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THE TREASURES OF A GOOD AND EVIL HEART.
MATTHEW xii, 35. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart
bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out
of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. IT was never our Saviour's intention to preach against Moses and the prophets, but only to explain their writings, and take off the false glosses, which were put upon them by false teachers. Though these men
. adopted the language of the inspired writers, and acknowledged the distinction between saints and sinners; yet they had no idea of what constituted this distinction. They ignorantly supposed, that the precepts and prohibitions of the divine law had no respect to the heart, but only to external actions. And hence they denominated men either good or bad, saints or sinners, according to their outward appearance, rather than according to their internal views and feelings. But our Saviour represented this notion as a great and essential error. He said to his hearers, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God.” And after this, he told the Scribes and Pharisees themselves, that their righteous ness was no better than hypocrisy, because it wholly consisted in mere external obedience. “Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." But as Christ meant to instruct the ignorant, as well as refute the erroneous, he clearly described the essential distinction between a good mar and a bad man, and expressly asserted, that this distinction lies in the heart, which stamps the moral quality of all the actions that proceed from it. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” This, like many other figurative expressions of Christ, has often been misunderstood and misapplied. It has frequently been employed in favour of a sentiment, which appears totally inconsistent with that very distinction between saints and sinners, which Christ plainly intended to assert. In order, therefore, to investigate and establish the important truths, which our Lord meant to convey in this passage, I shall endeavour,
1. To describe the good treasure of the heart.
III. To make it appear, that it is the treasure of the heart, which justly denominates men either good or
1. I am to describe the good treasure of the heart.
The whole of this good treasure summarily consists in general benevolence. Our Saviour comprises all true virtue, holiness, or moral goodness in love to God and man. When he was asked, which is the great commandment in the law? he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” According to this infallible exposition of the law, it requires nothing morally good but what partakes of the nature of pure, disinterested benevolence.
The question now is, Why does Christ call this benevolence, which comprises all moral goodness, a good treasure? Treasure is a general name for abundance; and Christ uses the term in this sense, in the verse immediately preceding the text, where he says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” But what abundance, or what treasure can there be in a good heart, which consists in love? Is not love perfectly pure, simple, and uncompounded? How then can there be any propriety in calling it a treasure, which generally comprises both a variety and a multiplicity of things?. It is easy, however, to discover the propriety of this expression. Though true love be of a simple, uncompounded nature; yet it is capable of spreading into a variety of branches, which taken all together, form a rich treasure of moral goodness. I will now lay open, as clearly and distinctly as I can, , all the parts or parcels of the good treasure of the good. heart.
1. A good heart contains good affections.
It always is more or less affected, by every object presented to it. If a proper object of benevolence be presented, it feels benevolence. If a proper ofobject complacence be presented it feelscomplacence. Ifa proper object of gratitude be presented, it feels gratitude. If a vile and odious object be presented, it feels a proper displeasure, hatred, or aversion. These inward motions or exercises of the good heart, which are excited by the bare perception of objects, and which do not produce any external actions, are properly called affections, in distinction from all other emotions and exercises, of the heart which influence to action. And these immanent affections of the good heart are extremely numerous, because they are perpetually arising in the mind, whether the person be sitting, or walking, or speaking, or reading, or barely thinking. The good
heart is often as deeply and sensibly affected by invisible, as by visible objects. Some of the purest and best affections of the good heart are put forth in the view of the character, perfections, and designs of the Deity, and while the mind is intensely employed in contemplating things past, present, and to come. Such holy and virtuous affections compose the largest portion of the good treasure of the good heart.
2. The good heart contains good desires. These naturally flow from true benevolence, in the view of any absent and distant good. The man of a good heart extends his good desires as far as his knowledge extends. He desires that God may be glorified, and that his creatures may be happy. He desires to do good to himself, and where his ability or opportunity of doing good fails, he desires that God would enable and dispose others to do good. Whenever he sees any attainable good, he sincerely desires that it may be attained. Were his views as extensive as the views of the Deity, his benevolent desires would be equally extensive. But though his desires are bounded by the scantiness of his knowledge; yet they are very numerous and perfectly virtuous, and comprise a good share of the good treasure of his heart.
3. The good heart contains good intentions. It not only desires good to be done, but actually intends to do good. David had a good intention, when it was in his heart to build a house for the honour and worship of God. The desires of doing good, are different from the intentions of doing good. Good men may desire to do many things, which they do not intend to do; and they may intend to do many things, which they never do. Some carry their intentions of doing good much further forward than others. They intend to do many things for the benefit of individuals and
the public, in days, and months, and years to come. But very often they never find an opportunity, or a disposition, to carry all their good intentions into execution. Paul tells us, that he failed of fulfilling his good intentions. “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” It is true, however, that the failure of good men in fulfilling their good intentions, only proves their great imperfection or inconstancy in goodness. For, their good intentions, whether they act agreeably to them or not, are good in their own nature, and belong to the good treasure of their hearts.
4. The good heart contains good volitions. These are imperative acts of the will, and haye immediate influence upon external conduct. Neither good affections, nor good desires, nor good intentions, are inseparably connected with bodily exertions. But volitions are the next, immediate, and efficient cause of external action. When we put forth any bodily effort, we are conscious of a will or volition to move or speak. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” A good heart will naturally produce good volitions, which are the immediate natural cause of good actions. It is in this sense, that “a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things." Good volitions must always go before good actions, because these derive all their moral quality from the volitions, from which they originate, If a man's hand or body moves without his own volition, that motion is not his action, and has no moral quality attached to it. All actions are voluntary motions, and take their moral quality from the nature of the volitions, which give them existence. Holy and virtuous volitions render all the actions proceeding from them truly holy and virtuous. Such volitions,