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Genesis Chapter Three


Genesis 3

Chapter Contents

The serpent deceives Eve. (1-5) Adam and Eve transgress the Divine command, and fall into sin and misery. (6-8) God calls upon Adam and Eve to answer. (9-13) The serpent cursed, The promised Seed. (14,15) The punishment of mankind. (16-19) The first clothing of mankind. (20,21) Adam and Eve are driven out from paradise. (22-24)

Commentary on Genesis 3:1-5

Satan assaulted our first parents, to draw them to sin, and the temptation proved fatal to them. The tempter was the devil, in the shape and likeness of a serpent. Satan's plan was to draw our first parents to sin, and so to separate between them and their God. Thus the devil was from the beginning a murderer, and the great mischief maker. The person tempted was the woman: it was Satan's policy to enter into talk with her when she was alone. There are many temptations to which being alone gives great advantage; but the communion of saints tends very much to their strength and safety. Satan took advantage by finding her near the forbidden tree. They that would not eat the forbidden fruit, must not come near the forbidden tree. Satan tempted Eve, that by her he might tempt Adam. It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us. Satan questioned whether it were a sin or not, to eat of this tree. He did not disclose his design at first, but he put a question which seemed innocent. Those who would be safe, need to be shy of talking with the tempter. He quoted the command wrong. He spoke in a taunting way. The devil, as he is a liar, so he is a scoffer from the beginning; and scoffers are his children. It is the craft of Satan to speak of the Divine law as uncertain or unreasonable, and so to draw people to sin; it is our wisdom to keep up a firm belief of God's command, and a high respect for it. Has God said, Ye shall not lie, nor take his name in vain, nor be drunk, &c.? Yes, I am sure he has, and it is well said; and by his grace I will abide by it. It was Eve's weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny. He promises advantage from their eating this fruit. He aims to make them discontented with their present state, as if it were not so good as it might be, and should be. No condition will of itself bring content, unless the mind be brought to it. He tempts them to seek preferment, as if they were fit to be gods. Satan ruined himself by desiring to be like the Most High, therefore he sought to infect our first parents with the same desire, that he might ruin them too. And still the devil draws people into his interest, by suggesting to them hard thoughts of God, and false hopes of advantage by sin. Let us, therefore, always think well of God as the best good, and think ill of sin as the worst evil: thus let us resist the devil, and he will flee from us.

Commentary on Genesis 3:6-8

Observe the steps of the transgression: not steps upward, but downward toward the pit. 1. She saw. A great deal of sin comes in at the eye. Let us not look on that which we are in danger of lusting after, Matthew 5:28. 2. She took. It was her own act and deed. Satan may tempt, but he cannot force; may persuade us to cast ourselves down, but he cannot cast us down, Matthew 4:6. 3. She did eat. When she looked perhaps she did not intend to take; or when she took, not to eat: but it ended in that. It is wisdom to stop the first motions of sin, and to leave it off before it be meddled with. 4. She gave it also to her husband with her. Those that have done ill, are willing to draw in others to do the same. 5. He did eat. In neglecting the tree of life, of which he was allowed to eat, and eating of the tree of knowledge, which was forbidden, Adam plainly showed a contempt of what God had bestowed on him, and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased, and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience, Romans 5:19; disobedience to a plain, easy, and express command. He had no corrupt nature within, to betray him; but had a freedom of will, in full strength, not weakened or impaired. He turned aside quickly. He drew all his posterity into sin and ruin. Who then can say that Adam's sin had but little harm in it? When too late, Adam and Eve saw the folly of eating forbidden fruit. They saw the happiness they fell from, and the misery they were fallen into. They saw a loving God provoked, his grace and favour forfeited. See her what dishonour and trouble sin is; it makes mischief wherever it gets in, and destroys all comfort. Sooner or later it will bring shame; either the shame of true repentance, which ends in glory, or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day. See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned. They have more care to save their credit before men, than to obtain their pardon from God. The excuses men make to cover and lessen their sins, are vain and frivolous; like the aprons of fig-leaves, they make the matter never the better: yet we are all apt to cover our transgressions as Adam. Before they sinned, they would have welcomed God's gracious visits with humble joy; but now he was become a terror to them. No marvel that they became a terror to themselves, and full of confusion. This shows the falsehood of the tempter, and the frauds of his temptations. Satan promised they should be safe, but they cannot so much as think themselves so! Adam and Eve were now miserable comforters to each other!

