Renowned British preacher C.H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London on May 25, 1862. The title: "The Stony Heart Removed."
"When the showers of grace are falling, there are many of you who put up the umbrella of a hard heart, and it is no marvel if the dew of grace and the rain of grace do not drop into your souls," C.H. Spurgeon said.
"He delighteth to undertake strange things," said Spurgeon of God, "to bring light out of darkness; order out of confusion; to send life into the dead; to heal the leprosy; to work marvels of grace and mercy, and wisdom, and peace ..."
Spurgeon's focal passage was Ezekiel 36:26, in which God says to Israel: "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 brings that word from the Lord at least twice before (Ezekiel 11:19 and 18:31), but here he says it in what some say is a concise, distilled passage of Ezekiel's prophecy.
Spurgeon avoided theological wandering and went straight to the core of Ezekiel, wondering why the heart would even be compared to stone in the first place. Spurgeon surmised that the stony heart is, specifically: cold, hard, dead, not easily softened and utterly senseless.
Spurgeon may as well have been characterizing readers' comments and online discussion threads – at least too many of the ones on immigration.
"So, allowing a foreign race to overrun your country, steal you blind, murder, rob and rape your citizens, drain your nation's treasury, ignore your law, and in summary, destroy your country is Biblical?"
"The gospel it appears applies to everybody but illegals as far as the many moral aspects indicate in bible, like fraud, stealing, being in country illegally, smuggling illegals for money ..."
"Jesus bled but it doesn't mean he was a bleedy heart."
Spurgeon said a lot more about stony hearts and their hosts. He spoke of hearts that grow harder and harder.
He said the person with the hard heart is "Satan's throne." And he said the hard heart is "impervious to all instrumentality," which he explained this way:
"If a man has an umbrella, it is no marvel if he does not get wet; and so when the showers of grace are falling, there are many of you who put up the umbrella of a hard heart, and it is no marvel if the dew of grace and the rain of grace do not drop into your souls."
Spurgeon's characterization of the stony heart is thoroughly unpleasant – and, if I may be frank, a little familiar as I listen to some Christians talk about our neighbors born south of the border.
I wouldn't even be talking about Ezekiel were it not for an email from my mother, gifted in many ways. Notable among them is the skill of seeing biblical truths in public and private spheres, in history books and news headlines.
My mother and father have always championed my attempts to follow the light God gives me, always been liberal with their praise and encouragement.
After viewing our new documentary on faith and immigration and reading how some Christians talk about fellow Christians from other countries (like Mexico), my mother once again employed her gift for marrying Scripture to circumstance.
She quoted the Ezekiel passage, which of course cuts to the heart of the matter, as it were.
Her citation led me to Spurgeon, who eventually moved on in his sermon from the heart of stone to the heart of flesh.
The latter, he said, is tender in conscience, tender of God's will and possessing tenderness of the affections.
"O may God give us a tenderness of affection," Spurgeon then said on that Sunday evening, "that we may love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves."
Love God and love neighbor. That's the fleshy heart for Spurgeon, for Ezekiel. That's the requirement, in immigration as in everything else. Mother was spot on – as usual. We need a heart of flesh, not of stone.
"I trust we shall speak now, not of something that has happened to others only, but of a great wonder which has been wrought in ourselves," said Spurgeon. "I trust we shall talk experimentally, and hear personally, and feel that we have an interest in these splendid deeds of divine love."
Cliff Vaughn is managing editor and media producer for EthicsDaily.com.
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