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the time of composing, that what I designed for distinct and separate occasions, would ever appear abroad in one view.

In a word, so far as these essays are mine, I entreat a candid perusal ; and that those who read them in order to form their judgment of the author, do not make their estimate from a sentence here and there; but have the patience to read them throughout. So far as what they contain is agreeable to Scripture, reason, and experience, an apology would be impertinent. In this case they deserve attention. Every particle of truth is valuable in itself, by whatever means or instruments it may be conveyed to us ; and like a torch, displays itself by its own light, without any relation to the hand that bears it.

Liverpool, January 1, 1760.

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SIX

DISCOURSES, OR SERMONS.

SERMON I.

ON THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE HEART.

JER. XVII. 9, 10.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

The prophet Jeremiah had a hard task. He was appointed to inculcate unwelcome truths upon a vain, insensible people. He had the grief to find all his expostulations and warnings, his prayers, and tears, had no other effect than to make them account him their enemy, and to draw reproach and persecution upon himself. He lived to see the accomplishment of his own predictions; to see the land of his nativity desolated, the city destroyed, the people almost extirpated, and the few who remained transported into a distant country, to end their days in captivity.

Those, who have resolved, honestly and steadily, to declare the word of the Lord, have, in all ages, found a part of his trial : the message they have had to deliver has been disagreeable and disregarded. It is no hard matter to frame discourses that sball meet with some degree of general approbation; nor is it difficult to foresee the reception which plain truth must often meet with : but those who undertake a charge must perform it; and ministers are bound to declare to the people every thing that regards their welfare, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. If the watchman sees the danger coming, and does not blow the trumpet, to give the most public notice possible, he is answerable for all the evils that may follow. This is applied as a caution to the prophet Ezekiei; and, undoubtedly, every one who administers in holy things is concerned in it. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel ; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked man, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die ; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand; Ezek. xxxiii. Let this awful passage plead our

excuse, if at any time we seem too urgent, or too plain, in our discourses. Too plain or urgent we cannot be. Our business is most important: opportunities are critical and precious. It is at the hazard of our souls if we speak deceitfully; and at the hazard of yours if we speak in vain.

In the preceding verses the prophet gives us a striking image of the opposition between the righteous and the wicked, in their present state, their hopes, and their end. The one is compared io a tree; the other to heath and stubble; the one, planted by streams of water; the other erposed on the salt burning desert : the one green, ilourishing, and full of fruit; the other parched and withering: the hope of the one fixed on the Lord, the all-sufficient, Almighty God; the rash dependence of the other on a frail, feeble arm of desh. Suitable to this difference is their end : the one, blessed, provided against all evil, so that he shall not be 'careful in the year of drought; the other, cursed, and cut off from the expectation of any amendment. “He shall not see when good cometh. The immediate design was, perhaps, to show the Jews that there was no way to avert the judgments of God, and to avoid the impending evils which threatened them, but by returning to the Lord, who had begun to smite, and who alone was able to heal them. But this they refused. They preferred their own contrivances; "they leaned upon an arm of flesh;' sometimes upon Egypt, sometimes upon Assyria; one while presuming upon force : another while upon cunning. They were fruitful in expedients; and, when one broken cistern failed them, had recourse to another. But the prophet denounces the curse of God both on thein and their supports; subjoining the words of my text; which may be understood, either as a further proof of what he had said, or an assigned cause of that obstinacy and perverseness he had complained of: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it?'

But, without confining the words to the first occasion of their delivery, I shall consider them, as teaching us a doctrine, abundantly confirmed by many other passages of Scripture, “That the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked:' which I shall endeavour to illustrate in a plain, familiar way. . I shall, secondly, from the next verse, enforce this observation, That the heart (bad as it is) is incessantly under the divine inspection and examination: “I the Lord search the heart and try the reins.' I shall, thirdly, consider the issue and design of this inquest; that every man may, in the end, receive according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.' And may the Lord enable us to try and examine ourselves here, that hereafter we may be found unblameable, and without rebuke before him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1. The heart is here characterized, first, As deceitful, and that above or in all things : second, As desperately wicked : in so dangerous, so deplorable a state, as is not to be conceived or found out. Who can know it!! The word in the original [wix) which we translate desperately wicked, signifies a mortal, incurable disease ; a disease which, seizing on the vitals, affects and threatens the whole frame; and which no remedy can reach. This idea leads us to that first transgression, whereby man, departing from God, fatally destroyed his soul's health, and sunk into that state so pathetically described by Isaiah, chap. i. * The whole bead is sick; all the powers of the understanding disordered : and the whole heart faint ;' all the springs of the affections enfeebled. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness, but wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores: the evil growing worse continually ; and no help or helper at hand: they have not been closed nor bound up, nor mollified with ointment.' In consequence of this deep-rooted disorder, the heart is deceitful;that is, it deceives and fails us in every instance: it promises more than it can perform : it misleads us with vain desires; and mocks us with unsuccessful efforts; like the faint attempts of a sick man to perform those actions which require a state of sound health and strength. That this is indeed the case, will, I think, appear from the following particulars ; to which I entreat your attention.

Scripture and reason do jointly assure us, that all we see is the work of an Almighty Being :--the heavens and the earth, the şun, moon, and stars, and even the grass and flowers of the field, loudly proclaim the presence, the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God; yet behold the extreme insensibility of man. The wisest of our species, in those places where divine revelation was not known, ever mistook the effect for the cause ; and ascribed that honour to the creature which is due only to the Creator. This was the very best of the case ; for, in general, they sunk still lower, to worship stocks and stones; nay, to the eternal reproach of the natural understanding in the things of God, the more civilized any nation was, the more renowned for arts and arms, the further they were removed from those they termed barbarians, so much the more vile and contemptible the idolatry they established generally proved. The wisdom of the Egyptians paid divine honours to cats, monkeys, and the vilest reptiles. The fine taste of the Greeks consecrated those for gods, who, if they had lived amongst men, would have been deemed the pests of society ; gods who were, professedly, both patterns and patrons of the most shameful vices. The prowess of the Romans established altars to fear and paleness. So deeply were they it

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VOL. II.

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fatuated, so totally lost to common sense, that the apostle Paul's worst enemies could find no more plausible accusation against him, in one of the politest cities then in the world, than that he had ventured to affirm, they were no gods who were made with hands.'

Thus stood the case with Heathens; let us now come nearer home. It is to be feared, the greatest difference between them and the generality of us called Christians, is, that we do not partake in their gross outward idolatry. In other respects, our insensibility is, perhaps, as much greater than theirs, as our superior knowledge renders it more inexcusable. We acknowledge a God ; that there is but one; that he is the cause of all things ; that in him we live, and move, and have our being. Had the poor Heathens known this, we may judge, by their application to their mistaken worship, it would have had some influence on their practice. But what numbers of 'us' live together as 'without God in the world. I come not here to make invectives; let conscience judge and give evidence accordingly. What do we think of the perpetual presence of God around us, and within us ! We know that he is acquainted with all our thoughts, words, and actions ; yet are we not more effectually restrained and awed by the presence of our fellow-worms, than by the regard of that eye which is ten thousand times brighter than the sun ?

How are we affected by the works of God ? Has not the appearance of a fine day, or the beauty of an extensive prospect, a force to extort a sense of satisfaction from every one ? but how few are there of us that can realize and acknowledge the hand of the glorious Author of these things ? How seldom and how faintly, do we adopt the reflection of David ? When I consider the heavens, the work of THY fingers, the moon and the stars which THOU hast ordained; Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst be mindful of him ? Ps. viii. What is our judgment of the word of God, that glorious message of love, in which he has pointed out to us the way of salvation ? Is not this book the least read, the least admired, and the least understood, of any ? We are presently affected, we enter with all our spirit into the moving incidents (as we term them). of a romance or tragedy, though we know they are not founded on truth, nor have any relation to ourselves ; but we can read the history of Jesus Christ, his life and doctrines, his death and passion, with indifference, though we say, all he spoke, or did, or suffered, was for our sakes. What are our thoughts of that eternity, to which we are posting, and to which, for aught we know, a few hours may introduce us? Is it not in the

power

of the meanest trifle that occurs to hide this important point from our view? It were easy to multiply particu

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