Commentary on Genesis 3:9-13

Observe the startling question, Adam, where art thou? Those who by sin go astray from God, should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin. This lost sheep had wandered without end, if the good Shepherd had not sought after him, and told him, that where he was straying he could not be either happy or easy. If sinners will but consider where they are, they will not rest till they return to God. It is the common fault and folly of those that have done ill, when questioned about it, to acknowledge only that which is so manifest that they cannot deny it. Like Adam, we have reason to be afraid of approaching to God, if we are not covered and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Sin appears most plainly in the glass of the commandment, therefore God set it before Adam; and in it we should see our faces. But instead of acknowledging the sin in its full extent, and taking shame to themselves, Adam and Eve excuse the sin, and lay the shame and blame on others. There is a strange proneness in those that are tempted, to say, they are tempted of God; as if our abuse of God's gifts would excuse our breaking God's laws. Those who are willing to take the pleasure and profit of sin, are backward to take the blame and shame of it. Learn hence, that Satan's temptations are all beguilings; his arguments are all deceits; his allurements are all cheats; when he speaks fair, believe him not. It is by the deceitfulness of sin the heart is hardened. See Romans 7:11; Hebrews 3:13. But though Satan's subtlety may draw us into sin, yet it will not justify us in sin. Though he is the tempter, we are the sinners. Let it not lessen our sorrow for sin, that we were beguiled into it; but let it increase our self-indignation, that we should suffer ourselves to be deceived by a known cheat, and a sworn enemy, who would destroy our souls.

Commentary on Genesis 3:14,15

God passes sentence; and he begins where the sin began, with the serpent. The devil's instruments must share in the devil's punishments. Under the cover of the serpent, the devil is sentenced to be degraded and accursed of God; detested and abhorred of all mankind: also to be destroyed and ruined at last by the great Redeemer, signified by the breaking of his head. War is proclaimed between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. It is the fruit of this enmity, that there is a continual warfare between grace and corruption, in the hearts of God's people. Satan, by their corruptions, buffets them, sifts them, and seeks to devour them. Heaven and hell can never be reconciled, nor light and darkness; no more can Satan and a sanctified soul. Also, there is a continual struggle between the wicked and the godly in this world. A gracious promise is here made of Christ, as the Deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. Here was the drawn of the gospel day: no sooner was the wound given, than the remedy was provided and revealed. This gracious revelation of a Saviour came unasked, and unlooked for. Without a revelation of mercy, giving some hope of forgiveness, the convinced sinner would sink into despair, and be hardened. By faith in this promise, our first parents, and the patriarchs before the flood, were justified and saved. Notice is given concerning Christ. 1. His incarnation, or coming in the flesh. It speaks great encouragement to sinners, that their Saviour is the Seed of the woman, bone of our bone, Hebrews 2:11,14. 2. His sufferings and death; pointed at in Satan's bruising his heel, that is, his human nature. And Christ's sufferings are continued in the sufferings of the saints for his name. The devil tempts them, persecutes and slays them; and so bruises the heel of Christ, who is afflicted in their afflictions. But while the heel is bruised on earth, the Head is in heaven. 3. His victory over Satan thereby. Christ baffled Satan's temptations, rescued souls out of his hands. By his death he gave a fatal blow to the devil's kingdom, a wound to the head of this serpent that cannot be healed. As the gospel gains ground, Satan falls.

