April 27: Austin Phelps – Absence of Piety

What is the hope of the hypocrite? Will God hear his cry?

Job 27:8-9

An impenitent sinner never prays. In an inquiry after the causes of joylessness in the forms of prayer, the very first which meets us in some instances, is the absence of piety. It is useless to search behind or beneath such a cause as this for a more recondite explanation of the evil. This is doubtless, often all the interpretation that can be honestly given to a man’s experience in addressing God. Other reasons for the lifelessness of his soul in prayer are rooted in this, – that he is not a Christian.

If the heart is not right with God, enjoyment of communion with God is impossible. That communion itself is impossible. I repeat, an impenitent sinner never prays. Impenitence involves not one of the elements of a spirit of prayer. Holy desire, holy love, holy fear, holy trust – not one of these can the sinner find within himself.

He has, therefore, none of that artless spontaneity, in calling upon God, which David exhibited when he said, ‘Thy servant hath found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.’ An impenitent sinner finds no such thing in his heart. He finds there no intelligent wish to enjoy God’s friendship. The whole atmosphere of prayer, therefore, is foreign to his tastes. If he drives himself into it for a time, by forcing upon his soul the forms of devotion, he cannot stay there. He is like one gasping in a vacuum.

One of the most impressive mysteries of the condition of man on this earth, is his deprivation of all visible and audible representations of God. We seem to be living in a state of seclusion from the rest of the universe, and from that peculiar presence of God in which angels dwell, and in which departed saints serve Him day and night.

We do not see Him in the fire; we do not hear Him in the wind; we do not feel Him in the darkness. But a more awful concealment of God from the unregenerate soul exists by the very law of an unregenerate state. The eye of such a soul is closed even upon the spiritual manifestations of God in all but their retributive aspects…. Such a soul does not enjoy God, for it does not see God with an eye of faith – that is, as a living God, living close to itself, and in vital relations to its own destiny – except as a retributive power.

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