The Folly and Wickedness of Entering into Controversy with
There are four facts which show
the exceeding folly and desperate wickedness of replying against God, of entering into
controversy with God, of criticizing or condemning God.
The first is the fact of the
infinite majesty of God. Our text itself contrasts the infinite majesty of God with the
infinitesimal smallness of man. It reads, "0 man, who art thou that repliest against
God?" Yes, who art thou, anyway? And who is God?
You are one out of 2,000,000,000 like yourself now inhabiting this globe. And what is
this globe on which you and I live? The earth is so small a part of the already known
universe that if the sun were hollow, you could pour into it 1,200,000 earths like ours
and still there would be room enough left for them to rattle around in it.
Yes, the sun itself is very, very small in comparison with Arcturus and some of the
other stars whose diameters have been recently measured, and there are now known to be
more than 225,000,000 of these great worlds we call stars in this universe of ours. God,
with whom you are seeking to enter into controversy, seeking to criticize and condemn,
made them all. "He made the stars also" (Gen. 1:16). "0 man, who art thou
that repliest against God?"
We men in this day of increasingly successful investigation of the incredible, and, as
it seems to us, practically infinite, magnitude of the stellar heavens are sometimes
tempted to be puffed up because a few great leaders and investigators among us are
beginning to know a little about these vast stellar worlds and interstellar spaces. But
what about the God who planned them all and made them all? Our increasing discoveries of
the vastness of the physical universe ought to fill us with an increasing sense of our own
nothingness in comparison with the infinite greatness and majesty of Him who planned and
made them all. But, alas, oftentimes it seems only to puff us up with pride that we are so
wise as to understand a small part of the ways and power of yon infinite God.
The second fact that shows us the
exceeding folly and desperate wickedness of replying against God, of entering into
controversy with God, of criticizing God, of condemning God, is the fact of the infinite
and absolute holiness of God. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all"
(1 John 1:5). God is the One, as I read in the Scripture lesson tonight, in whose presence
the seraphim themselves, the "burning ones" (for that is what the Hebrew word
"seraphim" means), burning in their own intense holiness, must veil their faces
and feet in that infinitely holy Presence and keep continually crying, "Holy, holy,
holy, is the Lord God Almighty" (Isaiah 6:3). God is the One in whose presence
Isaiah, that holy man of old, covered his face and cried, 'Woe is me! for I am undone; for
I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, . . .
for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts." God is the One in whose presence
Job, the "perfect man," Job, who had stoutly maintained his integrity before all
the persistent and united accusations of his friends, when he got one glimpse of God face
to face, overwhelmed with the sense of his own nothingness and vileness in comparison with
the infinitely holy One, cried, "I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear:
but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"
(Job 42:5-6). Such is God. And "who art thou that repliest against God?" And
what art thou?
What are we all, the very best of us? Vile-the best of us is but a loathsome sinner. We
may not yet realize the fact, but it is true. Our lives have been shot through and through
by sin. Yet you undertake to stand in the presence of this Holy God, in whose presence the
seraphim veil their faces and their feet, and reply against Him, to suggest what God ought
to do, to enter into controversy with God, to criticize God for things which He has seen
fit to do, to murmur against God.
There is a third fact that shows
us the exceeding folly and desperate wickedness of replying against God, of entering into
controversy with God, of criticizing God, of condemning God, and that is the fact of God's
infinite wisdom. God is not only a Being of infinite majesty and holiness. He is also a
Being of infinite wisdom. We look up at the starry heavens above our heads, we look at
these wonderful worlds of light that stud the heavens by night. We think of the
overwhelming things about their immensity and the incredible speed and momentum of their
movements as they rush through space, and as we look up at them, if we are wise, we say,
"Oh, God, what a Being of infinite wisdom as well as majesty Thou art that Thou canst
guide these inconceivably enormous worlds as they go whirling through space with such
incredible velocity and momentum."
And yet many of you here tonight do not hesitate to look up at that Infinitely wise God
who made these wonderful spheres of light, who guides the whole universe in its wonderful,
stupendous and bewildering course, and attempt to tell Him what you think He ought to do!
Thou fool, art thou mad? No inmate of Patten ever did an insaner thing. "Who art
thou?" The wisest man on earth is but a child; the wisest philosopher does not know
much; the greatest man of science knows but very little. What he knows is almost nothing
in comparison with what he does not know. What he does know, even about the material
universe, is as nothing compared with what he does not know.
How much does the wisest scientist know even about this small planet? What does he
really know, for example, about earthquakes? Have you ever stopped to think of the fact
that the most confidently believed science of one hundred years ago is regarded by all
modern scientists as foolishness? If we are to judge the future by the past, the most
confidently believed science of today will be regarded as foolishness by the scientists of
one hundred years hence.
When I was giving special attention to scientific study not so very many years ago, the
nebular hypothesis was almost universally accepted. But some of the most advanced and
reliable scientists of today are not only questioning it, but declare, at least in
private, that it is exploded. What the scientists of a hundred years ago taught as being
settled forever is known by our little children in the primary schools today as completely
disproven. What the best scientist of today thinks he knows to be true a little child in
primary school one hundred years hence will know to be false. The best scientific
knowledge of today will be regarded as foolishness a hundred years from now, and the best
scientific knowledge of one hundred years from now will be foolishness to the Infinitely
Suppose some child of thirteen or fourteen should take a book on philosophy setting
forth the ripest product of the best philosophic thought of today and begin to criticize
it, page by page. What would you think? Would you stand and look at the boy and say with
unbounded admiration, "What a bright lad he is?" No, you would say, "What a
conceited idiot he is to undertake, at his age and with his limited knowledge, to
criticize the best philosophic thought of the day!" But he would not be so conceited
an idiot as you or I would be were we to attempt to criticize an infinitely wise God for
we are far less than children compared with the infinite God.
The most profound philosopher of today is but a little child compared with the Infinite
God. And yet you, who do not make any pretensions of being a philosopher at all, take
God's Book, you a little child, an infant, take this Book which represents the best wisdom
of God, and you sit down and turn it, page by page, and try to criticize it, and people
stand and look at you and admire and say, "What a scholar!" But the angels look
down and say, "What a fool!" And what does God say? "0 man, who art thou
that repliest against God?" "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the
Lord [the Almighty and the Eternal] shall have [you] in derision" (Ps. 2:4).
There is a fourth fact that
emphasizes the extreme folly and desperate wickedness of replying against God, of entering
into controversy with God, of criticizing God, or condemning God, and that fact is that He
is not only a Being of Infinite majesty, holiness, and wisdom, but also a Being of
infinite goodness and love. Why, man, you owe everything you have in the world to God. You
owe your very existence to Him. You owe to Him your power to see, your power to hear, your
power to taste. You owe to Him your power to breathe, to live, to walk, to work, your
power to enjoy this wonderful world which He has made, in which He permits and enables us
to live. 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the
Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James
1:17). The poorest of us, the most unfortunate of us, has an immense deal for which to be
thankful. You who seem to have very little have exceedingly much in comparison with
nothing. Are you blind? Well, you can hear and taste, can you not? Are you deaf, dumb, and
blind? Well, you can eat and enjoy your food, can you not? The man who has all five senses
would be just as reasonable if he were to complain because he has not six as the man who
has four senses would be to complain because he has not five. Thank God for what you have,
rather than complain against God for what you have not.
Suppose I should have found on Thanksgiving Day a poor, half-starved tramp and had
taken him to my home, given him a good, well-cooked dinner of roast lamb, white potatoes,
other vegetables, and pumpkin pie, and then he had gone and complained against me to some
other tramp because I did not give him turkey and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mince
pie, and plum pudding. Would he not have been an ungrateful cur? Yet not so, ungrateful as
you are when you complain at the God who has given you taste, hearing, touch, feeling, and
many other blessings, because He has not given you sight also. The poorest of us, the most
suffering of us, have an enormous deal for which to be thankful and all of it came from
God. Not only that, but you and I not only have these things that we possess to be
thankful for but, furthermore, every man of us has trampled God's law under foot; every
one of us has been a sinner justly condemned before God. But God, instead of dealing with
us in stem wrath and judgment, as we all deserve, has not only given us all these
blessings, but, in addition, has given His own Son to die on the Cross of Calvary in our
place. He has given His best beloved, His dearest, His only begotten Son. But in spite of
all that wondrous love that did not stop even at the sacrifice of His own Son, some of you
presume to criticize God, who gave His Son to die for you. "0 man, who art thou that
repliest against God?"
One of the greatest Italian statesmen of the last century, the greatest of his day but
one, was devoutly loved in his youth by a young woman. When he entered the army of
Garibaldi, this woman who loved him enlisted too, and fought in the war by the side of her
lover, just to be near him. And one day he was shot and fell on the field of battle, and
that woman who loved him rushed out beneath a rain of bullets, lifted her fallen lover
from the ground; and, amidst a terrific storm of bullets, carried her lover to safety.
Then she watched over him for days and weeks until she had nursed him back to health.
