The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I. THE EXTREME DECEITFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART.
1. Its misrepresentation to us of outward objects. The seductive influence of the world around us is felt by all, and complained of by many; but yet it is to be remembered that this influence is nothing more than the feeling which we entertain in regard to it; it is nothing less, nor more, than our loving these outward things, our delighting in them, as though they were a real good. Now, is such a mew just and right? The influence that is grafted so deep upon us is after all nothing more than a delusion as to the sentiments which we hold in reference to the whole world, its fashions, its pleasures, its joys, and its gains.
2. Its perversion of the truth. How is it that there can be such different sentiments in respect to the Deity of the Messiah; in respect to the reality of free and sovereign grace as the only source and means of salvation; in regard to the truth and reality and necessity of the atonement; of our acceptance before God — the Holy and the Just? Who does not see that there must somewhere lurk some secret wish that the truth should be either as the mind imagines it, or perceives it to be? Who is not aware that there is deception at the bottom?
3. The false estimate which it teaches us to form of ourselves. You need not to be informed how it will magnify our excellences to our own view, and how it will diminish our defects.
4. Its repeatedly enticing us to that which we have so many times condemned and seemed to abhor. The heart may still be in love with that sin from which the conscience recoils. Oh, how sin will undermine the conscience; how sin will dissipate all our holy resolutions and desires!
II. THE WICKEDNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART. Let it be remembered that the deceitfulness of the heart, of which we have before been speaking, is a part of its wickedness. The wickedness of the human heart is here spoken of as being desperate. It is a disease which has gone to the last degree, which has spread itself through all the powers of the mind, through all the vitals of the soul. Its desperateness, then, is extreme, and its hopes of improvement from any human remedy, desperate also. As it grows older it will not necessarily grow better; but, if left to itself, it will rather become worse. Nature seems to have some self-rectifying provision within her, so as to subdue some partial disorders of our constitution; but this is not the case in radical defects and fatal diseases. So it is here. There may be some propensities even in human character which may go to counteract the operation of certain others, yet these do not reach the innate character of the heart, and never will they tend to purify it. We shall not, therefore, be improved merely as we advance in knowledge — as we receive merely the chastisements of Divine providence — as we merely come under the instruction of the Word of God. No affliction would sanctify, no outward means would purify — the grace of God alone is adequate to the work.
III. LET US ENDEAVOUR TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, "WHO CAN KNOW IT?" This is merely a strong negative in regard to human knowledge. No human being knows the heart of his fellow man, nor his own heart. He knows not the deep recesses of iniquity which are there. Much has been developed through the history of life, but there remains much more. "None can know it." We dwell not on this, but we answer according to the intimation of the next verse, God only knows it. God knows it, and He has His eye upon it. All your thoughts have been known to Him, and the effect of all your wilful perversions of the truth, all your attempts to put away from you the power and the effect of the impressions of His Holy Word, all your trifling with the obligations under which you have been laid, the feelings with which you have come to His house, and been listening to His Word; whether there has been a resolution to turn to God, or whether there has still been a wilful continuance in estrangement from Him. He has seen it all; and if He has seen it all, He knows it, and He will deal with it as it deserves. Oh, what an awful consideration, that sinners are in the hands of an Omnipotent Being, who will give to every man according as his work has been! But there is another thought — that is, He can deal with us according to the necessity of the case. He has grace in abundance, and he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Parallel VersesKJV: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?