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and declare, that not only was the outward deed | O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me blameless, but that all the motives and feelings from the body of this death?' connected with it, both as to the matter and manner of the performance, were blameless too, and were such as would, in every respect, be regarded as perfect, not only in the superficial estimate of his erring fellow-creatures, but in the sight of the holy and heart-searching Judge, with whom we have to do?
But in farther confirmation of the truth here stated, we appeal to the universal confession of sin, (for by all it is acknowledged in words,) and to the peculiar emphasis and deep feeling with which it has always been confessed by the truly pious of every age. The more enlarged the acquaintance they have obtained with the extent and spirituality of the divine law, and the more they have studied in contrast with this, their individual dispositions and character, the more clearly have they perceived, and the more bitterly have they lamented their many short-comings and transgressions. Go back to the Old Testament saints, and witness holy Jacob. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life.' Witness Job: If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am perfect, it also shall prove me perverse. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Witness Moses: Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.' Witness David: 'Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.' Witness Isaiah: Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips.' Witness Jeremiah: 'Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways.' Witness Daniel: O Lord, righteousnesses belong unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, because we have sinned against thee.' Witness Nehemiah, in a prayer, too, uttered in reference to his good deeds: Remember me, O my God, concerning this also; and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.'
Turn we to New Testament saints, and we find the same humble and ingenuous acknowledginent. Simon Peter, overawed by the presence and power of the holy Jesus, exclaimed: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' The beloved disciple John testifies: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' Even Paul, when distinguished by the highest measure of spiritual attainment by mortal ever possesssed, is nevertheless heard groaning out the complaint: I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Yea, it is worthy of remark, that as if to place the fact of man's sinfulness beyond all doubt and controversy, the word of God, in recording the errors and faults of the saints of old, exhibits them as at times failing most in the exercise of that particular grace or virtue by which, in general, they were most eminently characterised. Abraham, the father of believers, gave way once and again to unbelieving fears. The man Moses was very meek above all the men upon the face of the earth,' yet even he was overtaken by sinful anger, and spoke unadvisedly with his lips. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, but it was Job who cursed the day of his birth. Solomon was wiser than all men, yet how egregiously did he play the fool! No disciple more tender and loving than John, yet it was he who joined with his brother in proposing to call down fire from heaven to consume an entire village of Samaritans. No disciple so bold and undaunted as Peter, yet Peter alone denied his Master. Lord, what is man!
Do not all these considerations lead to the conclusion, that if corruption and depravity were merely of occasional and accidental occurrence, there would surely be some exceptions; but as no exceptions have ever appeared within the knowledge or the memory of man, we must infer, that the corruption is corruption of nature, that the depravity is depravity of heart. Seeing then, that the perfect law of a perfect God demands a sinless righteousness, which is not to be found in sinful man, let us renounce all dependence on our own doings, in whole, or in part. Like a humble Christian of former times, let us lay all our good works and all our bad works in a heap together, and let us flee from it to Christ the Saviour, that in him we may find sweet peace.' And let us rejoice in knowing that these imperfections of the 'just man' are found only upon earth!' In heaven the spirits of the just are 'made perfect.' There the people are all righteThe remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity.'
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?' Jer. xvii.
THAT is not the language of figure, but of fact. It is not a hasty complaint uttered by some sullen misanthropist, nor a charge brought against
any one individual, because deemed pre-eminent There is scarcely an object within the range of in wickedness. For the credit of our common human thought or feeling respecting which man nature we might wish it were possible to soften is not prone to err, and be mistaken? down the terms in consistency with truth; but most of all are we in danger of being deceived that may not be, for no expressions can be less in judging of ourselves. The generation that liable to misconstruction, than those which are existed in Solomon's days has never become here employed, by the great Searcher of hearts, to extinct 'the generation that are pure in their describe the lamentable condition to which our own eyes, and yet are not washed from their hearts have been reduced through sin. What filthiness.' We are apt to imagine that we excel that condition is we can only hope to know aright in moral beauty, and are rich in spiritual attainby divine teaching. ments, while, in God's sight, we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.' We approach the throne of mercy, not with the prayer, 'God! be merciful;' but with the selfgratulatory acknowledgment, God I thank thee that I am not as other men ;' and 'thinking ourselves to be something when we are nothing, we deceive ourselves.'
