A dreadful description of the hardened state of the proud forgers of lies! Yet not of their state only, but of every sinner, who stands out in willful rebellion against God. The tremendous blow of almighty justice has benumbed his heart, so that the pressure of mountains of sin and guilt is unfelt! The heart is left of God, "seared with a hot iron," and therefore without tenderness; "past feeling;" unsoftened by the power of the word: unhumbled by the rod of providential dispensations, given up to the heaviest of all spiritual judgments! But it is of little avail to stifle the voice of conscience, unless the same power or device could annihilate hell. It will only "awake out of sleep, like a giant refreshed with wine," and rage with ten-fold interminable fury in the eternal world, from the temporary restraint, which for a short moment had benumbed its energy. Willful resistance to the light of the gospel, and the strivings of the Spirit, constrained even from a God of love the message of judicial abandonment, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." Who then among us will not cry—From hardness of heart, and contempt of Your word and commandment, Good Lord! deliver us! (Litany.) Tenderness is the first mark of the touch of grace, when the heart becomes sensible of its own insensibility, and contrite on account of its own hardness. 'Nothing'—said Jerome, in a letter to a friend—'makes my heart sadder, than that nothing makes it sad.' But when "the plague of our own heart" begins to be "known," and becomes a matter of confession, humiliation, prayer; the promise of "a new heart" is as life from the dead. The subject of this promise delights in God's law; and this amid the sometimes overwhelming power of natural corruption, gives a satisfactory witness of a change "from death unto life."
Christian! can you daily witness the wretched condition of the ungodly, without the constraining recollection of humiliation and love? What sovereign grace, that the Lord of glory should have set His love upon one so vile! What mighty power, to have raised my insensible heart to that delight in His law, which conforms me to the image of His dear Son! Deeply would I "abhor myself:" and gladly would I acknowledge, that the service of ten thousand hearts would be a poor return for such unmerited love. What, oh, "what shall I render to the Lord!"—Prayer for them who are still lying in death—praise for myself quickened from death. But what can give the vital breath, pulse, feeling, and motion? "Come, from the four winds, O breath; and breathe upon the slain, that they may live."
Let us apply, for the purpose of daily self-examination, this description of the heart, either as given up to its natural insensibility, or as cast into the new mold of delight in the law of God. Such an examination will prove to us, how much even renewed souls need the transforming, softening influences of grace. "The deceitfulness of sin hardens the heart" to its original character, as fat as grease, unfeeling, incapable of impression, without a Divine touch. O Lord, let not my heart be unvisited for one day, one hour, by that melting energy of love, which first made me feel, and constrained me to love.
"Their heart is as fat as grease." They delight in fatness, but I delight in you. Their hearts, through sensual indulgence, have grown insensible, coarse, and groveling; but you have saved me from such a fate through your chastening hand. Proud men grow fat through carnal luxuries, and this makes them prouder still. They riot in their prosperity, and fill their hearts therewith until they become insensible, effeminate, and self-indulgent A greasy heart is something horrible; it is a fatness which makes a man fatuous, a fatty degeneration of the heart which leads to feebleness and death. The fat in such men is killing the life in them. Dryden wrote,
"O souls! In whom no heavenly fire is found,
Fat minds and ever groveling on the ground."
In this condition men have no heart except for luxury, their very being seems to swim and stew in the fat of cookery and banqueting. Living on the fat of the land, their nature is subdued to that which they have fed upon; the muscle of their nature has gone to softness and grease.
"But I delight in your law." How much better is it to joy in the law of the Lord than to joy in sensual indulgences! This makes the heart healthy, and keeps the mind lowly. No one who loves holiness has the slightest cause to envy the prosperity of the worldling. Delight in the law elevates and ennobles, while carnal pleasure clogs the intellect and degrades the affections. There is and always ought to be a vivid contrast between the believer and the sensualist, and that contrast is as much seen in the affections of the heart as in the actions of the life: their heart is as fat as grease, and our heart is delighted with the law of the Lord. Our delights are a better test of our character than anything else: as a man's heart is, so is the man. David oiled the wheels of life with his delight in God's law, and not with the fat of sensuality. He had his relishes and dainties, his festivals and delights, and all these he found in doing the will of the Lord his God. When law becomes delight, obedience is bliss. Holiness in the heart causes the soul to eat the fat of the land. To have the law for our delight will breed in our hearts the very opposite of the effects of pride: deadness, sensuality, and obstinacy will be cured, and we shall become teachable, sensitive, and spiritual. How careful should we be to live under the influence of the divine law, that we fall not under the law of sin and death!