That our turning to God must be with the whole Heart; Wherein Hearty Conversion consists, with the effects of it.
JOEL. 2. 12.
THe object, or term to which of our Conversion hath been dispatched, we come to the manner how we must turn to God, and that is, With all thy heart. God doth not say onely, as in another place, give me thy heart, but all thy heart, Prov, 23. 26. The Scripture doth for the most part make the heart the seat of the rational soul, as if all understanding, reason, and affections were placed there, and herein it doth contradict the opinion of most eminent Philosophers, who make the brain or the head, the seat of the rational soul; now some learned men think that therefore the Scripture makes the actions of the soul to flow from the heart, because God doth not make any account of meer speculative, or brain knowledge; but as it is accompanied with the strong affections, and motions of the heart, which put a man upon practice. Aristotle observeth that loose dissolute practices, do not corrupt the habits of meer speculative sciences, as the Mathematiques, &c. but they do quickly destroy practical habits, as prudence and the abilitie to guide and govern our actions. Now the end of the Scripture being wholly to make us good, and to reform our lives, which cannot be done without the vigorous and strong affections of the heart, doth therefore attribute all to this, in so much that a good heart, or a bad heart, are made the good or bad treasury of a man. So then howsoever in some places of Scripture, Mat. 22. heart is opposed to minde, and to soul, and strength, yet when it is put alone, as here, then it stands for all these, and in this sense we are to understand it, Turn to God with all thy minde, thy soul, thy might, with all thy heart.
Obs. That we are to turn from our sins, even to God, with all our heart. This * [Whole heart] is but two words, but hath very great matter and consequence in it: for a man to mourn for sin, to seek to God externally onely, or with his whole heart, differ as much as a picture and a live man, as real burning fire, and painted: To leave sin unwillingly, as Phaltiel did his wife; to turn to God with a deceitfull heart, is very abnominable. If a false balance be so abominable unto him, How much more must false and deceitful, or heartlesse conversions? But this sacrifice doth not so much need an exact division, or cutting of it, as to be bur••, or offered up in the flames of our affection. *
Let us therefore consider, First what it is to turn to God with the whole heart, and then the consequents of such a total conversion.
And First, To turn to God with the whole heart, is when we do not reserve any part thereof for any sin, when we offer up our selves an whole burnt offering, and not like those Sacrifices where God had but part, and others they had part: such a con∣version Page [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page 481〈1 page duplicate〉Page 482Herods was, that did many things gladly, but not all things: such a Convert was Judas, Did it not seem a glorious thing in Judas to forsake all, and follow Christ? but yet still he kept part of his heart for a lodging to receive some Lusts. And such half hearted Conversions are frequent in the world: Experience teacheth us of many who turn from divers sins they once lived in; but there is one or two endeared sins, and those they would joyn with God. Thus they attempt a contra∣diction, to make light and darknesse have communion, to cause an agreement be∣twixt Christ, and Belial. As the Idolatrie of some is recorded, who feared God, and yet worshipped the Idol gods of the Heathens: They would have the Ark, and Dagon also; so these would turn to God, and to some beloved sin also, as if a man at the same time could turn one eye towards heaven, and the other down∣wards. Oh fear least it be said to thee, as it was to Ananias and Saphira, Why hast thou detained part of the price? Thou hast not lyed to man, but to God, Acts 5. 3. and so thou dealest deceitfully with God, who will not be mocked, as if thou hadst par∣ted with all thy sins, destroyed all thy enemies, and yet hidest some, as Rahab did the spies, that they might not be discovered. Know then that he who turneth to God, with all his heart, doth not wittingly or willingly spare any one Agag, he doth not keep any one Isaak alive whom God would have sacrificed. Oh what a sad conviction is this of the insufficient, and imperfect conversion of thousands: If it be with thy whole heart, How comes sin and the world to have so great a share of it? Remember the first Commandment, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. God is a jealous God, not onely when his worship is given to other nuncupative Gods, but when thy heart and affections are given up to any Object besides him.