Commentary on Genesis 3:16-19

The woman, for her sin, is condemned to a state of sorrow, and of subjection; proper punishments of that sin, in which she had sought to gratify the desire of her eye, and of the flesh, and her pride. Sin brought sorrow into the world; that made the world a vale of tears. No wonder our sorrows are multiplied, when our sins are so. He shall rule over thee, is but God's command, Wives, be subject to your own husbands. If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness. Adam laid the blame on his wife; but though it was her fault to persuade him to eat the forbidden fruit, it was his fault to hearken to her. Thus men's frivolous pleas will, in the day of God's judgment, be turned against them. God put marks of displeasure on Adam. 1. His habitation is cursed. God gave the earth to the children of men, to be a comfortable dwelling; but it is now cursed for man's sin. Yet Adam is not himself cursed, as the serpent was, but only the ground for his sake. 2. His employments and enjoyments are imbittered to him. Labour is our duty, which we must faithfully perform; it is part of man's sentence, which idleness daringly defies. Uneasiness and weariness with labour are our just punishment, which we must patiently submit to, since they are less than our iniquity deserves. Man's food shall become unpleasant to him. Yet man is not sentenced to eat dust as the serpent, only to eat the herb of the field. 3. His life also is but short; considering how full of trouble his days are, it is in favour to him that they are few. Yet death being dreadful to nature, even when life is unpleasant, that concludes the punishment. Sin brought death into the world: if Adam had not sinned, he had not died. He gave way to temptation, but the Saviour withstood it. And how admirably the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus, by his death and sufferings, answered the sentence passed on our first parents! Did travailing pains come with sin? We read of the travail of Christ's soul, Isaiah 53:11; and the pains of death he was held by, are so called, Acts 2:24. Did subjection came in with sin? Christ was made under the law, Galatians 4:4. Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse for us, he died a cursed death, Galatians 3:13. Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us. Did sweat come in with sin? He sweat for us, as it had been great drops of blood. Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows; his soul was, in his agony, exceeding sorrowful. Did death come in with sin? He became obedient unto death. Thus is the plaster as wide as the wound. Blessed be God for his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary on Genesis 3:20,21

God named the man, and called him Adam, which signifies red earth; Adam named the woman, and called her Eve, that is, life. Adam bears the name of the dying body, Eve of the living soul. Adam probably had regard to the blessing of a Redeemer, the promised Seed, in calling his wife Eve, or life; for He should be the life of all believers, and in Him all the families of the earth should be blessed. See also God's care for our first parents, notwithstanding their sin. Clothes came in with sin. Little reason have we to be proud of our clothes, which are but the badges of our shame. When God made clothes for our first parents, he made them warm and strong, but coarse and very plain; not robes of scarlet, but coats of skin. Let those that are meanly clad, learn from hence not to complain. Having food and a covering, let them be content; they are as well off as Adam and Eve. And let those that are finely clad, learn not to make the putting on of apparel their adorning. The beasts, from whose skins they were clothed, it is supposed were slain, not for man's food, but for sacrifice, to typify Christ, the great Sacrifice. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, Isaiah 28:20. Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skin, large, strong, durable, and fit for them: such is the righteousness of Christ; therefore put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary on Genesis 3:22-24

God bid man go out; told him he should no longer occupy and enjoy that garden: but man liked the place, and was unwilling to leave it, therefore God made him go out. This signified the shutting out of him, and all his guilty race, from that communion with God, which was the bliss and glory of paradise. But man was only sent to till the ground out of which he was taken. He was sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment. Our first parents were shut out from the privileges of their state of innocency, yet they were not left to despair. The way to the tree of life was shut. It was henceforward in vain for him and his to expect righteousness, life, and happiness, by the covenant of works; for the command of that covenant being broken, the curse of it is in full force: we are all undone, if we are judged by that covenant. God revealed this to Adam, not to drive him to despair, but to quicken him to look for life and happiness in the promised Seed, by whom a new and living way into the holiest is laid open for us.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Genesis


Genesis 3

Verses 1-5

[1] 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? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] 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. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] 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.

