Let it be then concluded that 'GOD IS LOVE,' and that the love that God hath to us is such as we never had for ourselves. We have been often tried about our own love to ourselves, and it has been proved over, and over, and over, that sometimes even we that are Christians could, and would, had it been possible, have pawned ourselves, our souls, and our interest in Christ, for a foul and beastly lust. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, would not suffer it so to be. Now, if we are so fickle and uncertain in our love to ourselves, as to value our salvation at so low and so base a rate, can it be imagined that ever we should, had it been left to our choice, have given the best of what we have for the salvation of our souls? Yet God gave his Son to be the Saviour of the world. I say again, if our love is so slender to our own souls, can any think that it should be more full to the souls of others? And yet God had such love to us, as to give his only begotten Son for our sins. Yet again, how should it be that we, who are usually so affected with the conceit of our own happiness, since we care no more for our own souls, do our best to secure the souls of others? and yet God, who is infinitely above all creatures, has so condescended, as to concern himself, and to give the best of his flock, even his only beloved Son, for very dust and ashes. Wherefore, 'Herein is love, not that we loved God,' or our neighbour, 'but that God loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins' (1 John 4:10).
Fourth. Is sin so vile a thing? is the soul so precious a thing? and is God's love and care of the salvation of the souls of sinners infinitely greater than is their own care for their own souls? Then this should teach those concerned to blush, to blush, I say, and to cover their faces with shame. There is nothing, as I know of, that more becomes a sinner, than blushing and shame doth; for he is the harbourer, the nurse, and the nourisher of that vile thing called sin; that so great an enemy of God, and that so great an enemy to the soul. It becomes him also, if he considers what a creature God has made him, and how little he hath set by his own creation, and by the matter of which God hath made his soul. Let him also consider unto what base things he hath stooped and prostrated himself, while things infinitely better have stood by and offered themselves unto him freely; yea, how he has cast that God that made him, and his Son that came to redeem him, quite behind his back, and before their faces embraced, loved, and devoted himself unto him that seeks nothing more than the damnation of his soul.
Ah, Lord! when will foolish man be wise, and come to God with his hands upon his head, and with his face covered with shame, to ask him forgiveness for that wickedness which he has committed? which is wickedness committed not only against holiness and justice, against which also men by nature have an antipathy, but against mercy and love, without which man cannot tell what to do. Blush, sinner, blush. Ah, that thou hadst grace to blush! But this is God's complaint, 'Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush' (Jer 8:12). It is a sad thing that men should be thus void of consideration, and yet they are so. They are at a continual jest with God and his Word, with the devil and sin, with hell and judgment. But they will be in earnest one day; but that one day will be too late!
Fifth. Is it so that God, though sin is so fearful a thing, has prepared an effectual remedy against it, and purposed to save us from the evil and damning effects thereof? (1.) Then this should beget thankfulness in the hearts of the godly, for they are made partakers of this grace; I say, it should beget thankfulness in thy heart. 'Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift,' said the apostle, when he seriously thought of that which was much inferior to what we have been a discoursing of (2 Cor 9:15). That was about man's willingness to do good; this is about God's. That was about men's willingness to give money to poor saints; this about God's willingness to give Christ Jesus his Son to the world. It was the thoughts of this redemption and salvation that made David say, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name' (Psa 103:1). O! they that are partakers of redeeming grace, and that have a throne of grace, a covenant of grace, and a Christ, that is the Son of God's love, to come to, and to live by, should be a thankful people. 'By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,—giving thanks in his name' (Heb 13:15). How many obligations has God laid upon his people, to give thanks to him at every remembrance of his holiness. (2.) Study the priesthood, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, both the first and second part thereof. The first part was that when he offered up himself without the gate, when he bare our sins in his own body on the tree. The second part is that which he executeth there whither he is now gone, even in heaven itself, where the throne of grace is. I say, study what Christ has done, and is adoing. O! what is he adoing now? he is sprinkling his blood with his priestly robes on, before the throne of grace; that is too little thought on by the saints of God: 'We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man' (Heb 8:1,2). Busy thyself, fellow-Christian, about this blessed office of Christ. It is full of good, it is full of sweet, it is full of heaven, it is full of relief and succour for the tempted and dejected; wherefore, I say again, study these things, give thyself wholly to them.
Sixth. Since God has prepared himself a lamb, a sacrifice, a priest, a throne of grace, and has bid thee come to him, come to him as there sitting; come, come boldly, as he bids thee. What better warrant canst thou have to come, than to be bid to come of God? When the goodman himself bids the beggar come to his house, then he may come, then he may come boldly; the consideration of the invitation doth encourage. That we have our friend at court, should also make us come boldly. Jesus, as has been showed, as sacrifice and high priest, is there, 'in whom we have boldness, and access with confidence by the faith of him' (Eph 3:12). Again, 'By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God' (Rom 5:2). Again, 'We have boldness, brethren, to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus' (Heb 10:19,20). What can be more plain, more encouraging, more comfortable to them that would obtain mercy, 'and find grace to help in time of need.' It is a dishonour to God, disadvantage to thee, and an encouragement to Satan, when thou hangest back, and seemest afraid to 'come boldly unto the throne of grace.' 'Let us,' therefore, 'draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water; let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he is faithful that promised, and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works' (Heb 10:22-24). Farewell.
1. How many thousands rush into the presence of God with unholy, thoughtless familiarity, by repeating the form called the Lord's prayer. His infinite holiness should make us tremblingly apply to his throne of grace. In the name of the Redeemer, and in his mediation alone, the sinner can find access, and be emboldened to draw nigh and receive grace to help in our everyday time of need.—Ed.
2. 'Though the phrase, "throne of grace," be only once named in the Bible, yet the thing signified is so savoury, significant, and suitable, that this form of speaking is become famous among Christians, and will be used to the end of time.'—Traill.—Ed.
3. This is an allusion to Jeremiah 18:1-10 the potter and his wheel, upon which he forms his vessels of clay to honour or to dishonour as he pleaseth. So God worketh all things according to his will, all tending to the good of his church, because his resting-place is the mercy-seat.—Ed.
4. Quoted from the Genevan or puritan version.—Ed.
5. 'Grace was poured so plentifully from heaven, that it did not only countervail sin, but above measure passeth it.' Note to the Genevan Bible.—Ed.
6. Not by the person or body, but mentally. It matters little whether the body is sitting, kneeling, or standing; riding, walking, or lying down; the throne of grace is equally accessible, if the spirit is prostrate before it—the spontaneous effusions of the soul in sighs or groans, or joyful exclamations, or the pouring forth of heart-felt words; but all must be under a sense of the mediation of Jesus.—Ed.
7. Smutches or smudges. 'And with a kind of amber smirch my face.'—Shakespeare.—Ed.
8. 'In all our distresses, infirmities, and darkness in this world, we should get up to that mountain of myrrh and hill of frankincense, Canticles 4:6;—the passion of Christ, which was bitter like myrrh; and to the intercession of Christ, which is sweet like incense.'—Dr. Bates.—Ed.
9. How dreadful for a sinner to enter upon a way, expecting it to be a living way to life and happiness, and find it the dead way to death and eternal destruction. O my soul, try thy way, and, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, ascertain whether it is the living way to everlasting life, or the dead way to eternal misery.—Ed.
10. Such was the opinion of naturalists in the olden time, Bartolomeus, on the properties of things, thus speaks of goats' blood—'The goat's hot blood neshethe (softeneth) and carveth the hard ardamant stone, that neither fire nor iron may overcome.' Book 18 cap. 60.—Ed.
11. What laid the cornerstone of this throne, but grace? What brings in the inhabitants, preserves them, perfects them, but grace?—Traill.
'Grace all the work shall crown, Thro' everlasting days; It lays in heaven the topmost stone, And well deserves the praise.'—Rippon.
12. Perfectly impressed upon their memories.—Ed.
13. From the Genevan version.—Ed.
14. Bunyan here refers to the marginal note in the Genevan bible, Exodus 30. The high priest's washing 'signifying that he that cometh to God must be washed from all sin and corruption.'—Ed.
15. This sea was full of pure water, a figure of the word, without mixture of men's inventions. See the typical meaning of the molten sea and the laver, fully explained and illustrated by Bunyan, in Solomon's Temple Spiritualized of this edition.—Ed.
16. Our first lesson is of sin, righteousness, and judgment; second, Christ's obedience unto death for our salvation; third, Christ ascended to God's right hand, the Mediator and Advocate. Thus the bitter comes before the sweet, to make the sweet the sweeter.—Ed.
