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his sight: “Exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts xi. 23). Many have light inclinations, or wavering resolutions; but their hearts are not fixedly, habitually bent to please God; therein chiefly lieth this sound heart, that it doth inseparably cleave to God in all things. “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chron. xxii. 19): this is the obediential bent, when the heart is set and fixed : so David speaketh of it, “ I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway even unto the end” (Psalm cxix. 112); when the heart is poised this way; not compelled by outward force, but inclined; and this always, not by fits and starts. Many have good motions, and temporise a little; but their righteousness is like the morning dew. Many approve what is good, and condemn themselves for not doing of it; but their hearts are not inclined; nay, further, they can wish it were better with them, but the heart is not swayed and overpowered by grace. Here is the ground of a cheerful, uniform, and constant obedience, when we do not force ourselves now and then to good actions, but the heart hath an habitual tendency that way.
(4.) There is required that the affections be purged and quickened : these are the vigorous motions of the will, and therefore this must be heedfully regarded; purged they must be from that carnality and fleshliness that cleaveth to them. This is called in Scripture the circumcision of the heart: “ The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, &c., to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live" (Deut. xxx. 6). It was figured in the cutting of the foreskin, or the circumcision of the flesh; which, because it was an action done with pain, sometimes noteth the humbling of the heart and soul-affliction (Lev. xxvi. 41). But, because it was done not only with pain, but the foreskin was cut off, so it noteth the purging the heart from that fleshliness and carnality that cleaveth to us: “Purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts xv. 9). Sin is wrought out more and more by the blood of Christ applied to the conscience. And sometimes this is expreased in Scripture, by ploughing up the fallow ground (Jer. iv. 3). There are perverse in. clinations, like briars and thorris, that grow in us, and the strength of vile affections: now, unless these be abated and broken, we shall soon be transported by them. It is an allusion to ground broken up for tillage, till the ground be ploughed, and the noisome weeds destroyed, the good seed will not grow. The affections must be quickened, acted, and set awork by the love of God (Gal. v. 6): prepared, ready to serve the Lord (Eph. ii. 20). Amor meus, e'st pondus meum: love and delight in God's ways go together.
Thus much of the nature of the sound heart.
Secondly, Let me now come to show you the value and worth of this privilege: it is a great blessing ; that will appear by two things :
1. The respect that God hath to it.
1st, The respect that God hath to it. This is the thing that God delights in, and looks after : “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness" (1 Chron. xxix. 17). He can discern integrity, and preferreth it before all manner of service and pomp in worship that is yielded to him. Now, this delight of God is not only in the thing itself, in the uprightness, but in the persons of the upright, upon account of their uprightness: so, “ Such as are upright in their way
are his delight" (Prov. xi. 20). That person that is upright for the main, though otherwise he hath many failings, is of great esteem with God. But can the holy God delight in any of the sinful sons of Adam: Before the fall God rejoiced in us, as in the work of his hands; but, since sin marred us and defiled us, how can God take pleasure in us? The love of good will may fall upon sinful, unworthy creatures ; but the love of complacency cannot fall upon these. A fit object the sinner is not, and exactly perfect none can be ; there is therefore a middle person, the upright and sincere man. And this delight of God passeth from the person to his actions: “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (Prov. xv. 8). Alas! our prayers are, as our persons, poor, slender things at the best; yet a little findeth acceptance with God, it is welcome for the person's sake who is accepted in Christ. Now, how will God manifest this delight? In his providence : “ The eyes of the Lord run to and fro, &c., to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chron. xvi. 9). He looks up and down in the world to find out such persons to do them good, that he may employ all his power and grace for them; so God shows it in his word ; God's work is to assure them of a blessing: “Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" (Mic. ii. 7.) There he comforts, and strengthens, and revives their hearts. He doth not only speak good, but doth good, to them that walk uprightly. Nay, that is not all; but, by his Spirit and internal grace, he doth more encourage them, and renew strength upon them in their way to Heaven : “ The way of the Lord is strength to the upright" (Prov. x. 29). The more they walk with God, the more easy and sweet they find it so to do: so that, if all these promises will encourage us, we had need to look after this sound heart. What honour and esteem soever others purchase with men, these obtain favour with the Lord, and are more regarded in all his dispensations.
2ndly, Let us come to the evil it freeth us from, in the argument of the text, “ That I be not ashamed.” They whose hearts are not sound with God, one time or other they shall be put to shame; but others shall be kept from this effect, which is so grievous to nature. Let me open this : a man may be ashamed either before God or men, ourselves or others.
1. Before God : either in our addresses to him at the throne of grace, or when summoned to appear at the last day before the tribunal of his justice.
(1.) If you understand it of our present approach to him, we cannot come into his presence with confidence, if we have not a sound heart : “ If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God" (1 John iii. 21). We lose that holy familiarity and cheerfulness, when we are unbosoming ourselves to our heavenly Father, when our hearts are not sound. An unsound heart, through the consciousness of its own guilt, groweth shy of God, and stands aloof from him, and hath no pleasure in his company ; but, when we sincerely set ourselves to keep a good conscience in all things, we have this liberty towards God: though our failings humble us, yet they do not weaken our confidence of our Father's mercy. St. Paul thought himself a fit object of others' prayers upon this account: “Pray for us ; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly" (Heb. xiii. 18). That is his argument to prove that he was not altogether unworthy of their prayers, nor incapable of the benefit of their petitions. There are some whom no pravers or intercession can help or profit; some that have no encouragement to pray for themselves, or give others an encouragement to pray for them ; but Paul was none of these; why? because the reason of his request is modestly expressed : he doth not say, I have; but, I trust I have a good conscience; and he doth not justify himself in all things, but appeals to the bent of his will, “ in all things willing to live honestly." He was willing so to do; that is, to direct his life according to the will of God in all things; his heart was willingly disposed, and predominantly bent unto righteousness; and he knew it to be so. Such may, without blushing, come into God's presence, and have encouragement to pray for themselves, and encourage others to pray for them.
(2.) When we are summoned to appear before the tribunal of his justice. Many, now, with a bold impudence, will obtrude themselves upon the worship of God, because they see him not, and have not a due sense of his majesty ; but the time will come, when the most impudent and outbraving sinners will be astonished, even then when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open and made manifest, and hidden things brought to light (1 Cor. iv. 5); and every one is to receive his judgment from God according to what he hath done, either good or evil. Conscience now, like a clock when the weights are down, is silent, and makes no noise ; but then it shall speak, and tell men their own, and then they will be ashamed; unsound hearts will not be able to stand in the judgment. When God sets any judicial judgment afoot in the world, how it reviveth men's guilty fears ! “ The sinners in Zion are afraid ; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrite. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa. xxxiii. 14.) In some terrible judgments, that are a foregoing pledge of judgment to come, men of an unsound heart are soon possessed with fears and frights; as the unsound parts of the body are pinched most in searching weather. When God's wrath is once kindled, none so terrified and amazed as they : much more at the great day, when there is no allaying of their fear, and they must undergo the final judgment of the most impartial God. Who will be able to hold up the head, and to say, “ Then shall I not be ashamed?". They that unfeignedly give up themselves to do the whole will of God : “ Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments” (Psalm cxix. 6). A man that desires to do the whole will of God, will not be confounded and amazed with terror before the Judge of all the earth. The philosopher defines shame to be, a fear of a just reproof. Who more just than the Judge of all the earth? And when is there a greater reproof in the conviction of sinners, than at the last judgment?
2ndly, Before men a man may be ashamed, and so before ourselves and others.
1. Ourselves. It was a saying of Pythagoras, Reverence thyself; be ashamed of thyself. God hath a spy and deputy within us, and taketh notice of our conformity and inconformity to his will, and, after sin committed, lasheth the soul with the sense of its own guilt and folly, as the body is lashed with stripes : “ What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed ?" (Rom. vi. 21.) There is an emphasis in the particle “ now;" that is, now after grace received; or now after the commitment of sin: take either sense. Sin enticeth us before we fall into it, but afterwards it flasheth terror in the face of the sinner, and filleth his soul with horror and shame: or now after grace received, a Christian cannot look back upon bis past life without shame and blushing. Tertullian hath a saying, that a man's heart reproacheth him when he doth evil. As soon as our first parents had sinned, they were ashamed of it, and sought fig-leaves to cover it : they seek to hide with the leaves what the fruit had uncovered. Well then, there is an eye and an ear that seeth and heareth our secret sins, and lasheth the soul for them, til} we gros into a sturdy impudence. But now the upright man that sets his heart o serve the Lord, and do his will, hath comfort and peace in himself: “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, &c., we have had our conversation in the world" (2 Cor. i, 12). He can look his conscience in the face without fear and amazement. He hath sorrow for his failings, but can look upon himself as sound before God for the main.
2. Before others. And so our shame may be occasioned by our scandals, or our punishment; it is hard to say which is intended here.
