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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ genesis-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 3:1-7
THE FIRST GREAT TEMPTATION
It is well for the military general to study the plan and the history of great battles that have been fought in the past, in order that he may learn how best to order and arrange his troops in the event of war. So human life is a great moral campaign. The battle-field is the soul of man. The conflicting powers are Satan and humanity, good and evil. In the history of the first great temptation of our first parents we have a typical battle, in which we see the methods of satanic approach to the soul, and which it will be well for us to contemplate. It is well to learn how to engage in the moral conflicts of life, before we are actually called into them. Every day should find us better warriors in the service of right.
I. That the human soul is frequently tempted by a dire foe of unusual subtlety. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field.”
1. The tempter of human souls is subtile. He presents himself to the soul of man in the most insidious forms, in the most fascinating ways, and with the most alluring promises. He endeavours to make men think when in the service of God, that they are ignorant of the grand mysteries of the universe, that the tree of knowledge, of which they dare not eat, contains the secret of their lives, and that if they will, contrary to the Divine command, partake of it, they will step into the Supreme temple of wisdom. Hence the curiosity of man is awakened. A strange fascination takes possession of his spirit. He is led to violate the Divine behest. Or, the devil will tell men that in the service of God, they are deprived of liberty; and for the freedom of goodness he offers them the wild license of sin, and lured by this hope he gets them to eat forbidden fruit. Satan has many schemes by which to lead men contrary to the will of God, and in opposition to their own moral welfare. He can adapt himself to any circumstance. He can make use of any agency. He often comes to us when we are lonely. He has access to our most beautiful Edens.
2. The tempter of human souls is malignant. God had just placed Adam and Eve in the lovely garden of Eden. These two progenitors of the race were made in His image, were prepared for healthful toil, and for all innocent pleasure. They were happy in each other. They were supremely happy in their God. The new creation was their heritage. How malignant the person who can seek artfully to dim a picture so lovely, or destroy a happiness so pure. Only a fallen angel could have conceived the thought. Only a devil could have wrought it into action. He is unmoved by pity. His mission is the interruption of human enjoyment. And we see him fulfilling it on every page of human life and history.
3. The tempter of human souls is courageous. We almost wonder that Satan dared to venture into the new and lovely paradise which God had made for our first parents. Would not God expel him at once? Would not Eve instinctively recognize him notwithstanding his disguised appearance, and his bland approach to her. Might not such thoughts as these pass within his mind. If they did he would not long yield to them. Satan is bold and adventuresome. He will approach the first parents of the race, to seek their ruin, even though heaven may be their helper. He will tempt the Lord of the universe with the kingdoms of this world. He knows no tremor. He is best met by humility.
II. That the Tempter seeks to engage the human soul in conversation and controversy.—“And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden.” Life is a beautiful garden in which man must find work, and in which he may find pleasure. But there are trees in it which are environed by Divine and requisite restrictions. The forbidden plants are known to man. They are revealed to him by the Word of God, and by his own conscience. Hence there can be no mistake. Man need not be taken unawares. But in reference to certain phases of human life Satan seeks to hold controversy with the human soul.
1. He seeks to hold controversy with human souls that he may render them impatient of the moral restrictions of life. He does not seek to talk to Eve about the tillage of the garden, or about the many trees of which she was at liberty to eat, but only about this one tree of which she and her husband were forbidden to partake. In this we see the devil’s knowledge of human nature, and also the cunning of his fallen intellect. Men are far more impatient of their restrictions than they are mindful of their liberty, and hence are sensitive to any reference made thereto. Hence the great effort of Satan is to lead men astray not chiefly by questioning the theology of the Bible, but by directing their attention to the limits that it places upon their conduct. When you begin to question the right or wrong of any action, that is the first indication that Satan is seeking to hold a controversy with your soul, as you need never have a doubt as to whether you should eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Never let the devil make you impatient of the laws of moral rectitude. When he reminds you of the one tree of which you may not eat, then show him all the other trees in the garden which are at your entire disposal. The restrictions of life are few, but they are real and far reaching. They relate to the destiny of the soul.
2. He seeks to hold controversy with human souls that he may insidiously awaken within them thoughts derogatory to the character of God. The woman in response to the serpent said that God had forbidden them to eat of the tree. Satan continues the argument from the same point. He states that God had told her a lie! Sin always commences here. The moment a soul holds controversy about the moral character of God, is the moment of its fall. The man who believes God to be untruthful, must and will be untruthful himself. We are good and safe in proportion as we reverence and love the character of God. Satan intimates to Eve that he knows as much about the tree as God did, and that she was justified in crediting his statement as much as the Divine. This is the one effort of the devil, to substitute himself to the human soul, in the place of God. He still seeks to make men worship him. 3 He seeks to hold controversy with human souls that he may lead them to yield to the lust of the eye. “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. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes,” &c. This is the artifice of Satan, to get men to remove from the true basis of moral life. The true basis of moral conduct is, as Eve had just intimated, the Word of God. But now she is making desire the basis of her conduct. In the processes of temptation there are not merely the solicitations of the devil to lead the soul away from right, but there are also the brilliant appearances of the things we see. The tree is often pleasant to the eyes. Temptation always furnishes its dupe with an excuse. Eve saw that the tree was good for food. There is a gradual progress to sin. First you talk with the devil. Then you believe the devil. Then you obey the devil. Then you are conquered by the devil. Never make lust the basis of life. If you do you will fall irretrievably.
III. That the Tempter seeks to make one soul his ally in the seduction of another. “She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Eve little thought at the commencement of her interview with the serpent, what would be its end. One conversation with the devil may eternally ruin a soul. He is a pleasing interlocutor. But he is false. We observe that he tempted Eve first. He probably thought that he would the more readily win the weak one to his design. And when the devil lures a man’s wife to evil, it is a bad omen for her husband. She will probably become his tempter. The domestic relationships of life are fraught with the most awful possibilities of good or evil to human souls. A wicked wife may be the moral ruin of a family. See the crafty policy of hell. Never join yourself in league with Satan to tempt another soul to evil. Satan is after all sadly effective in his work.
IV. That the human soul soon awakes from the subtle vision of temptation to find that it has been deluded and ruined. “And the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
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. It was an experience they would have been better and happier without. No man is the better for the woful experience of evil.
2. That the human soul, awakening from the vision of temptation, is conscious of moral nakedness. The tempter promised that Adam and Eve should become wise and divine, whereas they became foolish and naked. In the strange effort to become divine they became mortal. 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.
Jesus, thy Blood and Righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these array’d,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
LESSONS:—1, To beware of the subtlety of the devil.
2. Never to hold converse with Satan.
3. Never to yield to the lust of the eye.
4. Never to tempt another to evil.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 3:1. The Serpent.
Almost throughout the East the serpent was used as an emblem of the principle of evil. Some writers deny that the evil spirit is to be understood in this narrative of Genesis. Yet not only did the East in general look on the serpent as an emblem of the spirit of evil, but the earliest traces of Jewish or Christian interpretations all point to this. The evil one is constantly called by the Jews “the old serpent” (Revelation 12:9). Some have thought that no serpent appeared, but only that evil one, who is called the serpent; but then he could not have been said to be “more subtil than all the beasts of the field.” The reason why Satan took the form of a beast remarkable for its subtlety may have been that so Eve might be the less upon her guard. New as she was to all creation, she may not have been surprised at speech in an animal which apparently possessed almost human sagacity [Speakers’ Commentary].
“Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud …
… For in the wily snake
Whatever sleights none would suspicion mark,
As from his wit and nature subtlety
Proceeding, which in other beasts observed,
Doubt might beget of diabolic power,
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.”—Paradise Lost.
But to anyone who reads the narrative carefully in connection with the previous history of the creation, and bears in mind that man is here described as exalted far above all the rest of the animal world, not only by the fact of his having been created in the image of God and invested with dominion over all the creatures of the earth, but also because God breathed into him the breath of life, and no helpmeet for him was found among the beasts of the field, and also that this superiority was manifest in the gift of speech, which enabled him to give names to all the rest—a thing which they, as speechless, were unable to perform—it must be at once apparent that it was not from the serpent, as a sagacious and crafty animal, that the temptation proceeded, but that the serpent was simply the tool of that evil spirit who is met with in the further course of the world’s history under the name of Satan. When the serpent, therefore, is introduced as speaking, and that just as if it had been entrusted with the thoughts of God Himself, the speaking must have emanated, not from the serpent, but from a superior spirit, which had taken possession of the serpent for the sake of seducing man.… The serpent is not a merely symbolical term applied to Satan; nor was it only the form which Satan assumed; but it was a real serpent, perverted by Satan to be the instrument of his temptation [Keil and Delitzsch.]
It has been supposed by many commentators that the serpent, prior to the Fall, moved along in an erect attitude, as Milton (Par. L. ix. 496):
“Not with indented wave
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds that tower’d
Fold above fold, a surging maze.”
