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The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
The practical denial of God the root of all evil
The heavy fact of widespread corruption presses on the Psalmist, and starts a train of thought which begins with a sad picture of the deluge of evil, rises to a vision of God’s judgment of and on it, triumphs in the prospect of the sudden panic which shall shake the souls of all the “workers of iniquity,” when they see that God is with the righteous, and ends with a sigh for the coming of that time. The staple of the poem is but the familiar contrast of a corrupt world and a righteous judge who judges, but it is cast in very dramatic and vivid form here. We listen first to the Psalmist’s judgment of his generation. Eras of great culture and material prosperity may have a very seamy side, which eyes accustomed to the light of God cannot fail to see. The root of the evil lay, as the Psalmist believed, in a practical dental of God, and whoever thus denied Him was a “fool.” Practical denial or neglect, of His working in the world, rather than a creed of negation, is in the Psalmist’s mind. The biblical conception of folly is moral perversity rather than intellectual feebleness, and whoever is morally and religiously wrong cannot be in reality intellectually right. The practical denial of God lies at the root of two forms of evil. Positively, “they have made their doings corrupt and abominable”--rotten ill themselves and sickening and loathsome to pure hearts and to God. Negatively, they do no good things. The next wave of thought (Psalms 14:2) brings into his consciousness the solemn contrast between the godless noise and activity of earth and the silent gaze of God that marks it all. The purpose of the Divine Guest is set forth with deep insight as being the finding of even one good, devout man. Other Scriptures present the gaze of God as for other reasons, this one in the midst of its solemnity is gracious with revelation of Divine desires. What is to be the issue of the strongly contrasted situation in these two verses: beneath, a world full of godless lawlessness; above, a fixed eye piercing to the discernment of the inmost nature of actions and characters? Verse 3 answers. The Psalmist’s sad estimate is repeated as the result of the Divine search. But it is also increased in emphasis and in compass. This stern indictment is quoted by St. Paul in “Romans,” as confirmation of his thesis of universal sinfulness. But this baffled quest cannot be the end. If Jehovah seeks in vain for goodness on earth, earth cannot go on forever in godless riot. Therefore, with eloquent abruptness the voice from heaven crashes in upon the “fools” in the full career of their folly. The thunder rolls from a clear sky . . . Finally, the whole course of thought gathers itself up in the prayer that the salvation of Israel--the true Israel, apparently--were come out of Zion, God’s dwelling, from which He comes forth in His delivering power. The voice of the oppressed handful of good men in an evil generation is heard in this closing prayer. It is encouraged by the visions which have passed before the Psalmist. The assurance that God will intervene is the very life breath of the cry to Him that He would. Because we know that He will deliver, therefore we find it in our hearts to pray that He would deliver. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The practical atheist
Thus the Bible ever speaks of those who have cast off the fear of God. They are those whose understanding is darkened, who, professing themselves to be wise, become fools. Such men, who make a boast of their reason, and would fain walk by the light of their reason, prove how little their reason is worth. The epithet is the more cutting because persons of this kind generally lay claim to more than ordinary discernment. There is here rather a practical than a theoretical atheism; not so much a denial of the being of a God as a denial of His moral government of the world (cf. 10:5)
; and this evinced in their actions rather than in their words. Their lives show what the thought of their hearts is. The “fool” is not the philosophic atheist with his arguments (“subducta ratione vel formatis syllogismis”--Calvin); but the man who by the practice of wickedness so stifles and corrupts within him the knowledge of God that he virtually acknowledges no God. South, in his sermon on this verse, lays a stress on these words, as implying that the atheist dare not avow his atheism, lint only cherishes it within. But the occurrence of the phrase elsewhere--e.g. 10:6, 10, 13--does not justify this stress. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)
The character reasonings, and folly of the fool
I. The character The “fool” in Scripture is the man who makes a wrong choice of good; who, when two objects are placed before him, one a lesser good and one a greater good, chooses the lesser in preference to the greater. Preferring the future life to the present is wisdom, preferring the present life to the future is folly. Why must the poor fool say in his heart--“No God. I wish there were no God”? The reason is, that when a man makes the wrong choice, his heart is miserable within him. The world cannot make him happy. The soul is immortal, and nothing short of immortality can content it. The soul is spiritual, and nothing but a spiritual God can bless it. The soul is sinful, and nothing but a Saviour can give it peace. The fool knows all this, yet will not come to God that he may have peace. So he says in his heart, “Oh, that there were no God to judge me!”
II. The reasonings. The reasonings of the spiritual fool! Alas! there can be none. There is no infidelity in the world but that which proceeds from ignorance or from sin. If you are the character described you have no reasonings by which to justify yourself; and I cannot therefore waste your time by attempting to refute what does not exist.
III. Folly. The wish which you form in your heart--the wish that all religion were false, the wish that there were no God to judge you at the last--is utterly and totally impossible. Is it not wisdom to put away your foolish hope, that God will not call you to judgment, and to turn to God, and to thank Him that He has promised forgiveness of sins to all those who, with a true penitent heart and lively faith, turn to Him? (George Townsend, M. A.)
The folly and wretchedness of an atheistical inclination
All nature so clearly points out, and so loudly proclaims, a Creator of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, that whoever hears not its voice and sees not its proofs may well be thought wilfully deaf and obstinately blind. Every faculty, every object of every faculty, demonstrates a Deity. Can a man possibly conceive that such wonderful order and perfect beauty should be ever formed by the fortuitous operations of unconscious, unactive particles of matter? The expression in the text may denote, not the man’s real opinion or persuasion, but his inclination and desire. He secretly wishes that there were no God, and endeavours to draw his belief that way as much as he can! To wish against the being of a God is to wish mankind the greatest mischief and distress that can possibly be conceived. Were there no awe of a supreme Being, no terrors of a future judgment to restrain us, what government on earth would be able to maintain itself, or find protection for its subjects? What wise man would choose, or dare to live in a community of atheists, if such a one could be found? Consider how the minds and conditions of private persons would be affected by the supposition of a forlorn and fatherless world. Under the tuition and government of infinite wisdom and goodness everything appears with a comfortable aspect. Men never need to want the purest comforts and most perfect satisfactions while God is their portion. On this account, whether the world frown or smile, the wise man is neither highly transported nor deeply dejected. Whatever be his lot, the peace of his mind is secured, and his heart is at rest. For his hopes are founded on a rock, and his treasure fixed where nothing can touch it. Without a God, a providence, and a future state there could be no such thing as prosperity, no satisfaction, no real enjoyment for rational beings; nor even any true peace or tranquillity of mind. What dismal effects atheism would produce in adversity. How inexcusably foolish and criminal are those men who believe and acknowledge a God, and yet live as if there were none! (J. Balguy.)
