The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure--who can understand it?
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE HEART.
1. It is a "mystery of iniquity." The heart is affected by what it contains. It is itself the greatest dupe and sufferer. And, being so inextricably bound up with evil, it is involved in its danger and judgment.
2. Exceeding human diagnosis. No one is so ignorant of his own depravity as the sinner himself; and no earthly eye can read the true significance of the symptoms.
3. Preeminent in this respect. It is the source of it all The master is greater than his work. The center contains all the threads of connection.
II. ITS INTERPRETER.
1. Jehovah. Because
(1) he made it;
(2) he is related to it in its constitution and conscience;
(3) "All things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
2. This qualifies and authorizes him to judge. It is not his only qualification, nor is that the sole reason for his knowledge. But it is obvious that, as knowing man so intimately, he also is able to judge of his state. And he alone has the standard of perfect righteousness. - M.
I. THE EXTREME DECEITFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART.
The heart is deceitful above all things.I. WE ARE TO CONSIDER WHAT IS IMPLIED IN SINNERS KNOWING THEIR OWN HEARTS. They know that they have hearts, which are distinct from perception, reason, conscience, and all their intellectual powers and faculties. But this knowledge of their hearts is not that which is intended in the text. For in this sense they may perfectly know their own hearts, while they remain entirely ignorant of them in other important respects.
1. Their knowing their hearts in the sense of the text, implies the knowledge of their selfishness. Saints love those who do not love them; but sinners love those only who do love them; and all the criminality of their hearts consists in their partial, interested affections. They may love all the objects that saints love, and hate all the objects that saints hate; and yet all their affections be different, in their nature, from the affections of saints. Whether they love or hate good or bad objects, still their love and hatred are entirely sinful, because they are altogether selfish. This they are not apt to know, nor believe.
2. The knowledge of their hearts implies the knowledge of their desperate, incurable wickedness. There is no hope of their ever becoming better from any motives that can be set before them, or from any means which can be used with them. And until sinners see their hearts in this light, they are unacquainted with them, and know not the nature and depth of their own depravity.
3. Their knowing their own hearts implies their knowing their extreme deceitfulness.
II. WHY IT IS SO EXTREMELY DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO GAIN THIS KNOWLEDGE.
1. They are unwilling to know their own hearts. This is true of all sinners. "He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."
2. Another thing which renders it still more difficult for them to know their own hearts, is what the Scripture calls the deceitfulness of sin. All sin is selfishness, and all selfishness is deceitful. They love or hate all objects, just as they view them as having a favourable or unfavourable aspect, in respect to themselves. In particular —(1) They love or hate God, just as He appears friendly or unfriendly to them.(2) They love or hate Christ, accordingly as He appears to be their friend or their enemy.(3) They love or hate good men, just as they appear for them or against them.(4) They love and hate one another, just as they appear to promote or obstruct their interest. Herod and Pontius Pilate.(5) They love or hate the world in which they live, accordingly as it smiles or frowns upon them.(6) They love and hate their own hearts, as they appear to promise good or threaten evil to them.(7) Their hearts lead them to love or hate the means of grace, accordingly as they appear to do them good or hurt.(8) They love or hate convictions, accordingly as they appear to have a favourable or unfavourable aspect upon their future happiness.(9) They love or hate heaven according to the views they have of it. When they view it as a place of perfect and perpetual happiness, they love it, and desire to take up their everlasting residence in it. But when they view it as a place of pure and perfect holiness, they hate it, and prefer to run the risk of everlasting separation from it, rather than to enter into the presence — of a holy God, and into the society of perfectly holy beings.Improvement —
1. We learn that there is but one way for men to know their own hearts; and that is, to inquire why they love or hate, rejoice or mourn, hope or fear, or why they exercise submission, patience and confidence.
2. We learn that saints may more easily ascertain their true character, than sinners can theirs. They sincerely desire to know their own hearts; and they are willing to take the only proper way to discover their true character.
3. It appears that all the changes that mankind meet with in the course of life, are trials of the heart. All changes in men's circumstances, whether great or small, whether from prosperity to adversity, or from adversity to prosperity, try their hearts, and give them opportunity every day to know whether they are in a state of nature, or in a state of grace.
4. It appears from the wickedness and deceitfulness of the human heart, that it is not strange that religious apostasy has prevailed so much in the world.
5. It appears that those are unwise who trust in their own hearts.
6. We learn that sinners are never under genuine convictions until they see the desperate wickedness and deceitfulness of their hearts.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
I. THE INCONSTANCY OF THE HEART. To a certain extent, the inconstancy of the heart is perhaps natural and unavoidable. Everything around us is shifting, changing. Our judgment, our views, our feelings, our passions seem subject to perpetual vicissitude. A good resolution has been formed; but the fervour has soon abated; and the poor heart, which loves to change, has but too quickly followed its natural inclination. This propensity may be referred, in a measure, to the union of the soul with the body. But the chief reason is to be found in the darkness and uncertainty of the mind as to its real good.
II. THE UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE HEART. Eagerly do we make promises in the hour of affliction — but we forget them in prosperity! In sickness we have made a thousand resolutions — in health, we have forgotten them all!
III. THE SELF-LOVE WHICH OUR HEARTS EXHIBIT. Here a man is full of what he calls zeal for religion, and sees not that his supposed zeal for religion is only zeal for his own party, and that it is only exercised from a wish to gain attention and respect from men. Another is full of zeal for correctness of opinion and sees not that it is the manifestation of unholy passions. But oh, who can say by how many various methods men cover themselves from themselves!
IV. THE ILLUSIONS THE HEART IS CAPABLE OF PRACTISING ON ITSELF. It imposes on the understanding: it embellishes the scene around: it arrays every object in deceptive charms. The interest of man sways his understanding, and every object assumes a different shape and colour. And is it not so in religion?
(T. F. Denham.)
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.
1. The heart denotes the inner man, his thoughts, his will, his inclinations, and his affections; or the human soul with its faculties and operations.(1) It is deceitful with relation to God; for we often promise Him what we do not perform, and endeavour to put Him off with external homage, and with a partial obedience.(2) It is deceitful with respect to other men; we industriously conceal from them what passeth within us, and is not fit to show itself openly, and we study to cheat them with false appearances.(3) It is deceitful with regard to ourselves; and our passions often delude us, pervert our judgment, and impose upon our reason.
