August 16, 2017

Devotions for the Heart (1)

selections collected by John Mincy from Keeping The Heart by John Flavel (written in 1667)

This article is simply some excerpts from this wonderful little book (about 145 pages excluding editorial additions in the Soli Deo Gloria Publications 1998 edition). The excerpts arise, of course, from helpful contexts. They are given here to encourage a thorough reading of the whole book.

Remember that you are at the door of eternity and have other work to do. Those hours you spend upon heart work in your closets are the golden spots of all your time, and will have the sweetest influence upon your last hour. (p. xxxix)

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. (p. 1)

By “keeping the heart,” understand the diligent and constant use and improvement of all holy means and duties to preserve the soul from sin and maintain its sweet and free communion with God. (p. 2)

The keeping and right management of the heart in every condition is the great business of a Christian’s life. (p. 3)

Well, then, to “keep the heart” is to carefully preserve it from sin which disorders it, and maintain that spiritual and gracious frame which fits it for a life of communion with God. (p. 6)

It is with the heart well kept as it is with the eye, which is a fit emblem of it: if a small piece of dust gets into the eye it will never stop twinkling and watering till it has wept it out. So the upright heart cannot be at rest till it has wept out its troubles and poured out its complaints before the Lord. (p. 7)

“Oh, for a better heart! Oh, for a heart to love God more. Oh, for a heart to hate sin more and to walk more evenly with God. Lord, deny not to me such a heart whatever Thou deniest me! Give me a heart to fear Thee, love and delight in Thee, even if I beg my bread in desolate places.” (p. 7)

And what else can be the reason why the discourses and duties of many Christians have become so frothy and unprofitable, why their communion both with God and one another becomes as a dry stalk, but because their hearts are neglected? (p. 17)

Now the Spirit cannot be discerned in His essence, but in His operations. To discern these is to discern the Spirit. How these should be discerned without serious searching and diligent watching of the heart, I cannot imagine. (p. 19)

The most accurate and laborious Christians, who take most pains and spend most time about their hearts, yet find it very difficult to discover the pure and genuine workings of the Spirit there. (p. 19)

God does not usually indulge lazy and negligent souls with the comforts of assurance. (p. 19)

Since, then, the joy of our life and the comfort of our souls rises and falls with our diligence in this work, keep your hearts with all diligence. (p. 20)

It would much stay the heart under adversity to consider that God, by such humbling providences, may be accomplishing that for which you have long prayed and waited. And should you be troubled at that? Say, Christian, have you not many prayers pending before God upon such accounts as these: that He would keep you from sin; that He would reveal to you the emptiness and insufficiency of the creature; that He would kill and mortify your lusts; that your heart may never find rest in any enjoyment but Christ? Why, now, by such humbling and impoverishing strokes, God may be fulfilling your desire. (p. 33)

It is you who make your burden heavy by struggling under it. Could you but lie quiet under the hand of God, your condition would be much easier and sweeter than it is. (p. 35)

Affliction is a pill which, being wrapped up in patience and quiet submission, may be easily swallowed; but discontentedness chews the pill and so embitters the soul. (p. 35)

There is truly a principle of quietness in the permitting as in the commanding will of God. (p. 37)

Does the voice of man make you tremble? And shall not the voice of God? If you are of such a fearful and timorous spirit, how is it that you fear not to disobey the flat commands of Jesus Christ? I think the command of Christ should have as much power to calm as the voice of a poor worm to terrify your heart. (p. 47)

We cannot fear creatures sinfully till we have forgotten God. (p. 47)

And that is true not only as the least evil of sin is worse than the greatest evil of suffering, but as this sinful fear has really more torment and trouble in it than is in that condition you are so much afraid of. (p. 48)

Quiet your trembling hearts by recalling and consulting your past experiences of the care and faithfulness of God in former distresses. These experiences are food for your faith in a wilderness condition. (p. 50)

If God reduces you to straits and necessities, yet He deals no otherwise therein with you than He has done with some of the choicest and holiest men who ever lived. (p. 55)

For though, I confess, poverty has its temptations as well as prosperity, yet I am confident that prosperity has not these excellent advantages that poverty has. For here you have an opportunity to discover the sincerity of your love for God when you can live upon Him, and find enough in Him, and constantly follow Him, even when all external inducements and motives fail. (p. 64)

There are few musicians who can take down a lute or viol and play it without some time to tune. There are few Christians who can presently say, as in Psalm 57:7, “O God, my heart is fixed, it is fixed.” Oh, when you go to God in any duty, take your heart aside and say, “O my soul, I am now addressing myself to the greatest work that ever a creature was employed about. I am going into the awful presence of God about business of everlasting moment. “Oh, my soul, leave trifling now; be composed, watchful, serious! This is no common work, it is God-work, eternity-work. I am now going forth bearing seed which will bring forth fruit to life or death in the world to come.” Pause a while upon your sins, wants, and troubles; keep your thoughts awhile on these before you address yourself to duty. David first mused, then spoke with his tongue (Psalm 39:3-4). So Psalm 45:1: “My heart is preparing.” (p. 66)

Intention of spirit in the work of God locks up the eye and ear against vanity. (p. 66)

John Flavel (c. 1627-1691) was an English dissenting clergyman, a faithful preacher in the face of oppression, and a prolific Puritan author. A few details are available here.


John Mincy was a church planter in Singapore and California and is now pastor emeritus of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, California.


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