9. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
9. Insidiosum cor prae omnibus (super omnia) et perversum (vertunt quidam; alii, durum; alii, eagrotum; possumus vertere, vitiosum, vel, morbidum;) quis cognoscet illud?
10. 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.
10. Ego Jehova exquirens (vel, explorans) cor, examinans renes, ad dandum (id est, ut dem, ut reddam) cuique secundum vias ejus, secundum fructum operum ejus.
What is taught here depends on what is gone before; and therefore they ought to be read together. Many lay hold on these words and mutilate them without understanding the design of the Prophet. This is very absurd: for we ought first to see what the prophets had in view, and by what necessity or cause they were led to speak, what was their condition, and then the general doctrine that may be gafilered from their words. If we wist to read the prophets with benefit, we must first consider the reason why a thing is spoken, and then elicit a general doctrine. Thus we shall be able rightly to apply this passage to a common use, if we first understand why the Prophet said, that the
We hence see that there is an implied reproof, when he says, that the
"Woe to them who go down to Egypt and make secret covenants, and who trust in horses, as though they could deceive me: ye are wise, I also have a portion of wisdom." (Isaiah 31:1)
Notice especially the expression, "Ye are wise, etc.;" that is, "Ye are not alone wise; leave to me some portions of wisdom, so that I may be wise like yourselves." So also in this place, "Ye are deceitful and insidious, and think that I can be deceived:" for astute men are ever pleased with their own counsels, and seek to deceive God with mere trumperies. "Ye are," he says, "very cunning; but I, Jehovah, will search both your hearts and your reins." I cannot finish the whole to-day.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are wholly nothing and less than nothing, we may know our nothingness, and having cast away all confidence in the world as well as in ourselves, we may learn to flee to thee as suppliants, and so put our trust in thee for our present life and for eternal salvation, that thou alone mayest be glorified: and may we be devoted to thee through the whole course of our life, and so persevere in humility and in calling on thy name, that thou mayest not only for once bring us help, but that we may know that thou art always present with those who truly and from the heart call upon thee, until we shall at length be filled with the fullness of all those blessings, which are laid up for us in heaven by Christ our Lord -- Amen.
We began yesterday to explain that passage where the Prophet says, that the
He says then what he takes as granted, "I know that you have a fallacious heart." This indeed they did not allow; for they made a specious pretext and boasted of their wisdom, and not of deceit and guile. But the Prophet speaks plainly and expresses the fact as it was, "There is in you," he says, "a fallacious and a wicked heart: hence is the confidence, which inebriates you; for ye think that your deceits cannot be discovered." Then in astonishment he asks,
By these words he means that they, after having for a long time made many evasions, would yet be brought to judgment, willing or unwilling; for they could not possibly deprive God of his right, that he should not be the judge of the world, and thus render to each the reward of his own works: for the Prophet does not speak of merits or of virtues, but only shews that how much soever the ungodly might hide themselves, they could not yet escape the tribunal of God, but that they must at last render an account to him.
We may further gather from this passage a general truth, -- that the recesses of the heart are so hidden, that no judgment can be formed of man by any human being. We indeed know that there are appearances of virtue in many; but it belongs to God alone to search the hearts of men and to try the reins. Rashly then do many form an estimate of man's character according to their own apprehensions or the measure of their own knowledge; for the heart of man is ever false and deceitful. If any one objects and says, that Jeremiah speaks of the Jews then living, there is an answer given by Paul,
"Whatsoever things are written in the Law pertain to all." (Romans 15:4.)
Described then is here the character of all mankind, until God regenerates his elect. As then there is no purity except from the Spirit of God, as long as mencontinue in their own nature, their hearts are full of deceits and frauds. So the fairest splendor is nothing but hypocrisy, which is abominable in the sight of God. Let us proceed --
1 The early versions and the Targum are neither consistent nor satisfactory as to the beginning of this verse: "Deep is the heart above all things, and it is man," Septuagint; "Depraved is the heart of all, and inscrutable," Fulgate; "Hard in heart is man above all things," Syriac; "The heart, deeper than anything, is human," Arabic; "Deceitful is the heart above all things, and it is strong." Targum. Correct, no doubt, is the first clause in the Targum, but not the last. Critics agree as to the first word, "deceitful," but not as to the word rendered in our version "desperately wicked." It occurs in all nine times, and four times in other parts of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 15:18; Jeremiah 17:16; Jeremiah 30:12, 15) and it is rendered "incurable," except in Jeremiah 17:16. It means to be so bad as to be past endurance or past remedy. Blayney renders it here, "past all hope;" and Horsely, "incurable," which is perhaps the best word, --
Deceitful the heart above every thing, And incurable it is,
who can know it?
The meaning is, that it is incurably deceitful; hence the question," Who can know it?" -- Ed.
2 The beginning of this verse is an answer to the previous question, "Who can know it?" The best rendering would be this, --
I Jehovah, -- who search the heart and try the reins, And that in order to give to every man According to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.-- Ed.
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