2. Many causes may be assigned for it.(1) We are changeable by that connection which the soul hath with the body, and with the state of the body which is subject to perpetual alterations.(2) We are inconstant on account of the connection that we have with external objects by our senses. Everything that presents itself before us makes an impression upon the mind. The manners, the opinions, and the passions of those with whom we often converse have no small influence upon us. They work upon our imagination, and produce the like dispositions in us which we behold in them.(3) Another cause of inconstancy is from the soul itself in its present situation; it loves novelty and variety.
II. THE HEART OF MAN IS DESPERATELY WICKED. To be sensible how men in general are depraved, we need only consult history, and consider the common state of the world. These will give us a hideous representation of human disorders and iniquities, both public and private, national and personal. The desperate wickedness of many is such, that nothing but rigour, nothing but jails and gibbets can keep civil society in tolerable order. Who can number up the sins which men are perpetually committing? and all these proceed from an evil heart, as our Saviour says. To give some check to this inundation of evil, the providence of God hath provided various remedies; as the voice of conscience, the advantages of education, the instructions of the wise, the assistance of human laws, the example of the good, the desire of reputation, the fear of infamy, the light of reason, the profitableness of virtue, the pernicious nature of vice, and, lastly, the revealed Word of God. Yet, notwithstanding these correctives, we see and feel how moral evil abounds, even where the Gospel is professed.
III. THE HEART OF MAN IS INSCRUTABLE. Who can know it? says the prophet. That is; No man can know it; or rather, It is no easy matter to know it. There is a general knowledge which we have of the human heart, and a way of judging concerning it, which in the main is tolerably sure. The tree, says our Lord, is known by the fruits; and, in like manner, the heart is known by the actions. When a man's behaviour is vile, and his conversation profane, we may pronounce his heart to be bad; and we are not obliged to put out our own eyes, and renounce our own senses, and to call evil good, and good evil, rather than to censure such a person, or entertain a bad opinion of him. Yet in judging of others much caution and candour are requisite. But the discernment which each person should have of his own heart is the most important. And here one would think that such skill is easily acquired, and doth in a manner obtrude itself upon us. And yet it is certain that in a religious sense it is often hard to know one's self. There are two sorts of self-knowledge, the one a knowledge of feeling and perceiving, the other a knowledge of reflection and discernment. As to the first, we all of us have it without question. It informs us only of what we are thinking or doing, but not of the nature, causes, and effects of our thoughts and deeds. As to the second and true kind of self-knowledge, which is the result of consideration and examination, we have it seldom, and we cannot acquire it without attention and care. It is strange how little we know practically either of our body, or of our understanding, or our heart. As to the body, its defects are usually overlooked by us, unless they be very remarkable, or painful. As to our understanding, we flatter ourselves that we have a due share of it, and observe how deficient our neighbours are in that respect; how one is stupid and silly, another ignorant, a third prejudiced, injudicious, and conceited. Thus he who hath a wrong judgment and a heated imagination decides upon every point with more confidence than persons of a far greater capacity. He who is rough, peevish, and intractable, knows nothing of it, whilst others can hardly tell how to bear with him. So true it is that we know not ourselves. A man owns himself guilty of this or that fault, but, however, he says that his heart is good and honest at the bottom. Weak illusion I since it is from the evil which lurks in the heart that these irregular actions proceed. The difficulty of knowing our hearts appears from those repeated commands in Scripture to consider and search our ways. And, indeed, it is no small task to review our knowledge, our opinions, our judgments, and our beliefs; to recollect our past actions, and the use which we have made of God's blessings, and to compare our practice with our duty. This difficulty also appears from the character which God gives to Himself, that He alone is the searcher of hearts. But observe that God, when He calls Himself the searcher of hearts, means two things; that He alone knows the hearts of all creatures, and that He alone knows them without any mixture of error. We know but little of the heart of other men, and, therefore, should be cautious in judging of them; and as to our own, though we shahs never know it exactly, with all our endeavours, yet as far as we can, we are obliged to acquaint ourselves with it. Inferences —
1. We should entertain a sober diffidence of ourselves.
2. We should not be much surprised or concerned when men use us ill, or disappoint us. We cannot rely upon ourselves, much less upon others.
3. We should take care to give good principles and a good example to those young persons whom Divine or human laws have placed under our guidance and protection.
4. We should be ready to confess our offences to God, and be as strict in censuring our own defects as we often are in condemning those of others.
5. Since the heart of man is deep and close, we should betimes endeavour to get acquainted with our own. But if it be hard to know ourselves, how can we acquire such skill in a tolerable degree? By humility and consideration, by consulting the Holy Scripture, that lamp of God which will give us light in searching into the recesses of the heart; and by imploring the Divine assistance.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
1. One of the ways in which the deceitfulness of the heart manifests itself is in its tendency to blind the understanding in regard to religious truth. To have the mind darkened with ignorance, or perverted by error, is inconsistent with the exercise of holiness, or the practice of true virtue. Evidence is always on the side of truth; but that evidence may be overlooked, or so distorted, that the truth may not be perceived, and instead of it error may be embraced and defended as truth. The reason why the minds of men reject the truth is, the depravity of the heart. Infidelity, and every species of dangerous error, may be traced to the deceitfulness of the heart. If men possessed good and honest hearts, they would search diligently for the truth, and would be disposed to judge impartially of its evidence; and, as was said, evidence being on the side of truth, and the truth congenial with the moral feelings of the upright mind, it would always be embraced. Atheism itself is a disease rather of the heart than of the head. And idolatry, which darkens with its portentous shadows a large portion of our globe, owes its origin to the deceitfulness and wickedness of the human heart.
