The Heart Not Right
James Smith, 1860
"Your heart is not right in the sight of God." Acts 8:21
So spoke Peter to Simon Magus, when he thought he could obtain power to confer the Holy Spirit for money. He had professed religion. He was a member of the church. He was a gifted man, and perhaps many thought he would be a useful man — but his heart was not right, and if the heart is wrong, then all is wrong. How many are in such a state now. Their creed is right. Their general conduct right. They pass muster among professors. But the heart is not right in the sight of God. Let us glance at a few of the many characters, by whom we are surrounded in the present day — whose hearts are not right; and may the Lord bless a few simple remarks, to the convincing of some, and the correcting of others.
Undecided man, or woman — your heart is not right. You ought to be decided for God — or against him. You ought to be wholly with the church — or the world. With you religion should be everything — or nothing. While you halt between two opinions, while you linger between the world and the church — you are wrong.
Formal professor — your heart is not right. There is no life, no power, no love in your religion. You read your Bible, you repeat your prayers, you sing your hymns, and you attend religious ordinances — but all out of form, or from a sense of duty. The love of God has never been shed abroad in your heart. The blood of atonement has never been applied to your conscience. The power of the Holy Spirit has never been felt in your soul. You are wrong. I hope you may not find out your mistake too late.
Fearful one — I mean such as are more afraid of man than God — your heart is not right. You are afraid of losing man's approbation, or afraid of incurring man's frown — afraid of losing some situation, or some of your wordily business, if you were openly to profess Christ. Afraid of poverty, more than you are afraid of God's displeasure. Afraid of persecution from man, more than you are afraid of Hell! You are wrong — altogether wrong.
The hypocrite, the man who wears a mask, who pretends to be what he knows he is not — his heart is not right in the sight of God. You know you were never born of God, you know you have no love to God, or living faith in Christ; and yet for some worldly advantage, or to please some superior, or from some other unworthy motive — you pretend to be religious. You are wrong!
The worldly-minded, who are more taken up with temporals, than spirituals; who think more of money, than grace; who give their hearts to the world, more than to God — these are wrong. For if we profess religion, we profess to be quickened from a death in sins, to a life of righteousness — we profess to be risen with Christ, and we are therefore to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Our hopes, our desires, our affections should be in Heaven; and if they are not, our hearts are not right in the sight of God.
The presumptuous, whose conduct contradicts their creed, who claim the privileges of God's people without a title to them, and the promises of God without true faith — are all wrong. They know nothing about a broken heart for sin, repentance unto life, or tenderness of conscience; but are bold, daring, and unfeeling, their hearts are not right in the sight of God.
The lukewarm, who decry zeal, fervor, and whole-heartedness in others, and are neither cold nor hot themselves, are wrong. God requires devotion, dedication, the constant presentation of our bodies, souls, and spirits to his service; if therefore we are half-hearted, self-satisfied, and indifferent to God's glory — our hearts are not right in the sight of God.
The backslider, who did run well — but has been hindered, who was thorough but is so no longer — he is wrong. Yes, yes, my friend, if your prayer-closet is neglected, if your Bible is unread, if God's ordinances are no longer prized — depend upon it, your heart is not right in the sight of God.
But if such characters are wrong, what shall we say to the covetous, the liar, the dishonest, the sly drunkard, the unfeeling? And yet there are many such, who wear a cloak of religion, and wish to be considered the friends of God, and the disciples of Christ; but God will never own them, Christ will never bear them in his presence — but will ask, "Why do you call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?" And he will also pronounce their doom, "Depart from me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
But when is the heart right? When it has been . . .
quickened by the Holy Spirit,
cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and
is influenced by the love of God.
When its dependence is on Christ, and it is in union with Christ, and is ruled by the Word of Christ. When zealous for the Lord's glory, at home in the Lord's work — it beats in union with the Lord's will. Only, as the heart is . . .
inhabited by the Holy Spirit,
consecrated to the Lord's service, and
aiming supremely at the Lord's glory — is it right.
In the unregenerate, it is radically, entirely, and altogether wrong. Often, even in those who are born of God, is it partially, and for a season, wrong. Let us then bear in mind, that the Lord's eye is fixed on the heart, and that he searches the secret part of man. That though we may be deceived by our fellows, or even be for a time deceived by ourselves — yet God cannot be deceived. That the Lord will in his own time and way, show whose heart is right, and whose is not. Therefore, let us while we think of the awful and dangerous state of those, whose hearts are not right in the sight of God, be very concerned, that always, and under all circumstances, whatever else may happen, that our hearts may be right in the sight of God; for if the heart is right, everything else will be right in the end.