Suppose he had deserted her then, what would the whole world have called him? In point of
fact he married her, but afterward he divorced her; though he was one of the ablest
statesmen of the century, Italy and all Europe, for all his brilliant gifts, never forgave
him his treatment of the devoted woman who had risked her life to save his.
But what has God done for you? The eternal God has consented that His heart should be
torn and crushed to save you and me. Yet some of us dare to enter into controversy with
this God of infinite love, to criticize that eternal God who consented that His heart be
torn and bruised and crushed to save us. Oh, the desperate wickedness, the amazing folly
of replying against a God of infinite majesty, infinite holiness, infinite wisdom, and,
above all, of infinite love. "0 man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
Who Repliest Against God?
But who is replying against God? Who is entering into controversy with God? Who is
criticizing or condemning God? Five classes
are replying against God.
First of all, the men and women
who complain of God's providential dealings with them are replying against God, are
entering into controversy with God, are criticizing God and condemning God. Many a man or
woman has said to me, "I think God is cruel." "Why do you think He is
cruel?" One replies, "He has taken away my husband." Another, "He has
taken away my wife." Another, "He has taken away my child. He has taken away the
light of our home." Another, "He has brought me down from financial prosperity
to financial failure. I once stood high in the business world. I now have to almost beg my
bread, and I say God is cruel." Another says, "If God is good, why did He permit
this awful disaster or that which laid waste a beautiful city or nation? I think God is
You do? You do? You think God is cruel! Who is God? A Being of infinite majesty, a
Being of infinite holiness, a Being of infinite wisdom, a Being of infinite love, a Being
who gave His own Son to die that you might be saved! "0 man, who art thou that
repliest against God?"
But you say, "I do not understand it." Why should you understand it? Who are
you? If you were really wise, you would not ask to understand it. If you had really good
sense, you would not feel any need of having it explained. You would say, "I know God
is infinitely good and infinitely wise. I know He is infinitely loving, too. I know He
gave His Son to die for me, and though I cannot understand it, nevertheless it comes from
God's hand and I know it is all right. "Naked came I [into this world]: ... the Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). 1 do
not ask to understand; I am perfectly content to trust in the dark that God who is so
infinitely worthy of my trust./
I had two friends in England, very dear friends, who were beautiful Christians. They
had a lovely daughter. She grew to maidenhood and was said to have been an unusually
beautiful girl in both face and character. Some said she was the most beautiful character
they had ever met. When this lovely daughter was seventeen or eighteen, she was taken with
rheumatic fever, and, after awful suffering, died. The father and mother never complained.
They kissed the hand that smote.
Some time after this sorrow had befallen them, I was talking with them about it. They
told me how God had sustained them in that trying hour. Only a little while after this
conversation, their second daughter, now grown to womanhood, was also taken down with
precisely the same malady, rheumatic fever. Her fever ran up to 107 and stayed there day
after day, and she seemed beyond all hope. Then the mother's faith gave way, and she said,
"God is cruel to take my second daughter when I never complained about the first, and
not only to take my second daughter, but to take her in just the same way He took the
first." But God spared the child. She is well now, a devoted Christian woman in very
active Christian work. And that mother has repented of her wickedness.
Oh, friends, it was wicked, very wicked. Our hearts were almost broken in sympathy
during the days that child hung between life and death. Telegrams kept coming to me
telling of her condition, and my heart bled for my friends. But, nonetheless, I say that
was wicked on the mother's part to say "God is cruel." That was exceedingly
wicked, that was desperately wicked, to call God cruel. That same mother lost all three of
her sons and her husband in the late war, but she has never again whispered that God is
cruel. I had a letter from her only the other day that was full of trust and hope.
Some of you are passing through trials which, if the rest of us knew, would fill our
hearts with sympathy and pain. But you are murmuring against God, and that is wicked, that
is exceedingly foolish, that is desperately wicked; for "0 man, who art thou that
repliest against God," against a God of infinite majesty, against a God of infinite
wisdom, against a God of infinite holiness, against a God of infinite love, against a God
who gave His only begotten Son to die for you? But you say, "I do not understand
it." Why should you understand it? Why should you ask to understand it? Who are you
that God should explain it to you? Oh, that we might always bear in mind who God is, and
who we are; what God is, and what we are.