2. The exceeding deceitfulness of the heart appears in the delusive promises of pleasure, which it makes, in the indulgence of sinful desires. This is so uniformly the fact, that it is a common remark that men enjoy more pleasure in the pursuit of the objects of the world, than in their possession. This delusion of pleasure in prospect, particularly affects the young. With them experience is wanting, which serves to correct this error of the imagination; but even experience is insufficient to cure the disease. In this matter, the world does not become wiser by growing older. There is another deception of the heart which has relation to the indulgence of natural desires. The person may be apprehensive at first, from former experience, that some evil to soul or body may arise from unlawful indulgence. A pause is produced, and hesitation is felt; but appetite, when strong, pleads for indulgence, and is fruitful in pleas; among which none is more false and deceitful, than that if gratified in this instance, it will never crave indulgence any more. And this false promise often prevails with the vacillating sinner; and he plunges into the gulf, which is open to receive him.
3. Under the influence of an evil heart, everything appears in false colours. Not only does error assume the garb of truth, but piety itself is made to appear odious. Indeed, there is nothing upon earth which the carnal mind hates so truly as holiness. But as that which appears good cannot be hated, one art of the deceitful heart is, to misrepresent the true nature of piety and devotion. The fairest face when caricatured, becomes deformed, and appears ludicrous.
4. The deceitfulness of the heart is also exceedingly manifest in the false pretensions which it makes, and the delusive appearances which it assumes. And this deceitfulness not only imposes upon others, but upon the person himself. Under this delusion, men persuade themselves that they are not wicked, but that their hearts are good. Their virtues, or semblance of virtues, are magnified, when seen through the false medium of self-love; and their vices are so diminished, that they are either not seen, or appear as mere peccadilloes, scarcely deserving notice. Such persons are also deceived as to their own wisdom. But the most dangerous form of this deceit is, when persons, never converted or renewed, are induced to believe that they are saints.
5. The deceitfulness of the heart is manifest in the good which we promise ourselves that we will do in future. But the true test of character is, what we are actually doing at the present time. Do we now, from day to day, do all the good which is in our power? Do we now improve our time and talents to the utmost? If we do not, then does our heart deceive us, as to its own real disposition?
6. Another way in which our hearts deceive us is, by leading, us to judge of ourselves, not by a strict scrutiny into our real motives, but by viewing our character through the medium of public opinion, or through the favourable sentiments of our partial friends.Reflections —
1. If the heart be so exceedingly deceitful and wicked, we should be deeply humbled before God that we have hearts so evil.
2. If the heart be so deceitful, we should place no confidence in it.
3. If the heart be so deceitful, it should be watched with care.
4. From the state and character of the heart here given, we may infer the necessity of a change of heart; and everyone should be led to cry to God for renewing grace.
5. We should come often to the fountain which is opened for sin and uncleanness
6. If any of us have been made sensible of the deceitfulness and wickedness of our hearts, and have, in some degree, been delivered from this great evil of our nature, this change, we are sure, has not proceeded from ourselves.
(A. Alexander, D. D.)
I. THE UNPARALLELED DECEITFULNESS, AND DESPERATE WICKEDNESS OF THE HEART. This appears from the following considerations: That it is able to evade the most pointed applications of Divine truth, to resist the most powerful convictions of the Divine Spirit, and to violate the most serious resolutions of the awakened conscience.
1. One might imagine that the unprofitableness and danger of living in a spirit and temper so much below the spirit and temper of real Christians would, when faithfully disclosed, have the effect of awakening solicitude in the minds of those persons whose everlasting condition is so deeply involved. But how often would these expectations be disappointed! Every person makes the application for his neighbour, saying, "Thou art the man"; and with great dexterity evades it himself.
2. When the devotional spirit, the heavenly temper, the holy conduct of the Christian are faithfully described; when his motives and principle, his affections, his objects, and his aims, are disclosed, it is natural to suppose that worldly men, by contrasting all this with their own spirit and temper and conduct, with their own motives and principles and affections, with their own objects and aims so directly the reverse, would be humbled and confounded. But how often are men satisfied with admiring the beauty of holiness, without imitating it; or with pronouncing holiness impracticable, without endeavouring to practise it!
3. In order to give power and efficacy to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit accompanies it to the heart and conscience, and causes men to see its vast importance, and to feel its mighty influence on the soul. Who can think of death, judgment, and eternity; of heaven and hell; of glory, honour, and immortality; and of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched; in connection with his own sins; with redemption; with that newness of heart and newness of life which are taught as necessary to prepare him for the inheritance of the saints in light, without either believing that all these are idle speculations, or concluding that religion is no vain thing? Who has not had the conviction so natural, so true, and so awful, that if he is not prepared to come to the table of the Lord, he is not prepared to meet his God? Have you not the conviction that your life is inconsistent with the piety required of communicants? But how deceitful is the heart which is able to resist these convictions, and to allow you from time to time to go on in the same course of negligence, disobedience, and ingratitude!
4. How little the heart is to be trusted in the things that belong to our peace, is evident from the many resolutions to serve God, which almost every heart has violated, that has been influenced by the truth as it is in Jesus. When we are most determined against iniquity, most shocked with the idea of committing it, and most persuaded that we are stedfast, then we are most in danger. "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?" is language which is seldom used without being followed by the commission of the very sin of which we thought ourselves utterly incapable.
II. THE NECESSITY OF BEING AWARE OF ITS DECEITFULNESS AND WICKEDNESS.
1. It is the most difficult knowledge. There are so many mixtures in the motives of the heart, so many windings, so much duplicity and insincerity, so much false profession and false appearance, that it is impossible thoroughly to comprehend it. Not only can no man trust the heart of another, but no man can trust his own.
2. It is the most disagreeable knowledge. Nothing is so mortifying to our pride. Hence, instead of searching for the deceitfulness and wickedness of our hearts, we feel a strong temptation to let it lie concealed, to shut our eyes against the light, and to avoid the disquietude arising from the discovery of what is so humbling.
3. It is the most desirable knowledge which we can obtain. It is the knowledge of our own deceitful and desperately wicked hearts that renders us careful of our own souls; that humbles us; that leads us to the Saviour; that makes Jesus Christ precious to us; that constrains us to seek the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; that sends us to our Bible, to the throne of grace, and to the table of the Lord.
