Heart Religion

Posted By on November 14, 2013

by J. C. Ryle

We live in a time of peculiar spiritual danger. Never perhaps since the world began was there such an immense amount of mere outward profession of religion as there is in the present day. A painfully large proportion of all the congregations in the land consists of unconverted people, who know nothing of heart religion, and never confess Christ in their daily lives. Myriads of those who are following preachers and crowding to hear sermons, are nothing better than empty tubs, and tinkling cymbals, without a jot of real Christianity at home.

The lives of many professing believers, I fear, is nothing better than a continual course of spiritual drunkenness. They are often craving fresh excitement; and seem to care little what it is if they only get it. All preaching seems to come alike to them; and they appear unable to see differences, so long as they hear what is clever and have their ears tickled. Too many of these professors, alas, behave like young recruits who show how little deep root they have, and how little knowledge of their own hearts–by noise, forwardness, readiness to contradict and rebuke old Christians, and over-weaning trust in their own fancied soundness and new-found wisdom. Surely in times like these there is great need of self-examination.

Let me ask if you are trying to satisfy your conscience with a mere formal religion? There are myriads who are making shipwreck on this rock. Like the Pharisees of old, they make much of  the outward Christianity, while in the inward and spiritual part is totally neglected. They are careful to attend all the services of their place in worship, and are regular in using its forms and ordinances. They are often keen partisans of their own Church or congregation, and ready to contend with any who do not agree with them. Yet all this time there is no heart in their religion. Anyone who knows them intimately can see with half an eye that their affections are set on things below, not on things above; and they are trying to make up for the lack of inward Christianity by an excessive emphasis on the outward form. This formal religion does them no real good. They are not truly satisfied. Beginning at the wrong end, by making the outward things first, they  know nothing of inward joy and peace, and pass their lives in constant struggle, secretly conscious that there is something wrong, yet not knowing why. When professing Christians of this kind are so painfully numerous, no one need wonder if I press upon him the paramount importance of close self-examination. If you love life and Lord, do not be content with the husk, and shell of religion. Means of grace and forms of religion are useful in their ways, and God seldom does anything for His Church without them. But let us beware of making shipwreck on the very lighthouse which helps to show the channel into the harbor.

Let me ask, “Do you know anything by experience of conversion to God? Without conversion there is no salvation. We are all by nature so weak, so worldly, so earthly-minded, so inclined to sin, that without a thorough change we cannot serve God in life, or enjoy Him after death. Sense of sin and deep hatred of it, faith in Christ and love to Him, delight in holiness and longing after more of it, love to God’s people and distaste for the things of the world, –these are the signs and evidences which always accompany conversion.

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