« PrécédentContinuer »
trary affections of heart, they may know that they are not the children of God, but are in the state of nature, and dead in sin. For if their conscience condemn them, God, who knoweth all things, does certainly condemn them as graceless sinners. This amounts to saying,
That God knows the hearts of sinners better than they do themselves.
Sinners know something about their own hearts, otherwise they would never feel self-condemned ; but they do not know so much about them, as they might know : for they endeavor to misinform, or silence conscience, which would, if properly consulted and allowed to speak, condemn them for every evil imagination of their evil hearts. Conscience always judges of the moral exercises of the heart according to evidence.This sinners know, and therefore to prevent its bring. ing in a verdiet against them, they either misinform it, or neglect to consult it. Open, profligate, hardened sinners restrain conscience from speaking, and stifle all sense of remorse and self-condemnation. Moral sinners take a different course, and endeavor to pacify conscience, by their amiable conduct and sophistical reasoning, as Paul did before his conversion. He made his conscience believe, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus ; and that he was doing God service, while he was persecuting the Church of Christ. By some such means as these, sinners try to live in ignorance of their own hearts; and all secure sinners generally attain their object. Though it is true, that their hearts sometimes condemn them, notwithstanding all their efforts to ward off convictions. No sinners, however, whether moral or immoral,
all their ways.
whether secure or awakened, know so much about their own hearts as God does, who is greater than their hearts, and knows all things. For,
1. God has a more extensive view of the exercises of their hearts, than they ever have. « The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all imaginations of the thoughts." He knows their down-sitting and uprising. He understands their thoughts afar off. He compasses their paths and is acquainted with
He knows all that passes in their hearts and drops from their lips every moment. They have a multitude of moral exercises, of which they take no notice, while passing through their minds ;--and many of those of which they do take notice, they soon forget. So that when they endeavor to recollect the past exercises of their hearts, it is but a very small number of the whole, that they can possibly remember. Who can recollect all his internal exercises and external actions for days, for weeks, for months, for years past? The minds of men are too weak and feeble to take such an extensive view of their hearts and lives. But God not only sees and marks all the thoughts, words, and actions of every sinner, but remembers them all. This is what all sinners are extremely prone to forget, for which God justly blames them.... Though they cannot remember all their sins, yet they ought to remember that God remembers them all.... Hence he complains of them and says...“ They do not consider in their hearts, that I remember all thcir wickedness.” But even God could not remember all the wickedness of sinners, if he did not remember all the exercises of their hearts and all the motives of their conduct through every moment of their
lives. If these were all reckoned up, they would amount to an immense multitude, more than the old, or even the young, could enumerate and distinctly comprehend. Though this be not possible with men, yet it is possible with God, who numbers the hairs of our heads and the stars of heaven and calls them by their
proper names. It is, therefore, a very serious and interesting truth, which sinners are capable of understanding and remembering that God knows and remembers all the moral exercises of their hearts; and consequently all their wickedness in thought, word, and deed. His knowledge of their hearts is therefore, unspeakably more extensive than their own.
2. God sees all the moral exercises of their hearts at one intuitive and comprehensive view, which is a far more perfect knowledge of them, than they ever have. They gain all the knowledge they have of their
. hearts gradually and slowly, which renders it extremely imperfect. They cannot trace the whole series of their moral exercises intuitively and spontaneously. The most, that they can do, is to recollect some of the exercises of their hearts, which they have had at different times and under different circumstances. They may possibly recollect some of the moral views and exercises, which they had in childhood, some which they had in youth, some which they had in manhood, and some which they have had in later periods of life. But after all, they cannot recall but a very few of the innumerable thoughts, purposes and affections, which have occupied and gained the attention of their hearts. And even this interrupted and disconnected view of their hearts, they have gained gradually and slowly, which can give them but a very faint and imperfect
knowledge of their whole moral character. But God, who looks not merely on the outward appearance, but on the heart, sees the whole connected train of all their internal views and feelings, as well as external actions. Their thoughts, and of course their intentions, volitions, and actions have run in a train. One thought
a has led to another thought; one volition to another volition ; and one action to another action, through the whole course of their lives. They have never had one solitary unconnected thought, nor one solitary unconnected intention, nor done one solitary unconnected action. A certain, though not always a perceptible connection has run through all their thoughts, intentions, words and actions. God sees all the links in this mental chain, at one intuitive and comprehensive view ; and the hearts of sinners, as composed of this combination of moral exercises, appear very different from what they do to sinners themselves, who do not see, or overlook this connection in their thoughts, words, and actions. They are ready to imagine, that they only now and then have an evil thought, or an evil intention or do an evil action. But God sees their whole hearts at once, which are full of evil and nothing but
and which produce a constant and connected course of evil conduct. He knows, therefore, a vast deal more about their hearts, than they do themselves.
3. God knows the moral quality of all the exercises, which compose the hearts of sinners, as well as their connection with each other, and with the external actions, which flow from them. This God claims as his peculiar prerogative. “ I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his
doings.” Though sinners have a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be ; though all the exercises of their hearts are selfish and criminal; and though they have a conscience, which can distinguish the moral quality of all their moral exercises; yet they are extremely ignorant of the entire criminality of their selfish hearts. They are so far from consulting conscience, with respect to the nature of their moral exercises, that they are not willing that it should do its office, but restrain it from distinguishing and condemning their selfish exercises. If they would consult conscience, in respect to the motives of their conduct, it would always tell them that they are selfish and sinful. But as they generally neglect and silence conscience, they generally think, that the most of their moral exercises and motives are good. It is only when they externally neg- . lect what God expressly requires, or externally do what God expressly forbids, that they charge themselves with guilt. At all other times, and in all other cases, they consider themselves as innocent, if not virtuous. Paul lived so ; the Pharisee, that went to the temple to pray, lived so ; Judas probably lived so, while he followed Christ with his other disciples ; and the very worst of sinners generally live so. They think they generally do right ; and that they only now and then do wrong and act from selfish and sinful motives. But how different is this view of their hearts and conduct, from that which God has of them. He views all their moral exercises and motives of action, as constantly and perfectly selfish and sinful. He sees every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts, as they rise in their minds, to be evil, and only evil continually. He