David Black.

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' been at his table. May the impressions
' of this delii^htful solemnity lono; remain
' upon my own heart, and excite to watch-

' fulness and diligence.'


Anniversarij of ordination * Lord's

* day, September 15. 1805, brings me to
^ the 20th anniversary of my ordination to

* the sacred work of the ministrj'-. It is a
' weighty and serious thought, that so lang
' I have been spared and honoured to preach

* the gospel. In undertaking this great
' work, I hope I was actuated on the whole
' by pure motives, and that in the course of
^ my ministry, I have been seeking not to
' please men, but to profit their immortal

* souls I can truly say I have found Christ

* to be a good master, and his work sweet

* and delightful, so that I would not ex-
' change employments with the greatest

* prince or potentate on earth. No mate-

* rial change of sentiment has taken place
' since I began to preach ; only, if the Lord

* spare me, I would study to be more prac-
' tical, more particular in the delineation of
' character, and more faithful in dealing
' with the consciences of men.'

xxxii ACCOUNT or

A few years before his death, when so
much enfeebled by a severe and hngering
ilhiess, that his continuance jn life seemed
to himself extremely precarious, he wa^ en-
abled to look forward to death with compo-
sure andjov. Directing his attention to
the consequences of such an event to .his
voung and rising family, he thus expressed
himself, ' I can leave the dear partner of
' my heart, and the dear pledges of our

* mutual love, upon the care and faithfulness
' of my heavenly Father. He hath made

* with me an everlasting; covenant, well or-
' dered in all things and sure ; and hath
' graciously promised to be the God of my

* children. He abideth faithful and will
' not deny himself. He will keep what I
^ have committed to him ; and his blessing
' will be upon my offspring.'

The \"iew which has been given, in the
preceding narrative, of the life and cha-
racter of Mr Black, will not appear ex-


agi^e rated to those by \vhom he was in-
timately known. It might not be diffi-
cult to mention some of his contemporaries,
distinguished by a higher portion of those
endowments and acquirements, which the
men of the world admire, and which pro-
cure for their possessors, the envied, but
perishable meed of earthly renown. But,
while Mr Black possessed talents, equal to
the attamment of every valuable object
which be chose to pursue, let it be ever
known as his honourable memorial, that his
talents were unreservedly consecrated to
the service of God ; that his life eminently
adorned the religion which he professed ;
and that he was honoured to be a faithful
and successful minister of the gospel. To
his character, the friends of Christianity may
with confidence appeal, as one bright instance
more of the powder of the gospel, to promote
the purity, the dignity, and the happiness
of those who cordially embrace it. In him,
indeed, was exemplified, in an eminent de-



gree, that sublime view of the Christian hfe
which is given by the apostle Paul, — a life
hid with Christ in God.

The publication of this volume of Ser-
mons has been loudly called for by Mr
Black's friends, and by the public at large.
It labours, to a certain degree, under the
disadv^antages which are common to post-
humous publications. In preparing it for
the press, great care has been taken, that
no sentiment of Mr Black^s should be sup-
pressed or changed ; though some verbal
corrections, which seemed indispensible,
have been hazarded.

It would be wrong to anticipate the judg-
ment of the public, or to obtrude any opi-
nion respecting; the merits of the sermons
contained in the present volume. On this
point every reader will decide for himself
Those readers who have been accustomed
to hear Mr Black, should not be disappoint-


ed, if his sermons seem, in the perusal, to
want that pecuUar charm which they deriv-
ed from his earnest and impressive address.
Others must not expect to be gratified, who
look into this volume, only with the view of
beino- amused with the subtilties of argu-
mentation, the sallies of fancy, or the mere
ornaments of style. But it is hoped that
none will be disappointed, who peruse it
with the single desire of having their un-
derstandings informed, and their hearts
improved. They will have ample reason
to be satisfied, if they find in it a clear and
judicious illustration of the leading doctrines
of Christianity, faithfully applied to the con-
sciences and conditions of men. In this
view, the volume now offered to the public,
will furnish a valuable accession to that
store of religious instruction, with which our
language abounds.

C O N 1^ E N T S.


