George Everard, 1871
"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
It is very important for you to know what duties and which part of your work demands your first thought. You might be very busy all day from early in the morning until late in the evening — yet perhaps through forgetfulness you might leave undone some work that required your attention more than all the rest.
Now what work requires most pains and effort? I have no doubt whatever, that it is heart-work. Watch over your heart with all diligence — or as you find in the margin, above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life. However important may be your daily occupations in the house where you live, or in your particular calling — yet the chief matter is to keep the heart right. Take a very simple illustration: look at the clock in your room, or the watch that perhaps you wear; you want them to keep good time. But if either of them stops or goes wrong, what course do you take?
You would not move the hands, perpetually putting them backwards or forwards according as the time might be. This would do no good — it is the inner works that need looking after. Perhaps there needs a new mainspring, or perhaps a chain has gone off the wheel, or perhaps it only requires cleaning, or regulating. But when the inner works go right, you may be quite sure the hands will go right — the second-hand, and the minute-hand, and the hour-hand will each point out the right time.
Act with yourself with the same common sense. Remember that the heart regulates the life. If the heart is right, then . . .
the hands will do right; they will not steal or be idle, but do their work faithfully;
the feet will move right, not going where they should not, standing in the way of sinners, or treading forbidden paths — but walking straight in the ways of godliness;
the eyes will look right, not coveting forbidden fruit, or reading debasing literature — but spying out work that ought to be done, and looking kindly and pleasantly on those around;
the ears will hearken aright, not eagerly drinking in idle reports, or the advice of those who have not yet learned to teach themselves — but ever willing to listen to a faithful reproof, or to a word of wise counsel;
the lips will speak aright, not uttering words of slander, or falsehood, or folly — but words of truth and purity and love, words of earnest prayer and of grateful praise.
But how shall the heart be kept right? First of all, remember that He alone who made the heart, can fashion and dispose it to that which is good. Whatever is amiss, He knows how to remedy it. He gives it a new mainspring: He puts within it the love of Christ instead of the love of the world. He sends His Holy Spirit to control and order its unruly passions and affections. He can cleanse it from all its defilements. When the chain is off the wheel He can replace it — I mean when something has turned our desires from their right object, He can restore them.
Then ask earnestly for grace. Create in me a clean heart, O God! Incline my heart to Your testimonies! Let my heart be sound in Your statutes that I may honor You!
But then, He bids us to be workers together with Him in this matter. There is that which He alone can do — but there is that which is our part by His grace to do also.
You must take care not to run into scenes of temptation. If a man carried a bag of gunpowder with him, he would be very careful not to go where sparks were flying about — he would feel that in a moment a spark might be his destruction. Now your heart is very like that gunpowder — a little thing may set it all alight with evil passions. Words may be spoken that may arouse unholy thoughts or desires — therefore be careful. Never go near places where the devil is accustomed to come. Keep far away from the theater, the dancing-room, and never enter the bar of a tavern if you can avoid it.
"He who loves danger, shall perish in danger."
You must watch against any evil thoughts lodging in your mind. You may not be able to prevent them arising, but endeavor to drive them away as soon as you can. A flock of birds may fly over your head, but you would not let them build a nest in your hair! Little flies or insects in summer are very troublesome sometimes, but you take pains to keep them from getting into your eye, or irritating your face and hands. In the same way watch against every bad thought.
Remember that among the thousands of thoughts that pass through your mind in a day, there is not one hidden from God. He understands your thoughts afar off, and in His sight the thought of foolishness is sin. Therefore be watchful — do not dwell on anything that may pollute the mind. Cast away murmuring thoughts, angry thoughts, impure thoughts — and pray that God would preserve you from them. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord!"
But to keep away thoughts that do harm — nourish thoughts that will do you good. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." Philippians 4:8
There is a good old proverb, "Fill the sack with wheat — and there will be no room for chaff!" Fill your heart with kind thoughts, grateful thoughts, holy thoughts — and you will be safe. Let God's thoughts which are given to us in the Bible — leaven all your thoughts. Hide in your heart the promises and precepts of His Word. In the morning, take a text of Scripture about Christ, about His love, or His coming again — and make it your friend and companion through the day. When something has occurred to trouble you, go back to your text. When some temptation is near to turn your thoughts aside, think of it again — so it will strengthen you, and help you to overcome.
With thoughts of Christ, and things divine,
Fill up this foolish heart of mine.
"Do not be overcome by evil — but overcome evil with good."
But above all, live in a spirit of prayer. Believe that God is always ready to hear you, and often go to Him for help. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Nothing will keep your heart in a holy, happy frame, so much as prayer.
A little boy was coming home from India. He was obliged to come to England because of his health, but he very much grieved to come away from his father, who was not able to accompany him. But on the voyage one thing gave him great comfort — he would go down into his cabin every day, and write out for his father what he did all day long, and this brought his father to mind, and it almost seemed as if he were speaking to his father. He would call these hours his heart-visits to India.
Now why should not you each day pay heart-visits to Heaven? If the boy could have made his father hear him in some way when he went into the cabin, or have received messages from him — it would have given him still more pleasure. But this is just what you can do. When you pay a heart-visit to Heaven — you can make your Father understand the very least word you speak. And more than this — He can send you a message in return — He can speak to you by His Spirit teaching you out of the Scriptures. In this way He can fill your heart with peace and joy. He can make you so happy in His love, that your heart is at liberty to love Him and serve Him.
Oh, then pray to Him often in the name of Jesus; often shoot upwards the arrow of an earnest petition, and it will never be in vain.
Here is my heart! Ah, Holy Spirit, come,
Its nature to renew,
And consecrate it wholly as Your home —
A temple, fair and true;
Teach it to love and serve You more,
To fear You, trust You, and adore.
Here is my heart!