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Deceitfulness and Wickedness of the Heart.

Deceitfulness and Wickedness of the Heart.

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" The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it?" Jeremiah, xvii. 9.

" The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it?" Jeremiah, xvii. 9.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on May 05, 2013
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DECEITFULESS AD WICKEDESS OF THE HEART.REV. R. VAUGHA," The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can knowit?" Jeremiah, xvii. 9.All saving acquaintance with religion must be preceded by a degree of trueknowledge in reference to ourselves. Religion now is not as it was when maucame forth pure from the hand of his Maker. It then consisted in the natural,*he pleasing, and the delightful expression of all the thoughts and emotions of he human spirit. Religion now, however, presents itself tons in the char<icterof a remedy for those who are diseased. It is no longer the mere utterance of devout thought, of holy emotions, the excitement of simply pleasurable feelings :it supposes a condition far removed from tliat in which human nature was atfirst: and we shall only judge correctly in religion in proportion as we shall befound to have judged correctly as to the extent of the inveteracy of the maladywhich it is now intended to counteract.It is on this ground that the subject to which the text calls our attention is80 manifestly involved. The language which the prophet employs must not beunderstood as referring to any particular class of men, to the men of any ageor country. It is Language studiously set forth apart from all restricted appli-cation: it is of man, in all the broadest of our broad conception of humannature that the prophet thus speaks. or must we suppose that in speakingthus, forcible as the language is, he employs strong eastern modes of expression,which are to be subject to very much explanation and softening, ere we arriveat the real amount of meaning which his terms were intended to convey. Onthe contrary, the passage is a statement partaking of very littl» ornament ; andis meant, therefore, to be received by us according to the usual* signification of the terms in which it is expressed. 'I'here is no escape, witliout disingenuous-ness, from the humiliating contemplation which it urges upon us relative to thepresent state of human nature. We may regard it as a stain on humanity, wemay consider it not a little discreditable to us that it should be at all true; butit is nevertheless the saving of God. Tliat it should not occur to us at onceas an accurate description, is to be anticipated from what is generally taught onthe subject, in the Scriptures themselves; fur here we are especially told that Itis not enough that the doctrine relative to the ])resent condition of the liumannature should be stated in Scripture, but that, in connexion with all suchstatements, however forcible and explicit, there should be grace vouchsafed toxuan to enable him to perceive the truth of these humiliating and alarmingdescriptions.When it is not only said that the heart is "deceitful,' and "dcsperatelv
THE DECEITFUIiESS AD WICKEDESS OP THE HEART. 437•wicked," but the inquiry is put, " VVho can know it?" it may seem at first asthough a charge of presumption would apply to any man who should attemptto ascertain the complex and the subtle character really attaching to it. Yetthose Scriptures which tell us of the importance and necessity of knowing ourown heart ere we can be partakers of any thing that will constitute a groundof hope towards God; the Scriptures which, beyond this, urge upon us to con-nect prayer for divine light with the careful perusal of such Scriptures, lay thetruth before us in the most obvious and impressive terms. I must urge it,therefore, on you, my dear hearers, very seriously — if the statement in our textshould not present itself to your mind, on the first view, as a statement to beliterally taken — to be very careful that this be not a conclusion suggested by thatnatural feeling of self-importance and self-confidence, which Know fromScripture, and from observation, to be inwrought with tht / esent state of humanity upon all moral subjects.We arc to advert to what is stated here as to the heart ; first, to its deception— ♦••deceitful above all things;" secondly, to its wickedness — it is "desperatelywicked • v, 1,0 can know it ?"With regard to its Deception, we perceive the indications of this in thereadiness with which it can misrepresent things — with which it can concealfrom us the tendency of things — and with which it is found even to imposeupon ourselves.The deceitfulness of the heart is manifest from the readiness with which itmisrepresents things.The efi^ect which the. fall has had on the human intellect with regard tonatural objects is not, of course, the object of the present inquiry. How far ithas impaired our poM'ers of discernment with reference to what is just, orproper, or beautiful, in art or science, is another question: that its effects haveleft humanitv only the wreck of what it was, maybe clearly inferred from HolyWrit.We have to do at present with more serious matter. How readily does thistreachery manifest itself in the mistaken views which men entertain of Godhimself. The perfections of the divine nature are not viewed according tothe exhibition of them in Holy Scripture by men in general. ot only do menwithhold their assent from certain things m hich are taught of the Divinenature, assuring themselves that they are not verities.; but they are foundattributing to the Divine Being what is alien from his true character. Accord-ingly the natural man, the man who is untaught by Scripture, and by the
Spirit who has indited Scripture, is described as being " at enmity againstGod;" his mind is not subject to the law of God, in consequence of the enmitythat is in him in reference to the divine nature. The sovereignty of the DivineBeing, for instance — the traces of which we can observe quite as much in thesystem of nature and of providence as in any thing that is disclosed in HolyWrit itself — the divine sovereignty is commonly felt by men as though it werea wrong inflicted on man on the part of Him who presides over human afiairiThe purity and the rectitude of the divine nature is not received as it shouldbe, when men can dare to violate to the extent they do the laws of purity andthe laws of rectitude; concluding, obviously, one of two things — either thatGod has not prohibited these things, or that he is not sufficiently their enemyeo visit thejn with punishment.438 THE DECEITPULESS AD WICKEDESS OF THE HEART.'iTie same is true with refei-ence to many other particuhirs. The fool isready to say in his heart, " There is no God;" and multitudes, wlio do notreach this extent, substitute a god having no existence but in the eye of theirown depraved imaginations, and the view of that All-glorious Being whom itis the great object of the Sacred Scriptures to make known. Here, as in otherrespects, the deceitfulness of the human heart manifests itself, disposing mencontinually, from the views of the divine character which they ought to receivewith all readiness and affection, to indulge in vain conceptions of their own,simply because they would have the God to whom they profess to do homagesuch a one as themselves.The same is observable in the estimate iv/iich men form of every thing in thepresent world. They look to the riches of the world, to the honours of the world,to the pleasures of the world, not as things which have in them, indeed, some-what of worth, and are worth somewhat of effort, and things which, if conferred,should call forth gratitude to God: but they look to them as things in whichthey are to find their chief good. It is from their wealth, it is from thesehonours, it is from these pleasures, that they expect to derive the essence of their Avell-being. Make them rich, and they think you make them happy;give them honours, and they imagine themselves to have reached interminablebliss ; admit them to pleasures, and they think that their heaven is come.What is this but a power of fascination equal to any thing that human imagi-nation can conceive? Where is the immortal creature who has ever separatedhimself for one solitary hour to think of these things, who does not, in theexercise of his own reason, see that all this is folly and madness itself? Yetliere men are persuaded that their chief good is to be found ; they have learnedthrough the deceitfulness of the human heart the power of the deception thatis going on within them ; they have learned that it is an evil thing to have for-saken the fountain of living waters, and to hew out to themselves cisterns thatwill hold no water.

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