I. UNREGENERATE HUMAN NATURE IS ENTIRELY UNTRUSTWORTHY. "Deceitful above all things."
1. It distorts the character of God. "God is merciful" — often a plea for continuance in sin.
2. It misrepresents the means of human felicity. Young persons flatter themselves that they have but to drink fully of the cup of earthly pleasure to be really happy. No greater mistake. Others seek it in the acquisition of wealth, settling it in their mind that he who has most gold has most happiness.
3. It perverts the way of salvation. Rites, penances, frames, and conditions are piled up until the Saviour is either hid or barely seen.
4. It misrepresents the nature and excellence of true religion. Does religion include humbleness of mind? The deceitful heart declares that it is "a silly weakness." Does religion include meekness of disposition? The deceitful heart stigmatises it as foolish fastidiousness. A spirit of forgiveness is despised as unmanly. Tenderness of conscience is condemned as ridiculous precision. Spirituality of mind is designated canting hypocrisy, and purity of heart and life a thing impossible.
5. It disguises the true character of sin. "Vice is first pleasing, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed; then the sinner is independent, then obstinate, then he resolves never to repent; then he dies, then he is damned."
6. It deceives itself and endeavours to deceive God (Malachi 1:14).
7. It surpasses in treachery everything else. The mossy swards, the ocean, the desert mirage, the morning bright with sunshine, are all deceitful; but not more so than the human heart. Inconstant as the wind, uncertain as riches, ever betraying and betrayed, who would trust it?
II. UNRENEWED HUMAN NATURE IS FEARFULLY DEPRAVED — "desperately wicked."
1. Its corruption is desperate. "Wicked to desperation." Hence the deeds of violence and despair which prevail.
2. Its corruption is unsearchable. "Who can know it?" Think of Pharaoh insolently rejecting the commands of Jehovah, in spite of plagues and pestilence. Think of Manasseh, Saul, and Peter boasting, then denying his Saviour with oaths and curses. Learn —
1. The necessity of regeneration. Nothing but "a new heart" will meet the requirements of the case, Hence David: "Create in me a clean heart, O God." Hence the promise in Ezekiel: "A new heart will I give unto you."
2. The necessity for self-distrust. "He that trusteth his own heart is a fool." Treat it as you would a man who had deceived you in every possible way. Always act upon the supposition that it is concealing something wrong. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."
(W. H. Booth.)I. MEN IMPOSE ON THEMSELVES RESPECTING THEIR OWN CHARACTER. The human heart is a great deep: a deep so turbid by sin and agitated by passion that we cannot look into it far; a deep which no line yet has been long enough to fathom. The account in the history of the Bible of the depravity of man is not more humiliating than is the account in Tacitus and Sallust, in Hume and in Gibbon; the account in the Sacred Poets is substantially the same as in Shakespeare and Byron; the account given by Paul is the same that you will find in the books of every traveller who has penetrated the dark regions of the heathen world. You admit the account to be true of the world at large, of other men; you take securities of others; you put padlocks and bolts on your stores; you guard your houses, as if you believed it were true. Others believe the same of you; and the Bible holds all to be substantially alike — all fallen and ruined. And yet it is evident that men do not by nature attribute to themselves the character which is given of the human heart in the Bible. Who will bear to be told, though you may go with all the influence of the tender relations of friendship, and all the influence that you can take with you from any official relation, that his mind is "enmity against God"; that "in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing"; that he "is a hater of God"; that he is a "lover of pleasure more than a lover of God"; that he is "living without God and without hope"; that his "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked"? You will hear it from the desk — for you believe that it is our official duty to make the statement; and the statement is of necessity so general that no one feels himself particularly intended. But would you hear it from me, if I should come to you alone, and if I should make the statement with all the tenderness that I could assume? Is it not possible that your heart has deceived you on this point? Let me suggest few things for your consideration. One is, that if the Bible be true, there is no such native excellence of character as you suppose you possess; for in the most solemn manner the Bible declares the whole race to be guilty, and ruined, and lost; and the Bible has such evidences of its truth and its Divine origin as should lead you to suppose it possible that its account of the human character is correct. Another consideration is, that multitudes of men who once had the same view of themselves which you have, have been convinced of their error, and have been led to accord with the account in the Bible. I allude to those who are now Christians. Another consideration is, that there is nothing easier than to deceive ourselves in this matter. You have certain traits of character which are in themselves well enough, and which may be commendable, and you exalt them in the place of others which God requires. You have a disposition that is naturally amiable and inoffensive. So has a lamb and a dove. Is this the love of God? Is that what the law requires? You are honest and upright towards men. Is this the love of the Creator, and is this to be a substitute for repentance and faith? Are you not deceived in your estimate of your own character in regard to the love of virtue? Let me ask a few plain questions. You say you love truth. Why then resist the truth as designed to bear on your own heart and to show you what you are? You are amiable. Why not then love the Lord Jesus Christ? Has there been anyone among men more amiable or lovely than He? You love purity. Why not then love God? Is there anyone more pure than He? You are aiming to do right. Why then do you not pray in the closet, and in the family, as you know you ought to do?
II. MEN DECEIVE THEMSELVES IN REGARD TO THEIR REAL ATTACHMENTS. You think you have no undue attachment to a child. When the great Giver of life takes this child back to Himself, are you willing to part with it? You think you have no undue attachment to wealth. How do you feel when you are embarrassed and when others are prospered? When wind, and tide, and fire, and tempest are against you, and when others grow rich? When your property takes to itself wings and flees away, while others are enjoying the smiles of Heaven? You think you have no undue attachment to the world, and that in the influence which that world has over you, you are showing no disrespect to the commands of God. Let me ask you, is any pleasure abandoned because He commands it? Is any place of amusement forsaken because He wills it? You suppose you have some attachment to Christians, and to the Christian religion. You admit the Bible to be true, and mean to be found among the number of those who hold that its doctrines are from Heaven. Yet does the heart never deceive you in this? Is not this the truth — for I make my appeal to your own consciousness? You admit the doctrines of the Bible to be true in general; you deny them in detail. You think you have no particular opposition to the duties of religion. But is not this the truth? You admit the obligation in general; you deny it in detail.
