Form or Heart?


Based on a Tract by

J.C. Ryle

“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:28, 29

This question, Form or Heart, is one that deserves our serious attention. We take for granted that we all have some religion. You are not an infidel. You profess and call yourself a Christian. Well, is your Christianity formal or spiritual? Is religion with you a matter of form, or a matter of the heart? Is it form or heart?

The question deserves especial attention in this age of the church and world. It is probably fair to say that never since the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth, was there so much formality and false profession, as there is at the present day. Now, if ever, we ought to examine ourselves, and search our religion, that we may know of what sort it is. Let us find out whether our Christianity is a thing of form or a thing of heart.

And there can be no better way of unfolding the subject than by turning to a plain passage of the Word of God. Let us hear what Paul says about it. He lays down the following great principles in his Epistle to the Romans: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom. 2:28, 29). Three most instructive lessons appear to stand out on the face of that passage. Let us see what they are.

I. We learn, firstly, that formal religion is not religion, and a formal Christian is not a Christian in God’s sight.

II. We learn, secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion, and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart.

III. We learn, thirdly, that true religion must never be expected to be popular. It will not have the “praise of man, but of God.”

Let us thoroughly consider these great principles.

I. We learn, first, that formal religion is not religion, and a formal Christian is not a Christian in God’s sight.

Now what is meant by the term formal religion? We should all be clear on this. Thousands, it seems, know nothing about it. Without a distinct understanding of this point the others lose any meaning. The first step then is to paint, describe, and define this term.

When a man is a Christian in name only, and not in reality,—in outward things only, and not in his inward feelings,—in profession only, and not in practice,—when his Christianity, in short, is a mere matter of form, or fashion, or custom, without any influence on his heart or life,—in such a case as this the man has what we will call a “formal religion.” He possesses indeed the form, or husk, or skin of religion, but he does not possess its substance or its power.

Look, for example, at those thousands of people whose whole religion seems to consist in keeping religious ceremonies and ordinances. They attend public worship regularly. They go regularly to the Lord’s table. But they never go any further. They know nothing of experimental Christianity. They are not familiar with the Scriptures, and take no delight in reading them. They do not separate themselves from the ways of the world. They draw no distinction between godliness and ungodliness in their friendships, or the bonds of marriage. They care little or nothing about the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel. They appear utterly indifferent as to what they hear preached. You may be in their company for weeks, and for anything you may hear or see on a week day, you might suppose they were unbelievers. What can be said about these people? They are certainly Christians by profession; and yet there is neither heart nor life in their Christianity. There is but one thing to be said about them: They are formal Christians—their religion is a form.

Look in another direction, at those hundreds of people whose whole religion seems to consist in talk and high profession. They know the theory of the Gospel with their heads, and profess to delight in Evangelical doctrine. They can say much about the “soundness” of their own views, and the “darkness” of all who disagree with them; but they never get any further! When you examine their inner lives, you find that they know nothing of practical godliness. They are neither truthful, nor charitable, nor humble, nor honest, nor kind-tempered, nor unselfish, nor honourable. What shall we say of these people? They are Christians, no doubt, in name, and yet there is neither substance nor fruit in their Christianity. There is but one thing to be said: They are formal Christians—their religion is an empty form.

Such is the formal religion against which we are warned against this day.

Hear what the Apostle Paul tells the Romans: “No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical” (Rom. 2:28). These are certainly strong words! A man might be a son of Abraham according to the flesh, a member of one of the twelve tribes, circumcised the eighth day,—a keeper of all the feasts,—a regular worshipper in the temple,—and yet in God’s sight not be a Jew! Just so a man may be a Christian by outward profession,—a member of a Christian Church,—baptized with Christian baptism, —a participant in Christian ordinances,—and yet, in God’s sight, not a Christian at all.

