Folly of Trusting our own Seart.



To have the best uses of anything, we must know the end for which it was made, and the characteristics of its constitution.

This is true of whatever is constructed by man or created by God.

Any attempt through wilfulness or ignorance, to divert it from the design of its creator, will issue in loss of time and in probable injury to the operator, and to the object upon which the violence is inflicted. You would make poor headway in an effort to make a type-setting machine do the work of a McCormick's Reaper, or of a common water-pump. Among God's creatures you cannot make inorganic matter secure the results of vegetable life, nor any tree that

grows discharge the functions of an animal.

The oak was designed to grow up in majestic robustness, with weighty body and tough, strong limbs. The wide and deep ramifications of its roots afford sufficient basis for its enormous weight of body and branches. It is made to battle with the storm, and grow strong in its gigantic wrestlings with the tempests. It is thus rendered compact and sinewy, that it may be cut into boards for houses, and sides for the mighty ships that go down into the heavings of the awful ocean.

The woodbine requires no such foundation in its roots, as it is designed to creep on the ground in humility, or to be trained into graceful festoons upon some strong and lofty supporter.

To attempt to cultivate the sturdy forest monarch into the soft and sinuous and graceful windings of the vine, or the vine into the sturdy independence and loftiness of the oak, were to waste one's strength with the certainty of a failure in

the futile effort, and of an injury to the plants.

When we come to examine the heart of man, his passionate and emotional nature, we soon learn that it was not intended to be self-supporting and independent. It does not find its counterpart in the oak, but in the vine. The heart cannot trust to itself. It grovels and lies along the earth until it finds some strong support to which it may attach itself. Up to the height of this great support it will climb. If that support

be low, its exaltation can never be great, for it will never, from the top of its supporter, shoot itself up into independent and powerful growth. It is a very grave mistake in any man to place reliance on his own heart for greatness, or growth, or happiness.

I. Let us describe a few classes of men who


(l.) It is m.ost natural, first of all, to speak of the young. And it is most natural for the young to trust in their own hearts. The heart of a young man is the most early developed part of his nature. His head has not had its growth and culture. The law is, that that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. The coarser is first and the finer last. First the animal man, then the intellectual, and then the spiritual. The young feel the glow and rush of passion. It seems to them to be so much more progressive than sageness and prudence and wisdom. They go so fast that everything which is not in a whirl seems to them to be asleep. They grow impatient of older men, whom they consider timid, without heart and pluck, attributing their moderate counsels to lack of energy and "rush," They forget that this heat of theirs is not strength, and is not a continuous power capable of bearing the strains and pressure of every-day life.

When, therefore, they hear two voices, one

from without, giving caution and advising a steady gait and the circumspection of their ways; and one from within, crying '' P^orward! forward!" the former sounds cold and hard, the latter thrills and lifts them. If it occurs to them that they may meet with difficulties and obstructions, they feel as if all they have to do is to imitate the reckless engineer, and put on a head of steam and leap the obstacle or throw it from the track. The young are so hearty ! If they could but be made to feel that that heartiness is the very thing to have if it can be kept as a servant, waiting on wisdom, and not be allowed to become the domineering master over the head and the whole life! It is the fire, which it is quite well to have under the boiler in the engine, and i/iere it may move

the whole train ; but never yet was the train propelled along any track by setting all the cars on fire.

In his most thoughtful moments, every true young man must admit that nearly all the sad blunders of his life have sprung from ill-regulated

affections too blindly trusted. Our very virtues lean to error's side. Our affectionateness, so sweet and in many aspects so beautiful, betrays us cften into what we sorely regret. The heart of the most noble and pure boy in this congregation is not to be trusted ; it is to be watched and trained and used wisely, that it may not expend upon trifles and worthless objects the strength which it must hereafter be called upon to contribute to the warming and beautifying of life. The heart must never be in the lead. It was not made to guide. It must be taught docility, and it must be taught early. It is a sad sign in any community where the young accustom themselves to make their feelings the standard of judgment and rule of life.

