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The Provisions of God

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“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”—, .
“How will God come to us now that we have rebelled against him?” That is a question which must have greatly perplexed our first parents, and they may have said to one another, “Perhaps God will not come to us at all, and then we shall be orphans indeed. If spared to live on, we must continue to live without God and without hope in the world.” It would have been the worst thing that could have happened to our race if God had left this planet to take its own course, and had said, concerning the people upon it, “I will leave them to their own way, for they are given over to idols.”
But if he came to our first parents, in what way would he come? Surely, Adam and Eve must have feared that he would be accompanied by the angels of vengeance, to destroy them straight away, or, at any rate, to bind them in chains and fetters for ever. So they questioned among themselves, “Will he come; and if he does, will his coming involve the total destruction of the human race?” Their hearts must have been sorely perplexed within them while they were waiting to see what God would do to them as a punishment for the great sin they had committed. I believe they thought that he would come to them. They knew so much of his graciousness, from their past experience, that they felt sure that he would come; yet they also understood so much of his holy anger against sin that they must have been afraid of his coming; so they went and hid themselves amongst the trees of the garden, although every tree must have upbraided them for their disobedience, for every one of the trees would seem to say, “Why come you here? You have eaten of the fruit of the tree whereof you were forbidden to partake. You have broken your Maker’s command, and his sentence of death has already gone out against you. When he comes, he will certainly come to deal with you in judgment according to his faithful word; and when he does, what will become of you?” Every leaf, as it rustled, must have startled and alarmed them. The breath of the evening breeze, as it passed through the garden, must have filled them with fear and dread as to the doom awaiting them.
Now, “in the cool of the day,” or, as the Hebrew has it, “in the wind of the evening,” when the evening breeze was blowing through the garden, God came. It is difficult for us even to imagine how he revealed himself to our first parents. I suppose he condescended to take upon himself some visible form. It was “the voice of the Lord God” that they heard in the garden, and you know that it is the Word of God who has been pleased to make himself visible to us in human flesh. He may have assumed some form in which they could see him; otherwise, as a pure spirit, God could not have been recognized either by their ears or their eyes.
They heard his voice speaking as he walked in the garden in the cool of the day; and when he called unto Adam, albeit that there was righteous anger in the tone of his voice, yet his words were very calm and dignified, and, as far as they should be, even tender; for, while you may read the words thus, “Adam, where art thou?” you may also read them thus, “Where art thou, poor Adam, where art thou?” You may put a tone of pity into the words, and yet not misread them. So the Lord comes thus in gentleness in the cool of the day, and calls them to account; patiently listens to their wicked excuses, and then pronounces upon them a sentence, which, heavy though it be towards the serpent, and heavy though it be towards all who are not saved by the woman’s wondrous Seed, yet has much mercy mingled with it in the promise that the Seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,—a promise which must have shone in their sad and sinful souls as some bright particular star shines in the darkness of the night.
I learn, from this incident, that God will come to sinful men, sooner or later, and we may also learn, from the way in which he came to our first parents, how he is likely to come to us. His coming will be different to different men; but we gather, from this incident, that God will certainly come to guilty men, even if he waits till the cool of the day; and we also understand a little about the way in which he will ultimately come to all men.
Remember this, sinner, however far you may get away from God, you will have to come close to him one of these days. You may go and pluck the fruit that he forbids you to touch, and then you may go and hide yourself amongst the thick boughs of the trees in the garden, and think that you have concealed yourself; but you will have to come face to face with your Maker at some time or other. It may not be to-day, or to-morrow; it may not be until “the cool of the day” of time; nay, it may not be till time itself shall be no more; but, at last, you will have to confront your Maker. Like the comet, that flies far off from the sun, wandering into space for an altogether inconceivable distance, and yet has to come back again, however long the time its circuit takes, so you will have to come back to God, either willingly, repentingly, believingly, or else unwillingly, and in chains, to receive your sentence of doom from the lips of the Almighty, whom you have provoked to anger by your sin. But God and you have to meet, as surely as you are now living here; at some time or other, each one of you must hear the voice of the Lord God saying to you, as he said to Adam, “Where art thou?”[1]
I. The first is this. When God did meet with fallen man, it was not until the cool of the day. This suggests to me God’s great patience with the guilty.