The words we read in Isaiah chapter 1 verses 11 to 15, were God declared that he did not delight in the offerings of Judah, when carefully considered, are very extraordinary. The sacrifices which are there declared to be useless were appointed by God Himself. The feasts and ordinances which God says He “hates,” had been prescribed by Himself. God Himself pronounces His own institutions to be useless when they are used formally and without heart in the worshipper. In fact they are worse than useless; they are even offensive and hurtful. It cannot be put more clearly and unmistakably. They show that formal religion is worthless in God’s sight. It is not worth calling religion.

Hear, lastly, what our Lord Jesus Christ says. We find Him saying of the Jews of His day, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me” (Matt. 15:8, 9). We see Him repeatedly denouncing the formalism and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, and warning His disciples against it. Eight times in one chapter, Matthew 23, He says to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” For the worst sinners He always had a word of kindness, and held out to them an open door. But formalism, He would have us know, is a desperate disease, and must be exposed in the severest language. To the eye of the ignorant man a formalist may seem to have a very decent quantity of religion, though not perhaps of the best quality. In the eye of Christ, however, the case is very different. In His sight formality is no religion at all.

And what do these testimonies of Scripture say to us? It would be easy to add to them. They do not stand alone. If words mean anything, they are a clear warning to all who profess and call themselves Christians. They teach you plainly that as you dread sin and avoid sin, so you ought to dread formality and avoid formality. Formalism may take your hand with a smile, and look like a brother, while sin comes against you with sword drawn, and strikes at you like an open enemy. But both have one end in view. Both want to ruin your soul; and, of the two, formalism is far the most likely to do it. If you love life, beware of formality in religion.

Nothing is so common.

It is one of the great family diseases of the whole race of mankind. It is born with us, grows with us, and is never completely cast out of us till we die. It meets us in church. It meets us among rich and it meets us among poor. It meets us among learned people and it meets us among unlearned. Go where we will, we are never beyond the risk of its infection. The man who thinks that there is no formal religion in his own church, at any rate, is a very blind and ignorant person. If we love life, we ought to beware of formality.

Nothing is so dangerous to a man’s own soul.

Familiarity with the form of religion, while we neglect its reality, has a fearfully deadening effect on the conscience. It puts up by degrees a thick crust of insensibility over the whole inner man. No one seem to become so desperately hard as those who are continually repeating holy words and handling holy things, while their hearts are running after sin and the world. All such are in awful danger! They are gradually hardening their hearts, and searing the skin of their consciences. If you love your own soul, beware of formality.

Nothing, finally, is so foolish, senseless, and unreasonable.

Can a formal Christian really suppose that the mere outward Christianity he professes will comfort him in the day of sickness and the hour of death? It really is impossible. A painted fire cannot warm, and a painted banquet cannot satisfy hunger, and a formal religion cannot bring peace to the soul.

Can he suppose that God does not see the heartlessness and deadness of his Christianity? Though he may deceive neighbours, acquaintances, fellow-worshippers, and ministers with a form of godliness, does he think that he can deceive God? The very idea does not make sense. He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He knows the very secrets of the heart. He will judge the secrets of men at the last day. He who said to the angels of the seven churches, “I know your works,” has not changed. He who said to the man without the wedding garment, “Friend, how did you get in here?” will not be deceived by a little cloak of outward religion. If you would not be put to shame at the last day, once more, beware of formality.

II. We go on to the second thing which we proposed to consider. The heart is the seat of true religion, and the true Christian is the Christian in heart.

The heart is the real test of a man’s character. It is not what he says or what he does, by which the man may be always known. He may say and do things that are right, from false and unworthy motives, and while his heart is altogether wrong.

The heart is the right test of a man’s religion. It is not enough that a man holds a correct creed of doctrine, and maintains a proper outward form of godliness. What is his heart?—That is the great question. This is what God looks at. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7). This is what the Apostle Paul lays down distinctly as the standard measure of the soul: “a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart” (Rom. 2:28). Who can doubt that this mighty sentence was written for Christians as well as for Jews? He is a Christian, the Apostle would have us know, which is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart.

The heart is the place where saving religion must begin. The heart is naturally irreligious, and must be renewed by the Holy Spirit. “I will give you a new heart.” It is naturally hard, and must be made tender and broken. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26)—“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17)—It is naturally closed and shut against God, and must be opened. The Lord ‘opened the heart’ (Acts 16:14) of Lydia.

