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Full text of "A treatise on keeping the heart : Selected from the works of the Rev. John Flavel. The style adapted to the present state of improvement"

Brigham Young University 


The Personal Library of 
Professor M. Wilford Poulson 

Given In His Memory By 

Marion W. Poulson 

Ardis P. Soulier 

Helen P. Whiting 

Robert L. Poulson 

Jennie Lin P. Strong 

Earle A. HoUingshead 

Nola Marie H. Hemingway 







The style adapted to the present state of improvemeDt* 




D. FanshaW) Printer. 



The text explained, 5 

Duties included in keeping the heart, - - - 10 

Reasons why this should be the great business of life, 12 


1. The time of prosperity, 25 

2. The time of adversity, 31 

3. The time of Zion*s troubles, - - - - 38 

4. The time of danger and public distraction, - 45 

5. The time of outward wants, .... 55 

6. The season of duty, 65 

7. When we receive injuries and abuses from men, 72 

8. When we meet with gi eat trials, - - - 77 

9. The hour of temptation, 80 

10. The time of doubting and spiritual darkness, • 83 

11. When sufferings for religion are laid upon us, - 91 

12. When sickness warns that death is near, - - 94 


To hypocrites and formal professors, - - - - 98 

To the people of God, 99 

Two things which consume the time and strength of 

professors, 99 

Exhortation to hearty engagedness in keeping the heart, 102 

Ten motives by way of inducement, - - - - 102 




ARE THE ISSUES OF LIFE. — Provcrbs, 4: 23. 

The heart of man is his worst part before it be regene- 
rated, and the best afterward ; it is the seat of principles, 
and the fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the 
eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. 

The greatest difficulty in conversion, is to win the 
heart to God ; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, 
is to keep the heart with God. Here lies the very force 
and stress of religion ; here is that which makes the 
way to life a narrow way, and the gate of heaven a 
strait gate. Direction and help in this great work are 
the scope of the text: wherein we have, 

I. An exhortation, "Keep thy heart with all dili- 

II. The reason or motive enforcing it, "For out of it 
are the issues of life." 

In the exhortation I shall consider, 

Firsts The matter of the duty. 

Secondly, The manner of performing it. 

1. The matter of the duty: Keq) thy heart. Heart 
is not here taken properly for the noble part of the body, 
which philosophers call " the first that lives and the last 
that dies;" but by heart, in a metaphor, the Scripture 
sometimes represents some particular noble faculty of the 
soul. In Rom. 119 : 11, it is put for the imderHanding ; 


their foolish hearty that is, their foolish understanding 
was darkened. Psalm 119: 11, it is put for the memo- 
ry ; "Thy word have I hid in my heart ;" and 1 John 
3 : 10, it is put for the conscience, which has in it both 
the light of the understanding and the recognitions of 
the memory ; if our heart condemn us, that is, if our 
conscience, whose proper office it is to condemn. 

But in the text we are to take it more generally, for the 
whole soul, or inner man. What the heart is to the body, 
that the soul is to the man ; and what health is to the 
heart, that holiness is to the soul. The state of the 
whole body depends upon the soundness and vigor of 
the heart, and the everlasting state of the whole man 
upon the good or ill condition of the soul. 

By keeping the heart, understand the diligent and 
constant^ use of all holy means to preserve the soul from 
sin, and maintain its sweet and free communion with 
God. Lavater on the text will have the word taken 
from a besieged garrison, beset by many enemies with- 
out, and in danger of being betrayed by treacherous 
citizens within, in which danger the soldiers, upon pain 
of death, are commanded to watch ; and though the ex- 
pression. Keep thy heart, seems to put it upon us as our 
V70rk, yet it does not imply a sufficiency in us to do it. 
We are as able to stop the sun in its course, or to make 
the rivers run backward, as by our own skill and power 
to rule and order our hearts. We may as well be our 
own saviors as our own keepers ; and yet Solomon 
speaks properly enough when he says. Keep thy heart , 
because the duty is ours, though the power is of God ; 
what power we have depends upon the exciting and as- 

" I say co;?s^«w<, for the reason added in the text extends the 
duty to all the states and conditions of a Christian's life, and 
makes it binding always. If the heart must be kept, because 
out of it are the issues of life, then as long as these issues of life 
do flow out of it, we are obliged to keep it. 


eisting strength of Christ. Grace within us is beholden 
to grace without us. " Without me ye can do nothing." 
So much for the matter of the duty. 

2. The manner of performing it is with all diligence. 
The Hebrew is very emphatical ; keep with all keeping, 
or, keep, keep ; set double guards. This vehemency of 
'expression with which the duty is urged, plainly im- 
plies how difficult it is to keep our hearts, how dange- 
[ rous to neglect them ! 

The motive to this duty is very forcible and weighty : 
'' For out of the heart are the issues of life." That is, 
the heart is the source of all vital operations ; it is the 
spring and original of both good and evil, as the spring* 
in a watch that sets all the wheels in motion. The heart 
is the treasury, the hand and tongue but the shops; 
what is in these, comes from that ; the hand and tongue 
always begin where the heart ends. The heart contrives, 
and the members execute : " a good man, out of the good 
treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good j 
and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, 
bringeth forth that which is evil : for of the abundance 
of the heart his mouth speaketh." So then, if the heart 
err in its work, these must miscarry in theirs ; for heart 
errors are like the errors of the first concoction, which 
cannot be rectified afterward ; or like the misplacing and 
inverting of the stamps and letters in the press, which 
must cause so many errata in all the copies that are 
printed. O then how important a duty is that which 
is contained in the following 

Proposition. — The keeping and right managing of 
the heo.rt in every condition, is one great business of a 
Christianas life. 

What the philosopher says of waters, is as properly 
applicable to hearts ; it is hard to keej) them within any 
bounds. God has set limits to them, yet how frequently 


do they transgress not only the bounds of grace and reli- 
gion, but even of reason and common honesty ? This is 
that which affords the Christian matter of labor and 
watchfulness, to his dying day. It is not the cleaning of 
the hand that makea the Christian, for many a hypo- 
crite can show as fair a hand as he 5 but the purifying, 
watching, and right ordering of the heart ; this is the 
thing that provokes so many sad complaints, and costs so 
many deep groans and tears. It was the pride of Heze- 
Idah's heart that made him lie in the dust, mourning 
before the Lord. It was the fear of hypocrisy's invading 
the heart that made David cry, "Let my heart be sound 
in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed." It was the sad 
experience he had of the divisions and distractions of his 
own heart in the service of God, that made him pour out 
the prayer, " Unite my heart to fear thy name." 

The method in which I propose to improve the propo- 
sition is this : 

First, I shall inquire what the keeping of the heart 
supposes and imports. 

Secondly, Assign divers reasons why Christians must 
make this a leading business of their lives. 

Thirdly, Point out those seasons which especially call 
for this diligence in keeping the heart. 

Fourthly, Apply the whole. 

First, I am to consider what tlie keeping of the heart 
supposes and imports. 

To keep the heart, necessarily supposes a previous work 
of regeneration, which has set the heart right, by giving 
it a new spiritual inclination , for as long as the heart is 
( not set right by grace as to its habitual frame, no means | 
can keep it right with God. Self is the poise of the un- 
renewed heart, which biasses and moves it in all its de- 
signs and actions; and as long as it is so, it is impossible 
that any external means should keep it with God. 


Man, originallyj was of one constant, uniform frame 
of spirit, held one straight and even course; not one 
thought or faculty was disordered: his mind had a 
perfect knowledge of the requirements of God, his will 
a perfect compliance therewith ; all his appetites and 
powers stood in a most obedient subordination. 

Man, by the apostacy, is become a most disordered 
and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First 
Cmtse, by self-dependence ; as the Chief Good, by self- 
love; as the Highest Lord, by self-will; and as the Last 
End^ by self-seeking. Thus he is quite disordered, and 
all his actions are irregular. But by regeneration the dis- 
ordered soul is set right ; this great change being, as the 
Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after 
the image of God, in which self-dependence is removed 
by faith ; self-love, by the love of God ; self-will, by sub- 
jection and obedience to the will of God ; and self seek- 
ing by self-denial. The darkened understanding is il- 
luminated, the refractory will.sweetly subjected, the re- 
bellious appetite gradually conquered. Thus the soul 
which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restor- 
ed. This being pre-supposed, it will not be difficult to 
apprehend what it is to keep the heart, which is nothing 
but the constant care and diligence of such a reneived man 
to preserve his soul in that holy frame to which grace 
has raised it. For though grace has, in a great measure, 
rectified the soul, and given it an habitual heavenly tem- 
per ; yet sin often actually discomposes it again ; so that 
even a gracious heart is likea musical instrument, which 
though it be exactly tuned, a small matter brings it out 
of tune again ; yea, hang it aside but a little, and it will 
need setting again before another lesson can be played 
upon it. If gracious hearts are in a desirable frame 
in one duty, yet how dull, dead, and disordered when 
they come to another I Therefore every duty needs 


a particular preparation of the heart. "If thou prepare 
thine heart and stretch out thine hands toward him," 
&c. To keep the heart then, is carefully to preserve it 
from sin, which disorders it ; and maintain that spiritual 
frame which fits it for a life of communion with God. 
This includes in it six particulars. 

1. Frequent observation of the frame of the heart. 
Carnal and formal persons take no heed to this ; they 
cannot be brought to confer with their own hearts : there 
are some people who have lived forty or fifty years in 
the world, and have had scarcely one hour's discourse 
with their own hearts. It is a hard thing to bring a 
man and himself together on such business; but saints 
know those soliloquies to be very salutary. The hea- 
then could say, " the soul is made wise by sitting still 
in quietness." Though bankrupts care not to look in- 
to their accounts, yet upright hearts will know whether 
they go backward or forward. "I commune with 
mine own heart," says David. The heart can never 
be kept until its case be examined and understood. 

2. It includes deep humiliation for heart evils and dis- 
orders; thus Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride 
of his heart. Thus the people were ordered to spread 
forth their hands to God in prayer, realizing the plague 
of their own hearts. Upon this account many an up- 
right heart has been laid low before God ; ' O what an 
heart have I? Saints have in their confession pointed 
at the heart, the pained place : ' Lorcl^ here is the loound? 
It is with the heart well kept, as it is with the eye ; if 
a small dust get into the eye it will never cease twink- 
ling and watering till it has wept it out: so the upright 
heart cannot be at rest till it has wept out its troubles 
and poured out its complaints before the Lord. 

3. It includes earnest supplication and instant prayer 
for purifying and rectifying grace when sin has defiled 


and disonlered the heart. " Cleanse thou me from secret 
faults." " Unite my heart to fear thy name." Saints 
have always many such petitions before the throne of 
God's grace ; this is the thing which is most pleaded by 
them with Grod. When they are praying for outward 
mercies, perhaps their spirits may be more remiss ; but 
when it comes to the heart's case, they extend their spi- 
rits to the utmost, fill their mouths with arguments, weep 
and make supplication: ' O for a better heart! O for a 
heart to love God more 5 to hate sin more; to walk more ^ 
evenly with God. Lord ! deny not to me such a heart, 
whatever thou deny me : give me a heart to fear thee, 
to love and delight in thee, if I beg my bread in desolate 
places.' It is observed of an eminent saint, that when he 
was confessing sin, he would never give over confessing 
until he had felt some brokenness of heart for that sin ; 
and when praying for any spiritual mercy, would never 
give over that suit till he had obtained some relish of that 

4. It includes the imposing of strong engagements 
upon ourselves to walk more carefully with God, and 
avoid the occasions whereby the heart may be induced 
to sin. Well advised and deliberate vows are, in some 
cases, very useful to guard the heart against some spe- 
cial sin. " I have made a covenant with mine eyes," 
says Job. By this means holy men have overawed 
their souls, and preserved themselves from defilement. 

5. It includes a constant and holy jealousy over our 
own hearts. Q,uickslghted self-jealousy is an excellent 
preservative from sin. He that will keep his heart, must 
have the eyes of the soul awake and open upon all the 
disorderly and tumultuous stirrings of his affections ; if 
the affections break loose, and the passions be stirred, the 
soul must discover it, and suppress them before they get 
to a height. ^ my soul, dost thou well in this ? my 


tumultuous thoughts and passions, where is your com* 
mission V Happy is the man that ihus feareth always. 
By this tear of the Lord it is that men depart from evil, 
shake off sloth, and preserve themselves from iniquity. 
He that will keep his heart must eat and drink with fear, 
rejoice with fear, and pass the whole time of his sojourn- 
ing here in fear. All this is little enough to keep the heart 
from sin. 

6. It includes the realizing of God's presence with u.«, 
and setting the Lord always before us. This the people 
have found a powerful means of keeping their hearts up- 
right, and awing them from sin. When the eye of our 
faith is fixed upon the eye of God's omniscience, we dare 
not let out our thoughts and affections to vanity. Holy 
Job durst not suffer his heart to yield to an impure, vain 
thought , and what was it that moved him to so great 
circumspection 7 He tells us, " Doth not He see my 
ways, and count all my steps ?" 

In such particulars as these do gracious souls express 
the care they have of their hearts. They are careful to 
prevent the breaking loose of the corruptions in time of 
temptation ; careful to preserve the sweetness and com- 
fort they have got from God in any duty. This is tht) 
work, and of all works in religion it is the most difficult, 
constant, and important work. 

1. It is the hardest work. Heart- work is hard work/ 
indeed. To shufHe over religious duties with a loose and ^i 
heedless spirit, will cost no great pains ; but to set thyself; 
before the Lord, and tie up thy loose and vain thoughts to ^! 
a constant and serious attendance upon him ; this will 
cost thee something. To attain a facility and dexterity 
of language in prayer, and put thy meaning into apt and 
decent expressions, is easy ; but to get thy heart broken 
\ for sin, while thou art confessing it : melted with free 
grace while thou art blessing God for it; to be really 


ashamed and humbled through the apprehensions of 
God's infinite holiness, and to keep thy heart in this frame, 
not only in, but after duty, will surely cost thee some 
groans and pains of soul. To repress the outward acts 
of sin, and compose the external part of thy life in a 
laudable manner, is no great matter ; even carnal per- 
sons, by the force of common principles, can do this : but 
to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up an 
holy government over thy thoughts, to have all things 
lie straight and orderly in the heart, this is not easy. 

2. It is a constant work. The keeping of the heart is a 
work that is never done till life is ended. There is no 
time or condition in the life of a Christian which will 
soffer an intermission of this work. It is in keeping watch 
over our hearts, as it was in keeping up Moses' hands 
while Israel and Amaiek were fighting. No sooner do 
the hands of Moses grow heavy and sink down, than 
Amaiek prevails. Intermitting the watch over their own 
hearts for but a few minutes, cost David and Peter many 
a sad day and night. 

3. It is the most important business of a Christian's 
life. Without this we are but formalists in religion : all 
our professions, gifts and duties signify nothing. " My 
son, give me thine heart," is God's request. God is 
pleased to call that a gift which is indeed a debt; he 
will put this honor upon the creature, to receive it from 
him in the way of a gift ; but if this be not given him, he 
regards not whatever else you bring to him. There is 
only so much of worth in what we do, as there is of heart 
in it. Concerning the heart, God seems to say, as Joseph 
of Benjamin, " If you bring not Benjamin with you, you 
shall not see my face." Among the Heathen, when the 
beast was cut up for sacrifice, the first thing the priest 
looked upon was the heart ; and if that was unsound and 
worthless the sacrifice was rejected. God rejects all du- 



ties (how glorious soever in other respects) which are oC^ 
fered him without the heart. He that performs duty with- 
out the heart, that is, heedlessly, is no more accepted with 
God than he that performs it with a double heart, that 
is, hypocritically. 

Thus I have briefly considered what the keeping of the 
heart supposes and imports. I proceed, 

Secondly^ To assign divers reasons why Christians 
must make this the great business of their lives. 

The importance and necessity of making this our great 
business will manifestly appear from several considera- 

1. The glory of God is much concerned. Heart-evils 
are very provoking evils to the Lord. The Schools cor- 
rectly observe, that outward sins are " sins of great infa- 
my ;" but that the heart sins are " sins of deeper guilt." 
How severely has the great God declared his wrath from 
heaven against heart-wickedness ! The crime for which 
the old world stands indicted is heart-wickedness ! " God 
saw that every imagination of their hearts was only evil, 
and that continually;" for which he sent the most dreadful 
judgments that were ever inflicted since time began. 
We find not their murders, adulteries, blasphemies, 
(though they were defiled with these) particularly alleg- 
ed against them ;/but the evils of their hearts. -That by 
which God was so provoked as to give <up his peculiar 
inheritance into the enemy's hand, was the evil of their 
hearts. " O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wicked- 
ness, that thou mayest be saved ; how long shall thy vain 
thoughts lodge within thee ?" 

Of the wickedness and vanity of their thoughts God 
took particular notice ; and because of this the Chal- 
deans must come upon them, " as a lion from his thicket, 
and tear them to pieces."/t'or the sin of thoughts it was 
that God threw down the fallen angels from heaven, 'and 


8till keeps them in "everlasting chains" to the judg- 
ment of the great day; by which expression is not 
obscurely intimated some extraordinary judgment to 
which they are reserved ; as prisoners that have most 
irons laid upon them may be supposed to be the greatest 
malefactors. And what was their sin ? Spiritual wick- 
edness. Merely heart-evils are so provoking to God, that 
for them he rejects with indignation all the duties that 
some men perform. " He that killeth an ox is as if he 
slew a man ; he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he cut off a 
dog's neck ; he that ofTereth an oblation, as if he offered 
swine's blood ; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed 
an idol." In what words could the abhorrence of a crea- 
ture's actions be more fully expressed by the holy God ? 
Murder and idolatry are not more vile in his account, 
than their sacrifices, though materially such as himself 
appointed. And what made their sacrifices so vile ? The 
following words inform us: "Their soul delighteth in 
their abominations." 

Such is the vileness of mere heart-sins, that the Scrip- 
tures sometimes intimate the difficulty of pardon for them. 
The heart of Simon Magus was not right, he had base 
thoughts of God, and of the things of God: the apostle 
bade him "repent and pray, if perhaps the thoughts of 
his heart might be forgiven him." O then never slight 
heart evils ! for by these God is highly wronged and 
provoked. For this reason let every Christian keep his 
heart with all diligence. 

2. The sincerity of our profession much depends upon 
the care we exercise in keeping our hearts. Most cer- 
tainly, that man who is careless of the frame of his 
heart, is but a hypocrite in his profession, however emi- 
nent he be in the externals of rehgion. We have a 
striking instance of this in the history of Jehu. " But 
Jehu took no heed to walk in the ways of the Lord God 


of Israel with his heart." The context gives an account 
of the great service performed by Jehu against the house 
of Ahab and Baal, and also of the great temporal re- 
ward given him by God for that service, even that 
his children, to the fourth generation, should sit upon 
the throne of Israel. Yet in these words Jehu is cen- 
sured as a hypocrite: though God approved and re- 
warded the work, yet he abhorred and rejected the per- 
son that did it, as hypocritical. Wherein lay the hypo- 
crisy of Jehu? In this; he took no heed to walk in the 
ways of the Lord with his heart ; that is, he did all in- 
sincerely and for selfish ends : and though the work he 
did was materially good, yet he, not purging his heart 
from those unworthy selfish designs in doing it, was a 
hypocrite. And though Simon Magus appeared such a 
person that the apostle could not regularly reject him, 
yet his hypocrisy was quickly discovered. Though he 
professed piety and associated himself with the saints^ 
he was a stranger to the mortification of heart-sins. " Thy 
heart is not right with God." It is true, there is great 
difference between Christians themselves in their dili- 
gence and dexterity about heart work ; some are more 
conversant with, and more successful in it than others : 
but he that takes no heed to his heart, that is not careful 
to order it aright before God, is but a hypocrite. " And 
they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit 
oefore thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but 
they will not do them : for with their mouth they show 
much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousnese." 
Here was a company of formal hypocrites, as is evident 
from that expression, as my people; like them, but not 
of them. And what made them so ? Their outside was 
fair ; here were reverent postures, high professions, much 
seeming delight in ordinances; *4hou art to them as a 
lovely song :" yea, but for all that they kept not their 


hearts with God in those duties; their hearts were com- 
manded by their lusts, they went after their covetousness. 
Had they kept their hearts with God, all had been well: 
but not regarding which way their hearts went in duty 
there lay the essence of their hypocrisy. ' 

If any upright soul should hence infer, 4 am a hypo- 
crite too, for many times my heart departs from God in 
duty ; do what I can, yet I cannot hold it close with 
Godj' I answer, the very objection carries in it its own 
solution. Thou sayest, ^Do what I can, yet I cannot keep 
my heart with God.' Soul, ifthoudoest what thou canst, 
thou hast the blessing of an upright, though God sees 
good to exercise thee under the affliction of a discom- 
posed heart. 

