Romans 1:19
For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Sermons
God's Wrath as Revealed Among the GentilesR.M. Edgar Romans 1:18-32
The Inexcusableness of the HeathenC.H. Irwin Romans 1:18-32
The Revelation of WrathT.F. Lockyer Romans 1:18-32
Divine Revelation IsJ. W. Burn.Romans 1:19-21
Evil ImaginationsA. Maclaren, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
False and Faulty Conceptions of GodW. Williams.Romans 1:19-21
God Dishonoured by the HeathenR. Wardlaw, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
God in NatureA. Oliver, B. A.Romans 1:19-21
God Seen in the Order of NatureRomans 1:19-21
Ignorance of God IsJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Inexcusable Irreverence and IngratitudeC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 1:19-21
IngratitudeH. W. Beecher.Romans 1:19-21
Ingratitude to GodD. Thomas, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Invisible Things Clearly SeenC. S. Robinson, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Natural ReligionR. South, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Nature's Revelations Overlooked in Their CommonnessR. W. Emerson.Romans 1:19-21
No Effect Without a CauseA. G. Jackson.Romans 1:19-21
On the Causes of UnthankfulnessJ. Venn, M. A.Romans 1:19-21
Our Knowledge of God LimitedJ. Culross, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Paul's Indictment of HeathenismR. Wardlaw, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
Sin Without ExcuseG. A. Rogers, M. A.Romans 1:19-21
The Doctrine of CorrespondencesP. Hiller.Romans 1:19-21
The Existence of GodN. Rounds, A. M.Romans 1:19-21
The Existence of God; Evidence ForJ. Arrowsmith.Romans 1:19-21
The Illustrious Manifestations of God and the Inexcusable Ignorance of MenB. Whichcote, B. D.Romans 1:19-21
The Inexcusableness and Unreason of UnbeliefJ. Pulsford.Romans 1:19-21
The Limit of Nature's RevelationJ. Cumming, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
The Omission of Good Leads to the Commission of EvilProf. Godet.Romans 1:19-21
The Sin of not Glorifying GodRomans 1:19-21
The Universe a Manifestation of GodArchdeacon Farrar.Romans 1:19-21
What Acquaintance Man Can have of God Without Divine RevelationJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 1:19-21
In the twentieth verse the apostle speaks of the heathen as "without excuse." These words describe the condition of those who have wilfully rejected light. They do not, indeed, describe their condition from their own standpoint or from the standpoint of men generally. From their own standpoint men are seldom "without excuse." No matter how gross or glaring the offence is, the offender has usually some excuse to offer. Adam and Eve had their excuses ready when the Lord God said, "What is this that thou hast done?" Saul had his excuse ready when he returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites without having fully carried out the commandment of the Lord, when Samuel asked him, "What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and this lowing of the oxen which I hear?" It might be taken as on the whole a fair description of the human race to say, "They all with one consent began to make excuse." However slow we are to excuse others, we are always remarkably ready to excuse ourselves. But these words describe the condition of these who reject light from the standpoint of him who is the great Searcher of hearts. He makes no mistakes. He makes no uncharitable judgments. In his sight those to whom he has given light, and who have chosen to reject it, are "without excuse." They are inexcusable. They have no valid reason for their ignorance about the way of salvation and the path of duty if God has given them light about both. This is the condition described by Christ in that parable where he represents the king as coming to one of the guests at the marriage-feast, and saying to him, "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding-garment?" And the Saviour tells us, "And he was speechless." He knew that he was without excuse. He knew the laws of the feast; he knew that the wedding-garment was provided, and he neglected to put it on. So shall it be in the great day, of judgment with all those who had the opportunity to know God's will, but who neglected to do it. May we be enabled, in considering the inexcusableness of the heathen, to think of this solemn subject with reverence and with fairness.

I. LIGHT GRANTED. If God expects men to know him, we may be sure that he has given them the means of knowing him. God will judge every man according to the opportunities he has had. Paul's statement is definite and clear. They are without excuse, he says, "because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful" (ver. 21). They knew God, says the apostle. How, then, did they know him? And what did they know about him? They knew him by means of his works, and they knew at least two things about his character - that he was a Being of power, and that his power was more than human. It is inferred also that they knew themselves to be dependent upon his bountiful providence and care, else they could not have been accused of being ungrateful. "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (vers. 19, 20). Here, then, it is clearly taught that it is possible to obtain a knowledge of God from his works, and that such knowledge the ancient heathen had. St. Paul knew very well what he was talking about when he said that the ancient heathen had a knowledge of God. He was well acquainted with the literature of ancient Greece. On Mars' Hill we find him quoting to the philosophers of Athens a statement from Aratus, one of their own poets. "As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." The light of nature - this is the light which was granted to the ancient heathen. Two things that light of nature taught them about God - his power and his Godhead. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Behind the stars and the sea, there must be some power that made and controls them all. The order of the seasons, the succession of day and night, the ebb and flow of the tides - all these things require a controlling force, and that force must not only have almighty power, but must have intelligence and reason and will. Such a being must be a Person. Such a Person is more than human - is Divine. The same light of nature is granted to us all. But how much more light has been granted to us! We have the light of God's written Word. What mysteries that Word opens up to us, concerning which the voice of nature is silent! What a light it gives us about the mercy of God, and the Saviour's redeeming love! What a light it gives us about immortality and heaven, after which the best of the ancient heathen were groping and searching in darkness! How thankful we should be, amid the darkness which sorrow brings, and as we look forward to the darkness of the grave, for the light which God in his Word has mercifully granted to us! But that great privilege, that unspeakable blessing, brings with it a solemn responsibility. We who have the Bible in our hands are without excuse if we live in godlessness or unbelief, if we reject the offer of salvation.

II. LIGHT REJECTED. "They are without excuse, because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful" (vers. 20, 21). And then, further on, the apostle says, "They did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (ver. 28). How often have nations acted thus - rejecting the light which was their best possession, their safety and their shield! The Jewish nation rejected the heavenly light, notwithstanding God's repeated warnings as to the consequences of doing so. France rejected the light when it expelled the Huguenots, the God-fearing portion of its population. Spain did the same when, by its Inquisition and its autos-da-fe, it exterminated all who dared to prefer the pure light of the Divine Word to the darkness and superstitions of Rome. Such nations were plainly without excuse, for they had the light, and deliberately rejected and quenched it when they could. So also we find rulers rejecting the light. That was the case with King Saul. He rejected the commandment of the Lord, and God rejected him from being king over Israel. Belshazzar, King of Babylon, had plenty of light given him in the career of Nebuchadnezzar his father about the power and justice of God. But, as Daniel reminded him, he had disregarded the solemn lesson; though he knew all this, he had not humbled himself, but had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven (Daniel 5:21, 22). And so on that night of revelry the fingers of a man's hand came forth and wrote upon the wall, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting," He was without excuse. He had rejected the light which God had given him. Do we not see a similar infatuation in the case of the unhappy Mary Queen of Scots? Though she had faithful men of God in her capital and often heard the truth from the lips of John Knox, she chose rather to be guided by her own caprices and by the influence of her frivolous courtiers. She, too, rejected the light which God had placed within her reach. We are not to think that it makes no difference whether we accept the Divine light or not. There is a danger that we may become too liberal as to the attitude men take up regarding God's Holy Word. It is well to be broad - broad as the mercy and the love of God. But, on the other hand, we may be broader and more indulgent towards error than God's Word permits of. God deals with men as intelligent and rational and moral beings, with a free will, capable of free choice. He puts before them life and death. He tells them that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." He tells them that there is no other way of salvation except through Jesus Christ alone. Upon them rests the responsibility and the guilt if they reject his salvation. It is worse than a matter of indifference; it is a sin in the sight of God, it is a sin against their own soul's destiny, for men to reject or neglect the message which the great Creator has mercifully sent them. It may be done in the name of science. It may be done in the name of advanced thought. But it is moral guilt nevertheless. "They are without excuse."

III. WRATH REVEALED. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (ver. 18). And how could it be otherwise? If light has been granted to beings of intelligence and reason and conscience, and they have deliberately chosen to reject it, is it not fair and just that they should take the consequences? It is in the very nature of things that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A man cannot violate a natural law with impunity. The most liberal-minded scientific man will see no unfairness in a man suffering if he disregards or violates the well-known laws of nature. Fire will burn, water will drown, pitch will defile, bad air will poison. If a man acts in defiance of these natural and elementary laws, he suffers the consequence. No one sees any unfairness in it. Why should there be any more unfairness in suffering as the result of disregarding and defying moral laws? On the contrary, is it not of more importance that a moral law should be vindicated, that men should learn to obey a moral law, than that even a natural law should be vindicated? But here, at any rate, is the fact, written clearly in God's Word, written over and over again on the page of history - light rejected means wrath revealed. Was it not so with ancient Israel? Has it not been so with France and Spain? Was it not so with Saul and Belshazzar? It is a terrible thing when men so harden themselves against God's Word. so shut their eyes against the light of his commandments, yes, even against the light of the cross, that God says, "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone." Let him alone! Light granted. Light rejected. Wrath revealed. "Without excuse." Such is St. Paul's description of the ancient heathen world. To a world in such a state Jesus came. He came to reveal the righteousness of God in contrast to the abominable deities of heathenism. He came also to reveal the mercy of God. The trumpet-note of judgment is loud and terrible. But the trumpet-note of mercy is equally loud. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." - C.H.I.







Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them.
Consider —

I. HIS MEANS OF INFORMATION. Conscience; nature; providence.

II. THE EXTENT OF HIS INFORMATION. God's natural perfections, eternity, power, wisdom, etc.; even something of His justice, etc.; but nothing of His infinite holiness and mercy.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. CRIMINAL Because every man has the opportunity of knowing something of Him; is only hindered by his corrupt nature and love of sin.

II. NEVER TOTAL God reveals Himself in the conscience, in nature.

III. A JUDICIAL CONSEQUENCE OF SIN. Sin darkens the heart, eclipses the intellect.

IV. A PRECURSOR OF FINAL JUDGMENT. They are without excuse.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. LIMITED. "That which may be known" — hence some things may not be known. Do not pry into the mysteries of the Divine existence, futurity, etc., but be humble and contented with what may be known.

II. SUFFICIENT. "That which may be known." God knows best what this is. Enough has been revealed to make us holy and happy; let us be thankful.

III. MANIFEST to reason and conscience. Reason approves the contents of revelation as true, and conscience accepts them as good.

IV. CLEAR. Therefore —

1. Study it.

2. Embrace it.

3. Carry it out.

(J. W. Burn.)