17. Alluding to these destructive operations of nature, the whirlwind and the whirlpool, the first whirling fancies that Christ saves from the punishment, and not from the power of sin, takes them from the gospel hope, and the second receives them into the vortex of misery. O my soul, be watchful unto prayer at a throne of grace, for who can withstand the whirlpool if once within its influence?—Ed.
18. To see the fulness and freeness of the treasures of grace in Christ—to see that we must partake of it or perish—to be looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, are indeed powerful incentives to keep us near the throne of grace.—Ed.
19. Probably a frightful military saying heard by Bunyan, when serving in the debauched army of Charles I, from some of Prince Rupert's cavaliers.—Ed.
20. How much this paragraph reminds us of the experience of poor Christian in his fearful battle with the fiend! 'In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the fight—he spake like a dragon; and, on the other side, what sighs and groans burst from Christian's heart. I never saw him, all the while, give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then, indeed, he did smile and look upward; but it was the dreadfullest fight that ever I saw.'—Ed.
21. 'Spaked'; marked with small spots.—Ed.
22. Instituted, inducted, or installed.—Ed.
23. Exposed to violence—blindfolded or hoodwinked.—Ed.
24. Protestants can have little idea of the idolatry used in the Church of Rome. Something may be gathered from the following directions, given in a very beautiful office for Good Friday, corrected by royal authority, in conformity with the breviary and missal of our holy father Pope Urban VIII, printed at Paris by Posset:—
'The priest having retired a little behind the altar, the deacon takes the cross (a plain wooden cross without the figure), covered with a veil, and gives it to the priest, who turns to the people and shows the top of the cross, before which they all prostrate themselves and kiss the ground, singing Ecce lignum crucis. He then removes the veil from the right limb of the cross, and lifts it up, singing, still louder, Behold the wood of the cross; again the people prostrate themselves. The priest then comes to the middle of the altar, and taking off the veil, exhibits the wooden cross to be adored; then setting it down, he goes on his knees, and rising, takes off his shoes and approaches the cross to worship it, making three genuflections, and kisses it. All the clergy who are present take off their shoes, prostrate themselves, worship and kiss the cross in the order of their dignity. All the officers of the church, and all the people, follow in the same manner to adore it, while solemn music and chanting attends and completes the ceremony.' Thus a wooden board, made into the shape of a cross by some joiner, receives Divine honours. Talk not of heathen idols. Who can wonder that honest John Bunyan felt indignation, and exclaimed, 'O idolatry! O blasphemy!'—Ed.
25. An extraneous taste that leaves a sting behind, as, 'She had a tongue with a tang.' 'The wine has a tang of the cask.'—Ed.
26. This use of the word 'resent' has been long obsolete; it expressed a deep sense or strong perception of good as well as evil; in this place it means, 'proved to have been satisfactory or gratifying.'—Ed.
27. How sublime is the Christian system, in its adaptation to all God's intelligent creatures! So lovely in its simplicity, that the child—nay, even the poor Bushman of Africa, or the half-idiot native of New South Wales—is able readily to comprehend how God, for Christ's sake, can blot out all iniquities and transgressions; while the noblest intellect admires and adores its vast and extensive ramifications of mercies. Blessings numerous and unbounded are developed, reaching, in their ultimate effects, far beyond the utmost stretch of human perception, even when the most brilliant imagination is enlightened and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. The intentions of mercy commence in the purposes of God before the creation—are infinite in extent—and eternal in duration. How is Divine wisdom and mercy thus displayed in the adaptation of the gospel to the personal inquiry and reception of every individual of the human race!—Ed.
28. The beginning, increase, and perfection of life eternal, consists in holy knowledge; that God and Christ are of the same nature, equal in power and glory. As Christ is the most excellent object, therefore the knowledge of Christ is, and must be the most excellent knowledge; not only all the excellencies of the creatures are found in him, but all excellencies, yea, the fulness of the Godhead, dwells in him bodily. All learning, in comparison of the knowledge of Christ, is the most contemptible ignorance. He is the wisdom of God, and our highest wisdom will be, with holy Paul, to part with whatever is most dear and precious to us, that we may win Christ, receiving him as he is revealed in the word of truth.—Mason.
29. Power of exercising affection and feeling.—Ed.
30. Bunyan's daughter, Mary, was blind, and thus became an object of his tenderest solicitude. When he was sent to prison for preaching, he felt for her far more than for all other worldly objects. 'My poor blind child. O the thoughts of the hardship she might go under would break my heart to pieces.'—Grace Abounding, No. 320 and 329.—Ed.
31. It is a stupendous and unspeakably blessed privilege that Christ and believers are one flesh. Husband and wife, soul and body, are not so closely united as Christ and believers are to each other. He has carried their sorrows, borne their punishment, and procured complete redemption for them. And eternal blessings on him! he now ever liveth in heaven to act and intercede for them. He there exercises a tender and compassionate spirit towards his suffering children and servants here on earth. His love and pity to every individual of his church, infinitely exceeds that of the most affectionate parent towards their offspring. Our extremity is his opportunity—he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, will give consolation under, sanctify, and at length deliver the godly out of all temptations and afflictions.—Mason.
32. As this is Satan's temptation in the time of poverty, so the time of prosperity is equally dangerous—the love of gain, when it possesses the soul, is insatiable. Satan whispers into the ear, and the heart too readily entertains the wicked thought—'Get money; if you cannot do it honestly, still get money.' The most contemptible meannesses have been practised by the wealthy. O beware of that ruinous idolatry, covetousness.—Ed.
33. Query, is this that part of a Christian's experience referred to in the Pilgrim's Progress, the second part of the Valley of the Shadow of Death?—Ed.
34. No man could speak more experimentally on the pain inflicted by slander, although utterly unfounded, than John Bunyan. So eminent a man became a mark for Satan and his emissaries to shoot at. He was charged with witchcraft, called a highwayman, and every slander that malice could invent was heaped upon him. His remedy, his consolation, was the throne of grace—a specific that never did, nor ever will fail.—Ed.
35. The late Rev. John Newton, who lived to a good old age, in his latter days used to tell his friends—'I am like a parcel, packed up and directed, only waiting the carrier to take me to my destination'; blessed tranquility under such solemn circumstances.—Ed.
36. This is illustrated by the account of Hopeful's experience in the Pilgrim's Progress; he says, 'If I look narrowly into the best of what I do now, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best of that I do; so that now I am forced to conclude, that, notwithstanding my former fond conceits of myself and duties, I have committed sin enough IN ONE DUTY to send me to hell, though my former life had been faultless.'—Ed.
37. Grace, mercy, peace, justification, sanctification, and glorification, all flow from Christ the propitiatory sacrifice, in whom, as his beloved, the Father accepts us graciously, and loves us freely.—Mason.
38. Spiritual strength, like bodily food, must be renewed day by day. The necessity of daily food for our bodies should remind us of that bread that cometh down from heaven, and that water of life which, as a river, maketh glad the city of our God. 'As oft as ye do this,' eat and drink, 'ye do show the Lord's death.' O that such a recollection may have an abiding influence upon our souls!—Ed.
39. In those days travellers did well to advance as far in a day as we now do in an hour. To make a country tour, required then the same precautions, as to supplies, as it now does to make the grand tour of Europe. To have carried coin would have been a great encumbrance, as well as risk from robbers. How accurately Bunyan knew the mode used in such cases to secure supplies, and with what beautiful simplicity it is spiritualized.—Ed.
40. How truly and solemnly is the downward road of a sinner here portrayed. 1. Drawn aside by lust. 2. A lie to conceal his wicked folly. 3. Intoxication, to drown his convictions and harden his conscience. 4. The consequent ruin of his worldly prospects; and, 5. A vain effort by fraud to keep up his credit!!!—Ed.
41. It was in Bunyan's time the universally received opinion that Satan appeared in the shape of animals to allure poor wretches into sin—Shakespeare, Judge Hale, Cotton Mather, Baxter, with all our eminent men, believed in these supernatural appearances.—Ed.
THE ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE;
THE EXCELLENCY OF A BROKEN HEART:
SHOWING THE NATURE, SIGNS, AND PROPER EFFECTS OF A CONTRITE SPIRIT.
BEING THE LAST WORKS OF THAT EMINENT PREACHER AND FAITHFUL MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST, MR. JOHN BUNYAN, OF BEDFORD.
WITH A PREFACE PREFIXED THEREUNTO BY AN EMINENT MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL IN LONDON.
London: Sold by George Larkin, at the Two Swans without Bishopgates, 1692.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
The very excellent preface to this treatise, written by George Cokayn, will inform the reader of the melancholy circumstances under which it was published, and of the author's intention, and mode of treatment. Very little more need be said, by way of introducing to our readers this new edition of Bunyan's Excellency of a Broken Heart. George Cokayn was a gospel minister in London, who became eventually connected with the Independent denomination. He was a learned man—brought up at the university—had preached before the House of Commons—was chaplain to that eminent statesman and historian, Whitelocke—was rector of St. Pancras, Soper Lane—remarkable for the consistency of his conduct and piety of his life—but as he dared not to violate his conscience, by conformity to ceremonies or creeds which he deemed antichristian, he suffered under persecution, and, with upwards of two thousand godly ministers, was ejected from his living, and thrown upon the care of Divine Providence for daily food. The law ordered him to be silent, and not to set forth the glories of his Saviour; but his heavenly Father had ordained him to preach. There was no hesitation as to whom he would obey. At the risk of imprisonment, transportation, and death, he preached; and God honoured his ministry, and he became the founder of a flourishing church in Hare Court, London. His preface bears the date of September, 1688; and, at a good old age, he followed Bunyan to the celestial city, in 1689. It is painful to find the author's Baptist friends keeping aloof because of his liberal sentiments; but it is delightful to witness the hearty affection with which an Independent minister recommends the work of a Baptist; and truly refreshing to hear so learned a man commending most earnestly the work of a poor, unlettered, but gigantic brother in the ministry. Surely there is water enough connected with that controversy to quench any unholy fire that differences of opinion might ignite. George Cokayn appears to have possessed much a kindred spirit with John Bunyan. Some of his expressions are remarkably Bunyanish. Thus, when speaking of the jailor, 'who was a most barbarous, hard-hearted wretch; yet, when God came to deal with him, he was soon tamed, and his heart became exceeding soft and tender.' And when alluding to the Lord's voice, in softening the sinner's heart, he says: 'This is a glorious work indeed, that hearts of stone should be dissolved and melted into waters of godly sorrow, working repentance.'
The subject of a broken heart is one of vital importance, because it is essential to salvation. The heart, by nature, is hard, and cannot, and will not break itself. Angels have no power to perform this miracle of mercy and of justice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the NEW BIRTH. Some have supposed that God always prepares the heart for this solemn, this important change, by a stroke of his providence; but it is not so. Who dares limit the Almighty? He takes his own way with the sinner—one by a whisper, another by a hurricane. Some are first alarmed by the preaching of the Word—many by conversation with a pious friend or neighbour; some by strokes of Providence—but all are led to a prayerful searching of the holy oracles, until there, by the enlightening influence of the Spirit, they find consolation. The great question is, not as to the means, but the fact—Have I been born again? Have I been grafted into Christ? Do I bring forth the fruits of godliness in mourning over my sins, and, in good words and works, am I a living epistle known and read of all—men, angels, devils—and of the Omniscient God? These are the all-important inquiries which, I trust, will deeply influence every reader. Let two of Bunyan's remarks make an indelible impression on every mind: 'God will break ALL hearts for sin, either here to repentance and happiness, or in the world to come to condemnation and misery.' 'Consider thou must die but once; I mean but once as to this world, for if thou, when thou goest hence, dost not die well, thou canst not come back again and die better.' May our spirits be baptized into these solemn truths, and our broken hearts be an acceptable sacrifice to God.
A PREFACE TO THE READER.
The author of the ensuing discourse—now with God, reaping the fruit of all his labour, diligence, and success, in his Master's service—did experience in himself, through the grace of God, the nature, excellency, and comfort of a truly broken and contrite spirit. So that what is here written is but a transcript out of his own heart: for God—who had much work for him to do—was still hewing and hammering him by his Word, and sometimes also by more than ordinary temptations and desertions. The design, and also the issue thereof, through God's goodness, was the humbling and keeping of him low in his own eyes. The truth is, as himself sometimes acknowledged, he always needed the thorn in the flesh, and God in mercy sent it him, lest, under his extraordinary circumstances, he should be exalted about measure; which perhaps was the evil that did more easily beset him than any other. But the Lord was pleased to overrule it, to work for his good, and to keep him in that broken frame which is so acceptable unto him, and concerning which it is said, that 'He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds' (Psa 147:3). And, indeed, it is a most necessary qualification that should always be found in the disciples of Christ, who are most eminent, and as stars of the first magnitude in the firmament of the church. Disciples, in the highest form of profession, need to be thus qualified in the exercise of every grace, and the performance of every duty. It is that which God doth principally and more especially look after, in all our approaches and accesses to him. It is to him that God will look, and with him God will dwell, who is poor, and of a contrite spirit (Isa 57:15, 66:2). And the reason why God will manifest so much respect to one so qualified, is because he carries it so becomingly towards him. He comes and lies at his feet, and discovers a quickness of sense, and apprehensiveness of whatever may be dishonourable and distasteful to God (Psa 38:4). And if the Lord doth at any time but shake his rod over him, he comes trembling, and kisses the rod, and says, 'It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good' (1 Sam 3:18). He is sensible he hath sinned and gone astray like a lost sheep, and, therefore, will justify God in his severest proceedings against him. This broken heart is also a pliable and flexible heart, and prepared to receive whatsoever impressions God shall make upon it, and is ready to be moulded into any frame that shall best please the Lord. He says, with Samuel, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth' (1 Sam 3:10). And with David, 'When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek' (Psa 27:8). And so with Paul, who tremblingly said, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6).
Now, therefore, surely such a heart as this is must needs be very delightful to God. He says to us, 'My son, give me thine heart' (Prov 23:26). But, doubtless, he means there a broken heart: an unbroken heart we may keep to ourselves; it is the broken heart which God will have us to give to him; for, indeed, it is all the amends that the best of us are capable of making, for all the injury we have done to God in sinning against him. We are not able to give better satisfaction for breaking God's laws, than by breaking our own hearts; this is all that we can do of that kind; for the blood of Christ only must give the due and full satisfaction to the justice of God for what provocations we are at any time guilty of; but all that we can do is to accompany the acknowledgments we make of miscarriages with a broken and contrite spirit. Therefore we find, that when David had committed those two foul sins of adultery and murder, against God, he saw that all his sacrifices signified nothing to the expiating of his guilt; therefore he brings to God a broken heart, which carried in it the best expression of indignation against himself, as of the highest respect he could show to God (2 Cor 7:11).
The day in which we live, and the present circumstances which the people of God and these nations are under, do loudly proclaim a very great necessity of being in this broken and tender frame; for who can foresee what will be the issue of these violent fermentations that are amongst us? Who knows what will become of the ark of God? Therefore it is a seasonable duty with old Eli to sit trembling for it. Do we not also hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of wars; and ought we not, with the prophet, to cry out, 'My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me, I cannot hold my peace,' &c. (Jer 4:19). Thus was that holy man affected with the consideration of what might befall Jerusalem, the temple and ordinances of God, &c., as the consequence of the present dark dispensations they were under. Will not a humble posture best become us when we have humbling providences in prospect? Mercy and judgment seem to be struggling in the same womb of providence; and which will come first out we know not; but neither of them can we comfortably meet, but with a broken and a contrite spirit. If judgment comes, Josiah's posture of tenderness will be the best we can be found in; and also to say, with David, 'My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments' (Psa 119:120). It is very sad when God smites, and we are not grieved; which the prophet complains of, 'Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved,' &c. 'They have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return' (Jer 5:3).
But such as know the power of his anger will have a deep awe of God upon their hearts, and, observing him in all his motions, will have the greatest apprehensions of his displeasure. So that when he is coming forth in any terrible dispensation, they will, according to their duty, prepare to meet him with a humble and broken heart. But if he should appear to us in his goodness, and farther lengthen out the day of our peace and liberty, yet still the contrite frame will be most seasonable; then will be a proper time, with Job, to abhor ourselves in dust and ashes, and to say, with David, 'Who am I that thou hast brought me hitherto'! (Job 42:6; 2 Sam 7:18).
But we must still know that this broken tender heart is not a plant that rows in our own soil, but is the peculiar gift of God himself. He that made the heart must break the heart. We may be under heart-breaking providences, and yet the heart remain altogether unbroken; as it was with Pharaoh, whose heart, though it was under the hammers of ten terrible judgments, immediately succeeding one another, yet continued hardened against God. The heart of man is harder than hardness itself, till God softeneth and breaks it. Men move not, they relent not, let God thunder never so terribly; let God, in the greatest earnest, cast abroad his firebrands, arrows, and death, in the most dreadful representations of wrath and judgment, yet still man trembles not, nor is any more astonished than if in all this God were but in jest, till he comes and falls to work with him, and forces him to cry out, What have I done? What shall I do?
Therefore let us have recourse to him, who, as he gives the new heart, so also therewith the broken heart. And let men's hearts be never so hard, if God comes once to deal effectually with them, they shall become mollified and tender; as it was with those hardened Jews who, by wicked and cruel hands, murdered the Lord of life: though they stouted it out a great while, yet how suddenly, when God brought them under the hammer of his Word and Spirit, in Peter's powerful ministry, were they broken, and, being pricked in their hearts, cried out, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' (Acts 2:37).
And the like instance we have in the jailor, who was a most barbarous, hard-hearted wretch; yet, when God came to deal with him, he was soon tamed, and his heart became exceeding soft and tender (Acts 16:29,30).
Men may speak long enough, and the heart not at all be moved; but 'The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty,' and breaketh the rocks and cedars (Psa 29:4). He turns 'the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters' (Psa 114:8). And this is a glorious work indeed, that hearts of stone should be dissolved and melted into waters of godly sorrow, working repentance not to be repented of (2 Cor 7:10).
When God speaks effectually the stoutest heart must melt and yield. Wait upon God, then, for the softening thy heart, and avoid whatsoever may be a means of hardening it; as the apostle cautions the Hebrews, 'Take heed,—lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin' (Heb 3:13).
Sin is deceitful, and will harden all those that indulge it. The more tender any man is to his lust, the more will he be hardened by it. There is a native hardness in every man's heart; and though it may be softened by gospel means, yet if those means be afterwards neglected, the heart will fall to its native hardness again: as it is with the wax and the clay. Therefore, how much doth it behove us to keep close to God, in the use of all gospel-means, whereby our hearts being once softened, may be always kept so; which is best done by repeating the use of those means which were at first blessed for the softening of them.
The following treatise may be of great use to the people of God—through his blessing accompanying it—to keep their hearts tender and broken, when so many, after their hardness and impenitent heart, are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath (Rom 2:5).
O let none who peruse this book herd with that generation of hardened ones, but be a companion of all those that mourn in Zion and whose hearts are broken for their own, the church's, and the nation's provocations; who, indeed, are the only likely ones that will stand in the gap to divert judgments. When Shishak, king of Egypt, with a great host, came up against Judah, and having taken their frontier fenced cities, they sat down before Jerusalem, which put them all under a great consternation; but the king and princes upon this humbled themselves; the Lord sends a gracious message to them by Shemaiah the prophet, the import whereof was, That because they humbled themselves, the Lord would not destroy them, nor pour out his wrath upon them, by the hand of Shishak (2 Chron 12:5-7).
The greater the party is of mourning Christians, the more hope we have that the storm impending may be blown over, and the blessings enjoyed may yet be continued. As long as there is a sighing party we may hope to be yet preserved; at least, such will have the mark set upon themselves which shall distinguish them from those whom the slaughtermen shall receive commission to destroy (Eze 9:4-6).
But I shall not further enlarge the porch, as designing to make way for the reader's entrance into the house, where I doubt not but he will be pleased with the furniture and provision he finds in it. And I shall only further assure him, that this whole book was not only prepared for, but also put into, the press by the author himself, whom the Lord was pleased to remove—to the great loss and unexpressible grief of many precious souls—before the sheets could be all wrought off.
And now, as I hinted in the beginning, that what was transcribed out of the author's heart into the book, may be transcribed out of the book into the hearts of all who shall peruse it, is the desire and prayer of
A lover and honourer of all saints as such,
George Cokayn September 21, 1688
THE ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE;
THE EXCELLENCY OF A BROKEN HEART.
'THE SACRIFICES OF GOD ARE A BROKEN SPIRIT: A BROKEN AND A CONTRITE HEART, O GOD, THOU WILT NOT DESPISE.'—Psalm 51:17
This psalm is David's penitential psalm. It may be fitly so called, because it is a psalm by which is manifest the unfeigned sorrow which he had for his horrible sin, in defiling of Bathsheba, and slaying Uriah her husband; a relation at large of which you have in the 11th and 12th of the Second of Samuel. Many workings of heart, as this psalm showeth, this poor man had, so soon as conviction did fall upon his spirit. One while he cries for mercy, then he confesses his heinous offences, then he bewails the depravity of his nature; sometimes he cries out to be washed and sanctified, and then again he is afraid that God will cast him away from his presence, and take his Holy Spirit utterly from him. And thus he goes on till he comes to the text, and there he stayeth his mind, finding in himself that heart and spirit which God did not dislike; 'The sacrifices of God,' says he, 'are a broken spirit'; as if he should say, I thank God I have that. 'A broken and a contrite heart,' says he, 'O God, thou wilt not despise'; as if he should say, I thank God I have that.
[I. THE TEXT OPENED IN THE MANY WORKINGS OF THE HEART.]
The words consist of two parts. FIRST. An assertion. SECOND. A demonstration of that assertion. The assertion is this, 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.' The demonstration is this, 'Because a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.'
In the assertion we have two things present themselves to our consideration. First. That a broken spirit is to God a sacrifice. Second. That it is to God, as that which answereth to, or goeth beyond, all sacrifices. 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.'
The demonstration of this is plain: for that heart God will not despise it. 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' Whence I draw this conclusion: That a spirit rightly broken, a heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing. That is, a thing that goeth beyond all external duties whatever; for that is intended by this saying, The sacrifices, because it answereth to all sacrifices which we can offer to God; yea it serveth in the room of all: all our sacrifices without this are nothing; this alone is all.
There are four things that are very acceptable to God. The
First is The sacrifice of the body of Christ for our sins. Of this you read (Heb 10) for there you have it preferred to all burnt-offerings and sacrifices; it is this that pleaseth God; it is this that sanctifieth, and so setteth the people acceptable in the sight of God.
Second. Unfeigned love to God is counted better than all sacrifices, or external parts of worship. 'And to love him [the Lord thy God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices' (Mark 12:33).
Third. To walk holily and humbly, and obediently, towards and before God, is another. Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?—'Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken than the fat of rams' (Micah 6:6-8; 1 Sam 15:22).
Fourth. And this in our text is the fourth: 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'
But note by the way, that this broken, this broken and contrite heart, is thus excellent only to God: 'O God,' saith he, 'THOU wilt not despise it.' By which is implied, the world have not this esteem or respect for such a heart, or for one that is of a broken and a contrite spirit. No, no, a man, a woman, that is blessed with a broken heart, is so far off from getting by that esteem with the world, that they are but burdens and trouble houses wherever they are or go. Such people carry with them molestation and disquietment: they are in carnal families as David was to the king of Gath, troublers of the house (1 Sam 21).
Their sighs, their tears, their day and night groans, their cries and prayers, and solitary carriages, put all the carnal family out of order. Hence you have them brow-beaten by some, contemned by others, yea, and their company fled from and deserted by others. But mark the text, 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise,' but rather accept; for not to despise is with God to esteem and set a high price upon.
[II. THE DOCTRINE, ASSERTION, DEMONSTRATION, AND CONCLUSION, THAT A BROKEN AND TRULY CONTRITE HEART IS AN EXCELLENT HEART.]
But we will demonstrate by several particulars, that a broken spirit, a spirit RIGHTLY broken, an heart TRULY contrite, is to God an excellent thing.
First. This is evident from the comparison, 'Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it, thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,' &c. Mark, he rejecteth sacrifices, offerings and sacrifices: that is, all Levitical ceremonies under the law, and all external performances under the gospel; but accepteth a broken heart. It is therefore manifest by this, were there nothing else to be said, that proves, that a heart rightly broken, a heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing; for as you see such a heart is set before all sacrifice; and yet they were the ordinances of God, and things that he commanded; but lo, a broken spirit is above them all, a contrite heart goes beyond them, yea, beyond them when put all together. Thou wilt not have the one, thou wilt not despise the other. O brethren, a broken and a contrite heart is an excellent thing. Have I said a broken heart, a broken and a contrite heart is esteemed above all sacrifices; I will add,
Second. It is of greater esteem with God than is either heaven or earth; and that is more than to be set before external duties. 'Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word' (Isa 66:1,2). Mark, God saith, he hath made all these things, but he doth not say, that he will look to them, that is, take complacency and delight in them; no, there is that wanting in all that he hath made that should take up and delight his heart. But now, let a broken-hearted sinner come before him; yea, he ranges the world throughout to find out such an one, and having found him, 'To this man,' saith he, 'will I look.' I say again, that such a man to him is of more value than is either heaven or earth; 'They,' saith he, 'shall wax old'; 'they shall perish' and vanish away; but this man he continues: he, as is presented to us in another place, under another character, 'he shall abide for ever' (Heb 1:10-12; 1 John 2:17).
