Genesis 6:5
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, &c. The life of man, whether longer or shorter, is a time during which the Spirit of God strives with him. It is at once in judgment and in mercy that the strife is not prolonged; for where there is continued opposition to the will of God there is continual laying up of judgment against the day of wrath. The allotted time of man upon the earth is sufficient for the required probation, clearly manifesting the direction of the will, the decided choice of the heart. Here is -

I. THE GREAT MORAL FACT OF MAN'S CONDITION IN HIS FLESHLY STATE. The striving of God's Spirit with him.

1. In the order of the world and of human life.

2. In the revelation of truth and positive appeals of the Divine word.

3. In the constant nearness and influence of spiritual society.

4. In the working of conscience and the moral instincts generally.

II. THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGE at once a righteous limitation and a gracious concentration. That which is unlimited is apt to be undervalued. Not always shall the Spirit strive.

1. Individually this is testified. A heart which knows not the day of its visitation becomes hardened.

2. In the history of spiritual work in communities. Times of refreshing generally followed by withdrawments of power. The limit of life itself is before us all. Not always can we hear the voice and see the open door.

III. THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL ARE INTIMATELY RELATED TO ONE ANOTHER IN THE LIFE OF MAN. He who decreed the length of days to his creature did also strive with the evil of his fallen nature that he might cast it out. The hundred and twenty years are seldom reached; but is it not because the evil is so obstinately retained? Those whose spirit is most in fellowship with the Spirit of God are least weighed down with the burden of the flesh, are strongest to resist the wearing, wasting influence of the world.

IV. THE STRIVING OF GOD'S SPIRIT WITH US MAY CEASE. What follows? To fall on the stone is to be broken, to be under it is to be crushed. The alternative is before every human life - to be dealt with as with God or against him. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" The progressive revelations of the Bible point to the winding up of all earthly history. Not always strife. Be ye reconciled to God. - R.







God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.
1. The organic unity of society is favourable to the spread of moral evil.

2. The native willingness of the human soul to do evil is favourable to the contagion of moral wrong.

I. IT IS A WORLD IN WHICH MARRIAGE IS ABUSED.

1. We find that marriage was commenced on a wrong principle. It is altogether wrong for the sons of God to marry the daughters of men.

2. We find that physical beauty was made the basis of the matrimonial selection. We find that the marriage bond was violated by impurity.

II. IT IS WORLD IN WHICH VIOLENCE PREVAILS.

1. Men of physical strength became the rulers of the people.

2. Men of physical strength were the popular favourites of the day.

3. Men of physical strength were the terror of the day.

III. IT IS A WORLD IN WHICH SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES ARE REJECTED.

1. This degenerate world had not been entirely left to its own inclination.

2. The degenerate world rejected the holy influences of heaven.

3. The degenerate world was in danger of losing the holy and correcting influences of heaven.

IV. IT IS A WORLD UNDER THE IMMEDIATE INSPECTION OF GOD.

V. IT IS A WORLD THREATENED WITH DESTRUCTION BY GOD.

1. This threat was retributive.

2. This threat was comprehensive.

3. This threat was mingled with mercy.LESSONS:

1. To sanctify a long life by true piety, lest it become a means of impurity.

2. To avoid unhallowed alliances.

3. To coincide with the convictions of the Spirit or God.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. The testimony of God respecting man. In general, the wickedness of man was great in the earth. Every species of wickedness was committed in the most shameless manner. But more particularly, "the hearts" of men were evil; "the thoughts" of their hearts were evil; "the imaginations" of the thoughts were evil, and this too without exception, without mixture, without intermission; for every imagination was evil, and "only" evil, and that continually. What an awful statement. But how could this be ascertained? Only by God (Proverbs 16:2). This is His testimony, after a thorough inspection of every human being. The same must be spoken of man at this day. Proved by observation. What has been the state of your hearts? Pride, anger, impure thoughts have sprung up in them. If occasionally a transient thought of good has arisen, how coldly has it been entertained, how feebly has it operated, how soon has it been lost. Compared with what the law requires, and what God and His Christ deserve at your hands, do we not fall short of our duty?

II. WHAT EFFECT IT SHOULD PRODUCE UPON YOU.

1. Humiliation. On review of our words and actions we have all reason to be ashamed. Who amongst us could bear to have all his thoughts disclosed? Yet God beholds all; and has a perfect recollection of all that has passed through our minds from infancy. We ought to be humble.

2. Gratitude. God sent His Son that through Him all our iniquities might be forgiven. Is not gratitude due to Him in return?

3. Fear. Though your hearts are renewed by Divine grace, it is only in part; you have still the flesh within you, as well as the spirit.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

1. In the first place, we may remark the occasion of this general corruption, which was the increase of population. When men began to multiply they became more and more depraved: yet an increase of population is considered as a blessing to a country, and such it is in itself; but through man's depravity it often proves a curse. When men are collected in great numbers they whet one another up to evil, which is the reason why sin commonly grows rankest in populous places. We were made to be helpers; but by sin we are become tempters of one another, drawing and being drawn into innumerable evils.

2. Secondly: Observe the first step towards degeneracy, which was the uniting of the world and the church by mixed marriages. The great end of marriage in a good man should not be to gratify his fancy, or indulge his natural inclinations, but to obtain a helper; and the same in a woman. We need to be helped on in our way to heaven, instead of being hindered and corrupted.

3. Observe the great offence that God took at this conduct, and the consequences which grew out of it: The Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, etc. It is for that he also (or these also) were flesh; that is, those who had been considered as the sons of God were become corrupt.

4. Observe the long suffering of God amidst His displeasure — His day shall be a hundred and twenty years (1 Peter 3:20). All this time God did strive, or contend with them; but, it seems, without effect.

(A. Fuller.)

As there is a law of continuity, whereby in ascending we can only mount step by step; so they who descend must sink with an ever increasing velocity. No propagation is more rapid than that of evil; no growth more certain. He who is in for a penny, if he does not resolutely fly, will find that he is in for a pound. The longer the avalanche rolls down the glacier slopes, the swifter becomes its speed. A little group of Alpine travellers saw a flower blooming on the slope of the cliff on which they stood surveying the prospect below. Each started to secure the prize; but as they hastened down, the force of their momentum increased with each step of the descent — they were borne on the smooth icy surface swiftly past the object of pursuit — and were precipitated into a yawning crevasse. Such is the declension of the soul.

