An Exposition on the
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published in 1691, by Charles Doe.
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among John
Bunyan's papers after his death, in his own handwriting.
er. 1. "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
In these words we have an entrance of the first great spiritual conflict that was fought between the devil and flesh; and it is worth the observing, how the enemy attempted, engaged, and overcame the world (2 Cor 11:3).
1. He tempts by means; he appeareth not in his own shape and hue, but assumeth the body of one of the creatures, the body of the serpent, and so begins the combat. And from hence it is, that in after ages he is spoken of under the name of that creature, "the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil, and Satan" (Rev 20:2); because, as the Holy Ghost would have us beware of the devil, so of the means and engines which he useth; for where one is overcome by his own fearful appearance, ten thousand are overcome by the means and engines that he useth.
2. "The serpent was more subtil." The devil, in his attempts after our destruction, maketh use of the most suitable means. The serpent was more subtil, therefore the cunning of the devil was least of all discerned. Had he made use of some of the most foolish of the creatures, Adam had luckily started back, for he knew the nature of all the creatures, and gave them names accordingly; wherefore the serpent, Adam knew, was subtil, therefore Satan useth him, thereby to catch this goodly creature. Hereby the devil least appeared; and least appearing, the temptation soonest took the tinder.
"Now the serpent was more subtil." More subtil. Hence the devil is called, "the serpent with heads," [with great cunning;] "the crooked serpent," [with knotty objections;] "the piercing serpent," [for he often wounds;] and his ways are called "devices," "temptations," "delusions," "wiles," "power," and "the gates of hell"; because of their mighty prevalency. This is he that undertook our first parents.
But how did he undertake them?
He labours to make them question the simplicity of the word of God, bearing Adam's wife in hand, that there must needs be some meaning that palliates the text; Hath God said ye shall not eat of the tree? Which interrogatory suggested them with a strong doubt that this word would not appear a truth, if you compare it with the 4th verse.
Hence learn, that so long as we retain the simplicity of the word, we have Satan at the end of the staff; for unless we give way to a doubt about that, about the truth and simplicity of it, he gets no ground upon us. And hence the apostle says, He feared lest by some means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so our minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor 11:3); that is, lest our minds should be drawn off from the simplicity of the word of the gospel by some devilish and delusive arguments; For mark, Satan doth not first of all deny, but makes a doubt upon the word, whether it is to be taken in this or another sense; and so first corrupting the mind with a doubt about the simplicity of the true sense, he after brings them to a denial thereof; "Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
Ver. 2. "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden."
"And the woman said." Indeed, the question was put to her, but the command was not so immediately delivered to her: "The Lord God commanded the man" (2:16). This therefore I reckon a great fault in the woman, an usurpation, to undertake so mighty an adversary, when she was not the principal that was concerned therein; nay, when her husband who was more able than she, was at hand, to whom also the law was given as chief. But for this act, I think it is, that they are now commanded silence, and also commanded to learn of their husbands (1 Cor 14:34,35): A command that is necessary enough for that simple and weak sex: Though they see it was by them that sin came into the world, yet how hardly are some of them to this day dissuaded from attempting unwarrantably to meddle with potent enemies, about the great and weighty matters that concern eternity (1 Tim 2:11-15).
Hence note, That often they who are least able, will first adventure to put in their head to defend that, from whence they return with shame.
"And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden."
This was her prologue to her defence, but that also for which she had no warrant. In time of temptation, it is our wisdom and duty to keep close to the word, that prohibits and forbids the sin; and not to reason with Satan, of how far our outward and worldly privileges go, especially of those privileges that border upon the temptation, as she here did: We may eat of all but one. By this she goeth to the outside of her liberty, and sets herself upon the brink of the danger. Christ might have told the tempter, when he assaulted him, That he could have made stones bread; and that he could have descended from the pinnacle of the temple, as afterwards he did (Matt 4:3-7; Luke 4); but that would have admitted of other questions. Wherefore he chooseth to lay aside such needless and unwarrantable reasonings, and resisteth him with a direct word of God, most pertinent to quash the tempter, and also to preserve himself in the way. To go to the outside of privileges, especially when tempted of the devil, is often, if not always very dangerous and hazardous.
By these words therefore, in mine opinion, she spoke at this time too much in favour of the flesh; and made way for what after came upon her, We may eat of all but one.
Ver. 3. "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."
Now, too late, she urgeth that which should have been her only stay and weapon; to wit, the express word of God; That she should, if she would have disputed with the tempter, have urged at the first that only, and have thought of nothing else. Thus did the Lord himself: but she looking first into those worthy privileges which God had given her, and dilating delightfully of them before the devil, she lost the dread of the command from off her heart, and retained now but the notion of it: which Satan perceiving, and taking heart therefrom to make his best advantage, he now adds to his former forged doubt, a plain and flat denial, "Ye shall not surely die."
Ver. 4. "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die."
When people dally with the devil, and sit too near their outward advantages; when they are tempted to break the command of God, it is usual for them, even by setting their hearts upon things that in themselves are honest and lawful, to fall into temptation: To see a piece of ground, to prove a yoke of oxen, to marry a wife, are doubtless lawful things; but upon the borders of these privileges lay the temptation of the devil; therefore by the love of these, which yet were lawful in themselves, the devil hardened the heart, and so at last made way for, and perfectly produced in them, flatly to deny, as then, to embrace the words of God's salvation (Matt 22:5; Luke 14:16-20). The like befel our first mother; wherefore though at last she freely objected the word; yet because before she had so much reasoned to the pleasing of the flesh, she lost the dread and savour of the command, and having nought but notion left, she found not wherewith to rebuke so plain a lie of the devil, but hearkened to his further reasoning.
"Ye shall not surely die." Not surely; in the word there is some slight meaning, of which you need not be so afraid. And besides,
Ver. 5. "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."
In these words two privileges are asserted: one, That their eyes should be opened; the other, That they should be as gods, knowing good and evil. The first is very desirable, and was not at all abridged by them; the second, as to their knowing good and evil, was absolutely forbidden; because they could not attain to the knowledge of that which was evil, but by transgressing, or by eating of that forbidden tree.
Hence observe, That it is usual with the devil, in his tempting of poor creatures, to put a good and bad together, that by shew of the good, the tempted might be drawn to do that which in truth is evil. Thus he served Saul; he spared the best of the herd and flock, under pretence of sacrificing to God, and so transgressed the plain command (1 Sam 15:20-22). But this the apostle saw was dangerous, and therefore censureth such, as in a state of condemnation (Rom 3:8). Thus he served Adam; he put the desirableness of sight, and a plain transgression of God's law together, that by the loveliness of the one, they might the easier be brought to do the other. O poor Eve! Do we wonder at thy folly! Doubtless we had done as bad with half the argument of thy temptation.
