his aching brow, in order to gather bread from it. This was a penal and just retribution, and yet it embosomed the hope of an ultimate and sure deliverance. (Dr. Cumming.)

Man damaged

If you should see a house with its gable ends in ruins, with its broken pillars lying in heaped-up confusion on the ground, half covered up with trailing weeds and moss, you would not hesitate to say, “This building has suffered damage at some time; it was not like this when it came from the hand of the builder.” I say this of man. His is not in a normal condition. (Hepworth.)

Mercy in the curse

We are inclined to believe that it was not wholly in anger and in righteous severity that God made the cursing of the ground the punishment of Adam. We think it will not be difficult to show that the Almighty was consulting for the good of His creatures when He thus made labour their inevitable lot. We need not limit our remarks to the single case of agriculture; for we may safely affirm that there is nothing which is worth man’s attainment which he can attain without labour.

I. Now there is, perhaps, an universal consent upon one proposition--that idleness is the fruitful source of every kind of vice; and it follows from this that the placing it in a man’s power to be idle--supplying him, that is, with the means of subsistence without extracting from him any labour--is simply to expose him to the greatest possible peril, and almost ensuring his moral degeneracy. We know that there are fine and frequent exceptions to this statement, and that many whose circumstances preclude all necessity of toiling for a livelihood carve out for themselves paths of honourable industry, and are as assiduous in labour as if compelled to it by their wants. There is evidently a repressing power in abundance, and a stimulating power in penury; the one tending to produce dwarfishness of intellect and mental feebleness, the other to elicit every energy and intellectual greatness. We will not say that the battle for subsistence has not borne hard on genius, and kept down the loftiness of its aspirings; but we are assured that the cases are of immeasurably more frequent occurrence in which the man has been indebted to the straitness of his circumstances for the expansion of his mental powers. I wish no son of mine to be exempt from the sentence, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” And the family which we regard as left in the best condition when death removes its head is, not the family for whom there is a fine landed estate or an ample funded property, but the family which has been thoroughly educated in the principles of religion, and trained to habits of piety and industry, and in which there is just as much wealth as may preserve from want those members who cannot labour for themselves, and start the others in professions which open a broad field for unwearied diligence. We would yet further observe, before quitting this portion of our subject, that after all God did not so much remove fruitfulness from the soil as make the development of that fruitfulness dependent on industry. The earth has yielded sufficiency for its ever-multiplying population, as though the power of supply grew with the demand; nor has it only yielded a bare sufficiency, but has been so generous in its productions, that one man by his tillage may raise bread for hundreds. This is amongst the most beautiful and wonderful of the arrangements of Providence. Why can one amongst us be a clergyman, a second a lawyer, a third a merchant, a fourth a tradesman? Only because, notwithstanding the curse, there is still such fertility in the ground, that more corn is produced than suffices for those by whom the ground is cultivated. The whole advance of civilization is dependent on a power in the earth of furnishing more food than those who till it can consume. A people who are always on the border of starvation must be manifestly a people always on the border of barbarism; and just as manifestly a people must be always on the border of starvation if every individual can only wrench from the ground enough for himself. Thus, when we come to examine into and trace the actual facts of the case, the mercy of the dispensation exceeds immeasurably the judgement.

II. We propose, in the second place, to examine WHETHER THERE BE ANY INTIMATION IN SCRIPTURE THAT THE SENTENCE ON ADAM WAS DESIGNED TO BREATHE MERCY AS WELL AS JUDGMENT. We are disposed to agree with those who consider that the revelation of the great scheme of redemption was contemporaneous with human transgression. We believe that, as soon as man fell, notices were graciously given of a deliverance to be effected in the fulness of time. It is hardly to be supposed that Adam would be left in ignorance of what he was so much concerned to know; and the early institution of sacrifices seem sufficient to show that he was taught a religion adapted to his circumstances. But the question now before us is, whether any intimations of redemption were contained in the sentence under review, and whether our common father, as he listened to the words which declared the earth cursed for his sake, might have gathered consolation from the disastrous announcement. There is one reason why we think this probable, though we may not be able to give distinct proof. Our reason is drawn from the prophecy which Lamech uttered on the birth of his son Noah: “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” And therefore did he call his son Noah, which signifies rest, to mark that he connected him with deliverance and respite from that curse which sin had brought on the ground. But in what way was Noah thus connected? How could Noah comfort Lamech in reference to the ground which God had cursed? Some suppose the reference to be to instruments of agriculture which Noah would invent after the flood, and which would much diminish human labour; but this could hardly be said to be a comfort to Lamech, who died before the flood: and we may fairly doubt whether a prediction, having reference only to the invention of a few tools, would have been recorded for the instruction of all after-generations. But Noah, as the builder of the ark, and the raiser of the new world, when the old had pertained in the deluge, was eminently a type of Christ Jesus, in whose Church alone is safety, and at whose bidding new heavens and a new earth will succeed to those scathed by the baptism of fire. And as an illustrious type of the Redeemer, though we knew not in what other capacity, Noah might console Lamech and his cotemporaries; for the restoration after the deluge, in which they had no personal interest, might be a figure to them of the restitution of all things, when the curse was to be finally removed, and those who had rode out the deluge receive an everlasting benediction. Thus it would seem highly probable, from the tenour of Lamech’s prediction, that he had been made acquainted with the respects in which his son Noah would typify Christ, and that therefore he had been taught to regard the curse on the ground as only temporary, imposed for wise ends, till the manifestation of the Redeemer, under whose sceptre “the desert should rejoice and blossom as the rose.” And if so much were revealed to Lamech, it cannot be an over-bold supposition that the same information was imparted to Adam. Thus may our first parent, compelled to till the earth on which rested the curse of its Creator, have known that there were blessings in store, and that, though he and his children must dig the ground in the sweat of their face, there would fall on it sweat “like great drops of blood,” having virtue to remove the oppressive malediction. It must have been bitter for him to hear of the thorn and the thistle; but he may have learnt how thorns would be woven into a crown, and placed round the forehead of One who should be as the lost tree of life to a dying creation. The curse upon the ground may have been regarded by him as a perpetual memorial of the fatal transgression and the promised salvation, reminding him of the sterility of his own heart, and what toil it would cost the Redeemer to reclaim that heart, and make it bring forth the fruits of righteousness; telling him while pursuing his daily task what internal husbandry was needful, and whose arm alone could break up the fallow ground. And thus Adam may have been comforted, as Lamech was comforted, by the Noah who was to bring rest to wearied humanity; and it may have been in hope as well as in contrition, in thankfulness as well as in sorrow, that he carried with him this sentence on his banishment from paradise--“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.--

Man’s nature and destiny

I. THE FRAILTY OF OUR NATURE.

1. Its origin. However glorious our Maker, however exquisite the human body, God made that body of the dust of the earth.

2. Its liability to injury. No sooner born than fierce diseases wait to attack us. If not destroyed--injured--accidents. All the elements attack us.

3. Its tendency to dissolution. Behold the ravages of time. Human life has its spring, summer, autumn, and winter (Psalms 103:14-15; Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 39:4-5).

II. THE CERTAINTY OF OUR END.

1. We are born to die. Our first breath is so much of nature exhausted. The first hour we live is an approach to death.

2. The perpetual exit of mortals confirms it.

3. God hath decreed it.

4. Learn rightly to estimate life. (Sketches of Sermons.)

Man’s origin and doom

I. MAN’S ORIGIN.

1. How wonderful.

2. How humbling.

II. MAN’S DOOM.

1. Inevitable.

2. Just.

3. Partial.

4. Temporary. (W. Wythe.)

The fearfulness of death

I. Men know not that they shall die, even though they confess it with their lips almost daily. If we consider what death is, we see that men who know its approach will act in all things as in the fear of it. There is no more startling paradox in the wonders of our nature than this, that men in general are thoughtless about death. When our own turn comes, and there is no escape, then, for the first time, we really believe in death.

II. Death is a fearful thing, because of the great change that it implies in all our being. Life is that power by which we act, and think, and love, and intend, and hope. And suppose that all our energies have been wasted on things that cannot follow us into the grave, then how can we conceive of any life at all beyond this? When we know that we must die, we feel about for something in us that shall not perish, some thread of continuity to knit our present and future life into one; and if we have never lived for God, never realized the difference between treasures of earth and treasures of heaven, we find nothing that shall assure us of that other life. We start back in horror from a grave so dark and so profound.

III. If these two terrors were all, some at least would not fear to die, would even court death as a repose. But there is yet another terror. Death means judgment. To die is to meet God. You tremble because you stand before a Judge of infinite power, whose wrath no man can resist; before a Judge of infinite wisdom, who shall call back your acts out of the distant past and lay bare the secret thoughts of your spirit.

IV. Accept the salvation purchased for you with Christ’s passion; then death cannot come suddenly upon you, for the thought of it will have sobered all your days. The day of account will still be terrible, but the belief that you are reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus will sustain you. (Archbishop Thomson.)

The frailty of human nature

The words do plainly show God’s offence and displeasure upon occasion of Adam’s miscarriage; and are in themselves partly declaratory and convictive, partly minatory and instructive.

1. They are declaratory and convictive. What! thou that art but dust, that so lately received thy being from God, not to listen to Him, but to follow thy own will, and rebel against the law of thy Sovereign? So they are declaratory and convictive.

2. They are minatory, and consequently instructive. For when God threatens, His meaning is, that we should repent, and turn to Him Jeremiah 18:7). But to come to the words themselves, “Dust thou art.” Of this I shall give you an account in two particulars.

1. The meanness of it. For dust is a thing of little or no perfection, nor of any esteem, account, and value. Dust we are, every day sweeping away, as the refuse, as that of which there is no use. Dust, the ultimate term of all corruption and putrefaction. Dust--you cannot resolve a thing into anything of less entity and being. Yet all of man is not here to be understood, but only his worser part.

2. “Dust thou art,” which respects the weakness of this bodily estate. For dust can make no resistance. It may offend us, but it is of itself so light and empty that it is scattered up and down of every wind, as it is said Psalms 18:42). Who can defend himself against the arrow that flieth by day, or the pestilence that walketh in darkness, or the plague that destroyeth by noonday? Neither is this all, but we have a principle that tends to corruption and putrefaction within us. To which also let us add the violence that we are exposed to from abroad, either by the contagion of others or from the force and violence of those that can overpower us. For we are so weak, that if any man despise God and the laws, he may soon be master of our lives. For all that they can do is but to inflict punishment upon the transgressor. But that will make us no satisfaction nor restitution. When we are assaulted by any sickness, then we are sensible of this our weakness; and we cry out with Job, “What is my strength, the strength of a stone, or my flesh of brass” (Job 21:23). Though, when our bones are full of marrow, we put the thoughts of sickness far from us, yet so it often falleth out that “One dieth in his full strength, being in all ease and prosperity,” as Job speaketh (21:23). Furthermore, what are we when bodily pain approach? So weak and frail are we, that we are not able to hold up our heads; and if to all this we shall have the sense of guilt upon our consciences, our condition will be intolerable.

Now for application.

1. It is a ground of humility. If it be so, that “Dust we are, and unto dust we must return,” it is fit that we know it so to be; and that upon three accounts.

2. It is matter of satisfaction to us to know that we are but dust; and that lies here, that God doth not look for much from us, but accordingly--not more than He did at first make us. He knows that we were finite and fallible; and therefore, as the Psalmist saith, God “considers our frame, He remembereth that we are dust” (Psalms 103:14), and makes allowance accordingly.

3. It is matter of great thankfulness to God that He doth so much consider such worms as we are; that He hath regard to us, that are but dust; and that He hath such patience with us, who are so inconsiderable, that He might bring us to repentance; and that He doth graciously accept from us any motion towards Him, or any good purpose, and that He is so ready to promote it.

4. This will give us an account of the folly and madness of those men who neglect themselves. We are dust. If there be not the remedy of culture and education to tame the wildness and exorbitancy of man, he will grow savage, wild, and ungovernable, unless the established government of reason shall be set up in his soul. Wherefore, let our great care and daily employment be to refine our spirits, by entertaining the principles of religion; and to inform our understandings, and to regulate our lives, by holding ourselves constantly to the measures of nature, reason, and religion. (B. Whichcote, D. D.)

