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"I will give you a heart of flesh"

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
(Ezekiel 36:26 KJV)

It is a peculiar feature in our holy religion that it begins its work within and acts first upon the heart. Other religions, like that of the Pharisees, begin with outward forms and ceremonies, perhaps hoping to work inwardly from without, although the process never ends, for though the outside of the cup and of the platter is made clean, the inside still remains full of rottenness as before. No Truth of God is more sure than this concerning all the sons of men, “You must be born again.”

There must be an entire and radical change of man’s nature or else where God is he can never come—the Gospel does not flinch from this, but enforces the declaration. 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.

Scripture does not mince matters, or say that some men may be better than others, naturally, and by an improvement of their excellencies may at last become good enough for God. Far from it! It declares concerning all, “Except you are converted and become as little children, you shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” True religion begins, then, with the heart, and the heart is the ruling power of manhood. You may enlighten a man’s understanding and you have done much, but as long as his heart is wrong, the enlightenment of the understanding only enables him to sin with a greater weight of responsibility resting upon him. He knows good to be good, but he prefers the evil. He sees the light, but he loves the darkness and turns from the Truth of God because his heart is alienated from God.

If the heart is renewed, the judgment will, before long, follow in the same track. But as long as the heart is wrong, the affections govern the will and bias the character of the man towards evil. If a man loves evil he is evil. If he hates God he is God’s enemy, whatever his outward professions, whatever his knowledge, whatever his apparent good qualities. “As a man thinks in his heart so he is.” This is more nearly the man than any other of the faculties and powers which God has bestowed upon our nature. What if I say that the heart is the Eve in the little garden of our nature and she it is that first plucks the evil fruit? And though the understanding follows the affections, even as Adam followed Eve, yet the first power for good or evil lies in the affections.

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 spiritualize the story by exchanging hearts for tongues, for there is nothing better in the world than hearts renewed, and nothing worse than hearts unregenerate. It is a great Covenant promise that
the heart shall be renewed and the particular form of its renewal is this—that it shall be made living, warm, sensitive, and tender. It is naturally a heart of stone—it is to become, by a work of Divine Grace—a heart of flesh. Therefore, very much of the result of regeneration and conversion will be found to lie in the production of a tender spirit.

Tenderness, the opposite of that which is stout, obstinate, cold, hard—tenderness is one of the most gracious signs in a man’s character. And where God has given fleshiness, or living sensitiveness instead of stoniness, or dead insensibility of heart, there we may conclude that there is a real work of Grace and that God has created vital godliness within. Concerning this tenderness I am about to speak—“I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

—from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon, called “The Heart of Flesh” (August 31, 1873)