The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
It is a dangerous opinion that however a man may deviate in his general practice from the habits of morality and religion, yet still he may be possessed of a good heart at bottom. If we trace the rise and progress of this baneful opinion, we shall find its origin in the confusion of ideas prevalent relative to the determination of what is to be called good, and what evil. This has given rise to so untoward and irreligious s separation of the heart of a man from his outward actions, as to decide that the former may continue to be good, while the latter are continually evil. This notion is supported by much irreligious literature. There are writers who affect to measure the worth of every action by the standard of sensibility — an ambiguous word, that is made to overleap every fence of judgment, to throw down every bulwark of rational conviction, and to exalt itself above everything that is serious, solid and virtuous. The heart of such an one as pursues wicked courses, notwithstanding all the insinuations, assertions, and misrepresentations of most dangerous and deceitful writers of every kind, "is of little worth," and yet it is a false and sinful principle to maintain the contrary. If such a heart can be called good, then must virtue and vice have changed their names and qualities; then must religion consist in a total disregard for all serious impression and an absolute forgetfulness of Almighty God; then did our blessed Saviour deliver the admirable precepts of Christianity, to be corrected, revised, altered, and overturned by the maxims of worldly honour. As youthful folly is but too generally the foundation of sin, so is infidelity but too often its superstructure or final result; and the heart is undoubtedly the seat or fruitful parent of both. The heart, in a natural sense, is the seat of life and action. The heart signifies, in a moral sense, the vital principle of all good and evil, of all that purifies or defiles a man, of all that procures him blame or praise, and that renders him justly liable to reward or punishment, either in this life or another. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," so are his actions. Is, then, every one who doeth any evil corrupt at heart? No; every one doth evil at times. But it any one should think he might do much evil without corrupting his heart, he is grievously mistaken, and will soon find himself so. May not a man's actions be so poised between good and evil, that it is hard to determine which preponderates? There is a mixture of good and evil in every character, but this is seldom in such equal proportions as makes it difficult to ascertain whether the good or evil preponderates. It is hardly possible for any length of time to keep the balance even betwixt the good and the evil. Either good habits will ere long gain the ascendancy in the heart, or evil ones. Another objection is — Do we not say there are no hopes of reclaiming such an one, he is bad at heart; and does not this seem to imply that a man may have committed a great deal of evil before he can be said to be bad at heart? While the heart is balancing between good and evil, we may not call it bad; when it bends down and keeps down on the evil side, it is bad, and most difficult to be reclaimed by any human means. Yet we may not say that any heart becomes so bad as to be beyond all convicting and converting influences. But it may be said — Is there not a degree of evil actions where the heart is manifestly good? The persons hinted at in this objection are those who have the best intentions in the world, the best dispositions, but whose understandings and judgments do not keep pace with the excess of their goodness. Such persons do not always plan with discretion, or execute with prudence. And they are often the dupes of crafty and designing persons. A good heart is liable to error. Since, then, there is no foundation for that pernicious opinion that a man's heart may be good whilst the general tenor of his actions is immoral and evil, let us earnestly avoid being misled by such idle sophistry, such false reasoning. Let us not listen to the specious allurements of refined sentiment, or to the subtleties of vain philosophy. Let us not set up the imaginations of man above the plain doctrines and precepts of God.
(C. Moore, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.