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The Acceptable Sacrifice: Chapter 3 - What a Broken Heart, and a Contrite Spirit Is

By John Bunyan


      I come now in order to show you what a broken heart and what a contrite spirit is. This must be done, because in the discovery of this lies both the comfort of them that have it, and the conviction of them that have it not. Now, that I may do this the better, I must propound and speak to these four things. FIRST. I must show you what an one that heart is that is not broken, that is not contrite. SECOND. I must show you how, or with what the heart is broken and made contrite. THIRD. Show you how, and what it is, when broken and made contrite. And, FOURTH. I shall, last of all, give you some signs of a broken and contrite heart.

      FIRST. For the first of these, to wit, What an one that heart is, that is not a broken, that is not a contrite heart.

      First. The heart, before it is broken, is hard and stubborn, and obstinate against God, and the salvation of the soul (Zech 7:12; Deut 2:30, 9:27).

      Second. It is a heart full of evil imaginations and darkness (Gen 18:12; Rom 1:21).

      Third. It is a heart deceitful and subject to be deceived, especially about the things of an eternal concernment (Isa 44:20; Deut 11:16).

      Fourth. It is a heart that rather gathereth iniquity and vanity to itself than anything that is good for the soul (Psa 41:6, 94:11).

      Fifth. It is an unbelieving heart, and one that will turn away from God to sin (Heb 3:12; Deut 17:17).

      Sixth. It is a heart not prepared for God, being uncircumcised, nor for the reception of his holy word (2 Chron 12:14; Psa 78:8; Acts 7:51).

      Seventh. It is a heart not single, but double; it will pretend to serve God, but will withal lean to the devil and sin (Psa 12:2; Eze 33:31).

      Eighth. It is a heart proud and stout: it loves not to be controlled, though the controller be God himself (Psa 101:5; Prov 16:5; Mal 3:13).

      Ninth. It is a heart that will give place to Satan, but will resist the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3, 7:51).

      Tenth. In a word, 'It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked'; so wicked that none can know it (Jer 17:9).

      That the heart before it is broken is such, and worse than I have described it to be, is sufficiently seen by the whole course of the world. Where is the man whose heart has not been broken, and whose spirit is not contrite, that according to the Word of God deals honestly with his own soul? It is one character of a right heart, that it is sound in God's statutes, and honest (Psa 119:18; Luke 8:15). Now, an honest heart will not put off itself, nor be put off with that which will not go for current money with the merchant; I mean, with that which will not go for saving grace at the day of judgment. But alas! alas! but few men, how honest soever they are to others, have honesty towards themselves; though he is the worst of deceivers who deceiveth his own soul, as James has it, about the things of his own soul (1:22, 26). But,

      SECOND. I now come to show you with what and how the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.

      [First. With what the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.]

      The instrument with which the heart is broken, and with which the spirit is made contrite, is the Word. 'Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord; and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?' (Jer 23:29). The rock, in this text, is the heart, which in another place is compared to an adamant, which adamant is harder than flint (Zech 7:11, 12; Eze 3:9). This rock, this adamant, this stony heart, is broken and made contrite by the Word. But it only is so, when the Word is as a fire, and as a hammer to break and melt it. And then, and then only, it is as a fire, and a hammer to the heart to break it, when it is managed by the arm of God. No man can break the heart with the Word; no angel can break the heart with the Word; that is, if God forbears to second it by mighty power from heaven. This made Balaam go without a heart rightly broken, and truly contrite, though he was rebuked by an angel; and the Pharisees die in their sins, though rebuked for them, and admonished to turn from them, by the Saviour of the world. Wherefore, though the Word is the instrument with which the heart is broken, yet it is not broken with the Word, till that Word is managed by the might and power of God.

      This made the prophet Isaiah, after long preaching, cry out, that he had laboured for nought, and in vain; and this made him cry to God, 'to rend the heavens and come down, ' that the mountains, or rocky hills, or hearts, might be broken, and melt at his presence (Isa 44:4, 64:1, 2). For he found by experience, that as to this no effectual work could be done, unless the Lord put to his hand. This also is often intimated in the Scriptures, where it saith, when the preachers preached effectually to the breaking of men's hearts, 'the Lord wrought with them;[2] the hand of the Lord was with them, ' and the like (Mark 16:20; Acts 11:21).

      Now when the hand of the Lord is with the Word, then it is mighty: it is 'mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds' (2 Cor 10:4). It is sharp, then, as a sword in the soul and spirit; it sticks like an arrow in the hearts of sinners, to the causing of the people to fall at his foot for mercy (Heb 4:12). Then it is, as was said afore, as a fire and as a hammer to break this rock in pieces (Psa 110:3). And hence the Word is made mention of under a double consideration. 1. As it stands by itself. 2. As attended with power from heaven.

      1. As it stands by itself, and is not seconded with saving operation from heaven, it is called the Word only, the Word barely, or as if it was only the word of men (1 Thess 1:5-7; 1 Cor 4:19, 20; 1 Thess 2:13). Because, then, it is only as managed by men, who are not able to make it accomplish that work. The Word of God, when in a man's hand only, is like the father's sword in the hand of the sucking child; which sword, though never so well pointed, and though never so sharp on the edges, is not now able to conquer a foe, and to make an enemy fall and cry out for mercy, because it is but in the hand of the child. But now, let the same sword be put into the hand of a skilful father, and God is both skilful and able to manage his Word, and then the sinner, and then the proud helpers too, are both made to stoop, and submit themselves; wherefore, I say, though the Word be the instrument, yet of itself doth do no saving good to the soul; the heart is not broken, nor the spirit made contrite thereby; it only worketh death, and leaveth men in the chains of their sins, still faster bound over to eternal condemnation (2 Cor 2:15, 16).

