Ezekiel 36:26
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Sermons
A Heart of FleshEzekiel 36:26
A New HeartW. T. Findley, D. D.Ezekiel 36:26
A New HeartEssex RemembrancerEzekiel 36:26
A New HeartCanon Fleming.Ezekiel 36:26
A New HeartJohn PercivalEzekiel 36:26
Change of HeartJ. Stratten.Ezekiel 36:26
Covenant BlessingsEzekiel 36:26
Gradual Hardening of the HeartEzekiel 36:26
The Heart All Wrong Made All RightT. De Witt Talmage.Ezekiel 36:26
The Heart of FleshEzekiel 36:26
The Heart of Stone; Or, the Soul Without ReligionEvan Lewis, B. A.Ezekiel 36:26
The Invaluable GiftEssex RemembrancerEzekiel 36:26
The Lord's New Year's Gifts to Hardened SinnersW. Birch.Ezekiel 36:26
The Nature of the Change in ConversionEzekiel 36:26
The Necessity of a New HeartJ. G. Breay, M. A.Ezekiel 36:26
The New HeartEzekiel 36:26
The New HeartCharles Haddon Spurgeon Ezekiel 36:26
The New Heart BestowedC. Clayton, M. A.Ezekiel 36:26
The Power and Dominion of God Over the HeartW. M'Culloch.Ezekiel 36:26
The Stony HeartHugh Macmillan, D. D.Ezekiel 36:26
The Stony Heart RemovedEzekiel 36:26
The Stony Heart RemovedCharles Haddon Spurgeon Ezekiel 36:26
Transformed to StoneHugh Macmillan, D. D.Ezekiel 36:26
A Vision of the True Golden AgeJ.D. Davies Ezekiel 36:16-32
RenewalJ.R. Thomson Ezekiel 36:25-27
Cleansing: a Covenant BlessingEzekiel 36:25-36
Man JustifiedEzekiel 36:25-36
The New HeartA. Maclaren, D. D.Ezekiel 36:25-36
The Three Elements of PietyW. Clarkson Ezekiel 36:26-28
The Israelites were "profaning the Name' of Jehovah in the lands through which they were dispersed. But this could not be permitted to remain. For the sake of his own Divine Name, the sacredness of which was of such vital moment to mankind (see previous homily), God would work a gracious revolution (vers. 21-23). And what he would do is this:

1. He would work within their hearts an entire change of thought and feeling, removing their strong stubbornness and replacing it with a childlike sensibility.

2. He would thus lead them to live in purity and uprightness before the eyes of those among whom they dwelt. Thus would he magnify his holy Name.

3. Then he would restore them to the old relation which they had forfeited by their sin; they should be again his people, and he would be their God, dwelling among them and ruling over them in peace and righteousness. We have here the three constantly recurring elements of true piety.

I. INWARD RENEWAL. (Ver. 26.) Consisting of:

1. Sensibility taking the place of indifference or stubborn rebelliousness. Instead of the "stony heart" is the "heart of flesh;" instead of an utter, brutish disregard of Divine claims or a perverse and froward determination to reject them, is the "new heart," the "new spirit" of openness of mind, willingness which ends in eagerness to learn of God, responsiveness of feeling when he speaks, tenderness of conscience under the spoken truth of Christ.

2. Humility taking the place of pride or careless unconcern; a sense of past sin and of present unworthiness; the inward conviction that God has not been remembered, reverenced, served, trusted, as he should have been, and that life has been stained with many errors, faults, shortcomings, transgressions; a spirit of true penitence and shame; a voice, not loud but deep, says within the soul, "I have sinned."

3. Consecration instead of selfishness. The heart turns away from selfishness and from worldliness toward God, toward the Divine Redeemer, whom it receives gladly and fully as the Savior of the soul, as the Sovereign of the life.

II. OUTWARD RECTITUDE. "I will cause you to walk in my statutes," etc. (ver. 27). The obedience which springs from mere dread of penalty is of very small account; but that which proceeds from a loyal and a loving heart is worth everything. The Divine Son, who was also a Servant, could say, "I delight to do thy will;... thy Law is within my heart." And when the new spirit or the new heart is within us, we can speak in the same strain. Our piety passes, with perfect naturalness, from the reverent thought to the right word; from the grateful feeling to the upright action, from the consecrated spirit to the devoted and useful life. We obey God's word because we honor himself; we keep the commandments of Christ because we love our Lord (John 14:15, 21, 23). If the Spirit of God be in us we shall bring forth the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). Of the commandments of Christ, to which, by his own words or by those of his apostles, he has attached the greatest weight, as indispensable to the Christian life and as the condition of his acceptance, we must include purity, truthfulness, sobriety, honesty, reverence, love - the love which forbears, which pities, which succors in time of need.

III. HEAVENLY INTERCOURSE, (Ver. 28.) While still inhabitants of earth, our citizenship is to be in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). God is to be our God, and we are to be his people. All human and earthly relationships are to find their highest and best illustration in those which are "in the heavens," which are spiritual and eternal. Communion between ourselves and our Father in heaven is to be common and constant - a daily, an hourly incident through all our life and in all our circumstances and conditions. Far below and far above all other things, we are to be the children and the heirs of God, we are to be the servants of Jesus Christ, we are to bear witness to his truth, we are to promote the coming of his kingdom on the earth. - C.







A new heart also will I give you.
I. THE WORK WHICH IS HERE PROMISED.

1. A work of spiritual purification. The gains of business, the pleasures and enjoyments of the world, the vanities and follies of time; of these we may, and of these many do, make a God. Now when the Lord takes a sinner to Himself, and calls him out of that state in which he is by nature, He says, "From all your idols will I cleanse you." He cleanses, both from the power and the guilt of them. The love of sin is now destroyed, as well as the guilt of it taken away. The great end of the Gospel is thus accomplished (Ephesians 5:26, 27).

2. As a work of inward regeneration. Man is often content with outward reformation, but the Lord goes to the seat of the evil. The heart of man is hard by nature. There may be, and there is, in many persons much kindness towards their fellow creatures; much affection towards their friends, and all around them; but the heart is hard towards God. How unfeeling is it under the Divine dispensations. Warnings and invitations are given; judgments from God of the most awful nature are pointed out; the dying love of Christ is preached and heard; the sweet and encouraging promises of the Gospel are held forth; but still these are met with cold indifference, or possibly with disdain! Melted by the love of Christ, he grieves over sin; he hates himself on account of it, and both prays and strives against it. A wrong temper causes him more sorrow now, than cursing or drunkenness did in former days. In short, old things are passed away, all things are become new.

3. A work of outward reformation. If the Lord gives a new heart, it follows as a necessary consequence that there must be a willingness to walk in His statutes. Was a man, before this change, addicted to sinful practices? They will be given up. Did be keep sinful company? It will be forsaken. He is not indeed perfect, for perfection is a plant which grows not in this lower world; it flourishes only in the paradise above. Sin will cleave to him, for it is his nature; but the sin which the Christian does, he allows not; it is his grief; he prays and he struggles against it. When the heart of stone is changed to a heart of flesh, there is a total alteration both in the motives and habits of a man.

II. THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK.

1. Man cannot be the author of it. It is far above human power. It is opposed to all the prejudices, passions, and inclinations of man.

2. God alone is the Author of it. He may, and does use instruments; and, in various ways, brings about this change; but the work is His.

III. THE BLESSED PRIVILEGES FLOWING FROM THIS WORK.

1. He acknowledges them as His people. "They shall be My people," not in that general sense in which all the world belongs to Him by right of creation; but His peculiar people, His "chosen ones"; those over whom He delights to do good; over whom He rests in His love; making them His care, and enriching them with all spiritual blessings; and all this from His free grace and mercy.

2. They claim Him as their God. Mark the steps which lead to this blessed privilege. God sprinkles clean water; He purifies the heart of the sinner; He renews it, and puts into it right dispositions, and then they walk in His statutes. This promise then ensures a supply of all that His people can possibly need or desire. Are they weak? I will be their God to strengthen them. Are they guilty? I will be their God to pardon them. Are they ignorant? I will be their God to teach them. Do they mourn? I will be their God to comfort them. Are they mortal? and do they sometimes look upon the grave with trembling? What are the words of God on this subject? (Hosea 13:14.)

(J. G. Breay, M. A.)

I. THE ROTTENNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART.

1. Every unregenerated heart is unclean. "From your filthiness will I cleanse you." Our hands may be clean as water can wash them, and our garments as white as snow; and yet our inward nature be polluted. Sin is not like wine, that gets better by being kept. It gets worse and worse. The Arabs have a fable that once a camel came to the door of a tent and thrust in his nose. Not being resisted, he thrust in his feet. There being no hindrance, he came half way in. After a while he got all the way in. The Arab said to the camel, "This tent is too small for two." Then the camel said to the Arab, "If that be so, you had better leave." So sin comes into the heart further and further, until it takes full possession. It is not satisfied until it has pushed the soul into an eternal prison house, and slammed to the door, and shoved the bolts, and turned the locks of an everlasting incarceration.