The rationale of man’s corporeal life and dissolution

I. WHY MAN WAS TO HAVE A BRIEF EMBODIED LIFE. How was this arrangement likely to affect his ultimate spiritual well-being?

1. Man’s earthly life is his probation period. The opportunity of choice exists while soul and body are joined, but no longer. Death is the beginning of destiny.

2. A probation-period, to be just, satisfactory, merciful, must--

3. The body is a valuable agent in the accomplishment of this design.

II. WHY MAN, AFTER HAVING SPENT HIS PROBATION PERIOD IN THE BODY, HAD TO SUFFER PHYSICAL DEATH.

1. Death in relation to the saved--

2. Death in relation to the lost. A wicked spirit disembodied seems the most miserable, pitiable thing in God’s universe; like a man suddenly expelled from a brilliant and warm room, to shiver naked in the cold and darkness of a winter night--a night, too, that shall know no dawn, and to the fierce blast of which no stupor can ever render the wretched outcast insensible! (Homilist.)

The frailty of human nature

I. THE FRAILTY OF OUR NATURE. This may be inferred from--

1. Its origin: dust.

2. Its liability to injury.

3. Its tendency to dissolution.

II. THE CERTAINTY OF OUR END.

1. We are born to die.

2. The perpetual exit of mortals confirms this.

3. God has decreed and declared it.

III. THE GREAT BUSINESS OF LIFE.

1. To know and serve God.

2. To seek and obtain salvation.

3. We should always be living in reference to death and eternity. (Sketches of Sermons.)

Dust of death

Dust may be raised for a little while into a tiny cloud, and may seem considerable while held up by the wind that raises it; but when the force of that is spent, it falls again, and returns to the earth out of which it was raised. Such a thing is man; man is but a parcel of dust, and must return to his earth. Thus, as Pascal exclaims, what a chimera is man! What a confused chaos! And after death, of his body it may be said that it is the gold setting left after the extraction of the diamond which it held--a setting, alas! which soon gives cause in its putrescence for the apostrophe: How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed! Yet “there is hope in thine end,” O Christian gold, however dimmed. There is a “resurgam” for thy dust, O child of God! (W. Adamson.)


Verse 20

Genesis 3:20

Adam called his wife’s name live

Man’s undying hope

Consider that aspect of this terrible calamity which is afforded us in the action of Adam.
It is clear that he understood what was involved in the act he had just committed. Scarcely are the words uttered by God, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” etc., than he seems to turn to his wife and say, “Eve, the mother, the living one; because she is mother of all living.” There is no defiance here. It is not because the man refused to accept the judgment of God, not because he refused to submit to the doom. He did not refuse, he did not set himself up against God. He caught the tenderness of the Divine voice even as it pronounced the judgment. He saw the gleam of grace in the darkness of the doom. It is then that he turned to his wife and said, “Eve, the living one.” “Her seed shall bruise the serpent’s head; shall yet triumph over the evil power that has almost destroyed her; and though this day we die, beyond is a life eternal, for she is the mother of all that shall live.” How true this is to human nature! It is illustrated, it is constantly illustrated, in the experience through which we pass. Who has not known it?--Men turning back to their wives in the hour of trouble. Man, suddenly stripped of his glory and possessions, stands amongst the wreck of all his life; that moment, with a fresh trust, he puts his hand in his wife’s and says, “Well, the future is still before us, we shall not lose hope.” “Eve, the living one. Mother of all that live.” Is there not, in the first place, a recognition of the dignity of the woman? Her name is not mentioned before. She is simply “the woman”; the other side of human nature--the man and the woman. Adam had his name, the general name of humanity centring in him. But when the loss comes, woman takes her place. She is no longer woman only, she is “Eve.” She is herself. Bound by a closer tie than ever to her husband, but with a dignity of her own. And is it not also the assertion of the dignity of motherhood? What is woman’s highest dignity? To be the mother of men. She had been the wife of man before, but a wife is not perfected until she is a mother. And so she receives her name when she is recognized as mother. It is also the immediate acceptance on the part of Adam of the promise of God. God has confirmed his earthly nature. “Earth thou art.” God had also declared that there was to be a continuance of the race by reference to immediate hope. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.” But had there not been before this these words: “I shall put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shaft bruise his heel”? Then came the judgment upon the man, and yet, the moment the judgment is uttered, he calls his wife “Eve.” He sees the promise that is contained in the motherhood, and in the conflict of the seed and the serpent. He seals with his own word the promise of God. The chief subject of our consideration, however, is the aspect in which Adam seemed to regard his wife, “mother of all living!” As we speak the word, there rises before us the vast multitude of the human race! The mother of all living--all who shall live! All in the past--all now--all in the future! Mother of all living! How the generations move along the road of life in the great march of mankind--like a river rolling swift with ever broadening stream into the vast ocean of eternity! Wave after wave rolls up and breaks upon the shore of time from the exhaustless tide of life! The life that is around us, in our own city. Multiply these teeming millions by all the cities of the world, or all the ages of human existence, and think of them all gathered up within this woman’s name. Has our first father been prophetic? Did he, for a moment, see down the vistas of centuries, the masses of humanity enfolded in the motherhood of Eve? Then the thought would come that all these living ones would die. You remember the story of Darius, who, when he reviewed those mighty hosts that followed his standard when he marched to the invasion of Greece, was observed to weep. The squadrons were there, their arms all flashing in the sun, and round about them in the outlying regions the multitudes of followers that attend an army. Magnificent battle array! Vast concourse of men all obedient to his will, and yet the monarch weeps! “Why weepest thou, O king?” “I weep because in one hundred years not one of this great host will be alive.” And many feel as felt the king when they contemplate a crowd. When the people are out upon a gala day, and from some high window we look down upon them, a strange melancholy creeps into the heart. When we visit foreign lands, and passing from city to city behold everywhere human life teeming in countless millions, a sense of awe comes over the spirit, and a sense of sorrow. And yet, I am not quite sure that this is right. I would rather catch the gleams of light that the eye of Adam saw shining in the promise of God. I would rather hear the words of cheer of our first father when he gathers up the hope of humanity within his soul, and though the judgment had been only a moment uttered, called her who stood beside him--Eve, because she was the mother of all living, and seals his acceptance of the promise and the hope, in the name he gave to his wife. And man generally has been true to this Divine instinct of the Father. The hope of human life has been unquenchable. Read history, and you will find that no misfortune has daunted men. They remain always hopeful. In the increase of poverty, in the presence of disaster, after war, accidents, oppression, life reasserts itself, and in that up-springing of life, mankind declares its hope. You never can crush it out. Today, the victorious foe may spread desolation over the homes of people whom they destroy, but let the tide of war roll back, and hope will return, and the very battlefield will grow green with harvest promise, and the streets down which the destroying legions thundered, echo with the voice of the children at their play. You cannot crush out life, you cannot destroy man’s hope in himself. This name of “Eve,” the “mother of all living,” is only the hope that sprang to being in Adam’s breast, and which, since that moment, has never died from human hearts. Hence it seems to me that human nature is a perpetual gospel. Life is full of evangel. The very vastness and fulness of humanity are the large letters in which God’s promise and Adam’s interpretation of it, are written out that all may read
. (L. D. Bevan, D. D.)

Observations

I. GOD LEAVES NOT HIS CHILDREN WITHOUT MEANS TO SUPPORT THEM IN THEIR WORST CONDITION.

II. THE GRACE WHICH GOD ESPECIALLY WORKS AND PRESERVES IN HIS CHILDREN’S HEARTS, IS FAITH.

III. GOD’S PROMISES MUST BE EMBRACED BY FAITH, AS REAL PERFORMANCES.

IV. A GODLY MAN MUST BE CAREFUL TO PRESERVE MEMORIALS OF GREAT MERCIES. To this end God ordained the Sabbath, and divers other festivals, as likewise did the Church in imitation of Him (Esther 9:20-21; Esther 9:27-28); for the same end they gave names to the places where those mercies were performed (1 Samuel 7:12; 2 Chronicles 20:26). Upon the same ground God appoints a pot of manna to be kept in the tabernacle, to remind posterity of that miraculous feeding of their fathers with bread from heaven (Exodus 16:33).

V. IT IS FIT IN GIVING NAMES, TO MAKE CHOICE OF SUCH AS MAY GIVE US WITHAL SOMETHING FOR OUR INSTRUCTION. Of this God Himself gives us a precedent, in changing Abraham’s and Sarah’s name (Genesis 17:5; Genesis 17:15), and Jacob’s (Genesis 32:28), in giving Solomon his name (1 Chronicles 21:9), and the name of Jesus to our Saviour (Matthew 1:21), which holy persons have followed (Genesis 21:3; Genesis 21:6; Genesis 29:32). Reason

1. We need all helps, to mind us either of God’s mercies, and acts of His providence, or of our own duties; which God Himself implied, in causing His people to write the commandments on the posts and gates of their houses (Deuteronomy 11:20), and to make fringes to their garments, to put them in mind of them (Numbers 15:38-39).

2. And there is no readier means to mind us of such things than our names, which we have daily in our mouths and memories. (J. White, M. A.)

Eve habited by Adam

The fact that it was not God but Adam that gave the name to Eve teaches us much. Why did not God give Eve her name, as He had done to Adam? God did not allow Adam to name himself, even in his innocence; yet now in his fall He permits him to name the woman, nay, sanctions his so doing. This was for such reasons as the following--

1. To show His grace. What grace, what tender love is displayed in allowing man to give a name to his wife--and such a name--Eve--LIFE!

2. To show that Adam was not to be deprived of his headship. He was still to be “head of the woman,” even in his fall, and as such he names her.

3. To show, that though Adam had so cruelly flung blame upon her before God, yet no estrangement had followed. She was still bone of his bone. They had been companions in guilt, they were to be companions in sorrow, and they were fellow heirs of the hope just held out to them. Thus they were reunited in new bonds of mingled sadness and joy.

4. To show the direction in which Adam’s thoughts were running, that from this manifestation of the current of his thoughts we might learn how the promise had taken hold of him. This verse gives us unequivocal insight into the state of Adam’s feelings. It exhibits him to us as one who understood, believed, prized, rested on the Divine promise which he had just heard. He stands before us as a believing man; and we might say of him, “By faith Adam called his wife’s name Eve.” (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Coats of skins

Man clothed by God

The whole mystery of justification is wrapped up in the details of this story.

I. We have the fact as in a parable that MAN IS UTTERLY IMPOTENT TO BRING TO PASS ANY SATISFYING RIGHTEOUSNESS OF HIS OWN. He can see his shame, but he cannot effectually cover or conceal it. The garments of our own righteousness are fig leaves all, and we shall prove them such. Let God once call to us, and we shall find how little all these devices of our own can do for us. We shall stand shivering, naked and ashamed, before Him.

II. While we thus learn that man cannot clothe himself, we learn also that GOD UNDERTAKES TO CLOTHE HIM. As elsewhere He has said in word, “I am the Lord that healeth thee,” so here He says in act, “I am the Lord that clotheth thee.” He can yet devise a way by which His banished shall return to Him.

III. We note in this Scripture that the clothing which God found for Adam could only have been obtained AT THE COST OF A LIFE, and that the life of one unguilty, of one who had no share or part in the sin which made the providing of it needful. We have here the first institution of sacrifice; God Himself is the Institutor. It is a type and shadow, a prelude and prophecy of the crowning sacrifice on Calvary.

IV. Are not the LESSONS which we may draw from all this plain and palpable enough?

1. There is no robe of our own righteousness which can cover us and conceal our shame.

2. That righteousness which we have not in ourselves we must be content and thankful to receive at the hands of God.

3. Not Christ by His life, but by His life and death, and mainly by His death, supplies these garments for our spirit’s need. (Archbishop Trench.)

