If we apply our hearts as Solomon did (Eccl. 7:25) to search out the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness, these verses will assist us in the search and will show us that sin is exceedingly sinful. Sin is the disease of mankind, and it appears here to be malignant and epidemic.
1. See how malignant it is (Ps. 14:1) in two things:—
(1.) The contempt it puts upon the honour of God: for there is something of practical atheism at the bottom of all sin. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. We are sometimes tempted to think, “Surely there never was so much atheism and profaneness as there is in our days;” but we see the former days were no better; even in David’s time there were those who had arrived at such a height of impiety as to deny the very being of a God and the first and self-evident principles of religion. Observe, [1.] The sinner here described. He is one that saith in his heart, There is no God; he is an atheist. “There is no Elohim, no Judge or governor of the world, no providence presiding over the affairs of men.” They cannot doubt of the being of God, but will question his dominion. He says this in his heart; it is not his judgment, but his imagination. He cannot satisfy himself that there is none, but he wishes there were none, and pleases himself with the fancy that it is possible there may be none. He cannot be sure there is one, and therefore he is willing to think there is none. He dares not speak it out, lest he be confuted, and so undeceived, but he whispers it secretly in his heart, for the silencing of the clamours of his conscience and the emboldening of himself in his evil ways. [2.] The character of this sinner. He is a fool; he is simple and unwise, and this is an evidence of it; he is wicked and profane, and this is the cause of it. Note, Atheistical thoughts are very foolish wicked thoughts, and they are at the bottom of a great deal of the wickedness that is in this world. The word of God is a discerner of these thoughts, and puts a just brand on him that harbours them. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him; for he thinks against the clearest light, against his own knowledge and convictions, and the common sentiments of all the wise and sober part of mankind. No man will say, There is no God till he is so hardened in sin that it has become his interest that there should be none to call him to an account.
(2.) The disgrace and debasement it puts upon the nature of man. Sinners are corrupt, quite degenerated from what man was in his innocent estate: They have become filthy (Ps. 14:3), putrid. All their faculties are so disordered that they have become odious to their Maker and utterly incapable of answering the ends of their creation. They are corrupt indeed; for, [1.] They do no good, but are the unprofitable burdens of the earth; they do God no service, bring him no honour, nor do themselves any real kindness. [2.] They do a great deal of hurt. They have done abominable works, for such all sinful works are. Sin is an abomination to God; it is that abominable thing which he hates (Jer. 44:4), and, sooner or later, it will be so to the sinner; it will be found to be hateful (Ps. 36:2), an abomination of desolation, that is, making desolate, Matt. 24:15. This follows upon their saying, There is no God; for those that profess they know God, but in works deny him, are abominable, and to every good work reprobate, Titus 1:16.
2. See how epidemic this disease is; it has infected the whole race of mankind. To prove this, God himself is here brought in for a witness, and he is an eye-witness, Ps. 14:2, 3. Observe, (1.) His enquiry: The Lord looked down from heaven, a place of prospect, which commands this lower world; thence, with an all-seeing eye, he took a view of all the children of men, and the question was, Whether there were any among them that did understand themselves aright, their duty and interests, and did seek God and set him before them. He that made this search was not only one that could find out a good man if he was to be found, though ever so obscure, but one that would be glad to find out one, and would be sure to take notice of him, as of Noah in the old world. (2.) The result of this enquiry, Ps. 14:3. Upon search, upon his search, it appeared, They have all gone aside, the apostasy is universal, there is none that doeth good, no, not one, till the free and mighty grace of God has wrought a change. Whatever good is in any of the children of men, or is done by them, it is not of themselves; it is God’s work in them. When God had made the world he looked upon his own work, and all was very good (Gen. 1:31); but, some time after, he looked upon man’s work, and, behold, all was very bad (Gen. 6:5), every operation of the thought of man’s heart was evil, only evil, and that continually. They have gone aside from the right of their duty, the way that leads to happiness, and have turned into the paths of the destroyer.
In singing this let us lament the corruption of our own nature, and see what need we have of the grace of God; and, since that which is born of the flesh is flesh, let us not marvel that we are told we must be born again.