“The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support unto himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends” (V.5).
Surprisingly enough, Jeremiah 17:9 was not proof-texted in support of the WCF’s heretical notion that the heart of a Christian is deceitful. Instead 2 Chronicles 32:25, 26, 31 and 2 Samuel 24:1 are rallied in support of it:
“But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah…Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:25-26, 31).
If the “he” of verse 31 is God, then He was trying (or testing) Hezekiah that He might know all that was in Hezekiah’s heart. A similar passage that speaks figuratively in this way is where God after testing Abraham says, “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).
If the “he” is a regenerate Hezekiah then his heart could not be deceitful above all things, otherwise how could he be said to “know all that was in his heart”? If one’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked then as God says in Jeremiah 17:9, they cannot know it. The rhetorical question asked is, “who can know it?” And if the self-refuting nature of asserting that one’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked weren’t enough, passages such as Ezekiel 36:26-27, Matthew 24:24, John 16:13-14, and 2 Corinthians 5:17 decimate this deceitful and desperately wicked heresy.
If “he” is an unregenerate Hezekiah, then it is irrelevant since the WCF is trying to perniciously apply this passage to regenerate persons.
“And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 24:1).
This passage only implies that God moved the heart of David. God turned the heart of David to do a specific thing.
If the men of Westminster believed their hearts to be deceitful, then how did they know that their deceitful hearts were not deceiving them into believing that they had deceitful hearts? Their pernicious position that a true Christian has a deceitful heart refutes itself.
If their hearts are deceitful then how is it possible that the “hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts” could be discovered unto them? If their heart is deceitful then they cannot know whether or not they are being deceived into thinking that they are truly being humbled by God by having the deceitfulness of their hearts revealed unto them.
In contrast to the WCF, here is God’s Word on the matter:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:1-5).
In contrast to the unregenerate whose hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, and thus could be deceived by their deceitful hearts that they are following the true Shepherd, when in fact they are following a stranger. Jesus Christ says that the sheep know His voice and will not follow a stranger, but flee from a stranger. The WCF men brazenly and unabashedly contradict Christ’s clear statement by their doctrine which says in effect, that since the sheep’s heart is supposedly deceitful, then they will be “wonderfully confused” about which voice belongs to the Shepherd and which belongs to the stranger.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
That deceitful heart that the WCF teaches still remains in believers, is that stony heart that is taken away and is replaced with a heart of flesh. The Holy Spirit gives His people a new heart and causes them to walk in obedience.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The old things include the old heart. It is taken away; it is removed. The Holy Spirit makes a person anew! To say that the heart of a believer remains deceitful and incurably wicked is to deny the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
Further, it makes nonsense out of passages such as this:
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:5-6).
Quite certainly, there is a principle of sin remaining in the believer (Romans 7:17-25). But if this principle of sin was deceitful as the WCF asserts, then it would be possible for a believer’s heart to deceive them into thinking they were serving God, when in fact they were serving sin. Also, according to the devilish logic of the WCF men, it would be possible for the regenerate sheep to be deceived by their deceitful hearts into following a false shepherd, contradicting the words of Jesus Christ (John 10:5).