Man clothed by God

I come, then, to the conclusion that these vestments which the Lord God provided for our first parents, are emblematic of nothing less than the sacrifice and righteousness of Christ. But there might be a second object in thus arraying our first parents in coats of skin; and that was, to keep alive in their minds the sentence of death, which would be ultimately executed upon them. The dying struggles of the poor animals, whose skins they were to appropriate to themselves, could not fail to remind them of their own deserts; but then this feeling might be too soon effaced; it was essential, therefore, to their continuance in humility, that they should carry with them wherever they went a memorial that death was come into the world--a death which was the effect of sin, a death to which they must at last submit. And sadly they must have gazed upon the throes of every slaughtered creature, as they beheld the fate to which they were hastening themselves. Yet there was a wonderful provision made for securing both the glory of God and the comfort of His creatures. Death was the fruit of sin, sin was the work of Satan; and I may say concerning the honour of the Creator, that Satan may not triumph as a destroyer, it was so ordained that the first things which died should be emblematical of the death of Christ, by whom death itself should be virtually abolished. (F. J. Stainforth, M. A.)

Sin and civilization

I. The clothing of the first man and woman in skins of beasts, is in the first place, symbolical of the dominance of that nature which is the sole possession of the beast. In the beast, there is only a life, which informs the body for the purpose of bodily ends. In the man there is a spirit, which informs the body through the soul, for the ultimate ends of the higher and spiritual life. The body of the beast is for itself. The body of the man is for the spirit. It is the spirit’s instrument. But, by sin, man had set body against spirit, over spirit. Man had chosen the material instead of the spiritual.

II. It was, also, the insistence of God upon the propriety of the shame, which had prompted them to cover themselves with clothes. It is as if God had said: “You are right; the material body which you have put on over the spiritual--conceal it! You have set it in the forefront; put it in the rear. Cover it! hide it!”

III. It is, besides, the symbol of the conflict between the higher and lower, which makes up the whole of man’s moral discipline.

IV. But there was still another meaning in this clothing of skins, for it is to be noted that while Adam and Eve covered themselves with leaves God makes coats of skins and clothed them. Were it only for the purpose of symbolism, they might have worn these clothes of leaves. Why must these coats of skins have been made for them? I shall not raise here questions as to man’s relation to the animals in his innocent state. Naturally, by physical constitution, man is a flesh-eating animal, and I cannot accept the opinion, that till his sin, he was fed only by the food of the garden. But, at last, the narrative brings out a striking distinction between the demand made on man’s powers, when innocent, and that which was made upon him after the Fall. In the garden all seemed spontaneously easy. He had only to put forth his hand, and take the food, the fruit. It was simple work--gathering a few leaves: fastening them together and making a covering. But now, there is the further difficulty of securing the skins of beasts. These must supply their coverings; they will have to be captured, killed, and the skins prepared. There may be some relation here to sacrifice as well as to food. At least the idea is suggested of man coming into relation to the animal world. The creatures must be caught and trained, and fed, and slain. Now this is the elementary fact of all material civilization. Man’s first victory over the world is over the animals. Man makes his first step in culture in conquering the brutes. The domesticity of the lower world, and the dominance of the human race over the animal, is the first step in progress. It is, then, with no fanciful interpretation that I base upon this passage some thoughts concerning the progress of humanity in material civilization, as related to the Fall. Man’s fallen condition has certainly borne in some way upon his material development. I am anxious to show that in God’s mercy the Fall has been the condition of a greater rising.

1. The historic proof of this doctrine. If you review the history of civilization and the physical progress of man, you will find that it has been rendered in a large degree possible by sin, and, we may almost say that, had it not been for sin, man could not have advanced to the degree, or in the manner, in which that advance has been made. We do not say that material development necessarily accompanies a sinful condition of humanity. This is disproved by the fact that the highest form of material civilization has been pressed into service of the highest moral and spiritual life, and the further fact that the noblest instances of culture have been found to manifest the most distinguished virtues. Still, the general relation of religious and material well-being has been such as to suggest, what we think the incident of our text indicates, that the presence of sin in our human nature has been the condition upon which God has made the development of man’s external good to be dependent. Had it not been for sin, we had not been so wise, or so wealthy, or strong, nor smitten with so many passions--not summoned to such weary conflicts; but also, and by reason of these, not such masters of an external world of use and ornament, of beauty and grace.

2. That which is shown in this historical review is also seen in the nature of the case. Let us restate the position we are endeavouring to sustain. Out of the Fall God has caused to issue man’s material well-being. We have seen, that the essence of the first sin consisted in the elevation of the physical nature into the supreme regard. Thereupon God thrust man out into a world which demanded his energy to conquer its hostile forces, and to bring it into subservience to his will. Civilization is the result of the assertions of man’s physical needs, and the endeavour on the part of man to compel the physical world to supply those needs. When, in the person of his first parents, he set the body above the spirit, then he lost his natural condition. Now, he must win back this material empire; he must overcome everything, himself included. Nothing submits freely, spontaneously. His nature, especially his physical nature, becomes imperative, he hungers, he thirsts; his passions are imperious, and yet there is no response from the things about him. In Eden, hunger would have been immediately satisfied, thirst immediately assuaged. I doubt if ever there was hunger or thirst. All the emotions of the soul would have been in complete rhythm and harmony, and the spirit, and the soul, and the body, would have been in perpetual melody of goodness and innocence. But now he must set himself to contrive. He has to contend. He must become an artist. He must call in the aid of his fellows. He must unite with others, and here is the source of organization, development of art, the inventions of science, the formation of political arrangement, the submission of the governed, the rule of the king. All must be produced to content the cravings of that nature which has been aroused and will be satisfied. There is no government among the angels, except the immediate government of God. There can be no art among beings who are not created at once in fellowship with the Divine, and yet part of the material world about them. Government and art are the result of the fact that this lower nature of ours has been lifted into supremacy. They are the means of supplying its desires; the answer to its emphatic claim. But, moreover, the lower nature thus aroused, heightened, intensified, must again be brought under the control of the higher nature. If that does not result, there will be confusion, chaos, death. The body has been made prominent, brought forth; it must be set back, hidden. God taught man this lesson first, when He made coats of skins and clothed him. Hence there follows not only the development of the physical, but the subjugation of this physical to the spiritual. CONCLUSION:

1. Are we not taught here the lesson, which no age more than our own has needed, that a civilization which is chiefly materialistic must have in it the gravest perils?

2. And will not these thoughts help us to understand the meaning of the perplexed and changeful condition through which the development of the race has moved? Is it some strange and malicious spirit that has driven man to struggle with the beasts, and compelled him to the arduous conflict, often renewed, with the hard outer world? Not at all. It is the will of God, wise and loving, which would thus cover his nakedness and Jet once more the brutal nature in its proper place of retirement and subjection. Every race decay and national decline is only part of the discipline of man. It is a long struggle to regain the proper relation of spirit and body. But it is the Divine will.

3. It shows us, too, the need of a Divine help for the undoing of the evil man has brought upon himself, and which the clothes of his own invention will not supply. The man had already clothed himself with leaves. But man found hiding of shame to be not enough. A devil brought the sin, and a God must make its covering. Man’s leaf garment is a poor defence against the cold, hard world into which he is driven. God therefore gives him clothes of skins. And so ever He is ready to supply that remedy, that salvation which man must find or perish, but which no man can himself secure.

4. And so, finally, I learn by these words to fill all things with the evangel which God proclaims in the very utterance of doom. Some men go everywhere only to find a Divine law and a Divine condemnation. Wherever I turn I see written up God’s gospel. I know no human story which is not a comment upon grace. I know no voice, even though it comes from the deeps of hell, which is not an echo of the pity of our God. (L. D.Bevan, D. D.)

Lessons

1. In the midst of death God’s thoughts have been to direct sinners unto life.

2. God’s thoughts are not only to give life but to reveal it in His own way.

3. God’s goodness prevented sin from turning all into disorder. He keeps relations.

4. Grace makes the same instrument be for life, which was for death (Genesis 3:20).

5. God pitieth His creatures in the nakedness which sin hath made.

6. God makes garments where man makes nakedness.

7. Garments are a covering of nakedness, but a discovery of sin.

8. Raiment should humble and not make men proud. The mischief of sin is to forget nakedness under fine clothes. It makes nakedness appear fine.

9. Suitable clothing was God’s work for several sexes. For Adam and his wife. The law afterwards showeth this.

10. Gracious providence puts on clothes upon sinners’ backs. Much of love (Genesis 3:21). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Observations

I. THE VERY CLOTHES THAT WE WEAR ARE GOD’S PROVISION.

II. NECESSARY PROVISION IS AS MUCH AS WE CAN LOOK FOR AT GOD’S HAND.

III. OUR CLOTHES FOR THE MOST PART ARE BORROWED FROM OTHER CREATURES.

1. To humble and keep our hearts low, when we consider that we have nothing but what we borrow, and that of our basest vassals.

2. To move us to take care of the creature, without the help whereof we must need starve with hunger and cold. (J. White, M. A.)


Verse 22

Genesis 3:22

Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil

Man’s gain through loss

I.
Consider SOME OF THE EFFECTS OF THE FALL, as they are suggested in the statements of this narrative. You have here, then, four facts. We shall adopt the order of their logical relation rather than that of the history.

1. The first is man’s moral condition resulting from the Fall. “Man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil.”

2. The second is the prime original elements of the moral development of the race. “Unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” That is the beginning of social life. Humanity naked is humanity without the possibility of improvement. Clothe man, and he enters upon the road of progress. Here is the germ of all the arts of culture, of science, and of social growth.

3. The third is the profound hope, the inextinguishable hope, that springs within the human heart. “Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” The fulness, the multitudinousness of life everywhere affords the hope, without which human restoration were not possible.

4. The fourth is the condition of human perfecting which is to be found in the unalterable past, “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.” These are the results of the Fall according to Scripture. They are of course connected with, though different from, the guilt which followed sin. That I do not propose to consider particularly, though the thought of it must underlie all our discussion.

II. Consider the Word of God in which He declares that “The man has now become like one of Us.” THE EFFECT OF THE FALL UPON MAN’S MORAL NATURE IS TO MAKE MAN LIKE GOD. These are striking words. In the moment of a Divine judgment there is also a Divine declaration of great significance concerning man. “Behold, the man is become as one of Us.” The sneer of the serpent first of all introduces us to this likeness of man to God. “Has God said, You shall surely die?” “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” They listened to Satan, and all they gained was the knowledge of their nakedness. That is all the serpent can give you. His promise of godlikeness ends in the discovery of your shame. And yet God takes these words first used by Satan and gives them a profound meaning. In Satan’s mouth they were a lie. In God’s they are an awful and yet a gracious truth. Some hold that God used these words ironically, “They have become like Us.” The sneer of earth was answered by a sneer from heaven. I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that in an hour like this God would reproach. What then is God’s knowledge of good and evil? It must be perfect. He would not be God if He did not completely know what good and evil were in nature, in all their results, in all their issues and relations. He knows the moral consequence of evil. He knows the degradation of the soul that sins. He knows the wild troop of mischiefs that follow in the train of iniquity. He sees the end from the beginning, and thus He knows. But in all this knowledge God has certain elements in His nature which must be remembered when we speak of God’s knowing. While He knows the good and evil, and knows them completely, He is at the same time absolutely set for righteousness. Though knowing good and evil God remains forever God. But God is not only in Himself free from any attack of evil, He also has complete power over it. He can restrain it, so limiting its scope and so bending it to the purposes of His holy will, that out of it He can bring good; and however deep may be the mystery to us, still evolve a higher good to the universe than it would have known had there been no evil. Then in all this it must be further noted there is no loss of the Divine power and vitality. God possesses every fulness of resource and every fulness of life. These in Him are not affected by the evil which He knows. Indeed, though we cannot say that He becomes more mighty, more vital by reason of evil, because that would be to deny the perfection of being to Him in His original and absolute nature, yet its presence produces a higher manifestation of Divine power and life than an innocent and unfallen world would otherwise have known. Such is God’s knowledge of good and evil with some of its relations to other attributes of the Divine Being. When we turn to that knowledge which man has gained of the dark and dreary subject, we find that, in a sense, he too knows evil as God knows it. Sin in itself is an experience, a teaching. Without it man had never known conditions which now become clear and distinct to him. Think of the course of temptation, the allurements and enticings of sin, the hints and suggestions of the tempter! Through what a series of self-revelations does not the soul tempted to falling pass! How in temptation the unfolding of the wily nature comes into the clear perception of the tempted one! And then, when the temptation’s force has fully issued in the sin, what a further knowledge is gained! What spheres of action, closed to the innocent, are then opened! What experiences of inner life and circumstances of outward condition the sin displays! This is the knowledge which sin brings. It is Divine in its awfulness, its infinite reach. Now are they like gods, knowing good and evil. But man, like God, is further related to the object of his terrible knowing. The contrast, however, is noteworthy. The light, lurid and alarming, has burst upon his mind, and the mephitic vapours which arise from the horrible pit poison and overcome him. And besides this man’s power is limited. By his sin he has opened the sluice gates of the flood, and nothing that he can do can close them, or stay the mad stream that rushes forth and on. This is the power of every sin. “Like God,” a word of terrible doom! being like God in the knowledge we have gained; but we who have gained it, how helpless we stand before the evils which we ourselves have produced! Another terrible result of sin in its relation to us, as contrasted with God’s knowledge of it, is that the continuance of evil is out of all proportion to the continuance of that life during which alone we can cope with it. God knowing sin, has eternity in which to deal with it. We knowing it by our sin, even if we attempt to undo it, are often cut off long before we have begun to stay its mischievous effects: “The evil that men do lives after them.” Think of it: your sin overwhelms thousands yet unborn. It may work out its dread succession of evil long after you have been forgotten. But remember it is your sin; you called it up, you set it going. But you are powerless to deal with it. “Like Us.” Yes, in knowledge. But, oh! how bitter the thought of the contrast when we still find ourselves to be Divine in knowledge, but in all else human, and even less than human, by our sin. And is this our final learning from these words? Must this dark message be the end of our meditation? It is indeed all that philosophy can give us. The historian can furnish us no other teaching, the poet sing no other song than this tragedy of human loss. But, blessed be God! there is another light to shine upon this awful fact. It is the Son of God who can give to this terrible dignity into which we rise its true significance, and change it from its original doom to a blessed evangel. If we have nothing but the record of what this Word of God has uttered, all we gain is to became like God in knowledge, and in the rest to be smitten in the very essence of our life. But Christ by His word, and life, and death, made it possible for us to know the evil and the good, and to share in the Divine nature in its triumph over the evil, even as in its knowledge. (L. D. Bevan, D. D.)

The Fall considered as a development

“God made man in His own image.” But the deepest power, the free power, was yet latent. By a dark act of rebellion he developed it; and the Lord God testifies that he had thereby become something which the words “as one of Us” alone describe. And yet that act was deadly. Man, aiming at the height of God, fell perilously on the very edge of the abyss. No more awful condition of life, in point of grandeur and power can be conceived than the words “become as one of Us” set forth; and yet the penalty of aiming at it was death. It was a step out, a step on for man in the unfolding of the latent powers and possibilities of his being as an embodied spirit; but it brought him within peril and under the hand of woes and evils, which have made his history one long wail, and his life one long night. Adam, the child of Eden, made in God’s image, could find the completeness of his life in Eden. The mould of his being was perfect as an image; the compass of his powers presented him as the likeness of God in this material world. Adam, the child of the wilderness, having become by the act of freedom that which our text describes--having by the actual experiment of what power might be in him, by the actual unfolding of a life whose character and ends were expressly self-determined, grown into something which, if grander on the one hand than the estate in which he was created in the garden, was most terrible and sorrowful on the other--could find the completeness of his life alone in Christ and heaven. “God made man in His own image,” is the original description of the constitution of man. Then follows the dread history which the third chapter of the Book of Genesis records; and then it is stated, “Man is as one of Us, knowing good and evil.” The words imply, though they do not express, a growth. Man is said to have grown to something which is in one sense nearer to God, nearer to the Divine level--and the last clauses of the verse seem to imply that he was within reachof that which would bring him still nearer to the level; but, on the other hand, there was a now spot of weakness where he had become vulnerable to foes, whom in his innocence he might safely have despised; there was a new element of disorder, which would bring discord and dire confusion into the harmonious sphere of his powers; there was a new taint of decay and death which, grand as he might seem to have grown by his experiment of freedom, would eat like a canker into his godlike constitution, and unless from Him who made him at the first some renewing, restoring influence should descend, must lay its proud structure in ruins in the dust. “Ye shall be as gods,” was the devil’s promise, “knowing good and evil.” The text affirms that there was a truth in it. “Behold, the man is become as one of Us.” And yet it was a lie to the heart’s core. None but God could stand on that Divine level. Man should stand there one day, partaker of the Divine nature. But for the man who in native, naked, human strength should stand there, there could be no issue but death. The devil was right as to the development. Man brought himself into the sphere of higher and more Divine experiences than his life in paradise could have afforded him. But the devil said nothing about the death. The devil said to the prodigal, “Wander freely, spend, enjoy; that is life.” The prodigal found it, as every sinner finds it, to be death. What life has come out of it has been born, not of it, but of the strength, the tenderness, the quickening power of the Father’s redeeming love. Man seems to be so organized inwardly that his purest joys spring out of his sorrows, his riches grow by his losses, his laurels bloom in the sphere of his sternest conflicts, his fullest development is the fruit of his hardest toils, and his noblest becomings of his most utter sacrifices--while God completes the cycle, and ordains that his immortal life shall spring out of his death. Thus man is organized. The question then arises, Is this condition of things the accident of sin? Is this the full account of it--that man being in a sinful state, God has thus adapted his mental and moral organization, as the best expedient which the case allows, with a view to his restoration? Or was this contemplated in his first constitution and endowment? Was man made, were all his powers ordained, with a view to this life of toil, struggle, suffering, sacrifice, and Divine experience? Was man made for it? Was the world made for it? Was heaven made for it? Is this the one way through which we are bound to believe that the highest end of God in the constitution of man and of all things is to be gained? And the answer must be, Yes. Man was made for it. Had he remained in Eden the highest interest of heaven in man’s career would have been lost; and more would have been lost, the highest, fullest, most absolute manifestation of God. Him, redemption alone could fully declare. If man comes forth into full manhood through that perverse exercise of his freedom, which leaves human nature suppliant for redemption under peril of imminent death, God, in redeeming man from the penalties and fruits of that perverseness, reveals Himself most fully as God. The whole system of things around us seems to me to be constituted with a view to redemption--which comprehends the discipline and education of souls. Thewilderness was there waiting, and all the physical order of the world. That was before man, and was made for man. And it is all set to the same keynote of struggle, toil, and suffering. There is not a bit of rock or a blade of grass, there has not been from the creation, which is not a mute memorial of struggle, wounds, and death. All things travail, not simply because man has sinned, but because the redemption of the sinner is the work for which “the all” has been prepared by the Lord. Redemption is no accident. The need of being a Redeemer lies deep in the nature of God; and not only was man’s sin foreseen, but all things were ordered with a view to the great drama of redemption from before the foundation of the world. But was sin preordained? The sun was ordained to shine, the moon to embosom and radiate his tempered beams. The flowers were ordained to bloom, the rain to fertilize, the lightning to scathe, the whirlwind to uproot and to destroy. Is it part of the Divine plan of creation, that as the sun shines and the rain descends, some men should blaspheme, and some rob, hate, and murder? Are these dark shadows of life but the inevitable attendants of its virtues, brought out into sharpest outline where the light is clearest--and their necessary foil; or else the stages through which God leads the development of nascent virtues, purifying them in the crucible of each as they pass through? To this question the answer of the Bible and of the Church is “No! a thousand times no!” God has set His witness against this in the picture of Eden and the history of the Fall, and to this witness the history of sin adds an emphatic Amen. Man has never been able in the long run to shake off the horror which sin inspires, as his own hateful and accursed work. Responsibility, in the fullest sense which that word will bear, is the broadest, strongest, most insoluble fact in the spiritual history of our race. “God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions,” and nothing can deliver man from the consciousness that the

“I” which has sought them out represents something which, whatever it may be, distinctly is not God. “Father, I have sinned,” is the only confession which reaches the depths of the human consciousness; and the gospel which demands the confession, and begins its ministry by deepening the conviction of sin, alone seems to him to be able to undertake the cure. As a matter of history it is palpably true that the convincing of sin, the inspiring a horror of sin--a horror which took many grotesque and ghastly forms in the early Christian centuries--was the first Work of that gospel which was God’s message to all mankind. The history of conscience, then, I hold to be conclusive--the profound, universal, unalterable conviction of the moral consciousness in man, that his sin springs out of an “I” which is not God; that his sin is his own, his creature, for which he is as responsible as God is for the order of the world. Sin then is, and is not God’s creature. The being capable of sinning is God’s creature. For making him capable of sinning God is responsible, and there His responsibility, as concerns Adam’s transgression, ends. For making me as I am, capable of sin, for bringing me into a sinful world in a body of sinful flesh, God is responsible; not for my sin, that grows up of myself in me. There are but two solutions possible. Either man must lie where his sin must sink him, in a deeper depth of shame and anguish than even a fiend can fathom, or man must rise through Redemption to a higher, Diviner manhood, and eating of the tree of life in Christ, live before the face of God forever. The first Adam is by grace abolished; the elder glory is done away by reason of the glory that excelleth. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)


Verse 24

Genesis 3:24

So He drove out the man

Man’s expulsion from Eden

Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden teaches--

I.
THAT WHEN COMFORTS ARE LIKELY TO BE ABUSED, GOD SENDS MEN FROM THEM. There was danger lest Adam should put forth his hand and eat of the “tree of life” and live forever. The fallen man must not be allowed to eat of the tree of life in this world. It can only be tasted by him in the resurrection; to live forever in a frail body would be an unmitigated woe. There are many trees of life in the world from which God has to drive men, because they are not in a proper condition to make the designed use of them. Government and law must be preventive as well as punitive, they must regard the future as well as the past. It is better for a man to be driven from a mental, moral, or social good than that he should make a bad use of it. Many a soul has lost its Eden by making a bad use of good things.

II. THAT IT IS NOT WELL THAT A SINNER SHOULD LIVE AND RESIDE IN THE HABITATION OF INNOCENCE. Adam and Eve were out of harmony with the purity and beauty of Eden. Such an innocent abode would not furnish them with the toil rendered necessary by their new condition of life. Men ought to have a sympathy with the place in which they reside. Only pure men should live in Eden. Society should drive out the impure from its sacred garden. Commerce should expel the dishonest from its benevolent enclosure. Let the wicked go to their own place in this life. A wicked soul will be far happier out of Eden than in it. Heaven will only allow the good to dwell within its wails.

III. THAT SIN ALWAYS CAUSES MEN TO BE EXPELLED FROM THEIR TRUEST ENJOYMENTS. Sin expels men from their Edens. It expels from the Eden of a pure and noble manhood. It drives the monarch from his palace into exile. It exchanges innocence for shame; plenty for want; the blessing of God into a curse; and fertility into barrenness. It makes the world into a prison house. It often happens when men want to gain more than they legitimately can, that they lose that which they already possess. In trying to become gods, men often lose their Edens. Satan robs men of their choicest possessions and of their sweetest comforts. This expulsion was--

1. Deserved.

2. Preventive.

3. Pitiable.

IV. THAT THOUGH EXPELLED FROM EDEN MAN’S LIFE IS YET BESET WITH BLESSINGS. Though the cherubim and the flaming sword closed up the way to paradise, Christ had opened a new and living way into the holy place. Christ is now the “way” of man--to purity--to true enjoyment--to heaven. Heaven substitutes one blessing for another. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The plan of redemption exhibited at Eden

I. THE EVENT HERE RECORDED.

1. The expulsion was not forcible. We may infer from the entire narrative that Adam had by this time been brought to penitence.

2. Neither are we to suppose that this event occurred merely as a carrying out of the curse which had been pronounced. The principal reason was, that access to the tree of life might be barred. By this man was taught the full consequence of sin.

II. THE TRANSACTION THAT FOLLOWED.

1. Cherubim (see Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 10:1; Revelation 4:6).

2. Flaming sword, “Turning every way”--literally “back on itself”: the fire of wrath, kindled by transgression, instead of burning out to consume man, would turn back and expend itself on “God manifest in the flesh.”

