Romans 3:9
What then? Are we any better? Not at all. For we have already made the charge that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin.
Total Depravity of Human NatureC.H. Irwin Romans 3:9-18
Dignity of Human Nature Shown from its RuinsH. Bushnell, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Every Mouth StolidT.F. Lockyer Romans 3:9-20
Haman Depravity: its UniversalityC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 3:9-20
Human DepravityJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Human DepravityJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Human DepravityRomans 3:9-20
Human DepravityC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 3:9-20
Human Ignorance and PerversityJ. W. Burn.Romans 3:9-20
Immoral Authors and Their Poisonous EffectsLouis Figuier.Romans 3:9-20
Impenitent Men Destitute of HolinessD. A. Clark.Romans 3:9-20
Knowledge of Sin Through the LawR.M. Edgar Romans 3:9-20
Man Under SinJ. Harding, M. A.Romans 3:9-20
Nominal Christians Compared with HeathenJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
None RighteousT. Robinson, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Poisonous SpeechT. Robinson, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Practical ErrorJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Progress in Sin InevitableRomans 3:9-20
Sin as Revealed by Conscience and ScriptureT. Chalmers, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
Sin: Revealed by ConscienceRomans 3:9-20
Sin: Revealed by GraceC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 3:9-20
Superior SinnersH. Varley.Romans 3:9-20
The Importance of Civil Government to SocietyT. Chalmers, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
The Poison of the TongueH. W. Beecher.Romans 3:9-20
The Reign of SinJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 3:9-20
The Sin and Folly of Ignoring GodJ. Foster.Romans 3:9-20
The Throat of an Ungodly Man Compared to an Opened SepulchreJohn Tucker, B. D.Romans 3:9-20
Wickedness in Word and DeedProf. Godet.Romans 3:9-20

Here we have a dark picture of human nature in its fallen and unregenerate state. (The Bible view of human nature is more fully enlarged on below, on vers. 21-26.) Here the apostle, as it were, calls up before him the different parts of human nature, and obtains from each of them an admission and an evidence of the moral corruption with which they are tainted.

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a different tale,
And every tale convicts me for a villain.
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all - Guilty! guilty!"

I. A DEPRAVED HEART. "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (ver. 18). There is no motive-power to regulate the life. There is no reverence for God's Law within their spirit. There is no fear of offending the great Judge. There is no filial fear of grieving the heavenly Father. The conscience and heart have become seared and blunted. Remove the fear of God from heart and conscience, and what influence remains to check evil passions and to resist the insidious allurements of temptation? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."

II. A DEPRAVED UNDERSTANDING. "There is none that understandeth" (ver. 11). It is fashionable in some circles to speak as if it was a sign of weak intellect to be a Christian, to believe in the Bible, or to regard with reverence the Law of God. Yet assuredly it may be claimed without any presumption or prejudice that there has been at least as much of the world's best intellect arrayed on the side of Christianity as on the side of its opponents. If there be credulity anywhere, there is credulity displayed in accepting as scientific truths what very often are pure speculations. If there is weakness anywhere, it would seem to be in disregarding the evidence in nature that points to a great personal and intelligent First Cause, or the evidence in history that points to a wise and overruling Providence. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." It is sin, and not godliness, that is the evidence of a weak and depraved understanding.

III. A DEPRAVED WILL. "There is none that seeketh after God" (ver. 11). Nowhere is the depravity of human nature more painfully shown than in the exercise of the human will. How many deliberately choose evil rather than good! How many, with the experience of others to warn them, deliberately choose impurity rather than purity, intemperance rather than temperance! Life and death are put before them, yet they deliberately choose death. They reject the highest ideal of character, and follow poor and weak and wicked examples. They reject the inspiring hope of heaven and immortality, and only live for worldly pleasure or for worldly gain. They reject the fountain of living water, and seek out for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. To all such God appeals, in mercy, to make a right exercise of their will. "Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?"


1. Untruthfulness. "With their tongues they have used deceit" (ver. 13). Truth is essential to the well-being and happiness of society, to the very existence of commercial dealings. Yet how many there are who "use deceit" as a means of obtaining advantage or profit in business, as a means of obtaining some desirable object of their ambition! We have society deceitfulness, commercial deceitfulness, political deceitfulness. Against all such deceit the Bible sets itself. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another."

2. Slander. "The poison of asps is under their lips" (ver. 13). The sin of evil-speaking is a very widespread one, and it hardly receives sufficient discouragement from Christian people. Men and women who would shrink from doing their neighbour a bodily injury, who would be shocked at the idea of taking his property dishonestly, think it no harm to injure his character and reputation. "The poison of asps is under their lips." "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united."

3. Profanity. "Whose mouth is full of cursing" (ver. 14). Here is a widespread evil of the present day. Everywhere one hears the profane use of the sacred Name. Just as the suicide acts

"As if the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter," the profane person acts as if it had not been written with the finger of God, "The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his Name in vain."

V. DEPRAVED LIFE. "Their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known" (vers. 15-17). What a sad but true description of human life in its unregenerate and unchristianized condition! It is but the ordinary picture of what heathen nations were before the gospel entered into them. And where large communities throw off the restraints of religion, is it not what may be witnessed still, even in professedly Christian nations? Where there is no fear of the Law of God, there will be little fear of the law of man. Let the heart and conscience be godless; let the reason and understanding fail to respond to the claims of the Divine Being and of his moral Law; let the will cease to be influenced by heavenly and upward motives; let men in their common speech be accustomed to speak lightly of sacred things and of their neighbour's character and reputation; and the step is but a short one to the disregard of human life and the disregard of human virtue. The nation that ceases to be influenced by the fear of God has entered on the broad way to its own corruption and decay. - C.H.I.

What then? Are we better than they? No...they are all under sin.
1. Have much advantage every way (ver. 2).

2. Are no better.

3. Are all alike under sin.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

inasmuch as —

I. He is UNDER THE IMPUTATION OF SIN. And whose sin? Adam's; for he had been placed by his Maker in the situation of head and representative of all his descendants. And because he rendered himself guilty, therefore we, being in him and identified with him, were made sharers of his guilt. This, of course, is a statement against which the pride of human reason will rebel. But if you will listen to the Word of God, turn to Romans 5:12, etc. And what puts this matter beyond all doubt is the way in which all through that passage Paul represents our sin and condemnation in Adam, as parallel and as correspondent to our righteousness and salvation by Christ. He tells you here, that just as believers are accounted righteous in Christ's righteousness, so they were held as sinners on account of Adam's sin. As Christ's obedience now justifies them, because accounted theirs, so was Adam's disobedience.

II. HIS NATURE IS UNDER THE DEGRADING AND POLLUTING INFLUENCE OF SIN. Now this also he inherits from Adam. "Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil" (Art. 9; Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Psalm 51:5; Romans 7:18; Romans 8:7). In support of this we may appeal —

1. To the individual conscience.

2. To the page of history.

3. To the witness of travellers.

4. To the reports of newspapers.

III. HE IS HELD IN BONDAGE BY THE TYRANNY OF SIN. This is more than being depraved and corrupt: it is a positive enslaving of the will. Man cannot of himself turn from evil to God. The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will" (Art. 10; Romans 5:6; Ephesians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

1. Well may this thought stir us earnestly to cry to God to send down His Spirit, and give us the strength He only can communicate.

2. Sin, indeed, would whisper, "You can do nothing, and therefore you need not care; the fault is not your own." Perish the thought! No, rather say, "I can do nothing; therefore, O God, create Thou a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me."


1. AS a partaker of Adam's guilt, he is included in the sentence of Adam's punishment.

2. As he is corrupt, he incurs the wrath due to his own iniquity.

3. As one sold under sin, he must, if left to himself, be consigned to a hopeless state of misery (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 7:5; Romans 6:23).Conclusion:

1. Have we felt these truths so as to cry, "What must I do to be saved"? That is the question which constitutes the first step in the way of salvation.

2. The gospel brings us instead of Adam's guilt, Christ's righteousness; instead of inherent corruption, the counteracting balm of the Holy Spirit; instead of the bondage of sin, "the glorious liberty of the children of God"; instead of "the wages of sin," which "is death," the "gift of God, eternal life."

(J. Harding, M. A.)

I. PAUL HAD APPEALED TO THE CONSCIENCE OF THE JEWS, and in chap. Romans 2. affirmed and enlarged upon their guilt. He can scarcely be said to have proved it; he had only charged them with it; and yet through the conscience of those whom we address it is possible that a charge may no sooner be uttered than conviction may come on the back of it. There is often a power in a bare statement which is not at all bettered but rather impaired by reasoning. If what you say of a man agree with his own experience, there is a weight in your simple affirmation which needs no enforcing. It was this which mostly gained acceptance for the apostles. They revealed to men the secrets of their own hearts; and what the inspired teachers said they were, they felt themselves to be. This manifestation of the truth unto the conscience is the grand instrument still. That obstinacy of unbelief, which we vainly attempt to carry by the power of any elaborate demonstration, may give way, both with the untaught and the cultivated, to the bare statement of the preacher, when he simply avers the ungodliness of the human heart.

II. HE NOW REFERS THE JEWS TO THEIR OWN SCRIPTURES, and, in so doing, he avails himself of a peculiarly proper instrument. Thus Christ expounded what was written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in almost every interview the apostles had with the Hebrews, you will meet with this as a peculiarity which is absent when Gentiles only are addressed — e.g., Stephen, Peter, Paul at Antioch, Thessalonica, etc. He who was all things to all men was a Jew among the Jews. He reasoned with them on their own principles, and nowhere more frequently than in this Epistle.

III. IT IS THIS AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE BIBLE AND CONSCIENCE WHICH STAMPS UPON THE BOOK OF GOD ONE OF ITS MOST SATISFYING EVIDENCES. It is this perhaps more than anything else which draws the interest and the notice of men towards it. For there is no way of fixing the attention of man so powerfully as by holding up to him a mirror of himself; and no wisdom which he more prizes than that which by its piercing and intelligent glance can open to him the secrecies of his own heart, and force him to recognise a marvellous accordancy between its positions and all the varieties of his own intimate and home-felt experience. The question, then, before us is, Does this passage bear such an accordancy with the real character of man? It abounds in affirmations of sweeping universality, and a test of their truth or of their falsehood is to be found in every heart. The apostle has here made a most adventurous commitment of himself; for the matters here touched upon all lie within the well-known chambers of a man's own consciousness, and one single case of disagreement would be enough to depose him from all the credit which he has ever held in the estimation of the world. Of course, from the nature of the case, a withdrawment must be conceded in behalf of those who are under the gospel, yet we are prepared to assert that Paul has not overcharged the account that he has given of the depravity of those who are under law — whether it be the law of conscience, or of Moses, or even of the purer morality of Christ — insomuch that all who refuse the mysteries of His grace are universally in the wrong. Be assured, then, that there is a delusion in all the complacency associated with self-righteousness. It is the want of a godly principle which essentially vitiates the whole: and additional to this, with all the generosities and equities which have done so much for your reputation among men, there is a selfishness that lurks in your bosom; or a vanity that swells and inflames it; or a preference of your own object to that of others, which may lead you to acts or words of unfeeling severity; or a regard for some particular gratification, coupled with a regardlessness for every interest which lieth in the way, that may render you, in the estimation of Him who pondereth the heart, as remote a wanderer as he on the path of whose visible history there occurred in other times the atrocities of savage cruelty and savage violence. It were barbarous to tell you so had we no remedy to offer. Life has much to vex and to trouble it; and it were really cruel to add to the pressure of a creature so beset and borne in upon by telling him of his worthlessness, did we not stand before him charged with the tidings of his possible renovation (vers. 21-26).

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

A fashionable lady entered church in a strange place, and heard a sermon on human depravity. During the week the preacher called upon her, when she told him she did not believe in the doctrine of his sermon. He asked the lady to test the subject by reviewing her life, alone before God, to see if all her acts had been done from right motives, which she promised to do. The next day the preacher called again, when the lady confessed that she did not find one bright spot of conscious love to God in all her past life. A look within had convinced her of the truth of the doctrine. Feeling now the disease of sin, she went to the Great Physician and found a cure.

When the light of God's grace comes into your heart, it is something like the opening of the windows of an old cellar that has been shut up for many days. Down in that cellar, which has not been opened for many months, are all kinds of loathsome creatures, and a few sickly plants blanched by the darkness. The walls are dark, and damp by the trail of reptiles: it is a horrid, filthy place, which no one would willingly enter. You may walk there in the dark very securely, and, except now and then for the touch of some slimy creature, you would not believe the place was so bad and filthy. Open those shutters, clean a pane of glass, let a little light in, and now see how a thousand noxious things have made this place their habitation! Sure, it was not the light that made this place so horrible; but it was the light that showed how horrible it was before. So let God's grace just open a window, and let the light into a man's soul, and he will stand astonished to see at what a distance he is from God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. Over all men.

2. Over every faculty of man.

II. Ruinous.

1. To happiness.

2. To peace.

3. To moral power.

4. To hope.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I remember a gentleman taking exception to an address based upon this text. He said, "Do you mean to say that there is no difference between an honest man and a dishonest one; between a sober man and a temperate man?" "No," I remarked, "I did not affirm that there was no room for comparison between such cases; but my position is that if two men were standing here, the one intemperate and the other sober, I should say of the one, "This is an intemperate sinner, and the other a sober sinner." My friend did not know how to meet the difficulty, but answered, "Well, I don't like such teaching." Very quietly I replied, "Then I will make some concession, and meet your difficulty. I will admit that there are many 'superior sinners,' and that you are a 'superior sinner.'" I shall not soon forget my friend's expression of countenance when he had taken stock of the argument.

(H. Varley.)

I. UNIVERSAL. Jew and Gentile. None righteous, wise, faithful.


1. Word;

2. Deed;

3. Thought;

4. Purpose.


1. Guilty;

2. Condemned;

3. Without hope.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)


II.HOW IT IS DEMONSTRATED. By the law (ver. 20).


(J. Lyth, D. D.)

In a vessel filled with muddy water, the thickness visibly subsided to the bottom, and left the water purer and purer, until at last it seemed perfectly limpid. The slightest motion, however, brought the sediment again to the top; and the water became thick and turbid as before.Here, said Gotthold, when he saw it, "we have an emblem of the human heart. The heart is full of the mud of sinful lusts and carnal desires; and the consequence is, that no pure water — that is, good and holy thoughts — can flow from it. It is, in truth, a miry pit and slough of sin, in which all sorts of ugly reptiles are bred and crawl. Many a one, however, is deceived by it, and never imagines his heart half so wicked as it really is, because sometimes its lusts are at rest, and sink to the bottom. But this lasts only so long as he is without opportunity or incitement to sin. Let that occur, and worldly lusts rise so thick, that his whole thoughts, words, and works show no trace of anything but slime and impurity. One is meek as long as he is not thwarted; cross him, and he is like powder ignited by the smallest spark, and blazing up with a loud report and destructive effect. Another is temperate so long as he has no jovial companions; a third chaste while the eyes of men are upon him.

A few years ago, a house was built at Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and the earth which was dug out of the foundations was thrown over a piece of ground in front, intended for a garden. The following spring a number of caper plants came up: they were not common in that part of the country, and their appearance excited great surprise. Upon inquiry, it was found that, years before, that ground had been a public garden: it therefore appeared certain that those seeds had remained dormant while buried deep in the earth, and had sprung to life as soon as they were brought within the influence of heat and light. How like to our hearts! What seeds of evil may lie dormant in them!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The greatest of unregenerate men are as much in need of new hearts as the meanest of their fellows. There be some men that are born into this world master spirits, who walk about it as giants, wrapped in mantles of light and glory. I refer to the poets, men who rise aloft, like Colossi, mightier than we, seeming to be descended from celestial spheres. There be ethers of acute intellect, who, searching into mysteries of science, discover things that have been hidden from the creation of the world; men of keen research, and mighty erudition; and yet, of each of these — poet, philosopher, metaphysician, and great discoverer-it must be said, "The carnal mind is enmity against God!" Ye may train an unrenewed man, ye may make his intellect almost angelic, ye may strengthen his soul until he shall unravel mysteries in a moment; ye may make him so mighty, that he can read the iron secrets of the eternal hills, tearing the hidden truth from the bowels of ancient marvels; ye may give him an eye so keen that he can penetrate the arcana of rocks and mountains; ye may add a soul so potent, that he may slay the giant Sphinx, that had for ages troubled the mightiest men of learning; yet, when ye have done all, his mind shall be a depraved one, and his carnal heart shall still be in opposition to God, unless the Holy Spirit shall create him anew in Christ Jesus.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE APOSTLE'S CONCLUSION IS, THAT BEFORE GOD ALL THE WORLD IS GUILTY, and if we single out those verses which place man in his simple relationship to God, we shall see the justice of the sentence.

1. "There is none righteous, no, not one." To be held as having kept the law of our country, we must keep the whole of it. It is not necessary that we accumulate the guilt of treason, forgery, murder. One of these acts is enough to condemn. A hundred deeds of obedience will not efface or expiate one of disobedience; and we have only to plead for the same obedience to a Divine that we render to a human administration, to prove that there is none righteous before God.

2. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." No man who has not submitted himself to the doctrine of justification by faith has any clear knowledge of the ground on which he rests his acceptance with God. He may have some obscure conception of His mercy, but he has never struck the compromise between His mercy and His justice. What becomes of all that which stamps authority upon a law, and exhibits the Majesty of a Lawgiver, is a matter of which he has no understanding, and he does not care to understand it. He is seeking after many things, but not seeking after God. When did your efforts in this way ever go beyond an empty round of observances?

3. "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good; no, not one." We do not say that they have gone out of the way of honour, equity, or neighbourliness. But they are all out of the way of godliness. The prophet does not affirm that we have turned everyone to a way either of injustice or cruelty; but he counts it condemnation enough that we have turned everyone to his own way — a way of independence of God, if not of iniquity against our fellows in society. It is this which renders all the works of mere natural men so unprofitable, that is, of no value in the reckoning of eternity. They want the great moral infusion which makes them valuable. There is nothing of God in them.

II. We now pass onward to another set of charges — which may not be so easy to substantiate — of OFFENCES AGAINST THE DEAREST INTERESTS OF SOCIETY. It is true that the apostle here drops the style of universality, and quotes David's charges, not against the race, but against his enemies. But yet it will be found that though the picture of atrocity may not in our day be so broadly exhibited as in ruder periods, yet that the principles of it are still at work; that though law and civilisation and interest may have stopped the mouth of many a desolating volcano, yet do the fiery materials still exist in the bosom of society. So that our nature, though here personified by the apostle into a monster, with a throat like an open sepulchre, emitting everything offensive; and a tongue practised in the arts of deceitfulness; and lips from which the gall of malignity ever drops in unceasing distillation; and a mouth full of venomous asperity; and feet that run to assassination as a game; and with the pathway on which she runs marked by the ruin and distress that attend upon her progress; and with a disdainful aversion in her heart to peace; and with an aspect of defiance to the God that gave all her parts and all her energies — though this sketch was originally taken by the Psalmist from prowling banditti, yet has the apostle, by admitting it into his argument, stamped a perpetuity upon it, and made it universal — giving us to understand that if such was the character of man, as it stood nakedly out among the hostilities of a barbarous people, such also is the real character of man among the regularities and the monotonous decencies of modern society. To illustrate: Oaths were more frequent at one time than they are now, but while there may be less of profaneness in the mouths, there may be as much as ever in the heart. Murder in the act may be less frequent now, but if he who hateth his brother be a murderer, it may be fully as foul and frequent in the principle. Actual theft may be no longer practised by him who gives vent to an equal degree of dishonesty through the chicaneries of merchandise. And thus may there lurk under the disguises of well-bred citizenship enough to prove that, with the duties of the second table as with the first, man has wandered far from the path of rectitude.

III. ALL THIS, WHILE IT GIVES A MOST HUMILIATING ESTIMATE OF OUR SPECIES, SHOULD SERVE TO ENHANCE TO OUR MINDS THE BLESSINGS OF REGULAR GOVERNMENT. Let our police and magistrates depose to the effect it would have upon society, were civil guardianship dissolved. Were all the restraints of order driven in, conceive the effect, and then compute how little there is of moral, and how much there is of mere animal restraint in the apparent virtues of human society. There is a two-fold benefit in such a contemplation. It will enhance to every Christian mind the cause of loyalty, and lead him to regard the power that is, as the minister of God to him for good. And it will also guide him through many delusions to appreciate justly the character of man; to distinguish aright between the semblance of principle and its reality.

IV. Learn THREE LESSONS from all that has been said.

1. As to the theology of this question. We trust you perceive how much and how little it is that can be gathered from the comparative peace and gentleness of modern society; how much is due to the physical restraints that are laid on by this world's government, and how little is due to the moral restraints that are laid on by the unseen government of Heaven: proving that human nature is more like the tractableness of an animal led about by a chain, than of an animal inwardly softened into docility. On this point observation and orthodoxy are at one; and one of the most convincing illustrations which the apostle can derive to his own doctrine may be taken from the testimony of legal functionaries. Let them simply aver what the result would be if all the earthly safeguards of law and of government were driven away; and they are just preaching orthodoxy to our ears.

2. The very same train of argument which goes to enlighten the theology of this subject, serves also to deepen and establish the principles of loyalty. That view of the human character, upon which it is contended, by the divine, that unless it is regenerated there can be no meetness for heaven, is the very same with that view of it upon which it is contended, by the politician, that unless it is restrained there will be no safety from crime and violence along the course of the pilgrimage which leads to it. An enlightened Christian recognises the hand of God in all the shelter that is thrown over him from the fury of the natural elements; and he equally recognises it in all the shelter that is thrown over him from the fury of the moral elements by which he is surrounded. Had he a more favourable view of our nature he might not look on government as so indispensable; but, with the view that he actually has, he cannot miss the conclusion of its being the ordinance of Heaven for the Church's good upon earth; and he rejoices in the authority of human laws as an instrument in the hand of God for the peace of His sabbaths, and the peace of His sacraments.

3. Let our legislators recognise the value of true religion. When Solomon says that it is righteousness which exalteth a nation, he means something of a deeper and more sacred character than the mere righteousness of society. Cut away the substratum of godliness, and how, we ask, will the secondary and the earth-born righteousness be found to thrive on the remaining soil which nature supplies for rearing it? But with many, and these too the holders of a great and ascendant influence in our land, godliness is puritanism; and thus is it a possible thing that in their hands the alone aliment of public virtue may be withheld, or turned into poison. The patent way to disarm Nature of her ferocities is to Christianise her. For note —(1) Though social virtue and loyalty may exist in the upper walks of life apart from godliness — yet godliness, in the hearts of those who have the brunt of all the common and popular temptations to stand against, is the main and effective hold that we have upon them for securing the righteousness of their lives.(2) The despisers of godliness are the enemies of the true interest of our nation; and it is possible that, under the name of Methodism, that very instrument may be put away which can alone recall the departing virtues of our land.(3) Where godliness exists, loyalty exists; and no plausible delusion — no fire of their own kindling, lighted at the torch of false or spurious patriotism, will ever eclipse the light of this plain authoritative Scripture — "Honour the king, and meddle not with those who are given to change."(4) Though Christianity may only work the salvation of a few, it raises the standard of morality among many. The reflex influence of one sacred character upon his vicinity may soften, and purify, and overawe many others, even where it does not spiritualise them. This is encouragement to begin with.(5) Alarming as the aspect of the times is, and deeply tainted and imbued as the minds of many are with infidelity, and widely spread as the habit has become of alienation from all the ordinances of religion, yet the honest and persevering goodwill of one imbued with the single-hearted benevolence of the gospel will always meet with respect. He who, had he met a minister of religion or of the state, would have cursed him, had he met the Sabbath school teacher who ventured across his threshold might have tried to bear a repulsive front against him, but would have found it to be impossible. Here is a feeling which even the irreligion of the times has not obliterated, and it has left, as it were, an open door of access, through which we might at length find our way to the landing place of a purer and better generation.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

There is none righteous, no, not one
Had there been one righteous, God would have found him out.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

1. What? Ignorance is not affirmed of many things of more or less importance. A man may be an accomplished scientist, a profound scholar, widely read in general literature, and yet not understand —

(1)His guilt;

(2)His duty;

(3)His responsibility;

(4)His Saviour;

(5)His destiny.

2. Why? Because —(1) He does not want to. Ignorance is fancied bliss. He is not troubled by qualms of conscience, a sense of God's anger, an anticipation of judgment. A practical knowledge of these things would trouble him.(2) He will not; and that in spite of the witness of both Nature and Revelation. He might understand if he would.

II. THERE IS NONE THAT SEEKETH AFTER GOD. There are many who "seek after" matters infinitely less important — temporal profit, pleasure, etc.

1. The folly of this.

(1)The sick will not seek after their Physician.

(2)The ignorant after their Teacher.

(3)Sinners after their Saviour.

2. The necessity and blessedness of reversing this.

(1)God must be sought, for men have lost Him.

(2)When sought, God will be found — and as all that the soul can possibly want.

(J. W. Burn.)

They are all gone out of the way




(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Every sin we commit is like taking a step further back from God: and return is rendered impossible without Divine assistance, as Satan cuts the bridges behind man in his retreating downward path; and also as every false step necessitates another — rather indeed many — as the author of Waverley Novels knew to his cost, and left it on record: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!" Or again, as Schiller more philosophically puts it: "This is the very curse of evil deed, that of new evil it becomes the seed."

Why did you not think of God? One would deem that the thought of Him must, to a serious mind, come second to almost every other thought. The thought of virtue would suggest the thought of both a lawgiver and a rewarder; the thought of crime, of an avenger; the thought of sorrow, of a consoler; the thought of an inscrutable mystery, of an intelligence that understands it; the thought of that ever-moving activity that prevails in the system of the universe, of a supreme agent; the thought of the human family, of a great father; the thought of all-being, of a creator; the thought of life, of a preserver; and the thought of death, of an incontrollable disposer. By what dexterity of irreligious caution did you avoid precisely every track where the idea of Him would have met you, or elude that idea if it came? And what must sound reason pronounce of a mind which, in the train of millions of thoughts, has wandered to all things under the sun, to all the permanent objects or vanishing appearances in the creation, but never fixed its thought on the supreme reality; never approached, like Moses, "to see this great sight."

(J. Foster.)

Their throat is an open sepulchre.
I. I have to mention some particulars in which the throat of man is "an open sepulchre" in regard to THAT WHICH IT RECEIVES: I mean, in regard to the air we breathe, and the food and beverage we eat and drink.

1. This is true universally of every unregenerate man. Every breath of air that is breathed by a man who is not born of God, and every morsel of food that he eats, is but like the carrying a putrid corpse into a vault. He is supporting his body for the dishonour of God. It is not in the service of his heavenly Father, but in the service of his Father's enemies, that he uses all his strength and health, and all his bodily powers; he is guilty of abusing God's gracious gifts; he is steadily going forward into increased corruption.

2. But if in this way it holds good of all who are not restored to God, even the most abstemious, that "their throat is no better than an opened sepulchre," how much more does it give us a striking view of the wretched state of the intemperate: the gluttonous and the drunkard? Well does the wisdom of God compare the throats of all such wretched sinners to an opened sepulchre, corrupt in themselves, infectious to others, and offensive to God. Can such a man expect to dwell with God in holiness and glory? Would you yourselves consent to have an "opened sepulchre," with all its abominations, in your house? Would you tolerate anything so offensive? Much less can you suppose that God will suffer a drunkard to be anywhere but in the depths of hell.

II. I now proceed to enumerate a few particulars in which the throat of every unregenerate man is also like "an open sepulchre" in that which PROCEEDS OUT OF IT.

1. But let me first say a word generally to those who are Christians in name only. As in regard to what goes in, so in regard to what comes forth from your throat, it is still but an "open sepulchre."

2. In descending to particulars, I must be content to mention only one of the multitude of sins that make the "throat of sinners an open sepulchre"; and that is, the sin of blasphemy, and swearing, and profaneness. And if an opened sepulchre is odious because it sends forth the smell of death, well may we say that the mouth of the profane is like it, for it breathes the breath of spiritual and eternal death.

(John Tucker, B. D.)

1. A most dark and dismal picture of humanity, and yet it has two aspects. In one view it is the picture of weakness, wretchedness, and shame; in the other it presents a being fearfully great; great in his evil will, his demoniacal passions, his contempt of fear, the splendour of his degradation, and the magnificence of his woe.

2. It has been the way of many to magnify humanity by tracing its capabilities and its affinity with God and truth; and by such kind of evidences they repel what they call the insulting doctrine of total depravity. And not without some show of reason, when the doctrine is asserted so as to exclude the admission of high aspirations and amiable properties; for some teachers have formulated a doctrine of human depravity in which there is no proper humanity left.

3. Now one of these extremes makes the gospel unnecessary, because there is no depravation to restore; the other makes it impossible, because there is nothing left to which any holy appeal can be made; but I undertake, in partial disregard of both, to show the essential greatness of man from the ruin itself which he becomes; confident of this, that in no other point of view will he prove the spiritual sublimity of his nature so convincingly.


1. Of ancient dynasties. Falling on patches of paved road leading out from ancient Rome, here for Britain, here for Germany, here for Ephesus, etc.; imagining the couriers flying back and forth, bearing the mandates of the central authority, followed by the military legions to execute them; we receive an impression of the empire which no words could give us. So, to form some opinion of the dynasty of the Pharaohs, of whom history gives us but the obscurest traditions, we have only to look on the monumental mountains, and these dumb historians in stone will show us more of that vast and populous empire than history and geography together.

2. Of ancient cities. Though described by historians, we form no sufficient conception of their grandeur till we look upon their ruins. Even the eloquence of Homer yields only a faint, unimpressive conception of Thebes; but to pass through the ruins of Karnac and Luxor, a vast desolation of temples and pillared avenues that dwarf all the present structures of the world. This reveals a fit conception of the grandest city of the world as no words could describe it. So Jonah endeavours to raise some adequate opinion of Nineveh, and Nahum follows, magnifying its splendour in terms of high description; but no one had any proper conception of it till a traveller opens to view, at points many miles asunder, collects the tokens of art and splendour, and says, "This is the 'exceeding great city.'" And so it is with Babylon, Ephesus, Tadmor of the Desert, Baalbec, and the nameless cities and pyramids of the extinct American race.

II. SO IT IS WITH MAN. Our most veritable, though saddest impression of his greatness, we shall derive from the magnificent ruin he displays.

1. And this is the Scripture representation of man, as apostate from duty and God. How sublime a creature must that be who is able to confront the Almighty and tear himself away from His throne! And, as if to forbid our taking his deep misery and shame as tokens of contempt, the first men are shown as living out a thousand years of lustful energy, and braving the Almighty in strong defiance to the last. We look upon a race of Titans who fill the earth — even up to the sky — with demoniacal tumult, till God can suffer them no longer. So of the picture in chap. 1, and the picture in the text corresponds.

2. But we come to the ruin as it is, and we look —(1) Upon the false religions of the world; pompous and costly rites transacted before crocodiles and onions; magnificent temples built over monstrous creatures, carved by men's hands; children offered up by their mothers; gorgeous palaces and majestic trappings studded all over with beetles in gold, or precious stones, to serve as a protection against pestilences, poisons, and accidents. A picture of ruin — yet how magnificent! For how high a nature must that be that it must prepare such pomps, incur such sacrifices, and can elevate such trifles of imposture to a place of reverence! If we say that in all this it is feeling after God, then how inextinguishable and grand are those religious instincts by which it is allied to Him!(2) The wars of the world. What opinion should we have of the fearful passion of a race of animals, who marshal themselves by the hundred thousand, marching across kingdoms and deserts, "swift to shed blood," and strewing leagues of ground with dead? (ver. 16). One race there is that figure in these heroics, viz., the tiny race of ants, whom God has made a spectacle to mock the glory of human wars. Plainly enough man is a creature in ruins, but how magnificent! Mean as the ant in his passions, but erecting, on the desolations he makes, thrones of honour and renown; for who of us can live content without some hero to admire and worship?(3) The persecutions of the good; poison for Socrates, a cross for Jesus. What does it mean? No other than this, that cursing and bitterness, the poison even of asps, and more, is entered into the heart of man. He hates with a diabolical hatred. And what a being is this that can be stung with so great madness by the spectacle of a good and holy life! The fiercest of animals are capable of no such devilish instigation.(4) The great characters of the world. On a small island of the southern Atlantic is shut up a remarkable prisoner, wearing himself out there in a feeble mixture of peevishness and jealousy, solaced by no great thoughts and no heroic spirit. And this is the great conqueror of the modern world; a man who carried the greatest victories, and told the meanest lies; who, destitute of private magnanimity, had stupendous powers of understanding and will. How great a being must it be that makes a point of so great dignity before the world, despite of so much that is contemptible! But he is not alone. The immortal Kepler, piloting science into the skies, and comprehending the vastness of heaven, only proves the magnificence of man as a ruin, when you discover the strange ferment of irritability and "superstition wild," in which his great thoughts are brewed, and his mighty life dissolved. So also Bacon — "The greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind." Probably no one has raised himself to a higher pitch of renown by his superlative genius than Shakespeare; flowering out, nevertheless, into such eminence of glory, on a compost of buffoonery, and other vile stuff, which he so covers with splendour, and irradiates with beauty, that disgust itself is lost in the vehemence of praise.


1. The sublime vehemence of the passions.(1) What a creature must that be who, out of mere revenge, will deliberately take the life of a fellow man, and then despatch his own to avoid the ignominy of a public execution! No tiger is ever instigated by any so intense and terrible passion.(2) Or take the passion of covetousness. How great a creature must that be who is goaded by a zeal of acquisition so restless, so self-sacrificing, so insatiable! The poor, gaunt miser were even the greatest of heroes if he could deny himself with so great patience in a good cause.(3) The same is true even of the licentious lusts. No race of animals can show the parallel of such vices, because they are none of them instigated by a nature so great in wants that find no good to satisfy them.

2. The wild mixtures of thought displayed both in the waking life and the dreams of mankind. How grand! how mean! It is as if the soul were a thinking ruin. The angel and the demon life appear to be contending in it. And yet a ruin which a Nineveh or a Thebes can parallel only in the faintest degree; comprehending all that is purest, brightest, most Divine; all that is worst, meanest, most deformed.

3. The significance of remorse. How great a creature must that be that, looking down upon itself from some high summit in itself, withers in relentless condemnation of itself, gnaws and chastises itself in the sense of what it is!

4. The dissonance and obstinacy of his evil will. It is dissonant as being out of harmony with God and the world, and all beside in the soul itself — viz., the reason, the conscience, the wants, the hopes, and even the remembrances of the soul. How great a creature is it that, knowing God, can set itself off from God and resist Him! "There is no fear of God before their eyes." In one view there is fear enough, the soul is all its life long haunted by this fear, but there is a desperation of will that makes it as though it were not.

5. The religious aspirations and capacities of religious attraction that are garnered up, and still live in the ruins of humanity.


1. It is a great hope of our time that society is going to slide into something better — by education, public reforms, and philanthropy. We have a new gospel that corresponds, which preaches faith in human nature, that proposes development, not regeneration. Alas, that we are taken with so great folly. As if man, or society, crazed and maddened by the demoniacal frenzy of sin, were going to reconstruct the shattered harmony of nature. As soon will the desolations of Karnac gather up their fragments. Nothing meets our case but to be born of God. He alone can rebuild the ruin.

2. The great difficulty with Christianity in our time is that it is too great for belief. After all our supposed discoveries of dignity in human nature, we have commonly none but the meanest opinion of man. How could we imagine that any such history as that of Jesus Christ is a fact, or that the infinite God has transacted any such wonder for man? God manifest in the flesh! It is extravagant, out of proportion, who can believe it? Anyone who has not lost the magnitude of man. To restore this tragic fall required a tragic salvation. Nor did ever any sinner, who had felt the bondage of his sin, think for one moment that Christ was too great a Saviour. Oh, it was an almighty Saviour that he wanted! none but such was sufficient! Him he could believe in, just because He was great — equal to the measures of his want, able to burst the bondage of his sin.

3. The magnitude and real importance of the soul are discovered in the subject as nowhere else. The soul appears under sin, all selfish as it is, to shrink and grow small in its own sight. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the consciousness we have, in sin, of moral littleness and meanness. Whereas, in another sense, sin is mighty, God-defying. Just here is it that you will get your most veritable impressions of your immortality; even as you get your best impression of armies, not by the count of numbers, but by the thunder shock of battle, and the carnage of the field when it is over. In the tragic desolations of intelligence and genius, of passion, pride, and sorrow, behold the import of his eternity. And yet, despite all this, you are trying and contriving still to be happy — a happy ruin! The eternal destiny is in you, and you cannot break loose from it. With your farthing bribes you try to hush your stupendous wants. Oh, this great and mighty soul, were it something less, you might find what to do with it. Anything would please it and bring it content. But it is the godlike soul, capable of rest in nothing but God; able to be filled and satisfied with nothing but His fulness.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

I. IN SPEECH. These verses refer to the different organs of speech, and show them all exercising their power to hurt, under the dominion of sin.

1. The throat (larynx) is compared to a sepulchre; this refers to the language of the gross and brutal man, of whom it is said in common parlance — it seems as if he would like to eat you. The next characteristic is a contrast — the sugared tongue, which charms you like a melodious instrument. Doth of these are taken from the description of David's enemies in Psalm 5:9.

