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To which I shall add:
V. A reflection or two by way of application.
I. We should briefly observe what is meant by the heart. But it is needless to enlarge here, or to take notice of the several more particular senses and acceptations of the word in scripture ; where it may sometimes denote the understanding more especially; as when it is said, "their foolish heart was darkened," Rom. i. 21, or the "memory" as when the Psalmist says, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart," Ps. cxix. 11, or the conscience; "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things," 1 John iii. 20. But the more common and general sense of the word is, the "mind," the "soul;" and so these texts just mentioned are also understood.
I suppose then that here, as very frequently in the metaphorical style of scripture, the "heart" is put for the "soul," or the " inward man," the soul and its faculties: or, the "mind," together with all its powers and faculties, and their several operations; or the thoughts, affections, intentions and designs of man.
II. The second thing to be considered is, what we are to understand by "keeping the heart." And this expression is supposed by many to be metaphorical: keep thy heart, as a temple, say some, pure and undefiled. Or, keep thy heart, say others, as a garrison: the soul being, as it were, besieged by many enemies. Some also carry on the metaphor in the other directions that follow, relating to the mouth, the eyes, the feet; and they say, As they that defend a city, set a strong guard at the gates and posterns; so do you upon your ears, and 'mouth, and eyes.' But I apprehend, we are not obliged to attend to such a metaphor here. The word "keeping" seems to denote all that can be meant by a due care of the mind, and its actions or thoughts: keep thy heart;" observe it, cultivate and improve it; watch it, and attend to all its motions; guard against every evil thought, as well as against evil actions: and employ and exercise the mind well,
This I take to be the general meaning and design of the expression, me mention some particulars, as contained and implied herein.
keep thy heart." Let
1. Keep, or take care of thy heart: that is, that you cultivate and improve it, and that you have right sentiments of things. It is an observation of the same wise man, whose words we are commenting, "That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good," Prov. xix. 2. There is a woe pronounced against those "that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter," Isai. v. 20. It is one great and main design of the teachings and instructions of the prophets and the wise men under the Old Testament, to give them right sentiments concerning religion: to help them to know and understand what is good and what is evil, and what God most approves of, and delights in: that though he had enjoined for wise reasons, upon the people under his special care at that time, numerous external washings, purifications, and various sacrifices and offerings at the temple; that, nevertheless, truth and righteousness in their dealings with one another, and a serious awful apprehension of the Divine Majesty, the former of all things, and sentiments of love and gratitude to him for all his benefits, were the most valuable parts and branches, and acts of religion. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Mich. vi. 8. "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God, more than burnt offerings, Hosea vi. 6. And there are very frequent and earnest exhortations to seek religious knowledge: there are many such in this book of Proverbs. "Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise; and apply thine heart unto my knowledge,” ch. xxii. 17. "That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known unto thee this day, even unto thee. Have not I written unto thee excellent things in counsel and knowledge? that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth: that thou mightest answer the words of truth, to them that send unto thee?" ver. 19-21. This knowledge is excellent and useful: to know the differences of things: what God most approves of: to have right apprehensions of the greatness, goodness, truth, and faithfulness, and purity of God. That he is a God over all gods, the former of all things, the governor of the world, able and willing to reward them that diligently seek him; and that blessed are all they that serve him, and put their trust in him.
2. Another thing implied in keeping the heart, or in the care of the mind, here recommended, is, to form fixed purposes and resolutions of acting according to the rule of right. The
first care is, that the mind be well informed: secondly, that it be well resolved. We are to see, that we not only know what is good, and refuse the evil: but we are to choose the one, and resolve to avoid the other. 66 My son, give me thy heart," Ps. xxiii. 26. Ps. xxiii. 26. And this is the design of the exhortation at the beginning of this chapter, to determine men to the choice of religion and her ways. "Get wisdom, get understanding-forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee: exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her." And Psalm cxix. 30. "I have chosen the way of truth thy judgments have I laid before me. Depart from me, ye evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God," ver. 115. There should be a fixed and determined purpose of mind, to avoid all known sin, and perform all known duty, and to resist temptations when they assault us. The way of religion should be our willing choice, considering its excellence, and the advantages that attend it: and because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, and the face and danger of external temptations, our resolutions should be very explicit and firm. Psalm cxix. 106. "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.". Psalm xvii. 3. "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing: I am purposed, that my mouth shall not transgress."
3. In this keeping the heart is implied a direction to govern the affections. As the judgment should be well informed; and the will rightly fixed and determined: so also the affections should be well ordered and governed.