Then there is a second class who
are replying against God, who are entering into controversy with God, who are criticizing
and condemning God, namely, those who are criticizing this Book and trying to pull this
Book to pieces. This Book is God's Word. That is thoroughly established. When you
criticize this Book, you criticize its Author, who is God. When you criticize this Book,
you criticize God. But you say, "I do not believe it is God's Word." That does
not alter the fact, not in the least. It is His Word-there is abundant proof that it is
His Word. I have proved over and over again in this place that this Book is the Word of
God. This Book is God's Word, and whoever ventures to criticize it ventures to criticize
God. Never forget that. I repeat it, whoever ventures to criticize this Book ventures to
criticize God, and the one who criticizes God is guilty of exceeding folly and desperate
wickedness. You say, "I do not like that." I am sorry that you do not, for it is
true, and I always feel profoundly sorry for the man or woman who does not like the truth.
They are in a bad way.
One night one of my workers in Minneapolis called me down to speak to a man who said
that he was an infidel. "Why are you an infidel?" I asked. 'Because I do not
believe the Bible," he replied. 'Yes, but why do you not believe the Bible?"
"It is full of contradictions," he answered. "Show me one," I quietly
said, and handed him my Bible to find it. He said, "It is full of them."
'Well," I said, 'if it is full of them, you ought to be able to show me at least
one." "I don't pretend to know as much about the Bible as you do," he
blurted out. I said, "Then what are you talking about it for?" I turned him to
our Bible text of tonight, "0 man, who art thou that repliest against God" Then
I turned him to Matthew 12:36, 'Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give
account thereof in the day of judgment." Then I said, 'The Bible is Gods Word, and
you have said it is full of contradictions, and in saying that you have condemned the
Author, you have condemned God, and Jesus said, Every idle word that men shall speak, they
shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." You have criticized God, and you
will have to give account of it in the day of judgment, of all these words, these idle
words that you have just used." He turned pale, and said, "I did not mean to do
that." "But that is what you have done." And it is what some of you have
done in the last twenty-four hours. You have ventured to laugh at something in the Bible.
When you did that, you laughed at God. You ventured to set up some opinion of yours
against what God says in His Book. You ventured to enter into controversy with God, you
ventured to criticize something in the Bible, and when you did that, you criticized the
Author of the Bible, you criticized God. "0 man, who art thou that repliest against
There is a third class who are
replying against God, who are entering into controversy with God, who are criticizing God,
who are condemning God, and that is those who make light of the Bible doctrine of
salvation by atoning blood, the Bible doctrine that we are saved through the shedding of
the blood of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. That doctrine so frequently and so
unmistakably taught in God's Word is ridiculed today in many a so-called Christian pulpit.
Any pulpit that ridicules the doctrine of salvation by atoning blood is not a Christian
A very noted preacher in New York City, whose books have a wide sale, was reported to
me by one who took down his words in his classroom to have said, "The doctrine of
blood atonement is nauseating to me." Any preacher who ridicules the doctrine of
salvation by atoning blood is not a minister of Jesus Christ, he is a minister of Satan,
no matter how genial and amiable a man he may be.
The Bible doctrine of salvation by atoning blood is ridiculed in this day on every
hand. Some preachers have said it is foolish for me to preach this "old
doctrine." Well, it is an old doctrine, but it is a true doctrine. And I would rather
believe and teach the old that is true than the new that is false. I did not invent this
doctrine. I do not know enough to invent it. I found it in that Book, and, thank God, I
found it to be true in my own life; it saved me and I preach it, and it has saved
thousands through my preaching of it. I preach it, but I did not invent it. God is the
Author of this doctrine, and when you criticize the preaching of it, you do not criticize
me, you criticize God. It would be a matter of no great consequence for you to criticize
me or my preaching. Why should you not criticize me? I am not infallible. I cannot see why
I am not just as properly an object of criticism as anybody else. It does not harm me, and
it gives some people lots of fun. Sometimes it greatly helps me. But, ah, when you
criticize this doctrine you are not criticizing me, you are criticizing God, and that is
serious, tremendously serious. "0 man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
Then there is a fourth class who
are replying against God, namely, those who complain of the Bible doctrine of retribution
for sin, the Bible doctrine of endless punishment. This is not my doctrine. I did not get
it up. Some say that it is a medieval doctrine. No, it is not a medieval doctrine. They
did not originate it in the Middle Ages. It is the doctrine of Jesus Christ, taught by
Him, not in the Middle Ages but in the first century. Why will people who try to pose as
scholars display such ignorance of the meaning of commonly used words?
Jesus Christ says distinctly in Matthew 25:41 that at the judgment of the nations
living on the earth when He comes again He will say to those on His left hand, 'Depart
from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
angels." And, five verses farther down, He says, "And these shall go away into
eternal punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Now, I did not invent that.