'To this man will I look,' with this man will I be delighted; for so to look doth sometimes signify. 'Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse,' saith Christ to his humble-hearted, 'thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes' (Cant 4:9). While it is as a conduit to let the rivers out of thy broken heart. I am taken, saith he, 'with one chain of thy neck' (Can 4:9). Here you see he looks and is ravished, he looks and is taken, as it saith in another place, 'The king is held in the galleries'; that is, is taken with his beloved, with the dove's eyes of his beloved, with the contrite spirit of his people (Cant 7:5, 1:15). But it is not thus reported of him with respect to heaven or earth: them he sets more lightly by, them he 'reserves unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men' (2 Peter 3:7), but the broken in heart are his beloved, his jewels.
Wherefore, what I have said as to this must go for the truth of God, to wit, That a broken-hearted sinner, a sinner with a contrite spirit, is of more esteem with God than is either heaven or earth. He saith he hath made them, but he doth not say he will look to them. He saith they are his throne and footstool, but he doth not say they have taken or ravished his heart. No, it is those that are of a contrite spirit do this. But there is yet more in the words, 'To this man will I look': that is, For this man will I care, about this man will I camp, I will put this man under my protection; for so to look to one doth sometimes signify; and I take the meaning in this place to be such (Prov 27:23; Jer 39:12, 40:4). 'The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down' (Psa 145:14). And the broken-hearted are of this number; wherefore he careth for, campeth about, and hath set his eyes upon such an one for good. This, therefore, is a second demonstration to prove, that the man that hath his spirit rightly broken, his heart truly contrite, is of great esteem with God.
Third. Yet further, God doth not only prefer such an one, as has been said, before heaven and earth, but he loveth, he desireth to have that man for an intimate, for a companion; he must dwell; he must cohabit with him that is of a broken heart, with such as are of a contrite spirit. 'For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I will dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit' &c. (Isa 57:15).
Behold here both the majesty and condescension of the high and lofty One; his majesty, in that he is high, and the inhabiter of eternity; 'I am the high and lofty One,' saith he, 'I inhabit eternity.' Verily this consideration is enough to make the broken-hearted man creep into a mouse-hole to hide himself from such a majesty! But behold his heart, his condescending mind; I am for dwelling also with him that hath a broken heart, with him that is of a contrite spirit; that is the man that I would converse with, that is the man with whom I will cohabit; that is, he, saith God, I will choose for my companion. For to desire to dwell with one supposeth all these things; and verily, of all the men in the world, none have acquaintance with God, none understand what communion with him, and what his teachings mean, but such as are of a broken and contrite heart. 'He is nigh unto them that are of a broken spirit' (Psa 34:18). These are they intended in the 14th Psalm, where it is said, 'The Lord looked down from heaven,—to see if any did understand and seek God'; that he might find some body in the world with whom he might converse; for indeed there is none else that either understand, or that can tend to hearken to him. God, as I may say, is forced to break men's hearts, before he can make them willing to cry to him, or be willing that he should have any concerns with them; the rest shut their eyes, stop their ears, withdraw their hearts, or say unto God, Be gone (Job 21:14). But now the broken in heart can tend it; he has leisure, yea, leisure, and will, and understanding, and all; and therefore is a fit man to have to do with God. There is room also in this man's house, in this man's heart, in this man's spirit, for God to dwell, for God to walk, for God to set up a kingdom.
Here, therefore, is suitableness. 'Can two walk together,' saith God, 'except they be agreed?' (Amos 3:3). The broken-hearted desireth God's company; when wilt thou come unto me? saith he. The broken-hearted loveth to hear God speak and talk to him. Here is a suitableness. 'Make me,' saith he, 'to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice' (Psa 51:8). But here lies the glory, in that the high and lofty One, the God that inhabiteth eternity, and that was a high and holy place for his habitation, should choose to dwell with, and to be a companion of the broken in heart, and of them that are of a contrite spirit. Yea, and here also is great comfort for such.
Fourth. God doth not only prefer such a heart before all sacrifices, nor esteems such a man above heaven and earth; nor yet only desire to be of his acquaintance, but he reserveth for him his chief comforts, his heart-reviving and soul-cherishing cordials. 'I dwell,' saith he, with such to revive them, and to support and comfort them, 'to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (Isa 57:15). The broken-hearted man is a fainting man; he has his qualms, his sinking fits; he ofttimes dies away with pain and fear; he must be stayed with flagons, and comforted with apples, or else he cannot tell what to do: he pines, he pines away in his iniquity; nor can any thing keep him alive and make him well but the comforts and cordials of Almighty God (Exo 33:10,11). Wherefore with such an one God will dwell, to revive the heart, to revive the spirit. 'To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'
God has cordials, but they are to comfort them that are cast down (2 Cor 7:6); and such are the broken-hearted; as for them that are whole, they need not the physician (Mark 2:17). They are the broken in spirit that stand in need of cordials; physicians are men of no esteem but with them that feel their sickness; and this is one reason why God is so little accounted of in the world, even because they have not been made sick by the wounding stroke of God. But now when a man is wounded, has his bones broken, or is made sick, and laid at the grave's mouth, who is of that esteem with him as is an able physician? What is so much desired as are the cordials, comforts, and suitable supplies of the skilful physician in those matters. And thus it is with the broken-hearted; he needs, and God has prepared for him plenty of the comforts and cordials of heaven, to succour and relieve his sinking soul.
Wherefore such a one lieth under all the promises that have succour in them, and consolation for men, sick and desponding under the sense of sin and the heavy wrath of God; and they, says God, shall be refreshed and revived with them. Yea, they are designed for them; he hath therefore broken their hearts, he hath therefore wounded their spirits, that he might make them apt to relish his reviving cordials, that he might minister to them his reviving comforts. For indeed, so soon as he hath broken them, his bowels yearn, and his compassions roll up and down within him, and will not suffer him to abide afflicting. Ephraim was one of these; but so soon as God had smitten him, behold his heart, how it works towards him. 'Is Ephraim,' saith he, 'my dear son?' that is, he is so; 'is he a pleasant child?' that is, he is so; 'for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord' (Jer 31:18-20). This therefore is another demonstration.
Fifth. As God prefers such a heart, and esteems the man that has it above heaven and earth; as he covets intimacy with such an one, and prepares for him his cordials; so when he sent his Son Jesus into the world to be a Saviour, he gave him in special a charge to take care of such; yea, that was one of the main reasons he sent him down from heaven, anointed for his work on earth. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,' saith he; 'because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,' &c. (Luke 4:18; Isa 61:1). Now that this is meant of Christ, is confirmed by his own lips; for in the days of his flesh he takes this book in his hand, when he was in the synagogue at Nazareth, and read this very place unto the people; and then tells them that that very day that Scripture was fulfilled in their ears (Luke 6:16-18).
But see, these are the souls whose welfare is contrived in the heavens. God consulted their salvation, their deliverance, their health, before his Son came down from thence. Doth not therefore this demonstrate, that a broken-hearted man, that a man of a contrite spirit, is of great esteem with God. I have often wondered at David that he should give Joab and the men of war a charge, that they take heed that they carry it tenderly to that young rebel Absalom his son (2 Sam 18:5). But that God, the high God, the God against whom we have sinned, should, so soon as he has smitten, give his Son a command, a charge, a commission to take care of, to bind up and heal the broken in heart; this is that which can never be sufficiently admired or wondered at by men or angels.
And as this was his commission, so he acted; as is evidently set forth by the parable of the man who fell among thieves. He went to him, poured into his wounds wine and oil; he bound him up, took him, set him upon his own beast, had him to an inn, gave the host a charge to look well to him, with money in hand, and a promise at his return to recompence him in what farther he should be expensive while he was under his care (Luke 10:30-35). Behold, therefore, the care of God which he has for the broken in heart; he has given a charge to Christ his Son, to look well to them, and to bind up and heal their wounds. Behold also the faithfulness of Christ, who doth not hide, but read this commission as soon as he entereth upon his ministry, and also falls into the practical part thereof. 'He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds' (Psa 147:3).