Men are represented in the bible, as 'deceivers, and being deceived,' hypocrites in regard to others, deluded in regard to themselves. From every quarter are we exposed to the influence of deception. We live in a deceitful world, where we tread on enchanted ground, and are in danger, every moment, of sinking into quicksands. Riches are deceitful; they promise happiness, but yield only anxiety. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain;' the notice of the great, and the friendship of the good, are alike unsatisfying and uncertain, and so is all honour, save that which cometh from God. Yet these things are but passive instruments of deception, from which the heart takes occasion to deceive itself; for it is in its own nature deceitful above all things.' Were it not, indeed, for the deceitfulness of our own weak and wicked hearts, neither a deceitful world nor a deceitful tempter would prevail so much against us.
Who knoweth the mind of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?' And yet it is precisely that, by which alone we can truly know ourselves, which may most mislead us in the study. The hearts of others we know not at all, and of our own the little knowledge we possess, or can attain to, is limited, and very confused. In watching the suggestions of the mind, in analysing its feelings and motives, and in reviewing its operations, we may be said to resemble him who saw men as trees walking,' so indistinct and erroneous are our perceptions. Yea, not only is the heart in itself deceitful, it is full of deceivers. By him who alone knows it, it is declared to be corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.' Our every vicious principle, our every unhallowed propensity, our every depraved habit, is a deceiver, and leads us into captivity as much by art as by violence. Sin, indeed, generally, is represented as a deceiver; it dares seldom appeal to the understanding, but insinuates itself into the affections, first intoxicating the soul, and then polluting it; and no wonder then that the deceitful heart should become so 'desperately wicked.'
How frequently do men's hearts deceive them with regard to the nature of their religion! A fierce persecutor will persuade himself that he is doing God service, when killing his people. A degraded idolater will gave his first-born for his transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. 'He feedeth upon ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, so that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, 'Is there not a lie in my right hand?'
How deceitful is the wicked heart as to the
fearful progress of indulged sin! Who upon his first entering upon a vicious course, ever duly contemplated whither it would lead him? A prophet looked earnestly in the face of Hazael, and burst into tears. In fancy's eye he saw him mount the throne of Syria over the murdered body of his sovereign. Hazael shuddered at the thought of a crime so repugnant to his present feelings, and exclaimed, 'What! is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?' And yet he was not slow in fulfilling his predicted destiny.
How deceitful is the heart in blinding us to our danger when we expose ourselves to the contagion of vice! Young persons, especially, imagine they may stand in the way of sinners,' and yet be secure from sin. But be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.' 'Can a man take fire into his bosom, and yet his clothes be not burned? Can a man go upon hot coals, and yet his feet not be burned?' Did we rightly know the weakness and treachery of our own hearts, instead of going to the full length of what is lawful, we would hate the very garments spotted by the flesh, and abstain not only from the practice, but from the bare ‘appearance of evil.'
How deceitful is the heart in filling us with an
overweening conceit of our own wisdom, and | a presumptuous confidence in our own strength, whether for duty or trial, for service or suffering! He that trusteth in his own heart is a 'fool;' so said the wisest of men, Solomon, and he lived to exemplify the truth of the maxim in his own person. Though all men,' said Peter to his Lord, 'be offended in thee, yet will I never be offended. I will go with thee to prison and to death.' Alas! in a few hours he denied, with oaths and curses, that he had ever known him.
How deceitful is the heart in concealing or palliating the baneful effects of sin in this world, and its dreadful consequences in the next! The sinner, in following his own heart's lusts, dreams of nothing but pleasure; he is tempted with the bait while the hook is kept out of sight. And even when, by a sense of sin's present bitterness, the conscience is awakened to a sense of future danger, how ingenious is the deceitful heart in devising the means of lulling it asleep into a false and fatal security. It suggests that the evil is not so very great after all; that there are many as bad, if not worse, than we are; and that it will be time enough to think of preparing for judgment when we receive warning to die. But be not deceived; God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'
Well might the prophet ask, 'who can know it?' Even a heathen has told us that know thyself' came down from heaven. None can fathom the heart's depths, or explore its windings, but the omniscient God, whose pure but mysterious workmanship it originally was. 'I, Jehovah, search the heart, I try the reins.'
'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.'
'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh, Ezekiel xxxvi. 26. How aptly and beautifully do God's promises and man's prayers illustrate and respond to each other! He gives the command; Make you a new heart!' The command excites the prayer, 'Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.' The prayer draws forth the promise; A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.'