Nature proclaims the existence of a God; but concerning what that God is to us, nature is altogether silent. Nature tells us that there is a God, possessed of boundless wisdom and of vast benevolence; but nature's oracles do not announce that that God will pardon sin. It gives us intimations from our conscience that He is just; it gives us intimations from the mechanism of our frames that He is infinitely wise; it whispers to us from the broad surface of the world we gaze on that He is a benevolent God; but conscience, while it tells us that God is holy, tells us, too, in the tones of a despair that it cannot dissipate, that man is a fallen, guilty, miserable sinner. I ask philosophy, How shall God be just while He justifies the ungodly? I ask of physiology, with all its bright and brilliant announcements, Will God forgive me my sins? I ask of astronomy, as it discloses world piled on world, If amid the brightness and the glory of those stars, if amid the splendour of those ten thousand lamps, it has discovered that there is "a just God and yet a Saviour"? And all nature is dumb; astronomy is dumb; the mechanism of a man's frame is dumb. Still the great proposition that must be solved before my dying pillow can be peace remains unexplicated, unreconciled, unknown.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

A young child, who has hitherto fancied that the rim of the sky rests on the earth a few miles away, and that the whole world lies within that circle, sails down the Forth there, and sees the riverbanks gradually widening and the river passing into a frith. When he comes back, he tells his young companions how large the ocean is. Poor boy! he has not seen the ocean, only the widened river. Just so with all creature knowledge of God. Though all the archangels were to utter all they know, there would still remain an infinity untold.

(J. Culross, D. D.)

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen
See here, I hold a Bible in my hand, and you see the cover, the leaves, the letters, the words, but you do not see the writers, the printer, the letter founder, the ink maker, the paper maker, or the binder. You never did see them, you never will see them, and yet there is not one of you that will think of disputing or denying the being of these men. I go further; I affirm that you see the very souls of these men in seeing this book, and you feel yourselves obliged to allow that they had skill, contrivance, design, memory, fancy, reason, and so on. In the same manner, if you see a picture, you judge there was a painter; if you see a house, you judge there was a builder of it; and if you see one room contrived for this purpose, and another for that, a door to enter, a window to admit light, a chimney to hold fire, you conclude the builder was a person of skill and forecast, who formed the house with a view to the accommodation of its inhabitants. In this manner examine the world, and pity the man who, when he sees the sign of the wheat sheaf, hath sense enough to know that there is a joiner, and somewhere a painter, but who, when he sees the wheat sheaf itself, is so stupid as not to say to himself, "This had a wise and a good Creator."

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. IT IS MORE KNOWABLE THAT THERE IS A GOD THAN ANYTHING ELSE IS KNOWABLE.

1. In respect of the fulness of being that is in Him. We sooner find out the sun than a lesser light, the sea than a little fountain.

2. In respect of the ways of knowing Him. We come to a more certain knowledge of God —(1) By way of perfection. We need not fear to say too much of God. If we speak of man's soul, or of an angel, we may speak too much; but of God we cannot speak too much.(2) By way of negation. We can never remove imperfection far enough from God. When we have done our most we must say, God is beyond what finite and limited understandings can lay out.

3. In respect of our relation to Him. We stand nearer related to God than to anything in the world; our souls and bodies are not nearer related than our souls and God (Acts 17:28).

4. In respect of our dependence upon Him, and His conservation of us and cooperation with us. Any man that is in any degree spiritual and intellectual, and not altogether sunk down into sense and brutish affections, seeks in himself foreign suggestions and whispers that direct him better and carry him beyond his own mind and resolves (Job 32:8; 35:27).

II. I INFER —

1. The excellency of religion. It is no stranger to human nature, nor any of the eminent notable acts of it. Man contradicts his own principles and departs from himself when he falls off from God.

2. The use of reason in matters of religion. In religion there is the natural knowledge of God, and the knowledge of the revelation of His will. In the former we are made to know; in the latter we are called to partake of God's counsel. In the former we know that God is and what His nature is; and in the latter we know what God enjoins in order to oar future happiness.

3. That there is no invincible ignorance as to the great rights, viz., that God is to be worshipped and adored, and that there is a difference between good and evil. If a man varies from these laws, he contracts guilt to his conscience, and is condemned by the sense of his own mind.

4. That reason is so far from doing any disservice to Christian faith, that it fits men to receive it. For man in the true use of his reason, knowing that he hath not performed his duty to God, reason puts him upon deprecating God's displeasure, and to think that God, who is the first and chiefest good, will certainly be ready to commiserate the case of him who repents and returns to duty. And this is gospel, that Jesus came into the world to confirm. And taking up the Bible and finding that "God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," Reason says, "This is that I did expect: I did believe such a thing from the first and chiefest good; and now I am assured of it by the gospel."

5. Since the great things of religion and conscience are committed to reason to keep and secure, why should we think the reason of a man may not be trusted with those things that are of lesser moment.

III. THE IMPIOUS AND PROFANE ARE THEREFORE WITHOUT EXCUSE. There is a natural sense of Deity in every rational soul; and this is fundamental to all religion. The eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. If men are ignorant, it is through their own fault; either through the neglect of their own faculties, or through an inobservance of the great effects of God in the world, which show and declare what He is. To pursue the argument a little further. The Scripture doth thus represent the state of man's creation that the proper employment of mind is to inquire after God (Acts 17:27). God did never intend that reason should ever be adjudged to be a hewer of wood or a drawer of water, but for observance of God and attendance upon Him. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." A candle is a thing first lighted, then lighting; so that mind is first made light by Divine influences, and then enlightens a man in the use thereof to find out God, and to follow after Him in creation and providence. And we find degeneracy is thus described: "They have no fear of God before their eyes." "Without God in the world." And it is the fool's sense that "there is no God." There is therefore no plea for want of the sense of Deity.

1. No invincible difficulty lies upon any man but that he may come to the cognisance of a God. Not the difficulty of —(1) Ignorance; for we are made to know there is a God.(2) Impotency; for every man may use his natural parts and powers.(3) Foreign impediment; for it is a transaction performed within a man's self. If anyone be devoid of all sense of Deity, I declare it is the malignity of the subject upon a three-fold account. First, because of the nearness of God to us. Secondly, because of the sagacity of our faculties. And thirdly, because of the nearness of light of knowledge.

2. There are invitations everywhere afforded us to acts of acknowledgment and taking cognisance of God.(1) The communications of God awaken us. All we have and are is by a voluntary communication from God. We are nowhere but receivers.(2) The very principles of man's make do incline him to God. All things move to their centre, and God is the centre of immortal souls. Caesar's money was no more properly his than mind is God's; for it bears His impress. The soul of man, ally ways by violence torn off from God, is like leaves fallen off from the trees, that wither away; but in God, who is their centre, they have rest, perfection, and quiet.(3) If we consider the whole creation about us, they contribute, by way of object, to God's glory; for they have not ability to do it by way of efficiency. And this is the sense of the Psalmist. For mind in man is to see and observe the wisdom and power and goodness of God.

3. To speak a little more home, and only to the Christian world. There is God's superadded instrument, the Bible, which contains matter of revelation from God whereby also our natural notices of God are awakened and enlivened. Being disposed by the two former arguments, this Book gives further assurance. So that here are my three arguments.(1) The language of our own souls within.(2) The impressions of the Divine wisdom throughout the whole creation, and objective acclamations of all creatures, carry us strongly on to the knowledge of God.(3) Holy Scripture comes in to the pursuance of these, to repeat and reinforce them, so that he must needs be of a stupid mind, or a havocked conscience, or dissolute in his life and manners, that lives in the midst of so many arguments, and doth not spell out God and understand the audible language of heaven and earth.Conclusion: Note —

1. The infinite patience of God to endure men of stupid minds, havocked consciences, and profligate lives (Hebrews 12:3).

2. The business of the Day of Judgment is very easy on God's part, but very sad on degenerate men's part. For God's work is prepared to His hands; all sinners are self-condemned.

3. The greatness of the work of reconciliation. A man must be made whole in himself, or else he cannot be kept out of hell. A man cannot be at ease until all that he hath sinfully done be undone, and until right judgment hath been renewed which hath been violently forced, and regular life and conversation be restored. Now these are the materials of regeneration.

(B. Whichcote, B. D.)

The science of correspondences is little understood at the present day; yet it is in truth the grandest of all sciences. For it is founded on the relation that exists between heaven and earth, between the Creator and His creation. There is nothing existing in the material world, whether of the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom, which does not correspond to something spiritual, as an effect corresponds to its cause. Here is the foundation of what is called figurative writing, in which human thoughts and feelings are described by natural images. Thus we say in ordinary conversation, "bold as a lion," "cunning as a fox," etc.; and the Lord Himself is called, in the Divine Word, a Lion, and also, in other places, a Lamb. He calls Himself also a Vine: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." The Scriptures, indeed, are written throughout according to this science, and it is only by means of an understanding of its laws and principles that we can rightly interpret Scripture. Thus the sun, moon, and stars are all used in Scripture as metaphors or correspondences, and a knowledge of their signification is a key to many singular passages. As for instance, when it is said, "that the sun and moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall fall." By the sun is here meant Divine love, because love is spiritual heat, of which Divine love is the sole source. Hence the Lord is called the "Sun of Righteousness." The moon, again, is the emblem of faith, because all the light of faith is derived from love, as the moon derives all her light from the sun. The stars signify the various forms of knowledge in the mind with reference to Divine truth: for as the stars are little points of scintillating light scattered through the sky, so these truths in the mind are as little points of spiritual light, whereby the young Christian may be guided in his dark way, ere yet the brighter light of faith of the glowing sun of love has arisen in his soul. The declaration, therefore, that at the "end of the world the sun and moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall fall," means, when spiritually understood, that at the end of the Church love and faith should be extinguished, and that even the very knowledge of truth should be lost. Other things also in the visible heavens, or in the atmosphere, as rain, snow, clouds, etc., are all correspondences. Water refers in a general sense to truth; hence rain, which is water falling from the skies, signifies truth descending from heaven into the human mind. As the objects above the earth are correspondences, so are all things upon the earth itself, whether in the mineral, vegetable, or animal kingdom. A knowledge of this will explain innumerable difficult passages in the Scriptures. Let us look first at the mineral kingdom. The Lord says in Isaiah, "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver." Brass corresponds to natural goodness, and gold to celestial goodness. Iron, again, refers to natural truth, and silver to spiritual truth. The meaning, therefore, is that when the Lord came to publish the gospel, and to establish Christianity, then instead of only natural or external goodness and truth, which had prevailed in the Jewish Church, He would bring to men celestial and spiritual goodness and truth — in other words, that the Christian Church was to be an internal or spiritual church. Let us now turn to the vegetable kingdom. We know that the olive, the vine, and the fig tree are very often mentioned in Scripture, and frequently simultaneously. The same general meaning is implied as in the case of the metals already explained. By the olive is signified celestial, by the vine spiritual, and by the fig tree natural goodness; for there are three distinct degrees or regions in the human mind. Turn now to the signification of the animals mentioned in Scripture. The Lord Himself is compared both to a lion and a lamb; a lion from the power of His Divine truth, and a lamb from the innocence of His Divine love; for a lion in a good sense signifies the power of truth, and a lamb the principle of innocence. In a bad or opposite sense, a lion is used to denote the power of falsity and its destructive influence in the Church; for false doctrines have a powerful effect in leading men into evil practices. Birds represent generally thoughts and intellectual faculties. Thus where it is said in Jeremiah, "I beheld, and there was no man, and all the birds of the heaven were fled," the meaning is that the Jewish Church had come to an end; there was no wisdom left, and no thought of spiritual things. From the views here set forth, we learn how all things in nature are representative of things in the spiritual world; how the outward universe reflects, as in a mirror, the inward and unseen, and how the whole creation is an image of the great Creator.

