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VII. ON THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE HEART.
The word of truth declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked : who can know it?" Jer. xvii.
The deceitfulness of the heart is so great, that no human penetration can discover its extent, or detect its various windings.
Fully to know this hidden evil is the prerogative of Jehovah ; for when the question is asked, “who can know it?" the important answer is given, “I, the Lord, search the heart and try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings."
The holy, ever blessed Trinity, three persons in one Jehovah, can alone raise man from the ruins of the fall, and restore him to holiness, happiness, and heaven.
7 How vain then are all attempts to new-model the old Adam. Some for this purpose, employ civilization amongst savages, and polite education amongst those in more refined society, Civilization and polite education do indeed improve the mind and manners in respect to worldly matters and social intercourse. The wild savage becomes tame and peaceable, domestic and industrious. But without the sanctifying grace of God, communicated through the faithful preaching of the Gospel, the rude barbarian, though chained by the links of civilization, still retains his nátural darkness respecting the true God; and, his love of sin, in all its hateful deformities.
If we turn our eyes from the civilized heathen, to his superior in the scale of intelligence, the polished and well-educated inhabitant of a christian country, we behold in this latter character, science, taste, politeness; all that can charm the mind and imagination in the brilliancy of wit, strength of intellect, and sportive flights of fancy; yet even this polished stone cut out of the quarry of nature, and rendered so beautiful by art, is still destitute of real worth, whilst devoid of those qualities which alone can render it precious in the sight of God.
Such a character, the world's idol and the Gospel's bane, is held up as the pinnacle of excellence, whilst utterly abhorrent in the eye of him who seeth not as man seeth ; and who hath declared, that, while man looketh at the outward appearance,
he looketh at the heart.
Hence we see the necessity of converting grace, whether in the rude, or the more polished parts of the human race. In all, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. In all, sin reigns, till divine love dethrones the tyrant, and brings the humbled sinner to the feet of Jesus.
We cannot have a more convincing proof of the corruption of our nature, than that proneness which we continually feel to rest in the creature, and to find our satisfaction in earthly things.
This alienation of the heart from God, may and often does exist to a most awful extent, under the fair garb of amiability of temper, and the creditable profession of orthodox Christianity. It is therefore possible to be highly esteemed amongst men, and yet be an abomination in the sight of God.
The holy Scriptures declare, that God will not accept of a divided heart. We must love God supremely, or we do not love him at all. We must rest altogether upon his grace as manifested in the gift of his beloved Son, or our partial dependence will be found a delusion.
The language of the Almighty Father is, “my son, give me thy heart.” O ! happy hour! when the heart is cheerfully and without reserve given to a gracious God.
As all sin lies in the departure of the heart from God, so all holiness is concentrated in this unreserved surrender of the heart to him. Herein lies the secret of holiness and of happiness.
When the heart is once truly given to God; when the affections flow delightfully towards him; when the will is swallowed up in the divine will ; when the whole soul is devoted to the service of its Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer; then the fruits of righteousness will appear and abound; then joy and peace will gladden the heart; and hope and love will unite to prepare the believer for his eternal rest.
But, it is most awful to think how little the blessed God is regarded and obeyed by creatures whom he has endued with reason and reflection.
Man, although formed to shew forth the praises of Jehovah, is of all his lower works, the only creature who rebels against his sovereign will. ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider.” “ The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming ; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.” “ Hear now this, 0! foolish people and without understanding ; which have eyes and see not : which have ears and hear not: fear ye not me? saith the Lord : will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail ; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone."
When we read the sacred pages of revealed truth, what an awful catalogue of crime meets our eye.
What unbelief, what pride, what sensual lust, what covetousness, what supreme attachment to the world, what daring independence and contempt of the Almighty, what entire forgetfulness of God, and abominable idolatries—what gross impurities, what envy, malice, cruelties, and love of blood, what deceit and fraud, what superstition, hypocrisy, and formality, what crimes of every name and character stain the history of our fallen race, and prove by an incontrovertible evidence, that we are born in sin, and are by nature the children of wrath.
For such a world of hateful sinners, JESUS DIED !
O! stupendous miracle of mercy ! angels desire to look into this mystery of love. But 01 amazing infatuation, man, for whom this mercy was provided, man, to whom this mercy is offered, man, who so greatly needs it, and who without it, must perish for ever, is careless and indifferent, yea, most awfully opposed to it!
We do not dislike mercy, but we dislike the channel through which it flows.
We do not dislike forgiveness, but we dislike the purity of heart connected with it.
We do not dislike heaven as a place of rest from toil and sorrow, but we dislike those dispositions and affections which alone can qualify us for the enjoyment of it.
Whilst we would gladly be saved from future misery, we cannot part with present sinful attachments: therefore we wilfully renounce the infinite joys of heavenly glory, and choose the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season, with all their tremendous consequences in a future world. Awful delusion! Lord, save us from such a miserable choice and condition.
In the midst of this general aversion to the humbling, purifying, elevating doctrines and precepts of the Gospel, there is, in every age, “a remnant according to the election of grace," who most gladly and thankfully embrace the rich offers of mercy made to a lost world through the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. These happy souls receive Christ into their hearts by faith, obtain pardon and peace through his blood, and are renewed in the spirit of their minds through the power of the Holy Spirit.
They walk in humble fear and holy obedience; are admitted as heirs of glory into God's everlasting kingdom; and reign with Christ their Lord and Saviour for ever and ever.
Blessed Jesus! thou who art the kind Physician of souls, heal this fatal distemper of my fallen nature-an earthly mind. Spiritualize my affections -elevate my views-enlarge my heart. soul with thine own self. Let me not grovel here below, fond of the perishing vanities of time. Wean my heart from the fugitive enjoyments of sense, and fix my affections upon thyself, the eternal unchanging source of good. o ! satisfy me with thy mercy and that soon. Hasten to help me, for thou art my God.
Short-sighted man can only see
To his all-searching piercing eye,
Wash me in Jesu's blood divine;