This therefore is the cause of a broken heart, even a sight of divine excellencies, and a sense that I am a poor, depraved, spoiled defiled wretch; and this sight having broken the heart, begets sorrow in the broken-hearted.
2. The broken-hearted is a sorrowful man; for that he finds his depravity of nature strong in him, to the putting forth itself to oppose and overthrow what his changed mind doth prompt him to; 'When I would do good,' saith Paul, 'evil is present with me' (Rom 7:21). Evil is present to oppose, to resist, and make head against the desires of my soul. The man that has his bones broken, may have yet a mind to be industriously occupied in a lawful and honest calling; but he finds, by experience, that an infirmity attends his present condition that strongly resists his good endeavours; and at this he shakes his head, makes complaints, and with sorrow of heart he sighs and says, I 'cannot do the thing that I would' (Rom 7:15; Gal 5:17). I am weak, I am feeble; I am not only depraved, but by that depravity deprived of ability to put good motions, good intentions and desires into execution, to completeness; O says he, I am ready to halt, my sorrow is continually before me!
You must know that the broken-hearted loves God, loves his soul, loves good, and hates evil. Now, for such an one to find in himself an opposition and continual contradiction to this holy passion, it must needs cause sorrow, godly sorrow, as the apostle Paul calls it. For such are made sorrow after a godly sort. To be sorry for that thy nature is with sin depraved, and that through this depravity thou art deprived of ability to do what the Word and thy holy mind doth prompt thee to, is to be sorry after a godly sort. For this sorrow worketh that in thee of which thou wilt never have cause to repent; no, not to eternity (2 Cor 7:9-11).
3. The broken-hearted man is sorry for those breaches that, by reason of the depravity of his nature, are made in his life and conversation. And this was the case of the man in our text. The vileness of his nature had broken out to the defiling of his life, and to the making of him, at this time, base in conversation. This, this was it, that all to brake his heart. He saw in this he had dishonoured God, and that cut him, 'Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight' (Psa 51:4). He saw in this he had caused the enemies of God to open their mouths and blaspheme; and this cut him to the heart. This made him cry, I have sinned against thee, Lord. This made him say, 'I will declare mine iniquity, I will be sorry for my sin' (Psa 38:18).
When a man is designed to do a matter, when his heart is set upon it, and the broken-hearted doth design to glorify God, an obstruction to that design, the spoiling of this work, makes him sorrowful. Hannah coveted children, but could not have them, and this made her 'a woman of a sorrowful spirit' (1 Sam 1:15). A broken-hearted man would be well inwardly, and do that which is well outwardly; but he feels, he finds, he sees he is prevented, prevented at least in part. This makes him sorrowful; in this he groans, groans earnestly, being burdened with his imperfections (2 Cor 5:1-3). You know one with broken bones has imperfections many, and is more sensible of them, too, as was said afore, than any other man; and this makes him sorrowful, yea, and makes him conclude that he shall go softly all his days in the bitterness of his soul (Isa 38:15).
Third. The man with a broken heart is a very humble man; or, true humility is a sign of a broken heart. Hence, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, and humbleness of mind, are put together. 'To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (Isa 57:15).
To follow our similitude. Suppose a man, while in bodily health, stout and strong, and one that fears and cares for no man; yet let this man have but a leg or an arm broken, and his courage is quelled; he is now so far off from hectoring of it with a man, that he is afraid of every little child that doth but offer to touch him. Now he will court the most feeble that has ought to do with him, to use him and handle him gently. Now he is become a child in courage, a child in fear, and humbleth himself as a little child.
Why, thus it is with that man that is of a broken and contrite spirit. Time was, indeed, he could hector, even hector it with God himself, saying, 'What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?' or what profit shall I have if I keep his commandments? (Job 21:15; Mal 3:13,14). Ay! But now his heart is broken; God has wrestled with him, and given him a fall, to the breaking of his bones, his heart; and now he crouches, now he cringes, now he begs of God that he will not only do him good, but do it with tender hands. 'Have mercy upon me, O God,' said David; yea, 'according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions' (Psa 51:1).
He stands, as he sees, not only in need of mercy, but of the tenderest mercies. God has several sorts of mercies, some more rough, some more tender. God can save a man, and yet have him a dreadful way to heaven! This the broken-hearted sees, and this the broken-hearted dreads, and therefore pleads for the tenderest sort of mercies; and here we read of his gentle dealing, and that he is very pitiful, and that he deals tenderly with his. But the reason of such expressions no man knows but he that is broken-hearted; he has his sores, his running sores, his stinking sores; wherefore he is pained, and therefore covets to be handled tenderly. Thus God has broken the pride of his spirit, and humbled the loftiness of man. And his humility yet appears,
1. In his thankfulness for natural life. He reckoneth at night, when he goes to bed, that like as a lion, so God will tear him to pieces before the morning light (Isa 38:13). There is no judgment that has fallen upon others, but he counts of right he should be swallowed up by it. 'My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments' (Psa 119:120). But perceiving a day added to his life, and that he in the morning is still on this side hell, he cannot choose but take notice of it, and acknowledge it as a special favour, saying, God be thanked for holding my soul in life till now, and for keeping my life back from the destroyer (Job 33:22; Psa 56:13, 86:13).
Man, before his heart is broken, counts time his own, and therefore he spends it lavishly upon every idle thing. His soul is far from fear, because the rod of God is not upon him; but when he sees himself under the wounding hand of God, or when God, like a lion, is breaking all his bones, then he humbleth himself before him, and falleth at his foot. Now he has learned to count every moment a mercy, and every small morsel a mercy.
2. Now also the least hopes of mercy for his soul, O how precious is it! He that was wont to make orts of the gospel, and that valued promises but as stubble, and the words of God but as rotten wood; now, with what an eye doth he look on the promise? Yea, he counted a peradventure of mercy more rich, more worth, than the whole world. Now, as we say, he is glad to leap at a crust; now, to be a dog in God's house is counted better by him than to 'dwell in the tents of the wicked' (Matt 15:16,27; Luke 15:17-19).
3. Now he that was wont to look scornfully upon the people of God, yea, that used to scorn to show them a gentle cast of his countenance; now he admires and bows before them, and is ready to lick the dust of their feet, and would count it his greatest, the highest honour, to be as one of the least of them. 'Make me as one of thy hired servants,' says he (Luke 15:19).
4. Now he is, in his own eyes, the greatest fool in nature; for that he sees he has been so mistaken in his ways, and has not yet but little, if any true knowledge of God. Every one now, says he, have more knowledge of God than I; every one serves him better than I (Psa 73:21,22; Prov 30:2,3).
5. Now may he be but one, though the least in the kingdom of heaven! Now may he be but one, though the least in the church on earth! Now may he be but loved, though the least beloved of saints! How high an account doth he set thereon!
6. Now, when he talketh with God or men, how doth he debase himself before them! If with God, how does he accuse himself, and load himself with the acknowledgments of his own villanies, which he committed in the days wherein he was the enemy of God! 'Lord,' said Paul, that contrite one, 'I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him' (Acts 22:19,20). Yea, I punished thy saints 'oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities' (Acts 26:9-11).
Also, when he comes to speak to saints, how doth he make himself vile before them! 'I am,' saith he, 'the least of the apostles; that am not meet to be called an apostle'; I am 'less than the least of all saints'; I was a blasphemer; I was a persecutor, and injurious, &c. (1 Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8; 1 Tim 1:13). What humility, what self-abasing thoughts, doth a broken heart produce! When David danced before the ark of God, also how did he discover his nakedness to the disliking of his wife; and when she taunted him for his doings, says he, 'It was before the Lord,' &c., 'and I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight' (2 Sam 6:20-22). O, the man that is, or that has been kindly broken in his spirit, and that is of a contrite heart, is a lowly, humble man.
Fourth. The broken-hearted man is a man that sees himself in spirituals to be poor. Therefore, as humble and contrite, so poor and contrite are put together in the Word. 'But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit' (Isa 66:1,2). And here we still pursue our metaphor. A wounded man, a man with broken bones, concludes his condition to be but poor, very poor. Ask him how he does, and he answers, 'Truly, neighbours, in a very poor condition!' Also you have the spiritual poverty of such as have, or have had their hearts broken, and that have been of contrite spirits, much made mention of in the Word. And they go by two names to distinguish them from others. They are called THY poor, that is, God's poor; they are also called 'the poor in spirit' (Psa 72:2, 74:19; Matt 5:3). Now, the man that is poor in his own eyes, for of him we now discourse, and the broken-hearted is such an one, is sensible of his wants. He knows he cannot help himself, and therefore is forced to be content to live by the charity of others. Thus it is in nature, thus it is in grace.
1. The broken-hearted now knows his wants, and he knew it not till now. As he that has a broken bone, knew no want of a bone-setter till he knew his bone was broken. His broken bone makes him know it; his pain and anguish makes him know it; and thus it is in spirituals. Now he sees to be poor indeed is to want the sense of the favour of God; for his great pain is a sense of wrath, as hath been shown before. And the voice of joy would heal his broken bones (Psa 51:8). Two things he thinks would make him rich. (1) A right and title to Jesus Christ, and all his benefits. (2) And saving faith therein. They that are spiritually rich are rich in him, and in the faith of him (2 Cor 8:9; James 2:5).
The first of these giveth us a right to the kingdom of heaven; and the second yields the soul the comfort of it; and the broken-hearted man wants the sense and knowledge of his interest in these. That he knows he wants them is plain; but that he knows he has them is what, as yet, he wants the attainment of. Hence he says—'The poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst' (Isa 41:17). There is none in their view; none in their view for them. Hence David, when he had his broken heart, felt he wanted washing, he wanted purging, he wanted to be made white. He knew that spiritual riches lay there but he did not so well perceive that God had washed and purged him. Yea, he rather was afraid that all was going, that he was in danger of being cast out of God's presence, and that the Spirit of grace would be utterly taken from him (Psa 51). That is the first thing. The broken-hearted is poor, because he knows his wants.
2. The broken-hearted is poor, because he knows he cannot help himself to what he knows he wants. The man that has a broken arm, as he knows it, so he knows of himself he cannot set it. This therefore is a second thing that declares a man is poor, otherwise he is not so. For suppose a man wants never so much, yet if he can but help himself, if he can furnish himself, if he can supply his own wants out of what he has, he cannot be a poor man. Yea, the more he wants, the greater are his riches, if he can supply his own wants out of his own purse.
He then is the poor man, that knows his spiritual want, and also knows he cannot supply or help himself. But this the broken-hearted knows, therefore he in his own eyes is the only poor man. True, he may have something of his own, but that will not supply his want, and therefore he is a poor man still. I have sacrifices, says David, but thou dosts not desire them, therefore my poverty remains (Psa 51:16). Lead is not gold, lead is not current money with the merchants. There is none has spiritual gold to sell but Christ (Rev 3:18). What can a man do to procure Christ, or procure faith, or love? Yea, had he never so much of his own carnal excellencies, no, not one penny of it will go for pay in that market where grace is to be hand. 'If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned' (Can 8:7).
This the broken-hearted man perceives, and therefore he sees himself to be spiritually poor. True he has a broken heart, and that is of great esteem with God; but that is not of nature's goodness, that is a gift, a work of God; and that is the sacrifices of God. Besides, a man cannot remain content and at rest with that; for that, in the nature of it, does but show him he is poor, and that his wants are such as himself cannot supply. Besides, there is but little ease in a broken heart.
3. The broken-hearted man is poor, and sees it; because he finds he is now disabled to live any way else but by begging. This David betook himself to, though he was a king; for he knew, as to his soul's health, he could live no way else. 'This poor man cried,' saith he, 'and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles' (Psa 34:6). And this leads me to the fifth sign.
Fifth. Another sign of a broken heart is a crying, a crying out. Pain, you know, will make one cry. Go to them that have upon them the anguish of broken bones, and see if they do not cry; anguish makes them cry. This, this is that which quickly follows, if once thy heart be broken, and thy spirit indeed made contrite.
1. I say, anguish will make thee cry. 'Trouble and anguish,' saith David, 'have taken hold on me' (Psa 119:143). Anguish, you know, doth naturally provoke to crying; now, as a broken bone has anguish, a broken heart has anguish. Hence the pains of one that has a broken heart are compared to the pangs of a woman in travail (John 16:20-22).
Anguish will make one cry alone, cry to one's self; and this is called a bemoaning of one's self. 'I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself,' saith God (Jer 31:18). That is, being at present under the breaking, chastising hand of God. 'Thou hast chastised me,' saith he, 'and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.' This is his meaning also who said, 'I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.' And why? Why, 'My heart is sore pained within me' (Psa 4:2-4).
This is a self-bemoaning, a bemoaning themselves in secret and retired places. You know it is common with them who are distressed with anguish, though all alone, to cry out to themselves of their present pains, saying, O my leg! O my arm! O my bowels! Or, as the son of the Shunammite, 'My head! my head!' (2 Kings 4:19). O the groans, the sighs, the cries, that the broken-hearted have, when by themselves, or alone! O, say they, my sins! my sins! my soul! my soul! How am I loaden with guilt! How am I surrounded with fear! O this hard, this desperate, this unbelieving heart! O how sin defileth my will, my mind, my conscience! 'I am afflicted and ready to die' (Psa 88:15).
Could some of you carnal people but get behind the chamber-door, to hear Ephraim when he is at the work of self-bemoaning, it would make you stand amazed to hear him bewail that sin in himself in which you take delight; and to hear him bemoan his misspending of time, while you spend all in pursuing your filthy lusts; and to hear him offended with his heart, because it will not better comply with God's holy will, while you are afraid of his Word and ways, and never think yourselves better than when farthest off from God. The unruliness of the passions and lusts of the broken-hearted make them often get into a corner, and thus bemoan themselves.
2. As they thus cry out in a bemoaning manner of and to themselves, so they have their outcries of and against themselves to others; as she said in another case, 'Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow' (Lam 1:12). O the bitter cries and complaints that the broken-hearted have, and make to one another! Still every one imagining that his own wounds are deepest, and his own sores fullest of anguish, and hardest to be cured. Say they, if our iniquities be upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live? (Eze 33:10).
Once being at an honest woman's house, I, after some pause, asked her how she did? She said, Very badly. I asked her if she was sick? she answered, No. What then, said I, are any of your children ill? She told me, No. What, said I, is your husband amiss, or do you go back in the world? No, no, said she, but I am afraid I shall not be saved. And broke out with heavy heart, saying, 'Ah, Goodman Bunyan! Christ and a pitcher; if I had Christ, though I went and begged my bread with a pitcher, it would be better with me than I think it is now!' This woman had her heart broken, this woman wanted Christ, this woman was concerned for her soul. There are but few women, rich women, that count Christ and a pitcher better than the world, their pride, and pleasures. This woman's cries are worthy to be recorded; it was a cry that carried in it, not only a sense of the want, but also of the worth of Christ. This cry, 'Christ and a pitcher,' made a melodious noise in the ears of the very angels!
But, I say, few women cry out thus; few women are so in love with their own eternal salvation, as to be willing to part with all their lusts and vanities for Jesus Christ and a pitcher. Good Jacob also was thus: 'If the Lord,' said he, 'will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then he shall be my God.' Yea, he vowed it should be so. 'And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; so that I come again to my father's house in peace: then shall the Lord be my God' (Gen 28:20).
3. As they bemoan themselves, and make their complaints to one and another, so they cry to God. 'O God,' said Heman, 'I have cried day and night before thee.' But when? Why, when his soul was full of trouble, and his life drew near to the grave (Psa 88:1-3). Or, as it says in another place, out of the deep, 'out of the belly of hell cried I' (Psa 130:1; Jonah 2:2). By such words expressing what painful condition they were in when they cried.
See how God himself words it. 'My pleasant portion,' says he, is become 'a desolate wilderness, and being desolate, it mourneth unto me' (Jer 12:11). And this also is natural to those whose hearts are broken. Whether goes the child, when it catcheth harm, but to its father, to its mother? Where doth it lay its head, but in their laps? Into whose bosom doth it pour out its complaint, more especially, but into the bosom of the father, of a mother, because there are bowels, there is pity, there is relief and succour? And thus it is with them whose bones, whose hearts are broken. It is natural to them; they must cry; they cannot but cry to him. 'Lord, heal me,' said David, 'for my bones are vexed; Lord, heal me, for my soul is also sore vexed' (Psa 6:1-3). He that cannot cry feels no pain, sees no want, fears no danger, or else is dead.
Sixth. Another sign of a broken heart, and of a contrite spirit is, it trembleth at God's Word. 'To him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word' (Isa 66:2).
The Word of God is an awful Word to a broken-hearted man. Solomon says, 'The word of a king is as the roaring of a lion'; and if so, what is the Word of God? for by the wrath and fear is meant the authoritative word of a king. We have a proverb, 'The burnt child dreads the fire, the whipped child fears the rod'; even so the broken-hearted fears the Word of God. Hence you have a remark set upon them that tremble at God's Word, to wit, they are they that keep among the godly; they are they that keep within compass; they are they that are aptest to mourn, and to stand in the gap, when God is angry; and to turn away his wrath from a people.
It is a sign the Word of God has had place, and wrought powerfully, when the heart trembleth at it, is afraid, and stands in awe of it. When Joseph's mistress tempted him to lie with her, he was afraid of the Word of God. 'How then can I do this great wickedness,' said he, 'and sin against God?' He stood in awe of God's Word, durst not do it, because he kept in remembrance what a dreadful thing it was to rebel against God's Word. When old Eli heard that the ark was taken, his very heart trembled within him; for he read by that sad loss that God was angry with Israel, and he knew the anger of God was a great and terrible thing. When Samuel went to Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled; for they feared that he came to them with some sad message from God, and they had had experience of the dread of such things before (Gen 39:7-9; 1 Sam 4:13, 16:1-4). When Ezra would have a mourning in Israel for the sins of the land, he sent, and there came to him 'every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgressions of those that had been carried away' (Ezra 9:4).
There are, I say, a sort of people that tremble at the words of God, and that are afraid of doing ought that is contrary to them; but they are only such with whose souls and spirits the Word has had to do. For the rest, they are resolved to go on their course, let God say what he will. 'As for the word' of the Lord, said rebellious Israel to Jeremiah, 'that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth' (Jer 44:16). But do you think that these people did ever feel the power and majesty of the Word of God to break their hearts? No, verily; had that been so, they would have trembled at the words of God; they would have been afraid of the words of God. God may command some people what he will, they will do what they list. What care they for God? what care they for his Word? Neither threats nor promises, neither punishments or favours will make them obedient to the Word of God; and all because they have not felt the power of it, their hearts have not been broken with it. When king Josias did but read in God's Book what punishment God had threatened against rebellious Israel, though he himself was a holy and good man, he humbled himself, 'he rent his clothes,' and wept before the Lord, and was afraid of the judgment threatened (2 Kings 22; 2 Chron 34). For he knew what a dreadful thing the Word of God is. Some men, as I said before, dare do anything, let the Word of God be never so much against it; but they that tremble at the Word dare not do so. No, they must make the Word their rule for all they do; they must go to the Holy Bible, and there inquire what may or may not be done; for they tremble at the Word. This then is another sign, a true sign, that the heart has been broken, namely, 'When the heart is made afraid of, and trembleth at the Word' (Acts 9:4-6, 16:29,30). Trembling at the Word is caused by a belief of what is deserved, threatened, and of what will come, if not prevented by repentance; and therefore the heart melts, and breaks before the Lord.
