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of infatuated counsels and destructive passions, the nature and end of which he does not comprehend; as it is written, “ The way of the wicked is as darkness, they know not at what they stumble,” Prov. iv. 19: “ because that darkness hath filled their hearts,” and their nature is entirely assimilated with that of Satan. Rom. i. 21; Col. i. 13.
But there is another foul accompaniment of this spiritual ruin. “ The heart is deceitful above all things ;” and whether we look to its developement in the things which relate to God, to man, or to himself, we see its wilful hypocrisy, and deep delusion. It is a traitor, confederate with Satan, and intent upon securing present ease, in present pleasure. Innumerable are its resources whereby to lull or persuade the soul into false peace. Sometimes by arguments which seek to justify evil : sometimes by vain pretences which would bribe the conscience to admit of temporary compliance with sin; and sometimes by a daring attempt to rest upon divine mercy, notwithstanding the indulgence of sin. Thus we hear and feel in ourselves, as sinners, reasonings which are subtle, imposing, and plausible, forged out of the heart's corruption, and greedily adopted as an excuse for rebellion.
How many are daily engaged in uttering insincere expressions of good wishes, good intentions, future purposes, which mean nothing more than an excuse from immediate compliance with a known duty !-and how
many, under the power of this delusion are ready to exclaim, ““ I shall have peace though I add drunkenness to thirst,” Deut. xxix. 19 : “ God is merciful," and I shall not be cast away.' Here a deceitful heart is treacherously working to the destruction of the soul. The miserable individual hath, as the scriptures express it, “ a deceived heart," it turneth him aside, so that he cannot say, Is there not a lie in my right hand,” Isaiah xliv. 20. His professed approaches to God are of the same character. He will probably occasionally enter his courts, or raise his voice in the language of prayer or praise, but his are“ flattering lips, ” his is “ a double heart," “ a double mind;"_ his are " bodily exercises, which profit nothing ; and his bended knee, voluntary tear, and proffered vows, are all but the appearance of religion ; assumed for the purpose of covering the heart's abomination, but by no means intended to procure deliverance through the covenant provision of salvation. The expressions found in God's word, strikingly describe the state of such. They are deceitful upon the weights"_" they are dissemblers with God”—they are “a deceitful bow”--they pretend to wing an arrow to the true object, but they wilfully miss the mark. This deceitful movement of the heart will frequently produce a very awful degree of hypocrisy in the concerns of the soul, and also in profession before fellow men. Many there are, who' although quite indifferent to the result of God's scrutiny, are solicitous to escape
of our hearts' corruption? Let us, after these reflections, compare ourselves with what is further to be gathered from the scripture testimony in Hosea vii. 11. Prov. xvii. 16. Ece. viii. 11. Is. lvii. 1.
By the light which possibly may thus obtain admittance into our minds, let us endeavour to understand the darkness which has prevailed. What manifest infatuation has attended our past steps, when we walked in a way of our own devising, and chose to trust in and obey the dictates of passion! How awful our blindness when following bewildering guides, and surrendering ourselves to the rule of the world and Satan! Surely we now perceive that we rushed upon a thousand deaths, and madly trifled with the accursed thing. Surely we now feel that we treasured up to ourselves also a thousand griefs; and pierced ourselves through with many sorrows; and all, “ because that darkness had blinded our eyes”“ the way of peace we had not known”-and our “ foolish heart was darkened.” Prov. xxviii. 26. Eph. iv. 18. Ps. xov. 10.
Let us perceive and be humbled for the manifest deceitfulness of our heart: in innumerable instances it has fulfilled the scripture witness, having acted the part of a betrayer to our souls ; and we can now probably detect its past treachery. The recollection of its delusive reasonings, its subterfuges and hypocrisy, should fill us with prostration of soul before God, and awaken the expression of wonder, and admiration of his long forbearance. - If duly impressed by this evidence of our own corruption, we shall be better prepared for entering into the subjects which lie before us, and for appreciating the several operations of grace through which they who are recovered from this state of degradation are led by the Spirit. In the mean time we should seek for a due sense of the evil we have discovered. It is not enough that we should be convinced of the disease, we must also feel the torment which consciousness of disease produces upon an awakened consience, and know likewise that to disease and torment there is added a certain result of eternal woe to all who die in this native condition. It is from the Holy Ghost alone that influences of this description are experienced ; our supplication should in consequence be directed to the mercy seat for the descent of this divine witness. We should ask him to produce within us the practical result of selfknowledge, beseeching him to quicken us to the spiritual affections of watchfulness, faith, and hope, and that what we know not, he would vouchsafe to reveal. It is a hopeful pledge of further mercies, when we are made sensible that “ the heart of the wicked is nothing worth,” Prov. x. 20. and that our own heart is worthy nothing but condemnation. Under this persuasion, we shall be prepared to “ abhor ourselves in dust and ashes,” and to “place no confidence in the flesh.” The imposing appearances, which have hitherto deceived us, must be detected and exposed, so as to produce this self-distrust. We are destitute of all goodness, might, or power : we must know this to be our destitution, and should accept the conviction as a pledge of mercy. There are many precious considerations afforded us in the gospel, which may encourage and support us, whilst venturing thus to explore and expose the inward man.
Without these, a sinner may be expected to shrink from the overwhelming discovery; but furnished with the blessed testimony that issues from a covenant God, the work may be prosecuted without producing despair. The salvation that is in Jesus provides for the recovery, the softening, the illuminating, the purifying of the beart, and to this blessed remedy we are continually exhorted to direct the eye of faith. A true sense of danger, so far from generating distrust, or a hypocritical attempt to conceal its extent, will produce an ingenuous effort to expose the whole, with a penitential confession, and a fervent appeal to Him before whose scrutinizing presence we do in fact always appear. Let this be the frame of mind we earnestly covet, and let a teachable acceptance of the word of conviction and reproof prevail in our soul, and be presented before God.