Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said…
There are in this question two things equally dangerous to the soul of Eve, a fatal doubt of the truth of the Word of God, and a perfidious exaggeration, calculated to insinuate distrust. I say, first, a doubt of the truth of the Word of God. "Hath God said?" Here is an insinuation calculated to sap the foundation of all faith, all obedience, all morality, all established order. Here is the most powerful weapon of the devil and of our own wicked heart; the weapon by which thousands and thousands are smitten and plunged into ruin. Hath God said that the "friendship of the world is enmity against God; and that whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God"? Hath God said that we must forsake all and follow Him, bearing our cross; that "if we love father or mother, or sister or brother, or house, or lands, more than Him, we are not worthy of Him"? Hath God said that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," that we have within us an evil and corrupt heart, that "the carnal mind in us is not subject to the law of God," that our life is polluted with sin? Hath God said that "He doth not hold the sinner guiltless, that He hateth sin, that the broad road leadeth to destruction"? No, no, God is not so severe; He is too good a Father to punish the weaknesses of His children; beware of taking in the letter, the figurative language of the threatenings of the Bible, or at least, reserve them for the wicked or great criminals. God well knows that we are weak; be honest, repent of your faults, and all will go well. When doubt has thus despoiled the Word of God of its immutable sanctity, weakened the obligation and responsibility of the creature towards the Creator, opened a wide door to passion, which hurries us along and paves the way for temptation; these same truths, which the deadly breath of doubt has not yet been able to destroy, because they contain aid immortal force, are presented to the already wavering soul with an exaggeration which shall soon engender distrust. Hath God said, "Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden"? These delicious fruits which the earth produces, which seem to have been placed before you to spread in your abode abundance, beauty, and well being, shall ye not taste of any of these gifts? Are they only here to excite in you useless desires? Has He whom you adore as your God imposed upon you such hard laws? It is thus in the present day also; they who insinuate doubts of the truths of God's Word, guard against presenting them faithfully and in their true light. They are skilful in disfiguring them, in showing that observance to the laws of God is incompatible with our weakness, that the morality of the gospel is not made for men, and that there would be injustice in chastisement inflicted upon those who do not conform their lives to them. They are skilful in throwing ridicule upon those who let the Bible speak for itself, believe it in its whole extent, and abandon the multitude to range themselves under the banner of obedience to their God. They are skilful in presenting, under a false light, the vital doctrines of the gospel, in showing that they are contrary to reason, and that we must, as soon as possible, apply to them the amendments of human wisdom. They are skilful in persuading those who hear them, that a living and a true faith is a renunciation of reason, that filial submission is bondage, and that to give up the world, its joys, and its vanities, is to throw a veil of gloom and melancholy over the whole life. They would willingly say to the God of the Bible, if they were as sincere as the unprofitable servant in the parable, "I know that thou art an austere master, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed." Now let the temptation present itself; everything in the heart of the unhappy being who has lent an ear to the lying insinuations of the tempter, is prepared for the fatal hour of seduction...and of ruin. Know ye, my brethren, the power of temptation? It is present, it presses the poor heart, in which it finds but too much sympathy: it draws it along by the charm of sin, decked in seducing colours; conscience lifts up its voice; the conflict begins; you resist, for the thunders of God's word against sin echo from afar, and bring trouble into the depths of your soul. But, in the head of the conflict, a doubt arises; Hath God said? Will He be offended at this weakness? Will He care for it? Will He punish? Thus is broken the last restraint imposed upon the impetuosity of the temptation; the barrier of the Word of God is overthrown: you yield...And thus you are delivered over to the torments of remorse; you come forth from a vortex, to taste all the bitterness of that which, a moment before, appeared to you so sweet!
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?