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There are other graces which we seem to see in ourselves, and are mistaken. Religious considerations sometimes appear so pleasant to us, that our hearts are full, and we speak to all of the happiness of religion. This we suppose must be Christian experience—this is the joy and peace promised to the saints: which joy is more to be suspeoted than any other. It is very often no more than the animal spirits elevated by something that pleases self, and merely taking a tinge, a slight coloring from religion. Rejoice in tribulation, with a sick and dying body, destitute of friends, temporal comforts, and all other aids to cheerfulness; or rejoice when your will is contradicted, and you are put to great inconvenience, and we will readily grant that
your joy is genuine: but in most other cases, it is very much to be suspected.
The heart very often makes use of the bodily constitutions of men, to impose upon them. Many give themselves credit for being humble and sober, because the constitution being naturally sedate, has no tendency to lead them into excesses to which ardent tempers are prone. Others impetuously carry all before them, and despise the rest for want of zeal, whereas their own zeal is no more than the heat of their blood. If we would take the measure of our progress in those tempers to which our natural constitutions are most averse, we should more justly appreciate our
real character. It is by pursuing the opposite method, that we fall into mistakes.
Thus are saints, as well as sinners, greatly deceived in many important particulars. Now no outward things practice fraud upon us. In the creation of God, there is nothing which is not subjected to rules, by virtue of which all things continue as they were from the creation; above all, God's word remains the standard of truth: yet we are constantly deceived. It is evident therefore, that there is a principle of delusion within—the heart must be a deceiver. We have next to shew that it is deceitful above all things.
Powers of deceit may be estimated in various ways, but chiefly like other powers by the effects which they are able to produce. Deeper policy is necessary to defraud a man of his estate than to deprive him of his garment, and deeper still to change a dynasty. Now the heart if left quietly to weave its own web, will never leave off till it brings out death; nothing less than the everlasting ruin of both body and soul is the result of its machinations, if it be allowed to complete them. Men exhaust their powers of invective against the enemy of our nation and stand aghast at the unexampled success of his plans, but they have within their own breasts a foe more insidious; one, whose scheme, if matured, will bring upon them far more extensive mischiefs. For what can the craftiest politicians of this world do, but alter somewhat of the form of things, and vary what God intended should be varied. But the operations of the heart are connected with the destinies of eternity; if it fail, the soul may dwell with the angels, itself a companion for them; if it succeed, the soul sinks to hell, to be for ever with the devils. And all this it does purely by fraud! The potentates of the earth find power either actually brought into action, or exhibited to intimidate, necessary to the execution of their schemes; but the heart uses no instrument but deceit. When the soul is Tost, it does not fall the victim of violence, but goes as a willing subject.
If the heart did not practise its deceits to the extent it does--if it deceived us no more than other things do, it deserves to be called the chief deceiver, for being able to do before our own eyes that, for which others require distance and concealment. It is certainly more uncommon when we are mistaken in the character of persons whom we live with, whom we converse with, from day to day, whom we have known for years, and observed in a great variety of situations, than in the character of those who seldom come under our notice. Persons who can wear a mask in such circumstances, and not be discovered, are certainly finished hypocrites. What then must we think of the heart which we have always with us, and may inspect when we please? The occurrence of outward events is not necessary in order to put it into a new position, so as to enable us to view it in a different aspect. We can suppose cases, and imaginary circumstances will be almost as true a list of the state of the heart, as real. Thus we have abundant means of discovering its bent and purposes: yet after all, it remains in a great measure unknown.
The Word of God is given to us to serve as a rule to shew its obliquities-a line to fathom its depths—a clue to guide us through its labyrinths—a fire to try its nature: yet it remains unknown!
The Word of God puts us on our guard against the deceiver; it has given it a stigma that we may learn it; it mentions some of its wiles; holds up as warnings, persons who have been duped, and roundly asserts that he that trusteth his own heart is a fool. Now other deceivers, if they found the ground thus preoccupied, and measures taken for their recep tion, would despair of attempting any thing with success; but the heart sports in its own deceivings; it lays its plots at leisure, and is confident of escaping detection. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. The silly animal sees what is doing, yet flies as soon as possible into danger. Thus it is with man. He seems berest of reason when the heart exerts its influence: 50 superior is its skill and ingenuity, and so irresistible its fascinations.
It is still more extraordinary that after we ourselves have had trial of the falsehood and treachery of our own hearts, as well as been warned of what others have suffered in this
way, we should still listen with credulity to its tales.
In other cases, when any one has imposed upon us and is detected, we have done with him; or, if future intercourse be necessary, we take care to remember what sort of person we have to deal with. But the heart may deceive as often as it will, and we still continue to trust it.
Sometimes however, we determine in good earnest to examine the heart; we are resolved to call it to account—to remain in ignorance no longer. We begin; not many minutes pass, before we find ourselves thinking of something else, as remote from what was to be the subject of our thoughts as the east is from the west. With such quickness and dexterity does the heart produce something to amuse us when we are seriously proceeding to business! We recollect ourselves and go back to the work; the heart now begins to recommend delay. The proposed examination will take up time, and requires leisure; if we are in the city, we must wait till we are in the country; if surrounded by friends, we must stay till left more to ourselves; books must be read, and judicious friends consulted; no serious evil, it is conceived, will result from thus deferring the work for a season, for time will be adding to our knowledge, and we shall be more capacitated for a work of this nature. The heart has all the deceitfulness of a tradesman whose atfairs are involved, and for the same reasong