Ezekiel 11:19

This promise is one of the most precious to be found in the Old Testament Scripture. Relating as it evidently does in this passage to the nation of Israel as a whole, it has generally been taken by Christians as having applicability to all who yield themselves to God, to be dealt with by his renewing and transforming grace.

I. THE NATURE THAT NEEDS TRANSFORMATION. This is characterized by hardness. It is "the stony heart" which Divine grace undertakes to soften and renew. The hard or stony heart is that which is insensible to spiritual realities, upon which neither Law nor gospel makes any impression, which resists every appeal whether of righteousness or of mercy.

II. THE POWER THAT EFFECTS THE TRANSFORMATION. The powerlessness of all human agency and endeavour is apparent. Man's influence can do much; but here is the most difficult of all problems to be solved; here is the necessity for something more than reformation - for actual renewal Hence God, the Almighty, undertakes the work himself. He speaks here with authority, as the Being who needs no counsellor, no helper, who has infinite resources at his disposal, who exercises his own prerogative. It is not here explicitly stated what are the means he employs; but we know that they are means in harmony with the moral nature of man, that his appeal to us is an appeal of truth and love. In the Christian dispensation, the agent of transformation is the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, and perpetually abiding in the Church, and the instrumentality employed is the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, appropriated by the faith of the believing hearer of the Word.


1. Newness of spirit supersedes the old disposition to disobey and rebel. Every reader of the New Testament knows what stress is laid upon the new covenant, the new birth, the new life, newness of the spirit, etc. In fact, this verse from Ezekiel is peculiarly in harmony with the Christian dispensation and all that belongs to it.

2. Unity of heart is one form of newness; for it comes to supersede the division and opposition which prevail where God's authority is rejected and where God's Word is despised. It is our Lord's prayer concerning the members of his Church, that they "all may be one" - one in him and in the Father, and so one each with the other.

3. Sensitiveness is what is intended by the heart of flesh. The nature which God by his grace renews is a nature which responds to the love of God by gratitude, faith, and consecration. A heart delighting in what pleases God, dreading what offends him; a heart loving all whom God loves, and inspiring a life of scrupulous and hearty obedience; - such is the new heart, the heart of flesh, which is the best gift of God to his children.

"A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My dear Redeemer's throne;
Where only Christ is heard to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone." T.

I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you.
I. GOD APPROPRIATES THIS WORK TO HIMSELF. Real religion is of a Divine original: it never would have had an existence in the world without the revelation of God; and it will never have an existence in the soul without the operation of God.

1. The doctrine has been much abused. It has often been so managed as to make the sinner, while in his natural state, to appear unfortunate rather than criminal, and to render the use of means and exertions needless.

2. If "all things are of God," is religion to be excluded, and to form the only exception? "Does the river of the water of life" spring from a source on this side "the throne of God and of the Lamb"?

3. To know things in their causes has been deemed the highest kind of knowledge: to know salvation in its source is indispensable.(1) It is necessary, to guide and to encourage the concern of awakened sinners, who are asking, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Seeing so many difficulties and dangers before them, and feeling their corruption and weakness, after a few unsuccessful struggles, they will sink down in hopeless despair; unless, with a sense of their own inability, you exhibit that grace which is sufficient for them, and meet them in their conviction with the promise, "Ask, and it shall be given you"; etc.(2) It is necessary to call forth the acknowledgments, and to regulate the praises of those who are sanctified by Divine grace.

II. THE DISPOSITION which it produces.

1. He promises to give them one heart; and this shows the sameness of religion, as to the leading views, sentiments, and pursuits of its possessors.

2. "I will put a new spirit within you" — not only different from that which still animates others, but distinguished from that which once influenced them. In this manner the Lord qualifies His people for their situation and engagements: and thus they are at home in them: there is a suitableness productive of ease and enjoyment.

3. He gives "them an heart of flesh." It was a heart of "stone" before. Take a stone — feel it — how cold! Strike it — it resists the blow. Lay upon it a burden — it feels no pressure. Apply to it a seal — it receives no impression. Such were your hearts once. What a mercy to have this curse removed, — to be able to feel; to feel spiritually; to be alive to "the powers of the world to come!" to be no longer insensible to Divine and heavenly things, when they come in contact with us!

III. THE PRACTICE WHICH RELIGION DEMANDS — "That they may walk in My statutes," etc.

1. Observe the order in which these things are arranged. Principle precedes practice, and prepares for it. Behold a man hungry — he needs no argument to induce him to eat. See that mother — she needs no motive to determine her to cherish her darling babe — nature impels. The obedience of the Christian is natural, and hence it is pleasant and invariable: "he runs and is not weary, he walks and is not faint."

2. It is equally true that practice must follow principle. The one is the necessary consequence of the other, This influence will operate: if it be fire, it will burn; if it be leaven, it will pervade and assimilate; if it be in us "a well of water," it will "spring up into everlasting life." The one is the proper evidence of the other. The cause is ascertained by the effect.


1. It is more than if He said, I will be thy friend, thy helper, thy benefactor; for these are relations derived from creatures, and therefore notions of limited significancy.

