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

All saving acquaintance with religion must be preceded by a degree of true knowledge in reference to ourselves. Religion now is not as it was when mau came 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<icter of 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 at first: and we shall only judge correctly in religion in proportion as we shall be found to have judged correctly as to the extent of the inveteracy of the malady which it is now intended to counteract. It is on this ground that the subject to which the text calls our attention is 80 manifestly involved. The language which the prophet employs must not be understood as referring to any particular class of men, to the men of any age or country. It is Language studiously set forth apart from all restricted application: it is of man, in all the broadest of our broad conception of human nature that the prophet thus speaks. or must we suppose that in speaking thus, 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 arrive at the real amount of meaning which his terms were intended to convey. On the contrary, the passage is a statement partaking of very littl» ornament ; and is 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 disingenuousness, from the humiliating contemplation which it urges upon us relative to the present state of human nature. We may regard it as a stain on humanity, we may consider it not a little discreditable to us that it should be at all true; but it is nevertheless the saving of God. Tliat it should not occur to us at once as an accurate description, is to be anticipated from what is generally taught on the subject, in the Scriptures themselves; fur here we are especially told that It is not enough that the doctrine relative to the ])resent condition of the liuman nature should be stated in Scripture, but that, in connexion with all such statements, however forcible and explicit, there should be grace vouchsafed to xuan to enable him to perceive the truth of these humiliating and alarming descriptions. 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 as though a charge of presumption would apply to any man who should attempt to ascertain the complex and the subtle character really attaching to it. Yet those Scriptures which tell us of the importance and necessity of knowing our own heart ere we can be partakers of any thing that will constitute a ground of hope towards God; the Scriptures which, beyond this, urge upon us to connect prayer for divine light with the careful perusal of such Scriptures, lay the truth 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 text should not present itself to your mind, on the first view, as a statement to be literally taken — to be very careful that this be not a conclusion suggested by that natural feeling of self-importance and self-confidence, which Know from Scripture, 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 "desperately wicked • v, 1,0 can know it ?" With regard to its Deception, we perceive the indications of this in the readiness with which it can misrepresent things — with which it can conceal from us the tendency of things — and with which it is found even to impose upon ourselves. The deceitfulness of the heart is manifest from the readiness with which it misrepresents things. The efi^ect which the. fall has had on the human intellect with regard to natural objects is not, of course, the object of the present inquiry. How far it has impaired our poM'ers of discernment with reference to what is just, or proper, or beautiful, in art or science, is another question: that its effects have left humanitv only the wreck of what it was, maybe clearly inferred from Holy Writ. We have to do at present with more serious matter. How readily does this treachery manifest itself in the mistaken views which men entertain of God himself. The perfections of the divine nature are not viewed according to the exhibition of them in Holy Scripture by men in general. ot only do men withhold their assent from certain things m hich are taught of the Divine nature, assuring themselves that they are not verities.; but they are found attributing to the Divine Being what is alien from his true character. Accordingly the natural man, the man who is untaught by Scripture, and by the

Spirit who has indited Scripture, is described as being " at enmity against God;" his mind is not subject to the law of God, in consequence of the enmity that is in him in reference to the divine nature. The sovereignty of the Divine Being, for instance — the traces of which we can observe quite as much in the system of nature and of providence as in any thing that is disclosed in Holy Writ itself — the divine sovereignty is commonly felt by men as though it were a wrong inflicted on man on the part of Him who presides over human afiairi The purity and the rectitude of the divine nature is not received as it should be, when men can dare to violate to the extent they do the laws of purity and the laws of rectitude; concluding, obviously, one of two things — either that God has not prohibited these things, or that he is not sufficiently their enemy eo 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 is ready to say in his heart, " There is no God;" and multitudes, wlio do not reach this extent, substitute a god having no existence but in the eye of their own depraved imaginations, and the view of that All-glorious Being whom it is the great object of the Sacred Scriptures to make known. Here, as in other respects, the deceitfulness of the human heart manifests itself, disposing men continually, from the views of the divine character which they ought to receive with 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 homage such a one as themselves. The same is observable in the estimate iv/iich men form of every thing in the present 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, somewhat 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 which they are to find their chief good. It is from their wealth, it is from these honours, 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 interminable bliss ; 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 imagination can conceive? Where is the immortal creature who has ever separated himself for one solitary hour to think of these things, who does not, in the exercise of his own reason, see that all this is folly and madness itself? Yet liere men are persuaded that their chief good is to be found ; they have learned through the deceitfulness of the human heart the power of the deception that is going on within them ; they have learned that it is an evil thing to have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and to hew out to themselves cisterns that will hold no water.

