We have here the arraignment of these deserters before the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, who, though he is not tied to observe formalities, yet proceeds against them with all possible fairness, that he may be justified when he speaks. Observe here,
I. The startling question with which God pursued Adam and arrested him: Where art thou? Not as if God did not know where he was; but thus he would enter the process against him. “Come, where is this foolish man?” Some make it a bemoaning question: “Poor Adam, what has become of thee?” “Alas for thee!” (so some read it) “How art thou fallen, Lucifer, son of the morning! Thou that wast my friend and favourite, whom I had done so much for, and would have done so much more for; hast thou now forsaken me, and ruined thyself? Has it come to this?” It is rather an upbraiding question, in order to his conviction and humiliation: Where art thou? Not, In what place? but, In what condition? “Isa. this all thou hast gotten by eating forbidden fruit? Thou that wouldest vie with me, dost thou now fly from me?” Note, 1. Those who by sin have gone astray from God should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin. This enquiry after Adam may be looked upon as a gracious pursuit, in kindness to him, and in order to his recovery. If God had not called to him, to reclaim him, his condition would have been as desperate as that of fallen angels; this lost sheep would have wandered endlessly, if the good Shepherd had not sought after him, to bring him back, and, in order to that, reminded him where he was, where he should not be, and where he could not be either happy or easy. Note, 2. If sinners will but consider where they are, they will not rest till they return to God.
II. The trembling answer which Adam gave to this question: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, Gen. 3:10. He does not own his guilt, and yet in effect confesses it by owning his shame and fear; but it is the common fault and folly of those that have done an ill thing, when they are questioned about it, to acknowledge no more than what is so manifest that they cannot deny it. Adam was afraid, because he was naked; not only unarmed, and therefore afraid to contend with God, but unclothed, and therefore afraid so much as to appear before him. We have reason to be afraid of approaching to God if we be not clothed and fenced with the righteousness of Christ, for nothing but this will be armour of proof and cover the shame of our nakedness. Let us therefore put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and then draw near with humble boldness.
11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
We have here the offenders found guilty by their own confession, and yet endeavouring to excuse and extenuate their fault. They could not confess and justify what they had done, but they confess and palliate it. Observe,
I. How their confession was extorted from them. God put it to the man: Who told thee that thou wast naked? Gen. 3:11. “How camest thou to be sensible of thy nakedness as thy shame?” Hast thou eaten of the forbidden tree? Note, Though God knows all our sins, yet he will know them from us, and requires from us an ingenuous confession of them; not that he may be informed, but that we may be humbled. In this examination, God reminds him of the command he had given him: “I commanded thee not to eat of it, I thy Maker, I thy Master, I thy benefactor; I commanded thee to the contrary.” Sin appears most plain and most sinful in the glass of the commandment, therefore God here sets it before Adam; and in it we should see our faces. The question put to the woman was, What is this that thou hast done? Gen. 3:13. “Wilt thou also own thy fault, and make confession of it? And wilt thou see what an evil thing it was?” Note, It concerns those who have eaten forbidden fruit themselves, and especially those who have enticed others to eat it likewise, seriously to consider what they have done. In eating forbidden fruit, we have offended a great and gracious God, broken a just and righteous law, violated a sacred and most solemn covenant, and wronged our own precious souls by forfeiting God’s favour and exposing ourselves to his wrath and curse: in enticing others to eat of it, we do the devil’s work, make ourselves guilty of other men’s sins, and accessory to their ruin. What is this that we have done?
II. How their crime was extenuated by them in their confession. It was to no purpose to plead not guilty. The show of their countenances testified against them; therefore they become their own accusers: “I did eat,” says the man, “And so did I,” says the woman; for when God judges he will overcome. But these do not look like penitent confessions; for instead of aggravating the sin, and taking shame to themselves, they excuse the sin, and lay the shame and blame on others. 1. Adam lays all the blame upon his wife. “She gave me of the tree, and pressed me to eat of it, which I did, only to oblige her”—a frivolous excuse. He ought to have taught her, not to have been taught by her; and it was no hard matter to determine which of the two he must be ruled by, his God or his wife. Learn, hence, never to be brought to sin by that which will not bring us off in the judgment; let not that bear us up in the commission which will not bear us out in the trial; let us therefore never be overcome by importunity to act against our consciences, nor ever displease God, to please the best friend we have in the world. But this is not the worst of it. He not only lays the blame upon his wife, but expresses it so as tacitly to reflect on God himself: “It is the woman whom thou gavest me, and gavest to be with me as my companion, my guide, and my acquaintance; she gave me of the tree, else I had not eaten of it.” Thus he insinuates that God was accessory to his sin: he gave him the woman, and she gave him the fruit; so that he seemed to have it at but one remove from God’s own hand. Note, There is a strange proneness in those that are tempted to say that they are tempted of God, as if our abusing God’s gifts would excuse our violation of God’s laws. God gives us riches, honours, and relations, that we may serve him cheerfully in the enjoyment of them; but, if we take occasion from them to sin against him, instead of blaming Providence for putting us into such a condition, we must blame ourselves for perverting the gracious designs of Providence therein. 2. Eve lays all the blame upon the serpent: The serpent beguiled me. Sin is a brat that nobody is willing to own, a sign that it is a scandalous thing. Those that are willing enough to take the pleasure and profit of sin are backward enough to take the blame and shame of it. “The serpent, that subtle creature of thy making, which thou didst permit to come into paradise to us, he beguiled me,” or made me to err; for our sins are our errors. Learn hence, (1.) That Satan’s temptations are all beguilings, his arguments are all fallacies, his allurements are all cheats; when he speaks fair, believe him not. Sin deceives us, and, by deceiving, cheats us. It is by the deceitfulness of sin that the heart is hardened. See Rom. 7:11; Heb. 3:13. (2.) That though Satan’s subtlety drew us into sin, yet it will not justify us in sin: though he is the tempter, we are the sinners; and indeed it is our own lust that draws us aside and entices us, Jas. 1:14. Let it not therefore lessen our sorrow and humiliation for sin that we are beguiled into it; but rather let it increase our self-indignation that we should suffer ourselves to be beguiled by a known cheat and a sworn enemy. Well, this is all the prisoners at the bar have to say why sentence should not be passed and execution awarded, according to law; and this all is next to nothing, in some respects worse than nothing.