Genesis 3:8

I. GOD THE JUDGE REVEALING HIMSELF. The voice of the Lord God represents to men the knowledge of themselves, which, like light, would be intolerable to the shamefaced.

II. MAN HIDING FROM THE JUDGE BECAUSE UNABLE TO MEET HIM. While the darkness of the thick foliage was regarded as a covering, hiding nakedness, it is yet from the presence of the Lord God that the guilty seek refuge.

III. MAN'S SELF AGAINST HIMSELF. The instinctive action of shame is a testimony to the moral nature and position of man. So it may be said -

IV. GUILT is itself God's witness, comprehending the sense of righteousness and the sense of transgression in the same being. (Perhaps there is a reference to the working of the conscience in the description of the voice of God as mingling in the facts of the natural world; "the cool of the day being literally the evening breeze," whose whispering sound became articulate to the ears of those who feared the personal presence of their Judge.) - R.







They heard the voice of the Lord God.
Whether their ears as well as their hearts heard God's voice does not much matter. It would have mattered if their ears and not their hearts had heard. They doubtless often heard Him in the evening hour — the twilight which all the faiths of all cultivated nations have chosen as their special season of devotion. When they heard, and when men now hear God's voice in garden, meadow, wood, of what does it tell?

I. OF GOD'S PRESENCE. Nature is a kingdom, in which the King resides as well as reigns: a house in which the Father dwells as well as which He supports.

II. OF GOD'S POWER AND WISDOM.

III. OF GOD'S BOUNTY AND LOVE. Profusion of life.

IV. OF MAN'S MORTALITY. Nature is a sepulchre as well as a shrine.

V. OF MAN'S RETRIBUTION FOR BROKEN LAW.

(Urijah R. Thomas.)

I. IF MEN WILL NOT DRAW NEAR UNTO GOD, YET HE WILL FIND THEM OUT IN THEIR SINS, AND BRING THEM INTO JUDGMENT BEFORE HIM. Let all those that have sinned come and prepare to meet their God (Amos 4:12), who can neither be blinded not escaped, nor resisted, that they may take hold of His strength to make peace with Him, considering —

1. That it is more credit to come in voluntarily than to be drawn in by force.

2. A readier way to obtain pardon, as Benhadad's lords found by experience (1 Kings 20:32), and David much more in submitting unto God (Psalm 32:5).

3. If we come not in voluntarily, God will bring us in by force, which will be worse for us every way.

II. GOD, WHO HATH ALL THE WRONG WHEN HE IS PROVOKED BY OUR SINS, IS THE FIRST THAT SEEKS TO MAKE PEACE WITH US.

1. He allures us by His mercies, as He promised to deal with His people (Hosea 2:14, 15).

2. By the inward and secret persuasions of His Spirit, in giving them hearts to return (Zechariah 12:12).

3. By the effectual ministry of the gospel, wherein He doth not only offer unto us, but persuade and beseech us to embrace those terms of peace which He offers, as the apostle speaks (2 Corinthians 5:20).The reason is —

1. Necessity, seeing we cannot turn our hearts unto Him unless He draws us (John 6:44), which moves the Church to pray, "Turn us, and we shall be turned" (Jeremiah 31:18).

2. The fitness of this way, to advance the free mercy of God the more, that all men's boasting may be taken away (Ephesians 2:8, 9), and that he that rejoiceth may rejoice in God alone (1 Corinthians 1:31), who, as He loves us first, so He seeks us first (Isaiah 61:1), and recovers us oft when we go astray.

III. GOD, WHEN HE DEALS WITH MEN, DELIGHTS TO BE HEARKENED UNTO WITH REVERENCE AND FEAR.

IV. GOD, IN REPRESENTING HIS MAJESTY TO MEN, SO DEALS WITH THEM THAT HE MAY HUMBLE BUT NOT CONFOUND THEM.

1. In dispensing His Word by the ministry of men (and not of angels, whose presence might affright us), and that, too, in such a manner, that whereas it is in itself like a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29), mighty in operation through God, sharper than any two-edged sword (2 Corinthians 10:5), able, if it were set on by the strength of His hand, to break the heart in pieces, yet is so tempered in the dispensation thereof, by men like unto ourselves, and therefore sensible by experience of human infirmities, that it only pricks the heart (Acts 2:27), but cuts it not in pieces.