But it is quite clear that an erect mode of progression is utterly incompatible with the structure of a serpent, whose motion on the ground is beautifully effected by the mechanism of the vertebral column and the multitudinous ribs, which, forming as it were so many pairs of levers, enable the animal to move its body from place to place; consequently, had the snakes before the fall moved in an erect attitude, they must have been formed on a different plan altogether. It is true that there are saurian reptiles, such as the Saurophis tetradactylus and the Chamae-saura anguina of South Africa, which in external form are very like serpents, but with quasi-feet; indeed, even in the boa-constrictor, underneath the skin near the extremity, there exist rudimentary legs; some have been disposed to believe that the snakes before the Fall were similar to the Saurophis. Such an hypothesis, however, is untenable, for all the fossil ophedia that have hitherto been found differ in no essential respect from modern representations of that order; it is, moreover, beside the mark, for the words of the curse, “Upon thy belly shalt thou go,” are as characteristic of the progression of a saurophoid serpent before the Fall as of a true ophidian after it. There is no reason whatever to conclude from the language of Scripture that the serpent underwent any change of form on account of the part it played in the history of the Fall. The sun and the moon were in the heavens long before they were appointed “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” The typical form of the serpent and its mode of progression were in all probability the same before the Fall as after it; but subsequent to the Fall its form and progression were to be regarded with hatred and disgust by all mankind, and thus the animal was cursed “above all cattle,” and a mark of condemnation was for ever stamped upon it [Students’ Old Testament History, by Dr. Smith].
The trial of our first progenitors was ordained by God, because probation was essential to their spiritual development and self-determination. But as He did not desire that they should be tempted to their fall, He would not suffer Satan to tempt them in a way which should surpass their human capacity. The tempted might therefore have resisted the tempter. If, instead of approaching them in the form of a celestial being, in the likeness of God, he came in that of a creature, not only far inferior to God, but far below themselves, they could have no excuse for allowing a mere animal to persuade them to break the commandment of God. For they had been made to have dominion over the beasts, and not to take their own law from them. Moreover, the fact that an evil spirit was approaching them in the serpent could hardly be concealed from them. Its speaking alone must have suggested that; for Adam had already become acquainted with the nature of the beasts, and had not found one among them resembling himself—not one, therefore, endowed with reason and speech. The substance of the address, too, was enough to prove that it was no good spirit which spake through the serpent, but one at enmity with God. Hence, when they paid attention to what he said, they were altogether without excuse [Keil and Delitzsch].
Wit unsanctified is a fit tool for the devil to work withal [Trapp].
1. The time of this temptation.
2. The place of this temptation.
3. The issue of this temptation.
The devil’s advice:—
1. It is freely given.
2. It is wofully misleading.
3. It is counter to the Divine command.
4. It is blandly proffered.
5. It is often taken.
It is the usual custom of Satan to tempt men before they are confirmed by habit in the course of goodness:—
1. Because he envies man’s happiness.
2. Because he hopes more readily to effect his mischief.
3. Let the newly converted prepare for him.
Satan contrives mischief against those who never provoke him.
No place nor employment can free us from the assault of Satan:—
1. He tempted our first parents in Paradise.
2. Eli’s sons in the tabernacle.
3. Christ in the wilderness.
Though Satan is the author of temptation he cares not to be seen as such.
Satan usually makes choice of those instruments which he finds fittest for the compassing of his own wicked ends.
Cunning persons are dangerous.
No advantage can assure a child of God from the temptations of Satan:—
1. Not holiness.
2. Not the experience of God’s mercies.
3. Not victories in past spiritual contests.
1. His power.
2. His malice.
3. His cunning.
4. His diligence.
The devil’s assistants:—
1. Our lusts within.
2. Our world without.
3. Our own moral weakness.
Solitariness is many times a snare:—
1. It yields advantage to temptation.
2. It gives the greater opportunity to commit sin unseen by men.
3. It deprives men of help by advice.
Satan’s main end is man’s destruction by turning away his heart from God.
It is usual with Satan and his instruments to pretend the good of those they intend to destroy:—
1. Consider the being who makes the promise.
2. Seriously consider whether it is a real good promise.
3. Contemplate under what condition they tender the things to us.
It is a dangerous snare for a man to have his eyes too much fixed upon his wants.
The nature of man is apt by the art and policy of Satan to be carried against all restraint and subjection.
Man’s fall is as needful to be known as his best estate.
The devil may give forth a human voice to dumb and speechless creatures.
It is the devil’s great plot in tempting man to destruction, to corrupt the mind.
Genesis 3:2. It is dangerous to talk freely to persons of whom we have no knowledge.
It is a dangerous thing to debate evident and known truths.
Blasphemous suggestions ought not to be heard without indignation:—
1. To manifest our zeal for God’s honour and truth.
2. To secure ourselves from a further assault.
3. To prevent the hardening of the soul against wicked suggestions.
The goodness and bounty of God to men is a sad aggravation of sin.
Creatures must vindicate God’s goodness, though Satan detract from it.
Man knows the innocent pleasures of life.
Genesis 3:3. When we remember the law of God, we must set before us the sanction annexed thereto:—
1. For God’s honour.
2. For our necessity.
3. For our victory.
When we recall the law of God, we should remember the giver of it.
It is hard to bring man’s heart to submit to, and bear with patience any yoke of restraint.
Whoever will not be entangled by allurements to sin, must not come near them.
The slighting of the curse of the law, makes way to the transgressing of the law.
Acknowledgement of God’s law will more heartily condemn the soul that sinneth.
The least doubt about the truth of God’s threatenings makes the soul more bold to sin.
“Neither shall ye touch it.” This is of the woman’s own addition, and of a good intention doubtless. For afterwards, when she had drunk in more of the serpent’s deadly poison, from gazing upon the fruit, she fell to gaping after it, from touching to tasting [Trapp].
THE FIRST LIE. Genesis 3:4
Sin entered our world by falsehood. As sin was thus introduced, so it has been very mainly sustained and propagated by lies; so says the Apostle John, and gives evidences of its truth.
I. At the author of this first lie. Satan—the devil—the deceiver—are the titles given him in Scripture, and Jesus says of him, He is a liar, and the father of lies, John 8:44. No doubt this was scenic or dramatic, with the tree in sight, as the conversation was held. Here is the earthly fountain of falsehood, and the author of the first lie.
II. The nature of the lie uttered. “Ye shall not surely die.” Observe, it was the direct falsification of God’s threatening, in absolute contradiction of God’s own Word. (Genesis 2:17.)
III. It was a most daring and presumptuous lie. The height of desperate effrontery. A challenge of the Almighty. Bold collision with the God and Creator of the universe.
IV. It was a most malignant and envious lie. There can be no doubt that Satan saw and envied, and then hated the first human pair in their innocency and blessedness; and now, serpent like, he fascinates, and throws his horrid spell with fatal accuracy over the ready listeners, and then inserts the poisonous and venemous iniquity and ruin into the soul.
V. It was a destructive, murderous lie. So Jesus connects the first lie with the murder it effected. It slew our first parents—destroyed their innocency—blinded their minds—defiled their consciences—and overspread the soul with leprous defilement and guilt; and, as God had said, death not only arrested our first parents, and bound them with chains and fetters as guilty and condemned before Him.
VI. It was the germ of all unrealness and deception that should curse mankind. Now crookedness, illusion and deceit began their career. The false in all its forms and shades is traceable to this first lie. All ignorance—all error—all superstition—all base fear—all inward treason of heart, took their rise here. It poisoned the moral blood, degenerated the race, and introduced every hideous deformity and foul impurity into the human family and species.
VII. It was a lying entanglement from which humanity could not extricate itself. Man could rush into darkness, but could not find his way back to light and day—he could fall, but not restore himself—he could die, by choosing to do so, but he could not resuscitate or raise himself again to life. The Divine image was effaced—the Divine Spirit exorcised—the soul in its original glory destroyed.
VIII. Jesus, the Divine Truth, came to deliver us from this lie and its results. He was immediately promised as the woman’s conquering seed—He came, and was manifested to destroy the works of the devil—He overcame him in the wilderness, cast him and his demons out of the bodies and souls of men—He overthrew him on the Cross, entered his domains of death, and opened a royal passage through the tomb, and opened the gates of the second paradise to all believers. Hence, observe—
IX. The Gospel is the delivering power from Satan’s falsehoods. Christ is the Author and Prince of truth—His Word is truth—He makes this Word His own power to salvation. This is the remedy for Satan’s falsehood and malignity. By the Spirit and Word of Truth. He regenerates, sanctifies, and makes meet for eternal glory. By this His saved people defy Satan, and overcome his machinations and lies. The kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of truth—this truth of Christ is to destroy the kingdom of Satan, and renew the world in true holiness, and bring down the Tabernacle of God from heaven to earth.—(Dr. Burns.)
Genesis 3:4. Once yielding to the tempter’s charm gives him greater boldness.
It is the devil’s method to draw souls from doubting God’s truth to deny it.
It is a strong delusion of Satan to persuade a sinner that he shall not die.
It is the initial property of the tempter to be a liar, to deny what God affirms.
The tempter deals in equivocations with double words and senses.
There is no truth of God so clear and manifest which Satan dare not contradict:—
1. Because he is a liar.
2. Because it concerns him to contradict fundamental truths.
3. Because he understands the corruption of the human heart.
Satan never makes use of God’s word, but for mischief.
Genesis 3:5. Satan in all his promises gives men no ground to build upon but his own bare word.
Discontent at our present condition is a dangerous temptation of Satan:—
1. Of unthankfulness to God.
2. Of disgust to our own heart.
3. Of envy with our neighbours.
Self love and seeking is one of Satan’s most dangerous snares.
Satan tempts us to sin, not only in our pleasures and delights, but also in our duties:—
1. Because then we feel most secure.
2. Because then he will corrupt our best endeavours.
3. Let us look carefully at the motive of our best duties.
The searching after the knowledge of unnecessary things is one of Satan’s snares.