There still remains some wildness in the thoughts and 
fancies of the best to humble them ; but if you find a 
care before to prevent them, and opposition against them 
when they come, and grief and sorrow afterward, you 
find enough to clear you from the charge of reigning 
hypocrisy. This precaution is seen partly In laying up 
the word in thy heart to prevent them. " Thy word 
have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against 
thee." Partly in your endeavors to engage your heart 
to God ; and partly in begging preventing grace from 
God m your commencement of duty. It is a good sign 
to exercise such precaution. And it is an evidence of 
uprightness, to oppose these sins in their first rise "I 
hate vain thoughts." "The spirit lusteth against the 
flesh. Thy grief also discovers the uprightness of thy 
heart. If with Hezekiah thou art humbled for the evils 
of thy heart, thou hast no reason, from those disorder^ 
to question the integrity of it; but to suffer sin to lodffe 
quietly in the heart, to let thy heart habitually and un- 
controlledly wander from God, is a sad, a dangerous 
symptom indeed. 


3. The beauty of our conversation arises from the 
heavenly frame of our spirits. There is a spiritual lus- 
tre and beauty in the conversation of saints. " The 
righteous is more excellent than his neighbor ;" saints 
shine as the lights of the world ; but whatever lustre and 
beauty is in their lives, comes from the excellency of their 
spirits ; as the candle within puts lustre upon the lantern 
in which it shines. It is impossible that a disordered and 
neglected heart should ever produce well ordered con- 
versation; and since (as the text observes) the issues or 
Btreams of life flow out of the heart as their fountain, it 
must follow, that such as the heart is, the life will be. 
Hence 1 Peter, 2 : 12, "Abstain from fleshly lusts— having 
your conversation honest," or beautiful, as the Greek 
word imports. So Isaiah, 55 : 7. " Let the wicked forsake 
his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts." His 
way^ denotes the course of his life ; his thoughts^ the 
lirame of his heart : and therefore since the course of his 
life flows from his thoughts, or the frame of his heart, 
both, or neither will be forsaken. The heart is the source 
of all actions ; these actions are virtually and radically 
contained in our thoughts; these thoughts being once 
made up into affections, are quickly made out into suita- 
ble actions. If the heart be wicked, tlien, as Christ says, 
" Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders," &c. 
Mark the order : first, wanton or revengeful thoughts ; 
then unclean, or murderous practices. And if the heart 
be holy, then it is as with David : " My heart is inditing 
a good matter — I speak of the things which I have made, 
my tongue is as the pen of a ready writer." Here is a 
life richly beautified with good works, some ready made — 
I will speak of the things which I have made; others 
making — my heart is inditing ; both proceed from the 
J»e'"ivenly frame of his heart. Put the heart in frame, 
and the life will quickly discover that it is so. It is not 


very difficult to discern, by the performances and converse 
of Christians, what frames their spirits are in. Take a 
Christian in a good frame, and how serious, heavenly 
and profitable will his conversation and religions exer- 
cises be ! what a lovely companion is he during the 
continuance of it ! it would do any one's heart good to be 
with him at such a time. " The mouth of the righteous 
speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment ; 
the law of his God is in his heart." When the heart is 
up with God, and full of God, how dexterously will he 
insinuate spiritual discourse, improving every occasion 
and advantage to some heavenly purpose ! Pew words 
then run to waste. And what can be the reason that the 
discourses and duties of many Christians are become so 
frothy and unprofitable, their communion both with God 
and with one another becomes as a dry stalk, but this, 
their hearts are neglected ? Surely this must be the 
reason of it, and it is an evil greatly to be bewailed. 
Thus the attracting beauty that was wont to shine, from 
the conversation of the saints, upon the faces and con- 
sciences of the world, (which, if it did not allure and 
bring them in love with the ways of God, at least left a 
testimony in their consciences of the excellency of those 
m-en and of their ways,) is in a great measure lost, to the 
unspeakable detriment of religion. Time was, when 
Christians conducted in such a manner that the world 
stood gazing at them. Their life and language were 
of a different strain from those of others, their tongues 
discovered them to be Galileans wherever they came. 
But now, since vain speculations and fruitless controver- 
sies have so much obtained, and heart-work, practical 
godliness, is so much neglected among professors, the 
case is sadly altered : their discourse is become like other 
men's ; if they come among you now, they may " hear 
every man speak in his own language." Afad I have 


little hope to see this evil redressed, and the credit of 
religion repaired, till Christians do their first works, till 
they apply again to heart-work : when the salt of 
heavenly-mindedness is cast into the spring, the streams 
will run more clear and more sweet. 

4. The comfort of our souls much depends upon the 
keeping of our hearts ; for he that is negligent in at- 
tending to his own heart, is, ordinarily, a great stranger 
to assurance, and the comforts following from it. Indeed 
if the Antinomian doctrine were true, which teaches you 
to reject all marks and signs for the trial of your condi- 
tion, telhng you that it is the Spirit that immediately as- 
sures you, by witnessing your adoption directly, without 
them ; then you might be careless of your hearts, yea, 
strangers to them, and yet no strangers to comfort : but 
since both Scripture and experience confute this, I hope 
you will never look for comfort in this unscriptural way. 
I deny not that it is the work and office of the Spirit to 
assure you ; yet I confidently affirm, that if ever you at- 
tain assurance in the ordinary way wherein God dis- 
penses it, you must take pains with your own hearts. 
You may expect your comforts upon easier terms, but I 
am mistaken if ever you enjoy them upon any other : 
give all diligence ; prove yourselves ; this is the scrip- 
tural method. A distinguished writer, in his treatise on 
the covenant, tells us that he knew a Christian who, in 
the infancy of his Christianity, so vehemently panted af- 
ter the infallible assurance of God's love, that for a long 
time together he earnestly desired some voice from hea- 
ven ; yea, sometimes walking in the solitary fields, ear- 
nestly desired some miraculous voice from the trees and 
stones there : this, after many desires and longings, was 
denied ; but in time a better was afforded in the ordi- 
nary way of searching the word and his own heart. An 
instance of the like nature another learned person gives 


US of one that was driven by temptation upon the very 
boraers of despair; at last, being sweetly settled and as- 
sured, one asked him how he attained it ; he answered, 
" Not by any extraordinary revelation, but by subjecting 
my understanding to the Scriptures, and comparing my 
heart with them." The Spirit, indeed, assures by wit- 
nessing our adoption ; and he witnesses in two ways. 
One way is, objectively, that is, by producing those gra- 
ces in our souls which are the conditions of the promise; 
and so the Spirit, and his graces in us, are all one : the 
Spirit of God dwelling in us, is a nark of our adoption. 
Now the Spirit can be discerned, rot in his essence, but 
in his operations; and to discern these, is to discern the 
Spirit ; and how these can be dif cerned without serious 
searching and diligent watching, of the heart I cannot 
imagine. The other way of the Spirit's witnessing is 
effectively, that is, by irradiating the soul with a grace 
discovering light, shining upon his own work ; and this, 
in order of nature, follows the former work : he first in- 
fuses the grace, and then opens the eye of the soul to 
see it. Now, since the heart is the subject of that infus- 
ed grace, even this way of the Spirit's witnessing in- 
cludes the necessity of carefully keeping our own hearts. 

1. A neglected heart is so confused and dark, that the 
little grace which is in it is not ordinarily discernible : 
the most accurate and laborious Christians sometimes 
find it difficult to discover the pure and genuine work- 
ings of the Spirit in their hearts. How then shall the 
Christian who is comparatively negligent about heart- 
work, be ever able to discover grace ? Sincerity ! which 
is the thing sought, lies in the heart like a small piece of 
gold on the bottom of a river ; he that would find it 
must stay till the water is clear, and then he will see it 
eparkling at the bottom. That the heart may be clear 


and settled, how much pains and watching, care ana 
diligence, are requisite ! 

2. God does not usually indulge negligent souls with 
the comforts of assurance ; he will not so much as seem 
to patronize sloth and carelessness. He will give assur- 
ance, but it shall be in his own way ; his command hath 
united our care and comfort together. Those are mistaken 
who think that assurance may be obtained without la- 
bor. Ah ! how many solitary hours have the people of 
God spent in heart-examination I how many times have 
they looked into the word, and then into their hearts ! 
Sometimes they thought they discovered sincerity, and 
were even ready to draw forth the triumphant conclu- 
sion of assurance ; then comes a doubt they cannot 
resolve, and destroys it all : many hopes and fears, 
doubtings and reasonings, they have had in their own 
breasts before they arrived at a comfortable settlement. 
But suppose it possible for a careless Christian to attain 
assurance, yet it is impossible for him long to retain it ; 
tor it is a thousand to one if those whose hearts are filled 
with the joys of assurance, long retain those joys, unless 
extraordinary care be used. A little pride, vanity, or 
carelessness will dash to pieces all that for which they 
have been a long time laboring in many a weary duty. 
Since then the joy of our life, the comfort of our souls, 
rises and falls with our diligence in this work, keep your 
heart with all diligence. 

5. The improvement of our graces depends on the 
keeping of our hearts. I never knew grace to thrive in 
a careless soul. The habits and roots of grace are 
planted in the heart ; and the deeper they are rooted 
there, the more flourishing grace is. In Eph. 3 : 17, we 
read of being " rooted " in grace ; grace in the heart is 
the root of every gracious word in the mouth, and of 
every hojy work in the hand. It is true, Christ is the 


root of a Christian, but Clirist is the originating root, and 
grace a root originated, planted, and influenced by 
Christ ; accordingly, as this thrives under divine influ- 
ences, the acts of grace are more or less fruitful or vigo- 
rous. Now, in a heart not kept with care and diligence, 
these fructifying influences are stopt and cut off*— multi- 
tudes of vanities break in upon it, and devour its strength ; 
the heart is, as it were, the inclosure, in which multi- 
tudes of thoughts are fed every day ; a gracious heart, 
diligently kept, feeds many precious thoughts of God in 
a day. "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O 
God I how great is the sum of them 1 If I should count 
them, they are more in number than the sand : when I 
awake, I am still with thee." And as the gracious heart 
nourishes them, so they refresh and fc^ast the heart. " My 
soul is filled as with marrow and fatness while I think 
upon thee," &c. But in the disregarded heart, multi- 
tudes of vain and foolish thoughts are perpetually work- 
ing, and drive out those spiritual thoughts of God by 
which the soul should be refreshed. Besides, the careless 
heart pi-ofits nothing by any duty or ordinance it performs 
or attends upon, and yet these are the conduits of heaven, 
whence grace is watered and made fruitfiil. A man 
may go with a heedless spirit from ordinance to ordi- 
nance, abide all his days under the choicest teaching, 
and yet never be improved by them ; for heart-neglect 
is a leak in the bottom — no heavenly influences, however 
rich, abide in that soul. When the seed falls upon the 
heart that lies open and common, like the highway, free 
for all passengers, the fowls come and devour it. Alas ! 
it is not enough to hear, unless we take heed how we 
hear ; a man may pray, and never be the better, unless 
he watch unto prayer. In a word, all means are blessed 
to the improvement of grace, according to the care and 
strictness we use in keeping our hearts in them. 


6. The stability of oar souls in the hour of temptation 
depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts. 
The careless heart is an easy prey to Satan in the hour 
of temptation ; his principal batteries are raised against 
the heart ; if he wins that he wins all, for it commands 
the whole man : and alas ! how easy a conquest is a 
neglected heart ! It is not more difficult to surprise such 
a heart, than for an enemy to enter that city whose gates 
are open and unguarded. It is the watchful heart that 
discovers and suppresses the temptation before it comes 
to its strength. Divines observe this to be the method in 
which temptations are ripened and brought to their full 
strength. There is the irritation of the object, or that 
power it has to provoke our corrupt nature ; which is 
either done by the real presence of the object, or by 
epeculation when the object (though absent) is held out 
by the imagination before the soul. Then follows the 
motion of the appetite, which is provoked by the fancy 
representing it as a sensual good. Then there is a con- 
sultation in the mind about the best means of accomplish- 
ing it. Next follows the election, or choice of the will. 
And lastly, the desire, or full engagement of the will to 
it. All this may be done in a few minutes, for the debates 
of the soul are quick and soon ended : when it comes 
thus far, the heart is won, Satan hath entered victo- 
riously and displayed his colors upon the walls of that 
royal fort ; but, had the heart been well guarded at first, 
it had never come to this — the temptation had been stop- 
ped in the first or second act. And indeed there it is 
stopped easily ; for it is in the motion of a soul tempted 
to sin, as in the motion of a stone falling from the brow 
of a hill — it is easily stopped at first, but when once it is 
get in motion "it acquires strength by descending." 
Therefore it is the greatest wisdom to observe the first 
motions of the heart, to check and stop sin there. The 


motions of sin are weakest at first ; a little care and 
watchfulness may prevent mucli mischief now ; the 
careless heart not heeding this, is brought within the 
power of temptation, as the Syrians were brought blind- 
told into the midst of Samaria, before they knew where 
they were. 

I hope that these considerations satisfy my readers that 
it is important to keep the heart with all diligence. 1 

Tkirdly^ To point out those special seasons in the life 
of a Christian which require our utmost diligence in 
keeping the heart. Though (as was observed before) 
the duty is always binding, and tliere is no time or con- 
dition of lile in which we may be excused from this 
work ; yet there are some signal seasons, critical hours, 
requiring more than common vigilance over the heart. 

1. The first season is the time of prosperity, when 
Providence smiles upon us. Now, Christian, keep thy 
heart with all diligence ; for it will be very apt to grow 
secure, proud and earthly. "To see a man humble in 
prosperity,"(says Bernard, ) " is one of the greatest rarities 
in the world." Even a good Hezekiah could not hide 
a vain-glorious temper in his temptation; hence that 
caution to Israel : " And it shall be, when the Lord thy 
God shall have brought thee into the land which he 
sware to thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, 
to give thee great and goodly cities which thou buildest 
not, and houses full of all good things which thou filledst 
not," &c. " then beware lest thou forget the Lord." So 
indeed it happened : for " Jeshurun waxed fat and kick- 
ed." How then may a Christian keep his heart from 
pride and carnal security under the smiles of Providence 
and the confluence of creature-comforts ? 

There are several helps to secure the heart from the 
dangerous snares of prosperity. 


1, Consider tlie dangerous ensnaring temptations at- 
tending a pleasant and prosperous condition* Few, very 
few of those that live in the pleasures of this world, 
escape everlasting perdition. " It is easier " (says Christ) 
" for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than 
for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven/' 
" Not many mighty, not many noble are called." 

We have great reason to tremble, when the Scripture 
tells us in general that few shall be saved ; much more 
when it tells us, that of that rank of which we are, but 
few shall be saved. When Joshua called all the tribes 
of Israel to cast lots for the discovery of Achan, doubtless 
Achan feared ; when the tribe of Judah was taken, his 
fear increased ; but when the family of the Zarhites was 
laken, it was time to tremble. So when the Scriptures 
come so near as to tell us that of such a class of men very 
few shall escape, it is time to be alarmed. " I should won- 
der" (says Chrysostom) "ifany of the rulers be saved." 
O how many have been wheeled to hell in the chariots 
of earthly pleasures, while others have been whipped to 
heaven by the rod of affliction ! How few, like the daugh- 
ter of Tyre, come to Christ with a gift ! How few among 
the rich entreat his favor ! 

2. It may keep one more humble and watchful in pros 
perity, to consider that among Christians many have been 
much the worse for it. How good had it been for some 
of them, if they had never known prosperity ! When 
they were in a low condition, how humble, spiritual and 
heavenly they were ! but when advanced, what an appa- 
rent alteration has been upon their spirits ! It was so 
with Israel ; when they were in a low condition in the 
wilderness, then Israel was " holiness to the Lord ;" but 
when they came into Canaan and were richly fed, their 
language was, " We are lords, we will come no more 
unto thee.'' Outward gains are ordinarily attended with 


inward losses ; as in a low condition their civil em- 
ployments were wont to have a savor of their religious 
duties, so in an exalted condition their duties com- 
monly have a savor of the world. He, indeed, is rich 
in grace whose graces are not hindered by his riches. 
There are but few Jehosaphats in the world, of whom 
it is said, " He had silver and gold in abundance, and 
his heart was lifted up in the way of God's com- 
mands." Will not this keep thy heart humble in pros- 
perity, to think how dearly many godly men have 
paid for their riches ; that through them they have 
lost that which all the world cannot purchase ? 

3. Keep down thy vain heart by this consideration ; 
God values no man the more for these things. God 
values no man by outward excellencies, but by inward 
graces ; they are the internal ornaments of the Spirit, 
which are of great price in God's sight. God de- 
spises all worldly glory, and accepts no man's per- 
son ; " but in every nation, he that feareth God and 
worketh righteousness is accepted of him." Indeed, 
if the judgment of God went by the same rule that 
man's does, we might value ourselves by these things, 
and stand upon them : but so much every man is, as 
he is in the judgment of God. Does thy heart yet 
swell, and will neither of the former considerations 
keep it humble ? 

4. Consider how bitterly many dying persons have 
bewailed their folly in setting their hearts upon these 
things, and have wished that they had never known 
Itiem. How dreadful was the situation of Pius Quin- 
tus, who died crying out despairingly, " When I was 
in a low condition I had some hopes of salvation ; 
when I was advanced to be a cardinal, I greatly 
doubted ; but since I came to the popedom I have no 


hope at all." An author also tells its a real, but sad 
story of a rich oppressor, who had scraped np a great 
estate for his only son : when he came to die he 
called his son to him, and said, " Son, do you indeed 
love me ?" The son answered that " Nature, besides 
his paternal indulgence, obliged him to that." " Then 
(said the father) express it by this: hold thy finger 
in the candle as long as I am saying a prayer." The 
son attempted, but could not endure it. Upon that 
the father broke out into these expressions : " Thou 
canst not suffer the burning of thy finger for me ; but 
to get this wealth I have hazarded my soul for thee, 
and must burn, body and soul, in hell, for thy sake ; 
thy pains would have been but for a moment, but mine 
will be unquenchable fire." 

5. The heart may be kept humble by considering 
of what a clogging nature earthly things are to a soul 
heartily engaged in the way to heaven. They shut 
out much of heaven from us at present, though they 
may not shut us out of heaven at last. If thou con- 
sider thyself as a stranger in this world, traveling for 
heaven, thou hast then as much reason to be delighted 
with these things as a weary horse has to be pleased 
with a heavy burden. There was a serious truth in 
the atheistical scoff of Julian • when taking away the 
Christians' estates, he told them '' it was to make 
them more fit for the kingdom of heaven." 

6. Is thy spirit still vain and lofty? Then urge 
upon it the consideration of that awful day of reckon- 
ing, wherein, according to our receipts of mercies, 
shall be our account for them. Methinks this should 
awe and humble the vainest heart that ever was in the 
breast of a saint. Know for a certainty that the Lord 
records all the mercies that ever he gave thee, from 


the beginning to the end of thy life. " Remember, 
O my people, from Shittim unto Gilgal," &c. Yes, 
they are exactly numbered and recorded in order to 
an account ; and thy account will be suitable : " To 
whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be re- 
quired." You are but a steward, and your Lord will 
come and take an account of you ; and what a great 
account have you to make, who have much of this 
world in your hands ! What swift witnesses will 
your mercies be against you, if this be the best fruit 
of them ! 

7. It is a very humbling reflection, that the mercies 
of God should work otherwise upon my spirit than 
they used to do upon the spirits of others to whom 
they come as sanctified mercies from the love of God. 
Ah, Lord ! what a sad consideration is this ! enough 
to lay me in the dust, when I consider : 

(L) That their mercies have greatly humbled them , 
the higher God has raised them, the lower they have 
laid themselves before him. Thus did Jacob when 
God had given him much substance. " And Jacob 
said, I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, 
and all the truth which thou hast showed thy servant; 
for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and am 
now become two bands." Thus also it was with holy 
David ; when God had confirmed the promise to him, 
to build him a house, and not reject him as he did Saul, 
he goes in before the Lord and says, " Who am I, and 
what is my father's house, that thou hast brought me 
hitherto ?" So indeed God required. When Israel 
brought to him the first fruits of Can«ian, they were 
to say, " A Syrian ready to perish was my father," 
&c. Do others raise God the higher for his raising 
them ? and the more God raises me, the more shall I 



abuse him and exalt myself? O how wicked is such 
conduct as this ! 

(2.) Others have freely ascribed the glory of all their 
enjoyments to God, and magnified not themselves, but 
him, for their mercies. Thus says David, " Let thy 
name be magnified and the house of thy servant be 
established." He does not fly upon the mercy and 
suck out its sweetness, looking no further than his own 
comfort: no, he cares for no mercy except God be 
magnified in it. So when God had delivered him from 
all his enemies, he says, " The Lord is my strength 
and my rock, he is become my salvation." Saints of 
old did not put the crown upon their own heads as I 
do by my vanity. 

(3.) The mercies of God have been melting mercies 
unto others, melting their souls in love to the God of 
their mercies. When Hannah received the mercy of 
a son, she said, " My soul rejoiceth in the Lord ;" not 
in the mercy, but in the God of the mercy. So also 
Mary : '• My soul doth magnify the Lord ; my spirit 
rejoiceth in God my Savior." The word signifies to 
make more room for God ; their hearts were not con- 
tracted, but the more enlarged to God. 

(4.) The mercies of God have been great restraints 
to keep others from sin. " Seeing thou, our God, hast 
given us such a deliverance as this, should we again 
break thy commandments?" Ingenuous souls have 
felt the force of the obligations of love and mercy 
upon them. 

(5.) The mercies of God to others have been as oil 
to the wheels of their obedience, and made them more 
fit for service. Now if mercies work contrarily upon 
my heart, what cause have I to be afraid that they come 
not to me in love ! It is enough to damp the spirits 


of any saint, to see what sweet effects mercies have 
had upon others, and what bitter effects upon him. 

II. The second season in the life of a Christian, re- 
quiring more than common dihgence to keep his heart, 
is the time of adversity. When Providence frowns 
upon you, and blasts your outward comforts, then 
look to your heart 5 keep it with all diligence from 
repining against God, or fainting under his hand ; foi 
troubles, though sanctified, are troubles still. Jonah 
was a good man, and yet how fretful was his heart 
under affliction ! Job was the mirror of patience, yet 
how was his heart discomposed by trouble ! You will 
find it hard to get a composed spirit under great afflic- 
tions. O the hurries and tumults which they occasion 
even in the best hearts ! — Let me show you, then, how 
a Christian under great afflictions may keep his heart 
from repining or desponding, under the hand of God. 

I will here offer several helps to keep the heart in 
this condition. 

1. By these cross providences God is faithfullj* 
pursuing the great design of electing love upon the 
souls of his people, and orders all these afflictions as 
means sanctified to that end. Afflictions come not by 
casualty, but by counsel. By this counsel of God they 
are ordained as means of much spiritual good to saints. 
" By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged," &c. 
" But he for our profit," &c. " All things work together 
for good," &c. They are God's workmen upon our 
hearts, to pull down the pride and carnal security of 
them ; and being so, their nature is changed ; they are 
turned into blessings and benefits. " It is good for me 
that I have been afflicted," says David. Surely then 
thou hast no reason to quarrel with God, but rather to 
wonder that he should concern him.self so much in thy 


good as to use any means for accomplishing it. Paul 
could bless God if by any means he might attain the 
resurrection of the dead. " My brethren," says James, 
" count it all joy when you fall into divers tempta- 
tions." * My Father is about a design of love upon my 
§oul, and do I well to be angry with him 1 AH that 
he does is in pursuance of, and in refeience to some 
eternal, glorious ends upon my soul. It is my igno- 
rance of God's design that makes me quarrel with 
him.' He says to thee in this case, as he did lo Peter, 
" What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt 
know hereafter." 

2. Though God has reserved to himself a liberty of 
afflicting his people, yet he has tied up his own hands 
by promise never to take away his loving kindness 
from them. Can I contemplate this scripture with a 
repining, discontented spirit: "I will be his Father, 
and he shall be my son : if he commit iniquity, I will 
chasten him with the rod of man, and with the stripes 
of the children of men : nevertheless my mercy shall not 
depart away from him." O my heart, my haughty 
heart ! dost thou well to be discontent, when God has 
given thee the whole tree, with all the clusters of com- 
fort growing on it, because he suffers the wind to blow 
down a few leaves ? Christians have two kinds of 
goods, the goods of the throne and the goods of the 
footstool: immoveables and moveables. If God has 
secured those, never let my heart be troubled at the 
loss of these : indeed, if he had cut off his love, or dis- 
covenanted my soul, I had reason to be cast down ; 
but this he hath not done, nor can he do it. 

3. It is of great efficacy to keep the heart from sink- 
ing under afflictions, to call to mind that thine own 
Father has the ordering of them. Not a creature moves 


hand or tongue against thee but by his permission. 
Suppose the cup be bitter, yet it is the cup which thy 
Father hath given thee ; and' canst thou suspect poison 
to be in it? Foolish man, put home the case to thine 
own heart ; canst thou give thy child that which would 
ruin him ? No ! thou wouldst as soon hurt thyself as 
him. "If thou then, being evil, knowest how to give 
good gifts to thy children," how much more does God ! 
The very consideration of his nature as a God of love, 
pity, and tender mercies ; or of his relation to thee as a 
father, husband, friend, may be security enough, if he 
had not spoken a word to quiet thee in this case ; and 
vet you have his word too, by the prophet Jeremiah : 
"I will do you no hurt." You lie too near his heart 
for him to hurt you ; nothing grieves him more than 
your groundless and unworthy suspicions of hisdesigns. 
Would it not grieve a faithful, tender-hearted physician, 
when he had studied the case of his patient, and pre- 
pared the most excellent medicines to save his life, to 
hear him cry out, ^ O he has undone me ! he has poi- 
soned me!' because it pains him in the operation? O 
when will you be ingenuous? 

4. God respects you as much in a low as in a high 
condition ; and therefore it need not so much trouble 
you to be made low ; nay, he manifests more of his 
love, grace and tenderness in the time of affliction than 
in the time of prosperity. As God did not at first 
choose you because you were high, he will not now for- 
sake you because you are low. Men may look shy 
upon you, and alter their respects as your condition 
is altered ; when Providence has blasted your estate, 
your summer-friends may grow strange, fearing you 
may be troublesome to them; but will God do so? 
No, no : " I will never leave thee nor forsake thee " 


says he. If adversity and poverty could bar you from 
access to God, it were indeed a deplorable condition : 
but, so far from this, you may go to him as freely as 
ever. " My God will hear me," says the church. Poor 
David, when stripped of all earthly comforts, could en- 
courage himself in the Lord his God ; and why cannot 
you ? Suppose your husband or son had lost all at 
sea, and should come to you in rags ; could you deny 
the relation, or refuse to entertain him ? If you would 
not, much less will God. Why then are you so troub- 
led ? Though your condition be changed, your Fa- 
ther's love is not changed. 

5. What if by the loss of outward comforts God 
preserves your soul from the ruining power of tempta- 
tion? Surely then you have little cause to sink your 
heart by such sad thoughts. Do not earthly enjoy- 
ments make men shrink and warp in times of trial? 
For the love of these many have forsaken Christ in 
such an hour. The young ruler " went away sor- 
rowful, for he had great possessions." If this is God's 
design, how ungrateful to murmur against him for it ! 
We see mariners in a storm can throw over board the 
most valuable goods to preserve their lives. We know 
it is usual for soldiers in a besieged city to destroy the 
finest buildings without the walls in which the enemy 
may take shelter ; and no one doubts that it is wisely 
done. Those who have mortified limbs willingly stretch 
them out to be cut off, and not only thank, but pay the 
surgeon. Must God be murmured against for casting 
over that which would sink you in a storm ; for pulling 
down that which would assist your enemy in the siege 
of temptation ; for cutting off what would endanger 
your everlasting life? O, inconsiderate, ungrateful 
man I are not these things for which thou grievest, the 
very things that have ruined thousands of souls? 


6. It would much support Ihy heart under adversity, 
to consider that God by such humbling providences 
may be accomplishing that for which you have long 
prayed and waited. And should you be troubled at 
that ? Say, Christian, hast thou not many prayers 
depending before God upon such accounts as these: 
that he would keep thee from sin ; discover to thee the 
emptiness of the creature ; that he would mortify and 
kill thy lusts ; that thy heart may never find rest in 
any enjoyment but Christ? By such humbling and 
impoverishing strokes God may be fulfilling thy de- 
sire. Wouldst thou be kept from sin ? Lo^ he hath 
liedged up thy way with thorns. Wouldst thou see the 
creature's vanity ? Thy affliction is a fair glass to dis- 
cover it; for the vanity of the creature is never so ef- 
fectually and sensibly discovered, as in our own expe- 
rience. Wouldst thou have thy corruptions mortified 1 
This is the way : to have the food and fuel removed 
that maintained them ; for as prosperity begat and fed 
them, so adversity, when sanctified, is a means to kill 
them. Wouldst thou have thy heart rest no where 
but in the bosom of God ? What better method could 
Providence take to accomplish thy desire than pulling 
from under thy head that soft pillow of creature-de- 
lights on which you rested before ? And yet you fret 
at this : peevish child, how dost thou try thy Father's 
patience ! If he delay to answer thy prayers, thou art 
ready to say he regards thee not ; if he does that which 
really answers the end of them, though not in the way 
which you expect, you murmur against him for that ; 
as if, instead of answering, he were crossing all thy 
hopes and aims. Is this ingenuous? Is it not enough 
that God is so gracious as to do what thou desirest : 
must thou be so impudent as to expect him to do it in 
the way which thou prescribest ? 


7. It may support thy heart, to consider that ifi 
these troubles God is performing that work in which 
thy soul would rejoice, if thou didst see the design of 
it. We are clouded with much ignorance, and are not 
ahle to discern how particular providences tend to the 
fulfillment of God's designs ; and therefore, like Israel 
in the wilderness, are often murmuring, because Provi- 
dence leads us about in a howling desert, where we arc 
exposed to difficulties ; though then he led them, and 
is now leading us, hy the right way to a city of habita- 
tions. If you could but see how God in his secret 
counsel has exactly laid the whole plan of your salva- 
tion, even to the smallest means and circumstances ; 
could you but discern the admirable harmony of divine 
dispensations, their mutual relations, together with 
the general respect they all have to the last end ; had 
you liberty to make your own choice, you would, 
of all conditions in the world, choose that in which you 
now are. Providence is like a curious piece of tapes- 
try made of a thousand shreds, which, single, appear 
useless, but put together, they represent a beautiful his- 
tory to the eye. As God does all things according to the 
counsel of his own will, of course this is ordained as 
the best method to effect your salvation. Such an one 
has a proud lieart^ so many himihling providences 1 
appoint for him ; such an one has o.n earthly hear't, so 
many impoverishing providences for him. Did you 
but see this, I need sky no more to support the most 
dejected heart. 

8. It would much conduce to the settlement of 
your heart, to consider that by fretting and discontent 
you do yourself more injury than all your afflictions 
could do. Your own discontent is that which arms 
vour troubles with a sting; you make your burden 


heavy by struggling under it. Did you but lie quietly 
under the hand of God, your condition would be mucii 
more easy than it is. " Impatience in the sick occa- 
sions severity in the physician." This makes God al- 
ilict the more, as a Taiher a stubborn child that receiver* 
not correction. Beside, it unfits the soul to pray over 
its troubles, or receive the sense of tliat good \vhic]i 
God intends by them. Aiihction is a pill, which, being 
wrapt up in patience and quiet submission, may be ea- 
sily swallowed ; but discontent chews the pill, and so 
embitters the soul. God throws away some comfort 
which he saw would hurt you, and you will throw 
hway your peace after it; he shoots an arrow which 
sticks in your clothes, and was never intended to hun^ 
but only to drive you from sin, and you will thrust it 
deeper, to the piercing of 370ur very heart, by despon- 
dency and discontent. 

9. If thy heart (like that of Rachel) still refusen 
to be comforted, then do one thing more : compare the 
condition thou art now in, and with which thou art so 
much dissatisfied, with the condition in which others 
are, and in which thou deservest to be. 'Others are 
roaring in flames, howling under the scourge of ven- 
geance ; and among them I deserve to be. O my soul I 
is this hell ? is my condition as bad as that of the damn- 
ed? what would thousands now in hell give to ex- 
change conditions with me !' I have read (says an au- 
thor) that when the Duke of Conde had voluntarily 
subjected himself to the inconveniences of poverty, he 
w^s one day observed and pitied *by a lord of Italy, 
who from tenderness wished him to be more careful 
of his person. The good duke answered, " Sir, be not 
troubled, and think not that I suffer from want; for I 
send a harbinger before me. who makes ready mv 

4 ' 


lodgings and takes care that I be royally entertained.'' 
The lord asked him who was his harbinger 1 He an- 
swered, " The knowledge of myself, and the considera- 
tion of what I deserve for my sins, which is eternal 
torment; when with this knowledge I arrive at my 
lodging, however unprovided I find it, methinks it is 
much better than I deserve. JVhy doth ike living man 
complain?'^ Thus the heart may be kept from de- 
sponding or repining under adversity. 

HI. The Ihird season calling for more than ordina- 
ry diligence to keep the heart is the time of Zion's 
troubles. When the Church, like the ship in which 
Christ and his disciples were, is oppressed and ready 
to perish in the waves of persecution, then good souls 
are ready to be shipwrecked too, upon the billows of 
their own fears. It is true, most men need the spur 
rather than the reins in this case; yet some men sit 
down discouraged under a sense of the Church's trou- 
bles. The loss of the ark cost Eli his life; the sad 
posture in which Jerusalem lay made good Nehemi- 
ah's countenance change in the midst of all the plea- 
sures and accommodations of the court. But though 
God allows, yea, commands the most awakened appre- 
hensions of these calamities, and in " such a day calls 
to mourning, weeping, and girding with sackcloth," 
and severely threatens the insensible; yet it will not 
please him to see you sit like pensive Elijah under the 
juniper tree. " Ah, Lord God ! it is enough, take away 
my life also." No : a mourner in Zion you may and 
ought to be, but a self-tormentor you mu«t not be; 
complain to God you may, but complam of God 
(though but by the language of your actions) you 

must not. 
Now let us inquire how tender hearts may be re- 


Sieved and supported, when tliey are even overwhelm- 
ed with the burdensome sense of Zion's troubles? I 
grant it is hard for him who preferreth Zion to his chief 
joy, to keep his heart that it sink not below the due 
sense of its troubles ; yet this ought to, and may be 
done, by the use of such heart-establishing directions 
as these : 

I. Settle this great truth in your heart, that no trou- 
ble befalls Zion but by the permission of Zion's God 
and he permits nothing out of which he will not ulti- 
mately bring much good to his people. Comfort may 
be derived from reflections on the permitting as well 
as on the commanding will of God. " Let him alone, 
it may be God hath bidden him." "Thou couldst 
have no power against me, except it were given thee 
from above." It should much calm our spirits, that it 
is the will of God to suffer it ; and that, had he not suf- 
fered it, it could never have been as it is. This very 
consideration quieted Job, Eli, David, and Hezekiah. 
That the Lord did it was enough to them : and why 
should it not be so to us ? If the Lord will have Zion 
ploughed as a field, and her goodly stones lie in the 
dust ; if it be his pleasure that Anti-Christ shall rage 
yet longer and wear out the saints of the Most High ; 
if it be his will that a day of trouble, and of treading 
down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of Hosts, 
shall be upon the valley of vision, that the wicked 
shall devour the man that is more righteous than he ; 
what are we that we should contend with God ? It is 
fit that we should be resigned to that Will whence we 
proceeded, and that He that made us should dispose of 
us as he pleases : he may do what seemeth him good 
without our consent. Doth poor man stand upon 
equal ground^ that he may capitulate with his Creator; 


or that God should render him an account of any of 
his matters 1 That we be content, however God may 
dispose of us, is as reasonable as that we be obedient, 
whatever he may require of us. But if we pursue this 
argument farther, and consider that God's permissions 
alt meet at last in the real good of his people, this will 
much more quiet our spirits. Do the enemies carry 
away the best among the people into captivity? This 
looks like a distressing providence; but God sends 
them thither for their good. Does God take the Assy- 
rian as a statT in his hand to beat his people with? 
The end of his so doing is, " that he may accomplish 
his whole work upon Mount Zion." If God can bring 
much good out of the greatest evil of sin, much more 
out of temporal afflictions; and that he will, is as evi- 
dent as that he can do so. For it is inconsistent with 
The wisdom of a common agent to permit any thing 
(w^hieh he might prevent if he pleased) to cross his 
great design; and can it be imagined that the most 
wise God should do so? As, then, Luther said to Me- 
lancthon, so say I to you : "Let iniinite wisdom, power 
and love alone ;" for by these all creatures are swayed, 
and ail actions guided, in reference to the church. It 
is not our work to rule the v/orld, but to submit to 
Him that does. The motions of Providence are all ju- 
dicious, the wheels are full of eyes : it is enough that 
the alTairs of Zion are in a good hand. 

2. Ponder this heart-snpporting truth : how many 
troubles soever are upon Zion, yet her King is in her. 
What! hath the Lord forsaken his churches? has he 
sold them into the enemy-s hands? Does he not re- 
gard what evil befalls them, that our hearts sink thus? 
Is it not shamefully undervaluing the great God, and 
itoo much magnifying poor impotent man, to fear and 


tremble at creatures while God is in the midst of us? 
The church's enemies are many and mighty : let that 
be granted, yet that argument with which Caleb and 
Joshua strove to raise their own hearts, is of as much 
force now as it was then: " The Lord is with us, fear 
them not." A historian tells us, that when Antigonus 
overheard his soldiers reckoning how many their ene- 
mies were, and so discouraging one another, he sud- 
denly stepped in among them with this question, "And 
how many do you reckon me for?" Discouraged 
souls, how many do you reckon the Lord for? Is he 
not an overmatch for all his enemies ? Is not one Al- 
mighty more than many mighties? "If God be for 
us, who can be against us?" What think you was the 
reason of that great examination Gideon made ? He 
questions, he desires a sign, and after that, another: 
and what was the end of all this, but that he might be 
sure the Lord was with him, and that he might but 
write this motto upon his ensign : The sword of the 
Ij&rd and of Gideon, So if you can be well assured 
the Lord is with his people, you will thereby rise above 
all your discouragements : and that he is so, you need 
not require a sign from heaven ; lo, you have a sign 
before you, even their marvellous preservation amidst 
all their enemies. If God be not with his people, how 
is it that they are not swallowed up quickly? Do their 
enemies want malice, power, or opportunity ? No, but 
there is an invisible hand upon them. Let then his 
presence give us rest; and though the mountains be 
hurled into the sea, though heaven and earth mingle 
together, fear not; God is in the midst of Zion, she 
shall not be moved. 

