Thursday June 13, 2013

The Heart Dissected and Self Exposed

H. Fowler, of Gower Street

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

Jer. xvii. 9.

I seldom open my Bible but I see a sad description of human nature. Casting my eye this morning upon Jeremiah xvii. 9, I was forcibly struck with the words: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Surely man did not come out of his Maker’s hands in this mangled state! No; he was made upright, but he sought out many inventions.

And now, my soul, cast thine eyes within, and what wilt thou see? For barrenness the heart may be compared to a wilderness; for filthiness, to a dung-heap; for subtlety and craft, to the fox; for pride and wickedness, to the very devil. But I should observe that, though every man is born thus depraved, he cannot have any real knowledge of his state until God Almighty gives him spiritual eyesight. Preachers and writers in general, when speaking of man and his salvation, take too much for granted. They speak as if every man was acquainted with his state; as if he were just ready to receive the Saviour and the promise, whenever offered in the gospel with pressing invitations. But let such know that man’s condition is a state of darkness; that his great defect lies in his will and understanding. Hold a fine mirror before the face of a blind man, can he discover any one feature in his face by it? The law and the gospel are compared to a glass; but no man can read his condemnation by the law, nor his justification in the gospel, but as God shall give him divine light.

The natural man cannot bear to hear his true condition pointed out, but seeks to hide his deformity under some false covering; such as good motives, good endeavours, moral actions, and a string of other things. If a servant of God should be successful enough to touch the heart, out of which all corruption springs, dreadful are the alarms in the man so touched, which he will endeavour to soothe by palliatives. But if the wound be made deep by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in vain does he seek a remedy in anything out of Christ. As Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, were not allowed for the cure of Naaman’s leprosy, so neither does God allow anything of the creature’s in the cure of a sinner. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done; but according to his mercy he hath saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Tit. iii. 5, 6.)

Self is the spiritual idol that every man adores, and under its influence every son and daughter of Adam acts; whether it be in the form of religion or in the more open path of profanity. Ezekiel saw women weeping for Tammuz. (viii. 14.) Tammuz was a filthy idol, invented by the devil, and executed by the Egyptians to please self in her more gross propensities. The Jewish women fell in love with the idol and paid their regular visits, and nothing was too obscene for them to practise before the idol and among themselves. See what a melancholy picture Paul draws in Romans i. 24 to the end of the chapter! O how desperately wicked! And no doubt the same things are practised now, though under cover.

Self would put a plaister over these things and say it ought not to be mentioned, – that it degrades human nature too much. But let the reader know that human nature hath degraded itself to the lowest state, and is become brutish and devilish. Man’s heart is so depraved that he will either put on or put off the form of religion to please self. To please self he will weep like penitent Mary at the Saviour’s feet; and to please self he will betray the Saviour, his cause, and his children, with the kiss of a Judas. Indeed, self is the oldest and oddest idol in the world. It has more change of dress and address than actors on a stage, and can change colour like the chameleon; if need requires she can ape the blushing modest maid or assume the bold attractions and daring fortitude of an Amazon. I have seen a group of Pagan idols in the British Museum but the idol self masters the whole, yet is mastered by no man. Emperors and Kings, statesmen and orators, priests and people, either worship or are influenced by this strange idol, self. It made Pharaoh drive furiously after Israel, till he was, with his host, drowned in the Red Sea, like the Gadarene hogs. Self filled the heart, and perched upon the tongue of the King of Babylon. Bloated with pride, like a balloon with stinking gas, or a toad with poison, he vociferated, “Is not this great Babylon which I have built?”

Self stepped into the pontifical chair in days of yore, and has never left it since; nor will it leave it till the time appointed come, and “then shall that man of sin be revealed.”

Self will make a preacher contend earnestly, as if he were contending for God and his truth; whereas at the same time he is contending for his own honour and because his own consequence is touched. I have sometimes weighed my sermons, my conversations, my writings, and my prayers, by the old, true balances I keep by me, and find them deficient – all deficient. Bulk there is indeed, but it is the bulk of an owl, – almost a body of feathers; and yet self would not like to be told so.

How we stir and storm when we are imposed upon by men! But where is the man whom self does not impose upon? None but the real believer in Christ can deny himself and hate himself. I loathe self, I hate self, after the inward man; and yet, though my tabernacle is wearing out and I have known the Lord many years and have been blessed by him innumerable times, I find my self my greatest foe. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But the time is approaching when the Canaanite shall no more dwell in the house of the Lord.

Reproduced from The Christian’s Monthly Record, 1890

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