The withered heart
The word “fool” has been traced to a term which signifies the act of “withering.” The sense would be represented by the expression--the withered heart hath said there is no God. Though in the Scriptures the term “heart” is often employed as signifying the mind or judgment, yet in this case, judging by the consequences that are detailed, the reference is evidently to the moral nature. A distinction is indeed made in the Old Testament between “mind” and “heart,” as in the instance of the first and greatest commandment. The point to be observed then is, that the “heart” or moral nature has in this instance “withered”; affection is blighted, moral instinct is perverted, the natural and noblest aspirations of life are utterly extinct. A difference is to be marked between a purely intellectual scepticism and a corrupt moral aversion. There are speculative agnostics whose outward life may be unquestionable as to honour and faithfulness; but there are also deniers of the existence of God whose object is to get rid of responsibility and judgment It is not transgressing the lines of fact and observation to say that it is the “heart” which first and most truly believes in God. Where the “heart” or moral purpose is simple and constant, intellectual aberrations will certainly be rectified or rendered spiritually harmless. Everything of a religious nature depends upon the purpose and faithfulness of the moral nature. The heart feels after God. The heart is first conscious of the Divine absence. The heart soon becomes a medium of accusation through which the whole nature is assailed with just and destructive reproach. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
A fool indeed
What does he say? “There is no God.” Why, everything he sees, hears, touches, contradicts him. The very worm he treads on, yea, every blade of grass, affirms “There is a God.” We are all ready to admit that he who denies this is a fool. But stop; observe in what way he says it. Not with his lips, but in his heart. How many things are said there but never spoken out, God and ourselves only know. And it is not the mind or the understanding which says it, but the heart, the affections. His understanding may not deny, but his heart does. In his affections, his desires, his thoughts, his life, his conduct are all as if there were no God. If the life be taken as proof, how many of these fools there are. For they never pray, they never regard God as the orderer of their lives. They speak of chance, accident, but put God out of the question. And they never think of asking His direction in any of their actions; His book they throw on one side, and scarce ever look at it. They deem themselves quite able to direct their own steps. And they say the same who secretly sin, and think none seeth them, or that their sin will never find them out. If they escape human punishment they fear no other. In fact, what are all men saying who live after the flesh, or who neglect the gospel of Christ--but that “there is no God”? “The fool” told of here, then, is not so uncommon a person as might be thought. And is he not a fool? Let us each ask ourselves the solemn question the text suggests, “Are we or are we not amongst those foolish men who say in their hearts ‘There is no God’?” If we are, may He turn us from darkness to light. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
The folly of the fool
The first great principle of the Christian religion, and the first announced fact of Divine revelation, is the being of God. We have, in the text, the solution of all practical atheism in the world. Infidelity is the root form of sin.
I. The bold assertion. “No God.” Such a denial involves tremendous difficulties. There are physical mysteries to be accounted for. There are intellectual phenomena to be explained. There are moral intuitions, soul out-reachings, spiritual instincts and aspirations to be satisfactorily interpreted. The universe evidencing marks of intelligent design, traces of omnipotent power, infinite skill, beauty, and beneficence must be the effect of an adequate cause--the work of a self-existent, independent, infinitely wise God. What shall we say of man--physically, mentally, morally? Can such marvellous beings have been raised out of nothingness by the revolving wheel of time, until its revolution shall crush them into nothingness again? This bold assertion is also in direct antagonism with the teachings of revelation. “In the beginning God created.” Blot out God from your creed, and the Bible becomes at once a useless volume. It cannot be interpreted. The evidence of the genuineness of Divine revelation is overwhelming. It rests on four grand arguments, namely, the miracles it records, the prophecies it contains, the goodness of the doctrine, and the moral character of the penman.
II. The region in which this assertion is made. “In his heart.” Man’s great defect is a corrupt heart. It is the fruitful source of all evil, the centre of all impiety, and the seat of foolishness and infidelity. The atheism of the times, and of all times, has been and still is the sad effect of heart derangement rather than brain disorder. The intellect has often been blamed when it should have been the heart. It better suits the promptings and desires of the carnal nature to negative the existence of a Divine Ruler than to admit it. Let man be set right at heart, and the philosophy of fools would vanish into thin air. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)
The fool’s denial of God’s existence
The folly of atheism is undeniable when we remember--
I. That the thing so ardently wished for is absolutely impossible. The all-seeing God can no more shut His eyes to the conduct of mortals than He can cease to exist. As His superintending care is necessary for the preservation of the universe, so is the constant exercise of His moral government required for the vindication of His own honour. It is told that a Frenchman once visited a castle in Germany where dwelt a nobleman who had a good and devoted son, his comfort and his pride. In the course of conversation the Frenchman spoke in such unbecoming terms of God that the baron said, “Are you not afraid of offending God by speaking in this way!” The foreigner announced, with cool indifference, that he knew nothing about God, for he had never seen Him. The next morning the baron pointed out to his visitor a beautiful picture on the wall, and said, “My son painted that.” “He must be a very clever youth,” courteously replied the Frenchman. Later on the baron took his visitor over his gardens, which were of rare beauty and contained many choicest plants. On being asked who managed the garden, he replied, “My son, and he knows almost every plant, from the cedar to the hyssop.” “What a happy man you must be,” said the Frenchman, “to have such a son!” “How do you know I have a son?” asked the baron, with a grave face. “Why, because I have seen his works; and I am sure he must be both clever and good, or he never could have done all you have shown me.” “But you have never seen him!” returned the baron. “No, but I already know him very well, because I can form a just estimate of him from his works.” “Well, then, if you are able to judge of my son’s good character by seeing his various works, how does it happen that you can form no estimate of God’s goodness by witnessing such proofs of His handiwork?” If the fool could have his way, and banish the Almighty One from His own dominions, it would--
II. Be an unspeakable damage to all even in this world. If men would put an end to the beneficent rule of our heavenly Father, what would they offer as compensation for so irreparable a loss? Should any have reached this extreme point in foolishness that they have wished there were no God, let them ponder these thoughts.
1. Before you are again drawn so far within the dreary region of unbelief, ask this question: Have I a sincere desire to know the truth? I put the matter in this shape, because thousands have really hated the truth, when they fancied that they loved it.
2. In order to strengthen your feeble faith, make diligent use of the light which you already possess.
3. Be willing to ask God, in humble prayer, to give you light, and to guide you into all truth. One of the fiercest of the French revolutionists said to a simple peasant, “I will have all your church steeples pulled down, that you may no longer have any object to remind you of your old superstitions.” But, returned the peasant, with an air of triumph, “you cannot help leaving us the stars.” Instead of the blank, cheerless lot of such as would fain believe that “there is no God,” the wise in heart will rather be disposed to adopt the language of the great philosopher, Sir Humphrey Davy, as their own, “I envy no qualities of the mind in others--nor genius, nor power, wit, nor fancy; but if I could choose what would be most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing.” (John N. Norton.)