(P. Hiller.)

The law of manifestation is that there must always be hidden powers and forces adequate to produce the manifestation. The law is worthy of all honour, and commands our reverence; it is the basis of faith in invisible things. Whatever we see is but the face, or expression, which the unseen substance and energy, have made for themselves. If men are dubious about there being an invisible universe behind the veil of the visible, they are mentally and spiritually blind. Our houses, ships, steam engines and whatever is mechanically fabricated are made out of things which appear; but living, breathing organisms could only be evolved by an invisible spirit. Bells on the stem of the lily, the petals of the rose, equally with the constellations of the heavens, could only be played into form by an inscrutable mind. Not only is the visible creation a birth from the invisible; but it is every moment fed and kept alive by the communication and inbreathing of the invisible potency. To scientists who affirm "We can know nothing but phenomena," I reply we can know, and do know, the invisible world of our affections, of our thoughts a great deal better, and with much more certainty, than we can ever know phenomena. If we speak of an imaginary world, it must be the world that, is outside of us rather than the unseen world of our consciousness. We all know the hidden world of our likes and dislikes, our designs and motives, our hopes and fears, much more indubitably than we can ever know external appearances. Aspirations, reasonings, and intuitions are constantly coming to birth within us, and are very living realities; but they can neither be seen nor handled. Nor can they be ascribed to the solids and fluids of our physical structure. By physical observation a man can no more find himself than he can find God, who is to the universe what man is to the organs of his natural body. Observe that the conclusions of our very knowing, but unknowing, friends empty the universe of all real contents, and the soul of all reverence and hope. Yet it is somewhat instructive to find many of these cold sciolists surrendering and even bowing down the invisible fire of love which they find embodied in woman, and pulsing through woman. Man's admiration of woman has no adequate ground, nor can it endure, unless she be regarded as a shrine for the love and beauty of eternal God. Suppose a man has actually come. to such a conclusion," and that his" final positivism is, There is no infinite understanding in and over the universe, nor is there any enduring spirit in man"; what in that case has he done for himself and the human race? He has set up reasonless atoms above reason; for he has made them to be the cause of reason. He has exalted icy indifference to the throne of the universe. In effect, he says, "I have searched creation through, and I find everywhere complicated contrivance, realising most admirable results; and from beginning to end law reigns, all-comprehending, but there is no Lawgiver, no supreme Fount of Life, no God and Father of the spirits of men." Now if that be reason, I earnestly pray that I may be forever and ever void of such reason. The truth is, that men who magnify material forms, above spiritual and personal entities, suffer the penalty in the infatuation of their own minds. Strictly speaking, education is not the acquisition of knowledge from without; but consists rather in awakening and leading out the latent and superior powers which are in the man, that he may be able to correct the conclusions of his outer senses — a work this involving a vastly higher estimate of humanity than the wretched postulate that you can catalogue the contents of a man by the analysis of his physical form. There is a path of entrance to the sacred substance and centre of life; but neither the lion nor the vulture of materialism will ever find it. And let me press the inquiry here: How could there be in nature such a scope for the researches of the human mind, unless she were a revelation of mind? If the heavens and the earth do not show forth the wisdom of God, how is it they are so attractive to mind? And surely, if we admire mind and wisdom in the men, who are no more than appreciative observers, we must much more ascribe mind and wisdom to the originating genius and architect. If mind, and mind only, can read and study the book of the heavens, how is it possible to escape the conclusion that mind, and mind only, could have composed the book? Our friends, therefore, who say that they can discover no evidence of mind in the structure of the universe are, as it appears to us, strangely illogical. We are afraid also that they are answerable for some degree of perverseness. For they treat not the works of man as they treat the works of the Infinite. They see man's mind in his machinery, and in his manipulation of the forces of wind and water; steam and electricity; but fail to see the Mind of minds in the forces and the laws, the processes and beneficent results of nature. The infinite soul which streams through and through nature, blending with our souls, gives us an intense feeling of at-homeness in the universe. It is our Father's house and our house. Light, hope, and joy reign in our bosoms. And, by a like law of cause and effect, all human souls who turn to God as the earth turns to the sun, and whose affections attract the Spirit of His love, become absolutely conscious of a new summer in their breasts, which is their heaven begun. We compassionate greatly all blind and paralysed souls who never see what is best worth seeing, and never taste the sublime, the undying human joy.

(J. Pulsford.)

Some may ask, "What has this to do with our sins and our salvation — with this life or the life to come?" I answer, "Much," for the root of them all lies in the nature of God and in the state of man; and as we should know more of our own selves if we knew more about humanity, so should we know more about humanity if we knew more of the great truths which God has written upon the tablets of the universe. The beauty of the works of God is one of the most signal manifestations of the Creator's handiwork, and the recognition of this is one of the purest sources of human happiness, and one of the surest proofs that the universe is a revelation of its God. The reason why I am not sorry thus to touch on this theme is because in these great cities, where we lose nine-tenths of the lessens of nature, we are more liable to be feverishly absorbed in our personal and material interests, and because we should be much purer, wiser, larger-hearted men if we looked more lovingly and thoughtfully at the great works of God. The remedy for much personal sadness, narrowness, irreligious spirit of much that calls itself religion, is that deeper knowledge of God to be found not only in Scripture, but in nature, history, conscience, and the reason of mankind. For them who have the knowledge and the humility to read His awful signature, God has written His name upon the universe.

I. Even THE HEATHEN read it there. The mythology of Greece, in its purer and earlier stage, was but an expression of the sights they saw and the lessons they read therein. In Homer, the earliest of Greek poets, we see throughout this cheerful piety. St. Paul himself appeals to the holy lessons which the Greek poets had learnt from the works of God. "We are all God's offspring"; "God giveth us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness"; and, in my text, he argues with the Romans that God was manifest even to the heathen, because "the invisible things of Him," etc. Many an age had intervened between the early Greek singers and the late Stoic philosophers; yet in them, too, we find exactly the same feeling to the works of God. "All things," says Marcus Aurelius, "come from that universal power. Everything harmonises with me which is harmonious to thee, O universe! Everything is fruit to me which thy seasons bring." Is not this the language in every age of natural piety? And if, in all ages, it has been thus that the best and wisest have interpreted the universe, is not that alone a proof that God meant it to be so interpreted?

II. THE SCRIPTURES leave us in no doubt upon that matter. Read over Psalm 104, which has been called the natural theology of the old Jews. It is eminently refreshing, at all times, to turn from the wordy strifes, and petty jealousies, and miserable interests of earth, to these sweet and wholesome truths of natural theology. When God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind to console his sorrows, to revive his sinking faith, He points him to the sweet influences of the Pleiades and the bands of Orion, etc. And is it not thus in our Lord's own sermon on the Mount? Did not our Lord speak there of the fowls of the air and of the lilies of the field? And does He not draw parables from the simplest objects of nature? Why should He have done so if it were not to show us that this universe is a parable of God?

III. GOD'S TRUE SAINTS IN ALL AGES have not been unmindful of the lesson. They have ever regarded nature as a revelation of God's awfulness and goodness, of God's care and love. When St. Anthony was asked how he could exist without books, he replied that to him who read the two books of Scripture and of nature no other teaching was necessary. Take the medieval saints. St. Bernard said that the oaks and beeches of Clairvaux had been his best masters in theology. St. Francis thanks God "for our brother, my lord the sun, and for our sister, the moon, and for the jocund strength and irresistible brightness of our brother, the fire, and for the sweet, chaste usefulness of our sister, the water." Take the outburst of our own Milton, "These are Thy glorious works, Parent of good," etc.; and the sweet hymn of the poet-statesman, "The spacious firmament on high," etc.; and the touching story of the dying Livingstone, revived into the effort which saved his life by seeing there, in the African desert, the little tuft of moss, and thinking that if God could water that little beaming moss, and keep it moist with the dew and bright with the sunshine, He surely would care for him.

IV. And this also has ever been the attitude of all TRUE SCIENCE. It is the attitude of Bacon, praying that after labouring in God's works with the sweat of his brow, God would make him partaker of His rest and Sabbath. It is the attitude of Faraday, worshipping Sunday after Sunday in his little, quiet Dissenting chapel. It is the attitude of Linnaeus falling on his knees under the open sky to thank God for the unspeakable beauty of fields, golden in the sunshine with a summer gloss.

V. And such, also, is THE INTUITION OF GENIUS. The great poets, painters, musicians of this and the close of the last century, seem to have been specially commissioned to interpret nature to man. Who that has heard the thrilling jubilance of the "Creation," has not seen, as it were, a new door opened into heaven — has not been drawn nearer to the presence chamber of God? To Wordsworth it was given to make others feel that "the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." To Turner it was given to perpetuate the most transient glories of nature, and the scenes he painted became an apocalypse of the splendour and the meaning of the world. The greatest thing which Ruskin's writings have done for us has been to show us how all creation testifies to its God, and that we miss the happiness which His mercy has provided when we fail to trust Him, and to learn of Him as we drink in the delights of the hearing ear and the seeing eye. Conclusion: Believe me, it is often the most humble and obvious arguments which are most irresistible; and the simple earthwork stops the cannon ball which shatters the buttress into dust. Once when the great Napoleon was sailing to Egypt, he sat on the deck with a circle of distinguished savans around him, who were openly boasting of their infidelity. He listened in silence; but as he rose to leave them, he raised his arm towards the starry canopy of night, and he asked them the simple question, "It is all very well to talk, gentlemen, but who made all those?" And if this natural conviction has been shaken in some minds by the pride of science, it has, as we have seen, been simultaneously intensified in others; and that is why the great painters, and poets, and musicians have not only saved many of us from being crushed by the revelations, or inflated by the discoveries, of science; but, pouring on every realm of nature a flood of Divine illumination, they have opened our eyes to beauties before unnoticed, and filled our souls with melody, which heaven only can excel.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

I. WHEREVER WE SEE A CHANGE, WE ARE FORCED BY THE VERY CONSTITUTION OF OUR MIND TO BELIEVE THAT IT HAD A CAUSE. If we see a plant growing today where there was none a short while ago, we conclude that some hand has planted it there. If we feel pain we at once ascribe it to some cause, and immediately set about to discover what it is. And so with every change. I take the book geologists have opened for me, and I find there that innumerable changes have passed upon our globe. Science takes us back to a time in its history when there was no life upon it. Nothing, therefore, is more certain than that life had a beginning on our globe. What produced it? The most distinguished scientific men have to confess that there is a gulf here which they cannot bridge. "The present state of knowledge," says Professor Huxley, "furnishes us with no link between the living and the not-living." "I am," says Sir W. Thomson, "ready to adopt, as an article of scientific faith, true through all space and through all time, that life proceeds from life and nothing but life." So far, then, as science is concerned, the origin of life remains a mystery. "Give me matter," said Kant, "and I will explain the formation of a world; but give me matter only, and I cannot explain the formation of a caterpillar." I contend, therefore, that the existence of life on our globe proves its origination by a living Being.