The deceitfuliiess of the Heart.

Jeremiah xvii. Q.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked p. I.


The Evil of Sin.

Proverbs xiv. 9-

Fools make a mock at sin p. 22.


Sin Detected.

Numbers xxxii. 23.
jpe sure your sin zvillfind you out. — p. 52.


On Repentance.
Mark vi. 12.

And they went out, arid preached that men
should repent p. 82.

The Gospel Invitation.
Rev. xxii. 17.
And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come ;



and let him that liearcth sai/, Come ; and
let him that is athirst come; and who-
soever will, let him take of the water of
life freely — p. 122.


Christian Benevolence recommended and
enforced from the Example of Christ.

Matthew ix. 13.

But go ye, and learn what that meaneth,
I will have mercy arid not sacrifce : for
I am not come to call the righteous, Out
sinners to repentance p. 148.


On Justification.

Philippians iii. 9-
And he found in him, not having mine own
righteousness, which is of the law ; hut
that zohich is through the faith of Christ,
the righteousness which is of God by
Faith.— i^. 183.


The Law established by the Doctrine of

Romans iii. 31.
Do we then make void the law through
faith .^ God Jorhid : yea, we establish
the lazi) p. 219. I



Faith's Victory over the World.
1 John V. 4.

This is the victory that overcometh the
zvorld, even our faith. — p. 256".


The Christian Character.

Acts iv. 13.

And they took knowledge of them, that

they had been with Jesus p. 290.


The Safety of Behev^ers.

, 2 Tim. i. 12.

I know whom I have believed ; and I am.
persuaded that he is able to' keep that
which I have committed unto him a-
gainst that day p. 330.


Christ's Little Flock.

Luke xii. 33.
Fear not, little flock ; for it is your Fa-
ther's good pleasure to give you the king-
dom. — p. 366.


The Improvement of Affliction,

Job xxxiv. 31,32.

Surely it is meet to be said anfo God, I


Jiave home chastisement, I mill not of-
fend any more : That zvhich I see not,
teach thou me ; if I have done iniquity,
I will do no more p. 392.


The Duty of seeking the Things which are

Jesus Christ's.

Phihppians ii. 31.

For all seek their own, not the things which

are Jesus Chrisfs p. 411.*


Support in God's Covenant.

2 Samuel xxiii. 5.
Although my house he not so with God, yet

he hath made zvith me an everlasting co-
venant, ordered in all things, and sure ;
for this is all 7ny salvation, and all my
desire, although he make it not to grow.
~p. 462. " .




Jeremiah xvii. 9.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked.

X RUE and faithful is the testimony of
God. Men may amuse themselves and their
fellow creatures with empty, high sounding
descriptions of the dignity of human nature,
and the all-sufficient powers of man ; but
every humble, every truly enlightened mind,
will see and acknowledge the justness of the
declaration in the text, that the heart is de^
ceitful above all things, and desperatelif


This is a truth which, hke many others
in the word of God, can only be learned
from experience. As long as we assent to it,
merely because it is contained in the Scrip-
tures, we are strangers to its nature, and
cannot understand what it means : But, as
in water face answereth to face ^ so doth the
heart of man to man. Human nature in
different ages and in different circumstances
is still the same ; and when, by means of
the word, the secrets of our own hearts are
made manifest, when we come to perceive
the exact correspondence between the decla-
rations of Scripture, and what passes within
Us, we are obliged to confess, that God is
in it of a truth, since none but He who
searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of
the children of men, could know so perfectly
the inward workings of our minds, and those
numberless evils which are hidden from the
vieAv of all our fellow creatures^

oi J purpose at present to speak only of the
deceitfulness of the heart, a subject suffi-
ciently extensive, not merely for one, but for
many discourses, and which, after all that


can be said on it, must remain in a great
measure unexhausted, for who cmi hnow it ?
The deceit that lodges in the heart is so
compHcated and so various, that it is impos-
sible to trace it in all its windings. It is
but comparatively a small part of it that
any created mind can discover, and there-
fore, in the verse immediately following the
text, God ascribes this knowledge to him-
self as his peculiar prerogative ; 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.'y^ry or\ A