Whether Adam and Eve sinned in the early morning, or in the middle of the day, or toward evening, we do not know. It is not necessary that we should know this; but it is probable that the Lord God allowed an interval to intervene between the sin and the sentence. He was not in a hurry to come, because he could not come except in anger, to bring their sins home to them. You know how quick the tempers of some men are. If they are provoked, it is a word and a blow with them, for they have no patience. It is our littleness that makes us impatient. God is so great that he can endure far more than we can; and though our first parents’ sin greatly provoked him,—and it is his glory that he is so holy that he cannot look upon iniquity without indignation,—yet he seemed to say to himself, “I must go and call these two creatures of mine to account for their sin; yet judgment is my strange work, it is mercy in which I delight. This morning, I drew back the curtains that had shielded them during the night, and poured the sunlight in upon them, not a second beyond the appointed time, and I was glad to do it; and, all day long, I have been showering mercies upon them, and the refreshing night-dews are already beginning to fall upon them. I will not go down to them till the latest possible moment. I will put it off till the cool of the day.” God will do nothing in the heat of passion; everything shall be deliberate and calm, majestic and divine.
The fact that God did not come to question his sinful creatures till the cool of the day ought to teach us the greatness of his patience, and it should also teach us to be ourselves patient with others. How wondrously patient God has been with some of you who are here! You have lived many years, and enjoyed his mercies, yet you have scarcely thought about him. Certainly, you have not yielded your hearts to him; but he has not come to deal with you in judgment yet. He has waited twenty years for you young people; thirty years, forty years, for you middle-aged folk; fifty years, sixty years, for you who are getting past that period; seventy years, perhaps, or even eighty years he has been known to tarry, for “he delighteth in mercy,” but he does not delight in judgment. Seventy years form a long life-day, yet many persons spend all that time in perpetrating fresh sin. Called to repentance over and over again, they only become the more impenitent through resisting the call of mercy. Favoured with blessings as many as the sands of the sea-shore, they only prove themselves the more ungrateful by failing to appreciate all those blessings. It is wonderful that God is willing to wait till the cool of such a long, long day of life as seventy or eighty years make up. How patient, then, we ought to be with one another! Yet are you, parents, always patient with your children,—your young children who may not have willingly or consciously offended you? What patience you ought always to exercise towards them! And have you a like patience towards a friend or a brother who may use rough speech, and provoke you? Yet such your patience ought to be. Never should we take our brother by the throat, and say to him, “Pay me what thou owest,” so long as we find God deliberately waiting till the cool of the day before he comes to those who have offended him, and even then uttering no more words of anger than should be uttered, and mingling even those words with mercy that has no bound.
II. The second thing that I gather from the Lord’s coming to Adam and Eve in the cool of the day is his divine care for the guilty.
Though he did not come till the cool of the day, thus manifesting his patience, he did come then, thus manifesting his care for those who had sinned against him. He might have left them all night long;—all night long without their God,—all night long without him after they had done just what he had forbidden them to do;—all night long,—a sleepless night, a fearful night, a night that would have been haunted with a thousand fears;—all night long with this great battle trembling in the balance, with the great question of their punishment unsolved, and an indefinable dread of the future hanging over them. Many of you know that the trial of being kept in suspense is almost worse than any other trouble in the world. If a man knew that he had to be beheaded, it would be easier for him to die at once than to have to kneel with his neck on the block, and the gleaming axe uplifted above him, and not knowing when it might fall. Suspense is worse than death; we seem to feel a thousand deaths while we are kept in suspense of one. So God would not leave Adam and Eve in suspense through the whole night after they had sinned against him, but he came to them in the cool of the day.
There was this further reason why he came to them,—notwithstanding the fact that they had disobeyed him, and that he would have to punish them, he remembered that they were still his creatures. He seemed to be saying within himself, “What shall I do unto them? I must not utterly destroy them, but how can I save them? I must carry out my threatening, for my word is true; yet I must also see how I can spare them, for I am gracious, and my glory is to be increased by the display of my grace towards them.” The Lord looked upon them as the appointed progenitors of his elect; and regarded Adam and Eve themselves also, let us hope, as his elect, whom he loved notwithstanding their sin, so he seemed to say, “I will not leave them all night without the promise which will brighten their gloom.” It was only one promise; and, perhaps, it was not clearly understood by them; still, it was a promise of God, even though it was spoken to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” So, not one night were God’s poor fallen creatures left without at least one star to gleam in the darkness for them, and thus he showed his care for them. And still, dear friends, though God is slow to anger, yet is he always ready to pardon, and very tender and compassionate even when he has to pass sentence upon the guilty. “He will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger for ever.” You can see his care and consideration even for the most unworthy of us, because he has not cut us off in our sins. We are—
“Not in torments, not in hell.”
We can see the marks of his goodness in the very garments on our backs and the food of which we partake by his bounty. Many of his gifts come, not merely to those who do not deserve them, but to those who deserve to be filled with the gall and wormwood of almighty wrath for ever.
III. Now, thirdly, I want to show you that, when the Lord did come, he afforded us a pattern of how the Spirit of God comes to arouse the consciences of men.
I have already said that, sooner or later, God will come to confront each one of us. I pray that, if he has never come to you, dear friend, in the way of awakening your conscience, and making you feel yourself a sinner, he may come to you very speedily. And when he does come, to arouse and awaken you, it is somewhat in this way.
