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THE FALL OF MAN,
Gen. iii. 1-7.
We have hitherto seen man as God created him, upright and bappy. But here we behold a sad reverse ; the introduction of moral evil into our world, the source of all our misery.
There can be no doubt but that the serpent was used as an in strument of satan, who from hence is called, that old serpent, the devil. The subtlety of this creature might answer his purposes. The account of the serpent speaking to the woman might lead us to a number of curious questions, on which, after all, we might be unable to obtain satisfaction. Whether we are to understand this, or the temptations of our Lord in the wilderness, as spoken in an audible voice, or not, I shall not take upon me to decide. Whatever may be said of either case, it is certain, from the whole tenor of scripture, that evil spirits have, by the divine permission, access to buman minds : not indeed so as be able to impel us to sin without our consent; but it may be in some such manner as influence each others minds to evil. Such seems to be the proper idea of a tempter. We are conscious of what we choose ; but are scarcely at all acquainted with the things that induce choice. We are exposed to innumerable influences ; and have therefore reason to pray, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
With respect to the temptation itself, it begins by calling in question the truth of God. "Is it true, that God has prohibited any tree ? Can it be? For what was it created ? Such are the inquiries of wicked men to this day. For what are the objects of pleasure made,' say they, but to be enjoyed? Why did God create VOL. V.
meats and drinks, and dogs and horses ? What are appetites for, but to be indulged ?' We might answer among other things, to try them who dwell on the earth.
It seems also to contain an insinuation, that if man must not eat of every tree, he might as well eat of none. Aud thus discontent continues to overlook the good, and pores upon the one thing wanting. All this availeth me nothing, so long as Mordecai is at the gate.
Ver. 2, 3. The answer of Eve seems to be very good at the outset. She very properly repels the insinuation against the goodness of God, as though, because he had withheld one tree, he had withheld, or might as well have withheld, all. “No,' says she,
we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden ; there is only one withheld.' She also with equal propriety and decision, repelled the doubt wbich the tempter had raised respecting the prohibition of that one. The terms by which she expresses it show how clearly she understood the mind of God, and what an impression his command had made upon her mind : Of the fruit of this tree, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it; neither shall ye touch it lest
die! We do not read that they were forbidden to touch it: but she understood a prohibition of eating to contain a prohibition of touching. And this exposition of the woman, while upright affords a good rule to ús. li we would sbun evil, we must shon the appearance of it, and all the avenues which lead to it. To parly with temptatiou is to play with fire. In all this Eve sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Ver. 4, 5. The wily serpent now proceeds to a second attack. Mark the progress of the temptation. At the outset he only sugo gested his doubts ; but now he deals in positive assertion. In this manner the most important errors creep into the mind. He who sets off with apparentlý modest doubts, will often be seen to end in doworight infidelity.
The positivity of the tempter might be designed to oppose that of the woman.
She is peremptory ; be also is peremptory; opposing assertion to assertion. This artifice of Satan is often seen in his ministers. Nothing is more common than for the most false and pernicious doctrines to be advanced with a boldness that stuns
the mind of the simple, and induces a doubt : Surely I must be in the wrong, and they in the right, or they could not be so confident.'
Yet the teropter, it is observable, does not positively deny that God might have said so and so; for this would have been calling in question the veracity of Eve, or denying what she knew to be true ; which must have defeated his end. But he insinuates, that, whatever God might have said, wbich he would not now dispute, it would not in the end prove so. Satan will not be so unpolite as to call in question either the honour or the understanding of Evę, but scruples not to make God a liar: yea, and has the impudence to say that God knew that instead of proying an evil, it would be a benefit. Alas, how often has man been flattered by the ministers of Satan · at God's expense ! Surely we need not be at a loss in judging whence those doctrines proceed which invalidate the di, vipe threatenings, and teach sinners going on still in their trespasses, Ye shall not surely die. Nor those which lead men to consider the divine prohibitions as aimed to diminish their happiness ; or, which is the same thing, to thiok it rigid or hard that we should be obliged to comply with them. And those doctrines which datter our pride, or provoke a vain curiosity so pry into things unseen, proceed from the same quarter. : By aspiring to be a god, man became too much like a devil; and where human reason taķeş up: on itself to set aside revelation, the effects will continue to be much the same.
Ver. 6. This poison had effect . ... the woman paused . looked at the fruit, , .. it begap to appear desirable ... she felt a wish to be wise .... in short, she took of the fruit ..., and did eat! But was she not alarmed when she had eaten ? It seems not; and, feeling no such consequences follow as she perhaps expected, ventured even to persuade her husband to do as she had done, and with her persuasion he complied. The connexion between sin and misery is certain, but not always immediate : its immediate effects are deception and stupefaction, which commonly induce the party to draw others into the same condition.
It does not appear that Adam was deceived ; but the woman only.* He seems to have sinned with his eyes open; and per. haps from love to his wife. It was the first time, but not the last,
1 Tim. ii. 14.
in which Satan has made use of the nearest and tenderest parts of ourselves, to draw our hearts from God. Lawful affection may become a snare. If the nearest relation or friend tempt us to depart from God, we must not hearken. When the woman had sinned against God, it was the duty of her husband to have disowned ber forever, and to have left it to his Creator to provide for his social comfort ; but a fond attachment to the creature overcame him. He hearkened to her voice, and plunged headlong into ber sin.
Ver. 7. And now, having both sinned, they begin to be sensible of its effects. Conscious innocence has forsaken them. Conscious guilt, remorse, and shame, possess them. Their eyes are now opened indeed, as the tempter had said they would be; but it is to sights of woe. Their naked bodies, for the first time, excite shame ; and are emblems of their souls ; which, stripped of their original righteousness, are also stripped of their honour, security and happiness.
To bide their outward nakedness, they betake themselves to the leaves of the garden. This, as a great writer observes, was to cover, not to cure." And to what else is all the labour of sinners directed ? Is it not to conceal the bad, and to appear what they are not, that they are continually studying and contriving? And being enabled to impose upon one another, they with little difficulty impose upon themselves, trusting in themselves that they are righteous, and despising others. But all is mere show, and when God comes to summon them to his bar will prove of no account.
VER. 8. We have seen the original transgression of our first parents, and now we see them called to account and judged. The Lord God is represented as walking in the garden in the cool of the day; that is in the evening. This seems to denote the ordinary and intimate communion which man enjoyed with his Ma. ker, while he kept his first estate. We may be at a loss in forming an idea how God could walk in the garden, and how he spake i but he was not at a loss how to hold communion with them that loved him. To accommodate it to our weak capacities, it is represented under the form of the owner of a garden taking his eveping walk in it, to see, as we should say, whether the vine flourish. ed, and the proinegranates budded ; to see and converse with those whom he had placed over it.
The cool of the day, which to God was the season for visiting his creatures, may, as it respects inan, denote a season of reflection, We may sin in the day time ; but God will call us to account at night. Many a one has done that in the heat and bustle of the day, wbich has afforded bitter reflection in the cool of the evening; and such, in many instances, has proved the evening o life.
The voice of God was heard, it seems, before any thing was seen : and as he appears to have acted towards man in his usual way, and as though he knew of nothing that had taken place till he had it from his own mouth, we may consider this as the voice of kindness ; such, whatever it was, as Adam had used to bear