2. The text represents the heart as idolatrous. "From all your idols will I cleanse you." If we do not worship the God in heaven, we worship something on earth. This man worships pleasure. This one, applause. This one, money. This one, his family. That to which a man gives his supreme thought and affections is his idol. Like Dagon, how often it falls down, crushing its worshippers. God will have no rivals.

3. The text represents the heart as stony, or insensible. I prove it by the fact that we do not realise the truth of what we have already said. If we had any appreciation of our unclean and idolatrous nature, could we be as unmoved as we are? We are insensible. I saw men walking through the Louvre Gallery, in Paris, half asleep. No flash came to their eyes, no flush to their cheeks, no exclamation to their lips, amid the most thrilling triumphs of painter's pencil and sculptor's chisel. And so, until grace touches our soul, we walk through the great picture gallery of the Gospel; and the wonders of Christ and the glories of heaven strike no thrill through the heart.

II. THE HEALING PROCESS THAT GOD PROPOSES FOR EVERYONE. "I will sprinkle," etc. It is a change from black to white, from down to up, from the highway to hell to the highway of heaven. The whole nature made over again. Here are men who once rejected the Bible, cared not for God, talked against high heaven; but now all their hopes are hung on one strong nail: the Nail of the Cross. One Form is to them more glorious than any other: the Form of the Son of God. "I take Him," they cry. "Through joy and sorrow, through fire and flood, for time and for eternity. None but Jesus!" They would stick to Him though the guillotine flashed its bloody knife in their faces. They have a new heart. New in its sentiments, hopes, affections, ambitions.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

I. GOD HATH SUPREME DOMINION OVER THE HEARTS OF MEN.

1. He furnishes the hearts of men with qualifications suited to their several offices and employments, which He assigns them in the course of His providence.

2. He moderates and controls the most unruly passions, and renders them subservient to His own glory.

3. He sends spiritual judgments into the hearts of men.

4. He also shows His supreme dominion over the hearts of men, by renewing and sanctifying the various powers of their souls.

5. He restores order to the affections, and places them upon their proper objects.

6. He likewise inclines the heart to those things which are well-pleasing in His sight, and brings it into a willing subjection to His law.

II. GOD MERCIFULLY REMOVES EVERY OBSTACLE THAT MIGHT OBSTRUCT HIS POWERFUL GRACIOUS OPERATION. The stony heart, which God graciously promises to take away, is remarkable —

1. For insensibility.(1) It is insensible to the majesty and glory of God, impressed on the works of His hands, and to His power and presence displayed in His providential dispensations.(2) It is insensible to the spirituality and excellence of the Divine law, and to the wonderful discoveries made in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. For obduracy. The hearts of all men are naturally possessed of this bad quality, which is greatly augmented by sinful habits, which, when indulged, provoke God to permit them judicially to harden themselves more and more.

3. For inflexibility. The stony heart is not easily bent to comply with the gracious purposes which God hath in view to execute. It will not be persuaded to accept of the rich mercies which He offers to bestow, nor obey the directions of His Word.

4. For resistance. The stony heart strongly resists the instruments employed to soften and render it tender. The merciful designs of providence are counteracted. Even the convictions and impulses of the Holy Spirit are resisted.

III. GOD PROMISES TO WORK A GREAT CHANGE IN THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE.

1. The spiritual and gracious qualities conveyed to the soul, by the fulfilment of this promise, are called a new heart and a new spirit; because they come in place of the old things which pass away, and are very different from them. By the new heart and the new spirit, we are made partakers of the Divine nature, and renovation after the image of Christ is begun, which is afterward gradually carried forward under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The eyes of the mind are enlightened, and a new light shines into it, whereby it is filled with the knowledge of God's will. Divine truths are seen in their native beauty, displaying the manifold wisdom of God, and the unsearchable riches of Christ; they penetrate to the bottom of the heart, they are embraced with sincere affection, and have a transforming influence on the heart and life.

2. God also promises to give you an heart of flesh — which seems to intend, a heart the reverse of the stony heart, which He takes away.(1) The heart of flesh is a sensible heart, that perceives the great importance and excellence of spiritual and Divine things.(2) The heart of flesh is a soft and tender heart, that is deeply impressed with a sense of the Divine goodness and the manifold mercies of God.(3) The heart of flesh is likewise flexible and pliant to the holy will of God.(4) The heart of flesh makes no resistance to God, as doth the stony heart.

3. "And I will put My Spirit within you." By the Spirit may be meant, the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in the people of God as in His temple, the Comforter whom Jesus Christ promises to send from the Father, that He may abide with them forever, even the Spirit of truth — who dwelleth with you and shall be in you (John 14:16, 17). As a Spirit of power, He strengthens with all might in the inner man; as a Spirit of supplication, He helps their infirmities, and teaches them to pray; in every respect acting as a Spirit of holiness, sanctifying them wholly, and enabling them to perform duties in another and more spiritual manner than ever before. As the promised Comforter, He supports and comforts; so that as their sufferings abound, their consolations by Christ are made to superabound. As a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, He discovers the deep things of God, that we may know the things freely given us of God. As a Spirit of adoption, He enables us to cry, Abba, Father, and to draw near to God with filial freedom and confidence.

IV. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PRECIOUS PROMISES WHICH ARE HERE GIVEN, IS ATTENDED WITH BLESSED EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCES. Those who have the Spirits of God put within them, shall be made to walk in God's statutes, and to keep His judgments and do them. The statutes of God are the rule by which they shall walk, His judgments point out the work which they ought to do. By both expressions the Word of God is intended, which is given to be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our goings, and to show us what is good, and what the Lord our God requireth of us. In these statutes and judgments, God promises that those in whom He puts His Spirit shall walk. In Scripture, walking is often mentioned in a figurative sense, to denote a person's habitual temper and practice.

1. Walking in God's statutes is a voluntary, agreeable employment to those who have received a new heart and spirit. They delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man, and in the ways of His commandments which they have loved. In doing the will of their heavenly Father, they find far more real pleasure and satisfaction than in sensual pleasures, worldly riches, and great temporal honours.

2. Walking in God's statutes is a diligent and progressive business. There may be, no doubt, some accidental obstructions and checks made to growth in grace, and progress in holiness; still, however, faith and love, and other graces, increase and grow up to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

(W. M'Culloch.)

It is recorded that when Sir Walter Raleigh knelt on the scaffold with his neck on the block waiting for the axe of the executioner to behead him, the latter said, "Does your head lie easy, Sir Walter?" The brave man replied, "It matters not, my friend, how my head lies, provided my heart is right."

I. A NEW HEART. The old heart is compared in this verse to a stone. What use is there then in preaching to such as are in heart senseless? The love of Christ is a solvent to soften the heart which is hard as a stone; and the Holy Spirit then shall mould it into the image of the Saviour. In a cathedral at Rome I saw what I thought to be most precious stone; but, placing my hand upon that huge slab, I found that it was wood, painted like marble. A stone is known by its coldness; and we know a man is unconverted by his coldness to God and to his fellow men. A few men possess natural benevolence; but many are as cold as a stone to the appeals of the helpless and the suffering. When the new heart is received their disposition is changed; they are tender and compassionate to the sufferer, and weep with the sorrowing. A man with a stony heart who loves money wonders why another gives his time and his money so generously, day after day, to the cause of God and of his fellow men; and he says to himself, "Why, the Christian does this as if he really enjoyed it! I like to get money; but he seems to be most pleased when he is giving it!" The reason is that the Christian has received a new heart; and, loving God and his fellow. men, it is his delight to minister to them of his time and substance. The new heart does not grudge what it gives; because it loves.

II. A NEW SPIRIT. The old spirit readily conforms itself to the world; and it seeks to run with the stream. But when God gives the new spirit, we are ruled by the mind that was in Jesus; and though there were only one Christian in an opposing world, that Christian would be against the world. The old spirit thinks it cannot resist sin, and it yields to it as a necessity of his nature; but when God gives the new spirit, it breaks the gyves of Satan, and cries, "I am free; and will not longer submit to my besetting sin; I am to cast aside every weight, so that I may run the race that is set before me." The old spirit trusts in outward circumstances, in money, and in men; but when we receive the new spirit we trust in the power of our God. The old spirit does not know the sweetness of communion with God. But the new spirit delights to pray; it is a privilege rather than a duty. The old spirit also is corrupt. It is like the polished veneer that is placed over the decayed wood which smells with the dry rot. But when the new spirit is received the Christian is all glorious within.