3. Consider the great advantages attending the peo- 
ple of God in an afflicted condition. If a low and an 




aMlcted state in the world be really best for the church, 
then your dejection is not only irrational, but ungrate- 
ful. Indeed if you estimate the happineiss of the church 
by its worldly ease, splendor and prosperity, then such 
times of affliction will appear to be unfavorable; but 
if you reckon its glory to consist in its humility, 
faith, and heavenly- mindedness, no condition so much 
abounds with advantages for these as an afflicted con- 
dition. It was not persecutions and prisons, but vvorld- 
liness and wantonness that poisoned the church : nei- 
ther was it the earthly glory of its professors, but the 
blood of its martyrs that was the seed of the church. 
1'he posver of godliness did never thrive better than in 
affliction, and was never less thriving than in times of 
greatest prosperity : when " we are left a poor and an 
afilicted people, then we learn to trust in the name of 
the Lord." It is indeed for the saints' advantage to be 
weaned from love of, and delight in, ensnaring earth- 
ly vanities; to be quickened and urged forward with 
more haste to heaven ; to have clearer discoveries of 
their own hearts ; to be taught to pray more fervently, 
frequently, spiritually; to look and long for the rest to 
come more ardently. If these be for their advantage, 
experience teaches us that no condition is ordinarily 
blessed with such fruits as these, like an afflicted con- 
dition. Is it well then to repine and droop, because 
your Father consults the advantage of your soul ra- 
ther than the gratification of your humors? because 
he will bring you to heaven by a nearer way than you 
are willing to go? Is this a due requital of liis love, 
wlio is pleased so much to concern himsell in your 
welfaie— who does more for you than he will do for 
thousands in the world, upon whom he will not lay a 
rod, dispense an affliction to them for their good ? But 


alas! we judge by sense, and reckon things good or 
^vilj according to our present taste. 

4. Take heed that you overlook not the many pre- 
cious mercies which the people of God enjoy amidst 
all their trouble. It is a pity that our tears on account 
of our troubles should so blind our eyes that we should 
not see our mercies. I will not insist upon the mercy 
of having your life given you for a prey; nor upon 
the many outward comforts which you enjoy, even 
above what were enjoyed by Christ and his precious 
servants, of whom the world was not worthy. But 
what say you to pardon of sin ; interest in Christ; the 
covenant of promise; and an eternity of happiness in 
the presence of God, after a few days are over? O 
that a people entitled to such mercies as these should 
droop under any temporal affliction, or be so much 
concerned for the frowns of men and the loss of trifles. 
You have not the smiles of great men, but you have 
the favor of the great God ; you are perhaps diminished 
in temporal, but you are tiiereby increased in spiritual 
and eternal goods. You cannot live; so plentifully as 
before ; but you may live as heavenly as ever. Will 
you grieve so much for these circumstances as to for- 
get your substance? Shall light troubles make you 
forget weighty mercies? Remeir.ber the true riches 
of the church are laid out of the reach of all enemies. 
What though God do not in his outward dispensations 
distinguish between his own and others? Yea, what 
though his judgments single out the best, and spare 
the worst? What though an Abel be killed in love, 
and a Cain survive in hatred ; a bloody Dionysius die 
in his bed, and a good Josiah fall in battle? What 
though the belly of the wicked be filled with hidden 
treasures, and the teeth of the saints with gravel- 


Stones ? Still there is much matter of praise ; for decU 
ivg love has distinguished, though common ^providence 
has not : and while prosperity and impunity slay the 
wicked, even slaying and adversity shall benefit and 
save the righteous. 

5. Believe that how low soever the church be plung- 
ed under the waters of adversity, she shall assuredly 
rise again. Fear not ; for as surely as Christ arose 
the third day, notwithstanding the seal and watch up- 
on him ; so surely Zion shall arise out of all her 
troubles, and lift up her victorious head over all her 
enemies. There is no reason to fear the ruin of that 
people who thrive by their losses and multiply by be- 
ing diminished. Be not too hasty to bury the church 
before she is dead; stay till Christ has tried his skill, 
before you give her up for lost. The bush may be all 
in a flame, but shall never be consumed ; and that be- 
cause of the good will of Him that dwelleth in it. 

6. Remember the instances of God's care and ten- 
derness over his people in former difficulties. For 
above eighteen hundred years the Christian church 
has been in affliction, and yet it is not consumed; 
many a wave of persecution has gone over it, yet it is 
not drowned ; many devices have been formed against 
it, hitherto none of them has prospered. This is not 
the first time that Hamans and Ahithophels have 
plotted its ruin ; that a Ilerod has stretched out his 
hand to vex it ; still it has been preserved from, sup- 
ported under, or delivered out of all its troubles. Is it 
not as dear to God as ever ? Is he not as able to save 
it now as formerly ? Though we know not whence 
deliverance should arise, " yet the Lord knoweth how 
to deliver the godly out of temptations." 

7. If you can derive no comfort from any of these 


considerations, try to draw some out of yonr very 
trouble. Surely this trouble of yours is a good evi- 
dence of your integrity. Union is the ground of sym- 
pathy : if you had not some rich adventure in that 
ship, you would not tremble as you do when it is in 
danger. Beside this frame of spirit may afford you 
this consolation, that if 3''ou are so sensible of Zion's 
trouble, Jesus Christ is much more sensible of and so- 
licitous about it than you can be; and he will have an 
eye of favor upon them that mourn for it. 

IV. The fou7^th seasoji, requiring our utmost dili- 
gence to keep our hearts, is the time of danger and 
public distraction. In such times the best hearts are 
too apt to be surprised by slavish fear. If Syria be 
confederate with Ephraim, how do the hearts of the 
house of David shake, even as the trees of the wood 
which are shaken with the wind. When there are omi- 
nous signs in the heavens, or the distress of nations 
with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring ; then 
the hearts of men fail for fear, and for looking after 
those things which arc coming on the earth. Even a 
Paul may sometimes complain of " figlitings within, 
when there are fears without." 

But. my brethren, these things ought not so to be ; 
saints should be of a more elevated spirit ; so was David 
when his heart was kept in a good frame : " The 
Lord is my light and my salvation ; whom shall I fear? 
the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I 
be afraid?" Let none but the servants of sin be the 
slaves of fear; let them that have delighted in evil fear 
evil. Let not that which God has threatened as a 
judgment upon the wicked, ever seize upon the hearts 
of the righteous. " I will send faintness into their 
hearts in the land of their enemies, and the sound of 


a shaking leaf shall chase them." What poor spirit- 
ed men are those, to fly at a shaking leaf! A leaf 
makes a pleasant, not a terrible noise ; it makes indeed 
a kind of natural music : but to a guilty conscience 
even the whistling leaves are drums and trumpets ! 
^' But God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of 
love and of a sound mind." A sou7id mind^ as it 
stands there in opposition to fear^ is an unwounded 
conscience not weakened by guilt: and this should 
make a man as bold as a Jion. I know it cannot be 
said of a saint, as God said of leviathan^ that he is 
made without fear ; there is a natural fear in every 
man, and it i^ as impossible to remove it wholly, as to 
remove the body itself. Fear is perturbation of the 
mind, arising from the apprehension of approaching 
danger ; and as long as dangers can approach us, we 
shall find some perturbations within us. It is not my 
purpose to commend to you a stoical apathy, nor yet to 
dissuade you from such a degree of cautionary pre- 
ventive fear as may fit you for trouble and be service- 
able to your soul. There is a provident fear that 
opens our eyes to foresee danger, and quickens us to 
a prudent and lawful use of means to prevent it : such 
was Jacob's fear, and such his prudence when expect- 
ing to meet his angry brother Esau. But it is the fear 
of diffidence, from which I would persuade you to 
keep your heart ; that tyrannical passion which invades 
the heart in times of danger, distracts, weakens and 
unfits it for duty, drives men upon unlawful means, 
and brings a snare with it. 

Now let us inquire how a Christian may keep his 
heart from distracting and tormenting fears in times 
of great and threatening dangers. There are several 
excellent rules for keeping the heart from sinful fear 
when imminent dangers threaten us. 


1. Look upon all creatures as in the hand of God, 
who manages them in all their motions, limiting, re- 
straining and determining them at his pleasure. Get 
this great truth well settled by faith in your heart, and 
it will guard you against slavish fears. The first 
chapter of Ezekiel contains an admirable draught of 
Providence : there you see the living creatures who 
move the wheels (that is, the great revolutions of things 
liere below) coming unto Christ, who sits upon the 
throne, to receive new instructions from him. In 
Revelations, 6th chapter, you read of white, black, and 
red horses, which are but the instruments God employs 
in executing judgments in the world, as wars, pesti- 
lence, and death. When these horses are prancing and 
trampling up and down in the world, here is a con- 
sideration that may quiet our hearts; God has the 
reins in his hand. Wicked men are sometimes like 
mad horses, they would stamp the people of God un- 
der their feet, but that the bridle of Providence is in 
their mouths. A lion at liberty is te''»*ible to meet, but 
who is afraid of a lion in the keeper's hand ? 

2. Remember that this God in whose hand are all 
creatures, is your Father, and is much more tender of 
you than you § re, or can be, of yourself. " He that 
toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." Let 
me ask the most timorous woman whether there be 
not a great difference between the sight of a drawn 
sword in the hand of a bloody ruffian, and of the same 
sword in the hand of her own tender husband ? As 
great a difference there is between looking upon crea- 
tures by an eye of sense, and looking on them, as in 
the hand of your God, by an eye of faith. Isaiah, 54: 5, 
is here very appropriate : " Thy Maker is thine hus- 
band, the Lord of hosts is his name ;" he is Lord of all 


the hosts of creatures. Who would be afraid to pass 
through an army, though all the soldiers should turn 
their swords aad guns toward him, if the commander 
of that army were his friend or father? A religious 
young man being at sea with many other passengers in 
a great storm, and they being half dead with fear, he 
only was observed to be very cheerful, as if he were 
but little concerned in that danger ; one of them de- 
manding the reason of his cheerfulness, " 0," said he, 
" it is because the pilot of the ship is my Father !" 
Consider Christ first as the King and supreme Lord 
over the providential kingdom, and then as your head, 
husband and friend," and you will quickly say, " Re- 
turn unto thy rest, O my soul." This truth will make 
you cease trembling, and cause you to sing in the 
midst of danger, " The Lord is King of all the earth, 
sing ye praise with understanding." That is, 'Let 
every one that has understanding of this heart-reviv- 
ing and establishing doctrine of the dominion of our 
Fatli'^r over all creatures, sing praise.' 

3. UA**ge upon your heart the express prohibitions of 
Christ in this case, and let your heart stand in awe of 
the violation of them. He hath charged you not to 
fear; " When we shall hear of wars and commotions, 
see that ye be not terrified." " In nothing be terrified 
by your adversaries." In Matthew, 10th, and within the 
compass of six verses, our Savior commands us thrice, 
" not to fear man." Does the voice of a man make 
thee to tremble, and shall not the voice of God ? If 
thou art of such a timorous spirit, how is it that thou 
fearest not to disobey the commands of Jesus Christ ? 
Methinks the command of Christ should have as much 
power to calm, as the voice of a poor worm to terrify 
thy heart, " I, even I, am he that comforteth you : 


who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man 
that shall diCj and of the son of man that shall be made 
as the grass, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?" 
We cannot fear creatures sinfully till we have forgot- 
ten God: did we remember what he is, and what he 
has said, we should not be of such feeble spirits. 
Bring thyself then to this reflection in times of danger : 
'If I let into my heart the slavish fear of man, I must 
let out the reverential awe and fear of God ; and dare 
I cast off the fear of the Almighty for the frowns of a 
man ? shall I lift up proud dust above the great God ? 
shall I run upon a certain sin, to shun a probable 
danger?' — O keep thy heart by this consideration I 

4. Remember how much needless trouble your vain 
fears have brought upon you formerly: "And hast 
feared continually because of the oppressor, as if he 
were ready to devour ; and where is the fury of the 
oppressor ?" He seemed ready to devour, yet you are 
not devoured. I have not brought upon you the thing 
that you feared ; you have wasted your spirit, disor- 
dered your soul, and weakened your hands to no pur- 
pose: you might have all this while enjoyed your 
peace, and possessed your soul in patience. And here 
I cannot but observe a very deep policy of Satan in 
managing a design against the soul by these vain fears. 
I call them vain, with reference to the frustration of 
them by Providence ; but certainly they are not in 
vain as the end at which Satan aims in raising them ; 
for herein he acts as soldiers do in the siege of a gar- 
rison, who to wear out the besieged by constant 
watchings, and thereby unfit them to make resistance 
when they storm it in earnest, every night rouse them 
with false alarms, which though they come to nothing, 
yet remarkably answer the ultimate design of the 



enemy.--0 when will you beware of Satan's devices 1 

5. Consider solemnly, that though the things you 
fear should really happen, yet there is more evil in 
your own fear than in the things feared: and that, 
not only as the least evil of sin is worse than the 
greatest evil of suffering; but as this sinful fear has 
really more trouble in it than there is in that condition 
of which you are so much afraid. Fear is both a mul- 
tiplying and a tormenting passion ; it represents 
troubles as much greater than they are, and so tor- 
tures the soul much more than the suffering itself. So 
it was with Israel at the Red Sea; they cried out and 
were afraid, till they stepped into the water, and then 
a passage was opened through those waters which 
they thought would have drowned them. Thus it is 
with us ; we, looking through the glass of carnal fear 
upon the waters of trouble, the swelUngs of Jordan, 
cry out, * O they are unfordable; we must perish in 
them !' But when we come into the midst of those 
floods indeed, we find the promise made good : " God 
will make a way to escape." Thus it was with a bless- 
ed martyr ; when he would make a trial by putting his 
finger to the candle, and found himself not able to en- 
dure that, he cried out, " What ! cannot I bear the 
burning of a finger? How then shall I be able to bear 
the burning of my whole body to-morrow ?" Yet 
when that morrow came he could go cheerfully into 
the flames with this scripture in his mouth : ^' Fear 
not, for I have redeemed thee ; I have call-ed thee by 
thy name, thou art mine ; when thou passest through 
ihe waters I will be with you ; when thou walkest 
through the fire thou shalt not be burnt." 

6. Consult the many precious promises which are 
written for your support and comfort in all dangers. 


These are your refuges to which you may fly and be 
safe when the arrows of danger fly by night, and de- 
struction wasteth at noon-day. There are particular 
promises suited to particular cases and exigencies; 
there are also general promises reaching all cases and 
conditions. Such as these: " All things shall work to- 
gether for good," &c. " Though a sinner do evil an 
hundred times and his days be prolonged, yet it 
shall be well with them that fear the Lord," &c. Could 
you but believe the promises your heart should be 
established. Could you but plead them with God as 
Jacob did, (" Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good," 
«&c.) they would relieve you in every distress. 

7. Quiet your trembling heart by recording and con- 
sulting your past experiences of the care and faithful- 
ness of God in former distresses. These experiences 
are food for your faith in a wilderness. By this Da- 
vid kept his heart in lime of danger, and Paul his. It 
was answered by a saint, when one told him that his 
enemies waylaid him to take his life: " If God take 
no care of me, how is it that I have escaped hitherto?" 
You may plead with God old experiences for new 
ones : for it is in pleading with God for new deliver- 
ances, as it is in pleading for new pardons. Mark 
how Moses pleads of that account with God. "Pardon, 
I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people, as thou hast 
forgiven them from Egypt until now." He does not 
say as men do, * Lord, this is the first fault, thou hast 
not been troubled before to sign their pardon :' but, 
*Lord, because thou hast pardoned them so often, I 
beseech thee pardon them once again.' So in new 
difficulties let the saint say, 'Lord, thou hast often 
heard, helped and saved, in former years; therefore 
now help again, for with thee there is plenteoijs re- 
demption, and thine ai'm is not shortened.' 


8. Be well satisfied that you are in the way of your 
duty, and that will beget holy courage in times of 
danger. "Who will harm you if you be a follower 
of that which is good?" Or if any dare attempt to 
harm you "you may boldly commit yourself to God 
in well-doing." It was this consideration that raised 
Luther's spirit above all fear: "In the cause of God 
(said he) I ever am, and ever shall be stout: herein I 
assume this title, "I yield to none." A good cause 
will bear up a man's spirit. Hear the saying of a hea- 
then, to the shame of cowardly Christians : when the 
emperor Vespasian had commanded Fluidus Priseus 
not to come to the senate, or if he did come, to speak 
nothing but what he would have him ; the senator re- 
turned this noble answer, "that he was a senator, it 
was fit he should be at the senate ; and if being there; 
lie were required to give his advice, he would freely 
speak that which his conscience commanded him." 
The emperor threatening that then he should die ; he 
answered, " Did I ever tell you that I was immortal ? 
Do what you will, and I will do what I ought. It is in 
your power to put me to death unjustly, and in my 
power to die with constancy." Righteousness is a 
breastplate: let them tremble whom danger finds out 
of the way of duty. 

9. Get your conscience sprinkled with the blood of 
Christ from all guilt, and that will set 3''our heart above 
all fear. It is guilt upon the conscience that softens 
and makes cowards of our spirits : "the righteous are 
bold as a lion." It was guilt in Cain's conscience that 
made- him cry, "Every one that findeth me will slay 
me." A guilty conscience is more terrified by ima- 
gined dangers, than a pure conscience is by real ones. 
A guilty sinner carries a witness against himself in 


his own bosom. It was guilty Herod cried out, '-John 
Baptist is risen from the dead." Such a conscience is 
the devil's anvil, on wliich he fabricates all those 
swords and spears with which the guilty sinner pierc- 
es himself. Guilt is to danger, what fire is to gun- 
powder: a man need not fear to walk among many 
barrels of powder, if he have no fire about him. 

10. Exercise holy trust in times of great distress. 
Make it your business to trust God with your life and 
comforts, and then your heart will be at rest about 
them. So did David, "At what time I am afraid I will 
trust in thee;" that is, *Lord, if at any time a storm 
arise, I will shelter from it under the covert of thy 
wings.' Go to God by acts of faith and trust, and ne- 
ver doubt that he will secure you. "Thou wilt keep 
him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, 
because he trusteth in thee," says Isaiah. God is 
pleased when you come to him thus : ' Father, my life, 
my liberty and my estate are exposed, and I cannot 
secure them ; O let me leave them in thy hand. The 
poor leavei/i himself with thee; and does his God fail 
him ? No, thoic art the helper of the fatherless : that is, 
thou art the helper of the destitute one, that has none 
to go to but God. This is a comforting passage, " He 
shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, 
trusting in the Lord;" he does not say, his ear shall 
be preserved from the report of evil tidings, he may 
hear as sad tidings as other men, but his heart shall 
be kept from the terror of those tidings ; his heart is 

I. Consult the honor of religion more, and your 
personnl safety less. Is it for the honor of religion 
(think you) that Christians should be as timorous as 
hares to start at every sound ? Will not this tempt the 



world to think, that whatever you talk, yet your prin- 
ciples are no better than other men's? What mis- 
chief may the discovery of your fears before them 
do ! It was nobly said by Nehemiah, " Should such a 
man as I flee? and who, being as I am, would flee?" 
Were it not better you should die than that the world 
should be prejudiced against Christ by your examplo? 
For alas! how apt is the world (who judge more by 
what they see in your practices than by what they 
understand of your principles) to conclude from your 
timidity, that how much soever .you commend faith 
and talk of assurance, yet you dare trust to those 
things no more than they, when it comes to the trial. 
O let not your fears lay such a stumbling-block before 
the blind world. 

12. He that would secure his heart from fear, must 
first secure the eternal interest of his soul in the hands 
of Jesus Christ. When this is done, you may say, 
*Now, world, do thy worst!' You will not be very so- 
licitous about a vile body, when you are once assured 
it shall be well lo all eternity with your precious soul. 
" Fear not them (says Christ) that can kill the body, 
and after that have no more that they can do." The 
assured Christian may smile with contempt upon all 
his enemies, and say, ^Is this the worst that you can 
do?' What say you. Christian? Are you assured 
that your soul is safe; that within a few moments of 
your dissolution it shall be received by Christ into an 
everlasting habitation? If you be sure of that, nevei 
trouble yourself about the instrument and means of 
your death. 

13. Learn to quench all slavish creature-fears in the 
reverential fear of God. This is a cure by diversion. 
It is an exercise of Christian wisdom to turn those 


passions of the soul which most predominate, into 
spiritual channels: to turn natural anger into spiritual 
zeal, natural mirth into holy cheerl'ulness, and natural 
fear into a holy dread and awe of God. Tliis method 
of cure Christ prescribes in the 10th of Matthew; 
similar to which is Isaiah, 8: 12, 13, "Fear not their 
fear." 'But how shall we help it?' "Sanctify the 
Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and 
let him be your dread." Natural fear may be allayed 
for the present by natural reason, or the removal of 
the occasion ; but then it is like a candle blown out by 
a puff of breath, which is easily blown in again : but 
if the fear of God extinguish it, then it is like a candle 
quenched in water, which cannot easily be rekindled. 

