« PreviousContinue »
teach you that religion consists in fervour, in impulses, in immediate revelations from heaven, things unknown to the Scriptures, and estranged from piety. They will also tell you that its existence is evidenced by the sudden arrival of scriptural texts to your minds, of which you had no expectation, and for the coming of which you were absolutely unprepared; by the violence of your zeal, by the abundance of your conversation about religious subjects, by high pretensions, and by that spirit of censoriousness which denies the character of piety to sober Christians. The superstitious man will inform you that you must tithe mint, anise, and cummin, and will be perfectly satisfied that you should neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. The frozen-hearted moralist will persuade you that if you speak truth, pay your debts, and occasionally administer to the necessities of the poor, you will find yourselves in the path to heaven, and have nothing to fear from the anger of God, although your hearts will still remain deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. All these are blind guides; and if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch.
In every case of this nature apply yourselves directly and only to sober, enlightened, and pious men, whose lives prove their piety, whose conversation carries irresistible evidence of their wisdom. Especially betake yourselves to ministers of the Gospel, who clearly and evangelically sustain this character. If you walk with these men you will become wise. They will show you the path of life, they will persuade you to enter it. Pour forth to them all your hearts, your sins, your temptations, your difficulties, your fears, and your hopes. The instructions which they will be able to give you will be safe, comforting, full of hope, and full of peace. Their counsels will be a light to your feet and a balm to your wounds. They will take you by the hand, lead you in the path of righteousness, and guide you towards heaven.
III. We also learn from this parable the miserable situation of unawakened sinners.
These persons have not indeed incurred all the guilt and all
the danger of those who have been the principal subjects of this discourse. Still their condition is, and is here exhibited as being, deplorable. "When the unclean spirit is gone out "of a man," says our Saviour. The departure of this unclean spirit, if the commentators to whom I have referred have construed the passage aright, is the era at which convictions begin in the soul. Of course till this time he resided there in quiet. Think what it is for the soul to be possessed by this foul and dreadful inhabitant, and remember that the representation is that of Christ himself. It is therefore just. Sin is an unclean spirit, of sufficient subtlety, foulness, power, and malignity to corrupt any mind beyond the hope of restoration. In the case supposed, the case, as there is too much reason to fear, of not a small number in this house, the excessive danger lies in thisevery such person is at ease concerning his moral condition. This unclean spirit has acquired an entire ascendancy over him, and dwells and reigns in his heart without a rival, and without an attempt to resist his influence, or to escape from his dominion. All is quiet and silent within, but it is the stillness of death and the repose of the grave.
Be roused, then, to a sense of your condition. Open your eyes to your sins, your guilt, and your approaching ruin. Feel that you are in greater danger because you suppose yourselves safe. Your insensibility is the stupor of the apoplexy. You sleep on the top of a mast, and the waves of perdition roll beneath you. How can you hope to escape if you will not so much as open your eyes to see your danger? Remember how often the alarm has been rung in your ears, and has left you as it found you, crying in half-articulated sounds, "A little "more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the "hands to sleep." You have been tenants of the tomb, and have slumbered over the pit of destruction. If you are not lifeless, if you are not hopeless, listen. The voice of inspiration calls to you," Awake, or sleep to wake no more."
THE FOLLY OF TRUSTING IN OUR OWN HEARTS.
PROVERBS XXVIII. 26.
"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool."
In the examination which I propose to make of this passage of Scripture, I shall consider,
I. What is meant by trusting in our own hearts.
I. What is meant by trusting in our own hearts.
The heart is phraseology often used in the Scriptures to denote all the powers of the soul; the imagination, the understanding, and the affections. The propriety of using the word in this manner is sufficiently evident from the consideration, that in most exercises of the soul all these powers are unitedly employed. If cases exist in which one of these powers is exercised without the others, they are certainly solitary cases. Usually, at least, they are exerted together; and, we imagine, reason, and feel at the same time. In this extensive sense the word appears to be used in the text.
To trust in our hearts is obviously to be assured, or at least to be confident, of the wisdom and rectitude of the various plans which we devise for our conduct, and to feel that their
dictates may be safely followed. Whatever may be the object in view, the man, in the case supposed, commits himself and his interests to the direction of his heart, and is satisfied that it will conduct him safely and successfully to that which is good. In the same manner a dutiful child confidently commits himself and all his concerns to the parent whom he loves. The parent is to plan and to control both his business and his pleasure. The child is only to conform to what the parent prescribes. In the same manner, also, a pious man confides in his Maker.
But to understand this subject correctly as well as comprehensively, it is necessary that we should examine it somewhat more minutely. I observe, therefore,
First, That to trust in our own hearts is to rely on our own wisdom and prudence in the common concerns of life.
God has taught us, that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety; that where no counsel is, the people fall; that without counsel purposes are disappointed, and that by counsel every purpose is established; that the way of a fool is right in his own eyes; and that he who hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
But in defiance of all these declarations of the infinite mind, he who trusteth in his own heart feels, in the common concerns of life, assured that he possesses sufficient wisdom to direct his business without any need of advice from others. Mark him with a little attention, and you will easily discern, that, in his own view, his plans are laid with sufficient skill to furnish every necessary promise of success. Persons of this character often have friends distinguished for knowledge, experience, and wisdom; friends who, if applied to, would kindly and cheerfully assist them with their best advice, and with the highest probability direct them in the happiest way for the attainment of their purposes. But, however young, inexperienced, or ignorant, themselves are, and however satisfied of the wisdom of their friends, they are often wholly indisposed to ask advice at their hands. Nay, the younger, the more inexperienced, the more ignorant, they are, the less are they usually disposed to ask or receive advice, and the more inclin
ed to rely upon their own wisdom. Thus we see children in the early stages of childhood hardly ever suspect that they need any direction besides their own. Youths begin to learn their incompetency to guide themselves. In manhood this persuasion very evidently increases in strength, and in middle age ordinarily prompts us to believe, that by counsel every purpose is established. Thus, the more able we become to direct ourselves, the more unwilling we are to confide in this direction, and the more inclined to seek the aid of others. Thus our self-sufficiency declines, as our experience and our consequent wisdom increase.
Those who are young almost always know better than their parents how to avoid danger, to preserve their health, to direct their own education, and to pursue the best and safest road to real happiness. They are more competent to choose for themselves a profession, to form useful plans of business, and to pursue them with skill and success.
But this spirit is not found in the young only. The number is not small of those whom it accompanies through life, and who are thus children until they leave the world. However often they are deceived, and however greatly disappointed, they still go on with an uninterrupted complacency in their own wisdom. They have failed, it is true, of the success which they promised themselves in their past plans; but they are not less sure of succeeding in their future enterprises. Misfortune hitherto has been owing not to their own want of prudence, nor to any imperfection in their plans, but to a series of unlucky accidents, or to the blunders of those to whom the execution of them was unhappily intrusted. But this plainly infers no reason why they should be at all less willing to confide in their future schemes. Thus they trust in themselves just in the same manner as if all their former measures had been only prosperous.
Secondly, To trust in our hearts is to trust in our own schemes of religion.
Persons of this character may be arranged into two classes. The first of these consists of men who form religious systems independently of the Scriptures. By these I intend in