To have a heart-knowledge of God is one that can never be taken away; it is an abiding knowledge that will remain to our final day. In the words of Spurgeon, “Memories of the heart abide when all others depart.” The man of faith can be assured that as the knowledge of the mind decays, the knowledge of the heart will stay.
Though natural revelation is insufficient to bring us to a saving knowledge of himself, God, in his plan of redemption, has established an even more glorious way: the regenerating work of the Spirit made possible through the sacrificial work of Christ. Spurgeon believed that this saving knowledge of God rested in the heart. However, man’s heart has been spiritually blinded by his sin. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must shine into his heart, renewing within him a right knowledge of God. This is the permanent work of regeneration, whereby the Spirit changes the heart of the believer, provides him with the desire to call upon the Lord, and creates a deep affection for the Lord. But how can we know if we have experienced this work of the Spirit? In the sermon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” Spurgeon gives us four evidences of God’s work upon our hearts.
The Heart as the Organ of Knowledge
The heart is represented in Scripture as the organ of knowledge and where our spiritual life is seated. One clear example of this is in Romans 10:10, where Paul says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” To believe is to know, and just as with the heart one believes, so also with the heart one knows. Additionally, we are taught these truths elsewhere in Scripture concerning matters of the heart: the heart is where God’s love has been poured into through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5); out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mat. 12:34); God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6); circumcision is a matter of the heart (Rom. 2:29); our adorning ought to be the hidden person of the heart (1 Pet. 3:4); and that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
The heart, therefore, is the seat of the spiritual life and the seat of the knowledge of God. Furthermore, Spurgeon understood the heart to be man’s essential self. He writes, “The heart is the true man; it is the very citadel of the City of Mansoul; it is the fountain and reservoir of manhood, and all the rest of man may be compared to the many pipes which run from the fountain through the streets of a city.” Man’s intellect, will, and emotions are all found to be rooted in and flow out of the heart. The heart is the innermost being, the self, and to be given a new heart is to be given a new self. A heart of flesh is a new creation; from it arises a new man with new dispositions and a new nature. This heart is given the Holy Spirit-enabled power to put away the old self that is corrupt with deceitful desires and the power to put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24). Having set the stage for understanding the heart as the seat of this knowledge, let’s proceed to unpack four aspects of it as understood by Spurgeon. These include admiration, appropriation, affection, and adhesion.
The greater our understanding of the sinful nature that resides within us, the greater our admiration of God, who is wholly different from us. With a heart of stone, man suppresses the knowledge of God and is hardened toward his perfect being, but given a heart of flesh, man is renewed to a right understanding of God and thereby admires his character and attributes. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The man with a new heart admires God, whose ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than his own. God becomes the greatest being of his contemplation and one to whom none other compares.