"Ye shall be as gods." In these words he attempts to beget in them a desire to be greater than God had made them (1 Tim 3:6). He knew this was a likely way, for by this means he fell himself; for being puffed up with pride, they left their own estate, or habitation, and so became devils, and were tumbled down to hell, where they are "reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).
"Ye shall be as gods." When souls have begun to hearken to the tempter, that hearkening hath made way for, and given way to so much darkness of mind, and hardness of heart, that now they can listen to anything: as to hear God charged with folly, "Ye shall not surely die"; as to hear him made the author of ignorance, and that he delights to have it so, by seeking by a command to prohibit them from knowing what they could; for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and therefore he forbids to touch it.
"Ye shall be as gods." Here is also a pretence of holiness, which he knew they were prone unto; "Ye shall be as gods," as knowing and perfect as God. Oh! Thousands are, even to this day, by such temptations overcome! Thus he wraps his temptations up in such kind of words and suggestions as will carry it either way. But mark his holiness, or the way that he prescribes for holiness; it is, if not point blank against, yet without and besides the word, not by doing what God commands, and abhorring what he forbids, but by following the delusion of the devil, and their own roving fancies; as Eve here does.
Ver. 6. "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," &c.
This verse presents us with the use that Eve made of the reasonings of the serpent; and that was, to take them into consideration; not by the word of God, but as her flesh and blood did sense them: A way very dangerous and devouring to the soul, from which Paul fled, as from the devil himself: "Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal 1:16). Wherefore, pausing upon them, they entangled her as with a threefold cord. 1. "The lust of the flesh"; she saw it was good for food. 2. "The lust of the eye"; she saw it was pleasant to the eye. 3. "The pride of life"; a tree to be desired, to make one wise (1 John 2:16). Being taken, I say, with these three snares of the adversary, which are not of the Father, but of the world, and the devil the prince thereof, forthwith she falls before him: "And when the woman saw" this, "she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat."
"And when the woman saw." This seeing, as I said, is to be understood of her considering what Satan presented to her, and of her sensing or tasting of his doctrine; not by the word, which ought to be the touch stone of all, but by and according to her own natural reason without it. Now this makes her forget that very command that but now she had urged against the tempter: This makes her also to consent to that very reason, as an inducement to transgress; which, because it was the nature of the tree, was by God suggested as a reason why they should forbear; it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, therefore they should not touch it; it was the tree, that would by touching it, make them know good and evil; therefore she toucheth, and also eateth thereof. See therefore what specious pretences the devil, and those that are under the power of temptation, will have to transgress the command of God. That which God makes a reason of the prohibition, even that the devil will make a reason of their transgression.
God commands to self-denial, but the world makes that a reason of their standing off from the very grace of God in the gospel. God also commands, That we be sober, chaste, humble, just, and the like; but the devil, and carnal hearts, make these very things the argument that keeps sinners from the word of salvation. Or rather take it thus; God forbids wickedness, because it is delightful to the flesh, and draws the heart from God, but therefore carnal men love wickedness and sin: Therefore they go on in sin, and "therefore they say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21:14; 22:15-17).
She "did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat."
The great design of the devil, as he supposed, was now accomplished; for he had both in the snare, both the man and his wife, and in them, the whole world that should be after. And indeed the chief design of Satan was at the head at first, only he made the weakest the conveyance for his mischief. Hence note again, That Satan by tempting one, may chiefly intend the destruction of another. By tempting the wife, he may aim at the destruction of the husband; by tempting the father, he may design the destruction of the children; and by tempting the king, he may design the ruin of the subjects. Even as in the case of David: "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number the people." He had a mind to destroy seventy thousand, therefore he tempted David to sin (1 Chron 21:1).
She gave also to her husband, and he did eat. Sin seldom or never terminates in one person; but the pernicious example of one, doth animate and embolden another; or thus, the beholding of evil in another, doth often allure a stander-by. Adam was the looker-on, he was not in the action as from the serpent: "Adam was not deceived," that is, by having to do with the devil, "but the woman, the woman being deceived, was in the transgression" (1 Tim 2:14). This should exhort all men that they take heed of so much as beholding evil done by others, lest also they should be allured. When Israel went into Canaan, God did command them not so much as to ask, How those nations served their gods? lest by so doing, Satan should get an advantage of their minds, to incline them to do the like (Deu 12:30). Evil acts, as well as evil words, will eat as doth a canker. This then is the reason of that evil- favouredness that you see attending some men's lives and professions; they have been corrupted, as Adam was, either by evil words or bad examples, even till the very face of their lives and professions are disfigured as with the pox or canker (2 Tim 2:17).
Thus have we led you through that woeful tragedy that was acted between the woman and the serpent; and have also shewed, how it happened that the serpent went away as victor.
1. The woman admitted of a doubt about the truth of the word that forbad her to eat; for unbelief was the first sin that entered the world.
2. She preferred the privileges of the flesh, before the argument to self-denial; by which means her heart became hardened, and grew senseless of the dread and terror of the words of God.
3. She took Satan's arguments into consideration, and sensed, or tasted them; not by the word of God, but her own natural, or rather sore-deluded fancy.
4. She had a mind to gratify the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Now to speak of the evil consequences that followed this sinful act: That is not in the wisdom of mortal man to do; partly, because we know but in part even the evil and destructive nature of sin; and partly, because much of the evil that will follow this action, is yet to be committed by persons unborn. Yet enough might be said to astonish the heavens, and to make them horribly afraid (Jer 2:12). 1. By this act of these two, the whole world became guilty of condemnation and eternal judgment (Rom 5). 2. By this came all the blindness, atheism, ignorance of God, enmity and malice against him, pride, covetousness, adultery, idolatry, and implacableness, &c., that is found in all the world. By this, I say, came all the wars, blood, treachery, tyranny, persecution, with all manner of rapine and outrage that is found among the sons of men. 3. Besides, all the plagues, judgments, and evils that befal us in this world, with those everlasting burnings that will swallow up millions for ever and ever; all and every whit of these came into the world as the portion of mankind, for that first transgression of our first parents.
Ver. 7. "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."
