by Thomas Watson
Question 15: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
Answer: That sin was eating the forbidden fruit. 'She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband.' Gen 3:3. Here is implied,
1. That our first parents fell from their estate of innocence.
2. The sin by which they fell, was eating the forbidden fruit.
I. Our first parents fell from their glorious state of innocence. 'God made man upright—but they have sought out many inventions.' Adam was perfectly holy, he had rectitude of mind, and liberty of will to good; but his head ached until he had invented his own—and our death! He sought out many inventions.
1. His fall was voluntary. He had a power not to fall. Free-will was a sufficient shield to repel temptation. The devil could not have forced him unless he had given his consent. Satan was only a suitor to woo, not a king to compel; but Adam gave away his own power, and allowed himself to be decoyed into sin; like a young gallant, who at one throw loses a fair lordship. Adam had a fair lordship, he was lord of the world. 'Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves.' But he lost all at one throw! As soon as he sinned, he forfeited paradise!
2. Adam's fall was sudden; he did not long continue in his royal majesty.
How long did Adam continue in paradise before he fell?
The most probable and received opinion is, that he fell the very same day in which he was created. So Irenaeus, Cyril, Epiphanius, and many others. The reasons which incline me to believe so are,
(1.) It is said, Satan was a murderer, 'from the beginning.' Now, whom did he murder? Not the blessed angels, he could not reach them; nor the cursed angels, for they had before destroyed themselves. How then was Satan a murderer from the beginning? As soon as Satan fell, he began to tempt mankind to sin; this was a murdering temptation. By which it appears Adam did not stay long in Paradise; soon after his creation the devil set upon him—and murdered him by his temptation!
(2.) Adam had not yet eaten of the tree of life. 'And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat; the Lord sent him forth of the garden.' This tree of life, being one of the choicest fruits in the garden, and being placed in the midst of Paradise, it is very likely Adam would have eaten of this tree of life soon, had not the serpent beguiled him with the tree of knowledge. So that I conclude, Adam fell the very day of his creation, because he had not yet tasted the tree of life, that tree that was most in his eye, and had such delicious fruit growing upon it.
(3.) 'Man being in honor, abides not.' Psalm 49:12. The Rabbis read it thus, 'Adam being in honor, lodged not one night.' The Hebrew word for abide, signifies, 'To stay or lodge all night.' Adam then, it seems, did not take up one night's lodging in Paradise.
Use one: From Adam's sudden fall—learn the weakness of human nature. Adam, in a state of integrity, quickly made a defection from God, he soon lost the robe of innocence and the glory of Paradise. If our nature was thus weak when it was at the best, what is it now when it is at the worst? If Adam did not stand when he was perfectly righteous, how unable are we to stand when sin has cut the lock of our original righteousness! If purified nature did not stand, how shall corrupt nature? If Adam, in a few hours, sinned himself out of Paradise, how quickly would we sin ourselves into hell—if we were not kept by a greater power than our own! But God puts underneath his everlasting arms. Deut 33:27.
Use two: From Adam's sudden fall—learn how sad it is for a man to be left to himself. Adam being left to himself, fell. Oh then, what will become of us, how soon fall, if God should leave us to ourselves! A man without God's grace, left to himself, is like a ship in a storm, without pilot or anchor—and is ready to dash upon every rock. Make this prayer to God, 'Lord, do not leave me to myself! If Adam, who had strength, fell so soon—how soon shall I fall who have no strength!' Oh! urge God with his hand and seal. 'My strength shall be made perfect in weakness.' 2 Cor 12:9.
II. The sin by which our first parents fell was eating the forbidden fruit; where, consider two things:
 The occasion of it was the serpent's temptation. The devil crept into the serpent, and spoke in the serpent. Consider:
(1.) The subtlety of Satan's temptation. His wiles are worse than his darts. Satan's subtlety in tempting; (1.) He dealt all along as an impostor, he ushered in his temptation by lies.
1st Lie. 'You shall not surely die.'
2nd Lie. That God did envy our first parents their happiness. 'God knows, that in the day you eat, your eyes shall be opened.' That is, 'The reason why God forbids you to eat of this tree—is because he envies your felicity.'
3rd Lie. That they would be thereby made like unto God. 'You shall be as gods.' Here was his subtlety in tempting. The devil was first a liar, then a murderer!
(2.) In that he set upon our first parents so quickly, before they were confirmed in their obedience. The angels in heaven are fully confirmed in holiness; they are called stars of the morning, Job 38:7, and they are fixed stars; but our first parents were not confirmed in their obedience, they were not fixed in their orb of holiness. Though they had a possibility of standing, they had not an impossibility of falling; they were holy—but mutable. There was Satan's subtlety, in tempting our first parents before they were confirmed in their obedience.
(3.) His subtlety in tempting was, that he set upon Eve first, because he thought she was less able to resist. Satan broke over the hedge where it was weakest; he knew he could more easily insinuate and wind himself into her, by a temptation. An expert soldier, when about to storm or enter a castle, carefully observes where there is a breach, or how he may enter with more ease; so did Satan tempt the weaker vessel. He tempted Eve first, because he knew, if once he could prevail with her, she would easily draw her husband. Thus the devil handed over a temptation to Job by his wife. 'Curse God and die.' Job 2:9. Agrippina poisoned the Emperor Commodus, with wine in a perfumed cup; the cup being perfumed and given him by his wife, it was the less suspected. Satan knew a temptation coming to Adam from his wife would be more prevailing, and would be less suspected. Oh bitter! sometimes relations prove temptations. A wife may be a snare, when she dissuades her husband from doing his duty, or entices him to evil. 'Ahab sold himself to work wickedness, whom his wife Jezebel stirred up.' I Kings 21:25. She blew the coals, and made his sin flame out the more. Satan's subtlety was in tempting Adam by his wife; he thought she would draw him to sin.