I know beautiful valley in Wales, guarded by well-wooded hills. Spring came there first, and summer lingered longest, and the clear river loitered through the rich pastures and the laughing orchards, as if loth to leave the enchanting scene. But the manufacturer came there; he built his chimneys and he lighted his furnaces, out of which belched forth poisonous fumes night and day. Every tree is dead, no flower blooms there now, the very grass has been eaten off the face of the earth, the beautiful river, in which the pebbles once lay as the pure thoughts in a maiden's mind, is now foul, and the valley scarred and bare, looks like the entrance into Tophet itself. And this human nature of ours, in which faith and virtue, and godliness, and all sweet humanities might flourish, in miles of this London of ours, is what bad air, and the gin palace, and the careless indifference of a Christianity bent only upon saving itself, have made it.

(Morlais Jones.)

I. THAT THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN IS, AND EVER HAS BEEN, GREAT.

1. Among the Jews.

2. In heathen nations. But, to bring the matter home to ourselves, for with ourselves the great concern lies, are not men still full of envy, murder, debate, deceit? Is not the state of society lamentably corrupted and depraved?

II. THAT THIS WICKEDNESS PROCEEDS FROM HIS CORRUPT NATURE. Prove this from —

1. Experience.

2. Scripture. (Genesis 8:20, 21; Job 15:14-16; Psalm 51:5-10; Matthew 15:19; Matthew 12:33; Romans 7:14, 15, 18.)

II. THE ONLY REMEDY FOR THIS CORRUPTION. (John 3:16.)

(H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

Two things are here laid to their charge:

1. Corruption of life, wickedness, great wickedness. I understand this of the wickedness of their lives; for it is plainly distinguished from the wickedness of their hearts.

2. Corruption of nature. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. All their wicked practices are here traced to the fountain and springhead: a corrupt heart was the source of all. The soul, which was made upright in all its faculties, is now wholly disordered. There is a sad alteration, a wonderful overturning in the nature of man: where, at first, there was nothing evil, now there is nothing good.

I. I SHALL CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE OF THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE. Here we shall consult the word of God, and men's experience and observation. For Scripture-proof, let us consider,

1. How the Scripture takes particular notice of fallen Adam's communicating his image to his posterity (Genesis 5:3).

2. It appears, from Job 14:4, our first parents were unclean; how then can we be clean?

3. Consider the confession of David (Psalm 51:5). Here he ascends from his actual sin to the fountain of it, namely, corrupt nature.

4. Hear our Lord's determination of the point, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). Behold the universal corruption of mankind — all are flesh!

5. Man certainly is sunk very low now, in comparison of what he once was. God made him but a "little lower than the angels"; but now we find him likened to the beasts that perish. He hearkened to a brute, and is now become like one of them,

6. "We are by nature the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). We are worthy of, and liable to, the wrath of God; and this by nature: therefore, doubtless, we are by nature sinful creatures. I shall propose a few things that may serve to convince us in this point —(1) Who sees not a flood of miseries overflowing the world?(2) Observe how early this corruption of nature begins to appear in young ones.(3) Take a view of the manifold gross outbreakings of sin in the world: the wickedness of man is yet great in the earth.(4) Cast your eye upon those terrible convulsions which the world is thrown into by the lusts of men! Lions make not a prey of lions, nor wolves of wolves: but men are turned lions and wolves to one another, biting and devouring one another.(5) Consider the necessity of human laws, guarded by terrors and severities; to which we may apply what the apostle says (1 Timothy 1:9).(6) Consider the remains of that natural corruption in the saints. Though grace has entered yet corruption is not expelled: though they have got the new creature, yet much of the old corrupt nature remains.(7) I shall add but one observation more, and that is, that in every man naturally the image of fallen Adam appears. Some children by the features and lineaments of their face do, as it were, father themselves: and thus we resemble our first parents. Every one of us bears the image and impression of the Fall upon him: and to evince the truth of this, I appeal to the consciences of all in these following particulars —(a) Is not sinful curiosity natural to us? and is not this a print of Adam's image (Genesis 3:6)?(b) If the Lord by His holy law and wise providence puts a restraint upon us to keep us back from anything, does not that restraint whet the edge of our natural inclinations, and makes us so much the keener in our desires? And in this do we not betray it plainly that we are Adam's children (Genesis 3:2-6)?(c) Which of all the children of Adam is not naturally disposed to hear the instruction that causeth to err? And was not this the rock our first parents split upon (Genesis 3:4-6)?(d) Do not the eyes in your head often blind the eyes of the mind?(e) Is it not natural to us to care for the body, even at the expense of the soul?(f) Is not everyone by nature discontented with his present lot in the world, or with some one thing or other in it?(g) Are we not far more easily impressed and influenced by evil counsels and examples than by those that are good?(h) Who of all Adam's sons needs be taught the art of sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7)?(i) Do not Adam's children naturally follow his footsteps in hiding themselves from the presence of the Lord (Genesis 3:8)?(j) How loth are men to confess sin, to take guilt and shame to themselves? Was it not thus in the case before us (Genesis 3:10)?(k) Is it not natural for us to extenuate our sin, and transfer the guilt upon others?

II. I PROCEED TO INQUIRE INTO THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE IN THE SEVERAL PARTS THEREOF. Man in his natural state is altogether corrupt: both soul and body are polluted, as the apostle proves at large (Romans 3:10-18).