That their eyes might be opened, was one branch of the temptation, and one of the reasons that prevailed with the woman to forsake the word of God: But she little thought of seeing after this manner, or such things as now she was made to behold. She expected some sweet and pleasant sight, that might tickle and delight her deluded fancy; but behold, sin and the wrath of God appears, to the shaking of their hearts! And thus, even to this very day, doth the devil delude the world: His temptations are gilded with some sweet and fine pretences; either they shall be wiser, richer, more in favour, live merrier, fare better, or something; and that they shall see it, if they will but obey the devil: Which the fools easily are, by these and such like things, allured to do. But behold, when their eyes are opened, instead of seeing what the devil falsely told them, they see themselves involved in sin, made guilty of the breach of God's command, and subject to the wrath of God.
"And they knew that they were naked." Not only naked of outward clothing, but even destitute of righteousness; they had lost their innocency, their uprightness, and sinless vail, and had made themselves polluted creatures, both in their hearts and in their flesh; this is nakedness indeed; such a kind of nakedness as Aaron made Israel naked with, when he set up his idol calf for them to worship: "For Aaron had made them naked unto their shame" (Exo 32:25). Naked before the justice of the law.
"And they knew that they were naked." And they knew it: Why, did they not know it before? The text says, They were naked, and were not ashamed. O! they stood not naked before God! they stood not without righteousness, or uprightness before him, and therefore were not ashamed, but now they knew they were naked as to that.
"And they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons." A fit resemblance of what is the inclination of awakened men, who are yet but natural! They neither think of Christ, or of the mercy of God in him for pardon, but presently they betake themselves to their own fig-leaves, to their own inventions, or to the righteousness of the law, and look for healing from means which God did never provide for cure. "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian" (Hosea 5:13). Not to God, and sent to King Jarib, not to Christ, yet could they not heal him, nor cure him of his wound.
"And made themselves aprons." Not coats, as God did afterwards. A carnal man thinks himself sufficiently clothed with righteousness, if the nakedness which he sees, can be but covered from his own sight: As if God also did see that and only that which they have a sight of by the light of nature; and as if because fig- leaves would hide their nakedness from their sight, that therefore they would hide it from the sight of God. But alas! No man, without the help of another, can bring all his nakedness to the sight of his own eye; much is undiscovered to him, that may yet lie open and bare to a stander-by: So it is with the men that stand without Christ before God, at best they see but some of their nakedness, to wit, their most gross and worst faults, and therefore they seek to cover them; which when they have hid from their own sight, they think them hid also from the sight of God. Thus did Adam, he saw his own most shameful parts, and therefore them he covered: They made themselves aprons, or things to gird about them, not to cover them all over withal. No man by all his own doings can hide all his own nakedness from the sight of the justice of God, and yet, but in vain, as busy as Adam to do it.
"And they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons." Fig-leaves! A poor apron, but it was the best they could get. But was that a sufficient shelter against either thorn or thistle? Or was it possible but that after a while these fig-leaves should have become rotten, and turned to dung? So will it be with all man's own righteousness which is of the law; Paul saw it so, and therefore counted it but loss and dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in him (Phil 3:7,8).
Ver. 8. "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 from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden."
"And they heard the voice of the Lord God." This voice was not to be understood according, as if it was the effect of a word; as when we speak, the sound remains with a noise for some time after; but by voice here, we are to understand the Lord Christ himself; wherefore this voice is said to walk, not to sound only: "They heard the voice of the Lord God walking." This voice John calls the word, the word that was with the Father before he made the world, and that at this very time was heard to walk in the garden of Adam: Therefore John also saith, this voice was in the beginning; that is, in the garden with Adam, at the beginning of his conversion, as well as of the beginning of the world (John 1:1).
"And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." The gospel of it is, in the season of grace; for by the cool of the day, he here means, in the patience, gentleness, goodness and mercy of the gospel; and it is opposed to the heat, fire, and severity of the law.
"And Adam and his wife hid themselves." Hence observe, That a man's own righteousness will not fortify his conscience from fear and terror, when God begins to come near to him to judgment. Why did Adam hide himself, but because, as he said, he was naked? But how could he be naked, when before he had made himself an apron? O! the approach of God consumed and burnt off his apron! Though his apron would keep him from the sight of a bird, yet it would not from the eye of the incorruptible God.
Let therefore all self-righteous men beware, for however they at present please themselves with the worthiness of their glorious fig- leaves; yet when God shall come to deal with them for sin, assuredly they will find themselves naked.
"And they hid themselves." A man in a natural state, cannot abide the presence of God; yea, though a righteous man. Adam, though adorned with his fig-leaves, flies.
Observe again, That a self-righteous man, a man of the law, takes grace and mercy for his greatest enemy. This is apparent from the carriage of the Pharisees to Jesus Christ, who because they were wedded to the works of their own righteousness, therefore they hated, persecuted, condemned, and crucified the Saviour of the world. As here in the text, though the voice of the Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day, in the time of grace and love, yet how Adam with his fig-leaves flies before him.
"And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God." These latter words are spoken, not to persuade us that men can hide themselves from God, but that Adam, and those that are his by nature, will seek to do it, because they do not know him aright. These words therefore further shew us what a bitter thing sin is to the soul; it is only for hiding work, sometimes under its fig-leaves, sometimes among the trees of the garden. O what a shaking, starting, timorous evil conscience, is a sinful and guilty conscience! especially when 'tis but a little awakened, it could run its head into every hole, first by one fancy, then by another; for the power and goodness of a man's own righteousness, cannot withstand or answer the demands of the justice of God, and his holy law.
"And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden." If you take the trees in a mystical sense as sometimes they may be taken (Eze 31:8-11); then take them here to signify, or to be a type of the saints of God, and then the gospel of it is, That carnal men, when they are indeed awakened, and roused out of their foolish fig-leaf righteousness; then they would be glad of some shelter with them that are saved and justified freely by grace, as they in the Gospel of Matthew; "Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out" (Matt 25:8). And again, The man without the wedding garment had crowded himself among the wedding guests: Had hid themselves among the trees of the garden (Matt 22:11).
Ver. 9. "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?"
Adam having eaten of the forbidden tree, doth now fleet his station, is gone to another than where God left him. Wherefore, if
God will find Adam, he must now look him where he had hid himself. And indeed so he does with "Adam, where art thou?"
"And the Lord God called," &c. Here begins the conversion of Adam, from his sinful state, to God again. But mark, it begins not at Adam's calling upon God, but at God calling upon him: "And the Lord God called unto Adam." Wherefore, by these words, we are to understand the beginning of Adam's conversion. And indeed, grace hath gone the same way with the elect, from that time to this day. Thus he dealt with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; he called them from their native country, the country of their kindred. And hence it is, that, especially in the New Testament, the saints are said to be the Called; "Called of God," and "Called of Jesus Christ." And hence again it is that Calling is by Paul made the first demonstration of election, and that saints are admonished to prove their election by their calling; for as Adam was in a lost, miserable and perishing condition, until God called him out of those holes into which sin had driven him: so we do lie where sin and the devil hath laid us, until by the word of God we are called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ.