III. A NEW PILOT. "I will put My Spirit within you."

IV. A NEW LIFE. "And cause you to walk in My statutes." We shall not be dragged to heaven: ours is a willing service. It is a walk, not a limp Christ heals perfectly.

V. NEW RULES. "Ye shall keep My judgments." The fingerpost points out your way at the corner of the road, and you do not hesitate to walk in the path pointed out, because you believe that fingerpost to tell the right direction. Likewise, the fingerpost of the Bible is a sufficient security for us to keep in the path of righteousness.

VI. NEW EMPLOYMENT. "And do them." How sweet to be assured that God will give us power to do His will! Pray with increasing faith, "Thy will be done"; and expect the ability and the resignation to do it. You shall do His will! Rejoice!

VII. GOD'S GUARANTEE. "I will do it: I will give it you." The Lord means what He says. Cannot you trust Him? Whosoever will may receive the gifts offered by our loving Father.

(W. Birch.)

I. Observe, first, we have here to all God's covenanted people, or in other words, to all believers, a promise of PREPARATION FOR THE SPIRIT'S INDWELLING. This promise is as a cluster of nuts, or a bough with many golden apples. Like the cherubim of Ezekiel it has four faces, all smiling upon the heirs of salvation. Like the New Jerusalem it lieth four-square. It is a quadruple treasure worthy of four-fold consideration.

1. The first of the four blessings is the gift of a new heart. Observe where the inward work of grace begins. All man's attempts at the betterment of human nature begin from without, and the theory is that the work will deepen till it reaches that which is within. They profess to emancipate the man from the grosser vices, trusting that the reform will go further, that he will be brought under superior influences, and so be elevated in mind and heart. Miserable physicians are they all. Their remedies fail to eradicate the deep seated maladies of humanity. God's way of dealing with men is the reverse. He begins within and works towards the exterior in due course. Look at our brooks and rivulets which have been by a lax legislature so long delivered over to the tormentors to be blackened into pestiferous sewers; if we want to have them purged it is of small avail to cast chloride of lime and other chemicals into the stream; the only remedy is to forbid the pollution, to demand that manufactories shall not poison us wholesale, but shall in some other manner consume their useless products. The voice of common sense bids us go to the original cause of the defilement and deal with it at its sources. That is just what God does when He saves a sinner, He begins at the origin of the sinner's sin and deals with His heart. Blessed be God, He is omnipotent enough to give Us new hearts, He has wisdom enough to renew us, He has purity sufficient to cleanse us, He has abounding mercy to bear with us.

2. Turn, now, to the second blessing — "A new spirit will I put within you." The natural man is correctly and strictly speaking a compound of soul and body only. The first man, Adam, was made a living soul; and, as we bear the image of the first Adam, we are body and soul only. It is our own belief that in regeneration something more is done than the mere rectifying of what was there: there is in the new birth infused and implanted in man a third and more elevated principle, — a spirit is begotten in him; and, as the second Adam was made a quickening spirit, so in the new birth we are transformed into the likeness of Christ Jesus, who is the second Adam. The implantation, infusion, and putting into our nature the third and higher principle is, we believe, the being born again. Regarded in this light, the words before us may be regarded as an absolute and unconditional promise of the covenant of grace to all the seed that a new spirit shall be put within them. But, if we view it as some do, we shall then read it thus — the ruling spirit of man's nature shall be changed. The spirit which rules and reigns in Godless, Christless men, is the spirit of a rebellious slave, the spirit of self. But, when the Spirit of God comes upon us, to make our spirit a fit place for His residence, He takes away the spirit of the slave, and gives us the spirit of a child, and from that moment the service of God becomes a different thing: we do not serve Him now because we are afraid of the whip, but nobler motives move us; gratitude binds us to the Lord's service, and love gives wings to the feet of obedience. Now the Lord is no more regarded as a tyrant, but as a wise and loving parent. Whatever He may do with us, we rejoice in His wisdom and goodness. We view Him no longer with suspicion and dread, but with confidence and joy.

3. A third and further blessing of the text is the removal of the stony heart. "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh." I do not think the Lord removes at once the evil heart out of any man's flesh; there it remains to be fought with, like the Canaanites in Canaan when Israel had entered there, to prove us and to try us, but He does take away the stony heart at once. The stony heart is a hard heart. We have heard of many expedients for softening hard hearts, but none of them are of any avail. You may make a man weep over his dead child or his dead wife, till his eyes are red, but his heart will be black for all that. Men's hearts are changed by quite another agency than oratorical or rhetorical appeals to the natural affections.

4. The fourth promise of the preparation of the heart for the indwelling of the Spirit is this: "I will give you a heart of flesh," by which is meant a soft heart, an impressible heart, a sensitive heart, a heart which can feel, can be moved to shame, to repentance, to loathing of sin, to desiring, to seeking, to punting, to longing after God; a tender heart, a heart that does not require a thousand blows to move it, but, like flesh with its skin broken, feels the very faintest touch, — such is the heart which the Holy Spirit creates in the children of God. It is a teachable heart, a heart willing to be guided, moulded, governed by the Divine will: a heart which, like young Samuel, cries, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth": — an obedient heart, ready to be run into the mould, plastic beneath the sacred hand, anxious to be conformed to the heavenly pattern.

II. THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY GHOST.

1. Observe, first, that the Lord says, "I will put My Spirit within you." God Himself, the Eternal Spirit in propria persona, in His own person, resides and dwells within the renewed heart. The mystery of the incarnation is not greater than that of the Holy Ghost's indwelling, nor does it appear to me to involve more condescension. I marvel at Christ's dwelling with sinners, and I marvel equally at the Holy Ghost's dwelling in sinners.

2. Note a little word also in the text worthy of your attention. "I will put My Spirit within you." It is not the spirit of angels, it is not the spirit of good men, it is God's own Spirit who takes up His residence in every sinner's heart when God renews it. "My Spirit." And, perhaps, this may allude to the fact that this is the self-same Spirit which abode without measure in our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Observe also carefully the words, "within you." This is marvellous. , when reflecting upon the various glories which come to God, and the benefits which accrue to men through redemption, none of which could have been revealed without the fall of Adam, exclaimed, "O beata culpa!" "O happy fault"; and I have the self-same expression trembling on my lips. Where sin abounded grace has much more abounded.

III. THE BLESSED RESULTS which come from all this. The indwelling Spirit leads every man in whom He reigns into obedience to the ways of God. The soul that possesses the Spirit becomes active. It walks. It is not passive, as one carried by main force; it works because the Spirit works in it, "to will and to do of His own good pleasure." The Holy Ghost leads us to holy habits, for, mark the phrase, "I will cause you to walk in My ways." Mere excitement may produce momentary zeal, and transient morality, but habitual holiness is the fruit of the Spirit. Note, next, the delight it implies. "I will cause you to walk in My ways," not as a man who toils, but as one who walks at ease. The believer finds it as sweet to walk in God's ways as Isaac felt it sweet to walk in the fields at eventide, it implies, too, holy perseverance; the words have the meaning of continuing to follow after holiness. It is a small matter to begin, but to hold out to the end is the testing point. The text promises to us a complete obedience, — "I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and to keep My judgments." A Christian man is obedient to God, — he minds the first table; he is just to man, — he does not despise the second table. And the Holy Ghost also works a holy care for righteousness in the soul. "I will cause you to keep My judgments"; — that is, to have an exactness of obedience, a precision, a deliberation, a willingness to find out God's will, and a care to attend to it in every jot and tittle. Now, to what a delightful consummation has our text conducted us. It began with a renewed heart, and it ends in a purified life. It commenced with taking away the stone and giving the flesh; now it gives us the life of Christ written out, in living characters in our daily practice. Glory be to God for this!

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. No problem, whether of religion or philosophy, of nature or revelation, more transcends the power of human reason to solve than that of the existence of moral evil in the world.

2. In what consists the nature of this evil? What is its essence? In nature, it subsists in a heart not in accordance with the Divine law. In essence it is a moral depravity; a moral corruption; a perversion of the understanding and the affections in regard to moral truth and duty; a discord among the harmonies of our moral being, and a slavish subjection to the appetites of our bestial nature in opposition to the nobler promptings and requirements of our higher, our godlike, nature.

3. Is there any escape from this evil — any remedy for it on man's behalf. And if so, in what, and where, and how may it be obtained? "A new heart will I give you." God makes for us a way of escape; God provides the remedy, and we are made the beneficiaries of it by God's bestowal upon us of a new heart.

