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nature of depravity to increase. If you wished to extinguish a fire, would you wait till it was a conflagration ? if to cure a cold, would you wait till it was a fever ?
What if God should withdraw his spirit, and give you up to total insensibility ? For consider
necessary to salvation. Religion is the work of God in the soul of man. Despised and rejected to-day, is he not likely to abandon you to-morrow ? and then what a situation are you in? Like a barren: rock, insensible both to the beams of the sun, and the showers of heaven! You may felicitate yourselves in these circumstances on the protraction of life, but it is your curse and not your blessing. You would tremble with indescribable horror at the thought of going the next hour to the flame which is never to be quenched; you would account it the climax of ruin. No, it is not. I can tell you something worse than even this. What; worse than going immediately to the bottomless pit? Yes. To live longer abandoned by God! given up to the deceitfulness of sin, and hardness of heart; left to fill up still more to the brim the measure of iniquity; this, this is worse than instant damnation. Horrible as it seems, yet it is true, that many now in torment wish they had been there before : and that they had not been permitted to live and commit those sins, which are the sources of their bitterest sufferings.
These are amongst the most prevailing obstacles which often prevent young people from entering on a life of piety. Happy are they who by the grace of God are enabled to surmount them, and press through these impediments into the kingdom of God.
On the deceitfulness of the heart. The detection of deceit, if not a pleasant employment, is certainly a profitable one; and that man deserves well of society, who puts them upon their guard against a dangerous impostor. The object of this section of my book is to expose the greatest deceiver in the world; whose design is to cheat you, my dear children, not of your property, nor of your liberty, nor of your life; but of what is infinitely dearer than all these-the salvation of your immortal soul. His success has been frightful beyond description. Earth is full of his operations--hell of his spoils. Millions of lost souls bewail his success in the bottomless pit, as the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever. Who is this impostor, and what is his name? Is it the false prophet of Mecca? No. The spirit of Paganism? No. The genius of Infidelity? No. It is the human heart. It is to this, that the prophet's description belongs, “ Deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” You will perceive, that, to the wiles of this deceiver, you are exposed. Let me then request your very serious attention, whilst I lay open to you his deep devices, and endless machinations.
By the deceitfulness of the heart, we are to understand the liability of our judgement to be perverted, and misled by the depravity of our nature. And the following are the proofs of the fact.
I. The astonishing ignorance in which many persons remain of their character and motives.
It is with the mind, as with the countenance, every one seems to know it better than its possessor. Now is not this somewhat singular ? With the power of introspection, with access to our spirits every moment, is it not remarkable that any one should remain in ignorance of himself? Yet is it not the case with myriads ? How often do we hear persons condemning others for those very faults, of which every one perceives that they themselves are guilty. We have a striking instance of this in David, when the prophet related to him the parable of the little ewe lamb. It is astonishing with what dexterity some persons will ward off the arrows of conviction which are aimed at their hearts, and give them a direction towards others. When in preaching or in conversation, a speaker is endeavouring in a covert way to make them feel, that they are intended as the object of his censure, they are most busily employed in fastening it upon others, and admire the skill, and applaud the severity, with which it is administered. And when at length it becomes necessary to throw off the disguise, and to declare to them, “ Thou art the man," it is quite amusing to see what surprise and incredulity they will manifest, and how they will either smile at the ignorance, or frown on the malice, which could impute to them
faults, of which, however guilty they might be in other respects, they are totally innocent.
This self-deception prevails to a most alarming extent, in the business of personal religion. The road to destruction is crowded with travellers, who vainly suppose that they are walking in the path of life, and whose dreams of happiness nothing will disturb, but the dreadful reality of eternal misery. How can this mistake arise? The scripture most explicitly states the difference between a good man and a wicked one: the line of distinction between conversion and impenitence is broad, and deep, and plain. It can only be accounted for on the ground of the deceitfulness of the heart.
Then, when conviction forces itself upon the mind, and the real character begins to appear, what a degree of evidence will be resisted, and on what mere shadows of proof will men draw a conclusion in their own favour. How they mistake motives which are apparent to every by-stander; and, in some instances, even commend themselves for virtues, when the corresponding vices are ripe in their bosoms.
2. Another proof of the deceitfulness of the heart, lies in the disguises which it throws over its vices.
It calls evil good, and good evil. How common is it for men to change the names of their faults, and endeavour to reconcile themselves to sins, which, under their own proper designations, must be regarded as subjects of condemnation. Thus, intemperance and ex
, are called social disposition and good fellowship; pride is dignity of mind; revenge
is spirit; vain pomp, luxury, and extravagance, are taste, elegance, and refinement; covetousness is prudence; levity, folly, obscenity, are innocent liberty, cheerfulness, and humour. But will a new name, alter the nature of a vice ? No: you may clothe a swine in purple and gold, and dress a demon in the robes of an angel of light; and the one is a beast, and the other a devil still.
The same operation of deceit which would strip vice of its deformity, would rob holiness of its beauty.' Tenderness of conscience is called ridiculous precision; zeal against sin is moroseness and ill-nature; seriousness of mind, repulsive melancholy; superior sanctity, disgusting hypocrisy; in short, all spiritual religion is nauseating cant, whining methodism, wild enthusiasm. It is however the climax of this deceitfulness, when vice is committed under the notion that it is a virtue; and this has been done in innumerable instances. Saul of Tarsus thought he was doing God service, while he was destroying the church. The bigots of Rome have persuaded themselves they were doing right while they were shedding the blood of the saints. O the depth of deceit in the human heart!
3. What a proneness is there in most persons to frame excuses for their sins, and by what shallow pretexts are they often led to commit iniquity.
Ever since that fatal moment, when our first parents endeavoured to shift the blame of their crime from each other upon the serpent, a disposition to apologize for sin, rather than to confess it, has been the hereditary disease of