2. In the terrors of conscience, which being in themselves unsupportable (Proverbs 18:14), yet are so moderated unto us, that though we be perplexed, we are not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8), burned but yet not consumed, like Moses' bush (Exodus 2:2), walking safely in the flames of fire with the three children (Daniel 3:25).

3. In afflictions, which God lays on us in such a measure proportioned to our strength (1 Corinthians 10:13) that they only purge us, but do not destroy us (Isaiah 27:8, 9).

V. GOD MANY TIMES CALLS MEN TO ACCOUNT, AND PROCEEDS IN JUDGMENT AGAINST THEM IN THE MIDST OF THEIR DELIGHTS.

VI. IT IS VERY NEEDFUL TO OBSERVE A FIT SEASON IN DEALING WITH OFFENDERS AFTER THEY HAVE SINNED. VII. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS TERRIBLE TO A SINNER.

1. Behold, then, the miserable condition into which sin hath brought us, which hath changed our greatest desire (Psalm 42:2), and joy (Psalms 16:11), and content (Psalms 17:15), into the greatest terror, especially unto the wicked, who neither can fly from God's presence (Psalms 139:7) nor endure His revenging hand.

2. Behold the comfort of a good conscience, wherein we may behold the face of God with comfort and confidence (1 John 3:21); but not in ourselves, but in the name of Jesus Christ, who hath by His mediation established with us a covenant of peace between God and us (Romans 5:1) and purchased unto us access with boldness to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), so that we can not only rejoice at present in God's presence with us in His ordinances, but withal love and long for His appearance, when He shall come in His glory (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20).

VIII. WHEN MEN ARE ONCE FALLEN AWAY FROM GOD, THEY ARE LEFT TO MISERABLE AND UNPROFITABLE SHIFTS.

1. It cannot be otherwise when men are once gone away from God, in whom only is true comfort and safety, and His name a strong tower, which they that run unto are safe, and from whom is the efficacy of all means, which without Him can do neither good nor evil.

2. God, in His just judgment, when men honour Him not as God, deprives them of that wisdom.

IX. MEN ARE NATURALLY APT TO FLY FROM THE MEANS OF THEIR OWN GOOD. The reason is —

1. Men's ignorance of spiritual things, wherein their true good consists.

2. The wisdom of the flesh being enmity against God: as many as are of the flesh must needs hate Him, and therefore cannot submit unto Him.

3. The ways of attaining true good are by denial of one's self and all the lusts of the flesh, which is impossible for any man to do, remaining in his natural condition.

X. THE TERRORS OF GOD SHALL FIRST OR LAST SHAKE THE HEARTS OF ALL THOSE THAT DO MOST SLIGHT HIS JUDGMENTS. Indeed, unless God should in this manner deal with the wicked of the world, He should —

1. Suffer His honour to be trampled under foot, and His authority and power despised.

2. Harden the hearts of wicked men in mischief (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

3. There is no fitter judgment, nor more proportionable to the sin, than to punish security and contempt with fear and terror.

XI. A GUILTY CONSCIENCE IS FILLED WITH TERRORS UPON EVERY OCCASION.

XII. WHATSOEVER WE TRULY FEAR WE CANNOT BUT ENDEAVOUR TO FLY FROM AND AVOID.

XIII. THERE IS A WONDERFUL PRONENESS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN TO CONCEIVE OF GOD AS THEY DO OF A MORTAL MAN.

(J. White, M. A.)

Our text suggests —

I. MAN'S DEPARTURE FROM GOD. Adam was in a state of —

1. Alienation from God.

2. Fear of Him.

3. Delusion about Him.

4. Danger.

II. GOD'S CONCERN ABOUT MAN'S DEPARTURE. God is concerned about man's departure from Him, because it involves —

1. Evil; and He is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity."

2. Suffering; and He "is love."

III. GOD'S PERSONAL DEALING WITH THE WANDERER.

(H. J. Martyn.)

The garden of the Lord concealed from Adam and Eve the Lord of the garden. God did not turn Adam out of paradise till Adam had turned God out. It is a long lesson to learn to be able to keep the garden of the Lord, and the Lord of the garden both. Adam's felicities were of an innocent nature, to be sure. There is no blessing so blessed that the unilluminated side of it will not fall off and darken down into a curse. All the planets that dance even about the sun are black on their off side. The better a thing is, the more harm it is capable of doing. The very results yielded by Christianity, in the shape of respectability, and wealth, and power, and culture, and elegant refinements, come in to obscure the root itself out from which they are sprung. It is like a tree shaded and hindered by its own verdure. It is like the sun waking up the mists in the morning; its beams, like so many nimble fingers, weaving a veil to hang across the face of the sun, till it defeats its brightness by its own shining. We become indifferent to the cause in our engrossment with its effects, and the old fact becomes true again, that the garden of the Lord conceals from us the Lord of the garden.

