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which has perplexed and confounded the reason of man from the very beginning of time; and mere reason and philosophy, with all their inquiries, never have explained it, and never can explain it. Some points relating to it must ever be mysterious to us in this world, and remain amongst those deep and “secret things which belong unto the Lord;" and which are hid in the counsels of His unfathomable wisdom. But if we are content to take it, we have enough in the Scripture account, as here given, for every practical and useful purpose; and here, if we are truly wise and humble, we shall rest.

The devil, as we are told in the beginning of this chapter, taking the form of a serpent, the most subtil or cunning of all the beasts of the field, which the Lord God had made, became the tempter-and, alas ! the successful tempter of our first parents. We read of him elsewhere in Scripture, as at the head of those wretched spirits, once happy angels in heaven, wlio “kept not their first estate ;" but, influenced by unhallowed pride and ambition, rebelled against their God, and in righteous judgment were cast out of heaven, to be “reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." For wise ends for the trial of man's obedience, they are permitted to exercise a certain power over him; and envying the happiness of our first parents, and inflamed with mad opposition to God, the devil, that old serpent, found his way into Paradise. “What wonder,” as Bishop Hall observes, “if we now find him about our path and in our closet, when even Paradise was not free from him?" Would, brethren, that we thought more of his arts and seductions. It is to be feared that numbers professing the Christian faith, can scarely be said really to believe in his existence, or ever to think of him, except to utter his name in profane curses and imprecations. He cannot, indeed, compel us to sin against our consent: if we resist him in the strength of God's grace, he will flee from us; but unless we are continually on our guard against him, unless we live close to God in prayer,

1 Jude 6.

and put on the whole armour of God, if our first parents could not stand against his wiles, how shall we be able to stand ?

Observe the method which the devil took, on this occasion, to deceive and betray our first parents. He begins with calling in question the truth of God. “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” For what purpose such a prohibition ? why this command ? why is this fruit forbidden more than any other ? It cannot in reality be so.

i Gen. iii. 1.

Is not such the reasoning of wicked wordly men still? Is not such the language of all our natural hearts? When prompted to indulge any of our passions and inclinations, against the plain positive command of God, how common is it to hear complaints of the severity, the injustice of such commands. “For what were our passions given us,” say such persons, “but to be gratified? What harm is there in following our natural inclinations? Is it possible that God can, or will visit so severely, our indulging them ?" Brethren, there is a plain and sufficient answer to all this sophistry and delusion, if we can receive it : It is entirely opposed to the word of God. By that word of God we learn, that sin, of which we think so lightly, which we cloak over, and refine, and fritter away under a variety of false names and excuses, is hateful to a pure and holy God; that it is the cause of all the misery which fills the creation. By giving us his commands now, as he gave this single command to our first parents, God intends to try us, to prove our faith and obedience, whether we will serve Him, or our own lusts and passions; whether we will listen to him, or, as our first parents did, to the voice of his and our enemy.

“ It was but one command (so reason our erring

and corrupt hearts)which our first parents broke, and that, to our apprehension, a little one: why debar them the fruit of this one tree any more than that of the rest ? If they might not eat of every tree, they might as well have been allowed to eat of none." So, again, one man says, “Why may I not be indulged in this particular sin ? it is but one, and that, as I think, a little one: it does no harm to any body but myself; and it does myself no real harm, as far as I can see : why should God condemn me for this ? it is hard, unjust; I will not believe it.” So whispers the tempter, and so too many believe; and thus each may go on in the indulgence of his particular sin, be it what it may ; and it is only to call it by some gentle name, to plead that others around us, the multitude, are doing the same or worse, to shut our eyes to the plain threatenings of God's word, to disbelieve those threatenings, to cry “peace, peace," and lull the conscience to rest,--and all is well. Men live without fear and apprehension ; and so we too commonly see they not only live, but die. Thus, too, discontent preys upon the soul, overlooks the good which God has so plentifully given, and pants after some forbidden enjoyment. Ahab is miserable without the vineyard of Naboth, and Haman can enjoy nothing so long as he sees “ Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.”1

The answer of Eve to the temptation was at first good. She repels the insinuation against the goodness of God. “ We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."The devil, however, persevering in his wicked purpose, proceeds now to a bolder attack. First he only infused doubts, now he deals in broad positive assertion. 6 Ye shall not surely die.'3 Mark, brethren, the progress of sin. The devil gained much, even in his first address, in her consenting to hold a conversation with him, in her listening at all to the voice of the tempter. See how the most fatal errors creep into the mind; and, by degrees, fix themselves there. How continually can we trace the ruin of thousands to their first listening to the voice of temptation. They who begin with only doubts about religion, often end in downright infidelity; they who at first only dally with temptation, are led on to the commission of the grossest crimes. “ Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it,

1 Esther v. 13.

2 Gen. ïü. 2, 3.

3 Ib. 4.

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