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John Flavel :: IV. Use of Consolation - For Support and Comfort in Keeping the Heart

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A Saint Indeed by John Flavel

IV. Use of Consolation - For Support and Comfort in Keeping the Heart

I shall now close the whole with a word or two of consolation to all diligent and serious Christians, that faithfully and closely ply heart-work; that are groaning and weeping in secret over the hardness, pride, earthliness and vanity of their hearts; that are fearing and trembling over the experienced deceitfulness and falseness of them, whilst other vain professors eyes are abroad, their time and strength eaten up by fruitless disputes, and earthly employments, or, at best by a cold and formal performance of some heartless and empty duties. Poor Christian! I have three things to offer thee in order to thy support and comfort; and doubtless either of them alone mixed with faith is sufficient to comfort thee over all the trouble thou hast with thine own heart.

Comfort 1. This argues thy heart to be upright and honest, whatever thy other gifts and abilities are.

It is uprightness of heart will comfort thee upon a death-bed, 2 Kings 20:2-3. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, remember now, O Lord, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart

I am really of his mind, who said, si mihi daretur optio, eligerem Christiani rustici sordidissimum et maxime agreste opus prae omnibus victoriis et triumphis Alexandri aut Caesaris; might I have my wish, I would prefer the most despicable and sordid work of a rustic Christian, before all the victories and triumphs of Alexander or Caesar; yea, let me add, before all the elaborated duties and excellent gifts of vain professors; before the tongues of men and angels. It will signify more to my comfort to spend one solitary hour in mourning before the Lord over heart-corruption, than many hours in a seeming zealous, but really dead, performance of common duties, with the greatest enlargements and richest embellishments of parts and gifts.

By this very thing Christ distinguishes the formal and serious Christian, Matthew 6:5. The one is for the street and synagogue, for the observation and applause of men, but the other is a closet-man, he drives on a home-trade, a heart-trade. Never be troubled then for the want of those things that a man may have, and be eternally damned; but rather bless God for that which none but the favourites and darlings of heaven have. Many an one is now in hell that had a better head than thine; and many an one now in heaven that complained of as bad an heart as thine.

Comfort 2. Know further for thy comfort, that God would never leave thee under so many heart-troubles and burdens, if he intend not thy real benefit thereby.

Thou art often crying out, Lord! why is it thus? why go I mourning all the day, having sorrow in my heart? Thus long have I been exercised with hardness of heart, and to this day have not obtained a broken heart. Many years have I been praying and striving against vain thoughts, yet am still infested and perplexed with them. O when shall I get a better heart! I have been in travail, and brought forth but wind; I have obtained no deliverance, neither have the corruptions of my heart fallen! I have brought this heart many times to prayers, sermons, sacraments, expecting and hoping for a cure from them, and still my sore runneth, and ceaseth not.

Pensive soul! let this comfort thee; thy God designs thy benefit, even by these occasions of thy sad complaints. First, hereby he would let thee see what thy heart by nature is and was, and therein take notice how much thou art beholding to free grace. He leaves thee under these exercises of spirit, that thou mayest lie, as with thy face upon the ground, admiring that ever the Lord of glory should take so vile a creature into his bosom. Thy base heart, if it be good for nothing else, yet serves to commend and set off the unsearchable riches of free grace. Second, this serves to beat thee off continually from resting, yea, or but glancing, upon thine own righteousness or excellency. The corruption of thy heart, working in all thy duties, makes thee sensibly to feel that the bed is too short, and the covering too narrow. Were it not for those reflections thou hast after duties, upon the dullness and distractions of thine heart in them; how apt wouldst thou be to fall in love with, and admire thine own performances and enlargements? For, it, notwithstanding these, thou hast much to do with the pride of thy heart, how much more, if such humbling and self-abasing considerations were wanting! And, lastly, this tends to make thee the more compassionate and tender towards others: perhaps thou wouldst have little pity for the distresses and soul troubles of others, if thou hadst less experience of thine own.

Comfort 3. To conclude, God will shortly put a blessed end to all these troubles, cares and watchings.

The time is coming when thy heart shall be as thou wouldst have it; when thou shall be discharged of these cares, fears, and sorrows, and never cry out, O my hard, my proud, my vain, my earthly heart, any more! when all darkness shall be banished from thine understanding; and thou shalt clearly discover all truths in God, that crystal ocean of truth: when all vanity shall be purged perfectly out of thy thoughts, and they be everlastingly, ravishingly, and delightfully entertained and exercised upon that supreme goodness, and infinite excellency of God, from whom they shall never start any more like a broken bow. And, as for thy pride, passion, earthliness, and all other the matters of thy complaint and trouble, it shall be said of them, as of the Egyptians to Israel, Stand still, and see the salvation of God. These corruptions thou seest to day, henceforth thou shalt see them no more for ever; when thou shalt lay down thy weapons of prayers, tears, and groans, and put on the armour of light, not to fight, but triumph in.

Lord! when shall this blessed day come? How long! how long! holy and true? My soul waiteth for thee! come, my beloved! and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether. Amen.

[1] I 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.

III. Use of Direction - Choice Means to Keep the Heart ← Prior Section
A Double Table Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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