But, by the blessing of God, it may be
useful to turn our attention to this deeply
interesting subject, and point out some of
the plainest and most decisive evidences of
the deceitfulness of the human heart, which
jscripture, observation, and experience af-
ford. It appears.,

I. From men's general ignorance of their
own character.



There is not any thing in the history of
mankind more surprising, or at first view
more unaccountable, than the self-partiahty
which prevails in the world. One would be
apt to imagine, that it should not be so
difficult to arrive at the knowledge ot
our real character, possessing, as we do,
every possible advantage for attaining it.
We have constant access to our own breasts,
and are more deeply interested in the dis-
covery, than in the acquisition of any other
knowledge. But we see, in fact, that of all
knowledge this is the rarest and most un-
common. Nor is it difficult to account for
this fact, since the heart is deceitful above
all things. Self-We casts a veil over the
understanding, the judgment is warped by
various circumstances, and hence it is, that
many seem to be almost entire strangers to
their own character. They think, and rea-
son, and judge quite differently in any thing
relating to themselves, from what they do
in those cases in which they have no per-
sonal interest. Accordingly, we often hear
people exposing follies for wliich they them-
selves are remarkable, and talking with great


severity against particular vices, of which, if
all the world be not mistaken, they them-
selves are notoriously guilty. It is astonish-
ing to what a pitch this self-ignorance and
self-partiality may be carried ! How fre-
quently do we see men, not only altogether
blind to their own character, but insensible
to every thing that can be said to convince
them of their mistake. In vain do you ten-
der to them instruction or reproof, for they
turn away every thing from themselves, and
never once imagine that they are the per-
sons for w^hose benefit these counsels and
admonitions are chiefly intended.

Of this we are every day furnished with
frequent instances in common life. The sa-
cred history affords us a remarkable example
in the case of David on one particular occa-
sion : I say on one particular occasion, for
the description that we have been giving by
no means applies to David's general charac'
ter. Few were, in general, more accustom-
ed to self-inquiry. But when Nathan the
prophet was sent to him, in consequence of
his grievous fall in the matter of Uriah, such


was the insensibility, and self-ignorance
which sin had produced, that he perceived
not the application of the parable to him-
self, till the prophet declared, Thou art the

From this and similar instances, we are
led to observe that, if we trace this self-ig-
norance to its source, we shall find that it
is in general owing, not only to that partia-
lity and fondness ^hich we all have for our-
selves, but to the prevalence of some par-
ticular passion or interest, which perverts
the judgment in every case where that par-
ticular passion or interest is concerned. And
hence it happens that some men can reason
and judge fairly enough, even in cases in
which they themselves are interested, provid-
ed it does not strike ao:ainst their favourite
passion or pursuit. Thus the covetous man
wdll easily enough perceive the evil of in-
temperance, and perhaps condemn himself
if he has been guilty of this sin in a parti-
cular instance. But he is altogether insen-
sible to the dominion of his predominant
passion, the love of money. It has become


habitual to liim. His mind is accustomed
to it, so that in every case, where his in-
terest is concerned, his judgment is warped,
and in these instances he plainly discovers
that he is totally unacquainted with his own
character. The same observation applies to
other particular vices.

Here then, is one striking evidence of the
deceitfulness of the heart. It produces ig-
norance of ourselves ; . it keeps men stran-
gers to their own character ; and makes
them fatally presume that they are in friend-
ship with God, while they are enemies to
him in their minds and by wicked works.

n. The deceitfulness of the heart appears
from men^s general disposition on all occa-
sions to justify their own conduct.