By these words therefore we have the beginning of the discovery of effectual calling or conversion; "And the Lord God called": In which call observe three things,
1. God called so that Adam heard him. And so it is in the conversion of the New Testament saints, as Paul says, "If ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:21). That therefore is one discovery of effectual calling, the sinner is made to HEAR him, even to hear him distinctly, singling out the very person, calling, "Adam, Where art thou?" "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. As he also said to Moses, "I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight" (Exo 33:12).
2. God called so, as to fasten sin upon his conscience, and as to force a confession from him of his naked and shameful state.
3. God called so, as to make him tremble under, and be afraid of the judgment of God.
"And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?" Indeed, Where art thou must of necessity be forcibly urged to every man on whose soul God doth work effectual conversion; for until the person is awakened, as to the state and condition he is in, he will not desire, nay, will not endure to be turned to God; but when in truth they are made to see what condition sin hath brought them to, namely, that it hath laid them under the power of sin, the tyranny of the devil, the strength of death, and the curse of God by his holy law; then is mercy sweet.
"Where art thou?" God knew where he was, but foolish Adam thought otherwise; he thought to hide himself from the presence of the Lord, but the Lord found him out. Indeed, deluded sinners think that they can hide themselves and sins from God. "How doth God know," say they, "Can he judge through the thick cloud?" (Job 22:13). But such shall know he sees them; they shall know it, either to their correction, or to their condemnation. "Though they dig into hell," saith God, "thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence," &c. (Amos 9:2,3). "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jer 23:24).
Ver. 10. "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
This then was the cause of his flying, he heard the voice of God: A wicked and evil conscience saith, every thing is to it as the messenger of death and destruction; for, as was said before, "the voice of the Lord walked in the garden in the cool of the day," in the time of grace and mercy. But it mattereth not whether he came with grace or vengeance; guilt was in Adam's heart, therefore he could not endure the presence of God: He "that doeth evil hateth the light" (John 3:20). And again, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" (Pro 28:1). Cain thought all that met him, would seek his blood and life.
"I heard thy voice." Something by the word of God was spoken, that shook the heart of this poor creature; something of justice and holiness, even before they fell into this communication: for observe it, Adam went forthwith from the tree of knowledge of good and evil a convinced man, first to his fig-leaves, but they would not do; therefore he seeks to be hid among the trees. And observe again, That the insufficiency of fig-leaves were discovered by this voice of the Lord God, that at this time walked in the garden: "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." So then, there was a first and second voice which Adam heard; the first he ran away from, "I heard thy voice, and hid myself." The second was this, wherein they commune each with other. The first therefore was the word of justice, severity, and of the vengeance of God; like that in the 19th of Exodus, from the pronouncing of which, a trembling, and almost death, did seize six hundred thousand persons.
"I heard thy voice in the garden." It is a word from without that doth it. While Adam listened to his own heart, he thought fig- leaves a sufficient remedy, but the voice that walked in the garden shook him out of all such fancies: "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Ver. 11. "And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?"
"Who told thee?" This, as I said before, supposeth a third person, a preacher, and that was the Son of God; the voice of the Lord God that walked in the garden.
"Hast thou eaten of the tree?" That is, If thou hast been shewed thy nakedness, thou hast indeed sinned; for the voice of the Lord God will not charge guilt, but where and when a law hath been transgressed. God therefore, by these words, driveth Adam to the point, either to confess or deny the truth of the case. If he confess, then he concludes himself under judgment; if he deny, then he addeth to his sin: Therefore he neither denieth nor confesseth, but so as he may lessen and extenuate his sin.
Ver. 12. "And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."
He had endeavoured with fig-leaves to hide his transgressions before, but that being found too scanty and short, he now trieth what he can do with arguments. Indeed he acknowledgeth that he did eat of the tree of which he was forbidden; but mark where he layeth the reason: Not in any infection which was centred in him by reason of his listening to the discourse which was between the woman and the serpent; but because God had given him a woman to be with him: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree." The woman was given for an help, not an hindrance; but Satan often maketh that to become our snare, which God hath given us as a blessing. Adam therefore here mixeth truth with falsehood. It is true, he was beguiled by the woman; but she was not intended of God, as he would insinuate, to the end she might be a trap unto him. Here therefore Adam sought to lessen and palliate his offence, as man by nature is prone to do; for if God will needs charge them with the guilt of sin for the breach of the law, they will lay the fault upon anything, even upon God's ordinance, as Adam here doth, rather than they will honestly fall under the guilt, and so the judgment of the law for guilt. It is a rare thing, and it argueth great knowledge of God, and also hope in his mercy, when men shall heartily acknowledge their iniquities, as is evident in the case of David: "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me" (Psa 51:2,3). But his knowledge is not at first in young converts; therefore when God begins to awaken, they begin, as sleepy men, to creep further under their carnal covering; which yet is too short to hide them, and too narrow to cover their shame (Isa 28:20).
"The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree." Although, as I said, this sinner seeks to hide, or at least to lessen his sin, by laying the cause upon the woman, the gift of God; yet it argueth that his heart was now filled with shame and confusion of face, for that he had broken God's command; for indeed it is the nature of guilt, however men may in appearance ruffle under it, and set the best leg before, for their vindication; yet inwardly to make them blush and fail before their accuser. Indeed their inward shame is the cause of their excuse; even as Aaron, when he had made the golden calf, could not for shame of heart confess in plainness of speech the truth of the fact to his brother Moses, but faulteringly: They gave me their gold, saith he, and "I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf" (Exo 32:24). "And there came out this calf"; a pitiful fumbling speech: The Holy Ghost saith, Aaron had made them naked; "had made them naked unto their shame," for he, as also Adam, should, being chief and lord in their place, have stoutly resisted the folly and sin which was to them propounded; and not as persons of a womanish spirit, have listened to wicked proposals.
Ver. 13. "And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?" &c.,
Forasmuch as Adam did acknowledge his sin, though with much weakness and infirmity, God accepts thereof; and now applieth himself to the woman, whom Satan had used as his engine to undo the world.
Hence observe, That when God sets to search out sin, he will follow it from the seduced to the seducer, even till he comes to the rise and first author thereof, as in the following words may more clearly appear. Not that he excuseth or acquitteth the seduced, because the seducer was the first cause, as some do vainly imagine; but to lay all under guilt who are concerned therein: the woman was concerned as a principal, therefore he taketh her to examination.
