Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
“No sooner had they transgressed the commandment, than they were inwardly stripped stark naked, bereft of the grace which they had offended against by a kind of feverish delusion, and by the proud love of their own independent authority.”
Thus wrote St. Augustine on the fall from grace of our original parents.
Augustine contends that they did not believe that God would really introduce death into the world to punish them. Thus, a “feverish delusion” drove Adam and Eve into thinking that the party could never end. How could serious consequences emerge for daring to think like God, thinking with a knowledge of evil?
“They became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened,” observes the Pilot Paul (Ro. 1:21). Note that it is just here in his text that the Apostle underscores that the lust in men’s hearts leads them, through self-indulgence, to have “worshipped the creature rather than the creator.”
This is what Augustine calls “the proud love of (our) own independent authority.” Again taking his lead from Paul, Augustine stresses that man’s primeval loss of innocence first registered as an awareness of sexual shame.
The language of the General Confession in the traditional Prayer Book Office also locates the essence of sin in self-assertion. The following of our own “devices and desires” is the crux of the matter, instead of living “to the glory of (God’s) holy name” by following His will and purposes for us.
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and stayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.