The folly and impiety of infidelity
Consider the text--
I. As an impious wish. This is what he would desire: it would gratify and gladden his heart if it were so.
II. as a bold declaration. This goes much further. He has come to this pitch of daring, to affirm “There is no God.” Not believing in God, he does not believe he has a soul and a hereafter. No wonder that he becomes abominable. True, all do not go to such lengths. Some would only say, “There is no such a God as people who believe the Bible say there is.” There is some God, but He either takes no notice, or He is far too good to punish men for their little deviations from virtue here. This is deism. And there is yet another kind of infidelity. Men who will not go so far as either the deist, and certainly not as the atheist, yet they deny that God interferes with the affairs of men, or that He has given us in the Bible a guide for our conduct and a measure for our expectations. At the judgment, for they believe there will be a judgment, they say that men’s good actions will be found to outnumber their bad ones, and so they hope to escape. Nor does infidelity stop even here. It stalks abroad under the guise of liberality of sentiment, or the dominion of rationalism. Truth to them is but the handmaid of reason, and no one is bound to believe what he cannot understand. They say a man is no more accountable for his faith than he is for the colour of his skin and the shape of his body. Let a man do the best he can, let him live up to the light of nature, and let him never fear any hereafter. These are the most dangerous people of all, for whilst many would shun an atheist or deist or Socinian, the theologian can spread his sentiments, like a deadly poison, unchecked. This is why the Gospel is so scorned and neglected. Men are taught that they can do without the Gospel, they do not want a Saviour.
III. But the Word of God calls all these men “fools.” Think of their unutterable folly. For see the evidence of creation--heavens, earth, man in body and mind. Does not reason bid them believe? And if there be no God to whom we must answer, whence the curse that is upon the world? How came the certain fact of the universal deluge? What is the meaning of conscience? Why must all die? He strikes, too, at the very root of the honour of God. The controversy is not as to whether there be any God, but who shall He be? “Who is Lord over me?” is the principle of infidelity. The man wishes to be his own lord. It is the very spirit of devilism. Reflect, then, what a horrible creature man is. How needful it is that man should learn humility. How just will be the judgment of God upon all atheistical and unbelieving sinners. How cheering and consoling to the true Christian are the very truths which infidels ridicule and scorners deny. (R. Shittler.)
The heart speech of a fool
The Christian faith, like the Christian man, has to pass through many a conflict. In every age of its existence it has had to fight, not only for its final developments, but also for its first principles. The Bible is not passive in this conflict. It strikes as well as bears--assails as well as defends. And when scepticism has run its usual course to atheism, and the man who began with doubting Revelation goes on to deny the Revealer, it comes forth with the lofty sarcasm--“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Observe the scope of the utterance.
I. As to its matter. The Bible all through tells us of God. “In the beginning God.” And it tells of Him as a Personal Being of the highest attributes. But the “fool” denies it.
II. The manner of the utterance. It is private rather than public; he saith “in his heart,” that is, when alone. It may lie the breathing of a wish rather than a conviction.
III. The causes of the utterance. We shall find them in our hearts.
1. We do not like the mystery of God. It is so humbling to us to believe in a being whom we are utterly unable to understand.
2. We do not like the authority of God. Now we come nearer home. We could bear with the mystery if it had nothing to do with us. But the claims of God upon us are infinite and endless. His hand is ever upon us. It is as much as I can do to submit to the ordinary laws of social life; but a law that pursues me everywhere and always, and sends its mandates into the secrecy of my mind and heart--that is more than I can bear. I wish there were no such law.
3. We do not like the prospect of meeting Him. To most men it is most unwelcome.
IV. The character of such an utterance. It is the fool that says it. See how gross his folly. (F. Tucker, B. A.)
The Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God. Atheism, which is the denial of Him, is either practical or spiritual. The former has always and everywhere been. But speculative atheists are fewer in number. “I had rather,” says Lord Bacon, “believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame was without a mind.” The burden of proof rests with the atheist.
I. His folly may be seen by glancing at the unanswerable argument from existing objects. See all the phenomena of nature. And there is the moral evidence.
II. By its unwarrantable assumptions. How can a man know that there is no God?
III. By its injurious character. “No atheist, as such, can be a true friend, an affectionate friend, or a loyal subject.” See what came of it in the French Revolution.
IV. By its inadequacy to encounter the hours of trial and of death. In an Alpine village is the peaceful grave of one who died upon the Riffel-horn: over his grave is the significant inscription, “It is I, be not afraid.” The good man, and only he, is not afraid. (J. H. Hitchens. D. D.)
The being of a God
I. General evidences for the being of a God, independent of Scripture.
1. That it has been acknowledged by all nations in all ages. Polytheism does not deny but confirm the truth. Only individuals, never nations, have denied it. And the lives and the end of these men show that their opinion has often been shaken. Hobbes, one of the chief of them, said that be could not bear to be left for a moment in the dark; and just before he died he told the spectators that he was about to take a leap in the dark! So it was indeed. A few such individuals, rejecting an important doctrine, can form no argument against the doctrine itself. And even of these, some have, at particular seasons, confessed their folly. Thus Volney, in a storm at sea, called upon the very God whose existence he had denied. Thus Voltaire, when dying, confessed the Christian religion to be true, and had the audacity to partake of the Christian sacrament as a sort of passport to heaven.
2. All creatures manifest and declare it. Look at their production, their preservation, their adaptation. Look at the nature of man also, body and soul.
3. The extraordinary occurrences that have taken place.
II. The scripture name of those who deny this truth.
III. Practical improvements of the doctrine. But we must know God in the heart. (T. Mortimer.)
The folly of atheism
That any should say this, is not easy to imagine were we not forced to believe it possible. History tells us of such, and we have no cause to have so much better opinion of the modern age as to doubt that it has those who are ready enough to vent the same impiety.
I. The assertion made. “There is no God.” By which--l. We may understand absolute denial of His existence or a denial of Gods providence. Epicurus was of this opinion. He confessed there was a God, but as for His interposing and concerning Himself in our affairs, this he utterly denied; and the reason he gave was that such superintendence would interfere with the Divine ease and felicity. We take the text in both these senses.
2. The manner of the assertion, “said in his heart.” It wears the badge of guilt, privacy, and darkness; and as if it were sensible of the treason it carries in its own bonds. The atheist will not speak out, but in his heart he can and does say what he likes.
