Genesis 15:17), passover, &c. The time here spoken of specially called for such a sign. Man had fallen; a Deliverer was promised; it was the beginning of a state of grace for sinners. Notice four facts: -
1. Man unfallen required no covering.
2. Man fallen became conscious of need, especially towards God.
3. He attempted himself to provide clothing.
4. God provided it.
Spiritual meaning of clothing (Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:3). And note that the root of "atonement" in Hebrew is "to cover." Thus the covering is a type of justification; God's gift to convicted sinners (cf. Zechariah 3:4, 5; Luke 15:22; and the want of this covering, Matthew 22:11). With Adam's attempt and God's gift compare the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Abel's sacrifice of life accepted through faith (Hebrews 11:4), i.e. because he believed and acted upon God's direction. Thus atonement, covering, through the sacrifice of life (cf. Leviticus 17:11), typical of Christ's sacrifice, must have been ordained of God. And thus, though not expressly stated, we may conclude that Adam was instructed to sacrifice, and that the skins from the animals thus slain were a type of the covering of sin through the one great sacrifice (Romans 4:7). We mark then -
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN TO SAVE HIMSELF FROM SIN. The natural thought of a heart convicted is, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all." Vain endeavor. The "law of sin" (Romans 7:21, 24) is too strong; earnest striving only makes this more clear (cf. Job 9:30; Isaiah 64:6). History is full of man's efforts to cover sins. Hence have come sacrifices, austerities, pilgrimages, &c. But on all merely human effort is stamped failure (Romans 3:20).
II. THE LOVE OF GOD FOR SINNERS (Romans 5:8). A common mistake that if we love God he will love us. Whereas the truth is, 1 John 4:10-19. We must believe his free gift before we can serve him truly. The want of this belief leads to service in the spirit of bondage.
III. THE PROVISION MADE BY GOD (John 3:14-17). That we might be not merely forgiven, but renewed (2 Corinthians 5:21). The consciousness that "Christ hath redeemed us" is the power that constrains to willing service (1 John 3:3). - M.
Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil.I. Consider SOME OF THE EFFECTS OF THE FALL, as they are suggested in the statements of this narrative. You have here, then, four facts. We shall adopt the order of their logical relation rather than that of the history.
1. The first is man's moral condition resulting from the Fall. "Man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil."
2. The second is the prime original elements of the moral development of the race. "Unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." That is the beginning of social life. Humanity naked is humanity without the possibility of improvement. Clothe man, and he enters upon the road of progress. Here is the germ of all the arts of culture, of science, and of social growth.
3. The third is the profound hope, the inextinguishable hope, that springs within the human heart. "Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." The fulness, the multitudinousness of life everywhere affords the hope, without which human restoration were not possible.
4. The fourth is the condition of human perfecting which is to be found in the unalterable past, "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." These are the results of the Fall according to Scripture. They are of course connected with, though different from, the guilt which followed sin. That I do not propose to consider particularly, though the thought of it must underlie all our discussion.