      2. But when seconded by mighty power, then the same Word is as the roaring of a lion, as the piercing of a sword, as a burning fire in the bones, as thunder and as a hammer that dashes all to pieces (Jer 25:30; Amos 1:2, 3:8; Acts 2:37; Jer 20:9; Psa 29:3-9). Wherefore, from hence it is to be concluded, that whoever has heard the Word preached, and has not heard the voice of the living God therein, has not as yet had their hearts broken, nor their spirits made contrite for their sins.

      [Second. How the heart is broken, and the spirit made contrite.]

      And this leads me to the second thing, to wit, To show how the heart is broken and the spirit made contrite by the Word, and verily it is when the Word comes home with power. But yet this is but general; wherefore, more particularly,

      1. Then the Word works effectually to this purpose, when it findeth out the sinner and his sin, and shall convince him that it has found him out. Thus it was with our first father; when he had sinned, he sought to hide himself from God; he gets among the trees of the garden, and there he shrouds himself; but yet, not thinking himself secure, he covers himself with fig-leaves; and now he lieth quiet. Now God shall not find me, thinks he, nor know what I have done. But lo! by and by, he 'hears the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.' And now, Adam, what do you mean to do? Why, as yet, he skulketh, and hides his head, and seeks yet to lie undiscovered; but behold, the voice cries out, ADAM! and now he begins to tremble. 'Adam, where art thou?' says God; and now Adam is made to answer (Gen 3:7-11). But the voice of the Lord God doth not leave him here: no, it now begins to search, and to inquire after his doings, and to unravel what he had wrapt together and covered, until it made him bare and naked in his own sight before the face of God. Thus, therefore, doth the Word, when managed by the arm of God. It findeth out, it singleth out the sinner; the sinner finds it so; it finds out the sins of the sinner; it unravels his whole life, it strips him and lays him naked in his own sight before the face of God; neither can the sinner nor his wickedness be longer hid and covered; and now begins the sinner to see what he never saw before.

      2. Another instance for this is David, the man of our text. He sins, he sins grossly, he sins and hides it; yea, and seeks to hide it from the face of God and man. Well, Nathan is sent to preach a preaching to him, and that in common, and that in special: in common, by a parable; in special, by a particular application of it to him. While Nathan only preached in common, or in general, David was fish- whole, [3] and stood as right in his own eyes as if he had been as innocent and as harmless as any man alive. But God had a love for David; and therefore commands his servant Nathan to go home, not only to David's ears, but to David's conscience. Well, David now must fall. Says Nathan, 'Thou art the man'; says David, 'I have sinned, ' and then his heart was broken, and his spirit made contrite; as this psalm and our text doth show (2 Sam 12:1-13).

      3. A third instance is that of Saul; he had heard many a sermon, and was become a great professor, yea, he was more zealous than were many of his equals; but his heart was never broken, nor his spirit ever made contrite, till he heard one preach from heaven, till he heard God, in the Word of God, making inquiry after his sins: 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' says Jesus; and then he can stand no longer: for then his heart brake, then he falls to the ground, then he trembles, then he cries out, 'Who art thou, Lord?' and, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9). Wherefore, as I said, Then the word works effectually to this purpose, when it findeth out the sinner and his sin, and also when it shall convince him that it has found him out. Only I must join here a caution, for every operation of the Word upon the conscience is not saving; nor doth all conviction end in the saving conversion of the sinner. It is then only such an operation of the Word that is intended, namely, that shows the sinner not only the evil of his ways, but brings the heart unfeignedly over to God by Christ. And this brings me to the third thing.

      THIRD. I am therefore come to show you how and what the heart is when broken and made contrite. And this I must do, by opening unto you the two chief expressions in the text. First. What is meant by this word broken. Second. What is meant by this word contrite.

      First. For this word broken, Tindal renders it a troubled heart;[4] but I think there is more in it. I take it, therefore, to be a heart disabled, as to former actions, even as a man whose bones are broken is disabled, as to his way of running, leaping, wrestling, or ought else, which vainly he was wont to do; wherefore, that which was called a broken heart in the text, he calls his broken bones, in verse the eighth: 'Cause me, ' saith he, 'to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice' (Psa 51:8). And why is the breaking of the heart compared to the breaking of the bones? but because as when the bones are broken, the outward man is disabled as to what it was wont to do; so when the spirit is broken, the inward man is disabled as to what vanity and folly it before delighted in; hence, feebleness is joined with this brokenness of heart. 'I am feeble, ' saith he, 'and sore broken' (Psa 38:8). I have lost my strength and former vigour, as to vain and sinful courses.

      This, then, it is to have the heart broken; namely, to have it lamed, disabled, and taken off by sense of God's wrath due to sin, from that course of life it formerly was conversant in; and to show that this work is no fancy, nor done but with great trouble to the soul, it is compared to the putting the bones out of joint, the breaking of the bones, the burning of the bones with fire, or as the taking the natural moisture from the bones, the vexing of the bones, &c. (Psa 23:14; Jer 20:9; Lam 1:13; Psa 6:2; Prov 17:22). All which are expressions adorned with such similitudes, as do undeniably declare that to sense and feeling a broken heart is a grievous thing.

      Second. What is meant by the word contrite. A contrite spirit is a penitent one; one sorely grieved, and deeply sorrowful, for the sins it has committed against God, and to the damage of the soul; and so it is to be taken in all those places where a contrite spirit is made mention of; as in Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2.

      As a man that has by his folly procured a broken leg or arm, is heartily sorry that ever he was so foolish as to be engaged in such foolish ways of idleness and vanity; so he whose heart is broken with a sense of God's wrath due to his sin, hath deep sorrow in his soul, and is greatly repentant that ever he should be such a fool, as by rebellious doings to bring himself and his soul to so much sharp affliction. Hence, while others are sporting themselves in vanity, such a one doth call his sin his greatest folly. 'My wounds stink, and are corrupt, ' saith David, 'because of my foolishness.' And again, 'O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee' (Psa 38:5, 69:5).

