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lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock," 1 Ep. v. 3; and when they who are instructed and taught, suffer the word of exhortation, considering that they who act faithfully in their office of teaching others, "watch over their souls, as they that must give account: and are desirous “that they may do it with joy, and not with grief," Heb. xiii. 17; for that would not be profitable for any.
And St. Paul directs the Corinthians with regard to Timothy, though young and unexperienced, or not equally experienced with some of greater age: "See that he may be with you without fear for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do : let no man therefore despise him," 1 Cor. xvi. 10. It may be a branch of equity to esteem some men highly in love for their work's sake," 1 Thess. v. 13, without indulging too nice a taste, and censorious critical remarks upon every performance.
In like manner with regard to some private relations: it will tend to render men's moderation and mildness conspicuous in the world, when it is generally practised among them: when parents endeavour to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, without provoking them to wrath," Ep. vi. 4; and when children cheerfully acknowledge the just authority of parents, and obey them in all things, so far as can be done with a good conscience: and when others, intrusted with the education and care of inspecting young persons, break not their tender spirits by unreasonable harshness and severity, but excite and encourage them by reason, good words, and kind usage: and they of younger years show themselves some indication of their being sensible a regard and respect is due to those who instil knowledge into their minds, and appear to be concerned to lay the foundation of their future welfare and prosperity in soul and body.
When masters give unto their servants that which is just and equal, forbear threatening; and when servants answer not again, and are faithful and diligent in the service, not only of those masters who are exceeding good and tender, but even of those likewise who at some times are froward and severe.
When, finally, men of every condition, high and low, those who have fewer advantages of reading and observation, as well as others learned, knowing, and acquainted with the world; when even these also join in approving moderation and equity, and can say something in favour of the several branches of moderation before-mentioned, with regard to men of different sentiments, or to those who fall and offend, or are injurious in some instances; as, that there is between all men a parity or equality of nature: that we are all weak and fallible: that Jesus Christ our Lord bid us not to judge, lest we be judged: that our Lord graciously received Peter and the other apostles, though in the time of his great temptation they were offended in him: that the Christian religion was at first propounded and spread in the world, upon the ground of reason and evidence, without human power and authority and that they apprehend the setting before men the evidences of its truth, which appear in the New Testament, will be the most effectual way to advance the true interest of religion. That Christ said, his kingdom is not of this world:" and that he bid his disciples to consider themselves as brethren, and not to exalt themselves one above another: that in the New Testament men are directed to try or prove all things, which must suppose a right to judge upon evidence, as things appear to men, after serious and impartial examination and consideration.
These are particulars by which the moderation of any sect, or body of men will become conspicuous, and known to all men: when they show moderation and equity to many persons, upon various occasions, in different circumstances, and when it is a prevailing general virtue among them.
Let me add a few remarks.
1. Christians have the most forcible arguments and inducements, and the best assistances of any men, for the practice of moderation, mildness and equity. Forasmuch as they have had experience of the mercies of God, and Christ Jesus, in forgiving them, and showing toward them great mildness, tenderness and equity: they have also been taught to love one another, and all men, so as no other men have been taught and the principles of love will mightily dispose to mildness and gentleness; for "love suffereth long, and is kind; it is not easily provoked, is not puffed up; it beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things," 1 Cor. xiii. moreover, they know and expect the righteous judgment of God, "who will render to every one according to his work." The Lord is at hand, and will do right to those who are injured:
and the virtue of those who suffer patiently, and endure according to the will of God, shall be fully rewarded. The osberving the rule immediately preceding this text, will be of use here: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." If men are well pleased with themselves, and are easy in their own minds, and have cause to rejoice in God, as their defence and portion, few things can happen that will transport them beyond the bounds of moderation and equity.