Particularly, our desires and aversions, our joy and grief, our hopes and fears, our love and
(1.) Our desires and aversions. They should be well regulated. The highest esteem should be placed upon those things that are most valuable in themselves, and most important. Take care that you esteem and desire spiritual and heavenly things, more than worldly and earthly things, that are but temporal. Saith St. John, "Love not the world: neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Fathut is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof." But he that doth "of God abideth for ever," 1 Ep. ii. 15, 16. We should therefore desire to secure eaven and an interest in a future happiness, above all earthly possessions and
a trea advant
ief. The good order of these affections will follow upon that of the two ous of, more solicitous for, spiritual and heavenly things: if they have cem, our joy and satisfaction on account of prosperity and success in the pursuit of y advantages will be moderate: and our grief and concern under afflictions and losses, relating to this life, will not be excessive, but within due bounds.
(3.) Our hopes and fears ought also to be regulated. Our chief dependence should be on God, not on man. Our trust and hope should be placed in God, not in creatures. He is infinitely more able, and more equitable than men; and therefore in him we should confide, and make it our chief care to please him, and approve ourselves to him. In his favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. He can bestow a better, and more durable happiness than this world affords: and he will not fail them that trust him according to the directions of his word, and that serve him in the way of his commandments.
Our fears likewise are to be regulated. We are to fear God more than men. This is of importance to right conduct. If men, who had power and influence, did always encourage virtue, and require nothing but what is fit to be done: if their will and pleasure were always reasonable then we should have no occasion to fear them, whilst we do well. But as the sincere profession of truth is often discountenanced by the powers of this world, and the will of God only is always right, there is need we should be upon our guard against an undue fear of men. Our Lord therefore cautioned his disciples against the fear of men, whose power reached not beyond this life; and rather to fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body, and assign them to everlasting pain and misery.
(2.) other, it our first
(4.) We ought also to regulate our love and hatred: I mean now chiefly with regard to our fellow-creatures: our approbation and dislike; our favour or displeasure that we cherish benevolence, inward good-will; and do not admit groundless resentment and anger, or indulge
excessive or lasting displeasure. As Solomon says: "He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty: and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city," Prov. xvi. 32.
This is another thing implied in keeping the heart; governing the affections: particularly, our desires and aversions, joy and grief, hopes and fears, love and hatred.
4. Another thing that may be intended in keeping the heart is, planting and cherishing in the mind good principles and dispositions, and cleansing it from all contrary evil dispositions and propensities. Particularly, it is of importance that we root out pride, and high conceit of ourselves; inward contempt and disdain of other men: and that we cultivate humility of mind; meekness of temper: we should likewise be concerned to improve in religious awe and apprehension of the Divine Majesty, and take care to be in the fear of God all the day long, and all the days of our life. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning, the source, and principle of wisdom. We should also cherish a faith in invisible things, which will be a great security of every virtue, and encourage a right conduct.
5. And lastly, by keeping the heart may be meant and intended, a due care and concern that the mind be well employed.
There must be a guard set upon the acts or operations of the mind: and the thoughts should be exercised on fit objects. Vain thoughts should not lodge within us: no evil thoughts should be indulged and cherished. The mind should be employed and taken up, not in things useless and insignificant; but much about things profitable and important: we should contemplate the works of God, meditate on his word, consider our ways, reflect upon ourselves, confirm our resolutions of virtue, and our abhorrence of evil; form good designs, and think and contrive how we may best bring them to pass. We should frequently ascend in acts of humble, believing, grateful devotions to God.
That is the second thing, what it is to "keep the heart." 1. It implies a taking care, that the mind be furnished with necessary knowledge, and just sentiments of things concerning good and evil. 2. To keep the heart implies a concern to form fixed purposes and resolutions to act according to the rule of right. 3. It implies the government and regulation of the affections. 4. Implanting and cherishing good dispositions, and rooting out those that are evil and sinful. 5. It implies a care that the mind be well employed.
III. The next thing observable in the words is, the manner in which the heart ought to be kept: "with all diligence:" literally, according to the Hebrew, "with all keeping." The connection, which was shown before, helps us to understand distinctly and clearly the design of this expression in this exhortation. This is the first counsel: then follow those before taken notice of, and briefly paraphrased. "Put away from thee a froward mouth: let thine eyes look right on:" and "ponder the path of thy feet:" that is, care ought to be taken of these; that we sin not with our lips, and that our actions are righteous and virtuous. But the first and chief care ought to be about the heart: the mind, and its inward operations : Keep thy heart with all diligence."