"And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?" What is this? God seems to speak as if he were astonished at the inundation of evil which the woman by her sin had overflowed the world withal: "What is this that thou hast done!" Thou hast undone thyself, thou hast undone thy husband, thou hast undone all the world; yea, thou hast brought a curse upon the whole creation, with an overplus of evils, plagues, and distresses.
"What is this that thou hast done!" Thou hast defiled thy body and soul, thou hast disabled the whole world from serving God; yea, moreover, thou hast let in the devil at the door of thy heart, and hast also made him the prince of the world. "What is this that thou hast done!" Ah! little, little do sinners know what they have done, when they have transgressed the law of the Lord. I say, they little know what death, what plagues, what curse, yea, what hell they, by so doing, have prepared for themselves.
"What is this that thou hast done!" God therefore, by these words, would fasten upon the woman's heart a deep sense of the evil of her doings. And indeed, for the soul to be brought into a deep sense of its sin, to cry out before God, Ah! what have I done! it is with them the first step towards conversion: "Acknowledge thy iniquity [saith God] that thou hast transgressed against me" (Jer 3:13). And again, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). The want of this is the cause of that obdurate and lasting hardness that continueth to possess so many thousands of sinners, they cry not out before God, What have I done? but foolishly they rush into, and continue in sin, "till their iniquity be found to be hateful," yea, their persons, because of their sin.
"What is this that thou hast done?" By this interrogatory the Lord also implieth an admonition to the woman, to plead for herself, as he also did to her husband. He also makes way for the working of his bowels towards her, which (as will be shewn anon) he flatly denies to the serpent, the devil: I say he made way for the woman to plead for, or bemoan herself; an evident token that he was unwilling to cast her away for her sin: "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself; - I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord" (Jer 31:18-20). Again, by these words, he made way for the working or yearning of his own bowels over her; for when we begin to cry out of our miscarriages, and to bewail and bemoan our condition because of sin, forthwith the bowels of God begin to sound, and to move towards his distressed creature, as by the place before alleged appears. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself;—therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." See also the 11th and 14th chapters of Hosea.
"And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me and I did eat." A poor excuse, but an heart affecting one; for many times want of wit and cunning to defend ourselves, doth affect and turn the heart of a stander-by to pity us. And thus, as I think, it was with the woman; she had to do with one that was too cunning for her, with one that snapt her by his subtilty or wiles; which also the woman most simply confesses, even to the provoking of God to take vengeance for her.
Ver. 14. "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."
The serpent was the author of the evil; therefore the thunder rolls till it comes over him, the hot burning thunder-bolt falls upon him.
The Lord, you see, doth not with the serpent as with the man and his wife; to wit, minister occasion to commune with him, but directly pronounceth him cursed above all, "above every beast of the field." This sheweth us, that as concerning the angels that fell, with them God is at eternal enmity, reserving them in everlasting chains under darkness. Cursed art thou: By these words, I say, they are prevented of a plea for ever, and also excluded a share in the fruits of the Messiah which should afterwards be born into the world (Heb 2:2).
"Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou." "Because thou hast done this": Not as though he was blessed before; for had he not before been wicked, he had not attempted so wicked a design. The meaning then is, That either by this deed the devil did aggravate his misery, and make himself the faster to hang in the everlasting chains under darkness; or else by this he is manifested to us to be indeed a cursed creature.
Further, "Because thou hast done this," may also signify how great complacency and content God took in Adam and his wife while they continued without transgression; But how much against his mind and workmanship this wicked work was. 1. Against his mind; for sin so sets itself against the nature of God, that, if possible, it would annihilate and turn him into nothing, it being in its nature point blank against him. 2. It is against his workmanship; for had not the power of the Messias stept in, all had again been brought to confusion, and worse than nothing: as Christ himself expresses it: "The earth, and all the inhabitants thereof, are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it" (Psa 75:3). And again, "He upholdeth all things by the word of his power" (Heb 1:3).
Besides, this being done, man, notwithstanding the grace of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ, doth yet live a miserable life in this world; for albeit that Christ hath most certainly secured the elect and chosen of God from perishing by what Satan hath done; yet the very elect themselves are, by reason of the first transgression, so infested and annoyed with inward filth, and so assaulted still by the devil, and his vassals the proper children of hell, that they groan unutterably under their burthen; yea, all creatures, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom 8:22). And that most principally upon the very account of this first sin of Adam; it must needs be therefore, this being so high an affront to the divine majesty, and so directly destructive to the work of his hands; and the aim of the devil most principally also at the most excellent of his creation (for man was created in God's own image) that he should hereat be so highly offended, had they not sinned at all before, to bind them over for this very fact to the pains of the eternal judgment of God.
Ver. 15. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
The woman may, in this place, be taken either really or figuratively; if really and naturally, then the threatening is also true, as to the very natures of the creatures here under consideration, to wit, the serpent and the woman, and so all that come of human race; for we find that so great an antipathy is between all such deadly beasts, as serpents and human creatures, that they abiding in their own natures, it is not possible they should ever be reconciled: "I will put enmity": I will put it. This enmity then was not infused in creation, but afterwards; and that as a punishment for the abuse of the subtlety of the serpent; for before the fall, and before the serpent was assumed by the fallen angels, they were, being God's creatures, "good," as the rest in their kind; neither was there any jarring or violence put between them; but after the serpent was become the devil's vizor, then was an enmity begot between them.
"I will put enmity between thee and the serpent." If by woman, we here understand the church, (but then we must understand the devil, not the natural serpent simply,) then also the threatening is most true; for between the church of God, and the devil, from the beginning of the world, hath been maintained most mighty wars and conflicts, to which there is not a like in all the blood shed on the earth. Yea, here there cannot be a reconciliation, (the enmity is still maintained by God): The reason is, because their natural dispositions and inclinations, together with their ends and purposes, are most repugnant each to other, even full as much as good and evil, righteousness and sin, God's glory, and an endeavour after his utter extirpation.
Indeed, Satan hath tried many ways to be at amity with the church; not because he loves her holiness, but because he hates her welfare, (wherefore such amity must only be dissembled,) and that he might bring about his enterprise, he sometimes hath allured with the dainty delicates of this world, the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life: This being fruitless, he hath attempted to entangle and bewitch her with his glorious appearance, as an angel of light; and to that end hath made his ministers as the ministers of righteousness, preaching up righteousness, and contending for a divine and holy worship (2 Cor 11:12-15): but this failing also, he hath taken in hand at length to fright her into friendship with him, by stirring up the hellish rage of tyrants to threaten and molest her; by finding out strange inventions to torment and afflict her children; by making many bloody examples of her own bowels, before her eyes, if by that means he might at last obtain his purpose: But behold! all hath been in vain, there can be no reconciliation. And why, but because God himself maintains the enmity?