The special end that Satan persuades wicked men to aim at is that they may be as gods:—
1. To excel alone.
2. To be independent.
3. To be commanded by none.
4. To give account to none.
It is Satan’s policy to draw men to depend upon the creature, for that which only God can give.
Satan’s preferments are abasements.
Hasty resolutions prove commonly dangerous in the issue.
The nearer things are to be enjoyed, the more strongly the heart is affected by them:—
1. Then let us fix our eyes on our mercies.
2. Try to make the future present to our vision.
3. Think of the shortness of this present life.
It is a strong temptation on man to persuade enlightening by sinning.
In all the light pretended, Satan intends nothing but experience of nakedness and shame.
Genesis 3:6. Man brought by Satan to unbelief is prepared for any wickedness.
Hearts slighting God’s word are given up to Satan to believe lies.
Hearts so seduced call that good which God calls evil.
Unbelief makes souls judge that meat which is poison and death by God’s word.
Unbelief stirs up lust in the eye, to that which we should loathe.
Forbidden things soonest stir up sinful desires.
Lust persuadeth there is wisdom to be had, where there is nothing but experience of evil.
The woman was first in the transgression, but the man equal.
Aggravated beyond all sin is the first transgression, being done wilfully, against such a God and such endowments.
Just is it with God to suffer men to fall, that choose it rather than steadfastness in his word.
Things usually appear to us as we stand affected toward them in our hearts.
It is dangerous to a man to fix his senses upon enticing objects.
Men are easily drawn to believe, and hope anything of that which they desire.
Man is an ill chooser of his own good.
It is not in the power of Satan to draw any man to sin without his own consent.
They that sin themselves are commonly seducers of others to sin.
One that is fallen into sin is many times most dangerous to his nearest friends:—
1. Because they are apt to communicate the evil.
2. Because they are powerful to prevail with friends.
3. In daily commerce.
THE MORAL ASPECT OF THE SENSES
Eden, whatever its geography, or physical characteristics, must be ever an interesting spot in the associations of humanity. Thither we trace our origin, our primitive greatness, our golden age, our ruin, and the first dawnings of redeeming love. Amongst the many suggestions with which this chapter is fraught, is the one contained in the text: 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 brute-ward.
III. That man’s highest interests have 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.)
Genesis 3:7. It is a great folly in men not to foresee evil before it be too late to help it.
Even those who discover not beforehand the evils which the error of their ways lead them into, yet they shall in the end feel deep misery:—
1. To bring them to repentance.
2. To make them more watchful in the future.
3. To give them a sweeter taste of God’s mercy.
Sin is able to make the most excellent and glorious of all God’s creatures vile and shameful:—
1. It defaces the image of God.
2. It separates man from God.
3. It disorders all the faculties of the soul.
Men are more apt to be sensible of, and to be more affected by, the outward evils that sin brings upon them, than with the sin that causeth them.
Garments are but the covers of our shame:—
1. For necessity—to keep off injury from the weather.
2. For distinction—of sexes—offices—degrees—nations.
Most of our necessities are brought upon us by shame.
Sin makes men fools.
All the care that men take is usually to hide their sin rather than to take it away.
Sin makes men very knowing in misery.
Sin strips stark naked of spiritual and bodily good.
Sin is ashamed of itself.
Sin is foolish in its patchings.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Death! Genesis 3:1-7. 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:—
“One drop of wisdom is far better
Than pleasures in whole bottomless abysses:
For sense’s fool must wear remorse’s fetter,
When duty’s servant reigns where endless
Sin! Genesis 3:1-7. 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: Yet
“ ‘How can it be,’ say they, ‘that such a thing,
So full of sweetness, e’er should wear a sting?’
They know not that it is the very spell
Of sin, to make men laugh themselves to hell.”
Open Eyes! Genesis 3:1-7. Sometime 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 open eyes, 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. Thus—
“No thief so vile nor treacherous as sin,
Whom fools do hug, and take such pleasure in.”
Nakedness! Genesis 3:1-7. Their eyes were opened to see that they were not what they had been before. And we come to the same conclusion as we survey ourselves, that man is not the same creature with which God crowned the glorious work of creation. There is moral nakedness. He is like a creature of the air which a cruel hand has stripped of its silken wings. How painfully he resembles this hapless object which has just fallen on the pages of a book that we read by the candle on an autumn evening! It retains the wish, but is conscious that it has lost the power to fly:—
Soul, thou art fallen from thine ancient place,
Mayest thou in this mean world find nothing great,
Nor ought that shall the memories efface
Of that true greatness which was once thine own.”—Trench.
Watchfulness! Genesis 3:1. I have read of a monarch that, being pursued by the enemy, threw away the crown of gold on his head, in order that he might run the faster. So, that sin, which thou dost wear as a crown of gold, throw it away, that thou mayest run the faster to the kingdom of heaven. Oh! if you would not lose glory be on your guard, mortify the beloved sin; set it as Uriah in the forefront of the battle to be slain. By plucking out this right eye you shall see the better to go to heaven. By cutting off this right arm you will be the more prepared for Satan. In such case you may confidently expect aid, for—
“Behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”—Lowell.
Conditions! Genesis 3:1. No man is truly prosperous whose mortality is forfeited. No man is rich to whom the grave brings eternal bankruptcy. No man is happy on whose path there rests but a momentary glimmer of light shining out between clouds that are closing over him for ever. Satan makes many promises, but his conditions are equally numerous—and vastly more serious than his promises are precious. The Lord’s temptation in the wilderness: Fall down and worship me! Ye shall be as gods! Such are the promise and condition—the one false, because the other devilish. His promises allure, and if we do not consider the conditions, the chances are against our resistance.
“The simple boy—far from his father’s care,
Is well nigh taken with the gilded snare.”—Holmes.
Association! Genesis 3:2. Evil communications corrupt good manners! One day Robert’s father saw him playing with some boys who were rude and unmannerly. In the evening he brought from the garden six rosy-cheeked apples, put them on a plate, and presented them to his son, who was much pleased, and thanked his father. “But you must lay them aside for a few days that they may become mellow.” This was done, his father at the same time placing a seventh apple, which was quite rotten. To this the boy demurred on the ground that the decayed fruit would spoil all the others; but the father remarked: “Why should not the fresh apples make the rotten ones fresh?” Eight days afterwards the apples were brought forth—all of them equally decayed; whereupon Robert reminded his father of what he had said. “My boy, have I not told you often that bad companions will make you bad? See in the condition of the apples what will happen to you if you keep company with the wicked.” Exactly so was it with Satan. Eve held intercourse with him, but did not make him better:—
“The tempting fruit outspread before her eyes,
Filled her with rapture and complete surprise;
Nor hidden dangers will she wait to see,
But onward hastens to the fatal tree.”
Dread of Sin! Genesis 3:3. Holy fear is the doorkeeper of the soul. As a nobleman’s porter stands at the door and keeps out vagrants, so the fear of God stands and keeps all sinful temptations from entering. And if we only learn to fear God—i.e., to stand in awe and sin not—in the right way, we shall learn at the same time never to fear anything else. The righteous are bold as a lion.
“Fear Him, ye saints, and ye will then
Have nothing else to fear.”
Contamination! Genesis 3:4. In Adam all die. As the electric shock passes through the frames of all who are linked hand in hand, so passed the shock of sin’s magnetic power of death through all the human race. As the poison imbibed by the lips flows through every vein of the body—penetrating its every vital part till death ensues, so the sin committed by our first parents has flashed its virus through every member of the human race:—
“One little sin that mystic cup did fill,
And yet it poured on, and poureth still
The tainting horrors of all pain and ill.”—Alger.
Indecision! Genesis 3:4. Some months ago, says a New York writer, I met a young Englishwoman who came to this city to marry a young man to whom she had been betrothed in England, and who had come to this country two years previous to engage in business. She was to marry him at the home of a friend of her mother’s with whom she was staying. During the time she was making up her wedding outfit, he came to see her one evening when he was just drunk enough to be foolish. She was shocked and pained beyond measure. She afterwards learned that he was in the habit of drinking to excess. She immediately stopped her preparations, and told him she could not marry him. He protested that she would drive him to distraction; promised never to drink another drop, &c. “No,” said the young maiden, “I dare not trust my future happiness to a drunkard. I came 3,000 miles, and I will return 3,000 miles.” And she did. Had Eve but said: “No, I will not trust my future happiness to a maligner of God; get thee hence, Satan”—how different would this once fair world be now at this distant date! Yield to no offer, however tempting, which depends on, or is allied with, dishonour to God, disobedience to His statutes, or destructive to our immortal welfare.
“See yon tall shaft; it felt the earthquake’s thrill,
Clung to its base, and greets the sunrise still”—Wendell.
Gods! Genesis 3:5. 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 dic. The pinpoint 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. As Bunyan says, look to thyself, then, keep it out of doors.
“’Tis like the panther, or the crocodile,
It seems to love, and promises no wile,
It hides its sting, seems harmless as a dove;
It hugs the soul, and hates when ’t vows most love.”
Vain Regrets! Genesis 3:7. A pointsman was on duty somewhere in America. The express was due; but instead of turning the points as he ought, and as day after day for many years he had done, he neglected his duty—the train rushed past in safety, as the engine-driver, guard, and passengers supposed. Alas! not so. In less time than you can read it all was a hopeless wreck, and not one of all that number in the train survived. And what of the poor pointsman, who that once (perhaps the only time) had neglected his duty? He rushed from the spot a hopeless maniac, and his incessant cry since that terrible event has been, “Oh! if I only had!” Nothing else has he said since; and probably for years to come that one sentence will ring through the room of the asylum where he is now confined.