14. Pour out to God in prayer those fears which 
the devil and your own unbelief pour in upon you in 
times of danger. Prayer is the best outlet to fear: 
where is the Christian that cannot set his seal to this 
direction? I will give you the greatest example to 
encourage you to compliance, even the example of Je- 
sus Christ. When the hour of his danger and death 
drew nigh, he went into the garden, separated from 
his disciples, and there wrestled mightily with God in 
prayer, even unto agony ; in reference to which the 
apostle says, "who in the days of his flesh, when he 
had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong 
cries and tears, to him that was able to save from 
death, and was heard in that he feared." He was 
heard as to strength and support to carry him through 
it; though not as to deliverance, or exemption from it. 
O '.hat these things may abide with you, and be re- 
duced to practice in these evil days, and that many 
trembling souls may be established by them. 

Y. The fifth season, requiring diligence in keeping 


the heart, is the time o( oiUward wants. Although at 
such times we should complain to God, not o/'God, (the 
throne of grace being erected for a " time of need,") 
3^et when the waters of relief run low, and want begins 
to press, how prone are the best hearts to distrust the 
fountain ! When the meal in the barrel and the oil in 
the cruse are almost spent, our failh and patience too 
are almost spent. It is now difficult to keep the proud 
and unbelieving heart in a holy quietude and sweet 
submission at the foot of God. It is an easy thing to 
talk of trusting God for daily bread, while we have a 
full barn or purse; but to say as the prophet, " Though 
the fig-tree should not blossom, neither fruit be in the 
vine, «&c. yet will I rejoice in the Lord:" surely this 
is not easy. 

Would you know then how a Christian may keep 
his heart from distrusting God, or repining against him, 
when outward wants are either felt or feared ?--The 
case deserves to be seriously considered, especially 
now, since ii seems to be the design of Providence to 
empty the people of God of their creature fullness, and 
acquaint them with those difficulties to which hitherto 
they have been altogether strangers. To secure the 
heart from the dangers attending this condition, these 
considerations may, through the blessing of the Spirit, 
prove effectual. 

I. If God reduces you to necessities, he therein 
deals no otherwise with you than he has done with 
some of the holiest men that ever lived. Your con- 
dition is not siuffular; though you have hitherto been 
a stranger to want, other saints have been familiarly 
acquainted with it. Hear what Paul says, not of him- 
self only, but in the nime of other saints reduced to 
like exigencies: "Even to the present hour, we both 


hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and 
have no certain dwelling-place." To see such a man 
as Paul going up and down the world naked, and hun- 
gry, and houseless ; one that was so far above ^hee 
in grace and holiness; one that did more service for 
God in a day than perhaps thou hast done in all thy 
days may well put an end to your repining. Have 
you forgotten how much even a David has suffered ? 
How great were his difficulties ! " Give, I pray thee," 
says he to Nabal, " whatsoever cometh to thy hand, to 
thy servants, and to thy son David." But why speak 
I of these ? Behold a greater than any of them, even 
the Son of God, who is the heir of all things^ and by 
whom the worlds were made, sometimes would have 
been glad of any thing, having nothing to eat. " .Vnd 
on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, 
lie was hungry ; and seeing a fig-tree afar off, having 
leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing 

Hereby then God has set no mark of hatred upon 
you, neither can you infer want of love from want of 
bread. When thy repining heart puts the question, 
*Was there ever sorrow like unto mine?' ask these 
worthies, and they will tell thee that though they did 
not complain as thou dost, yet their condition was as 
necessitous as thine is. 

2. If God leave you not in this condition without a 
promise, you have no reason to repine or despond un- 
der it. That is a sad condition indeed to which no pro- 
mise belongs. Calvin in his comment on Isaiah, 9:1, 
explains in what sense the darkness of the captivity 
was not so great as that of the lesser incursions made 
by Tiglath Pileser. In the captivity, the city was 
destroyed and the temple burnt with fire : there was 


110 comparison in the affliction, yet the darkness was 
not so great, because, says he, "there was a certain 
promise made in this case, but none in the other." It 
is better to be as low as hell with a promise, than to bo 
in paradise without one. Even the darkness of hell 
itself would be no darkness comparatively at all, were 
there but a promise to enlighten it. Now, God has 
left many sweet promises for the faith of his poor peo- 
ple to live upon in this condition ; such as these : " O 
fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to 
them that fear him ; the lions do lack and suffer hun- 
ger, but they that fear the Lord shall not want any 
good thing." "The eye of the Lord is upon the 
righteous to keep them alive in famine." " No good 
thing will he withhold from them that walk upright- 
ly." " He that spared not his own Son, but delivered 
him up foi us all, how shall he not with him also 
freely give us all things ?" " When the poor and the 
needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue 
faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God 
of Israel will not forsake them." Here you see their 
extreme wants, water being put for their necessaries 
of life ; and their certain relief, " I the Lord will hear 
them ;" in which it is supposed that they cry unto him 
in their distress, and he hears their cry. Having 
tlierefore these promises, why should not your dis- 
trustful heart conclude like David's, "The Lord is my 
shepherd, I shall not want?" 

'But these promises imply conditions: if they were 
absolute, they would afford more satisfaction.' What 
are those tacit conditions of which you speak but 
these, that he will either supply or sanctify your 
wants ; that you shall have so much as God sees fit for 
you ? And does this trouble you ? Would you have 


the mercy, whether sanctified or not ? whether God 
sees it fit fur you or not ? The appetites of saints af- 
ter earthly things should not be so ravenous as to 
seize greedily upon any enjoyment without regarding 

* But when wants press, and I see not whence sup* 
plies should come, my faith in the promise shakes, and 
I, like murmuring Israel, cry, " He gave bread, can he 
give water also?" O unbelieving heart! when did 
his promises fail ? who ever trusted them and was 
ashamed ? May not God upbraid thee with thine unrea- 
sonable infidelity, as in Jer. 2 : 31, " Have I been a 
wilderness unto you ?" or as Christ said to his disci- 
ples, "Since I was with you, lacked ye any thing?" 
Yea, may you not upbraid yourself; may you not 
say with good old Polycarp, " These many years I 
have served Christ, and found him a good Master ?" 

Indeed he may deny what your wantonness, but not 
what your want calls for. He will not regard the cry 
of your lusts, nor yet despise the cry of your faith : 
though he will not indulge your wanton appetites, yet 
he will not violate his own faithful promises. These 
promises are your best security for eternal life ; and 
it is strange they should not satisfy you for daili/ 
bread. Remember the words of the Lord, and solace 
your heart with them amidst all your wants. It is said 
oi Epicurus, that in dreadful paroxysms of the cholic 
he often refreshed himself by calling to mind his in- 
ventions in philosophy ; and of Possodonius the phi- 
losopher, that in an acute disorder he solaced himself 
with discourses on moral virtue ; and when distress- 
ed, he would say, '' O pain, thou dost nothing ; though 
thou art a little troublesome, I will never confess thee 
to be evil." If upon such grounds as these they could 


support themselves under such racking pains, and 
even deluded their diseases by them ; how much ra- 
ther should the promises of God, and the sweet expe- 
riences which have gone along step by step with them, 
make you forget all your wants, and comfort you in 
every difficulty ? 

3. If it be bad now, it mjght have been worse. 
Has God denied thee the comforts of this life? He 
might have denied thee Christ, peace, and pardon also ; 
and then thy case had been woful indeed. 

You know God has done so to millions. How many 
such wretched objects may your eyes behold every 
day, that have no comfort in hand, nor yet in hope; 
that are miserable here, and will be so to eternity ; 
that have a bitter cup, and nothing to sweeten it — no, 
not so much as any hope that it will be better. But 
it is not so with you: though you be poor in this 
world, yet you are " rich in faith, and an heir of the 
kingdom which God has promised." Learn to set 
spiritual riches over against temporal poverty. Ba- 
lance all your present troubles with your spiritual 
privileges. Indeed if God has denied your soul the 
robe of righteousness to clothe it, the hidden manna to 
feed it, the heavenly mansion to receive it, you might 
well be pensive ; but the consideration that he has not 
may administer comfort under any outward distress. 
When Luther began to be pressed by want, he said, 
'" Let us be contented with our hard fare ; for do not 
we feast aipon Christ, the bread of life ?" '* Blessed be 
God (said Paul) who hath abounded to us in all spiri- 
tual blessings." 

4. Though this affliction be great- God has far 
greater, with which he chastises the dearly beloved of 
his j^oi^l in ^his world. Should he remov^e this and 


jnflict those, you would account your present state a 
very comfortable one, and bless God to be as you now 
are. Should God remove your pr-^sent troubles, sup- 
ply all your outward wants, give you the desire of 
your heart in creature-comforts ; but hide his face 
from you, shoot his arrows into your soul, and cause 
the venom of them to drink up your spirit : should 
he leave you but a few days to the buffetings of Sa- 
tan : should he hold your eyes but a few nights waking 
with horrors of conscience, tossing to and fro till the 
dawning of the day :-— should he lead you through the 
chambers of death, show you the visions of darkness, 
and make his terrors set themselves in array against 
you : then tell me if you would not think it a great 
mercy to be back again in your former necessitous 
condition, with peace of conscience ; and account 
bread and water, with God's favor, a happy state? 

then take heed of repining. Say not that God 
deals hardly with you, lest you provoke him to con- 
vince you by your own sense that he has worse rods 
than these for unsubmissive and froward children. 

5. If it be bad now, it will be better shortly. Keep 
thy heart by this consideration, ' the meal in the bar- 
rel is almost spent ; well^ be it so, why should that 
trouble me, if I am almost beyond the need and use of 
these things?' The traveler has spent almost all his 
money ; ' well,' says he, ' though my money be almost 
spent, my journey is almost finished too : I am near 
home, and shall soon be fully supplied.' If there be 
no candles in the house, it is a comfort to think that it 
is almost day, and then there will be no need of them. 

1 am afraid. Christian, you misreckon when you think 
your provision is almost spent, and you have a great 
way to travel, many years to- live and nothing to live 



upon ; it may be not half so many as you suppose, 
In this be confident, if your provision be spent, either 
fresh supplies are coming, though yoa see not whence, 
or you are nearer your journey's end than you reck- 
on yourself to be. Desponding soul, does it be- 
come a man traveling upon the road to that heavenly 
city, and almost arrived there, within a few days' 
journey of his Father's house, where all his wants 
shall be supplied, to be so anxious about a little meat, 
or drink, or clothes, which he fears he shall want by 
the way ? It was nobly said by the forty martyrs 
when turned out naked in a frosty night to be starved 
to death, " The winter indeed is sharp and cold, but 
heaven is warm and comfortable ; here we shiver for 
cold, but Abraham's bosom will make amends for all." 

* But,' says the desponding soul, ' I may die for 
want.' Who ever did so ? When were the righteous 
forsaken ? If indeed it be so, your journey is ended, 
and you fully supplied. 

' But I am not sure of that ; were I sure of heaven, 
it would be another matter.' Are you not sure of 
that ? then you have other matters to trouble yourself 
about than these ; methinks these should be the least 
of all your cares. I do not find that souls perplexed 
about the want of Christ, pardon of sin, «&c. are usually 
very solicitous about these things. He that seriously 
puts such questions as these, * What shall I do to 
be saved ? how shall I know my sin is pardoned V ' 
does not trouble himself with, "What shall I eat, what 
sliall I drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed ?" 

6. Does it become the children of such a Father to 
distrust his all-sufficiency, or repine at any of his dis- 
pensations ? Do you well to question his care and 
love upon every new exigency ? Say, have you not , 



formerly been ashamed of this ? Has not your Fa- 
ther's seasonable provision for you in former difficul- 
ties put you to the blush, and made you resolve never 
more to question his love and care ? And yet will 
you again renew your unworthy suspicions of him ? 
Disingenuous child ! reason thus with yourself: " If I 
perish for want of what is good and needful for mo, 
it must be either because my Father knows not my 
wants, or has not wherewith to supply them, or re- 
gards not what becomes of me. Which of these shall 
I charge upon him ? Not the first : for my Father 
kiixrws what I have need of. Not the second : for the 
earth is the LonTs and the fullness thereof; his name 
is God All-sufficient. Not the last: for as a Father 
pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear 
him ; the Lord is exceeding' pitiful and of tender mei'- 
cy ; he hears the young ravens when they cry\ — and 
will he not hear me ? Consider ^ says Christ, the fowls 
of the air; not the fowls at the door, that are fed every 
day by hand, but the fowls of the air that have none to 
provide for them. Does he feed and clothe his ene- 
mies, and will he forget his children ? he heard even 
the cry of Ishmael in distress. O my unbelieving 
heart, dost thou yet doubt?" 

7. Your poverty is not your sin, but your affliction. 
Jf you have not by sinful means brought it upon your- 
self, and if it be but an affliction, it may the more easily 
be borne. It is hard indeed to bear an affliction com- 
ing upon us as the fruit and punishment of sin. 
When men are under trouble upon that account; 
they say, ^0 if it were but a single affliction, coming 
from the hand of God by way of trial, I could bear it; 
but I have brought it upon myself by sin, it comes as 
the punishment of sin; the marks of God's displeasure 


are upon it : it is the guilt within that troubles and galls 
jnore than the want without.' But it is not so here ; 
therefore you have no reason to be cast down under it. 

'But though there be no sting of guilt, yet this con- 
dition wants not other stings ; as, for instance, the dis- 
credit of religion. I cannot comply with my engage- 
ments in the world, and thereby religion is likely to 
suffer.' It is well you have a heart to discharge every 
duty; yet if God disable you by providence, it is no 
discredit to your profession that you do not that which 
you cannot do, so long as it is your desire and endea- 
vor to do what you can and ought to do ; and in this 
case God's will is, that lenity and forbearance be exer- 
cised toward you. 

^But it grieves me to behold the necessities of others, 
whom I was wont to relieve and refresh, but now can- 
not.' If you cannot, it ceases to be your duty, and 
God accepts the drawing out of your soul to the hun- 
gry in compassion and desire to help them, though you 
cannot draw forth a full purse to relieve and supply 

' But I find such a condition full of temptations, a 
great hinderance in the way to heaven.' Every cc^.di- 
tion in the world has its hinderances and attending 
temptations ; and were you in a prosperous condition, 
you might there meet with more temptations and 
fewer advantages than you now have ; for though I 
confess poverty as well as prosperity has its tempta- 
tions, yet I am confident prosperity has not those Ld- 
vantages that poverty has. Here you have an oppor 
tunity to discover the sincerity of your love to God, 
when you can live upon him, find enough in him, and 
constantly follow him, even when all external induce- 
ments and motives fail. 


Thus I have shown you how to keep your heart 
from the temptations and dangers attending a low con- 
dition in the world. When want oppresses and the 
heart begins to sink, then improve, and bless God for 
these helps to keep it. 

VI. The sixtk season requiring this diligence in 
keeping the heart, is the season of duty. Our hearts 
must he closely watched and kept when we draw 
nigh to God in public, private, or secret duties; for 
the vanity of the heart seldom discovers itself more 
than at such times. How often does the poor soul 
cry out, ' O Lord, how gladly would I serve thee, but 
vain thoughts will not let me : I come to open my 
heart to thee, to delight my soul in communion wiih 
thee, but my corrupiions oppose me: Lord, call <»ff 
these vain thoughts, and suffer them not to prostitute 
the soul that is espcuised to thee.' 

The question then is this : How may the heart be 
kept from distractions by vain thoughts in time of du- 
ty ? There is a two-fold distracti»)n, or wandering of 
the heart in duty : First, voluntary and habitual, 
"' They set not their hearts aright, ani their spirit 
w<is not steadfast with God." This is the case of for- 
mdists, and it proceeds from the want of a holy in- 
clination of the heart to God ; their hearts are under 
the power of their lusts, and therefore it Is no won- 
der that they go after their lusts, even when they are 
about holy thing'*. Secondly, involuntary and lament- 
ed distractions : •' I find then a law, that when I would 
do ffood, evil is present with me ; wretclied man 
that [ am," &e. This pr()C(^eds not from the want of 
a holy inclination or aim, but from the weakness of 
grace and the waut of vigilance in opposing in-dwell- 
ing sin. But it is not my business to show you how 



these distractions come into the heart, but rather how 
to get them out, and prevent their future admission. 

1. Sequester yourself from all earthly employments, 
and set apart some time for solemn preparation to 
meet God in duty. You cannot come directly from 
the world into God's presence without finding a savor 
of the world in your duties. It is with the heart (a 
few minutes since plunged in the world, now in the 
presence of God) as it is with the sea after a storm, 
which still continues working, muddy and disquiet, 
though the wind be laid and the storm be over. Your 
heart must have some time to settle. Few musicians 
can take an instrument and play upon it without some 
time and labor to tune it ; few Christians can say with 
David, "My heart is fixed, O God, it is fixed." When 
you go to God in any duty, take your heart aside and 
say, ' O my soul, I am now engaged in the greatest 
work that a cieature was ever employed about ; I am 
going into the awful presence of God upon business 
of everlasting moment. my soul, leave trifling now ; 
be composed, be watchful, be serious ; this is no com- 
mon work, it is soul-work ; it is work for eternity ; It 
is work which will bring forth fruit to life or death in 
the world to come.' Pause awhile and consider your 
sins, your wants, your troubles ; keep your thoughts 
awhile on these before you address yourself to duty. 
David first mused, and then spake with his tongue. 

2. Having composed your heart by previous medita- 
tion, immediately set a guard upon your senses. How 
often are Christians in danger of losing the eyes of 
their mind by those of their body! Against this Da- 
vid prayed, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding 
vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way." This may 
serve to expound the Arabian proverb: "Shut the 



windows that the house may be light." It were well 
if you could say in the commencement, as a holy man 
once said when he came from the performance of du- 
ty : "Be shut, O my eyes, be shut; for it is impossible 
that you should ever discern such beauty and glory 
in any creature as I have now seen in God." You 
must avoid all occasions of distraction from without, 
and imbibe that intenseness of spirit in the work of 
God which locks up the eye and ear against vanity. 

3. Beg of God a mortified fancy. A working fancy, 
(saith one,) how much soever it be extolled among 
men, is a great snare to the soul, except it work in fel- 
lowship with right reason and a sanctified heart. The 
fancy is a power of the soul, placed between the sens- 
es and the understanding; it is that which first stirs 
itself in the soul, and by its motions the other powers 
of the soul are brought into exercise ; it is that in 
which thoughts are first formed, and as that is, so are 
they. If imaginations be not first cast down, it is im- 
possible that every thought of the heart should be 
brought into obedience to Christ. The fancy is natu- 
rally the wildest and most untameable power of the 
soul. Some Christians have much to do with it : and 
the more spiritual the heart is, the more does a wild 
and vain fancy disturb and perplex it. It is a sad 
thing that one's imagination should call off the soul 
from attending on God, when it is engaged in commu- 
nion with him. Pray earnestly and perseveringly that 
your fancy may be chastened and sanctified, and when 
this is accomplished your thoughts will be regular and 

4. If you would keep your heart from vain excur- 
sions when engaged in duties, realize to yourself, by 
faith, the holy and awful presence of God. If the 


presence of a grave man would compose you to se- 
riousness, how much more should the presence of a 
holy God? Do you think that you would dare to be 
gay and light if you realized the presence and inspec- 
tion of the Divine Being? Remember where you are 
when engaged in religious duty, and art as if you be- 
lieved in the omniscience of God. " All things are 
naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we 
liave to do." Realize his infinite holiness, his purity, 
his spirituality. 

