T H E
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,
Mr. John Bunyan, of Bedford.
With a Preface Prefixed Thereunto by an
Eminent Minister of the Gospel In London.
By J O H N. B U N Y A N
L O N D O N,
Sold by George Larkin, at the
Two Swans without Bishopgates, 1692.
[II. THE DOCTRINE, ASSERTION, DEMONSTRATION, AND CONCLUSION, THAT A BROKEN AND TRULY CONTRITE HEART IS AN EXCELLENT HEART.]
ut we will demonstrate by several particulars, that a broken spirit, a spirit RIGHTLY broken, an heart TRULY contrite, is to God an excellent thing.
First. This is evident from the comparison, 'Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it, thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, ' &c. Mark, he rejecteth sacrifices, offerings and sacrifices: that is, all Levitical ceremonies under the law, and all external performances under the gospel; but accepteth a broken heart. It is therefore manifest by this, were there nothing else to be said, that proves, that a heart rightly broken, a heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing; for as you see such a heart is set before all sacrifice; and yet they were the ordinances of God, and things that he commanded; but lo, a broken spirit is above them all, a contrite heart goes beyond them, yea, beyond them when put all together. Thou wilt not have the one, thou wilt not despise the other. O brethren, a broken and a contrite heart is an excellent thing. Have I said a broken heart, a broken and a contrite heart is esteemed above all sacrifices; I will add,
Second. It is of greater esteem with God than is either heaven or earth; and that is more than to be set before external duties. 'Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word' (Isa 66:1, 2). Mark, God saith, he hath made all these things, but he doth not say, that he will look to them, that is, take complacency and delight in them; no, there is that wanting in all that he hath made that should take up and delight his heart. But now, let a broken-hearted sinner come before him; yea, he ranges the world throughout to find out such an one, and having found him, 'To this man, ' saith he, 'will I look.' I say again, that such a man to him is of more value than is either heaven or earth; 'They, ' saith he, 'shall wax old'; 'they shall perish' and vanish away; but this man he continues: he, as is presented to us in another place, under another character, 'he shall abide for ever' (Heb 1:10-12; 1 John 2:17).
'To this man will I look, ' with this man will I be delighted; for so to look doth sometimes signify. 'Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, ' saith Christ to his humble- hearted, 'thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes' (Cant 4:9). While it is as a conduit to let the rivers out of thy broken heart. I am taken, saith he, 'with one chain of thy neck' (Can 4:9). Here you see he looks and is ravished, he looks and is taken, as it saith in another place, 'The king is held in the galleries'; that is, is taken with his beloved, with the dove's eyes of his beloved, with the contrite spirit of his people (Cant 7:5, 1:15). But it is not thus reported of him with respect to heaven or earth: them he sets more lightly by, them he 'reserves unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men' (2 Peter 3:7), but the broken in heart are his beloved, his jewels.
Wherefore, what I have said as to this must go for the truth of God, to wit, That a broken-hearted sinner, a sinner with a contrite spirit, is of more esteem with God than is either heaven or earth. He saith he hath made them, but he doth not say he will look to them. He saith they are his throne and footstool, but he doth not say they have taken or ravished his heart. No, it is those that are of a contrite spirit do this. But there is yet more in the words, 'To this man will I look': that is, For this man will I care, about this man will I camp, I will put this man under my protection; for so to look to one doth sometimes signify; and I take the meaning in this place to be such (Prov 27:23; Jer 39:12, 40:4). 'The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down' (Psa 145:14). And the broken- hearted are of this number; wherefore he careth for, campeth about, and hath set his eyes upon such an one for good. This, therefore, is a second demonstration to prove, that the man that hath his spirit rightly broken, his heart truly contrite, is of great esteem with God.
Third. Yet further, God doth not only prefer such an one, as has been said, before heaven and earth, but he loveth, he desireth to have that man for an intimate, for a companion; he must dwell; he must cohabit with him that is of a broken heart, with such as are of a contrite spirit. 'For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I will dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit' &c. (Isa 57:15).
