Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Art of Heart-Keeping

It is said that "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Prov. 25.28). Nathanael Ranew gives directions in Solitude Improved by Divine Meditation, one of which relates to "the art of heart-keeping," that is, the Christian's warfare against the vanity of thoughts in this life. Hear his direction for "setting meditation on work for wisdom in that great concern, of keeping thy heart with all diligence, Prov. iv. 23" (pp. 322-323):

The art of heart-keeping, one of the greatest skills; therefore, for the attaining, it must have great study to be in some degree a master in this art, and be better in it. 1. Meditation to learn thought government. Other lessons formerly took thee up more than keeping thy heart, than governing thy thoughts, which among other means must be by, 1. Considering the excellency of the thinking faculty in itself. 2. The uses it is for. 3. The poison of sin that hath gotten up to thy head, and is occasioning such vain and vile thoughts, such wildness, rovings, inconstancies, and readiness to multiply and fix upon either bad or by-things. 4. The necessity of reducing them, dislodging them, those vain and vile imaginations. " How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" saith God to the Jews, Jer. iv. 14. They should neither lodge, as in wicked men, neither enter nor stay in a good heart. 5. There should be a coming to have, and improve in thee an habitual heavenly-mindedness. Strong Christians must have a power and rule over their thoughts, and not be satisfied without it in some sort, remembering God's pure omniscient eye upon all the thoughts, Rom. ii. 16, and his judging hereafter of them at the great day. 6. Thoughts are the soul's inlet into the affections and will, the rise of willing and affecting, and through them of acting and doing. They are very quick and nimble, yet can be very deep, intense, and serious; great reason therefore thou hast to study, to meditate, to contend to the due regulation of them.

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