2. He is really yours. In nothing else have you such a propriety. Your time is not your own; your riches are not your own; your children are not your own; your bodies, and your spirits, are not your own; but God is yours by absolute promise and donation.

3. Consider the final issue of the connection. The relation is intended to display the immensity of His benevolence, and of His munificence, towards His people. It does much for them here. But they "shall see greater things than these." They have now only "the first fruits of the Spirit, the earnest of their inheritance." Their alliance with God is often concealed from others, and from themselves; and the advantages it produces are circumscribed by the world in which we live, and the body of this death. It has not room in which to operate, or time in which to expand. Behold, then, an eternity succeeding time: a new system prepared to receive them: an happiness in reserve, of which they can now form no adequate conception!

(W. Jay.)

They are these — First Unresolvedness, which is when a man wavereth in his mind, being not yet resolved which way to take, or what choice to make. Secondly, oneness is opposed to hypocrisy and double dealing, to shows and appearances, to an heart and an heart. Thirdly, it is opposed to inconstancy and variableness (Galatians 3:20). Lastly, it is opposed to division and contention (as Acts 4:32). So then, by all that hath been said, you may plainly see what a one heart is. It is —

1. A resolved heart.

2. A plain heart, a single heart; when the inside and outside agree, such an heart as is no other in intentions than it is in pretences.

3. A constant, fixed heart.

4. Lastly, it is a quiet and peaceable heart. Such a man as hath peace with God, and agreeth with himself, so as he goes all one way in God's worship, this man may be truly said to have one heart. Many motives we might use to persuade you hereunto. There is but one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one truth, one gospel, one heaven: besides, thou art but one man, and one heart is enough for one man; get it, therefore. It is comfortable; for it is an evidence of our uprightness. And it is profitable, for it unites a man to himself in all God's services; it delivers him from many temptations, from many distractions, etc. But how shall I know my heart to be one?

I. Three plain notes of a heart that is one.(1) Integrity. When the heart is become one, a man goeth all one way; he is what he seems, he appears what indeed he is. He aims at God's whole will, to fulfil the same.(2) A second note is constancy; when a man is at all times like himself, one and the same, take him when and which way you will.(3) And a third is sincerity: when a man goes upon one motive, he strains out all by-respects, all selfishness, and looks to the common, to a public good, his main aim is the glory of God in his own salvation.

(R. Harris, B. D.)

Oneness of heart is a great blessing; it is the fruit of the covenant of grace. It is the first blessing here mentioned; it is joined with other great blessings. I will show you the good of it in some particulars.

1. One-heartedness in Christians rejoiceth the Spirit of Christ, which is a Spirit of love, peace, union, and is grieved with what is opposite to them.

2. It greatly sweetens and contents the heart of man, when the will, affections, judgment, and conscience are friendly and united the right way. It is heaven in the soul (Romans 14:17; Luke 17:21).

3. It makes the communion one with another delightful and acceptable (Psalm 133:1).

4. It prevents all the evil which comes by divisions and contentions, which are great and many.

5. It invites others unto that way where it is found. It is a pleasant and comely thing to see brethren dwell in unity; men are affected with it, there is much beauty and mirth in the harmony of hearts.

6. It improves grace, and makes Christians thrive much; whereas jars, divisions, vain disputes, and wranglings, prejudice the lustre and growth of grace, if not the life.

7. It furthers their prayers; when men are all of one heart, there is much sweetness and strength in their prayers (Acts 4:24-31; Matthew 5:9.3, 24).

8. It is an honour to the Lord Christ, that Christians do agree; they are members of His body, and it is a disparagement to the Head to have the members fall out, rend and tear one another: this makes strangers speak and think evil of the way of Christ (John 13:35; l John 3:10).

9. Sympathy with each other. If there be one-heartedness among men, what is the burden and comfort of the one is the burden and comfort of the rest.

10. What evidence of being in the covenant of grace, if there be not union of the heart within itself, union of it to God and others? what satisfaction can a man have of his being in covenant with God? Here this one-heartedness is prefixed as the first thing we should look at; and so in Jeremiah 32:39.

11. It makes willing to do one for another. Things difficult become easy where love exists; and the ground of it is, The heart is where it loves, not where it lives.


1. Consider many things are darkly laid down in the Scriptures, and the scope of God and Christ therein is not to cause contention, difference, and censuring, but to unite us more strongly in those things which are clear, and to cause a forbearance of one another in things which are dark and doubtful (Philippians 3:15, 16).

2. Divine Providence hath ordered it so, that there should be difference and inequality in the naturals and spirituals of Christians, that so they may have a greater tendency and fitness for union. As in a ship, or house, all pieces of timber must not be of the same length, height, and breadth, but differing; that so they may fit their several places, and conduce to make up a more goodly fabric: so among men, some have great natural and spiritual abilities, some lower degrees of both, some lesser than they; and this is the will and wisdom of Divine Providence, so to dispense and dispose that all may fitly fall in together, and make the more glorious structures for heaven.

