The Voice of God Genesis 3:8

There is something inexpressibly affecting to the mind in the circumstances of the first interview of the fallen pair with their kind Lord after their sin. As recorded in the simple and touching words of the sacred writer, the circumstances are not only of deep interest themselves, but every word abounds in matter for edifying thought.

When the guilty pair “heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” they went and “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden.” That they thus, simply, hoped to hide themselves from Him whose presence fills heaven and earth, clearly shows the kind and condescending manner in which He had hitherto revealed Himself to them, and had held intercourse with them. As a child hides himself from a  father he has offended, so hid they from Him. It was a “voice” they heard. It is clear that the tones of that voice had been of kindness and love. There is no reason to suppose that, as they now heard that voice, it was less kind than it had been, for the Lord had not chosen to appear to know their crime but from their own acknowledgment. It was the consciousness of sin that made all the difference—that made the presence most terrible that had hitherto been hailed with reverent joy and filial confidence. Sin did in them, as it does in all their descendants, create a cold and cheerless distance between the heart and God. And certainly their condition was very terrible. We, under our strongest experiences of sin as alienating the soul from God, know that there is a way of escape, a way of reconciliation, a way of hope. But this Adam knew not. He knew not, as we do, how it is possible that where “sin hath abounded, grace” may “much more abound.” The case must in his eyes have appeared most hopeless; and he could have expected nothing less than the death, which He who cannot lie, had declared to be the penalty of transgression.

But let us listen. What excuse does the poor man allege for hiding himself? “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.” Ah! not only naked, but poor, and miserable, and blind. He knew that—and we, in virtue of our sad heritage from him, know that also—keenly know it, are deeply conscious of it, at some time of our lives. What, then, is our course? To hide ourselves, like Adam, from his presence, because we are naked? Nay rather, for that very reason, to hasten to him. It was only when the naked prodigal cast himself at his father’s feet, saying, “Father, I am not worthy to be called thy son!” that the father said, “bring forth the best robe, and put it on him.” It is to the naked he says, “I counsel thee to buy of me white raiment, that thou mayst be clothed, that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” For us, it is only when we know that we are naked, that we can dare to appear before God; that we may then receive of him the wedding  garment, in which alone we can stand before Him, find in his house a mansion, and become the guests of his table.

In answer to Adam’s declaration of his nakedness, the Lord demands—“Who told thee that thou wast naked?” Poor Adam knew not that this very consciousness betrayed him. A new faculty had come into play. He found that he had a judge within him, of whose presence, when all things smiled, he had not been conscious. Not, indeed, that he himself was well aware of its active presence, but the power within him was at work, and moved him as it listed. Not that he had yet a tender or an instructed conscience—but conscience was there—had awakened, to sleep no more. A new and terrible task-master held the scourge over him.

“Conscience, what art thou? Thou tremendous power,
That dost inhabit us without our leave,
And art within ourselves another self—
A master-self, that loves to domineer
And treat the monarch frankly as the slave.”—Young.

Conscience performed its part; it made the fallen pair miserable in the consciousness of sin. It filled them with shame and dread. It could do no more! and this was much. It is well that the conscience should be tender and watchful, and that it should smite and torment us, that it should allow us no rest, when we have sinned against God. But the right effect has been missed, unless we are thus driven to God, not from him, as was Adam; unless our souls are filled with grief, as a child is distressed at having offended a loving father, more than by the fear of punishment; and unless we cast ourselves, in deep contrition, at his feet, confessing that our only hope is in his pity and his love.

This was not the case with our first parents. Though they know and feel that they have sinned, they are far from contrite. They are sulky, evasive, stubborn. They will not humble themselves. Adam is even insulting. He reflects upon God himself—“The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Alas, wretched  Adam! how many of thy sons are like thee in this? However, let us not forget that any of them, in acting thus under the sense of sin, are less to be excused than Adam. To us all the mysteries of God’s love in Christ are unveiled—are written before our eyes as with a sunbeam. We know that love to be boundless, and that we offend most deeply in distrusting its extent. Adam knew not this; and hence, and here only, is some excuse for him to be found—although one may think that the natural instincts of a child might have guided him better, and would have done so, had not the subtle venom of sin entered his very heart. It is by this conduct that he evinces the dreadful nature of his fall, which might have seemed less apparent, had his behavior been more becoming. It may be, that this hardness and impenitence of heart prevented any more distinct intimation of the Divine purpose than was afforded; and that it was thus obscurely veiled under a curse upon the serpent, whom they supposed to be, and were still suffered to regard as, the tempter. Let us not forget, that the terms of that dark utterance were designed for the first pair, and suited to their mind; and we may then more clearly understand why the obscurity which now tries our understandings, may have been designedly suffered to remain over the transaction. Look at their state of mind, and consider whether, when Adam was casting his crime upon Eve, and Eve upon the serpent, it would have been well to apprize them more clearly who that serpent was. It is certain that they would have regarded the higher quality of the tempter as more excusing their overthrow, and as lessening its shame. Alas! Adam is one of us; he is our father; and his enemy is also ours, and that enemy employs today, and will employ tomorrow, against us, the same tools with which he wrought so effectually six thousand years ago.