Secondly, To turn to God with thy whole heart is with our utmost might and endeavor, and highest perfection we are able to closewith him. It is muchdisputed in what sense * the whole heart is required in that commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The Papists give too low an Ex∣position, making it to be no more then sincerely or truely. Thus they bring down the Commandment to our power, and not make that to rise up to the Command∣ment, but by the concomitant phrase, With all thy might, it is plainly meant the utmost perfection of a man, and therefore can never be perfectly fulfilled in this life; yet a perfection the godly have, though it daily need more perfection, & in this sense we turn to God with the whole heart, when we cleave closer and closer to him; and draw nearer and nearer: So that this opposeth all faint, wearisome, and imperfect turnings to God. God complained of the Israelites, That they were weary of him; and such is the listlesnesse of man to what is good, that he quickly turneth out of the way, or fits down before he comes to an end. Thus they did not turn to God; that be∣gan in the spirit and ended in the flesh, Gal. 3. 2. and that with Lots wife look back, wishing for their old lusts again. It was no wonder that the Prodigal should with all his heart go from his swine, and his husks, to the dainty food in his fathers house; but if after that he should have gone from the fatted Calf, and been weary of his Fathers musick to his old husks again, this had been intollerable Apostacie. Do thou say then when turned to God, as the Church did, I held him and would not let him go, Cant. 3. 4. Do not go forwards and backwards as the children of Israel did in the wildernesse: Oh if thy whole heart were in this work, thou wouldst be more earnest, violent, and pursuing the enjoyment of God.
Thirdly, To turn to God with the whole heart, is to do it sincerely and uprightly. Oh this God hath complained of in the Israelites, that in their seeming conversions, * their hearts were not upright, and unfeigned in them: they did but dissemble with their tongues, and as it is said of faith, may we not also say of uprightnesse, When the Son of man shall come, shall he find uprightnesse on the earth? He may find the Chri∣stian faith, he may find praying and hearing, but shall he find sincerity? Thus the whole heart is very often used in the Scripture for a sincere and upright heart, as on the contrary a false hypocritical heart is excellenty called an heart and an heart. Oh this is too ordinary to pray with an heart and an heart; to confesse sin with an Page 481 heart, and an heart: An heart seemingly for God, and yet an heart for sin also: an heart apparently for Christ, and yet closely for the world also. This is commonly made the difference between the good Kings, and those that had a glorious shew of goodnesse, but wanted the power of it. The one is said to seek to God, or cleave to God with the whole heart; the other had an heart and an heart. As therefore the time was once when thou wert afraid of prophannesse, and grosse impieties: so now take as much heed of hypocrisie, and falshood of spirit.
Fourthly, To turn to God with the whole heart, is to have the heart all one in this*work, not to be overcharged with distractions and divisions of thoughts about other things. Thus David prayeth, Unite my heart to fear thy name, Ps. 86. 11. and dividing cares and thoughts, as also distractions about many things are frequently forbidden. Oh this is admirable, and comfortable, when the whole soul is inclined but one way, and that to God. As the Scripture speaks of a city, or family, it is excellent where they are all of one mind: so it is well when a man within himself is all the same way; nothing dividing, distracting, or disturbing in his motions to God: to run well, and to have nothing hinder. Thus some expound that promise, I will give them one heart, Jer. 36. 32. that is an heart not divided, not distracted, but wholly bent upon one object. As a Kindgom divided against it self cannot stand, so neither an heart in this sense divided; some thoughts for God, and some against him; some affections pressing towards him and some pulling back from him, so that if thy heart be wholly turned to God, Oh what a sweet harmony will there be in that motion. No unequal walking, no harsh jarring: but this being the predominant object, will carry all along with it. Indeed it follows afterwards, Rent your hearts, but that is a renting off from sin, not a renting it between God and other things. Do thou then grow acquainted with thy own heart more, see what it is that doth hinder thee from the one necessary thing: Is this turning with thy whole heart to God, when it is divided into many objects? Oh let thy heart rather be as the Tem∣ple was, into which they might bring no unclean thing, neither might men of no businesse walk there up and down.
Fifthly, He turneth to God with his whole heart, who doth not entertain any thing,* Supra, contra, aeque, or cum Deo, Above, or contrary, or equall, or with God: So that if all these particulars are necessary, we must conclude that conversion is a rare work. For first to turn with our whole heart, is to prefer nothing above God. This Christ makes a fundamental requisite in every convert. A man must hate Fa∣ther, or Mother, and his own life for Christs sake. Oh the wonderful change then that this converting grace makes upon a man: now his right eye, or his right hand is not dear unto him in respect of God, and is it not good reason that he who is the most high, should have the most high affections, the most high desires? is it not rea∣son to bid all things come lower, that God may have the highest room in our hearts. Oh but how many proclaim that there is a great gulf between them and conversion, for are not their base and filthy lusts preferred before God? is not the Divel obeyed in his lusts, rather then God in his Commandments? so that such instead of turning to God, with their whole heart, thy are turned to their sins, and to the world with all their heart: see then what that is which thy heart doth seek in the first place. The true Convert giveth the best and choicest of his thoughts and Affections to God: He now comes to Christ every day, and poureth out as it were a box of pre∣cious oyntment, the most excellent and quintessential vigour of his soul.
2. As an hearty Conversion makes a man prefer nothing above God, so neither any thing against him, he will much lesse love that which is hated and loathed by God. Oh then if thou art turned unto God, how comes it about that his enemies and adversaries do so often lodge in thy bosome? How is it that the prince of darknesse findes the Gates of thy soul open, when the prince of Glory should come in? No man can serve two contrarie masters: It was a plain argument that Dalilah was not heartie for Sampson, because all her projects were to advantage the Philistims, that were deadly enemies to Sampson; and so when all thy desires and purposes Page 482 are to promote the waies of sin, to further the Kingdome of Satan, thou mayest quickly conclude thou art far from conversion. As Joab adjured David, Thou lovest thy enemies better then thy friends: so mayest thou expostulate with thy own soul, That it entertaineth her own damnable enemies, rather then her friends who would bring the greatest good to her.
3. Hearty conversion goeth further still, and loveth nothing equally with him; for where all the heart is, there all the heart cannot be any where else: God will have all or none. It was the false mother that was willing to have the child divi∣ded; the divel will take half, because in that he hath all.
Lastly, Still higher the true Convert goeth, for he entertaineth nothing with God: Minus to amat, qui tecum aliquid amat. So that God being the Center, and the ultimate repose of the soul, he entertaineth nothing with him in that relation. There are some things that do so challenge a primacy, that they admit nothing with them, as we say in our controversies with the Church of Rome: It is a contradi∣ction to say, a primary head, and a secondary head; so a primary husband, and a secondary husband; and thus it is here: God is the head, the spouse of every faith∣full soul, and so he will have no co-partner with him. And although we are allow∣ed to love lawful comforts here below, yet because all are in subordination to him, and because of him, therefore still God is onely beloved. As we say, Such an house is such a mans, because though there be many servants, many attendants, yet because they are but servants, and one master onely, therefore it is his house only: so it is here; The heart of a Converted man is onely Gods, and for him, because though other things be received, yet as servants onely, and with reference meerly to God. Thus we are said to turn to him with all our heart. Oh then if all these things go to an hearty Conversion, In how narrow a compasse will this work be found? Who that heareth these things may not cry out, And who then can be saved? Who may not begin to make a stricter search into his heart?