1. One of the trees behind which the face of the Lord becomes hidden from us is the tree of knowledge. We shall mention only two or three of these briefly; but there is propriety in mentioning that first. It is the first historic instance wherein a good thing demonstrated its capacity for mischief. The tree was of God's planting, to be sure, and knowledge is no doubt good; but from the first the devil has been a learned devil, and has posed as the patron of erudition. That "knowledge puffeth up" was known by Satan before it was stated by Paul. Consciousness of knowledge is more stultifying than ignorance, and is essentially atheistic; atheistic in this sense: that it converts present cognitions into a barrier that blocks the entrance of the heavenly light and thwarts the Holy Ghost. The tree grew in God's garden; so our schools have been planted and fostered by the Christian Church. Still, the multitudinousness of books, ideas, theories, and philosophies, out into which the schools have blossomed, tends to work that intellectual complacency, and that conceit of knowledge, which blurs every heavenly vision, discredits the wisdom that is from above, and routs the Redeemer. "Not many wise men after the flesh are called." One single electric light out here on Madison Square extinguishes the stars, and the shining of the low-lying moon snuffs out all the constellations of the firmament. The garden of the Lord grows up at length into such prodigality of leaf and flower as to conceal the Lord of the garden.

2. Another tree behind which the face of the Lord becomes hidden from us is that of affluence. The tree of wealth, verily, like the tree of knowledge, has its best rooting in the soil of paradise. We should no sooner think of speaking a disparaging word of money than we should of knowledge. But as knowledge trails behind it its shadow (as we have seen), so money is regularly attended by its shadow. Money is just as holy a thing in one way as wisdom is in another. But it makes not the slightest difference how holy a thing is, if, like Adam, the Lord is on one side of it and you are on the other. And the more this consciousness of money is developed, the more truly the man becomes encased in a little world that is all his own, and the more impervious to any influences that bear upon him from without. The verdure becomes so thick that the sky gets rubbed out, and the tree so broad and massive that the Lord God shrinks into invisibility behind it.

3. I mention only one other tree in God's garden, and that is the tree of respectability. More evidently, perhaps, than either of the others, it is the outcome of heavenly soil. The devil of decency is more incorrigible than the devil of dirt.

(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

It was said of the Roman empire under the Caesars that the whole world was only one great prison for Caesar, for if any man offended the emperor it was impossible for him to escape. If he crossed the Alps, could not Caesar find him out in Gaul? If he sought to hide himself in the Indies, even the swarthy monarchs there knew the power of the Roman arms, so that they could give no shelter to a man who had incurred imperial vengeance. And yet, perhaps, a fugitive from Rome might have prolonged his miserable life by hiding in the dens and caves of the earth. But, O sinner, there is no hiding from God.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

A burglar, not long ago, rifled an unoccupied dwelling by the seaside. He ransacked the rooms, and heaped his plunder in the parlour. There were evidences that here he sat down to rest. On a bracket in the corner stood a marble bust of Guido's "Ecce Homo" — Christ crowned with thorns. The guilty man had taken it in his hands and examined it. It bore the marks of his fingers; but he replaced it with its face turned to the wall, as if he would not have even the sightless eyes of the marble Saviour look upon his deeds of infamy. So the first act of the first sinner was to hide himself at the sound of God's voice.

(Professor Phelps.)

There is no friend so good as a good conscience. There is no foe so ill as a bad conscience. It makes us either kings or slaves. A man that hath a good conscience, it raiseth his heart in a princely manner above all things in the world. A man that hath a bad conscience, though he be a monarch, it makes him a slave. A bad conscience embitters all things in the world to him, though they be never so comfortable in themselves. What is so comfortable as the presence of God? What is so comfortable as the light? Yet a bad conscience, that will not be ruled, it hates the light, and hates the presence of God, as we see Adam, when he had sinned, he fled from God (Genesis 3:8). A bad conscience cannot joy in the midst of joy. It is like a gouty foot, or a gouty toe, covered with a velvet shoe. Alas! what doth ease it? What doth glorious apparel ease the diseased body? Nothing at all. The ill is within. There the arrow sticks.

( R. Sibbes..)