3. Seek the good one of another, and that indifferently. Selfishness and partiality undo and divide, they have private ends, ways, means, and move upon sinister respects; whereas if we had more self-denying, impartial, and public spirits, to mind the welfare of others, we should quickly attain to some good degree of this oneness of heart (1 Corinthians 10:24).

4. Lay aside the wisdom of the flesh, and exalt the wisdom of the Spirit.

5. Humility; where that is it draws the heart of God to it (Isaiah 57:15), God dwells with the humble spirit; and surely it will gain the hearts of men to it. Proverbs 29:23, "A man's pride shall bring him low! "it will make God and man against him;" but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit,!' both God and man will support, speak well of, do good to and close with him.

6. Consider we are brethren, called and pressed unto peace and mutual agreement in the Gospel.


1. Look much at the gifts, graces, and excellencies which are in others, not at their weaknesses and imperfections; let the bright side of the cloud be in your eyes, not the black side; and this will keep your hearts united.

2. Lay aside all provoking, dividing names, terms, and speeches. If we would have our hearts kept in firm union, we must use soft tongues and gentle words (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 12:25).

3. Ever make the best construction of men's words and actions; that will preserve peace and oneness of heart.

4. Get much love and exercise it; that makes hearts one, and preserves them being one. Christ measures men by their love; and no marvel, love is the fulfilling of the law (Galatians 5:14); and if we serve one another by love and fulfil the law, where can the breach be made, how can the offence come in?

5. Be willing to learn one of another; that will endear our hearts each to other, and keep them in oneness.

6. See God's presence and nearness to us; that is a means to preserve us in a one-hearted condition. When the Master is present the servants are quiet, and keep so.


I. That great apostle Paul saith to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:3-6), "Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit": and why? "There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all."

2. Christ hath taken our nature upon Him; and as to unite man and God together, so to unite man and man together in Himself: hence, Galatians 3:28, "Ye are all one in Christ Jesus"; and Romans 8:17, "Joint heirs with Christ"; and Ephesians 2:6, said to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." This should move us to live and love as those who have such high privileges by Christ.

3. If you love them who are of your own opinion only, and love you, what do you more than others, than Pharisees, than publicans? (Matthew 5:46). Why can you not love men who have the same graces with you, as well as those who have the same opinions with you?

4. It is the fulfilling of a prophecy (Isaiah 11:6-9).

5. Consider what oneness of spirit is amongst the enemies of God.

(W. Greenhill, M. A.)

All that is valuable in Christian experience, or that is desirable in this world and the next, is in this precious promise. It is the one thing needful, the good part that shall never be taken away from its happy possessor.


1. When God promises to give His people one heart, it supposes that their heart was previously divided among other objects, and neither devoted to Himself nor united to one another.

2. Or if there he any sort of affection for what is good, yet the heart of a sinner is still divided, and so shall it be found faulty (Hosea 10:2). It is divided between God and Mammon, sin and holiness; between the trifles and vanities of this world, and the blessedness of the next. Hence the lives of sinners are full of inconsistencies and contradictions, running into opposite extremes, and becoming every thing by turns.


1. They are of one mind as to the Object of their supreme affections, and the way of acceptance with Him.

2. They are of one heart as to their relation and union to one another. Their outward circumstances and inward dispositions, their mental abilities and spiritual acquirements may be very different; some rich and some poor, some weak and ignorant, others wise and intelligent, some babes in Christ, and others young men and fathers; yet they are of one heart and one soul as to the great objects of the Christian faith.

3. This oneness is the fruit of Christ's death; for He died that He might gather in one the children of God that are scattered abroad. It also arises from His intercession; I pray, says He, that they all may be one, as Thou Father art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. It is likewise the proper and distinguishing badge of discipleship! By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, says Jesus, if ye love one another.

4. The oneness of heart promised in the text may further be distinguished —(1) From a double or divided heart. Some men's affections and desires are scattered amongst a multitude of different objects; but the heart of a Christian is in this respect undivided. All the powers and faculties of his soul go one may, tending towards one object. This one thing I do, says Paul.(2) This oneness of heart may be opposed to every species of guile and hypocrisy.(3) It is opposed to a doubtful and undecided state of mind.(4) It stands opposed to a fickle and inconstant heart. A man of a gracious disposition will appear for God when he himself is neglected and forgotten; and for religion, when it is most derided and opposed. He has lift up his hand to God, and he will not go back.


1. This blessing is everywhere ascribed to God in the Scriptures, not only incidentally and by implication, but in plain and direct terms (1 Chronicles 29:19; Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26).

2. It appears from the nature of the change itself. It is called a creation, a resurrection; and requires an exertion of the same almighty power as was manifested in the former of these events, and such as will be displayed in the latter.

3. The former state and character of those on whom the blessing is bestowed. They were careless and inattentive; they neither saw their need of it, nor were inclined to seek after it. They were weak and impotent; sin had robbed them of their innocence, and also of their strength. They were stubborn and obstinate; so far from being co-workers with God, they resisted His operations, and were utterly averse to His gracious designs. They were not only estranged, but alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them, by reason of the hardness of their hearts.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

And I will put a new spirit within you.
1. Regeneration is internal, conversion external. The one is hidden except as manifested in the other. Each is a change. The one applies to character, the other to conduct; one applies to the heart, the other to the manner of life. There may not be the same room for a change in the outer life of one as in the outer life of another. A young lady, raised under the refining influences of an elegant home, does not need conversion so much as the notoriously wicked man; still, she must be born from above, else she can never enter or see the kingdom of God.

2. Regeneration is a change wrought of God in man's heart; conversion is a change wrought by the man himself in his own life. Hence the man is turned, and turns himself; the engine is reversed, and reverses itself. These two great truths, rather two sides of one truth, should be held distinct and in their proper relation. In nature are things whose workmanship surpasses the workmanship of the highest human genius. Nature everywhere surpasses art. Surely among the masterpieces which come from God's hand is His work wherein a man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto God's works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

3. Regeneration is the only sure basis of a genuine conversion. Reformation, without regeneration, is possible. Reformation is not religion; a moral life is not necessarily a religious life. A religious life is something additional to the highest moral life — beautifies, adorns, glorifies it; does infinitely more, gives it a surer basis on which to rest. A godly life, a spiritual-mindedness, a joy and delight in God's service, must have back of it a change of heart. A religious life, without regeneration, is perhaps the heaviest and most galling yoke ever worn by man. Regeneration and conversion stand to each other as cause and effect, and we must not reverse the order. We need heart back of life; regeneration back of conversion. "If you have not known yourself a sinner, you cannot know Christ as a Saviour. Some are preaching up nowadays a dry-eyed faith, and men seem to jump into assurance as if there were no new birth, no conviction for sin, no repentance." There is great need for the fundamentals in religious experience and conviction and life.

4. Regeneration and conversion together characterise a people who are God's people. "They shall be My people, and I will be their God." God's people here; and God is their God now. This interior life springs from union with Him, and finds expression and correspondence in their outer life. Good in the heart and in the life: regenerated and converted; spiritual and religious; walking in God's statutes, keeping God's ordinances and doing them, because of what God has done within; working out, because God is working within. Such are God's people, each a coin bearing this double superscription. These are God's people now, but infinitely and gloriously hereafter.

(J. M. Frost.)

I. Before treating of a change of heart, it is very natural and proper that inquiry should be made WHETHER THE HEART AND AFFECTIONS OF MEN ARE SO WRONG, AND IN SUCH DISORDER, AS TO BE SUSCEPTIBLE OF BEING AMENDED. For if the point were established, that the motives of the heart were as pure as possible, and the internal, real, moral character of men absolutely faultless, there would evidently be no room for improvement; and all further inquiry into the reality of a change of heart would be precluded.

II. Our next inquiry is, supposing this most desirable change to be amply provided for, under the blessed government of God, WHETHER IT MAY BE EXPECTED TO BE INSTANTANEOUS AND ENTIRE. Reason and analogy, then, are decidedly against such an expectation. So far as we know, all ameliorating processes are, of necessity, gradual and slow. And there is nothing in Scripture or in experience to show that the moral benefits of Christianity, either in the case of nations or individuals, are dispensed by any other law. In looking for a changed man, then, we must not be looking for a faultless and perfect man; and in seeking for evidence that there is a reality in the moral change sometimes wrought by the influence of the Bible, we are not to look for a change which leaves no room for further amendment.

III. What then? it may be asked — IS THIS CHANGE SUPERFICIAL, APPARENT, EXTERNAL ONLY? A change from being notoriously vicious and bad, to being outwardly strict and exemplary; from living in the indulgence of personal and social vices, to a most pure and blameless moral deportment? This question is easily answered by another: does a change of outward deportment necessarily involve a change of the inward feelings and motives of the heart?

IV. This brings us to a nearer inspection of the real nature of a change of heart. And, to make the point more abundantly clear and convincing, SOME OF THE DISORDERS OF OUR MORAL NATURES WILL BE RECOUNTED, both as it regards ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our moral Governor, and then the inquiry will be, whether the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ contains the moral power of correcting these disorders; or, in other words, of changing our hearts in these several respects.

1. I am persuaded that it is but too apparent to every one of you, that your impatience, irritability, pride, and passion miserably impair and prevent your own happiness. In other words, that every man is his own worst enemy — far the worst.

2. Are the inward feelings of our hearts towards our neighbours any better or more under control, than those which have respect to our own immediate personal happiness? Are there, amongst us, no unholy strifes and emulations; no envious or slanderous thoughts; no coverings and hatreds; no feelings of malice or revenge?

3. But the true secret of all the other faults and disorders of our moral natures evidently lies in our not having right feelings toward God, our most holy and rightful moral Governor. Here, therefore, it is that the inconceivable force of the Bible motives is brought to bear. This is the mountainous difficulty which Jesus Christ came to remedy and remove. Here it is that God places His healing touch; or rather, manifests His new creating power. The heart has new and right feelings implanted in it towards God, and towards His Son Jesus Christ, through faith in His name, and by the power of the Holy Ghost.