And behold again into whose care a broken heart and a contrite spirit hath put this poor creature; he is under the care of God, the care and cure of Christ. If a man was sure that his disease had put him under the special care of the king and the queen, yet could he not be sure of life, he might die under their sovereign hands. Ay, but here is a man in the favour of God, and under the hand of Christ to be healed; under whose hand none yet ever died for want of skill and power in him to save their life; wherefore this man must live; Christ has in commission not only to bind up his wounds, but to heal him. He has of himself so expounded it in reading his commission; wherefore he that has his heart broken, and that is of a contrite spirit, must not only be taken in hand, but healed; healed of his pain, grief, sorrow, sin, and fears of death and hell-fire; wherefore he adds, that he must give unto such 'beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,' and must 'comfort all that mourn' (Isa 61:2,3). This, I say, he has in the commission, the broken-hearted are put into his hand, and he has said himself he will heal him. Hence he says of that same man, 'I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners;—and I will heal him' (Isa 57:18,19). And this is a fifth demonstration.
Sixth. As God prefers such a heart, and so esteems the man that has it; as he desires his company, has provided for him his cordials, and given a charge to Christ to heal him, so he has promised in conclusion to save him. 'He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit,' or, as the margin has it, that be 'contrite of spirit' (Psa 34:18).
And this is the conclusion of all; for to save a man is the end of all special mercy. 'He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.' To save, is to forgive; for without forgiveness of sins we cannot be saved. To save, is to preserve one in this miserable world, and to deliver one from all those devils, temptations, snares, and destructions that would, were we not kept, were we not preserved of God, destroy us body and soul for ever. To save, is to bring a man body and soul to glory, and to give him an eternal mansion house in heaven, that he may dwell in the presence of this good God, and the Lord Jesus, and to sing to them the songs of his redemption for ever and ever. This it is to be saved; nor can any thing less than this complete the salvation of the sinner. Now, this is to be the lot of him that is of a broken heart, and the end that God will make with him that is of a contrite spirit. 'He saveth such as be contrite of spirit.' He saveth such! This is excellent!
But, do the broken in spirit believe this? Can they imagine that this is to be the end that God has designed them to, and that he intended to make with them in the day in which he began to break their hearts? No, no; they, alas! think quite the contrary. They are afraid that this is but the beginning of death, and a token that they shall never see the face of God with comfort, either in this world or that which is to come. Hence they cry, 'Cast me not away from thy presence'; or, Now I am 'free among the dead whom God remembers no more' (Psa 51:11, 88:4,5). For indeed there goes to the breaking of the heart a visible appearance of the wrath of God, and a home charge from heaven of the guilt of sin to the conscience. This to reason is very dreadful; for it cuts the soul down to the ground; 'for a wounded spirit who [none] can bear?' (Prov 18:14).
It seems also now to this man, that this is but the beginning of hell; but as it were the first step down to the pit; when, indeed, all these are but the beginnings of love, and but that which makes way for life. The Lord kills before he makes alive; he wounds before his hands make whole. Yea, he does the one in order to, or because he would do the other; he wounds, because his purpose is to heal; 'he maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole' (Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6; Job 5:18). His design, I say, is the salvation of the soul. He scourgeth, he breaketh the heart of every son whom he receiveth, and woe be to him whose heart God breaketh not.
And thus have I proved what at first I asserted, namely, that a spirit rightly broken, an heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing. 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' For this say I, First. This is evident; for that it is better than sacrifices, than all sacrifice. Second. The man that has it is of more esteem with God than heaven or earth. Third. God coveteth such a man for his intimate and house companion. Fourth. He reserveth for them his cordials and spiritual comforts. Fifth. He has given his Son a Charge, a commandment to take care that the broken-hearted be healed; and he is resolved to heal them. Sixth. And concluded, that the broken-hearted, and they that are of a contrite spirit, shall be saved, that is, possessed of the heavens.
[III. WHAT A BROKEN HEART, AND WHAT A CONTRITE SPIRIT IS.]
I come now in order to show you what a broken heart and what a contrite spirit is. This must be done, because in the discovery of this lies both the comfort of them that have it, and the conviction of them that have it not. Now, that I may do this the better, I must propound and speak to these four things. FIRST. I must show you what an one that heart is that is not broken, that is not contrite. SECOND. I must show you how, or with what the heart is broken and made contrite. THIRD. Show you how, and what it is, when broken and made contrite. And, FOURTH. I shall, last of all, give you some signs of a broken and contrite heart.
FIRST. For the first of these, to wit, What an one that heart is, that is not a broken, that is not a contrite heart.
First. The heart, before it is broken, is hard and stubborn, and obstinate against God, and the salvation of the soul (Zech 7:12; Deut 2:30, 9:27).
Second. It is a heart full of evil imaginations and darkness (Gen 18:12; Rom 1:21).
Third. It is a heart deceitful and subject to be deceived, especially about the things of an eternal concernment (Isa 44:20; Deut 11:16).
Fourth. It is a heart that rather gathereth iniquity and vanity to itself than anything that is good for the soul (Psa 41:6, 94:11).
Fifth. It is an unbelieving heart, and one that will turn away from God to sin (Heb 3:12; Deut 17:17).
Sixth. It is a heart not prepared for God, being uncircumcised, nor for the reception of his holy word (2 Chron 12:14; Psa 78:8; Acts 7:51).
Seventh. It is a heart not single, but double; it will pretend to serve God, but will withal lean to the devil and sin (Psa 12:2; Eze 33:31).
Eighth. It is a heart proud and stout: it loves not to be controlled, though the controller be God himself (Psa 101:5; Prov 16:5; Mal 3:13).
Ninth. It is a heart that will give place to Satan, but will resist the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3, 7:51).
Tenth. In a word, 'It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked'; so wicked that none can know it (Jer 17:9).
That the heart before it is broken is such, and worse than I have described it to be, is sufficiently seen by the whole course of the world. Where is the man whose heart has not been broken, and whose spirit is not contrite, that according to the Word of God deals honestly with his own soul? It is one character of a right heart, that it is sound in God's statutes, and honest (Psa 119:18; Luke 8:15). Now, an honest heart will not put off itself, nor be put off with that which will not go for current money with the merchant; I mean, with that which will not go for saving grace at the day of judgment. But alas! alas! but few men, how honest soever they are to others, have honesty towards themselves; though he is the worst of deceivers who deceiveth his own soul, as James has it, about the things of his own soul (1:22,26). But,
SECOND. I now come to show you with what and how the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.
[First. With what the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.]
The instrument with which the heart is broken, and with which the spirit is made contrite, is the Word. 'Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord; and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?' (Jer 23:29). The rock, in this text, is the heart, which in another place is compared to an adamant, which adamant is harder than flint (Zech 7:11,12; Eze 3:9). This rock, this adamant, this stony heart, is broken and made contrite by the Word. But it only is so, when the Word is as a fire, and as a hammer to break and melt it. And then, and then only, it is as a fire, and a hammer to the heart to break it, when it is managed by the arm of God. No man can break the heart with the Word; no angel can break the heart with the Word; that is, if God forbears to second it by mighty power from heaven. This made Balaam go without a heart rightly broken, and truly contrite, though he was rebuked by an angel; and the Pharisees die in their sins, though rebuked for them, and admonished to turn from them, by the Saviour of the world. Wherefore, though the Word is the instrument with which the heart is broken, yet it is not broken with the Word, till that Word is managed by the might and power of God.
This made the prophet Isaiah, after long preaching, cry out, that he had laboured for nought, and in vain; and this made him cry to God, 'to rend the heavens and come down,' that the mountains, or rocky hills, or hearts, might be broken, and melt at his presence (Isa 44:4, 64:1,2). For he found by experience, that as to this no effectual work could be done, unless the Lord put to his hand. This also is often intimated in the Scriptures, where it saith, when the preachers preached effectually to the breaking of men's hearts, 'the Lord wrought with them; the hand of the Lord was with them,' and the like (Mark 16:20; Acts 11:21).
Now when the hand of the Lord is with the Word, then it is mighty: it is 'mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds' (2 Cor 10:4). It is sharp, then, as a sword in the soul and spirit; it sticks like an arrow in the hearts of sinners, to the causing of the people to fall at his foot for mercy (Heb 4:12). Then it is, as was said afore, as a fire and as a hammer to break this rock in pieces (Psa 110:3). And hence the Word is made mention of under a double consideration. 1. As it stands by itself. 2. As attended with power from heaven.