3. What is implied in this saying. An inward wish that there were no God. His seeking out arguments to persuade himself it is true. A readiness to acquiesce in such arguments. It is a sign that a man is falling when he catches at straws. For why should there not be spiritual substances? And if there be disorder and seeming chance now, do we not look for a day of retribution? The man’s placing his trust and dependence for his good on other things than God. This is a loud denial of God. It may not be a verbal denial, but it is no less real.
II. The author of this assertion. “The fool.” For--
1. He contradicts the general judgment of mankind. The notion of God is one that a man is not catechised but born into; his mother’s womb was the school he learned it in. Now it is morally impossible for any falsity to be universally received and blessed, both as to all times and places.
2. He lays aside a principle that is reasonable, for one strange, harsh, and, at best, highly improbable.
3. His motives show his folly. These are, great impiety and great ignorance.
4. From their instability. They will not stand to them in tithe of great danger, or when death draws near. Affectation expires upon the death bed. It is not in any man’s power to extinguish the witness for God in himself. But they may do so for a while. Great and crying sins such as waste the conscience--sensuality and discontent with God’s providence--lead to this. Therefore, beware of them. (R. South, D. D.)
The existence of God
The Psalm describes the deplorable corruption of universal human nature. It begins by declaring that the faculties of the soul are corrupt. “The fool hath said in his heart,” and then it goes on to show the evil streams thence issuing--“abominable works.” “The fool” signifies a vicious person, a wicked man. The speaking in the heart means his thoughts. “There is no God” does not so much deny His existence, though it amounts to that, as deny that there is any living ruler and governor of the world. This is to strip God of all His glory. And the motive of them who make the denial is evil--that they may be the more free to sin. Now, it is a great folly to deny the existence of God. For he denies what is attested on every hand, and what is made clearly known. Of old, men had many gods, now they say there is none. But the existence of God is the foundation of all religion. And it is well to be able to give reason for our belief, and to put down that secret atheism which lurks in us all, and to confirm in the faith those that love God. But, more particularly, note the atheist’s folly.
I. He denies the sentiment of all nations both in their judgment and practice.
1. No nation has been without this belief. Idolatry, the worship of many gods, does not weaken this argument, but rather confirms it. The existence of God was never disputed, though nearly all things else were.
2. And it hath been a constant and uninterrupted consent; for--
(i) In all the changes and vicissitudes of governments, states, and modes of worship this has been maintained.
(ii) Men’s fears and anxieties would have led them to destroy it if possible; there has been no want of will to do so.
(iii) The devil deems it impossible to destroy it. When he tempted Adam, it was not to deny God but to become as God.
3. Such sentiment is natural and innate. For--
(i) It could not be by mere tradition. For then we should have had told us not only the existence of God, but the right mode in which to worship Him. Why have men remembered this if it were tradition, and forgotten all the rest? But even if it were, it was not an invention of the first man. If it had been, his posterity would soon have found it out. And why should he have invented it?
(ii) Neither was it by agreement and consent amongst the rulers of men. Why should they do so? How could they so long maintain the imposture?
(iii) Nor was it man’s fear that first introduced it. His fear did not create God, but God was the cause of his fear.
II. He denies that which all things in the world manifest. The Scriptures assert this (Romans 1:19-20). St. Paul does not say “are believed,” but are “clearly seen.” The world is like a large mirror which reflects the image of God (Psalms 8:1; Psalms 19:1; Psalms 91:2), etc. Now, the world does manifest God.
1. In the production of the creatures it contains (Isaiah 40:12-19). They could never have been their own cause. The world and every creature had a beginning (Hebrews 11:3). The matter of the world cannot be eternal Nor time; for all motion hath beginning, therefore the revolutions of our earth. Nor the generations of men and other creatures; for no creature can make itself. Nothing can act before it be. That which doth not understand itself nor order itself could not make itself. If the first man made himself, why did he not make himself better? why is he so limited and faulty? If we made ourselves we can preserve ourselves, which we know we cannot. And why did not man create himself earlier, if he did so at all? Therefore we accept the Scripture as giving us the most rational account of the matter. Then, further, no creature could make the world, no creature can create another. For if it create of nothing, then it is omnipotent and not a creature. If of matter, who formed the matter? We are compelled to go back to a first Great Cause. Man cannot create man. If he could he would understand him, which he does not. There is, therefore, a first cause of things, which we call God. And this first cause must necessarily exist, and be infinitely perfect.
III. He denies that which man’s own nature attests.
1. His bodily nature does. For see the order, fitness, and usefulness of every part--heart and mouth and brain, car and eye and tongue. And see, too, the admirable differences in the features of men. No two are Mike. What vast advantage comes from this?
2. His soul does. For consider the vastness of its capacity, the quickness of its motions, its union with the body, and the operations of conscience. But all this proves the existence of God. The vastness of the desires in man is in evidence. For the desires of other creatures are fulfilled. “They are filled with good.” Then shall man not be?
IV. They deny what is witnessed by extraordinary occurrences.
1. Judgments (Psalms 9:16; Acts 12:21), which occurrence Josephus also relates.
2. Miracles (Psalms 72:11; Psalms 72:18). “Who only doeth wondrous things.” The truth of the Scriptures stands or falls with the miracles of which it tells. They must have been, or else the records are a pack of lies.
3. Accomplishment of prophecies (Isaiah 41:23; Isaiah 46:10).
V. Uses of above argument.
1. If atheism be a folly it is a pernicious one; for it would root out the foundations of all government and introduce all evil and villainy. The two ever go together (Jeremiah 3:21; Ezekiel 22:12). To the atheist himself (Job 18:7 to the end).
2. How lamentable that atheism should be so common. But since all are tempted to it, let them remember--
(i) It is impossible to prove that there is no God.
(ii) Whosoever doubts of it makes himself a mark against which all creatures fight. All things condemn him.
(iii) Atheists have been sometimes much afraid they were wrong.
(iv) The motives of atheism are bad and vicious.
(v) How unreasonable to run such risk.
(vi) Have we done all we can to attain to the knowledge of God?
3. Let it be our wisdom to be settled in this truth. Therefore study God in His creatures as well as in His Word, and view Him in your own experience of Him.
4. If we believe, then worship Him and often think of Him. (S. Charnock, B. D.)
Unfold the conception which you have formed of the existence and attributes of God.
1. We all involve in our conception of God the idea of personality.
2. To this Infinite Being we involuntarily ascribe self-existence.
3. Both reason and revelation teach us to ascribe eternity; to the Deity.
4. We ascribe to Him infinite and absolute power.
5. And omniscient wisdom.
6. And every moral attribute in infinite perfection.
7. He is revealed as the Father of the creatures He has made. The most astonishing manifestation of the goodness of God is made to us in the remedial dispensation. Evidently the existence of God, and especially of such a God as the Scriptures reveal, is by far the most practical truth of which we can possibly conceive. What, then, must be the condition of a man who believes in the existence of such a God, and yet suffers not this belief to exert any practical influence upon his conduct? (F. Wayland.)