V. The only point which remains to be discussed is, WHETHER THERE IS REMARKABLE FITNESS IN BIBLE CONSIDERATIONS TO PRODUCE THESE GREAT AND MOST DESIRABLE CHANGES. That there is might have been inferred from the benevolent design of the Gospel, and from considering who is its Author; it being self-evident that our Moral Governor would not have provided a religion for a race of beings alienated from Him, without infusing into it a power to restore them to His service and His favour. And the same result comes to us abundantly attested by observation: exceedingly bad men have been made radically better by the Gospel, but never by any other religion; never by any other moral influence.

(H. B. Smith, D. D.)

1. The thing promised, "I will put a new spirit within you." That you may the better understand the terms, you may distinguish either of spirit or of its adjunct newness. First, Spirit is taken in a diverse sense in Holy Scripture. Sometimes it is taken for the soul, as it is opposed to the body, as in that, place. The body returns to the earth, and the spirit to God that gave it. Sometimes, again, it is put for the faculties of the soul, as, I will sing with my spirit, that is, with my understanding (1 Corinthians 14.). So, I serve God with my Spirit (Romans 1:9), that is, with my will. Sometimes, again, it is taken for the gifts and graces of the spirit, as in that of our Saviour (John 3), That which is born of the spirit is spirit. Again, you must distinguish here of new. A thing is said to be new —

1. In regard of the matter of it, when it hath new materials; as when a man builds an house new out of the ground.

2. In regard of the inward form and species of it; as when I turn my gown into a coat.

3. In regard of the outward form and fashion of it; as when a man breaks an old bowl, and casts it into a new fashion, there is the same substance as before, but there is a new figure, a new face set upon it.And so it is to be taken here. God will renew the spirit of His people, by putting new qualities into their souls. Secondly, the Author of this change is God, — "I will put a new spirit," etc. That is, I will bestow upon you new graces, new qualities, that whereas you are naturally void of all goodness, hating Me, and being hated of Me, etc., I will put such a new frame of soul into you that you shall love Me, and one another spiritually. And how will He do this for them? not by extracting good qualities out of them, as if they were seminally and potentially there before, but He will infuse and pour the same into them anew. The words thus explained, we pass on to the point: that whosoever will be soundly assured that he belongs to the new Covenant, he must have a new heart, a new spirit; he must be a new man.

1. Necessary it is, first, in a double respect.(1) In regard of precept; Make you a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31). And again, Be you transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2); put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man which is corrupt, etc. (Ephesians 4:22). And be renewed in the spirit of y our minds (Colossians 3:10). In all these places He lays this upon us as a charge.(2) It is necessary, as will appear if you consider it as a means conducing to our main end. To be renewed is the way to the new Jerusalem. You see how God hath smitten a new covenant with you, put you under a new governor, given you right into a new city, to the which He hath set this new way, so that whosoever treads the way thither, he must be a new creature (John 3:5). Secondly, it is possible too. True it is that man cannot make himself a new heart; but it is true also, that although he concur not as a cause or agent in this work, yet must he concur as a subject capable of being renewed; for whosoever is capable of reason, the same is also capable of grace (for what is grace but reason perfected and elevated); and though man be unable to renew himself, yet dealeth he with One that both is able and hath also undertaken to do it for him. He that could make man at first, can with the same ease remake him again; He that could call light out of darkness, can shine in man's heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. For as there are no bounds set to God's essence, so neither to His power. And as He is able to do this for His people, so is He no less willing to do it; for He hath said it, He hath sworn it, He hath sealed it (as you have heard), and therefore, sure He will not eat His word, go from His seal, be forsworn. So that it is possible. Thirdly, it is commodious too; for it brings along with it —

1. Honour.

2. Comfort.For the first, it is the glory of the creature to be renewed and sanctified; then the creature comes first to be glorious, when it is made new. There is nothing in the world (saith that Greek father) so beautiful as the new creature. Man by nature is deformed, ugly, the image of God being utterly defaced in him.

2. As it is honourable, so it is comfortable to be a new man. indeed, what can comfort us if we be not so? There be some things that deceive the world, under the name of a new spirit.These are, first, Civility. A new nature is another thing than civil honesty. Secondly, Formality is another counterfeit of this new spirit. Formality is but a picture of true goodness, it reforms only the outward man; but this new nature, the inward. It is a liveless thing.

1. A new spirit is universal, it goes through the whole man, leavens the whole lump; but in the hypocrite, that which he hath is private and particular to certain faculties of his soul; as conviction is restrained to his understanding, illumination to his judgment, restraint to his will, etc. But now this new grace is common to all the powers of the soul; it is not like a little spring, that takes beginning in some piece of ground, and ends in the same; but like the great ocean that compasseth about the whole world, and receiveth divers names according to the several places that it washes and salutes. As it dwelleth in the head, it is called wisdom; as in the memory, faithfulness; as in the conscience, tenderness; as in the will, subjection; as in the affections, it is termed order; as in the outward man, new obedience: so it receives divers appellations according to the diverse parts and powers that it affecteth. And as it is universal for the subject, so for the object too; for it is set against all sin, and resolves upon the doing of all duty according to its light.

2. As it is universal, so it is alterative too; it amends not the outside only, but seeks into the inward man, and alters that.

3. It is humbling. It makes a man thankful to God, merciful to men, and more basely to think of himself than of any other.

4. It is diffusive and spreading. A new man would have all the world new, and go to heaven as well as himself. On the other side, an old man may have much light in his head, but little love in his heart. This new spirit works in a man a new conversation, a new life, new projects, new ends, new endeavours, etc. Now examine whether you are new or not? What if we be? and what if we be not? If you be not, then labour to get a new heart; old things we are all ashamed of. An old scull, an old rotten coat, we are ashamed to be seen in it; oh, we are not an old inside, an old corrupt heart, this is worse than all the rest. We naturally all affect novelties, and by our good wills we would have new houses, new diet, new fashions, new everything. And shall we then content ourselves with an old rotten heart?

(R. Harris, B. D.)

I. THIS IS NOT EFFECTED BY REVEALED TRUTH. No amount of knowledge of the things of God, either here or hereafter, will be sufficient to renew the heart. Men of most thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures die without reconciliation to God. The apostate angels have full knowledge of the character, law, and government of God; yet their hearts are not renewed.

II. NOR IS IT EFFECTED BY THE HEART ITSELF. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." "They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh." "To be carnally minded is death." But it may still be said, that our affections may be changed and renewed by our volitions or determinations. But is it not true, that the volitions have no direct control over the affections? that the affections control the volitions? Of what use, then, are determinations and purposes to control and renovate the heart?

III. THE RENOVATION OF THE HEART IS EFFECTED BY THE IMMEDIATE POWER OF GOD. This is manifest from the declarations of the Scriptures. Our regeneration is not of blood, "nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Christ said, "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." What, then, is it for God to draw an individual, according to this passage? It must relate to an operation which infallibly brings every subject of it to Christ; and wherein can this drawing differ from the others except by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit in renovating the heart? This meaning will manifestly accord with the passage in the prophet from which it is taken. In speaking of the prosperity of Zion, he says: "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." "In righteousness shalt thou be established." The drawing here mentioned is something entirely beyond the instruction of the Scriptures, or the convincing operation of the Holy Spirit; and brings all its subjects to Christ. What can this be but an immediate exercise of Divine power?

1. Those who undergo this change are said to be born again. As being born constitutes an individual a member of the family of man, by nature; so to be born again is requisite to constitute him a member of the spiritual family of Christ. An effect is produced in him, creating him anew unto good works; but of the manner in which this effect is produced, he knows no more than of the chambers from which the winds issue, or the abodes in which they lodge.

2. Those who undergo this change are described as "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." The child of God is said to be a "new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness."

3. The renovation of the heart is illustrated by the resurrection of the dead.

(J. Foot, D. D.)

Regeneration is a change of principle. The principle of a natural man in his religious actions is artificial; he is wound up to such a peg, like the spring of an engine, by some outward respects which please him, but as the motion of an engine ceases when the spring is down, so a natural man's motion holds no longer than the delight those motions give him which first engaged him in it. But the principle in a good man is spirit, an eternal principle; and the first motion of this principle is towards God, to act from God and to act for God.

(S. Charnock.)

"The Law of the Spirit of Life made me free from the law," etc. This is a familiar process in the world around us. The law of life in a bird, energising the wonderful machinery of flight, makes it free from the downward pull of the law of gravitation acting on the weight of its body. The law of life in the human body, energising in the heart and propelling the oxygenated blood to the extremities of our frame, makes us free from the peril to health which would otherwise ensue from the accumulation of the waste products of our tissues. Throughout the universe law modifies or cancels the operation of law, as a sound may destroy a sound. We all know how the law of the antiseptic eucalyptus makes us free from the law of the influenza epidemic. So, if we live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, He will antagonise the evils of our own heart, and make us so free from them that we shall not do as otherwise we would (Galatians 5:16, 17 R.V.). Our one aim should be not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, because the ungrieved Spirit is more than a match for every besetment of innate depravity or virulent temptation.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

As sometimes you will find in an old monkish library the fair vellum that once bore lascivious stories of ancient heathens and pagan deities turned into the menu. script in which a saint has penned his contemplations, an his Confessions, or a his translations, so our souls may become palimpsests. The old wicked, heathen characters that we have traced there may be blotted out, and covered over by the writing of that Divine Spirit who has said, "I will put My laws into their minds and write them in their hearts."

(A. Maclaren.)

And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY HEART IN THIS TEXT? Indeed, heart is taken sometimes particularly for the will of man, namely, when it goes joined with some other word of like signification, as mind, soul, etc.; sometimes, again, it is taken for the whole inside of a man, and so here in the text. All the powers and faculties of the soul are hardened, are perverted, dead and dull in respect of any spiritual goodness; his understanding is darkened, his will froward, his conscience brawny, etc., all is stony that is within him.