(1.) By scandals. When the heart is not sound with God, disorders break out before men; and many that make a fair show for a while, afterwards shipwreck themselves and all their credit: for God will at length uncase the hypocrite (Prov. xxvi. 26), God will pull off his disguise one time or other; and that which is counterfeit, cannot long be hidden. There will a time of dissection come, when that which is hidden shall be made manifest. The Apostle telleth us, that that which is lame is soon turned out of the way (Heb. xii. 13). Men of an unsound heart, have some tempta. tions or other to carry them quite off from God; and then, as old Eli, they fall back, and break the neck of their profession; whereby they dishonour God, and shame themselves. As Christ telleth us of the builders, that the house fell, and great was the fall of it; so these, by some shameful and scandalous fall, discover themselves to the world.
(2.) There is a shame before others by their punishment and disappointment of their hopes: God's punishment, in the language of Scripture, is a putting to shame: “ The Heathen that are about you they shall bear their shame” (Ezek. xxxvi. 7); so, “I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear" (Jer. xii. 26). So when God visits his people for scandalous and enormous offences: “ Thou hast cast us off and put us to shame" (Psalm xliv. 9). The reason of that expression is this: a man in misery is a laughing-stock to others, and exposed to contempt and ignominy; especially is this a shame to God's people, when they seem to be disappointed of the hope of protection and assistance which they expected from God; then God puts them to shame, makes them to be a despised people, and this is their portion, whose hearts are not sound and upright with God, they are rejected of the Lord, and grow despised. Well then, the point is made good by what hath already been said; but now the other circumstance.
II. Here is the qualification of the person asking, David.
1. David was a holy, good man (Acts xiii. 22): he goes and begs, “Let my heart be sound." The hearts of the best men are so perverted with natural corruption, which is not fully abolished in any, that they have need to pray for a sound heart. Put off the old man with his deceitful lusts (Eph. iv, 22). The old man is not so put off, but there will be many warpings and deceitful workings still, and therefore David prays thus, The more upright any man is, the more sensible of his weakness, and the more suspicious of his own heart's deceitfulness. The best have lodged sin, vanity, and pleasures, and the world, in their hearts, which are the closets that should be kept entirely for the Lord. They find their purposes towards that which is good very weak, their resolutions variable, their inclinations to evil very strong : “ Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" (Prov. xx. 9.) And therefore they go to God, if there be any degree of insincerity, any spared sin, any remainings of lust not striven against, and not bewailed, that he would discover it, and mortify it, that they may be more steadfast, being sensible of their fickleness and turning aside in the several conditions they pass through.
2. This was the request of David, who was so much in the knowledge and study of God's law, and had so often said, “Teach me thy statutes ;" now, Make me sound in thy statutes. Sound knowledge of the statutes of God, and a sound purpose of heart to follow them, must be joined together. Affection without knowledge is not good, much less knowledge without affection and practice. All our knowledge will but increase our punishment (Luke xii. 48), and take away all pretences of excuse. First a heart enlightened, and then a heart bent: David often prays for both in this psalm; so must we pray, that, as we have greater knowledge than others, so we may have better affections than others, and our hearts more upright. “ If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them” (John xiii. 17). God's scope in giving the law, was not to make trial of men's wits, who could most sharply conceive; nor of their memories, who could most faithfully retain ; nor of their eloquence, who could most neatly discourse; but of their hearts, who could most obediently submit to his statutes. Stars were not made for sight only, but influence; so man was not created to know only, but to walk according to his knowledge. God's precepts are best learned, when most circumspectly practised.
3. This was the request of David, a man afflicted, opposed, and persecuted; compare the text with the 78th verse, “Let the proud be ashamed; for they have dealt perversely with me;" “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed.” Above all things, we should study to be sincere in our carriage, and defence of a good cause : an unsound heart will not bear out, but fall off to its own shame. The Apostle telleth us, that “ a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James i. 8). Between God's supplies and carnal shifts, he goeth backward and forward, or this way and that, as occasion requireth. We need truth of grace, that we may be able to endure all weathers; and, when we are put to trial, we should be the more earnest with God for soundness of heart.
III. Here is the person of whom it is asked; of God: “Make my heart sound in thy statutes.' Uprightness is the gift of God, and the work of his Spirit : “ Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm li. 10). We are like a pewter vessel, battered by the fall; and, until we be cast anew, we cannot be right with God. God worketh it in us at first, and still keepeth us and guideth us by his Spirit, or else we shall soon turn aside to our old bent and bias again. God be. ginneth the work of holiness, and maintaineth it against remaining corruption and outward temptations: he still keepeth afoot a constant purpose, and steady endeavour in the heart, to walk so as may please God. Mert, of themselves, have a kind of humour towards good for a fit; but to go on sincerely to the end, needeth grace from above.
USE-Is, to press us to look after this firm, established spirit. Now, to this purpose,
1. Heartily resign yoursclves to be directed and guided by God in all