I. THIS GIFT OF GOD, A NEW HEART. A new heart contrasts with the old. The old heart is alienated from God; the new heart cleaves to God with supreme affection of love. The old heart is sold under sin; the new heart is redeemed from all iniquity. The old heart is accompanied by carnal-mindedness, which is death; the new heart by spiritual-mindedness, which is life and peace.

II. HOW DOES GOD BESTOW THIS GIFT? God gives this new heart, not by destroying the freedom of human will and agency, but by emancipating it from every condition of slavery. By the unspeakable gift of His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, by the influence and agency of His Holy Spirit, enlightening us in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, and regenerating our natures, and by His blessing upon the means of grace which He has appointed, God confers this gift of a new heart upon all those who believe in Jesus, and who walk by the Spirit, according to revealed truth, in the use of the appointed means of grace, and in obedience to God's law.

III. HOW DOES THE NEW HEART MANIFEST ITSELF IN THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF ITS RECIPIENT? It effects an entire change in them. There are new objects of life and new attributes of character consequent upon the desires, affections, and purposes of a new heart. His life is a continual proof and illustration of the power of the Gospel to save, and his character is a beautiful example of purity of thought, simplicity and integrity of purpose, kindliness of demeanour, beneficence of deeds, and faithfulness in the discharge of every duty toward God and man.

(W. T. Findley, D. D.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. A NEW HEART IS A CONTRAST TO THE OLD.

II. A NEW HEART IS PRODUCTIVE OF NEW EFFECTS.

1. Repentance.

2. Holiness.

III. A NEW HEART IS CONNECTED WITH NEW PRIVILEGES (ver. 28). If Jehovah be our God, there is not a real good that is not ours. We have Him for the portion of our souls. We are interested in the exercise of all His perfections. His love is inviolably and eternally fixed upon us. His wisdom is incessantly engaged in making all things work together for our good. His power is ever operating to defend us from essential injury. His universal presence becomes an uninterrupted source of peace and a never failing occasion of comfort. We have access to Him and communion with Him. He is our Father, our Guide, our Friend.

IV. A NEW HEART IS THE WORK OF GOD.

V. A NEW HEART IS THE GIFT OF GOD. Application —

1. What an important subject on which to examine ourselves. It is possible to be mistaken — and a mistake here is fatal.

2. How vain are the attempts men make to do without a new heart.

3. Let the most guilty be encouraged to seek this blessing as the gift of God in Christ Jesus; and the most hardened to hope for it as the work of God, if He be sought as the Author of it.

4. Let every man know that he inevitably and justly perishes if he neglects it — despises it — or presumes that he can be saved without it.

5. Let us adore God for having made known so wonderful and gracious a method of restoring our fallen nature.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

Behold a wonder of Divine love. When God maketh His creatures, one creation He regardeth as sufficient, and should they lapse from the condition in which He has created them, He suffers them, as a rule, to endure the penalty of their transgression, and to abide in the place into which they are fallen. But here He makes an exception; man, fallen man, created by his Maker, pure and holy, hath wilfully and wickedly rebelled against the Most High, and lost his first estate, but behold, he is to be the subject of a new creation through the power of God's Holy Spirit.

I. THE NECESSITY FOR THIS GREAT PROMISE. You will notice that God does not promise to us that He will improve our nature, that He will mend our broken hearts. No, the promise is that He will give us new hearts and right spirits. Human nature is too far gone ever to be mended. If only a wheel or two of that great thing called "manhood" were out of repair, then He who made man might put the whole to rights; He might put a new cog where it had been broken off, and another wheel where it had gone to ruin, and the machine might work anew. But no, the whole of it is out of repair; there is not one lever which is not broken; not one axle which is not disturbed; not one of the wheels which act upon the others. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot, to the crown of the head, it is all wounds and bruises and putrifying sores. Consider for a moment how bad human nature must be if we think how ill it has treated its God. I remember William Huntingdon says in his autobiography, that one of the sharpest sensations of pain that he felt after he had been quickened by Divine grace was this, "He felt such pity for God." I do not know that I ever met with the expression elsewhere, but it is a very expressive one; although I might prefer to say sympathy with God and grief that He should be so evil entreated. Let us look back upon our past lives — how ungrateful have we been to Him! We have never returned His mercies into His bosom with gratitude and thankfulness; but we have let them lie forgotten without a single hallelujah, from our carelessness concerning the Most High, that He had entirely forgotten us, and that therefore we were trying to forget Him. It is so very seldom that we think of Him that one would imagine that surely He never gave us occasion to think of Him. But worse than this, we have not only been forgetful of Him, but we have rebelled against Him. We have assailed the Most High. Oh! it is a mercy that He is God and changeth not, or else we sons of Jacob would long ago have been consumed, and justly too. You may picture to yourselves, if you like, a poor creature dying in a ditch. I trust that such a thing never happens in this land, but such a thing might happen as a man who had been rich on a sudden becoming poor, and all his friends deserting and leaving him; he begs for bread and no man will help him, until at last, without a rag to cover him, his poor body yields up life in a ditch. This, I think, is the very extreme of human negligence to mankind; but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was treated even worse than this. Ah, if you think of human nature as it acts towards God, you will say indeed it is too bad to be mended, it must be made anew. Again, there is another aspect in which we may regard the sinfulness of human nature: that is its pride. It is the very worst phase of man — that he is so proud. What a strange thing it is to see a sinful, guilty wretch proud of his morality! and yet that is a thing you may see every day. A man who is an enemy to God, proud of his honesty, and yet he is robbing God; a man proud of his chastity, and yet if he knew his own thoughts, they are full of lasciviousness and uncleanness; a man proud of the praise of his fellows, while he knows himself that he has the blame of his own conscience and the blame of God Almighty. Ah, human nature, this is, then, thine own condemnation, that thou art insanely proud, while thou hast nothing to be proud of. Write "Ichabod" upon it. The glory has departed forever from human nature. Let it be put away, and let God give us something new for the old can never be made better. It is helplessly insane, decrepit, and defiled. Furthermore, it is quite certain that human nature cannot be made better, for many have tried it, but they have always failed. A man trying to improve human nature, is like trying to change the position of a weathercock, by turning it round to the east when the wind is blowing west; he has but to take his hand off and it will be back again to its place. But, once again, you will easily perceive we must have a new heart when you consider what are the employments and the enjoyments of the Christian religion. The nature that can feed on the garbage of sin, and devour the carrion of iniquity, is not the nature that ever can sing the praises of God and rejoice in His holy name. And yet once again God hates a depraved nature, and therefore it must be taken away, before we can be accepted in Him.

II. THE NATURE OF THIS GREAT CHANGE WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS IN US.

1. It is a Divine work from first to last. To give a man a new heart and a new spirit is God's work, and the work of God alone. We have heard of some kind of insects that have lost their limbs, and by their vital power have been able to recover them again. But take away the seat of the vital power — the heart; lay the disease there; and what power is there that can, by any possibility, rectify it, unless it be a power from without — in fact, a power from above?

2. It is a gracious change. When God puts a new heart into man, it is not because man deserves a new heart — because there was anything good in his nature, that could have prompted God to give him a new spirit. The Lord simply gives a man a new heart because He wishes to do it; that is His only reason.

3. It is a victorious effort of Divine grace. God will have the sinner, if He designs to have him. God never was thwarted yet in any one of His purposes. Man does resist with all his might, but all the might of man, tremendous though it be for sin, is not equal to the majestic might of the Most High, when He rideth forth in the chariot of His salvation. He doth irresistibly save and victoriously conquer man's heart.

4. It is instantaneous. To sanctify a man is the work of the whole life; but to give a man a new heart is the work of an instant. Other parts of salvation are done gradually; but regeneration is the instantaneous work of God's sovereign, effectual, and irresistible grace.

III. HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE VILEST OF SINNERS.

1. There are some who are seeking after mercy; for many a day you have been in prayer in secret, till your very knees seemed sore with the oftenness of your intercession. Your cry to God has been, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." Let me comfort you by this reflection, that your prayer is already heard. You have a new heart and a right spirit: perhaps you wilt not be able to perceive the truth of this utterance for months to come, therefore continue in prayer till God shall open your eyes, so that you may see that the prayer is answered; but rest assured it is answered already. The Lord hath begun a good work in thy heart, and He will carry it on even unto the end. All these feelings of thine are more than thou ever couldst have attained of thyself. God has helped thee up this Divine ladder of grace, and as sure as He has brought thee up so many staves of it, He will carry thee to the very summit, till He grasps thee in the arms of His love in glory everlasting.