2. The practice of mildness and moderation does not imply an approbation of any thing that is evil, any more than the long-suffering and forbearance which God exercises toward sinners, ought to be understood to countenance, and be an approbation of their evil ways. But this is a state of trial, not of judgment or retribution: and as the divine long-suffering is designed to afford men an opportunity, and to lead them to repentance, so the mildness practised by men one toward another, will conduce to the peace of society, the present welfare of particular persons, and will be an excellent means of reclaiming men from errors, both in judgment and practice.
3. We may hence infer, that moderation will be for the honour, interest, and advantage of the Christian religion. I say, that from this direction of the apostle, we may reasonably conclude, that mildness, or moderation, or equity among Christians, will be to the honour of their religion; otherwise, certainly the apostle had not directed Christians to let their "moderation. be known to all men." Some might possibly be apt to think that rigour, harshness, severity, might be more useful than moderation and mildness. But since, as before observed, mildness toward men is not an approbation of any thing that is wrong: and men may be differently treated according to their different conduct; [they who are unruly are to be warned; and still some may be reproved with authority] moderation or mildness, in the several instances above-named, will not be hurtful, but advantageous.
If any men, any societies or bodies of men, are remarkable for mildness and moderation towards one another, and other men, it will conduce to their honour and interest; others will be invited and induced to join themselves to them, and take upon themselves the observation of the mild rules of virtue taught by them, joined with much meekness, moderation, and forbearance toward those unruly, disobedient, and misled upon many occasions.
And indeed, we may be assured, that moderation or mildness is a great virtue, it being often commanded and enforced under many other words in the writings of the apostles, besides those which have been quoted in the several parts of this discourse. "For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness," Gal. v. 22. And St. James says, "The wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy," James iii. 17.
ON KEEPING THE HEART.
Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. iv. 23.
HE aphorisms and maxims, counsels and directions of this book of Proverbs, are oftentimes put down, without any dependence on each other, or particular regard to the order of things: in this chapter there is a connection; and the precepts here delivered, recommend themselves to our attention and regard, not only by their internal worth, and real usefulness, but also by the order in which they are placed, and the full and copious manner in which the argument is
To observe only the latter part of the chapter, from ver. 20 to the end. First, there is a very earnest and affectionate call to men, especially the younger, carefully to attend to, and keep the advices delivered, assuring them that they are things of the greatest use and importance; which earnestly proceeds from a full persuasion of the truth and worth of the things said,
an apprehension that those to whom they are offered are too apt to neglect them, or too liable to be misled after all; and from an ardent desire of the welfare of those who are addressed to. My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes keep them in the midst of thine heart; for they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh," ver. 20-22. As if he said, I must again once more repeat my request, that you will take heed to my advice, and seriously consider these exhortations which 'proceed from a sincere affection for your welfare. Peruse them over and over, keep them per'petually in mind, and lay them up in your memory as a precious treasure. For they will contribute greatly to the happiness of all who become thoroughly acquainted with them: they will be of use to men of every temper, and in every condition; and prove an admirable support ' under troubles and afflictions."
Ver. 23. 66
Then follows a methodical monition, consisting of several parts; first, directing the government of the heart, or the mind, and its powers; then the lips and eyes, and the feet. Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life." That is, the counsels I give you are such as these: in the first place, and above all things, set a strict guard upon your thoughts and affections, and all the inward motions of your soul; for the good or bad conduct of life depends very much upon this, and consequently your welfare or misery, here and hereafter.
Ver. 24. "Put away from thee a froward mouth: and perverse lips put far from thee." Avoid sinful words, and be upon your guard not to transgress with your lips: for as some interpreters' suppose, here is a twofold admonition; not to sin with the tongue ourselves, nor to hearken to the evil speeches of others. Set a watch upon thy ears, and upon thy mouth; nor speak things contrary to truth, righteousness, or religion; not listening to those that do, but banishing such as far as possible, from all friendship and familiarity.'
Ver. 25. "Let thine eyes look right on: and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. That is, as some paraphrase and explain these words: Direct all thine actions by a good intention to a right end, and keep thy mind fixed upon the way that leads to it. Or, as others," The eyes also are dangerous inlets to the heart: therefore watch them well, that they do not gaze about, and fasten upon every object that invites them: but let them be fixed upon one scope, as thy thoughts ought to be, and from which let nothing divert them.'
Ver. 26. "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." Act not without thought and consideration; but weigh and consider well beforehand, especially in things of any moment, or that are liable to doubt and suspicion, whether they are agreeable to the rule of right; then thy works and actions will be such as will bear to be canvassed and examined: you will be able to reflect upon them with pleasure afterwards, and they will also be approved by others that are wise and virtuous.
Ver. 27. "Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil :" hereby many understand to be meant: Flee extremes: avoid superstition on the one hand, and neg⚫lect of religion on the other: but it seems to me that the direction may be as well understood to contain an admonition to steadiness in religion and virtue: And do not suffer yourselves to 'be drawn aside from the path of virtue, or to divert at all upon any consideration from the 'straight line of duty: let no consideration whatever, neither enticements of friends, or provo'cations of enemies, prosperous or cross events, move you to depart at all from the way of your duty; and most studiously preserve yourselves from doing any kind of iniquity.”
So is this context.
Our design at present is, to consider the leading direction in this exhortation, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." And I shall speak briefly to the several particulars in the text.
I shall consider,
I. What is meant by the heart.
II. What we are to understand by keeping it.
III. The manner in which the heart ought to be kept: "with all diligence."
IV. The argument and reason why we ought so to keep the heart: "out of it are the issues
* See Patrick.
To which I shall add:
V. A reflection or two by way of application.
I. We should briefly observe what is meant by the heart. But it is needless to enlarge here, or to take notice of the several more particular senses and acceptations of the word in scripture; where it may sometimes denote the understanding more especially; as when it is said, "their foolish heart was darkened," Rom. i. 21, or the "memory;" as when the Psalmist says, Thy word have I hid in mine heart," Ps. cxix. 11, or the conscience; "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things," 1 John iii. 20. But the more common and general sense of the word is, the "mind," the "soul;" and so these texts just mentioned are also understood.
I suppose then that here, as very frequently in the metaphorical style of scripture, the "heart" is put for the "soul," or the "inward man," the soul and its faculties: or, the "mind," together with all its powers and faculties, and their several operations; or the thoughts, affections, intentions and designs of man.
II. The second thing to be considered is, what we are to understand by "keeping the heart." And this expression is supposed by many to be metaphorical: keep thy heart, as a temple, say some, pure and undefiled. Or, keep thy heart, say others, as a garrison: the soul being, as it were, besieged by many enemies. Some also carry on the metaphor in the other directions that follow, relating to the mouth, the eyes, the feet; and they say, As they that defend a city, set a strong guard at the gates and posterns; so do you upon your ears, and 'mouth, and eyes.' But I apprehend, we are not obliged to attend to such a metaphor here. The word "keeping" seems to denote all that can be meant by a due care of the mind, and its actions or thoughts: "keep thy heart;" observe it, cultivate and improve it; watch it, and attend to all its motions; guard against every evil thought, as well as against evil actions: and employ and exercise the mind well,
This I take to be the general meaning and design of the expression, "keep thy heart." Let me mention some particulars, as contained and implied herein.
1. Keep, or take care of thy heart: that is, that you cultivate and improve it, and that you have right sentiments of things. It is an observation of the same wise man, whose words we are commenting, "That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good," Prov. xix. 2. There is a woe pronounced against those "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," Isai. v. 20. It is one great and main design of the teachings and instructions of the prophets and the wise men under the Old Testament, to give them right sentiments concerning religion: to help them to know and understand what is good and what is evil, and what God most approves of, and delights in : that though he had enjoined for wise reasons, upon the people under his special care at that time, numerous external washings, purifications, and various sacrifices and offerings at the temple; that, nevertheless, truth and righteousness in their dealings with one another, and a serious awful apprehension of the Divine Majesty, the former of all things, and sentiments of love and gratitude to him for all his benefits, were the most valuable parts and branches, and acts of religion. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Mich. vi. 8. "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God, more than burnt offerings,' Hosea vi. 6. And there are very frequent and earnest exhortations to seek religious knowledge: there are many such in this book of Proverbs. "Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise; and apply thine heart unto my knowledge," ch. xxii. 17. "That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known unto thee this day, even unto thee. Have not I written unto thee excellent things in counsel and knowledge? that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth that thou mightest answer the words of truth, to them that send unto thee? ver. 19-21. This knowledge is excellent and useful: to know the differences of things: what God most approves of: to have right apprehensions of the greatness, goodness, truth, and faithfulness, and purity of God. That he is a God over all gods, the former of all things, the governor of the world, able and willing to reward them that diligently seek him: and that blessed are all they that serve him, and put their trust in him.
