What is a Wrong Heart Like? — Taken From J.C. Ryle (Old Paths)
Ezekiel 11:19-20 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, (20) that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
This is an excerpt from the book by J.C. Ryle entitled Old Paths. Ryle’s books are tremendous. I was particularly impressed by the following paragraphs, not only because they describe the unconverted sinner’s heart, but because they paint a picture quite familiar to anyone who has had to deal with an abuser. For all of the “Christian” abuser’s talk of religion, his quoting of Bible verses, and his performance in a church, yet his heart remains stone and evidences these rock-hard qualities:
“Is there no one common mark of the wrong heart, which is to be seen in all whom God has not changed? Yes! there is; and to that common mark of the wrong heart I now request your attention. There is a most striking and instructive figure of speech, which the Holy Ghost has thought fit to use, in describing the natural heart. He calls it a “stony heart.” (Ezekiel 11:19.) I know no emblem in the Bible so full of instruction, and so apt and fitting as this one. A truer word was never written than that which calls the natural heart a heart of stone. Mark well what I am going to say; and may the Lord give you understanding!
(a) A stone is hard. All people know that. It is unyielding, unbending, unimpressible. It may be broken, but it will never bend. The proverb is world-wide, “as hard as a stone.” Look at the granite rocks which line the coast of Cornwall For four thousand years the waves of the Atlantic Ocean have dashed against them in vain. There they stand in their old hardness, unbroken and unmoved. It is just the same with the natural heart. Afflictions, mercies, losses, crosses, sermons, counsels, books, tracts, speaking, writing,–all, all are unable to soften it. Until the day that God comes down to change it, it remains unmoved. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone!
(b) A stone is cold. There is a chilly, icy feeling about it, which you know the moment you touch it. It is utterly unlike the feeling of flesh, or wood, or even earth. The proverb is in every one’s mouth, “As cold as a stone.” The old marble statues in many a cathedral church have heard the substance of thousands of sermons. Yet they never show any feeling. Not a muscle of their marble faces ever shrinks or moves. It is just the same with the natural heart. It is utterly destitute of spiritual feeling. It cares less for the story of Christ’s death on the cross, than it does for the last new novel, or the last debate in Parliament, or the account of a railway accident., or a shipwreck, or an execution. Until God sends fire from heaven to warm it, the natural heart of man has no feeling about religion. Well may it be called a heart of stone!
(c) A stone is barren. You will reap no harvest off rocks of any description. You will never fill your barns with corn from the top of Snowdon or Ben Nevis. You will never reap wheat on granite or slate,–on lime-stone or trap-stone, on oolite or sandstone,–on flint or on chalk. You may get good crops on Norfolk sands, or Cambridge-shire fens, or Suffolk clay, by patience, labour, money, and good farming. But you will never get a crop worth a farthing off a stone. It is just the same with the natural heart. It is utterly barren of penitence, or faith, or love, or tear, or holiness, or humility. Until God breaks it up. and puts a new principle in it, it bears no fruit to God’s praise. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone!
(d) A stone is dead. It neither sees, nor hears, nor moves, nor grows. Show it the glories of heaven, and it would not be pleased. Tell it of the fires of hell, and it would not be alarmed. Bid it flee from a roaring lion, or an earthquake, and it would not stir. The Bass Rock and Mount Blanc are just what they were 4000 years ago. They have seen kingdoms rise and fall, and they remain utterly unchanged. They are neither higher, nor broader, nor larger than they were when Noah left the ark. It is just the same with the natural heart. It has not a spark of spiritual life about it. Until God plants the Holy Ghost in it, it is dead and motionless about real religion. Well may the natural heart be called a heart of stone! The wrong heart is now set before you Look at it. Think about it. Examine yourself by the light of the picture I have drawn. Perhaps your heart has never yet been changed. Perhaps your heart is still just as it was when you were born. If so, remember this day what I tell you. YOUR HEART IS WRONG IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
Ryle, J. C. (2011-06-16). Old Paths (Kindle Locations 4784-4811). Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.