III. THE DESIGN OF THIS TRANSACTION.

1. To teach the principles of redemption.

2. To keep the divinely appointed way to eternal life in remembrance.

3. That it might serve as a temple of worship. (Sketches of Sermons.)

Fallen, yet redeemed

I. MAN’S FALLEN LIFE.

1. Externally. Condemned to toll and sorrow, no longer fed by sacramental food of the tree of life, exiled from garden, etc.

2. Internally. Strange and terrible possibilities of sin lurking within. Two wills, and two men, in each of us.

II. MAN’S REDEEMED LIFE. In Christ we have--

1. Forgiveness.

2. An emancipated will. (Bishop W. Alexander.)

The irretraceability of human life

Adam could not go back. True of all men. They cannot retrace their steps.

I. We cannot go back into the past PERIODS OF LIFE.

II. We cannot go back into past CONDITIONS OF LIFE.

1. Physical.

2. Social.

3. Mental.

4. Moral. Conclusion:

1. How great is human life.

2. How obvious our duty.

To make the best of the stage in which we find ourselves. Take care of the Eden, for when we leave it, the “flaming sword” will render return impossible. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Man’s banishment

I. WHENCE DID HE DRIVE HIM? From Eden.

1. It was a garden of pleasure.

2. A scene of wholesome occupation.

3. A temple of blissful communion. And out of all this he was driven.

II. WHEREFORE DID HE DRIVE HIM?

1. The act of man’s disobedience was the ground of this expulsion.

2. This act of disobedience, if properly considered, will be found to be an act of high demerit and aggravated criminality.

3. The awful indications of Divine displeasure that have followed this act, plainly demonstrate to every considerate mind what must have been its malignant nature. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

III. WHITHER DID HE DRIVE HIM? He drove him into this blighted wilderness of our present abode; He drove him without the precincts of the garden that was formed for him, and in which he was first placed--He drove out the man--sent him forth to till the ground, 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.” This world is a wilderness, because--

1. So inferior to Eden.

2. A scene of labour.

3. A scene of vicissitude.

4. A scene of vexation.

IV. WHETHER THERE IS ANY DOOR OF HOPE AND ESCAPE?

1. It is my delightful task and happiness to announce to you that the gospel reveals Him who is the second Adam. The first Adam was a figure of Him that was to come--in Adam all died, in Christ all are made alive. What the first Adam destroyed, the second Adam repaired.

2. By His perfect obedience, and meritorious sacrifice for sin, He has actually declared the right and title of reinstatement to this inheritance in behalf of all His people.

3. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is the appointed means of our personal restoration to God’s favour, and the pleasure and delight of communion with Him.

4. Regeneration and sanctification are the feet by which we are to retrace our steps to celestial felicity.

5. There is a blessed certainty in all this--a certainty upon which you may depend, and upon which you may venture your immortal souls without scruple or hesitation, and which the second Adam has secured by His all-perfect obedience, atonement, and death. (G. Clayton, M. A.)

Redemption typically seen at the gate of paradise

I. THE REAL CAUSE OF MAN’S EXPULSION FROM THE EARTHLY PARADISE (see Genesis 3:22-23).

II. THE SINGULAR MANIFESTATION THAT NOW SUCCEEDED. It was not a flaming guard of angels that was placed, but the Shechina, or Divine presence of Him who dwelt between the cherubim.

III. THE IMPORTANT AND CONSOLATORY DOCTRINE WHICH THIS APPEARANCE TAUGHT. O cheering object to the eye of faith! O glorious hope, and balmy consolation to dry the tears of penitence, and wake the harp of joy! O hallowed spot, where God vouchsafed to dwell! O blissful seat, where mercy smiled on man. Yes, for there he “looked and lived”; there he learnt that in due time the sword should awake (that very sword), and smite the man who was Jehovah’s fellow; should turn from the sinner upon the surety; and, as was here seen, should be revolvable upon itself! Yes, and there he first saw the cherubims! now first revealed as the covenanting three in the mysterious one. Each conditionally bound to their sacred office; emblems of those great ones, as should hereafter be more particularly unfolded to the captive prophet, as he mourned and wept for Israel’s sons, beside the banks of Chebar! Captives of every clime and race! here behold the dispensations of Providence, and the design of mercy, grace, and peace! Yes, and with the cheering vision, the very place where it was seen would impart instruction, and might assuage their grief; for see, like the star of Bethlehem, it appeared in “the East,” emblematic of another sun than they saw; even the Sun of Righteousness, who should hereafter arise to heal, to fructify, to irradiate, guide, and cheer His Church; and who should “keep,” preserve, and show “the way” of everlasting life! Yes, here Christ was preached in type and figure as “the way, the truth, and the life.” For He whom “the tree of life” represented, was still seen as the same source of being and blessedness to their souls; for though, as has been repeatedly enforced, our first parents could no longer approach as heretofore, and when clad in innocence, yet the blessings it prefigured were still preserved, though shown in another, and even in a superior way. Here, then, was a standing type of redemption; and to this they did approach; for here profoundest wisdom was discovered, and covenanting mercy was displayed. And here, too (for where else?), was that presence of the Lord, from which Cain afterwards departed, while it long continued as the place before which Abel and every pious worshipper would delight to bring his sacrifice, to pay his adoration, and to perform his vows. (W. B.Williams, M. A.)

The closed Eden, the opened heaven

You remember the old legend of Greek mythology, of one to whom, when he had pleased the gods, they said: “Ask what you will, and we will give it.” And he said,” Give me immortality.” They did so, and he lived on and on, and could not die. He had immortality, but it was immortality with mortal woes. How wretched was his lot! How wearily did he go along his way of weakness and distress! How he prayed for the revoking of the favour that was only a curse! The woes of man are such that the only immortal who can bear them must be God. It is therefore God’s infinite pity and tenderness, that when man had taken of the tree of knowledge, he is forbidden the tree of life. The very form of the words is striking. It is an unfinished sentence. God says, “Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever--” The sentence is unfinished. God did not conclude the awful hypothesis. Man had sinned, and were he now to put out his hand and take of the tree of life and live forever--the eternal. One drops a veil on that dread scene of sorrow into which the immortal sinner would be plunged. It is not only judgment that puts the tree of life beyond man’s reach; it is an act of pitifulness, an act of divinest grace. The punishment of sin further involved the labour of reducing the earth by tillage and toil expended upon it to supply man’s need. “He sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken.” He had been put into the garden to keep it. Now he is set to till the earth. Is there not here also a gracious mitigation of man’s suffering? We find ever the traces of mercy blended with the righteous indignation of the offended law. The cloud has always its silver lining. Suppose God had not only permitted the gift of immortality to remain with man after his sin, but had left him also without toil. Suppose everything had been ready to his hand, and he needed only to put out his hand and take the fruit of the garden, the fruit of the tree! No labour! no death! A world of sin, a world of immortality, and a world without work. Can you conceive of a more awful judgment than that? Labour is the mitigation of our woe. Labour is in many cases the cure of the evil. Work will often wean you from sorrow, which comes from sin. Work, good wholesome toil--the hand, the brain--will heal the wounds that sin has made. It was not in wrath, but in pity; it was not with wrath but with grace, that God sent forth the man to till the ground whence he came God finally pronounces the sentence that the way of the tree of life was to be kept by a flaming sword. Man was not willing to go. We will not leave our Eden unless we are driven forth. God had to drive man out of the garden which he had spoiled, and then keep the way to the tree of life by the flaming sword and the burning cherubim. Now, it suggests in the first place that the man had the desire to return upon his past. If man had not wanted to remain in Eden, he would not have been driven out at all. If he had not wanted to return, it would not have been kept by the cherubim. Man always seeks again his past. We always are returning to it. How we dwell in the reminiscences of life! How we look back upon childhood’s days with a certain longing! Who has not, again and again, called up in memory’s affection those who were with us in the years that have departed? Who is there that would not recall the past? “If I could only begin life again! If I could only have back those hours I wasted--those childhood’s impressions I allowed to vanish! When I was a child, how tender the heart--how quick the conscience--how pure the life! Oh! give it back to me. Let me inherit the Eden from which I have been driven!” My friends, it is vain. Eden is closed. The cherubim are at the gate; them is always the flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life. Old friendships! Who would not return to these? Friends we have lost, whose hearts we have broken--whom we neglected--whom we injuriously treated--who would not give his right hand to get them back again, that we might undo the wrong we did, that we might increase the little service we had rendered? It is impossible! The cherubim are keeping the gate: you cannot go back. Oh! the lost opportunities of life! Who has used every chance? Who, even in the things of time and sense, has always been watchful? That golden hour in life, you only had it once. You had it then, you lost it then. The time of the flood, the prosperous breeze, the chance that was given you; it is gone. You look back with regret. The cherubim keep the gate; you cannot go back. The wasted lives. The injury that cannot be undone. It may be you wrecked forever the peace of some soul, and in the wreck destroyed your own. Oh! to have had the day before that fatal hour! Oh! to be able to pause again before that false step! It is done! it is done! and the tree of life is guarded by the flaming sword of the cherubim. And this is so, not only with the individual, but with the entire race. All men look back. It is a poor nation that has no history. It is a very savage tribe that has no tradition. The men who have forgotten the golden age are scarcely worthy of the name. All nations recall it. The poets sing of it, and the philosophers meditate upon it, and all mankind look back upon it, and still remember the Eden that was lost. When Adam and Eve went out, they went out with unwilling steps, and ever gazing at the vanished paradise. Man’s life is a reminiscence. Man’s life is a longing regret. And it illustrates also the impossibility of return. If that past be so delightful, let us go back to it. Let us be to friends whom we have lost, what we were once to them. No, never! The cherubim are there. What were these cherubim? I do not know. There are many orders of being in the service of God; but whatever they were, they stand between the departing man and woman, and forever bar the way of their return. And whatever were the cherubim, the poet is right, that between us and the past there stands ourselves, our “former selves.” For what is it that really stands between us and the past, towards which we would move if it were possible? What but ourselves? It needs no angel from heaven, no flaming sword to bar the way. We are our own barriers. It is ourselves who stop the way to the tree of life. It is our deed. We lost the chance, we threw away our opportunity, we sacrificed innocence, we destroyed the soul of our friend, and well-nigh have destroyed our own--

“Our former selves, wielding a two-edged sword.”

Is that all? Are we come to this? Is the promise to the woman, is the voice of the serpent, is the word to Adam, is the command to labour, all to be gathered up in this, and is this the end? Combine the longings for return, combine the obstacles that lie between man and his past, but surely with these we may blend the ever-recurring tone of the story. Does it not point to another gospel? Is there no restoration of life in the future? Is God, who has given to man original life, is He to be stayed in His purpose by human sin? He may have closed the way back to Eden, because there is another way which shall be opened, He may have said to Adam, “No step backward to the Eden thou hast lost,” because every step forward, perpetually forward, would bring him round again to that Eden into which he would enter. Ah, yes! We must go forward; backward thou canst not go. Go forward. Is time lost? Time is still ours; and though the past has vanished, and though the present is slipping from our grasp, the future is our own. That we still possess. You cannot go back, says God. You have lost innocence; you cannot be innocent again. But, better than innocent, you can be sanctified. Is life lost? Has it wholly perished? Yes, wholly. But life lies beyond. The moment we were born we began to die, and the first cry of the child is but the prelude to the groan with which the man shall pass away. But he dies only to live in the nobler life; there alone, in that great future, shall the restoration be. Eden is closed behind you, but all the world and all the heaven lie before you. Here is the gospel--the gospel of the barred tree of life, the guarded Eden, barred and guarded that we may seek the eternal life, the Eden that our God has given. (L. D. Bevan, D. D.)

