Examining the Heart 87

A slighting spirit will turn a profane spirit, and will sin and pray too. Slightness is the bane of real religion, if it be not rooted out of the heart, by constant and serious dealings with, and beholdings of Christ in duties; it will grow more strong, and more deadly, by being under church-ordinances. Measure not your graces by others’ attainments, but by scripture trials. Be serious, exact in duty, having the weight of it upon your heart but be as much afraid of taking comfort from duties as from sins. Comfort from any hand but Christ is deadly. Be much in prayer, or you will never keep up much communion with God. As you are in private prayer, so much you will be in all other ordinances.    Thomas Willcox

The heart is so very deceitful and is willing to stand on any reason for hope rather than do the hard work of examining the heart for grace. It is easy to be religious and go through the external ritual and ordinances, but as with the Jews of old and many other religions and denominations the rituals and ordinances cannot be evidence in and of themselves of grace. Even more, so many want to trust in the attainments of others, whether trusting the minister or others. Grace in the soul cannot be measured by the standards and attainments of others, but instead only by trials in the soul and trials according to Scripture.

Willcox argues that we should be serious and exact in our duties, as opposed to having a slighting spirit which hardens the heart. Instead of treating things lightly, we are to place the weight of these things on our hearts. The things of God should be treated as weighty and not lightly or to treat things with a slighting spirit. While the soul should be serious and exact in duty, it must not take any comfort from the duty. This is so hard for people to grasp and to see the truth of it. There must be no comfort taken in the doing of duties. Even more, we should be as afraid of taking comfort from our duties as we are from taking comfort from our sins. This is an absolutely stunning statement that gets at several things at once: It gets at the legalism in all of our hearts, it gets at our real views of the nature of grace, it gets at our views of the Gospel of Christ alone, and it gets at the real trust we have in ourselves and our duties.

The point of the previous paragraph is that we must never be comforted by anything or anyone (in this sense) but Christ alone. The Lord Jesus Christ saves by grace alone and is not helped by our duties or hindered by our sin. Oh how this rankles the legalist and the formalist. No, this does not teach us to be slack in our duties, but instead it gives us far greater motives for doing them. We are to do what we do out of love for God and do them in and by the strength of grace rather than do them in order to find comfort in our duties or our sanctification. Jesus Christ is our righteousness and not our duties. Jesus Christ is our sanctification and not our duties. This must be preached and taught with great perseverance because without this point we are left with sinners trying to justify themselves or to sanctify themselves. This must be taught so that men and women will be emptied of all hope in their duties that they may see Christ alone and His grace alone as their only hope.

This is such an important point that it should be stressed over and over again to those who long for hearts to be free from all legalism and hope in self that they may love God. Oh how our hearts long to find something of self and the acts of self to trust in rather than to trust in grace alone and Christ alone. The trusting in the doing of a duty is not only no better than sin, it is sin. It is an act of idolatry to trust in self and the acts of self rather than Christ alone. It is simply absurd for a person to say that s/he has free-will to trust in Christ who will save him or her because of his free act of the will and then for that person to say that s/he is saved by grace alone. But it is equally absurd for a person to assert that s/he trusts in Christ and His grace alone and then to rest or trust in duties performed. How wicked an act it is for very religious people to trust in themselves and their doing of religious acts (duties) to save them rather than Christ alone.

There are surely some (if not many) true believers who have a hidden trust in themselves as they do their duties thinking that they are clinging to their creed (which may be true words). But they can be deceived. How we must seek the Lord to open our eyes and hearts to ourselves so that we may see the things He is not pleased with, which in this case is idolatry. How we must seek Him to tear our hearts and our trusts from things and from self so that we may be more and more pure in our trust in Him and His grace.

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