by A. W. Pink
“Do you think you came into this world to spend your whole time and
strength in your employments, your trades, your pleasures, unto the satisfaction
of the will of the flesh and of the mind? Have you time enough to eat, to
drink, to sleep, to talk unprofitably—it may be corruptly—in all sorts of unnecessary societies, but have not enough time to live unto God, in the very
essentials of that life? Alas, you came into the world under this law: ‘It is
appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb 9:27), and
the end (purpose) why your life is here granted unto you, is that you may be
prepared for that judgment. If this be neglected, if the principal part of your
time be not improved with respect unto this end, you will yet fall under the
sentence of it unto eternity” (John Owen, 1670).
Multitudes seem to be running, but few “pressing toward the mark;”
many talk about salvation, but few experience the joy of it. There is much of
the form of godliness, but little of the power of it: Oh, how rare it is to find
any who know anything experimentally of the power that separates from the
world, delivers from self, defends from Satan, makes sin to be hated, Christ to
be loved, Truth to be prized, and error and evil to be departed from. Where
shall we find those who are denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following Christ in the path of obedience (Mat 16:24)? Where are they who hail
reproach, welcome shame, and endure persecution? Where are they who are
truly getting prayer answered daily, on whose behalf God is showing Himself
strong? Something is radically wrong somewhere! Yes, and as surely as the
beating of the pulse is an index to the state of our most vital physical organ,
so the lives of professing Christians make it unmistakably evident that their
hearts are diseased!
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to
show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward
Him” (2Ch 16:9). Ah, do not the opening words indicate that those with “perfect” hearts are few and far between, that they are hard to locate? Surely it does; and it has ever been the case. David cried, “Help, LORD; for the godly
man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psa 12:1).
The Lord Jesus had to lament “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought” (Isa 49:4). The Apostle Paul declared, “I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phi 2:20, 21); “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me” (2Ti 1:15). And things are neither better nor worse today. But, my reader, instead of talking about the “apostasy of Christendom,” instead of being occupied with the empty profession all around us, what about our own hearts? Is your heart “perfect”? If so, even in these socalled “hard times,” God is “showing Himself strong” in thy behalf: that is, He is working miracles for you, and ministering to you in a way that He is not to the empty professors. But if God is not so doing, then your heart is not “perfect” toward Him, and it is high time for you to take stock and get down to serious soul business.
I. “Keep Thy Heart”
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Pro
4:23). The pains which multitudes have taken in religion are but lost labour.
Like the Pharisees of old, they have been tithing annice, mint, and cumin
(Mat 23:23), but neglecting the weightier matters. Many have a zeal, but it is
not according to knowledge; they are active, but their energies are misdirected; they have wrought “many wonderful works” (Mat 7:22), but they are rejected of God. Why? Because their employments are self-selected or manappointed, while the one great task which God has assigned, is left unattended to. All outward actions are worthless while our hearts be not right with God. He will not so much as hear our prayers while we regard iniquity in our hearts (Psa 66:18)! Let us, then, endeavor to further point out what is signified by this supremely important exhortation.
A Good Conscience
To “keep” the heart signifies to have the conscience exercised about all
things. In numbers of passages “heart” and “conscience” signify one and the
same thing: see 1 Samuel 24:5, 2 Samuel 24:10, 1 John 3:21, etc. The Apostle
Paul declared, “herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void
of offense toward God, and toward men” (Act 24:16), and herein he sets before
us an example which we need to emulate.
After the most careful and diligent manner we must strive to keep the
conscience free from all offense in the discharge of every duty that God requires, and in rendering to every man what is due him. Though this is never
perfectly attained in this life, yet every regenerate soul has a real concern for
such a state of conscience. A “good conscience, in all things willing to live
honestly” (Heb 13:18) is worth far more than rubies.
This is to be something more than an empty wish, which gets us nowhere.
The Apostle said, “herein do I exercise myself” (Act 24:16): it was a
matter of deep concern to him, and one to which he assiduously applied himself.
He laboured hard in seeing to it that his conscience did not flatter, deceiving
and misleading him. He was conscientious over both his outer and inner life, so that his conscience accused and condemned him not. He was
more careful not to offend his conscience than he was not to displease his
dearest friend. He made it his daily business to live by this rule, abstaining
from many a thing which natural inclination drew him unto, and performing
many a duty which the ease-loving flesh would shirk. He steadily maintained
a care not to break the law of love toward either God or man. And, when conscious of failure, he saw to it that by renewed acts of repentance and faith (in confession) each offense was removed from his conscience, instead of allowing guilt to accumulate thereon.
“Now the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart,
and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1Ti 1:5). The “commandment” is the same as the “holy commandment” of 2 Peter 2:21, namely, the Gospel, as including the Moral Law,3 which enjoined perfect love both to
God and to our neighbour. The “end” or design—that which is enjoined and
whose accomplishment is prompted thereby—is love. But spiritual “love” can
only proceed from “a pure heart,” that is, one which has been renewed by
grace, and thereby delivered from enmity against God (Rom 8:7) and hatred
against man (Tit 3:3), and cleansed from the love and pollution of sin. Spiritual
“love” can only proceed out of a “good conscience,” that is, a conscience
which has been made tender and active by grace, which has been purged by
the blood of Christ, and which sedulously avoids all that defiles it and draws
away from God; its possessor being influenced to act conscientiously in the
whole of his conduct. It is solemn to note that those who “put away” a good
conscience soon make “shipwreck of the faith” (1Ti 1:19).
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"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan