Ah! the heart was wrong, and therefore everything was wrong!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root!" Mark 4:5-6
Much is said about these stony-ground hearers of the Word, which is attractive and hopeful. I anticipate a true life, a brave witness, an abundant harvest. But suddenly comes the check, the change, the fall. And what was the problem? Ah! the heart was wrong, and therefore everything was wrong!
1. The heart was unbroken. The rock had never been penetrated at all, and the seed died soon on its hard and impervious surface.
I wonder whether the stubbornness and the stolidity of my heart have been shattered. Have I been melted . . .
into practical concern of soul,
into the sense of spiritual neediness,
into godly sorrow,
into contrite prayer?
There can be no new birth and no vital growth, until then!
After an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the lava covered the fields with an apparently invincible crust; but the peasants bored holes in it, and pierced to the ground below, and planted their vines — and in due season gathered the grapes. Has the lava-crust of my heart been divinely pierced and overcome?
2. And the heart was shallow and superficial. It had no depth. Immediately beneath the thin layer of top-soil, was that rebellious and intractable adamant; the seed had not a sufficient resting-place and home.
This is the fatal fault of very many. They do not stop to think about unseen, eternal, heavenly things. They do not take time to consider their own miserable state of soul, and the grace of Jesus Christ. They nod, and glance, and bustle by.
Again I ought to examine myself. I can be eager enough, and resolute enough, about earthly matters. But have I ever roused my very soul, have I ever set my face like a flint, to seek and find the Lord my Savior, my Righteousness, my Strength? There is no possibility of salvation for the superficial heart!
3. And the heart was dry. It had none of the moistening, subduing, fructifying influences of the Holy Spirit. If the showers descend upon the rocky soil, there is no loam to retain them and to derive a benefit from them.
Just so, does everything depend on the Spirit's presence and work within me! Apart from His dews and gentle rains, I am helpless, hopeless, dead, damned. For until His almightiness renews me, until His waters slake and vivify my parched and thirsty being, until I receive the outpouring of the grace of God — I have no spiritual life.
Is it not a miserable heart, this heart of stone?
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh!" Ezekiel 36:26