1. Of the corruption of the understanding.(1) There is a natural weakness in the minds of men with respect to spiritual things. The apostle determines concerning everyone that is not endued with the graces of the Spirit, "That he is blind, and cannot see afar off" (2 Peter 1:9).(2) Man's understanding is naturally overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things. He has some notions of spiritual truths, but sees not the things themselves that are wrapt up in the words of truth, "Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Timothy 1:7). In a word, natural men fear, seek, confess, they know not what.(3) There is in the mind of man a natural bias to evil, whereby it comes to pass that whatever difficulties it finds while occupied about things truly good, it acts with a great deal of ease in evil, as being in that case in its own element (Jeremiah 4:22).(4) There is in the carnal mind an opposition to spiritual truths, and an aversion to receive them. It is as little a friend to Divine truths as it is to holiness.(5) There is in the mind of man a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which favours his lusts.(6) Man is naturally high-minded; for when the gospel comes in power to him it is employed in "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

2. Of the corruption of the will. The will, that commanding faculty, which at first was faithful and ruled with God, is now turned traitor and rules with and for the devil. God planted it in man "wholly a right seed," but now it is "turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine."(1) There is in the unrenewed will an utter inability for what is truly good and acceptable in the sight of God.(2) There is in the unrenewed will an aversion to good. Sin is the natural man's element; he is as unwilling to part with it as fish are to come out of the water on to dry land.(3) There is in the will of man a natural "proneness to evil," a woeful bent towards sin.(4) There is a natural contrariety, direct opposition, and enmity in the will of man to God Himself and His holy will (Romans 8:7).

3. The corruption of the affections. The unrenewed man's affections are wholly disordered and distempered: they are as the unruly horse, that either will not receive, or violently runs away with, the rider.

4. Corruption of the conscience (Titus 1:15).

5. Corruption of the memory. Even the memory bears evident marks of this corruption. What is good and worthy to be remembered, as it makes but slender impression, so that impression easily wears off; the memory, as a leaking vessel, lets it slip (Hebrews 2:1).

6. Corruption of the body. The body itself also is partaker of this corruption and defilement so far as it is capable thereof. Wherefore the Scripture calls it sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). We may take this up in two things.(1) The natural temper, or rather distemper, of the bodies of Adam's children, as it is an effect of original sin, so it has a natural tendency to sin, incites to sin, leads the soul into snares, yea, is itself a snare to the soul.(2) It serves the soul in many sins. Its members are instruments or weapons of unrighteousness whereby men fight against God (Romans 6:13).

III. I SHALL SHOW HOW MAN'S NATURE COMES TO BE THUS CORRUPTED. Adam's sin corrupted man's nature and leavened the whole lump of mankind. The root was poisoned, and so the branches were envenomed: the vine turned into the vine of Sodom, and so the grapes became grapes of gall. Adam by his sin became not only guilty but corrupt, and so transmits guilt and corruption to his posterity (Genesis 5:3; Job 14:4). By his sin he stripped himself of his original righteousness and corrupted himself; we were in him representatively, being represented by him as our moral head in the covenant of works: we were in him seminally, as our natural head; hence we fell in him, and by his disobedience were made sinners, as Levi in the loins of Abraham paid tithes (Hebrews 7:9, 10).

IV. I SHALL NOW APPLY THIS DOCTRINE OF THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE.

Use 1. — For information. Is man's nature wholly corrupted? Then —(1) No wonder that the grave opens its devouring mouth for us as soon as the womb has cast us forth, and that the cradle is turned into a coffin to receive the corrupt lump: for we are all, in a spiritual sense, dead born; yea, and filthy (Psalm 14:3), noisome, rank, and stinking as a corrupt thing, as the word imports.(2) Behold here as in a glass the spring of all the wickedness, profanity, and formality which is in the world; the source of all the disorders in thy own heart and life.(3) See here why sin is so pleasant and religion such a burden to carnal spirits: sin is natural, holiness not so.(4) Learn from this the nature and necessity of regeneration. First, this discovers the nature of regeneration in these two things —

(a)It is not a partial, but a total change, though imperfect in this life. Thy whole nature is corrupted; therefore the cure must go through every part.

(b)It is not a change made by human industry, but by the mighty power of the Spirit of God. A man must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5). Secondly, this also shows the necessity of regeneration. It is absolutely necessary in order to salvation (John 3:4).

Use 2. — For lamentation. Well may we lament thy case, O natural man! for it is the saddest case one can be in out of hell.

Use 3. — I exhort you to believe this sad truth. Alas! it is evident that it is very little believed in the world. Few are concerned to get their corrupt conversation changed; but fewer, by far, to get their nature changed. Most men know not what they are, nor what spirits they are of; they are as the eye, which, seeing many things, never sees itself. But until you know everyone the plague of his own heart, there is no hope of your recovery.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

If a doctor knows that he can cure a disease, he can afford to give full weight to its gravest symptoms. If he knows he cannot, he is sorely tempted to say it is of slight importance, and, though it cannot be cured, can be endured without much discomfort. And so the Scripture teachings about man's real moral condition are characterized by two peculiarities which, at first sight, seem somewhat opposed, but are really harmonious and closely connected. There is no book and no system in the whole world that takes such a dark view of what you and I are; there is none animated with so bright and confident a hope of what you and I may become.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

1. Of the subject, "every man."

2. Of the act, "every thought."

3. Of the qualification of the act, "only evil"

4. Of the time, "continually."The words thus opened afford us this proposition: That the thoughts, and inward operations of the souls of men, are naturally universally evil, and highly provoking. In this discourse, let us first see what kind of thoughts are sins.

1. Negatively. A simple apprehension of sin is not sinful. Thoughts receive not a sinfulness barely from the object. That may be unlawful to be acted which is not unlawful to be thought of.

2. Positively. Our thoughts may be branched into first motions, or such that are more voluntary.(1) First motions: those unfledged thoughts and single threads, before a multitude of them come to be twisted and woven into a discourse; such as skip up from our natural corruptions, and sink down again, as fish in a river. These are sins, though we consent not to them, because, though they are without our will, they are not against our nature, but spring from an inordinate frame, of a different hue from what God implanted in us. How can the first sprouts be good, if the root be evil? Not only the thought formed, but the very formation, or first imagination, is evil.(2) Voluntary thoughts, which are the blossoms of these motions: such that have no lawful object, no right end, not governed by reason, eccentric, disorderly in their motions, and like the jarring strings of an untuned instrument. These may be reduced to three heads.

I.In regard of God.

II.Of ourselves.

III.Of others.

I. In regard of God.

1. Cold thoughts of God. When no affection is raised in us by them.

2. Debasing conceptions, unworthy of God. Such are called in the heathen "vain imaginations" (Romans 1:21). Such an imagination Adam seemed to have, conceiting God to be so mean a being, that he, a creature not of a day's standing, could mount to an equality of knowledge with Him.

3. Accusing thoughts of God, either of His mercy, as in despair; or of His justice, as too severe, as in Cain (Genesis 4:13).

4. Curious thoughts about things too high for us. It is the frequent business of men's minds to flutter about things without the bounds of God's revelation (Genesis 3:5). "God knows that your eyes shall be opened." Yet how do all Adam's posterity long after this forbidden fruit!

II. In regard of ourselves. Our thoughts are proud, self-confident, self-applauding, foolish, covetous, anxious, unclean, and what not?

1. Ambitious. The aspiring thoughts of the first man run in the veins of his posterity.

2. Self-confident. Edom's thoughts swelled him into a vain confidence of a perpetual prosperity; and David sometimes said, in the like state, that he should never be moved.

3. Self-applauding. Either in the vain remembrances of our former prosperity, or ascribing our present happiness to the dexterity of our own wit.

4. Ungrounded imaginations of the events of things, either present or future. Such wild conceits, like meteors bred of a few vapours, do often frisk in our minds.(1) Of things present. It is likely Eve foolishly imagined she had brought forth the Messiah when she brought forth a murderer (Genesis 4:1).(2) Of things to come, either in bespeaking false hopes, or antedating improbable griefs. Such are the jolly thoughts we have of a happy estate in reversion, which yet we may fall short of.

5. Immoderate thoughts about lawful things. When we exercise our minds too thick, and with a fierceness of affection above their merit; not in subserviency to God, or mixing our cares with dependencies on Him. Worldly concerns may quarter in our thoughts, but they must not possess all the room, and thrust Christ into a manger; neither must they be of that value with us as the law was with David, sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb.

III. In regard of others. All thoughts of our neighbour against the rule of charity: "Such that imagine evil in their hearts, God hates" (Zechariah 8:17). These principally are —

1. Envious, when we torment ourselves with other's fortunes.

2. Censorious, stigmatizing every freckle in our brother's conversation (1 Timothy 6:4).

3. Jealous and evil surmisings, contrary to charity, which "thinks no evil" (1 Corinthians 13:5).

4. Revengeful; such made Haman take little content in his preferments, as long as Mordecai refused to court him (Esther 5:13); and Esau thought of the days of mourning for his father, that he might be revenged for his brother's deceits: "Esau said in his heart," etc. (Genesis 27:41). In all these thoughts there is a further guilt in three respects, viz. —

1. Delight.

2. Contrivance.

3. Reacting.

1. Delight in them. The very tickling of our fancy by a sinful motion, though without a formal consent, is a sin, because it is a degree of complacency in an unlawful object.

2. Contrivance. When the delight in the thought grows up to the contrivance of the act (which is still the work of the thinking faculty). When men's wits play the devils in their souls, in inventing sophistical reasons for the commission and justification of their crimes, with a mighty jollity at their own craft, such plots are the trade of a wicked man's heart. A covetous man will be working in his inward shop from morning till night to study new methods for gain; and voluptuous and ambitious persons will draw schemes and models in their fancy of what they would outwardly accomplish.

3. Reacting sin after it is outwardly committed. Though the individual action be transient, and cannot be committed again, yet the idea and image of it remaining in the memory may, by the help of an apish fancy, be repeated a thousand times over with a rarefied pleasure, as both the features of our friends, and the agreeable conversations we have had with them, may with a fresh relish be represented in our fancies, though the persons were rotten many years ago. Having thus declared the nature of our thoughts, and the degrees of their guilt, the next thing is to prove that they are sins.There are three reasons for the proof of this, that they are sins.

1. They are contrary to the law, which doth forbid the first foamings and belchings of the heart, because they arise from an habitual corruption, and testify a defect of something which the law requires to be in us, to correct the excursions of our minds (Romans 7:7).

2. They are contrary to the order of nature, and the design of our creation. Whatsoever is a swerving from our primitive nature is sin, or at least a consequent of it. But all inclinations to sin are contrary to that righteousness wherewith man was first endued.

3. We are accountable to God, and punishable for thoughts. Nothing is the meritorious cause of God's wrath but sin. Having proved that there is a sinfulness in our thoughts, let us now see what provocation there is in them, which in some respects is greater than that of our actions.Now, thoughts are greater in respect —

1. Of fruitfulness. The wickedness that God saw great in the earth was the fruit of imaginations. They are the immediate causes of all sin. No cockatrice but was first an egg.

2. In respect of quantity. Imaginations are said to be continually evil. There is an infinite variety of conceptions, as the Psalmist speaks of the sea, "wherein are all things creeping innumerable, both small and great," and a constant generation of whole shoals of them; that you may as well number the fish in the sea, or the atoms in the sunbeams, as recount them.

3. In respect of strength. Imaginations of the heart are only, i.e., purely evil. The nearer anything is in union with the root, the more radical strength it hath.

4. In respect of alliance. In these we have the nearest communion with the devil. The understanding of man is so tainted, that his wisdom, the chiefest flower in it, is not only earthly and sensual (it were well if it were no worse), but devilish too (James 3:15). If the flower be so rank, what are the weeds?

5. In respect of contrariety and odiousness to God. Imaginations were only evil, and so most directly contrary to God, who is only good. Our natural enmity against God (Romans 8:7), is seated in the mind.

6. In respect of connaturalness and voluntariness. They are the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart, and they are continually evil. They are as natural as the estuations of the sea, the bubblings of a fountain, or the twinkling of the stars.The uses shall be two, though many inferences might be drawn from the point.

1. Reproof. What a mass of vanity should we find in our minds, if we could bring our thoughts, in the space of one day, yea, but one hour, to an account! How many foolish thoughts with our wisdom, ignorant with our knowledge, worldly with our heavenliness, hypocritical with our religion, and proud with our humiliations!

2. Exhortation. We must take care for the suppression of them. All vice doth arise from imagination. Upon what stock doth ambition and revenge grow but upon a false conceit of the nature of honour? What engenders covetousness but a mistaken fancy of the excellency of wealth? Thoughts must be forsaken as well as our way (Isaiah 4:7). That we may do this, let us consider these following directions, which may be branched into these heads:

1. For the raising good thoughts.

2. Preventing bad.

3. Ordering bad when they do intrude.

4. Ordering good when they appear in us.

1. For raising good thoughts.(1) Get renewed hearts. The fountain must be cleansed which breeds the vermin. Pure vapours can never ascend from a filthy quagmire. What issue can there be of a vain heart but vain imaginations?(2) Study Scripture. Original corruption stuffs us with bad thoughts, and Scripture-knowledge would stock us with good ones; for it proposeth things in such terms as exceedingly suit out imaginative faculty, as well as strengthen our understanding. Judicious knowledge would make us "approve things that are excellent" (Philippians 1:9, 10); and where such things are approved, toys cannot be welcome. Fulness is the cause of steadfastness.(3) Reflect often upon the frame of your mind at your first conversion. None have more settled and more pleasant thoughts of Divine things than new converts when they first clasp about Christ, partly because of the novelty of their state, and partly because God puts a full stock into them; and diligent tradesmen at their first setting up, have their minds intent upon improving their stock. Endeavour to put your mind in the same posture it was then.(4) Ballast your heart with a love to God. David thought all the day of God's law, as other men do of their lusts, because he inexpressibly loved it: "Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). "I hate the habit of faith is attended with habitual sanctification, so the acts of faith are accompanied with a progress in the degrees of it. That faith which brings Christ to dwell in our souls will make us often think of our Inmate.(6) Accustom yourself to a serious meditation every morning. Fresh-airing our souls in heaven will engender in us a purer spirit and nobler thoughts. A morning seasoning would secure us for all the day. In this meditation, look both to the matter and manner. First, Look to the matter of your meditation. Let it be some truth which will assist you in reviving some languishing grace, or fortify you against some triumphing corruption; for it is our darling sin which doth most envenom our thoughts: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). Secondly, Look to the manner of it. First the glances of the eye, soon on and soon off; they make no clear discovery, and consequently raise no sprightly affections. Secondly, Let it be affectionate and practical. Meditation should excite a spiritual delight in God, as it did in the Psalmist: "My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord" (Psalm 104:34); and a Divine delight would keep up good thoughts, and keep out impertinencies.(7) Draw spiritual inferences from occasional objects. David did but wisely consider the heavens, and he breaks out into self-abasement and humble admirations of God (Psalm 8:3, 4). Glean matter of instruction to yourselves, and praise to your Maker, from everything you see; it will be a degree of restoration to a state of innocency, since this was Adam's task in paradise.

2. The second sort of directions are for the preventing bad thoughts. And to this purpose —(1) Exercise frequent humiliations. Pride exposeth us to impatient and disquieting thoughts, whereas humility clears up a calm and serenity in the soul.(2) Avoid entangling yourselves with the world. This clay will clog our minds, and a dirty happiness will engender but dirty thoughts.(3) Avoid idleness. Serious callings do naturally compose men's spirits, but too much recreation makes them blaze out in vanity. Idle souls as well as idle spirits will be ranging.(4) Awe your hearts with the thoughts of God's omniscience, especially the discovery of it at the last judgment.(5) Keep a constant watch over your hearts. David desires God to "set a watch before the door of his lips" (Psalm 141:3): much more should we desire that God would keep the door of our hearts.

3. The third sort of directions are for the ordering of evil thoughts, when they do intrude; and —(1) Examine them. Look often into your heart to see what it is doing; and what thoughts you find dabbling in it call to an account; inquire what business they have, what their errand and design is, whence they come, and whither they tend.(2) Check them at the first appearance. If they bear upon them a palpable mark of sin, bestow not upon them the honour of an examination.(3) Improve them. Poisons may be made medicinable. Let the thoughts of old sins stir up a commotion of anger and hatred.(4) Continue your resistance if they still importune thee, and lay not down thy weapons till they wholly shrink from thee.(5) Join supplication with your opposition. "Watch and pray" are sometimes linked together (Matthew 26:41). The diligence and multitude of our enemies should urge us to watch, that we be not surprised; and our own weakness and proneness to presumption should make us pray that we may be powerfully assisted.

4. A fourth sort of directions is concerning good motions; whether they spring naturally from a gracious principle, or are peculiarly breathed in by the Spirit. There are ordinary bubblings of grace in a renewed mind, as there are of sins in an unregenerate heart; for grace is as active a principle as any, because it is a participation of the Divine nature. But there are other thoughts darted in beyond the ordinary strain of thinking, which, like the beams of the sun, evidence both themselves and their original. And as concerning these motions joined together, take these directions in short —(1) Welcome and entertain them. As it is our happiness, as well as our duty, to stifle evil motions, so it is our misery, as well as our sin, to extinguish heavenly.(2) Improve them for those ends to which they naturally tend. It is not enough to give them a bare reception, and forbear the smothering of them; but we must consider what affections are proper to be raised by them, either in the search of some truth, or performance of some duty.(3) Refer them, if possible, to assist your morning meditation; that, like little brooks arising from several springs, they may meet in one channel, and compose a more useful stream.(4) Record the choicer of them. We may have occasion to look back upon them another time, either as grounds of comfort in some hour of temptation, or directions in some sudden emergency; but constantly as persuasive engagements to our necessary duty. Thus they may lie by us for further use, as money in our purse.(5) Pack them with ejaculations. Let our hearts be ready to attend every injection from heaven with a motion to it, since it is ingratitude to receive a present without returning an acknowledgment to the benefactor. As God turns His thoughts of us into promises, so let us turn our thoughts of Him into prayers.

(S. Charnock.)