“By the dark shape of what he is, serene
Stands the bright ghost of what he might have been.”—Lytton.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 3:8-12
THE SAD EFFECTS OF YIELDING TO TEMPTATION
I. That yielding to temptation is generally followed by a sad consciousness of physical destitution. “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” (Genesis 3:7). Many a man has thought to enrich himself by yielding to the temptations of Satan, he has expected not merely to gain knowledge, but also social influence, commercial importance, and political advancement; but when the seduction has been accomplished, he has found himself poor, and blind, and naked. The best way to be rich is to be honest and good. The truest way to be socially influential is to be morally upright. The truest joys come to the purest souls. The great tendency of sin is to make men physically destitute, destitute of all that constitutes comfort. A sinner is exposed without any protecting garment to all the bitter experiences of life. Sin gives men many more wants than otherwise they would have. Upright souls have the fewest wants, and are the most independent of the external provisions of life. Most of the so-called civilization of nations is the outcome of sin, it is the apron of leaves to hide their nakedness.
II. That a yielding to temptation is generally followed by a grievous wandering from God. “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.” Adam and Eve had previously to this time held glad communion with God their Maker, but now they flee from Him. Sin makes men flee from the Infinite Being, and forsake the source of their truest spiritual joy. It introduces an element of fear into the soul. It makes men foolish in their attempts to hide from God. A forest of trees cannot conceal the guilty from the eye of heaven.
1. After yielding to temptation men often wander from God by neglecting prayer. When the fruit of the forbidden tree has been eaten men often begin to neglect their secret devotions. They try to banish all thought of God from their minds. The soul that holds converse with Satan, cannot long hold communion with God.
2. After yielding to temptation men often wander from God by neglecting His Word. When men have eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree they no longer like to read the Book which contains and makes known the restrictions they have violated. They are out of sympathy with the Book and its Author.
3. After yielding to temptation men often wander from God by increasing profanity of life. As the man first looked at the fruit of the forbidden tree, then touched it, then eat it; so now sin is a continued habit with him. He knows no shame. He feels no guilt. He responds not to the voice of God. We know not to what the first sin may lead.
III. That a yielding to temptation is generally followed by self vindication. “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.”
1. We endeavour to vindicate ourselves by blaming others. The husband tries to vindicate himself by blaming his wife; the sister by blaming her brother; the employer by blaming his partner; the clerk by blaming his companion; and so it seems to be the way of life for one man to excuse himself by rendering others culpable.
(1). This course of conduct is ungrateful. Because all the relationships of life, whether domestic or commercial, are designed for our happiness. God gave Eve to Adam that she might be his companion and helpmeet. What could be more ungrateful than for man to charge his sin upon the woman who was designed to be a blessing to him, and in effect upon God?
(2). This course of conduct is ungenerous. It is ungenerous to our relations. True they are culpable for trying to lead us away, but we are more so by yielding ourselves to be influenced by them counter to the command of God. We knew the right, and are not justified in blaming them because we did the wrong.
(3). This course of conduct is unavailing. It will not excuse the sinner in the sight of God. It will not mitigate his guilt. It will not avert his punishment. It will not amend his doom. Let men honourably acknowledge the guilt of their own sin, and not strive to put it on the weaker party.
2. We endeavour to vindicate ourselves by blaming our circumstances. We indicate that our circumstances were unfavourable to our moral resistance. That Satan deceived us. That we were taken by surprise. That we were morally weak at the time. Man has Divine aid to enable him to overcome his circumstances however perplexing they may be.
IV. That in yielding to temptation we never realize the alluring promises of the devil.
1. Satan promised that Adam and Eve should become wise, whereas they became naked.
2. Satan promised that Adam and Eve should become gods, whereas they fled from God.
THE DAWN OF GUILT. Genesis 3:7-13
Here is the dawn of a new era in the history of humanity. The eye of a guilty conscience is now opened for the first time, and God and the universe appeared in new and terrible forms. There are three things in this passage which have ever characterised this era 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,” &c. And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me,” &c. 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.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 3:8. The incidents narrated in this chapter, though inconceivably important, follow each other in rapid succession. Man is here brought before us—created—holy—fallen—condemned—redeemed. The consequence is, that each sentence is unspeakably full of meaning.
I. The sense of guilt by which they were oppressed.
1. There were circumstances which aggravated their guilt—they knew God—His fellowship—were perfectly holy—happy—knew the obligations—knew the consequences of life and death.
2. They felt their guilt aggravated by these circumstances. Their consciences were not hardened. Their present feelings and condition were a contrast with the past. In these circumstances they fled. They knew of no redemption, and could make no atonement.
II. The melancholy change of character which had resulted from their fall.
1. Our moral attainments are indicated by our views of God—progressive. The pure in heart see God. Our first parents fell in their conceptions of God—omnipresence. “Whither shall I go,” &c. This ignorance of God increased in the world with the increase of sin, Romans 1:21-32. This ignorance of God is still exemplified. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” He may worship outwardly; and there are gradations of the foolish—some shut God within religious ordinances—some exclude Him.
III. That they had lost their communion with God.
1. One barrier interposed was guilt.
2. Another barrier was moral pollution.—(Outlines of Discourses by James Stewart.)
The voice of God pursueth sinners after guilt, sometimes inward and outward.
God hath His fit times to visit sinners.
Conscience hears and trembles at the voice of God.
Sin persuades souls as if it were possible to hide from God.
All carnal shifts will sin make to shun God’s sight; if leaves do not hide it, the trees must.
God who hath all the wrong when He is provoked by our sins, is the first that seeks to make peace with us:—
1. He allures us by His mercies.
2. By the sweet persuasions of His Spirit.
3. By the ministry of the Gospel. God in representing His Majesty to men so deals with them that he may humble but not confound them. God many times calls men to account, and proceeds in judgment against them in the midst of their delights. A guilty conscience is filled with terror, on every occasion we have no better refuge than to turn from sin to God.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 3:9. Satan’s lie only gave occasion for the display of the full truth in reference to God. Creation never could have brought out what God was. There was infinitely more in Him than power and wisdom. There was love, mercy, holiness, righteousness, goodness, tenderness, long suffering. Where could all these be displayed but in a world of sinners? God at the first, came down to create; and, then, when the serpent presumed to meddle with creation, God came down to save. This is brought out in the first words uttered by the Lord God after man’s fall, “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou?” This question proved two things. It proved that man was lost, and that God had come to seek. It proved man’s sin, and God’s grace. “Where art thou?” Amazing faithfulness! Amazing grace! Faithfulness, to disclose, in the very question itself, the truth as to man’s condition in grace, to bring out, in the very fact of God’s asking such a question, the truth as to His character and attitude, in reference to fallen man. Man was lost; but God had come down to look for him—to bring him out of his hiding-place, behind the trees of the garden, in order that, in the happy confidence of faith, he might find a hiding-place in Himself. This was grace. But who can utter all that is wrapped up in the idea of God’s being a seeker? God seeking a sinner? What could the Blessed One have seen in man, to lead him to seek for him. Just what the shepherd saw in the lost sheep; or what the woman saw in the lost piece of silver; or what the father saw in the lost son. The sinner is valuable to God; but why he should be so, eternity alone will unfold. (Notes on Genesis, C.H.M.)
The way to get our hearts affected with what we hear, is to apprehend ourselves to be spoken unto in particular.
God loves a free and voluntary acknowledgment of sin from his children when they have sinned against him.
God is full of mildness and gentleness in his dealings with offenders, even in their greatest sins.
All who desire to get out of their misery, must seriously consider what was the means that brought them into it.
Jehovah may suffer sinners to abuse His goodness, but he will call them to judgment.
God is not ignorant of the hiding places of sinners.
THE WANDERER FROM GOD
I. Where is man?
1. Distant from God.
2. In terror of God.
3. In delusion about God.
4. In danger from God.
II. God’s concern for him.
1. His condition involves evil—God is holy.
2. His condition involves suffering—God is love.
III. God’s dealings with him.
1. In the aggregate—“Adam,” the genus.
2. Personally. “Where art thou?” [Pulpit Germs, by Wythe].
Genesis 3:10. All men are apt to colour and conceal all that they can even from God Himself.
One sin commonly draws on another:—
1. The first sin weakens the heart.
2. Sins are usually fastened to each other.
3. God punishes one sin with another.
God’s word is terrible to a guilty conscience.
It is a hard matter to get men to confess any more of their guilt than is self-evident.
Sinners pretend their fear rather than their guilt to drive them from God.
Sinners pretend their punishment rather than their crime to cause them to hide.
How hard it is to bring a soul to the true acknowledgment of sin.
Genesis 3:11. The more sinners hide the more God sifteth them.
It is worth knowing by every man what discovers sin and shame. God therefore puts the question to Adam, to turn him to his own conscience, which told all God will bring sinners to a sense of sin before he leaves them, “Hast thou eaten?”:—
1. God’s command aggravates sin.
2. God’s small restriction aggravates sin.
3. God’s provision of mercy aggravates sin.
Man’s frowardness cannot overcome God’s love and patience.
God can easily, without any evidence, convince men by themselves.
God accepts no concession till men see and acknowledge their sin.
Men must be dealt with in plain terms before they will be brought to acknowledge their sin.