The heart is the seat of true saving faith. “With the heart one believes and is justified” (Rom. 10:10). A man may believe that Jesus is the Christ, as the devils do, and yet remain in his sins. He may believe that he is a sinner, and that Christ is the only Saviour, and feel occasional, lazy wishes that he was a better man. But no one ever lays hold on Christ, and receives pardon and peace, until he believes with the heart. It is heart-faith that justifies.

The heart is the starting point of true holiness and the being steady in well doing. True Christians are holy because their hearts are involved. They obey from the heart. They do the will of God from the heart. Weak, and feeble, and imperfect as all their doings are, they please God, because they are done from a loving heart. He who commended the widow’s “two small copper coins” (Luke 21:2) more than all the offerings of the wealthy Jews regards quality far more than quantity. What He likes to see, is a thing done from an honest and good heart. There is no real holiness without a right heart.

These things may sound strange to some. Perhaps they seem strange to you. Perhaps they go against all your thoughts. Perhaps you have thought that if a man’s religion is correct outwardly, he must be one with whom God is well pleased. You are completely mistaken. You are rejecting the whole meaning of the teaching of the Bible. Outward correctness without a right heart is neither more nor less than Phariseeism. The outward things of Christianity,—baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Church-membership, almsgiving, and the like,—will never take any man’s soul to heaven, unless his heart is right. There must be inward things as well as outward,—and it is on the inward things that God’s eyes are chiefly fixed.

When the heart is wrong, all is wrong in God’s sight. Many right things may be done. The forms and ordinances which God Himself has appointed may seem to be honoured. But so long as the heart is at fault, God is not pleased. He will have man’s heart or nothing.

The ark was the most sacred thing in the Jewish tabernacle. On it was the mercy-seat. Within it were the tables of the law, written by God’s own finger. The High Priest alone was allowed to go into the place where it was kept, within the veil, and that only once every year. The presence of the ark within the camp was thought to bring a special blessing. And yet this very ark could do the Israelites no more good than any common wooden box, when they trusted to it like an idol, with their hearts full of wickedness. They brought it over into the camp, on a special occasion, saying, “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD … that it may … save us from the power of our enemies” (1 Sam 4:3). When it came into the camp they showed it all reverence and honour. “all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.” (v.5) But it was all in vain. They were defeated by the Philistines and the ark itself was taken. And why was this? It was because their religion was a mere form. They honoured the ark, but did not give the God of the ark their hearts.

There were kings of Judah and Israel who did many things that were right in God’s sight, and yet were never written in the list of godly and righteous men. Rehoboam began well, and “walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Ch 11:17). But afterwards “he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.” (2 Ch 12:14).

Abijah, in Chronicles, said many things that were right, and fought successfully against Jeroboam. Nevertheless the general verdict is against him. We read, in Kings, that “his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God” (1 Kings 15:3). Amaziah, we are expressly told, “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Ch 25:2). Jehu, King of Israel, was raised up, by God’s command, to put down idolatry. He was a man of special zeal in doing God’s work. But unhappily it is written of him, that he “was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings10:31). In short, these Kings all had one thing in common: they were all wrong inwardly. They were rotten at heart.

There may be places of worship where all the outward things of religion are done to perfection. The building is beautiful. The service is beautiful. The singing is beautiful. The forms of devotion are beautiful. There is everything to gratify the senses. Eye, and ear, and natural sentimentality are all pleased. But all this time God is not pleased. One thing is missing, and the lack of that one thing spoils it all. What is that one thing? It is the heart! God sees, under all this fair outward show the form of religion put in the place of the substance; and when He sees that, He is displeased. He sees nothing with a favourable eye in the building, the service, the minister, or the people, if He does not see converted, renewed, broken, penitent hearts. All these outward things are nothing in God’s sight, without right hearts.