I would a thousand times sooner believe that man made himself what he is than that God made him so, for in the one case I should think ill of man only, in the other I am tempted to blame his Maker. Just think, I pray you, to what conclusion our reason would conduct us in any analogous case. You see, for example, a beautiful capital still bearing some of the flowers and foliage which the chisel of a master had carved upon the marble. It lies prostrate on the ground, half-buried among weeds and nettles; while beside it there rises from its pedestal the headless shaft of a noble pillar. Would you not conclude at once that its present position, so base, mean, and prostrate, was not its original position? You would say the lightning must have struck it down, or an earthquake have shaken it, or some ignorant barbarian had climbed the shaft and with rude hand had hurled it to the ground. Well, we look at man, and come to a similar conclusion. There is something, there is much that is wrong, both in his state and condition. His mind is carnal, and at enmity with God; the "imaginations of his heart are only evil continually," so says the Bible. His body is the seat of disease; his eyes are often swimming in tears; care, anticipating age, has drawn deep furrows on his brow; he possesses noble faculties, but, like people of high descent, who have sunk into a low estate and become menials, they drudge in the service of the meanest passions.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

God's all-piercing eye cannot read wrongly. The Spirit's hand cannot pen error. Undoubted verity speaks here with open mouth. Thus with sorrowing reverence we draw nearer to the fearful picture. In the foreground stands Wickedness. This is a frightful monster. It is antagonism to our God. Whose is this wickedness? The "wickedness of man." Man, and man alone of all who breathe the vital air, claims wickedness as his own. His crime sinks earth into a slough of woe. The degradation is world wide. The cause is wholly his. Wickedness is his sole property. Therefore, O man, see your exclusive specialty. Boast not of any excellency. Glory not of reason, faculties, power, mind, intellect, talent. Parade not your stores of acquired wisdom, your investigating knowledge, your elaborating skill. But rather blush that your superiorities claim wickedness as their territory. The picture next exhibits man's heart. This is the home of the affections — the springhead of desires — the cradle of each impulse. Here the character receives its form. This is the rudder of the life. This is the guide of walk. As is the heart, such is the individual. Here schemes, and plans, and purposes are conceived. This is the mother of contrivance and device. What is naturally transacted in this laboratory? The reply here meets us. "Every imagination" — every germ of idea — every incipient embryo of notion — every feeling, when it begins to move — every passion, when it stirs — every inclination, as it arises, is "only evil." Terrific word! Evil. Here wickedness comes forth in another but not less frightful form. Evil. It is the offspring of the evil one. "Only evil!" No ray of light mitigates the darkness. No spark alleviates the impure night. No righteous spot relieves the sinful monotony. No flower of goodness blooms in the rank desert. No rill finds other vent. All flow in the one channel of evil — "only evil." Turn not too quickly from this picture. It is not yet complete. The full hideousness is "only evil continually." What! is there no respite? Is evil never weary? Does not intermission break the tremendous sameness? Ah! no. There is no moment of a brighter dawn. Countless are these imaginations; but they all show one feature — evil continually. There is no better aspect. When the Father of lights gives saving grace, then instantly the foulness of the inner man is seen. Then the illumined conscience testifies, "Behold, I am vile." When the revealing Spirit uplifts the heaven-lit torch, then newborn vision discerns the sin-sick ruin. But out of these materials God peoples heaven with a redeemed multitude, pure and glorious as Himself. Yes, through grace, there is relief large as the need. There is a remedy, mighty to heal the deepest depths of the disease. The sinner is not forever buried in hopeless guilt. God, from all eternity foreseeing the Fall and its tremendous woe, devised a reparation wide as the breach. This gracious work is entrusted to His beloved Son. Sin destroyed creature righteousness. Jesus brings in a righteousness Divine. But the gospel-mercy is richer yet. Nature's heart is, as has been shown, a quarry of vile materials. It cannot be mended. These stones can frame no holy fabric. But grace works wonders. The Holy Spirit comes, and a new creation springs to life. He takes away the stony heart. He creates it gloriously clean. Thus old things pass away. Thus all things become new. The moral desert smiles fruitful and fragrant as Eden's garden.

(Dean Law.)

I. THE CAUSES OF THE CORRUPTION.

1. Original sin. This the prime cause; from this fertile source of evil arose many fruits, each of which in its turn and place strengthened and intensified the wickedness.

2. Pride. This would be fostered by growing numbers and wealth of men. If they were expelled from the garden, had they not now many and fenced cities? To this may be added pride of individual strength, which the flattery of others might inflame. The Nephilim and their redoubtable progeny would be regarded as leaders and champions.

3. Sensuality. Sons of God and daughters of men. Even to the better trained mere beauty, devoid of piety, became a snare, The result was godless and ill-trained children, who in their turn became the progenitors of a yet more sinful race.

4. Idolatry, which diverted the attention from the holy God, and fixed it on human qualities, etc.

II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CORRUPTION.

1. In regard to each individual. From the heart outwardly through all the life. The heart includes "conscience and consciousness, will and desire, intellect and emotion, understanding and affection."

2. In regard to the race. All flesh. There were few exceptions. God never left Himself without witness (Enos, Enoch, Noah, etc.).

3. They were thus corrupt, notwithstanding the preaching of Noah and the example of Enoch.

4. The wickedness of man various. Idolatry. Violence. Violence the effect of idolatry.

5. Till now all men spoke one language.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS CORRUPTION. God, beholding, resolved to destroy man. Sceptics say the experiment failed — that men are as bad now as they were before. Before it can be said to have failed its object must be defined. It was punitive rather than remedial. As a punishment it did not fail. The story of the deluge stands out in history as a Divine protest against sin; and as a substantial proof that God is able, when and how He pleases, to destroy the earth in the last great day. To furnish a proof of the possibility of the future judgment seems to have been another object (2 Peter 2:4-6; 2 Peter 3:3-14). Another purpose served by the deluge is to illustrate and certify the reward of godliness. This seen in the character and preservation of Noah. The Divine estimate of sin and holiness one of the most important things for the world to know.

(J. C. Gray.)

