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J.C. Ryle – A Right Heart

My son, give me your heart Proverbs 23.26

Heart in the Sight of God

“Give me thy heart” Proverbs 23:26

“Thy heart is not right in the sight of God” Acts 8:21

The heart is the main thing in religion. I make no excuse for asking the special attention of my readers, while I try to say a few things about the heart.

The head is not the principal thing. You may know the whole truth as it is in Jesus, and consent that it is good. You may be clear, correct, and sound in your religious opinions. But all this time you may be walking in the broad way which leads to destruction. It is your heart which is the main point. “Is thy heart right in the sight of God?”.

Your outward life may be moral, decent, respectable, in the eyes of men. Your minister, and friends, and neighbours, may see nothing very wrong in your general conduct. But all this time you may be hanging on the brink of everlasting ruin. It is your heart which is the main thing. Is that heart right in the sight of God?

Wishes and desires are not enough to make a Christian. You may have many good feelings about your soul. You may, like Balaam, long to “die the death of the righteous” Numbers 23:10. You may sometimes tremble at the thought of judgment to come, or be melted to tears by the tidings of Christ’s love. But all this time you may be slowly drifting downward into hell. It is your heart which is the main thing. Is that heart right in the sight of God?

There are three things which I propose to do in order to impress the subject of this paper upon your mind.

1. First, I will show you the immense importance of the heart in religion.

2. Secondly, I will show you the heart that is wrong in the sight of God.

3. Lastly, I will show you the heart that is right.

May God bless the whole subject to the soul of every one into whose hands this book may fall! May the Holy Ghost, without whom all preaching and writing can do nothing, apply this paper to many consciences, and make it an arrow to pierce many hearts!

1. The immense importance of the heart in religion.

In the first place, I will show the immense importance of the heart in religion.

How shall I prove this point? From whence shall I fetch my arguments? I must turn to the Word of God. In questions of this kind it matters nothing what the world thinks right or wrong. There is only one sure test of truth. What saith the Scripture? What is written in the Bible? What is the mind of the Holy Ghost? If we cannot submit our judgments to this infallible umpire, it is useless to pretend that we have any religion at all.

For one thing, the Bible teaches that the heart is that part of us on which the state of our soul depends. “Out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23. The reason, the understanding, the conscience, the affections, are all second in importance to the heart. The heart is the man. It is the seat of all spiritual life, and health, and strength, and growth.

It is the hinge and turning – point in the condition of men’s soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God. The heart is the man! Tell me not merely what a man says and professes, and where a man goes on Sunday, and what money he puts in the collecting – plate. Tell me rather what his heart is, and I will tell you w hat he is. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7.

For another thing, the Bible teaches that the heart is that part of us at which God especially looks. “Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7. “Every way of man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the heart” Proverbs 21:2. Man is naturally content with the outward part of religion, with outward morality, outward correctness, outward regular attendance on means of grace. But the eyes of the Lord look much further.

He regards our motives. He “weigheth the spirits” Proverbs 16:2. He says Himself, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins” Jeremiah 17:10.

For another thing, the Bible teaches that the heart is the first and foremost thing which God asks man to give him. “My son”, He says, “give Me thine heart” Proverbs 23:26. We may give God a bowed head and a serious face, our bodily presence in His house, and a loud amen. But until we give God our hearts, we give Him nothing of any value. The sacrifices of the Jews in Isaiah’s time were many and costly. They drew nigh to God with their mouth, and honoured Him with their lips. But they were all wholly useless, because the heart of the worshippers was far from God, Matthew 15:8. The zeal of Jehu against idolatry was very great, and his services in pulling down idols brought him many temporal rewards. But there was one great blot on his character which spoiled all. He did not walk in the law of God “with all his heart” 2 Kings 10:31.

The heart is what the husband desires to have in his wife, the parent in his child, and the master in his servant.

And the heart is what God desires to have in professing Christians.

“The Heart” an excerpt from the book Old Paths by J.C. Ryle.

Part two: Heart Wrong in the Sight of God

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