What is the grand characteristic of the old heart, so deceitful and desperately wicked? It is a 'stony heart.' Take up a pebble, and feel it. How cold! how hard! how utterly destitute of sensation and life! If you try to bend it, it will break sooner than yield. If you strike it,
it will resist, and seem almost to return the blow. If you lay upon it a burden, it will be sensible of no weight. If you apply to it a seal, it will take no impression. You may break it, or grind it to powder, still it has all the qualities of a stone, a lump of insensible matter; without vital warmth, vital energy, or vital motion.
Such-like, according to the testimony of God, is the heart of every unrenewed sinner. is as hard as the nether mill-stone-cold, obdurate, senseless, unsusceptible as the rocky adamant. And hence when it is brought into contact with any of the great spiritual truths of the bible, there are no corresponding vibrations, no suitable emotions; every thing about it betrays the torpor of insensibility and the chillness of death.
Now in the illustration that is here presented, of the vital change effected in regeneration by the Holy Ghost, we may trace a striking | analogy between man's animal and mental economy. That organ in the human frame which we call the heart, our Maker has constructed of a soft, elastic, fleshy substance, and it is necessary it should be so formed, in order that it may carry on with regularity its important functions. Were it to lose any part of its flexible fleshy texture, the circulation of the blood would be greatly impeded, if not altogether stopped; and, as is well-known, this is what really happens in the fatal disease called the ossification of the heart. That disorder consists in some parts of the heart becoming indurated or changed into a hard, bony substance, and by that means an impediment is given to its free motions, and the energy of its action is gradually diminished, until it wholly cease to beat. See, then, how well the word of God is illustrated by his works. As a hard and stony heart could not possibly carry on the process of circulation, so when He, who makes all things new, engages to renovate the old man, we perceive with what beautiful propriety he promises to take away the ossified and useless organ, and to substitute the heart of flesh-soft, muscular, pliable, regular in its movements, and thus capable of circulating through the new and spiritual man, all the holy truths of his word, and all the blessed influences of his grace.
Mark the Author of the change. It is none
other than God himself. He expressly and ing his estimate, both of men and things, viewing emphatically claims the work as his own. True them no longer in the deceitful twilight of
religion, both in theory and practice, is of divine original. It never would have had an existence in the world without the revelation of God, and it never will have had an existence in our souls, unless by God's working in us mightily.'
Observe the completeness of the change. this disease of the heart all palliatives are inadequate; the cure, to be effectual, must be radical. To think of modifying and reforming a heart of stone were vain and hopeless. The induration which has produced the callousness that is described as being 'past feeling,' must be made to disappear; the ossified organ must be taken away, and a fleshy heart restored. Such, accordingly, is the remedy here promised and provided. A new heart, a new spirit that is what is bestowed on all who are born again. Designed as they are for new work and a new world, they must obtain a new nature. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. The Testament Christ hath left us is a New Testament. We have in it a new and living way of access to God; a new name, a new priesthood, a new commandment, a new promise; new sacraments, a new sabbath, a new song. And we look for a New Jerusalem, in the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Now in order that we, ourselves, may be made conformable to all these new and glorious arrangements, we too must be made new. Hence the command; Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Put off the old man, and put on the new; serve in newness of spirit, walk in newness of life.' And hence the promise; A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.'
time, but in the manifesting light of eternity. He obtains, also, a new will, causing him to delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man; and along with this new spirit he receives a new heart, which implies the renovation of all the feelings and affections of the soul, leading him to hate sin because of its turpitude, and to love holiness because of its beauty, and to desire heaven because there the people are all righteous.
Now as the characteristic of the old heart is, that it is a heart of stone, so the characteristic of the new heart is, that it is a heart of flesh. No longer insensible to divine things, it is a soft and feeling heart. Is it brought into contact with the word of God? The tender heart, like that of good king Josiah, is humbled on hearing God's words. Is it brought into contact with sin? The heart that is waxed gross feels little; the conscience that is seared as with a hot iron feels nothing; but the tender conscience, like the apple of the eye, is offended with a mote. Is it brought under the influence of affliction? The same fire which hardens the clay will melt the wax. 'My flesh trembleth because of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments.' Is it led to view the sins of others? Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law.' Is it led to view the miseries of others? It feels for them, and with them, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep. And the tender sympathising heart will always be accompanied with the tongue of kindness and the hand of bounty.
Let us beware of mistaking the real nature of this spiritual transformation. It is not a change of creed, but of character; not new manners, but a new mind. It is not to be confounded with warm sensibilities, or temporary emotions. Pharoah, Saul, Ahab, Judas, obtained another' heart, but it was not a new heart. The new heart is one that can feel after God, and find him, and is sensibly alive to the powers of the world to come.' It is the subject of new principles, motives, and aims; it glows with holy love, it beats with holy ardour, it prompts to holy obedience.
Not, however, that in this promise of a new spirit, there is any thing intended like a destruction of the soul's identity. The change spoken of is not a natural, but an intellectual and moral renovation. The faculties remain substantially the same, but a new and spiritual influence is impressed upon them, a new and heavenly bias is given to them, and new, even divine strength, is imparted, for their right direction, and their proper employment. The renewed spirit has new perceptions, by which he sees himself as a sinner, ruined indeed, yet redeemed, and discovers, in the gospel, the light of the divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ. He has a new un- grieved at the hardness of your heart? Here is derstanding, enabling him to discern spiritual a promise, full without limitation, and free withthings in a spiritual manner. Hence he recog-out exception. One thing only is requisite, but nises and adopts a new rule of judgment in form- that one thing is indispensable; it is that you
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Reader, how is it with you? Are you renewed in the spirit of your mind?
plead the promise in prayer. For it is in refer- saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be ence to this very assurance that the declaration inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for is made at the close of the chapter; Thus them.'
'But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,' 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
prospects which he unfolded, he dispelled the darkness of heathenism, and the gloom of Judaism, and upon them who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, he caused light to arise.
What a contrast to this Declarer and Revealer
of Deity, God manifest in flesh, the Light of the world, is presented in the 'god of this world,' the prince of darkness. He it was who led astray our race at the first; and the whole world is still AN object, though within the ordinary sphere of said to lie in the wicked one.' He is the evil vision, may be rendered invisible to us in various spirit that even now worketh in the children of ways; as by the want of light to make it mani-disobedience, who 'walk according to the course of fest, by the loss of eyesight to perceive it, or by this world, according to the prince of the power the intervention of other objects which conceal it of the air.' As he leads them captive at his will, from the view. The glorious orb of day, how- and holds them as his bond-slaves, they may be ever conspicuous and splendid in itself, shines said to serve him as their lord; and hence not unto the man who is blind, or who is im- he is called the prince of this world, the god of mured in a dungeon, where its cheering beams this world. Not that he is the world's rightful never enter. And in like manner the object here governor-far from it; but how then does he rementioned by the apostle, though it not only stands tain his usurped and despotic authority? It is revealed in clearest brightness, but is itself the by blinding the minds of the unbelieving world, light which maketh manifest, yet by multitudes so that, (such is the emphatic import of the oriremains unperceived, for unto them it shineth ginal) the illumination of the gospel of the not-from them it is hid. glory of Christ may not beam upon them.' Well What is the object in question? It is the does he know, that one single ray of light from light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the heaven, one glimpse of the divine glory in the image of God.' The sun in the firmament ap- face of Jesus Christ, would break the charm, and pears an impressive emblem of the divinity-an shiver his yoke in pieces. He knows that if image of the resplendent lustre, the inexhaustible God is once pleased to reveal his Son' in a sinenergy, the all-pervading penetration, the ever-ner, that sinner will not continue submissive to present influence, the rich bounty, the unchange- satan's government a moment longer. And, able perpetuity of the Father of lights,' the therefore, he has recourse to wiles and snares, Dispenser of all good. And in the absence of devices and depths, by means of which he makes revelation, we need scarcely wonder that this them account that their most perfect freedom illustrious display of the Deity should be adored as which is in reality the most inglorious vassalage, God. Yet here is one who looketh forth as the the severest bondage. morning, clear as the sun, fair as the moon, yea, The apostle had been describing the vail that altogether lovely, of whom it is said, 'Let all the is on the heart of an unbelieving Jew; but he angels of God worship him!' He is the image now intimates that besides the natural vail that of the invisible God, the brightness of his glory, is spread over all nations, Gentiles as well as and the express image of his person; the Sun of Jews, satan employs other expedients to obscure righteousness, the light and life of men. In be their views of gospel truth, and bar the entrance holding his gospel, the people who sat in dark- of gospel light into their minds. Of these the ness saw a great light. By the doctrines he most common and the most fatally successful, are preached, the precepts he inculcated, the exam- the things of this present world, which are fitly ple he exhibited, the death which he died, and the represented as a thick vail, woven by this world's