This disposition our first parents discover-
ed immediately upon their eating the fruit
of the forbidden tree. When the Lord ap-
peared to Adam and charged him with his
guilt, he attempted to justify himself by say^
ing, Thu woman wJwm thou Q-aveaf mc to he


with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did
eat. And in like manner the woman re-
plied, The serpent beguiled me, and I did
eat. Something also of this disposition is
common to all their sinful posterity. We
are all extremely partial to ourselves, and
apt to view our own conduct in a difterent
light from that in which we are accustomed
to resfard the conduct of our fellow creatures.
When we observe improper conduct in o-
thers, the impropriety strikes us at once.
Sin appears to us in its true and genuine
colours, and we are ready to judge and con-
demn, perhaps with too much severity. But
in our own case, the action is seen through
a deceitful medium. The judgment is per-
verted by self-lo^ e, and a thousand expedi-
ents are employed, if not to vindicate, at
least to apologise for our conduct. If we
cannot justify the action itself, we attempt
to extenuate its guilt from the peculiar cir-
cumstances of the case. We were placed
in such and such a particular situation,
which we could not avoid ; our temptations
were strong : we did not go the lengths that
many others would ha^e gone in similar cir-


cumstances ; and the general propriety of
our conduct is more than sufficient to over-
balance any little irregularities v/ith which
we may sometimes be chargeable. Thus,
on all occasions, men endeavour to justify
their own conduct. They even learn to call
their favourite vices by softer names. With
them, intemperance is only the desire of
good fellowship ; lewdness is gallantry, or
the love of pleasure ; pride, a just sense
of our own dignity ; and covetousness, or
the love of money, a prudent regard to our
worldly interest. Strange infatuation ! to
thinly that by changing the names of vi-
ces, it is possible to change their nature ; and
that what is base and detestable in others,
should be pardonable only m ourselves !

But it may be farther observed on this
part of the subject, that besides these single
determinate acts of wickedness, of which we
have now been speaking, there are number-
less cases in which the w ickedness cannot be
exactly defined, but consists in a certain
general temper and course of action, or in
the habitual neglect of some duty, whose


bounds are not precisely fixed. This is the
pecuhar province of selt-deceit, and here^
most of all, men are apt to justify their con-
duct, however plainly and palpably wrong.
Whoever considers human hfe will see, that
a great part, perhaps the greatest part of
the intercourse amongst mankind cannot be
reduced to fixed, determined rules : yet in
these cases there is a right and a wrong, a
conduct that is sinful and immoral, and a
conduct, on the other hand, that is virtuous
and praise-worthy, though it may be diflH-
cult, nay, perhaps impossible to ascertain
the precise limits of each.

To give an example r There is not a word
in our language that expresses more detest-
able wickedness than oppression. Yet the
nature of this vice cannot be so exactly stat-
ed, nor the bounds of it so determinate ly
marked, as that we shall be able to say, in
all instances, where rigid right and justice
end, and oppression begins. In like man-
ner, it is impossible to determine how much
of every man's income ought to be devoted
to pious and charitable purposes : the

5ER. 1. OF THE HEART. 11

boundaries cannot be exactly marked ; yet
we are at no loss in the case of others to per-
ceive the difference betwixt a liberal and
generous man, and one of a hard-hearted
and penurious disposition. In these cases,
there is great latitude left for every man to
determine in his own favour, and conse-
quently to deceive himself; and it is chief-
ly in such instances as these, that men are
ready to justify their conduct, however cri-
minal. Because they are not chargeable
with single determinate acts of wickedness,
because you cannot precisely point out to
them, in so many w^ords, wherein they have
done amiss, they falsely conclude, that their
conduct is unexceptionable ; though, per-
haps, their general temper and behaviour
may be uniformly wrong, inconsistent with
the spirit of the gospel, and contrary to the
plainest dictates of morality. I proceed to

III. That the deceitfulness of the heart
appears from the difficulty with which men
are brought to acknowledge their faults, even
when conscious that they have done wrong.



This necessarily follows from that disposi-
tion in human nature, to which I have alrea-
dy adverted, namely, the disposition on all
occasions to justify our own conduct. Hence
men in general are so backward to acknow^
ledge their faults, and so displeased with
those who are so faithml and friendly as to
point them out. How few can bear to be
told their faults ! This is the sure and rea-
dy way to make most men your enemies,
even though you administer the reproof in
the gentlest, and most prudent manner. In-
stead of reflecting on their own conduct,
which might convince them of the justice of
what is laid to their charge, many, in these
cases, set themselves immediately to disco-
ver faults in their faithful reprovers, or in
those, who, they suspect, may have informed
them ; and turning away their attention en-
tirely from themselves, are only concerned
to fnid equal, if not greater blemishes in o-
thers. Thus deceitful is the heart of man.
We wish always to entertain a favourable o-
pinion of ourselves and of our own conduct,
and are displeased with those who endea-
vour in any mstance to change this opi-


nion, though it be done with the best, and
most friendly intention.