II. WHEREVER WE SEE ORDER, WE SEE AN EVIDENCE OF MIND.

1. When we see that changes have been produced through which there runs a principle of order, we are compelled, by the very constitution of our nature, to say, Here is not only a power which causes these changes, but one which has intelligence.(1) "One day at Naples," says a French writer, "a certain person in our presence put six dice into a box, and offered a wager that he would throw sixes with the whole set. I said that the chance was possible. He threw the dice in this way twice in succession; and I still observed that he had succeeded by chance. He put back the dice into the box for the third, fourth, and fifth time, and invariably threw sixes with the whole set. Then I exclaimed, 'The dice are loaded!' and so they were. And when I look at the order of nature, and consider that there is but one chance which can preserve the universe in the state I now see it, and that this always happens in spite of a hundred millions of other possible chances of perturbation and destruction, I cry out, 'Surely nature's dice are also loaded'"; which is just saying that order is due to intelligence.(2) Or suppose you come upon a quantity of type lying in confusion. You say these types have been thrown together by accident. But close beside this confused mass you find a form of types, which are so placed as to make words, and the words sentences, and the sentences a continuous story. What would you be constrained to conclude? That it was the result, not of chance, but of intelligence.(3) Or let us take this building. There you have window, doorway, wall, roof, forming a structure in which you see unity, order, and beauty. All this, you know, is the result of intelligence, and any man who would try to persuade you that as much order and beauty can be produced by mere blind force acting on matter, might as well ask you to give up using your reason altogether.

2. Now, when we turn to nature, we find order everywhere. There may be much in the world of which we do not know the precise use, except that of ornament. The architect who planned this building designed much which was not needed, except to please the eye. And so, in the works of nature, we find precisely the same thing. As Professor Le Comte puts it, "The law of order underlies and conditions the law of use"; and he illustrates this in the following way.(1) He goes back to the period when fishes were the only representatives of the vertebrate plan of structure. This machine, as he calls the fish, was a swimming machine, fitted for locomotion in the water. Ages pass away, and then reptiles appear; but there is no new organ created to enable them to crawl upon the land. The swimming organ is so modified as to become a crawling one. Ages again pass away, and then birds are introduced. Here again the same order is modified, and becomes a wing which enables them to move in the air. Ages again pass away, and at last man appears on the scene. What is wanted now is not a fin, nor a wing, but a hand; and this is obtained by another modification of the same organ. "And thus, in the hand of man, in the forefoot of a quadruped, in the paw of the reptile, in the wing of a bird, and in the fin of the fish, the same organ is modified for different purposes."(2) Dr. M'Cosh arranges order under four heads — number, time, colour, and form. Take —(a) Number. You find seven bones in the vertebrae of the neck of all mammalia, whether the neck be short or long.(b) Colour. Seldom or never are the two primary colours, blue and red, found on the same organ, or in contact on the same plant. Every dot in the flower comes in at the proper place, every tint and shade and hue is in accordance with all that is contiguous to it.(c) Form. All minerals crystallise in certain forms, and every living object, though composed of numerous parts, has a definite shape as a whole, and a normal shape for each of its organs.(3) But take a wider view. Sweep the universe with your eye, and you will everywhere find order. "Our own planet is so related to the sun and moon that seed time and harvest, the ebb and flow of tides, never fail. The countless millions of suns and stars are so arranged and distributed in relation to one another, or in accordance with the profoundest mathematics, as to secure the safety of one and all, and to produce everywhere harmony and beauty" (Prof. Flint). Now can you think of that universal order and beauty without thinking of a mind behind it to which they are due?

3. But all this, we are told, is the result of evolution, in which force is revealed but mind dispensed with. But evolution only describes a process, and does not account for it. It is not enough to point to force as the explanation; it may account for change, but not for order. Force throws no light upon the evolution of protoplasm now into a fish, now into a bird, and now into a man. The prevalence of order is the "reign of law"; and the "reign of law" is the reign of mind.

III. IN THE ARRANGEMENTS AND ADAPTATIONS TO ENDS WHICH WE FIND IN MATTER WE HAVE ALSO THE EVIDENCE OF MIND.

1. Take the simple illustration of a rude hut. The materials are so placed and adapted that you have not only order, but a useful end; you have a contrivance, an evidence here of design, and this means that you have here a proof of mind. Or take the steam engine. There you have iron, water, coal, and fire; but observe how they are arranged. The iron is so disposed as to furnish a receptacle for the water, and a chamber into which coals can be put and lighted. You have also cylinders, pistons, connecting rods, and wheels. And then the connection of all the parts is such that, when the coals are lighted, the water is changed into steam, which gives motion to piston, rod, and wheel, and sends the engine along its track, or propels the vessel over the ocean. No mere shaking of coal, iron, and water, for any period, however lengthened, and by any forces, however mighty, could ever have resulted in forming such an engine. No union and adjustment of them, such as we have, could have been brought about by mere chance. This adaptation and arrangement of different elements of matter, so as to accomplish this end, the production of motive power, required mind, ay, and vastly more of it than the construction of a rude hut.

2. Now, let us turn to the works of nature, and we shall see that whether we look to earth, or ocean, or sky, or man, we meet everywhere with arrangements for distinct ends, which reveal the highest intelligence, and not only constrain belief in the Divine existence, but rouse to admiration and praise.(1) We take this globe, which revolves around the sun. There are two forces acting upon it, which balance each other — the one tending to draw it towards, and the other to draw it away from, the sun. If the first of these had been greater than it is, the earth would have been drawn into the sun and destroyed; and if the second had been stronger than it is, then, just as a stone slung round the head flies off when the string is let go, so the earth would have rashed from its orbit into darkness and ruin. In this adjustment of forces, then, which preserves our world, do we not see the manifestations of a controlling mind?(2) We take the book which the geologist has opened. The great convulsions it records prove to have been but the birth throes of a world fitted for the varied necessities of the living creatures which inhabit it. The coal and the iron, for example, which, more than anything else, have contributed to human civilisation and comfort, have had their strata tilted up by these, so that man could reach them. The disposition of land and water; the elevation, slope, and direction of the mountain ranges; the scooping out of the valleys; the elevation of vast plateaus; the formation of the lakes; the streams; the oceanic currents — all these affect the temperature, rainfall, and vegetation.(3) Turn to the atmosphere, which is essential to life.(a) Its chemical elements are being constantly abstracted in the vital processes of vegetable and animal; but what the one consumes the other supplies; and so, by this and other arrangements, the balance of elements in the air is maintained, otherwise it would become unfit to support life.(b) Look at it us the medium for the diffusion of light and heat and sound. If we had no atmosphere, then, while every object on which the sun's rays fell would dazzle us by its brightness, everything else would be in the deepest darkness. Nor could we hear, for the air is necessary to the transmission of sound. Nor could the heat of the sun's rays be retained and diffused without an atmosphere.(4) From dead matter let us turn to organic or living matter. Take vegetable life. When a certain cycle of existence has been passed, vegetable growths die; but before they die they make provision for the continuance of their species.(5) Let us ascend to a higher region. The structure of the human body. "How complicate I how wonderful is man!" The writer of one of the old Hermetic books called "The Divine Poemander" puts the argument from man's structure in this way: "Consider, O son, how man is made and framed in the womb; and examine diligently the skill and cunning of the workman, and learn who it was that wrought and fashioned the beautiful and divine shape of man. Who circumscribed and marked out his eyes? Who bored his nostrils and ears? Who opened his mouth? Who stretched out and tied together his sinews? Who hardened and made strong the bones? Who clothed the flesh with skin? Who divided the fingers and the joints? Who flattened and made broad the soles of the feet? Who digged the pores? Who stretched out the spleen? Who made the heart like a pyramid? Who made the liver broad and the lungs spongy and full of holes? Who made the belly large and capacious? Who set to view the more honourable parts and hid the filthy ones? See how many arts in one matter; and how many works in one superscription, and all exceedingly beautiful, and all done in measure, and yet all differing. Who hath made all these things? What mother? What father? Save only God that is most manifest — that made all things by His own will." Now, "Who in the world is a verier fool," as Jeremy Taylor puts it, "than he who is an atheist?...Can anything in this world be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth can come by chance for blind force when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster? To see rare effects and no cause; an excellent government and no prince; a motion without an immovable; a circle without a centre; a time without an eternity; a second without a first; a thing that begins not from itself, and therefore not to perceive that there is something from whence it does begin, which must be without beginning; these things are so against philosophy and natural reason, that he must needs be a beast in understanding who does not assent to them; this is the atheist. 'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.'"

(A. Oliver, B. A.)

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown.

(R. W. Emerson.)

A clergyman asked an old man his reasons for believing in the existence of a God. "Sir," said he, "I have been here going hard upon fifty years. Every day since I have been in this world, I see the sun rise in the east and set in the west. The north star stands where it did the first time I ever saw it; the seven stars and Job's coffin keep on the same path in the sky, and never turn out. It ain't so with man's works. He makes clocks and watches: they may run well for a while; but they get out of fix, and stand stock still. But the sun and moon and stars keep on the same way all the while. There is a power which makes one man die, and another get well; that sends the rain, and keeps everything in motion."

