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Religion of the heart: true piety

A translation and revision of sermon preached in memory of


Charlotte (Mcanly) Vater
(February 19, 1943 - July 21, 1998)

In Genesis 17:1 the Lord spoke to Abraham saying, I am the Almighty God; walk
before me and be perfect.
The idea is: Walk before me as if I were visible to you, and you were conscious of
my Presence. This commandment captures the soul of true piety. It demands what is
called religion of the heart, and that is the matter I would like to address, illustrating it in
its various aspects with quotations that Mrs. Vater extracted from her readings, not so that
others would use them, but for her own good.
Before going into the subject I would like to give my reasons for publishing
something in memory of Charlotte who was my wife for 33 years:
Hebrews 12: 1, 2 (NKJ) says, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a
cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the
author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the
cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
God has given the accounts of people of faith, including women like Sarah and
Moses’ mother, in order to encourage us.
Christ Jesus referred to the deed of the woman that anointed Him with perfume and
said that wherever the gospel was announced, men would speak of this deed.
If the example of anybody serves to show the glory of Christ, then we should be
thankful to God and not be afraid to point to that example.
Proverbs 10:7, The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall
rot.
Charlotte was a good example in many things.
Many know how she was present in all the church services right up to the end, even
singing to the very last Wednesday she was there. But there was much more than these
visible things in her life.
Her constant wish was that God would be glorified through her sickness. The day
she received the positive results of her bone scan she wrote to her sister telling her she
was ready to part from this life if her departure were for the conversion of persons who
were not ready to leave. Never did she ask, Why me? She wanted to glorify God and not
bring shame to the Gospel, and the Lord granted the wishes of her heart.
I think it would help you to appreciate her example if you consider the following.
She graduated from Lexington Baptist College with a major in Bible and theology. She
studied biblical Greek for three years after finishing one year of Latin as prerequisite. In
Puerto Rico she took part in a Hebrew class. I say that because she did not talk about her
achievements or knowledge of the Bible or theology or languages. Being the good
mother that she was she could not follow up on her studies of Greek and Hebrew, but
with the background of her studies, she always read the Scriptures carefully in English or
Spanish, often using Matthew Henry's Commentary, taking notes of many things that
would help her retain what she thought was important so she would be the woman of
God, and the wife and mother she longed to be.
I emphasize her Bible reading. I would give a false representation if I do not insist
on this, because the majority of the notes I have used were taken from the readings she
did besides her daily reading of the Bible and those done in family worship. I found
quotations from the works of Thomas Brooks and notes taken from a book about how to
avoid wandering thoughts during the worship of God. There are quotations from a book
on feminine piety and also from Spurgeon, Baxter and others. (The quotations in the
sermon are from Brooks unless otherwise noted.)
All this reading was done in spite of her many chores. As she understood that the
Lord’s Day was given for our good she always tried to make the most of that day.
At the beginning I said that in a way the soul of personal piety is to walk in the
presence of God.
In reading her notes, what impressed me was the support the quotations give to the
pressing need to live above all in the presence of God, in the secret duties and in a
practical faith. What some call religion of the heart is the core of the majority of the
quotes jotted down by her, or changing the figure of speech, it is the glue that holds her
notes together. Though I was impressed, it did not surprise me because ever since I knew
her she was like that.
Let us look now at that matter in see in the first place:

I The need of “heart religion” (to serve the Lord from the heart).
Any reader of the Bible must admit that above all things our Creator demands
supreme love for Himself, love from the heart; love that is shown in joyful obedience to
His commandments, by love that comes from the depths of our being. He also demands
that we fear Him and desire Him with all that is in us (Matthew 10:28; Psalm 63:1ff).
Proverbs 4:23 says, Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.
When God became flesh in the glorious person of His Son Jesus Christ, then this
need for religion of the heart was made extremely obvious. For example, the Lord Jesus
came to establish the new covenant. This covenant guarantees that all who are included
in it will have the laws of God put in their minds and written on their hearts (see Hebrews
8:6-13). They will have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).
This is evident in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said
that the righteousness of His disciples is not a visible or external righteousness, like that
of the majority of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 5:20). It consisted of attitudes and
thoughts that only God can know and judge so that even anger against a brother is a form
of murder, and looking at a woman to lust after her is adultery in the heart (Matthew
5:22,28).
Especially His teaching in Matthew chapter 6 shows us that we have to live our
entire life before the God that sees in secret and do everything, not for man's praise, but
for the glory of God (Matthew 6:3-6, 17-18). See also Matthew 15:7-20 and 23:25-28.
Jesus said, Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them
may be clean also.
According to the gospel given by the Lord to the apostle Paul, God will judge
through Christ the secrets of the heart in the last day (Romans 2:16). We could continue
heaping verse upon verse, but these should be enough to persuade the conscience of the
pressing and absolute need to have a new heart, full of love for God, fearful of God and
desirous of God -- a heart that manifests itself in words of grace, righteousness and
wisdom, and in love of mankind, especially those of like faith.
Quotations that Charlotte extracted that reflect this great truth:
"The body itself, if you set too high a price upon it, will make a cheap soul; and he is
the most unhappy man whose outside is his best side."
"He who has his thoughts best employed when alone, will best use his tongue when
in company."
"When great men come into the congregation, then men look; but when the poor,
trembling hearer comes in then God looks." Isaiah 66:2
"When the soul is separated from the body the man is dead, and so when the heart is
separated from the lip in prayer, the prayer is dead."
"God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are; nor yet at
the geometry...to see how long they are; ... (nor at) the arithmetic... (to see) how many; ...
(nor at) the music ... (to hear) the sweetness of your voice; ... (nor at) the logic ...but at the
sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are."

