"Having no hope and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12
"Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror! declares the LORD. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2:12, 13
WITHOUT GOD! What a fearful condition of soul! What a state of misery, of gloom, of solitude, of dark and dismal emptiness. A wilderness at midnight is nothing compared to this. A world without a sun is nothing compared to this. It is the summing up of all that is forlorn and sad in a sinner's lost estate. It can scarcely be called a picture, for it consists but of a single stroke — yet it conveys to us as full an idea of utter desolation and despair as could have been done by a thousand touches.
How awful is the condition of an immortal being, of whom it can be said, that it is "without God." His presence is peace, His love is bliss, His fellowship the fullness of joy. There is no sunshine like the sunshine of His countenance, and no warmth like the warmth of His affection. What a dreary void, then, must that soul be that is "without God in the world" — without God in such a world as this?
Men feel this, though they will not own it. Hence they run from one occupation to another, from scene to scene, from pleasure to pleasure — in order that, by keeping their minds incessantly engaged, they may drown the consciousness of the dread emptiness within. Hence they prefer to be burdened with cares and toils, to be annoyed with the over-pressure of business, rather than be left to the feeling of this dreary void within the soul. They are like children afraid to be alone in the dark. All without is lonely, for God is not there — and all within is still more lonely, for God is not there. But, then, even when brought to see this, even when brought to see, or at least to suspect, that all this uneasiness arises from the absence of God — they shrink from the idea of becoming pious. They cannot bear the thought of His near presence, of His coming in to fill and possess their souls.
An absent God, no doubt, they felt to be the source of their misery — but still a near, a present God, they cannot bear to realize. Why is it thus? Whence this dread of God? Whence this unwillingness to admit Him into their hearts? Because they are afraid of Him, and think that they can neither be safe in His hands, nor happy in His presence. They feel uncomfortable at the thought of His coming so near. They willingly go through a form of religion, because its whole design and effect are to keep out God. As strange as the statement may seem, still it is true, that the religious observances of all mere professors are gone through with the express end of keeping God at a distance. By paying Him the compliment of their devotions, they think to bribe Him to keep at a distance from them, and not break their repose by coming too near.
This preference of forms which create a sort of fence between the soul and God, and this dislike of a religion that would bring us into personal contact with Him — plainly arise from an aversion at His holy character, and a distrust of His intentions towards us. It is awful to think that there should be such estrangement between the soul, and the God who made it, and that there should be any jealous suspicion of Him in man's bosom, or any unwillingness to have Him for our friend and father.
No conduct can be more unnatural than this, no ingratitude more monstrous and inexcusable. When a son hates his father, shuns his company, and leaves his house — we call his conduct unnatural and abominable. But what is this in comparison with the sinner, who has ill-treated the God who made him? The earthly ties of blood, the closest, dearest, relationships of men — are as mere threads of air, when compared with the bonds which unite the creature and Creator together. Dislike of God, then, must be a thing so hateful and monstrous as to stand at the very top of human guilt, the sum of nameless crime!
Surely He, whose offspring we are, in whom we live and move and have our being, is our nearest, and ought to be our dearest relative of all in earth or Heaven; far nearer than father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife. These, no doubt, are names of tenderness and affection. They are relationships both close and dear. Yet how weak are all of them together, to convey even an idea of the near and tender relationship that exists between the Creator and His offspring. The love and endearment with which these beloved names are associated, are but as shadows when compared with the love, the tender, the profound, the unutterable love which ought to overflow in us towards Him who is so infinitely better, kinder, nobler, truer, tenderer, more lovable than all. If their love is so deep and warm — then what must His be? If their sympathy be so sweet and pleasant that, without it, earth is a blank, and even home a desolation — then what must His be? If their character is so endearing and attractive — then what must His be who constituted all these relationships as emblems of the one blessed and absorbing relationship between Him and His creatures? If the things of earth, even of a fallen earth, are so very beautiful — then what must He be who clothed them with all that loveliness, and who is Himself the birthplace of all beauty, the center of all perfection, and who scatters abroad all this goodliness as a drop out of the infinite ocean of divine excellence and glory?
How awful, then, must be the guilt, how desperate the misery of those who neither know nor love this Being of Beings — the ever-blessed, ever-glorious God and Father of all!
Without God! How awful the doom were such a sentence pronounced against any region of God's dominions. How awful when such is the state of the human soul!
Lost sinner! Such is your present state. Is it not truly sad? You do not yet know what it means in all its reality, but there is enough in what you do know to make you feel how fatal to your peace is the existence of that aching void within. Terror is not yet revealed. Wrath is still in reserve. The sword still slumbers in its sheath. But there is something even now eating, like a canker, into all your enjoyments, and poisoning all your pleasures — something which makes life a weariness, and death a terror. You feel that all is not right, that there is a dreary blank in the midst of all that you enjoy.
That secret indefinable lack which you feel, is the lack of God's friendship. Nothing else will remove that sense of hollowness within, which casts a shadow over your life. You are without God and, therefore — without peace. You cannot be happy, so long as He is absent. There cannot be any true enjoyment, so long as you enjoy nothing in Him, and Him in nothing. But if such is the secret of your unhappiness — then you see where the secret lies of your peace. You see whence your joy is to flow. It must be from having the friendship of God — from having His love shed abroad in your heart. Nothing but the knowledge of that love can remove the uneasiness which preys upon you, or put you in possession of that which will fill up the dreary void within, and dissipate all your gloom. "Acquaint yourself now with God, and be at peace — and thereby good shall come unto you."
Perhaps you are saying, "Who will show me any good?" You are looking around for someone to point out to you the way to rest. Well, Jesus stands before you, and says to you, what He did to the blind man in the days of His flesh, "What do you want me to do for you?" Is your answer the same as that of the blind man? "Lord, I want to receive my sight." Like him, perhaps, you may know little of Jesus, little of what the light really is, little of what true joy consists in — but are you putting your soul into the hands of Jesus? Then shall you receive your sight and be made altogether whole.
As a sinner, blind, naked, miserable and vile — draw near to Him. He refuses none. He will open your eyes. He will relieve your weariness. He will bless you with the fullness of His own free love. He will fill up the aching void within. He will give you rest. He will satisfy your weary soul. He will lead you to the Father, and, in the fullness of the Father's love, you will learn to bury all your griefs and cares. "The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance forever."