      Men, whatever they say with their lips, cannot conclude, if yet their hearts want breaking, that sin is a foolish thing. Hence it says, 'The foolishness of fools is folly' (Prov 14:24). That is, the foolishness of some men, is that they take pleasure in their sins; for their sins are their foolishness, and the folly of their soul lies in their countenancing of this foolishness. But the man whose heart is broken, he is none of these, he cannot be one of these, no more than he that has his bones broken can rejoice that he is desired to play a match at football. Hence, to hear others talk foolishly, is to the grief of those whom God has wounded: or, as it is in another place, their words are 'like the piercings of a sword' (Psa 69:26; Prov 12:18). This, therefore, I take to be the meaning of these two words, a broken and a contrite spirit.

      FOURTH. Lastly, As to this, I now come more particularly to give you some signs of a broken heart, of a broken and a contrite spirit.

      First. A broken-hearted man, such as is intended in the text, is a sensible man; he is brought to the exercise of all the senses of his soul. All others are dead, senseless, and without true feeling of what the broken-hearted man is sensible of.

      1. He sees himself to be what others are ignorant of; that is, he sees himself to be not only a sinful man, but a man by nature in the gall and bond of sin. In the gall of sin: it is Peter's expression to Simon, and it is a saying common to all men: for every man in a state of nature is in the gall of sin; he was shapen in it, conceived in it; it has also possession of, and by that possession infected the whole of his soul and body (Psa 51:5; Acts 8:23). This he sees, this he understands; every professor sees not this, because the blessing of a broken heart is not bestowed on every one. David says, 'There is no soundness in my flesh'; and Solomon suggest that a plague or running sore is in the very heart. But every one perceives not this (Psa 38:3; 1 Kings 8:38). He saith again, that his 'wounds stank, and were corrupted': that his 'sore ran, and ceased not' (Psa 38:5, 77:2). But these things the brutish man, the man whose heart was never broken, has no understanding of. But the broken-hearted, the man that has a broken spirit, he sees, as the prophet has it, he sees his sickness, he sees his wound: 'When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound'; he sees it to his grief, he sees it to his sorrow (Hosea 5:13).

      2. He feels what others have no sense of; he feels the arrows of the Almighty, and that they stick fast in him (Psa 38:2). He feels how sore and sick, by the smiting of God's hammer upon his heart to break it, his poor soul is made. He feels a burden intolerably lying upon his spirit (Hosea 5:13). 'Mine iniquities, ' saith he, 'are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me' (Psa 38:4). He feels also the heavy hand of God upon his soul, a thing unknown to carnal men. He feels pain, being wounded, even such pain as others cannot understand, because they are not broken. 'My heart, ' saith David, 'is sore pained within me.' Why so? Why! 'The terrors of death are fallen upon me' (Psa 55:4). The terrors of death cause pain, yea, pain of the highest nature; hence that which is here called pains, is in another place called pangs (Isa 21:3).

      You know broken bones occasion pain, strong pain, yea, pain that will make a man or woman groan 'with the groanings of a deadly wounded man' (Eze 30:24). Soul pain is the sorest pain, in comparison to which the pain of the body is a very tolerable thing (Prov 18:14). Now here is soul pain, here is heart pain; here we are discoursing of a wounded, of a broken spirit; wherefore this is pain to be felt to the sinking of the whole man, neither can any support this but God. Here is death in this pain, death for ever, without God's special mercy. This pain will bring the soul to, and this the broken-hearted man doth feel. 'The sorrows of death, ' saith David, 'compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me, I found trouble and sorrow' (Psa 116:3). Ay, I'll warrant thee, poor man, thou foundest trouble and sorrow indeed; for the pains of hell and sorrows of death are pains and sorrow the most intolerable. But this the man is acquainted with that has his heart broken.[5]

      3. As he sees and feels, so he hears that which augments his woe and sorrow. You know, if a man has his bones broken, he does not only see and feel, but oft-times also hears what increases his grief; as, that his wounds are incurable; that his bone is not rightly set; that there is danger of a gangrene; that he may be lost for want of looking to. These are the voices, the sayings, that haunt the house of one that has his bones broken. And a broken-hearted man knows what I mean by this; he hears that which makes his lips quiver, and at the noise of which he seems to feel rottenness enter into his bones; he trembleth in himself, and wishes that he may hear joy and gladness, that the bones, the heart, and spirit, which God has broken, may rejoice (Habb 3:16; Psa 51:8). He thinks he hears God say, the devil say, his conscience say, and all good men to whisper among themselves, saying, there is no help for him from God. Job heard this, David heard this, Heman heard this; and this is the common sound in the ears of the broken- hearted.

      4. The broken-hearted smell what others cannot scent. Alas! sin never smelled so to any man alive as it smells to the broken-hearted. You know wounds will stink: but [there is] no stink like that of sin to the broken-hearted man. His own sins stink, and so doth the sins of all the world to him. Sin is like carrion; it is of a stinking nature; yea, it has the worst of smells; however, some men like it (Psa 38:5). But none are offended with the scent thereof but God and the broken-hearted sinner. 'My wounds stink, and are corrupt, ' saith he, both in God's nostrils and mine own. But, alas! who smells the stink of sin? None of the carnal world; they, like carrion-crows, seek it, love it, and eat it as the child eats bread. 'They eat up the sin of my people, ' saith God, 'and they set their heart on their iniquity' (Hosea 4:8). This, I say, they do, because they do not smell the nauseous scent of sin. You know, that what is nauseous to the smell cannot be palatable to the taste. The broken-hearted man doth find that sin is nauseous, and therefore cries out it stinketh. They also think at times the smell of fire, of fire and brimstone, is upon them, they are so sensible of the wages due to sin.