[IV. THE NECESSITY THERE IS THAT THE HEART MUST BE BROKEN.]
I come, in the next place, to speak to this question.
But what necessity is there that the heart must be broken? Cannot a man be saved unless his heart be broken? I answer, Avoiding secret things, which only belong to God, there is a necessity of breaking the heart, in order to salvation; because a man will not sincerely comply with the means conducing thereunto until his heart is broken. For,
First. Man, take him as he comes into the world, as to spirituals, as to evangelical things, in which mainly lies man's eternal felicity, and there he is as one dead, and so stupefied, and wholly in himself, as unconcerned with it. Nor can any call or admonition, that has not a heart-breaking power attending of it, bring him to a due consideration of his present state, and so unto an effectual desire to be saved.
Many ways God has manifested this. He has threatened men with temporal judgments; yea, sent such judgments upon them, once and again, over and over, but they will not do. What! says he, 'I have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities; I have withholden the rain from you; I have smitten you with blasting and mildew; I have sent among you the pestilence; I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord' (Amos 4:6-11). See here! Here is judgment upon judgment, stroke after stroke, punishment after punishment, but all will not do, unless the heart is broken. Yea, another prophet seems to say that such things, instead of converting the soul, sets it further off. If heart-breaking work attend such strokes, 'Why should ye be stricken any more?' says he, 'ye will revolt more and more' (Isa 1:5).
Man's heart is fenced, it is grown gross; there is a skin that, like a coat of mail, has wrapped it up, and inclosed it in on every side. This skin, this coat of mail, unless it be cut off and taken away, the heart remains untouched, whole; and so as unconcerned, whatever judgments or afflictions light upon the body (Matt 13:15; Acts 28:27). This which I call the coat of mail, the fence of the heart, has two great names in Scripture. It is called, 'the foreskin of the heart,' and the armour in which the devil trusteth (Deut 10:16; Luke 11:22).
Because these shield and fence the heart from all gospel doctrine, and from all legal punishments, nothing can come at it till these are removed. Therefore, in order unto conversion, the heart is said to be circumcised; that is, this foreskin is taken away, and this coat of mail is spoiled. 'I will circumcise thy heart,' saith he, 'to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart'—and then the devil's goods are spoiled—'that thou mayst live' (Deut 30:6; Luke 11:22).
And now the heart lies open, now the Word will prick, cut, and pierce it; and it being cut, pricked, and pierced, it bleeds, it faints, it falls, and dies at the foot of God, unless it is supported by the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ. Conversion, you know, begins at the heart; but if the heart be so secured by sin and Satan, as I have said, all judgments are, while that is so, in vain. Hence Moses, after he had made a long relation of mercy and judgment unto the children of Israel, suggests that yet the great thing was wanting to them, and that thing was, an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear unto that day (Deut 29:2,3). Their hearts were as yet not touched to the quick, were not awakened, and wounded by the holy Word of God, and made tremble at its truth and terror.
But I say, before the heart be touched, pricked, made smart, &c., how can it be thought, be the danger never so great, that it should repent, cry, bow, and break at the foot of God, and supplicate there for mercy! and yet thus it must do; for thus God has ordained, and thus God has appointed it; nor can men be saved without it. But, I say, can a man spiritually dead, a stupid man, whose heart is past feeling, do this; before he has his dead and stupid heart awakened, to see and feel its state and misery without it? But,
Second. Man, take him as he comes into the world—and how wise soever he is in worldly and temporal things—he is yet a fool as to that which is spiritual and heavenly. Hence Paul says, 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him,' because he is indeed a fool to them; 'neither,' says the text, 'can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Cor 2:14). But how now must this fool be made wise? Why, wisdom must be put into his heart (Job 38:36). Now, none can put it there but God; and how doth he put it there, but by making room there for it, by taking away the thing which hinders, which is that folly and madness which naturally dwelleth there? But how doth he take that away but by a severe chastising of his soul for it, until he has made him weary of it? The whip and stripes are provided for the natural fool, and so it is for him that is spiritually so (Prov 19:29).
Solomon intimates, that it is a hard thing to make a fool become wise. 'Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him' (Prov 27:22). By this it appears that it is a hard thing to make a fool a wise man. To bray one in a mortar is a dreadful thing, to bray one there with a pestle; and yet it seems a whip, a mortar, and a pestle is the way. And if this is the way to make one wise in this world, and if all this will hardly do, how must the fool that is so in spirituals be whipped and beaten, and stripped before he is made wise therein? Yea, his heart must be put into God's mortar, and must be beaten; yea, brayed there with the pestle of the law, before it loves to hearken unto heavenly things. It is a great word in Jeremiah, 'Through deceit,' that is, folly, 'they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.' And what follows? Why, 'Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, behold I will melt them, and try them,' that is, with fire, 'for how shall I do for the daughter of my people' (Jer 9:6,7). I will melt them: I will put them into my furnace, and there I will try them; and there will I make them know me, saith the Lord. When David was under spiritual chastisement for his sin, and had his heart under the breaking hand of God, then he said, God should make him know wisdom (Psa 51:6). Now he was in the mortar, now he was in the furnace, now he was bruised and melted; yea, now his bones, his heart, was breaking, and now his folly was departing. Now, says he, thou shalt make me to know wisdom. If I know anything of the way of God with us fools, there is nothing else will make us wise men; yea, a thousand breakings will not make us so wise as we should be.
We say, Wisdom is not good till it is bought; and he that buys it, according to the intention of that proverb, usually smarts for it. The fool is wise in his own conceit; wherefore there is a double difficulty attends him before he can be wise indeed. Not only his folly, but his wisdom, must be removed from him; and how shall that be, but by ripping up of his heart by some sore conviction, that may show him plainly that his wisdom is his folly, and that which will undo him. A fool loves his folly; that is, as treasure, so much is he in love with it. Now then, it must be a great thing that must make a fool forsake his folly. The foolish will not weigh, nor consider, nor compare wisdom with their folly. 'Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom.' 'As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly' (Prov 15:21, 26:11). So loth are they when driven from it to let it go, to let it depart from them. Wherefore there must go a great deal to the making of a man a Christian; for as to that, every man is a fool, yea, the greatest fool, the most unconcerned fool, the most self-willed fool of all fools; yea, one that will not be turned from his folly but by the breaking of his heart. David was one of these fools; Manasseh was one of these fools; Saul, otherwise called Paul, was one of these fools; and so was I—and that the biggest of all.
Third. Man, take him as he comes into the world, and he is not only a dead man, and a fool, but a proud man also. Pride is one of those sins that first showeth itself to children, yea, and it grows up with them, and mixeth itself with all they do: but it lies most hid, most deep in man as to his soul-concerns. For the nature of sin, as sin, is not only to be vile, but to hide its vileness from the soul. Hence many think they do well when they sin. Jonah thought he did well to be angry with God (Jonah 4:9). The Pharisees thought they did well when they said, Christ had a devil (John 8:48). And Paul thought verily, that he ought to do many things against, or contrary to, the name of Jesus; which he also did with great madness (Acts 26:9,10). And thus sin puffs up men with pride, and a conceit of themselves, that they are a thousand times better than they are. Hence they think they are the children of God, when they are the children of the devil; and that they are something as to Christianity, when they neither are such, nor know what it is that they must have to make them such (John 8:41-44; Gal 6:3).
Now, whence flows this but from pride, and a self-conceit of themselves, and that their state is good for another world, when they are yet in their sins, and under the curse of God? Yea, and this pride is so strong and high, and yet so hid in them, that all the ministers in the world cannot persuade them that this is pride, not grace, in which they are so confident. Hence they slight all reproofs, rebukes, threatenings, or admonitions that are pressed upon them, to prevail with them to take heed, that they be not herein deceived. 'Hear ye,' saith the prophet, 'and give ear: be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken.' 'But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride' (Jer 13:15-17). And what was the conclusion? Why, all the proud men stood out still, and maintained their resistance of God and his holy prophet (Jer 43:2).
Nor is there any thing that will prevail with these to the saving of their souls, until their hearts are broken. David, after he had defiled Bathsheba, and slain her husband, yet boasted himself in his justice and holiness, and would by all means have the man put to death that had but taken the poor man's lamb, when, alas! poor soul, himself was the great transgressor. But would he believe it? No, no; he stood upon the vindicating of himself to be a just doer; nor would he be made to fall until Nathan, by authority from God, did tell him that he was the man whom himself had condemned; 'Thou art the man,' said he: at which word his conscience was awakened, his heart wounded, and so his soul made to fall under the burden of his guilt, at the feet of the God of heaven for mercy (2 Sam 12:1-13).
Ah! pride, pride! thou art that which holds many a man in the chains of his sins; thou art it, thou cursed self-conceit, and keepest them from believing that their state is damnable. 'The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God' (Psa 10:4). And if there is so much in the pride of his countenance, what is there, think you, in the pride of his heart? Therefore Job says it is to hide pride from man, and so to save his soul from hell, that God chasteneth him with pain upon his bed, until the multitude of his bones stick out, and until his life draws nigh to the destroyer (Job 33:17-22).
It is a hard thing to take a man off his pride, and make him, instead of trusting in, and boasting of his goodness, wisdom, honesty, and the like, to see himself a sinner, a fool, yea, a man that is cruel, as to his own immortal soul. Pride of heart has a power in it, and is therefore compared to an iron sinew, and an iron chain, by which they are made stout, and with which they are held in that stoutness, to oppose the Lord, and drive his Word from their hearts (Lev 26:19; Psa 73:6).
