October 17, 2017

Devotions for the Heart (3)

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

[Part One] [Part Two]

This article concludes excerpts from Flavel’s 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.

You say your hearts are dead, and do you wonder they are so as long as you keep them not with the fountain of life? If your bodies had been dieted as your souls have been, they would have been dead too. Never expect better hearts till you take more pains with them. He who will not have the sweat of religion must not expect the sweet of religion. (p. 115)

Alas, that ever Christians who stand at the door of eternity, and have more work upon their hands than this poor moment of interposing time is sufficient for, should yet be filling both their heads and hearts with trifles! Hence I infer, for the awakening of all, that if keeping the heart is the great work of a Christian, then there are but few real Christians in the world. (p. 117)

Reader, I think I should prevail with you. All that I beg for is but that you would step aside a little more often to talk with your God and your own heart; that you would not suffer every trifle to divert you; that you would keep a more true and faithful account of your thoughts and affections; that you would but seriously demand this of your own heart, at least every evening, “Oh, my heart, where have you been today? Where have you made a road today? (p. 119)

For what but the sense of a divine eye, what but the real hatred of sin as sin, could put you upon those secret duties which lie out of the observation of all creatures? (p. 121)

I tell you, if saints would be persuaded to take more pains and spend more time about their hearts, there would quickly be such a divine luster upon the face of their conversations that men would account it no small privilege to be with or near them.

It is the pride, passion, and earthliness of our hearts that have spoiled Christian fellowship. Why is it that when Christians meet, they are often jarring and contending? It is only from their unmortified passions. Why are their uncharitable censures of their brethren? It is only from self-ignorance. Why are they so rigid and unmerciful towards those who are fallen? It is because they consider not themselves as the apostle speaks, Galatians 6:1. Why is their discourse so frothy and unprofitable when they meet? Is not this from the earthliness and vanity of their hearts?

My brethren, these are the things that have spoiled Christian fellowship and made it become a dry and sapless thing; so that many Christians are even weary of it, and are ready to say with the prophet, Jeremiah 9:2: “O that I had a cottage in the wilderness, that I might leave my people, and go from them!” (p. 126, 127)

It is the slipperiness of our hearts, in reference to the word, that causes so many slips in our lives. Conscience cannot be urged or awed with forgotten truths; but keep it in the heart and it will keep both heart and life upright. (p. 129)

We never lose our hearts till they have first lost the efficacious and powerful impression of the Word. (p. 129)

Oh, it is as necessary as it is sweet that we and our reins, that is, we and our secret thoughts, should confer together every night, Psalm 16:7. We should call our hearts to account every evening and say, “Oh, my heart! Where have you been today? Where have your thoughts been wandering today? What an account can you give of them? Oh, naughty heart, vain heart, could you not abide by the fountain of delights? Is there better entertainment with the creature than with God? The more often the heart meets with rebukes and checks for wandering, the less it will wander. (p. 129, 130)

Take heed you do not pinch your souls by gratifying the immoderate desire of your flesh. I wish many Christians could truly say what a heathen [Seneca] once did, “I do not give, but only lend myself to business.” (p. 130)

Take heed, Christian, lest your shop steal away your heart from your closet. God never intended earthly employments for a stop, but rather for a step to heavenly ones. ( p. 130)

There is nothing more engages the heart to a constancy and evenness in walking with God than the sweetness which it tastes therein. (p. 131)

It will signify more comfort to spend one solitary hour in mourning before the Lord over our heart-corruption than many hours in a seemingly zealous, but really dead, performance of common duties with the greatest enlargements and richest embellishments of parts and gifts. (p. 133,134)

Many a one is now in hell who had a better head than mine; and many a one is now in heaven who complained of as bad a heart as yours. (p. 134)

You are 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. Oh, 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 and sacraments, expecting and hoping for a cure from them, and still my sore runs, and ceases not.”

Pensive soul! Let this comfort you: your God designs your benefit, even by these occasions of your sad complaints. For hereby He would let you see what your heart by nature is and was, and therein take notice how much you are beholden to free grace. He leaves you under these exercises of spirit that you may lie as with your face upon the ground, admiring that ever the Lord of glory should take so vile a creature into His bosom. Your base heart, if it is good for nothing else, yet serves to commend and set off the unsearchable riches of free grace. (p. 134, 135)

Perhaps you would have little pity for the distresses and soul-troubles of others if you had less experience of your own. (p. 135)

As for your pride, passion, earthliness, and all other the matters of your 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 you see today, henceforth you shall see them no more forever; when you shall lay down your weapons of prayers, tears, and groans, and put on the armor of light not to fight, but triumph in! (p. 135, 136)

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.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.