I. GROUNDS OF BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. God reveals Himself —

1. By the works of nature.(1) Every effect must have a cause. You see the picture of a flower or a bird, and you ask at once, Who drew it? You behold a statue, and you inquire, Who was the sculptor? But how much more is a real flower, bird, man, the proof of a Creator!(2) The same conviction is only confirmed when you observe the adaptation of means to ends. The plant is designed to be stationary, and accordingly its roots are firmly fixed in the earth. The bird was designed for locomotion, and hence in its wings we find a perfect apparatus for transporting it from place to place. Man was intended to govern all creatures, and accordingly he is endowed with an understanding that renders him capable of doing so: the human understanding — the most wonderful of the works of nature — cannot be accounted for, but upon the ground of the existence of an Infinite Mind. Vegetation was to be sustained, and hence roots have so many mouths to extract nourishment from the soil, while their leaves are for lungs to inhale from the atmosphere those gases that are congenial and to exhale those that are unwholesome. Vegetation was to be propagated, and hence every plant is made to produce its own seeds; and in the work of sowing them, winds, waves, and animals, are all made to do their part. The construction and furnishing of this world were intended mainly to promote the welfare of the human family — and how admirably is this object accomplished! Do our lungs need air? Nothing is so free. Do we need food to satisfy our hunger? It springs up all around us. Do we require water to slake our thirst? Its limpid currents murmur at our feet. Do we want clothing to defend us against the changes of the seasons? It grows in our fields, or is brought to our doors upon the backs of the bleating flocks.

2. In providence.(1) Which connects vicious habits with disease, disgrace, and poverty, and a virtuous life with health, wealth, and honour.(2) Which leads to the detection and punishment of crime, and which pursues every criminal with the scorpion lash of self-condemnation.(3) As exerted in favour of that best and purest system of morals, the Christian religion.

3. In the Scriptures. Here we have the portraiture of His moral character.

4. To the soul by His Spirit.

II. IMPROVEMENT. This doctrine lies at the foundation of all religious truth. This established, and the most important inferences follow.

1. To the impenitent hearer. If there is a God, He is your Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer; and you are under infinite obligations to serve and obey Him.

2. To Christians this doctrine is the source of great consolation. If there is a God, the Christian's hopes are all safe; death loses its terror, and the bright visions of heavenly bliss are a glorious reality.

(N. Rounds, A. M.)

Basil called the world a school, wherein reasonable souls are taught the knowledge of God. In a musical instrument, when we observe divers strings meet in harmony, we conclude that some skilful musician tuned them. When we see thousands of men in a field, marshalled under several colours, all yielding exact obedience, we infer that there is a general, whose commands they are all subject to. In a watch, when we take notice of great and small wheels, all so fitted as to concur to an orderly motion, we acknowledge the skill of an artificer. When we come into a printing house, and see a great number of different letters so ordered as to make a book, the consideration hereof maketh it evident that there is a composer, by whose art they were brought into such a frame. When we behold a fair building, we conclude it had an architect; a stately ship, well rigged, and safely conducted to the port, that it hath a pilot. So here: the visible world is such an instrument, army, watch, book, building, ship, as undeniably argueth a God, who was and is the Tuner, General, and Artificer, the Composer, Architect, and Pilot of it.

(J. Arrowsmith.)

A man of talent was supping one evening with some atheists. The philosophers spoke of their denial of the existence of God, but he remained silent. They asked his opinion, and while they were speaking the clock struck. He answered them by pointing to the clock and saying, "Clocks do not make themselves."

(A. G. Jackson.)

So that they are without excuse; because that when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful
I. THE SIN HERE FOLLOWED — Idolatry. "They glorified not God, as God," which general charge is drawn into particulars: as, that they "changed His glory." etc. (ver. 23); where, by glory, he means God's worship; that by which men glorify Him, and not His essential glory, which is not in men's power to change or debase. Note that the persons charged with idolatry are affirmed to have known and worshipped the true God. From whence it follows that they did not look upon those images, which they addressed, as gods. So idolatry is a worshipping the true God in a way wholly unsuitable to His nature — viz., by the mediation of corporeal resemblances of Him. For the defence of which no doubt but they pleaded that they used images, not as objects of worship, but only as instruments by which they directed their worship to God. But the distinction, which looks so fine in the theory, generally miscarries in the practice; especially where the ignorant vulgar are the practisers.

II. THE PERSONS CHARGED WITH THIS SIN. The old heathen philosophers, who "professed themselves to be wise." Their great title was σοφοί, and the word of applause, still given to their lectures, was σοφῶς. was the first who brought σοφὸς down to φιλόσοφος, from a master to a lover of wisdom, from a professor to a candidate. These grandees and giants in knowledge looked down upon the rest of mankind, and laughed at them as barbarous and insignificant, yet blundered and stumbled about their grand and principal concern, the knowledge of their duty to God, sinking into the meanest and most ridiculous instances of idolatry — having confessed a God, and allowed Him an infinite power and an eternal Godhead, they yet denied Him the worship of God. Had the poor vulgar rout only been abused into such idolatrous superstitions, it might have been detested or pitied, but not so much to be wondered at: but for the stoa, the academy, or the peripaton to own such a paradox; for an , or a , to think their Eternal Mind, or Universal Spirit, to be found in the images of four-footed beasts; for the Stagirite to recognise his gods in his own book, "De Animalibus," this, as the apostle says, was "without excuse."

III. THE CAUSE OR REASON OF THEIR FALLING THIS SIN: their holding of the truth in unrighteousness.

1. What was the truth here spoken of? There were these six great truths, the knowledge of which the Gentile philosophers stood accountable for: as —(1) That there was a God; a being distinct from matter, perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, good and holy. And this was a truth written with a sunbeam, clear and legible to all mankind, and received by universal consent.(2) That this God was the Maker and Governor of this visible world. The first of which was evident from the very order of causes; and the second followed from it; for that a creature should not depend upon its Creator in all respects (among which, to be governed by Him is one), is contrary to the common order and nature of things. Besides all which it is also certain that the heathens did actually acknowledge the world governed by a Supreme Mind.(3) That this God was to be worshipped. For this was founded upon His omnipotence and His providence.(4) That this God was to be worshipped by virtuous and pious practices. For so much His essential holiness required.(5) That upon any deviation from virtue and piety, it was the duty of every rational creature to repent of it. The conscience of every man, before it is debauched and hardened by habitual sin, will recoil after the doing of an evil action, and acquit him after a good.(6) That every such deviation rendered the person liable to punishment. And upon this notion, universally fixed in the minds of men, were grounded all their sacrifices.

2. These truths they held in unrighteousness.(1) By not acting up to what they knew. As in many things their knowledge was short of the truth, so almost in all things their practice fell short of their knowledge. The principles by which they walked were as much below those by which they judged, as their feet were below their head. By the one they looked upwards, while they placed the other in the dirt. For they neither depended upon God as if He were almighty, nor worshipped Him as if they believed Him holy. For the proof of which go over all the heathen temples, and take a survey of the absurdities and impieties of their worship, their monstrous sacrifices, their ridiculous rites and ceremonies. And then so notoriously did they balk the judgment of their consciences, in the plainest duties relating to God, their neighbour, and themselves; as if they had owned neither God nor neighbour, but themselves.(2) By not improving those known principles into the proper consequences deducible from them. For surely, had they discoursed rightly but upon this one principle, that God was a Being infinitely perfect, they could never have been brought to assert or own a multiplicity of gods. Nor could they have slid into those brutish immoralities, had they duly cherished these first practical notions and dictates of right reason. But they quickly stifled and overlaid those seeds of virtue sown by God in their own hearts, so that they brought a voluntary darkness and stupidity upon their minds (ver. 21).(3) By concealing what they knew. For how rightly soever they might conceive of God and of virtue, yet the illiterate multitude were never the wiser for it. Socrates was the only martyr for the testimony of any truth that we read of amongst the heathens. As for the rest, even Zeno and Chrysippus, Plato and Aristotle swam with the stream, leaving the poor vulgar as ignorant, vicious, and idolatrous as they first found them. And thus I have shown three notable ways by which the philosophers held the truth in unrighteousness. This disposed them to greater enormities; for, "changing the truth of God into a lie," they became like those who, by often repeating a lie to others, come at length to believe it themselves. They owned the idolatrous worship of God so long, till, by degrees, even in spite of reason and nature, they thought that He ought so to be worshipped. But this stopped not here; for as one wickedness is naturally an introduction to another, so, from absurd and senseless devotions, they passed into vile affections (ver. 24, etc.). God knows how far the spirit of infatuation may prevail upon the heart, when it comes once to court and love a delusion.

IV. THE JUDGMENT, OR RATHER THE STATE AND CONDITION PENALLY CONSEQUENT UPON THE PERSONS HERE CHARGED BY THE APOSTLE WITH IDOLATRY: "they were without excuse." The last refuge of a guilty person is to take refuge under an excuse, and so to mitigate, if he cannot divert the blow. It was the method of the great pattern and parent of all sinners, Adam, first to hide, and then to excuse himself. But now, when the sinner shall have all his excuses blown away, be stabbed with his own arguments, and, as it were, sacrificed upon that very altar which he fled to for succour; this, surely, is the height and crisis of a forlorn condition. Yet this was the ease of the malefactors who stand here arraigned in the text; they were not only unfit for a pardon, but even for a plea. An excuse imports the supposition of a sin, and —

1. The extenuation of its guilt. As for the sire itself, we have already heard what that was, and they could only extenuate it on the ground either of ignorance or unwillingness. As for unwillingness, the philosophers generally asserted the freedom of the will, which, in spite of the injury inflicted by sin, has still so much freedom left as to enable it to choose any act in its kind good, as also to refuse any act in its kind evil. This is enough to cut off all excuse from the heathen, who never duly improved the utmost of such a power, but gave themselves up to licentiousness. The only remaining plea therefore must be that of ignorance, since there could be no pretence for unwillingness. But the apostle divests them even of this also (vers. 19, 21).Conclusion: Note —

1. The mercy of God to those to whom He has revealed the gospel, since there was nothing that could have obliged Him to it upon the account of His justice; for if there had, the heathens, to whom he revealed it not, could not have been thus without excuse.

2. The unspeakably deplorable condition of obstinate sinners under the gospel. The sun of mercy has shined too long and too bright upon such, to leave them any shadow of excuse.

(R. South, D. D.)

How fearful an evil is sin! Its nature precludes all apology for it. And yet all men "with one consent make excuse." Apt scholars of the first apologist! Adam and his fallen race, rather than condemn themselves on account of transgression, will venture to charge the Holy One with the occasion of it. Many lines of Scriptural argument might be adduced to show the inexcusableness of sin. But we know of none more answerable than that of the text — man's impiety and ingratitude. Take the case of —

I. THE FIRST SILENCE. Whatever was the occasion of Satan's sin, the text gives a clue as to its nature. "The first estate" of the fallen angels was doubtless one of extensive knowledge. In their present condition what craft, what subtlety do they display! And yet angels were made to live even in His unveiled presence — to know Him, to love, serve, and glorify Him. But from some unrevealed cause, their knowledge did not beget humility, their surprising privileges did not ensure gratitude; whilst standing before "the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity," they were "lifted up with pride," and rebelled against Him. And God, who created them and had blessed them, spared them not, and "they are without excuse; because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful."