First, he comes seasonably: “in the cool of the day.” Adam’s work was done, and Eve had no more to do until the next day. At that hour, they had been accustomed, in happier times, to sit down and rest. Now God comes to them, and the Spirit of God, when he comes to arouse men, generally visits them when they have a little time for quiet thought. You dropped in, and heard a sermon; the most of it slipped from your memory, but there were some few words that struck you so that you could not get rid of them. Perhaps, though, you thought no more about the message to which you had listened. Something else came in, and took off your attention. But, a little while after, you had to watch all night by the bedside of a sick friend; and then God came to you, and brought to your remembrance the words that you had forgotten. Or it may be that some texts of Scripture, which you learned when you were a child, began to speak to you throughout the watches of the night. Or, perhaps, you were going along a lone country road, or, it may be, that you were out at sea on a dark night, and the billows rolled heavily so that you could not sleep, and you even feared that you would be swallowed up by the raging sea. Then,—then came the voice of the Lord God speaking personally to you. When other voices were silenced, there was an opportunity for his voice to be heard.
Not only did the Lord come to Adam and Eve seasonably, but he spoke to Adam personally, and said, “Where art thou?” One of the great mistakes in connection with all preaching is that so many hearers will persist in lending other people their ears. They hear a faithful gospel sermon, and then say, “That message would fit Neighbour So-and-so admirably. What a pity Mrs. So-and-so did not hear it! That would have been the very word for her.” Yes; but when God comes to you, as he came to Adam and Eve,—and if you are not converted, I pray that he may,—the sermon he will deliver to you will be every word of it for yourself. He will say, “Adam,” or “John,” or “Mary,” or whatever your name be, “where art thou?” The question will be addressed to yourself alone; it will have no relation to any of your neighbours, but to yourself alone. The question may take some such form as this: “Where are you? What have you been doing? What is your condition now? Will you now repent, or will you still go on in your sins?” Have not you, young man, had some such experience as this? You went to the theatre; but when you came home, you said that you had not enjoyed it, and that you wished you had not gone. You went to bed, but you could not sleep. It seemed as if God had come to wrestle with you, and to reason with you about your past life, bringing up one thing after another in which you have sinned against him. At all events, this is the way he deals with many; and if he deals thus with you, be thankful for it, and yield yourself up to him, and do not struggle against him. I am always glad when men cannot be happy in the world; for, as long as they can be, they will be. It is always a great mercy when they begin to be sick of the dainties of Egypt, for then we may lead them, by God’s guidance, to seek after the milk and honey of the land of Canaan; but not till then. It is a great blessing when the Lord puts before you, personally, a true view of your own condition in his sight, and makes you look at it so earnestly, concentrating your whole thought upon it, so that you cannot even begin to think about others because you are compelled to examine your own selves, to see what your real condition is in relation to God.
When the Lord thus comes to men, and speaks personally with them, he makes them realize their lost condition. Do you not see that this is implied in the question, “Where art thou?” Adam was lost,—lost to God, lost to holiness, lost to happiness. God himself says, “Where art thou?” That was to let Adam know this, “I have lost thee, Adam; at one time, I could speak with thee as with a friend, but I cannot do so any longer. Thou wast my obedient child once, but thou art not so now; I have lost thee. Where art thou?” May God the Holy Spirit convince every unconverted person here that he or she is lost,—not only lost to themselves, and to heaven, and to holiness, and to happiness, but lost to God. It was God’s lost ones of whom Christ so often spoke. He was himself the good Shepherd, who called together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost;” and he represents his Father saying of his son when he has come back to him, “ ‘This my son was dead,’—dead to me,—‘and is alive again; he was lost,’—lost to me, ‘and is found.’ ” The value of a soul to God, and God’s sense of loss in the case of each individual soul, is something worth thinking over, and worth calculating, if it can be calculated. God makes man realize that he is lost by his own moanings and pleadings, even as he said to Adam, “Where art thou?”
You will observe, too, that the Lord not only came to Adam, and questioned him personally, but he also made Adam answer him; and if the Lord has, in this way, laid hold of any of you, talking with you in the cool of the day, and questioning you about your lost condition, he will make you confess your sin, and bring you to acknowledge that it was really your own. He will not leave you as Adam wanted to be left, namely, laying the blame for the disobedience upon Eve; and he will not leave you as Eve tried to be left, namely, passing the blame on to the devil. Before the Lord has done with you, he will bring you to this point, that you shall feel, and confess, and acknowledge that you are really guilty of your own sin, and that you must be punished for it. When he brings you down to that point, and you have nothing at all to say for yourself, then he will pardon you. I recollect well when the Lord brought me to my knees in this way, and emptied out all my self-righteousness and self-trust, until I felt that the hottest place in hell was my due desert, and that, if he saved everybody else, but did not save me, yet still he would be just and righteous, for I had no right to be saved. Then, when I was obliged to feel that it must be all of grace, or else there could be no salvation for me, then he spake tenderly and kindly unto me; but, at the first, there did not seem to be any tenderness or pity to my soul. There was the Lord coming to me, laying bare my sin, revealing to me my lost condition, and making me shiver and tremble, while I feared that the next thing he would say to me would be, “Depart from me, accursed one, into everlasting fire in hell;” instead of which, he said to me, in tones of wondrous love and graciousness, “I have put thee among my children; ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’ ” Blessed be the name of the Lord, for ever and ever, for such amazing treatment as this meted out to the guilty and the lost.
