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disputing with each other who should be the greatest, and forbidding others to cast out devils, because they followed not with them, and desiring to call fire from heaven to avenge their Master's cause, appeared as faithful as men could bed: yet were they in reality actuated by pride and envy, in the garb of zeal and love: and, had not these corrupt passions been checked at first, who can tell,“ how great a matter this little fire might have kindlede?" There is not a motion of the heart but must be strictly marked: its associates must be carefully noticed; its tendencies examined; its professions scrutinized; lest Satan himself be found there, under the semblance of an angel of light'.]
3. Combine all its energies in the service of your God —
[The Psalmist has a remarkable expression on this subject; “Unite my heart, O Lord, to fear thy name 8." If the powers of the soul be scattered, they will be as inefficient as soldiers that are dispersed. It is by a combination of efforts for a preconcerted end, and by simultaneous movements for its accomplishment, that success is attained. The various powers of the soul must act in unison: the understanding, the will, the affections, the memory, the conscience, must all have the same object in view, each defending its proper post to the uttermost, and ready to succour the other with all its might. If, whilst the understanding is occupied about spiritual and heavenly things, the will and the affections are running after earthly and carnal things, what can be expected, but that the enemy shall soon gain undisguised and permanent possession of the soul? Every one knows, that “a house divided against itself, falleth;" and a divided heart must become a prey to the great adversary of God and man. All its powers must center in God, if God is to inhabit it as his temple, and to possess it as his inheritance.] 4. Call in for it the most effectual aid
[Human efforts, unassisted by God, will be of little avail. Indeed we can do nothing but as we are assisted by “the Captain of our Salvation 1." To him then must we look to “strengthen us with might by his Spirit in our inward man i:" we must go forth against our enemies, as David did against Goliath, not in dependence on an arm of flesh, but in the name of the Lord God of Israel: we must “ be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might k.” Then we may defy all our adversaries : we may boldly ask the greatest amongst them; “Who art thou, O thou great Mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” See how Paul taught the first Christians to triumph, whilst yet in the midst of all their conflicts: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? No: in all these things we are more than conquerors 1:" so then may the weakest of us triumph, if we call in our blessed Lord to our aid: for “through Christ strengthening us, we can do all things m."]
d Luke ix. 46, 49, 54, e Jam. iii. 5. f 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14. & Ps. lxxxvi. 11. h John xv. 5. i Eph. iii. 16. * Eph. vi. 10.
But to form a right judgment of our duty, we must yet more distinctly notice, II. The particular instruction relating to it
We must keep our heart “with all diligence.” Our attention to it must be, 1. Earnest
[It is not a slight or superficial attention to it that will suffice. The work is too great to be effected in such a way. To keep the heart from sin amidst so many temptations on every side, and to keep it in the exercise of all holy and heavenly graces, from every one of which it is by nature alienated; this is a great work indeed, and requires the utmost possible exertion on our part. The metaphors by which the Christian's life is set forth, sufficiently shew what efforts are called for on our part. A race is not to be won without straining every nerve: an adversary, whether in fight or in wrestling, is not to be overcome without putting forth all our strength. Can we then suppose, that, when our contest is not with flesh and blood only, but with all the principalities and powers of hell, the victory can be gained without the most strenuous exertions ? No; it cannot: and our Lord plainly tells us that it cannot : "Strive,” says he, "to enter in at the strait gate; for many shall seek to enter in, and not be able.” Know then, that whatever you have to do in the keeping of your
must “do it with all your might.") 2. Constant
[The work which we have to do, is not like that of a painter or a statuary, who may leave his work for a time, and find it afterwards in the state in which he left it: it is rather like that of one who is rolling up hill a stone, which will return upon him, as soon as ever he intermits his labour. Our hearts of themselves " bent to backslide from God,” ever ready to “start aside as a deceitful bow :" and Satan is ever on the watch to draw us aside. If he intermit his labours, it is in appearance only, and not in reality : for he is ever going about, as a
1 Rom. vii. 35, 37.
m Phil. iv. 13.
roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” His wiles and devices are innumerable: and, if once he can find us off our guard, he will assuredly avail himself of the occasion to deceive and, if possible, to destroy us. We therefore must be always “ on our watch-tower,” according to that direction of our blessed Lord, “ Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation : and, what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch."] ] 3. Persevering
[There is no state at which we can arrive in this world that supersedes the necessity of continued vigilance and care. Were we as eminent as Paul himself, we must still, like him, " keep our body under and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, we ourselves become castaways.” Let our circumstances be ever so favourable, we know not but that we shall fall the very next moment. Hezekiah was but just recovered from a dangerous illness, and that by miracle; yet when the Babylonish ambassadors came to offer him their master's congratulations, he fell, and offended God by “the pride of his hearth.” Peter also was but just descended from Mount Tabor, where he had beheld his Lord transfigured, and shining forth in all his glory, when he acted Satan's part in dissuading his Lord from completing the work assigned him: so that he drew forth from his Divine Master that just reprimand, “ Get thee behind me, Satano.” We may add too, that there is no wickedness so great, but we may be drawn to the commission of it. Who can reflect on David's adultery and murder, or on Peter's denial of his Lord with oaths and curses, and not see reason to cry continually to God, "Hold thon me up, and I shall be safe!”