When the heart is right, God can look over many things that are defective. There may be faults in judgment, and errors in practice. There may be many deviations from the best practice in the outward things of religion. But God is merciful and gracious, and will pardon much that is imperfect, when He sees a true heart and a single eye.

Jehoshaphat and [AY-sah] Asa were Kings of Judah, who were defective in many things. Jehoshaphat was a timid, irresolute man, who did not know how to say “No,” and had ties with Ahab, the wickedest king that ever reigned over Israel. Asa was an unstable man, who at one time trusted in the King of Syria more than in God, and at another time was angry with God’s prophet for rebuking him (2 Ch 16:10). Yet both of them had one great redeeming point in their characters. With all their faults they had right hearts.

The passover kept by Hezekiah was one at which there were many irregularities. The proper forms were not observed by many. “They ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed.” But they did it with true and honest hearts. And we read that Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “’May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.’ And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (2 Ch 30:18-20).

The Passover kept by Josiah must have been far smaller and poor than many Passovers in the days of David and Solomon, or even in the reign of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah. How then can we account for the strong language used in Scripture about it? “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present” (2 Ch 35:18.). There is only one explanation. There never was a Passover at which the hearts of the worshippers were so truly in the feast. The Lord does not look at the quantity of worshippers so much as the quality. The glory of Josiah’s Passover was the state of people’s hearts.

As we leave this part of the subject may we all weigh well the things that have been said. May each of us resolve this day to not be content with a mere form of godliness without the power. May it be settle firmly in your minds that formal religion is not saving religion, and that heart-religion is the only religion that leads to heaven.

III. We come now to the last thing which we will consider this morning: that true religion must never be expected to be popular. It will not have the praise of man, but of God.

We have to pay attention to this part of our subject, however painful it may be. The words of the Apostle Paul are clear and unmistakable. Heart-religion is a religion whose “praise is not from man but from God” (Rom 2:29).

God’s truth and Scriptural Christianity are never really popular. They never have been. They never will be as long as the world stands. No one can calmly consider what human nature is, as described in the Bible, and reasonably expect anything else. As long as man is what man is, the majority of mankind will always like a religion of form far better than a religion of heart.

Formal religion is well suited to an unenlightened conscience. Some religion a man will have. Atheism and downright infidelity, as a general rule, are seldom very popular. But a man must have a religion which does not demand much,—trouble his heart much,—interfere with his sins much. Formal Christianity satisfies him. It seems to be the very thing that he wants.

Formal religion gratifies the secret self-righteousness of man. We are, all of us, more or less Pharisees. We all naturally cling to the idea that the way to be saved is to do so many things, and go through so many religious observances, and that at last we will all get to heaven. Formalism meets us here. It seems to show us a way by which we can make our own peace with God.

Formal religion pleases the natural laziness of man. It attaches an excessive importance to that which is the easiest part of Christianity,—the shell and the form.— Man likes this. He hates trouble in religion. He wants something which will not meddle with his conscience and inner life. Formalism seems to open a wider gate, and a more easy way to heaven.

Facts speak louder than assertions. Facts are stubborn things. Look over the history of religion in every age of the world, and notice what has always been popular. Look at the history of Israel from the beginning of Exodus to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, and see what has always found favour. Formalism was one main sin against which the Old Testament prophets were continually protesting. Formalism was the great plague which had overspread the Jews, when our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world.

Look at the history of the Church of Christ after the days of the Apostles. How soon formalism ate out the life and vitality of the primitive Christians —Look at the middle ages, as they are called. Formalism so completely covered the face of Christendom that the Gospel seemed to have perished completely.

Look, lastly, at the history of Protestant Churches in the last four centuries. How few are the places where religion is a living thing! Is there one country today where Protestantism is not nothing more than a form? There is no passing over these things. They speak with a voice of thunder. They all show that formal religion is a popular thing. It has the praise of man.

But why should we look at facts in history? Why should we not look at facts under our own eyes, and by our own doors? Can anyone deny that a mere outward religion, a religion of downright formality, is the religion which is popular in Canada today? Only say your prayers,—attend youth groups,—go to church with tolerable regularity,—and receive the sacrament occasionally,—and the vast majority will set you down as an excellent Christian. “What more would you have?” they say: “If this is not Christianity, what is?”

