This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day. There is more here on the Bossuet Project.
We eat all the fruits of paradise; but, for the tree in the middle, God forbade us to eat the fruit and touch it, on pain of death. Such was Eve’s answer, where there is nothing but truth, since she only repeats the command and words of the Lord. It is therefore not a question of answering well or of saying good things, but of saying them appropriately. Eve ought not to have spoken at all to a tempter who came to her to ask for reasons of a supreme command, which was only to obey, and not to reason. How many times have we been deceived? While saying good things, we talk with temptation; but we must end business at once. It was the case, not to discuss, but to practice the commandment of God, and to be careful, under the pretext of giving reason to the seducer, not to prolong the time of seduction. The Son of God has given us another example in the time of his own temptation. The words of the Scripture which he alleges are not an dialogue for reason with the tempter, but a specific refusal, with this denouncement: Go away, Satan, to the place that curious Eve wishes to reason, and to hear the reasoning of the serpent.
So he also sees his strength inpereptively increase. As he saw that Eve was dazzled by the novelty, and already entered into the doubt that he wanted to suggest to her, he does not hold back any more and he says to her bluntly: You will not die, because God knows that in the day that you eat of this fruit, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil. He insinuated by these words that God had attached to the fruit of this tree a divine virtue by which man would be enlightened on all things that could make him good or bad, happy or unhappy. And then, he says, by so beautiful a knowledge, you will become so perfect, that you will be like gods. In this way, he flatters pride, he piques and excites curiosity. Eve begins to look at this forbidden fruit, and it is a beginning of disobedience, for the fruit that God forbade touching should not even be looked at complacently. She saw, says the Scripture, that it was attractive at sight, good to eat, pleasant to see, and she forgot nothing that could satisfy her. It is to desire to be seduced more than to be attentive to the beauty and taste of what had been forbidden. Here she is occupied with the beauties of this forbidden object, and convinced that God was too severe to prohibit them the use of such a beautiful thing, not dreaming that sin does not consist in using things bad by their nature, since God had neither done nor could do such, but to misuse the good. The tempter did not fail to join the suggestion and, so to speak, the whistling inside to outside, and he tried to light the desire that Eve had not known before. But as soon as she began to listen and reason on such a precise command, to this beginning of infidelity, one can believe that God also began to precisely withdraw his grace, and that the desire of the senses followed closely the disorder that Eve had already voluntarily introduced into her mind. So she ate fruit, and the serpent remained victorious. He did not push the temptation from the outside further; and, content to have instructed and persuaded his ambassador, he left the rest to seduced Eve. Notice that he had spoken to her not only for her, but also for her husband, not saying to her: You will be, and: Why did God forbid you? but: You will be like gods, and: Why did you make this prohibition? The devil was not mistaken in believing that this word carried by Eve to Adam would have more effect than if he had borne it himself. So, at one blow, three great wounds. Pride came in with these words: You will be like gods; These too: You will know the good and the bad, they excited curiosity; and these attentive glances at the pleasure and good taste of this beautiful fruit brought into the marrow the love of the pleasure of the senses. Here are the three general maladies of our nature with which we are afflicted; and St. John has put them together in these words: Do not love the world or all that is in the world, because all that is in the world is the desire of the flesh, that is to say, manifestly the sensuality, or desire of the eyes, which is curiosity, or finally the ambition and pride spread throughout all life, which are the proper names of the third vice, with which nature and human life are infected.