« PreviousContinue »
are things of the greatest use and importance; which earnestly proceeds from a full persuasion of the truth and worth of the things said, an apprehension that those to whom they are offered are too apt to neglect them, or too liable to be misled after all; and from an ardent desire of the welfare of those who are addressed to. My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes: keep them in the midst of thine heart; for they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh," ver. 20-22. As if he said, 'I must again once more repeat my request, that you will take heed to my advice, and seriously consider these exhortations which 'proceed from a sincere affection for your welfare. Peruse 'them over and over, keep them perpetually in mind, and lay them up in your memory as a precious treasure. For they will contribute greatly to the happiness of all who become thoroughly acquainted with them: they will be of use to men of every temper, and in every condition; and prove an admirable support under troubles and afflic'tions.'
Then follows a methodical monition, consisting of several parts; first, directing the government of the heart, or the mind, and its powers; then the lips and eyes, and the feet.
Ver. 23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life." That is, the counsels I give you are such as these: in the first place, and above all things, set a strict guard upon your thoughts and affections, and all the inward motions of your soul; for the good or bad conduct of life depends very much upon this, and consequently your welfare or misery, here and hereafter.
Ver. 24, "Put away from thee a froward mouth: and perverse lips put far from thee." Avoid sinful words, and be upon your guard not to transgress with your lips; for as some interpreters suppose, here is a twofold admonition; not to sin with the tongue ourselves, nor to hearken to the evil speeches of others. Set a watch upon thy ears, and upon thy mouth; nor speak things contrary to truth, righteousness, or religion; not listening to those that do, but banishing such as far as possible, from all friendship and familiarity.'
Ver. 25, "Let thine eyes look eyelids look straight before thee. phrase and explain these words:
right on: and let thine That is, as some paraDirect all thine actions
by a good intention to a right end, and keep thy mind
'fixed upon the
* See Patrick.
that leads to it.' way
Or, as others, The
'eyes also are dangerous inlets to the heart; therefore watch ⚫ them well, that they do not gaze about, and fasten upon every object that invites them; but let them be fixed upon one scope, as thy thoughts ought to be, and from which 'let nothing divert them.'
Ver. 26," Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." Act not without thought and consideration; but weigh and consider well beforehand, especially in things of any moment, or that are liable to doubt and suspicion, whether they are agreeable to the rule of right; then thy works and actions will be such as will bear to be canvassed and examined: you will be able to reflect upon them with pleasure afterwards, and they will also be approved by others that are wise and virtuous.
Ver. 27, "Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil:" hereby many understand to be meant: Flee extremes: avoid superstition on the one hand, and neglect of religion on the other:' but it seems to me that the direction may be as well understood to contain an admonition to steadiness in religion and virtue: 'And do not suffer yourselves to be drawn aside from the 'path of virtue, or to divert at all upon any consideration 'from the straight line of duty let no consideration what'ever, neither enticements of friends, or provocations of 'enemies, prosperous or cross events, move you to depart at all from the way of your duty; and most studiously pre'serve yourselves from doing any kind of iniquity.'
So is this context.
Our design at present is, to consider the leading direction in this exhortation," Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." And I shall speak briefly to the several particulars in the text.
I shall consider,
I. What is meant by the heart.
II. What we are to understand by keeping it.
III. The manner in which the heart ought to be kept: "with all diligence."
IV. The argument and reason why we ought so to keep the heart: "out of it are the issues of life."
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, "keep thy heart." Let me mention some particulars, as contained and implied herein.
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," Isa. 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 de
lights 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 showed 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. " My son, give me thy heart," 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 exix. 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 de-. ceitfulness of our hearts, and the face and danger of external temptations, our résolutions should be very explicit and firm. Psalm cxix. 106, "I have sworn, and will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." Psalın 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 hatred.
(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 Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. But he that doth the will of God abideth for ever," 1 Ep. ii. 15, 16. We should therefore desire to secure a treasure in heaven and an interest in a future happiness, above all earthly possessions and advantages.
(2.) Our joy and grief. The good order of these affections will follow upon that of the two other, if we are more desirous of, more solicitous for, spiritual and heavenly things if they have our first and highest esteem, our joy and satisfaction on account of prosperity and success in the pursuit of earthly 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.