1. As it stands by itself, and is not seconded with saving operation from heaven, it is called the Word only, the Word barely, or as if it was only the word of men (1 Thess 1:5-7; 1 Cor 4:19,20; 1 Thess 2:13). Because, then, it is only as managed by men, who are not able to make it accomplish that work. The Word of God, when in a man's hand only, is like the father's sword in the hand of the sucking child; which sword, though never so well pointed, and though never so sharp on the edges, is not now able to conquer a foe, and to make an enemy fall and cry out for mercy, because it is but in the hand of the child. But now, let the same sword be put into the hand of a skilful father—and God is both skilful and able to manage his Word—and then the sinner, and then the proud helpers too, are both made to stoop, and submit themselves; wherefore, I say, though the Word be the instrument, yet of itself doth do no saving good to the soul; the heart is not broken, nor the spirit made contrite thereby; it only worketh death, and leaveth men in the chains of their sins, still faster bound over to eternal condemnation (2 Cor 2:15,16).
2. But when seconded by mighty power, then the same Word is as the roaring of a lion, as the piercing of a sword, as a burning fire in the bones, as thunder and as a hammer that dashes all to pieces (Jer 25:30; Amos 1:2, 3:8; Acts 2:37; Jer 20:9; Psa 29:3-9). Wherefore, from hence it is to be concluded, that whoever has heard the Word preached, and has not heard the voice of the living God therein, has not as yet had their hearts broken, nor their spirits made contrite for their sins.
[Second. How the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.]
And this leads me to the second thing, to wit, To show how the heart is broken and the spirit made contrite by the Word, and verily it is when the Word comes home with power. But yet this is but general; wherefore, more particularly,
1. Then the Word works effectually to this purpose, when it findeth out the sinner and his sin, and shall convince him that it has found him out. Thus it was with our first father; when he had sinned, he sought to hide himself from God; he gets among the trees of the garden, and there he shrouds himself; but yet, not thinking himself secure, he covers himself with fig-leaves; and now he lieth quiet. Now God shall not find me, thinks he, nor know what I have done. But lo! by and by, he 'hears the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.' And now, Adam, what do you mean to do? Why, as yet, he skulketh, and hides his head, and seeks yet to lie undiscovered; but behold, the voice cries out, ADAM! and now he begins to tremble. 'Adam, where art thou?' says God; and now Adam is made to answer (Gen 3:7-11). But the voice of the Lord God doth not leave him here: no, it now begins to search, and to inquire after his doings, and to unravel what he had wrapt together and covered, until it made him bare and naked in his own sight before the face of God. Thus, therefore, doth the Word, when managed by the arm of God. It findeth out, it singleth out the sinner; the sinner finds it so; it finds out the sins of the sinner; it unravels his whole life, it strips him and lays him naked in his own sight before the face of God; neither can the sinner nor his wickedness be longer hid and covered; and now begins the sinner to see what he never saw before.
2. Another instance for this is David, the man of our text. He sins, he sins grossly, he sins and hides it; yea, and seeks to hide it from the face of God and man. Well, Nathan is sent to preach a preaching to him, and that in common, and that in special: in common, by a parable; in special, by a particular application of it to him. While Nathan only preached in common, or in general, David was fish-whole, and stood as right in his own eyes as if he had been as innocent and as harmless as any man alive. But God had a love for David; and therefore commands his servant Nathan to go home, not only to David's ears, but to David's conscience. Well, David now must fall. Says Nathan, 'Thou art the man'; says David, 'I have sinned,' and then his heart was broken, and his spirit made contrite; as this psalm and our text doth show (2 Sam 12:1-13).
3. A third instance is that of Saul; he had heard many a sermon, and was become a great professor, yea, he was more zealous than were many of his equals; but his heart was never broken, nor his spirit ever made contrite, till he heard one preach from heaven, till he heard God, in the Word of God, making inquiry after his sins: 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' says Jesus; and then he can stand no longer: for then his heart brake, then he falls to the ground, then he trembles, then he cries out, 'Who art thou, Lord?' and, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9). Wherefore, as I said, Then the word works effectually to this purpose, when it findeth out the sinner and his sin, and also when it shall convince him that it has found him out. Only I must join here a caution, for every operation of the Word upon the conscience is not saving; nor doth all conviction end in the saving conversion of the sinner. It is then only such an operation of the Word that is intended, namely, that shows the sinner not only the evil of his ways, but brings the heart unfeignedly over to God by Christ. And this brings me to the third thing.
THIRD. I am therefore come to show you how and what the heart is when broken and made contrite. And this I must do, by opening unto you the two chief expressions in the text. First. What is meant by this word broken. Second. What is meant by this word contrite.
First. For this word broken, Tindal renders it a troubled heart; but I think there is more in it. I take it, therefore, to be a heart disabled, as to former actions, even as a man whose bones are broken is disabled, as to his way of running, leaping, wrestling, or ought else, which vainly he was wont to do; wherefore, that which was called a broken heart in the text, he calls his broken bones, in verse the eighth: 'Cause me,' saith he, 'to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice' (Psa 51:8). And why is the breaking of the heart compared to the breaking of the bones? but because as when the bones are broken, the outward man is disabled as to what it was wont to do; so when the spirit is broken, the inward man is disabled as to what vanity and folly it before delighted in; hence, feebleness is joined with this brokenness of heart. 'I am feeble,' saith he, 'and sore broken' (Psa 38:8). I have lost my strength and former vigour, as to vain and sinful courses.
This, then, it is to have the heart broken; namely, to have it lamed, disabled, and taken off by sense of God's wrath due to sin, from that course of life it formerly was conversant in; and to show that this work is no fancy, nor done but with great trouble to the soul, it is compared to the putting the bones out of joint, the breaking of the bones, the burning of the bones with fire, or as the taking the natural moisture from the bones, the vexing of the bones, &c. (Psa 23:14; Jer 20:9; Lam 1:13; Psa 6:2; Prov 17:22). All which are expressions adorned with such similitudes, as do undeniably declare that to sense and feeling a broken heart is a grievous thing.
Second. What is meant by the word contrite. A contrite spirit is a penitent one; one sorely grieved, and deeply sorrowful, for the sins it has committed against God, and to the damage of the soul; and so it is to be taken in all those places where a contrite spirit is made mention of; as in Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2.
As a man that has by his folly procured a broken leg or arm, is heartily sorry that ever he was so foolish as to be engaged in such foolish ways of idleness and vanity; so he whose heart is broken with a sense of God's wrath due to his sin, hath deep sorrow in his soul, and is greatly repentant that ever he should be such a fool, as by rebellious doings to bring himself and his soul to so much sharp affliction. Hence, while others are sporting themselves in vanity, such a one doth call his sin his greatest folly. 'My wounds stink, and are corrupt,' saith David, 'because of my foolishness.' And again, 'O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee' (Psa 38:5, 69:5).
Men, whatever they say with their lips, cannot conclude, if yet their hearts want breaking, that sin is a foolish thing. Hence it says, 'The foolishness of fools is folly' (Prov 14:24). That is, the foolishness of some men, is that they take pleasure in their sins; for their sins are their foolishness, and the folly of their soul lies in their countenancing of this foolishness. But the man whose heart is broken, he is none of these, he cannot be one of these, no more than he that has his bones broken can rejoice that he is desired to play a match at football. Hence, to hear others talk foolishly, is to the grief of those whom God has wounded: or, as it is in another place, their words are 'like the piercings of a sword' (Psa 69:26; Prov 12:18). This, therefore, I take to be the meaning of these two words, a broken and a contrite spirit.
FOURTH. Lastly, As to this, I now come more particularly to give you some signs of a broken heart, of a broken and a contrite spirit.
First. A broken-hearted man, such as is intended in the text, is a sensible man; he is brought to the exercise of all the senses of his soul. All others are dead, senseless, and without true feeling of what the broken-hearted man is sensible of.