Thus then we see, it is not enough to keep our hearts, but we must“ keep them with all diligence," engaging in the work with earnestness, and maintaining it with constancy and perseverance to the latest hour of our lives.]
Let us now attend to, III. The reason with which both the one and the
other are enforcedThe heart may in some respects be considered as the seat of vitality in the human body, because from thence issues the blood that circulates through the whole frame. But still more may it be said of the heart in a spiritual view, that out of it are the issues of life. For, 1. It is the proper source of all evil — n 2 Chron. xxxii. 24-26.
• Matt. xvi. 23, 24.
[There are many evils to which our corrupt nature is apt to yield; some are spiritual, and some are fleshly ; but the womb where all are generated, and from whence they proceed, is the heart. Adultery, and murder, and theft, with many other evils, might be supposed to arise rather out of external circumstances connected with our outward man: but they are all traced by our blessed Lord to the heart : “ From within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness : all these things come from within." Now, if the heart be the fruitful spring of such evils, ought it not to be watched ? ought it not to be kept with all diligence? It is evident that, without continual care, the whole man would soon be inundated with evil: should we not then watch the sluices ? should we not guard the banks, and keep them in good repair? In other words, should we not do all in our power to prevent such fatal effects? Let it never be forgotten, that the smallest breach in a bank will soon yield to the torrent, and, by its extension, bid defiance to any remedy that can be applied : consequently, if we would not be overrun with all manner of evil, we must guard against the irruption of any. “A little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump."] 2. It is the proper seat of all good
[Grace is planted in the heart: it has no other residence: it may operate by the members; but its seat is in the heart. Repentance flows from thence, even from “the broken and contrite heart." Faith has there its first formation.
56 With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Love combines and concentrates all its powers; “ We are to love God with all the heart :" yea, “ Christ himself dwells in our hearts by faith.” Whatever then proceeds not from the heart, is of no value: all our best services for God are no other than hypocrisy, if the heart be far from himMust we not then keep the heart with all diligence, to see that it be duly influenced by divine grace, and that all which we do is the result of gracious principles implanted there? Truly, if" a man may give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned, and, after all, be no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal," because his actions proceed not from a principle of love in the heart, we are called upon to watch over our hearts with all imaginable care, that they be duly stored with all that is good. This is the plain and obvious inference from what our Lord himself hath distinctly affirmed in those memorable words, “The evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; and the good man out of the good treasure of P Mark vii. 21-23.
9 Matt. xv. 7, 8.
his heart bringeth forth that which is good.” in both cases the produce is “from the abundance of the heart":” and “the tree is known by its fruits.”]
3. By it shall our state be determined in the last day
[Even in courts of judicature amongst ourselves, it is not so much the act, as the heart, that is the object of investigation. Murder itself is not accounted murder, if it was not attended with a purpose of heart to injure and destroy. Much more therefore may it be expected that God will inquire into the designs and purposes of our hearts : “He looketh not on the outward appearance, but at the heart:" and " he searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins, on purpose to give to every man according to the fruit of his doings.” For this end “he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart." To our hearts then must we look, if ever we would give up our account with joy: for, as our hearts are, so shall we appear in his sights. Let us then not only search and try ourselves, but beg of God also to "search and try us, and to see if there be any
and to lead us in the way everlasting."] APPLICATION— 1. Grudge not your labour in the way to heaven
[You cannot make any attainments in this life without labour: how then can you hope to attain without it the glory and felicity of heaven? True it is, that heaven is a gift of God; a gift altogether of his free and sovereign grace: but it is also true, that we must labour for it, according to that direction of our Lord; “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Labour then with all earnestness, and constancy, and perseverance. If you be frequently foiled, still return to your post, and increase your vigilance in proportion as you discover the deceitfulness and wickedness of your hearts: and be assured, that, however great your toil may be, heaven will be an abundant recompence for all.]
2. Doubt not but that your labour shall at last be crowned with success
[Were your success dependent on an arm of flesh, you might well despond: but your God and Saviour is pledged to " carry on in you the work he has begun," and to “perfect that which concerneth you.” Your enemies may renew their assaults as often as they will; but they shall not prevail: for
r Luke vi. 45. s Prov. xxiii. 7. t John vi. 27.