"God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the
earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually." Genesis 6:5
A solemn scene here opens. Who can contemplate it, and
shudder not? God appears looking down on earth's inhabitants. What sight
meets His eye? It is wickedness--great wickedness. He sees evil--only
evil--in every imagination of every thought of every heart.
Can it be so? Man who entered Eden's garden, the happy
image of his God--who stepped upon earth's stage, decked in pure robes of
innocence--whose early thoughts were only redolent of heaven--whose primal
bias moved in the attraction of holiness--whose infant affections beat with
the pulse of righteous love--whose dawn was the clear light of
godliness--can man be now so changed!
How is the sparkling jewel tarnished! How is the bright
gold dimmed! The crown has fallen from the head. The lovely robe is
tattered. The features no more smile in beauty. The flower once fragrant is
a weed. The holy nature is degenerate. Love hardens into enmity. Blasphemy
pollutes the lips so lately tuned to praise. The subject holds the rebel's
weapons. The child is an apostate alien. "God saw that the wickedness of man
was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually." Man--can he now be so changed!
Yes! Sin has come with its debasing power. Alas! what
ruin it has wrought! How terrible are its properties! How frightful are its
effects! How desolating is its step! How withering is its touch! The garden
of Eden--the beauty of all beauties--bloomed before it. It passed the gate,
and the misery of all miseries followed in its rear. Man, lovely as a ray of
righteousness, stood before the fiend. He parleyed with it, and became this
mass of evil.
Such the change. And sin effected it. Reader! think
deeply, that it is a fearful thing to stray from God. Behold the dark abyss,
into which transgression fell, and hate the erring path. Mark these wide
ravages, and loathe the spoiler. Contemplate a world undone, and utterly
detest the murdering monster.
But, perhaps, while you survey the record, some doubting
thoughts arise. The inquiry may intrude, 'Is this description literally
correct? Are not the colors too darkly laid? Is there no rhetorical excess?'
Let such misgivings be cast out. They hold the germ of
skeptic blindness. Nothing here can be exaggerated. The speaker is eternal
Truth. If man had framed the sentence, it might have been tinged by
inability to judge or proneness to state incorrectly. But no created
intellect here decides. God, the Holy Spirit, from His bright throne, makes
the announcement. Heaven's voice sounds in the words, "God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." God's all-piercing eve
cannot read wrongly. The Spirit's hand cannot pen error. Let then all heads
bow low. Let every ear devoutly listen. Let every heart assent. Undoubted
truth speaks here with open mouth.
Thus with sorrowing reverence we draw nearer to the
fearful picture. In the foreground stands "WICKEDNESS." This is a frightful
monster. It is antagonism to our God. It rears a counter-standard to His
will. It tramples down His laws. It defies His authority. If possible, it
would scale the skies, and hurl Him from His throne. Its aim is to convert
heaven into hell.
Whose is this wickedness? The "wickedness of man." Man,
and man alone of all, who breathe the vital air, claims wickedness as his
own. "We know, that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together
until now." Rom. 8:22. But the blame is not theirs. Theirs is the suffering.
But man's wickedness let loose the plague. "Cursed is the ground." Thorns
and thistles bristle on its soil. But the fault is not in it. Man is
wicked--therefore his abode is this disorder. Creatures endure much
anguish--hardship--suffering--death. But their disobedience roused not
avenging wrath. Man is the culprit. His crime sinks earth into a slough of
woe. The degradation is world-wide. The cause is wholly his. Wickedness is
his sole property. Therefore, O man, see your exclusive criminality. Boast
not of any excellency. Glory not of
reason--faculties--power--mind--intellect--talent. Parade not your stores of
acquired wisdom--your investigating knowledge--your elaborating skill. But
rather blush, that your superiorities claim wickedness as their territory.
The picture next exhibits man's HEART. This is the home
of the affections--the spring-head of desires--the cradle of each impulse.
Here the character receives its form. This is the rudder of the life. This
is the guide of daily life. As is the heart, such is the individual. Here
schemes, and plans, and purposes are conceived. The heart is the mother of
contrivance and device.
