Actions, words, desires

(Archibald Brown, "The Heart's Cry after God" 1879)

"My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!" Psalm 84:2

The desires of the heart
are the best proofs of salvation; and if a man wishes to know whether he is really saved or not, he can very soon find out by putting his finger upon the pulse of his desires, for those are things that never can be counterfeit.
You may counterfeit words;
you may counterfeit actions;
but you cannot counterfeit desires.

You cannot always tell a Christian by his actions.
For sometimes true Christians act in a very ugly style;
and sometimes those who are not Christians act in a very beautiful way;
and hypocrites often act the best. The whole of a hypocrite's life may be a simple counterfeit.

Nor are our words always a true test. Often the most beautiful experience, as far as language goes, is the experience that falls from the lips of a man whose heart knows nothing about the grace of God. It is possible to mix with God's children until you pick up a sort of Christian dialect, and talk of others' experiences as though they were your own. Just as a man sojourning in a foreign country will learn a good deal of the language of its inhabitants by simply hearing it spoken — so it is possible to dwell among Christians until their language is in great measure acquired. But talking a language does not constitute a nationality.

But there is one thing which cannot be picked up or counterfeited, and that is a desire. Let me know my desire — then do I know myself; for I can no more counterfeit a desire than I can counterfeit fire. One says, "Do you want to know what you are? Go ask your desires, and they will tell you. Do you wish to know where you are going? See where your desires tend."

A good action may be done without any love to that action. And, on the other hand, an evil action may be avoided — not from any hatred to that evil. The good action may be done from an impure motive; the evil action may be avoided simply from a selfish motive. But the desire of the soul — that is the immediate issue of the heart.

A caged bird cannot fly — does it therefore cease to be a bird? No; that it does not fly is because it is in a cage. Open the door — see, now, how quickly it darts through the opening, and flies, skimming through the air, heavenward. It has the bird's nature. It had the desire for flight, even when the cruel wires kept it in.

And so is it with the child of God. Often does he get caged, and if you were to judge simply by appearances, you would say, 'Surely he has not the nature of the Christian within.' Only open the door — only give him a chance of flight — and you will see then that, after all, the desire of his soul has been towards God, for, in the language of my text, he says, "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!"

The desire of the true Christian is after God Himself. "My heart and my flesh cry out for — for God." This desire swallows up all others!

Longing after God is a more infallible proof you are God's, than your most zealous services, or the very best of your actions. These might be counterfeit — but this longing after God cannot be.

Oh what must Heaven be! If all the desires of a saint are concentrated in God — then what must the satisfaction of Heaven be when it is all God — God on the throne, God before me, God leading me, God delighting my eyes, God in my songs — the world, its cares, its sorrows, its worries, all gone — a heavenly atmosphere of God all around! How unutterably deep the satisfaction! My heart and my flesh will no longer cry out for God — but will eternally rejoice in Him!

Do not I love thee, O my lord?
Behold my heart, and see,
And chase each idol far away,
That dares to rival thee!

Thou know'st I love thee, dearest Lord.
But, oh! I long to soar,
Above the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love thee more!
  Philip Doddridge