A breach of God’s commandment is that which makes any act of ours a sin.
Genesis 3:12. When men’s sins are so manifest that they cannot deny them, they will yet labour by excuses to extenuate them.
Men may easily by their own folly turn the means ordained by God for their good into snares for their destruction.
Sin is impudent to reply against God’s conviction.
Sinners convicted, and not converted, are shifting of guilt from themselves.
God beareth long with the prevarications of sinners.
It was offensive to God that the woman should draw the man to sin.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Prayer! Genesis 3:8. Had Adam and Eve but hearkened to the pleading voice of their King! Had they but cast themselves in contrition at the feet of their King! When we sin, let us fear—but not fiec. Let us denounce ourselves—but not despair. Let us approach the throne of that King who alone can help us. The throne to which we are invited is a “throne of grace,” i.e., favour. It is the source of power; but it is gracious power—merciful power—power to help in time of need. It is the highest pleasure of the King who sits upon this throne to dispense royal favour. Ancient kings could only be appointed on certain days; and then none dare come near on pain of death save those to whom the golden sceptre was extended. Our King sits upon the throne of grace day and night, and is always accessible—even to rebels against His government. Therefore let us come boldly—not run away to hide—that we may obtain mercy for the past rebellion, and grace to help us whenever again tempted to prefer Satan’s hollow proffers to God’s heavenly promises.
“Words cannot tell what blest relief
Here from my every want I find,
What strength for warfare—balm for grief;
What peace of mind.”—Elliott.
The First Step! Genesis 3:9. Go, ask the culprit at the bar, or the felon in the prison, or the murderer awaiting the adjustment of the noose of the gallows-rope around his neck, to trace for you his wicked course of life; and, prominent in the black record, will stand out the story of his first act of disobedience to parents, of his first Sabbath-breaking, or of his first glass. Like links of a continuous chain, each act of iniquity in a wicked life connects the last and vilest with the “first false step of guilt.” Beware of the beginnings of evil. They are the most dangerous because seemingly so harmless. How immense the evils which followed upon Eve’s first false step! A few years ago, says Myrtle, a little boy told his first falsehood. It was a little solitary thistle-seed, and no eye but that of God saw him plant it in the mellow soil of his heart. But it sprung up—oh! how quickly! In a little time another and another seed dropped from it to the ground—each in turn bearing more seed and more thistles. And now his heart is overgrown with bad habits. It is as difficult for him to speak the truth as it is for a gardener to clear his land of the ugly thistle after it has gained a hold on the soil.
“Let no man trust the first false step
Of guilt; it hangs upon a precipice
Whose steep descent in last perdition ends.”
Self-knowledge! Genesis 3:9. They knew their condition. The degenerate plant has no consciousness of its own degradation; nor could it, when reduced to the character of a weed or wild flower, recognize in the fair and delicate garden-plant the type of its former self. The tamed and domesticated animal, remarks Caird, 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 reduce a man ever so low, you cannot obliterate in his inner nature the consciousness of falling beneath himself. Low as Adam had sunk, there still remained, however dim and flickering, the latent consciousness and reminiscence of a nobler self, and so of the depths of degrading wickedness into which he had plunged himself.
“Exiled from home he here doth sadly sing,
In spring each autumn, and in autumn spring:
Far from his nest he shivers on a wall
Where blows on him of rude misfortune fall.”
Divine Vision! (Genesis 3:8). 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 ecstacy 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.” No doubt Adam experienced this joy amid the briars and thorns of the wide, wide world (Genesis 3:23), which was denied him, and the vernal beauties and swimming fragrance of Eden, in the knowledge that he had
“A Friend who will gather the outcasts,
And shelter the homeless poor;
A Friend who will feed the hungry
With bread from the heavenly store.”
Concealment! (Genesis 3:9.) Adam hid himself; but not where God could not see him. God saw the fugitives. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eye of Him with whom we have to do. This verse is felt to be like a glance at the Heart-searcher’s eye if the conscience be quick, and the soul an object of interest. The most microscopic and the most mighty objects in creation are equally exposed to His scrutiny. Especially does He look man’s heart through and through. “Hast thou eaten?” He examines—turns over all its folds—follows it through all its windings, until a complete diagnosis is obtained. “Thou hast eaten.” God was a witness to it; so that the sinner in effect challenges the judgment of God:—
“For what can veil us from thy sight?
Distance dissolves before thy ray,
And darkness kindles into day.”—Peter.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 3:13-21
THE GENERAL RESULTS OF THE FALL OF OUR FIRST PARENTS
I. The result of the fall of our first parents is an eternal enmity between Satan and humanity. “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; and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” We observe:—
1. That this curse was uttered in reference to Satan. It is true that the serpent is here addressed, but merely as the instrument of the evil spirit. The punishment which came upon an irrational animal was symbolical of that permitted to Satan. Each became the object of a contempt which should be perpetual. That this language is used in reference to Satan is evident from the fact that the human race should triumph over the serpent which indication would have been unneedful had it merely referred to the reptile rather than the devil. Thus we learn that the agents of Satan are neither free from guilt or punishment.
2. We observe that this address is different from that made to Adam and Eve. God said to Adam, “Hast thou eaten of the tree;” and to Eve, “What is it that thou hast done?” But to Satan he puts no interrogation. And why? Because heaven knew that it was impossible for hell to repent, whereas man would be able under the proclamation of Divine mercy, to confess his sin and to receive forgiveness. The misery of Satan is irretrievable. For the sin of man there is provided a Divine remedy which he is urged to obtain. The questionings of God are merciful in their intention. Let us therefore penitently respond to them.
3. We observe that there was to commence a severe enmity and conflict between Satan and the human race. The serpent was no longer even the apparent friend of Adam and Eve, but their open enemy. Their recognized foe. The enmity of hell toward earth is well defined in God’s word. It is thoroughly illustrated by the moral history of mankind.
(1) This enmity has existed from the early ages of the world’s history. Its rage and ruin were co-existent with the progenitors of the race, and was directed against their moral happiness and enjoyment. It did not commence in any after period of the world’s history, and consequently not one individual has ever been exempt from its attack.
(2) This enmity is seeking the destruction of the higher interests of man. It does not seek merely to injure the mental and physical sources of life, but the spiritual and eternal. It seeks to rob man of moral goodness, and of his bright inheritance beyond the grave. It endeavours to defile his soul.
(3) This enmity is inspired by the most diabolical passion. It is not inspired by a mere love of mischief and ruin, not by a desire to have a gay sport with the welfare of man, but by a dire and all-conquering passion for his eternal destruction. This points to unremitting activity on the part of Satan. To inconceivable cunning.
2. This enmity, while it will inflict injury, is subject to the ultimate conquest of man. The serpent may bruise the heal of humanity, but humanity shall certainly bruise his head. Satan will be defeated in the conflict. His power is limited. Instance Job. Christ is his eternal conqueror, in Him the seed of the woman struck its most terrible blow. Thus the fall of our first parents has exposed humanity to the fierce antagonism of Satan. But this may be for our moral good, as the conflict has brought a Divine conqueror to our aid, it renders necessary—and may develop energies which shall lend force and value to our characters, and which otherwise would have remained eternally latent.
II. The result of the fall of our first parents is the sorrow and subjection of female life.
1. The sorrow of woman consequent upon the fall. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” The combined command and blessing had been previously given, that the first pair were to be fruitful and multiply; but in innocency the propagation of their species was to be painless. This is reversed by their fall. The woman is to bring forth her progeny in sorrow. Sin is the cause of the world’s physical suffering. This arrangement evinces the grand principle of vicarious suffering in human life.
2. The subjection of woman consequent upon the fall. “And he shall rule over thee.” Eve had been guilty of insubordination, she had broken from the man to listen to the serpent, hence her punishment was adapted to her indiscretion. Women are to be subject to their husbands. This is the law of God. This is the ordination of physical life and energy. And any man who allows his wife to habitually rule him reverses the law of God, and the curse of the fall. But man’s rulership is not to be lordly and offensive, but loving and graceful, thoughtful and appreciative. Under such a rulership the woman is a queen, herself the sharer of a royal life. These are the true rights of woman. If true to herself she wants no others.
3. The subjection of woman consequent upon the fall gives no countenance to the degrading manner in which she is treated in heathen countries. Man is not to crush a woman into a slave. He is not to regard her as his servant. She is his companion and helpmeet. Missions have done much for the social and moral elevation of woman.
III. The result of the fall of our first parents is the anxious toil of man, and the comparative unproductiveness of his labour.
1. The anxious and painful toil of man consequent upon the fall. Some people imagine that work is the result of the fall, and that if our first parents had retained their innocence all men would have been born independent gentlemen! This may be a nice dream for the idle, but it is far from fact. Adam worked before he yielded to temptation, he tilled and kept the garden. But then there was no anxiety, peril, or fatigue associated with his daily efforts. The element of pain which is now infused into work is the result of the fall, but not the work itself. Work was the law of innocent manhood. It is the happiest law of life. Men who rebel against it do not truly live, they only exist. All the accidents of which we read, and all the strife between capital and labour, and all that brings grief to the human heart connected with work, is a consequence of the fall. The excited brain should remind of a sinful heart.