      5. The broken-hearted is also a tasting man. Wounds, if sore, and full of pains, of great pains, do sometimes alter the taste of a man; they make him think his meat, his drink, yea, that cordials have a bitter taste in them. How many times doth the poor people of God, that are the only men that know what a broken-heart doth mean, cry out that gravel, wormwood, gall, and vinegar, was made their meat (Lam 3:15, 16, 19). This gravel, gall, and wormwood, is the true temporal taste of sin; and God, to make them loathe it for ever, doth feed them with it till their hearts both ache and break therewith. Wickedness is pleasant of taste to the world; hence it is said they feed on ashes, they feed on the wind (Isa 44:20; Hosea 12:1). Lusts, or any thing that is vile and refuse, the carnal world think relishes well; as is set out most notably in the parable of the prodigal son. 'He would fain have filled his belly, ' saith our Lord, 'with the husks that the swine did eat' (Luke 15:16). But the broken- hearted man has a relish that is true as to these things, though, by reason of the anguish of his soul, it abhors all manner of dainty meat (Job 33:19, 20; Psa 107:17-19). Thus I have showed you one sign of a broken-hearted man; he is a sensible man, he has all the senses of his soul awakened, he can see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and that as none but himself can do. I come now to another sign of a broken and contrite man.

      Second. And that is, he is a very sorrowful man. This, as the other, is natural; it is natural to one that is in pain, and that has his bones broken, to be a grieved and sorrowful man. He is none of the jolly ones of the times; nor can he, for his bones, his heart, his heart is broken.

      1. He is sorry for that he feels and finds in himself a pravity of nature; I told you before he is sensible of it, he sees it, he feels it; and here I say he is sorry for it. It is this that makes him call himself a wretched man; it is this that makes him loathe and abhor himself; it is this that makes him blush, blush before God and be ashamed (Rom 7:24; Job 42:5, 6; Eze 36:31). He finds by nature no form nor comeliness in himself, but the more he looks in the glass of the Word, the more unhandsome, the more deformed he perceiveth sin has made him. Every body sees not this, therefore every body is not sorry for it; but the broken in heart sees that he is by sin corrupted, marred, full of lewdness and naughtiness; he sees that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing; and this makes him sorry, yea, it makes him sorry at heart. A man that has his bones broken finds he is spoiled, marred, disabled from doing as he would and should, at which he is grieved and made sorry.

      Many are sorry for actual transgressions, because they do oft bring them to shame before men; but few are sorry for the defects that sin has made in nature, because they see not those defects themselves. A man cannot be sorry for the sinful defects of nature, till he sees they have rendered him contemptible to God; nor is it any thing but a sight of God that can make him truly see what he is, and so be heartily sorry for being so. Now 'mine eye seeth thee, ' saith Job, now 'I abhor myself.' 'Woe is me, for I am undone, ' saith the prophet, 'for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord.' And it was this that made Daniel say his 'comeliness was turned in him into corruption'; for he had now the vision of the Holy One (Job 42:6; Isa 6:1-5; Dan 10:8). Visions of God break the heart, because, by the sight the soul then has of his perfections, it sees its own infinite and unspeakable disproportion, because of the vileness of its nature.

      Suppose a company of ugly, uncomely, deformed persons dwelt together in one house; and suppose that they never yet saw any man or woman more than themselves, or that were arrayed with the splendours and perfections of nature; these would not be capable of comparing themselves with any but themselves, and consequently would not be affected and made sorry for their uncomely natural defections. But now bring them out of their cells and holes of darkness, where they have been shut up by themselves, and let them take a view of the splendour and perfections of beauty that are in others, and then, if at all, they will be sorry and dejected at the view of their own defects. This is the case; men by sin are marred, spoiled, corrupted, depraved, but they may dwell by themselves in the dark; they see neither God, nor angels, nor saints, in their excellent nature and beauty: and therefore they are apt to count their own uncomely parts their ornaments and their glory. But now let such, as I said, see God, see saints, or the ornaments of the Holy Ghost, and themselves as they are without them, and then they cannot but must be affected with and sorry for their own deformity. When the Lord Christ put forth but little of his excellency before his servant Peter's face, it raised up the depravity of Peter's nature before him to his great confusion and shame; and made him cry out to him in the midst of all his fellows, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Luke 5:4- 8).

      This therefore is the cause of a broken heart, even a sight of divine excellencies, and a sense that I am a poor, depraved, spoiled defiled wretch; and this sight having broken the heart, begets sorrow in the broken-hearted.

      2. The broken-hearted is a sorrowful man; for that he finds his depravity of nature strong in him, to the putting forth itself to oppose and overthrow what his changed mind doth prompt him to; 'When I would do good, ' saith Paul, 'evil is present with me' (Rom 7:21). Evil is present to oppose, to resist, and make head against the desires of my soul. The man that has his bones broken, may have yet a mind to be industriously occupied in a lawful and honest calling; but he finds, by experience, that an infirmity attends his present condition that strongly resists his good endeavours; and at this he shakes his head, makes complaints, and with sorrow of heart he sighs and says, I 'cannot do the thing that I would' (Rom 7:15; Gal 5:17). I am weak, I am feeble; I am not only depraved, but by that depravity deprived of ability to put good motions, [6] good intentions and desires into execution, to completeness; O says he, I am ready to halt, my sorrow is continually before me!

