Prov. 23:26—My Son, Give Me Thine Heart, etc. (John Owen & Charles Bridges)

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
Greetings,

Below is perhaps my favorite quote from one of my favorite treatises by John Owen.
Below that is an exposition of Proverbs 23:16-18 by Charles Bridges. It had me crying like a baby early this a.m.

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From Owen’s,

The Grace and Duty of being Spiritually minded;
Chapter XI.
The seat of spiritual mindedness in the affections

The great contest of heaven and earth is about the affections of the poor worm which we call man. That the world should contend for them is no wonder; it is the best that it can pretend unto. All things here below are capable of no higher ambition than to be possessed of the affections of men; and, as they lie under the curse, it can do us no greater mischief than by prevailing in this design. But that the holy God should as it were engage in the contest and strive for the affections of man, is an effect of infinite condescension and grace. This he doth expressly: “My son,” saith he, “give me thine heart,Prov. 23:26. It is our affections he asketh for, and comparatively nothing else. To be sure, he will accept of nothing from us without them;

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Charles Bridges

Exposition of
Proverbs 23:16-18

[Hint-- At least read the fourth paragraph. That is the one that really moved me this morning.]

26. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. 27. For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. 28. She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.

Solomon here manifestly rises above himself, and speaks in the name and Person of Divine Wisdom. For who else could claim the gift of the heart—the work of his own hands—the purchase of his own blood? My Son. Such is the relationship which God acknowledges; including every blessing which he can give, and all the obedience that he can claim. No obedience can be without the believing and practical acknowledgment of this relation—My Son—not a stranger—not an enemy—not a slave—but a son; invited to return. An amnesty of the past—a perpetual jubilee of joy—awaits thee at thy Father’s house.

Many are the claimants for the heart. Heaven and hell contend for it. The world with its riches, honors, and pleasures—and science with its more plausible charms—cries—Give me thine heart. Nay, even Satan dares to put in a loud and urgent plea—“If thou wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” (Luke 4:7.) The loving Father calls—My Son, give me thine heart. The answer too often is—‘I have no heart for God. It is engaged to the world. I cannot make up my mind to be religious—at least not yet.’ And so the “darling is given to the lion”—the heart to the murderer. And to him, who alone deserves it—few hearken—and many even of those, only when they have proved to their cost the falsehood and disappointment of all other claimants.

An honor indeed he puts upon his creatures, in condescending to receive as a gift what is his most rightful debt, and what he might at any moment command for himself. But his call wakens his child to recollection and conscious dependence. It is the Father’s striving with his child’s will. It is the test of his child’s obedience. It is a pointed arrow of conviction to his conscience for wilful resistance to his call—the only hindrance to his giving his heart being, that he has already given it to claimants, infinitely unworthy of it. ‘My guilt is damnable’—exclaimed an humbled saint—‘in withholding my heart; because I know and believe his love, and what Christ has done to gain my consent—to what?—my own happiness.’

Indeed happiness is bound up in this gracious command. For what else can ‘fill the aching void’ within, but “the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 5:5) Created objects only seem to widen the chasm. If our appetite is satisfied, it is but for a moment; while every irritation increases the general dissatisfaction. The heart, wilfully remaining at a moral distance from God, can find its home only in a land of shadows. It grasps nothing solidly; while its incessant conflict with conscience, is “the troubled sea, which cannot rest.” (Isa. 57:20, 21) God will never abate one atom of his full requisitions. He asks not for magnificent temples, costly sacrifices, pompous ceremonials, but for the spiritual worship of the heart. (Isa. 66:1, 2, with John 4:23, 24) He demands—not the hands, the feet, the tongue, the ears, but that which is the moving principle of all the members—the heart. Give that. It is all he desires. Withhold it,—Nothing is given. What the heart does not do, in a great measure is not done at all. The cold conformity of a lifeless faith is a dead—not “a living”—not therefore an acceptable “sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1)—not “a reasonable service.” “How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?” (Judg. 16:15).

