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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 bim. 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 bim according to the directions of his word, and that serve bim 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.
(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 a 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 beart." 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 ınan, 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 wbat 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 inore 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:
my heart be sound in thy statutes,” ver. 80. Men were reminded by the prophets, that “the Lord searches the heart, and tries the reins, even to give to every man ac. cording 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 neg; lected that which is a principal point; considering that God equally knows all things, we ought to be equally concerned about our thougbts, 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 imprudences, 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 aflictions ; '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 lieart; 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.”