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“all being gone aside, and none doing good, no not one.” Above all, St. Paul, speaking expressly upon the subject of human depravity, appeals to this very passage as decisively establishing that doctrine. In considering the words before us we shall shew, I. The atheistical thoughts and desires of the heart
God interprets the thoughts and desires of the heart as though they were expressed in words; and he attests its real language to be like that in the text. It may be understood, 1. As an assertion
[The name here used for God is not Jehovah, which relates to his essence, but Elohim, which characterizes him as the moral governor of the world. The words therefore must be understood, not as declaring that there is no God, but that there is no God who interferes in human affairs. It is true there are not many, who will deliberately affirm this in plain terms; but, alas ! how many are there, whose actions manifest this to be the inward thought of their hearts! If we look around us, we shall see the great mass of mankind living as if there were no superior Being to whom they owed obedience, or to whom they were accountable for their conduct. They inquire constantly whether such or such a line of conduct will tend to their comfort, their honour, or their interest; but how rarely do they examine whether it will please God! How will men gratify in secret, or at least harbour in their bosoms, those lusts, which they could not endure to have exposed to the
eye of a fellow-creature, while yet they feel no concern at all about the presence of their God! The language of their hearts is, “ The Lord seeth us not, he hath forsaken the earthC:” “ How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of the heavend,” ignorant and indifferent about the affairs of men. And as we thus refuse to acknowledge God ourselves, so we do not choose that any others should acknowledge him. Is any one of our companions awed by the fear of God? how ready are we to laugh at his scruples; to propose to him the customs and maxims of the world as more worthy of his regard than the mind and will of God; and to encourage him in the hope, that such compliances shall never be noticed in the day of judgment ! And what is this but to use the very language which God
b Rom. iii. 10–12.
c Ezek, viii. 12.
d Job xxii. 13, 14.
imputes to us, “ The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil e?"] 2. As a wish
[The words “ There is” are not in the original, and may therefore be omitted: the text will then stand thus; The fool hath said in his heart, No God! that is, I wish there were
And how common a wish is this! When men are fully convinced in their minds that God notices every transaction of their lives, and records it in the book of his remembrance, they are still unwilling to give up their lusts, and determined to continue in sin at all events. But are they easy in such a state? No: they shrink back at the prospect of death and judgment, and wish that they could elude the summons that will be given them in the last day. Gladly would they sleep an eternal sleep, and barter their immortality for an exemption from appearing at the tribunal of God. What satisfaction would they feel if they could be certified on unquestionable grounds, that God did not notice their actions, or that, notwithstanding he be the Governor and Judge of all, he hath decreed to bestow on them the favour of annihilation! Instantly they would exclaim, Now I may dismiss my fears; now I may take my fill of pleasure, and
fill of pleasure, and “drink iniquity like water," without any dread of future consequences. We may appeal to the consciences of all, whether such have not been frequently the thoughts of their hearts, or, at least, whether their dread of death and judgment do not justly admit of this construction?]
Such being the thoughts and desires of the heart, we proceed to shew, II. The folly of entertaining them
This will appear in a striking point of view, if we take into consideration the three following truths1. The thing wished for is absolutely impossible
[God can no more cease to inspect the ways of men with a view to a final retribution, than he can cease to exist. As his superintending care is necessary for the preservation of the universe, so the continual exercise of his moral government is necessary for the vindication of his own honour. How absurd then is it to indulge a wish, when it is not possible for that wish ever to be gratified, and when the indulging of it makes us act as though it would be gratified! How much better were it to say at once, There is a God, and I must fear him; there is a judgment, and I must prepare for it!]
e Zeph. i. 12.
2. If the wish could be obtained, it would be an unspeakable injury to all, even in this world
[Men are led, even by the faintest hopes of impunity, to live in sin ; and how much more would they yield themselves up to its dominion, if they could once be sure that God would never call them into judgment for it! This, as it respects individuals, would greatly embitter this present life. The gratification of their lusts would indeed afford them a transient pleasure: but who that considers how soon such enjoyments cloy; who that knows how many evils they bring in their train ; who that has seen the effects of unbridled passions, of pride, envy, wrath, malice, of lewdness, covetousness, or any other inordinate affection; who that has the least knowledge of these things can doubt, but that sin and misery are indissolubly connected, and that, in proportion as we give the rein to appetite, we undermine our own happiness? And what would be the consequence to the community at large? Men, even now," bite and devour one another” like wild beasts, the very instant that God withdraws his restraint from them! Who was it that overruled the purposes of a lewd Abimelech, of a covetous Laban, and of a revengeful Esau? It was God alone: and it is the same God that now keeps the world in any measure of
peace and quiet. And if once the world were bereft of his providence, it would instantly resemble that world, where the dispositions of men are suffered to rage without controul, and all incessantly to torment themselves, and all around them. Is it not then the extremest folly to entertain a wish, that would involve in it such tremendous consequences?]
3. It would be productive of still greater evil as it respects the world to come.
[Doubtless, if there were no moral governor of the universe, there would be no fear of hell; and the thought of this would be a great acquisition to ungodly men. But they, on the other hand, entertain no hope of heaven; their brightest prospect would be annihilation. Melancholy prospect indeed! How much better, even for the most ungodly, to have a God to flee unto; a God to pardon their iniquities; a God to sanctify and renew their souls; a God to bless them with immortality and glory! They need not to wish for the cessation of his agency, or the extinction of their own existence, seeing that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him, and ready to receive returning prodigals. And is it not for the interest of all that there should be such a God? Is not the prospect of obtaining his favour, and participating his glory better than annihilation, more especially when the terms of our acceptance with him are so easy? He requires nothing but that we should humble ourselves before him, and plead the merits of his dear Son, and renounce the ways that have been displeasing to him: the very instant we return to him in this manner, he will “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea,” and embrace us with the arms of his mercy. What madness then to wish that there were no such Being!] INFER, 1. How great is the patience of God!
[God sees, not one only or even many, but all the world living without God', banishing him from their thoughts, and wishing him banished from the universe: yet he not only bears with them, but follows them with invitations and promises, and waiteth to be gracious unto them --- Let us stand amazed at his goodness; and let that goodness lead us to repentance ---]
2. How glorious is the change that takes place in conversion !
[Grace no sooner enters into the heart than it slays this enmity, and reconciles the sinner to God. Henceforth it becomes his one desire to walk with God, to enjoy his presence, to fulfil his will, and to live in the near prospect of participating his glory --- How enviable is such a state! Compare the wisdom of such a state with the folly which we have been exposing And let us instantly begin to live, as we shall wish we had lived, when we come to die.] f Eph. ii. 12.
8 Ps. x, 4.
Ps. xiv. 6. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because
the Lord is his refuge. ONE would imagine that religion, as brought into lively and habitual exercise, should commend itself to all : it is so reasonable a service, that one would suppose none could find fault with it. Yet, never has it been maintained by any one since the first introduction of sin into the world, without provoking hostility from those who were not under its dominion. As for David, he suffered for it through all the reign of Saul, and through a great part also of his own reign : for, though a king, he was an object of
derision to all the scoffers in the land. Of this he complains in the psalm before us : for though it is probable that Absalom was the great instigator of the present evils, the people, too, readily sided with him, and exulted in the thought, that this despised monarch would now be destroyed.
The psalm, though primarily applicable to that occasion, was really, as St. Paul tells us, of a general import“. And therefore, taking the text in that view, I will explain, and vindicate, the counsel that is here referred to. I. Explain it
The persons designated as “ the poor,” are the Lord's people, generally
[It is certain that the great mass of the Lord's people are taken from the lower walks of life. There are
not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble, called." In the days of our Lord, it was not the Scribes and Pharisees that believed on him," but the poor--who were deemed accursed b. “The common people heard him gladly.”
But the name is given to the Lord's people principally because they are “poor in spirita,” feeling their utter destitution of every thing really good; just as a person in the state of Lazarus feels his want of all the comforts of life. In this sense the name is given to them in a great variety of passages
and throughout the whole world they answer to the character contained in it.] They invariably “ make the Lord their refuge”. — [They feel their lost and undone state
And in themselves they find no remedy But in Christ they see a fulness and sufficiency, even for the very chief of sinners
They look into the Scriptures, and see the "counsel " given them, to “ look to him," and to “ flee to him:" and this counsel they both follow themselves, and give to all around them They determine, both for themselves and for others, to “ know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.")
But this conduct exposes them to much obloquy. I will therefore proceed to, II. Vindicate it
ver. 2, 3. with Rom. iii. 10–12.
b John vii. 49. c Mark xii. 37. d Isai. xiv. 32. and xxix. 19. Zeph. iii. 12.