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It knows that if its true state be once known, its credit and influence are gone. The tradesman, whose affairs are in confusion, is averse to nothing so much as balancing accounts and settling them; he will have a thousand reasons to produce why it had better not be done just now. Certain accounts must be called in -letters written—such and such persons seen before the thing can be done: and all the while he has no intention of bringing matters to an issue, he is merely gaining time. If one look into his books, there appears nothing but confusion; things omitted that ought to have been set down, and things standing that ought to have been crossed. Thus when we take a first view of the heart, all is chaos and disorder. It is a thing unfolding itself, wheel within wheel; it is a wilderness which we know not how to get through, or where to enter. We know not what to think of our own thoughts and our own tempers; what is nature, and what is grace; what sins are unto death, and what are merely infirmities. We are at a loss to conduct the process of self-examination; and the utmost we are able to do in general is, to ascertain a few facts respecting our state, without being able to come at a comprehensive view of it: and all this because the heart throws into the back ground what ought to be seen, and presents only the unmeaning features, and whatever exhibition it makes its object to misrepresent.
It will be thought by some that the heart cannot be thus deceitful when Divine Grace has changed it. In proportion to our grace no doubt, will be our sincerity and self-knowledge, but St. Paul had such a conviction of the deceitfulness of his heart, that in that place where he warns us against judging others, he tells us, he could not so much as take upon him to judge himself: for though he was conscious of no allowed sin, there might be many things in his heart of which he knew nothing.
During this discussion it must have been a thought, suggesting itself continually to you, that the heart is under Satanic influence. This is to be inferred, not from the deceitfulness of the heart, but from its always exercising its powers to such a mischievous purpose. It is almost a necessary supposition that an external agent must be concerned—one who perverts all the faculties of the soul to effect its final ruin.
Let this then be the first inference from the text, that we have from experience some strong evidences of the scripture doctrine of Satanic agency. The next reflection that we suggest to the believer is, that, he may now understand why Christ is of God, made unto us wisdom.*
For how impossible is it to conceive that creatures so miserably apt to be deluded as we are, should ever be able to extricate ourselves from the snares laid for us by the combined wisdom and wickedness of the
* 1 Cor. i, 30.
devil and the world, with a breast more treacherous than either, were we not led aright, by some invisible hand! Christ, blessed be his name, is an overmatch for the heart, though it were furnished with all the engines of hell
, he can defeat its stratagems and traverse its plans, and he will do so for his people, he will deliver us out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, and set our feet upon a rock, and establish our goings. He has given us his Spirit to be a Spirit of wisdom-a Spirit which enables us to descend into the depths of the heart, and lead into some of its darkest caverns—a Spirit, which by revealing Jesus, makes us no longer afraid to look at ourselves, or to confess before God our secret wickedness. In this
the heart becomes known and purified—it is renewed in its nature, and becomes the abode of sincerity and truth. Christ, therefore, and his promised Spirit, is the remedy we proclaim to men for every evil-to you, who, without Him will fall a prey to your own wicked and deceitful hearts. Those gangrenes are eating their way, and will continue to gain ground, till the whole mass is overspread and become ripe for destruction. O then think of your danger! What though you turn away from the sight of your heart, doth not God know it? He that planteth the ear, shall he not hear; he that made the eye,
shall he not see? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men, and however pure and immaculate your lives may be, he will call you unto judgment for the sin of your hearts.
Learn then where true religion must begin. Mortify the desires of your hearts; oppose its inclinations; thwart its purposes; above all
, pray against its deceits, and yield it up entirely to Christ. Under his care, it will become honest, upright, pure; and be changed from a flattering foe, to a wise and faithful monitor.
Acts xiv, 22. We must through much tribulation enter into the
kingdom of God.
comparing the state of the children of God with that of the ungodly, with a view of ascertaining which of them suffer most in the world, no account must be taken of the common calamities which are incident to mortality, such as sickness, poverty, and death, for these fall to their lot equally. Those sufferings alone are to be noticed which are peculiar to each. The sufferings peculiar to the ungodly are those which are occasioned by the uninterrupted prevalence of sin in the heart; unsubdued pride, love of the world, inordinate selfishness—these create perpetual disappointments and restless anxiety. The sufferings peculiar to the godly are those which owe their origin to the remains of sin in them. Selfwill, intent upon its object, encounters the Spirit of God: and because we strive where we ought to yield, a heart-rending conflict