A Word in Season
James Smith, 1856
A thoughtless young man was one day hearing some Christian's converse, and as they were speaking of divine things, one of them said, "If a man's heart is not changed — then he must be lost forever." The words sunk into his heart, occupied his thoughts, aroused his feelings, and produced the change referred to. He became an eminent Christian, a useful minister of Christ, and he died in a good old age, beloved and missed by many.
Reader, it is a solemn fact, that a man's heart must be changed. It is by nature alienated from God, and enmity against God. Men do not love God. They will not listen to God. They will not obey God. They will not seek after God. Thousands live like brutes, and die like brutes. No daily prayer to God for his blessing. No praising God for his mercies. No seeking to God for the pardon of sin, and the enjoyment of his favor. And where there is the form of religion, it is very often nothing but the form. They draw near to God with the mouth, and honor him with the lips — but their hearts are far from him. There is no sense of God's presence. No fear of his displeasure. No desire to enjoy his love. The heart is set upon worldly things — on money, on dress, on eating and drinking. A pleasant situation, high wages, fine clothing, men's applause, or indulging the appetites — are the things valued or sought. In many cases, God is not in all their thoughts. The heart must be changed.
There is Robert Brown, he is a good workman, he earns good wages, he sticks to his work, he is sober, and regular in his habits. Whoever heard Robert Brown swear? Whoever saw him drunk? He goes to chapel on a Sunday morning, and goes out for a walk with his wife and children in the evening. He reads a chapter in the Bible now and then, and perhaps a tract if it falls in his way. But he lies down at night without prayer, he rises and goes to his employment in the morning, without kneeling down to praise God for his mercies, or entreat his blessing. He never collects his family together to pray with them, or read God's holy Word to them. But if he keeps a good house over their heads, plenty of food in the cupboard, and a tolerable good suit of clothes on their backs, and avoids getting into debt — he thinks he does his duty.
Robert Brown is better than many; but if Robert Brown's heart is not changed, he must be lost forever. Salvation is not by works — but by grace. All Robert Brown does will not obtain God's favor, or procure for him the pardon of sin.
Besides which, he could not be happy in Heaven. All in Heaven are holy — Robert Brown is only moral. All in Heaven feel their obligation to the Lord Jesus, are filled with love to him, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb — but Robert Brown is a stranger to all this.
If we go to Heaven when we die, we must be trained for it while we live. Jesus said, "Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." To be born again, is to have the heart changed; and if a man's heart is not changed, he must be lost forever — the Lord Jesus says so.
There is Susan Green, she is honest and industrious — a good worker, and always keeps her place. She was christened in her infancy, taught to read her Bible, and attends a place of worship. She has money in the savings bank, a good stock of clothes in her dresser, and occasionally sends a present home to her hard-working parents. No one ever saw Susan at the races, the theater, or the dancing-room. She was never detected in light company, or discharged from a job for being out late at night. She has a number of good books, she goes regularly to chapel, and is the picture of neatness and order.
Yet, if Susan Green's heart is not changed — she must be lost forever. She is not fit to go to Heaven! She never felt herself a poor lost sinner, condemned and cast off from all hope by the holy law of God. She never felt urged by guilt on her conscience, and a dread of the wrath to come — to flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before her in the gospel. She is in her natural state. She has acquired good habits, obtained a good reputation from her employers, and is a valuable worker; but she has not passed from death unto life. She could give you no account of conviction of sin, conversion to God, and having Christ formed in her heart the hope of glory. She rests on her own doings, and is ready to say, "If God does not save me — then who will he save?"
Ah, there is the stony heart still! The blood of Christ has never touched Susan's conscience. She has never cried out with the poor Publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Nor does she know what our Lord meant when speaking of that Publican he said, "He went down to his house justified." If Susan's heart is not changed — she must be lost forever.
And now, reader, let a friend, who wishes you well, and would be glad to see you happy, ask you in a friendly way, "Has your heart been changed?" How did you feel before it was changed, and how have you felt since? Nay, be not offended — but take the questions home, they can do you no harm; and it is a solemn truth, which a death-bed and the day of judgment will confirm, that "if a man's heart is not changed — he must be lost forever!"
God takes no one to Heaven until he has prepared him for the employments and enjoyments of the place; and there can be no preparation without a change of heart, for every man is — as his heart is. If you have never gone farther than Robert Brown or Susan Green, you have not gone far enough; and the Lord Jesus would say to you, as he did to the young man in the Gospel, "One thing you lack!" Let me beg of you, at parting — to look into your life, and then into your heart, and compare both with what you read in your New Testament; and as you do so, ask, "Have I experienced a change of heart?" Remember, oh, remember, "if a man's heart is not changed — he must be lost forever!"
Strait the gate, the way is narrow,
To the realms of endless bliss;
Sinful men, and vain professors,
Self-deceived, the passage miss;
Down they sink the dread abyss.
Sins and follies unforsaken,
All will end in deep despair;
Formal prayers are unavailing,
Fruitless is the worldling's tear;
Small in number
Who to wisdom's path repair!