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GENESIS iii. 6, 7.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.
THE chapter from which these words are taken, and which our Church has appointed as the first lesson for this morning's service, is confessedly one of the most important as well as one of the most melancholy chapters in the Bible. It calls for our deepest and most serious attention ; for we may truly say, here is the foundation of all real Christianity. Here, alone, can we learn the true and real account of the introduction of sin and misery into the world; and here we have the first promise, which makes known the method of recovery from this universal evil, and which is the foundation of all the other promises of Scripture. It is evident, brethren, that the Gospel, as a scheme of redemption and salvation, is founded on the supposition of man's fall, and consequent ruin: it cannot be understood, it cannot possibly be valued, unless this is admitted. If man is not a fallen creature, he does not need a Saviour. Salvation itself would be a word without a meaning, and all the rich and gracious provision made for man's restoration would be altogether vain and unintelligible. The end of Christ's coming into the world is declared to be to save sinners ; as he himself says, “to seek and to save that which was lost;" that is, all, without exception or limitation, who are inclined to embrace the blessing offered them; for the remedy is coinmensurate with the disease. But till we are really convinced of this great and fundamental truth; till we have not only coldly acknowledged it as an article of our belief, but have really seen our disease, and felt the weight and burden of our natural misery, it is impossible for us rightly to estimate the offer of mercy and salvation made us in Christ Jesus. As our Lord told the proud and self-righteous Pharisees, “ They that are whole need not a physician ; but they that are sick. I came not to call the
righteous," those who are righteous in their own eyes, “but sinners to repentance."1
I shall endeavour, in this morning's discourse, to explain and apply the circumstances which attended the fall of our first parents, as related in this chapter. In order better to understand it, it is necessary to look back and consider the state in which the Bible informs us that man was created.
When God, as we are told in the first chapter, had made the heavens and earth, last of all, to put the finishing hand to the glorious work of creation, he made man; and he made him, it is said, in his own image, after his own likeness. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness : and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him ; male and female created he them."2 We cannot mistake in what this image or likeness consisted, though the Bible is brief and general in the description of it. It cannot be a bodily likeness : for God is a spirit, a pure and spiritual being, without bodily parts or passions, as we have. It is, therefore, a moral and spiritual likeness. St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, tells us what it is, when he says, “ seeing that
1 Luke v. 31, 32.
Gen. i. 26, 27.
ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." And again, addressing the Ephesians, “that ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."?
Our first parents, then, as they came from the hands of their Maker, were thus formed in knowledge, holiness, and righteousness. The situation in which God placed them was equally desirable and delightful. We are told, “the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden ; and there he put the man whom he had formed”_" to dress it and to keep it." He made him lord over this lower world. Every thing was put in subjection under his feet. To increase his happiness, God gave him a companion, a help meet for him; and further, to complete it, this happy and innocent pair of rational, intelligent creatures were permitted to have free access to their Maker, and to hold spiritual
i Cul. iii. 9, 10.
2 Ephes, iv, 22-24.
3 Gen. ii. 8 and 15.
and heavenly communion with Him, as friend with friend; in a way of which, in our present fallen state, even the best and most renewed Christians can scarcely form a conception.
Still the happiness of our first parents, even in Paradise, was connected with their obedience, and made to depend on it. For though made innocent, and capable of continuing so, while they continued faithful to God, and the powers with which he furnished them; yet they were not made independent of God, or incapable of sinning and falling from their innocence. God made them free agents, and
them one command as a test of their free obedience. “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:" (that is, every other tree :) “ but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely
But this happy and delightful state did not long continue. How long, the Bible does not inform us; nor is it needful for us to know. Probably only a very short time. It is far more material for us to attend to the causes and consequences of their unhappy fall, as set before us in this chapter. The origin of moral evil, or sin, is a subject
i Gen, ii, 16, 17.