II. OUR FIRST PARENTS. Their nature was one degree lower than that of the angels. They were created after the image of God in holiness and happiness. What bounds could have been fixed to that mind which held daily converse with God? What privileges were there! The body and soul united in blissful harmony, and both united in the God of love! But notwithstanding, impiety and ingratitude were the sin and ruin of Adam! He credited the word of "the father of lies" before the word of the God of truth. Ambition made him forget his privileges. And "they were without excuse, because that," etc.

III. THE HEATHEN. The apostle proves that though they are ignorant of the revelation of grace (and they will not be condemned for rejecting that which was never offered to them), yet they cannot be ignorant of the revelation of nature. The present awful and ruinous state of the heathen has arisen from the depravity of human nature; the love of sin, and consequent hatred of holiness. They abused their privileges, "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

IV. THE JEWS. What nation was ever so blessed as they! Raised from obscurity to The dignity of a theocracy, they passed on from one degree of glory to another, till the Lord of glory appeared as "the King of the Jews." And notwithstanding all this, impiety and ingratitude were the sin and the ruin of Israel.

V. NATIONS PROFESSING CHRISTIANITY. Have we not known God. Are we not blessed by Him with extraordinary and peculiar privileges? To what modern nation has God revealed Himself so signally as the God of love has unto us? And how great our temporal prosperity, and our influence and power over the whole world! Such are our privileges. And what use do we make of them? If we "know God," by what national acts do we "glorify Him as God"? Does He receive the glory due unto His holy name in the calm deliberation of our senators? Is His Word alone the acknowledged and the supreme rule of faith and practice? Is truth and piety upheld and protected, and are falsehood and idolatry trampled under our feet? Alas! if our candlestick were removed, we are "without excuse, because that," etc.

(G. A. Rogers, M. A.)

After a missionary had gone into a certain part of Hindostan, and had given away New Testaments, a Hindoo waited upon him, and said, "Did you not write that first chapter of Romans after you came here?" "No; it has been there nearly two thousand years." "Well, all I can say is, that it is a fearfully true description of the sin of India." However, I am not going to talk about Hindoos; they are a long way off. I am not going to speak about the ancient Romans; they lived a couple of thousand years ago. I am going to speak about ourselves, and about some persons here whom my text admirably fits. Here is —

I. WANT OF REVERENCE. "They knew God," but "they glorified Him not as God."

1. Many never think of God. Whether there is a God, or not, makes no practical difference to them; if we could prove that there were no God, they would feel easier in their consciences. "Well," says one, "I do not care much whether there is a God or not; I am an agnostic." That is a Greek word, is it not? And the equivalent Latin is "Ignoramus." I could not bear robe an "ignoramus or an agnostic about God! I must have a God. He is to me as necessary as food to my body, and air to my lungs. The sad thing is, that many who believe that there is a God yet go from the beginning of the week to the end of it without reflecting upon Him at all.

2. Have no right conceptions of God. The true conception of God is that He is all in all; and unless we treat Him as such, we have not treated Him as He ought to be treated.

3. Some who think of God a little, but never offer Him any humble, spiritual worship. Do not imagine that God can be worshipped by anything which is merely mechanical or external, but which is not from the heart.

4. There are those who do not obediently serve Him — for they are the servants of themselves; and there is no master more tyrannical than unsanctified self. But, remember, if the Lord be God, and He made us, we are bound to serve Him.

5. They do not trust Him. The place for man is under the shadow of God's wings, but you run to your neighbours as soon as ever you are in difficulties.

6. They did not seek to commune with Him. It is a very sad business when a boy who has been at home with his father and mother for years has never spoken to them.

7. They do not want to be reconciled to Him.

II. WANT OF GRATITUDE. I cannot say anything much worse of a man than that he is not thankful to his benefactors; and when you say that he is not thankful to God, you have said about the worst thing you can say of him. I will prove ingratitude on the part of many.

1. God's law is despised. God has taken the trouble to give us this map of the way, and to direct us in the only right road; yet some have gone directly in the teeth of it; in fact, it looks as if the very existence of the law is a provocation to them to break it.

2. God's day is dishonoured. God has, in great mercy, given us one day in seven wherein to rest, and to think of holy things. He said, Take six, and use them in your business. No, we must have the seventh as well."

3. God's book is neglected. Was there ever such a book, so full of wisdom, and so full of love? But there are many who do not take the trouble to read it. A father's love letter to his son, and his son leaves it unread!

4. God's Son is refused. Ingratitude, thou hast reached thy utmost limit now.

5. God's deliverances are forgotten. Some years ago I spoke with a soldier who rode at Balaclava; and when he told me so, I took him by the hand; I could not help it, though he was a stranger to me. The tears were in my eyes, and I said, "Sir, I hope that you are God's man after such a deliverance as that." But I did not find that he had given his heart to Christ. Over there is a man who has been in half a dozen shipwrecks; and if he does not mind, he will be shipwrecked to all eternity! One here has had yellow fever. Ah, sir, there is a worse fever than that on you now I

6. God's providences are ignored! Some of you, from your childhood, have had all that heart could wish. Should God not have some gratitude from you? But one says, "I have had good luck." Here is unthankfulness to God indeed, when you ascribe His gifts to "good luck." "Well, you know, but I have been a very hard-working man." I know you have, but who gave you the strength for your work?

7. God's Spirit is resisted.

III. THIS IRREVERENCE AND INGRATITUDE WERE AGAINST KNOWLEDGE. "When they knew God." Notice —

1. Knowledge is of no use if it does not lead to holy practice. It was no good to them to know God, for "they glorified Him not as God." So, my theological friend, it does not matter what you think, or know, unless it leads you to glorify God, and to be thankful.

2. Knowledge will increase the responsibility of those who are irreverent and ungrateful. Whatever excuse might be made for those who never heard of God, there was none for these people.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. To right hearts, a study of God's character both attracts and repels. The attractive influences are our need of God, our thirst after Him, and the curiosity of our natures. And yet no sooner do we approach the consideration of His appalling greatness and spotless purity, than we shrink back under an oppressive sense of our demerit. Only sanctity of heart can give the power of apprehending this subject needs.

2. Our age is preeminently one of criticism and reconsideration. Every theory of science and theology is being put into the crucible. We have no anxiety about the final issue. Nothing will be lost but the dross. But this fact should not become a couch on which our indifference reclines, but rather an inspiration to us to defend the truth. Between the Bible representation of God and the God of much modern thought there are sad discrepancies. Error can change its form without disappearing. If heathens have had a god made with their own hands, modern thinkers have one cast in the mould of their wild imaginations. They may revolt at the idea of bowing before an idol; but they conceive a Deity lacking the qualities essential to the nature of Jehovah, such as righteousness, justice, and grace.

3. There are many reasons why we should seek to have right conceptions of God.(1) Our belief will effect our life. Souls become assimilated to the object of their worship. The voluptuous worshipped Venus, etc. False and faulty conceptions of God cannot do other than result in the false and faulty character.(2) There is an equally close connection between character and work. Our work will never be better than we are.

I. FALSE CONCEPTIONS OF GOD. The most prevalent of these are —

1. Pantheism which teaches that the universe is God, and that God is the universe. This, of course, denies His distinct existence, and affirms that God has neither intelligence, consciousness, nor will. He is not a personality who can say "I," or be addressed as "Thou." What a man would be without faculties and without consciousness, that, say they, is God without the universe. The destiny of the human soul, according to Pantheism, is its absorption into the Infinite. And, as we may well suppose, its effects have been, and still are, disastrous. It destroys all distinctions between good and evil, for they are alike the operations of God. Sin is no barrier to intercourse with God. Self is deified, for the soul is part of the Divine essence. The drapery and sophistry of this form of religion deceive the imagination and captivate the minds of some. But there will come a time when all hearts will be sick of it. The heart yearns for a personal Father to whom it can carry its burdens and tell its griefs. But that Father is not found in Pantheism, but in the personal, self-existent, glorious God of the Bible.

2. The mechanical conception of God is very different, but little less revolting. According to this "God is" — as Carlyle has worded this theory, "an absentee, sitting, ever since the first Sabbath, on the outside of His creation seeing it go." God is only present in the world by the agency of law, and law acts through the agency and tendencies of matter; while the Lawgiver Himself is, to use Martineau's words, "a remote and retired mechanician, inspecting from without the engine of creation, to see how it performs." Those who thus believe seem to leave the character of God with no other perfection than that which belongs to a great first cause, or an Almighty contriver "too vast to praise, too inexorable to propitiate, with no ear for prayer, no heart for sympathy, no arm to save." They believe in law, and that is all they do believe in. Poor mortals! We are fed, preserved, and nurtured from the cradle to the tomb by machinery. We do not hesitate to pronounce this conception of God to be false. The world is not a mere machine. Natural law is but the omnipresent expression of God's will. Law does not govern, but God — by means of law. Instead of God being "an absentee," "He is not far from any one of us," etc.

3. The poetic view of God has been propagated, by sentiment and imagination, influenced and guided largely by an unsanctified heart. A few of God's attributes are admired, but the stern integrity of His nature is forgotten. With these dreamers God is not principle, but sentiment. As to how the great Lawgiver is to act towards a broken law these visionaries never trouble themselves. The King of kings may reign, but He certainly does not govern. But such conception is false. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still lives, and, as ever, He has thunderbolts as well as tears. He awards and avenges. Holiness and heaven, sin and hell, He has linked together with indissoluble chains. The Judge is not lost in the Father nor the Father in the Judge.

II. FAULTY CONCEPTIONS OF GOD, i.e., defective, fragmentary.

1. Perhaps there are few of us but have faulty conceptions of God.(1) This can be partially accounted for by a consideration of our constitutional peculiarities. Most of our minds are ill-proportioned, and, as a consequence, we are apt to see only isolated fragments of God's character. We may believe in God as revealed in Scripture, and yet, certain elements of our nature being more susceptible of impression, we are apt to conceive of God as possessing only those attributes and qualities that interpret themselves to our nature. One man is overstrung with nerves; to him God is all joy — one eternal summer. But to another man "whom melancholy has marked for her own," God exhibits the hues of His own feeling. Men, whose natures are full of stern severity, are apt to view God only as a mass of spiritual strength. But there are those who revolt at this stoical conception of God, for in them the pathetic, tender, benevolent elements largely predominate.(2) Our individual experiences have a determining force in this matter. To the Christian whose life has been one of signal success and joyous prosperity, God is the hero of a thousand battles, never once disappointed in His expectations or frustrated in His purposes. To others, life has been a melancholy blank — a series of unfinished, unsuccessful enterprises. Such are apt to forget that "the Lord reigneth," and that "out of evil He still educeth good."