Never will he dispense with this claim of the love of all our heart. (Matt. 22:37) We must not deal with Him as Lot’s wife, moving slowly forward, while the heart is behind; (Gen. 19:26) or like Orpah, stopping at the very moment that the cross is to borne. (Ruth 1:14) Dream not of dividing the heart with the world. (Matt. 6:24) He loves a broken heart. He spurns a divided throne. Satan will seem to be content with a part; because he knows that, as God will accept nothing less than all, the whole will thus fall to him. It is far beneath the Majesty of heaven to possess any thing less than the throne (Matt. 10:37)—a mean throne at best for the Almighty Sovereign of the universe. But his claims are paramount. And never are we truly our own, till we unreservedly acknowledge ourselves to be his. Indeed all false religions in the world are but vain substitutes for this plain and most happy duty. However plausible the show, if it does not lead the heart to God, it is fearful delusion. Whatever principles, practices, or society, turn our hearts from God—it is the high road of ruin.

And doth he ask his child for his heart? and will he refuse to give it? Does it open immediately to Satan and the world—yea—even before they knock? And is the beseeching Father to be excluded? Are there no “bands of love to draw?” (Hos. 11:4) Out of what rock was it hewn, that it can be proof against the pleadings of Divine parental love? Canst thou not give it him? Surely hadst thou the will, thou wouldst have the power too. If thou hast the faintest will, at least show though but the feeblest effort. Offer it, though but with a trembling hand. His hand will meet thine, and take it of thee. The happiest day of life is now arrived—a day, the recollection of which will never be tinged with one shade of regret.

If thou hast not done it—do it now. If thou hast—do it daily. Thou canst not do it too soon or too often. The command does not hale us (as Saul haled his victims—Acts 8:3) to the service of God. The citadel is not stormed, but it opens its gates. A principle of immortal energy constrains the heart; yet only by “making it willing.” (Psalm 110:3) The reluctancy is melted away, and by the power of love the heart is “compelled to come.” (2 Cor. 5:14; Luke 14:23) What so free as a gift? And never is the will so free, as when it moves towards God. Weak as he is, yet the child can testify, that to give his heart, is his first desire; that he never designs or intends any thing less; that he longs for the consuming of every corruption, which hinders the full surrender. Oh—my God—thy grace alone can enable me—I am ashamed of the gift. Nothing can be more unworthy. But because thou callest for it, it is thine own. Take it as it is. Make it what it is not. Keep it with thyself. Bind it so close to thee with the cords of love, that it may never cast a wishful look away from thee. Had I a thousand hearts, all should be thine. This one thou alone canst fill. Thou alone art worthy of it. Exalt thine own throne in it forever.

And now when the first command is duly regarded, the second will soon follow. The heart once given to God, the eyes will observe his ways. (Prov. 4:23–25) ‘Our heart given, gives all the rest. This makes eyes, ears, tongue and hands, and all to be holy, as God’s peculiar people.’ His word will be our rule; (Pro. 6:23; Ps. 119:9–11, 105) His Providence our interpreter. (Psalm 107:43) The heart—no longer divided, is now at full liberty for the service of God. The eyes, no longer wandering, like “the eyes of a fool, in the ends of the earth (Prov. 17:24.)—are now fixed upon an object supremely worthy, and abundantly satisfying.

Here also is our power of resistance to the gross seductions of the enemy (Prov. 2:10, 11, 16)—“I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot”—I will not—“go back.” (Jud. 11:35. Comp. Gen. 39:9) He hath my heart, and he shall have it. True indeed—so long as we carry about us a body of sin and death, we need a continual supply of “the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body.” (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16) But in our new atmosphere of heavenly light, the mask falls off from the allurements of sin. The strange woman appears frightful as a deep ditch—or what is even more—a narrow pit—with no room to escape from the ruin. (Chap. 22:14; 2:19) Mighty and strong men have fallen into it. The tempter hides the danger, while she lays wait for the prey; and thus she successfully increases the trangressors among men. (Prov 7:4, &c.; 9:13–18) Blessed be God—if, while fleshly lusts “have destroyed their thousands and tens of thousands,” (Prov. 7:26) we have, by giving our heart to its Divine Lord, been enabled to abhor the temptation, and to ascribe to our faithful God the glory of our deliverance.


Bridges, Charles. (1865). An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs (pp. 371–374). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.
 
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