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Heart Right in the Sight of God – J.C. Ryle

Right Heart in the Sight of God is Broken and Contrite - Girded with Truth

Heart in the Sight of God

3. A heart of which the Bible contains many pictures

I will now show you, in the last place, the right heart. It is a heart of which the Bible contains many pictures. I am going to try to place some of those pictures before you. On a question like this, I want you to observe what God says, rather than what is said by man. Come, now, and see the marks and signs of a right heart.

(a) The right heart is a “new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). It is not the heart with which a man is born, but another heart put in him by the Holy Ghost. It is a heart which has new tastes, new joys, new sorrows, new desires, new hopes, new fears, new likes, new dislikes. It has new views about the soul, and sin, and God, and Christ, and salvation, and the Bible, and prayer, and Sunday, and heaven, and hell, and the world, and holiness. It is like a farm with a new and good tenant. “Old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

(b) The right heart is a “broken and contrite heart” (Psalms 51:17). It is broken off from pride, self-conceit, and self-righteousness. Its former high thoughts of self are cracked, shattered, and shivered to atoms. It thinks itself guilty, unworthy, and corrupt. Its former stubbornness, heaviness, and insensibility have thawed, disappeared, and passed away. It no longer thinks lightly of offending God. It is tender, sensitive, and jealously fearful of running into sin (2 Kings 22:19). It is humble, lowly, and self-abased, and sees in itself no good thing.

(c) A right heart is a heart which believes on Christ alone for salvation, and in which Christ dwells by faith (Romans 10:10; Ephesians 3:17). It rests all its hopes of pardon and eternal life on Christ’s atonement, Christ’s mediation, and Christ’s intercession. It is sprinkled in Christ’s blood from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22). It turns to Christ as the compass-needle turns to the north. It looks to Christ for daily peace, mercy, and grace, as the sun-flower looks to the sun. It feeds on Christ for its daily sustenance, as Israel fed on the manna in the wilderness. It sees in Christ a special fitness to supply all its wants and requirements. It leans on Him, hangs on Him, builds on Him, cleaves to Him, as its physician, guardian, husband, and friend.

(d) A right heart is a purified heart (Acts 15:9; Matthew 5:8). It loves holiness, and hates sin. It strives daily to cleanse itself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (2 Corinthians 7:1). It abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. It delights in the law of God, and has that law engraven on it, that it may not forget it (Psalm 119:11). It longs to keep the law more perfectly, and takes pleasure in those who love the law. It loves God and man. Its affections are set on things above. It never feels so light and happy as when it is most holy; and it looks forward to heaven with joy, as the place where perfect holiness will at length be attained.

(e) A right heart is a praying heart. It has within it “the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father” (Romans 8:15). Its daily feeling is, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8). It is drawn by an habitual inclination to speak to God about spiritual things, weakly, feebly, and imperfectly perhaps, but speak it must. It finds it necessary to pour out itself before God, as before a friend, and to spread before Him all its wants and desires. It tells Him all its secrets. It keeps back nothing from Him. You might as well try to persuade a man to live without breathing, as to persuade the possessor of a right heart to live without praying.

(f) A right heart is a heart that feels within a conflict (Galatians 5:17). It finds within itself two opposing principles contending one with another for the mastery, the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. It knows by experience what St. Paul means when he says, “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind” (Romans 7:23). The wrong heart knows nothing of this strife. The strong man armed keeps the wrong heart as his palace, and his goods are at peace (Luke 11:21). But when the rightful King takes possession of the heart, a struggle begins which never ends till death. The right heart may be known by its warfare, quite as much as by its peace.

(g) Last, but not least, the right heart is honest, and single, and true (Luke 8:15, 1 Chronicles 12:33; Hebrews 10:22).

There is nothing about it of falsehood, hypocrisy, or part-acting. It is not double or divided. It really is what it professes to be, feels what it professes to feel, and believes what it professes to believe. Its faith may be feeble. Its obedience may be very imperfect. But one thing will always distinguish the right heart. Its religion will be real, genuine, thorough, and sincere.

A heart such as that which I have now described, has always been the possession of all true Christians of every name, and nation, and people and tongue. They have differed from one another on many subjects, but they have all been of a “right heart”. They have some of them fallen, for a season, like David and Peter, but their hearts have never entirely departed from the Lord. They have often proved themselves to be men and women laden with infirmities, but their hearts have been right in the sight of God. They have understood one another on earth. They have found that their experience was everywhere one and the same. They will understand each other even better in the world to come. All that have had “right hearts” upon earth, will find that they have one heart when they enter heaven.

(1) I wish now in conclusion to offer to every, reader of this paper, a question to promote self-inquiry. I ask you plainly this day, “What is your heart? Is your heart right or wrong?”.

I know not who you are into whose hands this paper have fallen. But I do know that self-examination cannot do you any harm. If your heart is right, it will be a comfort to know it. “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God” (1 John 3:21). But if your heart is wrong, it is high time to find it out, and seek a change. The time is short. The night cometh when no man can work. Say to yourself this very day, “Is my heart right or wrong?”.

Think not to say within yourself. “There is no need for such questions as these. There is no need to make such ado about the heart. I go to church or chapel regularly. I live a respectable life. I hope I shall prove right at last”. Beware of such thoughts, I beseech you; beware, of them if you would ever be saved. You may go to the best church on earth, and hear the best of preachers. You may be the best of churchmen, or the soundest member of a chapel. But all this time, if your heart is not right in the sight of God, you are on the high road to destruction. Settle down to quiet consideration of the question before you. Look it manfully in the face, and do not turn aside. Is your heart right or wrong?

Think not to say within yourself, “No one can know what his heart is. We must hope the best. No one can find out with any certainty the state of his own soul”. Beware, I say again; beware of such thoughts. The thing can be known. The thing can be found out. Deal honestly and fairly with yourself. Set up an assize on the state of your inward man. Summon a jury. Let the Bible preside as judge. Bring up the witnesses. Inquire what your tastes are, where your affections are placed, where your treasure is, what you hate most, what you love most, what pleases you most, what grieves you most. Inquire into all those points impartially, and mark what the answers are. “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). A tree may always be known by its fruit, and a true Christian may always be discovered by his habits, tastes, and affections. Yes! You may soon find out what your heart is, if you are honest, sincere, and impartial. Is it right or wrong?

Think not to say within yourself, “I quite approve of all you say, and hope to examine the state of my heart someday. But I have no time just at present. I cannot find leisure. I wait for a convenient season”. Oh, beware of such thoughts; again I say beware! Life is uncertain, and yet you talk of “a convenient season” (Acts 24:25).

Eternity is close at hand, and yet you talk of putting off preparation to meet God. Alas, that habit of putting off is the everlasting ruin of millions of souls! Wretched man that you are! Who shall deliver you from this devil of putting off? Awake to a sense of duty. Throw off the chains that pride, and laziness, and love of the world are weaving round you. Arise and stand upon your feet, and look steadily at the question before you. Churchman or dissenter, I ask you this day: Is your heart right or wrong?

(2) I wish, in the next place, to offer a solemn warning to all who know their hearts are wrong, but have no desire to change. I do it with every feeling of kindness and affection. I have no wish to excite needless fears. But I know not how to exaggerate the danger of your condition. I warn you that if your heart is wrong in the sight of God you are hanging over the brink of hell. There is but a step between you and everlasting death.

Can you really suppose that any man or woman will ever enter heaven without a right heart? Do you flatter yourself that any unconverted person will ever be saved? Away with such a miserable delusion! Cast it from you at once and forever.

What saith the Scripture? “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no wise see the kingdom of heaven”, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (John 3:3; Matthew 18:3; Hebrews 12:14).

It is not enough to have our sins pardoned, as many seem to suppose. There is another thing wanted as well as a pardon, and that thing is a new heart. We must have the Holy Spirit to renew us, as well as Christ’s blood to wash us. Both renewing and washing are needful before anyone can be saved.

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

Part two: Heart Wrong in the Sight of God

Part one: Heart in the Sight of God

The Lord Jesus Christ: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

(Mark 1:14-15)

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Heart Wrong in the Sight of God – J.C. Ryle

Wrong Heart in the Sight of God - Girded with Truth

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

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