What is naturally transacted in this laboratory? The
reply here meets us. "Every imagination"--every germ of idea--every
incipient embryo of notion--every feeling, when it begins to move--every
passion, when it stirs--every inclination, as it arises, is "only evil."
Frightful word--Evil. Here wickedness comes forth in
another but not less frightful form. Evil. It is the offspring of the evil
one. It bears the impress of the devil. It is foul, as he is foul. It is
vile, as he is vile. It is accursed, as he is accursed.
"Only evil!" No ray of light mitigates the darkness. No
spark alleviates the impure night. No righteous spot relieves the sinful
monotony. No flower of goodness blooms in the noxious desert. Uniformity
without one check rules. "Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart"
rush out in one stream. No rill finds other vent. All flow in the one
channel of evil--"only evil."
Turn not too quickly from this picture. It is not yet
complete. The full hideousness is "only evil continually." What! is
there no respite? Is evil never weary? Does no intermission break the
tremendous sameness? Ah! no. There is no moment of a brighter dawn. "Every
imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually." There is
continually this miserable continuity. Thought chases thought with
lightning-rapidity--but each is only evil without mitigation--without pause.
Swiftly they rise and swiftly fly--but their wings are only evil--never
flagging--never varying. Countless are these imaginations; but they all show
one feature--evil continually. There is no better viewpoint.
Reader! the point is reached now for home-application.
Draw back the curtain and mark the contents of your breast. Your own heart
in its natural state is this flood of evil. Do you startle? Are you
indignant at the charge? Is your first impulse stoutly to contradict? If so,
it is a fatal sign. It proves decisively, that the imaginations of the
thoughts of your heart are very evil.
When the Father of lights gives saving grace, then
instantly the foulness of the inner man is seen! Then the illumined
conscience testifies, "Behold, I am vile." When the revealing Spirit uplifts
the heaven-lit torch, then new-born vision discerns the sin-sick ruin. You
cannot see--no, you deny--the rule of sin within you. But may not the
plague--although unfelt--exist? Night hides, but cannot nullify, the
landscape. Lack of perception destroys not surrounding realities. Appeal to
a regenerate man. The response most readily asserts, that no description can
exaggerate the flood of evil, which once deluged his heart. Charge him as
shaped in iniquity, he meekly sighs–"Alas! how true! But, blessed be God!
through grace, I am a new man now." But your experience is unconscious of a
change. Therefore you are unchanged. And if you are unchanged, you flounder
yet in evil's flood. May then the Lord of life give light--give sight--to
see your own ailment in the mirror of these words! "Every imagination of the
thoughts of his heart is only evil continually."
But you reject this sentence as depicting yourself. You
half hope that it belongs to some bygone days. You confine it to some
long-past period of especial evil. You abjure its general features. You
question its application to man's whole family, in every age.
But say, is it not a life-likeness of our first parents,
from the moment of their fall? Behold them sinless. God was their hearts'
delight. Behold them guilty. What is their conduct? Shame overwhelms them.
Therefore evil has torn off innocence. Trembling occupies their hearts.
"They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of
the day." Genesis 3:8. They spring not joyous to the loved communion. They
flee. They seek some covert. They shrink into concealment. Is it not evil to
shun God? This is their desire. Thus the imagination of the thoughts of
their hearts prove wickedness--great wickedness. They dream, that trees can
hide them, from the all-probing eye. This folly is most evil! Evidence is
clear, that evil now is the parent of their imaginations.
Adam, when called, speaks in reply. What are his words?
Alas! we see no penitence--no humility--no cry for pardon. He avows his
fear. Thus he betrays evil; for he allows that punishment is due. Adam's
lips unwittingly attest that the imagination of his thoughts is now a flood
When God probes deeper, deeper evil rises to the surface.
The blame is cast on others, no, on God Himself. "The woman, whom You
gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree." While Eve is charged as
bringing the temptation to his hand, God is implicated, as bringing a
tempting partner to his side. Can evil exceed this?