III. THE HEART IS DECEITFUL IN REGARD TO ITS POWER OF RESISTING TEMPTATION. In the halcyon days of youth and inexperience, we think that we are proof against all the forms of allurement, and we listen with no pleasurable emotions to those who would warn us of danger. We flatter ourselves that we are able to meet temptation. We confide in the strength of our principles. We trust to the sincerity of our own hearts. Professed friends meet us on the way and assure us that there is no danger. The gay, the fashionable, the rich, the beautiful, the accomplished, invite us to tread with them the path of pleasure, and to doubt the suggestions of experience and of age. We feel confident of our own safety. We suppose we may tread securely a little farther. We see no danger near. We take another step still, and yet another, thinking that we are safe yet. We have tried our virtuous principles, and thus far they bear the trial. We could retreat if we would; we mean to retreat the moment that danger comes near. But who knows the power of temptation? Who knows when dangers shall rush upon us so that we cannot escape? There is a dividing line between safety and danger. Above thundering Niagara the river spreads out into a broad and tranquil basin. All is calm, and the current flows gently on, and there even a light skiff may be guided in safety. You may glide nearer and nearer to the rapids, admiring the beauty of the shore, and looking on the ascending spray of the cataract, and listening to the roar of the distant waters, and be happy in the consciousness that you are safe. You may go a little farther, and may have power still to ply the oar to reach the bank. But there is a point beyond which human power is vain, and where the mighty waters shall seize the quivering bark and bear it on to swift destruction. So perishes many a young man by the power of temptation.
IV. THE HEART DECEIVES ITSELF IN ITS PROMISES OF REFORMATION AND AMENDMENT. Permit me to ask of you, how many resolutions you have formed to repent and be a Christian — all of which have failed! How many times have you promised yourself, your friends, and God, that you would forsake the ways of sin and live for heaven — all of which have failed? How often have you fixed the time when you would do this? And yet that time has come and gone unimproved. At twenty, at thirty, at forty, at fifty years of age you may have resolved to turn to your Maker should you reach those periods — but on some of you the snows of winter have fallen, and yet a deceitful and a deceived heart is pointing you to some future period still. It deceived you in childhood; it deceived you in youth; it deceived you in manhood; it deceives you in old age. It has always deceived you as often as you have trusted it, in all circumstances of life — and yet you trust it still. It has deceived you oftener than you have been deceived by any and all other things — oftener than we are deceived by the false friend; oftener than the traveller is deceived by his faithless guide; oftener than the caravan is deceived by the vanished brook; oftener than the bow deceives the hunter; oftener than you have been deceived by any and all other men. There is no man whom you have not trusted more safely than your own heart; no object in nature that has been as faithless as that: — and I appeal to you if it is not deceitful above all things. Conclusion:
1. There is danger of losing the soul.
2. The heart of man is wicked. You have a heart which you yourself cannot trust. It has always deceived you. You have a heart which your fellow men will not trust. They secure themselves by notes, and bonds, and mortgages, and oaths, and locks, and bolts; — and they will not trust you without them. You have a heart which God regards as deceitful and depraved, and in which He puts no confidence, and which He has declared to be "desperately wicked." I ask whether that heart in which neither God nor man, in which neither we nor our friends can put confidence, is a heart that is good and pure? Is it such a heart as is fitted for heaven? I answer no — and you respond to my own deep conviction when I say it must be renewed.
3. I would conjure you to wake from these delusions to the reality of your condition. I would beseech you to look at truth, and be no longer under the control of a deceived and a deceitful heart.
( A. Barnes, D. D.)
I. FROM MEN'S GENERAL IGNORANCE OF THEIR OWN CHARACTER. They think, and reason, and judge quite differently in anything relating to themselves,' from what they do in those cases in which they have no personal interest. Accordingly, we often hear people exposing follies for which they themselves are remarkable, and talking with great severity against particular vices, of which, if all the world be not mistaken, they themselves are notoriously guilty. In vain do you tender to them instruction or reproof, for they turn away everything from themselves, and never once imagine that they are the persons for whose benefit these counsels and admonitions are chiefly intended. If we trace this self-ignorance to its source, we shall find that it is in general owing, not only to that partiality and fondness which we all have for ourselves, but to the prevalence of some particular passion or interest, which perverts the judgment in every case where that particular passion or interest is concerned. And hence it happens that some men can reason and judge fairly enough, even in cases in which they themselves are interested, provided it does not strike against their favourite passion or pursuit. Thus the covetous man will easily enough perceive the evil of intemperance, and perhaps condemn himself if he has been guilty of this sin in a particular instance. But he is altogether insensible to the dominion of his predominant passion, the love of money. It has become habitual to him. His mind is accustomed to it, so that in every case, where his interest is concerned, his judgment is warped, and in these instances he plainly discovers that he is totally unacquainted with his own character. The same observation applies to other particular vices.
II. FROM MEN'S GENERAL DISPOSITION ON ALL OCCASIONS TO JUSTIFY THEIR OWN CONDUCT. If we cannot justify the action itself, we attempt to extenuate its guilt from the peculiar circumstances of the case. We were placed in such and such a particular situation, which we could not avoid; our temptations were strong: we did not go the lengths that many others would have gone in similar circumstances; and the general propriety of our conduct is more than sufficient to overbalance any little irregularities with which we may sometimes be chargeable. Men even learn to call their favourite vices by softer names. Intemperance is only the desire of good fellowship; lewdness is gallantry, or the love of pleasure; pride, a just sense of our own dignity; and covetousness, or the love of money, a prudent regard to our worldly interest. Besides these single determinate acts of wickedness, of which we have now been speaking, there are numberless cases in which the wickedness cannot be exactly defined, but consists in a certain general temper and course of action, or in the habitual neglect of some duty, whose bounds are not precisely fixed. This is the peculiar province of self-deceit, and here, most of all, men are apt to justify their conduct, however plainly and palpably wrong. To give an example: There is not a word in our language that expresses more detestable wickedness than oppression. Yet the nature of this vice cannot be so exactly stated, nor the bounds of it so determinately marked, as that we shall be able to say, in all instances, where rigid right and justice end, and oppression begins. In like manner, it is impossible to determine how much of every man's income ought to be devoted to pious and charitable purposes: the boundaries cannot be exactly marked; yet we are at no loss in the ease of others to perceive the difference betwixt a liberal and generous man, and one of a hard-hearted and penurious disposition.
