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.”