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vour to undermine the power of godliness; and some there are that nourish the root, and tend to clear and confirm, to prepare and apply the great truths of the gospel, that they may be bread for fouls to live and feed on: Now, though I could wish that those who had handled the pen of the scribe, had better employed their time and pain, than to obtrude such uselefs discourses upon the world; yet for books of the latter rank, I say, that when husbandmen complain of too much corn, let Christians complain of too many fuch books.
2. And if you be so highly conceited of your own furniture and ability, that such books are needlefs to you, if you let them alone, they will do you no hurt, and other poor hungry fouls will be glad of them, and bless God for what you despise and leave.
Objection. If it be said that several of the cases here handled touch not your condition, I answer,
Solution 1. That which is not your condition may be another's condition. If you be placed in an easy, full and prosperous state, and so have no need of the helps here offered to support your hearts under pinching wants, others are forced to live by faith for every day's provision : If you be dandled upon the knee of providence, some of your brethren are under its feet: If you have inward peace and tranquillity of spirit, and fo need not the counsels here given, to ward off those desperate conclusions that poor afflicted souls are ready to draw upon themselves at such a time; yet it may be a word in season to them, and they may say as David to Abigail, " Blessed be thou of the Lord, and blessed be thy advice,"
2. That may be your condition shortly, which is not your condition at present : say not thy mountain stands strong, thou shalt never be moved: there are changes in the right-hand of the Most High; and then those truths which are little more esteemed than hedge-fruits, will be as apples of gold in pictures of filver. In Jer. xxxiii. 10, 11, the prophet there teaches the Jews (who then dwelt in their own houses) how to defend their religion in Babylon, and what they should say to the Chaldeans there, and therefore that verse is written in Chaldee. So much for the reasons of its publication. Next, for the dedication of it to you, I was induced thereto by the confideration,
1. Of the relation I have to you above all the people in the world: I look upon my gifts as yours, my time as yours, and all the talents I am entrusted with, as yours: it is not with you as with a woman whose husband is dead, and so is freed from the law of her husband, the relation still continues, and so do all the mutual duties of it.
2. By the confideration of my neceffitated absence from you, I would not that personal abfence should by insensible degrees untwift (as usually it doth) the cord of friendship, and therefore I have endeavoured (as absent friends use to do) to preserve and strengthen it by this small remembrance. It was Vefpafian's anfwer to Apollonius, when he desired access for two philosophers, · My doors (faid Vespaa
• fian) are always open to philosophers, but my very breast is open • to thee.' I cannot say with him, my doors are open for the free access of friends, being by a sad providence shut against myself; but this I can say, my very breast is ftill open to you ; you are as dear to me as ever.
3. Another inducement (and indeed the main) was the perpetual usefulness and necessity of these truths for you, which you will have continual need of: And I know few of you have such happy memories to retain, and I cannot be always with you to inculcate these things, but litera fcripta manet. I was willing to leave this with you as a legacy, as a testimony of sincere love for, and care over you : this may counsel and direct you when I cannot: I may be rendered useless to you by a civil or natural death; but this will out-live me, and O that it may serve your souls when I am silent in the dust.
To hasten now to a conclusion, I have only these three requests to you, which I earnestly beseech you not to deny me; yea, I charge you, as ever you hope to appear with comfort before the great Shepherd, do not dare to flight these requests.
1. Above all other studies in the world, study your own hearts; ? waste not a minute more of your precious time about frivolous and fapless controversies. It is reported even of Bellarmine (how truly I examine not) * Quod a studiis fcholafticæ theologie averteretur fere naufeabundus, quoniam fucco carebant liquide pietatis, i. e. he turned with loathing from the study of school-divinity, because it wanted the sweet juice of piety ; I had rather it should be said of you, as one faid of + Swinfeldius, “ He wanted a regular head, but not an honest heart," than that you should have regular heads, and irregular hearts. My dear flock, I have, according to the grace given me, laboured in the course of my ministry among you, to feed you with the heart-strengthening bread of practical doctrine; and I do assure you, it is far better you should have the sweet and saving impressions of gofpel-truths feelingly and powerfully conveyed to your hearts, than only to understand them by a bare ratiocination, or dry syllogistical inference. Leave trifling studies to such as have time lying on their hands, and know not how to employ it : remember you are at the door of eternity, and have other work to do; those hours you spend upon heartwork in your closets, are the golden spots of all your time, and will have the sweetest influence upon your last hour. Never forget these fermons I preached to you upon that subject, from 2 Kings xx. 2,-3.
. 1 Heart-work is weighty, and difficult work; an error there may cost you your souls : I may fay of it as Augustine speaks of the doctrine of the Trinity, Nihilo facilius aut periculofius erratur; A man can err in nothing more easily or more dangerously. Othen study your hearts.
Fuligattus in vita Bellarm. t Caput regulatum illi defuit, cor bonum non defuit.
2. My next request is, That you will carefully look to your con. versations, and be accurate in all your ways, hold forth the word of life : be sure by the strictness and holiness of your lives, to settle yourfelves in the very consciences of your enemies. Remember that your lives must be produced in the great day to judge the world, 1 Cor. vi. 2. O then, what manner of persons ought you to be ! you have many eyes over you ; the omniscient eye of God that searches heart and reins, Rev. ii. 23. the vigilant eye of Satan, Job i. 7, 8. the envious eyes of enemies, that curiously observe you, Psal. v. 8. the quick and observant eye of conscience, which none of your actions escape, Rom. ix. I.
