More Editorials from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.
T HERE is nothing in man more fearfully and wonderfully made than the heart. It is the chief organ of physical life, occupying the central place in the body. It is a brilliantly-designed pump, sending life-giving supplies to every part. Though the circulation of the blood was not discovered to science until the 17th century, it was known to the Bible. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Heart disease today is a great killer: we are learning that there is merit in taking care over our state of health.
What is true of man naturally is true spiritually: he has a spiritual heart. Within each individual man or woman there are the hidden springs of personal life, the soul with its powers of reason, will and affection. Here is the moral centre of man, a creature in God's likeness. This heart especially must be kept, for out of it are the issues of everlasting life and death.
What a tragedy that our first parents failed in this duty! When Adam came from His Maker's hand to dwell in the first paradise he enjoyed a blessed existence, his pure heart ascending to God continually in acts of loving obedience and service. Although there was an infinite distance between Creator and creature as regards their being yet there was nothing to separate them in terms of their holiness. The image stamped on Adam's heart perfectly reflected God's character.
The Lord put Adam into the beautiful garden of Eden and charged him "to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15). He was to care for the trees and take his fill of their fruit, with but one exception. But there was another garden for the man to husband. Even more than his home was Adam to tend his heart. Many fine plants were growing there, all bearing fruit to the glory of God – but this garden would need constant supervision. There were no preying beasts threatening to spoil Eden's trees of their crop, but a dangerous enemy was lurking ready to destroy the heart-fruits of knowledge, righteousness and holiness.
Satan's strategy to steal away the heart of man was clever. His approach was not direct, to the front door, but to the side. He came through Adam's helpmeet. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Tim. 2:14). He began, not by denying the Word of God outright but by casting doubt upon it: "Yea, hath God said....?" (Gen. 3:1). Thereby he gained his entry and captured his prize, making of man's heart a waste howling wilderness, barren, hard, full of evil.
The Word of God does not spare sinful man and its denunciations should make us wince. Deceit, hatred, lust and pride are among the fruits the fall has produced within us. When the Lord deals graciously with a man he first shows him something of what this evil heart is like and the impossibility of it being mended by good resolutions, prayers or penances. He is preparing the way for the reception of glorious, redeeming grace. Much preaching is aimed exclusively at the will, enforcing the duty to believe, but there must also be a focus on the heart and the need for regeneration. The heart is the sphere of divine influence and the object of the saving operations of the Spirit, who changes lifeless stone into living flesh.
The new heart must also be carefully watched. It is the special target of our adversary and none of the exceeding great and precious promises which are given to us in Christ and His covenant must be allowed to excuse us from this duty. That would be to misuse biblical doctrine and to turn the grace of God into licence. The One who "preserveth the souls of his saints" instructs them to "hate evil" (Psa. 97:10). Scripture logic is: "[You] are kept by the power of God" (1 Pet. 1:5); therefore, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). Christ views His church as a secret garden, a place shut up and set apart for His own use and pleasure. "A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse" (Song 4:12). Believers, you must devote yourselves wholly to the Lord, whose purchase you are. "Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:20). What shall we say practically?
There are professing Christians who seem to be opening wide the door of their hearts to the world, saying, "Welcome, come in!" "Come in music and dance and theatre and sport." Is not this to reintroduce thorns, thistles and other useless weeds to the garden? Do such not realise that with the world comes the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4)? He presents himself in attractive clothes, rather than naked in his evil, to beguile us and draw us away from the Lord. This was the downfall of Demas: "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). Companion of Paul, then consort of pagans. It begins with flirting and ends in that full-blown friendship which the Bible declares is "enmity with God" (Jam. 4:4). Beware of wounding your true Husband and Friend.
As the farmer must fix his fences so the walls of separation must be maintained between ourselves and and every moral danger. The church of Christ exists essentially for the worship of God. It is a grief to the godly when they see church buildings open for social functions and vain amusements, but are we zealous to keep the world out of our own hearts? What of the newspaper and magazine, which allow the devil in through eye-gate? What of the radio, which permits him an entrance through ear-gate? And television, which enables both? What of our company? Do we practise a healthy and necessary discrimination in these things?
If such lead us into sin, do we take the radical steps commanded by our Saviour in His graphic words: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out....if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off" (Matt. 5:29, 30)? Better it would be for many of us if, instead of justifying our sin ("We need to keep in touch with things.....we must not cut ourselves off from the world") we took a blunt instrument to the television set and cancelled a few subscriptions. Better to put up walls here than to build bridges.
In keeping our heart we must look out for the beginnings of declension, though Satan's work is often hidden at first. The fox is renowned among animals for wanton destruction; it may do much damage by burrowing, gnawing and devouring. The remedy? "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (Song 2:15). Even "little" sins will make the vine of holiness unfruitful and rob us of much spiritual comfort. They must be trapped and killed, for little foxes will become big foxes. "Sow a thought and reap a deed; sow a deed and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny."
Are you wondering about some activity or pastime or companion? Whatever is doubtful to you will hardly be profitable for you. "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22). Be wise and deal with every sin before it grows.
The surest way to maintain our heart for God is by nourishing it upon the wheat of His truth, to the exclusion of whatever chaff the winds of the world may be blowing our way. The root of personal piety will only flourish in that good soil on which the rain and the dew of the Spirit's grace fall, giving "fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Rom. 6:22).
Christian, keep your heart and the Lord will surely keep you.