The same again is obvious with regard to every thing of morality. How often does the treachery of the human spirit betray itself here. What kind of standard is that which you find generally obtaining among men, in reference to what is moral and M-hat is not moral ? Do you not find names strongly misapplied in regard to their feelings and their states of mind? Are not pride, anger, revenge, even cruelty, too commonly described as nothing more than proper spirit — covetousness nothing more than prudent care? And many are the forms of selfishness in M'hich man is alienated from his fellows as well as from his God, far indeed from being descriptive of their real character. Among the ancient nations of Greece and Rome, there was not a term to express the. idea of wliat we intended by the Avord " humility C they had no conception of that whicli Christians designate by the term " humility," as being in itself an honourable thing; their expression was " base-born:" they wanted the term because they wanted the reality. We sav not that nothing is true in reference to the morals which men adopt apart from Revelation, but we contend that throughout every system of morality which man has adopted, this deceitfulness of the heart is continually manifested by such false representations. 'IMie same, again, is true with regard to religion. What is the system of religion that the majority of persons professing themselves to be Christians entertain ? That a man should declare his belief in certain doctrines, to be^ng to a certain ecclesiastical connexion ; that ho should give some decent

THE DECEITFUL ES3 A D WICKED ESS OP THE HEART. 439 measure of attention to the outward services of religion; that he should be seen at times, at least, if not very regularly, in a church or a chapel ; that he should, of course, abstain from any thing morally improper: if he professes to believe thus, and gives this degree of attention to religious services, all is supposed to be rigiit. And all this with the Bible open before him ! All this with the Book unfolded which tells what men must become before they are fit for the transit from this Morld of corruption to the world of unsullied purity and holiness, Tl'.e very state of mind which the Bible enjoins as that which is alone religion, is regarded by a large class of persons as enthusiasm, as excess of feeling, as something wliich betrays the want of sober thought ; while disgraceful names are invented, and fluently applied to the persons in whose character these indications are seen. The heart is seen to be deceitful, further, in the readiness ivilh ivhich it can conceal from vs the tendencij of things. Where is the man who, Avlien he first yields to sin, really looks forM-ard to, or is seen to possess the power of anticipating, the probable consequences of that first step? And when he does so, does he really feel with Solomon, that " the

beginning of sin is like the beginning of strife, as the letting out of water," which, when it has once made a passage, will gathei* strength and bear away every thing as with the force of an inundation? We cannot believe any such thing. Ye^ in a state and nation that should not be subject to the fascinating and bewildering power that is working in man, cases of this kind are obvious. They see it as distinctly as they see the succession of day and night on our globe. If men are obliged to anticipate a future reckoning, how many of them persuade themselves that the time will come when they shall repent, and when they will avail themselves of certain means which they conceive to be withiu their reach for the repairing of tlie condition into which they are come. Ask the man, while he was yielding to temptation, if he thought with any thing like eorrectness of the consequences that might attend his criminality : he will tell you that the dominant, the almost all-absorbing feeling of his mind was, a feeling of desire towards the pleasure that was before him; that it was this that influenced him, that he never thought of the future : but, if he did turn his thoughts for a moment to consequences, the poAver which the pleasure possessed of bringing into existence in his soul the idea of a future time of misery, no language can describe. What is all this then but the w^ork of deception? The man is led on in the paths of transgression, blind to the perception of their results ; and all this flowing from his own mind, all this resulting from his own guilty thoughtlessness, from his own guilty inattention to the responsibility of the state in which he is placed, and to the voice which bids him look higher, that he may be saved from the consequence of his iniquity. I'hat this is so, you may perceive from the general sentiments contained in the language of Deuteronomy, xxix., where the state of mind to which we have just now referred is described, and the consequences that result from it pointed out as having an intimate connexion with the just retribution of Him who will deal with men according to their deserts : " And if it come to pass, when he hearcth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, sayino-, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to tliirst; the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that

-I fO THE DT;CEITPl»t E8S A D WICKED ESS OP TMB HEART. are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord nhall blot out hij name from under heaven." It is not, therefore, you perceive, a matter of fatal necessity that a man should be blind, but there is a treachery in liis heart ivhich practises (his kind of imposition on himself, which leads me to remark, in the third place, that it is especially obvious on this point.