Behold here both the majesty and condescension of the high and lofty One; his majesty, in that he is high, and the inhabiter of eternity; 'I am the high and lofty One, ' saith he, 'I inhabit eternity.' Verily this consideration is enough to make the broken-hearted man creep into a mouse-hole to hide himself from such a majesty! But behold his heart, his condescending mind; I am for dwelling also with him that hath a broken heart, with him that is of a contrite spirit; that is the man that I would converse with, that is the man with whom I will cohabit; that is, he, saith God, I will choose for my companion. For to desire to dwell with one supposeth all these things; and verily, of all the men in the world, none have acquaintance with God, none understand what communion with him, and what his teachings mean, but such as are of a broken and contrite heart. 'He is nigh unto them that are of a broken spirit' (Psa 34:18). These are they intended in the 14th Psalm, where it is said, 'The Lord looked down from heaven, - to see if any did understand and seek God'; that he might find some body in the world with whom he might converse; for indeed there is none else that either understand, or that can tend to hearken to him. God, as I may say, is forced to break men's hearts, before he can make them willing to cry to him, or be willing that he should have any concerns with them; the rest shut their eyes, stop their ears, withdraw their hearts, or say unto God, Be gone (Job 21:14). But now the broken in heart can tend it; he has leisure, yea, leisure, and will, and understanding, and all; and therefore is a fit man to have to do with God. There is room also in this man's house, in this man's heart, in this man's spirit, for God to dwell, for God to walk, for God to set up a kingdom.
Here, therefore, is suitableness. 'Can two walk together, ' saith God, 'except they be agreed?' (Amos 3:3). The broken-hearted desireth God's company; when wilt thou come unto me? saith he. The broken-hearted loveth to hear God speak and talk to him. Here is a suitableness. 'Make me, ' saith he, 'to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice' (Psa 51:8). But here lies the glory, in that the high and lofty One, the God that inhabiteth eternity, and that was a high and holy place for his habitation, should choose to dwell with, and to be a companion of the broken in heart, and of them that are of a contrite spirit. Yea, and here also is great comfort for such.
Fourth. God doth not only prefer such a heart before all sacrifices, nor esteems such a man above heaven and earth; nor yet only desire to be of his acquaintance, but he reserveth for him his chief comforts, his heart-reviving and soul-cherishing cordials. 'I dwell, ' saith he, with such to revive them, and to support and comfort them, 'to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (Isa 57:15). The broken-hearted man is a fainting man; he has his qualms, his sinking fits; he ofttimes dies away with pain and fear; he must be stayed with flagons, and comforted with apples, or else he cannot tell what to do: he pines, he pines away in his iniquity; nor can any thing keep him alive and make him well but the comforts and cordials of Almighty God (Exo 33:10, 11). Wherefore with such an one God will dwell, to revive the heart, to revive the spirit. 'To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'
God has cordials, but they are to comfort them that are cast down (2 Cor 7:6); and such are the broken-hearted; as for them that are whole, they need not the physician (Mark 2:17). They are the broken in spirit that stand in need of cordials; physicians are men of no esteem but with them that feel their sickness; and this is one reason why God is so little accounted of in the world, even because they have not been made sick by the wounding stroke of God. But now when a man is wounded, has his bones broken, or is made sick, and laid at the grave's mouth, who is of that esteem with him as is an able physician? What is so much desired as are the cordials, comforts, and suitable supplies of the skilful physician in those matters. And thus it is with the broken-hearted; he needs, and God has prepared for him plenty of the comforts and cordials of heaven, to succour and relieve his sinking soul.
Wherefore such a one lieth under all the promises that have succour in them, and consolation for men, sick and desponding under the sense of sin and the heavy wrath of God; and they, says God, shall be refreshed and revived with them. Yea, they are designed for them; he hath therefore broken their hearts, he hath therefore wounded their spirits, that he might make them apt to relish his reviving cordials, that he might minister to them his reviving comforts. For indeed, so soon as he hath broken them, his bowels yearn, and his compassions roll up and down within him, and will not suffer him to abide afflicting. Ephraim was one of these; but so soon as God had smitten him, behold his heart, how it works towards him. 'Is Ephraim, ' saith he, 'my dear son?' that is, he is so; 'is he a pleasant child?' that is, he is so; 'for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord' (Jer 31:18-20). This therefore is another demonstration.
Fifth. As God prefers such a heart, and esteems the man that has it above heaven and earth; as he covets intimacy with such an one, and prepares for him his cordials; so when he sent his Son Jesus into the world to be a Saviour, he gave him in special a charge to take care of such; yea, that was one of the main reasons he sent him down from heaven, anointed for his work on earth. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, ' saith he; 'because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, ' &c. (Luke 4:18; Isa 61:1). Now that this is meant of Christ, is confirmed by his own lips; for in the days of his flesh he takes this book in his hand, when he was in the synagogue at Nazareth, and read this very place unto the people; and then tells them that that very day that Scripture was fulfilled in their ears (Luke 6:16-18).
But see, these are the souls whose welfare is contrived in the heavens. God consulted their salvation, their deliverance, their health, before his Son came down from thence. Doth not therefore this demonstrate, that a broken- hearted man, that a man of a contrite spirit, is of great esteem with God. I have often wondered at David that he should give Joab and the men of war a charge, that they take heed that they carry it tenderly to that young rebel Absalom his son (2 Sam 18:5). But that God, the high God, the God against whom we have sinned, should, so soon as he has smitten, give his Son a command, a charge, a commission to take care of, to bind up and heal the broken in heart; this is that which can never be sufficiently admired or wondered at by men or angels.
