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Doct. That the keeping and right managing of the heart in every
condition, is the great business of a Christian's life. What the philosopher faith of waters, is as properly applicable to hearts; Suis terminis difficile continentur, it is hard to keep them within bounds: God hath set bounds and limits to them, yet how frequently do they tranfgress, not only the bounds of grace and religion, but even of reason and common honestyi Hic labor, hoc opus eft; this is that which affords the Christian matter of labour, fear and trembling to his dying-day. It is not the cleansing of the hand that makes the Christian, for many a hypocrite can Thew as fair a hand as he ; but the purifying, watching, and right ordering of the heart; this is the thing that provokes so many fad complaints, and costs fo many deep groans and brinish tears. It was the pride of Hezekiah's heart that made him lie in the dust mourning before the Lord, 2 Chron, xxxii. 26. It was the fear of hypocrisy invading the heart, that made David
my heart be found in thy statutes that I “ be not ashamed,” Psalm cxix. 80. It was the fad experience he had of the divisions and distractions of his own heart, in the fervice of God, that made him pour out that prayer, Psalm lxxxvi. 11. « Unite my heart to fear thy name.”
'The method in which I shall improve the point, shall be this,
Fird, I shall enquire what the keeping of the heart supposes and/ imports.
Secondly, Assign divers reasons, why Christians must make this the 2 great work and business of their lives. 42
Thirdly, Point at those special seasons which especially call for this diligence in keeping the heart. ut Fourthly, and lažly, Apply the whole in several uses.
i. What the keeping of the heart supposes and imports.
To keep the heart, necessarily supposes a previous work of sanctification, which hath set the heart right, by giving it a new spiritual bent and inclination ; for as long as the heart is not fet right by grace, as to its habitual frame, no duties or means can keep it righe o with God. Self is the poise of the unfanctified heart, which biasses and moves it in all its designs and actions; and as long as it is so, it: is impossible that any external means should keep it with God.
Man, by creation, was of one constant, uniform frame and tenour of spirit, held one straight and even course; not one thought or faculty revelled or disordered ; his mind had a perfect illumination to understand and know the will of God, his will a perfect compliance therewith ; his fenfitive appetite, and other inferior powers, stood in a most obedient subordination.
Man, by degeneration, is become a most disordered and rebellious creature, contesting with, and opposing his Maker, as the first cause, by felf-dependence; as the chiefest good, by self-love; as the highest Lord, by felf-will, and as the last end, by felf-seeking; and so is quite
disordered, and all his acts irregular: His illuminated understanding 1 is clouded with ignorance, his complying will full of rebellion and K
stubbornness; his subordinate powers, casting off the dominion and government of the fuperior faculties.
But by regeneration this disordered foul is fet aright again; fanctification being the rectifying and due framing, or as the scripture phrases it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God, Eph. iv. 24. in wbich felf-dependence is removed by faith ; felf-love by the love of God; self-will by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking by felf-denial. The darkened understanding is again illuminated, Eph. i. 18. the refractory will sweetly fubdued, Plalm cx. 3. the rebellious appetite, or concupiscence gradually conquered, Rom. v. 7. per tot. And thus the soul which fin had univerfally depraved is again by grace restored and rectified.
This being pre-supposed, it will not be difficult to apprehend what it is to keep the heart, which is nothing else but the constant care and diligence of such a renewed man, to preserve his foul in that holy frame to which grace hath reduced it, and daily frives to hold it.
For though grace hath, in a great measure, rectified the soul, and given it an habitual and heavenly temper: yet fin often actually difcomposes it again : so that even a gracious heart is like a musical in. strument, which, though it be never fo exactly tuned, a small matter brings it out of tune again ; yea, hang it afide but a little, and it will need setting again before you can play another leffon on it ; even fo stands the case with gracious hearts; if they are in frame in one duty, yet how dull, dead, and disordered when they come to another? And therefore every duty needs a particular preparation of the heart, Job xi. 13. « If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands « towards him." Well then, to keep the heart is carefully to pre. ferve it from fin, which disorders it; and maintain that spiritual and gracious frame, which fits it for a life of communion with God. And this includes these fix acts in it:
1. Frequent observation of the frame of the heart, turning in and examining how the cafe stands with it, this is one part of the work. Carnal and formal persons take no heed to this, they cannot be brought to confer with their own hearts: there are some men and women that have lived forty or fifty years in the world, and have Acarce had one hour's discourse with their own hearts all that while : It is a hard thing to bring a man and himself together upon such an account; but saints know those soliloquies and felf-conferences to be of excellent use and advantage. The heathen could say, anima sedendo et quiefcendo fit fapiens, the soul is made wise by fitting still in quietness: though bankrupts with not to look into their books of accompt, yet upright hearts will know whether they go backward or forward, Pfal. Ixxvii. 6. “ I commune with mine own heart." The heart can never be kept until its case be examined and understood.
