Summary: These words were spoken of the disciples. The occasion of their utterance was this — the evening of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Christ walked out upon the water and met His disciples, who were crossing the sea in a boat.
HARDNESS OF HEART
“For they considered not the miracle of the loaves,
for their heart was hardened.”
These words were spoken of the disciples. The occasion of their utterance was this — the evening of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Christ walked out upon the water and met His disciples, who were crossing the sea in a boat. They were much surprised and astonished to see Him walk on the water; they had already forgotten the wonderful miracle which was performed before their eyes, but a few hours before, and being ‘sore amazed in themselves, beyond measure,’ the evangelist properly says of them, that ‘they considered not the miracle of the loaves, for their heart was hardened.’
Mark 8:17. ‘And when Jesus knew it, He saith unto them — Why reason ye because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened?’
These words were addressed to the disciples, who did not understand Christ when He warned them to ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.’ They supposed that He alluded to the fact that they had come out without bread. He, perceiving their mistake, said unto them, ‘Why reason ye because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your hearts hardened?’ In other words, “the fact that you can so greatly mistake as to the meaning of my instruction, is
sufficient proof that your hearts are very hard.” Again,
‘Afterward, He appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.’
Without stopping to expound this text, I shall endeavor to show,
I. WHAT HARDNESS OF HEART IS.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF HARDNESS OF HEART ON THE STATES OF THE INTELLIGENCE AND SENSIBILITY, OR IN MORE COMMON TERMS, UPON THE OPINIONS OR JUDGMENTS AND FEELINGS OF MEN.
I. WHAT IS HARDNESS OF HEART?
The above, and many other texts which might be advanced, show that hardness of heart is a voluntary state of mind. If it is a voluntary state, it must be the will in a state of choice — a will committed, for the time being, to some form of selfishness. The term hardness is appropriately used, because when the heart is in this state, it is stubborn, and will not yield to the truth, and prevents the intelligence and sensibility from perceiving, and being duly impressed by the truth. But I must pass rapidly on and show,
II. THE INFLUENCE OF HARDNESS OF HEART UPON THE SENSIBILITY AND
INTELLIGENCE, OR UPON THE OPINIONS AND FEELINGS OF MEN
1. We know by consciousness, that the heart controls the attention of the mind. In other words, the intelligence is so completely under the control of the will, that its action, or attention, is directed to whatever point the heart or will pleases.
2. We also know by our own consciousness, that the attention affects the sensibility. If the attention is directed to a particular object, the feelings are of necessity excited by that object. If the attention is from any cause diverted from that object, we at once cease to feel for that object. The kind, or nature, too, of our feelings, depends on the view which the intellect takes of its object of attention. If it views it in one aspect, we are moved to certain states of feeling; and if it views it in another, we are exercised by very different feelings. The feelings then, are dependent on the perceptions of the intellect, and the intellect in turn, is controlled by the will, according as the will is more or less given up to any object, so will the attention of the intelligence be more or less directed to that object, and consequently the feelings will be more or less excited by the same object.
3. When the heart is hard, we do not consider the truth as we otherwise would. This must of necessity be true; for if the will is given up to the indulgence of any form of selfishness, of course it cannot pay a calm and dispassionate attention to the truth. Such a thing would be an impossibility, and could never be. Suppose for instance, that the mind is committed to money-making for selfish purposes; of course, all the feelings will drift in that direction, and it would be absurd to say, that while such is the case — while the will is committed, the intelligence can give serious and candid attention to the great truths of religion.
4. When the heart is hard, we do not understand truth — of course, if we do not pay attention to it, we do not understand it. Hence, in the parable of the sower, Christ represented impenitent men as ‘hearing the word of the kingdom, and understanding it not.’ The fact is, wicked men do not consider the truth, therefore they do not understand it, they do not perceive it with their intellects, therefore it does not move them, it does