      You must know that the broken-hearted loves God, loves his soul, loves good, and hates evil. Now, for such an one to find in himself an opposition and continual contradiction to this holy passion, it must needs cause sorrow, godly sorrow, as the apostle Paul calls it. For such are made sorrow after a godly sort. To be sorry for that thy nature is with sin depraved, and that through this depravity thou art deprived of ability to do what the Word and thy holy mind doth prompt thee to, is to be sorry after a godly sort. For this sorrow worketh that in thee of which thou wilt never have cause to repent; no, not to eternity (2 Cor 7:9-11).

      3. The broken-hearted man is sorry for those breaches that, by reason of the depravity of his nature, are made in his life and conversation. And this was the case of the man in our text. The vileness of his nature had broken out to the defiling of his life, and to the making of him, at this time, base in conversation. This, this was it, that all to[7] brake his heart. He saw in this he had dishonoured God, and that cut him, 'Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight' (Psa 51:4). He saw in this he had caused the enemies of God to open their mouths and blaspheme; and this cut him to the heart. This made him cry, I have sinned against thee, Lord. This made him say, 'I will declare mine iniquity, I will be sorry for my sin' (Psa 38:18).

      When a man is designed to do a matter, when his heart is set upon it, and the broken-hearted doth design to glorify God, an obstruction to that design, the spoiling of this work, makes him sorrowful. Hannah coveted children, but could not have them, and this made her 'a woman of a sorrowful spirit' (1 Sam 1:15). A broken-hearted man would be well inwardly, and do that which is well outwardly; but he feels, he finds, he sees he is prevented, prevented at least in part. This makes him sorrowful; in this he groans, groans earnestly, being burdened with his imperfections (2 Cor 5:1-3). You know one with broken bones has imperfections many, and is more sensible of them, too, as was said afore, than any other man; and this makes him sorrowful, yea, and makes him conclude that he shall go softly all his days in the bitterness of his soul (Isa 38:15).

      Third. The man with a broken heart is a very humble man; or, true humility is a sign of a broken heart. Hence, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, and humbleness of mind, are put together. 'To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (Isa 57:15).

      To follow our similitude. Suppose a man, while in bodily health, stout and strong, and one that fears and cares for no man; yet let this man have but a leg or an arm broken, and his courage is quelled; he is now so far off from hectoring of it with a man, that he is afraid of every little child that doth but offer to touch him. Now he will court the most feeble that has ought to do with him, to use him and handle him gently. Now he is become a child in courage, a child in fear, and humbleth himself as a little child.

      Why, thus it is with that man that is of a broken and contrite spirit. Time was, indeed, he could hector, even hector it with God himself, saying, 'What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?' or what profit shall I have if I keep his commandments? (Job 21:15; Mal 3:13, 14). Ay! But now his heart is broken; God has wrestled with him, and given him a fall, to the breaking of his bones, his heart; and now he crouches, now he cringes, now he begs of God that he will not only do him good, but do it with tender hands. 'Have mercy upon me, O God, ' said David; yea, 'according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions' (Psa 51:1).

      He stands, as he sees, not only in need of mercy, but of the tenderest mercies. God has several sorts of mercies, some more rough, some more tender. God can save a man, and yet have him a dreadful way to heaven! This the broken- hearted sees, and this the broken-hearted dreads, and therefore pleads for the tenderest sort of mercies; and here we read of his gentle dealing, and that he is very pitiful, and that he deals tenderly with his. But the reason of such expressions no man knows but he that is broken-hearted; he has his sores, his running sores, his stinking sores; wherefore he is pained, and therefore covets to be handled tenderly. Thus God has broken the pride of his spirit, and humbled the loftiness of man. And his humility yet appears,

      1. In his thankfulness for natural life. He reckoneth at night, when he goes to bed, that like as a lion, so God will tear him to pieces before the morning light (Isa 38:13). There is no judgment that has fallen upon others, but he counts of right he should be swallowed up by it. 'My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments' (Psa 119:120). But perceiving a day added to his life, and that he in the morning is still on this side hell, he cannot choose but take notice of it, and acknowledge it as a special favour, saying, God be thanked for holding my soul in life till now, and for keeping my life back from the destroyer (Job 33:22; Psa 56:13, 86:13).

      Man, before his heart is broken, counts time his own, and therefore he spends it lavishly upon every idle thing. His soul is far from fear, because the rod of God is not upon him; but when he sees himself under the wounding hand of God, or when God, like a lion, is breaking all his bones, then he humbleth himself before him, and falleth at his foot. Now he has learned to count every moment a mercy, and every small morsel a mercy.

      2. Now also the least hopes of mercy for his soul, O how precious is it! He that was wont to make orts[8] of the gospel, and that valued promises but as stubble, and the words of God but as rotten wood; now, with what an eye doth he look on the promise? Yea, he counted a peradventure of mercy more rich, more worth, than the whole world. Now, as we say, he is glad to leap at a crust; now, to be a dog in God's house is counted better by him than to 'dwell in the tents of the wicked' (Matt 15:16, 27; Luke 15:17-19).

      3. Now he that was wont to look scornfully upon the people of God, yea, that used to scorn to show them a gentle cast of his countenance; now he admires and bows before them, and is ready to lick the dust of their feet, and would count it his greatest, the highest honour, to be as one of the least of them. 'Make me as one of thy hired servants, ' says he (Luke 15:19).

      4. Now he is, in his own eyes, the greatest fool in nature; for that he sees he has been so mistaken in his ways, and has not yet but little, if any true knowledge of God. Every one now, says he, have more knowledge of God than I; every one serves him better than I (Psa 73:21, 22; Prov 30:2, 3).

      5. Now may he be but one, though the least in the kingdom of heaven! Now may he be but one, though the least in the church on earth! Now may he be but loved, though the least beloved of saints! How high an account doth he set thereon!