Strive to obtain such apprehensions of the c^reatness 
of God as shall suitably affect your heart: and re- 
member his jealousy over his worship. "This is that 
the Loni spake, savin?, I will be sanctified in th^m 
that come niffh nie, and before all the people T will be 
glorified." ^'A man that is pravintj (says Bernard) 
should behave himself as if he were enterinor into the 
court of heaven, where he sees the T.ord upon his 
thrf)n^ surrounded with t/*n thousand of his ansfpls 
an 1 saints ministerinsr unto him." — When you come 
from an exercise in which your heart has been wan- 
derinu and listless, what can yon sa^ ? Snppr>se all the 
vanities and impertinences wbirhhave passerl thronsrh 
your mind during a devotional exercise were written 
down and interlined with your petitions, conM you 
have the faee to present them to God ? Should your 
tonsrue utter ail the thoughts of your heart when at- 
t'mdimj the worship of God. would not men abhor von ? 
Yet your thouahts are perfectly known to God. O think 
upon this scripture: "God is ffreatly to be feared in 
tlie assemblies of his saints, and to be liad in reverenee 
of all them that are round about him." Why dil the 
Lord descend in thunderincrs and liorhtninsrs and dark 
cL^'ids upon Sinai? why did the mountains smoke un- 


rter dim, the people quake and tremble round about 
him, Moses Jiimself not excepted? but to teach the 
people this great truth: "Let us have grace, whereby 
we may serve Him acceptably, with reverence and 
godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire." Such 
apprehensions of the character and presence of God 
will quickly reduce a heart inclined to vanity to a 
more serious frame. 

6. Maintain a prayerful frame of heart in the inter- 
vals of duty. What reason can be assigned why our 
hearts are so dull, so careless, so wandering, when we 
hear or pray, but that there have been long intermis- 
sions in our communion with God? If that divine 
tmction, that spiritual fervor, and those holy impres- 
sions, which we obtain from God while engaged in the 
performance of one duty, were preserved to enliven 
and engage us in the performance of another, they 
would be of incalculable service to keep our hearts se- 
rious and devout. For this purpose, frequent ejacula- 
tions between stated and solemn duties are of most 
excellent use : they not only preserve the mind in a 
composed and pious frame, but they connect one sta- 
ted duty, as it were, with another, and keep the atten- 
tion of the soul alive to all its interests and obligations. 

6. If you would have the distraction of your thoughts 
prevented, endeavor to raise your affections to' God, 
and to engage them warmly in your duty. When the 
soul is intent upon any work, it gathers in its strength 
and bends all its thoughts to that work; and when it 
is deeply affected, it will pursue its object with intense- 
ness, the affections will gain an ascendancy over the 
thoughts and guide them. But deadness causes dis- 
traction, and distraction increases deadness. Could 
YOU but regard your duties as the medium in which 


you might walk in communion with God in which 
your soul might be filled with those ravishing and 
matchless delights which his presence affords, you 
might have no inclination to neglect them. But if you 
would prevent the recurrence of distracting thoughts, 
if you would find your happiness in the performance 
of duty, you must not only be careful thai you engage 
in what is your duty, but labor with patient and perse- 
vering exertion to interest your feelings in it. Why 
is your heart so inconstant, especially in secret duties; 
why are you ready to be gone, almost as soon as you 
are come into the presence of God, but because your 
affections are not engaged ? 

7. When you are disturbed by vain thoughts, hum- 
ble yourself before God, and call in assistance from 
Heaven. When the messenger of Satan buffeted St. 
Paid by wicked suggestions, (as is supposed) he mourn- 
ed before God on account of it. Ne\er slight wander- 
ing thoughts in duly as small matters; follow every 
such thought with a deep regret. Turn to God with 
such words as these : ' Lord, I came hither to commune 
With thee, and here a busy adversary and a vain heart, 
conspiring together, have opposed me. O my God ! 
what a heart have I! shall I never wail upon thee 
without distraction? when shall I enjoy an hour ol 
free communion with thee? Grant me thy assistance at 
this time ; discover thy glory to me, and my heart will 
quickly be recovered. I came hither to enjoy thee, 
and shall I go away without thee? Behold my dis- 
tress, and help me!'— Could you but sufficiently be- 
wail your distractions, and repair to God for deliver- 
ance from them, you would gain relief. 

8. Look upon the success and the comfort of your 
4uUes, as depending very much upon the keeping of 


your heart close with God in them. These two things, 
the success of duly and the inward comfort arising 
from the performance of it, are unspeakably dear to 
the Christian ; but both of these will be lost if the 
heart be in a listless state. " Surely God heareth not 
vanity, nor dolh th<3 Almighty regard it." The promise 
is made to a heart engaged: " Then shall ye seek for 
me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all 
your hearts." When you find your heart under the 
power of deadness and distraction, say to yourself, ' O 
what do I lose by a careless heart now ! My prayinir 
seasons are the most valuable portions of my life: 
could I but raise my heart to God, I might now ob- 
tain such mercies as would be matter of praise to ail 

9. Regard your carefulness or carelessness in this 
matter as a great evidence of your sincerity, or hypo- 
crisy. Nothing will alarm an upright heart more than 
this. ' What! shall I give way to a customary wan- 
dering of the heart from God? Shall the spot of the 
hypocrite appear upon rny soul ? Hypocrites, indeed, 
can drudge on in the round of duty, never regarding 
the frame of their hearts; but shall I do so? Never — 
never let me be satisfied with empty duties. Never 
let lUe take my leave of a duty until my eyes have 
seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.' 

10. It will be of special use to keep your heart with 
God in duty, to consider what influence all your duties 
will have upon your eternity. Your religious seasons 
are your seed times, and in another world you must 
reap the fruits of what you sow in your duties here 
If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption ; it 
you sow to the Spirit, you will reap life everlasting. 
Answer seriously these questions : Are you wiiling to 


reap the fruit of vanity in the world to come ? Dare 
you say, when your thoughts are roving to the ends 
of the earth in duty, when you scarce mind what you 
say or hear, 'Now, Lord, I am sowing to the Spirit j 
now I am providing and laying up for eternity; now 
I am seeking for glory, honor and immortality ; now 
I am striving to enter in at the strait gate; now I am 
taking the kingdom of heaven by ho.y violence!^ 
Such reflections are well calculated to dissipate vain 

VII. The seventh season, which requires more than 
common diligence to keep the heart, is when i^e re- 
ceive injitries and abuses frorrh men. Such is the de- 
pravity and corruption of man, that one is become as 
a wolf or a tiger to another. And as men are natu- 
rally cruel and oppressive one to another, so the wick 
ed conspire to abuse and wrong the people of God. 
" The wicked devoureth the man that is more right- 
eous than he." Now when we are thus abused and 
wronged, it is hard to keep the heart from revengeful 
motions; to make \t meekly and quietly commit 
the cause to Him that judgeth righteously ; to prevent 
the exercise of any sinful affection. The spirit that 
is in us lusteth to revenge ; but it must not be so. We 
have choice helps in the Gospel to keep our hearts 
from sinful motions against our enemies, and to 
sweeten our embittered spirits. Do you ask how a 
Christian may keep his heart from revengeful motions 
under the greatest injuries and abuses from men? I 
reply : When you find your heart begin to be inflamed 
by revengeful feelings, immediMely reflect on the fol- 
lowing things : 

1. Urge u^n your heart the severe prohibitions of 
revenge contarned in the law of God. However gra- 


lifylng to your corrupt propensities revenge may be, 
remember that it is forbidden. Hear the word of God: 
^' Say not, I will recompense evil." Say not, I will do 
so to him as he hath done to me. " Recompense to 
no man evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but 
give piace unto wrath ; for it is WTitten, Vengeance is 
mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." On the contrary, 
" If thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he thirst, give 
him drink." It was an argument urged by the 
Christians to prove their religion to be supernatural 
and pure, that it forbids revenge, which is so agreeable 
to nature ; and it is to be wished that such an argument 
might not be laid aside. Awe your heart, then, with 
the authority of God in the Scriptures; and when 
carnal reason says, * My enemy deserves to be hated,' 
let conscience reply, *But doth God deserve to be dis- 
obeyed V 'Thus and thus hath he done, and so hath 
he wronged me ;' ' But what hath God done that 1 
should Ayrong him? If my enemy dares boldly to 
break the peace, shall I be so wicked as to break the 
precept ? if he fears not to wrong me, shall not I fear 
to wrong God 1^ Thus let the fear of God restrain and 
calm your feelings. 

2. Set before your eyes the most eminent patterns 
of meekness and forgiveness, that you may feel the 
f rce of their example. This is the way to cut off the 
common pleas of flesh and blood for revenge : as thus, 
* No man would bear such an affront ;' yes, others have 
borne as bad, and worse ones. * But I shall be reckon- 
ed a coward, a fool, if I pass by this:' no matter, so 
long as you follow the examples of the wisest and ho- 
liest ol men. Never did any one suffer more or great- 
er abuses from men than Jesus did, nor did any one 
ever endure insult and reproach and every kind of 



abuse in a more peaceful and forgiving manner ; when 
he was reviled he reviled not again ; When he suffered, 
he threatened not ; when his murderers crucified him^ 
he prayed Father ^ forgive them; and herein he hath set 
us an example, that we should follow his steps. Thus 
his apostles imitated him : " Being reviled," say they, 
" we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it ; being de- 
famed, we entreat." I have often heard it reported of 
the holy Mr. Dod, that when a man, enraged at his 
close, convincing doctrine, assaulted him, smote him 
on the face, and dashed out two of his teeth ; that 
meek servant of Christ spit out the teeth and blood 
into his hand, and said, " See here, you have knocked 
out two of my teeth, and that without any just pro- 
vocation; but on condition that I might do 3^our soul 
good, I would give you leave to knock out all the 
rest." Here was exemplified the excellency of the 
Christian spirit. Strive then for this spirit, which con- 
stitutes the true excellence of Christians. Do what 
others cannot do, keep this spirit in exercise, and you 
will preserve peace in your own soul and gain the vic- 
tory over your enemies. 

2. Consider the character of the person who has 
wronged you. He is either a good or a wicked man. If he 
is a good man, there is light and tenderness in his con- 
science, which sooner or later will bring him to a sense 
of the evil of what he has done. If he is a good man, 
Christ has forgiven him greater injuries than he has 
done to you ; and why should not you forgive him ? 
Wili Christ not upbraid him for any of his wrongs, 
but frankly forgive them ail ; and will you take him by 
the throat for some petty abuse which he has offered 

B. But if a wicked man has injured or insulted you, 


truly you have more reason to exercise pity than re- 
vencre toward him. He is in a deluded and miserable 
stale ; a slave to sin and an enemy to righteousness. li 
lie should ever repent, he will be ready to make you 
reparation ; if he continues impenitent, there is a day 
coming when he will be punished to the extent of his 
deserts. You need not study revenge, God will exe- 
cute vengeance upon him. 

4. Remember that by revenge you can only gratify 
a sinful passion, which by forgiveness you might con- 
quer. Suppose that by revenge you might destroy one 
enemy ; yet, by exercising the Christian's temper you 
might conquer three — your own lust, Satan's tempta- 
tion, and your enemy's heart. If by revenge you should 
overcome your enemy, the victory would be unhappy 
and inglorious, for in gaining it you would be over- 
come by your own corruption ; but by exercising a 
meek and forgiving temper, you will always come off 
with honor and succes. It must be a very disingenuous 
nature indeed upon which meekness and forgiveness 
will not operate ; that must be a flinty heart which 
this fire will not melt. Thus David gained such a vic- 
tory over Saul his persecutor, that " Saul lifted up his 
voice and wept, and he said to David, Thou art more 
righteous than I." 

5. Seriously propose this question to your own 
heart: * Have I got any good by means of the wrongs 
and injuries which I have received ?' If they have done 
you no good, turn your revenge upon yourself. You 
have reason to be filled with shame and sorrow that 
you should have a heart which can deduce no good 
from such troubles ; that your temper should be so 
unlike that of Christ. The patience and meekness of 
other Christians have turned all the injuries offered to 


them to a good account; their souls have been ani- 
mated to praise God when they have been loaded with 
reproaches from the world. *' I thank my God." said 
Jerome, " that I am worthy to be hated of the world." 
But if you have derived any benefit from the re- 
proaches and wrongs which you have received, if they 
have put you upon examining your own heart, if they 
have made you more careful how you conduct, if they 
have convinced you of the value of a sanctified tem- 
per ; will you not forgive them ? will you not forgive 
one who has been instrumental of so much good t*^ 
you ? What though he meant it for evil ? if throug«i 
the Divine blessing your happiness has been promoted 
by what he has done, why should you even have a 
hard thought of him ? 

6. Consider by whom all your troubles are ordered. 
This will be of great use to keep your heart from re- 
venge ; this will quickly calm and sweeten your tem- 
per. When Shimei railed at David and cursed him, 
the spirit of that good man was not at all poisoned by 
revenge; for when Abishai offered him, if he pleased, the 
head of Shimei, the king said, " Let him curse, be- 
cause the Lord hath said unto him. Curse David : who 
shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?" It may 
be that God uses him as his rod to chastise me, because 
by my sin I gave the enemies of God occasion to 
blaspheme ; and shall I be angry with the instrument 1 
how irrational were that ! Thus Job was quieted ; he 
did not rail and meditate revenge upon the Chaldeans 
and Sabeans, but regarded God as the orderer of his 
troubles, and said, " The Lord hath taken away, bless- 
ed be his name." 

7. Consider how you are daily and hourly wrong- 
ing Godj and you will not be so easily inflamed with 



revenge against those who have wronged you. You 
are constantly affronting God, yet he does not take 
vengeance on you, but bears with you and forgives ; 
and will you rise up and avenge yourself upon others ? 
Reflect on this cutting rebuke : " O thou wicked and 
slothful servant ! I forgave thee all that debt because 
thou desiredst me ; shouldst thou not also have com- 
passion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on 
thee ?" None should be so filled with forbearance and 
mercy to such as wrong them, as those v/ho have ex- 
perienced the riches of mercy themselves. The mer- 
cy of God to us should melt our hearts into mercy 
toward others. It is impossible that we should be 
cruel to others, except we forget how kind and com- 
passionate God hath been to us. And if kindness can- 
not prevail in us, methinks fear should: — "If ye for- 
give not men their trespasses, neither will your Father 
forgive your trespasses." 

8. Let the consideration that the day of the Lord 
draweth nigh, restrain you from anticipating it by acts 
of revenge. Why are you so hasty ? is not the Lord 
at hand to avenge all his abused servants ? " Be pa- 
tient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. 
Behold the husbandman waiteth, &c. Be ye also pa- 
tient, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be 
condemned. Behold, the Judge standeth at the door." 
Vengeance belongeth unto God, and will you wrong 
yourself so much as to assume his work ? 

VIII. The next season in which special exertion is 
necessary to keep the heart, is when we meet -with 
great trials. In such cases the heart is apt to be sud- 
denly transported with pride, impatience, or other sin- 
ful passions. Many good people are guilty of hasty 


and very sinful conduct in such instances; and all 
have need to use diligently the following means to 
Keep their hearts submissive and patient under great 

1. Get humble and abasing thoughts of yourself. 
Tae humble is ever the patient man. Pride is the 
source of irregular and sinful passions. A lofty, will 
be an unyielding and peevish spirit. When we over- 
rate ourselves, we think that we are treated unworthi- 
ly, that our trials are too severe : thus we cavil and 
repine. Christian, you should have such thoughts of 
yourself as would put a stop to these murmurings. 
You should have lower and more humiliating views of 
yourself than any other one can have of you. Get hu- 
mility, and you will have peace whatever be your trial. 

2. Cultivate a habit of communion with God. This 
will prepare you for whatever may take place. This 
"Will so sweeten your temper and calm your mind as to 
secure you against surprisals. This will produce that 
inward peace w^hich will make you superior to your 
trials. Habitual communion with God will afford you 
enjoyment, which you can never be willing to inter- 
rupt by sinful feeling. When a Christian is calm and 
submissive under his afflictions, probably he derives 
support and comfort in this way ; but he who is dis- 
composed, impatient, or fretful, shows that all is not 
right within — he cannot be supposed to practise com- 
munion with God. 

3. Let your mind be deeply impressed with an ap- 
prehension of the evil nature and effects of an unsub- 
missive and restless temper. It grieves the Spirit of 
God, and induces his departure. His gracious pre- 
.sence and influience are enjoyed only where peace 
and quiet submission prevail. The indulgence of such 


a temper gives the adversary an advantage. Satan is 
an angry and discontented spirit. He finds no rest 
but in restless hearts. He bestirs himself when the 
spirits are in commotion ; sometimes he fills the heart 
with ungrateful and rebellious thoughts ; sometimes 
he inflames the tongue with indecent language. Again, 
such a temper brings great guilt upon the conscience, 
unfits the soul for any duty, and dishonors the Chris- 
tian name. O keep your heart, and let the power and 
excellence of your religion be chiefly manifested when 
you are brought into the greatest straits. 

4. Consider how desirable it is for a Christian to 
overcome his evil propensities. How much more pre- 
sent happiness it affbrds; how much better it is in 
every respect to mortify and subdue unholy feelings, 
than to give way to them. When upon your death- 
bed you come calmly to review your life, how com- 
fortable will it be to reflect on the conquest which you 
have made over the depraved feelings of your heart. 
It was a memorable saying of Valantinian the em- 
peror, when he was about to die : " Amongst all my 
conquests, there is but one that now comforts me." 
Being asked what that was, he answered, "I have 
overcome my worst enemy, my own sinful heart I" 

5. Shame yourself, by contemplating the character 
of those who have been most eminent for meekness 
and submission. Above all, compare your temper with 
the Spirit of Christ. " Learn of me," saith he, " for I 
am meek and lowly." It is said of Calvin and Ursin, 
though both of choleric natures, that they had so im- 
bibed and cultivated the meekness of Christ as not to 
litter an unbecoming word under the greatest provoca- 
tions. And even many of the heathens have manifest- 
ed great moderation and forbearance under their se- 



verest afflictions. Is it not a shame and a reproach that 
you should be outdone by them ? 

6. Avoid every thing which is calculated to irritate 
your feelings. It is true spiritual valor to keep as far 
as we can out of shi's way. If you can but avoid tht 
excitements to impetuous and rebellious feelings, oi 
check them in their first beginnings, you will have but 
little to fear. The first workings of common sins are 
comparatively weak, they gain their strength by de- 
grees; but in times of trial the motions of sin are 
strongest at first, the unsubdued temper breaks out 
suddenly and violently. But if you resolutely with- 
stand it at first, it will yield and give you the victory. 

IX. The ninth season wherein the greatest diligence 
and skill are necessary to keep the heart, is the hour 
of temptation^ when Satan besets the Christian's heart, 
and takes the unwary by surprise. To keep the heart 
at such times, is not less a mercy than a duty. Few 
Christians are so skillful in detecting the fallacies, and 
repelling the arguments by which the adversary in- 
cites them to sin, as to come off safe and whole in 
those encounters. Many eminent saints have smarted 
severely for their want of watchfulness and diligence 
at such times. How then may a Christian keep his 
heart from yielding to temptation ? There are several 
principal ways in which the adversary insinuates 
temptation, and urges compliance. 

1. Satan suggests that here is pleasure to be enjoyed ; 
the temptation is presented with a smiling aspect and 
an enticing voice : * What, are you so dull and phleg- 
matic as not to feel the powerful charms of pleasure ? 
Who can withhold himself from such delights?' 
Reader, you may be rescued from the danger of such 
temptations by repelling the proposal of pleasure. It 


is urged that the commission of sin will afford you 
pleasure. Suppose this were true, will the accusing 
and condemning rebukes of conscience and the flames 
of hell be pleasant too? Is there pleasure in the 
scourges of conscience ? If so, why did Peter weep so 
bitterly ? why did David cry out of broken bones ? 
\ou hear what is said of the pleasure of sin, and have 
you not read what David said of the effects of it ? 
'* Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand 
presseth me sore ; there is no soundness in ray 
flesh because of thine anger, neither is there any rest 
in my bones because of my sin," &c. If you yield to 
temptation, you must feel such inward distress on ac- 
jount of it, or the miseries of hell.' But why should 
ihe pretended pleasure of sin allure you, when you 
know that unspeakably more real pleasure will arise 
from the mortification than can arise from the com- 
mission of sin. Will you prefer the gratification of 
some unhallowed passion, with the deadly poison 
which it will leave behind, to that sacred pleasure 
which arises from fearing and obeying God, comply- 
ing with the dictates of conscience, and maintaining 
inward peace ? Can sin afford any such delight as he 
feels who, by resisting temptation, has manifested the 
sincerity of his heart, and obtained evidence that he 
fears God, loves hohness, and hates sin? 