Lessons

1. Sin alone puts God upon separating souls from their comforts, antecedent and consequent.

2. When comforts are like to be abused, God prevents it by sending them from them.

3. The habitation of innocency is no place for sinners.

4. Jehovah is the disposer of all places and conditions, He puts in and sends out.

5. A cursed earth is the sinner’s place of correction; or his bride-well, as we may say.

6. Sin hath brought a sentence for miserable toil on men in this place.

7. Man’s base original corrupted with sin, fits him for a base servile condition (Genesis 3:23).

8. God hath actually separated sin from the place of pleasure. From the first Adam until now, sin is out of paradise.

9. God doth not only throw out sinners from Eden or the place of pleasure, but keeps them out.

10. God hath His guard of angels to resist sinners, and drive them from rest.

11. Terrible are the means and active by which God drives off sinners from their pleasures.

12. No life can be recovered by man in looking to the former means of life in innocency. Therefore we must to Christ (Genesis 3:24). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The expulsion--its character and lessons

I. First, it is a word this OF SOLEMN DIVINE JUDGMENT. “He drove out the man.” It was a Divine expulsion from the primeval paradise. Nor was this Divine expulsion one from the delights merely, the endlessly varied beauties and satisfactions, of that choicest part of a world which, everywhere, God had Himself pronounced to be very good. It was this, indeed; and in this judgment of course appeared. But there was a great deal more of judgment in the expulsion than this. Principally it was judgment, in that it was the final shutting out of the man, and in him, as we are too well assured of man, our whole race fallen, from all possibility of life by the law--by the first covenant of the law.

II. But now, if there was judgment thus, many ways in the “driving out of the man,” there was also GLORIOUS MERCY in it--not simply notwithstanding of it, but in it--mercy along with the judgment, and divinely rejoicing against the judgment.

1. For, first, what was it but the gracious shutting of him out from now delusive, vain, and ruinous hopes of life by the way of the law--a thing this of the very last moment in reference to any possibility of his being saved by grace.

2. I observe, secondly, that the driving out of the man was rich mercy, in that it was in effect the shutting of him now also in to Christ, the one name given under heaven among men fallen whereby we must be saved.

3. But we have not yet reached by any means the full mercy which was in the driving out of the man. So far we have seen its gracious design and tendency more doctrinally, as it were, under the grace of the Holy Ghost to shut out from delusive hopes of life, and shut in to Him who is the eternal life--the way, and the truth, and the life. And this truly was of unspeakable importance. How very large a portion of the Bible bears one way or other towards this double design! It might be said to be the grand scope and drift of it, doctrinally, from first to last. But then, the text opens up at least another class of means altogether for effecting the design. For, practically, what is it that to a very large extent holds us back from Christ, and prevails with us to leave Him and His salvation neglected and despised? Is it not some dream of finding a portion, a good, a happiness, in this world--in the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eye, or the pride of life--for the sake of which we are prepared to run the risk of losing our never-dying souls? But now behold the still further import of the driving out of the man. See how it was just a kind of summary, in effect, of that whole providential discipline which the Lord is administering from age to age in our fallen world, in connection with His Word, towards the same great end of driving us out from our vain delusive hopes of life and blessedness, on the one side, and shutting us in to the faith and love and obedience and enjoyment of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the other. For observe, first, what it was the Lord drove out the man from. It was from the paradise of earth, as from a scene now no longer suited to his state--which, however profitable as well as pleasant before, when all earthly comforts did but raise his soul in love and thankfulness to God, could now have proved but a deadly snare to him. Hence, in rich mercy as well as judgment, “He drove out the man”--as if He should say, Outside that paradise of earth, away from its delights, now unfit for thee, thou mayest be shut in to desire a better country, even an heavenly. And just thus it is that the Lord is driving forth His children still from their Edens of earth, withering their gourds, teaching them painfully that--

“They build too low who build beneath the skies,”

in driving them out, only shutting them in to Him who is their alone life, and in whom they are yet to reach a better Eden than the primeval one. But what, further, did God drive out the man to? To till the ground now by the hard toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow--“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” And, in addition, to endure many a hardship and profound sorrows--“Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” And “unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” Ah, it is judgment, indeed, but at least as much, mercy. “Driven out” thus we are to a lot of toil and sorrow. But it is a lot only the more in keeping, because sorrowful, with our state here, as at the best sorrowfully sinful--ever ready we, even after having tasted that the Lord is gracious, to depart from the living God, and take up our rest here, and put some idol in the place of God, and worship the creature more than the Creator, and prefer the things which are seen and temporal to the things unseen and eternal, How merciful the “driving out of the man”! (C. G. Brown, D. D.)

Paradise shut, guarded, and reopened

I. PARADISE SHUT. What did man lose when shut out of paradise?

1. He lost the happiness of his external condition.

2. When man was excluded from paradise, he lost, too, the uprightness and purity of his moral nature.

3. Man then lost his approving conscience.

4. When paradise was lost, intercourse with God was lost.

II. PARADISE GUARDED. The subject is not unprofitable to us in the present day. Paradise is guarded, as to you, by all the awful, all the terrible perfections of God; so that, except by the dispensation which I shall have occasion to mention, if man is left to himself, it is impossible for him, in any instance, to regain the favour of God. As for Adam, the verse says, there were flaming swords, and bands of flaming cherubim, to prevent his entering that state of blessedness from which he was driven. From the contemplation of God’s perfections, revealed under aspects so terrific, no sinner can find the least hope of regaining the Divine favour. Not from any single perfection of the Divine character, or from all His perfections together, can the transgressor derive the least hope of pardon, purity, or happiness.

III. PARADISE REOPENED. The Redeemer appears, removing these guards, and throwing open the gate of heaven to the tree of life itself. (R. Watson.)

Paradise lost

I. THE PLACE OUT OF WHICH MAN WAS DRIVEN. Eden, the fairest spot in the new-made world, and frequently referred to, in the Christian Scriptures, as an emblem of that paradise which God has planted in the skies.

1. Every object which it contained, was intended and calculated to afford him the sweetest gratification, and to remind him of the benevolence and holiness of his great Creator.

2. This garden was not merely a place of residence and contemplation, but also of wholesome and pleasurable employment.

3. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept.” And it was during that “deep sleep,” that she passed through his side, and smiled upon his slumbers, who was destined, when he woke, to be to him another paradise, far beyond the first in beauty and in loveliness.

4. But the crowning joy of paradise was the presence and the friendship of Jehovah. It was a temple, illumined and blessed with the Divine glory, as well as a fruitful and a fragrant garden. There God descended, not as afterward on Mount Sinai, amidst tempest, and fire, and frowning clouds, but with all His glories softened, so that man might see His face, and feel safe and happy in His society.

II. THE REASON WHY HE WAS DRIVEN OUT. The sole reason was his disobedience to God.

1. The law which he transgressed had been distinctly and authoritatively declared to him.

2. The law which he transgressed was peculiarly adapted to his condition. He was allowed to pursue the knowledge of good in all its varieties, but he was prohibited from seeking an acquaintance with any degree of evil.

3. The law which he transgressed was enforced by most powerful motives. God, who had graciously given him existence, had provided ample and various supplies of food for his necessities and for his gratification, to all of which he had free access, so that every temptation arising from scarcity, or even from want of variety, was utterly prevented by his bountiful Creator. As obedience was his duty, he had been divinely created with a disposition to obey, and with a capacity to increase his happiness and his spiritual strength by obedience, so that he was in no danger from any deficiency of moral ability. His Almighty Creator was always at hand, ready to assist him whenever temptation offered, and to furnish him with grace to help in time of need, whenever he requested it, so that he might successfully wrestle even with “principalities and powers.” He had the means and the prospect of increasing and confirming every holy principle, and of rendering himself less and less liable to fall, by resisting temptation when it appeared, and by making God his refuge whenever he was exposed to danger.

III. THE CONDITION, IN WHICH HE WAS PLACED BY HIS EXPULSION.

1. He was driven out of the garden to spend the remainder of his days amidst the condemned and uncultivated parts of the earth.

2. He was driven out in a state of depravity and guilt, and exposed to all their awful consequences.

3. He was driven out accompanied with the promise of a Redeemer. The time when this promise was given, as well as the promise itself, affords an interesting evidence that, in the midst of wrath, the Lord remembers mercy; for it was repeated whilst He was pronouncing sentence upon the serpent, and before He had pronounced the sentence upon man. (J. Alexander.)

Observations

I. GOD OFTENTIMES WITHHOLDS FROM US, OR DEPRIVES US OF MANY BLESSINGS FOR OUR GOOD.

II. WHEN MEN HAVE ONCE BROKEN OUT INTO ONE SIN, THEY ARE IN DANGER TO FALL INTO ANY OTHER.

III. GOD, AS HE ALWAYS FORESEES, SO OFTENTIMES HE PREVENTS MEN’S FALLING INTO SIN.

IV. THE SUREST WAY TO PREVENT MAN’S FALLING INTO SIN, IS TO BE FAR FROM THE ALLUREMENTS THAT MIGHT ENTICE HIM UNTO SIN.

V. MEN ARE NATURALLY APT TO THINK THEMSELVES SAFE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OUTWARD ACTS OF HOLY DUTIES.

VI. GOD CANNOT ENDURE THE DEFILING OF HIS ORDINANCES BY SUCH AS HAVE NO RIGHT TO THEM. (J. White, M. A.)

Observations

I. THERE IS NO BLESSING SO FIRMLY ASSURED UNTO US, WHEREOF SIN MAY NOT DEPRIVE US.

II. MEN’S DWELLINGS AND EMPLOYMENTS ARE BOTH ASSIGNED BY GOD.

III. GOD EVERYWHERE LEAVES REMEMBRANCES, TO MIND US WHAT AND HOW BASE WE ARE. (J. White, M. A.)

Observations

I. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE NOT TO BE PASSED OVER SLIGHTLY, BUT TO BE CONSIDERED SERIOUSLY, AND OBSERVED AND REMEMBERED CAREFULLY.

II. GOD LOVES TO LEAVE MONUMENTS, BOTH OF HIS MERCIES AND JUDGMENTS, FOR THE JUSTIFYING OF HIMSELF, AND THE CONVINCING OF MEN OF THEIR UNWORTHY CONDUCT TOWARDS HIM.

III. IN SEARCHING INTO GOD’S JUDGMENTS, OUR SPECIAL CARE MUST BE TO OBSERVE THE PRECEDENTS AND CAUSE OF THEM.

IV. THE REST OF GOD’S SERVANTS HAVE NEED OF THE TERRORS OF HIS JUDGMENTS TO RESTRAIN THEM FROM SIN.

V. IT IS A GREAT HELP TO BE INFORMED BY SENSE OF THOSE THINGS THAT ARE TO WORK EFFECTUALLY UPON OUR HEARTS.

VI. THE ANGELS THEMSELVES ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS FOR THE GOOD OF THE SAINTS.

VII. THERE IS NO MEANS TO ESCAPE THE HAND OF GOD’S JUSTICE, IF MEN WALK ON IN A COURSE OF REBELLION AGAINST HIM. (J. White, M. A.)

