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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 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. 1. 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 afflicted at the sin of another; much more it will be afraid of committing sin itself. 2 Kings 22:19. 2. A tender heart quickly yields 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. 3. A tender heart 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, and 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 Corinthians 12:20,21. 4. 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. Isaiah 17:10; Jeremiah 2:32. 5. 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, etc. It watches against Satan, against the world, against the flesh, etc. But now when the heart is not tender, there is sleepiness, unwatchfulness, idleness, a suffering of 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. 6. A tender heart will deny itself, and that in lawful things; and will forbear even that which may be done, lest 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 from 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. 7. A tender heart, I mean the heart kept tender, preserves from many a blow, lash, and fatherly chastisement; because it shuns the cause, which is sin, of the scourging hand of God. “With the upright, thou wilt show thyself upright; but with the froward, thou wilt show thyself unsavory.” 2 Samuel 22:27; Psalm 18:25-27.
Many a needless rebuke and wound do happen to the saints of God through their unwise behavior. 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 afflictions upon him. “Fools,” says David, “because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” And therefore it is, as was said before, that he calls his sin his foolishness. And again, “God will speak peace to his people, and to his saints, but let not them return again to folly.” Again, “If his children transgress my laws, I will visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes.” Question. But what should a Christian do, when God has broken his heart, to keep it tender? Answer. To this I will speak briefly. And, Firstly, give you several cautions; Secondly, several directions.
ForCAUTIONS, 1. Take heed, that you choke not those convictions that at present do break your hearts, by laboring 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.” 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.” “Evil communications corrupt good manners:” and, “A fool’s lips are a snare to his soul.” Wherefore take heed of these things. Proverbs 18:7; 1 Corinthians 15:33. 4. Beware of the least motion to sin, that it be not countenanced, lest the countenancing of that make 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.” Hebrews 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 by no other rule but the holy word of God. Galatians 2:11,12,13. 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.” 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 to theDIRECTIONS. First , Labor after a deep knowledge of God, to keep it warm upon thy heart. 1. Knowledge of his presence; that it is every where. “Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:24. 2. 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 eye-lids try the children of men. Proverbs 15:3. 3. 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 as a scroll or vesture. Hebrews 1:11,12. 4. The knowledge of his justice; that the rebukes of it are as devouring fire. Hebrews 12:29. 5. The knowledge of his faithfulness; in fulfilling promises to them to whom they are made, and his threatenings on the impenitent. Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31. Secondly , Labor 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, and 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; Jude 1:6. 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 were 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 any thing will keep thee out of heaven for ever and ever. Thirdly , 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 both the nature and durableness of the burning flame thereof, and of the gnawing of the never-dying worm that dwells there. Mark 9:43-48. Fourthly , Consider death; both as to the certainty of the 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 Samuel 14:14; Job 7:1; Job 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.” Hebrews 9:27. Fifthly , Consider also 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 17:30,31; Acts 10:42; Matthew 25:30,31; Revelation 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Revelation 20:12; 2 Peter 3:7,10,12; Matthew 25:32; Romans 2:2,15,16; Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:15. Sixthly , Consider that 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. He loved, and gave himself for us. His tender mercy from on high hath visited us. Learn then of Christ to be tender thyself, and to endeavor to keep thy heart tender to God-ward, and to the salvation of thy soul.