So say a few, and so think many, but the wish is the father of the thought, and it is wonderful what thoughts and sayings the will of man can invent.
The idea of God is distasteful to the natural mind.
“God” implies authority, and we all know that restraint is irksome; but, further, when “God” means holiness, and the judgment of evil, and the disallowance of that which we naturally like, then we do our utmost to banish from our minds, if possible, the existence of any such God at all.
Now, do not let my reader charge me with an over-strong condemnation of man. What is true of one is true of all; and, although all may not have taken the ground of avowed atheism, or even of pronounced infidelity, yet there is not one of us who, by nature, either loves God or seeks after Him.
No sooner had Adam sinned than he hid from God behind the trees of the garden—that is, sin had placed a moral gulf between the now fallen creature and his God. Man recoiled from God. Distrust had displaced love, and confidence had given way to dread.
Why hide from God? Yes, why? In that guilty, deceitful action, we may discover all the springs of sin. Hiding from God is but the negative of hatred of Him, and hatred is but the spring of the heart-utterance, “No God.”
Oh the heart! What a fountain-head of mischief and misery it is! Well says the Scripture, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And hence we read that “The fool has said in his heart, ‘No God!’” (Ps. 14:1). Such a saying may not have reached the lips—may not have taken verbal form; but, in unspoken heart-language, the utterance is made, “No God!”
Now, is it not remarkable that the root-principle of all the infidelity of the day should have been announced in so old a Scripture as Psalm 14:1?
How prescient is Scripture! Did we know it better, we should be less taken aback by the evils that meet us. They are all anticipated and announced, in principle, in the Word of God; and there they are also condemned.
The wish that there should be no God—none to exercise full authority over us, or restrain our wills, or condemn our sins, or call us into judgment; none, in short, to whom we should be thus responsible—is latent in every human bosom. Sin has produced that wish; and how easy to advance from the idea to the belief, from the wish to the word, “No God”! Yet, after all, he who should thus speak is called a “fool”; for can there be folly more self-evident than the rejection of God? Could you conceive the unfallen creature making such a denial? Impossible! It is reserved for fallen man to do so. Then, how awfully blinding must sin be!
Further, “No God” may be said by the Scientist, as readily as by the Secularist, by the profound scholar and thinker, as by the gross and profane. Wisdom cannot make God known, for “the world by wisdom knew not God.” Learning, research, application of mind the most unwearied, is of no avail here.
And so, if science reaches the conclusion that there is no God, it but demonstrates the fact of its inability to find Him out.
The senses may take in a great deal; but their discoveries must be within the range of their apprehension. They cannot go beyond the sun. Their range is, therefore, limited,
Now, God is beyond the sun, beyond all creation; and, if He is to be known to man, He must deign to reveal Himself. What in us answers to a revelation on God’s part? Clearly, reason does not need revelation. It only demands certain data. Granted so-and-so, and reason will furnish a conclusion. But, then, data are not a revelation.
Creation and things visible are data, and from them man may conclude that there is a God—indeed, should do so, should own “His eternal power and Godhead,” but, even in so doing, he would but conclude mentally that God is. His data are only external facts presenting themselves to the senses. There would not yet be any inward knowledge of God, any certainty.
It is not, therefore, reason that responds to revelation, but faith. God makes Himself known to faith. So we read that the righteousness of God is “revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Faith is not unreasonable, but it transcends reason. It dwells in a region far outside that of reason or science. It has to do with God in His proper sphere.
The man who says “There is no God” lacks the one quality that makes any of us divinely wise. Without faith we are fools, and the more we exercise that God-given grace, the more we please Him, and the more intimately we know Him.
“I know,” said Paul, “whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). Notice the order of the words—believing was the first act, and knowing was the result; and the knowledge is inward, it is the fruit of faith and of faithfulness, of walking in rich communion through storm or sunshine, winter or summer, an acquaintance as of one friend with another. Where there is faith there is the knowledge of God, and when there is subsequent faithfulness, that knowledge is intensified and made precious.
Alas! how much they lose who throw overboard this worthiest of all knowledge as a thing unattainable or as a delusion. The loss is irreparable. If Satan can blind the mind by science, or poison the heart by sin—if he can succeed in making the heart endorse its own evil wish—he has accomplished his devilish end. Only remember that the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). To believe and know is the blessed portion of the Christian, but to believe and tremble is the dreadful state of devils.
I have met a Russian nobleman, who once wrote a pamphlet to disprove the existence of God. He was satisfied that his work was unanswerable by reason, but the thought struck him that, while he had satisfactorily silenced the feeble voice of reason, he had not touched that of faith. But how could he deal with faith? It seemed too intangible a foe. What could he do?
He was honest. He said to himself that if God reveals Himself, not to reason, but to faith, the only thing for him was to ask God graciously to do so. On bended knee he sought that favour, and an abundant answer was the kind result.
God is good, for “God is Love,” and cares for the soul of the hopeless atheist as for all, He so loved the world that He gave His Son. The nobleman believed, and thus knew God, and lived for many years a most devoted Christian life. The pamphlet, which had seemed so conclusive to his darkened mind, was given to the flames, when God was made known to his soul through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and then the one labour of his life was to tell of that Saviour-God whose existence he had once denied.
That is but one instance. Happy the man who, in utter distrust, not only of his mind, but of his heart as well, humbles himself on bended knee before that God against whom he has most certainly sinned, and who thus gives eternal Love the occasion of kissing, embracing, clothing, and welcoming the poor prodigal to all the deep and certain blessings of the Father’s house.
“That Thou should’st be so good to me,
Should’st be the God Thou art,
’Tis darkness to the intellect,
But ’tis sunshine to the heart.”
“Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jer. 9:24). “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:4).