Heart in the Sight of God
2. What is a wrong heart like
I will now show you, in the second place, the heart that is wrong in the sight of God. There are only two sorts of hearts, a right one and a wrong one. What is a wrong heart like?
The wrong heart is the natural heart with which we are all born. There are no hearts which are right by nature. There are no such things as naturally “good hearts”, whatever some ignorant people may please to say about “having a good heart at the bottom”. Ever since Adam and Eve fell, and sin entered into the world, men and women are born with an inclination to evil. Every natural heart is wrong. If your heart has never been changed by the Holy Ghost since you were born, know this day that your heart is wrong.
What does the Scripture say about the natural heart? It says many things which are deeply solemn, and painfully true. It says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). It says that “every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). It says that “the heart of the sons of men is full of evil” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). It says that “From within, out of the heart of man”, as out of a fountain, “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within” (Mark 7:21). Truly this is a humbling picture! The seeds of these things are in the heart of every one born into the world. Surely I may well tell you that the natural heart is wrong.
But is there no one common mark of the wrong heart, which is to be seen in all whom God has not changed? Yes! There is; and to that common mark of the wrong heart I now request your attention. There is a most striking and instructive figure of speech, which the Holy Ghost has thought fit to use, in describing the natural heart. He calls it a “stony heart” (Ezekiel 11:19). I know no emblem in the Bible so full of instruction, and so apt and fitting as this one. A truer word was never written than that which calls the natural heart a heart of stone. Mark well what I am going to say; and may the Lord give you understanding!
(a) A stone is hard. All people know that. It is unyielding, unbending, unimpressible. It may be broken, but it will never bend. The proverb is world-wide, “as hard as a stone”. Look at the granite rocks which line the coast of Cornwall. For four thousand years the waves of the Atlantic Ocean have dashed against them in vain. There they stand in their old hardness, unbroken and unmoved. It is just the same with the natural heart. Afflictions, mercies, losses, crosses, sermons, counsels, books, tracts, speaking, writing, all, all are unable to soften it. Until the day that God comes down to change it, it remains unmoved. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone!
(b) A stone is cold. There is a chilly, icy feeling about it, which you know the moment you touch it. It is utterly unlike the feeling of flesh, or wood, or even earth. The proverb is in every one’s mouth, “As cold as a stone”. The old marble statues in many a cathedral church have heard the substance of thousands of sermons. Yet they never show any feeling. Not a muscle of their marble faces ever shrinks or moves. It is just the same with the natural heart. It is utterly destitute of spiritual feeling. It cares less for the story of Christ’s death on the cross, than it does for the last new novel, or the last debate in Parliament, or the account of a railway accident, or a shipwreck, or an execution. Until God sends fire from heaven to warm it, the natural heart of man has no feeling about religion. Well may it be called a heart of stone!
(c) A stone is barren. You will reap no harvest off rocks of any description. You will never fill your barns with corn from the top of Snowdon or Ben Nevis. You will never reap wheat on granite or slate, on lime-stone or trap-stone, on oolite or sandstone, on flint or on chalk. You may get good crops on Norfolk sands, or Cambridgeshire fens, or Suffolk clay, by patience, labour, money, and good farming. But you will never get a crop worth a farthing off a stone. It is just the same with the natural heart. It is utterly barren of penitence, or faith, or love, or tear, or holiness, or humility. Until God breaks it up and puts a new principle in it, it bears no fruit to God’s praise. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone!
(d) A stone is dead. It neither sees, nor hears, nor moves, nor grows. Show it the glories of heaven, and it would not be pleased. Tell it of the fires of hell, and it would not be alarmed. Bid it flee from a roaring lion, or an earthquake, and it would not stir. The Bass Rock and Mount Blanc are just what they were 4000 years ago. They have seen kingdoms rise and fall, and they remain utterly unchanged. They are neither higher, nor broader, nor larger than they were when Noah left the ark. It is just the same with the natural heart. It has not a spark of spiritual life about it. Until God plants the Holy Ghost in it, it is dead and motionless about real religion. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone!
The wrong heart is now set before you. Look at it. Think about it. Examine yourself by the light of the picture I have drawn. Perhaps your heart has never yet been changed. Perhaps your heart is still just as it was when you were born. If so, remember this day what I tell you. YOUR HEART IS WRONG IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
Would you know the reason why it is so difficult to do good in the world? Would you know why so few believe the Gospel, and live like true Christians? The reason is, the hardness of man’s natural heart. He neither sees nor knows what is for his good. The wonder, to my mind, is not so much that few are converted, as the miraculous fact that any are converted at all. I am not greatly surprised when I see or hear of unbelief. I remember the natural heart is wrong.
Would you know the reason why the state of men is so desperately helpless, if they die in their sins? Would you know why ministers feel so fearful about everyone who is cut off unprepared to meet God? The reason is, the hardness of man’s natural heart. What would a man do in heaven, if he got there, with his heart unchanged? By which of the saints would he sit down? What pleasure could he take in God’s presence and company? Oh no! It is vain to conceal it. There can be no real hope about a man’s condition, if he dies with his heart wrong.
I leave this point here. Once more I press the whole subject of my paper upon your conscience. Surely you must allow it is a very serious one.
Is thy heart right? Is it right in the sight of God?
Part two of “The Heart” an excerpt from the book Old Paths by J.C. Ryle.
Part one: Heart in the Sight of God