2. How are we to avoid these mistakes?(1) Let us labour after a growing likeness to God, for God only becomes real to us as His nature is unfolded within us.(2) In our testimony for God, let us endeavour to meet every phase of human want. The needs of human souls, the conditions of human life, are infinitely various, and it will expand, ennoble, and enlarge our conceptions of God if we endeavour to show that God's character is adapted to the necessities and wants of all.(3) Above all, we should constantly study Him who is "the image of the invisible God." The person of Christ reflects the Divine nature; His ministry the Divine mind; His death the Divine heart; His resurrection the Divine power. In the life and death of our Redeemer, justice, wisdom, love, and power, mingle their beams and shine with united and meridian splendour. There they form a glorious covenant rainbow, made up of the effulgent light of the Eternal, and tears of the Redeemer's grief.

(W. Williams.)

I. WHAT IS IT TO GLORIFY GOD?

1. Negatively.

(1)Not as if we made Him glorious (Exodus 15:11).

(2)Nor as if we added anything to His glory.

2. Positively.

(1)To acknowledge His glory (Psalm 19:1).

(2)To admire it.

(3)To live up to it.

(4)To speak of it.

II. WHAT IS IT TO GLORIFY GOD AS GOD?

1. To acknowledge Him to be God.

(1)To be what He is in Himself — a Spirit, Almighty, all-wise, etc.

(2)To be what He is to us. Our —

(a)Maker (Genesis 1)

(b)Preserver (Acts 7:28).

(c)Governor (Psalm 75:6; Matthew 10:29, 30).

(d)Redeemer (Psalm 47:41).

2. To fear Him as God.

3. To hope in Him (Psalm 27:1; Psalm 46:1, 2) as an all-wise, almighty, all-gracious and all-faithful God.

4. To rejoice in Him (Philippians 4:4) as reconciled in Christ, and a soul-satisfying God in Himself.

5. To desire Him as one without whom we cannot but be miserable, and in whom we cannot but be happy.

6. To love Him as the chief Lord in Himself (Luke 18:19), and as the fountain of goodness in His creatures.

7. To worship Him only, and in spirit and in truth.

8. To serve Him alone, in all things, so as to do all to His glory (Isaiah 42:8; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

III. HOW DOES IT APPEAR TO BE A SIN NOT TO GLORIFY GOD AS GOD?

1. God here accuses the Gentiles of it, and blames them for it.

2. Not to glorify God as God is not to glorify Him at all.

IV. WHO ARE GUILTY OF THIS SIN?

1. Such as do not acknowledge there is a God (Psalm 14:1).

2. Such as do not know the Lord they acknowledge.

3. Such as know Him, but do not glorify Him.

4. Such as glorify Him, as they think, but not as God and these are —

(1)Such as have not right apprehensions of Him.

(2)That have not right affections for Him.

(3)That do not perform right worship and obedience to Him.Conclusion:

1. You know God; you know that He is an all-knowing and all-powerful God, that He is the chiefest Good, most merciful and gracious, and that He will bring all things into judgment, and yet you do not live up to this knowledge, and therefore do not glorify Him as God.

2. Examine whether you have not been guilty of this sin, humble yourselves for it, and then reform it. Consider —(1) The glory of God is the first thing that ought to be prayed for (Matthew 6:9).(2) Remissness in this is denounced (Malachi 2:2) and punished (Acts 12:23: Romans 1:24).(3) Unless you glorify God your religion is vain.(4) To glorify God is the glory of heaven.(5) Glorify God and God will glorify you (1 Samuel 2:30).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

They did not render to Him the honour that was His due; cherish towards Him those tempers of mind which became His creatures, or express the sentiments of devotion in worship befitting His nature and character. They forgot His unity, and gave Him not exclusive adoration; they lost sight of His spirituality, and instead of worshipping Him "in spirit and in truth," imagined Him to be gratified with what pleased the sensual appetites of corporeal beings; the impression of His infinite though unseen majesty (the majesty of eternity, immensity, omniscience, and omnipotence) being effaced from their minds, their homage was no longer that of "reverence and godly fear"; and, letting slip the remembrance of His infinite and irreconcilable separation from all evil, they served the God of light with the works of darkness, the "Holy One" with the mysteries of iniquity and impurity.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

Why are men unthankful to Heaven?

I. Is it because HEAVEN DOES NOT BESTOW FAVOURS ON MEN? There can be no gratitude without favours. What has God given us? Existence, the world, His blessed Son. Were He to withdraw from us all that He has given, we would have nothing left, and be no more. Ingratitude to man is bad; but to God it is infinitely worse, for the greatest favours we receive from men are only borrowed from Heaven, and are mean, and few in comparison with what God bestows.

II. Is it because THOSE FAVOURS ARE DESERVED? Great favours have not power in themselves to generate gratitude. The recipient must feel that he has no claim whatever to them. He who gives me that which I feel to deserve will fail to inspire with thankfulness by that act.

III. Is it because GOD IS NOT FREE IN THEIR BESTOWMENT? If I know that a man is constrained to bestow a favour, his gift will fail to inspire me with thankfulness. I care not how valuable his gift, nor how greatly it may serve my interest; the feeling will destroy the possibility of gratitude.

IV. Is it because HE IS NOT DISINTERESTEDLY KIND IN GIVING? If in the man who bestows on me a favour I discover indifference or selfishness, I can feel no thankfulness, however valuable the gift may be. Conclusion: Ingratitude to God is not only without all reason, but against all good reason. It is the basest of all vices, and lies at the root of nearly all the evils of life. "As the Dead Sea," says an old author, "drinks in the river Jordan, and is never the sweeter, and the ocean all other rivers, and is never the fresher, so we are apt to receive daily mercies from God, and still remain insensible of them, unthankful for them. The rain comes down from heaven in showers; it goes up but in mists."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Ingratitude is here reckoned among the fatal steps taken toward degradation and toward gross impiety. The whole world agree to consider that nature base which is not moved by substantial kindness. All agree, too, that gratitude is a manly and noble quality. There is a great difference in this affection. There are some natures that take but the slightest favours to make them exhale thanks and gratitude. There are others that require much. Gratitude works also with different degrees of expression. In some, favours are very soon forgotten. In others, never. With some, gratitude is like the new-fallen snow, exquisite; but, like it, it very soon dissolves and passes away. With others, gratitude is like the diamond, once formed, hard and enduring, brilliant, and from every facet sending radiance. In some, gratitude excites uneasiness and unrestfulness till in some way it can discharge obligation. In others, there is no such thing as discharging the obligation for a favour — a kindness done to them binds them to the doer evermore. It is perfectly fair, then, that God should demand at our hands gratitude for mercies received, and that we should attempt to measure human character and human conduct by this expectation of God.

I. HAS THANKFULNESS TO GOD BEEN IN ANY PROPORTION TO THE BENEFITS RECEIVED? Has it ever been a common experience, lively and quick? Has it acted to promote obedience? The children of unnumbered kindnesses — have these blessings of God that have watched you from youth up to this hour, and that have flowed through all the channels of your life, ever brought forth in you a profound sense of recognition? Is not what the apostle describes applicable to us? But let us more in detail look into this matter. Let us look at —

1. A man's own organisation, and inquire in what way he is wont to receive that ass comprehensive and complex gift of God. It is no small thing that we have an organisation that brings health and strength. There are many that are born to misfortune. They carry organised suffering with them. That, for the most part, is not our condition. The separate elements that go to constitute this gift of our organisation are marvellous. If the eye could keep a journal of all the pleasures that it has brought to us no tongue could measure our obligations. If the ear could give its account of pleasures issued; if not a single sense merely, but the whole of our body, could rise up and bear witness to God's goodness in its organisation, what a complex series of services from God to us would be exhibited! And yet, are not life, and health, and strength, more frequently a reason of indifference? All the senses that God has put together to create the most noble thing made under the heaven — we take them as a gift, of course. We arrogate to ourselves personal beauty, if we are handsome; personal strength, if we are strong; personal skill, if we have a hand to execute. We take all these sovereign gifts of God, not with thanksgiving, not as if they brought us nearer to Him in sweet obedience, not as benefits received, but to set us apart from Him and His service.

2. The gifts of God expressed in the human mind and disposition. We are neither thankful for the casket nor the jewels that God has put within the casket. Indeed, the more men have, usually, the less apt are they to be grateful. Men are apt to become vain, arrogant, worldly, and foolish in the possession of their mental gifts and powers. We carry about, in reason, in imagination, in hope, in love, in sympathy, in everything that goes to make up the human disposition, that wonderful gift of God, the human soul, from the cradle to the grave, and scarcely think to thank God or to love Him for His benefaction.

3. Our social advantages. It is no small thing to have been born in a Christian land. How many of us find occasion for real thankfulness in this? It is no small thing to have been born of Christian parentage — to have been put into this life through a right gate. Have you ever made it an object of thought? Our honourable connections are matters of no small moment, as they stand intimately related to our happiness. The position we are permitted to occupy in society we are apt to ascribe to our own skill and work. But there is not a man living that has really achieved the social advantages which he has. There is a providence in them. And all that which we have of repute, ease, influence, consequence by reason of our social connection — does not this tend to puff us up? How many men requite God by being to others exactly what He is not to them! God bridges the way from His heart to ours by kindnesses without number. We look down upon men less favoured than we, and seem to say, "Stand thou there: come not near to touch our robes."

4. Our relations to the gifts of God in nature and in human society(1) No one can enough appreciate the wonderfulness of God's bounties of love registered for everyone that has an eye to see and an ear to hear in the fulness of nature. Everywhere God makes Himself known to those that have a heart sensitive to His presence. The whole globe is a sacrament, and time is full of the most solemn lessons and the most momentous truths. And yet we let day after day, and year after year, pass over our heads, and our constant thought is — what? That the winter is severe; that the day is inclement; that the rain incommodes our party or mars our pleasure.(2) The successes of life, by which men attain livelihood and the respect of men, are gifts of God, and not the less subjects of gratitude because they depend upon our activity, since our activity again depends upon God's being ever present with us. God invites us to all the bounties of nature, and we are more vain of their skill to reap them than thankful for the bounties themselves.

5. The work of God in providences toward every one of us. There are gifts of prosperity and gifts of adversity; there are sparing mercies in sickness and danger to us, and, what comes nearer to a sensitive nature, to others. The providence of God that attends our daily walk is marvellous to him that has an eye to discern all its details, and wisdom to comprehend its full meaning. But we walk through the day, the year, often without a thought, or scarcely a reminiscence.

6. God's spiritual dealings with us. The gift of Christ, that richest and Divinest of all gifts, and the premise through Him of eternal life, and of help in every time of need; the gift of the Holy Ghost; His mindfulness of every feeling in us, though we are mindless of any feeling in Him — in all these spiritual blessings, gratitude and thankfulness are the exception, and not the rule.

