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Chapter 36

SERMON XXXVI. ON THE FALL

(Sexagesima Sunday.)

GENESIS iii. 12.

And the man said, The woman, whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.


This morning we read the history of Adam's fall in the first Lesson. Now does this story seem strange to you, my friends? Do you say to yourselves, If I had been in Adam's place, I should never have been so foolish as Adam was? If you do say so, you cannot have looked at the story carefully enough. For if you do look at it carefully, I believe you will find enough in it to show you that it is a very NATURAL story, that we have the same nature in us that Adam had; that we are indeed Adam's children; and that the Bible speaks truth when it says, 'Adam begat a son after his own likeness.'

Now, let us see how Adam fell, and what he did when he fell.

Adam, we find, was not content to be in the image of God. He wanted, he and his wife, to be as gods, knowing good and evil. Now do, I beseech you, think a moment carefully, and see what that means.

Adam was not content to be in the likeness of God; to copy God by obeying God. He wanted to be a little god himself; to know what was good for him, and what was evil for him; whereas God had told him, as it were, You do NOT know what is good for you, and what is evil for you. I know; and I tell you to obey me; not to eat of a certain tree in the garden.

But pride and self-will rose up in Adam's heart. He wanted to show that he DID know what was good for him. He wanted to be independent, and show that he could do what he liked, and take care of himself; and so he ate the fruit which he was forbidden to eat, partly because it was fair and well-tasted, but still more to show his own independence.

Now, surely this is natural enough. Have we not all done the very same thing in our time, nay, over and over again? When we were children, were we never forbidden to do something which we wished to do? Were we never forbidden, just as Adam was, to take an apple-- something pleasant to the eye, and good for food? And did we not long for it, and determine to have it all the more, because it was forbidden, just as Adam and Eve did; so that we wished for it much more than we should if our parents had given it to us? Did we not in our hearts accuse our parents of grudging it to us, and listen to the voice of the tempter, as Eve did, when the serpent tried to make out that God was niggardly to her, and envious of her, and did not want her to be wise, lest she should be too like God?

Have we not said in our heart, Why should my father grudge me that nice thing when he takes it himself?

He wants to keep it all to himself. Why should not I have a share of it? He says it will hurt me. How does he know that? It does not hurt him. I must be the best judge of whether it will hurt me. I do not believe that it will: but at least it is but fair that I should try. I will try for myself. I will run the chance. Why should I be kept like a baby, as if I had no sense or will of my own? I will know the right and the wrong of it for myself. I will know the good and evil of it myself.

Have we not said that, every one of us, in our hearts, when we were young?--And is not that just what the Bible says Adam and Eve said?

And then, because we were Adam's children, with his fallen nature in us, and original sin, which we inherited from him, we could not help longing more and more after what our parents had forbidden; we could think, perhaps, of nothing else; cared for no pleasure, no pay, because we could not get that one thing which our parents had told us not to touch. And at last we fell, and sinned, and took the thing on the sly.

And then?

Did it not happen to us, as it did to Adam, that a feeling of shame and guiltiness came over us at once? Yes; of shame. We intended to feed our own pride: but instead of pride came shame and fear too; so instead of rising, we had fallen and felt that we had fallen. Just so it was with Adam. Instead of feeling all the prouder and grander when he had sinned, he became ashamed of himself at once, he hardly knew why. We had intended to set ourselves up against our parents; but instead, we became afraid of them. We were always fancying that they would find us out. We were afraid of looking them in the face. Just so it was with Adam. He heard the word of the Lord God, Jesus Christ, walking in the garden. Did he go to meet him; thank him for that pleasant life, pleasant earth, for the mere blessing of existence? No. He hid himself among the trees of the garden. But why hide himself? Even if he had given up being thankful to God; even if he had learned from the devil to believe that God grudged him, envied him, had deceived him, about that fruit, why run away and hide? He wanted to be as God, wise, knowing good and evil for himself. Why did he not stand out boldly when he heard the voice of the Lord God and say, I am wise now; I am as a God now, knowing good and evil; I am no longer to be led like a child, and kept strictly by rules which I do not understand; I have a right to judge for myself, and choose for myself; and I have done it, and you have no right to complain of me?

Perhaps Adam had intended, when he ate the fruit, to stand up for himself, with some such fine words; as children intend when they disobey.

But when it came to the point, away went all Adam's self-confidence, all Adam's pride, all Adam's fine notions of what he had a right to do; and he hides himself miserably, like a naughty and disobedient child. And then, like a mean and cowardly one, when he is called out and forced to answer for himself, he begins to make pitiful excuses. He has not a word to say for himself. He throws the blame on his wife; it was all the woman's fault now--indeed, God's fault. 'The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.'

My dear friends, if we want a proof that the Bible is a true, divine, inspired book, we need go no further than this one story. For, my friends, have we never said the same? When we felt that we had done wrong; when the voice of God and of Christ in our hearts was rebuking us and convincing us of sin, have we never tried to shift the blame off our own shoulders, and lay it on God himself, and the blessings which he has given us? on one's wife--on one's family--on money--on one's youth, and health, and high spirits?--in a word, on the good things which God has given us?

Ah, my friends, we are indeed Adam's children; and have learned his lesson, and inherited his nature only too fearfully well. For what Adam did but once, we have done a hundred times; and the mean excuse which Adam made but once, we make again and again.

But the loving Lord has patience with us, as he had with Adam, and does not take us at our word. He did not say to Adam, You lay the blame upon your wife; then I will take her from you, and you shall see then where the blame lies. Ungrateful to me! you shall live henceforth alone. And he does not say to us, You make all the blessings which I have given you an excuse for sinning! Then I will take them from you, and leave you miserable, and pour out my wrath upon you to the uttermost!

Not so. Our God is not such a God as that. He is full of compassion and long-suffering, and of tender mercy. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust. He sends us out into the world, as he sent Adam, to learn experience by hard lessons; to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow, till we have found out our own weakness and ignorance, and have learned that we cannot stand alone, that pride and self-dependence will only lead us to guilt, and misery, and shame, and meanness; and that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved from them, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the woman's seed, who, so God promised, was to bruise the head of the serpent. And he has bruised it. He is the woman's seed--a man, as we are men, with a human nature, but one without spot of sin, to make us free from sin.

Let us look up to him as often as we find our nature dragging us down, making us proud and self-willed, greedy and discontented, longing after this and that. Let us trust in him, ask him, for his grace day by day; ask him to shape and change us into his likeness, that we may become daily more and more free; free from sin; free from this miserable longing after one thing and another; free from our bad habits, and the sin which does so easily beset us; free from guilty fear, and coward dread of God. Let us ask him, I say, to change, and purify, and renew us day by day, till we come to his likeness; to the stature of perfect men, free men, men who are not slaves to their own nature, slaves to their own pride, slaves to their own vanity, slaves of their own bad tempers, slaves to their own greediness and foul lusts: but free, as the Lord Christ was free; able to keep their bodies in subjection, and rise above nature by the eternal grace of God; able to use this world without abusing it; able to thank God for all the BLESSINGS of this life, and learn from them precious lessons; able to thank God for all the SORROWS of this life, and learn from them wholesome discipline: but yet able to rise above them all, and say, 'As long as I hold fast to Christ the King of men, this world cannot harm me. My life, my real human life, does not depend on my being comfortable or uncomfortable here below for a few short years. My real life is hid in God with Jesus Christ, who, after he had redeemed human nature by his perfect obedience, and washed it pure again in the blood of his cross, for ever sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; that so, being lifted up, he might draw all men unto himself--even as many as will come to him, that they may have eternal life.


Charles Kingsley