Genesis 6:5 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
EXTENT OF MAN’S WICKEDNESS
Gen 6:5. 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.
THE extent of man’s wickedness is far greater than the generality of mankind have any conception of. Whilst a person’s words and actions are inoffensive before men, he is supposed to conduct himself acceptably to God. And even when his words and actions are blameworthy, he is judged as having nothing wrong in his intentions, and as possessing, on the whole, a good heart. But God looks chiefly at the heart, which is the fountain from whence every thing that is evil proceeds [Note: Mat 7:21-23.]: and his testimony respecting it is, that “the heart,” not of this or that more egregious offender, but of every man by nature, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” In the passage before us, God assigns his reason for destroying the whole world by an universal deluge. And that we may be suitably affected by it, I shall set before you,
The testimony of God respecting man—
He speaks more immediately respecting the antediluvian world—
[In general, the wickedness of man was great in the earth. No doubt, every species of wickedness was committed, in the most shameless manner. But, more particularly, “the hearts” of men were evil; “the thoughts” of their hearts were evil; “the imaginations” of the thoughts were evil, and this too without exception, without mixture, without intermission; for every imagination was evil, and “only” evil, and that “continually” What an awful statement is here!
But how could this he ascertained? Who could he competent to judge of this? and on what authority is this declared? I answer, It is the declaration of God, who can discern all things; for “all things are naked and opened before him [Note: Heb 4:13.] ;” and he himself says, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them [Note: Eze 11:5.].” And, as he knows every thing, so he is able to estimate the quality of every thing; for “he weigheth the spirits [Note: Pro 16:2.].” And this is his testimony, after a thorough inspection of every human being.]
But the same must be spoken of man at this day—
[God himself repeats the same testimony, in relation to those who survived the deluge, and of all their descendants [Note: Gen 8:21.]. And it is as true of us, as it was of them. In proof of this, I will appeal to your own observation and experience. What, from observation, would you yourselves say was the state of the world around you? Do you not see that evil of every kind obtains to a vast extent; and that piety, except in some very narrow circles of persons whom the world, regards as weak enthusiasts, is altogether banished; insomuch that you may mix in society for months and years, and yet never once hear them speak with admiration and gratitude respecting all the wonders of Redeeming Love? Of what passes in the hearts of others you are not able to judge; and therefore, in relation to that, I appeal to every man’s own experience. What has been the state of your hearts? As to your words and actions, I will suppose them to have been correct: but your “hearts,” your “thoughts,” “the imaginations of your thoughts,” what report must you give of them? Have they been all correct? or, could you bear that man should see them as God has seen them? The proud, the envious, the uncharitable, the angry, the vindictive, the impure thoughts, say, (whether carried into effect or not) have they not sprung up within your hearts as their proper soil, and so occupied the ground, that no holy fruits would grow unto perfection? If occasionally a transient thought of good has arisen, how coldly has it been entertained, how feebly has it operated, how soon has it been lost! And, at all events, if compared with what the Law requires, and what God and his Christ deserve at your hands, tell me whether it do not fall so short of your duty, that you cannot venture to call it good, but only evil of a less malignant kind?
Know ye then, all of you, that this is your real state before God: and now learn,]
What effect it should produce upon you—
Certainly this view of our state, and especially as attested by the heart-searching God, should produce in us,
[Even on a review of our words and actions, I am convinced there is not any one of us who has not reason to be ashamed, especially if those words and actions be tried by the standard of God’s holy Law. But who amongst us could bear to have all his thoughts inspected and disclosed? Who would not blush, and be confounded before God and man, if his heart were exposed to public view, so that every imagination of every thought of it should be disclosed? Yet God beholds it all; and has as perfect a recollection of all that has passed through our minds from our earliest infancy to this present moment, as if it had passed not an hour ago. What then becomes us, but the deepest humiliation? In truth, our religious thoughts, when compared with what they ought to have been in number and intensity, are no less a ground of humiliation, than those which have sprung from a more impure source; since they prove, indisputably, how defective are our conceptions of God’s excellency, and how faint our sense of the Redeemer’s love. I call on you then, every one of you, my brethren, to “lothe yourselves for your abominations,” and to “abhor yourselves,” as Isaiah did, and as holy Job did, “in dust and ashes [Note: Isa 6:5 and Job 42:6.].”]
[We have often told you, that God has sent to us a Saviour, even his only dear Son; and that through Him all our iniquities, how great soever they may have been, shall be forgiven. But methinks, this is only “a cunningly-devised fable:” for, how can it be supposed, that God should ever have shewn such mercy, and manifested such love, towards such vile creatures as we? But, brethren, however incredible it may appear, it is true, even the very truth of God. Notwithstanding all you have done amiss, “God is not willing that any of you should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live.” Yes, brethren, he has laid all your iniquities on his only-begotten Son; who, agreeably to the Father’s will, has expiated them by his own blood, and will take them away from your souls for ever. Tell me, then, whether gratitude do not well become you? Tell me, whether there should be any bounds to your gratitude? What, think you, would the fallen angels feel, if such mercy were shewn to them? And what are millions of the redeemed now feeling before the throne? Oh, let your souls be penetrated with a measure of their love, and your songs of praise abound day and night, even as theirs.]
[Though your hearts may have been renewed by divine grace, you are renewed, brethren, only in part: you have still the flesh within you, as well as the Spirit; and you carry about with you still “a body of sin and death,” from which, to your dying hour, you will need to be delivered. In fact, your whole life must be “a putting-off of the old man, and a putting-on of the new.” I need not tell you what precautions people take, when they carry a light in the midst of combustibles, which, if ignited, will spread destruction all around. Know, that ye carry such combustibles about you, wherever you go; and you know not how soon you may come in contact with somewhat that may cause a desperate explosion. You all know how David fell, in an unguarded moment; and what a dreadful tissue of evil was produced by one sinful imagination. Know ye, then, what corrupt creatures ye are: be sensible of your proneness to commit even the vilest abominations: and pray, day and night, to God, to “hold up your goings in his ways, that your footsteps slip not.” It was from sad experience that Peter spoke, when he said, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary, the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith [Note: 1Pe 5:8.].” He had indulged self-confidence, and had slept when he should have watched: and hence arose his fall, which speaks loudly to every one of us. “Be ye, then, not high-minded; but fear:” and “what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch.”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.