IV. The fourth particular observable in the words is, the argument and motive so "to keep the heart:" it is taken from the importance of so doing: "Out of it are the issues of life." Our good, or our bad conduct, and the consequences of each depend hereupon. As the heart is, so is the man: so will be the words and actions. The streams must partake of the qualities of the fountain. Or, as our blessed Lord says: "A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit: for every tree is known by its fruit. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, that which is evil; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," Luke vi. 43-45. And to the like purpose in Matthew xii. 33-35. Again, "Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites: for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter; but within they are full of extortion and excess," Matt. xxiii. 25, 26. You aim at a fair outward appearance, by observing those acts of devotion, and that zeal for the temple, that is taking among men; without aiming at virtuous habits, and consequently are defective in acts of justice and goodness. "Thou blind pharisee! cleanse first that which is within the cup, and the platter; that the outside of them may be clean also." First cleanse your heart, and cultivate the sincere upright disposition of mind; and your life will be an uniform pattern of virtue, consisting in a devout and fervent worship of God, and works of
righteousness and goodness among men: which will be really worthy and valuable; truly becoming, acceptable and agreeable.
This is the argument, to keep the heart with all diligence: "Out of it are the issues of life:” the words and actions depend hereupon. If the heart be quite neglected, the life will be very irregular: if the heart be well kept, cultivated, observed, and watched, your life will be excellent and commendable.
Moreover the different consequences of good and bad conduct, as already hinted, depend hereupon. You cannot otherwise approve yourselves to God, but must be rejected by him who sees and knows the heart, as well as the outward actions.
I have now explained the several parts of the text. I have shown what is here meant by the heart. Wherein keeping it consists. The manner in which it ought to be kept. The importance of so doing: or the arguments and motives so to keep it.
V. I shall conclude with two reflections only, in the way of application.
1. We hence perceive, that true religion, even under the ancient dispensation, did not consist only in external worship, and good actions, but also in pious dispositions of the mind. Indeed the laws of Moses, being many of them civil and political, are very much concerned about words only, and external actions: and many men were too apt to content themselves with a fair, outward, and visible appearance in the eye of men, and some tolerable regularity of outward actions and behaviour. But it is certain, they were obliged to more than this; and good men observed their thoughts as well as their actions. And the wise, and those who were favoured with a prophetical gift or commission, faithfully represented to men the extent, purity, and perfection of the divine law. Of a good man it is said: "The law of his God is in his heart," Ps. xxxvii. 31. And the Psalmist prays, that God would " incline his heart unto his testimonies," and "not to covetousness," Ps. cxix. 36. Again: "Let my heart be sound in thy statutes," ver. 80. Men were reminded by the prophets, that "the Lord searcheth the heart, and tries the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings," Jer. xvii. 10. And they were called upon to mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace," Ps. xxxvii. 37.
2. Let us attend to this counsel of Solomon, and the importance of it. And do we not see one great reason of the many defects and errors of our conduct? that we do not keep our heart with all diligence. We have too much neglected that which is a principal point: considering that God equally knows all things, we ought to be equally concerned about our thoughts, and our outward actions. But there is also another reason for a strict care of the heart; that so much depends upon it. Uniform virtue and eminence therein, will never be attained without it. We shall also, for want of this care, be very liable to be surprised into sin many ways. Is not this the occasion of many of our failings? that the inward principle of faith in God is weak, and fear of men prevailing. The love of this world is unsubdued: and our affections are not set on things above, as they should be, but rather on things of this earth. How can it be expected we should be prepared for temptations, if we do not carefully keep our heart? No wonder that we often transgress with our lips, or that imprudencies, failings, and even greater faults appear in our behaviour, if we do not watch our hearts. It is very likely that there will be many bad consequences of this neglect: we shall be oftentimes unsatisfied and discontented with our condition, possibly without any reason. We shall greatly misbehave under afflictions; prosperity will be very dangerous: and the offences and provocations we meet with from men, will mightily disconcert us, and occasion undue resentment and displeasure.
If we are sensible of a defect this way: let us be, for the future, more frequent in meditation and consideration : let us be more careful of our inward temper, and the frame of our heart: let us diligently cultivate right sentiments, holy resolutions, and good habits of the mind: let us learn the regulation and government of our affections, and how to employ our thoughts upon profitable subjects. It is a thing of great importance. Diligence herein will be very advantageous; and negligence very prejudicial and detrimental in the end. "Keep [then] thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”
END OF POSTHUMOUS SERMONS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
TWO SCHEMES OF A TRINITY CONSIDERED,
THE DIVINE UNITY ASSERTED.
FOUR DISCOURSES UPON PHILIPPIANS ii. 5—11.
Acts ii. 22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God, among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Chap. v. 31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Chap. x. 37, 38. That word you know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed, &c.
THE EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.
THE Editor of the following Discourses accounts it no small happiness, that, by a late favourable accident, he has it in his power to present them to the public. They show themselves to have been part of a course of ministerial services; and a memorandum, under the author's own hand, makes it probable that they were delivered from the pulpit, to a very respectable society of Christians, so long ago as the year 1747.
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