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When This Last Barrier to Vice is Broken Down

While recently reading from Moses Lard’s Commentary on Paul’s Letter to Romans, my attention was captured by a sentence from Lard on the following text: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Among Lard’s comments on the preceding verse is this statement: “Where God is not feared, nothing else is; and when this last barrier to vice is broken down, sin comes in like a flood”.

Is there a sense in which the fear of God is the “last barrier to vice”? The voices of America’s Founders certainly resonate with this conclusion. George Washington, in his Farewell Address (1796) put it in the form of a rhetorical question: “Let it be simply asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…?”

Daniel Dreisbach, in his fascinating book, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers, says the “prevailing view [was] that oathtaking was an essentially religious act.” An oath in late eighteenth-century moral philosophy was defined as a solemn appeal to the Supreme Being for the truth of what is said, by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments. John Locke had earlier expressed the fear that the oath of a man, unleashed from a belief in and fear of God, would be meaningless…In short, there is no security (or trust) in the atheist’s oath because the fear of divine sanction has no hold on the atheist” (304-05).

Where is the fear of God today? Is it in our homes? Is it in our churches? Is it in our schools, colleges, and universities? Is it in the halls of our government? Is it in our entertainment? Is it in the streets of our communities and cities? Is it before our eyes and in our hearts? Is it in my life and yours? When “this last barrier” is breaking down we will see exactly what we see happening today. We need a spiritual awakening! May it begin with you and me (Romans 13:11).

- Charles C. Pugh III


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