2. There are others, however, who have not proceeded so far, but you are driven to despair. The devil has told you that you cannot be saved; you have been too guilty, too vile. Any other people in the world might find mercy, but not you, for you do not deserve to be saved. Have I not tried to make it as plain as the sunbeam all through this service, that God never saves a man for the sake of what he is, and that He does not either begin or carry on the work in us because there is anything good in us? The greatest sinner is just as eligible for Divine mercy as the very least of sinners. He can take you, a thief: a drunkard, a harlot, or whoever you may be; He can bring you on your knees, make you cry for mercy, and then make you lead a holy life, and keep you unto the end. "Oh!" says one, "I wish He would do that to me, then." Well, soul, if that be a true wish, He will.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

A new spirit will I put within you.
Essex Remembrancer.
The gifts of God are unspeakably great; should we attempt the enumeration they would appear like the stars of heaven, or the sands on the shore for multitude. When the author of the Spectator recovered from a dangerous illness he penned a delightful hymn, in which he expresses the transports of his soul, and the wonder, love, and praise which a sense of the Divine mercies awakened in his grateful mind. But if such language was the result of a survey of God's providential goodness, how should the believer exult in the gift of a Saviour, and in that last, best blessing, the enlightening and sanctifying Spirit by which He is revealed to the heart!

I. WHAT THIS INVALUABLE BLESSING INCLUDES AND WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY A NEW SPIRIT.

1. God engages to bestow that grace upon us of which we were altogether undeserving.

2. In the bestowment of this blessing we invariably see the providence and word of God preparing the way for its reception.

(1)It includes a renewed and sanctified mind.

(2)A sorrowful and penitential disposition.

(3)A humble, resigned, and obedient spirit.

II. THE REASONS AND GROUNDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT WE HAVE TO SEEK THIS BLESSING.

1. Think of the character of Him who gives this new spirit.

2. Consider that this is a free gift.

3. Reflect on the many instances in which this blessing has been conferred on individuals as undeserving as ourselves.

4. The perfection of our moral character depends on obtaining it. Enriched with this treasure, we can never be poor or unhappy; nor is it in the power of men or devils to make us miserable.

5. By individually seeking this precious gift we shall be instrumental in promoting the advent of Christ's kingdom, and in hastening that blessed consummation which the Church of God so earnestly desires.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. THE OLD HEART REMOVED.

1. The senselessness of the unconverted heart.

2. The resistance of the unconverted heart.

3. The impenetrableness of the unconverted heart.

4. The coldness of the unconverted heart.An unconverted man will have a very tender and warm heart about earthly things. If he loses a wife, or a child, or some valuable property, oh, what intense warmth of feeling do we instantly behold! But when we tell him about the death of Christ, or the love of the Holy Spirit, he takes no more notice of what we say than the cold pavement of the street would listen to a beggar's petition.

II. THE NEW HEART GIVEN.

1. Your new heart is sensitive. "The spiritual man," we are told, "discerneth all things." You are sensitive of spiritual pains and of spiritual pleasures. You are especially sensitive with respect to sin.

2. Your new heart is flexible. It can bend in accordance to God's will.

3. Your new heart is easily impressed. Its fleshy tablets are always waiting to receive the writing of the Lord's commands.

4. Your new heart is well known for its warmth of feeling. Once it saw no beauty nor comeliness in Jesus; but now that it is renewed, it cries, "Thou art the King of glory, O Christ": "Thy name is as the ointment poured forth": "In Thee, O Jesus, have I righteousness": "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee": "Thou art the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely."

III. The AUTHOR OF THE CHANGE. Clean water is here used as the emblem of the blood of Christ, and of the work of the Holy Spirit. When the blood of Christ is applied to our conscience through faith, it cleanses us from all dead works; and the Holy Spirit, when applied to all the powers of your soul, purifies it from the love and dominion of sin. Conversion work is all God's work; insomuch that, wherever God's Spirit converts men by the ministry, He there may be said to raise up children to Abraham out of stones. There He makes water to gush out of rocks; and there He makes dead and dry bones to live.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

I. THE OLD PRINCIPLE WHICH MUST BE GOT RID OF. "A stony heart." Of course this is a figure when you speak of a man's heart, because you do not speak of that which beats in a man's frame, but of his will and affections. Likewise a stony heart is a figure used to describe one who knows not Christ, and cannot until it is removed. What is a stone? A stone is a thing upon which you can make no impression. You may strike it with a hammer, or a sword, or any other weapon, but you can make no impression upon it; so with a stony human heart, no arguments or anything we can do will influence it. There are some hearts we cannot reach, they seem harder than the nether millstone. Until God touches the hard heart it has no feeling; and there are men and women now who figuratively go to that stony rock of Calvary, whereon Christ died for our sins, and even come to services like these in which we literally go there with Him, and yet do not feel touched in their hearts.

II. A NEW PRINCIPLE WHICH IS TO BE GIVEN US. There are two ways in which people may be said to have anything new. First, when it is absolutely new. When the Ark of God was to be brought back, a cart was to be made by the Divine Will, and it has to be a new cart, entirely out of new materials. So in the New Testament we are told Joseph of Arimathea laid our Lord in a new tomb, wherein yet never anyone had lain. There is another sense in which a thing is made new, that is, when it is renewed, for that comes to the same thing. This is what happens when a man's heart is renewed, and turned to God. You may meet a man, and say, "I see no change in him," and yet that man has been renewed by the Spirit of God. This, then, is the new principle that God will give; and it is "a new heart," and when that happens the whole man is changed. Again, when a man's will is renewed he is made to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." And a man's affections are renewed, and even his memory is renewed. That memory, that used to be running off on other things, now returns to God.

III. THE DIVINE GIVER. It is the work of Omnipotence. He can make the heart love and glow with life. When He does this work it is done in an instant. A man at the receipt of custom, who was as busy as any of you, was called by Christ, and Matthew arose and followed Him in a moment. He said also to Zacchaeus, "Make haste and come down," "and he made haste and came down." It was done in a moment. And when Lydia sat listening to Paul's address we are told that "the Lord opened her heart," and then she attended to the words spoken by Paul. And when Saul was entering into Damascus to persecute the Christians in that city, carrying with him letters from the high priest at Jerusalem, a voice asked him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" God touched his heart, and it was done in a moment.

IV. IT BRINGS GREAT GLORY TO GOD. It is greater than creating a world. Someone has said. "It was great to speak a world from nought"; but it is a greater work when He comes down to that heart which He first made in His own image, and which sin has marred and ruined, and promises to dwell there, than the work of creation.

(Canon Fleming.)

I will take away the stony heart.
I. THE STONY HEART AND ITS DANGERS.

1. Why is the heart of man compared to a stone at all?(1) Like a stone it is cold. You may heat a stone for a little season if you thrust it into the fire, but for how short a time will it retain its heat; and though it glowed just now, how very soon it loses all its warmth, and returns again to its native coldness. Such is the heart of man. It is warm enough towards sin; it grows hot as coals of juniper towards its own lusts, but naturally the heart is as cold as ice towards the things of God. You may think you have heated it for a little season under a powerful exhortation, or in presence of a solemn judgment, but how soon it returns to its natural state!(2) Like a stone it is hard. You get the hard stone, especially some sorts of stone which have been hewn from granite beds, and you may hammer as you will but you shall make no impression. I have seen the great hammer of the law, which is ten times more ponderous than Nasmyth's great steam hammer, come down upon a man's heart, and the heart has never shown the slightest signs of shrinking.(3) Again, a stone is dead. You can find no feeling in it. Talk to it; it will shed no tears of pity, though you recount to it the saddest tales; no smiles will gladden it, though you should tell it the most happy story. Now, though man's heart is not like this as to natural things, yet spiritually this is just its condition.(4) Man's heart is like a stone, because it is not easily to be softened. Lay a stone in water as long as you will and you shall not find it readily subdued. There are some sorts of stone that yield to the stress of weather, especially in the smoky atmosphere and the sulphurous vapours of London; certain stones crumble to decay, but the stone of a man's heart no climate can affect, no weather can subdue; it grows harder whether it be the soft sunshine of love or the harsh tempest of judgment that falls upon it.(5) It is utterly senseless, incapable of receiving impressions. I remember an anecdote of Dr. Gill which hits this nail on the head. It is said that a man came to him in the vestry of his chapel and said, "Dr. Gill, you have been preaching the doctrine of human inability; I don't believe you. I believe that man can repent and can believe, and is not without spiritual power." "Well," said the doctor, "have you repented and believed?" "No," said the other. "Very well, then," said he, "you deserve double damnation." And so I say to the man who boasts that he has not such a hard heart as this — have you laid hold of Christ? have you come to Him? if you have not, then out of your own heart be you condemned, for you deserve double destruction from the presence of God for having resisted the influences of God's Spirit and rejected His grace.

