And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:…
The first word God spake to man was a blessing; the second word was a law. We might have anticipated this. It seems the natural expression of the relationship which exists between the Creator and His creature. The commandment given was a very simple one, "Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowledge." We are almost involuntarily reminded of the words of Naaman's servant — "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, 'Wash, and be clean'?" Doubtless, in this morning of creation, Adam's soul, filled to overflowing with gladness, was ready to break forth, and say, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" No thank offering could have seemed too great for God, no tribute of love too costly. The language of his worship could only be, "Of thine own, I give thee." And yet it was a little thing which God asked of man, for" to obey is better than sacrifice." Think, how great, how abounding was the provision for Adam; how narrow the prohibition. It was a small thing that God demanded; but a great ruin was involved in the withholding of obedience. We wonder to see how slight was the thread to which a world's destinies were suspended. Blind fools we are, slow to learn the lesson taught in every page of the Bible, and in every dispensation of personal providence, that there is nothing trivial with God. He makes great matters to turn on imperceptible hinges. We have no spiritual microscope wherewith to read that fine writing of the eternal finger of God upon every grain of ocean sand, and every glittering mote in the sunbeam, telling us of "a purpose under the heaven." Curious men have striven hard to discover what the forbidden tree of knowledge was: they would fain study the physiology of that "fruit, which brought death into our world"; but surely, there was no physical quality in that tree to enlighten the mind; it received its name, because by eating it, in transgression of God's law, man obtained the bitter knowledge of evil as an antagonist of good: the act of feeding upon its fruit taught him that there was misery as well as blessedness, darkness as well as light, evil as well as good. God called the tree according to His foreknowledge; Adam only saw the fitness of the name, when, having eaten, his eyes were opened, and he knew his ruin. There is one thing which calls, I think, for particular attention in the first law. It is, that there was no independent intrinsic evil in the forbidden act; it was evil only because God's law stood against it. If God had spoken of intrinsic evil to Adam (I use the word intrinsic, because I know no better word to express my meaning, evil, per se) he would not have understood that which was said. If God had said, Thou shalt not kill, or Thou shalt not lie, Adam would have been utterly unable to comprehend the words. He had not yet learnt the nature of evil. God took an act that was in itself perfectly innocent, and by forbidding it, He made it sin in Adam. I trust I shall not be mistaken here. I do not say, God made Adam to sin; but I say, God's law prohibiting an action, caused that action to be sinful in His creature. This is, indeed, a great lesson for us, and one which we are very unwilling to learn. God's law is as sovereign as His love. It is not necessary that a thing should be essential evil to meet with His disapprobation; it is enough that His will is against it. Behold, then, the severity of God, and fear before Him. There is no such thing as good by His law condemned. There is no such thing as evil by His law commanded.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: