Once let a man get a sight of his own heart!
(J.C. Ryle, "Knots Untied" 1896)
Shall I say what seems to me to be the clearest proof that man is a fallen and corrupt creature?
It is not open vice, or unblushing profligacy.
It is not the crowded ale-house, or the murderer's cell in a jail.
It is not avowed infidelity, or gross and despicable idolatry.
All these are proofs, and convincing proofs indeed, that man is fallen. But there is to my mind a stronger proof still — that proof is the wide-spread "spirit of slumber" about their souls, in which most men lie chained and bound. When I see that multitudes of sensible men, and intelligent men, and decent-living men — can travel quietly towards the grave, and feel no concern about their sins, I need no more convincing evidence that man is "born in sin," and that his heart is alienated from God. There is no avoiding the conclusion.
Man is naturally asleep — and must be awakened.
He is blind — and must be made to see.
He is dead — and must be made alive.
No heart is in so bad a state, as the heart that does not feel sin!
Light was the first thing called into being. When God created the world, He said, "Let there be light." (Genesis 1:3) In the same way, light is the first thing that the Holy Spirit creates in a man's heart, when He awakens, converts, and makes him a true Christian. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
For lack of seeing sin — men do not value salvation. Once let a man get a sight of his own heart, and he will begin to cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
To know our spiritual disease — is one step towards a cure. To feel bad and wicked and Hell-deserving — is the first beginning of being really holy.
What though we are humbled to the dust, and cry, "Lord, I am vile! Lord, I am the very chief of sinners!" It is better a thousand times to have these feelings and be miserable under them — than to have no feelings at all. Anything is better than a dead conscience, and a cold heart, and a prayer-less tongue!
Ignorance of self and sin are the root of all mischief to the soul!