We have here an account of the temptation wherewith Satan assaulted our first parents, and which proved fatal to them. And here observe, (1.) The tempter, the devil in the shape of a serpent. Multitudes of them fell; but this that attacked our first parents, was surely the prince of the devils. Whether it was only the appearance of a serpent, or a real serpent, acted and possessed by the devil, is not certain. The devil chose to act his part in a serpent, because it is a subtle creature. It is not improbable, that reason and speech were then the known properties of the serpent. And therefore Eve was not surprised at his reasoning and speaking, which otherwise she must have been. (2.) That which the devil aimed at, was to persuade Eve to eat forbidden fruit; and to do this, he took the same method that he doth still. 1. He questions whether it were a sin or no, Genesis 3:1,2. He denies that there was any danger in it, Genesis 3:4. 3. He suggests much advantage by it, Genesis 3:5. And these are his common topics. As to the advantage, he suits the temptation to the pure state they were now in, proposing to them not any carnal pleasure, but intellectual delights. 1.

Your eyes shall be opened — You shall have much more of the power and pleasure of contemplation than now you have; you shall fetch a larger compass in your intellectual views, and see farther into things than now you do. 2.

You shall be as gods — As Elohim, mighty gods, not only omniscient but omnipotent too: 3. You shall know good and evil - That is, everything that is desirable to be known. To support this part of the temptation, he abuseth the name given to this tree. 'Twas intended to teach the practical knowledge of good and evil, that is, of duty and disobedience, and it would prove the experimental knowledge of good and evil, that is, of happiness and misery. But he perverts the sense of it, and wrests it to their destruction, as if this tree would give them a speculative notional knowledge of the natures, kinds, and originals of good and evil. And, 4. All this presently, In the day you eat thereof - You will find a sudden and immediate change for the better.

Verses 6-8

[6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. [7] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. [8] And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Here we see what Eve's parley with the tempter ended in: Satan at length gains his point. God tried the obedience of our first parents by forbidding them the tree of knowledge, and Satan doth as it were join issue with God, and in that very thing undertakes to seduce them into a transgression; and here we find how he prevailed, God permitting it for wise and holy ends. (1.) We have here the inducements that moved them to transgress. The woman being deceived, was ring-leader in the transgression, 1 Timothy 2:14 1. She saw that the tree was - It was said of all the rest of the fruit trees wherewith the garden of Eden was planted, that they were pleasant to the sight, and good for food. 2. She imagined a greater benefit by this tree than by any of the rest, that it was a tree not only not to be dreaded, but to be desired to make one wise, and therein excelling all the rest of the trees. This she saw, that is, she perceived and understood it by what the devil had said to her.

She gave also to her husband with her — 'Tis likely he was not with her when she was tempted; surely if he had, he would have interposed to prevent the sin; but he came to her when she had eaten, and was prevailed with by her to eat likewise. She gave it to him; persuading him with the same arguements that the serpent had used with her; adding this to the rest, that she herself had eaten of it, and found it so far from being deadly that it was extremely pleasant and grateful.

And he did eat — This implied the unbelief of God's word, and confidence in the devil's; discontent with his present state, and an ambition of the honour which comes not from God. He would be both his own carver, and his own master, would have what he pleased, and do what he pleased; his sin was in one word disobedience, Romans 5:19, disobedience to a plain, easy and express command, which he knew to be a command of trial. He sins against light and love, the clearest light and the dearest love that ever sinner sinned against. But the greatest aggravation of his sin was, that he involved all his posterity in sin and ruin by it. He could not but know that he stood as a public person, and that his disobedience would be fatal to all his seed; and if so, it was certainly both the greatest treachery and the greatest cruelty that ever was. Shame and fear seized the criminals, these came into the world along with sin, and still attend it.

