PRACTICAL ATHEISM EXPOSED
Psalms 12:4. Who is Lord over us?
THAT “the world lieth in wickedness,” is a truth generally acknowledged. But it is by the more heinous acts alone that men in general estimate the wickedness around them: whereas in order to form a correct judgment, they should mark the alienation of heart from God which is observable, not in gross sinners only, but in the more moral and decent part of mankind. A spirit of independence pervades all ranks and orders of men: and though all do not live in the same measure of open rebellion against God, all have a standard of their own, to which to conform their lives; and, in reference to all beyond it, they say, as those in my text, “Who is Lord over us?” To illustrate this, I will shew,
I. The atheism of the heart—
Whether there be any who really believe there is no Supreme Being, I think, may well be doubted; since there is not an ignorant savage who does not imagine that there is some Being superior to himself, and some Being that taketh cognizance of his deportment. But a secret atheism abounds in every place; insomuch, that all who are yet in a state of nature will ask, “Who is Lord over us?” Who,
1. To inspect our ways?
[That this is the sentiment of the unregenerate heart is evident, from the declaration which is made in another Psalm, which the Apostle quotes as applicable to every child of man: “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face: he will never see it.” And again, “He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it [Note: Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13.].” If persons were sensible of the divine presence, and that God marks every motion of their hearts, could they give such a latitude as they do to sin, or commit it with so little fear? No: if they are hid from the eyes of men, they are satisfied: and that which was erroneously imputed by Eliphaz to Job, is really fulfilled in them; “They say, How doth God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven,” unobservant of his creatures’ ways [Note: Job 22:13-14.].]
2. To order our paths?
[This is strongly exemplified in our text. “They say, With our tongue will we prevail: our lips are our own: Who is Lord over us?” It is painful to observe with what daring impiety men will “cast God’s words behind them [Note: Nehemiah 9:26.].” Declare to them the commands of men, and they will have an ear to hear; but speak to them of the commands of God, and they reject it with scorn: they reply, in heart at least, if not in word also, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth [Note: Jeremiah 44:16-17.].” Pharaoh, it is true, was hardened beyond the generality of men: but his answer to Moses is still that of the generality amongst ourselves, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord; neither will I obey his voice [Note: Exodus 5:2.].”]
3. To supply our wants?
[Whatever be the wants of an ungodly man, he will look to himself, or to the world, to supply them. He has no idea that God is observant of them, or will humble himself so low as to regard them. Now, this is a part of that same disposition which we have before noticed; and is no other than a denial of God. Job says, “If I have made gold my hope, or said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; this were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge; for then I should have denied the God that is above [Note: Job 31:24; Job 31:28.].”]
4. To call us to an account?
[Men imagine that what is past is all forgotten, and that they shall never hear of it any more. This is what the Psalmist so justly reproves: “They say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct [Note: Psalms 94:7-10.]?” Elihu, also, conceiving it to be indulged by Job, utters a similar rebuke: “Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him: therefore trust thou in him [Note: Job 35:14.].”
Now, though in none of these particulars, perhaps, will men deny in words the interposition of Heaven; yet, in their hearts, they so far disbelieve it, that they act without any reference to it, and live, practically at least, as “atheists in the world [Note: Ephesians 2:12. The Greek.].”]
Let me, however, proceed to shew you,
II. The folly of it—
Foolish in the extreme is this disregard of God. For,
1. It will not alter the state of things—
[We may deny the agency, or even the existence, of God: but he will exist, and act too, in despite of us. We cannot reverse the order of created things: how, then, can we affect the Creator himself? He will sit on his throne, notwithstanding us; and will mark our conduct, and record it in the book of his remembrance; and call us into judgment for it, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Now, if by denying these things we could change the course of them, then there were some reason for our conduct: but when we can alter nothing, but only deceive our own souls, it is little short of madness to continue in unbelief. In truth, we should call it madness if any man were to pursue such conduct in reference to earthly things. Suppose a man were to deny the tendency of bodies to gravitate towards the centre of the earth, and the power of fire to burn; and, in support of his sentiments, were to leap down a precipice, or thrust his hand into the fire; should we be at any loss how to designate that conduct? Yet would it not be a whit more infatuated than to go on in sin, on the presumption that God does not mark, or will not judge, the actions of men. In this case, precisely as in the other, we only rush on to our perdition.]
2. It will not alter the issue of things—
[We may declaim on the injustice of God, in consigning men to everlasting misery for the sins of time; or we may deny that there is any such place as hell. But it shall surely be the abode of the wicked, whether we will believe it or not. To judgment we shall be called: by our works we shall be judged: God’s sentence shall be according to truth; nor shall we be able to withstand it. All that we do by our present unbelief is only to insure that very doom which now we presume to question. Then shall we find, that there is a Lord over us; and that we can neither elude nor withstand his power. If now we admit the truth of these things, we may avert the misery with which we are threatened, and secure the happiness which is offered to us: but if we persevere in an atheistical denial of them, nothing remains for us, but to learn from experience what we will not learn from reason or the word of God.]
Let me conclude with answering the question which is thus presumptuously proposed—
[Do you ask, “Who is Lord over us?” I answer, The Lord Jesus Christ is: and “he has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess [Note: Isaiah 45:23.].” O that you would now submit yourselves unto him! What would he not do for you? What judgments would he not avert? What blessings would he not communicate? Remember, I pray you, that “He is God, and none else [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” Whatever you may imagine, you can never “prevail” against him. As for “your lips being your own;” nothing that you have is your own. You are the work of his hands; and he has a right to every power that you possess. Yea, more, “he has bought you with a price,” even the inestimable price of his own blood: so that he has a double right over you: and you are bound, by every tie that can be conceived, to “glorify him with your bodies, and with your spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:20.].” Take him, then, as your Lord; and yield yourselves to him as his subjects: and then you may very safely ask, “Whom have I to fear?” Beloved Brethren, reject this Lord, and none can save you: give yourselves up to him, and “none can harm you [Note: 1 Peter 3:13.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 12". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany