« AnteriorContinuar »
II. Secondly, the transgression.
III. Thirdly, the immediate effects of their sin upon the transgressors.
IV. Lastly, the manner of God's dealings with them.
I. And first, respecting the temptation. This is detailed in the first five verses. "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, 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 "."
The serpent, we are elsewhere taught, was Satan, the chief of a host of spirits whom God had created upright, but who had rebelled against their Maker, and been cast out of heaven for their disobedience. For wise and righteous purposes, God permitted him in the beginning to tempt his new-made creature; but man had previously been warned of the consequences of transgression, and had strength enough to have withstood temptation. The subtilty of the tempter, it has been remarked, appears, in the first place, in this: that he made his attack upon the woman, who was the weaker vessel, rather than upon the man; and upon her (as it should seem) apart from her husband, who, had he been present, might have supported her by his counsel. Now we are plainly told in other parts of Holy Writ, that this same adversary of the human race still "walketh about seeking whom he may devour";" that he is still continually employed in plotting the ruin of men's souls; that he is indeed "the
6 Gen. iii. 1-5.
7 1 Pet. v. 8.
ruler of the darkness (that is, the wickedness) of this world," the spirit "that now worketh in the children of disobedience"." It behoves us, therefore, having such a specimen of his craft, to follow the Apostle's injunction, "Be sober, be vigilant;" and whensoever we pray, as without ceasing we ought to do, "deliver us from evil," to include in our petition (what the words no doubt were intended to include, if not principally to aim at) a desire to be delivered from "the evil one," that is, from the snares and malice of the devil.
But observe the manner of the tempter's address to our first parent. He begins most artfully by questioning the Divine command, whether it really could be as the woman supposed or not. Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden 1o? It cannot be, he would insinuate, that any restriction should be laid upon you; God, having spread such an inviting feast before you, has certainly left you at liberty freely to partake of it. Here, however, for the moment, he is foiled. The woman replies decidedly, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." Upon this, Satan is obliged to change his ground. So, boldly contradicting the Almighty, he next denies that there could be danger in transgression. "Ye shall not surely die." Contempt of the Divine prohibition could not be attended with any evil whatever. On the contrary (as he goes on blasphemously to insinuate), the restriction (if indeed such a restriction must be admitted to have been imposed) could arise only from envy and ill will on the part of God, who would not have them to be so happy or so wise as that tree could make them: and, instead of losing any thing, they would in truth become great gainers by disobedience. "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."
9 Eph. vi. 12.
9 Eph. ii. 2.
10 Gen. iii. 4, 5.
Here we have an eminent example of the artifices by which Satan has again and again beguiled mankind, and is still beguiling thousands.
Speaking within us by means of the perverse reasonings of our own corruption, he suggests, Hath God indeed said ye shall not do this or that? Seeing such enjoyments are to be had, and are so exactly suitable to our appetites, can it be that a gracious God has forbidden. them? Must it not be an over strictness so to interpret his commandments? Surely we may take freely of this indulgence and commit no sin at all. Thus we learn to shut our eyes against the precept or to explain away the meaning of it; and then, as, "where no law is there is no transgression'," we offend without remorse of conscience, sin, and yet trust in ourselves that we are righteous.
But the commandment is too plain for this cheat to succeed at all times.
The tempter therefore proceeds with us as he did of old. "Ye shall not surely die." "I shall have peace (we can say within ourselves), though I walk in the imagination of mine heart"." Indeed, our Saviour, speaking of the wicked, says, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment 3;" "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire 1." But this we would persuade ourselves never can be true. Surely none can receive, at least none but the very vilest and most abandoned, such a death as this, an eternal death at the hands of the best of Beings. God must be too merciful to cast his creatures into hell. Or, if we do sin, we intend to repent hereafter, and thus in one way or other we shall certainly escape.
The bribe added to this, finishes the delusion and completes our ruin. Sin is little, we think: the execution of the curse uncertain: but the pleasures of sin are great and at hand. "Ye shall be as gods"-shall obtain much profit or enjoyment from transgression. Therefore God is provoked every day. Regardless of the
1 Rom. iv. 15.
3 Matt. xxv. 46.
2 Deut. xxix. 19.
4 Matt. xxv. 41.
bounties with which He loads us continually, we charge Him foolishly, as though defect of goodness dictated the wholesome restraints He lays upon us; and our affections are alienated from Him. Other lords get the dominion over us. My people (saith He) have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water 5.
II. Thus it befel with our first parent: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband; and he did eat."
Observe here the progress of delusion, the same in her as it is wont to be in us. "The thought of foolishness is sin"." The woman could have had no good reason to deliberate at all. She ought to have rejected the devil's suggestion peremptorily and at once. For she had a plain commandment not to eat, of which she was well aware; a commandment from Him who made her, and had given her all things richly to enjoy. So that the very balancing of it in her mind, whether it would be better for her to transgress or not, was a sin of great ingratitude and most grievous folly. However she did not stop at this. The road of sin is a downhill road. Having looked at the tree, and found it pleasant to the eye, having sinned so far as to covet the forbidden fruit, though she had no testimony but that of the tempter, of its power to make her wise, yet she readily believes his promise, and disregards God's threatening, distrusts and suspects the Divine goodness, of which she had had such full experience, and relies upon Satan's friendship, of which she could have had no experience at all; conceives a most presumptuous hope of impunity in transgression, and expects a vast gratification both of ambition and of sensual appetite. And then, without more consideration, she rushes madly upon
5 Jer. ii. 13.
6 Prov. xxiv. 9.
the act, and completes the sin by being Satan's agent to seduce her husband. In this manner sin entered, and the devil triumphed in establishing his usurped authority." For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage "."
III. We are to consider, next, the immediate effect of their sin upon the transgressors.
It produced an immediate and most lamentable change both in their condition and in their character. They had presumptuously expected an alteration for the better. But the devil was a liar from the beginning. He promised that their eyes should be opened, and that they should be as gods, knowing good and evil. Their eyes, indeed, were opened; but it was only to see that they were naked. A new knowledge of good and evil they did indeed acquire, but it was a far different knowledge from that which the tempter had taught them to expect. Good they knew by comparison with its opposite, and evil by sad experience; so that, in fact, the fair fruit was poison, their new discoveries were their torments. And then, in the instant that they did transgress, they did most truly die: for their glory departed from them; their souls were despoiled of the image of God; they became earthly, sensual, blind, ungodly, proud, self-righteous, and full of evil. This their subsequent behaviour testifies in a very abundant and striking manner.
The woman, the moment she has committed the sin, shows whose servant she is become by her zeal to propagate it. She tempts the man; and then both run away from God. He who used to be their delight, is now become their aversion, because, since they have sinned, He is become their terror. Slavish fear has succeeded has succeeded to filial confidence. And then behold the first effort of their newlyacquired wisdom; the utmost they can think of is to shelter themselves behind the covert of a few trees from the Almighty indignation which seems ready to