2. The comparative unproductiveness of the soil consequent upon the fall. The ground was cursed through Adam’s sin, and he was to gather and eat its fruits in sorrow all his life. By allowing Eve to lead him astray Adam had, for the moment, given up his rulership of creation, and, therefore, henceforth nature will resist his will. The earth no longer yields her fruits spontaneously, but only after arduous and protracted toil. The easy dressing of the garden was now to merge into anxious labour to secure its produce. Demons were not let loose upon the earth to lay it waste. The earth became changed in its relation to man. It became wild and rugged. It became decked with poisonous herbs. Its harvests were slow and often unfruitful. Storms broke over its peaceful landscapes. Such an effect has sin upon the material creation.
3. The sad departure of man from the earth by death consequent upon the fall. How long innocent man would have continued in this world, and how he would have been finally conveyed to heaven are idle speculations. But certain it is that sin destroyed the moral relationship of the soul to God, and introduced elements of decay into the physical organism of man. Hence after the fall he began his march to the grave. That man did not die immediately after the committal of the sin, is a tribute to the redeeming mercy of God. Sin always means death. Sin and death are twin sisters.
IV. The grand and merciful interposition of Jesus Christ was rendered necessary by the fall of our first parents. Man had fled from God. He could not bring himself back again. Man had polluted his moral nature by sin. He could not cleanse it. The serpent’s head had to be bruised. Death had to be abolished. God only could send a deliverer. Here commenced the remedial scheme of salvation. An innocent man would not have needed mercy, but a sinful man did. Hence the promise, type, symbol, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection and ascension, all designed by the infinite love of God to repair the moral woe of Eden’s ruin. LESSONS:
1. The terrible influence of sin upon an individual life.
2. The influence 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.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 3:13-14. No actor in any sin can escape God’s discovery:—
1. Adam is found out.
2. Eve is found out.
3. The serpent is found out.
God looks upon Satan as the author of the unbelief, rebellion, and apostasy of man.
The worst of curses hath God laid upon the old serpent, and that irrevocably.
God’s curse upon the old serpent brings a blessing upon man.
God from the fall of man provided a way for saving some from the devil.
The promised seed had his heel bruised in killing the serpent’s head. It was by His own dying, though He rose again.
Redemption is of free grace, and comes from God’s promise.
Such grace binds to enmity with Satan and love to God.
BRUISING THE HEAD OF EVIL; OR, THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY
Genesis 3:15. That there are two grand opposing moral forces at work in the world, “the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent,” is manifest from the following considerations:—
1. The universal beliefs of mankind. All nations believe in two antagonistic principles.
2. The phenomena of the moral world. The thoughts, actions, and conduct of men are so radically different that they must be referred to two distinct moral forces.
3. The experience of good men.
4. The declaration of the Bible. Now in this conflict, whilst error and evil only strike at the mere “heel” of truth and goodness, truth and goodness strike right at the “head.” Look at this idea in three aspects:—
I. As a characteristic of Christianity. Evil has a “head” and its “head” is not in theories, or institutions, or outward conduct; but in the moral feelings. In the likes and dislikes, the sympathies and antipathies of the heart. Now it is against this “head” of evil that Christianity, as a system of reform, directs its blows. It does not seek to lop off the branches from the mighty upas, but to destroy its roots. It does not strike at the mere forms of murder, adultery, and theft; but at their spirit, anger, lust, and covetousness. This its characteristic.
II. As a test of individual Christianity. Unless Christianity has bruised the very “head” of evil within us it has done nothing to the purpose.
1. It may bruise certain erroneous ideas, and yet be of no service to you.
2. It may bruise certain wrong habits, and yet be of no real service to you.
III. As a guide in propagating Christianity. The great failure of the Church in its world-reforming mission may be traced to the wrong direction of its efforts [Homilist].
Study the records of the Word. It is the history of the long war between the children of light and “the power of darkness.” You will see that Satan has tried every weapon of the armoury of hell. He has no other in reserve. But all have failed. They cannot rise higher than the heel. The head is safe with Christ in God. Mark, too, how a mightier hand guides his blows to wound himself. Satan’s kingdom is made to totter under Satan’s assaults. He brought in sin, and so the door flew open for the Gospel. He persecutes the early converts, and the truth speeds rapidly abroad throughout the world. He casts Paul into the dungeon of Philippi, and the gaoler believes, with all his house. He sends him a prisoner to Rome, and epistles gain wings to teach and comfort all the ages of the Church [Archdeacon Law].
I. Some important transactions related.
1. The transgression which had been committed.
2. The scrutiny instituted.
3. The sentence pronounced.
II. The gracious intimations of the Text.
1. Intimations of mercy.
2. Of the mode of mercy.
3. Our cause for gratitude.
4. Occasions for fear. [Sketches of Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers].
Man’s salvation is Satan’s grief and vexation.
God’s indignation is never so much kindled against the wicked, that He forgets His mercy toward His own.
God directs and turns the malice of Satan to the service of the good.
God will strengthen the weakest of His servants against Satan.
The greatness of man’s sin is no bar to God’s mercy.
God’s means extend to future posterity.
Enmity and malice against good men is an evident mark of the child of the devil.
Christ the woman’s seed:—
1. Made under the law.
2. Became a curse for us.
3. Joined us to God.
4. Conquered Satan.
Genesis 3:16. Though God has through Christ remitted to his children the sentence of death, yet He has not freed them from the afflictions of this life.
All the afflictions of this life have mercy mixed with them.
It is the duty of the wife to be subject to the will and direction of her husband:—
1. There must be an order in society.
2. The woman was created for man.
3. She was first in transgression.
4. Man has the best abilities for government.
1. Presented by God.
2. Easy for her.
3. Safe for her.
4. Ennobling to her.
Womanly subjection consists:—
1. In outward obedience.
2. In the inward affection of the heart.
3. In thoughtful service.
Order in sin has an order in punishment. The woman is sentenced before the man.
Genesis 3:17. Single account must be given by every creature for single sins. God takes one by one.
God Himself giveth judgment upon every sinner.
Man’s excuse of sin may prove the greatest aggravation to the woman.
It is a sad aggravation of sin that it is committed against God.
The expressness of God’s law doth much aggravate sin against it.
Sin brings all evil upon creatures, and makes them instruments to punish man.
All the creatures of the earth are under Divine command.
The short pleasure of sin draws after it a long punishment.
Genesis 3:18. Thorns and thistles are the issues of sin.
As we are more or less serviceable to God, so we may expect creatures to be more or less useful to us.
Sin makes the course of man laborious and painful.
God remembers wretched man and allows him some bread though he deserves none.
Man’s travail ends not but in the grave.
Genesis 3:19.—“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” How dreadful—how rapid—is the havoc of sin. A few chapters preceding man was wise—holy—now the crown is fallen we are all implicated (Hebrews 9:27).
I. The frailty of our Nature.
1. Its origin. However glorious our Maker, however exquisite the human body, God made that body of the dust of the earth.
2. Its liability to injury. No sooner born than fierce diseases wait to attack us. If not destroyed—injured—accidents. All the elements attack us.
3. Its tendency to dissolution. Behold the ravages of time. Human life has its spring, summer, autumn, and winter. (Psalms 103:14-15; Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 39:4-5.
II. The certainty of our end.
1. We are born to die. Our first breath is so much of nature exhausted. The first hour we live is an approach to death.
2. The perpetual exit of mortals confirms it.
3. God hath decreed it.
4. Learn rightly to estimate life. (Sketches of four hundred sermons.)
I. Man’s Origin.
1. How wonderful.
2. How humbling.
II. Man’s Doom.
4. Temporary. (Sermonic Germs by Wythe.)
There is profit in all the duties which God enjoineth us. The disposing of man’s life is in God’s hand.
Genesis 3:20-21.—It is fit in giving names to make choice of such as may give us something for our instruction. The very clothes we wear are God’s provision. Necessary provision is as much as we can look for from God’s hand:—
1. For health.
2. For employment.
3. For possession. Our clothes are for the most part borrowed from other creatures.
In the midst of death God’s thought has been to direct the sinner unto life.
God’s goodness prevented sin from turning all man’s relations into disorder.
Grace makes the same instruments be for life, which were for death.
God pities his creatures in the nakedness made by sin.
God makes garments where sin makes nakedness.
The mischief of sin is to forget nakedness under fine clothes.
A gracious providence puts clothes on the backs of sinners.
The guilty clothed:—
1. By God.
2. With priceless robe.
3. For shelter.
4. For happiness.
We have here, in figure, the great doctrine of divine righteousness set forth. The robe which God provided was an effectual covering because He provided it; just as the apron was an ineffectual covering because man had provided it. Moreover, God’s coat was founded upon blood-shedding. Adam’s apron was not. So also, now, God’s righteousness is set forth in the cross; man’s righteousness is set forth in the works, the sin stained works, of his own hands. When Adam stood clothed in the coat of skin he could not say, “I was naked,” nor had he any occasion to hide himself. The sinner may feel perfectly at rest, when, by faith, he knows that God has clothed him: but to feel at rest, till then, can only be the result of presumption or ignorance. To know that the dress I wear, and in which I appear before God, is of His own providing, must set my heart at perfect rest. There can be no permanent rest in aught else.—(C.H.M.)
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Remedy! (Genesis 3:13.) The death was wrought; but God would evolve death out of life. When a vessel has all the air extracted from it and a vacuum formed, the pressure of the outside air on the surrounding surface will probably shiver it into a thousand pieces; but no man can restore that vessel. The potter may place the fragments in his engine, and mould out of them another vessel; yet it is not the same. But God can. God here declares He will. The remedy followed close upon the disease—the life upon the death. Near the manchaneel, which grows in the forests of the West Indies, and which gives forth a juice of deadly poisonous nature, grows a fig, the sap of either of which, if applied in time, is a remedy for the diseases produced by the manchaneel. God places the Gospel of Grace alongside the sentence of Death. He provides a remedy for man
“To soothe his sorrows—heal his wounds,
And drive away his fears.”
Labour! Genesis 3:17. Dionysius the tyrant was once at an entertainment given to him by the Lacedemonians, where he expressed some disgust at their black broth. One of the number remarked that it was no wonder he did not relish it, since there was “no seasoning.” “What seasoning,” enquired the despot? to which the prompt reply was given: “labour joined with hunger.” Krummacher narrates a fable of how Adam had tilled the ground and made himself a garden full of plants and trees. He rested himself with his wife and children upon the brow of a hill. An angel came and saluting them said: “You must labour to eat bread in the sweat of your brow, but after your toil, you rejoice in the fruit acquired.” But Adam deplored the loss of Jehovah’s nearness; whereupon the watcher replied that “toil was earthly prayer, the heavenly gift of Jehovah.”—
“Work for some good be it ever so slowly!
Cherish some flower, be it ever so lowly!
Labour! all labour is noble and holy;
Let thy great deeds be a prayer to thy God.”—Osgood.
Human Ruin! Genesis 3:17. Canning says that man is a dismantled fane—a broken shrine, and that there still lingers about him some gleams of his departed glory sufficient to give an idea of what he once was, and probably left as faint prophecy of what he will again be. You see, for example, a beautiful capital still bearing some of the flowers, and some 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. As Guthrie asks: Would you not at once conclude that its present condition so base and mean was not its original position? You would say that the lightning bolt must have struck it down—or earthquake shaken its foundation—or ruthless barbarism had climbed the shaft—or time’s relentless scythe had mown it down. We look at man and arrive at a similar conclusion. Like an old roofless temple, man is a grand and solemn ruin, on the front of which we can still trace the mutilated inscription of his original dedication to God. Yet he IS a ruin, and one which human skill cannot restore. The art of man may wreath it with ivy—may surround it with stonecrop and wall-flower, yet he remains a ruin still—he though in nature’s richest mantle clad
“And graced with all philosophy can add;
Though fair without, and luminous within,
Is still the progeny and heir of sin.”—Cowper.
Resurgam-hope! Genesis 3:14. All was not hopeless gloom. The cloud had its silver lining; and like Noah’s thunderbank of water was arched by a brilliant Iris of comfort. It shall bruise thy head. Man would rise. In a Syrian valley grows a clump of trees stunted in their growth, with scarce one shade of resemblance to that noble group of stately cedars on the mountain ridge, the seeds from which had been planted in the vale by the agency of winds, and had shot up into these puny and repulsive trunks. But further on another cluster presents itself, which had been planted by the hand of man, carefully attended to as they grew up. These had a family likeness to that grove upon the hill slopes; and were giving promise of beauty and grandeur equal to that of their progenitors. The godless children of Adam resemble the stunted grove in the dell, with but feeble likeness to that of Adam in his sinless state; whereas the third clump symbolize the “renewed” sons of God, who, though immeasurably inferior as yet to the noble stock from which they were originally taken, are bearing evident marks of their parentage, and promise one day to attain to their high and heavenly origin:—
“Born of the spirit, and thus allied to God,
He during his probations term shall walk
His mother earth, unfledged to range the sky,
But, if found faithful, shall at length ascend
The highest heavens and share my home and yours.”—Bickersteth.
The Seed! Genesis 3:15. This seed, the Apostle says, was Christ. He is the great Deliverer and Champion. He is the great Legislator and Teacher. His name outshines all the names upon the “Roll of Fame.” His name is above every name. In the Forum yonder stands a marble pillar of large circumference and lofty height. It rests upon a massive base, it is crowned with a richly-carved capital. And when a citizen has won some great victory for the state, has delivered it from a foreign foe or from domestic insurrection, has removed some gross abuse or inaugurated some beneficent reform, his name, by decree of the senate, is inscribed upon the pillar in letters of gold. And now that shaft glitters from top to bottom with shining names, all honourable, but the more honourable ever above the less. And gleaming at the top of the pillar is a name that outshines all the rest. So in the Forum of the kingdom of heaven stands a pillar blazing all over with beautiful names, and at the top a name that is above every name, “not only in this world but also in that which is to come.” Therefore—
“He spends his time most worthily who seeks this name to know;
Its ocean-fulness riseth still as ages onward flow!”—Canitz.
Thistles! Genesis 3:18. How greatly the process of man’s redemption from the curse—of his rise in morals and intelligence—is aided by this decree of Providence it would be difficult to estimate.
1. Did his food grow like acorns or beechmast upon long-lived trees, requiring no toil or care or forethought of his own, the most efficient means to his advancement would have been wanting. The curse would have deepened his degradation, instead of containing as it does now at its core the means of its removal—the inverse aid of man’s physical and spiritual progress.
2. It has been observed that the very instruments of man’s punishment—the very goads that prick him on to exertion—are after all stunted or abortive forms of branches, or of buds which in happier circumstances would have gone on to develop fruit, and that the downy parasols by means of which thistles spread their seeds in myriads are due to degeneration of floral parts; so that they witness to man continually of his own degradation, inasmuch as they—like himself—are failures on the part of nature to reach an ideal perfection.
Contrast! Genesis 3:19. A traveller in Syria notes that on a mountainous ridge his attention was called to a magnificent grove of trees of the cedar species. They were evidently the growth of many ages, and had attained the perfection of beauty and grandeur. As he descended into the vale, he beheld a number of other trees stunted in their growth, and as remarkable for their meanness as the former were for their magnificence. The guide assured him that they were of the same species; yet not a trace of resemblance could he find in them. This appears to be a remarkable emblem of Adam. In Genesis 2:0 the power of body, mind and spirit resemble the cluster of stately cedar-pines; whereas, when we descend into the valley of sin in Genesis 3:0, we observe that, like the scattered trees in the vale, his mental and moral powers are stunted in their growth—mean, despicable, and well-nigh useless. Of him we may exclaim that he was planted a noble vine, but how is he turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine! Whose fault?
“Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of Me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.—Milton.
Dust of Death! Genesis 3:19. Dust may be raised for a little while into a tiny cloud, and may seem considerable while held up by the wind that raises it; but when the force of that is spent, it falls again, and returns to the earth out of which it was raised. Such a thing is man; man is but a parcel of dust, and must return to his earth. Thus, as Pascal exclaims, what a chimera is man! What a confused chaos! And after death, of his body it may be said that it is the gold setting left after the extraction of the diamond which it held—a setting, alas! which soon gives cause in its putrescence for the apostrophe: How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed! Yet “there is hope in thine end,” O Christian gold, however dimmed. There is a “resurgam” for thy dust, O child of God!
“The fine gold has not perished, when the flame
Seizes upon it with consuming glow;
In freshn’d splendour it comes forth anew
To sparkle on the Monarch’s Throne or BROW.”—Bonar.
Promises! Genesis 3:21. Deeds are more powerful expressions than words; but this Divine act of clothing Adam and Eve in “robes of blood-shedding” could have no intelligent force to them without a revelation. Is it unreasonable to suppose that God explained to them the meaning of that prophetic decree in Genesis 3:15 : “It shall bruise thy head”? When the scarlet-dyed raiment was placed by Divine direction upon the bodies of Adam and Eve, Jehovah explained the symbolism, and unfolded promises of mercy through free sovereigr grace in response to Faith. Adam and Eve laid hold of those promises, and cast themselves unfeignedly on His mercy. This would brighten their otherwise dark pathway. When a pious old slave on a Virginian plantation was asked why he was always so sunny-hearted and cheerful under his hard lot, he replied, “Ah, massa, I always lays flat down on de promises, and den I pray straight up to my hebenly Father.” Humble, happy soul! he was not the first man who has eased an aching heart by laying it upon God’s pillows; or the first man who had risen up the stronger from a repose on the unchangeable word of God’s love. If you take a Bank of England note to the counter of the bank, in an instant that bit of paper turns to gold. If we take a promise of God to the mercy-seat, it turns to what is better than gold—to our own good and the glory of our Father.
Genesis 3:24. Cherubims.] The final “s” is superfluous: the word should be either “cherubim,” or, what comes to the same thing, “cherubs.” It is of much more consequence to know and remember that the Heb. has the definite article. This is very significant. It implies that, when the book of Genesis was written, the notion of “the cherubim” had become “familiar.” Instead of wearying the reader with the numerous, and for the most part obviously far-fetched conjectures which critics have indulged in as to the derivation and meaning of the word cherub, we will merely say that perhaps one of the latest and simplest explanations is the best. Fürst regards the root (k-r-b) as meaning “to seize, catch, lay hold of;” and compares with it the Sanscrit gribh, Persian giriften, Greek γρυπ, γρυφ, German grip, krip, greif, &c. If, as he says, the word is an “abstract,” and signifies “the seizing, laying hold of,” even so a ready application of the term to the objects intended may be made. But if, as we venture to think, karubh is simply a pure passive, then the meaning yielded by it would be “the seized ones,” “the laid hold of ones,” “the possessed ones,”—than which a more fitting significance could scarcely be imagined (cf. especially Psalms 18:10; Psalms 80:1; Ezekiel 10:0) On the one hand, the cherubim laid hold of and enclosed the divine glory; and, on the other, the divine power laid hold of and directed these upbearers of the divine majesty.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 3:22-24
THE EXPULSION OF MAN FROM EDEN
Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden teaches:—
I. That when comforts are likely to be abused, God sends men from them. There was danger least Adam should put forth his hand and eat of the “tree of life” and live for ever. The fallen man must not be allowed to eat of the tree of life in this world. It can only be tasted by him in the resurrection; to live for ever in a frail body would be an unmitigated woe. There are many trees of life in the world from which God has to drive men, because they are not in a proper condition to make the designed use of them. Government and law must be preventive as well as punitive, they must regard the future as well as the past. It is better for a man to be driven from a mental, moral, or social good than that he should make a bad use of it. Many a soul has lost its Eden by making a bad use of good things.