The Eyes of them both were opened — The eyes of their consciences; their hearts smote them for what they had done Now, when it was too late, they saw the happiness they were fallen from, and the misery they were fallen into. They saw God provoked, his favour forfeited, his image lost; they felt a disorder in their own spirits, which they had never before been conscious of; they saw a law in their members warring against the law of their minds, and captivating them both to sin and wrath; they saw that they were naked, that is, that they were stripped, deprived of all the honours and joys of their paradise state, and exposed to all the miseries that might justly be expected from an angry God; laid open to the contempt and reproach of heaven and earth, and their own consciences. And they sewed or platted fig leaves together, and, to cover, at least, part of their shame one from another, made themselves aprons. See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned: they are more solicitous to save their credit before men, than to obtain their pardon from God. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day - Tis supposed he came in a human shape; in no other similitude than that wherein they had seen him when he put them into paradise; for he came to convince and humble them, not to amaze and terrify them. He came not immediately from heaven in their view as afterwards on mount Sinai, but he came in the garden, as one that was still willing to be familiar with them. He came walking, not riding upon the wings of the wind, but walking deliberately, as one slow to anger. He came in the cool of the day, not in the night, when all fears are doubly fearful; nor did he come suddenly upon them, but they heard his voice at some distance, giving them notice of his coming; and probably it was a still small voice, like that in which he came to enquire after Elijah. And they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God - A sad change! Before they had sinned, if they heard the voice of the Lord God coming towards them, they would have run to meet him, but now God was become a terror to them, and then no marvel they were become a terror to themselves.

Verse 9

[9] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

Where art thou? — This enquiry after Adam may be looked upon as a gracious pursuit in order to his recovery. If God had not called to him to reduce him, his condition had been as desperate as that of fallen angels.

Verse 10

[10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

I heard thy voice in the garden: and I was afraid — Adam was afraid because he was naked; not only unarmed, and therefore afraid to contend with God, but unclothed and therefore afraid so much as to appear before him.

Verse 11

[11] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

Who told thee that thou wast naked? — That is, how camest thou to be sensible of thy nakedness as thy shame? Hast thou eaten of the tree? - Tho' God knows all our sins, yet he will know them from us, and requires from us an ingenuous confession of them, not that he may be informed, but that we may be humbled. Whereof I commanded thee not to eat of it, I thy maker, I thy master, I thy benefactor, I commanded thee to the contrary. Sin appears most plain and most sinful in the glass of the commandment.

Verse 13

[13] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

What is this that thou hast done? — Wilt thou own thy fault? Neither of them does this fully. Adam lays all the blame upon his wife: She gave me of the tree - Nay, he not only lays the blame upon his wife, but tacitly on God himself. The woman thou gavest me, and gavest to be with me as my companion, she gave me of the tree. Eve lays all the blame upon the serpent; the serpent beguiled me. The prisoners being found guilty by their own confession, besides the infallible knowledge of the Judge, and nothing material being offered in arrest of judgment, God immediately proceeds to pass sentence, and in these verses he begins (where the sin began) with the serpent. God did not examine the serpent, nor ask him what he had done, but immediately sentenced him, (1.) Because he was already convicted of rebellion against God. (2.) Because he was to be for ever excluded from pardon; and why should any thing be said to convince and humble him, who was to find no place for repentance?

Verse 14

[14] And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

To testify a displeasure against sin, God fastens a curse upon the serpent, Thou art cursed above all cattle - Even the creeping things, when God made them, were blessed of him, Genesis 1:22, but sin turned the blessing into a curse.

Upon thy belly shalt thou go — No longer upon feet, or half erect, but thou shalt crawl along, thy belly cleaving to the earth.

Dust thou shalt eat — Which signifies a base and despicable condition.