1. He sees himself to be what others are ignorant of; that is, he sees himself to be not only a sinful man, but a man by nature in the gall and bond of sin. In the gall of sin: it is Peter's expression to Simon, and it is a saying common to all men: for every man in a state of nature is in the gall of sin; he was shapen in it, conceived in it; it has also possession of, and by that possession infected the whole of his soul and body (Psa 51:5; Acts 8:23). This he sees, this he understands; every professor sees not this, because the blessing of a broken heart is not bestowed on every one. David says, 'There is no soundness in my flesh'; and Solomon suggest that a plague or running sore is in the very heart. But every one perceives not this (Psa 38:3; 1 Kings 8:38). He saith again, that his 'wounds stank, and were corrupted': that his 'sore ran, and ceased not' (Psa 38:5, 77:2). But these things the brutish man, the man whose heart was never broken, has no understanding of. But the broken-hearted, the man that has a broken spirit, he sees, as the prophet has it, he sees his sickness, he sees his wound: 'When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound'; he sees it to his grief, he sees it to his sorrow (Hosea 5:13).
2. He feels what others have no sense of; he feels the arrows of the Almighty, and that they stick fast in him (Psa 38:2). He feels how sore and sick, by the smiting of God's hammer upon his heart to break it, his poor soul is made. He feels a burden intolerably lying upon his spirit (Hosea 5:13). 'Mine iniquities,' saith he, 'are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me' (Psa 38:4). He feels also the heavy hand of God upon his soul, a thing unknown to carnal men. He feels pain, being wounded, even such pain as others cannot understand, because they are not broken. 'My heart,' saith David, 'is sore pained within me.' Why so? Why! 'The terrors of death are fallen upon me' (Psa 55:4). The terrors of death cause pain, yea, pain of the highest nature; hence that which is here called pains, is in another place called pangs (Isa 21:3).
You know broken bones occasion pain, strong pain, yea, pain that will make a man or woman groan 'with the groanings of a deadly wounded man' (Eze 30:24). Soul pain is the sorest pain, in comparison to which the pain of the body is a very tolerable thing (Prov 18:14). Now here is soul pain, here is heart pain; here we are discoursing of a wounded, of a broken spirit; wherefore this is pain to be felt to the sinking of the whole man, neither can any support this but God. Here is death in this pain, death for ever, without God's special mercy. This pain will bring the soul to, and this the broken-hearted man doth feel. 'The sorrows of death,' saith David, 'compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me, I found trouble and sorrow' (Psa 116:3). Ay, I'll warrant thee, poor man, thou foundest trouble and sorrow indeed; for the pains of hell and sorrows of death are pains and sorrow the most intolerable. But this the man is acquainted with that has his heart broken.
3. As he sees and feels, so he hears that which augments his woe and sorrow. You know, if a man has his bones broken, he does not only see and feel, but oft-times also hears what increases his grief; as, that his wounds are incurable; that his bone is not rightly set; that there is danger of a gangrene; that he may be lost for want of looking to. These are the voices, the sayings, that haunt the house of one that has his bones broken. And a broken-hearted man knows what I mean by this; he hears that which makes his lips quiver, and at the noise of which he seems to feel rottenness enter into his bones; he trembleth in himself, and wishes that he may hear joy and gladness, that the bones, the heart, and spirit, which God has broken, may rejoice (Habb 3:16; Psa 51:8). He thinks he hears God say, the devil say, his conscience say, and all good men to whisper among themselves, saying, there is no help for him from God. Job heard this, David heard this, Heman heard this; and this is the common sound in the ears of the broken-hearted.
4. The broken-hearted smell what others cannot scent. Alas! sin never smelled so to any man alive as it smells to the broken-hearted. You know wounds will stink: but [there is] no stink like that of sin to the broken-hearted man. His own sins stink, and so doth the sins of all the world to him. Sin is like carrion; it is of a stinking nature; yea, it has the worst of smells; however, some men like it (Psa 38:5). But none are offended with the scent thereof but God and the broken-hearted sinner. 'My wounds stink, and are corrupt,' saith he, both in God's nostrils and mine own. But, alas! who smells the stink of sin? None of the carnal world; they, like carrion-crows, seek it, love it, and eat it as the child eats bread. 'They eat up the sin of my people,' saith God, 'and they set their heart on their iniquity' (Hosea 4:8). This, I say, they do, because they do not smell the nauseous scent of sin. You know, that what is nauseous to the smell cannot be palatable to the taste. The broken-hearted man doth find that sin is nauseous, and therefore cries out it stinketh. They also think at times the smell of fire, of fire and brimstone, is upon them, they are so sensible of the wages due to sin.
5. The broken-hearted is also a tasting man. Wounds, if sore, and full of pains, of great pains, do sometimes alter the taste of a man; they make him think his meat, his drink, yea, that cordials have a bitter taste in them. How many times doth the poor people of God, that are the only men that know what a broken-heart doth mean, cry out that gravel, wormwood, gall, and vinegar, was made their meat (Lam 3:15,16,19). This gravel, gall, and wormwood, is the true temporal taste of sin; and God, to make them loathe it for ever, doth feed them with it till their hearts both ache and break therewith. Wickedness is pleasant of taste to the world; hence it is said they feed on ashes, they feed on the wind (Isa 44:20; Hosea 12:1). Lusts, or any thing that is vile and refuse, the carnal world think relishes well; as is set out most notably in the parable of the prodigal son. 'He would fain have filled his belly,' saith our Lord, 'with the husks that the swine did eat' (Luke 15:16). But the broken-hearted man has a relish that is true as to these things, though, by reason of the anguish of his soul, it abhors all manner of dainty meat (Job 33:19,20; Psa 107:17-19). Thus I have showed you one sign of a broken-hearted man; he is a sensible man, he has all the senses of his soul awakened, he can see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and that as none but himself can do. I come now to another sign of a broken and contrite man.
Second. And that is, he is a very sorrowful man. This, as the other, is natural; it is natural to one that is in pain, and that has his bones broken, to be a grieved and sorrowful man. He is none of the jolly ones of the times; nor can he, for his bones, his heart, his heart is broken.
1. He is sorry for that he feels and finds in himself a pravity of nature; I told you before he is sensible of it, he sees it, he feels it; and here I say he is sorry for it. It is this that makes him call himself a wretched man; it is this that makes him loathe and abhor himself; it is this that makes him blush, blush before God and be ashamed (Rom 7:24; Job 42:5,6; Eze 36:31). He finds by nature no form nor comeliness in himself, but the more he looks in the glass of the Word, the more unhandsome, the more deformed he perceiveth sin has made him. Every body sees not this, therefore every body is not sorry for it; but the broken in heart sees that he is by sin corrupted, marred, full of lewdness and naughtiness; he sees that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing; and this makes him sorry, yea, it makes him sorry at heart. A man that has his bones broken finds he is spoiled, marred, disabled from doing as he would and should, at which he is grieved and made sorry.
Many are sorry for actual transgressions, because they do oft bring them to shame before men; but few are sorry for the defects that sin has made in nature, because they see not those defects themselves. A man cannot be sorry for the sinful defects of nature, till he sees they have rendered him contemptible to God; nor is it any thing but a sight of God that can make him truly see what he is, and so be heartily sorry for being so. Now 'mine eye seeth thee,' saith Job, now 'I abhor myself.' 'Woe is me, for I am undone,' saith the prophet, 'for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord.' And it was this that made Daniel say his 'comeliness was turned in him into corruption'; for he had now the vision of the Holy One (Job 42:6; Isa 6:1-5; Dan 10:8). Visions of God break the heart, because, by the sight the soul then has of his perfections, it sees its own infinite and unspeakable disproportion, because of the vileness of its nature.
Suppose a company of ugly, uncomely, deformed persons dwelt together in one house; and suppose that they never yet saw any man or woman more than themselves, or that were arrayed with the splendours and perfections of nature; these would not be capable of comparing themselves with any but themselves, and consequently would not be affected and made sorry for their uncomely natural defections. But now bring them out of their cells and holes of darkness, where they have been shut up by themselves, and let them take a view of the splendour and perfections of beauty that are in others, and then, if at all, they will be sorry and dejected at the view of their own defects. This is the case; men by sin are marred, spoiled, corrupted, depraved, but they may dwell by themselves in the dark; they see neither God, nor angels, nor saints, in their excellent nature and beauty: and therefore they are apt to count their own uncomely parts their ornaments and their glory. But now let such, as I said, see God, see saints, or the ornaments of the Holy Ghost, and themselves as they are without them, and then they cannot but must be affected with and sorry for their own deformity. When the Lord Christ put forth but little of his excellency before his servant Peter's face, it raised up the depravity of Peter's nature before him to his great confusion and shame; and made him cry out to him in the midst of all his fellows, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Luke 5:4-8).