I once met a little boy in Wales, crying bitterly at his father's door, afraid to go in. I asked him what was the matter. He told me that his mother had sent him out clean in the morning, but that he had got into the water, and made his clothes dirty. So he feared to go in, because his father would punish him. We have soiled our characters by sin, and therefore is it that we fear death — dread the meeting with our Father.

(Thomas Jones.)

An ill conscience is no comfortable companion to carry with thee. An ill conscience is like a thorn in the flesh. A thorn in the hedge may scratch you as you pass by it, but a thorn in the flesh rankles with you wherever you go; and the conscience, the ill conscience, the conscience that is ill at ease, it makes you ill at ease. You cannot have peace so long as you have an evil conscience, so long as there is that continual monition flashing across your mind: Judgment cometh, death cometh — am I ready? Many a time, when you go to your worldly scenes of pleasure, this conscience, like the finger writing on the wall of the palace of the king of Babylon, alarms and frightens you. You tell nobody about it. Strange thoughts strike across your mind. You have no rest. Can a man rest on a pillow of thorns? Can a man rest with the heartache? Can a man rest with his soul disturbed with the horrors of guilt? I tell thee there is no rest to thee till thou comest to Christ. He alone can calm a conscience.

(S. Coley.)

As the stag which the huntsman has hit flies through bush and brake, over stock and stone, thereby exhausting his strength, but not expelling the deadly bullet from his body, so does experience show that they who have troubled consciences run from place to place, but carry with them wherever they go their dangerous wounds.

(Gotthold.)

The voice of God was heard, it seems, before anything was seen; and as He appears to have acted towards man in His usual way, and as though He knew of nothing that had taken place till He had it from his own mouth, we may consider this as the voice of kindness, such, whatever it was, as he had used to hear beforetime, and on the first sound of which he and his companion had been used to draw near, as sheep at the voice of the shepherd, or as children at the voice of a father. The voice of one whom we love conveys life to our hearts; but, alas, it is not so now! Not only does conscious guilt make them afraid, but contrariety of heart to a holy God renders them averse to drawing near to Him. The kindest language to one who is become an enemy will work in a wrong way. "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord." Instead of coming at His call as usual, "they hide themselves from His presence among the trees of the garden." Great is the cowardice which attaches to guilt. It flies from God, and from all approaches to Him in prayer or praise; yea, from the very thoughts of Him, and of death and judgment when they must appear before Him. But wherefore flee to the trees of the garden? Can they screen them from the eyes of Him with whom they have to do? Alas, they could not hide themselves and their nakedness from their own eyes; how, then, should they elude discovery before an omniscient God!

(Gotthold.)Suppose (what is not to be supposed) that they could have run from God, yet this would not do, unless they could have run from themselves too, for the wounded deer, whither ever he runs, carries with him the fatal arrow sticking fast in his sides. The guilt of their souls and the terror of their consciences went along with them, whither ever they went. So would only have been like the angled and entangled fish with the hook of the fisherman, that may indeed swim away all the length of the line, but the hook in her mouth hales her back again; so God summons in sinful man: Adam, where art thou? (ver. 9).

(C. Ness.)

The cool of the day.

Homilist.
I. THE PRIVILEGES OF EVENING.

1. Evening has calmness.

2. Evening has leisure.

3. Evening is social.

II. THE DUTIES OF EVENING.

1. It is a season for review.

2. It is a season for settlement.

3. It is a season for preparation.

III. THE TEACHING OF EVENING. A type of the close of life. Night is death, and the morrow the day which will break beyond the grave.

(Homilist.)

It was "in the wind of the day" that Jehovah was heard. Meaning thereby, either at the time that the breeze was blowing, or in the breeze; or, more probably, both. It is generally in connection with the wind, or whirlwind, that Jehovah is said to appear (Ezekiel 1:4). In 2 Samuel 22:11 we read, "He was seen upon the wings of the wind"; in Psalm 18:10 we read, "He did fly upon the wings of the wind"; in Psalm 104:3 we read, "Who walketh upon the wings of the wind." In these passages we note the difference of expression, yet the identity of the general idea — He was seen upon the wind; He did fly upon the wind; He did walk upon the wind; which last is the very expression in the passage before us.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

"The cool of the day," which to God was the season for visiting His creatures, may, as it respects man, denote a season of reflection. We may sin in the daytime; but God will call us to account at night. Many a one has done that in the heat and bustle of the day which has afforded bitter reflection in the cool of the evening; and such in many instances has proved the evening of life.

(A. Fuller.)

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