The Preparation of the Heart
James Smith, 1861
The heart of man is the seat and source of all evil. From within, out of the heart — proceeds all sin, mischief, and misery. The heart is eager for all evil — but it is indisposed to all spiritual good. It needs to be enlightened by God's truth, softened by God's grace, and led by God's Spirit — if it is to approve, choose, or attend to anything really good. Except God takes the heart in hand — there will be no effectual work, no saving change, no preparation for glory. Solomon has said, "The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue — is from the Lord." Proverbs 16:1
1. Man's HEART needs a divine preparation, for by nature, it is naturally disqualified for anything, and everything good.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to submit to a sovereign God — otherwise it will exclaim, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" It will not submit to his authority, admit his rights, or yield itself to be saved by the righteousness he has provided.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to receive a divine Savior — or else it will rely on its own work, trust in some fellow creature, do anything, or suffer anything, rather than embrace the Lord Jesus, as God's Son and Savior.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to profess a despised religion — or it will consult its own ease, be ashamed to own Christ, and swim with the stream in an opposite direction.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to bear peculiar trials — or it will faint in the day of adversity, rebel and murmur against God, and be hardened against him who sends or permits them.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to meet the last enemy — or it will sink into despair, or harden into indifference, and die an avowed enemy of God.
Indeed for everything truly good — we need to be divinely prepared, for no one will come to Jesus — unless the Father draws him; no one will perform good works — unless God works in him to will and to do; and no one will persevere in God's way — unless the Lord who began the good work, carries it on until the day of Christ.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to fall in with God's plans — or he will resist, reject, and choose any plan of his own, before God's. It will never yield to be saved by grace through faith — until God makes it willing in the day of his power.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to seek first the Savior's honor — or it never will. Jesus may condescend to come into the world to save sinners, he may live and labor, and he may suffer and die, and man may be told that it was all for him, and his salvation; but he will never manifest gratitude, exercise self-denial, or seek to exalt and extol the Savior for his love — without the Spirit work in him as the glorifier of Jesus.
Man's heart must be divinely prepared to aim singly and principally at God's glory, which is the only legitimate end of his existence — or he never will. He will live to himself, and live for himself — and though he may do many kind, generous, and benevolent things — he will not do one of these with a single desire to glorify God.
2. Man's TONGUE must be controlled and directed; this also is God's work, for "the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." The tongue needs to be controlled and directed to speak as God's WORD speaks. God's thoughts should guide ours, and God's words should be a model for ours. We should speak as the oracles of God, which we never shall, but only as we are governed and guided by the Lord.
Man's tongue must be directed to speak of God's WORKS. We are very ready to speak of our own, or of the works of our fellow men — but are by no means so ready to speak of God's works.
How wonderful are his works of creation.
How mysterious are his works of providence.
How astonishing are his works of grace.
One would think that we would love to dwell upon God's works, and delight to talk of them. But no, only as God directs the tongue — do we speak of God's works with a befitting spirit and temper.
Man's tongue must be directed, if he speaks to God's GLORY. To exalt ourselves, or to honor our fellow men is easy, it is natural, it is common. But to speak, to honor God's great name, to exalt his rich grace, and to show forth his praise — is what no man is prepared to do — until God disposes him. Hence, the wise man's record, "The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue — is from the Lord." Notice next,
His Testimony. If man's heart is prepared to do any good, or is even disposed to do any good — it is because God prepares and disposes it.
The Lord prepares the heart by his Spirit — who renews it, enlightens it, and leads it, as the Spirit of life, light, and love.
The Lord disposes the heart by his grace — which softens, sways, and influences it.
The Lord directs the TONGUE by his Word — which tells us when to speak, why we should speak, and what we should speak.
Nor do we ever feel aright, will aright, or act aright — but as we are wrought upon by the Spirit, grace, and word of God. Hence the Church confesses, "Lord, you will ordain peace for us; for you also have wrought all our works in us." Let us then daily pray, that God would prepare our hearts for every duty, dispose them to every good work, and enable us to curb, control, and wisely use the tongue.
This subject teaches us absolute dependence upon God, who must do all for us, all within us, and all by us — or nothing will be done well.
It encourages us under a sense of our unfitness — as God alone can prepare the most unprepared heart, dispose it to do what is holy and right, and make our tongue like a tree of life.
It directs us to take the eye off man, for wherein is he to be accounted of. We must look at man — as in God's hand, who will use him in his service, and overule his thoughts, words, and deeds for his glory. Yes, even the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder thereof, he will restrain.
Let us take our unprepared hearts to the Lord — and ask him to prepare them for his work and way.
Let us take our indisposed hearts to the Lord — and ask him to influence them by his grace, that so we may choose those things which will please him, and do those things which will bring glory to his holy name.
Let us beseech him, to prepare the hearts of all his people to enjoy their high privileges, to do his righteous will, contribute for the comfort of the poor and the support of his cause, and to direct and enable them to speak for him, and for the good of their fellow-men.
Lost sinner, God can prepare your heart to enjoy religion on earth, and make it fit to enjoy his glorious presence in Heaven. He can teach you to pray, and to speak, consistently with his holy word. If then you have any wish to be a happy Christian now, and a glorified saint at death — go to the Lord and beseech him to prepare your heart for it! And if you wish to use your tongue wisely, and to do good by using it — go to the Lord and ask him to give you that wisdom which is profitable — and it shall be given you.