And this is the reason why the endeavours of all the princes and potentates of the earth, that have through ignorance or malice managed his design against the church, have fallen to the ground, and been of none effect.
God hath maintained the enmity: doubtless the mighty wonder, that their laws cannot be obeyed; I mean their laws and statutes, which by the suggestion of the prince of this world they have made against the church: But if they understood but this one sentence, they might a little perceive the reason. God hath put enmity between the devil and the woman; between that old serpent called, The Devil and Satan, and the holy, and beloved, and espoused wife of Christ.
"I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed." The seeds here are the children of both, but that of the woman, especially Christ (Gal 3:16). "God sent forth his Son made of a woman" (Gal 4:4). Whether you take it literally or figuratively; for in a mystery the church is the mother of Jesus Christ, though naturally, or according to His flesh, He was born of the virgin Mary, and proceeded from her womb: But take it either way, the enmity hath been maintained, and most mightily did shew itself against the whole kingdom of the devil, and death, and hell; by the undertaking, engaging, and war which the Son of God did maintain against them, from his conception, to his death and exaltation to the right hand of the Father, as is prophesied of, and promised in the text, "It shall bruise thy head."
"It shall bruise thy head." By head, we are to understand the whole power, subtilty, and destroying nature of the devil; for as in the head of the serpent lieth his power, subtilty, and poisonous nature; so in sin, death, hell, and the wisdom of the flesh, lieth the very strength of the devil himself. Take away sin then, and death is not hurtful: "The sting of death is sin": And take away the condemning power of the law, and sin doth cease to be charged, or to have any more hurt in it, so as to destroy the soul: "The strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore, the seed, Jesus Christ, in his bruising the head of the serpent, must take away sin, abolish death, and conquer the power of the grave. But how must this be done? Why, he must remove the curse, which makes sin intolerable, and death destructive. But how must he take away the curse? Why, by taking upon Him "flesh," as we (John 1:14); by being made "under the law," as we (Gal 4:4); by being made "to be sin for us" (2 Cor 5:21), and by being "made a curse for us" (Gal 3:10-13). He standing therefore in our room, under the law and the justice of God, did both bear, and overcome the curse, and so did bruise the power of the devil.
"It shall bruise thy head." To bruise is more than to break; he shall quash thy head to death; so he also quashed the heel of Christ; which would, had not his eternal power and Godhead sustained, have caused that he had perished for ever.
"And thou shalt bruise his heel." By these words, a necessity was laid upon Jesus Christ to assume our flesh, to engage the devil therein; and also because of the curse that was due to us for sin, that he might indeed deliver us therefore; even for awhile to fall before this curse, and to die that death that the curse inflicteth: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Thus therefore did Satan, that is, by the fruits and effects of sin, bruise, or kill, the flesh of Christ: But he being God, as the Father, it was not possible he should be overcome. Therefore his head remaineth untouched. A man's life lieth not in his heel, but in his head and heart; but the Godhead being the head and heart of the manhood, it was not possible Satan should meddle with that; he only could bruise his heel; which yet by the power of the Godhead of this eternal Son of the Father, was raised up again from the dead: "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom 4:25).
In these words therefore the Lord God gave Adam a promise, That notwithstanding Satan had so far brought his design to pass, as to cause them by falling from the command, to lay themselves open to the justice and wrath of God; yet his enterprise by grace, should be made of none effect. As if the Lord had said, "Adam, thou seest how the devil hath overcome thee; how he, by thy consenting to his temptation, hath made thee a subject of death and hell: but though he hath by this means made thee a spectacle of misery, even an heir of death and damnation: yet I am God, and thy sins have been against me. Now because I have grace and mercy, I will therefore design thy recovery. But how shall I bring it to pass? Why I will give my Son out of my bosom, who shall in your room, and in your nature encounter this adversary, and overcome him. But how? Why, by fulfilling my law, and by answering the penalties thereof. He shall bring in a righteousness which shall be "everlasting," by which I will justify you from sin, and the curse of God due thereto: But this work will make him smart, he must be made "a man of sorrows," for upon him will I lay your iniquities (Isa 53:6); Satan shall bruise his heel."
Ver. 16. "Unto the woman he 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."
"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow," &c. This is true, whether you respect the woman according to the letter of the text, or as she was a figure of the church; for in both senses their sorrows for sin are great, and multiplied upon them: The whole heap of the female sex know the first, the church only knows the second.
"In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children." The more fruitful, the more afflicted is the church in this world; because the rage of hell, and the enmity of the world, are by her righteousness set on fire so much the more.
But again: Forasmuch as the promise is made before this judgment of God for sin is threatened, we must count these afflictions not as coming from the hand of God in a way of vengeance, for want of satisfaction for the breach of the law; but to shew and keep us in mind of his holiness, that henceforth we should not, as at first through ignorance, so now from notions of grace and mercy, presume to continue in sin.
I might add, That by these words it is manifest, that a promise of mercy and forgiveness of sin, and great afflictions and rebukes for the same, may and shall attend the same soul: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow," comes after the promise of grace.
"And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Doubtless the woman was, in her first creation, made in subordination to her husband, and ought to have been under obedience to him: Wherefore, still that had remained a duty, had they never transgressed the commandment of God; but observe, the duty is here again not only enjoined, and imposed, but that as the fruit of the woman's sin; wherefore, that duty that before she might do as her natural right by creation, she must now do as the fruits of her disobedience to God. Women therefore, whenever they would perk it and lord it over their husbands, ought to remember, that both by creation and transgression they are made to be in subjection to their own husbands. This conclusion makes Paul himself: "Let [saith he] the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence; for Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression" (1 Tim 2:11-14).
Ver. 17. "And unto Adam he said, 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."
God having laid his censure upon the woman, he now proceedeth and cometh to her husband, and also layeth his judgment on him: The judgment is, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake," and in sorrow thou shalt eat thereof. The causes of this judgment are, First, For that "he hearkened to his wife": And also, "For that he had eaten of the tree."
"Because thou hast hearkened to thy wife." Why? Because therein he left his station and headship, the condition which God had appointed him, and gave way to his wife to assume it, contrary to the order of creation, of her relation, and of her sex; for God had made Adam lord and chief, who ought to have taught his wife, and not to have become her scholar.
Hence note, That the man that suffereth his wife to take his place, hath already transgressed the order of God.