This was the sin of devils, and it is the sin of man, and the sin, I say, from which no man can be delivered until his heart is broken; and then his pride is spoiled, then he will be glad to yield. If a man be proud of his strength or manhood, a broken leg will maul him; and if a man be proud of his goodness, a broken heart will maul him; because, as has been said, a broken heart comes by the discovery and charge of sin, by the power of God upon the conscience.
Fourth. Man, take him as he comes into the world, and he is not only a dead man, a fool, and proud, but also self-willed and headstrong (2 Peter 2:10). A stubborn ungain creature is man before his heart is broken. Hence they are so often called rebels, rebellious, and disobedient: they will only do what they list. 'All day long,' says God, 'have I stretched out my hand to a disobedient and gainsaying people.' And hence, again, they are compared to a self-willed or headstrong horse, that will, in spite of his rider, rush into the battle. 'Every one,' says God, 'turneth to his course, as the horse rusheth into battle' (Jer 8:6). They say, 'With our tongue will we prevail, our lips are our own; who is lord over us' (Psa 12:4).
Hence they are said to stop their ears, to pull away their shoulder, to shut their eyes, and harden their hearts, 'against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High' (Psa 107:11; Zech 7:10,12). They are fitly compared to the rebellious son who would not be ruled by his parents, or to the prodigal, who would have all in his own hand, and remove himself far away from father and father's house (Deut 21:20; Luke 15:13). Now for such creatures, nothing will do but violence. The stubborn son must be stoned till he dies; and the prodigal must be famished out of all; nothing else, I say, will do. Their self-willed stubborn heart will not comply with the will of God before it is broken (Deut 21:21; Luke 15:14-17). These are they that are called the stout-hearted; these are said to be far from righteousness, and so will remain until their hearts are broken; for so they must be made to know themselves (Isa 9:9-11).
Fifth. Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, and self-willed, but also a fearless creature. 'There is,' saith the text, 'no fear of God before their eyes' (Rom 3:18). No fear of God! There is fear of man, fear of losing his favour, his love, his good-will, his help, his friendship; this is seen everywhere. How do the poor fear the rich, the weak fear the strong, and those that are threatened, them that threaten! But come now to God; why, none fear him; that is, by nature, none reverence him; they neither fear his frowns, nor seek his favour, nor inquire how they may escape his revenging hand that is lifted up against their sins and their souls because of sin. Little things they fear the losing of them; but the soul they are not afraid to lose. 'They fear not me, saith the Lord' (Mal 3:5).
How many times are some men put in mind of death by sickness upon themselves, by graves, by the death of others? How many times are they put in mind of hell by reading the Word, by lashes of conscience, and by some that go roaring in despair out of this world? How many times are they put in mind of the day of judgment. As, 1. By God's binding the fallen angels over to judgment. 2. By the drowning of the old world (2 Peter 2:4,5; Jude 6,7). 3. By the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven (2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7). 4. By appointing a day (Acts 17:29-31). 5. By appointing a judge (Acts 10:40-42). 6 By reserving their crimes in records (Isa 30:8; Rev 20:12). 7. By appointing and preparing of witnesses (Rom 2:15). 8. And by promising, yea, threatening, yea, resolving, to call the whole world to his bar, there to be judged for all which they have done and said, and for every secret thing (Matt 25:31-33, 12:36; Eccl 11:9, 12:14).
And yet they fear not God: alas! they believe not these things. These things, to carnal men, are like Lot's preaching to his sons and daughters that were in Sodom. When he told them that God would destroy that place, he seemed unto them as one that mocked; and his words to them were as idle tales (Gen 19:14). Fearless men are not won by words; blows, wounds, and killings, are the things that must bring them under fear. How many struggling fits had Israel with God in the wilderness? How many times did they declare that there they feared him not? And observe, they were seldom, if ever, brought to fear and dread his glorious name, unless he beset them round with death and the grave. Nothing, nothing but a severe hand, will make the fearless fear. Hence, to speak after the manner of man, God is put upon it to go this way with sinners when he would save their souls; even bring them, and lay them at the mouth, and within sight of hell and everlasting damnation: and there also charge them with sin and guilt, to the breaking of their hearts, before they will fear his name.
Sixth. Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, self-willed, and fearless, but he is a false believer concerning God. Let God report of himself never so plainly, man by nature will not believe this report of him. No, they are become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened; wherefore they turn the glory of God, which is his truth, into a lie (Rom 1:21-25). God says, He sees; they say, He seeth not; God saith, He knows; they say, He doth not know: God saith, None is like himself; yet they say, He is altogether like to them: God saith, None shall keep his door for naught; they say, It is in vain, and to no profit to serve him: he saith, He will do good; they say, He will neither do good nor evil (Job 22:13,14; Psa 50:21; Job 21:14,15; Mal 3:14; Zeph 1:12). Thus they falsely believe concerning God; yea, as to the word of his grace, and the revelation of his mercy in Christ, they stick not to say by their practice—for a wicked man speaketh with his feet (Prov 6:13)—that that is a stark lie, and not to be trusted to (1 John 5:10).
Now, what shall God do to save these men? If he hides himself and conceals his glory, they perish. If he sends to them by his messengers, and forbears to come to them himself, they perish. If he comes to them and forbears to work upon them by his word, they perish: if he worketh on them, but not effectually, they perish. If he works effectually he must break their hearts, and make them, as men wounded to death, fall at his feet for mercy, or there can be no good done on them; they will not rightly believe until he fires them out of their misbelief, and makes them to know, by the breaking of their bones for their false faith, that he is, and will be, what he has said of himself in his holy Word. The heart, therefore, must be broken before the man can come to good.
Seventh. Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, self-willed, fearless, and a false believer, but a great lover of sin; he is captivated, ravished, drowned in the delights of it. Hence it [the Word] says, they love sin, delight in lies, do take pleasure in iniquity, and in them that do it; that they sport themselves in their own deceivings, and glory in their shame (John 3:19; Psa 62:4; Rom 1:32; 2 Peter 2:13; Phil 3:19).
This is the temper of man by nature; for sin is mixed with and has the mastery of all the powers of his soul. Hence they are said to be captives to it, and to be led captive into the pleasures of it, at the will of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). And you know it is not an easy thing to break love, or to take the affections off that object on which they are so deeply set, in which they are so deeply rooted, as man's heart is in his sins. Alas! how many are there that contemn all the allurements of heaven, and that trample upon all the threatenings of God, and that say, 'Tush,' at all the flames of hell, whenever these are propounded as motives to work them off their sinful delights! so fixed are they, so mad are they, upon these beastly idols. Yea, he that shall take in hand to stop their course in this their way, is as he that shall attempt to prevent the raging waves of the sea from their course, when driven by the mighty winds.
When men are somewhat put to it, when reason and conscience shall begin a little to hearken to a preacher, or a judgment that shall begin to hunt for iniquity, how many tricks, evasions, excuses, demurs, delays, and hiding-holes will they make, invent, and find, to hide and preserve their sweet sins with themselves and their souls, in the delights of them, to their own eternal perdition? Hence they endeavour to stifle conscience, to choke convictions, to forget God, to make themselves atheists, to contradict preachers that are plain and honest, and to heap to themselves such of them only as are like themselves, that speak unto them smooth things, and prophesy deceits; yea, they say themselves to such preachers, 'Get you out of the way; turn aside out of the path; cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us' (Isa 30:8-11). If they be followed still, and conscience and guilt shall, like blood-hounds, find them out in their secret places, and roar against them for their wicked lives, then they will flatter, cogg, dissemble, and lie against their soul, promising to mend, to turn, to repent, and grow better shortly; and all to daff off convictions and molestations in their wicked ways, that they may yet pursue their lusts, their pleasures, and sinful delights, in quiet, and without control.
Yea, further, I have known some that have been made to roar like bears, to yell like dragons, and to howl like dogs, by reason of the weight of guilt, and the lashes of hell upon their conscience for their evil deeds; who have, so soon as their present torments and fears were gone, returned again with the 'dog to his vomit; and as the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire' (Hosea 7:14; 2 Peter 2:20-22).
Once again, some have been made taste of the good Word of God, of the joy of heaven, and of the powers of the world to come, and yet could not by any one, nay, by all of these, be made to break their league for ever with their lusts and sins (Heb 6:4,5; Luke 8:13; John 5:33-35). O Lord! what is man, that thou art mindful of him? Wherein is he to be accounted of? He has sinned against thee; he loves his sins more than thee. He is a lover of pleasures more than he is a lover of God!
But now, how shall this man be reclaimed from this sin? How shall he be brought, wrought, and made, to be out of love with it? Doubtless it can be by no other means, by what we can see in the Word, but by the wounding, breaking, and disabling of the heart that loves it, and by that means making it a plague and gall unto it. Sin may be made an affliction, and as gall and wormwood to them that love it; but the making of it so bitter a thing to such a man, will not be done but by great and sore means. I remember we had in our town some time since, a little girl that loved to eat the heads of foul tobacco-pipes, and neither rod nor good words could reclaim her, and make her leave them. So her father takes advice of a doctor, to wean her from them, and it was this: Take, saith he, a great many of the foulest tobacco-pipe heads you can get, and boil them in milk, and make a posset of that milk, and make your daughter drink the posset-drink up. He did so, and gave his girl it, and made her drink it up; the which became so irksome and nauseous to her stomach, and made her so sick, that she could never abide to meddle with tobacco-pipe heads any more, and so was cured of that disease. Thou lovest thy sin, and neither rod nor good words will as yet reclaim thee. Well, take heed; if thou wilt not be reclaimed, God will make thee a posset of them, which shall be so bitter to thy soul, so irksome to thy taste, so loathsome to thy mind, and so afflicting to thy heart, that it shall break it with sickness and grief, till it be loathsome to thee. I say, thus he will do if he loves thee; if not, he will suffer thee to take thy course, and will let thee go on with thy tobacco-pipe heads!
The children of Israel will have flesh, must have flesh; they weep, cry, and murmur, because they have not flesh; the bread of heaven, that is but light and sorry stuff in their esteem (Num 11:1-6). Moses goes and tells God how the people despised his heavenly bread, and how they longed, lusted, and desired to be fed with flesh. Well, says God, they shall have flesh, they shall have their fill of flesh; I will feed them with it; they shall have to the full; and that 'ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because ye have despised the Lord' (Num 11:11-20). He can tell how to make that loathsome to thee on which thou most dost set thine evil heart. And he will do so, if he loves thee; else, as I said, he will not make thee sick by smiting of thee nor punish thee for or when thou committest whoredom, but will let thee alone till the judgment-day, and call thee to a reckoning for all thy sins then. But to pass this.
Eighth. Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, self-willed, fearless, a false believer, and a lover of sin, but a wild man. He is of the wild olive tree, of that which is wild by nature (Rom 11:17,24). So, in another place, man by nature is compared to the ass, to a wild ass. 'For vain or empty man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt' (Job 11:12). Isaac was a figure of Christ, and of all converted men (Gen 4:28). But Ishmael was a figure of man by nature; and the Holy Ghost, as to that, saith this of him, 'And he will be a wild man' (Gen 16:12). This man, I say, was a figure of all carnal men, in their wildness or estrangedness from God. Hence it is said of the prodigal, at his conversion, that he came to himself then; implying that he was mad, wild, or out of his wits before (Luke 15:17). I know there is a difference sometimes betwixt one's being wild and mad; yet sometimes wildness arriveth to that degree as to give one rightly the denomination of being mad. And it is always true in spirituals; namely, that he that is wild, as to God, is mad, or besides himself, and so not capable, before he is tamed, of minding his own eternal good as he should. There are these several things that are tokens of one wild or mad; and they all meet in a carnal man.
1. A wild or mad man gives no heed to good counsel; the frenzy of his head shuts all out, and by its force leads him away from men that are wise and sober. And thus it is with carnal men; good counsel is to them as pearls are that are cast afore swine; it is trampled under foot of them, and the man is despised that brings it (Matt 7:6). 'The poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard' (Eccl 9:16).
2. A wild or mad man, let him alone, and he will greatly busy himself all his life to accomplish that which, when it is completed, amounts to nothing. The work, the toil, the travel of such a one comes to nothing, save to declare that he was out of his wits that did it. David, imitating of such a one, scrabbled upon the gate of the king, as fools do with chalk; and like to this is all the work of all carnal men in the world (1 Sam 21:12,13). Hence, such a one is said to labour for the wind, or for what will amount to no more than if he filled his belly with the east wind (Eccl 5:16; Job 15:2).
3. A wild or mad man, if you set him to do anything, and he does it, he will yet do it, not by or according to your bidding, but after the folly of his own wild fancy; even as Jehu executed the commandment of the Lord; he did it in his own madness, taking no heed to the commandment of the Lord (2 Kings 9:20, 10:31). And thus do carnal men do, when they meddle with any of God's matters, as hearing, praying, reading, professing; they do all according to their own wild fancy; they take no heed to do these after the commandment of the Lord.
4. Wild or mad men, if they deck or array themselves with ought, as many times they do, why, the spirit of their wildness or frenzy appears even in the mode and way in which they do it. Either the things themselves which they make use of for that purpose are very toys and trifles; or if they seem to be better, they are put on after an antic manner, rather to the rendering of them ridiculous, than to bespeak them sober, judicious, or wise; and so do natural men array themselves with what they would be accepted in with God. Would one in his wits think to make himself fine or acceptable to men by arraying himself in menstruous cloths, or by painting his face with dross and dung? And yet this is the finery of carnal men, when they approach for acceptance into the presence of God (Isa 64:6; Phil 3:7,8).
O the wildness, the frenzy, the madness, that possesses the heart and mind of carnal men! they walk according to the course of this world, according to or after that spirit which is in truth the spirit of the devil, which worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph 2:1-3). But do they believe that thus it is with them? No, they are, in their own account, as other madmen are, the only ones in the world. Hence they are so taken and tickled with their own frantic notions, and deride all else that dwell in the world. But which is the way to make one that is wild, or a madman, sober? To let him alone will not do it; to give him good words only will not do it; no, he must be tamed; means must be used to tame him. 'He brought down their hearts with labour,' or by continual molestation; as you have it (Psa 107:10-12). He speaketh there of madmen that are kept up in darkness, and bound in afflictions and irons, because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High.
This, therefore, is the way to deal with such, and none but God can so deal with them. They must be taken, they must be separated from men; they must be laid in chains, in darkness, afflictions, and irons; they must be blooded, half-starved, whipped, purged, and be dealt with as mad people are dealt with. And thus they must be dealt with till they come to themselves, and cry out in their distresses. And then they cry to the Lord in their troubles, and he saveth them out of their distresses; then he brings them out of darkness, and the shadow of death, and breaks their bands in sunder (Psa 107:13-15). Thus, I say, God tames the wild, and brings mad prodigals to themselves, and so to him for mercy.
Ninth. Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, self-willed, fearless, a false believer, a lover of sin, and a wild man; but a man that disrelishes the things of the kingdom of God. I told you before, that unconverted man is such as did not taste things; but now I add, that he disrelishes things; he calls bitter things sweet, and sweet bitter; he judges quite amiss. These are they that God threateneth with a woe. 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter' (Isa 5:20).
This latter part of this text shows us evidently that the things of God are disrelished by some. They call his sweet things bitter, and the devil's bitter things sweet; and all this is for want of a broken heart. A broken heart relishes otherwise than a whole or unbroken one doth. A man that has no pain, or bodily distress, cannot find or feel virtue or good in the most sovereign plaister, were it applied to arm or leg; no, he rather says, Away with these stinking daubing things. O! but lay the same plaisters where there is need, and the patient will relish, and taste, and savour the goodness of them; yea, will prize and commend them to others.
Thus it is in spirituals. The world, they know not what the anguish or pain of a broken heart means; they say, 'Who will show us any good,' that is, better than we find in our sports, pleasures, estates, and preferments. 'There be many,' says the Psalmist, speak after this sort. But what says the distressed man? Why, 'Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us'; and then adds, 'Thou hast put gladness in my heart'; namely, by the light of thy countenance, for that is the plaister for a broken heart. 'Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increaseth' (Psa 4:1-7). O! a broken heart can savour pardon, can savour the consolations of the Holy Ghost. Yea, as a hungry or thirsty man prizes bread and water in the want thereof, so do the broken in heart prize and set a high esteem on the things of the Lord Jesus. His flesh, his blood, his promise, and the light of his countenance, are the only sweet things both to scent and taste, to those that are of a wounded spirit. The full soul loatheth the honey-comb; the whole despise the gospel, they savour not the things that are of God.
If twenty men were to hear a pardon read, and but one of those twenty were condemned to die, and the pardon was for none but such; which of these men, think you, would taste the sweetness of that pardon, they who are not, or he that was condemned? The condemned man, doubtless. This is the case in hand. The broken in heart is a condemned man; yea, it is a sense of condemnation, with other things, that has indeed broken his heart; nor is there anything but sense of forgiveness that can bind it up, or heal it. But could that heal it, could he not taste, truly taste, or rightly relish this forgiveness? no; forgiveness would be to him as it is to him that has not sense of want of it.
But, I say, what is the reason some so prize what others so despise, since they both stand in need of the same grace and mercy of God in Christ? Why, the one sees, and the other sees nothing, of this woeful miserable state. And thus have I showed you the necessity of a broken heart. 1. Man is dead, and must be quickened. 2. Man is a fool, and must be made wise. 3. Man is proud, and must be humbled. 4. Man is self-willed, and must be broken. 5. Man is fearless, and must be made to consider. 6. Man is a false believer, and must be rectified. 7. Man is a lover of sin, and must be weaned from it. 8. Man is wild, and must be tamed. 9. Man disrelishes the things of God, and can take no savour in them, until his heart is broken.
[V. THE REASONS WHY A BROKEN HEART IS ESTEEMED BY GOD SUCH AN EXCELLENT THING.]
And thus have I done with this, and shall come next to the reasons of the point, namely, to show you, why or how it comes to pass, that a broken heart, a heart truly contrite, is to God such an excellent thing. That to him it is so, we have proved by six demonstrations; what it is, we have showed by the six signs thereof; that it must be, is manifest by those nine reasons but now urged; and why it is with God or in his esteem an excellent thing, that is shown by that which follows.
First. A broken heart is the handiwork of God; an heart of his own preparing, for his own service; it is a sacrifice of his own providing, of his providing for himself; as Abraham said in another case, 'God will provide himself a lamb' (Gen 22:8).
Hence it is said, 'The preparations of the heart in man, &c., is from the Lord.' And again, 'God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me' (Job 23:16). The heart, as it is by nature hard, stupid, and impenetrable, so it remains, and so will remain, until God, as was said, bruiseth it with his hammer, and melts it with his fire. The stony nature of it is therefore said to be taken away of God. 'I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you,' saith he, 'an heart of flesh' (Eze 36:26). I will take away the stony heart, or the stoniness, or the hardness of your heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh; that is, I will make your heart sensible, soft, wieldable, governable, and penitent. Sometimes he bids men rend their hearts, not because they can, but to convince them rather, that though it must be so, they cannot do it; so he bids them make themselves a new heart, and a new spirit, for the same purpose also; for if God doth not rend it, it remains unrent; if God makes it not new, it abides an old one still.
This is that that is meant by his bending of men for himself, and of his working in them that which is pleasing in his sight (Zech 9:13). The heart, soul, or spirit, as in itself, as it came from God's fingers, a precious thing, a thing in God's account worth more than all the world. This heart, soul, or spirit, sin has hardened, the devil has bewitched, the world has deceived. This heart, thus beguiled, God coveteth and desireth: 'My son,' saith he, 'give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways' (Prov 23:26).
This man cannot do this thing: for that his heart has the mastery of him, and will not but carry him after all manner of vanity. What now must be done? Why, God must take the heart by storm, by power, and bring it to a compliance with the Word; but the heart of itself will not; it is deluded, carried away to another than God. Wherefore God now betakes him to his sword, and bring down the heart with labour, opens it, and drives out the strong man armed that did keep it; wounds it; and makes it smart for its rebellion, that it may cry; so he rectifies it for himself. 'He maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole' (Job 5:18). Thus having wrought it for himself, it becomes his habitation, his dwelling-place: 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith' (Eph 3:17).
But I would not swerve from the thing in hand. I have told you a broken heart is the handiwork of God, a sacrifice of his own preparing; a material fitted for himself.
1. By breaking of the heart he openeth it, and makes it a receptacle for the graces of his Spirit; that is the cabinet, when unlocked, where God lays up the jewels of the gospel; there he puts his fear; 'I will put my fear in their hearts'; there he writes his law; 'I will write my law in their heart'; there he puts his Spirit: 'I will put my Spirit within you' (Jer 31:31-33, 32:39-41; Eze 36:26,27). The heart, I say, God chooses for his cabinet: there he hides his treasure; there is the seat of justice, mercy, and of every grace of God; I mean, when it is broken, made contrite; and so regulated by the holy Word.
2. The heart, when broken, is like sweet gums and spices when beaten; for as such cast their fragrant scent into the nostrils of men, so the heart when broken casts its sweet smells in the nostrils of God. The incense, which was a type of prayer of old, was to be beaten or bruised, and so to be burned in the censer. The heart must be beaten or bruised, and then the sweet scent will come out: even groans, and cries, and sighs, for the mercy of God; which cries, &c. to him, are a very excellent thing, and pleasing in his nostrils.
Second. A broken heart is in the sight of God an excellent thing; because a broken heart is submissive; it falleth before God, and giveth to him his glory. All this is true from a multitude of scriptures, which I need not here mention. Hence such a heart is called an honest heart, a good heart, a perfect heart, a heart fearing God, and such as is sound in God's statutes.
Now, this cannot but be an excellent thing, if we consider, that by such a heart, unfeigned obedience is yielded unto him that calleth for it. 'Ye have obeyed from the heart,' says Paul to them at Rome, 'that form of doctrine which was delivered you' (Rom 6:17). Alas! the heart, before it is broken and made contrite, is quite of another temper: 'It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' The great stir before the heart is broken, is about who shall be Lord, God or the sinner. True, the right of dominion is the Lord's; but the sinner will not suffer it, but will be all himself; saying 'Who is Lord over us?' and again, say they to God, 'We are lords, we will come no more unto thee' (Psa 12:4; Jer 2:31).
This also is evident by their practice; God may say what he will, but they will do what they list. Keep my sabbath, says God; I will not, says the sinner. Leave your whoring, says God; I will not, says the sinner. Do not tell lies, nor swear, nor curse, nor blaspheme my holy name, says God; O but I will, says the sinner. Turn to me, says God; I will not, says the sinner. The right of dominion is mine, says God; but, like that young rebel (1 Kings 1:5), I will be king, says the sinner. Now, this is intolerable, this is unsufferable, and yet every sinner by practice says thus; for they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Here can be no concord, no communion, no agreement, no fellowship. Here, here is enmity on the one side, and flaming justice on the other (2 Cor 6:14-16; Zech 11:8). And what delight, what content, what pleasure, can God take in such men. None at all; no, though they should be mingled with the best of the saints of God; yea, though the best of saints should supplicate for them. Thus, says Jeremiah, 'Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me,' that is, to pray for them, 'yet my mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth' (Jer 15:1).
Here is nought but open war, acts of hostility, and shameful rebellion, on the sinner's side; and what delight can God take in that? Wherefore, if God will bend and buckle the spirit of such an one, he must shoot an arrow at him, a bearded arrow, such as may not be plucked out of the wound: an arrow that will stick fast, and cause that the sinner falls down as dead at God's foot (Psa 33:1,2). Then will the sinner deliver up his arms, and surrender up himself as one conquered, into the hand of, and beg for the Lord's pardon, and not till then; I mean not sincerely.
And now God has overcome, and his right hand and his holy arm has gotten him the victory. Now he rides in triumph with his captive at his chariot wheel; now he glories; now the bells in heaven do ring; now the angels shout for joy, yea, are bid to do so, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost' (Luke 15:1-10). Now also the sinner, as a token of being overcome, lies grovelling at his foot, saying, 'Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee' (Psa 45:3-5).
Now the sinner submits, now he follows his conqueror in chains, now he seeks peace, and would give all the world, were it his own, to be in the favour of God, and to have hopes by Christ of being saved. Now this must be pleasing, this cannot but be a thing acceptable in God's sight: 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' For it is the desire of his own heart, the work of his own hands.
Third. Another reason why a broken heart is to God such an excellent thing is this, a broken heart prizes Christ, and has a high esteem for him. The whole have no need of a physician, but the sick; this sick man is the broken-hearted in the text; for God makes men sick by smiting of them, by breaking of their hearts. Hence sickness and wounds are put together; for that the one is a true effect of the other (Mark 2:17; Micah 6:13; Hosea 5:13). Can any think that God should be pleased, when men despise his Son, saying, He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him? And yet so say they of him whose hearts God has not mollified; yea, the elect themselves confess, that before their hearts were broken, they set light by him also. He is, say they, 'despised and rejected of men,—and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not' (Isa 53:2,3).
He is indeed the great deliverer; but what is a deliverer to them that never saw themselves in bondage, as was said before? Hence it is said of him that delivered the city, 'No man remembered that same poor man' (Eccl 9:15). He has sorely suffered, and been bruised for the transgression of man, that they might not receive the smart, and hell, which by their sins they have procured to themselves. But what is that to them that never saw ought but beauty, and that never tasted anything but sweetness in sin? It is he that holdeth by his intercession the hands of God, and that causes him to forbear to cut off the drunkard, the liar, and unclean person, even when they are in the very act and work of their abomination; but their hard heart, their stupefied heart, has no sense of such kindness as this, and therefore they take no notice of it. How many times has God said to this dresser of his vineyard, 'Cut down the barren fig-tree,' while he yet, by his intercession, has prevailed for a reprieve for another year! But no notice is taken of this, no thanks is from them returned to him for such kindness of Christ. Wherefore such ungrateful, unthankful, inconsiderate wretches as these must needs be a continual eye-sore, as I may say, and great provocation to God; and yet thus men will do before their hearts are broken (Luke 13:6-9).
Christ, as I said, is called a physician; yea, he is the only soul-physician. He heals, how desperate soever the disease be; yea, and heals who he undertakes for ever. 'I give unto them eternal life,' and doth all of free cost, of mere mercy and compassion (John 10:28). But what is all this to one that neither sees his sickness, that sees nothing of a wound? What is the best physician alive, or all the physicians in the world, put all together, to him that knows no sickness, that is sensible of no disease? Physicians, as was said, may go a-begging for all the healthful. Physicians are of no esteem, save only to the sick, or upon a supposition of being so now, or at any other time.
Why, this is the cause Christ is so little set by in the world. God has not made them sick by smiting of them; his sword has not given them the wound, his dart has not been struck through their liver; they have not been broken with his hammer, nor melted with his fire. So they have no regard to his physician; so they slight all the provision which God has made for the salvation of the soul. But now, let such a soul be wounded; let such a man's heart be broken; let such a man be made sick through the sting of guilt, and be made to wallow himself in ashes under the burden of his transgressions; and then, who but Christ, as has been showed afore, then the physician; then, wash me, Lord, then supple my wounds, then pour thy wine and oil into my sore; then Lord Jesus cause me to hear the voice of joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Nothing now so welcome as healing; and so nothing, no man, so desirable now as Christ. His name to such is the best of names; his love to such is the best of love; himself being now not only in himself, but also to such a soul, the chiefest of ten thousand (Can 5:10).
As bread to the hungry, as water to the thirsty, as light to the blind, and liberty to the imprisoned; so, and a thousand times more, is Jesus Christ to the wounded, and to them that are broken-hearted. Now, as was said, this must needs be excellent in God's eyes, since Christ Jesus is so glorious in his eyes. To contemn what a man counts excellent, is an offence to him; but to value, esteem, or think highly of that which is of esteem with me, this is pleasing to me, such an opinion is excellent in my sight. What says Christ? 'My Father loveth you, because ye loved me' (John 16:27). Who hath an high esteem for Christ, the Father hath an high esteem for them. Hence it is said, 'He that hath the Son, hath the Father'; the Father will be his, and will do for him as a Father, who receiveth and sets an honourable esteem on his Son.
But none will, none can do this, but the broken-hearted; because they, and they only, are sensible of the want and worth of an interest in him.
I dare appeal to all the world as to the truth of this; and do say again, that these, and none but these, have hearts of esteem in the sight of God. Alas! 'the heart of the wicked is little worth,' for it is destitute of a precious esteem of Christ, and cannot but be destitute, because it is not wounded, broken, and made sensible of the want of mercy by him (Prov 10:20).