That was in the Bible before I was born. Jesus said it eighteen centuries before I was
born. I simply found it in the Bible and preach it because it is there. I received a
letter once from a Universalist preacher in New Hampshire, saying, "The doctrine you
preach makes God a monster." Whoever says that this doctrine makes God a monster is
himself a blasphemer, for it is God's doctrine. When you say that "Whosoever preaches
this doctrine makes God a monster," you say that God is a monster. A lady in
Liverpool wrote me, "I cannot conceive how a God of love should leave anybody to
everlasting punishment." Why should she conceive how a God of love should leave
anybody to everlasting punishment? It seemed to have never entered her head that anything
she could not conceive could be easily conceivable by someone who knew more than she did.
If she had had even a modicum of commonsense, she would have seen at once that although
she, with her very limited intelligence, could not conceive it, an infinitely wise God
might have a thousand reasons for doing it, even though she could not see one.
It has never dawned on some people that even God could by any possibility know more
than they know. It never dawned on me for years, and in those days I was a Universalist. I
thought that all men would ultimately be saved. I was a Universalist because I had an
argument for the ultimate salvation of everybody for which I could see no possible answer.
I thought if I could not see an answer, why, no one could. So I challenged anybody to meet
me on that argument and answer it. I went around with my head pretty high and said,
"I have found an unanswerable reason for Universalism." I thought that I was a
Universalist for all time and that anyone who was not a Universalist was not well posted.
One day it occurred to me that an infinitely wise God might possibly know more than I
did. That had never dawned on me before. It dawned upon me also that it was quite possible
that a God of infinite wisdom might have a thousand good reasons for doing a thing, when
I, in my finite foolishness, could not see even one. So my fondly cherished Universalism
went up in smoke.
If you get that thought, that an Infinitely wise God may possibly know more than even
you do, and that God in His infinite wisdom might have a thousand good reasons for doing a
thing when you cannot see even one, you will have learned one of the greatest theological
truths of the day-one that will solve many of your perplexing problems in the Bible.
Men try to lay hold of infinite wisdom and fancy that they can squeeze it down into the
capacity of their pint-cup minds. But because they cannot squeeze infinite wisdom into
their pint-cup minds, they say, "I don't believe that Book is the Word of God,
because it has something in it that I cannot understand the philosophy of." Why
should you understand the philosophy of it? Who are you, anyhow? How much of a mind have
you, anyhow? How long have you had it? How long are you going to keep it? Who gave it to
It is not our business to find out the philosophy of things; it is not our business to
see the reason of things. It is our business to hear what God has to say, and when He says
it, believe it, whether you can understand the philosophy of it or not.
When my children were small and ignorant, I told them a lot of things that I could not
explain to them because of the limitations of their minds. There are a great many things
that even God cannot explain to you or to me because we do not know enough yet to have it
explained to us. God is too wise, I say it reverently, to try to explain some things to a
person who does not know more than you do.
There is the fifth class that is
replying against God, that is the men who instead of accepting Jesus Christ as their
Savior and surrendering to Him as their Lord and Master and openly confessing Him as such
before the world, are making excuses for not doing it. Jesus says in John 6:37, "Him
that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." God says in Revelation 22:17,
"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Anybody can come to
Christ, and anybody who does come will be received and saved. Yet many of you, instead of
coming, are making excuses for not coming. By every excuse you make you are replying
against God, you are entering into controversy with God, you are condemning God, who
invites you to come. You cannot frame an excuse for not coming and accepting Christ that
does not condemn God. Every excuse that any mortal makes for not accepting Christ, in its
ultimate analysis, condemns God.
For example, some of you say, "I am too great a sinner to come." But God says
in 1 Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." And when you say, "I cannot
come because I am too great a sinner," you give the lie to God. He says you can.
Another says, "I cannot come because I am too weak to hold out in the Christian
life." But God says in Jude 24, "He is able to keep you from falling and to
present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." You say,
"God cannot keep me." God says He can. And when you say He cannot, you make God
a liar and condemn God. Another says, "I cannot come because I have not the right
kind of feeling." But God says, "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water
of life freely." God says, 'You can come," and you say, "I cannot,"
and that excuse condemns God. Every conceivable excuse the sinner makes for not coming to
Christ at once, in its ultimate analysis, condemns God, and every man and woman who,
instead of coming right to the Lord Jesus and accepting Him, surrendering to Him,
confessing Him as Master and going forth to serve Him--everyone who is making an excuse of
any kind instead of accepting Christ is replying against God. "0 man, who art thou
that repliest against God?"