"Because thou hast hearkened to the voice," &c. Wicked women, such as Eve was now, if hearkened unto, are "the snares of death" to their husbands; for, because they are weaker built, and because the devil doth easier fasten with them than with men, therefore they are more prone to vanity and all mis-orders in the matters of God, than they; [the men] and so, if hearkened unto, more dangerous upon many accounts: "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, nevertheless even him did outlandish [wicked] women cause to sin" (Neh 13:26). "But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up" (1 Kings 21:25).
Hence note further, That if it be thus dangerous for a man to hearken to a wicked wife, how dangerous is it for any to hearken unto wicked whores, who will seldom yield up themselves to the lusts of beastly men, but on condition they will answer their ungodly purposes! What mischief by these things hath come upon souls, countries and kingdoms, will here be too tedious to relate.
"Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree." That is, From the hand of thy wife; for it was she that gave him to eat: "Therefore," &c. Although the scripture doth lay a great blot upon women, and cautioneth man to beware of these fantastical and unstable spirits, yet it limiteth man in his censure: She is only then to be rejected and rebuked, when she doth things unworthy her place and calling. Such a thing may happen, as that the woman, not the man, may be in the right, (I mean,when both are godly,) but ordinarily it is otherwise (Gen 21:12). Therefore the conclusion is, Let God's word judge between the man and his wife, as it ought to have done between Adam and his, and neither of both will do amiss; but contrariwise, they will walk in all the commandments of God without fault (Luke 1:6).
"Therefore cursed be the ground for thy sake." Behold what arguments are thrust into every corner, thereby to make man remember his sin; for all the toil of man, all the barrenness of the ground, and all the fruitlessness after all; What is it but the fruits of sin? Let not us then find fault with the weed, with the hotness, coldness, or barrenness of the soil; but by seeing these things, remember our sin, Cursed be the ground "for thy sake"; for this God makes our "heaven as iron," and our "earth as brass" (Exo 26:19). "The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust; from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed" (Deu 28:20-24).
"In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." He then is much deceived, who thinks to fill his body with the delicates of this world, and not therewith to drink the cruel venom of asps: Yea, "He shall suck the poison of asps, the viper's tongue shall slay him" (Job 20:16). The reason is, because he that shall give up himself to the lusts and pleasures of this life, he contracts guilt, because he hath sinned; which guilt will curdle all his pleasures, and make the sweetest of them deadly as poison.
"In sorrow shalt thou eat." Even thou that hast received the promise of forgiveness: How then can they do it with pleasure, who eat, and forget the Lord? (Pro 30:9; 31:5).
Again, Let not the sorrows, crosses, and afflictions, that attend the godly in the things of this life, weaken their faith in the promise of grace, and forgiveness of sins; for such things may befal the dearest Christian.
Ver. 18. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field."
This shews us (as I also hinted before), That the thorns and thistles of the ground, are but as the excrements thereof; and the fruits of sin, and the curse for sin. This world, as it dropt from the fingers of God, was far more glorious than it is now: Now it is loaden with a burden of corruption, thorns, thistles, and other annoyances, which Adam knew none of in the days of his innocency. None therefore ever saw this world, as it was in its first creation, but only Adam and his wife; neither shall any ever see it, until the manifestation of the children of God: that is, until the redemption or resurrection of the saints: but then it shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
"And thou shalt eat the herb of the field." These words are for his comfort, under all the sorrow sin should bring upon him; "Thou shalt eat the herb": The herb was a type of the gosepl-comforts which the destroying angels were forbidden to smite (Rev 7:3). Of these medicinal and healing herbs therefore Adam and his seed are admitted to eat, that their soul may be replenished in the midst of their sorrow.
Ver. 19. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
"In the sweat of thy face." This is true, whether literally or allegorically understood: For as touching the things that pertain to this life, as they become not ours without toil and labour; so the spiritual comforts of the kingdom of heaven are not obtained without travail and sweat: "Labour [saith Christ] for the bread and meat which endureth to everlasting life" (John 6:27).
"In the sweat of thy face." Those that make conscience of walking in the commandments of God, they shall be blessed with the bread of life, when others shall be hunger-bit. That may also be mystically applied, "On all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briars and thorns; but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle" (Isa 7:25). The meaning is, Where people are diligent according to the word of God, especially in spiritual and heavenly things, they shall be fat and flourishing, though sorrow be mixed therewith: "When men are cast down: then thou shalt say, there is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person" (Job 22:29).
"Till thou return to the ground." A Christian should not leave off sweating labour so long as he is above the ground; even until he returneth thither, he ought to be diligent in the way and worship of God. Jacob, when sick, would worship God, though so weak as not able to do it, without leaning upon the top of his staff: A blessed example for the diligent, and reproof for those that are slothful (Heb 11:21).
"For out of it wast thou taken." That is, out of the ground. Behold how the Lord doth mix his doctrine! Now he tells him of his sin, then he promiseth to give him a Saviour, then again he shews him the fruits of his sin, and immediately after the comforts of the promise; yet again, he would have him remember that he is but a mortal creature, not to live here for ever; neither made of silver nor gold, but even of a clod of dust: "For dust thou art." Observe therefore, that in the midst of all our enjoyments, God would have us consider our frame, that we may know how frail we are.
"For out of it was thou taken." It is hard for us to believe it, though we daily see it is the way even of all the earth, to return thither again: "For dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return."
Whether this was spoken to Adam, as a judgment, or a mercy, or both, is not hard to determine, (this first premised, that Adam had received the promise;) for as it was the fruit of sin, so a judgment and a token of God's displeasure; "for the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). But as it is made by the wisdom of God, a prevention of further wickedness, and a conveyance through faith in Christ, to a more perfect enjoyment of God in the heavens; so it is a mercy and blessing of God (Isa 57:1,2); For thus "to die is gain." Wherefore thus we may praise the dead, that are already dead, more than the living, which are yet alive (Eccl 4:2). This made Paul desire to depart; for he knew that through death was the way to have more perfect sight of, and more close and higher communion with the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit in the heavens (2 Cor 5:6). I have a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better (Phil 1:21-23). Thus therefore those things that in their own nature are the proper fruits and wages of sin, may yet through the wisdom of God be turned about for our good (Jer 24:5); but let not this embolden to sin, but rather minister occasion to us to magnify the wisdom of God (Rom 8:28).
Ver. 20. "And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living."
By this act Adam returneth to his first station and authority in which God had placed him, from which he fell when he became a scholar to his wife; for to name the creatures, was in Adam a note of sovereignty and power: This he attained to, as an effect of his receiving the promise; for before the promise is received, man cannot serve God in his station, because as he wanteth the power of will, so also a good understanding; but when he hath received the promise, he hath also received the Holy Ghost, which giveth to the godly to know and do his duty in his station: "The spiritual" man discerneth, and so "judgeth all things"; but he is not discerned nor judged of any (1 Cor 2:15).