To require more of anyone is seen as bigotry, narrow-mindedness, fanaticism, and enthusiasm! To insinuate a doubt whether such a man as this will go to heaven, is cried out as the height of un-charitableness! When this is the sad state of things, it is vain to deny that formal religion is popular. It is popular. It always was popular. It always will be popular, until Christ comes again. It always has had, and always will have the praise of man.

Turn now to the religion of the heart, and you will hear a very different story. As a general rule, it has never had the good word of mankind. It has brought upon its professors laughter, mockery, ridicule, scorn, contempt, enmity, hatred, slander, persecution, imprisonment, and even death. Its lovers have been faithful and ardent,—but they have always been few. It has never had, comparatively, the praise of man.

Heart-religion is too humbling to be popular. It leaves natural man no room to boast. It tells him that he is a guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinner, and that he must flee to Christ for salvation. It tells him that he is dead, and must be made alive again, and born of the Spirit. The pride of man rebels against such tidings as these. He hates to be told that his case is so bad.

Heart-religion is too holy to be popular. It will not leave natural man alone. It interferes with his worldliness and his sins. It requires of him things that he loathes and intensely dislikes,—conversion, faith, repentance, spiritual-mindedness, Bible reading, prayer. It commands him to give up many things that he loves and clings to, and cannot make up his mind to lay aside. It would be strange indeed if he liked it. It crosses his path as a kill-joy and it is absurd to expect that he will be pleased with it.

Was heart-religion popular in Old Testament times? We find David complaining,—”I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me” (Psalm 69:12). We find the prophets persecuted and ill-treated, because they preached against sin, and required men to give their hearts to God. Elijah, Micaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, are all cases in point. To formalism and ceremonialism the Jews never seem to have objected. What they did dislike was serving God with their hearts.

Was heart-religion popular in New Testament times? The whole history of our Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry, and the lives of His apostles, are a sufficient answer. The Scribes and Pharisees would have willingly received a Messiah who encouraged formalism, and a Gospel which exalted ceremonialism. But they could not tolerate a religion of which the first principles were humiliation and sanctification of heart.

Has heart-religion ever been popular in the professing Church of Christ during the last twenty centuries? Never hardly, except in the early centuries when the primitive Church had not left her first love. Soon, very soon, the men who protested against formalism and sacramentalism were fiercely denounced as “troublers of Israel.” (1 King 18:17)

Long before the Reformation, it was the case, that anyone who cried up heart holiness and cried down formality, was treated as a common enemy. He was either silenced, excommunicated, imprisoned, or put to death. —In the time of the Reformation itself, the work of Luther and his companions was carried out under a non-stop storm of abuse and slander. And why was this? It was because they protested against formalism and ceremonialism and taught the necessity of heart-religion.

But after all, it matters little what man thinks, and what man praises. The Lord is the one who judges. Man will not judge us at the last day. Man will not sit on the great white throne, examine our religion, and pronounce our eternal sentence. Those only whom God commends will be commended at the bar of Christ. Here lies the value and glory of heart-religion. It may not have the praise of man, but it has “the praise of God.”

God approves and honours heart-religion in the present life. He looks down from heaven, and reads the hearts of all the children of men. Wherever He sees heart-repentance for sin,—heart-faith in Christ,—heart holiness of life,—heart-love to His Son, His law, His will, and His word, wherever God sees these things He is well pleased. He writes a book of remembrance for that man, however poor and unlearned he may be. He gives His angels special charge over him. He maintains in him the work of grace, and gives him daily supplies of peace, hope, and strength. He considers him as a member of His own dear Son, as one who is witnessing for the truth, as His Son did. Weak as the man’s heart may seem to himself, it is the living sacrifice which God loves, and the heart which He has solemnly declared He will not despise. Such praise is worth more than the praise of man!