2. The secrecy with which you may commit sin is 
made use of to induce compliance with temptation. 
The tempter insinuates that this indulgence will 
never disgrace you among men, for no one will know 
it. But recollect yourself. Does not God behold you ? 
Is not the divine presence every where ? What if you 
might hide your sin from the eyes of the world, you 
cannot hide it from God. No darkness nor shadow 


of death can screen you from his inspection. Beside, 
have you no reverence for yourself 7 Can you do that 
by yourself which you dare not have others observe ? 
Is not your conscience as a thousand witnesses ? 
Even a heathen could "say, " When thou art tempted 
to commit sin, fear thyself without any other witness." 

3. The prospect of worldly advantage often enforces 
temptation. It is suggested, ^ Why should you be so 
nice and scrupulous ? Give yourself a little liberty, 
and you may better your condition : now is your 
time.' This is a dangerous temptation, and must 
be promptly resisted. Yielding to such a temptation 
will do your soul more injury than any temporal ac- 
quisition can possibly do you good. And what would 
it profit you, if you should gain the whole world and 
lose )^our own soul ? ¥/hat can be compared with the 
value of your spiritual interests ? or what can at all 
compensate for the smallest injury of them ? 

4. Perhaps the smallness of the sin is urged as a 
reason why you may commit it ; thus : ' ft is but a 
little one, a small matter, a trifle ; who would stand 
upon such niceties?" But is the Majesty of heaven 
little too 7 If you commit this sin you will offend a 
great God. Is there any little hell to torment little 
sinners in ? No ; the least sinners in hell are full of 
misery. There is great wrath treasured up for those 
whom the world regard as little sinners. But the less 
the sin, the less the inducement to commit it. Will 
you provoke God for a trifle 7 will you destroy your 
peace, wound your conscience, and grieve the Spirit, 
all for nothing 7 What madness is this ! 

5. An argument to enforce temptation is sometimes 
drawn from the mercy of God and the hope of par- 
don. — God is merciful, he will pass by this as an in- 


firmity, lie will not be severe to mark it. But slay : 
where do you find a promise of mercy to presumptu 
ous sinners I Involuntary reprisals and lamented in- 
firmities maybe pardoned, "but the soul that doth 
aught presumptuously, the same reproacheth the 
Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from among his 
people." If God is a being of so much mercy, how 
can you affront him ? How can you make so glorious 
an attribute as the divine mercy an occasion of sin ? 
Will you wrong him because he is good ? Rather let 
his goodness lead you to repentance, and keep you 
from transgression. 

6. Sometimes Satan encourages to the commission 
of sin, from the examples of holy men. Thus and thus 
they sinned, and were restored ; therefore you may 
commit this sin, and yet be a saint and be saved. 
Such suggestions must be instantly repelled. If good 
men have committed sins similar to that with which 
you are beset, did any good man ever sin upon such 
ground and from such encouragement as is here pre- 
sented ? Did God cause their examples to be recorded 
for your imitation, or for your warning ? Are they not 
set up as beacons that you may avoid the rocks upon 
which they split ? Are you willing to feei what they 
felt for sin ? Dare you follow them in sin, and plunge 
yourself into such distress and danger as they incur- 
red ? Reader, in these ways learn to keep vour 

heart in the hour of temptation. 

X. The time of doubting and of spiritital darkness 
constitutes another season when it is very difllcult to 
keep the heart. When the light and comfort of the 
divine presence is withdrawn : when the believer, 
from the prevalence of indwelling sin in one form or 
other, is ready to renoiuice his hopes, to infer despe- 


rate conclusions with respect to himself, to regard 
his former comforts as vain delusions, and his profes- 
sion? as hypocrisy j at such a time much diligence is 
necessary to keep the heart from despondency. The 
Christian's distress arises from his apprehension of his 
spiritual state, and in general he argues against his 
possessing true religion, either from his having re- 
lapsed into the same sins from which he had former- 
ly been recovered with shame and sorrow ; or from 
the sensible declining of his affections from God ; or 
from the strength of his affections toward creature en- 
joyments ; or from his enlargement in public, while 
he is often confined and barren in private duties ; or 
from some horrible suggestions of Satan, with which 
his soul is greatly perplexed ; or, lastly, from God's 
silence and seeming denial of his long depending 
prayers. Now in order to the establishment and sup- 
port of the heart under these circumstances, it is ne- 
cessary that you be acquainted with some general 
truths which have a tendency to calm ti]e trembling 
and doubting soul ; and that you be rightly instructed 
with regard to the above-mentioned causes of disquiet. 
Let me direct your attention to the following general 

1. Every appearance of hypocrisy does not prove 
the person who manifests it to be a hypocrite. You 
should carefully disunguish between the appearance 
and the predominance of hypocrisy. There are re- 
mains of deceitfulness in the best hearts ; this was ex- 
emplified in David and Peter; but the prevailing 
frame of their hearts being upright, they were not de- 
nominated hypocrites for their conduct. 

2. We ought to regard what can be said in our favor, 
as well as what may be said against us. It is the su) 



of Upright persons sometimes, to exercise an unreason* 
able severity against themselves. Tliey do not im- 
partially consider the slate of their souls. To make 
their state appear better than it really is, indeed is the 
damning sin of self-flattering hypocrites ; and to make 
their state appear worse than it really is, is the sin and 
folly of some good persons. But why should you be 
such an enimy to your own peace ? Why read over the 
evidences of God's love to your soul, as a man does a 
book which he intends to confute? Why do you 
study evasions, and turn off those comforts which are 
due to you? 

3. Every thing which may be an occasion of grief 
to the people of God, is not a sufficient ground for their 
questioning the reality of their religion. Many things 
may trouble, which ought not to stumble you. If up- 
on every occasion you should call in question all that 
had ever been wrought upon you, your life would be 
made up of doubtings and fears, and you could never 
attain that settled inward peace, and live that life of 
praise and thankfulness v/hich the Gospel requires. 

4. The soul is not at all times in a suitable state to 
pass a right judgment upon itself. It is peculiarly un- 
qualified for this in the hour of desertion or tempta- 
tion. Such seasons must be improved rather for 
watching and resisting, than for judging and deter- 

5. Whatever be the ground of one's distress, it 
should drive him to, not from God. Suppose you 
have sinned thus and so, or that you have been thus 
long and sadly deserted, yet you have no right to in- 
fer that you ought to be discouraged, as if there was 
no help for you in God. 

Wheji you have well digested these truths, if your 



douDts and distress remain, consider what is now to be 

1. Are you ready to conclude that you have no part 
in the favor of God, because you are visited with some 
extraordinary affliction ? If so, do you then rightly 
conclude that great trials are tokens of God's hatred? 
Does the Scripture teach this ? And dare you infer 
the same with respect to all who have been as much 
or more afflicted than yourself? If the argument is 
good in your case, it is good in application to theirs, 
and more conclusive with respect to them, in propor- 
tion as their trials were greater than yours. Wo then 
to David, Job, Paul, and all who have been afflicted 
as they were! But had you passed along in quietness 
and prosperity; had God withheld those chastise- 
ments with which he ordinarily visits his people, 
would you not have had far more reason for doubts 
and distress than you now have ? 

2. Do you rashly infer that the Lord has no love to 
you, because he has withdrawn the light of his coun- 
tenance ? Do you imagine your state to be hopeless, 
because it is dark and uncomfortable? Be not hasty 
in forming this conclusion. If any of the dispensa- 
tions of God to his people will bear a favorable as 
well as a harsh construction, why should they not be 
construed in the best sense? And may not God have 
a design of love rather than of hatred in the dispensa- 
tion under which you mourn ? May he not depart for 
a season, without departing for ever? You are not 
the first that have mistaken the design of God in with- 
drawing himself. " Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken 
me, my Lord hath forgotten me." But was it so? 
What saith the answer of God ? " Can a woman for- 
get her sucking child ?" «&c. 


But do you sink down under the apprehension that 
the evidences of a total and final desertion are disco- 
verable in your experience 7 Have you then lost your 
conscientious tenderness with regard to sin 1 and are 
you inclined to forsake God ? If so, you have reason 
indeed to be alarmed. But if your conscience is ten- 
derly alive ; if you are resolved to cleave to the Lord ; 
if the language of 3'our heart is, I cannot forsake God, 
I cannot live without his presence ; though he slay 
me, yet will I trust in him: then you have reason to 
hope that he will visit you again. It is by these ex- 
ercises that he still maintains his interest in you. 

Once more. Are sense and feelings suitable to 
judge of the dispensations of God by ? Can their tes- 
timony be safely relied on? Is it safe to argue thus ; 
'If God had any love for my soul, I should feel it 
now as well as in former times ; but I cannot feel it, 
therefore it is gone V May you not as well conclude, 
when the sun is invisible to you, that he has ceased to 
exist ? Read Isaiah 1 : 10. 

Now if there is nothing in the divine dealings with 
you which is a reasonable ground of your despon- 
dency and distress, let us inquire what there is in 
your own conduct for which you should be so cast 

1. Have you committed sins from which you were 
formerly recovered with shame and sorrow ? And do 
you thence conclude that you sin allowedly and ha- 
bitually, and that your oppositions to sin were hypo- 
critical ? But do not too hastily give up all for lost. 
Is not your repentance and care renewed as often as 
you commit sin? Is it not the sin itself which trou- 
bles you, and is it not true, that the oftener you sin 
the more you are distressed ? It is not so in customa- 


ry sinning ; of which Bernard excellently discourses 
thus: "When a man accustomed to restrain, sins 
grievously, it seems insupportable to him, yea he seems 
to descend alive into hell. In process of time it seems 
not insupportable, but heavy, and between insupport- 
able and heavy there is no small descent. Next, such 
sinning becomes light, his conscience smites but faint- 
ly, and he regards not her rebukes. Then he is not 
only insensible to his guilt, but that which was bitter 
and displeasing has become in some degree sweet and 
pleasant. Now it is made a custom, and not only 
pleases, but pleases habitually. At length custom be- 
comes nature; he cannot be dissuaded from it, but 
defends and pleads for it." This is allowed and cus- 
tomary sinning, this is the way of the wicked. But is 
not your way the contrary of this? 

2. Do you apprehend a decline of your affections 
from God and from spiritual subjects ? This may be 
your case, and yet there may be hope. But possibly 
you are mistaken with regard to this. There are 
many things to be learnt in Christian experience ; it 
lias relation to a great variety of subjects. You may 
now be learning what it is very necessary for you 
to know as a Christian. Now, what if you are not sen- 
sible of so lively affections, of such ravishing views as 
you had at first ; may not your piety be growing 
more solid and consistent, and better adapted to prac- 
tical purposes ? Does it follow from your not always 
being in the same frame of mind, or from the fact that 
the same objects do not at all times excite the same 
feelings, that you have no true religion? Perhaps 
you deceive yourself by looking forward to what you 
would be, rather than contemplating what you are, 
compared with what you once were. 


3* If the strength of your love to creature enjoy- 
ments is the ground of desperate conclusions respect- 
ing yourself, perhaps you argue thus: "I fear that I 
love the creature more than God, if so, I have not true 
love to God. I sometimes feel stronger affections to- 
ward earthly comforts than I do toward heavenly ob- 
jects, therefore my soul is not upright within me." 
If, indeed, you love the creature for itself, if you make 
it your end, and religion but a means, then you con- 
clude rightly j for this is incompatible with supreme 
love to God. But may not a man love God more ar- 
dently and unchangeably than he does any thing, or 
all things else, and yet, when God is not the direct ob- 
ject of his thoughts, may he not be sensible of more 
violent affection for the creature than he has at that time 
for God ? As rooted malice indicates a stronger hatred 
than sudden though more violent passion ; so we must 
judge of our love, not by a violent motion of it now 
and then, hiil by the depth of its root and the con- 
stancy of its exercise. Perhaps your difficulty results 
from bringing your lovd to some foreign and improper 
test. Many persons have feared that when brought to 
some eminent trial they should renounce Christ and 
cleave to the creature ; but when the trial came, Christ 
was every thing, and the world as nothing in their es- 
teem. Such were the fears of some martyrs whose 
victory was complete. But you may expect divine as- 
sistance only at the time of, and in proportion to your 
necessity. If you would try your love, see whether 
you are willing to forsake Christ now. 

4. Is the want of that enlargement in private which 
you find in public exercises an occasion of doubts and 
fears? Consider then whether there are not some cir- 
cumstances attending public duties which are pecu- 


liarly calculated to excite your feelings and elevate 
your mindj and which cannot affect you in private* 
If so, your exercises in secret, if performed faithfully 
and in a suitable manner, may be profitable, though 
ihey have not all the characteristics of those in public* 
If you imagine that you have spiritual enlargement 
and enjoyment in public exercises while you neglect 
private duties, doubtless you deceive yourself. Indeed 
if you live in the neglect of secret duties^ ot are care- 
less about them, you have great reason to fear. But if 
you regularly and faithfully perform them, it does not 
follow that they are vain and worthless, or that they 
are not of great value, because they are not attended 
with so much enlargement as you sometimes find in 
public. And what if the Spirit is pleased more highly 
to favor you with his gracious influence in one place 
and at one time than another, should this be a reason 
for murmuring and unbelief, or for thankfulness ? 

5. The vile or blasphemous suggestijns of Satan 
sometimes occasion great perplexity and distress. — 
They seem to lay open an abyss of corruption in the 
heart, and to say there can be no grace here. But there 
may be grace in the heart where such thoughts are 
injected, though not in the heart which consents to 
and cherishes them. Do you then abhor and oppose 
them ? do you utterly refuse to prostitute yourself to 
iheir influence, and strive to keep holy and reverend 
thoughts of God, and of all religious objects? If so, 
such suggestions are involuntary, and no evidence 
against your piety. 

6. Is the seeming denial of your prayers an occasion 
of despondency? Are you disposed to say, "If God 
had any regard for my soul he would have heard my 
petitions before now; but I have no answer from him, 


and therefore no interest in him ?" But stay : though 
God's abhorring and finally rejecting prayer is an evi- 
dence that he rejects the person who prays, yet, dare 
you conclude that he has rejected you, because an an- 
swer to your prayers is delayed, or because you do 
not discover it if granted? " May not God bear long 
with his own elect, that cry unto him day and night?" 

Others have stumbled upon the same ground with 
you : " I said in my haste, I am cut off from before 
thine eyes : nevertheless thou heardst the voice of my 
supplication." Now are there not some things in your 
experience which indicate that your prayers are not 
rejected, though answer to them is deferred? Are you 
not disposed to continue praying though you do not 
discover an answer? Are you not disposed still to as- 
cribe righteousness to God, while you consider the 
cause of his silence as being in yourself? Thus did 
David: " O my God, I cry in the day time, and thou 
hearest not; and in the night, and am not silent: but 
thou art holy," &c. Does not the deJay of an answer 
to your prayers excite you to examine your own heart 
and try your ways, that you may find and remove the 
difficulty ? If so, you may have reason for humiliation, 
but not for despair. 

Thus I have shown you how to keep your heart in 
dark and doubting seasons. God forbid that any false 
heart should encourage itself from these things. It is 
lamentable, that when we give saints and sinners their 
proper portions, each is so prone to take up the other's 

XI. Another season, wherein the heart must be kept 
with all diligence, is when sufferings for religion are 
laid upon us. Blessed is the man who in such a sea- 
son is not offended in Christ. Now, whatever may be 


the kind or degree of your sufferings, if they are suf- 
ferings for Christ's sake and the Gospel's, spare no dili- 
gence to keep your heart. If you are tempted to shrink 
or waver under them, let what follows help you to re- 
pel and to surmount the instigation. 

1. What reproach would you cast upon the Re- 
deemer and his religion by deserting him at such a 
time as this ! You would proclaim to the world, that 
how much soever you have boasted of the promises, 
when you are put to the proof you dare hazard no- 
thing upon your faith in them; and this will give the 
enemies of Christ an occasion tc blaspheme. And will 
you thus furnish the triumphs of the uncircumcised ? 
Ah, if you did but value the name of Christ as much 
as many wicked men value their names, you could 
never endure that his should be exposed to contempt. 
Will proud dust and ashes hazard death or hell rather 
than have their names disgraced, and will you endure 
nothing to maintain the honor of Christ? 

2. Dare you violate your conscience out of com- 
plaisance to flesh and blood ? Who will comfort you 
when your conscience accuses and condemns you? 
What happiness can there be in life, liberty or friends, 
when inward peace is taken away? 'Consider well 
what you do. 

3. Is not the public interest of Christ and his cause 
infinitely more important than any interest of your 
own, and should you not prefer his glory and the wel- 
fare of his kingdom before every thing else? Should 
any temporary suffering, or any sacrifice which you 
can be called to make, be suffered to come into com- 
petition with the honor of his name? 

4. Did the Redeemer neglect your interest and think 
lightly Ox" you. when for your sake he endured suffer 


ings between which and yours there can be no com 
parison? Did he hesitate and shrink back? No: " He 
endured the cross, despising the shame." And did he 
with unbroken patience and constancy endure so much 
for you ; and will you flinch from momentary suffer- 
ing in his cause? 

5. Can you so easily cast off the society and the pri- 
vileges of the saints and go over to the enemy's side ? 
Are you willing to withhold your support from those 
who are determined to persevere, and throw your in- 
fluence in the scale against them ? Rather let your 
body and soul be rent asunder. " If any man draw 
back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." 

6. How can you stand before Christ in the day of 
judgment, if you desert him now ? " He that is ashamed 
of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful 
generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed 
when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the 
holy angels." Yet a little while, and the Son of man 
will come in the clouds of heaven, with power and 
great glory, to judge the world. He will sit upon the 
throne of judgment, while all the nations are brought 
before him. Imagine yourself now to be witnessing 
the transactions of that day. Behold the wicked ; be- 
hold the apostates; and hear the consuming sentence 
which is pronounced upon them, and see them sinking 
in the gulf of infinite and everlasting wo! And will 
you desert Christ no\v, will you forsake his cause to 
save a little suffering, or to protract an unprofitable life 
on earth, and thus expose yourself to the doom of the 
apostate? Remember, that if you can silence the re- 
monstrances of conscience now, you cannot hinder the 
sentence of the Judge then. By these means keep 
your hea7% that it depart not from the Iwivg God, 


XIL The last season which I shall mention, in which 
the heart must be kept with all diligence, is xchen we 
are warned by sickness that our dissolution is at hand. 
When the child of God draws nigh to eternity, the ad- 
versary malces his last effort; and as he cannot win 
the soul from God, as he cannot dissolve the bond 
which unites the soul to Christ, his great design is to 
awaken fears of death, to fill the mind with aversion 
and horror at the thoughts of dissolution from the 
body. Hence, what shrinking from a separation, what 
fear to grasp death's cold hand, and unwillingness to 
depart, may sometimes be observed in the people of 
God. But we ought to die, as well as live, like saints. 

I shall offer several considerations calculated to help 
the people of God in time of sickness, to keep their 
hearts loose from all earthly objects, and cheerfully 
willing to die. 

1. Death is harmless to the people of God ; its shafts 
leave no sting in them. Why then are you afraid that 
your sickness may be unto death ? If you were to die 
in your sins ; if death were to reign over you as a ty- 
rant, to feed upon you as a lion doth upon his prey ; 
if death to you were to be the precursor of hell, then 
you might reasonably startle and shrink back from it 
with horror and dismay. But if your sins are blotted 
out; if Christ has vanquished death in your behalf, so 
that you have nothing to encounter but bodily pain, 
and possibly not even that ; if death will be to you the 
harbinger of heaven, why should you be afraid ? why 
not bid it welcome? It cannot hurt you; it is easy 
and harmless ; it is like putting off your clothes, oi 
taking rest. 

2. It may keep your heart from shrinking back, to 
consider that death is necessary to fit you for the full 

ON kel:pl\g the heart. 95 

enjoyment of God. Whether you are wilUng to die 
or not, there certainly is no other way to complete the 
happiness of your soul. Death must do you the kind 
oiRce to remove this veil of flesh, this animal life which 
separates you from God, before you can see and enjoy 
him fully. '^Whilst we are at home in the body, we 
are absent from the Lord." And who would not be will- 
ing to die for the perfect enjoyment of God ? Methinks 
one should look and sigh, like a prisoner, through 
the grates of this mortality : " O that I had wings like 
a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest." Indeed 
most men need patience to die; but a saint, who un- 
derstands what death will introduce him to, rather 
needs patience to live. On his death-bed he should 
often look out and listen to his Lord's coming; and 
when he perceives his dissolution to be near, he should 
say, "The voice of my beloved; behold he cometh, 
leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills." 

