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METHOD FOR PREVENTING
ROBBERIES AND MURDERS.
MATTHEW xv. 19, 20.
Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adul
teries, fornications, thefts, false-witness, blasphemies : these are the things which defile a man.
ALL these evil things, which defile the man, proceed from the heart: here the desires are first formed, and from hence they flow out, and put in motion, and animate the other faculties. And such as the fountain is, such are the streams which flow from it. If the heart be evil and corrupt in itself, the thoughts of the heart will also be evil and corrupt, and the actions which are directed by these thoughts must also partake of their evil and corruption. For the heart thinks, resolves, and then acts; and if the thought be evil, the resolution and the act, which are the direct consequences of it, must be also evil. Nothing but evil can flow from an evil heart.
Whenever the scripture speaks of the faculties of the soul, it uses words borrowed from the faculties of the body, because we are not capable of forming any idea of spiritual, unless they be compared to material objects. The soul has its spring and principle of motion as well as the body, and this we call the heart, borrowing the word from that part, which is known to be the spring and principle of all the motions in the human frame: for from the heart proceeds that vital blood, which carries on every operation throughout the body, and from which every vessel and organ has its proper nourishment ministered. The heart has the same use and office in our little world, as the sun has in the great world, being the fountain of life and genial warmth, of growth and strength in the microcosm of man. And when we apply this word to the soul, we fix the same meaning to it. The heart is that part which puts all the other faculties of the soul in motion, it is the fountain from whence our thoughts flow, and our resolutions and actions are only so many streams, which take a good or a bad tincture according to the nature of the spring, from whence they have their origin.
In this sense our blessed Lord here speaks of the soul; he makes the heart the fruitful cause of every vice, supposing it to be polluted even at the very fountain head; and how then is it possible there should be any thing but pollution in the channels, which issue from it? If the heart be corrupt, so will be the actions. From an evil heart nothing can proceed, but murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false-witness, and blasphemy: for when the principle which sets all these in motion is defiled, what can spring from it but defilement ?
This is our Lord's doctrine, and never was their greater occasion to consider it, than in the present times, when these vices are grown to such an enormous height, that they are openly committed in defiance of all law, divine and human. The legislature has been lately alarmed at their prodigious increase, and has been trying to find out some effectual remedy: but what has been hitherto attempted has not met with the desired success. Robberies, murders, &c. are still as common as ever, and will become daily more common, unless sve strike at the root of the evil. The heart is the cause of all, and no act of parliament can touch the heart. It is out of the reach of every human tribunal. The vices which by our natural corruption have got into the heart, cannot be displaced by the wisest laws and edicts; these can only regulate the outward actions.
whenter occasion Lord's depring fire
255 The polluted fountain is still inaccessible to any authority but the great Creator's. He alone can give the almighty fiat, let it be clean, and it is clean. Nothing can purify it from the unclean thoughts of murder, adultery, fornication, &c. but his divine grace and virtue ; to which may he enable us now to commit the guidance of our hearts. We beseech thee to take them, O eternal Spirit, under thy gracious influence, and let no unclean thought enter into them, while we are meditating upon these words of our God and Saviour - Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, 6 adulteries, fornications, thefts, false-witness, blasphe“ mies: these are the things which defile a man.”
First, It is here asserted, that the heart, the fountain of all our actions, is polluted.
Secondly, The manner in which it became polluted is here plainly implied, and this will lead us,
Thirdly, To enquire into the means of cleansing and purifying it.
First our blessed Lord here declares, that the heart, the fountain of all thought and motion, is polluted. In its natural state it is entirely impure. It is the unclean residence of the foulest spirits, even of murder, adultery, fornication, theft, perjury, and blasphemy. These are they which by nature dwell in the heart and defile the man: for corrupt nature is always disposed to receive some one or all of these polluted tempers, as temptation shall offer. The propensity to them is universal. Our church has accurately described this point in her ninth article.
“ Original sin is the fault and corruption of the “ nature of every man, that naturally is engendered “ of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far “ gone from original righteousness, and is of his own 6 nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth al. 66 ways contrary to the Spirit, and therefore in every 6 person born into the world it deserved God's wrath 66 and damnation.”
This was the opinion of our reformers, and if you
find any difficulty in giving your assent to it, the arguments upon which they built it will, I hope, satisfy you perfectly. The express testimony of the Creator of the hearts of all men, and the experience of thinking men from the beginning of the world to this day, were the chief authorities upon which they grounded their opinion. The whole scripture supposes man to be in a state of corruption, and several passages express the universality of this corruption. It is thus delivered, Gen. vi. 5. in the clearest terms." And God saw that the wick«« edness of man was great in the earth, and that every 66 imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil 66 continually.” Man does not here signify any one man; or race of men, but mankind, the whole human nature, which is said to be so polluted with original wickedness, that every imagination, not one excepted, of the thoughts of his heart was only evil, and continually too. What a fountain then of deadly poison is the human heart, since all the streams which flow from it are evil, and continually evil ? The universal spreading of this malignant infection could not be expressed in stronger words, than to declare, that there was not one imagination in the heart, but what was evil, and always evil. Such is man in his natural state :. and might not then the apostle truly say of it, Eph. ii. 3. “We are all by 66-nature the children of wrath even as others: for the “ scripture hath concluded all (men, both Jews and “ Gentiles) under sin.”
This is the scripture account of the heart of the natural man, and experience confirms it. Men are in fact such as the scripture describes them, a race of fallen corrupt beings. We find none of them upright and perfect, no not one. That moral rectitude of nature, which some metaphysical divines dream of, has no existence among the sons of Adam. Heathen writers as well as Christian prove it to be but a dream : for of the corruption of nature they all complain, and give us melancholy proofs of the prevalency of the vices mentioned in the text in every country and in every age. In the present age we see and feel them: they are grown to such an enormous height at present, that they are become a reproach to our religion, and a dishonour to our laws. Not a day passes, but we hear of some robbery, or murder, or adultery, &c. and the fountain from whence they all spring is the heart: And can the heart then be clean by nature, and yet send forth such polluted streams ? Certainly the same spring cannot send forth sweet water and bitter ? That which sends forth nothing but corruption, must be corrupt in its very origin. The peccant matter must lie at the fountain head, and how rank and venomous it is we can have no doubt, if we will but open our eyes, and survey that deluge of wickedness, which now.covers the face of the earth.
It is certain then that the heart of man is by nature polluted. Scripture and sad experience forbid us to doubt of it; and yet against the evidence of these authorities there are some men, who call it in question, and who think they shew their superior reason by believing neither God, nor their own senses. What God declares to them they cannot but see is a matter of fact, and yet because they find some difficulty in accounting for the manner in which the heart became so polluted, they would therefore strangely infer, that it is not polluted at all. This is a very absurd conduct, but it is common to all unbelievers, and therefore it is necessary to speak to the
Second particular, wherein it was proposed to consider the manner in which the human heart became thus polluted. None of the ancient philosophers, nor none of the modern reasoners have given us any satisfactory account upon this head. The origin of evil is a subject, which has been always debated in the schools of the infidels, and they have not yet produced any solution which their own advocates are agreed to de fend. How evil came into the heart is, upon the plan of their natural and metaphysical religion, absolutely unaccountable. And this is a good presumptive proof