Monday, November 06, 2006

Is Thy Heart Right?

This is an excerpt from J.C. Ryle's Is Thy Heart Right?

III. I will now show, 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 and good heart is a "new heart." (Ezek. xxxvi. 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 Cor. v. 17.) Is this heart your own?

(b) The right and good heart is a "broken and a contrite heart." (Psalm li. 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 xxii. 19.) It is humble and lowly, and sees in itself no good thing. Is this heart your own?

(c) A right and good heart is a heart that believes on Christ alone for salvation, and in which Christ dwells by faith. (Rom. x. 10; Ephes. iii. 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. (Heb. x. 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 sunflower looks to the sun. It feeds on Christ for its daily sustenance, as Israel fed on the manna in the desert. 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. Is this heart your own?

(d) A right and good heart is a purified heart. (Acts xv. 9; Matt. v.8.) It loves holiness and hates sin. It strives daily to cleanse itself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. (2 Cor. vii. 1.) It abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. (Rom. xii. 9.) It delights in the law of God, and has that law engraven on it, that it may not forget it. (Psalm cxix. 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. Is this heart your own?

(e) A right and good heart is a praying heart. It has within it "the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Rom. viii. 15.) Its daily feeling is, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (Psalm xxvii. 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. Is this heart your own?

(f) A right and good heart is a heart that feels within a conflict. (Gal. v.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 another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind." (Rom. vii. 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 xi. 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. Is this heart your own?

(g) Last, but not least, the right and good heart is honest, and single, and true. (Luke viii. 15; 1 Chron. xii. 33; Heb. x. 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. Is this heart your own?

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 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." (Matt. vi. 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 some day. 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. 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?

I leave my question with you, and entreat you to consider it well. I pray that the Holy Ghost may apply it with Almighty power to your conscience. The first step in religion is to know yourself.

If you would like to read Is Thy Heart Right? in its entirety click here


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