III. FROM THE DIFFICULTY WITH WHICH MEN ARE BROUGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FAULTS, EVEN WHEN CONSCIOUS THAT THEY HAVE DONE WRONG. We wish always to entertain a favourable opinion of ourselves and of our own conduct, and are displeased with those who endeavour in any instance to change this opinion, though it be done with the best, and most friendly intention. But how unreasonable is this degree of self-love! Were we alive to our true interests, we would wish to become better acquainted with our follies and our faults, and would esteem our faithful reprovers our best friends.
IV. FROM THE DISPOSITION WHICH MEN DISCOVER TO REST IN NOTIONS AND FORMS OF RELIGION, WHILE THEY ARE DESTITUTE OF ITS POWER. Hence it is that so many are hearers of the Word only, and not doers also, deceiving their own selves. Hence it is that so many shew great zeal about small and unimportant matters in religion, who are shamefully deficient in some of its plainest and most essential duties; that so many are punctual in their observance of religious institutions, who are unjust and uncharitable in their conduct towards their fellow creatures. Hypocrisy in all its forms and appearances flows from the deceitfulness of the heart for in general men deceive themselves before they attempt to deceive others.
V. WHEN MEN OVERLOOK THE REAL MOTIVES OF THEIR CONDUCT, AND MISTAKE THE WORKINGS OF THEIR OWN CORRUPTIONS FOR THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We are greatly shocked when we read of the dreadful persecutions which in different ages have been carried on against the faithful servants of Christ; yet these men pretended zeal for the glory of God: nor is it improbable, but that many of them might so far deceive themselves as to imagine that they were doing God service, while shedding the blood of His saints. This is indeed the highest instance of the extreme deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart, and the most awful proof of being given up of God to a reprobate mind. But, in a lesser degree, men frequently practise this kind of deceit upon themselves, ascribing to the Word and to the Spirit of God what is evidently the effect of their own ignorance, wickedness, and depravity.
(D. Black.)I. THE UNPARALLELED DECEITFULNESS OF THE HEART.
1. The false views which it leads men very generally to adopt respecting the safety of their state.(1) It leads some to conclude that they are in a safe state, merely because they are free from the commission of gross sins, and not inattentive to the performance of many moral and social duties.(2) If, in addition to the external decorum just mentioned, and which, as far as it goes, is certainly commendable, there be found also a merely formal attention to some religious duties: then, in too many cases, the deceitful heart prompts the idea that there can be no doubt of the safety of the person in question; nay, that assurance is thus rendered doubly sure.(3) The deceitful heart of others will lead them to rest satisfied with a general reliance on the mercy of God; a reliance this, which may be found even in those whose lives are stained with the grossest immoralities.(4) A fourth class is led by the deceitfulness of the heart to rely for safety on the adoption of a new set of religious opinions, and on a bare and empty profession of the real truths of the Gospel.
2. The delusions which it practises upon us in reference to those sins to which we are most prone.(1) If it fail to persuade us that they are no sins at all, though this is an energy of delusion which it is mighty to practise, it will at least represent them to us as sins of a very venial nature.(2) It would represent to us that one single repetition of the indulgence may not be attended with any such dreadful consequences.(3) Notwithstanding the promise of effectual aid to all who sincerely ask for it, and the assurance that the Christian shall be enabled to do all things connected with his duty through Christ strengthening him, it would suggest the idea that resistance to the commission of the beloved sin is utterly vain (Jeremiah 18:12).(4) Before the commission of our favourite sin, it would dreadfully abuse the mercy of God, and lead us to expect that He will never condemn us to all eternity for a little irregular pleasure or gain; but, on the contrary, be ever ready to pardon us: while, after the commission of the sin in question, it would endeavour to secure our destruction by driving us to despair and by representing to us that our opportunity is gone forever, and our day of grace closed.
II. ITS DESPERATE WICKEDNESS.
1. Every part of it, every one of its faculties, partakes of this depravity.(1) Even the understanding itself, however equal its powers may be to make progress in every department of literature and science, is yet on the most important of all subjects utterly blinded (Ephesians 4:18).(2) The judgment, however accurate in forming its estimate of matters relating to the present life, is yet so completely perverted in reference to the grand concerns of religion, that even the wisdom of God is unhesitatingly deemed by it to be nothing better than absolute foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 23; 1 Corinthians 2:14).(3) The will, the faculty by which we make our selection out of the various objects presented to our choice, is altogether averse to what is really good; holiness being the object of its unmitigated aversion: while there is in it a perpetual and violent inclination to what is evil.(4) The affections are set either on unlawful objects; or, if on lawful ones, yet in an unlawful and sinful degree.(5) The conscience is either mistaken in its decisions, or weak in its influence.
2. The seeds at least of every evil are invariably found there.(1) There dwells pride, swelling at the thought of every circumstance which serves in any way to elevate man above his fellow.(2) There is found that impatience which rises against God and man, when our will is crossed by them, or our expectations disappointed that anger, which is ready to break out on the slightest provocation, or even on no provocation at all; that envy, which is ever ready to repine at the superior prosperity or excellence of another; and that hatred, which often conceals its hostile projects under the mask of apparent reconciliation. There are the seeds of that malice which delights in the misfortunes of the objects of its dislike; and of that revenge which, arrogantly assuming the prerogative of God (Romans 12:19), takes the work into its own hands.(3) It is the heart, too, in which among a host of other evils every sin of impurity is conceived and cherished (Mark 7:21, 22); and which is the seat also of that unbelief which, disregarding alike the Divine promises and threatenings, is the root of every sin, of every imaginable departure from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).
3. Its wickedness will further appear, if we reflect on the aggravating circumstances under which it will prompt to the commission of our darling sin.(1) A man shall be thoroughly convinced of the sinfulness of the action on the commission of which he is bent; shall be thoroughly convinced that those who do such things are worthy of the Divine condemnation: and yet his heart shall urge him to commit it in defiance of such conviction.(2) It would urge a man to sin, notwithstanding the most solemn vows and resolutions: notwithstanding, as in the case of the profane swearer, his sin be attended with neither profit nor pleasure: in defiance, too, of every means which God in mercy makes use of to restrain him from the commission of it.