Eve, also, is now a flood of evil. She screens herself
behind the serpent's craft. "The serpent beguiled me, and I ate." The main
sin is another's. I only yielded to seducing guile. Here then the
broad fact stares us broadly in the face. Every imagination of the thoughts
of man's heart, from the first day of sin, was only evil. Each word--each
act--the produce of each thought--was evil--only evil.
It is clear then, that evil gained universal sway in
Adam's heart. Thus it poisoned the spring of future streams. It utterly
corrupted the soil of human thought. Now the source being unclean, cleanness
cannot issue from it. It follows, then, that man in every age must enter
life with a heart evil--only evil continually. "As face answers to face in
water, so answers the heart of man to man."
Think then no more, that this portrait delineated
peculiar vileness. Such was the first sinner soiled by sin. Such are all
born in sin's family.
Reader! it is then your very state, as a corrupt branch
of a corrupted tree. It is your pollution, as descending from this tainted
fount. Until grace works its wondrous change, wickedness--great
wickedness--prevails. "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is
only evil continually." Evil is the common flood.
But out of these materials God peoples heaven with a
redeemed multitude, pure and glorious as Himself. Yes, through grace, there
is relief large as the need. There is a remedy, mighty to heal the deepest
depths of the disease. The sinner is not forever buried in hopeless guilt.
God, from all eternity foreseeing the fall and its tremendous woe, devised a
reparation wide as the breach. This gracious work is entrusted to his
beloved Son. Jesus consents to take the guilty place. He opens on the cross
the fountain of all-cleansing blood. The flowing stream is efficacious to
wash away all sin. Its virtue obliterates all stain of evil. Thus, though
iniquities are more than all wide ocean's sands, and each of deepest dye,
the atoning death can make them whiter than the purest snow. The blood of
Jesus touches them, and they forever vanish. They recede far as the east is
from the west. They sink from discovery, deep as the sea's unfathomable
depths. The believer's wickedness doubtless has been very great. The
imaginations of the thoughts of his natural heart have long been only evil.
But not one speck of all this vileness can be found. The glorious merits of
the dying Jesus have expiated all. Sin has done its worst to ruin; Jesus has
done far more to save.
But Jesus meets the children of His love with more than
cleansing blood. He clothes them also with His robe of righteousness. He, in
their nature and their stead, obeyed to the utmost all the holy will of our
most holy God. He places this obedience to their account, as if it were the
garment wrought by our own hands. In this they stand at heaven's portals,
and the gates fly open. Their plea avails. They are counted befitting
inhabitants for the palace of the King of kings--fit partners for His very
throne. Sin destroyed creature-righteousness. Jesus brings in a divine
But the Gospel-mercy is richer yet. Nature's heart, is,
as has been shown, a quarry of vile materials. It cannot be mended. These
stones can frame no holy fabric. But grace works wonders. The Holy Spirit
comes, and a new creation springs to life. He takes away the stony heart. He
creates it gloriously clean. Thus old things pass away. Thus all things
become new. The moral desert smiles fruitful and fragrant as Eden's garden.
It rejoices and blossoms as the rose--Isa. 35:1. Instead of the thorn comes
up the fir-tree--instead of the brier comes up the myrtle-tree--and it is to
the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off--Isa.
The love of God is implanted. Delight in evil is rooted
up. Conformity to the image of Jesus is inwrought. Holy communion and holy
ways are now the sweet delight. Heaven is longed for, as the realm of
perfect purity. The call to cross death's Jordan is welcomed, that sin may
be forever left behind, and sinful sounds no longer vex, and sinful sights
no longer pain, and sinful temptations no longer trouble. The soul longs for
scenes, and company, and atmosphere, where all is love. The believer's
wickedness has doubtless been very great--the imaginations of the thoughts
of his natural heart have been very evil; but he is born again. Sin made man
very vile. The Spirit enters, and a new fabric rises. Blessed be God for His
sovereign work of grace! Blessed be God for Jesus and the Spirit!
Reader! this Beacon tells you what man is by nature--what
you were by birth. Say, what is your present state?