II. Consider the Word of God in which He declares that "The man has now become like one of Us." THE EFFECT OF THE FALL UPON MAN'S MORAL NATURE IS TO MAKE MAN LIKE GOD. These are striking words. In the moment of a Divine judgment there is also a Divine declaration of great significance concerning man. "Behold, the man is become as one of Us." The sneer of the serpent first of all introduces us to this likeness of man to God. "Has God said, You shall surely die?" "Ye shall not surely die. For 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." They listened to Satan, and all they gained was the knowledge of their nakedness. That is all the serpent can give you. His promise of godlikeness ends in the discovery of your shame. And yet God takes these words first used by Satan and gives them a profound meaning. In Satan's mouth they were a lie. In God's they are an awful and yet a gracious truth. Some hold that God used these words ironically, "They have become like Us." The sneer of earth was answered by a sneer from heaven. I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that in an hour like this God would reproach. What then is God's knowledge of good and evil? It must be perfect. He would not be God if He did not completely know what good and evil were in nature, in all their results, in all their issues and relations. He knows the moral consequence of evil. He knows the degradation of the soul that sins. He knows the wild troop of mischiefs that follow in the train of iniquity. He sees the end from the beginning, and thus He knows. But in all this knowledge God has certain elements in His nature which must be remembered when we speak of God's knowing. While He knows the good and evil, and knows them completely, He is at the same time absolutely set for righteousness. Though knowing good and evil God remains forever God. But God is not only in Himself free from any attack of evil, He also has complete power over it. He can restrain it, so limiting its scope and so bending it to the purposes of His holy will, that out of it He can bring good; and however deep may be the mystery to us, still evolve a higher good to the universe than it would have known had there been no evil. Then in all this it must be further noted there is no loss of the Divine power and vitality. God possesses every fulness of resource and every fulness of life. These in Him are not affected by the evil which He knows. Indeed, though we cannot say that He becomes more mighty, more vital by reason of evil, because that would be to deny the perfection of being to Him in His original and absolute nature, yet its presence produces a higher manifestation of Divine power and life than an innocent and unfallen world would otherwise have known. Such is God's knowledge of good and evil with some of its relations to other attributes of the Divine Being. When we turn to that knowledge which man has gained of the dark and dreary subject, we find that, in a sense, he too knows evil as God knows it. Sin in itself is an experience, a teaching. Without it man had never known conditions which now become clear and distinct to him. Think of the course of temptation, the allurements and enticings of sin, the hints and suggestions of the tempter! Through what a series of self-revelations does not the soul tempted to falling pass! How in temptation the unfolding of the wily nature comes into the clear perception of the tempted one! And then, when the temptation's force has fully issued in the sin, what a further knowledge is gained! What spheres of action, closed to the innocent, are then opened! What experiences of inner life and circumstances of outward condition the sin displays! This is the knowledge which sin brings. It is Divine in its awfulness, its infinite reach. Now are they like gods, knowing good and evil. But man, like God, is further related to the object of his terrible knowing. The contrast, however, is noteworthy. The light, lurid and alarming, has burst upon his mind, and the mephitic vapours which arise from the horrible pit poison and overcome him. And besides this man's power is limited. By his sin he has opened the sluice gates of the flood, and nothing that he can do can close them, or stay the mad stream that rushes forth and on. This is the power of every sin. "Like God," a word of terrible doom! being like God in the knowledge we have gained; but we who have gained it, how helpless we stand before the evils which we ourselves have produced! Another terrible result of sin in its relation to us, as contrasted with God's knowledge of it, is that the continuance of evil is out of all proportion to the continuance of that life during which alone we can cope with it. God knowing sin, has eternity in which to deal with it. We knowing it by our sin, even if we attempt to undo it, are often cut off long before we have begun to stay its mischievous effects: "The evil that men do lives after them." Think of it: your sin overwhelms thousands yet unborn. It may work out its dread succession of evil long after you have been forgotten. But remember it is your sin; you called it up, you set it going. But you are powerless to deal with it. "Like Us." Yes, in knowledge. But, oh! how bitter the thought of the contrast when we still find ourselves to be Divine in knowledge, but in all else human, and even less than human, by our sin. And is this our final learning from these words? Must this dark message be the end of our meditation? It is indeed all that philosophy can give us. The historian can furnish us no other teaching, the poet sing no other song than this tragedy of human loss. But, blessed be God! there is another light to shine upon this awful fact. It is the Son of God who can give to this terrible dignity into which we rise its true significance, and change it from its original doom to a blessed evangel. If we have nothing but the record of what this Word of God has uttered, all we gain is to became like God in knowledge, and in the rest to be smitten in the very essence of our life. But Christ by His word, and life, and death, made it possible for us to know the evil and the good, and to share in the Divine nature in its triumph over the evil, even as in its knowledge.
(L. D. Bevan, D. D.)
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
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