Keeping the Heart
by John Flavel
"Keep your heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life."
In such cases the heart is apt to
be suddenly transported with pride, impatience, or other sinful passions.
Many good people are guilty of hasty and very sinful conduct in such
instances. We all have need to use diligently the following means to keep
our hearts submissive and patient under great trials:
The next season in which special exertion is necessary to keep the heart—is
when we meet with great TRIALS.
1. Get humble and abasing thoughts of yourself.
The humble man, is ever the patient man. Pride is the
source of irregular and sinful passions. A lofty spirit, will be an
unyielding and peevish spirit. When we overrate ourselves—we think that we
are treated unworthily, that our trials are too severe—thus we cavil and
repine. Christian, you should have such thoughts of yourself as would put a
stop to these murmurings. You should have lower and more humiliating views
of yourself than any other one can have of you! Get humility—and you will
have peace, whatever your trial is!
2. Cultivate a habit of communion with God.
This will prepare you for whatever may take place. This will so sweeten your
temper and calm your mind as to secure you against surprises. This will
produce that inward peace which will make you superior to your trials.
Habitual communion with God will afford you enjoyment, which you can never
be willing to interrupt by sinful feeling. When a Christian is calm and
submissive under his afflictions—probably he derives support and comfort in
this way; but he who is discomposed, impatient, or fretful—shows that all is
not right within—he cannot be supposed to practice communion with God.
3. Let your mind be deeply impressed with an apprehension
of the evil nature of an unsubmissive and restless temper, and
effects of an unsubmissive and restless temper. It grieves
the Spirit of God, and induces his departure. His gracious presence and
influence are enjoyed only where peace and quiet submission prevail. The
indulgence of such a temper gives the adversary an advantage. Satan is an
angry and discontented spirit. He finds no rest but in restless hearts. He
bestirs himself when the spirits are in commotion; sometimes he fills the
heart with ungrateful and rebellious thoughts; sometimes he inflames the
tongue with indecent language. Again, such a temper brings great guilt upon
the conscience, unfits the soul for any duty, and dishonors the Christian
name. O keep your heart, and let the power and excellence of your religion
be chiefly manifested when you are brought into the greatest straits.
4. Consider how desirable it is for a Christian to
overcome his evil propensities. How much more present happiness
it affords; how much better it is in every respect to mortify and subdue
unholy feelings, than to give way to them. When upon your deathbed you come
calmly to review your life, how comfortable will it be to reflect on the
conquest which you have made over the depraved feelings of your heart. It
was a memorable saying of Valentinian the emperor, when he was about to die:
"Among all my conquests, there is but one that now comforts me." Being asked
what that eras, he answered, "I have overcome my worst enemy—my own sinful
5. Shame yourself, by contemplating the character of
those who have been most eminent for meekness and submission.
Above all, compare your temper with the Spirit of Christ. "Learn of me,"
says he, "for I am meek and lowly." It is said of Calvin and Ursin, though
both of irascible natures, that they had so imbibed and cultivated the
meekness of Christ as not to utter an unfitting word under the greatest
provocations. And even many of the heathens have manifested great moderation
and forbearance under their severest afflictions. Is it not a shame and a
reproach that you should be outdone by them?
6. Avoid everything which is calculated to irritate your
feelings. It is true spiritual valor to keep as far as we can out
of sin's way. If you can but avoid the excitements to impetuous and
rebellious feelings, or check them in their first beginnings, you will have
but little to fear. The first workings of common sins are comparatively
weak, they gain their strength by degrees; but in times of trial the motions
of sin are strongest at first, the unsubdued temper breaks out suddenly and
violently. But if you resolutely withstand it at first—it will yield and
give you the victory!