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MAN's SHAMEFUL FALL.
So He drove out the man, and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
THE subject of the first lesson appointed for this Sunday, as you may see by reading the heading of the chapter, is one of the most instructive, while it is one of the most humbling in the whole Bible. That chapter treats of man's shameful fall; how it was brought about; who was the chief agent in it; what was the consequence of it; who are the sufferers by it; the loss of Paradise to our first parents—matters, brethren, in which we have all of us a deep interest—which it concerns us to know well, and to lay to heart—which have been recorded (we cannot doubt it) for our learning.
I shall propose, then, that we examine more at length, this third chapter of Genesis. I shall not enter into the question whether it is to be taken literally or figuratively; I would rather leave such questions unstirred—I shall be content to receive what is here written as a solution of some of the chief difficulties in the history of our race : a clear account of the change for the worse, which so speedily happened to our first parents—what it was that brought sin and death into the world--why it is that the nature of man, made so recently in his Maker's own image, ceased to be very good, and became inclined to evil—so deeply and radically inclined to evil, that it deserves God's wrath and condemnation in every person born into this world.
The chapter opens with the serpent beguiling Eve. The woman being deceived by his wiles, was first in the transgression. And what was the temptation ? To eat of the forbidden fruit; to disobey God; to break the one command which He had laid in them for the test of their fidelity
Observe the crafty way in which the serpent induced our first mother into doing this Yea hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree in the Garden ? insinuating a doubt as to whether such a restraint had been imposed. And then, when Eve, with simple truthfulness, replied that such was the command, and that the penalty of breaking it was nothing short of death—God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch, lest ye die, the tempter advances another step. He had doubted the fact; he now denies the punishment—The serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And to this subtle suggestion Eve yielded. There was that within her which seconded the serpent's words—a craving appetite -a longing to taste—and all the more because to taste was forbidden her.- When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat.
This, brethren, is the Bible account “ of man's first disobedience,” of how sin struck root in our race; and it is most instructive. We see, by Eve's example, the gradual stealthy progress by which, for the most part, men are made sinners. First, there is the listening to the serpent's voice— Yea hath God said so and so ? is it really so very wrong? does God care about such a mere trifle ? Then there is the doubt whether He will punish—ye shall not surely die—“God will never visit me for following the nature He has Himself implanted in me.” Thus it is that we deceive ourselves; thus we grow bold to walk in forbidden paths, and to venture on practices, against which God has set the barrier of His holy law—thou shalt not do them.
We will now look at the consequences of this selfdeceit. Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin ; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. In the case of our first parents, there was, on the completion of their sin, an immediate alteration in their conditionTheir eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked ; the sense of shame-guilty shame-now, for the first time, made itself felt. And this is wonderfully true still. The innocent feel no shame: but, with the loss of innocence, comes an opening of the eyes. Only now, in
early childhood, do we find that happy ignorance to which all things are pure; only then is there an approach to that old state, when man as yet was naked, and not ashamed. Shame comes with a consciousness of guilt, at once a witness, and an accuser, charging us before God with having eaten of the tree, whereof He commanded us that we should not eat.
And note another thing—Adam and Eve felt that they were naked; they sought to cover their nakedness; to conceal their fault—to keep it from the knowledge of God—but in vain. They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. And Adam and his wife hid themselves, from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the Garden. What an awful fact in the history of our fallen nature is here revealed ! With sin—with the sense of guilt-comes a shrinking from God-a trying to escape out of His sight-a hiding of ourselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. This has been man's instinct ever since the Fall.—Just as a wild beast runs into a thicket at the sight of a human being, so we, God's highest creatures, now that sin has debased us, 'instead of delighting to draw near our Maker, are found running away from Him, shaking with fear at the sound of His voice, and seeking, in many vain and foolish ways, to get beyond His reach.
I say it is a sad fact, and a great witness to the truth of this part of the Bible, that man, in his natural state, is afraid of God, and would, if it were possible, live without God. But it is not possible-Whither shall. I go from Thy spirit, or whither shall I go from Thy presence ? If I climb up into heaven Thou art there, if I go down into hell Thou art there also. If I say peradventure the darkness shall cover me, then shall my night be turned into day. No—there is no escape out of God's sight, or out of God's hand—by no effort of ours can we long remain undetected. Pleasure, dissipation—the assumption of bold defiance, a pretending not to care—we try them all in turn, but all are unavailing.–There is a voice which finds its way through all obstacles—The voice of the Lord Godthe voice which called to Adam, Where art thou ?—that voice pursues us; we cannot drown it, nor get out of its range
-it will make itself heard—trembling and astonished we own its power: we say, O Lord, Thou hast searched me out and known me. Thou knowest all things. My faults are not hid from Thee.
The next thing to notice in this third chapter, is the punishment inflicted on Adam and Eve, and on us their offspring. Unto the woman God said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. That was the sentence passed on Eve, verified ever since in all her daughtersthe great pain and peril of childbirth, the constant care and labour that the bringing up of a family entails; the subjection of her will to the law of her husband. That was the woman's part in the penalty—while on Adam this burden was laid-Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake : in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring