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THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS.'
Messrs Editors : I offer for insertion in your work, if acceptable, a few thoughts on the following passage from Jeremiah xvii. 9. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.'
The chapter which contains this passage gives a general view of the moral state of the tribe of Judah in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. It begins thus : • The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond; it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars.' The prophet's language in reference to those people, is proof that their moral character was exceedingly corrupt. In the fifth verse we read: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, or maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.' And why is it so dangerous to trust in man? The answer is found in the declaration, that the heart of man, is deceitful and desperately wicked.' But of whom is the prophet here speaking? Of mankind universally? Of man without limitation in all ages of the world? Of all who now people the earth, and of ourselves individually ? This would be a sufficiently unnatural construction of the prophet's language. No.
No. He is speaking of the people of Judah. No doubt there have been men in all ages equally unprincipled and corrupt, as those to whom the declaration on which we are remarking refers. But it is evidently one peculiar people of whom we read, that their hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. And this well agrees with what is said of them in another place. They will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies, and to weary themselves to commit iniquity.' From the application of such language to the people of Judah, their corrupt moral state, as before remarked, is not to be doubted. We question not the correctness of the prophet, and we are desirous that he should be fairly represented and fully understood. Why should we give an unlimited application to this language of Jeremiah which he applied only to one people? We are not hence authorized to infer that all men in all ages are in the same corrupt moral state, as were the people of Judah. Nor is it to be supposed that the heart of every individual of the people of Judah was . deceitful and desperately wicked.' Who can believe that this language was intended to be applied to them all without exception? I doubt not there were some good men among them, even in their morally depressed and degraded national character and condition.
The passage on which I am remarking, is among numerous passages which have suffered by injudicious interpretation. It has, in connexion with a few other passages, often been adduced as furnishing proof of the natural and universal depravity of our nature. Such an application of it seems obviously erroneous. I know not why we may not as well infer from the fact, that we find many distinguished by their sincerity and rectitude, that all men are free from deceit and wickedness. The passage under consideration relates to one distinct people, who in heart and life were far removed from genuine piety and virtue. But the prophet Jeremiah must have known mankind more correctly, than to have intended it for universal application. And were we to assert that all men are naturally deceitful and corrupt, the intellectual and moral eye, as it seems to ne, must be diseased, which would not perceive that the assertion was at variance with truth. We shall not fail to assert, if we speak from observation and experience, from the evidence of longtried character, that the hearts of many, in various conditions in life, are not deceitful and desperately wicked. There are many who are and always have been honorably distinguished by sincerity and ingenuousness. Many have a strong abhorrence of injustice, duplicity and intrigue. Many are not and never have been enslaved by vicious propensities and habits. There are many who have always had correct thoughts of the powers and passions of our nature ; just sentiments in regard to our intellectual, moral and religious privileges and obligations; elevated impressions of man's responsibleness to his Maker, with a deep and unceasing observance of the doctrines and precepts of Christianity. The passage under consideration was not intended for persons of such character. To such persons it can not be applied without singular impropriety. But there are doubtless, even now, many to whom it is equally applicable as to the people of Judah ; for there are, it cannot be denied, men and professing Christians who are radically unprincipled, hypocritical, and corrupt. To such men, and to such Christians, the passage, which we have been considering, may be literally addressed and without qualification.
The Correspondence and Diary of Philip Doddridge, D. D., illustrative of various particulars in his life, hitherto unknown, with notices of many of his cotemporaries; and a sketch of the ecclesiastical history of the times in which he lived. Edited from the original manuscripts, by his great Grandson, John Doddridge Humphreys, Esq. Vol. 4. London, 1830, pp. 576.
We have read this fourth volume of Dr Doddridge's correspondence, which has just been received, with high satisfaction. It contains scarce anything which we should wish to see omitted ; though the matter is selected, as were the former volumes, from his familiar letters. It exhibits this eminent and excellent man in the light, in which his friends and all the friends of religion would most desire to see him; in his matured judgment, his sincere and ardent piety, his devotedness to the ministry, and the highest objects it can embrace, and, more especially, in the kindness of his affections, and the exemplary liberality of his mind. The valuable contents of the third and fourth of these volumes, so honorable to their author, only leave us the more to regret, that the whole collection was not commenced with them; and that the editor, who seems himself to advance in judgment and ability with the progress of his work, and to whom we are in duty bound to express our obligations for the pleasure he has afforded us, did not exercise the good sense, of which he has since given unquestionable evidence, in rejecting a large portion of the contents of the former volumes. For no sooner had Dr Doddridge passed the critical season of his youth, and got fairly established in that state, declared by an high authority, honorable in all things, the projects and hopes of which are with most meu at more or less expense
of their soundness of mind, at least of their severer discretion, than we see him, as he really was ; and we read his letters, as we read his works, with the respect and affection, which his admirable gifts and virtues, as a man and a minister, as a friend and an instructer, ought to inspire.
There is nothing in this correspondence, particularly that of his latter years, that strikes us more agreeably, than the respectful and ardent attachment, which his character seems to have inspired. The volume embraces the letters, not only of his own, but of his very numerous friends; among whom he ranked some of the most considerable men of his day, both in church and state; among his own brethren of the Dissenters, and distinguished dignitaries of the establishment. Besides many from Watts, Fordyce, Farmer, Neal, Barker, and his excellent friend and patron, Dr S. Clark, we find not a few from Secker, Warburton, and Maddox, of Episcopal honors in the church ; from Tucker, dean of Gloucester, the celebrated political, as well as theological writer; and from some noblemen and civilians, whose catholicism and superiority to narrow prejudices, among other merits, appear to great advantage in the deference and evidently sincere attachment, which they express for a dissenting minister, the satisfaction they declare they have taken in his works, and their hearty wishes for the success of his useful labors.