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY A STONY HEIST? This implieth two things —

1. A quality, hardness. That is hard (in a natural sense) that yields not to any impression or natural agent, that will not yield under your hand, but makes head and resistance. In a spiritual sense, the heart is said to be hard when it yields not to the persuasion of a moral agent, that refuseth to be wrought upon when God deals with it either by Himself or by an instrument.

2. The degree of this hardness; it is hard even unto stoniness, which implieth two things — First, a non-yieldance to goodness. Secondly, a stiff resistance; as in hard wood, that, when a man comes to cleave it, will not yield to the stroke, but returns the edge of your tool upon yourself. So when one beats upon a hard stone, upon a flint or adamant, there is no yieldance, but the weapon recoils upon a man with a great deal of indignation, as it were. So, then, you see what is meant by hard, and what by stony. A heart of stone, then, is nothing else but an untractable heart, an untamed heart, a heart disposed to resist, not disposed to yield.

III. FOR THE KINDS OF IT. There is first a natural hardness, common to all the sons and daughters of Adam. This we bring into the world with us; for we are all born with a stone in our hearts, it is our natural temper to be hard. Secondly, a contracted hardness; contracted, I say, by much practice and in long time, and do obstinate themselves by continuance in sin.

IV. THE SIGNS OF THIS HARDNESS are of two sorts — First, negative; secondly, positive. The negative signs are — First, unteachableness; secondly, unsensibleness; thirdly, inflexibleness. For the first, man is naturally untractable to any spiritual good thing. Secondly, as he is unteachable, so he is insensible, and that argues a deal of hardness, as is to be seen in a stone, smite it while you will, beat it as long as you can stand over it, it complains not; lay a mountain upon it, it never groans or cries, and grind it to powder, out of the pressure: and so it is with an unregenerate man, let a mountain of sin, let a world of guilt lie upon his soul, he feels it not, he groans not under it; sin is in him, as an element in its own place, and so weighs not with him, — he sleeps, he eats, he drinks, he laughs and enjoys himself, as if the matter were nothing; so he goes merrily to execution, and dreads no danger, no more than if he were as much reconciled to God as any man living. A third sign of a stony heart is inflexibleness. A stone cannot bend; break it you may, bend it you cannot; and so it fares with him that is of a stony heart, he will not bend or bow to God. Let God say or do whatever He can that is fit to be done to a reasonable creature, he is no whit moved therewith. These now are the negative notes of a stony heart. The positive follow, and they are these — First, stiffness and wilfulness in opinion. A stone will continue still like itself, talk while you will to it; and so those that have a stone in their hearts will needs hold fast their own conclusions. Secondly, obstinacy and settledness in evil practices, when men shall be of their humour, who answered the prophet peremptorily: The word that thou speakest unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not do it. Thirdly, a gainsaying and contradicting spirit; such as was in the Pharisees.

(R. Harris, B. D.)

And will give them an heart of flesh.
And, to begin with natural softness of heart, it is in its sphere and in its own way a thing commendable in a sort; but not as we are to speak of softness in this place; for it ariseth oftentimes from some weakness in the body, and not from strength of the soul. An instance hereof you have in Rehoboam, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 13:7). My father Rehoboam, saith he, was young and tender hearted, etc.; of a tender disposition, and a softly man, he was naturally so. Now, the differences between this softness natural, and that which we call spiritual, are two. First, natural softness comes upon us without our endeavour, it costs us no labour; for why? we are born so; — but spiritual softness costs a man a great deal of pains; he that gets it shall know how he comes by it, it will cost him many a sermon, many a chapter, many a prayer, many a tear, etc.

2. Natural softness is usually uniform, that is, it ordinarily worketh after one manner, is easily wrought to one thing as well as another. Bring him to a sermon, if it be well set on, and delivered with power, he will seem greatly affected therewith, even to the shedding of tears sometimes; take him at another time to a play, let him see a tragedy well acted, and he will be as ready to weep there too, as he was before at God's house. In short, you may draw him any way, though usually he is more inclinable to that which is evil than to that which is good, as we see in the said Rehoboam. On the other side, spiritual softness makes a man tractable and malleable only in that that's good. Bring an argument to move him to any goodness, it sways him straight: but in case a motion be set on foot to that which is evil, you shall find him most stiff against it, most resolute and peremptory. In a word, no man is so easily wrought upon by a good motion as he that is soft-hearted; no man is so hard to yield to sin, to be drawn to wickedness, as he. The second sort of softness is that we call moral, and this is somewhat more than natural softness. In some people, breeding and education doth very much to the mollifying of their dispositions; conversement with the heathen sages, and much reading of their moral writings, may somewhat alter a man, and make him better. It civiliseth a man, and makes him tame and tractable. First, moral softness seldom pierceth to the heart, it goes not deep enough; it oils the face, and smoothes the outside only, it barbs and shaves over sin, but doth not pluck it up by the roots, and make an utter riddance of it. This civil softness is like a ripe plum, smooth and soft on the outside, but open it and you shall find a stone within, etc. Second, this moral softness hath respect to man principally; indeed, it goes no higher lightly than man, being wondrous stiff to motions that come from heaven: it stands more upon compliments and civilities toward men than it doth on duties to God. The third kind of softness we call a legal softness; this is somewhat more than the two former: and it is when the apprehension of God's dreadful judgments threatened or executed doth break the spirit of a man, melts him with an inward fire, fills him with fears and terrors, etc. The difference of this from spiritual softness is this — First, legal softness is involuntary; he suffers, indeed, he is smitten and wounded, but it is against his will, he doth not wound himself: he hath some kind of fears in his heart, and legal terrors, but he would fain cast them off if he knew how. In a word, he is merely passive in his softness. Contrarily, he that is spiritually softened is an agent in the work; he reacheth after softness, he labours it all he can, he prays for it, he is glad and thankful if he can any way come by it and obtain it, yea, though it cost him some crosses and losses in his outward estate. Secondly, legal terrors break the heart indeed, but do not soften it; the hardness remains still, nevertheless, as it doth in a stone that is broken all to shivers, and yet the hardness is not taken off, but dispersed rather into the several parcels of it.