Fourth. A broken heart is of great esteem with God, because it is a thankful heart for that sense of sin and of grace it has received. The broken heart is a sensible heart. This we touched upon before. It is sensible of the dangers which sin leadeth to; yea, and has cause to be sensible thereof, because it has seen and felt what sin is, both in the guilt and punishment that by law is due thereto. As a broken heart is sensible of sin, in the evil nature and consequences of it; so it is also sensible of the way of God's delivering the soul from the day of judgment; consequently it must be a thankful heart. Now he that praises me, glorifies me, saith God; and God loves to be glorified. God's glory is dear unto him; he will not part with that (Psa 50:23; Isa 42:8).
The broken-hearted, say I, forasmuch as he is the sensible soul, it follows that he is the thankful soul. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul,' said David, 'and all that is within me bless his holy name.' Behold what blessing of God is here! and yet not content herewith, he goes on with it again, saying, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.' But what is the matter? O! he has 'forgiven all thine iniquities, and healed all thy diseases. He has redeemed thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with loving kindnesses and tender mercies' (Psa 103:1-4). But how came he to be affected with this? Why, he knew what it was to hang over the mouth of hell for sin; yea, he knew what it was for death and hell to beset and compass him about; yea, they took hold of him, as we have said, and were pulling of him down into the deep; this he saw to the breaking of his heart. He saw also the way of life, and had his soul relieved with faith and sense of that, and that made him a thankful man. If a man who has had a broken leg, is but made to understand, that by the breaking of that he kept from breaking of his neck, he will be thankful to God for a broken leg. 'It is good for me,' said David, 'that I have been afflicted.' I was by that preserved from a great danger; for before that I went astray (Psa 119:67,71).
And who can be thankful for a mercy that is not sensible that they want it, have it, and have it of mercy? Now, this the broken-hearted, this the man that is of a contrite spirit, is sensible of; and that with reference to mercies of the best sort, and therefore must needs be a thankful man, and so have a heart of esteem with God, because it is a thankful heart.
Fifth. A broken heart is of great esteem with, or an excellent thing in, the sight of God, because it is a heart that desires now to become a receptacle or habitation for the spirit and graces of the Spirit of God. It was the devil's hold before, and was contented so to be. But now it is for entertaining of, for being possessed with, the Holy Spirit of God. 'Create in me a clean heart,' said David, 'and renew a right spirit within me. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me, uphold me with thy free Spirit' (Psa 51:10-12). Now he was for a clean heart and a right spirit; now he was for the sanctifying of the blessed spirit of grace; a thing which the uncircumcised in heart resist, and do despite unto (Acts 7:51; Heb 10:29).
A broken heart, therefore, suiteth with the heart of God; a contrite spirit is one spirit with him. God, as I told you before, covets to dwell with the broken in heart, and the broken in heart desire communion with him. Now here is an agreement, a oneness of mind; now the same mind is in thee which was also in Christ Jesus. This must needs be an excellent spirit; this must needs be better with God, and in his sight, than thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil. But does the carnal world covet this, this spirit, and the blessed graces of it? No, they despise it, as I said before; they mock at it, they prefer and countenance any sorry, dirty lust rather; and the reason is, because they want a broken heart, that heart so highly in esteem with God, and remain for want thereof in their enmity to God.
The broken-hearted know, that the sanctifying of the Spirit is a good means to keep from that relapse, out of which a man cannot come unless his heart be wounded a second time. Doubtless David had a broken heart at first conversion, and if that brokenness had remained, that is, had he not given way to hardness of heart again, he had never fallen into that sin out of which he could not be recovered, but by the breaking of his bones a second time. Therefore, I say, a broken heart is of great esteem with God; for it—and I will add, so long as it retains its tenderness—covets none but God, and the things of his Holy Spirit; sin is an abomination to it.
[VI. ADVANTAGES THAT A CHRISTIAN GETS BY KEEPING HIS HEART TENDER.]
And here, as in a fit place, before I go any further, I will show you some of the advantages that a Christian gets by keeping of his heart tender. For, as to have a broken heart, is to have an excellent thing, so to keep this broken heart tender, is also very advantageous.
First. This is the way to maintain in thy soul always a fear of sinning against God. Christians do not wink at, or give way to sin, until their hearts begin to lose their tenderness. A tender heart will be affected at the sin of another, much more it will be afraid of committing of sin itself (2 Kings 22:19).
Second. A tender heart quickly yieldeth to prayer, yea, prompteth to it, puts an edge and fire into it. We never are backward to prayer until our heart has lost its tenderness; though then it grows cold, flat, and formal, and so carnal to and in that holy duty.
Third. A tender hearts has always repentance at hand for the least fault or slip, or sinful thought that the soul is guilty of. In many things the best offend; but if a Christian loseth his tenderness, if he says he has his repentance to seek, his heart is grown hard—has lost that spirit, that kind spirit of repentance, it was wont to have. Thus it was with the Corinthians; they were decayed, and lost their tenderness; wherefore their sin—yea, great sins—remained unrepented of (2 Cor 12:20).
Fourth. A tender heart is for receiving often its communion with God, when he that is hardened, though the seed of grace is in him, will be content to eat, drink, sleep, wake, and go days without number without him (Isa 17:10; Jer 2:32).
Fifth. A tender heart is a wakeful, watchful heart. It watches against sin in the soul, sin in the family, sin in the calling, sin in spiritual duties and performances, &c. It watches against Satan, against the world, against the flesh, &c. But now, when the heart is not tender, there is sleepiness, unwatchfulness, idleness, a suffering the heart, the family, and calling to be much defiled, spotted, and blemished with sin; for a hard heart departs from God, and turns aside in all these things.
Sixth. A tender heart will deny itself, and that in lawful things, and will forbear even that which may be done—for some Jew, or Gentile, or the church of God, or any member of it, should be offended, or made weak thereby; whereas the Christian that is not tender, that has lost his tenderness, is so far off of denying himself in lawful things, that he will even adventure to meddle in things utterly forbidden, whoever is offended, grieved, or made weak thereby. For an instance of this, we need go no further than to the man in the text, who, while he was tender, trembled at little things; but when his heart was hardened, he could take Bathsheba to satisfy his lust, and kill her husband to cover his wickedness.
Seventh. A tender heart—I mean, the heart kept tender—preserves from many a blow, lash, and fatherly chastisement; because it shuns the causes, which is sin, of the scourging hand of God. 'With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, but with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury' (2 Sam 22:27; Psa 18:25-27).
Many a needless rebuke and wound doth happen to the saints of God through their unwise behaviour. When I say needless, I mean they are not necessary, but to reclaim us from our vanities; for we should not feel the smart of them, were it not for our follies. Hence the afflicted is called a fool, because his folly brings his affliction upon him. 'Fools,' says David, 'because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted' (Psa 107:17). And therefore it is, as was said before, that he call his sin his foolishness. And again, 'God will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly' (Psa 38:5, 85:8). 'If his children transgress my laws, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes' (Psa 89:30-32).
[How to keep the heart tender.]
QUEST. But what should a Christian do, when God has broke his heart, to keep it tender?
ANSW. To this I will speak briefly. And, first, give you several cautions; secondly, several directions.
1. Take heed that you choke not those convictions that at present do break your hearts, by labouring to put those things out of your minds which were the cause of such convictions; but rather nourish and cherish those things in a deep and sober remembrance of them. Think, therefore, with thyself thus, What was it that at first did wound my heart? And let that still be there, until, by the grace of God, and the redeeming blood of Christ, it is removed.
2. Shun vain company. The keeping of vain company has stifled many a conviction, killed many a desire, and made many a soul fall into hell, that once was hot in looking after heaven. A companion that is not profitable to the soul, is hurtful. 'He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed' (Prov 13:20).
3. Take heed of idle talk, that thou neither hear nor join with it. 'Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge' (Prov 14:7). 'Evil communications corrupt good manners. And a fool's lips are the snare of his soul.' Wherefore take heed of these things (Prov 18:7; 1 Cor 15:33).
4. Beware of the least motion to sin, that it be not countenanced, lest the countenancing of that makes way for a bigger. David's eye took his heart, and so his heart nourishing the thought, made way for the woman's company, the act of adultery, and bloody murder. Take heed, therefore, brethren, 'lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin' (Heb 3:12,13). And remember, that he that will rend the block, puts the thin end of the wedge first thereto, and so, by driving, does his work.
5. Take heed of evil examples among the godly; learn of no man to do that which the word of God forbids. Sometimes Satan makes use of a good man's bad ways, to spoil and harden the heart of them that come after. Peter's false doing had like to have spoiled Barnabas, yea, and several others more. Wherefore take heed of men, of good men's ways, and measure both theirs and thine own by no other rule but the holy Word of God (Gal 2:11-13).
6. Take heed of unbelief, or atheistical thoughts; make no question of the truth and reality of heavenly things: for know unbelief is the worst of evils; nor can the heart be tender that nourisheth or gives place unto it. 'Take heed, therefore, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God' (Heb 3:12). These cautions are necessary to be observed with all diligence, of all them that would, when their heart is made tender, keep it so. And now to come,
[Second]—to the Directions.
1. Labour after a deep knowledge of God to keep it warm upon thy heart; knowledge of his presence, that is everywhere. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?' (Jer 23:24). (1.) Knowledge of his piercing eye, that it runneth to and fro through the earth, beholding in every place the evil and the good; that his eyes behold, and his eyelids try the children of men (Prov 15:3). (2.) The knowledge of his power, that he is able to turn and dissolve heaven and earth into dust and ashes; and that they are in his hand but as a scroll or vesture (Heb 1:11,12). (3.) The knowledge of his justice, that the rebukes of it are as devouring fire (Heb 12:19). (4.) The knowledge of his faithfulness, in fulfilling promises to them to whom they are made, and of his threatenings on the impenitent (Matt 5:18, 24:35; Mark 13:31).
2. Labour to get and keep a deep sense of sin in its evil nature, and in its soul-destroying effects upon thy heart; be persuaded, that it is the only enemy of God, and that none hate, or are hated of God, but through that. (1.) Remember it turned angels into devils, thrust them down from heaven to hell. (2.) That it is the chain in which they are held and bound over to judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). (3.) That it was for that that Adam was turned out of paradise; that for which the old world was drowned; that for which Sodom and Gomorrah was burned with fire from heaven; and that which cost Christ his blood to redeem thee from the curse it has brought upon thee; and that, if anything, will keep thee out of heaven for ever and ever. (4.) Consider the pains of hell. Christ makes use of that as an argument to keep the heart tender; yea, to that end repeats and repeats, and repeats, both the nature and durableness of the burning flame thereof, and of the gnawing of the neverdying worm that dwells there (Mark 9:43-48).
3. Consider of death, both as to the certainty of thy dying, and uncertainty of the time when. We must die, we must needs die; our days are determined—the number of our months are with God, though not with us; nor can we pass them, would we, had we them, give a thousand worlds to do it (2 Sam 14:14; Job 7:1, 14:1-5). 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. 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment' (Heb 9;27).
4. Consider also of the certainty and terribleness of the day of judgment, when Christ shall sit upon his great white throne, when the dead shall, by the sound of the trump of God, be raised up; when the elements, with heaven and earth, shall be on a burning flame; when Christ shall separate men one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; when the books shall be opened, the witnesses produced, and every man be judged according to his works; when heaven's gate shall stand open to them that shall be saved, and the jaws of hell stand gaping for them that shall be damned (Acts 5:30-31, 10:42; Matt 25:31,32,34,4; Rev 2:11; 1 Cor 15:51; Rev 20:12,15; 2 Peter 3:7,10,12; Rom 2:2,15,16; Rev 22:12).
5. Consider, Christ Jesus did use no means to harden his heart against doing and suffering those sorrows which were necessary for the redemption of thy soul. No; though he could have hardened his heart against thee in the way of justice and righteousness, because thou hadst sinned against him, he rather awakened himself, and put on all pity, bowels, and compassion; yea, tender mercies, and did it. In his love and in his pity he saved us. His tender mercies from on high hath visited us. He loved us, and gave himself for us. Learn, then, of Christ, to be tender of thyself, and to endeavour to keep thy heart tender to God-ward, and to the salvation of thy soul. But to draw to a conclusion.
VII. THE USE.
Let us now, then, make some use of this doctrine. As,
FIRST USE. From the truth of the matter, namely, that the man who is truly come to God has had his heart broken—his heart broken in order to his coming to him. And this shows us what to judge of the league that is between sin and the soul, to wit, that it is so firm, so strong, so inviolable, as that nothing can break, disannul, or make it void, unless the heart be broken for it. It was so with David, yea, his new league with it could not be broken until his heart was broken.
It is amazing to consider what hold sin has on some men's souls, spirits, will, and affections. It is to them better than heaven, better than God—than the soul, ay, than salvation; as is evident, because, though all these are offered them upon this condition, if they will but leave their sins, yet they will choose rather to abide in them, to stand and fall by them. How sayest thou, sinner? Is not this a truth? How many times hast thou had heaven and salvation offered to thee freely, wouldst thou but break thy league with this great enemy of God? Of God, do I say; if thou wouldst but break this league with this great enemy of thy soul? but couldst never yet be brought unto it; no, neither by threatening nor by promise couldst thou ever yet be brought unto it.
It is said of Ahab he sold himself to work wickedness: and in another place, yea, 'for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves' (1 Kings 21:25; Isa 50:1). But what is this iniquity? Why, a thing of nought; nay, worse than nought a thousand times; but because nought is as we say nought, therefore it goes under that term, where God saith again to the people, 'Ye have sold yourselves for nought' (Isa 52:3). But, I say, what an amazing thing is this, that a rational creature should make no better a bargain; that one that is so wise in all terrene things, should be such a fool in the thing that is most weighty? And yet such a fool he is, and he tells every one that goes by the way that he is such an one, because he will not break his league with sin until his heart is broken for it. Men love darkness rather than light. Ay, they make it manifest they love it, since so great a proffer will not prevail with them to leave it.
SECOND USE. Is this a truth, that the man that truly comes to God in order thereto has had his heart broken? then this shows us a reason why some men's hearts are broken; even a reason why God breaks some men's hearts for sin; namely, because he would not have them die in it, but rather come to God that they might be saved? Behold, therefore, in this how God resolved as to the saving of some men's souls! He will have them, he will save them, he will break their hearts, but he will save them; he will kill them, that they may live; he will wound them, that he may heal them. And it seems by our discourse that now there is no way left but this; fair means, as we say, will not do; good words, a glorious gospel, entreatings, beseeching with blood and tears, will not do. Men are resolved to put God to the utmost of it; if he will have them he must fetch them, follow them, catch them, lame them; yea, break their bones, or else he shall not save them.
Some men think an invitation, an outward call, a rational discourse, will do; but they are much deceived, there must a power, an exceeding great and mighty power, attend the Word, or it worketh not effectually to the salvation of the soul. I know these things are enough to leave men without excuse, but yet they are not enough to bring men home to God. Sin has hold of them, they have sold themselves to it; the power of the devil has hold of them, they are his captives at his will; yea, and more than all this, their will is one with sin, and with the devil, to be held captive thereby: and if God gives not contrition, repentance, or a broken heart, for sin, there will not be no not so much as a mind in man to forsake this so horrible a confederacy and plot against his soul (2 Tim 2:24,25).
Hence men are said to be drawn from these breasts, that come, or that are brought to him (Isa 26:9; John 6:44). Wherefore John might well say, 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us!' Here is cost bestowed, pains bestowed, labour bestowed, repentance bestowed; yea, and an heart made sore, wounded, broken, and filled with pain and sorrow, in order to the salvation of the soul.
THIRD USE. This then may teach us what estimation to set upon a broken heart. A broken heart is such as God esteems, yea, as God counts better than all external service: a broken heart is that which is in order to salvation, in order to thy coming to Christ for life. The world know not what to make of it, nor what to say to one that has a broken heart, and therefore do despise it, and count that man that carries it in his bosom a moping fool, a miserable wretch, an undone soul: 'But a broken and a contrite spirit, O God, thou wilt not despise'; a broken heart takes thine eye, thy heart: thou choosest it for thy companion, yea, has given thy Son a charge to look well to such a man, and has promised him thy salvation, as has afore been proved.
Sinner, hast thou obtained a broken heart? has God bestowed a contrite spirit upon thee? He has given thee what himself is pleased with; he has given thee a cabinet to hold his grace in; he has given thee a heart that can heartily desire his salvation, an heart after his own heart, that is, such as suits his mind. True, it is painful now, sorrowful now, penitent now, grieved now; now it is broken, now it bleeds, now, now it sobs, now it sighs, now it mourns and crieth unto God. Well, very well; all this is because he hath a mind to make thee laugh; he has made thee sorry on earth that thou mightest rejoice in heaven. 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh' (Matt 5:4; Luke 6:21).
But, soul, be sure thou hast this broken heart. All hearts are not broken hearts, nor is every heart that seems to have a wound, a heart that is truly broken. A man may be cut to, yet not into the heart; a man may have another, yet not a broken heart (Acts 7:54; 1 Sam 10:9). We know there is a difference betwixt a wound in the flesh and a wound in the spirit; yea, a man's sin may be wounded, and yet his heart not broken: so was Pharaoh's, so was Saul's, so was Ahab's; but they had none of them the mercy of a broken heart. Therefore, I say, take heed; every scratch with a pin, every prick with a thorn, nay, every blow that God giveth with his Word upon the heart of sinners, doth not therefore break them. God gave Ahab such a blow that he made him stoop, fast, humble himself, gird himself with and lie in sackcloth, which was a great matter for a king, and go softly, and yet he never had a broken heart (1 Kings 21:27,29). What shall I say? Pharaoh and Saul confessed their sins, Judas repented himself of his doings, Esau sought the blessing, and that carefully with tears, and yet none of these had a heart rightly broken, or a spirit truly contrite; Pharaoh, Saul, and Judas, were Pharaoh, Saul, and Judas still; Esau was Esau still; there was no gracious change, no thorough turn to God, no unfeigned parting with their sins, no hearty flight for refuge, to lay hold on the hope of glory, though they indeed had thus been touched (Exo 10:16; 1 Sam 26:21; Matt 27:3; Heb 12:14-17).
The consideration of these things call aloud to us to take heed, that we take not that for a broken and a contrite spirit that will not go for one at the day of death and judgment. Wherefore, seeking soul, let me advise thee, that thou mayest not be deceived as to this thing of so great weight.
First. To go back towards the beginning of this book, and compare thyself with those six or seven signs of a broken and contrite heart, which there I have, according to the Word of God, given to thee for that end; and deal with thy soul impartially about them.
Second. Or, which may and will be great help to thee if thou shalt be sincere therein, namely, to betake thyself to the search of the Word, especially where thou readest of the conversion of men, and try if thy conversion be like, or has a good resemblance or oneness with theirs. But in this have a care that thou dost not compare thyself with those good folk of whose conversion thou readest not, or of the breaking of whose heart there is no mention made in Scripture; for all that are recorded in the Scripture for saints have not their conversion, as to the manner or nature of it, recorded in the Scripture.
Third. Or else, do thou consider truly of the true signs of repentance which are laid down in Scripture; for that is the true effect of a broken heart, and of a wounded spirit. And for this see Matthew 3:5,6; Luke 18:13, 19:8; Acts 2:37-40, &c., 16:29,30, 19:18,19; 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.