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government of God, but a departure, in many respects, even from what may be called the common dictates of humanity. There is a visible falling short of the ordinary powers and energies of nature herself, when we turu, reluctantly as we do it, from the pursuits of time to those of eternity. And, if we consider the infinite multitude of arguments which meet us on every side, and wbich might convey to our very senses the evidences of a present God, there is to be traced, we must acknowledge, a degree of obstinate insensibility in the crime of neglecting them, which amounts to a dimness of the mental eye, a dulness of the perceptions of the soul, and a want even of those natural affections which, in the common relations of this life, we unhesitatingly cherish and approve. “The ears of this people,” said our Lord, quoting a passage of Isaiah, “are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears.” And it was in pursuance of the same line of argument that he carried on the citation in the words of our text, " this people's heart is waxed gross." The point, therefore, which this expression leads us to observe is -- that our sins, independently of the violation of God's express commandment which they involve, introduce moreover into us a moral distemper which benumbs and congeals the most natural affections of the heart, and which gives them, at least, a dangerous and a false direction. And I conceive that we shall be engaged in no unprofitable task in endeavouring to establish this position, and to draw from it the practical conclusions to which it naturally leads. We shall learn to view sin in a more aggravated point of view, when we perceive that, besides its other condemnations, it has something in it which-looking to the neglect which it implies of all that God has done to restore our fallen humanity-may well be termed, positively unnatural : that, while it is ruining our prospects without, it is breaking in also on the internal economy of our nature itself, and committing a worse devastation there : that it is not only rebellion against God, but treason against ourselves: that, while it is carrying misery and desolation abroad, it is working yet more fearful ravages amongst the best sensibilities of the soul: that, without piety, it is vain to look for a rightly regulated heart, alive, from pure and proper motives, to the claims whether of earth or heaven upon its charities, its tenderness, or its love. And that both original and actual sin deaden the soul to the sweetness of a thousand pleasures it was destined to enjoy, and freeze up the fountains of some of the best and purest of the varied affections of humanity.
. In examining this question, we shall first be led to enquire in what manner the text applies to the condition and the consequences of sin, and afterwards what changes are effected in the soul by the influence of true religion.
But before we proceed further, it will be proper briefly to refer in this place to a principle which, though very commonly overlooked by professing Christians, cannot-so vast is its importance—be too urgently forced upon our conviction. And that is, that all religious impressions, to be of any value, must not only have gained the assent of our understandings, but must have enlisted our affections and our love in the service of God, and have become deeply imprinted on the heart. It is from that department of the soul which is the depository of the moral feelings, and of those numberless passions and emotions which keep up a healthy circulation in the spirit of man and suffer not its energies to stagnate,- it is from thence, I say, that the strong momentum is derived which alone effectualy stimulates the will, and arouses man to the animated exertion of his active powers. And piety, to be sincere, must be fraught with at least the same earnestness of purpose and vigour of execution with which we fulfil the more ordinary duties of life, and which can only emanate from a due ascendancy of re
ligious principle over this great source and spring of action. It is indeed no mere operation of a cold and calculating reason that can make us faithful and diligent servants of God. On the contrary, they who have known best and reasoned best have been frequently chargeable with the greatest guilt; and St. Paul himself acknowledges that “ the law which was in his mind,” far from controlling, “ warred against,” and was even “brought into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members.”* The principle of true devotion must have grown up in the same soil with that filial and parental love-with those emotions of gratitude, veneration, and respect--with all those kindly sympathies which bind us in so many relations to our fellow creatures, and with the many and varied sensibilities which make us keenly susceptible to pleasure or to pain, and which prompt us in a thousand ways to action. It is not enough that religion be thought of only, it must be sincerely and deeply felt. God asks not of us our mere speculations about his attributes or his will; his demand is a demand of which we have no right to be negligent –“My son give me thine heart." | Without satisfying this requisition of our heavenly father, we cannot pay him, as we ought to do, a voluntary obedience, we cannot truly “delight to do * Romans vii. 23.
† Prov. xxiii. 26.
his will." “From the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies;" *- in the heart, as St. Paul assures us,t even unbelief resides ; therefore to the heart must the remedy have reached, or it cannot heal. There is the magazine from which a wicked world furnishes itself with arms against our faith ; there are stored up the evil treasures of self-love, and of lust, and of covetousness, from which sinful words and sinful actions so abundantly proceed ; and the godliness, consequently, which has not penetrated there, can be but little better than a superficial form.
So that it is no unimportant truth, as connected with our spiritual interests, which we learn from the intimation of the text, that “the heart of man is waxed gross.” It is 'no less than an assurance that the very soil in which the Christian
grow, is uncultivated and overgrown with weeds ;-that the very fountain from which they should spring, is choked up and defiled :That the task we have to perform is not merely to remodel the superstructure of our imperfect morality, but to eradicate utterly the old foundations, and to build it up anew on a better and a sounder basis :--And that, as Christians, we have indeed a task to perform which, even with divine Matt. xv. 19.
† Heb. iii. 12.