Especially when there comes the sense of having stained the life with sin, is it folly to attempt to find some purifying process to be wrought by the heart. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" asked the royal psalmist. His answer, my young friend, is noteworthy: '"By taking heed thereto according to Thy word."

Your safety is in the resolute bending of your life to the teachings of Holy Scripture, whether your heart feel free to it or not. Listen to no such absurd phrases as "ihe dictates of conscience." Each man's conscience is merely the echo of his heart, his emotional nature, to the decisions of his intellect, and has no influence whatever upon the right or wrong. Do not mistake the desires of your heart for the voice of God, the fierceness of passion for stable strength or spiritual power. Do not be restless under the advice of friends ; do not throw from your necks the reins of God.

(2.) There are those who LOOK INTO THEIR HEARTS FOR THEIR GoD, whose God is really the idea begotten of their desires.

Perhaps you would be surprised if you could learn how large this class is, and that you are in it. You fancy that the God of the Bible is, at the bottom of your heart, the God to whom you acknowledge, at least, that you ought to yield allegiance. Perhaps you are mistaken.

You know the old Greek mythology. They had their gods and goddesses, great and small, and each was the personification of some human passion. Those gods had no existence in reality. There was no Olympus, nor Jupiter, nor Mars,

nor Mercury, nor Minerva, nor Venus. These words do not represent personalities, but ideals. Those gods were "nothing in the world," as the Apostle says. The same Apostle quoted to the Athenians from one of their own poets, who had taught them that they were the offspring of the gods. If it had suited the Apostle's argument, he could have shown them that the gods were their offspring. The whole mythology grew out of the Greek heart and was shaped by the Greek intellect. The Greeks were not the children of the gods — the gods were the children of the Greeks. It is so of all the gods of the heathen; they are made like unto themselves.


You would not wish to bring back the old poetic Paganism, would you ? The temples of the dethroned deities would not be rightly placed even under the sun of our Southern clime, nor be considered ornamental to the hills of our New England landscape. But are you not doing something very like this?

Years ago a noted French lecturer said to his class, " Now, gentlemen, I proceed to create God. " That sounds to you much like blasphemy, does it not? Are you not doing the same thing? He was about to show metaphysically the conception of the idea of God and its growth in the human mind. But your God, perhaps, is formed in your hearts.

Sometimes we hear arguments and appeals which let us into the real moral condition of the man. Some one will strive to show you, for instance, that God cannot pursue such and such a course toward his children — the very course which He has positively declared that He is pursuing, — for the reason that we should not do

so toward our fellow-creatures. The argument implies that God is only a greater man. This is the spirit of the Colenso school. They attack the Old Testament in its God. The Bible says God commanded certain things at which any man of average British or American civilization would be shocked ! You are therefore called upon to give up the Jehovah of the Bible and take the god whose behavior can " pass muster" when reviewed by average British or American civilization! My friends, "the world by wisdom knew not God." You cannot " create God" — the God who made all worlds. Your god will be painfully like yourselves. It is horrible to hear men arraigning their Maker. If He do not reveal Himself to us we shall never know Him. You must find where He has revealed Himself; that is the work for your reason. You must then unquestionably obey Him, yield utterly to Him, feel that that is right which

Folly of Trusting our own Heart.


He does, because He does it ; that is the work for your heart. But your heart must not beget a god. Look into your heart. Examine your moral nature fairly, and then tell yourself whether you do not think that it would be a most anomalous, absurd, and outrageous thing (or you to be the father of your own god ! That is your god which you trust. You must not make your heart your god. And surely you must not try the God of the Bible by the standard of your heart. (3.) There are those who SUFFER their


Present such people any moral teaching, and they will not take it to the Bible, God's standard of truth among men, nor will they even give it

a fair verdict from human reason : but, they must ascertain Xhc'ix feelings. If they feel that the statement is true, they will receive it ; if not, they well reject it. These variable tides of the heart are taken as the measure of truth. Now, if the human heart were perfect, and the instincts of our nature were unerring, we might rely upon our feelings for our belief. But there is not a man in Christendom who does not know that at one time he takes a great delight in the contemplation of a moral proposition which at another time is distasteful or abhorrent to him. There must be some standard outside of ourselves.