8. Consider that the happiness of heaven commences 
immediatel}^ after death. That happiness will not be 
deferred till the resurrection ; but as soon as death has 
passed upon you, your soul will be swallowed up in 
life. When you have once loosed from this shore, 
you shall be quickly wafted to the shore of a glorious 
eternity. And can you not say, I desire to he dissolved, 
and to be with Christ ? Did the soul and body die to- 
gether, or did they sleep till the resurrection, as some 
have fancied, it would have been folly for Paul to de- 
sire a dissolution for the enjoyment of Christ; because 
he would have enjoyed more in the body than he could 
liave enjoyed out of it. 

The Scripture speaks of but two ways in which the 
soul can properly live : viz. by faith and vision. These 
two comprehend its present and future existence. 


Now, if when faith fails, sight should not immediately 
succeed, what would become of the soul ? But the 
truth on this subject is clearly revealed in Scripture* 
See Luke, 23: 3; John. 14: 3, &c. What a blessed 
change then will death make in your condition ! Rolise 
up, dying saint, and rejoice ; let death do his work, 
that the angels may conduct your soul to the world of 

4. It may increase your willingness to die, to reflect 
that by death God often removes his people out of the 
way of great troubles and temptations. When some 
extraordinary calamity is coming upon the world, 
God sometimes removes his saints out of the way of 
the evil. Thus Methuselah died the year before the 
flood; Augustine a little before the sacking of Hippo ; 
Pareus just before the taking of Heidelburg. Luther 
observes that all the apostles died before the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem ; and Luther himself died before the 
wars broke out in Germany. Now it may be that by 
death you will escape some grievous trial, which you 
could not and need not endure. But if no extraordi- 
nary trouble would* come upon you in case your life 
were prolonged, yet God, designs by death to reliei'e 
you from innumerable evils and burdens which are 
inseparable from the present state. Thus you will be 
delivered from indwelling sin, which is the greatest 
trouble ; from all temptations from whatever source ; 
from bodily tempers and embarrassments ; and from 
all the afflictions and sorrows of this life. The days 
of your mourning will be ended, and God will wipe 
away all tears from your eyes. Why then should you 
not hasten to depart? 

5. If you still linger, like Lot in Sodom, what are 
your pleas and pretences for a longer life? Why are 


you unwilling to die ? Are you concerned for the wel- 
fare of your relations ? If so, are you anxious for their 
temporal support? Then let the word of God satisfy 
you : " Leave thy fatherless children to me, I will 
keep them alive, and let thy widows trust in me." 
Luther says, in his last will, " Lord, thou hast given 
me a wife and children, I have nothing to leave them, 
but I commit them unto thee. O Father of the father- 
less and Judge of widows, nourish, keep and teach 

But are you concerned for the spiritual welfare ol 
your relations'? Remember that you cannot convert 
them, if you should live; and God can make your pray- 
ers and counsels effectual when you are dead. 

Perhaps you desire to serve God longer in this 
world. But if he has nothing further for you to do 
here, why not say with David, " Here am I, let him 
do what seemeth him good." He is calling you to high- 
er service in heaven, and can accomplish by other 
hands what you desire to do further here.— Do you 
feel too imperfect to go to heaven? Consider that 
you must be imperfect until you die; your sanctifica- 
tion cannot be complete until you get to heaven. 

' But,' you say, 'I want assurance ; if I had that I 
could die easily.' Consider, then, that a hearty will- 
ingness to leave all the world to be freed from sin, and 
to be with God, is the direct way to that desired assu- 
rance ; no carnal person was ever willing to die upon 
this ground. 

Thus I have shown how the people of God, in the 
most difficult seasons, may keep their hearts with ill 

I now proceed to improve and apply the subj^t : 

1. You have seen that the keeping of the hea» 1 ii^ 



the great work of a Christian, in which the very soul 
and life of religion consists, and without which all 
othei duties are of no value in the sight of God. Hence, 
to the consternation of hypocrites and formal profes- 
sors, I infer, 

1. That thepains and labors which many persons 
have undergone in religion are of no value, and will 
turn to no good account. Many eplendid services have 
been performed by men, v/hich God will utterly reject: 
they will not stand on record in order to an eternal 
acceptance, because the performers took no heed to 
keep their hearts with God. This is that fatal rock on 
which thousands of vahi professors dash and ruin them- 
selves eternally; they are exact about the externals of 
religion, but regardless of their hearts. O how many 
hours have some professors spent in hearing, praying, 
reading and conferring I and yet, as to the main end of 
religion, they might as v/ell have sat still and done no- 
thing, the great work, I mean heart-work, being all the 
while neglected. Tell me, vain professor, when did 
you shed a tear for the deadness, hardness, unbelief or 
earthliness of your heart? And do you think your ea- 
sy religion can save you ? if so, you must invert 
Christ's words, and say. Wide is the gate and broad 
is the icay that leadeth to life, and many there he tliat 
go in thereat ! Hear me, ye self-deluding hypocrite ; 
you who have put off God with heartless duties; you 
who have acted in religion as if you had been blessing 
an idol; you who could not search your heart, and 
regulate it, and exercise it in your performances ; how 
will you abide the coming of the Lord ? how will you 
hold up your head before liim, when he shall say, 
'O you dissembling, false-hearted man! how could 
..you. profess religiovi ? with what face could you so 


often tell me that you loved me, when you knew in 
your conseience that your heart was not with me V 

tremble to think what a fearful judgment it is to be 
given over to a heedless and careless heart, and then 
to have religious duties instead of a rattle to quiet and 
still the conscience ! 

2. I infer for their humiliation, that unless the people 
of God spend more time and pains about their hearts 
than they ordinarily do, they are never like to do God 
much service, or to possess much comfort in this world. 

1 may say of that Christian who is remiss and care- 
less in keeping his heart, as Jacob said of Reuben, 
Thou shale not excel It grieves me to see how many 
Christians there are who live at a poor, low rate, both 
of service and comfort, and who go up and down de- 
jected and complaining. But how can they expect 
it should be otherwise, while they live so carelessly ? 
O how little of their time is spent in the closet, in 
searching, humbling, and quickening their hearts ! 

Christian, you say your heart is dead, and do you 
wonder that it is, so long as you keep it not with the 
fountain of life ? If your body had been dieted as your 
soul has, that would have been dead too. And you 
may never expect that your heart will be in a better 
state until you take more pains with it. 

Christians ! I fear your zeal and strength have 
run in the wrong channel ; I fear that most of us may 
take up the Church's complaint : " They have made 
me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vine- 
yard have I not kept." > Two things have eaten up the 
time and strength of the professors of this genera- 
tion, and sadly diverted them from heart-work. 

First : — Fruitless controversies, started by Satan, I 
doubt not for the very purpose of taking us off from 


practical godliness, to make us puzzle our heads when 
we should be inspecting our hearts. How little have 
we regarded the observation : "It is a good thing that 
the heart be established with grace, and not with 
meats," (that is, with disputes and controversies about 
meats,) " which have not profited them that have been 
occupied therein." Hov/ much better it is to see men 
live exactly, than to hear them dispute with subtlet)'- ! 
These unfruitful questions, how have they rent the 
churches, wasted time and spirits, and taken Chris- 
tians off from their mahi business ! What think you, 
would it not have been better if the questions agitated 
among the people of God of late had been such as 
these : — " How shall a man distinguish the special from 
the common operations of the Spirit? How may a 
soul discern its first backslidings from God ? How 
may a backsliding Christian recover his first love? 
How may the heart be preserved from unseasonable 
thoughts in duty ? How may a bosom sin be disco- 
vered and mortified ?" &c. Would not this course 
have tended more to thehonor of religion and the com- 
fort of souls ? I am ashamed that the professors of this 
generation are yet insensible of their folly. O that 
God would turn their disputes and contentions into 
practical godliness ! 

Second : — Worldly cares and incumbrances have 
greatly increased the neglect of our hearts. The heads 
and hearts of multitudes have been filled with such a 
crowd and noise of worldly business that they have 
lamentably declined in their zeal, their love, their de- 
light in God, and their heavenly, serious, and profitable 
way of conversing with men. How miserably have 
we entangled ourselves in this wilderness of trifles ! 
Our discourses, our conferences, nay, our very prayers 


are tinged with it. We l^ve had so much to do with- 
out, that we have been able to do but little within. 
And how many precious opportunities have we thus 
lost ? How many admonitions of the Spirit have pass- 
ed over unfruitfully ? How often has the Lord called 
to us, when our worldly thoughts have prevented us 
from hearing ? But there certainly is a way to enjoy 
God even in our worldly employments. If we lose 
our views of him when engaged in our temporal af- 
fairs, the fault is our own. Alas! that Christians 
should stand at the door of eternity, having more work 
upon their hands than their time is sufficient for, and 
yet be filling their heads and hearts with trifles ! 

3. I infer, lastly, for the awakening of all, that if the 
keeping of the heart be the great work of a Christian, 
then there are but few real Christians in the world. If 
every one who has learned the dialect of Christianity, 
and who can talk like a saint ; if every one who has 
gifts and parts, and who can make shift to preach, 
pray, or discourse like a Christian: in a word, if all 
such as associate with the people of God and partake 
of ordinances may pass for Christians, then indeed the 
number is great. But alas ! how few can be found, if 
you judge them by this rule, — how few are there v/ho 
conscientiously keep their hearts, watch their thoughts 
and 'ook scrupulously to their motives ! Indeed there 
are few closet-men among professors. It is easier for 
men to be reconciled to any other duties in religion 
than to these. The profane part of the world will not 
so much as meddle with the outside of any religious 
duties, and least of all with these ; and as to the hy- 
pocrite, though he mi y be very particular in externals, 
you can never persuale him to undertake this inward, 
this difficult work ; th's work, to which there is no in- 



ducement from human applause ; this work, which 
would quickly discover what the hypocrite cares not 
to know: so that by general consent this heart-work 
is left to the hands of a few retired ones, and I tremble 
to think in how few hands it is. 

II. If the keeping of the heart be so important a 
business ; if such great advantages' result from it ; if 
so many valuable interests be wrapt up in it, then let 
me call upon the people of God every where to en- 
gage heartily in this work. O study your hearts, 
watch your hearts, keep your hearts ! Away with fruit- 
less controversies and all idle questions ; away with 
empty names and vain shows ; away with unprofita- 
ble discourse and bold censures of ethers, and turn 
in upon yourselves. that this day, this hour, you 
would resolve upon doing so ! 

Reader, methinks I shall prevail with you. All that 
I beg for is this, that you would step aside oftenei to 
talk with God and your own heart; that you would 
not suffer every trifle to divert you; that you would 
keep a more true and faithful account of your thoughts 
and affections; that you would seriously demand of 
your own heart at least every evening, * O my heart, 
where hast thou been to-day, and what has engaged 
thy thoughts V 

If all that has been said by way of inducement be 
not enough, I have yet some motives to offer you. 

1. The studying, observing, and diligently keeping 
your own heart, will surprisingly help you to under- 
stand the deep mysteries of religion. An honest, well- 
experienced heart is an excellent help to the head. 
Such a heart will serve for a commentary on a great 
part of the Scriptures. By means of such a heart you 
will have a l^etter understanding of divine things than 


the most learned (graceless) man ever had, or can 
have ; you will not only have a clearer, but a more 
interesting and profitable apprehension of them. A 
man may discourse orthodoxly and profoundly of the 
nature and effects of* faith, the troubles and comforts 
of conscience, and the sweetness of communion with 
God, who never felt the efficacy and sweet impression 
of these things upon his own soul. But how dark and 
dry are his notions compared with those of an expe- 
rienced Christian I 

2. The study and observation of your own heart will 
powerfully secure you against the dangerous and in- 
fecting errors of the times in which you live. For what 
think you is the reason why so many professors have 
departed from the faith, giving heed to fables ? why 
have so many been led away by the error of the wick- 
ed? why have those who have sown corrupt doctrines 
had such plentiful harvests among us, but because they 
have met with a race of professors who never knew 
what belongs to practical godliness and the study and 
keeping of their hearts ? 

3. Your care and diligence in keeping your heart 
will prove one of the best evidences of your sincerity. 
I know no external act of religion which truly distin- 
guishes the sound from the unsound professor. It is 
marvellous how far hypocrites go in all external du- 
ties ; how plausibly they can order the outward man, 
hiding all their indecencies from the observation of the 
world. But they take no heed to their hearts ; they 
are not in secret what they appear to be in public ; 
and before this test no hypocrite can stand. They 
may, indeed, in a fit of terror, or on a death-bed, cry 
out of the wickedness of their hearts; but such extort- 
ed complaints are worthy of no regard. No credit, in 


law, is to be given to the testimony of one upon the 
rack, because it may be supposed that the extremity of 
his torture will make him say any thing to get relief. 
But if self-jealousy, care and watchfulness be the 
daily workings and frames of your heart, you have 
some evidence of your sincerity. 

4. How comfortable and how profitable would all 
ordinances and duties be to you, if your heart was 
faithfully kept. What lively communion might you 
have with God every time you approach him, if your 
heart was in a right frame ! You might then say with 
David, " My meditation of Him shall be sweet." It is 
the indisposition of the heart which renders ordinances, 
and secret duties so comfortless to some. They strive 
to raise their hearts to God, now pressmg this argu- 
ment upon them, then that, to quicken and affect them ; 
yet they often get nearly through the exercise before 
iheir hearts begin to be interested in it ; and some- 
times they go away no better than they came. But 
the Christian whose heart is prepared by being con- 
stantly kept, enters immediately and heartily into his 
duties; he outstrips his sluggish neighbor, gets the 
first sight of Christ in a sermon, the first seal from 
Christ in a sacrament, the first communication of grace 
and love in secret prayer. Now if there be any thing 
valuable and comfortable in ordinances and private du- 
ties, look to your heart and keep it, I beseech you. 

5. An acquaintance with your own heart will fur- 
nish you a fountain of matter in prayer. The man 
who is diligent in heart-work, will be richly supplied 
with matter in his addresses to God. He will not be 
confused for want of thoughts ; his tongue will not 
falter for want of expressions. 

6. The most desirable thing in the world, viz. the 


revival of religion among a people, may be effected 
by means of what I am urging upon you. 

O that I might see the time when professors shall not 
walk in a vain show ; when they shall please them- 
selves no more v/ith a name to live, while they are spi- 
ritually dead ; when they shall be no more a company 
of frothy, vain persons ; but when holiness shall shine 
in their conversation, and awe the world, and com- 
mand reverence from all that are around them ; when 
they shall warm the heart of those who come near 
them, and cause it to be said, God is in these men of 
a truth. And may sujh a time be expected? Until 
heart-work becomes che business of professors, I have 
no hope of seeing a time so blessed ! Does it not 
grieve you to sec how religion is contemned and tram- 
pled under foo^, and the professors of it ridiculed and 
scorned in th^^ world ? Professors, would you recover 
your credit ? would you obtain an honorable testimo- 
ny in the consciences of your very enemies ? Then 
keep your hearts. 

7. By diligence in keeping our hearts we should 
prevent the occasions of fatal scandals and stumbling- 
blocks to the world. Wo to the world because of 
offences ! 

Keep your heart faithfully, and you will be prepar- 
ed for any situation or service to which you may be 
called. This, and this only can properly fit you for 
usefulness in any station ; but with this you can en- 
dure prosperity or adversity ; you can deny yourself, 
and turn your hand to any work. Thus Paul turned 
every circumstance to good account, and made him- 
self so eminently useful. When he preached to others, 
he provided against being cast away himself: he kept 
his heart ; and every thing in which he excelled seems 


to have had a close connection with his diligence in 
keeping his heart. 

9. If the people of God would diligently keep their 
hearts, their communion with each other would be 
unspeakably more inviting and profitable. Then " how 
goodly would be thy tents, O Jacob, and thy taberna- 
cles, O Israel!" It is the fellowship which the people 
of God have with the Father and with the Son that 
kindles the desires of others to have communion with 
them. I tell you, that if saints would be persuaded to 
spend more time and take more pains about their 
hearts, there would soon be such a divine excellence 
in their conversation that others would account it no 
small privilege to be with or near them. It is the pride, 
passion and earthliness of our hearts, that has spoiled 
Christian fellowship. Why is it that when Christians 
meet they are often jarring and contending, but be- 
cause their passions are unmortified ? Whence come 
their uncharitable censures of their brethren, but from 
their ignorance of themselves ? Why are they so rigid 
and unfeeling toward those who have fallen, but 
because they do not feel their own weakness and lia- 
bility to temptation? Why is their discourse so light 
and unprofitable when they meet, but because their 
hearts are earthly and vain ? But now, if Christians 
would study their hearts mote and keep them better, 
the beauty and glory of communion w^ould be restored. 
They would divide no more, contend no more, cen- 
sure rashly no more. They will feel right one toward 
another, when each is daily humbled under a sense of 
the evil of his own heart. 

10. Lastly : — Keep your heart, and then the com- 
forts of the Spirit and the influence of all ordinances 
will be more fixed and lasting than they now are. 


" And do the consolations of God seem small to you ?" 
Ah, you have reason to be ashamed that the ordinances 
of Godj as to their quickening and comforting effects, 
should make so light and transient an impression on 
your heart. 

Now, reader, consider well these special benefits of 
keeping the heart which I have mentioned. Examine 
their importance. Are they small matters ? Is it a 
small matter to have your understanding assisted? 
your endangered soul rendered safe? your sincerity 
proved ? your communion with God sweetened ? your 
heart filled with matter for prayer? Is it a small thing 
to have the power of godliness ? all fatal scandals re- 
moved? an instrumental fitness to serve Christ ob- 
tained ? the communion of saints restored to its primi- 
tive glory ? and the influence of ordinances abiding in 
the souls of saints ? If these are no common blessings, 
no ordinary benefits, then surely it is a great and in- 
dispensable duty to keep the heart with all (diligence. 

And now are you inclined to undertake the business 
of keeping your heart ? are you resolved upon it ? I 
charge you, then, to engage in it earnestly. Away with 
every cowardly feeling, and make up your mind to en- 
counter difficulties. Draw your armor from the word 
of God. Let the v;ord of CVirist dwell in j^ou richly, in 
its commands, its promises, its threatenings ; let it be 
fixed in your understanding, your memory, your con- 
science, your affections. You must learn to wield the 
sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God) familiar- 
ly, if you would defend your heart and conquer your 
enemies. You must call yourself frequently to an ac- 
count ; examine yourself as in the presence of the all- 
seeing God ; bring your conscience, as it were, to the 
bar of judgment. Beware how you plunge yourself 


into a multiplicity of worldly business 5 how you prac* 
tise upon the maxims of the world ; and how you ven- 
ture at all to indulge your depraved propensities. 
You must exercise the utmost vigilance to discover 
and check the first symptoms of departure from God, 
the least decline of spirituality, or the least indisposi- 
tion to meditation by yourself, and holy conversation 
and fellowship with others. These things you must 
undertake, in the strength of Christ, with invincible re- 
solution in the outset. And if you thus engage in 
this great work, be assured you shall not spend your 
strength for naught; comforts which you never felt 
or thought of will flow in upon you from every side. 
The diligent prosecution of this work will constantly 
afford you the most powerful excitements to vigilance 
and ardor in the life of faith, while it increases your 
strength and wears out your enemies. And when you 
have kept your heart with all diligence a little while $ 
when you have fought the battles of this spiritual war- 
fare, gained the ascendancy over the corruptions with- 
in, and vanquished the enemies without, then God will 
open the gate of heaven to you, and give you the por- 
tion which is promised to them that overcome. Awake 
then, this moment ; get the world under your feet j 
pant not for the things which a man may have, and 
eternally lose his soul; but bless God that you may 
have his service here, and the glory hereafter which 
he appoints to his chosen. 

" Now the God of peace, that brought again from the 
dead our Lord Jesus, that great ShepheM of the sheep, 
through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you 
perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you 
that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesusi 
Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. AmenJ^ 



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