The Depravity of a Godless World, Viewed by God
Psalm 14:1-7
The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.…

This psalm is given us twice - as the fourteenth and the fifty-third. It is one of those which assumes a revelation of God as a redeeming God, and also the existence of a redeemed people of God. And by way of consequence it assumes the necessity of a Divine redemption in order to bring about "the generation of the righteous." This could only have come about by Divine grace and by Divine power. Hence the very manifest distinction noted in the psalm between "the children of men" (ver. 2) and the people of God (ver. 4). The central part of the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a commentary on this psalm by one of the most richly inspired penmen. When God saw, as with his all-piercing gaze he looked down from heaven, that among "the children. of men" there was absolutely not one righteous, no, not one - manifestly, a "generation of the righteous" could never have existed save for a gracious redemption and regeneration from above. And while the Apostle Paul develops from this description of the world, man's absolute need of a Divine interposition, we, in expounding the psalm itself, must work distinctly on its own lines, showing the state of things in the world on which the eye of God rested, and also how far that state of things exists in it still. The expositor must also take up the Christian standpoint, and show when and for what purpose the Lord looked down on such a sight.

I. A FEARFUL SIGHT ON WHICH "THE LORD LOOKED DOWN? To what precise period of time the psalm refers, we have no means of knowing; nor at what exact period it was written. This, however, is of no consequence. Every point specified here can. be verified now.

1. The depravity of man had vented itself in the most egregious folly, even in the denial, of God. There is ample room for the Christian teacher to expose the folly of such denial quite irrespectively of his theory of creation, be it the evolutionary one or no. Either way, the

(1) teleological,

(2) cosmological, and

(3) ontological proofs remain the same;

in fact, the teleological proof is receiving abundant and amazing illustrations in modern discovery; so much so that its power again and again "overwhelmed" Mr. Darwin himself. The argument in Paley's 'Natural. Theology ' may need resetting, but in substance has lost none of its force. While Mr. Herbert Spencer's statement, that we know with undoubting certainty that there is "an infinite and eternal Energy from which everything proceeds" is one of which the Christian advocate may make large and effective use. That there is a God all Nature cries aloud in all her works. And not till a man is a "nabal," "a fool," a withered, sapless being, does he come to deny the Divine existence. Such denial has, however, not yet ceased. On the contrary, it has assumed in our days a boldness not even contemplated by the psalmist himself. There is

(1) practical atheism, where men profess to know God, while in works they deny him;

(2) agnosticism;

(3) theoretical atheism, and even anti-theism;

(4) and in some of the works of positivists, it is even reckoned as a virtue for men to have no fear of God before their eyes I

2. Such atheism is the most striking and grievous folly.

(1) It is irrational.

(2) It is corrupting.

(3) It breaks out into abominable acts.

(4) In the course of its evolution, it makes aggressions on and even mocks at theology, religion, and religions people.

(5) It will gradually dry up entirely the springs of social virtue. It may not do this in the first generation, if the denier of God has first been cast by early Christian teaching in the mould of social morality and goodness; but let generation after generation of atheists arise, and it will be seen that when the ties are snapped which bind men to their God, the ties which bind man to man are cut asunder as well!

3. Such atheism is fearfully widespread among "the children of men. None that did understand, that did seek God." It is common among

(1) the irreligious;

(2) the free-thinkers;

(3) philosophers, under the guise of philosophy;

(4) scientific men, under the guise of science. The fact is, atheism is of the heart, not of the head. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and turns the very arguments which prove the Divine existence into an excuse for denying it! Its cry is, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us!" How grievous and terrible a sight is a world like this! How loathsome to infinite purity, when men are altogether become unprofitable, when there is "not one that doeth good, no, not one." Every expression in the psalm should be critically examined: they are all "gone aside;" they are all together become "filthy," "stinking," "corrupt," etc. There is a marvellous variety of words in the Hebrew for moral corruption. Nowhere in the whole world was the sense of sin, as sin, so deep as among the Hebrews. How was this? It will be seen how it was when we study our second question.

II. WHEN AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE DID THE LORD LOOK DOWN ON THIS MASS OF EVIL? The meaning of the psalmist could not go beyond the range of his inspiration and enlightenment. We live in a later age; the light is brighter now than then; and therefore the preacher will fall short alike of his privileges and of his mission, if he does not open up from this point more truth than it was possible for the psalmist to know.

1. In an early stage of the world, God looked down on it to punish its iniquity. The Deluge. Sodom and Gomorrah. The desolations which have come on Egypt, Babylon, Tyro, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Philistia, Jerusalem. And when great calamities come, the most irreligious men become the greatest cowards. "There were they in great fear, where no fear was."

2. God looked on the wickedness of the sons of men, and resolved to call out therefrom a people for himself. (Cf. Isaiah 51:1, 2, Hebrew.) God called Abraham; and how his people became a family, a tribe, and a nation, the roll of sacred history records. And it is owing to this that the psalmist refers to "the generation of the righteous" (ver. 5), in distinction from "the children of men" (ver. 2). Hence it is and has ever been the case, that, however prevalent the depravity of men may have become, there have ever been some trusting hearts who have found their refuge in God.

3. God instituted a priesthood and sacrifices to instruct his people in the dread evil of sin. The whole Levitical institute means this, and nothing less than this. The Law was a "child-guide," which took men to school, and taught them that nothing was right with men till they were right with God.

4. God established a prophetic order, which should declaim against sin. (See Isaiah 59:1-20, specially the fifteenth verse.) The mission of all the prophets was to speak for God, and uphold his claims before the people. And as they prophesied, God's treatment of the world's sin was being unfolded, as we see in the chapter from Isaiah to which we have just referred.

5. In the fulness of the times, God sent forth his Son, who by his death should atone for sin, and who by his Spirit should conquer sin. This, then, is like a God. We might have expected, from the psalmist's words, that God would take vengeance on the sinner and crush him. But no. He is a just God and a Saviour; condemning sin and saving the sinner (Romans 3.).

6. God has created in the hearts of his own a yearning after salvation and righteousness, which is in itself a prophecy of God's ultimate triumph over sin, and of a time when the anguish of his people shall give place to joy (ver. 7)! These desires of the holy are prophetic germs. The aspiration in the closing verse of the psalm is one the fulfilment of which has been going on ever since, and will, till the Redeemer who has come out of Zion shall have completed his saving work. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.} The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

WEB: The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good.

The Creed of Atheism
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