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A monument of grace I stand,
Then let my soul for ever raise
VIII. ON KEEPING THE HEART.
When we are spiritually taught of God to know something of the desperate wickedness and deceitfulness of our hearts, we are prepared to feel the force of this exhortation :
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
Our blessed Lord has told us, that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts; from which we learn, that the heart is the fountain of all wickedness. Evil thoughts are the springs of evil actions. Therefore, till the fountain be cleansed, all the streams which issue from it must be impure.
The heart undergoes a wonderful change when renewed by the Spirit of grace. But, as man is rerenewed only in part, it becomes the constant duty and work of every believer to keep his heart with all diligence. Sinless perfection is the glory and blessedness of heaven. 'Here, the most holy servant of God finds daily need of deep humiliation.
“He that is washed," said our Lord to Peter, “needeth not, save to wash his feet.” Daily contracted defilement needs daily washing. All the children of God labour to abound yet more and more in all knowledge and in all goodness. Forgetting the things which are behind, they reach forth unto those things which are before; and eagerly press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Uniting with holy David in sentiment and feeling, they can individually say: "I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love."
66 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, 0! Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
And is this thy prayer, O! my soul ? Art thou labouring to maintain a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man? Is 6 the thought of foolishness” distressing to thee? Canst thou with christian sincerity join in this prayer of the Psalmist: “ Search me, 0! God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”?
The Scriptures declare: “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he:" this habitual inward state of the thoughts, determines his character in the sight of God.
Lord, give me grace carefully to observe my thoughts, and to watch and pray, lest being drawn into temptation through the wiles of the devil and the deceitfulness of my heart, I should grieve thy Holy Spirit, by whom thy people are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Evil thoughts are not our sins, when being injected by Satan, our will does not consent unto them, but hates and opposes them: and when we earnestly entreat the Lord to save us by his grace from these fiery darts of the wicked one.
But as the difficulty lies in ascertaining whether these evil suggestions spring from Satan, or the corruption of our nature; the safest way is to be
humbled on account of them; to betake ourselves to Jesus for deliverance from these spiritual enemies, remembering how kindly he hath said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
If, through inattention, our souls lie open to the inroads of our ever-watchful foe, then the evil thoughts which he stirreth up within us, and which are suffered to lodge in our hearts, become our sin. ( All wanderings and distractions of mind religious exercises, arising from want of watchfulness and due keeping of the heart, are sinful.
Those evil thoughts, which are excited by dwelling on forbidden objects; reading immoral books ; associating with carnal persons, or partaking in worldly amusements calculated to inflame the
passions, are most awfully chargeable upon us; and will, if not repented of, and atoned for through a believing application to the blood of Jesus, sink our souls into endless perdition.
If evil, ever bubbling up in the heart, so soon issues into the various actions of the life ; how need ful to every true believer is this exhortation of Solos
“keep thy heart with all diligence." In order that our thoughts may please God, they must be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
The word of Christ must dwell in us richly, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that out of the abundance of the heart, our mouth may speak to his praise and glory.
“ Thy word,” saith David, “have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee."
“ Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, we must think on these things.”
We must carefully watch against the first risings of sin, that through grace, the sprouting evil may be nipped in the bud.
We must be much in the habit of mental prayer, lifting up our heart to God on all occasions in humble, fervent ejaculations: which is what the Apostle recommends when he says: "pray without ceasing. This spirit of prayer, this holy habit of devotion, these sacred breathings of the soul hinder no business except the evil workings of Satan on the mind. This heavenly frame, this delightful communion with the Father of spirits, forms the purest source of enjoyment to the Christian pilgrim, whilst journeying through a vale of tears.
To prevent the intrusion of evil thoughts, we must always take care to be usefully employed ; since idleness is the soil in which Satan sows his tares with liberal hand.
The best way to keep the heart, is that which St. Jude prescribes : “ Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
We must meditate often on the nature of Almighty God, his majesty and glory, his truth and justice, his holiness and purity, his grace and mercy : then on our own apostacy, vileness, and nothingness.
We must think much on the love of Christ in dying for sinners, on his agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion : and then ask :-can I indulge a sinful thought, and cherish in my mind those dreadful evils, which nothing but the blood of God incarnate could expiate and wash away? Can I sin against such transcendent love ?
We must dwell with delight on the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, in leading the trembling sinner to Jesus ; in enabling him to believe with the heart unto righteousness; and in causing him to
love that precious Saviour, who is the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely.
We must be continually looking with an eye of faith to Jesus, as our great example ; remembering that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." He left us
an example that we should follow his steps," and hath declared, “my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. His whole mediatorial character must be the object of our thoughts, till our souls are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.
In order to the keeping of the heart with all diligence, we must labour to set the Lord always before
We must feel ourselves surrounded with his omnipresence, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike ; who weigheth the spirits ; who is a discerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart. 0! my soul, trifle no longer with thy thoughts. The irregular desire, the impure look, the angry purpose, the curious workings of pride, though unseen by man, are all recorded by the omniscient God; and will be condemned as actual transgressions of his holy law in that day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed.
Hasten then to Jesus for grace to save thee, and to keep thee. For ever renounce all hope of saving thyself by any merit of thy own. If the thought of foolishness is sin," where is the man that liveth and sinneth not?
Blessed Saviour! in thee alone have I righteousness and strength. Put forth thy mighty power. Deliver me from the assaults of Satan, and the workings of an evil heart.
Enable me to watch and pray, to wrestle and fight, to labour and strive in thy promised strength, till conflict shall end in victory, weariness in rest, and mourning in eternal songs of joy.