II. Evidence of religion of the heart (of a heart made new)


A. The righteous heart does not neglect secret duties, especially the duty of secret
prayer, according to the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:5-13. We can note what she
copied here regarding this theme:
"As secret meals make fat bodies, so secret duties make fat souls; and as secret
trades bring in great earthly riches, so secret prayers make many rich in spiritual
blessings and in heavenly riches."
"Some spend so much time between the comb and the glass (mirror), ...that they can
find no time for private prayer."
"Certainly such as had rather go sleeping to hell than sweating to heaven will never
care much for private prayer."

B. The righteous heart concerns itself with the presence of God and directs its life
before God's holy, righteous, merciful and compassionate presence, "not falling into the
ditch of desperation on one side, nor in that of presumption on the other." From her
notes we have the following:
"Shall the eye of the master keep the servant from idling and trifling? Shall the eye
of the father keep the child from wandering and gadding? Shall the eye of the husband, a
near neighbor, a bosom friend... keep you from many... vanities ...And shall not the strict,
the pure, the jealous eye of an all seeing God keep you from sinning in the secret
chamber, when all curtains are drawn, doors bolted and everyone in the house abed or
abroad but you and your Delilah? Oh, what dreadful atheism is bound up in that man's
heart, who is more afraid of the eye of his father, his pastor, his child, his servant, than
he is of the eye, the presence of the eternal God?"

C. The righteous heart never trusts for its salvation in any of its duties done in
secret or in public. It does not trust in the flesh. It glories in God as the only source of
life and salvation. See Ephesians 2:8-10; l Corinthians 1:26-31; Romans 3:19, 20; 4:1-8;
Philippians 3:3-10. There are many other such passages.
Let us see two more quotations:
"Open wickedness slays her thousands, but a secret resting upon duties slays her ten
thousands. Open profaneness is the broad dirty way that leads to hell, but closet duties
rested in is a sure way, though a cleaner way to hell."
"It is not your closet but your Christ that must save you. If a man be not interested
in Christ, he may perish with an 'Our Father' in his mouth".

Conclusion and applications


By the grace of God, this sister in the faith knew these things and lived her life in
conformity to them, not in a sinless conformity, but in substantial and sincere conformity.
She noted,
"If God for your portion will not content you, all the world will never content you".
"There is not a headache, not a toothache, not a gripe, not a grief, not a fall, not a
wrench, not a plague-sore, but is a divine warning to man to prepare to die".
And now, I ask you, What will become of you in the day in which God shall judge
through Christ the secrets of your heart? The good news for everyone that follows the
Lord Jesus Christ is that there will be no condemnation, but anyone that only honors God
with his lips, but his heart is far from Him, that person will not escape the wrath of Him
who can destroy soul and body in hell. The secrets of the heart will be judged. Although
that does not seem to be good news, it is part of the message of the gospel. The gospel is
good news for all those that will be saved from condemnation by what Christ has done in
the new covenant in His blood. Only the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ accepted by God
to take away sin and only the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ are sufficient for a
sinner to have acceptance with God and to secure for him the new birth. A sinner must
seek mercy from the Lord through Jesus Christ. Only God can save a sinner.
One of Charlotte's favorite books, How Shall I Go To God?, was written by the
Scottish preacher of the 19th century, Horatius Bonar. In the first chapter it says, It is
with our sins that we go to God, for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our
own. This is one of the lessons that we are so slow to learn; yet without learning this we
cannot take one right step in that which we call a religious life.
Come with your sins to Christ Jesus that you may be saved from them and their
consequences.

Basic content of a message preached in Spanish, August 9, 1998, by pastor Noble Vater.
Berean Baptist Church, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
Translated by Carmen Alejandro de Giráu. Later revisions by Noble Vater.

Noble Vater
Urb. College Park
289 Calle Siena
San Juan, PR 00921-4312
Tel. 787-765-7524
email: ndvater@yahoo.com