O then be precise and accurate in all manner of conversation ; keep up the power of godliness in your closets and families, and then you will not let it fall in your more public employments and converles in the world : I have often told you, that it is the honour of the gospel, that it makes the best parents and children, the best malters and servants, the beft husbands and wives in the world.
My third and last request is, that you may pray for me: I hope I can say, and I am sure some of you have acknowledged, that I came at first among you, as the return and answer of your prayers : and indeed so it should be, fee Luke x. 2. I am persuaded also, I have been carried on in my work by your prayers ; it is sweet when it is fo; see Eph. vi. 18, 19. And I hope by your prayers to receive yet a farther benefit, even that which is mentioned, Heb. xiii. 18, 19. Philem. ver. 22. And truly it is but equal you should pray for me, I have often prayed for you: let the pulpit, family, and closet witness for me ; and God forbid I should fin against the Lord in ceasing
you. Yea, friends, your own interest may persuade to it: what mercies you obtain for me, redound to your own advantage ; if God preserve me, it is for your use and service: the more gifts and graces a minister hath, the better for them that shall wait on his miniftry; the more God gives in to me, the more I shall be able to give out to you. I will detain you no longer, but to entreat you to accept this small testification of my great love, and have recourse to it, according as the exigencies of your condition shall require : read it consideringly, and obediently; judge it not by the dress and style, but by the weight and favour of what you read. It is a good rule of Bernard, In legendis libris, non quæramus scientium fed faporem, i. e. In reading books, regard not so much the science as the favour. That it may prove the favour of life unto life to you, and all those in whore hands it shall come, is the hearty defire of
Your loving and faithful Pastor, From my study at Ley, in
JOHN FLAVEL. Slapton, 04. 7, 1667.
SAINT INDEED &c.
Prov. iv. 23.
Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.
the best afterwards : it is the feat of principles, and the fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it.
The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God. Here lies the very pinch and stress of religion; here is that which makes the way to life a narrow way, and the gate to heaven a ftrait gate. Direction and help in this great work are the scope and fum of this text: wherein we have,
1. An exhortation, “Keep thy heart with all diligence.”
2. The reason, or motive enforcing it, “For out of it are the issues # of life.” In the exhortation I shall consider,
1. The matter of the duty.
2. The manner of performing it. 1. The matter of the duty, keep thy heart, Heart is not here taken properly for that noble part of the body which philofophers call the primum vivens, et ultimum moriens; the first that lives, and the last that dies; but by heart, in a metaphor, the scripture sometimes understands some particular noble faculty of the soul: in Rom. i. 21. it is put for the understanding part, their foolith heart, i. e. “their foolith understanding was darkened.” And Pfalm cxix. 11, it is put for the memory, “ Thy word have I hid in my heart ;" and 1 John iii. 10. it is put for the conscience, which hath in it both the light of the understanding and the recognitions of the memory: if our heart condemn us, i. e. if your consciences, whose proper office it is to condemn. But here we are to take it more generally for the whole soul, or inner man ; for look what the heart is to the body, that the foul is to the man; and what health is to the heart, that holiness is to the soul : Quod fanitas in corpore, id fanctitas in corde. The state of the whole body depends upon the foundness and vigour of the heart, and the everlasting state of the whole man upon the good or ill condition of the foul.
And by keeping the heart, understand the diligent and constant use and improvement of all holy means and duties, to preserve the foul : trom fin, and maintain its sweet and free communion with God.
* Lavater, on the place, will have the word taken from a besieged garrison, begirt by many enemies witbout, and in danger of being betrayed by treacherous citizens within, in which danger the soldiers, upon pain of death, are commanded to watch; and whereas the expression (keep thine heart) seems to put it upon us as our work, yet it doth not imply a sufficiency or ability in us to do it; we are as able to stop the sun in its course, or make the rivers run backward, as by our own skill and power to rule and order our hearts : we may as well be our own saviours, as our own keepers; and yet Solomon speaks properly enough, when he faith keep thy heart; because the duty is ours, though the power be God's. A natural man hath no power, a gracious man hath fome, though not fufficient; and that power he hath, depends upon the exciting and afsifting strength of Christ ; Gratia gratiam poftulat, grace within us is beholden to grace without us, John xv. 5. “ Without me ye can do nothing. “So much of the matter of the duty.
2. The manner of performing it is, with all diligence; the Hebrew is very emphatical, + Cuin omni cuftodia, keep with all keeping, q.d. keep, keep; fet double guards, your hearts will be gone else. And this vehemency of expression, with which the duty is urged, plainly implies how difficult it is to keep our hearts, and how dangerous to let them go.
3. The reason, or motive quickening to this duty, is very forcible and weighty : For out of it are the ifsues of life.” That is, it is the source and fountain of all vital actions and operations; Hinc fons boni et peccandi origo, faith Jerom; it is the spring and original both of good and evil, as the spring in a watch that sets all the wheels in motion. The heart is the treasury, the hand and tongue but the fhops; what is in these, comes from thence; the hand and tongue always begin where the heart ends. The heart contrives, and the members execute; Luke vi. 45. “A good man out of the good “ treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man “ out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things; for « out of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaketh.” So then, if the heart err in its work, thefe must needs miscarry in theirs ; for heart-errors are like the errors of the first concoction, which cannot be rectified afterwards : Or like the misplacing, and inverting of the stamps and letters in the press, which must needs cause so many errata in all the copies that are printed off. O then, how important a duty is that which is contained in the following proposition ?
I say constant, for the reason added in the text extends the duty to all the states and conditions of a Christian’s life, and makes it bind ad femper: If the heart must be kept because out of it are the issues of life; then as long as these issues of life do dow out of it, we are obliged to keep it.
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