II. THE SIN OF THIS.

1. There is no one thing that you admit to be a fairer measure of character and life than this principle of gratitude; and when you take it and measure your course of conduct, not toward an inferior, or an equal, or a mere superior, but toward God — the highest, the noblest, the most disinterested, and the best being that ever lived — no man, not even the purest, can help feeling that he has lived a life of ingratitude. God's wonderful bounties have come before you unrecognised. You have made yourself selfish through God's kindnesses. You have made yourself proud through His goodness. The very things that were meant to draw you to God have built around you walls of separation between yourselves and God.

2. It does not need that men should lay to their consciences the charge of theft, of crime. There is no offence anymore guilty than this. If there be a single soul that says, "I need no repentance, no change of heart: I am not a sinner," I lay this charge upon him, and he cannot resist it, We cannot receive from our father and mother a love token and not know it; but from Christ we can. We cannot take a poor gift from a fellow's hand without feeling a sentiment of honour and requital; but from God's hand we take royal bounties without any such consciousness. Ah! when Christ takes His own heart, His sacrifice, and His love, and brings it to us and makes it a present, is there no requital, are there no thanks due? When God requires the service of our life and the fulness of our heart, is it an exacting requisition? Does the mother expect too much when she demands that the child she has reared shall love and serve her? If you have given your time to nurse the sick, is it too much to expect that when they come to health they will kindly remember you? If a man is about to be destroyed, and you step between him and his peril and rescue him, is it strange that you should expect at least kindness and love from him? The untutored savage would never forget such a benefactor. It requires Christians, men educated in the knowledge of the death of Christ, who died that they might live, to refuse to requite service with gratitude.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. WE ARE APT RATHER TO REST IN SECOND CAUSES THAN TO TRACE OUR BLESSINGS TO THEIR PRIMARY SOURCE. Does man receive any good, it appears to be the fruit of his own labour, or prudence, or of the kindness of his friends; but the First Cause is the Being to whom our thanks are chiefly due. Take a case. The way in which I can best serve a friend is by persuading a third person to do something for his benefit. To whom, then, is my friend really indebted? While his thanks ought undoubtedly to be given to the third person, they are principally due to me. Suppose you deemed it right, before you conferred a favour upon your child, to require of him some previous exercise — would he, when he received it, argue justly if he were to say, "I do not owe this to my parent, but to my own labour"? The fact is, the favour is enhanced by the appointment of the means where a merciful end is secured. This we discover in other cases, but not where God is the Author of our success. Paradise was not less replenished by His bounty because He appointed Adam to dress the garden. The bounty of the monarch is not the less because he distributes it by the hand of his ministers.

II. OUR DEFECTIVE VIEW OF HIS PROVIDENCE. Our acknowledgment of the agency of God in some instances becomes a means of diminishing our sense of His agency in others. The facet is God more distinctly reveals to us His agency in some instances that we may learn to recognise it in all. The very idea of a particular Providence arises from our imperfect conception of the Divine agency. For, if we saw the agency of God as it is seen in heaven, we should discover that His providence is as distinct, as minute in one case as another. Thus men call it a "providence" when they receive some unexpected deliverance or blessing. But they do not call a loss, or a disease, a providence. But it is certain that on this point the views of God differ most widely from our own; and when we shall be able to form a true conception of the goodness of God we shaft discover mercy where we once discerned only severity, and shall thank God for trials and sufferings as the most signal instances of His providential care.

III. MEN DO NOT CONSIDER THEMSELVES INDEBTED TO GOD EXCEPT FOR PECULIAR OR DISTINGUISHING MERCIES. For the mercies they share in common with others they think little gratitude is due. But do the diffusiveness and extent of the bounty of God form any just cause of unthankfulness? What would you think of a child who should say, "I am not indebted to my parent; for he feeds and clothes and takes care of my brothers and sisters as well as of myself"? The fact is, that the very extent of those blessings we share with others demands additional gratitude, for such mercies are the most valuable. Compare such a gift as light with any petty comforts granted to an individual. All private mercies may be compared to the dew which fell only upon the fleece of Gideon. But general mercies are like the dew of heaven descending on the general surface of nature, refreshing the thirsty fields, and clothing them with verdure and beauty. Surely the blessing cannot be lessened to me because others also are blessed.

IV. THE VERY NUMBER OF THE MERCIES OF GOD TENDS TO DIMINISH OUR GRATITUDE. Examine the common feelings of mankind: is it not evident that some extraordinary instance of the bounty of God excites more gratitude than the more valuable mercies of every day? The constant enjoyment of our senses, the nightly refreshment of sleep, make scarcely any impression; but if a sense, apparently lost, is restored, then we feel much gratitude to our Benefactor. The name disposition is seen in other cases. If a parent gives to his children something new and unexpected, they are more thankful than for their daily food and clothing. Thus, also, although the unexpected bounty of a friend may at first excite thankfulness, yet, if repeated every day, it is received with diminished gratitude, and at length the withholding of it is resented as an injury. If it be urged in reply that this springs from a principle in human nature, surely it is no excellent principle, but argues a depraved nature and a corrupt heart. From the same depravity it arises that the very feeling of obligation is attended with pain, especially where the debt is large. Men love to be independent, and therefore hate an obligation.

V. A PREVALENT VIEW OF GOD'S CHARACTER AS A JUST AND HOLY RATHER THAN AS A KIND AND COMPASSIONATE GOD.

(J. Venn, M. A.)

But became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Note —

I. THE CORRUPTION OF HUMAN NATURE. The facts enumerated are such as to manifest —

1. Corruption in principle evincing itself by corruption in practice. Had there been in the human heart any liking to the true God, the difficulty would have been to forget not to remember Him. Those whom we love we are fond to think of. Has this been the case with men in regard to God? Has it not rather been, in everyone point, precisely the reverse? And if it be in human nature to forget and depart from the living God, must it not be emphatically corrupt?

2. Idolatrous defection is here associated with practical wickedness as its inseparable concomitant. Does not the state of the heathen world bear ample testimony to its truth?

3. And observe further — the connection, in the way of reciprocal influence, between impiety and immorality. Immorality in the life is the natural consequence and evidence of impiety towards God in the heart, while the love of sin inspires the wish that God were other than He is.

II. THE NECESSITY AND THE VALUE OF REVELATION. How early did this necessity appear! (Genesis 6:5, 11, 12; Joshua 24:2). And yet men talk of the sufficiency of the light of nature, while the experience of every age plainly contradicts this. Never was an experiment more completely tried, and on every trial the great general result has been uniformly the same. Take the most enlightened nations in the most enlightened times. Have they, in these circumstances, excelled others in their views of God and in moral goodness? Frequently, indeed, they have even been worse. Even the philosophers had defective and erroneous views of Deity, of the way of obtaining His favour, and of morals. All that is good in any of their systems is to be found in the Bible along with infinitely more and infinitely better. Yet the Bible must be discarded and their conjectures substituted! Because they had a dim taper, we must seek to quench the sun! No; blessed be God for this heavenly light! But for it we too should have been sitting in the region and shadow of death — "without God and without hope in the world."

III. HOW INEXCUSABLE MUST THEY BE WHO, POSSESSING SUCH A REVELATION, REMAIN, NOTWITHSTANDING, IGNORANT OF GOD! But alas! the same principles of corruption which make men willing to forget God amidst His works of creation and providence, make them unwilling to receive the truth concerning Him when set before them more directly in His Word.

1. If the heathen be "without excuse," what shall be said of those who shut their eyes against this superior light, and while it shines around them continue to walk in darkness?

2. How inexcusable, too, and how deeply criminal must they be who still "hold the truth in righteousness"! Here is the Bible. You have a general knowledge of its contents. You profess to believe them. Yet, withal, they have no proper influence upon your hearts and lives. What if the righteous God, in His just displeasure, should give you over to "a reprobate mind"? Beware of imagining that the mere possession of revelation constitutes you Christians. The mere having of the Bible can do no good if its important truths are disbelieved or neglected.

IV. THE GUILT OF IDOLATRY, IT IS TO BE FEARED, ATTACHES TO MANY WHO LITTLE IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE AT ALL CHARGEABLE WITH ANYTHING OF THE KIND. The spirit of idolatry is the alienation of the heart from God; the withholding from Him, and the giving to other objects, that homage and those affections to which He alone is entitled. Every man's idol is that on which his heart is supremely set. Ambition, wealth, power, learning, etc., are all idols if served irrespective of God.

V. WHAT AN IRRESISTIBLE MOTIVE IS HERE PRESENTED TO MISSIONARY EXERTIONS! Whose spirit is not stirred within him with the emotions of indignant zeal in beholding the world "wholly given to idolatry." To suppose a Christian indifferent on such a subject is to suppose a contradiction in terms — a Christian without piety, without mercy, without benevolence! Think how the glory of God is trampled under foot; how Satan reigns triumphant; how large a proportion of the world is still in the condition here described!

VI. LET CHRISTIANS MAKE IT MANIFEST BY THEIR WHOLE CHARACTER THAT THE CONNECTION IS AS CLOSE BETWEEN TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AS BETWEEN ERROR AND WICKEDNESS. Let your profession of the faith of the gospel be adorned by a conduct uniformly consistent with its pure nature and its holy influence.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

1. In respect of the understanding the refusal of adoration, "they did not glorify," became a vain labouring of the mind, "they became vain," and complete estrangement from the truth, "they became fools."

2. In respect of the heart, ingratitude was first transformed into darkness, and then into monstrous and degrading fetishism. The ungrateful heart did not stop short at not thanking God, it degraded and dishonoured Him by changing Him into His opposite.

(Prof. Godet.)

What you love, what you desire, what you think about, you are photographing, printing on the walls of your immortal nature. And just as today, thousands of years after the artists have been gathered to the dust, we. may go into Egyptian temples and see the figures on their walls in all the freshness of their first colouring, as if the painter had but laid down his pencil a moment ago; so on your hearts youthful evils, the sins of your boyhood, the pruriences of your earliest days, may leave ugly shapes that no tears and no repentance will ever wipe out. Nothing can do away with "the marks of that which once hath been." What are you painting on the chambers of imagery in your hearts? Obscenity, foul things, mean things, low things? Is that mystic shrine within you painted with such figures as in some chambers in Pompeii, where the excavators had to cover up the pictures because they were so foul; or is it like the cells in the Convent of San Marco at Florence, where Fra Angelico's holy and sweet genius painted on the bare walls, to be looked at, as he fancied, only by one devout brother in each cell, angel imaginings, and noble, pure celestial faces that calm and hallow those who gaze upon them? What are you doing, my brother, in the dark, in the chambers of your imagery?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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