III. INSCRUTABLE. "Who can know it?"
1. But when we speak of the impossibility of thoroughly penetrating the inmost recesses of the heart, we speak in reference to created beings only. With regard to the omniscient God, He is one who "searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts" (1 Chronicles 28:9): nay, He understandeth our thoughts "afar off" (Psalm 139:2), knows them before they are conceived.
2. Neither, when we say that the heart is inscrutable, do we mean to deny that a very considerable knowledge of it, a knowledge which is sufficient for all practical purposes, is attainable by man. With regard to merely worldly characters, indeed, however they may boast of their penetration into the schemes and designs of others, they commonly have scarcely taken the first step in the knowledge of the unparalleled deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of their own hearts: on this subject they know next to nothing.
3. It is the real Christian alone who attains any adequate and useful knowledge of this kind: and who makes this attainment by means of the influences of that Spirit, who was promised by our Lord for the purpose of convincing the world of sin; by means too of the diligent and humble study of that Worn of God which, when accompanied by that Spirit, proves itself to be "quick and powerful," etc.
4. Yet even the measure of knowledge which he is thus enabled to attain, is not acquired without the greatest difficulty: a difficulty which arises from the nature of that deceitfulness which he is endeavouring to detect; and from the power of that self-love which would still lead him to view his own heart with a partial eye.
1. How great the folly of trusting to our own hearts!
2. How important the duty of watchfulness!
3. The necessity of earnest prayer.
4. In what urgent need we stand of God's mercy in Christ.
5. The indispensable necessity of that great change of heart, which, under a variety of appropriate images, is so repeatedly insisted on in the Bible: which is represented at one time as a being born again; at another as a new creation; at a third, as a spiritual resurrection to a life of holiness.
(John Natt, B. D.)1. Man discovers this corrupt principle by adopting or maintaining a profession of religion hypocritically. Those who are conscious of hypocrisy may adopt and maintain a religious profession merely in some degree to pacify conscience. When this is alarmed by a sense of sin, they are fain to lull it, if possible, by the semblance of holiness. Others may assume a cloak of religion, that in this way they may display their natural abilities, and gain the affection or admiration of the religious: or they may design the advancement of their temporal interests. They use religion just as it serves their own purposes. Some throw aside the cloak of a profession as being too cumbersome, as soon as their purposes are served by it; or perhaps when they find themselves disappointed in their expectations. Others continue to wear it to the end, and will never be discovered, till the Son of Man shall send His angels to separate the precious from the vile.
2. The deceitfulness of the heart appears when men discover greater zeal about matters of indifference, or, at least, of comparatively less importance than about those of the greatest moment. They are perhaps regular in the observation of secret, private, and public ordinances, but in a great measure negligent of relative duties. They are undutiful husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants. You can have little dependence on their word, or confidence in their uprightness in civil dealings. Perhaps they carry on a practice of deceit, extortion, and oppression in so secret a manner, that although suspected by all around, no one can prove it. There are others who go still farther. They place the greatest part of their religion in scrupulosity about matters of mere indifference. The smallest deviation from a common form, which has no other sanction than that of custom, and it may be, not even that of common sense, will be esteemed a grievous defection. The most innocent and necessary recreations will be reckoned unlawful freedoms. Notwithstanding all this warmth of zeal, you may perhaps find some of this character, if carefully watched, almost strangers to a principle of common integrity. They will make conscience a plea for all their impositions on others. But they more generally arise from the deceitfulness of the heart than from any tenderness of conscience.
3. The short continuance of religious impressions, whether on saints or sinners, is another evidence of this deceitfulness.(1) Unrenewed men, when they have heard an awakening sermon, or been visited with some severe affliction, set about external reformation, and, it may be, endeavour to cleanse their hearts and mortify their lusts by prayer and fasting; but the first temptation that assails them effaces all these serious impressions, and plunges them into those sins that they pretended to forsake. Now, as the leading reason of this is that they have not undergone a saving change in regeneration, it argues the great deceitfulness of their hearts, that all their zeal for God and religion, for the purification of their hearts and reformation of their fives, is dissipated by the first blast of temptation.(2) The deceitfulness that also prevails in the hearts of the Lord's people, appears by the short duration of their religious impressions. Often, after enjoying the most comfortable communion with God, and resolving to walk always with Him, they find that the duty in which they have been engaged is scarcely ended ere their warmth of affections and holy resolutions are vanished.
4. This deceitfulness appears by the many delusions of the imagination, in forming great hopes of earthly riches, honour, or pleasure. How often does the poor man build himself up, and regale his fancy with the empty prospect of great riches. How often does the mean man amuse his imagination with the delusive hope — we can scarcely call it hope, for it hath not probability sufficient to constitute hope — with the idea, with the supposition of honour and dignity, to which it is possible he may yet be advanced. If one of his acquaintance has been unexpectedly exalted in his situation in fife, he will consider this as a strong argument for the probability of his own advancement. And is not this vanity of imagination, which all must feel in some degree, because of the natural folly of all, a decisive proof of the deceitfulness of the heart?
5. The extreme reluctance of the heart to believe its own deceitfulness, is a great evidence of its power. So great is this reluctance, that sinners, instead of crediting what they hear from the law and testimony, are apt to take offence at the servants of Christ, when they insist on the evils of the heart; as if they had a pleasure in magnifying the wickedness of man, and in representing human nature as vastly worse than it really is.At any rate, they deny the applicableness of the doctrine to themselves, and proudly say, with the vain-glorious Pharisees, Are we blind also? Learn:
1. The origin of hypocrisy in a religious profession. Of this the natural deceitfulness of the heart is the parent.
2. The only cure of hypocrisy. This is the destruction of the principle of deceit.
3. The danger of this course.
(J. Jamieson, M. A.)
Homilist.The greatest cheat a man has is his own heart.