This is natural to man in his depraved state. Not natural to him as created, but as corrupt. And it is universal (Psalms 58:2; Romans 3:9-12). For the proof that atheism is natural to man we note--
I. That man would set himself up as his own rule instead of God. For--
1. He naturally disowns the rule God sets him. Every man naturally is a son of Belial. He would be without any law. Hence he desires not to know God’s law. The purity of the Divine rule renders it nauseous to him; so impure is man’s heart, and therefore atheistic likewise. Hence he neglects the means of knowledge, or endeavours to shake off as much as he has (Romans 1:28). Or if he cannot do this he will not think of it, and his heart rises against God both inwardly and in outward art (Psalms 14:4). What knowledge they seek for they desire only from impure motives. What they have they hold very loosely. One day it is “Hosannah,” the next “Crucify Him.” Some try to wrest their knowledge of God’s truth to encourage their sin (2 Peter 3:16). But all this dislike to God’s truth is a disowning of God as our rule. God’s law cast against a hard heart is like a bail thrown against a stone wall, by reason of the resistance bounding farther from it. They show their contempt by their presumptuous transgression of the law, by their natural aversion to the declaration of God’s will. That will they dislike and turn from. And this the more His will tends to His honour.
2. Man naturally owns any other rule rather than that of God. “They are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). They will prefer the rule of Satan. Or of the world, for this is evident from their regarding more the dictates of men than of God; and what regard they have for God’s will, it is only because it is the world’s will also, which they ever put before the will of God. But especially they prefer their own self-will. Self is the great opponent of God, the great Antichrist.
3. Man would make himself the rule for God, and give God law. We are willing He should be our Benefactor, but not our Ruler. This mind is seen in our striving against His law. In our disapproving the methods of His government. In impatience in regard to our own particular concerns. Because Job did not do this he is commended (1:22). In envying the gifts and prosperities of others. In praying importunately for things which we do not know will please God (Proverbs 7:14), or which we do know are contrary to His declared will. As when men pray to be saved, but neglect the means of salvation. Or when we try to bend God to our own will. In all these ways, and yet others, man shows that he would have God take rule from him, and not he from God.
II. As man would be a law to himself, so also would he be his own end and happiness.
1. For proof see his frequent self-applause (Romans 12:3-4). His ascribing to himself the glory of every success. His desire to have self-pleasing doctrines. His concern if he is injured, but not if God is wronged. His self-trust. All this is a usurping of God’s prerogatives, and a vilifying of God and destroying Him so far as man can.
2. Man would make anything his end rather than God.
3. Man would make himself the end of all creatures (Ezekiel 38:2).
4. Man would make himself the end of God. He does so when he loves God only because God sends him good things, but would not if God sent him evil things. When he abstains from sin for his own sake, not because of God. When he renders duties for a mere selfish interest (Genesis 34:21-22), which is evident from his reluctance to religion when self is not concerned (Job 21:15; Job 35:3). And man’s practical atheism is further shown in his unworthy imaginations of God, from which spring all idolatry, superstition, and presumption. And in his desire to be distant from God. Naturally we have no desire either to remember, converse with, return to, or imitate God.
5. The uses of the foregoing truths. They are--
(i) For information, for they give us occasion to admire God’s mercy, and justify His vengeance; they show our need of a new nature, how difficult conversion is. Also, the cause of unbelief in the Author of all grace; that there can be no justification by works, and the excellence of the Gospel.
(ii) Exhortation: to labour, to be sensible of this lurking atheism, and watch against it. (S. Charnock, B. D.)
The denial of the existence of God may be either theoretical or practical. It is theoretical when we affirm that no such being as God exists. It is practical when, professing to believe that He exists, we act in all respects as though we believed that He does not exist. Theoretical folly may manifest itself in two forms, either in that of absurd credulity, or of absurd incredulity.
1. It is an evidence of absurd credulity to believe an assertion, respecting any subject whatever, when no evidence is brought forward to sustain it, and when, from the nature of the case, the evidence, if it did exist, is beyond the reach of the human understanding. Anyone who reflects upon the fewness and feebleness of the faculties of man, and then upon the boundlessness of the universe, must be convinced that the assertion that God does not exist involves within itself all the elements of the most revolting absurdity.
2. Atheism is equally absurd in its unbelief. It disbelieves a proposition of which the evidence is interwoven with the very structure of the human understanding.
(1) The idea of power, of cause and effect, is the universal and spontaneous suggestion of the human intelligence. It springs tip unbidden and irrepressible from the first perception of a change.
(2) The mind not only asks for a cause, but for a sufficient cause.
(3) If we arrive at the notion of underived causation, may not several independent causes originate the changes which are taking place around us? Everything that we behold is manifestly a part of one universal whole. The cause of causes is everywhere one and the same.
(4) When we reflect upon human conduct we find that we always connect the outward act with the spiritual disposition, or intention, from which it proceeds. In every action we perceive the quality of right or virtue, or of its opposite, wrong or wee. As the characteristics are universally the same there must be a single and universal standard. We see the perpetual acting of the Almighty and learn the moral attributes that compose His character. (F. Wayland.)
Belief in the being of God
A belief in God as a self-existent, intelligent, and infinitely perfect Being is the basis of all religion. In what manner and through what means do we come by this conviction? Some have maintained the idea of God to be innate. Others assert the Divine existence to be an intuition--an immediate perception of the reason, independently of any suggestion, argument, or evidence. By others it has been attempted to establish it by the rigid steps of mathematical demonstration. Kant, and those who follow him, insist that the moral nature of man--his conscience and sense of moral obligation--affords conclusive proof of the being and moral government of God. We believe the true statement of the matter to be this: That the human mind is constitutionally fitted to know God, so that the notion of Him and a persuasion of His existence necessarily arise within the soul whenever the faculties are in any good degree developed; and that in its own moral consciousness and in the great variety of facts and phenomena external to itself it finds, on reflection, proofs that He does exist, proofs of a moral nature, yet sufficient to establish the fact as an absolute certainty, in the view of the understanding.
1. It is a well-known fact that the idea of God and of spiritual existence is, and always has been, nearly or quite universal among mankind.
2. A belief in the existence of a God has always been found exceedingly difficult to be eradicated.
3. The more thoughtful, and especially the more virtuous, men are, the more, as a general rule, they are disposed to cherish the idea of a Supreme Being.