      6. Now, when he talketh with God or men, how doth he debase himself before them! If with God, how does he accuse himself, and load himself with the acknowledgments of his own villanies, which he committed in the days wherein he was the enemy of God! 'Lord, ' said Paul, that contrite one, 'I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him' (Acts 22:19, 20). Yea, I punished thy saints 'oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities' (Acts 26:9-11).

      Also, when he comes to speak to saints, how doth he make himself vile before them! 'I am, ' saith he, 'the least of the apostles; that am not meet to be called an apostle'; I am 'less than the least of all saints'; I was a blasphemer; I was a persecutor, and injurious, &c. (1 Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8; 1 Tim 1:13). What humility, what self-abasing thoughts, doth a broken heart produce! When David danced before the ark of God, also how did he discover his nakedness to the disliking of his wife; and when she taunted him for his doings, says he, 'It was before the Lord, ' &c., 'and I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight' (2 Sam 6:20-22). O, the man that is, or that has been kindly broken in his spirit, and that is of a contrite heart, is a lowly, humble man.

      Fourth. The broken-hearted man is a man that sees himself in spirituals to be poor. Therefore, as humble and contrite, so poor and contrite are put together in the Word. 'But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit' (Isa 66:1, 2). And here we still pursue our metaphor. A wounded man, a man with broken bones, concludes his condition to be but poor, very poor. Ask him how he does, and he answers, 'Truly, neighbours, in a very poor condition!' Also you have the spiritual poverty of such as have, or have had their hearts broken, and that have been of contrite spirits, much made mention of in the Word. And they go by two names to distinguish them from others. They are called THY poor, that is, God's poor; they are also called 'the poor in spirit' (Psa 72:2, 74:19; Matt 5:3). Now, the man that is poor in his own eyes, for of him we now discourse, and the broken-hearted is such an one, is sensible of his wants. He knows he cannot help himself, and therefore is forced to be content to live by the charity of others. Thus it is in nature, thus it is in grace.

      1. The broken-hearted now knows his wants, and he knew it not till now. As he that has a broken bone, knew no want of a bone-setter till he knew his bone was broken. His broken bone makes him know it; his pain and anguish makes him know it; and thus it is in spirituals. Now he sees to be poor indeed is to want the sense of the favour of God; for his great pain is a sense of wrath, as hath been shown before. And the voice of joy would heal his broken bones (Psa 51:8). Two things he thinks would make him rich. (1) A right and title to Jesus Christ, and all his benefits. (2) And saving faith therein. They that are spiritually rich are rich in him, and in the faith of him (2 Cor 8:9; James 2:5).

      The first of these giveth us a right to the kingdom of heaven; and the second yields the soul the comfort of it; and the broken-hearted man wants the sense and knowledge of his interest in these. That he knows he wants them is plain; but that he knows he has them is what, as yet, he wants the attainment of. Hence he says, 'The poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst' (Isa 41:17). There is none in their view; none in their view for them. Hence David, when he had his broken heart, felt he wanted washing, he wanted purging, he wanted to be made white. He knew that spiritual riches lay there but he did not so well perceive that God had washed and purged him. Yea, he rather was afraid that all was going, that he was in danger of being cast out of God's presence, and that the Spirit of grace would be utterly taken from him (Psa 51). That is the first thing. The broken- hearted is poor, because he knows his wants.

      2. The broken-hearted is poor, because he knows he cannot help himself to what he knows he wants. The man that has a broken arm, as he knows it, so he knows of himself he cannot set it. This therefore is a second thing that declares a man is poor, otherwise he is not so. For suppose a man wants never so much, yet if he can but help himself, if he can furnish himself, if he can supply his own wants out of what he has, he cannot be a poor man. Yea, the more he wants, the greater are his riches, if he can supply his own wants out of his own purse.

      He then is the poor man, that knows his spiritual want, and also knows he cannot supply or help himself. But this the broken-hearted knows, therefore he in his own eyes is the only poor man. True, he may have something of his own, but that will not supply his want, and therefore he is a poor man still. I have sacrifices, says David, but thou dosts not desire them, therefore my poverty remains (Psa 51:16). Lead is not gold, lead is not current money with the merchants. There is none has spiritual gold to sell but Christ (Rev 3:18). What can a man do to procure Christ, or procure faith, or love? Yea, had he never so much of his own carnal excellencies, no, not one penny of it will go for pay in that market where grace is to be hand. 'If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned' (Can 8:7).

      This the broken-hearted man perceives, and therefore he sees himself to be spiritually poor. True he has a broken heart, and that is of great esteem with God; but that is not of nature's goodness, that is a gift, a work of God; and that is the sacrifices of God. Besides, a man cannot remain content and at rest with that; for that, in the nature of it, does but show him he is poor, and that his wants are such as himself cannot supply. Besides, there is but little ease in a broken heart.

      3. The broken-hearted man is poor, and sees it; because he finds he is now disabled to live any way else but by begging. This David betook himself to, though he was a king; for he knew, as to his soul's health, he could live no way else. 'This poor man cried, ' saith he, 'and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles' (Psa 34:6). And this leads me to the fifth sign.

      Fifth. Another sign of a broken heart is a crying, a crying out. Pain, you know, will make one cry. Go to them that have upon them the anguish of broken bones, and see if they do not cry; anguish makes them cry. This, this is that which quickly follows, if once thy heart be broken, and thy spirit indeed made contrite.

      1. I say, anguish will make thee cry. 'Trouble and anguish, ' saith David, 'have taken hold on me' (Psa 119:143). Anguish, you know, doth naturally provoke to crying; now, as a broken bone has anguish, a broken heart has anguish. Hence the pains of one that has a broken heart are compared to the pangs of a woman in travail (John 16:20- 22).