Verse 15

[15] And 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.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman — The inferior creatures being made for man, it was a curse upon any of them to be turned against man, and man against them. And this is part of the serpent's curse. 1. A perpetual reproach is fastened upon him. Under the cover of the serpent he is here sentenced to be, (1.) Degraded and accursed of God. It is supposed, pride was the sin that turned angels into devils, which is here justly punished by a great variety of mortifications couched under the mean circumstances of a serpent, crawling on his belly, and licking the dust. (2.) Detested and abhorred of all mankind: even those that are really seduced into his interest, yet profess a hatred of him. (3.) Destroyed and ruined at last by the great Redeemer, signified by the bruising of his head; his subtle politics shall be all baffled, his usurped power entirely crushed. 2. A perpetual quarrel is here commenced between the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of the devil among men; war proclaimed between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent, Revelation 12:7. It is the fruit of this enmity, (1.) That there is a continual conflict between God's people and him. Heaven and hell can never be reconciled, no more can Satan and a sanctified soul. (2.) That there is likewise a continual struggle between the wicked and the good. And all the malice of persecutors against the people of God is the fruit of this enmity, which will continue while there is a godly man on this side heaven, and a wicked man on this side hell. 3. A gracious promise is here made of Christ as the deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. By faith in this promise, our first parents, and the patriarchs before the flood, were justified and saved; and to this promise, and the benefit of it, instantly serving God day and night they hoped to come. Notice is here given them of three things concerning Christ. (1.) His incarnation, that he should be the seed of the woman. (2.) His sufferings and death, pointed at in Satan's bruising his heel, that is, his human nature. (3.) His victory over Satan thereby. Satan had now trampled upon the woman, and insulted over her; but the seed of the woman should be raised up in the fulness of time to avenge her quarrel, and to trample upon him, to spoil him, to lead him captive, and to triumph over him, Colossians 2:15.

Verse 16

[16] Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

We have here the sentence past upon the woman; she is condemned to a state of sorrow and a state of subjection: proper punishments of a sin in which she had gratified her pleasure and her pride. (1.) She is here put into a state of sorrow; one particular of which only is instanced in, that in bringing forth children, but it includes all those impressions of grief and fear which the mind of that tender sex is most apt to receive, and all the common calamities which they are liable to. It is God that multiplies our sorrows, I will do it: God, as a righteous Judge, doth it, which ought to silence us under all our sorrows; as many as they are we have deserved them all, and more: nay, God as a tender Father doth it for our necessary correction, that we may be humbled for sin, and weaned from it. (2.) She is here put into a state of subjection: the whole sex, which by creation was equal with man, is for sin made inferior.

Verse 17

[17] And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife — He excused the fault, by laying it on his wife, but God doth not admit the excuse; tho' it was her fault to persuade him to eat it, it was his fault to hearken to her.

Cursed is the ground for thy sake — And the effect of that curse is, Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee - The ground or earth, by the sin of man, is made subject to vanity, the several parts of it being not so serviceable to man's comfort and happiness, as they were when they were made. Fruitfulness was its blessing for man's service, Genesis 1:11-29, and now barrenness was its curse for man's punishment.

Verse 19

[19] In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread — His business before he sinned was a constant pleasure to him; but now his labour shall be a weariness.

Unto dust shalt thou return — Thy body shall be forsaken by thy soul, and become itself a lump of dust, and then it shall be lodged in the grave, and mingle with the dust of the earth.

Verse 20

[20] And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

God having named the man, and called him Adam, which signifies red earth, he in farther token of dominion named the woman, and called her Eve - That is, life. Adam bears the name of the dying body, Eve of the living soul. The reason of the name is here given, some think by Moses the historian, others by Adam himself, because she was - That is, was to be the mother of all living. He had called her Isha, woman, before, as a wife; here he calls her Evah, life, as a mother. Now, 1. If this was done by divine direction, it was an instance of God's favour, and, like the new naming of Abraham and Sarah, it was a seal of the covenant, and an assurance to them, that notwithstanding their sin, he had not reversed that blessing wherewith he had blessed them, Be fruitful and multiply: it was likewise a confirmation of the promise now made, that the seed of the woman, of this woman, should break the serpent's head. 2. If Adam did of himself, it was an instance of his faith in the word of God.