Right does not subsist in our nature. Man cannot make right. God only knows of Himself what is right, because He only knows His own will entirely. He must teach it to His poor human children. That in which He teaches it must be the standard. He certainly does not reveal it in our natural hearts. It is most unphilosophical and most immoral to say that what is taught in the Bible must be wrong,

because we feel it to be wrong ; cannot be right, because we do not feel it to be right. And yet not a hundred miles from the spot on which I stand it is said to have been asserted from the pulpit, "If the Bible teach that, let the Bible slide." Then, what is the standard? You must first settle whether the Bible be the Word of God. \{ 710, then you can throw it out of the question. Then you must hunt the standard. But '\i yes, then it cannot be compared with anything else; all else must be compared with it. Otherwise you abandon society to fanaticism. Each man becomes an infallible pope, and an exterminating crusader.

You do not receive such a doctrine because it o^enA.?, your moral sense ?

Do you not know that that may be primafacie evidence of its truth ?

An unhealthy body rejects both wholesome

food and profitable medicine, the very thing it needs. Are you so divine a person that your very emotions are indubitable evidences of the correctness of doctrines? Your self-conceit is almost enormous enough to be sublime. You assume that you are so pure that all pure things will be agreeable to you, and all impure things disagreeable. How did you make that discovery ? Your belief in such a proposition discredits your head and heart at once. No, my friend : you must not trust to your heart for your doctrines, but you must make the doctrines of the Gospel of the Son of God the teachers and formers of your heart.

(4.) There is a class of religionists WHO


This phase of the deception of trusting to one's own heart takes different hues.

You will find some Christians always intensely anxious as to the state of their feelings. If they

can only feel right, that is, have pleasant feelings, have no compunctions of conscience, no distress of mind, be gay or serene, they find a religious life as easy as floating down stream. And no matter what else may be, if they do not have those feelings they increase their wretchedness by reflecting on the absence oi their dear delights. They " trust to their own hearts." Now it must certainly be considered very unphilosophical to exclude religion from the domain of the heart. It is adapted to our whole nature, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. The emotions will be excited by any truly religious process of the soul, but to depend upon the feelings, or to be anxious about the staie of the feelings, is most unsafe.

We may superinduce a condition which seems to be the emotional evidences of a proper state of the soul, and it may be altogccher counterfeit. On the other hand, we rnay be right with God and man, by striving to do right and attain to everlasting life, and yet be in heaviness for a season through manifold temptations. A cloud

may be between our eyes and the sun.

It is not with feeling that we are to concern ourselves, but with diity. That is something which is quite comprehensible. We need be in no doubt there. The post of duty is ours. The feeling may come or go. It is not the first aim of religion to make men beautiful, but to make them strong; not to make them happy, but to make them good. The strong will produce the beautiful in good time, and holiness will produce happiness. Are you doing your duty to God and your fellow-men ? Yes ? Then go about


Folly of Trusting our own Heart.


your daily work, and nightly sleep in peace. You have the ocean in you : do not trouble yourself about the tides.

But some excuse themselves from doing what their duty is, because they do not feci like it ! And they trust their poor, hard, slothful hearts to their destruction. Do not feel like it? You employ a clerk and give him fifty or a hundred dollars a week to do a certain legitimate work at a certain reasonable time. It then becomes his duty. By-and-by he is absent from his post or fails to do his work, and you remonstrate,

" You were not in the office at the right time to-day, nor yesterday: were you sick?"

"No, sir."

'•Any illness in your family, or other cause of detention ?"

"No, sir."


"Then why have you been absent, and why is your work not done?"

"Oh, I do not feel like coming down so early, and do not feel like writing those letters."

Would you quietly accept that excuse and go on paying him his hundred dollars a week, or would you discharge your clerk?

A man owes you ten thousand dollars. You go to collect the bill. He declines to pay. You remonstrate : "Did you not receive the goods?"


"Were they not just what you ordered and I represented ?"


"They were delivered in good time?"


"And this is the day appointed for the payment?"

" Certainly."

"Then why do you not pay me? Have you lost all ? Are you not able to pay ?"

" O, amply able, but / do not feel like it.''''

What would you feel like doing to him? And yet so you treat God. It was your duty to be at such a service. You were absent simply because you did not feel like being present. On the first Sunday of the month was Holy Communion. Some of you left the church after the sermon. How did you dare do so? He is the Lover of your soul, the dearest and best. He gave His life for 3'ou, and died with the desire that all the world might know He loves you ; and so He established this simple, solemn memorial of love and sacrament of sacrifice, to keep alive the memory of His love until He came again.

With lips about to drink the bitterness of death for you, He tremulously said, " Do this in remembrance of Me." Was ever holier duty enjoined

by tenderer reason ? And you did not. Why? Because you did not feel like it.' O, what a horrible reason is this ! O, how terrible must be that worldliness, that absorption in business or pleasure, which kept you from this sacred remembrance! You trusted to your heart and openly failed to do your duty. Print on your minds that saying of John Wesley's, which, if he had more accurately said "fanatical" instead of "enthusiastic," would be, as perhaps it now is, the greatest saying outside the Bible: ^^ Trample under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that you are not to do good tinless your hearts feel free to it."

(5.) There are those who depend upon their own hearts for a supply of strength to resist temptation or to support in trouble.

Assaults upon our moral constitution, call them by what name you will, are familiar passages in the history of each human being. They are unexpected freshets, rising around the edifice of our character and sweeping away, as a flood sweeps, all things that are not weighty enough or sufficiently firmly fixed to resist the surging deluge. No man yet has found himself sufficiently weighty to retain his position when such enormous floods have set in on his soul. He has been lifted, moved, loosed, dropped, and broken. Who ever went out in his strength to meet the Goliath of temptation and has not been slain? There must be other strength. There must be a fixture to a foundation from which we cannot be wrenched. Whatever our purposes, designs, and culture, there is not in us the ability to resist a well-placed and well-pushed temptation. That very state of heart upon which we have relied for success to turn the seductive evil aside, has been the very condition making us most subject to the power of the evil. The door we have placed to keep it out has been the

portal of entrance. The unaided, the unsanctified heart has never been able to make its way through this evil world unscathed, unruined. A proper sense of the infirmities of the heart keeps a man as far as possible from the line of danger. He that trusteth to his own heart rushes into destruction.

Nor are there in the human heart fountains of consolation for the seasons of affliction, depression, and distress that happen to all human lives. The fierce heats that make life a hot and barren desert, dry up the slender streams of the human heart. And yet there are those who know no other founts or wells from which they may draw water for their thirsty souls — thousands who are trusting to their hearts to carry them through

Folly of Trusting our own Heart.



the terrible storms of life — its mighty, its blinding tempests and its fierce and bloody battles. They trust that when father and mother forsake them ; when friend and lover are put into darkness ; when the earth sounds hollow to their tread and the heaven seems a vault of stone to their cry, they will be able to brace themselves and maintain their dignity and comfort by force of their natural will — to look into their hearts and find at least all that may be necessary to sustain.

(6.) The last class I shall have time to mention comprises those who depend upon their good resolutions to repent, if not sooner, at least in the time when they are dying.

A few plain questions ought to show any man the absurdity of such a position. Ought a man ever to repent, change his course of life, of the thought, of feeling ? Why ? Is he wrong ? If

50, is there any more reason why he should repent when he is sure he will not live a day than there is when he is in full health and active business? What is that reason ? Is it that it is his last chance ? Do you not see that tkat reason could never superinduce genuine repentance and change of real character? The very fact that he was taking advantage of the supposed last chance would deprive his supposed repentance of all its valuable characteristics, its voluntariness, and its hatred of wrong. The desire to dodge the penalty and the abhorrence of the sin are two distinct things. The man that duly repents would rather live in hell right than dwell in heaven uiro?ig.

No; if you put off your repentance to the day you are dying, I must assure you that you will not repent then, because you cannot. The fact of the deliberate postponement will preclude the possibility of the mental and moral condition necessary to a real change of heart.