I. HIS HEART CHEATS HIM OF A TRUE ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF. It tells him that he is morally what he is not, that he is rich, "increased in goods," and needeth nothing; whereas he is "poor, blind, and naked."
II. HIS HEART CHEATS HIM BY FALSE PROMISES OF THE FUTURE.
1. It promises him a longer life than he will have.
2. It promises him greater enjoyments than he will ever have. To all it paints a Canaan; but most find it, not a Canaan but a painful pilgrimage in the wilderness.
3. It promises him greater opportunities of improvement than he will ever have. It always holds out to him a "more convenient season"; but the "convenient season" seldom comes.
(Homilist.)I. IT ABOUNDS IN CONTRADICTIONS, so that it is not to be dealt with on any constant rule.
1. The frame of the heart is ready to contradict itself every moment. Facile now, then obstinate; open, then reserved; gentle, then revengeful.
2. This ensues from the disorder wrought upon our faculties by sin.
II. ITS DECEIT LIES IN ITS FULL PROMISINGS UPON THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THINGS.
1. Never let us think our work in contending against indwelling sin is ended. The place of its habitation is unsearchable. There are still new stratagems and wiles to be dealt with. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory.
2. The fact that the heart is inconstant calls for perpetual watchfulness. An open enemy, that deals by violence only, always gives some respite; but against adversaries that deal by treachery nothing but perpetual watchfulness will give security.
3. Commit the whole matter, therefore, to Him who searcheth the heart. Here lies our safety. There is no deceit in our hearts but He can disappoint it.
( John Owen, D. D.)I. A DIFFICULT SUBJECT TO DEAL WITH.
1. The examination is made by the guilty party into his own character.
2. Nothing more humiliating and painful to man's pride.
II. NO DECEPTION LIKE THAT OF THE HEART.
1. It is the fountain of deceit.
2. It deceives its owner and best friends often.
3. Its deceit is in a large measure voluntary.
4. Its deceitfulness is insidious in its growth.
5. Will be terrible in its consequences.
IV. THE HEART DECEIVES ITS POSSESSOR CONTINUALLY. With regard to —
1. Its motives.
2. Its inclinations.
3. Its safety amidst temptations.
4. Its power of reformation.Learn:
1. To distrust and watch it.
2. To trust in Christ and His Word.
And desperately wicked.1. The universal prevalence of wickedness in the world, in all countries, and in all ages. A great part of the business of the world has relation to the existence and prevalence of crimes; either to prevent, to guard against, or to punish them. Our laws, our courts, our prisons and penitentiaries, our locks and bars, our munitions of war on sea and land, are all evidences of the wickedness of man. No nation legislates on the principle, or with the expectation, that men will not be found wicked. Indeed, civil government itself owes its origin to the necessity which exists of guarding against and coercing the wickedness of the people. Heathen writers, as well as Christian, give testimony to the fact that men are desperately wicked. What is history, but a record of the crimes of men? And not only historians, but poets and satirists among the heathen, paint the depravity of man in the most frightful colours. And all modern travellers of veracity, and especially missionaries, unite in testifying that the picture of human nature, drawn by Paul in his epistles, is an accurate delineation of the present condition of the whole pagan world. And alas! nominal Christians are but little better. Indeed, considering their light and privileges, their guilt is much greater.
2. The desperate wickedness of the heart will appear also, if we consider its aversion to God and holiness. Do men, generally, who have the opportunity of knowing the true character of God, love it as the angels do in heaven? Do they love it at all? If they do, would they not all be found zealously engaged in glorifying God by worshipping Him in His earthly temples? Would they not be found in constant and cheerful obedience to His will?
3. Another evidence of the desperate wickedness of the human heart is, that it never grows better, or makes any true reformation of itself; but, on the contrary, grows worse and worse, as long as it is left to the influence of its own corrupt principles.
4. The heart of man, left to itself, not only never grows better, but this disease may well be called "desperate," because it yields not to the most powerful remedies which human wisdom has ever invented; but increases in virulence under them all.(1) Early discipline and careful education have been considered by some sufficient to reach the seat of the disease and to bring about a radical cure; but the result of impartial examination, is that all the discipline and careful training which have ever been used, can do no more than skin over the foul ulcer of human depravity.(2) Philosophy also tried her power, and has boasted of great achievements; but, while the streams from the fountain of human depravity may have been diverted into a more refined. And secret channel, so as to conceal the turpitude of its character, yet its poisonous nature has not been changed.(3) The desperate wickedness of the heart, not only manifests itself by resisting the influence of all human remedies; but that which exhibits its inveterate malignity in the strongest light is, that it does not even yield to the means of reformation which God has appointed.
5. When the heart appears to be converted, and a visible reformation takes place in the life, after a while these promising appearances, which, like blossoms in the spring, gave ground to hope for abundant fruit, are nipped by the severe frost, or blasted by the chilling wind, and all our hopes are disappointed. The soul was impressed by Divine truth, and the affections for a season warmly excited, but the bitter root of iniquity was not eradicated.
6. No severity nor continuance of pain will ever conquer or remove the depravity of the heart. Many have resorted to self-inflicted tortures, as great as human nature can endure, and have spent their lives in crucifying the desires of the flesh; and they may have, to a certain degree, succeeded in diminishing the ardour of those passions which are connected with the animal frame, by emaciating the body; but this did not reach the real seat of the malady. It lies far deeper than the flesh.
7. Another argument of the desperate wickedness of the human heart is the power of indwelling sin in the regenerate.
(A. Alexander, D. D.)
I. The NATURE of sin is twofold — as it exists in the heart, and as it is seen in the act.
II. The EFFECTS of sin are twofold, as the nature of sin was; there is the guilt of sin, and there is its power.
III. The CURE of sin is twofold likewise; its guilt is washed away in the blood of Christ, and its power is broken down by the Holy Ghost. Why, then, should we be afraid to look at our sin, when we have a perfect cure for it? Have you learned to hate sin? It is not enough to hate the sins of others; but you must learn to hate your own, however pleasant they may be to you, and however long you may have practised them. Nor is it enough to fear the punishment of sin, unless you mourn under its guilt, and seek to be freed from its power
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
( T. Watson.)
( T. Guthrie.)
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