Man’s banishment

There is unspeakable mercy here in every respect for the erring race. The present life in the flesh was now tainted with sin and impregnated with the seeds of the curse, about to spring forth into an awful growth of moral and physical evil. It is not worth preserving for itself. It is not in any way desirable that such a dark confusion of life and death in one nature should be perpetuated. Hence there is mercy as well as judgment in the exclusion of man from that tree which could have only continued the carnal, earthly, sensual, and even devilish state of his being. Let it remain for a season until it be seen whether the seed of spiritual life will come to birth and growth, and then let death come and put a final end to the old man. But still farther, God does not annihilate the garden or its tree of life. Annihilation does not seem to be His way. It is not the way of that Omniscient One who sees the end from the beginning, of that infinite wisdom that can devise and create a self-working, self-adjusting universe of things and events. On the other hand. He sets His cherubim to keep the way of the tree of life. This paradise, then, and its tree of life are in safe keeping. They are in reserve for those who will become entitled to them after an intervening period of trial and victory, and they will reappear in all their pristine glory, and in all their beautiful adaptedness to the high-born and newborn perfection of man. The slough of that serpent nature which has been infused into man will fall off, at least from the chosen number, who take refuge in the mercy of God; and in all the freshness and freedom of a heaven-born nature will they enter into all the originally congenial enjoyments that were shadowed forth in their pristine bloom in that first scene of human bliss. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)

The banishment

Behold man exiled from Eden! Behold the most heart-rending banishment that was ever denounced against any of the human race! We understand your grief and your tears, O unhappy beings, whom an inexorable arrest of the law snatches from all the endearments of a beloved land, where the hours of childhood have been spent, from all the joys of a family and friends tenderly beloved, from all the indescribable charms of the place where you learned to feel and to love, and removes you to some inhospitable clime, where the severest privations are the least of your evils, and where you languish, rather than love. But what are your afflictions, compared with those of our first father, when he went out of Eden at the voice of his Judge, to wander with his unhappy companion in the desert countries of an accursed earth! O delights of Eden, life of innocence and love, blissful retreats where the Lord revealed Himself to the soul, where everything was ravishing beauty without, and harmony and peace within, favours of Gods happiness of His love and of His presence; you are lost forever! Bitter regret! profound misery! Oh, could Adam find again the way to Eden! Oh that the flaming sword of eternal justice no longer glittered! But no, it is not so, my brethren; Adam can no longer even desire the abode in Eden; and this is the completion of his misery! To fallen man, Eden has no more attractions, no more glory, no more happiness. What avail the beauties of man’s first abode? his heart, deprived of innocence and peace, could no longer enjoy them. What does it avail that the glorious majesty of the Lord still shines forth in all His works? man is despoiled and ashamed. What does it avail that he still beholds over his head the azure firmament of heaven, and the brightness with which it sparkles, while darkness reigns in his soul, and gloomy clouds hide from him the glory of the Most High? What does it avail that all created beings unite to send up on high one melodious hymn of praise? there is nothing now in the heart of man but discord, anguish, and grief. What does it avail what riches and abundance replenish Eden? man is poor, miserable, and naked. What avails the tree of knowledge? man sees in it an accusing witness of his crime. What avails the tree of life? man reads in it the sentence of death against himself. What avails even the presence of God! man now only sees in Him a Judge; he feels in His presence only the fear of a slave, the shame of a criminal, the terror of a condemned malefactor. He has fled at the voice of God; he has gone to hide his disgrace among the trees of Eden. Flee, Adam, flee far from thy God, far from Eden, which sin has made an abode of misery to thee; flee, and let the gates of Eden be closed upon thy footsteps, let the flaming sword forever guard its entrance against thee! O my beloved brethren! how hateful is sin in the sight of God! how bitter are its fruits! how disastrous its effects! Let the expulsion of Adam explain to us the incomprehensible mystery of a world sunk in evil, a world whose sufferings seem to fling an accusation against Providence; a world full of sin, crimes, injustice, animosities, war, and murders. Let this fact explain to us the contradictions, the continual afflictions of a life whose sources sin has poisoned, and whose relations with God it has destroyed! Let this fact explain the grief which has invaded the whole human race, and the numberless sufferings which result from man’s want of harmony with himself and with his God! Let this fact explain to us disease and death--death, that mystery inscrutable to human wisdom, that abyss which has yawned beneath the feet of man, ever since he was banished from Eden! Ah! my brethren, deny it not, we also have been banished from Eden, or rather, we are born in this land of exile; Adam’s lot has become ours; he has bequeathed unto us this sad heritage of sin, corruption, misery, and death! (L. Bonnet.)

Expulsion from Paradise, but not from Eden

His expulsion is not to be viewed, as is generally done, as mere ejection from a happy dwelling, his own special home, as if this were his punishment. No, it is banishment from God and from His presence, that is the true idea which the passage presents to us. Paradise was not so much Adam’s home as Jehovah’s dwelling. Man is banished from paradise, yet he is left within sight of it; he is allowed to remain in Eden. He is not driven into some desert, as if there were nothing for him bat wrath. There is favour for him in spite of his sin; and the expulsion does not cancel the pardon he has received, or intimate that God has begun to frown. It merely showed that before the full consequences of that favour could reach man, time must elapse, and barriers be thrown down. It is not the “outer darkness,” neither is it the full sunshine, into which he is brought. It is the twilight that surrounds him; and that twilight assures him of the coming noon. He is left to linger at the gate, or wander round the sacred fences of that forbidden ground. For paradise is not swept off nor swallowed up. It is left as God’s temple, now shut up and empty, but still within sight of man. Probably it shared the common blight of creation; though, like primeval man, it took long to wither; till, having waxed old and being ready to vanish away, the deluge came and swept it from the earth. It remained as a specimen of God’s original handiwork, reminding man of the glory which he had lost. It stood as a monument of what sin had done in blighting God’s perfect creation, and turning man into an exile. It showed how God estimates the material creation, and that matter is not the defiling and hateful thing which some conceive it to be. It proclaimed that God had not wholly left the earth, and that in His own set time He would return to it; nay, that man, though for a season dethroned and banished, should yet repossess earth as king and lord. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The garden of Eden left

I. THE TREE OF LIFE GUARDED. When mankind were driven out of paradise, the tree of life was not removed nor destroyed, but still left there: to show that there was still immortal life left for man, though out of his reach. To this our own nature bears witness; for there lies at the bottom of the heart of man the inextinguishable desire for happiness and immortality; and that desire still implanted within us proves that it is not altogether lost. Thus Aristotle inferred from this universal desire in the very constitution of man’s nature, that there is a happiness for which he is born; and that though it be never attained, yet it must in some way be attainable by man. The principle must exist, though every access to that life is closed to mankind; or, in other words, is guarded by the sword which turns every way.

II. THE CHERUBIM OF SCRIPTURE. Of the different figures we may observe, that in the holy of holies they are at rest; in Ezekiel in motion; in St. John in adoration. Over the ark they seem to indicate inquiry; in the prophetic vision judgment; in the Church of the redeemed thanksgiving. In the holy place they seem as if inquiring of each other, and at the same time as if the subject of their inquiry was the propitiation or mercy seat. Thus it is said to Moses, “their faces shall look one to another, toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.” To which St. Peter is supposed to allude when he says that the angels “desire to look into the things” of our salvation. And thus the two angels were seen by Mary Magdalene, “the one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain,” which is the true mercy seat. But the four cherubims afterwards are described as “full of eyes,” instinct with knowledge, and adoring wonder. Again, in the holy of holies not only are they entirely withdrawn from sight by the veil, but even when the High Priest entered once a year within that veil, they are hid from view by the smoke and the cloud of incense; but in the Apocalypse all is open, and they are glorifying God, for the gospel is then manifested. It appears then from all these passages, that by the term cherubims we must understand some symbols or representation of the incarnation. So was it in the holy of holies; so was it in the prophet Ezekiel, and in the Apocalypse; and therefore we may conclude that the same is meant in this place in the garden of Eden.

III. THEIR FORM AND CHARACTER. We may further infer, that not only did those cherubims which appeared in the beginning in Eden bear the same kind of significance with those which are introduced in the rest of Scripture, and at the close in the Apocalypse, but also are of a similar form and character. Now these in the latter instances were expressly composite forms of animal life, or creature combinations, and in all probability those in the temple were likewise of the same kind. The compound figures keeping the entrances of Assyrian and Egyptian temples or palaces, so utterly inexplicable on any other grounds, were probably derived from some tradition of the cherubims that kept the gate of paradise. To these might be added mythological fables, as that of the brazen-footed bulls breathing fire, that kept the golden fleece. And what was that golden fleece but some record of that clothing of God, some memory of that mystery of great price, in Eden guarded by cherubim?

IV. SIGNIFICATION OF CHERUBIMS. It will then be granted that by the cherubims were signified some manifestation of Christ. And it has always been considered that the four cherubims of Ezekiel and St. John had reference to the four Gospels or Evangelists; for it is they that bear the manifestation or knowledge of Christ throughout the world; they may be said to bear His throne as seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or to encompass it as by St. John. In like manner the two cherubims in the Temple have been considered by St. Augustine to mean the two Testaments. We may therefore infer that the cherubims in Eden had the like intent. But though they may have been afterwards seen and partially fulfilled in four Evangelists, yet this does not explain the meaning of such appearances; they must have some peculiar signification in themselves in addition to, or independently of, the four Gospels. For we may ask, Why should figures of this kind be chosen? And what do their curious shapes imply? What are they? They are in some sense angelic, inasmuch as they bear messages of God, and the only way we can represent angels is by some form of human youth in a spiritual body; yet they are not angelic, for they are human and animal. They are not human, because there are among them the countenances of animals; they are not animal, for they are full of knowledge; the very name implies multitude of knowledge, as also do their many eyes; and they bear in their hand a sword; they are human as well as animal; they are spiritual as well as human, as their spiritual movement indicates. They are called by the prophet and by the evangelist “the living creatures,”--not, as improperly translated, “beasts,” but living creatures--creatures gifted with excessive life, “the living ones.” But we mayobserve, that though that which is animal and spiritual he mixed up with these appearances, yet the prevailing character is man; the basis, so to speak, of all these symbolic figures is man. They seem to represent the perfection of animal life, yet gifted with a spiritual body, as to be found in the new man, the last Adam, who shall reinstate again in paradise; man by the manhood of Christ reconciled unto God, and admitted into union and fellowship with God, wherein is eternal life. It is therefore the pledge and covenant of the seed that should come, admitting again to immortality, by union of God with man, the life of life, spiritual life, in the perfection of the creature united with the Creator.

V. THE ANIMAL CREATION RESTORED. See Romans 8:19; Romans 8:21-22; Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 5:13; Isaiah 11:5-6; Isaiah 65:25. The animals partake of the sentence passed on man of labour; they labour and suffer for us and with us, sharing our toil and relieving it in their lives, and in their deaths sustaining our frail bodies, setting forth the atonement, and thereby our deliverance from death. Thus they are connected both with our death by sin, and with the promise of that better life which is in God. It is then through animals that God clothes fallen man; it is through animals slain that He receives a sacrifice in Abel; and both these as setting forth Christ;--“the secret of the Lord” which “is with them that fear Him.” It is not therefore inconsistent with this that something of an animal character should also be found in these cherubims, which kept the way of the tree of life, and which must in some sense be symbols of Christ’s incarnation. (I. Williams, B. D.)

The cherubim

1. The cherubim are real creatures and not mere symbols. In the narrative of the Fall they are introduced as real into the scenes of reality. Their existence is assumed as known. For God is said to place or station the cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden. The representation of a cherub too in vision as part of a symbolic figure implies a corresponding reality Ezekiel 10:14). A symbol itself points to a reality.

2. They are afterwards described as living creatures, especially in the visions of Ezekiel (1:10). This seems to arise, not from their standing at the highest stage of life, which the term does not denote, but from the members of the various animals, which enter into their variously described figure. Among these appear the faces of the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle, of which a cherubic form had one, two or four (Exodus 25:20; Ezekiel 41:18; Ezekiel 1:16). They had besides wings in number two or four Exodus 25:20; 1 Kings 6:27; Ezekiel 1:6). And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides (Ezekiel 1:8; Ezekiel 10:8). Ezekiel also describes their feet as being straight, and having the soul like that of a calf. They sometimes appear too with their bodies, hands, wings, and even accompanying wheels full of eyes (Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 10:12). The variety in the figuration of the cherubim is owing to the variety of aspects in which they stand, and of offices or services they have to perform in the varying posture of affairs.

3. The cherubim are intelligent beings. This is indicated by their form, movement, and conduct. In their visible appearance the human form predominates. “They had the likeness of a man” (Ezekiel 1:5). The human face is in front, and has therefore the principal place. The “hands of a man” determine the erect posture, and therefore the human form of the body. The parts of other animal forms are only accessory.

4. Their special office seems to be intellectual and potential rather than moral. The hand symbolizes intelligent agency. The multiplicity of eyes denotes many-sided intelligence. The number four is evidently normal and characteristic. It marks their relation to the Kosmos, universe or system of created things.

5. Their place of ministry is about the throne, and in the presence of the Almighty. Accordingly, where He manifests Himself in a stated place, and with all the solemnity of a court, there they generally appear.

6. Their special functions correspond with these indications of their nature and place. They are figured in the most holy place, which was appropriated to the Divine presence, and constructed after the pattern seen in the mount. They stand on the mercy seat, where God sits to rule His people, and they look down with intelligent wonder on the mysteries of redemption. In the vision of the likeness of the glory of God vouchsafed to Ezekiel, they appear under the expanse on which rests the throne of God, and beside the wheels which move as they move. And when God is represented as in movement for the execution of His judgments, the physical elements and the spiritual essences are alike described as the vehicles of His irresistible progress (Psalms 18:11). All these movements are mysteries to us, while we are in the world of sense. We cannot comprehend the relation of the spiritual and the physical. But of this we may be assured, that material things are at bottom centres of multiform forces, or fixed springs of power, to which the Everlasting Potentate has given a local habitation and a name, and therefore cognate with spiritual beings of free power, and consequently manageable by them.