In contemplating the time of your departure,

lay aside the thought of pain and weakness, the snapping of dearest and strongest ties, and all strangeness of the position of a soul 'about to invade unknown territories of being. Suppose they should have no effect upon you; is it probable your heart would prompt you to repent? If so, does not your heart prompt you now? If it do prompt now, why do you not repent? There is some reason. You are strong enough to conquer the feeling, or you are too weak to yield to it. Will you not be strong enough in the dying hour to postpone the work, or too weak to accomplish it ? Every day that you do not repent increases your moral weakness, and the last day of your earthly existence will be your very weakest day.

A man caught in the rapids of Niagara river is warned to pull oar and come out of his peril to the shore, while far above the Falls. Suppose he should say to himself, ' ' Of course I must go to shore ; of course I do not intend to be dashed

over that fearful precipice into the tumultuous caldron that boils at the bottom. But 'not yet. I will float a while down this pleasant stream." Do you believe that when he comes to the edge of the precipice his canoe, his oar, his arm, and his will are to be stronger to pluck him from his danger than they were higher up the river ? And do you not know that the power of the stream and the momentum his frail bark has acquired are incalculably greater just at the time of destruction ?

And you — what are you doing? To the heart which befools you when you have all your faculties best about you, you are going to trust yourself at that time when you are least able to detect its wiles. You expect to approach the edge of Niagara, increasing in speed every second, and, just at the instant when you are moving most swiftly, and the bewildering light of all that is horrible in the white hell that boils at the bottom flashes up on your brain, you expect to be able to lean back on your oars and pull yourself directly along the line at which you feel the

enormous pressure of that immeasurable tide, into a place of safety. None but Almighty God could perform a feat like that. Your postponement of your reformation to the hour of death is just such mad trusting to your poor, weak, foolish heart.

II. Having incidentally pointed out the wrong in the particular cases we have noticed, it remains simply to indicate the general reasons for the assertion in the text.

(i.) A man is a fool who trusts in his own heart, because he trusts to what he knows is untrustworthy.

It is a common saying among the merchants, that if a man swindles them once, it is his fault; if a second time, it is theirs. In the ordinary affairs of life we have prudence. We do not fall a second time into the same pit. The most astute and prudent may, at any time, be led once to trust what is not trustworthy, simply because he has not had the means or time to ascertain its

reliability ; but he that trusts what he knows will deceive him is simply a fool, as the text says. Now every man knows that the human heart is not to be trusted. Take the whole circle of your acquaintance. Hear what each says of all the others. Believe half of it. What a picture that presents of human nature !


Folly of Trusting, our own Heart.

The heart deceives others. There is probably not a single transparent heart in this assembly. There is no man who would open his whole heart to his mother. or his wife, no matter what may have been the confidential intimancy between them.

And even when we strive to live as honestly as possible toward our fellow-men, we find our hearts deceiving ourselves. We had supposed ourselves honest, until some great gain offered a bribe. We had believed ourselves pure, until some huge and ugly lust overwhelmed us. We had fancied ourselves brave, until some sudden apparition of danger frightened us from our proprieties. O ! then, what humiliations followed ! We can endure to have deceived our fellow-men, humbling as that discovery is; but nothing so grinds us in the dust as the discovery that we have deceived our own selves, and become the dupes of our own hearts. There is no man who has examined himself who has not made that discovery at some period of his life, and he is a most fortunate man who has not made that painful discovery repeatedly. Is he not a fool who, after this discovery, still trusts? What do you think of a man who trusts a rogue — a rogue whose frequent discharges from prison have been as frequent entrances upon courses of villainy, — and trusts him as if he were ihe spot29

less and incorruptible judge ?

(2.) And he trusts what he knows is wicked. We know the wickedness of our own hearts and the wickedness of other hearts. No man trusts any other man to all he has. No wise man fails to take precautions and securities. It has become so common that no one makes any objection to a demand for security. All such precautionary acts cry out against the poor human heart and confirm the terrific verdict of the Holy Scripture : " The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked P^ What do checks and guards and vouchers mean ? What say your bolts and bars, your iron safes, your locks and keys, your bonds, your laws, your police, your courts and prisons ? Do they not cry out, " He that trusteth in the human heart is a fool?" And there never was a man arrested by police, convicted by jury, sentenced by judge, imprisoned by jailor, or hanged by sheriff, who has not been, at one period of his life, as pure as you, and having just as much trust in his own heart. Every sinner has trusted to his own heart,

and found it deceitful and wicked. Is he not a fool who, in face of such enormous warning, repeats the madness ?