In the next place, Consider the effect of this hearty Conversion unto God. And
First, It is inseparable for the future. He that hath turned from his sins to God with all his heart, will never go back again, as Hypocrites, and Apostates do, such * backsliding argueth that they never were rooted, or built up upon this rock: see how confidently that eminent Convert Paul tryumphs, Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ? Rom. 8. And there he challengeth all things that can be named; so true is that, He which drinketh of this heavenly water, shall never thirst more, John 6. 35. He becomes even like God: He prayeth, heareth, be∣lieveth, and loveth God; and in these things he changeth not. Oh this incon∣stancy and unsetlednesse, is a plain enemy to hearty Conversion.
Secondly, Hearty conversion to God is insatiable: it hath never enough of God, still it would have more in him, as we see in David, how full of longing and pant∣ing * expressions after God! It will never repent him that he did turn to God: He will never say, It was better with me when I enjoyed my pleasures, and my lusts, then since I took God for my portion. And now here is one thing more to Solo∣mons four things that never say There is enough, and that is a Godly heart enjoy∣ing God.
Thirdly, This turning with the whole heart is invincible, nothing can conquer it: This fire will dry up all waters: A man that hath an half heart, or a weak and * lazy heart, will quickly be beaten back. A Lion in the way, or tall Giants will soon discourage some men from Canaan: but where the whole heart is fixed, there it will break through stone walls: Christ became our Saviour with his whole heart; and because this Law was written in his heart, hear how readily he speaks, Re∣hold, I come to do thy will, O God, Psalm 40. 8. This made him conflict with Death, and all Agonies through his Fathers displeasure. No wonder then, till thy whole heart be in Conversion, if thou delayest, and findest out many ex∣cuses.
Page 483 Lastly, This turning with the whole heart, is accompanied with much joy, delight*and pleasant sweetnesse: What is done with all the heart, causeth a great deal of joy. Thus God saith, He would rejoyce over his people, and do them good with his whole heart, Jer. 32. 42. An admirable expression to shew what joy and delight God would take in doing good to them: so that to leave sin with some trouble, with many murmurings and repinings, argueth all thy heart is not in this work.
Use of Exhortation, to take up this Duty. God meeteth with many hypocrites, and in nothing more then in their turning to him: men would seem to do some∣thing, they would gladly be thought Converts, but (alas) these things are not done with their whole hearts. And know this, to turn with all the heart to God, is a work of great difficultie and rarity. As Christ said in another case, were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? There hath returned but one. So of those many that pray, and weep for sin, and say they will become new Converts, may we not say, There is but such a man, and such a woman, that turn with all their heart? Now be moved to this cordial hearty Conversion.
1. Because the work of the heart is more accounted of by God, then all thy out∣ward worships, though never so diligently, and zealously performed: Rent your hearts and not your garments: God cared not for rent clothes, when mens hearts were too sound in sin: and so, a broken and contrite heart, thou wilt not despise; this is preferred before whole burnt-offerings.
2. Thou hast turned to sin with all thy heart, thou hast drudged in the world with all thy heart: Now which is the most large and ample object to fill thy heart: God or sin? God or the creature? Fecisti Domine cor nestrum, & irrequietum est donec ad to veniat. Oh be for ever ashamed that thou shouldst have thy whole heart for sin and the Divel, and not for God.
3. To turn imperfectly, and faintly, will be the greater confusion to a man; for thou hadst almost laid hold on God; thou wert very near closing with him; thou wert almost entering into the haven, and then some suddain blasts of sin or other, drive thee back again. Oh thou that beginnest to run in this race, What hinders thee that thou dost not get the prize?
Lastly, Thou wilt one day lament and mourn with all thy heart, that thou hast neglected the day of conversion; but then it will be too late. Would not the dam∣ned in hell with all their heart be delivered from eternal flames, and put into a day of grace again? Do they not with all their heart, and all their soul roar out for their undone estate to all eternitie? Oh that at last these Truths might prevail with you: Oh that it might be no more published in Gath, or Ashkelon, That our preach∣ing is not converting.