Various things are described in Scripture as deceitful ; but these things are not deceitful in themselves ; they are so in consequence of the mistaken conceptions with regard to tliem which the mind is disposed to form. They become the occasions of fatal contention and bitter disappointment through the wilful misconception which men entertain of them. Satan is himself represented in Scripture as the being, next to the human heart, in whom there is the greatest amount of treachery; but we are not allowed to suppose that even he is s(» far the dupe of self-treachery as are men. 'I'he extent to which that kind of intoxication which results in regard to all the exercises of the understanding where the passions are disordered and depraved, the extent to which this is the case we cannot determine: but we cannot suppose that when he speaks a lie, he does not know that it is a lie : he is aware of the distinction between the true and the false, however we are to account for the infatuation by which his career is sustained : " the devils believe, and tremble." But the human spirit imposes upon itseJf. The man, for instance. Mho is trusting to a torm of godliness, while he is told that he must possess the powder, persuades himself that all is well. Point out to him with ail possible plainness that that in which he trusts as religion, is no religion ; that it is morally certain, external things on which he confides have no necessary connexion with the state of the soul religiously considered : do this as the Saviour did with the Pharisees who stood around him — tell them that they are blind, and what will be the effect ? They will ask with astonishment, '• Are mc blind?" Readily will they admit that the depraved and the ignorant are deceived and perish, but that with their degree of attention to what bears the character of religion, that they should be blind is not to be comprehended But so it Mas: "blind leaders of the blind." Men may persuade themselves (such is the poM-er of this deceitfulness) that they are doing God service, Mhile they are inflicting the greatest miseries on the best men on earth, the very f^ivourites of heaven. Paul thought that he " ought to do" the things that he did, as a persecutor of the Church of God. And even when the force of this Ireachery shall have been somewhat broken, light from on high shall have been vouchsafed to the soul, and (he spirit shall be separated from the broad road that leads to destruction, and be in the narrow path, even then much of this Mill remain. Was it not so with the disciples Mhen they Mould have called fire from heaven to destroy the inhabitants of the Samaritan village because of their Mant of hospitality? But Jesus said to them, " Yc know not Mhat manner of spirit ye are of." U'^asit not suMith Peter, Mhen full of this Morld's anticijjatinns roncerning his Master's triumph, he Mould prevent his going to Jerusalem, Mhcre our spiritual redemption Mas to be accomplished? "Jesus said unto him, get tliee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me; for tlioii savourest not tlie tilings that be of God, but those that be of men." Peter thought that his conduct arose from pure attachment to the Saviour, not aMare of the amount of Murldliness and selfishness that had become inwrought Mith him, and which masat variance Mith the spirituality that should have prevailed in his mind.

THE DECEITFUL E8S A D WICKED ESS OF THE HEART. 441 Another particular that ought not to be overlooked, is, that men who actually deny all this, or, at least, to a very large extent do so, as applicable to themselves, admit the truth of it in reference to others. They are not the dupes of which M'e have been speaking ; they have been wiser ; they have analyzed their motives, their habits of thinking, their feelings they have sought means of information ; they know the path they tread : they are not to be numbered with the dupes who are on their right hand and on their left. They are sure, however, that the world k full of this sort of deception : they hearken to no man's profession: they know that the noisy patriot is nothing more than a selfish demagogue; they know that tlie religionist who stands out from the mass by the apparent solemnity of his walk and conversation, is a man not to be trusted more than others ; that in all cases there is an under current, there is a mystery of unrevcaled motive at work. Is it not strange that a man's vanity should so far blind his understanding as to make liim believe that he is a wise man, and that all are fools besides — that he is an honest man, and all are rogues besides ? There is no end to this subject : the further we go with it, the more does it develope itself. " The heart is deceitful above all things :" it is a depth of treachery which none but the Omniscient can fathom : and the man who is lejist prepared to admit this, is just the man in whose instance tliere is the most striking confirmation of this truth. We are to advert to what is said of the Wickedness of the Human Heart. We do not hesitate to say that the text is intended to teach that the human heart is universally wicked — unsearchably wicked — incurably wicked. When we say the human heart is uttiversally wicked, we do not, of course, mean that it is wicked to the full extent of which it is capable of being wicked. On the contrary, it is very obvious that there are degrees in human wickedness, just as there are different degrees of strength and weakness in the human understanding, and different degrees of culture with regard to the individual character. We do not mean to say, therefore, that there is not much of what is morally worthy in the hearts of men ; there is a regard for what is honest, there is an araiableness of disposition, there is a considerable degree, even of generosity, throwing a pleasing halo around many a natural character. But we must contend, after all, that in reference to no one exercise of the human spirit can it be said that it is what it ought to be. The taint is universal ; the stain attaches to the purest and the most generous tendernesses of the liuman heart. There is none that doeth good, save one, that is God. There is no movement of the human spirit, considered merely in reference to our fellow creatures, that has not some inordinate selfishness, some blemish connected with it in the sight of heaven, that deprives it of all its fancied unsullied beauty : there is wickedness in it.

With regard to the many, wickedness constitutes, obviously, a very large amount: but if we pass from the circle of what may be considered mere morality, and come to that which is spiritual and holy, the wickedness of which we speak is manifest to a great extent. Men are in a state of alienation to the spirituality of the divine nature: their understanding is darkened, their will is perverted, their affections are sensualized, their appetites are inflamed, their whole nature has become estranged from that temperament, that light, that tendency, which are necessary to their finding their heaven in the service and favour of God.

442 THE DECEITFUL ESS A D WICKED ESS OP THE HEART. In this view it is, then, that we look on the wickedness of men as being universal. It affects their whole character ; it has caused them to be, with regard to every thing that is spiritual, dead in trespasses and sins ; it has severed their connexion with the heavenly world, as entirely as does the stroke of death sever the connexion between the body and the physical world. The mind, as far as the region where seraphs dwell — as ***»: as the sympathies which appertain to cherubim, and the holy natures before the throne of God — the mind, as far as these are concerned, is as though it were not ; there is death upon it, and, with reference to every thing merely moral, there is evil inwrought with it all. The wickedness of the heart is unsearchable : " Who can know it ?" \\c are far from admitting this at first ; but the more we think, if we are at all students of our own mind, the more we must become aware of this truth. The human spirit in this respect is like those chambers of imagery into which the prophet Ezekiel was conducted by an invisible hand, where, as he passed from one portion of the building to another, and as he went across threshold after threshold, the voice was heard to say, " Come, son of man, and thou shalt see greater abominations still." There is nothing more common in the experience of devout men than to be astonished at the development of the remaining sinfulness of their own nature — astonished that these things should have been in them so long, and have been discovered so late — astonished that, after they thought they knew themselves so thoroughly, they should thus find that they have known but little indeed. But while this is the fact, of course we have reason to believe that it must remain for a future world to develope all the evil that belongs to the mind. We are not competent, in the present state, to bear the disclosure : God in his rich mercy makes us acquainted with it by degrees : as we pass on from stage to stage he unfolds successively the depravity which attaches to our best states of mind. And this authorizes us to anticipate that it is only in that world where everything is perfect, that we shall become fully aware of our obligation to Him who has interposed to become our Mediator.

We said this wickedness isincurable. The text describes it as "desperate." Considered with regard to the provision made for it in the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, there is no state of this wickedness that can be considered as in the least degree desperate. The most guilty may be pardoned through the intervention of that blood which cleanseth from all sin : the most benighted may be illuminated through the intervention of that power which of old commanded the light to shine out of darkness : the most hardened may become children of God in spirit, and hope, and desire — of Him whose it is to take away the heart of stone, and give the heart of flesh. Hut in regard to themselves, there is a desperatcness in the evil, palpable, destructive, attaching to this condition of hinnan nature — a desperatcness that is displayed by all that which is on the page of human history, by all that we witness on our right and on our left, by all that we have ascertained, as well as the experience of our own minds. Where is the man who can really believe that he is possesseil of power enough to purify his understanding, to sanctify his soul, to effect the needed renovation of his fallen and miserable nature ! The man who has attempted this with the greatest solicitude, with the greatest energy, intlic belief that it may be accomplished by himself, is just the man who will have the deepest conviction that he has a depraved natur**, that it is beyond a human remedy, not to he cured by human reason or human suasion.

THE DECE1TFUL ES8 A D M'ICKED ESS OF THE HEART. 44% AlV this demonstrates the necessity of that new birth M'hich tlie saored Scriptures enjuin upon us, so seriously afd so often. Well might the Redeemer say, "Except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This birth also must involve something distinct from and greatly superior to water-baptism of any sort : it can be effected only by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, shedding his light upon the darkened spirit, and pouring his transforming and quickening power over the chaos of the deadness of the human soul. This is obvious where there is the slightest degree of earnest desire to be taught ; for how is it possible it should be otherwise ? He that is born after the flesh minds the things of the flesh, but he that is born of the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. I'he tendencies of men are naturally to be careful of what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed; and those who rise at all above this, still rest in the lust of tlie flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The present, the earthly, constitute the boundary of hope ; the region in which the objects are found call forth the solicitudes and the energies of the human soul. Only admit the broad and obvious fact of man s immortality, and who can believe that this is a proper spirit for humanity to be found in, that a being yhould be destined to live for ever, and yet be unmindful of that ybr ever! — that he should be born for good or evil throughout eternity, and live in carelessness of that eternity ! This is not according to the nature or fitness of things : far, indeed, is it from being according to what is stated in the Scripture, as necessary to well-grounded hope

