And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:…
These words were fulfilled at the time they were spoken; they have been fulfilled ceaselessly thereafter. We live in a universe of death. The phenomenon is common to us, but no familiarity can rob it of its dreadfulness; for the dead, who are the more in number, have kept their awful secret unrevealed, and the child who died yesterday knows more than can be guessed at by the thousand millions of living men. Yet this death is the least and the least dreaded part of that other, that second, that spiritual death which God meant in the warning of the text.
1. Notice first the certainty of that death. Let us learn to be early undeceived about the tempter's falsehood, "Ye shall not surely die." If a man will serve his sin, let him at least reckon upon this, that in one way or other it will be ill with him; his sin will find him out: his path will be hard; there will be to him no peace. The night of concealment may be long, but dawn comes like the Erinnys to reveal and avenge its crimes.
2. Not only is this punishment inevitable, but it is natural; not miraculous, but ordinary; not sudden, but gradual; not accidental, but necessary; not exceptional, but invariable. Retribution is the impersonal evolution of an established law.
3. Retribution takes the form which of all others the sinner would passionately deprecate, for it is homogeneous with the sins on whose practice it ensues. In lieu of death God offers us His gift of eternal life. While yet we live, while yet we hear the words of invitation, the door is not shut, and we may pass to it by the narrow way. To Eve was given the dim promise that her seed should bruise the serpent's head; for us Christ has trampled sin and Satan under His feet.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: