The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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.)
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.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(A. Roberts, M. A.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.)
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 (Psalm 8:1; Psalm 19:1, 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.
2. Miracles (Psalm 70:11, 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.
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) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) 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.)
(ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) 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.)
(iii) (iv) (v) (vi) 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.)
4. If we believe, then worship Him and often think of Him. (S. Charnock, B. D.)
4. If we believe, then worship Him and often think of Him.
(S. Charnock, B. D.)
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?
Psalm 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 (ver. 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 (Job 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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
(R. N. Storey, D. D.)
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) (2) (D. Merson, M. A.)
(2) (D. Merson, M. A.)
(D. Merson, M. A.)
(George Dawson, M. A.)
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.)
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) (2) (3) (4) (J. Jamieson, M. A.)
(2) (3) (4) (J. Jamieson, M. A.)
(3) (4) (J. Jamieson, M. A.)
(4) (J. Jamieson, M. A.)
(J. Jamieson, M. A.)
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.)
The Young Man."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.)
(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
They are corrupt.
Homilist.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.
They are all gone aside.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
There is none that doeth good, no, not one.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 (ver. 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 (ver. 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.).