1. The progress of corruption was not arrested. It increased as the tide of population rolled on. For a time the true people of God, the adherents of the house of Seth, kept themselves unspotted from the world. But even this barrier was at last overthrown (vers. 1, 2). There were very plausible reasons for their cultivating a good understanding, at least with the less abandoned of the ungodly faction. Thus, in the first instance, the useful arts and the embellishments of social life began to flourish, as has been seen in the house of Cain (Genesis 4:19-24). Agriculture, commerce, music, and poetry were cultivated among his descendants and brought by them to a high pitch of perfection. Were the children of Seth to forego the benefit of participating in the improvements and advantages thus introduced into the social system? Then again, secondly, the lawless violence, of which Lamech's impious boast of impunity (Genesis 4:23, 24) was a token and example, and which soon became general so as to fill the earth, might seem to warrant, and indeed require, on grounds of policy some kind of dealing between the persecuted and harassed people of God and the more reasonable and moderate of their opponents. The result was that to a large extent there ceased to be a separate and peculiar people testifying for God and reproving sin; and a new race of giants, powerful and lawless men, overspread the whole earth (Genesis 6:4). The salt of the earth lost its savour, wherewith was it to be seasoned (Mark 10:50)?

2. At last the patience of the Lord is represented as worn out. The period of His long suffering has arrived. The day of His wrath is at hand. What must that wrath be which the Lord so pathetically expresses His reluctance to inflict; and in reference to which He solemnly declares that it would have been good for the men of that old world that they had never been made, and for the traitor apostle that he had not been born? Such is now the state of the world lately so blessed. It is abandoned by the Creator as unfit for the purposes for which it was created. He changes, therefore, His work into a work of desolation. One man alone believes, to the saving of his house, and becomes heir of the righteousness that is by faith (Hebrews 11:7). Noah finds grace in the eyes of the Lord.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Some thoughts be the darts of Satan; and these non nocent, si non placent. We cannot keep thieves from looking in at our windows, but we need not give them entertainment with open doors. "Wash thy heart from iniquity, that thou mayest be saved: how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" They may be passengers, but they must not be sojourners.

(T. Adams.)

It repented the Lord that He had made man. —

Marvellous words indeed, words such as no man could have ventured to use respecting God, words too strong and bold for anyone to have employed but God Himself.

I. What the words DO NOT MEAN.

1. They do not mean that God's purpose had been frustrated. That cannot fail.

2. They do not mean that an unexpected crisis had arisen. God foresees all.

3. They do not mean that God is subject to like passions and changes as we are. He does not vary as we vary, nor repent as we repent. Instability is the property of the creature, not of the Creator.

4. They do not mean that He has ceased to care for His creatures. Wrath, indeed, has gone out against the transgressor; yet neither man himself, nor his habitation, the earth, has been overlooked by God — far less, hated and spurned. The words intimate neither the coldness nor the dislike of the Creator toward the creature. It is something very widely different which they convey; a sadder, tenderer feeling; a feeling in which, not indifference, but profound compassion, is the prevailing element.

II. What the words DO MEAN.

1. That God is represented to us here as looking at events or facts simply as they are, without reference to the past or future at all.

2. That God's purposes do not alter God's estimate of events, or His feelings respecting individuals and their conduct.

3. That God is looking at the scene just as a man would look at it, and expressing Himself just as a man would have done in such circumstances. He sees all the present misery and ruin which the scene presents, and they affect Him according to their nature; and as they affect Him, so does He speak, in the words of man. But now let us look at the words of our text — "repenting," — "grieving at the heart."(1) "Repent." The word frequently occurs in the same connection as in our text (Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11, 35; Jeremiah 26:13, 19). In these and other like passages it denotes that change of mind which is produced towards an object by an alteration of circumstances.(2) "Grieve." The word used in reference to man is found in such places as 2 Samuel 19:2; and, in reference to God, in such as Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10. In these passages the word denotes simply and truly what we call "grief"; and then, in the passage before us, as if to deepen the intensity of the expression, and to show how thoroughly real was the feeling indicated, it is added, "at His heart." The grief spoken of is as true as it is profound. It is not the grief of words. It is not the grief of fancy or sentiment. It is true sorrow of heart. We come now to ask, Why did the Lord thus grieve at His heart?

1. He grieved to see the change which sin had made in the work of His hands. Once it was "very good," and in this He had rejoiced. Now, how altered! Creation was a wreck. Man's glory had departed. The fair image of his Maker was gone!

2. He grieved at the dishonour thus brought upon Himself. It was, indeed, but a temporary dishonour; it was one which He would soon repair; but still, it was an obscuration of His own fair character; it was a clouding of His glory; it was an eclipse, however transient.

3. He grieved at man's misery. Man had not been made for misery. Happiness, like a rich jewel, had been entrusted to him. He had flung it away, as worthless and undesirable. He had offered it for sale to every passer-by; nay, he had cast it from him as vile. This wretchedness filled His soul, and overshadowed this once blessed earth. How, then, could God but grieve?

4. He grieved that now He must be the inflictor of man's misery. There had, for long years, been an alternative. He could be gracious; He could be long suffering. But now this alternative is denied. Such was the accumulation of sin; such was its hatefulness; such were its aggravations, that grace can no longer hold out against righteousness; long suffering has exhausted itself, and judgment must take its course.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

I. We may inquire, first, WHAT WERE THE CAUSES OF SO GREAT CORRUPTION AS THEN PREVAILED.

1. One of these was the intermarriage of the sons of God, or believers, with the daughters of men, or unbelievers. When the clear waters of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois mingle with the turbid Missouri, they never regain their purity, but flow darkly on to the ocean; so when the children of Seth made affinities with the race of Cain, there was no regaining of moral purity until the generations of men had been buried in the waters of the deluge.

2. Another cause of the wickedness of the men before the flood was probably in their neglect of the Sabbath, and of God's public worship. Of this neglect we have the following evidence. In the days of Seth and Enos it is said, "then men began to call upon the name of the Lord." This is supposed to refer to some regular assemblies for public worship, and as it is spoken in connection with Seth and his posterity, we may infer that it was confined to them. Indeed, it is said of Cain that "he went out from the presence of the Lord," and he complained that he should be hid from God's presence; not His omnipresence certainly, but from some visible display of His glory, in that place where the sons of God worshipped. In that separation from God and His worship the descendants of Cain rapidly increased in wickedness; for, if the Sabbath and its worship were banished from among us, enlightened and religious us we are, one half century might witness the most abominable idolatries, and call for another cleansing deluge.