And as this was his commission, so he acted; as is evidently set forth by the parable of the man who fell among thieves. He went to him, poured into his wounds wine and oil; he bound him up, took him, set him upon his own beast, had him to an inn, gave the host a charge to look well to him, with money in hand, and a promise at his return to recompence him in what farther he should be expensive while he was under his care (Luke 10:30-35). Behold, therefore, the care of God which he has for the broken in heart; he has given a charge to Christ his Son, to look well to them, and to bind up and heal their wounds. Behold also the faithfulness of Christ, who doth not hide, but read this commission as soon as he entereth upon his ministry, and also falls into the practical part thereof. 'He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds' (Psa 147:3).
And behold again into whose care a broken heart and a contrite spirit hath put this poor creature; he is under the care of God, the care and cure of Christ. If a man was sure that his disease had put him under the special care of the king and the queen, yet could he not be sure of life, he might die under their sovereign hands. Ay, but here is a man in the favour of God, and under the hand of Christ to be healed; under whose hand none yet ever died for want of skill and power in him to save their life; wherefore this man must live; Christ has in commission not only to bind up his wounds, but to heal him. He has of himself so expounded it in reading his commission; wherefore he that has his heart broken, and that is of a contrite spirit, must not only be taken in hand, but healed; healed of his pain, grief, sorrow, sin, and fears of death and hell-fire; wherefore he adds, that he must give unto such 'beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, ' and must 'comfort all that mourn' (Isa 61:2, 3). This, I say, he has in the commission, the broken-hearted are put into his hand, and he has said himself he will heal him. Hence he says of that same man, 'I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners; - and I will heal him' (Isa 57:18, 19). And this is a fifth demonstration.
Sixth. As God prefers such a heart, and so esteems the man that has it; as he desires his company, has provided for him his cordials, and given a charge to Christ to heal him, so he has promised in conclusion to save him. 'He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit, ' or, as the margin has it, that be 'contrite of spirit' (Psa 34:18).
And this is the conclusion of all; for to save a man is the end of all special mercy. 'He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.' To save, is to forgive; for without forgiveness of sins we cannot be saved. To save, is to preserve one in this miserable world, and to deliver one from all those devils, temptations, snares, and destructions that would, were we not kept, were we not preserved of God, destroy us body and soul for ever. To save, is to bring a man body and soul to glory, and to give him an eternal mansion house in heaven, that he may dwell in the presence of this good God, and the Lord Jesus, and to sing to them the songs of his redemption for ever and ever. This it is to be saved; nor can any thing less than this complete the salvation of the sinner. Now, this is to be the lot of him that is of a broken heart, and the end that God will make with him that is of a contrite spirit. 'He saveth such as be contrite of spirit.' He saveth such! This is excellent!
But, do the broken in spirit believe this? Can they imagine that this is to be the end that God has designed them to, and that he intended to make with them in the day in which he began to break their hearts? No, no; they, alas! think quite the contrary. They are afraid that this is but the beginning of death, and a token that they shall never see the face of God with comfort, either in this world or that which is to come. Hence they cry, 'Cast me not away from thy presence'; or, Now I am 'free among the dead whom God remembers no more' (Psa 51:11, 88:4, 5). For indeed there goes to the breaking of the heart a visible appearance of the wrath of God, and a home charge from heaven of the guilt of sin to the conscience. This to reason is very dreadful; for it cuts the soul down to the ground; 'for a wounded spirit who [none] can bear?' (Prov 18:14).
It seems also now to this man, that this is but the beginning of hell; but as it were the first step down to the pit; when, indeed, all these are but the beginnings of love, and but that which makes way for life. The Lord kills before he makes alive; he wounds before his hands make whole. Yea, he does the one in order to, or because he would do the other; he wounds, because his purpose is to heal; 'he maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole' (Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6; Job 5:18). His design, I say, is the salvation of the soul. He scourgeth, he breaketh the heart of every son whom he receiveth, and woe be to him whose heart God breaketh not.
And thus have I proved what at first I asserted, namely, that a spirit rightly broken, an heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing. 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' For this say I, First. This is evident; for that it is better than sacrifices, than all sacrifice. Second. The man that has it is of more esteem with God than heaven or earth. Third. God coveteth such a man for his intimate and house companion. Fourth. He reserveth for them his cordials and spiritual comforts. Fifth. He has given his Son a Charge, a commandment to take care that the broken-hearted be healed; and he is resolved to heal them. Sixth. And concluded, that the broken-hearted, and they that are of a contrite spirit, shall be saved, that is, possessed of the heavens.