      Anguish will make one cry alone, cry to one's self; and this is called a bemoaning of one's self. 'I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, ' saith God (Jer 31:18). That is, being at present under the breaking, chastising hand of God. 'Thou hast chastised me, ' saith he, 'and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.' This is his meaning also who said, 'I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.' And why? Why, 'My heart is sore pained within me' (Psa 4:2-4).

      This is a self-bemoaning, a bemoaning themselves in secret and retired places. You know it is common with them who are distressed with anguish, though all alone, to cry out to themselves of their present pains, saying, O my leg! O my arm! O my bowels! Or, as the son of the Shunammite, 'My head! my head!' (2 Kings 4:19). O the groans, the sighs, the cries, that the broken-hearted have, when by themselves, or alone! O, say they, my sins! my sins! my soul! my soul! How am I loaden with guilt! How am I surrounded with fear! O this hard, this desperate, this unbelieving heart! O how sin defileth my will, my mind, my conscience! 'I am afflicted and ready to die' (Psa 88:15).[9]

      Could some of you carnal people but get behind the chamber-door, to hear Ephraim when he is at the work of self-bemoaning, it would make you stand amazed to hear him bewail that sin in himself in which you take delight; and to hear him bemoan his misspending of time, while you spend all in pursuing your filthy lusts; and to hear him offended with his heart, because it will not better comply with God's holy will, while you are afraid of his Word and ways, and never think yourselves better than when farthest off from God. The unruliness of the passions and lusts of the broken-hearted make them often get into a corner, and thus bemoan themselves.

      2. As they thus cry out in a bemoaning manner of and to themselves, so they have their outcries of and against themselves to others; as she said in another case, 'Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow' (Lam 1:12). O the bitter cries and complaints that the broken- hearted have, and make to one another! Still every one imagining that his own wounds are deepest, and his own sores fullest of anguish, and hardest to be cured. Say they, if our iniquities be upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live? (Eze 33:10).

      Once being at an honest woman's house, I, after some pause, asked her how she did? She said, Very badly. I asked her if she was sick? she answered, No. What then, said I, are any of your children ill? She told me, No. What, said I, is your husband amiss, or do you go back in the world? No, no, said she, but I am afraid I shall not be saved. And broke out with heavy heart, saying, 'Ah, Goodman Bunyan! Christ and a pitcher; if I had Christ, though I went and begged my bread with a pitcher, it would be better with me than I think it is now!' This woman had her heart broken, this woman wanted Christ, this woman was concerned for her soul. There are but few women, rich women, that count Christ and a pitcher better than the world, their pride, and pleasures. This woman's cries are worthy to be recorded; it was a cry that carried in it, not only a sense of the want, but also of the worth of Christ. This cry, 'Christ and a pitcher, ' made a melodious noise in the ears of the very angels![10]

      But, I say, few women cry out thus; few women are so in love with their own eternal salvation, as to be willing to part with all their lusts and vanities for Jesus Christ and a pitcher. Good Jacob also was thus: 'If the Lord, ' said he, 'will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then he shall be my God.' Yea, he vowed it should be so. 'And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; so that I come again to my father's house in peace: then shall the Lord be my God' (Gen 28:20).

      3. As they bemoan themselves, and make their complaints to one and another, so they cry to God. 'O God, ' said Heman, 'I have cried day and night before thee.' But when? Why, when his soul was full of trouble, and his life drew near to the grave (Psa 88:1-3). Or, as it says in another place, out of the deep, 'out of the belly of hell cried I' (Psa 130:1; Jonah 2:2). By such words expressing what painful condition they were in when they cried.

      See how God himself words it. 'My pleasant portion, ' says he, is become 'a desolate wilderness, and being desolate, it mourneth unto me' (Jer 12:11). And this also is natural to those whose hearts are broken. Whether goes the child, when it catcheth harm, but to its father, to its mother? Where doth it lay its head, but in their laps? Into whose bosom doth it pour out its complaint, more especially, but into the bosom of the father, of a mother, because there are bowels, there is pity, there is relief and succour? And thus it is with them whose bones, whose hearts are broken. It is natural to them; they must cry; they cannot but cry to him. 'Lord, heal me, ' said David, 'for my bones are vexed; Lord, heal me, for my soul is also sore vexed' (Psa 6:1-3). He that cannot cry feels no pain, sees no want, fears no danger, or else is dead.

      Sixth. Another sign of a broken heart, and of a contrite spirit is, it trembleth at God's Word. 'To him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word' (Isa 66:2).

      The Word of God is an awful Word to a broken-hearted man. Solomon says, 'The word of a king is as the roaring of a lion'; and if so, what is the Word of God? for by the wrath and fear is meant the authoritative word of a king. We have a proverb, 'The burnt child dreads the fire, the whipped child fears the rod'; even so the broken-hearted fears the Word of God. Hence you have a remark set upon them that tremble at God's Word, to wit, they are they that keep among the godly; they are they that keep within compass; they are they that are aptest to mourn, and to stand in the gap, when God is angry; and to turn away his wrath from a people.

      It is a sign the Word of God has had place, and wrought powerfully, when the heart trembleth at it, is afraid, and stands in awe of it. When Joseph's mistress tempted him to lie with her, he was afraid of the Word of God. 'How then can I do this great wickedness, ' said he, 'and sin against God?' He stood in awe of God's Word, durst not do it, because he kept in remembrance what a dreadful thing it was to rebel against God's Word. When old Eli heard that the ark was taken, his very heart trembled within him; for he read by that sad loss that God was angry with Israel, and he knew the anger of God was a great and terrible thing. When Samuel went to Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled; for they feared that he came to them with some sad message from God, and they had had experience of the dread of such things before (Gen 39:7-9; 1 Sam 4:13, 16:1- 4). When Ezra would have a mourning in Israel for the sins of the land, he sent, and there came to him 'every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgressions of those that had been carried away' (Ezra 9:4).

