He Had No Heart in Religion
James Smith, 1864
The conduct of many people, who are regular hearers of the Gospel, is quite inexplicable. Why do they attend the means of grace? What do they expect from their attendance? They hear prayers — but they never join in them. They listen to sermons — but they are not much affected by them. If the minister warns — they are not alarmed. If he invites to Jesus — they will not come. If he holds up the glorious promise of eternal life — they will not believe. If he admonishes them to flee from the wrath to come — they will not attend to it. They are like the church door, moving backward and forward — they make no progress, and feel very little more concern. They are like the deaf adder that stops its ear, they refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely. Christ has become of no effect unto them. They seem to be hardened by the very sound of mercy.
We look at them, we pity them, we pray for them, we speak pointedly to them — but it appears to be without effect. Their state reminds me of what I read a short time ago, as follows:
A Christian minister relates: I was called to visit a death-bed of a regular attendant of my ministry, and began to talk to him. "Stop!" said the dying man, "Go and tell the congregation that you have seen one who is going to Hell, because he had no heart in religion!"
Here we have the mystery unraveled, the matter is made plain. "No heart in religion!" Yes, that is it. And we have cause to fear that such is the dreadful state of thousands who regularly sit under the Gospel. They hear of sin — but they have no heart to repent. They hear of Jesus — but they have no heart to believe in him. They hear of God's most gracious character — but they have no heart to love him. If they unite in the hymn — the heart is not praising God. If they stand up during prayer — they have no heart to pray. If they hear the Lord's people telling of spiritual things — they have no heart to join with them.
"No heart in religion!" What a dreadful state to be in, for there can be no religion without the heart; and there can be no peace on earth, or prospect of Heaven, without true religion. In producing real religion, the Lord changes the heart — and the result is, there is a change in our tastes, desires, pleasures, and pursuits. Before, we were all heart for the world, for sin, for the prince of darkness; now, we become all heart for pardon, holiness, and God. The nature being renewed — there is both an inward and outward change. The man has heart, in prayer, in conversation on spiritual subjects, and in all he undertakes for God. God dwells in his heart, and his heart finds its happiness in God. He is never so much at home, as when God condescends to hold sensible communion with him at the mercy-seat, or, when saints converse with him of their personal experience of divine things.
"No heart in religion!" And what is religion without the heart? God asks, "My son, give me your heart." Jesus testifies, "This people draws near unto me with their mouths, and with their lips they honor me — but their heart is far from me, in vain do they worship me." All worship is vain without the heart. God cannot approve of it, he will not accept it. Anything may be excused if the heart is engaged — but nothing is accepted if the heart is not employed! The man is — as his heart is. He has therefore no real religion — if his heart is not in it. He may have the form — but it will avail him nothing. He may have the name — but it only proves him to be deceived or a deceiver. Heartless religion may do for health and ease — but it will not do in sickness or death. Then we shall need something solid, something substantial; something that God's pure eyes will approve of, something that will sustain us in prospect of the solemn realities of eternity. Religion in the heart, and the heart in religion, will be necessary then; and no substitute for these can be found.
Friend, are you a hearer of the Gospel? Have you a place in the house of prayer, and a Bible in your own house? Do you fill the one, and read the other? If so, let me ask you: Have you any heart in religion? If not, let me urge you to think seriously of the matter, let the words of the poor dying man referred to dwell in your thoughts, "I am going to Hell, because I had no heart in religion." What must he have felt when he used these words? What must his minister, and his relations have felt when they heard these words?
Going to Hell! To Hell!! What, to that place where hope expires, where despair seizes upon the heart, where the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched? To Hell!! That is where God's wrath burns like fire and brimstone, where Satan and his demons torment lost souls, where reflection on mercies slighted, a Savior rejected, and being satisfied while there was no heart in religion, adds tenfold to the torment of the lost soul forever.
Hell!! Going To Hell!!! Why, there is no deliverance from Hell. No jubilee trumpet is ever heard there. No invitation of mercy is ever given there. There is no redemption from that state of slavery, degradation, and torment! Eternity gives emphasis to every word in the dreadful sentence, and point to every instrument of torture.
Going to Hell, and going there, Because he had no heart in religion!! How horrifying! Lying on a dying bed, in the land of hope, surrounded by weeping friends and relatives, all anxious to minister to his comfort, with the servant of Christ unfolding the Gospel to him — and yet fully persuaded that he was going to Hell, because he had been satisfied with the form of godliness, without the power; and a name to live, while he was dead. Can you imagine anything more affecting, more alarming, more dreadful than this?
But put yourself in his place, just suppose that it was your case. For if it was his once, it may be yours before long. "Mine?" you say. Yes, yours — if you can be content to go on without any heart in religion.
O you heartless religionists, God's mercy will not always linger over you! God's justice will not always hold back its sword from your blood! Soon, very soon it may be said, "The time has come, the time when I should punish you!" Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong — in the day that God himself shall deal with you? Do not mistake his character. Do not presume on his mercy. Do not imagine that a few heartless sighs, groans, or cries from your death-bed will turn his heart toward you — after you have despised his mercy, and treated his word with contempt for years. Do not conclude that because he has borne with you so long — therefore he will bear with you forever. Some have thought so, and thousands have acted as though they did.
Hear him speak to such in his own word, "These things have you done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself: but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes!" "Consider this, you who forget God — or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue!" Is there not something dreadful in this passage? Especially when we think of its coming from the heart and lips of an infinite God, whose prerogative it is to have mercy and forgive; and whose name is love!
But perhaps you may now say, "I wish I had heart in religion — but I feel so dead, so cold, so indifferent to everything that is holy; that I fear I can never work my heart up to the state required." You are right, you never will, you never can work up your heart to such a state; but there is one promise in God's book which just meets your case, you may take that and plead it before God until he fulfills it in your experience — and then your heart will be in the state required without any working of yours; it runs thus "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 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. And I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws!" Ezekiel 36:25-27
Here the Lord promises the very thing you need, and Jesus says to you, "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find." Make up your mind then to this point, "I must have a new heart — or perish; no one can give me this but God; he has promised to hear all who call on him, and to be found by all who seek him. I have been reading of one who knew he was going to Hell because he had no heart in religion, the Lord helping me, I am determined that shall never be my case, for I will ask, seek, and agonize with God until I receive the blessing!"
Reader, of all delusions, beware especially of this: being satisfied with a religion without a heart; or to go on having no heart in religion.