But how unreasonable and preposterous
is this degree of self-love ! Were we alive
to our true interests, we would wish to be-
come better acquainted with our follies and
our faults, and would esteem our faithful
reprovers our best friends. Instead of feel-
ing an}^ resentment against them, we would
turn all our resentment against ourselves ;
and endeavour, in the strength of divine
grace, to correct those evils which, were we
not so blmded by seli-love, we might easily
discover. But through the deceitfulness of
the heart, men are generally disposed to
justify their own conduct, and ready to
throw the blame of what is amiss on any
thing sooner than on themselves.

IV. The deceitfulness of the heart appears
from the disposition which men discover to
rest in notions and forms of religion, while
they are destitute of its power.


In the purest ages of the church, there
have been persons of this character, men
who, from selfish or worldly motives have
assumed a profession of religion, Avithout un-
derstanding its nature, or feeling its power ;
having a name to live, but being spiritually
dead. It is not easy for persons whose
minds are in any degree informed, to divest
themselves entirely of religious impressions.
The fears that naturally accompany guilt,
will at times obtrude themselves on the most
giddy and thoughtless. But the pure, the
spiritual, the humbling doctrines and pre-
cepts of the gospel are by no means agree-
able to the natural mind ; and therefore it
is not wonderful that persons who have some
apprehension of the truth of religion, but no
acquaintance with its power, should eagerly
grasp at something which may give them
hope beyond the grave, while at the same
time it leaves them in the quiet possession of
their beloved lusts.

Hence it is that so many are hearers of
the word only, and not doers also, deceiving
their ownselves. Hence it ig that so many


shew great zeal about small and unimpor-
tant matters in religion, who are shamefully
deficient in some of its plainest and most
essential duties ; that so many are punctual
in their observance of religious institutions,
who are unjust and uncharitable in their
conduct towards their fellow creatures ; that
so many can talk fluently and correctly on
religious subjects, who are visibly under the
dominion of evil tempers or evil habits ;
that so many are scrupulously exact in
what regards the externals of religion, who
are at no pains to cultivate its genuine spi-
rit, or to perform its most substantial duties.
Like the Pharisees of old, who paid tithes
of anise, mint, and cummin, they neglect
the weightier fuafters of the law,judgnienff
mercy, and faith. Hypocrisy in all its
forms and appearances flows from the de-
ceitfulness of the heart ; for in general men
deceive themselves, before they attempt to
deceive others. Few are so bold as to lay
down a plan of imposing on the world, with-
out endeavouring, in the first instance at
least, to impose on their own minds. Nor
i.s it difficult, when the mind is stron^lv bi-


assed by the love of any particular sin, or
the pursuit of any particular interest, to
persuade ourselves that qui conduct is, at
least, excusable, if not innocent. A disho-
nest mind is satisfied with the meanest shifts
and evasions ; and persons who wish to be
deceived into a good opinion of their con-
duct, are seldom at a loss to accomplish
their purpose.

Balaam was a remarkable instance of
this. He was a man of extensive know-
ledge and superior gifts. He was not a
stranger to the impressions of religion, for
in his calm reflecting moments, he desired
to die the death of the righteous, nor could
any consideration prevail with him to op-
pose the divine commandment, by cursing
those whom God hp.d blessed. But he lov-
ed the wages of unrighteoifsness. Covet-
ousness was his rulins^ passion, and led him,
by the advice which he gave to Balak, to
contradict the whole spirit and design of the
very prohibition, for the letter of which he
professed so sacred a regard. It would be


easy to multiply particulars on this subject^
But I only add, in the

V. and last place, That the deceitfulness
of the heart appears in the highest degree^

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Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 2 of 23)