      There are, I say, a sort of people that tremble at the words of God, and that are afraid of doing ought that is contrary to them; but they are only such with whose souls and spirits the Word has had to do. For the rest, they are resolved to go on their course, let God say what he will. 'As for the word' of the Lord, said rebellious Israel to Jeremiah, 'that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth' (Jer 44:16). But do you think that these people did ever feel the power and majesty of the Word of God to break their hearts? No, verily; had that been so, they would have trembled at the words of God; they would have been afraid of the words of God. God may command some people what he will, they will do what they list. What care they for God? what care they for his Word? Neither threats nor promises, neither punishments or favours will make them obedient to the Word of God; and all because they have not felt the power of it, their hearts have not been broken with it. When king Josias did but read in God's Book what punishment God had threatened against rebellious Israel, though he himself was a holy and good man, he humbled himself, 'he rent his clothes, ' and wept before the Lord, and was afraid of the judgment threatened (2 Kings 22; 2 Chron 34). For he knew what a dreadful thing the Word of God is. Some men, as I said before, dare do anything, let the Word of God be never so much against it; but they that tremble at the Word dare not do so. No, they must make the Word their rule for all they do; they must go to the Holy Bible, and there inquire what may or may not be done; for they tremble at the Word. This then is another sign, a true sign, that the heart has been broken, namely, 'When the heart is made afraid of, and trembleth at the Word' (Acts 9:4-6, 16:29, 30). Trembling at the Word is caused by a belief of what is deserved, threatened, and of what will come, if not prevented by repentance; and therefore the heart melts, and breaks before the Lord.

      FOOTNOTES:

      [2] This quotation is from the Genevan or Puritan version of the Bible., Ed.

      [3]. 'Fish-whole' is a very striking and expressive term, highly illustrative of the feelings and position of David when he was accosted by the prophet. The word 'whole' is from the Saxon, which language abounded in Bunyan's native county of Bedford, first introduced by an ancient colony of Saxons, who had settled there. It means hale, hearty, free from disease, as a fish is happy in its native element, 'They that are WHOLE, need not a physician, but they that are sick, ' Luke 5:31. David had no smitings of conscience for his cruelty and enormous guilt; he was like a 'fish whole, ' in the full enjoyment of every providential blessing; while, spiritually, he was dead in sin. God loved and pitied him, and sent a cunning angler. Nathan the prophet there in the bait, which David eagerly seized; the hook entered his conscience, and he became as a fish wounded, and nigh unto death., Ed.

      [4] The words of Tindal are, 'The sacrifice of God is a troubled sprete, a broken and a contrite hert, O God, shalt thou not despise.' The same Hebrew word occurs in the original, both as to the spirit and the heart. Bunyan is quite right in preferring our authorised version of this verse. Coverdale, Tindal, Taverner, and Cranmer, all agree. The Genevan uses 'a contrite spirit, ' and the Bishops 'a mortified spirit.', Ed.

      [5] No one could speak more feelingly upon this subject than our author. He had been in deep waters, in soul- harrowing fear, while his heart, hard by nature, was under the hammer of the Word., 'My soul was like a broken vessel. O, the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors, that are affected by a thorough application of guilt, yielded to desperation!' Like the man that had his dwelling among the tombs., Grace Abounding, No. 186.

      [6] The Christian, if he thinks of possessing good motions, joins with such thoughts his inability to carry them into effect. 'When I would do good, evil is present with me.' How different is this to the self-righteous Ignorance, so vividly pictured in the Pilgrim's Progress:,

      'Ignor., I am always full of good motions that come into my mind, to comfort me as I walk.

      Chris., What good motions? pray tell us.

      Ignor., Why, I think of God and heaven.

      Chris., So do the devils and damned souls!'

      The whole of that deeply interesting dialogue illustrates the difficulty of self-knowledge, which can only be acquired by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

      [7] 'All to brake'; an obsolete mode of expression for 'altogether broke.', Ed.

      [8] 'Orts'; an obsolete word in England, derived from the Anglo-Saxon. Any worthless leaving or refuse. It is thus used by Shakespeare in his Troylus and Cresida, act 5, s. 2:,

      'The fractions of her faith, orts of her love: The fragments, scraps, the bits and greasy relics Of her ore-eaten faith.', Ed.

      [9] This is in exact agreement with the author's experience, which he had published twenty-two years before, under the title of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, , 'I was more loathsome in my own eyes than was a toad, and I thought I was so in God's eyes too. Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would out of a fountain. I thought that none but the devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind.' A sure sign that God, as his heavenly Father, was enlightening his memory by the Holy Spirit., Ed.

      [10] This account of the author's interview with a pious, humble woman, is an agreeable episode, which relieves the mind without diverting it from the serious object of the treatise. It was probably an event which took place in one of those pastoral visits which Bunyan was in the habit of making, and which, if wisely made, so endears a minister to the people of his charge. Christ and a crust is the common saying to express the sentiment that Christ is all in all. The pitcher has reference to the custom of pilgrims in carrying at their girdle a vessel to hold water, the staff having a crook by which it was dipped up from a well or river., Ed.

Back to John Bunyan index.

See Also:
   Preface
   Chapter 1 - The Text Opened in the Many Workings of the Heart
   Chapter 2 - Doctrine, Assertion, Demonstration, and Conclusion
   Chapter 3 - What a Broken Heart, and a Contrite Spirit Is
   Chapter 4 - The Necessity There is that the Heart Must be Broken
   Chapter 5 - A Broken Heart is Esteemed by God
   Chapter 6 - Advantages of a Tender Heart
   Chapter 7 - The Use
   Chapter 8 - Objections Answered

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