II. That it is not well that a sinner should live and reside in the habitation of innocence. Adam and Eve were out of harmony with the purity and beauty of Eden. Such an innocent abode would not furnish them with the toil rendered necessary by their new condition of life. Men ought to have a sympathy with the place in which they reside. Only pure men should live in Eden. Society should drive out the impure from its sacred garden. Commerce should expel the dishonest from its benevolent enclosure. Let the wicked go to their own place in this life. A wicked soul will be far happier out of Eden than in it. Heaven will only allow the good to dwell within its walls.
III. That sin always causes men to be expelled from their truest enjoyments. Sin expels men from their Edens. It expels from the Eden of a pure and noble manhood. It drives the monarch from his palace into exile. It exchanges innocence for shame; plenty for want; the blessing of God into a curse; and fertility into barrenness. It makes the world into a prison-house. It often happens that when men want to gain more than they legitimately can, that they lose that which they already possess. In trying to become gods, men often lose their Edens. Satan robs men of their choicest possessions and of their sweetest comforts. This expulsion was
IV. That though expelled from Eden man’s life is yet beset with blessings. Though the cherubim and the flaming sword closed up the way to Paradise, Christ had opened a new and living way into the holy place. Christ is now the “way” of man—to purity—to true enjoyment—to heaven. Heaven substitutes one blessing for another.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 3:22-24. Jehovah is the disposer of all places and conditions; he sends in and puts out.
The cursed earth is the sinner’s place of correction.
God has separated sin from pleasure. Sin is out of Paradise.
Terrible are the means by which God drives sinners from their pleasures.
God sometimes withholds blessings for our good.
When men have once committed sin, they are in danger of any other.
The surest way to prevent sin is to keep men from the allurements to it.
God cannot allow the defiling of His ordinances by such as have no right to them.
God likes to leave monuments both of His mercies and judgments.
THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION EXHIBITED AT EDEN
By some it has been thought that the plan of redemption began to be unfolded in Eden in that symbolical appearance recorded in our text, receiving, as time rolled on, fuller development and additional illustration, until it was clearly set forth in the Saviour’s mission.
I. The event here recorded. The expulsion of man from Paradise.
1. It was not forcible. The wording of the sentence would certainly lead us to infer the contrary, but we can scarcely suppose that the unwillingness of Adam to leave Eden would manifest itself in rebellious opposition, so as to induce coercive measures; besides, we may infer from the entire narrative, that he had been brought by this time to penitence.
2. Neither are we to suppose that this event occurred merely as a carrying out of the curse which had been pronounced. The sin of Adam no doubt was the ground of this exclusion, but the principal reason was, that access to the tree of life might be denied him. By this he was taught the full consequence of his sin.
II. The transaction that followed. “And he placed at the east of the garden,” &c. The general mind associates with this statement, the idea of wrath; the popular notion being, that an angel with a flaming sword in hand, stood in the entrance of Eden, to prevent any approach to the tree of life. That such cannot be its import might be inferred from the general tenor of the narrative; in several instances, while Adam was yet in the garden, the mercy of God was especially manifested to him, and we cannot suppose that after his exclusion, there would be less mercy. To us it appears as an illustration of the recent promise of the Redeemer.
1. What is the Scripture signification of the term “Cherubim?” (Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 10:1.) (Revelation 4:6.) The cherubim of paradise same as these. In Ezekiel, and in all the passages which refer to the subject, we have the idea that God dwelt with the cherubim; we are also told that the appearance of the cherubim was that of a man; so that one great truth taught at Eden might be, that the seed of the woman, who would open the way to the tree of life, would be God dwelling with the flesh.
2. What was the flaming sword? Critics tell us that the word rendered “flaming sword,” might be rendered “the fire of wrath.” Allow that the institution at Eden and the vision of Ezekiel represent the same appearance, and we have a key to the expression, “flaming sword.” In the vision of Ezekiel there was a fire unfolding, or turning back upon itself; and the living creatures, with the likeness of a man, were in the midst of the fire. In the text, the sword of flame is said to have turned every way, but this would be better rendered “turning back on itself;” so that the great truth here taught was, that the fire of wrath, which had been kindled by transgression, instead of burning out to consume man, would turn back and expend itself on “God manifest in the flesh.”
III. The design of this transaction.
1. One great end was to teach the principles of redemption.
2. To keep the divinely-appointed way to eternal life in remembrance.
3. That it might serve as a temple of worship. It was to this “presence of the Lord” that the antediluvian patriarch came—from which Cain was driven. Here sacrifices were offered, as expressions of faith in this way of reconciliation.—(Sketches of Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers.)
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Privileges Perverted! Genesis 3:22. Pilkington mentions that in Retsch’s Illustrations of Göethe’s Faust, there is one plate where angels are seen dropping roses down upon the demons, who are contending for the soul of Faust. But every rose falls like molten metal—burning and blistering where it touches. Is it not so with man? God’s gifts are by him abused—His privileges perverted. The gifts remain intrinsically the same; but man’s heart—his guilty conscience is pained; as vice blushes at virtue’s contact.
“Wasted and marred in the sin-stricken soul,
The finest workmanship of God is there.”—Willis.
Divine Care! (Genesis 3:23.) God did not forget Adam and Eve. Nor was He indifferent to their constitution. Life in Paradise would be extreme misery. He saw—he knew. So God sees all the way of each child of His. And as he taught Adam and Eve that His Providence and love would guide and direct their future, so does He teach us. Dr. Doddride was taught this in a dream. He thought he had just died, and in an instant was conscious that he was free as a bird. Embodied in an aërial form he floated in light, while beneath was his family weeping over his dead body, which he had just left as though it were an empty box. Reposing upon golden clouds, he found himself ascending through space, guided by a venerable figure, in which age and youth were blended into majestic sweetness. They travelled on and on. At length the towers of a most beautiful edifice rose, brilliant and distinct, before them. The door swung noiselessly open as they entered a spacious room, in the centre of which stood a table covered with a snow-white cloth, on which was a golden cup and a cluster of ripe grapes. “Here you must await the Lord of the mansion, who will soon come,” said the guide. “In the meantime, you will find plenty to delight you.” His guide vanished; and upon looking at the room, he found its walls covered with pictures, which, upon examination, proved to be a complete delineation of his entire life, revealing to him that there had not been an hour in it of joy, sadness, or peril, in which a ministering angel had not been present as guardian and Saviour. This revelation of God’s goodness and mercy and watchfulness far exceeded his highest imaginings. While he was filled with gratitude and love, the Lord of the mansion entered. His appearance was so overwhelming in its loveliness and majesty, that the dreamer sank at his feet overcome. His Lord, gently raising him, took his hand and led him forward to the table. Pressing the juice of the grapes into the golden cup, he first tasted it, then holding it to the dreamer’s lips, said, “Drink: this is the new wine in my Father’s kingdom.” No sooner had he drank, than perfect love cast out all fear, and clasping his arms around the Saviour, he exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” Sweeter than the sweetest of earth’s music, he heard the voice of God His Saviour in accents of comfort and tones of assurance; and, thrilling with unspeakable bliss, he awoke with tears of rapture streaming over his face. Yes! God sees—knows—pities—preserves—perfects.
“Through all my dark has shone
Thy face, Thy peace has flowed beneath my pain;
Stumbling, I fell in Thy embrace
My loss by Thee was turned to gain.”
Mercy and Judgment! Genesis 3:24. Mercy here fringed the judgment of exclusion. Man now required an occupation to prevent unavailing regrets. Naturally prone to mood over the past, God gave him an employment which would draw his mind away from past memories to present action and future hope. Regrets of a certain class are useless. As for instance those which a man in mid-life sometimes experiences. It is the solemn thought connected with middle life, that life’s last business is begun in earnest; and it is then, midway between the cradle and the grave, that a man begins to marvel that he lets the days of youth go by so half-enjoyed. It is the pensive autumn feeling; it is the sensation of half-sadness that we experience when the longest day of the year is past, and every day that follows is shorter, and the light fainter, and the feebler shadows tell that nature is hastening with gigantic footsteps to her winter grave. So does man look back upon his youth. When the first gray hairs become visible, when the unwelcome truth fastens itself upon the mind that a man is no longer going up hill, but down, and that the sun is always westering, he looks back on things behind. When we were children, we thought as children. But now there lies before us manhood, with its earnest work, and then old age, and then the grave, and then home. There is a second youth for man, better and holier than the first, if he will look on and not look back. Hence God sent forth Adam to till the ground, to devote his energies to diligent use of the present, by directing his hopes toward heavenly rest in the future. And if we could have his confession now it would be:—
“Yes, I can tell of hours apart
In lonely path and secret place,
When burned and glowed within my heart
The wondrous meanings of Thy grace.”