2. Another thing implied in keeping the heart, or in the care of the mind, here recommended, is, to form fixed purposes and resolutions of acting according to the rule of right. The
first care is, that the mind be well informed: secondly, that it be well resolved. We are to see, that we not only know what is good, and refuse the evil: but we are to choose the one, and resolve to avoid the other. "My son, give me thy heart," Ps. xxiii. 26. And this is the design of the exhortation at the beginning of this chapter, to determine men to the choice of religion and her ways. "Get wisdom, get understanding-forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee: exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her." And Psalm cxix. 30. "I have chosen the way of truth thy judgments have I laid before me. Depart from me, ye evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God," ver. 115. There should be a fixed and determined purpose of mind, to avoid all known sin, and perform all known duty, and to resist temptations when they assault us. The way of religion should be our willing choice, considering its excellence, and the advantages that attend it: and because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, and the face and danger of external temptations, our resolutions should be very explicit and firm. Psalm exix. 106. "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.". Psalm xvii. 3. "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing: I am purposed, that my mouth shall not transgress."
3. In this keeping the heart is implied a direction to govern the affections. As the judgment should be well informed; and the will rightly fixed and determined: so also the affections should be well ordered and governed.
Particularly, our desires and aversions, our joy and grief, our hopes and fears, our love and
(1.) Our desires and aversions. They should be well regulated. The highest esteem should be placed upon those things that are most valuable in themselves, and most important. Take care that you esteem and desire spiritual and heavenly things, more than worldly and earthly things, that are but temporal. Saith St. John, "Love not the world: neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Fath ut is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof." But he that
a trea advant (2.)
other, it our first
of God abideth for ever," 1 Ep. ii. 15, 16.
ief. The good order of these affections will follow upon that of the two ous of, more solicitous for, spiritual and heavenly things: if they have em, our joy and satisfaction on account of prosperity and success in the y advantages will be moderate: and our grief and concern under afflictions and losses, relating to this life, will not be excessive, but within due bounds.
(3.) Our hopes and fears ought also to be regulated. Our chief dependence should be on God, not on man. Our trust and hope should be placed in God, not in creatures. He is infinitely more able, and more equitable than men; and therefore in him we should confide, and make it our chief care to please him, and approve ourselves to him. In his favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. He can bestow a better, and more durable happiness than this world affords: and he will not fail them that trust him according to the directions of his word, and that serve him in the way of his commandments.
Our fears likewise are to be regulated. We are to fear God more than men. This is of importance to right conduct. If men, who had power and influence, did always encourage virtue, and require nothing but what is fit to be done: if their will and pleasure were always reasonable; then we should have no occasion to fear them, whilst we do well. But as the sincere profession of truth is often discountenanced by the powers of this world, and the will of God only is always right, there is need we should be upon our guard against an undue fear of men. Our Lord therefore cautioned his disciples against the fear of men, whose power reached not beyond this life; and rather to fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body, and assign them to everlasting pain and misery.
(4.) We ought also to regulate our love and hatred: I mean now chiefly with regard to our fellow-creatures: our approbation and dislike; our favour or displeasure: that we cherish benevolence, inward good-will; and do not admit groundless resentment and anger, or indulge