3. The long life of the antediluvians was yet another cause of their wickedness. After the flood, God shortened man's days from a little less than a thousand to a little less than a hundred years, because brevity of life is favourable to piety. It is in seeing our fellow creatures die almost as soon as they begin to live, that sin is checked, and the things unseen and eternal gather power. And what a curse to society might such a long life prove! Think of a drunkard polluting the earth with his breath nine hundred years; of an infidel scattering the poison of his works century after century; of the adulterer, the robber, the murderer, protracting their existence through thirty of our generations! The world would groan to have the grave close over them.

4. It is mentioned again, as a cause of their wickedness, that they were an ambitious race. There were mighty men and men of renown in those days, we are told, though we ask with a smile, who were they, and what did they do? for the antediluvian Napoleons and Caesars have left no record of their exploits. There were giants too in those days, and we generally associate with them the idea of great wickedness, for great strength puffs up its possessor, and makes him forget God. It was an age of great worldliness too for our Lord says, "They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they married and were given in marriage, until the day when the flood came"; meaning that they were absorbed in these things, for in mere eating and drinking there could be no sin. It was, moreover, an age of great civilization and refinement; for there were those who handled the harp and the organ, and artificers in all the mechanic arts. These may be made subservient to piety, but too often great skill in them, as, indeed, great worldly attainments of any kind, are apt to draw the heart off from God, so that the most refined people may be the most ungodly.

II. HOW GREAT THAT WICKEDNESS WAS, we may gather from the strong language of our text, and from other portions of Scripture. "And God saw," we are told, "that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was full of violence." And what rendered this sinfulness the more guilty was, that the world was then in its youth, retaining probably more of its infant beauty than it now has in its wrinkled old age.

III. But we may especially see in our text and subject THE EVIL OF SIN IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. It destroyed a world which God created; nay, more, as far as might be, it destroyed the world's Creator, when the Son of God died for it on the cross.

IV. Let us TAKE CARE OF RELAPSING INTO THAT STATE IN WHICH SIN SHALL NOT GRIEVE US AT THE HEART AS IT DOES OUR GOD. We are like Him, we are His, if we share His holy hatred of sin. But we are in continual danger of growing callous and indifferent to it, so that though once in the while, at long intervals, when some gross offence has been committed, or when something has specially aroused us, we are softened and contrite; yet our general frame is one of indifference to our offences.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Dismissing at once, as they deserve to be dismissed, these coarser and more repulsive aspects of the language before us, we will claim rather for it this most beautiful characteristic; that it speaks of the sympathy of God Himself with that very view of human life which is taken by the best and purest of His children and servants below. There are times when the contemplation of the misery and sin of the world is almost overwhelming to those who would keep (if it be possible) both their faith and their reason. The words here written of God Himself are exactly descriptive of them — "it repents them that God has made man on the earth; it grieves them at the heart." They can take little comfort in the thought of the one or the two "perfect in their generations," while they see the bulk of mankind suffering without hope, and living without God in the world. They can take little comfort in the thought of a heaven opened to the believing and the holy, if it implies that the very opposite and antithesis of a heaven is crowded with masses and multitudes of rejecters and despisers and neglecters of the gospel. Oh, why did God — they ask themselves, and there is none to answer — why did God make all things worse than for nought? Why did He create upon the earth a race predestined to a choice foreseen to be of evil? Why did He not either bias that inevitable choice for good, or else blot out instantly from existence the creature that had used liberty for self-destruction? With such questions all thoughtful men at times have vexed themselves. It is something, I say this morning, to read here of the sympathy of God Himself with the perplexity; to find the Bible speaking of God repenting Himself that He has created — vexing Himself at the very heart for these terrible consequences of the origination of human life and human free will. And I read in this record much more than a fruitless or hopeless lamentation. I read here, first of all, that which should reconcile heart and conscience to the necessity of a judgment. The verso which says, "It repented Him," is followed by the verse which says, "I will destroy" — "I must bring a flood of waters." Yes, we could not wish that this evil should be immortal. We could not wish that vices and crimes, cruelties and defilements, should go on forever repeating themselves on a suffering earth. If we saw any clear proof that the world, taken as a whole — not in a few of its privileged spots, but all over and everywhere — was improving, was on the way, surely however slowly, towards a millennium of health and welfare, we might leave contentedly the question of the when and the how, and be willing that there should be patience, in heaven as on earth, over a seed growing secretly and a promise gradually developing. But is it thus with us? Is the growth of good, in the world as a whole, and of good as a whole — the higher good as well as the lower, the spiritual good as well as the physical — is this growth discernible? Side by side with the growth of good, is there not an equal, or a more than equal, growth of evil? On what night of this earth's history does not the enemy go forth, while men sleep, to sow his counterfeit grain? Who shall flatter us with the hope that either free trade or cheap literature, either compulsory education or shilling Bibles, have in them the secret of regenerating thoroughly this bad old world, or of rendering superfluous that aboriginal faith of the Church, The day of the Lord will come: "the judgment shall sit, and the books be opened"? For my part, I think that I can leave in God's hands the exercise of that judgment and the settlement of its issues. There is, to me, almost an impertinence in trying to settle for Him, in this twilight of our knowledge, either the exact meaning of His terms, or the precise measurements of His eternity. I only know that saints and righteous men have been reconciled to the expectation of a judgment, not by the thought of the just recompense of the wicked, but by the thought of the putting down of evil, and the introduction of a new heaven and earth — this very heaven and earth it may be — wherein dwelleth righteousness. It would be no kindness to the sinner to let him sin on forever and not die. God sympathizes with us in our sense of this world's evil; and if He had not in His view a glorious future, from which the spectre of misery shall be absent, and in which the demon of sin shall be forgotten and out of mind, He would say literally that it repented Him to have created — He would say indeed, and also do it, that He must annihilate the work of His own hands. But there is an alternative, and He has provided it.

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. That such is the pestilent nature of sin as to provoke God, who did make the world, to mar it, and unmake it again.

II. A general defection is a most certain forerunner of a universal destruction.

(C. Ness.)

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