Verse 21

[21] Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

These coats of skin had a significancy. The beasts whose skins they were, must be slain; slain before their eyes to shew them what death is. And probably 'tis supposed they were slain for sacrifice, to typify the great sacrifice which in the latter end of the world should be offered once for all. Thus the first thing that died was a sacrifice, or Christ in a figure.

Verse 22

[22] And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil — See what he has got, what advantages, by eating forbidden fruit! This is said to humble them, and to bring them to a sense of their sin and folly, that seeing themselves thus wretchedly deceived by following the devil's counsel, they might henceforth pursue the happiness God offers, in the way he prescribes.

Verse 23

[23] Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

He sent him forth - Bid him go out, told him he should no longer occupy and enjoy that garden; but he was not willing to part with it.

Verse 24

[24] So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

God drove him out - This signified the exclusion of him and his guilty race from that communion with God which was the bliss and glory of paradise. But whether did he send him when he turned him out of Eden? He might justly have chased him out of the world, Job 18:18, but he only chased him out of the garden: he might justly have cast him down to hell, as the angels that sinned were, when they were shut out from the heavenly paradise, 2 Peter 2:4, but man was only sent to till the ground out of which he was taken. He was only sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment. He was sent to the ground, not to the grave; to the work-house, not to the dungeon, not to the prison-house; to hold the plough, not to drag the chain: his tilling the ground would be recompensed by his eating its fruits; and his converse with the earth, whence he was taken, was improveable to good purposes, to keep him humble, and to mind him of his latter end. Observe then, That though our first parents were excluded from the privileges of their state of innocency, yet they were not abandoned to despair; God's thoughts of love designing them for a second state of probation upon new terms. And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, a detachment of cherubim, armed with a dreadful and irresistible power, represented by flaming swords which turned every way, on that side the garden which lay next to the place whither Adam was sent, to keep the way that led to the tree of life.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Genesis



03 Chapter 3


Verses 1-6

Genesis 3:1-6

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

The first great temptation


1. The tempter of human souls is subtle.

2. Malignant.

3. Courageous.


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.



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.)



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,--


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?




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.









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.


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

2. Sin originates in unbelief.

3. It wears a specious appearance of goodness.


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


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,


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.


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).


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.


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



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.


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.)



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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.





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.


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


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.)


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.)


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).


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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).


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--


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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


Temptation and Fall of man


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.


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.)









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).




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.






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?


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.


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.


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.



1. Ingratitude.

2. Disbelief.

3. Disobedience.

The first 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


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.


1. Contaminating.

2. Destructive to human love.

3. Bringing men morally to the same level.

4. The precursor of physical suffering.


1. Burdening the soul with guilt.

2. Disturbing its peace with fear.

3. Obliterating its true conceptions of God.


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.)


1. It was just and reasonable.

2. Simple and plain.

3. Practicable and easy.

The Fall


1. The serpent tempted.

2. The woman transgressed.

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


1. Great credulity, yet great unbelief.

2. Great discontent.

3. Great pride.

4. Great disobedience and presumption.

5. Great ingratitude.


1. Overwhelming fear and shame.

2. Open exposure and correction.

3. The Divine displeasure and punishment.



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




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.)



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.



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.


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.


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.)

Verse 7

Genesis 3:7

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

The dawn of guilt

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

1. They deeply felt it.

2. They sought to conceal it.


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.)



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.



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).



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.



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.




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.)


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.)


“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.


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

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



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.


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.



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).



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).


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.


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.




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.”


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



1. Evening has calmness.

2. Evening has leisure.

3. Evening is social.


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


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

2. This developed itself in a dread of God.



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.


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.)



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.


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).


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.


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.


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.)


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



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

2. By increasing profanity of life.


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

2. By blaming our circumstances.


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


1. Distant from God.

2. In terror of God.

3. In delusion about God.

4. In danger from God.


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

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


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.)


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.


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.


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.


1. Pleasure.

2. Occupation.

3. Moral rationalism.


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


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.)



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).


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.


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.






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.)


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?--




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).


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.


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.


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.


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.)





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.



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.


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.)


“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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.)



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.


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.


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