IV. Now, fourthly, and very solemnly, I want to show you that this coming of the Lord to Adam and Eve is also prophetical of the way in which he will come as a judging Spirit to those who reject him as an arousing Spirit.
I have already reminded you unconverted ones that, as surely as you live, you will have to come to close terms with God, like the rest of us. Sooner or later, you will have to know him, and to know that he knows you. There will be no way of escaping from an interview which will be most serious and most terrible for you. It will happen “in the cool of the day.” I do not know when that may be. On my way to this service, I have called to see a young lady, to whom “the cool of the day” has come at five-and-twenty, or thirty years of age. Consumption has made her life-day a comparatively short one; but, blessed be God, his grace has made it a very happy one; and she is not afraid, “in the cool of the day,” to hear the voice of the Lord God calling her home. It is well that she is not afraid; but you, who have not believed in Jesus, will have to hear that same divine voice in the cool of your life’s day. You may be spared to grow old; the strength of youth and of manhood will have gone, and you will begin to lean on your staff, and to feel that you have not the vigour you used to have, and that you cannot do such a hard day’s work as you used to do, and you must not attempt to run up the hills as you once did. That will be “the cool of the day” to you, and then the Lord God will come in to you, and say, “Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live.”
Sometimes that cool of the day comes to a man just when he would have liked it to be the heat of the day. He is making money, and his children are multiplying around him, so he wants to stop in this world a little longer. But that cannot be; he must go up to his bed, and he must lie there for so many days and nights, and then he must hear the voice of the Lord God as he begins to question him, and say, “Where art thou in relation to me? Hast thou loved me with all thine heart, and mind, and soul, and strength? Hast thou served me? Art thou reconciled to me through the death of my Son?” Such questions as these will come to us as surely as God made us, and we shall have to give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or whether they have been evil. I pray you to think of these things, and not to say, “Ah! that will not happen just yet.” That is more than any of us can tell; and let me remind you that life is very short even at the longest. I am especially appealing to those who are of my own age. Do not you, dear friends, find that, when you are between forty and fifty years of age, the weeks seem to be much shorter than they used to be when you were young? I therefore gather that, when our friends are seventy or eighty years of age, time must seem far shorter to them than it ever was before. I think that one reason why Jacob, when he was a hundred and thirty years old, said to Pharaoh, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,” was simply this,—that he was really such an old man, though not so old as his ancestors, that time seemed even shorter to him than it did to younger men. If that was so, then, I suppose that, the longer a man lives, the shorter would time appear to be. But, short or long, your share of it will soon be over, and you will be called upon to gather up your feet in the bed, and meet your fathers’ God.[2]
When that solemn and decisive hour comes, your interview with God will have to be a personal one. Sponsors will be of no use to anyone upon a dying bed. It will be of no avail, then, to call upon Christian friends to take a share of your burden. They will not be able to give you of their oil, for they have not enough grace for themselves and you. If you live and die without accepting the aid of the one Mediator between God and man, all these questions will have to be settled between your soul and God without anyone else coming between yourself and your Maker; and all this may happen at any moment. This personal talk between God and your soul, at the end of your life, may be ordained to take place this very night; and I am sent, as a forerunner, just to give you this warning, so that you may not meet your God altogether by surprise, but may, at any rate, be invited and exhorted to be prepared for that great interview.
Whenever that interview takes place, God will deal with you in solemn earnestness,—personally bringing home your sin to you. You will be unable to deny it, for there will be One present, at that interview, who has seen it all, and the enquiries which he will make about the state of your soul will be very searching ones. He will not merely ask about one sin, but about all your sins. He will not only ask about your public life, but also about your private life; nor yet merely enquire about your doings, but about your sayings, and your willings, and your thinkings, and about your whole position in relation to himself, even as he asked Adam, “Where art thou?”[3]
[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1904). How God Comes to Man. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 50, pp. 433–435). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
[2] Spurgeon, C. H. (1904). How God Comes to Man. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 50, pp. 435–440). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
[3] Spurgeon, C. H. (1904). How God Comes to Man. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 50, pp. 440–441). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
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