2. The danger to which this hard heart is exposed.(1) A hard heart is exposed to the danger of final impenitence. If all these years the processes of nature have been at work with your heart, and have not softened it, have you not reason to conclude that it may be so even to the end? And then you will certainly perish.(2) Hearts that are not softened grow harder and harder; what little sensibility they seemed to have at last departs.(3) Then further, a man who has a hard heart is Satan's throne. There is a stone, they tell us, in Scotland, at Scone, where they were wont to crown their old kings: the stone on which they crown the old king of hell is a hard heart; it is his choicest throne; he reigns in hell, but he counts hard hearts to be his choicest dominions.(4) Then again, the hard heart is ready for anything. When Satan sits upon it and makes it his throne, there is no wonder that from the seat of the scorner flows all manner of evil.(5) Besides that, the hard heart is impervious to all instrumentality. John Bunyan, in his history of the Holy War, represents old Diabolus, the devil, as providing for the people of Mansoul a coat of armour, of which the breastplate was a hard heart. Oh! that is a strong breastplate. Hard hearts are the devil's lifeguards. When he once gets a man in an armour of proof — that of a hard heart — "Now," says he, "you may go anywhere."

II. A HEART OF FLESH AND ITS PRIVILEGES.

1. What is meant by a heart of flesh? It means a heart that can feel on account of sin — a heart that can bleed when the arrows of God stick fast in it; it means a heart that can yield when the Gospel makes its attacks — a heart that can be impressed when the seal of God's word comes upon it; it means a heart that is warm, for life is warm — a heart that can think, a heart that can aspire, a heart that can love — putting all in one, — a heart of flesh means that new heart and right spirit which God giveth to the regenerate.

2. But wherein does this heart of flesh consist; wherein does its tenderness consist?(1) There is a tenderness of conscience. Men who have lost their stony hearts are afraid of sin, even before sin they are afraid of it. The very shadow of evil across their path frightens them. And then, after sin — here comes the pinch — the heart of flesh bleeds as though it were wounded to its very core. Before sin, and in sin, and after sin, it smarts and cries out to God.(2) In duty as well as in sin the new heart is tender. "Only let me know my Master's will and I will do it."(3) A heart of flesh, again, is tender with regard to suffering. A heart of flesh would give its very life blood if it might but snatch others from going down to the pit, for its bowels yearn and its soul moves toward its fellow sinners who are on the broad road to destruction. Have you, oh, have you such a heart of flesh as this?

3. The privileges of this renewed heart are these. "'Tis here the Spirit dwells, 'tis here that Jesus rests." The soft heart is ready now to receive every spiritual blessing. It is fitted to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God. A soft heart is the best defence against sin, while it is the best preparative for heaven. A tender heart is the best means of watchfulness against evil, while it is also the best means of preparing us for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE OLD HEART IS TAKEN AWAY AND A NEW ONE PUT IN ITS PLACE. The head was justly considered by ancient philosophers to be the residence of the intellectual faculties, where the soul, presiding over all, sat enthroned, as in a palace. On the other hand, they regarded the affections as having their home in the heart, that other great organ of our system. Within the breast, love and hatred, grief and joy, aversion and desire, generosity, jealousy, pity, revenge were supposed to dwell; and thus (to dismiss the metaphor), that substitution of one heart for another which is promised in the text, just implies a thorough change in the character and current of our affections. Now, a change may be simply a reform; or, extending deeper and taking a wider range, it may pass into a revolution. Conversion is not a mere reform. No. It changes the heart, the habits, the everlasting destiny of an immortal being. To be sensible of our need of a new spirit, to feel that this old heart will not mend nor make better, is one of the first steps in salvation; and the deeper our impression of this truth, the more diligently shall we labour, and the more earnest shall be our prayers to be renewed day by day.

II. THE VIEW WHICH OUR TEXT GIVES OF THE NATURAL HEART. It is a heart of stone. "I will take the stony heart out of your flesh."

1. A stone is cold. Coldness is its characteristic. Hence, the lapidary, by using his tongue to test the temperature, can tell whether the seeming jewel is paste or a real gem. Hence, also, when our eye has been deceived by the skill of the artist, the sense of touch has informed us that what seemed a marble pillar was only painted wood. There is reason, therefore, in the common saying, As cold as a stone. But what stone so cold as that which sin has lodged in man's breast? We are by nature lovers of pleasure, not of God. He is not the object of our love, but of our aversion. And what return do we make to Jesus for His warm and matchless affection? The carnal mind is enmity against God; is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

2. A stone is hard. Fire melts wax, but not stone; water softens clay, but not stone; a hammer bends the stubborn iron, but not stone. It resists all these agents; and, emblem of a heart crushed, but unsanctified by affliction, a stone may be broken into fragments, or ground to powder, yet its atoms are as hard as ever. The man who remains unmoved under a ministry of mercy, who is insensible at once to the most appalling and appealing lessons of providence, who fears no more than a rock the thunders that peal and the lightnings that play round his brow, and feels no more than a rock the influences that fall like summer sunbeams from the face of a gracious Saviour, is manifestly beyond all human power. I would despair of his salvation, but for the omnipotence and benevolence of God; and because I know that He, who of the stones of the street could raise up children to Abraham, can change that heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

3. A stone is dead. It has no vitality, nor feeling, nor power of motion. Look at this statue; however skilful the sculptor's chisel, there is no life here; no speech breaks from these cold lips; the limbs seem instinct with power, yet they never leave their pedestal; no fire flashes in these dull grey eyes, nor passions burn within that stony breast; the stone is deaf, and dumb, and dead. Spoken to, it returns no answer; wept over, it sheds no tears.

III. IN CONVERSION GOD GIVES A NEW SPIRIT.

1. By this change the understanding and judgment are enlightened. Time and eternity are now seen in their just proportions, in their right relative dimensions; the one in its littleness, and the other in its greatness. When the light of heaven rises on the soul, oh, what grand and affecting discoveries does she make of the exceeding evil of sin, of the holiness of the Divine law, of the infinite purity of Divine justice, of the grace and greatness of Divine love. On Sinai's summit and on Calvary's Cross, what new truths and what sublime scenes open to her astonished eyes!

2. By this change the will is renewed. Bad men are worse, and good men are better than they appear. Yes, better; for in conversion the will is so changed and sanctified that, although a pious man is in some respects less, in other respects he is more holy than the world gives him credit for. The attainments of a believer are always beneath his aims; his desires are loftier than his deeds; his wishes are holier than his works. Give other men their will, let them have full sway and swing for their passions, and they would be worse than they are; give him the hill power to do as he would, and he would be better than he is. And thus, if you have experienced this gracious change, it will be your daily grief that not only are you not what you know you should be, but what you wish to be. The fruits of holy peace are reaped with sharp swords on the field of war; and this conflict within you proves that grace, even in its infancy a cradled Saviour, is engaged in struggling with and strangling the old Serpent.

3. By conversion the temper and disposition are changed and sanctified. It is with the believer under the influences of the Spirit as with fruit ripening beneath the genial power of dews and sunbeams. Hard at first, its substance grows soft; sour at first, its juices become sweet; green at first, it assumes in time a rich and mellow colour; at first adhering tenaciously to the tree, when it becomes ripe it is ready to drop at the slightest touch. So with the man who is ripening for heaven. His affections and temper grow sweet, soft, mellow, loose from earth and earthly things.

IV. IN CONVERSION GOD GIVES A HEART OF FLESH. "I will give you a heart of flesh."

1. In conversion man gets a warm heart. Let us restrict ourselves to a single example. When faith embraces Him, how does the heart warm to Jesus Christ! There is music in His very name. "His name is as an ointment poured forth." All the old indifference to His cause, His people, and interests of His kingdom has passed away; and now these have the warmest place in a believer's bosom, and are become the objects of its strongest and tenderest affections.

2. In conversion a man gets a soft heart. As "flesh," it is soft and sensitive. It is flesh; and can be wounded or healed. It is flesh; and feels alike the kiss of kindness and the rod of correction. It is flesh; no longer like a stone, hard, obdurate, impenetrable to the gentle influences of heaven. To change the figure, once a hard block of ice, it has been melted by the beams of the sun, and turned into flowing water.

3. In conversion a man gets a living heart. The perfection of a saint's life is death; is to be dead to sin, but alive to righteousness, alive to Christ, alive to everything which affects His crown and kingdom. With Christ living in his heart, the believer feels that now he is not his own, and belongs no longer to himself. As another's, and purchased at a great price, the grand object of his life is Christ's. He wishes that he could look on the seductions of the world, and sin's most voluptuous charms, with the cold, unmoved stare of death; and that these had no more power to kindle a desire in him than in the icy bosom of a corpse.

4. By conversion man is ennobled. Religion descends like an angel from the throne of God, to burst our chains. She raises me from degradation, and bids me lift my drooping head and look up to heaven. Yes, it is that very Gospel, by some supposed to present such dark, degrading, gloomy views of our destiny, which lifts me from the dust and the dunghill to set me among princes, on a level with angels, in a sense above them. To say nothing of the nobility grace imparts to a soul which is stamped anew with the likeness and image of God, how sacred, how venerable does even this body appear in the eye of piety! Angels hover round its walls, and the Spirit of God dwells within. What an incentive to holiness, to purity of life and conduct, lies in the fact that the Body of a saint is the temple of the living God! — a truer, nobler temple than that which Solomon dedicated by his prayers, and a greater even than Solomon consecrated by his presence.

( T. Guthrie, D. D.)

I. THE SOUL OF MAN IS, LIKE THE STONE, A MYSTERY. Here is a stone. I see it, weigh it, feel it. But what is it? Colour, weight, and tangibility are not entities. These are mere qualities which belong to entities. By these qualities we may recognise the entities and form an opinion respecting them. In this sense the stone, itself a mystery, may be looked on as a type or picture of every soul, saved or unsaved. Every soul feels, reasons, and think; — and yet the soul is neither feeling, reason, nor thought: these are mere qualities which form no part of its essence. In itself it is a mystery.

II. THE SOUL OF THE UNREGENERATE, HOWEVER, IS, LIKE THE STONE, VERY HARD.

1. All stones are not equally hard, though hardness is a characteristic of each.

2. Neither are all souls equally without feeling or moral susceptibility, though all are sadly deficient in this respect. This is illustrated —(1) By the cruel practices of Pagan nations. Infanticides, parricides, self-torture, human sacrifices, Sutteeism. etc.(2) By the indifference of those who are not Pagans — even Christians, to the welfare of others.(3) By the difficulty invariably found of awakening the soul to an earnest inquiry for its own personal and highest interest.

III. THE SOUL OF THE UNREGENERATE IS, LIKE THE STONE, NOT WHAT IT ORIGINALLY WAS. The stone has not been always as hard as it is now. Every pebble or grain of sand was once a part of a great rock, and that rock itself a soft material; but heat, pressure, and time combined made it hard. Even flint existed in a soft and pulpy form. Similar is the history of your soul, my unregenerated brother. It was once soft, tender, and full of felling, though now it is hard. This is proved —

(1)From the universal traditions of men.

(2)From man's intuitive ideas of the moral nature of God.

(3)From the infallible testimony of the Scripture.

IV. THE UNREGENERATED SOUL HAS, LIKE THE STONE, BEEN GRADUALLY HARDENED. Even Nero, who assassinated his mother, set fire to the Roman capital, and brought to an untimely grave in misery thousands of men, women, and innocent children, had once a tender heart, like others. "Would to God I could not write!" was his feeling exclamation once when a death warrant was presented to him for signature.

V. THE UNREGENERATED SOUL, LIKE THE STONE, BEARS IN ITSELF A FAITHFUL RECORD OF ALL THE POWERS WHICH HAVE HELPED TO MAKE IT WHAT IT IS. In the stone, some of its particles are spherical, showing that once, after having been broken from the mother rock, they were for centuries under the action of flowing water; others are crystallised, showing that once they were in a state of solution; others are organic, showing that they were once the seat of vegetable or animal life. In the form and composition of these particles we find a record of the various changes through which the stone has passed, as well as the numerous influences which have been at work in the effecting of those changes. The soul of man is similar. In eternity it may be possible to trace distinctly in every soul in heaven or hell a faithful record of all the influences which, on earth, have ever tended to elevate or degrade it.

VI. THE UNREGENERATED SOUL, LIKE THE STONE, MAY BE SOFTENED BY THE APPLICATION OF APPROPRIATE ELEMENTS. The flint, may be reduced to pulp by chemical reagents, and moulded like the clay to any form. The hardest metals may be dissolved. So may also the hardest heart. The love of Christ is the dissolving element for souls.

(Evan Lewis, B. A.)

I. THE OLD AND STONY HEART. There are some who tell us that the heart of man by nature is like a sheet of white paper or parchment, that you may inscribe on it whatever you please. We are bound to say, from our experience, this is not the condition of our hearts. We are conscious in ourselves that we were born with inclinations to evil; and that, as the fruit of inward corruption and depravity, our lives have been exceedingly defective and blemished everywhere, and that we have been disobedient to the Lord. The heart is said to be stony, that is, to be hard; and it remains so although we try it by every system, every principle, and every revelation of God, which would be adapted to impress and to make it feel, feel deeply and poignantly, if it were not a stone. Take the stone and bring it out to the light of heaven, and let the sunbeam fall on it — it does not feel; bring it again and let the dews of heaven distil on it, the rain of Divine mercy baptize it, take it to a fountain and let the waters play on it — it is a stone still; carry it into the Garden of Eden, and let all that is lovely there, all that is blooming in that place, created by Divine wisdom and goodness, be presented before it — it is a stone; shiver with lightning, it is a stone still; grind it to powder, it is a stone still — and that is the figure of the heart. It must be changed: God must take away the heart of stone and give the heart of flesh.

II. THE CHANGE AND RENOVATION OF THE HEART IS THE WORK OF GOD.

1. We do find, we think, the doctrine in question very strongly stated in this passage: it looks as if God were all in all in this matter. The word I occurs four times.

2. The agency of heaven upon the heart of man is, without doubt, silent and inscrutable, and in many respects mysterious. But then, we ask, is it not equally so in elemental nature — in the world by which we are surrounded — in all the animal tribes — in our own bodies?

3. Throughout Scripture the change in the heart is ascribed to God.

4. This presents to our mind a very beautiful and important view of genuine religion. It is not of man's creation — it is not the product of human genius — it is not that with which we can invest you, or you have any power to invest yourselves. You must receive it as the gift of Divine power — as the operation of Divine love — as the creation of God's mercy.

5. God has promised to exert His power, and to give His Spirit, in order to this end.

III. WHEN GOD UNDERTAKES IT, HE MAKES IT NEW AND RENDERS IT ALIVE TO EVERY DIVINE AND CELESTIAL IMPRESSION. But what is the change, what is the new heart which God gives? The man with a new heart will say, in penitence, humility, and shame, "I have broken the law, I have gone astray, I have done what I ought not, I have left undone that which I ought to have done, to me belong shame and confusion of face." There is the heart changed. Bring him to judgments, those which happen round about him, and it will awake him from his slumber, and induce him to trim his lamp, and gird his loins, and to stand ready and prepared for whatever the will of God may be. There is a feeling heart in that man. Bring him to God's mercies, mention them, recount them, let them be enumerated, and he exclaims, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name." I am not worthy the least of them all, and yet He makes them towards me to abound. Bring him to nature, show him the creation, and he will say, "the heavens declare God's glory, and I am glad of it, and the firmaments show forth His handiwork"; and he will recognise Deity everywhere, and in all this. Tell him of God's dispensations towards him in his own life, and he will be thankful for every deliverance that has been wrought, and for every seasonable and remarkable interposition.

IV. THE ADVANTAGES AND THE BLESSEDNESS OF THIS RENEWED STATE.

1. In the changed state itself there is incomparable enjoyment.

2. And if we have this change of heart we shall certainly be victorious at the last. We shall find the new nature struggling with the old; the old will grow weaker and weaker, and the new stronger and stronger; but the time draweth near when that which is corrupt and depraved and defiled shall fall of itself and be dropped forever, and the new nature shall be revealed in its refulgence and beauty, not as delinquent to be punished, but as victorious to receive the crown of life.

(J. Stratten.)

Many of you have no doubt seen the dripping wells at Matlock Bath. The caves are like an old curiosity shop. There are all kinds of objects. Drop by drop the water falls, until things that once were soft, and could have been bent as easily as a cane, have become as stiff and hard as stone. Slowly and surely the work goes on. And so it is with our life. The heart does not become hard all at once.

The "stony heart" refers obviously to a curious custom of the ancient Egyptians. When a dead body was embalmed, the heart along with the other internal organs was taken out, and in the cavity where it had been a large scarab was placed. This was a representation in stone of a beetle that was worshipped by the Egyptians, because it sprang from the fertilising mud left behind by the annual overflow of the waters of the Nile. It seemed to be created directly by the rays of the sun, and was therefore regarded as a symbol of life springing from death. Myriads of this sacred beetle wrought in all kinds of material have been found in Egyptian tombs. Ezekiel, as is abundantly evident in his prophecies against Egypt, was intimately acquainted with the manners and customs of that country. He therefore borrows his image from an Egyptian source It suggests to us not only the hardness and lifelessness of a common stone, but also the peculiar shape and superstitious use of a special sacred stone. It was with the Jews as it was with an Egyptian mummy. They were spiritually dead, and the tender living heart had disappeared and a heart of stone had been substituted.

