We began yesterday to explain that passage where the Prophet says, that the heart is insidious, or fallacious and wicked, so that no one can penetrate into those deceits which are concealed withill it. We referred to the Prophet's object in saying this, -- -that the Jews might know that their cunning was in vain, while they hid their thoughts as it were under the earth, that is, while they thought that by their false pretences they could deceive God as well as men.
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, Who can search it? but the answer immediately follows, I -- I Jehovah; that is, |It belongs to one to search the heart and the reins, and so nothing can escape me.| The meaning then is, that when men try to deceive God, they gain nothing, for God knows how to take the wise in their own craftiness, and to discover all their guiles and deceits. Then he adds for what end is this done, That I may render to every one according to his ways, according to the fruit of his works.
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 --