2. It includes deep humiliation for heart-evils and diforders; thus Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, 2 Chron xxxii. 26. Thus the people were ordered to spread forth their hands to God in prayer, in a sense of the plague of their own hearts, 1 Kings vii. 38. Upon this account many an upright heart hath been laid low before God : O what an heart have 1? They have in their confeflions pointed at the heart, the pained place; Lord, here is the wound, here is the plague-fore. It is with the heart well kept, as it is with the eye, which is a fit emblem of it, if a small dust get into the eye, it will never leave twinkling and watering till it have wept it out : So the upright heart cannot be at rest till it have wept out its troubles, and poured out its complaints before the Lord.
3. It includes earnest fupplications and instant prayer for heartpurifying and rectifying grace, when sin hath defiled and disordered it; fo Psalm xix. 12. « Cleanse thou me from secret faults ;” and Psalm lxxxvi. 11. “Unite my heart to fear thy name." Saints have always many such petitions depending before the throne of God's grace; this is the thing which is most pleaded by them with God: When they are praying for outward mercies, haply their spirits may be more remiss, but when it comes to the heart-case, then they extend their spirits to the utmost, fill their mouths with arguments, weep and make fupplication : Oh, for a better heart ! Oh for a heart to love God more. To hate fin more, to walk more evenly with God: Lord, deny not to me such a heart, whatever thou deny me; give me an heart to fear thee, love and delight in thee, if I beg my bread in defolate places. It is observed of holy Mr Bradford, that when he was confeffing fin, he would never give over confeffing until he had felt some brokenness of heait for that fin ; and when praying for any spiritual mercy, would never give over that suit, until he had got some relish of that mercy. That is the third thing included in keeping the heart.
4. It includes the impofing of strong engagements and bonds upon ourselves to walk more accurately with God, and avoid the occasions whereby the heart may be induced to fin: Well-composed, advised, and deliberate vows, are, in some cases, of excellent use to guard the heart against some special fin; fo Job xxxi 1. “ I made a covenant " with mine eyes ;" by this means, holy ones have over-awed their fouls, and preserved themselves from defilement by some special heart-corruptions.
5. It includes a constant holy jealousy over our own hearts ; quickfighted self-jealousy is an excellent preservative from fin; he that will keep his heart must have the eyes of his foul awake and open upon all the disorderly and tumultuous stirrings of his affections; if the affections break loote, and the passions be stirred, the foul muft difcover and suppress them before they get to an height: O my soul, dost thou well in this ? My tumultuous thoughts and paflions, where is your commiffion? Vol. V.
State viri, quæ caufa vie ? quive eftis in armis. Virg. Happy is the man that thus feareth always, Prov. xxviii. 14. By this fear of the Lord it is that men depart from evil, shake off security, and preferve themselves from iniquity; he that will keep his
heart must feed with fear, rejoice with fear, and pass the whole time : of his sojourning here in fear, and all little enough to keep the heart from fin.
6. And, lastly, To add no more, it includes the realizing of God's presence with us, and setting the Lord always before us : This the people of God have found a fingular mean to keep their hearts upright, and awe them from sin; when the eye of our faith is fixed upon the eye of God's omniscience, we dare not let out our thoughts and affections to vanity: Holy Job durft not suffer his heart to yield to an impure, vain thought ; and what was it that moved him to fo great a circumspection? Why, he tells you, Job xxxi. 4. “Doth he « not see my ways, and count all my steps ? Walk before me (faith « God to Abraham) and be thcu perfect," Gen. xvii. 1. Even as parents use to set their children in the congregation before them, knowing that else they will be toying and playing ; so would the heart of the best man too, were it not for the eye of God.
