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Total Depravity and Psalm 14

Rev. David Freeman

Contrary to the modern notion, this psalm makes it plain that no man is a seeker after God. All men are gone astray and have turned to their own way. This is so, even when men boast of religion. They make professions of belief which are only the display of their vain imaginations. Thinking themselves wise toward God, they show themselves to be fools.

Every man in his natural state is even a hater of God. Unpleasant doctrine, this! Who will listen to it today?

What truth men claim to possess is so distorted that what they really believe are lies. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

Unable to Believe

Unbelief is the mark of corruption. It is of the heart, that is, of a man's inmost being. Could a man who was not depraved deny his Creator? Because man believes not that which may be known of God by the things which He has made, the wrath of God abides on him. He is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

In the day of judgment God will assign to men their eternal state on the basis of their attitude toward Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world to save sinners; all who receive Him as their God and Saviour are saved; all who do not trust Him perish.

Are men moved when God discloses to them their folly? They ought to be. Should they not be touched to contrition when they hear this call of God: "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, o house of Israel?" But alas, man's heart is as stone. There is no feeling in it. There is no soundness in his bones. From the head to the foot there is foulness and disease. "Fools die for want of wisdom."

True of All Men

Whose verdict is this? Is it the pronouncement of some bigoted dogmatist? This is what men are wont to say, for they are given to boasting before God. But no, here is God's appraisal of the pretensions of men. Here is the verdict of the great omniscient God. Yea, is man so corrupt that he will flout his Maker in the face? Will he dare to say there is even one man righteous and alive toward God, when the Scriptures say: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7).

From of old men have disputed with God's Word. They have either denied that man is totally unable to save himself or they have declared that it is only partially true. In this controversy the Psalmist is at one with all of Holy Scripture in denying that any man can do anything good toward God, and in affirming that all men have apostatized from the true and living God.

Now is all this true only of the heathen, that is, those outside of the knowledge of the true God? No, its application extends even to the privileged children of Abraham (Rom, 3:19). It applies equally to the tyrants within the household. The wickedness within the church marks an extremity of man's depravity. Of whom does the Apostle Paul speak when he says, "Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness... the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:13f.)? He has in mind none other than those who profess God's name.

Knowing Yet Perishing

Among professors, then, there is as little uprightness as if no belief in God existed. Shall such not perish in their knowledge? What madness is seen in those who cast away the fear of God from before their eyes! Of what use are pretensions to belief in God when in their minds there is no difference between right and wrong, and no regard for honesty? It is true there is no flat denial of God, but when men feel free to do as they please, not having respect to His commandments, have they not denied Him? To disregard the statutes of the Lord which are clean and pure, be there ever so much boasting of piety, is the height of impiety. Will God receive the arrogant despisers of His law? Never! His eyes are too penetrating not to discern the fool beneath all manner of religious pretensions. Let men beware lest they be deceived by the Devil into believing all is well with their souls, when their lives show they have shut God out.

He who is impious is capable of any evil. Mark the infidelity of men in the church. It is enough to astound both men and angels. Their doings show their hatred of good and their love of evil. These are prophets that make God's people to err. And, so blinded are they that, even with such conduct, they have the audacity to call unto the Lord. How abominable to God are the prayers of those whose disrespect for truth and justice show them to be without reverence!

Whence Is Goodness?

Who can exclude himself from this pollution of nature? We are all born with depraved minds and the whole of life is filthy. And we continue such until God makes us new creatures again by His secret grace. It is God who puts a difference between men. He has a people which love Him and His holy ways. In infinite grace He is pleased to call them His people. Their righteousness of life is to the praise of the glory of His holy Name who called them out of darkness into light. No goodness which they possess is of their own, but of Him who was pleased to cleanse them from all sin in the precious blood of the Lamb.

"Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king."

Reprinted from the Presbyterian Guardian, Volume 4, No 3, May 15, 1937. The OPC Committee for the Historian has made the archives of the Presbyterian Guardian available online!

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