7. The cherubim seem to be officially distinct from angels or messengers who go upon special errands to a distance, from the presence chamber of the Almighty. It is possible that they are also to be distinguished in function from the seraphim and the living beings of the Apocalypse, who like them appear among the attendants in the court of heaven. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)

The way of life and its guardian forces

Let us try to analyse the spiritual ideas represented by these words of the text: “Life,” “Tree,” “Way,” “Cherubims,” “Flaming Sword.”

1. What is life? The true life of man is to partake of the Divine life of God. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God.”

2. The power of the Divine life in its relation to the being of man is here represented by a “tree.” A tree represents a germ, a growth, and a fruitfulness. So the Divine life, implanted in the being of humanity as a hidden germ, grows, casting forth branches in the formation of habits and tendencies of character, and brings forth fruits in the energies of a spiritual being reflecting the image of God; that is, “the fruits of the Spirit.”

3. Alienation from the life of God, and reconciliation to it, imply a departure and a return. These ideas are here represented by the word “way.” The “way” would seem to represent those means of grace, and that mediatorial system, by the power of which alone man is able to reach the realization of the Divine presence.

4. This way is subject to conditions. “The cherubims” keep the way. The winged forms of the cherubims would seem to represent the spiritual supernatural forces which elevate the soul of man out of the earthly, lower life, into the communion of the Most High. The wings of the “cherubims” alone can waft the soul of man into the presence of “The Most High.”

5. There is another guardian force represented by the flaming sword. What is the spiritual power symbolized by the sword? The knife, or sword, is the symbol of sacrifice. Our love of any object may be measured by the sacrifices which we are willing to make for it. Now, the life of man stands in the reflection of the attributes of God. The one all-comprehensive attribute of God is love. Therefore the one all-comprehensive duty of man is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the reflection by humanity on earth of the Divine love in heaven. The sword keeps the way of life. But it is the “flaming” sword. The flame would seem to represent the motive spirit of true sacrifice. The cold sacrifice, which is not prompted by the ardour of burning love, is not the power that keeps the way, but the unquenched spirit of fervent love, symbolized by the flame. In all the ages of the Church’s life, the access of the human soul to the secret place, in which dwells the eternal life, has been by the same way, and subject to the same conditions. Let us, then, endeavour to trace the same verities, as they are presented under various forms, in successive ages.

I. Where did THE PATRIARCHS, who lived on earth before the flood, find the source of spiritual, undecaying life? In the presence of God. Their souls drew near to realize the image of the eternal life, in order that, gazing on its glory, they might be changed into the same image. In the motions of his consciousness Enoch walked with God, and Noah walked with God. On the other hand, when Cain by transgression lost the higher life of his being, that perdition is described as departure from the presence of God: “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” In that alienation the tree of life ceased to grow within the reach of his soul, and its spiritual fruits no longer strengthened and gladdened his being. What, then, constituted the “way” of access for these patriarchs? The means of grace which God had ordained. The forms in which the means of grace consisted in those ages are not revealed to us. The spiritual forces which encircled that “way,” as the conditions of approach, were essentially the same as in our own and in every age of the Church. The human consciousness cannot realize the presence of God without the revealed knowledge of God and the ordained exercises of devotion. The wings of the eternal cherubims, then as now, in the shadowing power of reverence, and in the elevating power of spiritual aspiration, were the guardian forces, without whose activity the soul could not draw near to the Most High. The other force which keeps the way was also present in the antediluvian Church. The “sword” of sacrifice appears in an early page of religious history. In the religion of Cain and Abel sacrifice is seen. The sword was not wanting in the religion of Cain. Why, then, did he lose the “respect” of the Divine presence? His was the cold sword of a heartless, formal sacrifice, which cost him no self-denial. On the other hand, the soul of Abel had seen dimly the mighty truth of the Cross. In the progress of his soul the sword of sacrifice is seen baptized with the flames of the tongues of fire, kindled by the one eternal Spirit of God.

II. In the Church of THE POSTDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF MAN WAS QUICKENED AND FROM TIME TO TIME REVIVED BY THE REALIZATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Again and again in the religious history of the patriarchs we read of remarkable spiritual epochs in their lives. How are these epochs described? In the oft repeated phrase: “God appeared unto Abraham”--Isaac--Jacob. These appearances of God, that is, realizations of His presence, are marked as the points of spiritual illumination and spiritual revival. In each of those manifestations, the tree of the Divine life casts forth branches, and brings forth new spiritual fruit in the patriarch’s soul. But, let us ask, how were the souls of these patriarchs entitled to draw near, so that God manifested His countenance to the inward eye of faith in their spiritual consciousness? By the diligent use of the Divinely appointed means. The system of Divine doctrine and worship, as far as its forms are concerned, which prevailed in the Church of the patriarchs, is very dimly revealed to us. But there are many expressions which clearly show that such a system existed. Special seasons, and special places, were evidently consecrated to the pursuit of illumination and the exercises of worship. In that system the soul found the “way” of the tree of life. The spiritual forces, which come forth from the eternal throne “to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation,” were ever surrounding the “way of the tree of life” in the history of the patriarchs. In the elevating powers which came in response to meditation, prayer, and praise, the cherubic wings made their presence felt during the waking and dreaming hours of the patriarchs. In the most remarkable passage in the life of Abraham, we also behold the guardian agency of “the flaming sword.” As in the New Testament, the incarnate God has taught us that we cannot reach His presence except upon the condition of entire self-sacrifice, in the “forsaking of all,” so this mighty principle appears in the trial of Abraham. In the ascent of Mount Moriah he rose to the height of self-sacrifice, and there won the richest promises of life. By the mighty faith of that act he won the smile of the eternal countenance, and inherited the highest blessing vouchsafed to man. His self-surrender proved that burning love of God had absorbed his entire being.

III. IN THE MOSAIC ECONOMY OF THE JEWISH CHURCH, the presence of the Lord is ever represented as the source of the Church’s life. The promise of that abiding sacramental presence was given in the words, “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims, which are upon the ark of the testimony.” This Divine presence was also realized by the Church in the days of Solomon. At the opening of the Temple, “The glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” That central presence was the life of the Church. The far-extending and fructifying influences of that mysterious presence in the Church were as the branches of the tree of life. That presence first manifested to Moses in the burning brightness of the tree on Horeb continued to abide in the growing Church, the increase of which the Psalmist sang in these words: “Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.” The “way” of the tree of life was sacramentally represented in the entrance into the holy of holies on the great day of the Atonement. On that day the high priest drew near into the presence of the eternal Life according to the appointed order of access. That order represented “the way.” As in the patriarchal Church, the “way” was kept by the guardian forces. The golden cherubims, resting upon the ark of the testimony, cast their shadow over the “way” of approach. Those golden figures, with wings out stretched, as if for mounting into the realms of the Eternal Life of the Most High, and resting upon the ark of the testimony, symbolized the truth that the elevating forces of spiritual worship and aspiration must have as their basis the solid ground of Church witness and dogmatic truth. Thus we find that in the Jewish Church the “way” of access to the Presence was kept by the cherubims. Was the power of the flaming sword also represented in the typical teaching of the Tabernacle? Yes. As a condition of entrance, the high priest was commanded to bear the sword and the fire. “Into the second tabernacle went the high priest alone, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.”

IV. So likewise in the INCARNATION. When the fulness of time was come, the everlasting Son, who is the eternal Word and fountain of life, entered our humanity: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us In Him was life.” In Jesus Christ was embodied the image of the eternal life, for the participation of which man was created. The tidings of His mission are, “The glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.” If we regard the progressive manifestation of the Divine life in the manhood of Jesus Christ, He is also the “tree” of life. The hidden Godhead dwelt bodily in the ungrown form at Bethlehem. The manifestation of the Godhead, according to the conditions of humanity, was gradual: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Of His earthly course John the Baptist said: “He must increase.” In that increase He appears as the “tree” of life. The holy nativity was the germ, containing within itself the tree, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. The successive glories, or manifestations, of His Divinity were as the branches which the growing tree put forth. By the power of these man is saved. In the ascension the tree of life reached the fulness of its height; and in the coming of the Holy Ghost began to shed upon human nature the fruits of the everlasting life. In His mediatorial power, as opening the Divine life to the human nature, Jesus Christ is the “way” of the tree of life: “For through Him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father.” His flesh and blood are the media of access to the invisible eternal life. Therefore Jesus Christ is also the “way” of the tree of life for man, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way . . . no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” In the history of the incarnation we also behold the presence and agency of the ministering spirits that were appointed to keep the “way.” In the temptation the power of the ministering spirits is seen keeping the “way”: “Behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.” In Jesus Christ we behold also the spiritual powers represented by the flaming sword. From Bethlehem onwards every act of Jesus was a sacrifice. But the crowning act, which gathered into itself the significance of all His previous acts, was His self-surrender unto the death of the cross. The original life of the unfallen man flowed from the image of the one eternal Life, whose name is Love. The mighty power that redeems man from that unloving self-will, which is the “law of sin and death,” is the manifestation of the infinite love. The expression of love is sacrifice, and all love may be measured by the value of the victim sacrificed. Blood is the true exponent of love. In the eternal Being of God, love holds a place analogous to that of blood in the physical being of man. Love permeates the infinite system of God’s eternal Being, giving motion and vitality, as it were, to all the other attributes. Power, justice, wisdom, holiness, and all the other attributes of the Eternal, are quickened by His all-circulating love. On Calvary we see the flaming sword, under the strokes of which humanity in Christ found entrance into the secret recesses of the eternal life. Christ “by His own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

V. The eternal life, lost by man in nature, is brought near in that “ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH,” which is the Body of Christ. Wherein does that life dwell? Where is the throne upon which He is seated? The Presence dwells sacramentally in the holy mysteries. The Divine life, communicated from Christ to the being of man, is a life that grows. The tree of life in the soul of the young communicant may be but a weak and tender plant. As the outward form of flesh and blood in which the eternal Word chose to come into humanity was lowly and feeble to the eye of man, so the sacramental “way” in which the eternal life is communicated to us hath no form or splendour that our natural hearts would desire. The sacramental “way” to the Presence is also guarded by the “cherubims.” Unless you have sought the influence of the ministering spirits that elevate and waft the soul from its earthliness into the light and air of the higher life, you cannot realize the presence of Christ. The other condition of access that keeps the “way” is the mighty power of sacrifice. That flaming sword must be known in our personal being, before we can reach the presence of the Life. When you draw near along the sacramental “way,” you are commanded to acknowledge and bewail your manifold sins and wickednesses. If that confession be a genuine act of the soul, then you are willing to sacrifice the dearest sins, and, taking the sword, to cut off the right hand, and to cut out the right eye, in order to enter into the hidden life. On that condition alone can you worthily draw near. But whence can we draw the power to wield this sword? We have no sufficient motive power in our own nature. We must draw inspiration by a living faith from the one omnipotent sacrifice on Calvary. (H. T. Edwards, M. A.)

The guarded way

Observe, the tree of life was not cut down; nor was it withdrawn from the trees of the field--no, the tabernacle of God was left with men upon the earth. Well was the way watched until the time should come for approach: strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, yet men may travel now up to the blessed tree and take the fruit of immortality! God has never taught us to set little store by life. He has always watched it and guarded it as with hosts of armed angels. It is not to be wantonly plucked. It is God’s choice gift. He has, too, alway kept the line very distinct between Himself and His creatures “the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil”; not really as “one of Us,” but imaginatively so; he thinks he now knows all that there is to be known, but this imagination must be corrected by the imposition of high discipline: he thinks he has discovered the sham and failure of things and found out the scheme of God; he must be undeceived; throw a skin upon his back, drive him out of the garden, keep the tree of life, and let him learn by long and bitter experience that there is no short road to dominion and immortality. (J. Parker, D. D.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 3:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/genesis-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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