3. The next is taken from Psalm 140:3 — the calumny and falsehood which malignant lips give forth, as a serpent infuses its poison.(4) Ver. 14. The wickedness which is cast into your face by a mouth full of hatred or bitterness (Psalm 10:7).

II. IN DEED (vers. 15-18). Of the four propositions the first three are borrowed from Isaiah 59:7, 8.

1. The feet as the emblem of walking symbolises the whole conduct.

2. Man acts without regard to his neighbour, without fear of compromising his welfare or even his life (Proverbs 1:16). He oppresses his brother, and fills his life with misery, so that the way marked out by such a course is watered with the tears of others.

3. No peace can exist either in the heart of such men, or in their neighbourhood.

4. And this overflow of depravity and suffering arises from a void; the absence of that feeling which should have filled the heart — "the fear of God." This term is the normal expression for piety in the Old Testament; it is that disposition which has God always present in the heart, will and judgment. The words "before their eyes" show that it belongs to man freely to evoke or suppress this inward view of God on which his moral conduct depends (Psalm 36:1).

(Prof. Godet.)

The poison of asps is under their lips.
Poison concealed in a bag under a loose tooth or fang: the fang pressing the bag, the poison is emitted with the bite. Honey on the lips, poison under them. Poison conveyed —

1. In ordinary conversation.

2. In wanton and licentious songs.

3. In profane and blasphemous expressions.

4. In infidel and unscriptural teaching.

5. In corrupting works of fiction.

6. In the language of the drama.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

Suppose I open a bag of serpents, and let them out where children are playing, or in a camp where there are soldiers, and I say of myself, "Madman I fool!" and go to hunt my snakes? I cannot find them. It was mine to let them out, but it is not mine to catch them and put them in the bag again. Now there never was a bag of snakes in this world like a man's mouth. To open it is in your power, but to shut it again upon all that you have emitted from it is not in your power. I am not referring to cases in which a man himself suffers directly from the evil that he has done; but to those worse cases in which others suffer from the evil that we have done. For, as a man grows spiritual, as a man goes toward God he comes to feel that the mischiefs done on another are unspeakably worse than those done on himself; and that no unrepentable transgressions are as bad as those by which he has struck the welfare of another. Parallel with these, although differing from them, are those things by which men wound the hearts of those whom they should shield. Your anger may sting venomously. Your jealousy may do a mischief in one short hour that your whole life cannot repair. Your cruel pride may do a whole age's work in a day. You cannot take back the injuries that you have done to those whose hearts lie throbbing next to yours. All! when winter has frozen my heliotropes, it makes no difference that the next morning thaws them out. There lie the heliotropes — a black, noisome heap; and it is possible for you to chill a tender nature so that no thawing can restore it. You may relent, but frost has been there, and you cannot bring back freshness and fragrance to the blossom. You cannot sweeten the embittered heart to which your words have been like scorpions. It is a terrible thing for a man to have the power of poisoning the hearts of others, and yet carry that power carelessly.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is a remarkable fact that the poison of the rattlesnake is even secreted after death. Dr. Bell, in his dissections of the rattlesnakes which have been dead many hours, has found that the poison continued to be secreted so fast as to require to be dried up occasionally with sponge or rag. The immoral author, like these rattlesnakes, not only poisons during his lifetime, but after death: because his books possess the subtle power of secreting the venom to a horrible degree. A moral sponge is constantly called into requisition to obliterate his poison for many years after he himself has been dead.

(Louis Figuier.)

Their is no fear of God before their eyes
The text gives us man's native character. Such he is till the Spirit of God has sanctified him.


II. MEN HAVE BEEN LED TO CONTROVERT THIS DOCTRINE BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT CONSCIOUS OF THE WRONG MOTIVES BY WHICH THEY ARE ACTUATED. What the prophet says of the idol maker is more or less true of all unregenerate men in all ages, "A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" They do not consider it important to know what their designs are, and have not that familiarity with their hearts that would render it easy to discover.

III. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TEXT IS OFTEN CONTROVERTED TO SUPPORT SCHEMES WITH WHICH THIS SENTIMENT WOULD NOT COMPARE. The sinner's entire depravity is a fundamental doctrine on which there can be built only one, and that the gospel system. Make this doctrine true, and it sweeps away, as with the besom of destruction, every creed but one from the face of the world. It settles the question that God may righteously execute His law upon all unregenerate men; that "by deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified"; that the doings of unregenerate men are unholy; that an atonement, such as God has provided, is the only medium through which we can purge our consciences from dead works to serve the living God.

IV. THIS DOCTRINE HAS BEEN CONTROVERTED THROUGH THE PRIDE OF THE HUMAN HEART. Depravity is a most degrading doctrine, and entire depravity intolerable, till the heart has been humbled by the grace of God. There is in apostate men great pride of character. With the promptness with which we fly the touch of fire does pride resist imputation. Hence inquires the unregenerate man, Would you deny me the credit of loving my Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor? Do I never obey His law, or do a deed from motives that please Him? And is there, among my noblest actions of kindness to men, nothing that amounts to love?


1. The fact that it is plainly revealed testifies to its importance. God would not have cumbered His Word with a doctrine of no value.

2. The doctrine of the text is esteemed important, as it is one of the first truths used by the Spirit of God in awakening and sanctifying sinners.

3. The doctrine of the text is esteemed important, as it lies at the foundation of the whole gospel scheme.

(D. A. Clark.)

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