God will proclaim His approval of heart religion before the assembled world at the last day. He will command His angels to gather together His saints, from every part of the globe, into one glorious company. He will raise the dead and change the living, and place them at the right hand of His beloved Son’s throne. Then all that have served Christ with the heart will hear Him say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much; Enter into the joy of your master; You acknowledged me before men, and I will acknowledged you before my Father who is in heaven. You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom.” (Matt 25:34, 23; 10:32; Luke 22:28,29)

Carefully consider that these words will be addressed to none but those who have given Christ their hearts! They will not be addressed to the formalist, the hypocrite, the wicked, the indifferent and the ungodly. They will, indeed, stand by, and see the fruits of heart-religion, but they will not eat of them. We will never know the full value of heart-religion until the last day. Then, and only then, we will fully understand how much better it is to have the praise of God than the praise of man.

But be warned that heart-religion will not bring you the praise of man. Pardon, peace, hope, guidance, comfort, consolation, grace according to your need, strength according to your day, joy which the world can neither give nor take away,—all this is promised to the man who comes to Christ, and serves Him with his heart. But there is no guarantee that his religion will be popular with man.

Rather, what must be expected is mockery and ridicule, slander and unkindness, opposition and persecution. There is a cross belonging to heart-religion, and we must be content to carry it. “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”—”All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim 3:12). But if the world hates you, God will love you. If the world forsakes you, Christ has promised that He will never forsake and never fail you. Whatever you may lose by heart-religion, you can rest assured that the praise of God will make up for all.

And now, as we come to a close, here are three plain words of application.

1. In the first place, is your religion a matter of form and not of heart? Answer this question honestly, and as in the sight of God. If it is, consider solemnly the immense danger in which you stand.

You have got nothing to comfort your soul in the day of trial, nothing to give you hope on your death-bed, nothing to save you at the last day. Formal religion never took any man to heaven. Continuing in your present state, you are in imminent danger of being lost for ever.

I earnestly ask you this day to know your danger, to open your eyes and repent. If you have only a name to live, and a form of godliness without the power, awake and repent. Awake, above all, if you are an Evangelical formalist. “There is no devil,” was a saying of the old Puritans, “like a white devil.” There is no formalism so dangerous as Evangelical formalism.

I can only warn you. God alone can apply the warning to your soul. If only you could see the folly as well as the danger of a heartless Christianity!

2. In the second place, if your heart condemns you, and you would like to know what to do, consider seriously the only course that you can safely take.

Appeal to the Lord Jesus Christ at once, and spread before Him the state of your soul. Confess before Him your formality in time past, and ask Him to forgive it. Seek from Him the promised grace of the Holy Spirit, and entreat Him to quicken and renew your inward man.

The Lord Jesus is appointed and commissioned to be the Physician of man’s soul. There is no case too hard for Him. There is no condition of soul He cannot cure. Seared and hardened as the heart of a formalist may be, He is able to heal him, He is a Physician who is mighty to save. Go and call on the Lord Jesus Christ this very day. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).

3. Lastly, if your heart does not condemns you, and you have real well-grounded confidence towards God, consider seriously the many responsibilities of your position.

Praise Him who has called you out of darkness into light, and made you to differ. Praise Him every day, and ask Him never to forsake the work of His own hands.

Watch with a jealous watchfulness every part of your inward man. Formality is ever ready to come in upon us, like the Egyptian plague of frogs, even into the king’s chamber. Watch, and be on your guard.—Watch over your Bible-reading, your praying,—your temper and your tongue, your family life and your Sunday religion. There is nothing so good and spiritual that we may not fall into formal habits about it. There is none so spiritual but that he may have a heavy fall. Watch, therefore, and be on your guard.

Look forward, finally, and hope for the coming of the Lord. Your best things are yet to come. The second coming of Christ will soon be here. The time of temptation will soon be past and gone. The judgment and reward of the saints shall soon make amends for everything. Rest in the hope of that day. Work, watch, and look forward.—One thing, at any rate, that day will make abundantly clear. It will show that there was never an hour in our lives in which we gave our hearts too thoroughly to Christ.