(4.) Satan's subtlety in tempting was in assaulting Eve's faith. He would persuade her that God had not spoken truth: 'You shall not surely die.' Gen 3:4. This was Satan's masterpiece, to weaken her faith. When he had shaken that, and had brought her once to distrust: then 'she yielded,' she presently put forth her hand to evil.
Satan's CRUELTY in tempting. As soon as Adam was invested in all his glory, the devil cruelly, as it were on the day of Adam's coronation, would dethrone him, and bring him and all his posterity under a curse! See how little love Satan has to mankind; he has an implacable antipathy against us; and antipathies can never be reconciled. So much for the occasion of Adam's sin, or his being tempted by the serpent.
 The sin itself. 'Eating the forbidden fruit.' This was very heinous, and that appears three ways:
(1.) In respect of the person who committed it.
(2.) The aggravation of the sin.
(3.) The dreadfulness of the effect.
(1.) It was very heinous in respect of the person who committed it. Adam had excellent and noble endowments; he was illumined with knowledge, embellished with holiness; he knew his duty, and it was as easy for him to obey God's command, as to know it; he might have chosen whether he would sin or not; yet he willfully did eat of the forbidden tree.
(2.) The aggravation of Adam's sin.
Why is Adam's sin so great? It was but the seizing of an apple! Was it such a great sin—to pluck an apple? 'When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.' Genesis 3:6.
It was sin against an infinite God. It was a voluminous sin, there were many sins twisted together in it. As Cicero says of parricide, 'He who is guilty of it, he commits many sins in one;' so there were many sins in this one sin of Adam. It was a big-bellied sin, a chain with many links. Ten sins were in it.
(1.) Unbelief. Our first parents did not believe what God had spoken was truth. God said, 'You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' They did not believe that they would die; they could not be persuaded that such fair fruit had death at the door. Thus, by unbelief they called God a liar; nay, which was worse, they believed the devil rather than God!
(2.) Unthankfulness, which is the epitome of all sin. Adam's sin was committed in the midst of Paradise. God had enriched him with variety of mercies; he had stamped his own image upon him; he had made him lord of the world; gave him of all the trees of the garden to eat (one only excepted). And now to take of that tree! This was high ingratitude; it was like the dye to the wool, which makes it crimson. When Adam's eyes were opened, and he saw what he had done—well might he be ashamed, and hide himself. How could he who sinned in the midst of Paradise, look God in the face without blushing!
(3.) In Adam's sin was discontent. Had he not been discontented, he would never have sought to have altered his condition. Adam, one would think, had enough; he differed but little from the angels, he had the robe of innocence to clothe him, and the glory of Paradise to crown him. Yet he was not content, he would have more; he would be above the ordinary rank of creatures. How wide was Adam's heart, that a whole world could not fill it!
(4.) Pride, in that he would be like God. This worm, which was but newly crept out of the dust, now aspired after Deity! 'You will be like God,' said Satan, and Adam hoped to have been so indeed; he supposed the tree of knowledge would have anointed his eyes, and made him omniscient. But, by climbing too high, he got a dreadful fall!
(5.) Disobedience. God said, 'You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;' but he would eat of it, though it cost him his life! Disobedience is a sin against equity. It is right we should serve him from whom we have our existence. God gave Adam his allowance, therefore it was but right he should give God his allegiance. How could God endure to see his laws trampled on before his face? This made him place a flaming sword at the end of the garden.
(6.) Curiosity. He meddled with that which was out of his sphere, and did not belong to him. God smote the men of Bethshemesh for looking into the ark. I Sam 6:19. Adam would be prying into God's secrets, and tasting what was forbidden.
(7.) Wantonness. Though Adam had a choice of all the other trees—yet his palate grew wanton, and he must have this tree. Like Israel, God sent them manna, angels' food, ay—but they had a hankering after quails. It was not enough that God supplied their needs, unless he should satisfy their lusts! Adam had not only everything for necessity—but for delight; yet his wanton palate lusted after forbidden fruit.
(8.) Sacrilege. The tree of knowledge did not belong to Adam—yet he took of it, and did sacrilegiously rob God of his due. It was counted a great crime in Harpalus to rob the temple, and steal the silver vessels; so it was a great crime in Adam, to steal fruit from that tree which God had peculiarly enclosed for himself. Sacrilege is double theft.
(9.) Murder. Adam was a public person, and all his posterity were involved and wrapped up in him; and he, by sinning, at once destroyed all his posterity! (if free grace did not interpose.) If Abel's blood cried so loud in God's ears, 'The voice of your brother's blood cries unto me from the ground,' how loud did the blood of all Adam's posterity cry against him for vengeance!
(10.) Presumption. Adam presumed of God's mercy; he blessed himself, saying he would have peace; he thought, though he did transgress, he would not die; that God would sooner reverse his decree, than punish him. This was great presumption. What a heinous sin, was Adam's breach of covenant!
One sin may have many sins in it. We are apt to have slight thoughts of sin, and say 'it is but a little one.' How many sins were in Adam's sin! Oh take heed of any sin! As in one volume there may be many works bound up, so there may be many sins in one sin.
 The dreadfulness of the effect. It has corrupted man's nature. How deadly is that poison—a drop whereof, could poison a whole sea! And how deadly is that sin of Adam, which could poison all mankind, and bring a curse upon them—until it be taken away by him who was made a curse for us!
From A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson