On Keeping the Heart

This afternoon I was privileged to address a group of  pastors on the subject of  various troubles and difficulties associated with a long term ministry.  One of the issues dealt with was the matter of  taking heed to our own selves.

On that subject my mind was drawn to some of the opening words of John Flavel’s classic work, On Keeping the Heart.

He writes:

The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God… “Keep (guard) thy heart with all diligence…”   Lavater on the text will have the word taken from a besieged garrison, beset by many enemies without, and in danger of being betrayed by treacherous citizens within, in which danger the soldiers, upon pain of death, are commanded to watch; and though the expression, Keep thy heart, seems to put it upon us as our work, yet it does not imply a sufficiency in us to do it. We are as able to stop the sun in its course, or to make the rivers run backward, as by our own will and power to rule and order our hearts. We may as well be our own saviours as our own keepers; and yet Solomon speaks properly enough when he says, Keep thy heart, because the duty is ours, though the power is of God; what power we have depends upon the exciting and assisting strength of Christ. Grace within us is beholden to grace without us. “Without me ye can do nothing.”

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