(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)

We read in ancient Greek fable of the Gorgons, who had the power of turning mortals into stone by a look. There are still Gorgons in existence that can turn to stone the hearts of those who look upon their alluring forms and listen to their flattering speeches. The love of money, the love of pleasure, are great Medusas that change by their evil spells the warm heart that cherishes them into a piece of rock, without sensibility or sympathy.

(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)

And I will give you an heart of flesh
A heart of flesh is known by its tenderness concerning sin. To have indulged a foul imagination, or to have allowed a wild desire to tarry even for a moment, is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieve before the Lord. The heart of stone calls a great iniquity nothing, but not so the heart of flesh.

2. The heart of flesh is tender of God's will. My Lord Will-be-will is a great blusterer, and it is hard to subject him to God's will; but when the heart of flesh is given, the will quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven, and bows like an osier in every breeze of God's Spirit. The natural will is cold, hard iron, which is not to be hammered into form; but the renewed will, like molten metal, is soon moulded by the hand of grace.

3. In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards Him. The hard heart is selfish, and coldly demands, "Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?" But the heart of flesh says: "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee; help me to love Thee more!" Many are the privileges of this renewed heart; "'Tis here the Spirit dwells, 'tis there that Jesus rests." It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God, and therefore the Lord delights in it.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is a peculiar feature in our holy religion that it begins its work within, and acts first upon the heart. The Holy Spirit does not attempt to improve human nature into something better, but lays the axe at the root of the trees, and declares that we must become new creatures, and that by a supernatural work of the omnipotent God. True religion begins, then, with the heart, and the heart is the ruling power of manhood. The heart is more nearly the man than any other of the faculties and powers which God has bestowed upon our nature. The heart, when renewed by grace, is the best part of manhood; unrenewed, it is the very worst. AEsop, when his master ordered him to provide nothing for a feast but the best things in the market, brought him nothing but tongues, and when the next day he ordered him to buy nothing but the worst things in the market, still brought nothing but tongues; and I would venture to correct or spiritualise the story, by exchanging hearts for tongues, for there is nothing better in the world than hearts renewed, and nothing worse than hearts unregenerate.

I. THE TENDERNESS HERE INTENDED IS ABSENT IN THE UNREGENERATE. They frequently have a natural sensitiveness; some persons who are not converted are very tender indeed, as mothers to their children, as fathers to their offspring, as friends to friends; and God forbid that we should say anything amiss concerning that which is good in human nature after its kind, but that is widely different from the spiritually tender heart. In all unregenerate men there is a lack of the real spiritual tenderness of which I have to speak, though all are not equally hardened. In all, for instance, there is a natural stoniness of heart. We are not born into this world perfect, so that when sin meets us it receives a kindly reception, and is not dreaded and shunned as it should be. The heart by nature is like the nether millstone, and its hardness is increased by contact with the world. Familiarity with sin doth not breed contempt for it, but often causes a measure of contempt for the law which forbids it. This world is a petrifying spring, and all who are of the world are being petrified in its stream, and so are growing harder and harder as the years roll on. Moreover men harden themselves by their own sins. Like a stone falling, sin gains impetus and increased velocity. As labour renders the hand hard, so sin makes the heart callous, and each sin makes the stony heart yet more like adamant. At the same time, all the circumstances around an unregenerate man will be perverted to the same result. If, for instance, a man prospers, nothing is more hardening to the heart than long prosperity. The opposite condition of circumstances will, through sin, produce the same result. Affliction hardens those whom it does not soften. And, alas! alas! that we should have to add it, holy influences will come to complete this hardening, and carry it to a still higher degree. The sunlight of the Gospel shining upon hearers either melts them into repentance or else hardens them into greater obstinacy. Yet, further, when an unregenerate man dares to put on a Christian profession, this is perhaps the most rapid and certain process for consummating the devil's work; for if a man will be audacious enough to join himself with the saints while he is indulging in private sin; if he will continue to come to the communion table when he knows that his basest lusts are still indulged; and if, moreover, he has the face to boast of being a child of God when he knows that he is an utter stranger to Divine grace, why, such a man is the raw material out of which Satan can make a Judas.

II. WHEREVER TRUE TENDERNESS IS FOUND IT IS A SPECIAL GIFT OF THE NEW COVENANT. A heart of flesh is a boon of sovereign grace, and it is always the result of Divine power. No heart of stone was ever turned into flesh by accident, nor by mere providential dispensations, nor by human persuasions. Neither is such a change wrought by man's own actions. How shall a stone, being a stone, produce in itself flesh? The Spirit of God must change the nature, or the heart of stone will never become a heart of flesh. Note that the first works of the Spirit of God upon the soul tend towards this tenderness, for when He comes to a man He convinces him of sin and so softens him; the man convinced of sin does not laugh any longer at sin, neither does he despise the wrath of God on account of it. When the soul comes to be really saved, and to obtain peace through Jesus Christ, one great mark of its salvation is tenderness in heart. Oh, what a place for tenderness the Cross is! When for the first time oar eye beholds the Saviour, we, weep; we look and live, but we also look and mourn that we pierced the Lord. The fact that He loved us and gave Himself for us is enough to dissolve a heart of iron, if it could once know it. Now, as these first works of the Spirit of God in conviction and conversion lead to tenderness, so is it true of all the Divine operations which follow in due course. The whole tenor of the Gospel is towards tenderness. I cannot recollect a promise, I cannot recall a doctrine, I cannot remember a fact connected with the Gospel, which could make a believer hard-hearted. Can you? So is it with every Christian grace. All the Christian virtues promote warmth and tenderness of heart. You cannot be strong in piety unless you are tender in heart. Are you a child? Can a child be good if it be indifferent, haughty, obstinate, and stony-hearted towards its parents? Are you a servant? Who is a good servant but he that is tender of his master's reputation, and anxious to fill his lord's command? Are you a soldier? Where is there a good soldier that is not jealous of his captain's honour, and careful lest by any means he should break the martial law? There must be tenderness. It is an essential point.

III. THIS TENDERNESS, WHEN IT IS GIVEN, IS OBSERVABLE UNDER SEVERAL ASPECTS. The man who has a heart of flesh given him becomes sensitive to fear. He trembles at the thought of a holy God in arms against him. The renewed heart is afraid of what other men call little sins, and flees from them as from a serpent. Again, a tender heart becomes sensitive as to the decisions of its enlightened conscience. The Christian feels that it is a horrible thing to sin against God, against the Saviour's love, and against the influence of the indwelling Spirit, and he starts back from sin, not only because he is afraid of the punishment, but because he is wounded by the sin itself. As smoke to the eyes, as thorns to the flesh, and as gall to the palate, such is sin to the heart of flesh. Then, again, the new heart, the fleshy heart, becomes sensitive of the Divine love. The renewed heart feels that the love of Christ constraineth it, and it judgeth "that if Christ died for all, then were all dead, and that He died for all, that they which live should not live henceforth to themselves, but unto Him that died for them and rose again." Moreover, the heart becomes sensitive henceforth to holy grief. When it has erred it chastens and humbles itself for having grieved the Saviour: it takes revenge upon itself if sin has been indulged. Withal it becomes sensitive to joy, and oh the joy which a Christian feels, to which the ungodly man must forever be a stranger! Heaven itself seems to flash along every nerve when the heart is steeped in fellowship with Jesus. And so we become sensitive with pity for others. I would give nothing for your religion if you do not desire others to share in it; if you can, without emotion, think of a soul being damned, I fear that it will be your own lot. Where this tenderness of heart is carried to a high point, as it ought to be in every Christian, the believer becomes delicately sensitive concerning the things of God. A Christian's heart should resemble a sensitive plant, which the moment it is touched folds up its leaves, as a sailor reefs his canvas; or like a wound in a man's flesh, which is pained by the faintest brush. Spiritual sensitiveness is fulness of life; insensibility is death. To feel the slightest motion of the Holy Spirit is a sign of high spirituality.

IV. TENDERNESS OF HEART IS TO BE GREATLY PRIZED AND EARNESTLY CULTIVATED. Beloved, do not try to get rid of soul alarm and conviction and sin, except in God's way. You will never prize the Saviour until you loathe yourself; you will never love His blood until you have been ashamed of the crimson of your own sin. Go to Jesus and put your trust in Him, and harden not your heart against Him. Next, I speak to you, O child of God. Cultivate tenderness of heart more and more. Be very humble, lie very low: be more and more conscious of your natural guilt, and repent daily more earnestly.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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