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Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life--Prov. iv. 23.

The heart of man is his worst part before it be regenerate, and the best afterwards: it is the seat of principles, and fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of a Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it.

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. Here lies the very pinch and stress of religion; here is that which makes the way to life a narrow way, and the gate to heaven a strait gate. Direction and help in this great work, are the scope and sum of this text; wherein we have,

311. An exhortation, keep thy heart with all diligence.

2. The reason, or motive enforcing it; for out of it are the issues of life.

In the exhortation I shall consider,

1. The matter of the duty.

2. The manner of performing it.

1. The matter of the duty, keep thy heart. Heart is not here taken properly for that noble part of the body which philosophers call, the primum vivens, et ultimum moriens; the first that lives, and the last that dies; but by heart, in a metaphor, the scripture sometimes understands some particular noble faculty of the soul: in Rom. i. 21, it is put for the understanding part, their foolish heart, (i. e.) their foolish understanding was darkened. And Psalm cxix. 11, it is put for the memory, thy word have I hid in my heart; and 1 John iii. 20, it is put for the conscience, which hath it in both the light of the understanding, and the recognitions of the memory: if our heart condemn us, (i.e.) if our conscience, whose proper office it is to condemn. But here we 32are to take it more generally for the whole soul, or inner man; for look what the heart is to the body, that the soul is to the man; and what health is to the heart, that holiness is to the soul: Quod sanitas in corpore id sanctitas in corde. The state of the whole body depends upon the soundness and vigour of the heart, and the everlasting state of the whole man upon the good or ill condition of the soul.

And by keeping the heart, understand the diligent and constant11I say constant; for the reason added in the text extends the duty to all the states and conditions of a Christian's life, and makes it bind ad semper: if the heart must be kept because out of it are the issues of life, then as long as these issues of life do flow out of it, we are obliged to keep it. use and improvement of all holy means and duties, to preserve the soul from sin, and maintain its sweet and free communion with God. Lavater in loc. will have the word taken from a besieged garrison, begirt by many enemies without, and in danger of being betrayed by treacherous citizens within: in which danger, 33the soldiers, upon pain of death, are commanded to watch; and whereas the expression (keep thy heart) seems to put it upon us as our work, yet it does not imply a sufficiency or ability in us to do it. We are as able to stop the sun in its course, or make the rivers run backward, as by our own skill 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 be God's. A natural man hath no power: a gracious man hath some, though not sufficient; and that power he hath, depends upon the exciting and assisting strength of Christ: gratia gratiam postulat, grace within us is beholding to grace without us. Without me ye can do nothing, John xv. 5. So much of the matter of the duty.

2. The manner of performing it, is with all diligence; the Hebrew is very emphatical, cum omnicustodia, keep with all 34keeping, quid. keep, keep; set double guards, your hearts will be gone else. And this vehemency of expression with which the duty is urged, plainly implies how difficult it is to keep our hearts, and how dangerous to let them go.

3. The reason, or motive quickening to this duty, is very forcible and weighty: for out of it are the issues of life. That is, it is the source and fountain of all vital actions and operations; hinc fons buni et pecandi orige,saith Jerom; it is the spring and original both of good and evil, as the spring in a watch that sets all the wheels in motion. The heart is the treasury, the hand and tongue but the shops: what is in these, comes from thence; the hand and tongue always begin where the heart ends. The heart contrives, and the members execute, Luke vi. 45. A good man out of the good treasury of his heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasury of his heart bringeth forth evil things: for out of the 35abundance of his heart his mouth speaketh. So then, if the heart err in its work, these must needs miscarry in theirs; for heart-errors are like the errors of the first concoction, which cannot be rectified afterwards: or like the misplacing, and inverting of the stamps and letters in the press, which must needs cause so many errata in all the copies that are printed off. O then how important a duty is that which is contained in the following proposition!

Doct. That the keeping, and right managing of the heart in every condition, is the great business of a Christian's life.

What the philosopher saith of waters, is as properly applicable to hearts; suis terminis: dafficile continentur: it is hard to keep them within any bounds: God hath set bounds and limits to them, yet how frequently do they transgress, not only the bounds of grace and religion, but even of reason and common honesty? Hic labour hoc opus est: this is that which affords the Christian matter of labour, fear and trembling to his dying day. It is not the cleansing 36of the hand that makes a Christian, for many a hypocrite can shew as fair a hand as he; but the purifying, watching, and right ordering of the heart; this is the thing that provokes so many sad complaints, and costs so many deep groans and brinish tears. It was the pride of Hezekiah's heart that made him lie in the dust mourning before the Lord, 2 Chron. xxxii. 26. It was the fear of hypocrisy invading the heart, that made David cry, let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed, Psal. cxix. 80. It was the sad experience he had of the divisions and distractions of his own heart in the service of God, that made him pour out that prayer, unite my heart to fear thy name, Psal. lxxxvi. 11.

The method in which I shall improve the point shall be this;

First, I shall enquire what the keeping of the heart supposes and imports.

Secondly, Assign divers reasons, why Christians must make this the great work 37and business of their lives.

Thirdly, Point at those special seasons which especially call for this diligence in keeping the heart.

Fourthly, and lastly, apply the whole in several uses.

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