Taken and adapted from, “The Acceptable Sacrifice, or the Excellency of a Broken Heart Showing the Nature, Signs, and Proper Effects of a Contrite Spirit.” Being the last works of that eminent preacher and faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Bunyan, of Bedford
What should a Christian do, when God has broken his heart, to keep it tender?
Take heed that you choke not those convictions that at present do break your hearts,by laboring to put those things out of your minds which were the cause of such convictions; but rather nourish and cherish those things in a deep and sober remembrance of them. Think, therefore, with thyself thus, What was it that at first did wound my heart? And let that still be there, until, by the grace of God, and the redeeming blood of Christ, it is removed.
Shun vain company. The keeping of vain company has stifled many a conviction, killed many a desire, and made many a soul fall into hell, that once was hot in looking after heaven. A companion that is not profitable to the soul, is hurtful. ‘He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed’ (Prov 13:20).
Take heed of idle talk, that thou neither hear nor join with it. ‘Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceives not in him the lips of knowledge’ (Prov 14:7). ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners. And a fool’s lips are the snare of his soul.’ Wherefore take heed of these things (Prov 18:7; 1 Cor 15:33).
Beware of the least motion to sin, that it be not countenanced, lest the countenancing of that makes way for a bigger. David’s eye took his heart, and so his heart nourishing the thought, made way for the woman’s company, the act of adultery, and bloody murder. Take heed, therefore, brethren, ‘lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin’ (Heb 3:12, 13). And remember, that he that will rend the block, puts the thin end of the wedge first thereto, and so, by driving, does his work.
Take heed of evil examples among the godly; learn of no man to do that which the word of God forbids. Sometimes Satan makes use of a good man’s bad ways, to spoil and harden the heart of them that come after. Peter’s false doing had like to have spoiled Barnabas, yea, and several others more. Wherefore take heed of men, of good men’s ways, and measure both theirs and thine own by no other rule but the holy Word of God (Gal 2:11–13).
Take heed of unbelief, or atheistic thoughts; make no question of the truth and reality of heavenly things: for know unbelief is the worst of evils; nor can the heart be tender that nourishes or gives place unto it. ‘Take heed, therefore, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God’ (Heb 3:12). These cautions are necessary to be observed with all diligence, of all them that would, when their heart is made tender, keep it so. And now to come,
Labor after a deep knowledge of God to keep it warm upon thy heart; knowledge of his presence, that is everywhere. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?’ (Jer 23:24).
(1.) Knowledge of his piercing eye, that it runs to and fro through the earth, beholding in every place the evil and the good; that his eyes behold, and his eyelids try the children of men (Prov 15:3).
(2.) The knowledge of his power, that he is able to turn and dissolve heaven and earth into dust and ashes; and that they are in his hand but as a scroll or vesture (Heb 1:11, 12).
(3.) The knowledge of his justice, that the rebukes of it are as devouring fire (Heb 12:19).
(4.) The knowledge of his faithfulness, in fulfilling promises to them to whom they are made, and of his threatenings on the impenitent (Matt 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31).
Labor to get and keep a deep sense of sin in its evil nature, and in its soul-destroying effects upon thy heart…
…be persuaded, that it is the only enemy of God, and that none hate, or are hated of God, but through that.
(1.) Remember it turned angels into devils, thrust them down from heaven to hell.
(2.) That it is the chain in which they are held and bound over to judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
(3.) That it was for that that Adam was turned out of paradise; that for which the old world was drowned; that for which Sodom and Gomorrah was burned with fire from heaven; and that which cost Christ his blood to redeem thee from the curse it has brought upon thee; and that, if anything, will keep thee out of heaven for ever and ever.
(4.) Consider the pains of hell. Christ makes use of that as an argument to keep the heart tender; yea, to that end repeats and repeats, and repeats, both the nature and durableness of the burning flame thereof, and of the gnawing of the never dying worm that dwells there (Mark 9:43–48).
Consider of death, both as to the certainty of thy dying, and uncertainty of the time when. We must die, we must needs die; our days are determined—the number of our months are with God, though not with us; nor can we pass them, would we, had we them, give a thousand worlds to do it (2 Sam 14:14; Job 7:1; 14:1–5). Consider thou must die but once—I mean but once as to this world; for if thou, when thou goest hence, dost not die well, thou canst not come back again and die better. ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb 9:27).
Consider also of the certainty and terribleness of the day of judgment, when Christ shall sit upon his great white throne, when the dead shall, by the sound of the trump of God, be raised up; when the elements, with heaven and earth, shall be on a burning flame; when Christ shall separate men one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; when the books shall be opened, the witnesses produced, and every man be judged according to his works; when heaven’s gate shall stand open to them that shall be saved, and the jaws of hell stand gaping for them that shall be damned (Acts 5:30–31; 10:42; Matt 25:31, 32, 34, 4; Rev 2:11; 1 Cor 15:51; Rev 20:12, 15; 2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12; Rom 2:2, 15, 16; Rev 22:12).
Consider, Christ Jesus did use no means to harden his heart against doing and suffering those sorrows which were necessary for the redemption of thy soul. No; though he could have hardened his heart against thee in the way of justice and righteousness, because thou hadst sinned against him, he rather awakened himself, and put on all pity, bowels, and compassion; yea, tender mercies, and did it. In his love and in his pity he saved us. His tender mercies from on high hath visited us. He loved us, and gave himself for us.
Learn, then, of Christ, to be tender of thyself, and to endeavor to keep thy heart tender to God-ward, and to the salvation of thy soul.