4. The atheistical idea, when fully and distinctly placed before the mind, is abhorrent to the moral feelings of the soul.
5. A belief in the existence of one supreme and perfect God is in a high degree elevating and happy in the influence which it exerts on the mind and heart of man, while the views of atheism have tended only to demoralisation and debasement. There is a God; it is only the fool who denies it in his heart. (R. Palmer, D. D.)
This is God’s world, and yet how godless. God made it and the men in it, and yet “in all their thoughts God is not.” The origin of this alienation is in the heart, and the subject of it is pronounced a fool. His heart is just what it would be were there no God. Inquire--
I. To whom this charge may be applied.
1. To the avowed atheist. He who sees the proofs of God in creation and can yet deny Him, can neither love nor fear Him.
2. To those who entertain false views of His character. They deny that He is the righteous Governor of the moral world. But this is much the same as to say, “There is no God.”
3. To those who deny or disregard the providential government of God. He lives without God in the world.
4. To those who supremely love the world. Is this treating God as He ought to be treated?
5. Who have no delight in the worship of God. They act the part of atheism.
6. Or who live in disobedience to God. They act upon a principle which subverts the sovereignty of God.
7. All who reject the Gospel. By his unbelief the man makes God a liar. What more could the avowed atheist do? And there are yet other characteristics. But note--
II. The folly of these men. This appears--
1. From the fact that there may be a God. No man, unless he himself is omnipresent and omniscient, can know that there is not somewhere some other being to whom these attributes belong. If there be no God, the believer suffers no loss; but if there be, then the atheist is undone.
2. His belief is contrary to the fullest evidence. He shuts his eyes and stops his ears.
3. They deprive themselves of all real good. For without faith in God there can be no rational enjoyment of the world. Nor can there be true excellence of character. For be places himself beyond the reach of every motive which ennobles character and elevates man to the end of his being. Without God there is no rule of action, no accountability, no futurity, no retribution, no influence to operate on man for his spiritual good. And he must become supremely selfish. The spirit may be concealed in its true nature and tendency. But take off the garb, let the real selfish heart be uncovered, let it be seen in its true character, and we abhor it. And he has no support under affliction or support on the bed of death. But believe in God and how altered affliction and death become. A man may have lived an infidel, but for the most part he dies a terrified believer. How must he feel, when death comes, who admits that there is a God, and yet that he has lived as if there were none? Beware of that eternity which is opening on you. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)
Religion and materialism
In David’s time it was “the fool” who said there was no God; in ours, it is the philosopher who proclaims it upon the housetop, and invites us all to bask in the mild light of the science which has made this as its last and highest discovery. Some may think it out of our way to advert to discussions which touch the very foundations of our faith and of all religious belief whatsoever, because we feel our faith to be too firmly fixed that we should be perplexed by any such questions. But we can never tell how near us these questions may come, or in what shape we may find them meeting us. You may have seen a coat and hat which at their beginning were articles of handsome clothing, and were worn on Sundays and in good society, descending through various vicissitudes, until at last, perched on a stick in a turnip field, they performed the disingenuous function of a scarecrow; and just so an opinion or a theory which was at first started on a solemn occasion, and by a philosopher, may filter down through minds of less intelligence until, half understood and misapplied, it serves only to mislead, and fulfils purposes altogether different from those which it served originally. I have found far down in the ranks of society such distortions of opinions and speculations which were safe enough in learned hands, but full of practical mischief in those that are unlearned. Now it is religion that is at stake in this question of modern materialism; religion not only as a faith but as a morality. If it be true, all religions are mere impostures. Note its theory of the origin of life. You know the theory the Bible teaches, that God is the Lord and giver of life. And it would not be essentially contradicted even were the theory of development fully proved, as it is not yet. Suppose that man is developed from a baboon, and differs from it not in kind but only in degree. Yet you could not mark the stage at which the spirit of God was inbreathed. But that makes all the difference. There may have been inferior types before man’s outward organism was complete, before God said, “Let us make man.” Development does not deny Scripture truth. But the new theory is different. It ascribes all to “matter,” affirms that it contains within itself “the promise and the potency” of all life, and that it is eternal; that there is, in fact, no such thing as an eternal mind but that which we call “matter,” which we can see, handle, weigh, analyse, is that and that only which is from everlasting to everlasting, and is Divine if anything is to be so called. They who say all this set aside Scripture as incredible and irrelevant, for they do not believe in God and a spiritual world; nor in anything which their scales cannot weigh, their process analyse, their figures calculate. “But,” we ask, “why is eternal matter more credible than an eternal mind?” Both cannot be, but why should we be shut up to the materialist’s creed? We find it easier and better to believe in an eternal and Holy Spirit which devised all the forms and laws of life than in an eternity of senseless atoms, without spirit, without intelligence, without life, coming together somehow, and somehow forming this world and all things we see. And it and it only provides a basis for religious life. Materialism is the death of morality. For it gets rid of the idea of God, and so of His judgment to which I am accountable, of conscience and my spiritual nature by which I was in some sense a law to myself. Farewell to all dreams of a higher life, to all aspirations after the Divine. “Let us eat and drink, for,” etc. This the natural conclusion. All our Christian ideas are fictions, “the baseless fabric of a vision” which ought to and which will fade utterly away. It is easy for a man, a man possibly of dull spiritual perceptions, standing amid all the light of revelation and on the safe and serene height of Christian civilisation, to follow out physical investigations to the point to which his knowledge can conduct him, and then to turn round and say, “I have tracked life almost within sight of its very source, and I see no hand of any God in it, and no indication of any spirit; but let us pursue our researches in a pure and just temper, and let us strive to elevate our life and to live nobly”; but he forgets that, but for the revelation of that God whose existence he denies, purity and justice would be as little known among men as among the lion and the tiger, and the higher life as impossible an idea to a human creature as to an ostrich or an ape. But the history of man shows that the elevating power has been the spiritual, and that his belief in the unseen has been the parent of the noblest achievements of his life. Take these away and he sinks at once. Ponder, therefore, much ere you abandon the Bible for the teachings of this new science. (R. N. Storey, D. D.)
The creed of atheism
The creed is one of the briefest ever penned--“No God.” Its practical result is the saddest ever recorded--“No hope” (Ephesians 2:10). Deprive us of a personal God and you render life an enigma, begun without an author, pursued without a motive, and ending without a hope. Are there any who hold such a gloomy creed? Arrange them into four classes--
1. The heathen, who are ignorant of God. They acknowledge not one God, but many. To them every department of nature has its presiding deity, to whom homage is paid. They have not been enlightened by the beams of revelation. How far are the heathen to blame for continuing in their ignorance? How far are the works of creation a guide to men in finding out God? There is wrapped up in nature a Divine revelation, which mankind may read by exercising their faculties.
2. Atheists, who deny the existence of God. They assume towards Divine things an attitude of active antagonism. Not liking to retain God in their knowledge, they wilfully give themselves over to conduct in defiance of His laws. Their conduct springs from wish rather than conviction. You may shut your eyes to the sunlight, but the sun still shines; you may deny God’s existence, but God remains. It may be doubted whether there is such a person as a positive denier of God, an atheist from intellectual conviction. To say “There is no God” necessitates a claim too sweeping for a reasonable man to make, for it implies that he who makes it has himself been in every corner of the universe at one and the same time, and failed to discover the Divine Being. Is anyone prepared to make such a claim?
3. Agnostics, who say we have no knowledge of God. A numerous class. Their creed is a negative one. They differ from atheists in this, that while the creed of pure atheism is positive denial of God, agnosticism consists, roughly speaking, in making no assertion, positive or negative, respecting the Divine existence, but merely in taking up a position of passive intellectual indifference. He simply “does not know”; God has not made Himself known with sufficient clearness. The agnostic creed resolves itself into an attempt to trace everything to natural causes, and thus dispense with the supernatural, and that is virtually to banish God from the universe. The senses are proposed as the test of truth. But to say that all our knowledge comes through the senses is not sound philosophy. Is there no such thing as intuitive knowledge, knowledge that comes to us neither through experience nor through proof? It is idle for the sceptic to talk of the inadequacy of evidence. What he wants is the disposition to weigh the evidence he has got.
4. Nominal Christians, who disregard the claims of God. A sound creed is no sure guarantee for upright conduct. There are sham professors. Among professing Christians there is an alarming amount of practical atheism. A man’s denial of God may assume a variety of forms. Application, applying equally to the four classes.
(1) They have no guide in life.
(2) They have no hope in death. We decline to accept a gospel of despair. (D. Merson, M. A.)
Atheisms and atheisms
This text is much misunderstood; but some people take a wilful delight in using it. To tell everyone who does not believe in God that he is a fool is charming, it saves all argument; after that assertion argument is useless. But there are atheisms and atheisms. They differ widely in character, and the atheism of one man may be better than the theism of another. Belief in what men have called God, and enthusiasm for what men have called religion, have more embittered the human heart, have caused more bloodshed, and have damned more hopes than all the atheisms the world has seen. The atheistical tree has grown no more folly than the papistical tree. Do you think there is any other atheism than the one of which you and I are constantly guilty--the atheism of living without God in the world? Is it a thing to be angry at that a brother has lost the hope and love and faith which are so sweet to us? Should we not grieve for such a man according to the largeness of the faith we hold? The very fulness of our blessing should be the measure of our pity. I can find no scorn for him who has lost the basis of faith, the occasion of hope, the consolation of sorrow. Another gracious theological business is to tell every man who says he does not believe in God that he wants no God, that he elects to live in darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil. I need not go abroad to learn that evil living dims faith; but to say that it is not possible for any man to come to this conclusion without being an evil liver is to tell a simple lie. Cannot you see the unspeakable difficulty of reconciling all we see and know with theological belief? The man who thinks may never fail to find the grief which underlies all things, but may sadly fail to find the master hand that guides the whole. Without faith what can man do in such a world? The God our theologians show us is fearful, incomprehensible, and only to be wondered at. (George Dawson, M. A.)
Is there a God
I. God is provable by nature. The very commonness of nature causes us to regard it as a thing of course, rather than a thing of God. Nature, no doubt, is a great mystery; and man, even when developed into a philosopher, is a very small affair. But we are so constituted that we cannot help believing nature to be an outflow and effect of a Divine cause, whatever opinion we may hold of the design argument. Our instincts are stronger than our logic, and our intuitions than our metaphysics. Let the heart say there is no God, and the head will give it the lie; or let the head say there is no God, and in wrath the heart stands up and says, “There is.”
II. God is provable from history. Do not nations know, do not individuals know, do not you and I know, that man proposes, but God disposes? Whilst the world was drowning, and Noah was floating, was a God not ruling? A God, you may seek Him among the stars, but you will find Him best among the incidents of your own life. Circumstances reign, but God rules.
III. God is provable from the soul. A world long lacking its man would not be a God’s world. God has moved, a soul has been created, an image has been stamped, and there is a man. Mind only could produce mind--a living God only could produce a living man. Therefore, having man and his attributes before us, we must admit a God. Man shows forth God. A soul without aged is an impossibility.
IV. God is provable from conscience. The wonderful moral faculty of the soul. It is a marvellous thing to see a Newton soaring among the stars; but it is a more marvellous thing to see a wayfaring man tremble under a sense of sin. Conscience makes cowards of us all by morally demonstrating that there is a God to punish and a hell to be punished in.
V. God is provable from revelation. Amid the variety of circumstances which tell us of a God, revelation stands out in marked prominence as a more excellent way. From other sources we get, as it were, the pure white light of Deity; but from the revelation source we get the bright rays themselves. (W. R. Graham.)
On the atheism of the heart
The term “fool” is not to be confined to one who is really deprived of the exercise of reason. We must understand it of the sinner; not merely of him who is addicted to the habits of vice and to a life of gross impiety, but of everyone who is under the power of the natural wickedness of his heart, under the dominion of sin, or in an unrenewed state, although his life should be externally sober and blameless. It is declared of the spiritual fool that he hath said in his heart “There is no God.” These words do not express the persuasion of the sinner, but his affection and desire. He is not convinced that there is no God, but he wishes that there were none.
I. Some general observations on the subject. There cannot be a speculative atheist in the world. By a speculative atheist is meant one who is firmly convinced in his mind that there is no God. The works of creation contain so powerful a demonstration of the existence of the Supreme Being that a man must wilfully shut his eyes ere he can presume to deny it. This truth is further demonstrated by the tendency of all earthly things to destruction. The dictates of conscience afford the same testimony. There have been, and there are, many heart atheists; those who, although they do not in their judgments disbelieve this fundamental doctrine, yet ardently wish in their hearts that they had no ground to believe it. There are many practical atheists; men who, although they believe the being of God, live as if there was none. Their life is a practical denial of His being, because it is a life of impiety. Every man is naturally an atheist in heart. The natural atheism of the heart is greatly confirmed and increased by continuance in sin. There is even atheism in the heart of every believer.
II. Every natural man is under the power of heart atheism.
1. This appears from his neglect of religions duties.
2. The power of heart atheism appears by hypocrisy.
3. This corruption of the heart breaks out in the profanity and sensuality of the life.
4. By perjury.
5. Sinners discover the atheism of their hearts by the false apprehensions they entertain of the justice and mercy of God.
6. And by not being influenced in their conduct by an impression of the Divine omnipresence and omniscience.
7. By their disregard of God’s threatening law.
8. By their rejection of the Gospel.
9. By their contempt of the godly.
III. The consequences of heart atheism. It tends--
1. To apostasy front the true faith. The ground of faith in the doctrines of Holy Scripture, in opposition to those of error, must be the authority and faithfulness of God speaking in His Word.
2. To produce an apprehension that there is no truth in Divine revelation, and that all religion is a human device.
3. To give loose rein to all manner of iniquity.
4. To produce unreasonable and ill-grounded fears.
5. To drive to despair. It is the atheism of the heart, taken in one point of view, that makes the sinner imagine there is no mercy for him.
6. To hurry men into eternal perdition. Exhort
(1) those who are freed from the dominion of this corruption to pray earnestly for deliverance from its remaining power.
(2) Strive to resist atheistical thoughts.
(3) Beware of indulging secret sins.
(4) Implore a continued sense of the presence of God on your mind. (J. Jamieson, M. A.)
The unreasonableness and mischief of atheism
Whether a man be convinced or not of the being of a God, of a Providence, and future judgment, yet not to believe them with the heart so as to practise and live according to such a belief, is a very great folly.
1. It is a great folly not to believe practically in the things above specified.
2. It is a great folly to say there are no such things, and to endeavour to persuade others so. (W. Talbot, D. D.)
“If you meet with an atheist,” says Dr. Farrar, “do not let him entangle you into the discussion of side issues. As to many points which he raises you must make the Rabbi’s answer, ‘I do not know.’ But ask him these seven questions--
1. Ask him, what did matter come from? Can a dead thing create itself?
2. Ask him, where (lid motion come from?
3. Ask him, where life came from save the finger tips of Omnipotence?
4. Ask him, whence came the exquisite order and design in nature? If one told you that millions of printer’s types should fortuitously shape themselves into the Divine comedy of Dante or the plays of Shakespeare, would you think him a madman?
5. Ask him, whence came consciousness?
6. Ask him, who gave you free will?
7. Ask him, whence came conscience? He who says there is no God in the face of these questions talks simply stupendous nonsense. This, then, is one of the things which cannot be shaken, and remain. From this belief in God follow the belief in God’s providence, the belief that we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” (The Young Man.)
An infidel silenced
A London clergyman met with all infidel who wished all the churches were swept from the land, beginning with Spurgeon’s. “Then which of your infidels will be the first to take upon himself the responsibility of Mr. Spurgeon’s orphanage?” was the clergyman’s reply. The silence following the question was very expressive. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
They are corrupt.--
The moral condition of mankind
I. As lamentably depraved.
1. A negative description of depravity. It is godless. All sinners are practical atheists. Practical atheism is a thousand times worse than theoretical. It is worthless. The essence of a good work lies in its motive; where God is not there is not, there cannot be, any virtuous motive. It is thoughtless. They do not think of the right subjects in the right way. It is prayerless. How should they call upon Him whose existence they practically deny? True prayer is a soul habitude, and thus the wicked never pray.
2. A positive description of it--Foolish. Sin and folly are convertible terms; what is morally wrong in principle must always be inexpedient in action. Widespread. The prevalence, but not absolute universality of depravity is implied. Undoubtedly real. Depravity is not a theological fiction, not a mere hypothesis, but a fact attested by Omniscience. Transgression. The depraved are called “workers of iniquity.” They work at it habitually. Putrescent. The sinner is frequently represented in the Bible as dead.
II. As prospectively hopeful. Deliverance was to come. There is a deliverance planned for the world. It will be--
1. Like an emancipation.
2. This deliverance is intensely desired.
3. It comes from God.
4. It will be the occasion of universal joy. (Homilist.)
They are all gone aside.
Man falls lower and lower
The mind end heart having gone astray--having been turned aside like a deceitful bow,--nothing became easier than to sink into ever-deepening abysses of iniquity; the case is put also negatively, so as to fill up the measure of the great accusation, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Man cannot stop in a morally negative condition. Again and again this solemn lesson has been forced upon us by the whole current of history, and yet an insidious temptation assails the heart with the thought that it is still possible to forsake religious convictions and professions, and yet to preserve a pure and noble life. The backslider and the truth seeker must never be regarded as one and the same person. God having been surrendered as the supreme thought of the mind and the supreme rule of conduct, a scene of infinite confusion presented itself: workers of iniquity carried on their evil service as if in darkness; their mouths were opened in cruelty upon any who feared and worshipped God; the counsel of the poor was treated with contempt, and the poor themselves were devoured rapaciously. Where reverence has been abandoned it has been impossible to sustain true and self-sacrificing philanthropy. In this case reverence has been formally given up, and so a great act of moral spoliation has been accomplished. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
There is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Man fallen and depraved
I. The inborn depravity of our nature.
1. What saith the Scripture?
2. The records of human experience are to the same effect. See the moral misery of the world. Look at the evidence of our inborn depravity in the manifold outbreakings of wickedness in every age and circumstance of life. Notice also the corruption and infirmity which is found remaining even in good men. We cannot read the sins of Abraham, and David, and Peter, and Moses without many painful and humiliating thoughts. Who can stand if they fell?
II. In what does this original depravity of our nature chiefly consist?
1. In the depravation of our intellectual faculties. The mind of our race has become blinded. Civilisation gives no Divine knowledge.
2. In the perversion and rebellion of the will. By the will we understand the commanding faculty of the soul by which it chooses or rejects anything that may be offered to it.
3. In our disordered and alienated affections. Such a threefold cord against God and holiness we might well fear could not be broken. But thanks be to God, there is one who can break it. “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (D. Moore, M. A.)
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?
I. Conscience informed. It is quite true that the workers of iniquity seem like brute beasts, as if they had no common sense, no conscience; but they had these gifts, and it is this fact which renders their conscience so dark.
1. We sin against our understanding. Our reason protests against sill.
2. We sin against conscience. Our moral sense echoes the words and thunders of Sinai, and protests against transgression.
3. We sin against experience. Our history shows how all that is desirable and honourable lies in the path of obedience, and how paths of transgression are paths of misery and shame. Sin is not a mistake or a misfortune, but a crime.
II. Conscience asleep.
1. Asleep as to men (Psalms 14:4).
2. Asleep as to God. “Call not upon the Lord.” Thus men stifle their moral sense, and live neither fearing God nor regarding man.
III. Conscience aroused (Psalms 14:5). Men awake to find that “God is in the generation of the righteous.” All is true that the righteous held, and the angry God is ready to avenge Himself on the proud sinner. (W. L. Watkinson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18