In these and such like particulars, do gracious fouls exprefs the care they have of their hearts; they are as careful to prevent the breaking loole of their corruptions in times of temptation, as seamen are to bind fast the guns, that they break not loose in a storm; as careful to preserve the sweetness and comfort they have got from God in any duty, as one that comes out of an hot bath, or great sweat, is of taking cold, by going forth into the chill air. This is the work, and of all works in religion it is the most difficult, constant, and important work..
1. It is the hardest work; heart-work is hard work indeed. To fhuffle over religious duties with a loose and heedless spirit, will cost no great pains; but to set thyself before the Lord, and tye up thy loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him; this will cost thee something : To attain a facility and dexterity of language in prayer, and put thy meaning into apt and decent expreffions, is easy ; but to get thy heart broken for fin whilst thou art confeffing it; melted with free grace whilst thou art blefling God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled through the apprehenfions of God's infinite holiness, and to keep thy heart in this frame, not only in, but after duty, will surely cost thee some groans and travailing pains of soul : To repress the outward acts of fin, and compofe the external part of thy life in a laudable and coinely manner, is no great matter ; even carnal persons by the force of common principles can do this, but to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up an holy government over thy thoughts, to have all things lie fraight and orderly in the heart, this is not easy.
2. It is a constant work. The keeping of the heart is fuch a works
as is never done till life be done ; this labour and our life end together : It is with a Christian in this business, as it is with seamen that have sprung a leak at fea, if they tug not constantly at the pump, the water increases upon them, and will quickly fink them. It is in vain for them to say the work is hard, and we are weary, there is no time or condition in the life of a Christian, which will suffer an intermillion of this work. It is in the keeping watch over our hearts, as it was in the keeping up of Moses' hands, whilst Israel and Amalek were fighting below, Exod. xvii. 12. No sooner do Mofes hands grow heavy and fink down, but Amalek prevails. You know it cost David and Peter many a sad day and night for intermitting the watch over their own hearts but a few minutes.
3. It is the most important business of a Christian's life. Without this we are but formalists in religion; all our professions, gifts, and duties signify nothing : ' My son, give me thine heart,” Prov. xxiii. 36. God is pleased to call that a gift, which is indeed a debt; he will put this honour upon the creature to receive it from him in the way of a gift ; but if this be not given him, he regards not whatever else you bring to him: There is so much only of worth and value in what we do, as there is of heart in it. Concerning the heart, God seems to say, as Jofeph of Benjamin, “ If you bring not Benjamin 56 with you, you shall not see my face." Among the heathens, when the beast was cut up for facrifice, the first thing the priest looked upon was the heart, and if that was unfound and naught, the sacrifice was rejected. God rejects all duties (how glorious foever in other refpects) offered him without a heart. He that performs duty without a heart, viz. heedlessly, is no more accepted with God than he that performs it with a double heart, viz. hypocritically, Ifa. lxvi. 3. 1 And thus I have briefly opened the nature of the duty, what is im- ; ported in this phrafe, “ Keep thy heart."
2. Next I Thall give you some rational account why Christians Thould make this the great business of their lives to keep their hearts.
The importance and neceflity of making this our great and main business, will manifestly appear in that, 1. The honour of God ; 2. The fincerity of our profeffion; 3. the beauty of our conversation; 4. The comfort of our souls; 5. The improvement of our graces ; and, 6. Our stability in the hour of temptation ; all are wrapt up in, and dependent on our sincerity and care in the management of this work.
1. The glory of God is much concerned therein; heart-evils are very provoking evils to the Lord. The schools do well observe, that outward fins are majoris infame, fins of greater infamy; but heart-lins are majoris reatus, fins of deeper guilt. How severely hath the great God declared his wrath from heaven against heart-wickedness; the great crime for which the old world stands indicted, Gen. vi. 5, 6, 7. is heart-wickedness. « God saw that every imagination (or fic« tion) of their heart was only evil, and that continually;" for which