And he called his wife's name Eve, or Hevah: Because she gave life to, or was the first mother of all mankind. This then admits of two positions. First, That the world was created when Adam was created. And, Secondly, That there were none of the sons of men in the world before Adam, as some have not only vainly, but irreligiously and blasphemously suggested. "Eve is the mother of all living": Not a man therefore that is the son of man, but had his being since the woman was made.
Ver. 21. "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."
By this action the Lord God did preach to Adam, and to his wife, the meaning of that promise that you read of in verse 15. Namely, That by the means of Jesus Christ, God himself would provide a sufficient clothing for those that accept of his grace by the gospel: The coats here, being a type of that blessed and durable righteousness.
"The Lord God made the coats." Not Adam now, because now he is received into a covenant of grace with God: Indeed before he entered into this covenant, he made his own clothing, such as it was, but that could not cover his nakedness; but now the Lord will make them: And "unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats": "Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord" (Isa 54:17). Of me, that is, of my providing, of my performing. And this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer 23:6).
"He made them coats, and clothed them." As the righteousness by which a sinner stands just in the sight of God from the curse, is a righteousness of God's providing; so also it is of his putting on. No man can put on the righteousness of Christ, otherwise than by God's imputation: if God reckon it ours then it is ours indeed; but if he refuseth to shew that mercy, who can impute that righteousness to me? Blessed are they to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness (Rom 4). Cursed then must they needs be to whom God hath not imputed the righteousness of his Son. "The Lord clothed them," according to that of Paul, "Christ is made unto us of God wisdom and righteousness," &c. (1 Cor 1:30). And of that God who hath made him thus to us, even of him are we in Christ Jesus.
Did the Lord God make coats of skins. The coats were made of the skins of beasts, of the skins of the slain, which were slain either for food only, or for sacrifice also: This being so, the effects of that promise mentioned before were by this action the more clearly expounded unto Adam; to wit, That Christ, "in the fulness of time," should be born of a woman clothed with flesh; and as so considered, should be made a curse, and so die that cursed death which by sin we had brought upon ourselves; the effects and fruits of which should to us be durable clothing; that is, "Everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24). Ver. 22, 23. "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, [therefore] lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken."
"Behold the man is become as one of us." These words respect the temptation of the devil; the argument that prevailed with Adam; and the fruits of their consenting: And therefore I understand them as spoken ironically, or in derision to Adam. As if God had said, "Now Adam, you see what a god you are become: The serpent told you "you should be as gods," as one that was infinite in wisdom. But behold, your godhead is horrible wickedness, even pollution of body and soul by sin. A thing you little thought of when you pleased yourself with the thought of that high attainment; and now if you be not prevented, you will proceed from evil to evil; for notwithstanding I have made promise of sending a Saviour, you will, through the pollution of your mind, forget and set at nought my promise; and seek life and salvation by that tree of life which was never intended for the justification of sinners; therefore I will turn you out of the garden, "to till the ground whence thou wast taken.""
1. Hence observe, That it often falls out, after the promised blessing is come, that God yet maketh us to possess our former sins, not that the guilt thereof might be charged to condemnation, but that remembering of them, we might blush before God, and be the more effectually driven to a continual embracing of the mercy promised.
2. Observe again, That as God would have us to remember our former sins, so he would not that we should feed upon ought but the very mercy promised. We must not rest in shadowish sacraments, as the typical tree of life, but must remember it is our duty to live by faith in the promised seed.
3. Observe also, That even our outward and temporal employments, if they be lawful and honest, are so ordered of God, as that we may gather some heavenly mystery from them: "To till the ground from whence he was taken": Mysteriously intimating two things to Adam. (1.) That seeing he was of the earth, he stood in as much need to be ordered and dressed by God, in order to his future happiness, as the ground, in order to its thrift and fruitfulness. (2.) Again, Seeing he was taken from the ground, he is neither God, nor angel, but a poor earthen vessel, such as God can easily knock in pieces, and cause to return to the ground again. These things therefore Adam was to learn from his calling, that he might neither think too highly of himself, nor forget to live by faith, and depending on the Lord God, to be blessed of him.
Ver. 24. "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."
"So he drove out the man." Adam was loth to forsake this garden of Eden, because there was the tree of life. The promise will hardly satisfy, where faith is weak and low. Had this man with great faith received and retained the gospel preached before, he would not have so hankered after a shadow; but the conscience being awakened, and faith low and weak there, because faith wants the flower or bloom of assurance, the ceremonial or moral law doth with ease engender bondage.
"And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword." This shows the truth of what I said before; to wit, That Adam was loth to forsake the garden, loth to forsake his doing of something; but God sets a shaking sword against him, a sword to keep that way, or to prevent that Adam should have life by eating of the tree of life.
Observe, This tree of life, though lawful for Adam to feed on before he had transgressed, yet now is wholly forbidden him; intimating, that that which would have nourished him before he brake the law, will now avail him nothing as to life before the justice of God: the tree of life might have maintained his life before he sinned; but having done that, he hath no ways now but to live by faith in the promise; which that he might effectually do, God takes from him the use of all other things, he driveth him out of the garden, and sets to keep him from the tree of life, "Cherubims, and a flaming sword."
"And he placed at the east of the garden Cherubims, and a flaming sword." These cherubims are one sort of the angels of God, at this time made ministers of justice, shaking the flaming sword of God's severity against Adam for sin, threatening to cut him off thereby, if he ever return by the way that he went.
We read also, that the law was delivered to Israel from Sinai, by the hand and disposition of angels (Acts 7); the gospel, only by the Son himself (Heb 1:2).
To keep the way. Hence the apostle implicitly concludes it a way, that is, to death and damnation; by opposing another against it, even the new and living one; a new, not this the old; a living one, not this the dead one (Heb 10). For, for that the cherubims are here placed with a flaming, shaking sword, to keep the tree of life, it is evident that death is threatened to him that shall at any time attempt to come at, or that seeks for life that way.
"A flaming sword, turning every way to keep," &c. This still shews us, that man, though he hath already received the promise, is yet exceeding prone to seek life by another way than free grace by Jesus Christ; to wit, either by the law he hath broken, or by the law and Christ together; and so though not directly, yet "as it were by the works of the law" (Rom 9:32). But all is to no purpose, they are every way prevented. For, forsake the simplicity of the promise in the gospel, and thou shalt meet with the stroke of the justice of God; for that flaming sword of his vengeance, it turneth every way, and therefore will in every way lay wrath upon thee, if thou seek life by ought but Christ.