A HARD HEART
Twenty years ago, it pleased God to visit the town of H – and the surrounding villages with a time of general reviving. It bore no resemblance to those seasons of fitful and forced excitement resulting from laborious efforts, in what are called “special services,” which are too often mistaken for revivals in the present day. It was a time in which the awakening and converting power of God’s Holy Spirit was like “showers upon the grass,” or a dew from the Lord.that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. The preaching of the Gospel was attended by crowds who did not usually attend; seriousness sat on every countenance while listening to the Word; old and young, men, women, and children, were impressed with the importance of eternal things; and numbers “were turned from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God.”
One of the converts in this time of blessing was Sarah A., a married woman of middle age, humble circumstances, and no education: but a person of stronger mind than many whose advantages were greater than hers. How she was first led to consider her fallen state and solemn prospects for eternity I do not at this distance remember, but her convictions and distress were so long continued as to leave an impression which no lapse of time could erase. Regular in her attendance on the preached Word and diligent in searching the Scriptures, she cried earnestly to God for mercy and was always ready to converse with any Christian who would talk with her on the solemn question of how she was to be saved. For months her distress continued, amounting sometimes almost to agony; and nothing that was addressed to her seemed to afford the least relief. Her case became the subject of frequent and anxious conference among those who were labouring for the Lord. Often did they unite in prayer on her behalf, but still deliverance was delayed.
The constant burden of Sarah A’s complaint was the hardness of her heart. “My heart is so hard,” she would say, “I see what a sinner I have been but I cannot feel it. I believe all you tell me, but, though my sins stare me in the face, I cannot shed a tear; my heart is as hard as stone. What is to become of me, poor, wretched, hardened sinner
that I am?” Often and often was she told that we are not justified by feelings, but by faith; that even faith justifies only as it receives Christ and trusts in Him in whom all the saving virtue dwells; while she, on the other hand, was trying to make a saviour of the softened, tender feelings for which she craved. I remember saying to her, “Hardhearted as you are, it was for such as you Jesus died. Come to Him as you are. Bring your hard heart to Him. Behold the Lamb of God. One believing look to Jesus will do more to soften your heart than poring over your sins and impenitence will do in a year. You wish for penitential feelings as a warrant for looking to Jesus and trusting in His precious blood; but depend upon it, if ever you have such feelings as you desire, they will be the effect of beholding Him by faith and of believing God’s record of His Son.” But all seemed to be in vain. While actually holding up before her the love of God in the gift of Jesus, and the love of Jesus in dying on the cross for His very foes, her attention would be fixed, and the hope was awakened that she was drinking in the good news. But no sooner did the sounds cease, than she would reply, with such a look of settled despondency, “It is true, but I can feel nothing; my heart is as hard as stone.”
One day, when we had almost become accustomed to her desponding looks and accents, we were all startled by hearing that Sarah A. was rejoicing in the Lord. No time was lost in visiting her, to hear from her own lips how this change had come to pass. Its reality was apparent in her countenance and in her whole demeanour. Her account was as follows:-
“Last night was a dreadful night. Lying awake and thinking of my sins, wondering how it was that I could neither feel them nor get rid of them; it seemed to me that God was giving me up to the hardness of my heart, and there was nothing for me but the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. What a night I had! Towards morning I got upon my knees and began to cry to God. How long I continued I cannot tell, but what the Bible says about God so loving the world as to give His Son, and about Jesus dying on the cross, came to my mind; and somehow, I got thinking of His love, and I could think of nothing else. Before I was aware of it my heart melted, and I found myself weeping to think of what Jesus had suffered for my sins. My tears flowed so fast, and yet they were not so much tears of sorrow as of joy. My load was gone, and I could only praise my Saviour and weep before Him, that He should have died for such a wretch as me. What love, to die upon the cross for such a wretch as me!”
Such was her account, and as she gave it, she who had never shed a tear when bemoaning the hardness of her heart, wept profusely as she spoke about the love of Christ; exclaiming again and again, “O the precious blood of Jesus Christ! That precious blood! It even avails for me.”
The change was as abiding as it was evident. It is many years now since the writer, from change of residence, lost sight of Sarah A.; but as long as he had the opportunity either of observing her or hearing of her, she was rejoicing in Christ, and amidst much outward trial to adorn the doctrine of God her Saviour.
Dear reader, are you, like this poor woman, looking to yourself for some softening of heart, some deeper sense of sin. before you trust your soul to Jesus? May you learn by her case that the only way to have your heart softened is to look to Jesus as you are. “Behold the Lamb of God.” It was for sinners such as you that His blood was shed, and His “blood cleanseth us from all sin.”
“Nothing but thy blood, O Jesus,
Can relieve us from our smart;
Nothing else from guilt release us,
Nothing else can melt the heart.
Law and terrors do but harden,
All the while they work alone;
But a sense of blood-bought pardon
Soon dissolves a heart of stone.”
Extracted from,“Things New And Old.”