Let me read you a striking passage from the

writings of Sir James Mackintosh. It is a marvellous specimen of style, putting great and many thoughts in a few words. But it is not as a specimen of fine English and admirable rhetoric I adduce it, but because it brings an unintended proof of what I am striving to impress. The great lawyer probably had no thought of the moral uses to which the passage might be put. He was thinking of the grandeur of the science of law. I read it slowly. See how pregnant is every phrase. " There is not, in my opinion, in the whole compass of human affairs, so noble a spectacle as that which is displayed in the progress of jurisprudence ; where we may contemplate the cautious and unwearied exertions of wise men through a long course of ages, withdrawing

every case, as it arises, from the dangerous power of discretion and subjecting it to inflexible rules; extending the domain of justice and reason, and gradually contracting within the narrowest possible limits the dom.ain of brutal force and arbitrary will."

His "opinion" is worth having. He was a great philosopher and a man in public life. He surveyed " the w/^f/<?t(?;«jJrt.rj of human affairs." He saw many great spectacles therein, but there was no "so noble a spectacle" as the " progress of jurisprudence" " displayed." And when called to contemplate that, what do we behold? It is the march of right into the domain of wrong. It is a great work employing great men through great ages. Todowhat? " Unweariedly" these " wise men" were to make, not simple attempts, but " exertions" through a long course of ages, to withdraw " every case," not occasional cases, " from the dangerous power of discretion." Why is the power of discretion dangerous ? Cannot good and wise kings be trusted to administer affairs at discretion ? No, the very posses32

sion of power is dangerous. The human heart is not to be trusted in the best and strongest and loftiest men. No discretion ! The noble science of jurispi'udence trusts no human heart. To " rules" that are " inflexible," which even the heart cannot bend if it would, every case is to be, not simply referred, but " subjected." See how this master paints human nature. The world of action is in the ''domain of" either " brutal force" or " arbitrary will." Jurisprudence labors to "contract this domain" within the "narrowest possible limits," and to do this by " extending the domain of justice and reason."

What a tremendous satire on human nature ! Is there anything among the fervid poets to equal this fearful picture by the cold-blooded lawyer ?

Folly of Trusting our own Heart.



And now, sick of human nature, saddened by the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and depressed by the remembrance of how fondly we have trusted our fellow-men, and how grossly we have been deceived, is it not time to ask ourselves whether there be not some One whom we can trust, upon whom we may rely, who will never leave nor forsake us, whom sickness and sorrow and poverty and death will not drive from us? Is there such a One, greater and better than our hearts ?


Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, accepted martyrdom near the close of the second Christian century. He was probably the angel of the Church in Smyrna to whom Christ, by the hand of St. John, wrote, "Be thou faithful unto death,

and I will give thee a crown of life." When the Roman consul urged him to curse Christ, the noble old .saint said, "What! I have trusted Jesus eighty and six years, and He has done me nothing but good ; shall I desert Him who has

been so long faithful to me ? I am a Christian." And refusing to be chained, he stood amid the fagots and told them to fetch on the fire. Whether the story be true, that the flames refused to burn him, but made an arch over his body, and that when he was pierced with a spear the blood extinguished the flames, we know that this is true, that our Lord Jesus Christ did not desert him, but stood by him, and kept his glorious manhood in its blessed integrity, so that he lived a whole man and died an unbroken man, and was greater in dying than selfish men are in living, and happier in dying than sensual men are in living.

There is your trust. Rest on Him. Believe

that every word that proceeded out of His mouth is to have the full reliance of the whole soul. Live by it. Never doubt it. When Christ says one thing and your heart says another, hear Christ, obey Christ, trust Christ, and you shall never be confounded, and never discover that you have been a fool.




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