for the future. There must be the change of heart which the Scripture enjoins : the mind must be brought under the teaching from on high, the heart brought under the renovating power from on high, under the influence of faith, and hope, and love, and the dispositions which fit us for the service of God and the kingdom of God. These must be ours, and we must become, in some measure, aware that in us the change has been wrought, that enables a man to say, " My treasure is in heaven, and my heart is there also. Place before me this world's gain, even in the form in which it has been most attractive ; and place before me the hope of the upper, and the better, and the purer world, and I will part with all that is present for the hope of that wklch is future. I will forego every gratification that is unlawful for those pleasures that are in store at the right hand of God." ow, without this state of mind, there is no religion. If the condition of human nature be what it is, you will not wonder that so much importance is attached to this state of mind in the language of Holy Writ. Learn from this subject, further, to see your need of an interest in that Saviour whose salvation it is the great object of the Scripture to announce to men. Can you hope for the favour of God on any other ground than the merit and intercession of a higher and purer nature than your own. What can be so fit to culprits like ourselves as that there should be a Mediator between us and God? Where is the service to which we can look as that which we will take to us as our groui^d of claim into the presence of God ? Is there a single moral achievement— not to say a religious one — that we can coolly review, and feel ourselves satisfied concerning it, that it is altogether even as the eye of infinite purity would have it ■. When our dying moments come, it must be indeed a strange amount of infatuation that would allow us to suppose this concerning any action of our lives. But if this be not in view, watki sliall we say of the amount of impurity attaching to all the rest? Our

44-1 THE DECEITPCL ESS A D AVICKED ESS OP THE HEART. guilt is accumulated also before the bar of God by our neglect of duty as well as by our violation of duty : that which we have left undone, there will meet us ahmg with that wliich we have done contrary to the divine will. These things, if we have moral courage, moral honesty, to keep them still (if I may so speak) before the eye of conscience, that we may examine and judge well concerning them, will bring us to his state of mind who said, " Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord ; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ ; the righteousness M'hich is of God by faith." "Men and brethren, be it knoM'n to you, therefore, that through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins, and that those who believe on him shall be justified from all

things from which they could not be delivered by the law of Moses." Finally, learn self-examination. It is important to us in all departments, but in reference to every thing religious, where we are most disposed to err in this respect, it is of the utmost consideration. " There is a way that seemeth good unto a man, though the end are the ways of death." " There is a generation that are pure in their own eves, and yet is not washed from their filthiness." These are only some of the many Scriptures that occur to tell us of our liability to err in this respect. How often will the formalist be found to be among the most ardent in anticipating the favour of heaven and admission there! " Lord, Lord, open to us," is the very language with which they are described as approaching the gates of the celestial city itself. The man, also, who is a talkative professor of reli2:ion, the Kian who, because he holds certain doctrines, and professes to be attached to certain articles, but whose spirit is unamiable, censorious, in whom there is little, if any thing, to be seen indicating the spirit of the Gospel, will entertain the same confidence as the former, and is as sure to consider himself right because of his being persuaded that certain things are true. Extremes meet in this case, and no man can have been long acquainted M'ith religious parties, and not have met with instances of this kind. ow the escape from this is obvious and imperative : the men who are thus self-deceived are self-deceived with the means of instruction ; and it is because they have not yielded to that instruction. There is an aM-ful passage in 2 Tliessalonians, ii. 11, 12, Mhere it is said that God would " send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." We have reason to believe that it is the law of the divine government that the time comes when men who have trifled with the convictions of conscience, the solemn warnings of Holy Scripture, the affectionate expostulations of Christian ministers, and who have continued formalists in the face of all this, or who have continued to rest their hope of heaven more upon their own creed than upon the Christian character of their heart and feelings — after a while they are led to believe that these things are as they would have them to be: the Pharisee dies, and the Antinoniian dies, and a lie is in their right hand. Brethren, guard against this. " Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know niv thoughts: and sec if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting "* 1. 68 FREE BOOKS


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