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things, they will still trust in their goodness. They imagine that their hearts are so good, that they shall never embrace an error which they have disbelieved ; and never pursue an evil practice, which they have avoided and abhorred. But how many have renounced doctrines, which they once believed, and embraced errors, which they once disbelieved and avoided ? How many have pursued pernicious practices, which they once avoided and detested ? You can scarcely find an errorist in this land, who did not once believe the truth and abhor the errors he has embraced. Most of the false teachers once believed the bible and the doctrines contained in it to be true, and the sentiments they propagate to be false. Most of those, who embrace their errors, once disbelieved and rejected them. The greatest corrupters of morals were once moral and abhorred the evil ways they are now pursuing. Such seducers and corrupters have become what they are, by trusting in their own hearts. And all, who trust in their own hearts, are exposed to be led astray by the current of error and corruption. But every sinner is ready to think and say as Hazael did, when the prophet foretold his folly and his fate. “What ! am I a dog, that I should do such things ?” But God knows the hearts of sinners better than they do themselves. He tells them that their hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. He commands them to keep their hearts with all diligence, for out of them are the issues of life. And he forbids them to deceive themselves, or to be deceived by others.
6. We learn from what has been said, that sinners are never under genuine convictions, until they see the desperate wickedness and deceitfulness of their hearts.
There is a very great difference between awakenings and convictions. Sinners are often awakened to see their danger, while they are entirely ignorant of the plague of their own hearts, or that incorrigible obstinacy, which is incurable and desperate and which no means, nor moral motives will remove. Accordingly, we find awakened sinners anxiously inquiring what they shall do in order to obtain regenerating grace. They think their hearts are already so good, that they are willing to do all that is reasonable for them to do in their present situation. They are willing to read and pray, seek and strive, to enter into the strait gate, which is all they suppose God can reasonably require. And they have courage to seek and strive, because they imagine they are sincerely doing their duty and their hearts are growing better ; for they have stronger and stronger desires to be saved. But when the Spirit of God sets home the commandment upon their hearts, which requires disinterested love and forbids all selfish views, desires and exercises, they are convinced, that all their seekings and strivings, hopes and fears, have been entirely selfish and sinful ; and instead of recommending them to God, have only exposed them to his higher displeasure. Then sin revives and their hopes die. Then they see that their selfish hearts have deceived them and that their selfishness is desperate and incurable. They despair of men and means. They realize, that they are out of the reach of all secondary causes and that they are entirely in the sovereign hand of God, who alone is able to save or destroy, and who will either save them, or leave them to perish with their eyes wide open. They are not prepared to see and feel the grace of God in renewing their hearts and breaking the cords of their iniquity, until they have such genuine convictions of the nature and criminality of their selfish hearts. But sinners under mere awakenings are in the most dangerous situation. It is then their hearts become deceitful above all things and powerfully persuade them, that they are not so guilty as others, and that God will hear their cries for mercy and graciously pardon and save them, because they have become better than they once were, and better than others now are. It is always owing to the deceitfulness and blindness of the heart, that sinners ever gain and cherish a false hope. Hence,
7. There is a plain reason, why saints are more concerned about sinners, than they are about themselves. Saints know that sinners carry about with them hearts full of selfishness and deception, which will lull them into stupidity and security, and dispose them to resist awakenings and convictions and all means used with them to awaken and convince them. They know that they will reform and relapse, resolve and re-resolve and still trust in their own hearts and endeavor by some means or other to establish their own righteousness. It was such a view of the desperate depravity and deception of the human heart, that excited the deep concern of Paul for the sinners in his day. He says, " Brethren my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Saints fear, that sinners never will be awakened ; and if they are awakened, that they never
will be convinced ; and if they are convinced, that they never will be converted. They know that while they continue under the entire dominion of a heart full of selfishness and deception, they will love to deceire themselves and to be deceived and will resist every thing that is said to them, or done for them to undeceive them. Though, at one time and another, they may put on promising appearances, by the occasion of change of circumstances, yet they know not what they may be, or what they may do in time to come. For there is no deception, in respect to sentiment or practice, that they are not liable to believe and pursue. They see their feet stand on slippery places, and are fearful they will soon slide into destruction. In this light, they view sober, regular sinners ; and in this light, they view the vain, trifling and profane.. And it would be well, indeed, if christians were more concerned about sinners than they are ; and they would be more concerned about them, if they were more concerned about themselves. Let all search and try their hearts ; for it is vain to try to conceal them. God says he knows them. “1, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and ac: cording to the fruit of his doings.”
GOD KNOWS THE HEARTS OF SINNERS.
I. John, 11. 20.---For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
Since there is an essential distinction between saints and sinners, it is of great importance that both should know their peculiar character. Saints are those, who have been born of God and are the children of God; but sinners are those, who have not been born of God, and are under the entire dominion of an unholy heart. In order, therefore, that saints may know that they are saints, and that sinners may know that they are sinners, the apostle describes the peculiar character and conduct of saints, and the peculiar character and conduct of sinners in a very plain and intelligible manner. And then he tells them that they both may know whether they have been born of God and are the children of God, or not, by the description he has given of saints and sinners. “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence to. wards God. But if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” The plain meaning of the apostle is this. If those,
. who call themselves christians, are conscious of having such exercises of heart as belong to the christian character, they may know that they are the children of God; but if they are conscious of having directly con