1. What this evangelical softness is.

2. What's the seat of it.

3. What are the causes of it.For the first of these: softness, as it here stands in opposition to an hard and stony heart, is nothing else but a gracious frame of man's heart, whereby it is easily wrought upon by God, and is apt to work that which is good. So that by this description of softness it appears to be double —

(1)Passive, when the heart is apt to be wrought upon to any good motion.

(2)Active, when it puts forth itself freely, and is apt to set itself a work on that which is good.Next, the seat of this softness is the whole man; it is true, if we speak of the chief throne of this grace, it sits eminently in the will, but not only, the whole man is the seat of spiritual softness; the understanding is made apt thereby to conceive of that that's good: the will is ready to sit down by it, and rest in it; the conscience, being checked for the neglect or abuse of it, will check us for the same; the affections will easily turn and stop, and the outward members will concur obediently, as men speak. Now for the causes of this softness: the efficient, you see, is God Himself. "I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them an heart of flesh," it is His work alone. He undertakes it here in our text, and the same you may read, chap. Ezekiel 36. And He performs it too in the conversion of His children; see it in a few instances. Manasseh had sanguined and flesht himself in blood. And yet even this man, thus far gone in sin, the Lord softens him by sending him captive into a far country, casting him into cold irons, etc.; so that he humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, who made him of a lion to become a lamb, as profitable now, as before he was mischievous. The like you may see in Paul. Such a change doth the Lord make in His people when He takes in hand to convert them. Neither doth He thus soften them only at the first, but when they stand in need of a second conversion upon some particular out-let and out-stray, — as you may see in David, who grew miserably hardened upon his fall into adultery, dissimulation, and murder, but God so wrought him afterwards that he became more soft and tender-hearted then ever he had been before. You have seen who is the efficient cause of this spiritual softness, God alone. Now for the matter of it; it is habitual grace infused into a man's soul from above. Saint James calls it the wisdom from above (chap. James 3:17); and tells us further, that it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, etc. In a word, God infuseth into the hearts of His people such grace as maketh them gentle, pliable, and malleable every way. For the formal cause or manner how the Lord softens His people, it is thus —

1. He takes the stone out of their flesh, and then bestows on them an heart of flesh.

2. He not only gives them reasons to persuade them from their natural and habitual hardness, but mightily works softness in their hearts: the power of God is exercised in this business, He puts to His hand as well as His mouth for the effecting of it. Lastly, for the final cause or end, wherefore the Lord thus softens the hearts of His people, it is laid down in the 20th verse of this chapter, that they may walk in His statutes, and keep Thy ordinances and do them; that they may comply with Him, and so they may be His people, and He may be their God; He hereby brings His people home to Himself, takes off the devil's brand, and claps on His own, even that Image of His consisting in holiness and righteousness, and so conforms them to His Son Christ that He may be the first-born among many brethren. This is the general end why God softens His people, as hath been said in their first conversion.In particular, the ends are —

1. To make them capable of the good He intends them to do, which till then they are not. To what end should a man sow good seed, if the ground be not softened first, if it be not torn up by the plough, and so made fit to receive it? or to what purpose should one go about to set a stamp on wax that is not softened and tempered that it may take impression? So here, man's heart must be first ploughed, thawed, melted, made soft before the seed of God's grace be cast into it: for till then the Word cannot have any sound or settled impression thereupon. Secondly, God softens the hearts of His people, to make them thereby active in that which is good when man's heart is once grown hard and crusted over, as it were, it is quickly off from all holy performances, as every Christian knows by daily experience. This serves first for examination. Is this the estate of everyone that hath right to the new covenant, that he hath a soft and tender heart? then let every man reflect upon himself, and make trial of his own heart, whether it be a hard heart or a soft heart, whether it be made of a rock or of flesh? For if a man's heart be hard in extremity, so as that he is yet under the power of hard, ness, it is certain that Satan hath set his mark upon that man for his own, for he writes all his marks and sets all his names in stone, and makes those whom he hath in possession of a rocky disposition.

(R. Harris, B. D.)

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