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The Acceptable Sacrifice: Chapter 5 - A Broken Heart is Esteemed by God

By John Bunyan


      And thus have I done with this, and shall come next to the reasons of the point, namely, to show you, why or how it comes to pass, that a broken heart, a heart truly contrite, is to God such an excellent thing. That to him it is so, we have proved by six demonstrations; what it is, we have showed by the six signs thereof; that it must be, is manifest by those nine reasons but now urged; and why it is with God or in his esteem an excellent thing, that is shown by that which follows.

      First. A broken heart is the handiwork of God; an heart of his own preparing, for his own service; it is a sacrifice of his own providing, of his providing for himself; as Abraham said in another case, 'God will provide himself a lamb' (Gen 22:8).

      Hence it is said, 'The preparations of the heart in man, &c., is from the Lord.' And again, 'God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me' (Job 23:16). The heart, as it is by nature hard, stupid, and impenetrable, so it remains, and so will remain, until God, as was said, bruiseth it with his hammer, and melts it with his fire. The stony nature of it is therefore said to be taken away of God. 'I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you, ' saith he, 'an heart of flesh' (Eze 36:26). I will take away the stony heart, or the stoniness, or the hardness of your heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh; that is, I will make your heart sensible, soft, wieldable, governable, and penitent. Sometimes he bids men rend their hearts, not because they can, but to convince them rather, that though it must be so, they cannot do it; so he bids them make themselves a new heart, and a new spirit, for the same purpose also; for if God doth not rend it, it remains unrent; if God makes it not new, it abides an old one still.

      This is that that is meant by his bending of men for himself, and of his working in them that which is pleasing in his sight (Zech 9:13). The heart, soul, or spirit, as in itself, as it came from God's fingers, a precious thing, a thing in God's account worth more than all the world. This heart, soul, or spirit, sin has hardened, the devil has bewitched, the world has deceived. This heart, thus beguiled, God coveteth and desireth: 'My son, ' saith he, 'give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways' (Prov 23:26).

      This man cannot do this thing: for that his heart has the mastery of him, and will not but carry him after all manner of vanity. What now must be done? Why, God must take the heart by storm, by power, and bring it to a compliance with the Word; but the heart of itself will not; it is deluded, carried away to another than God. Wherefore God now betakes him to his sword, and bring down the heart with labour, opens it, and drives out the strong man armed that did keep it; wounds it; and makes it smart for its rebellion, that it may cry; so he rectifies it for himself. 'He maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole' (Job 5:18). Thus having wrought it for himself, it becomes his habitation, his dwelling-place: 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith' (Eph 3:17).

      But I would not swerve from the thing in hand. I have told you a broken heart is the handiwork of God, a sacrifice of his own preparing; a material fitted for himself.

      1. By breaking of the heart he openeth it, and makes it a receptacle for the graces of his Spirit; that is the cabinet, when unlocked, where God lays up the jewels of the gospel; there he puts his fear; 'I will put my fear in their hearts'; there he writes his law; 'I will write my law in their heart'; there he puts his Spirit: 'I will put my Spirit within you' (Jer 31:31-33, 32:39-41; Eze 36:26, 27). The heart, I say, God chooses for his cabinet: there he hides his treasure; there is the seat of justice, mercy, and of every grace of God; I mean, when it is broken, made contrite; and so regulated by the holy Word.

      2. The heart, when broken, is like sweet gums and spices when beaten; for as such cast their fragrant scent into the nostrils of men, so the heart when broken casts its sweet smells in the nostrils of God. The incense, which was a type of prayer of old, was to be beaten or bruised, and so to be burned in the censer. The heart must be beaten or bruised, and then the sweet scent will come out: even groans, and cries, and sighs, for the mercy of God; which cries, &c. to him, are a very excellent thing, and pleasing in his nostrils.

      Second. A broken heart is in the sight of God an excellent thing; because a broken heart is submissive; it falleth before God, and giveth to him his glory. All this is true from a multitude of scriptures, which I need not here mention. Hence such a heart is called an honest heart, a good heart, a perfect heart, a heart fearing God, and such as is sound in God's statutes.

      Now, this cannot but be an excellent thing, if we consider, that by such a heart, unfeigned obedience is yielded unto him that calleth for it. 'Ye have obeyed from the heart, ' says Paul to them at Rome, 'that form of doctrine which was delivered you' (Rom 6:17). Alas! the heart, before it is broken and made contrite, is quite of another temper: 'It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' The great stir before the heart is broken, is about who shall be Lord, God or the sinner. True, the right of dominion is the Lord's; but the sinner will not suffer it, but will be all himself; saying 'Who is Lord over us?' and again, say they to God, 'We are lords, we will come no more unto thee' (Psa 12:4; Jer 2:31).

      This also is evident by their practice; God may say what he will, but they will do what they list. Keep my sabbath, says God; I will not, says the sinner. Leave your whoring, says God; I will not, says the sinner. Do not tell lies, nor swear, nor curse, nor blaspheme my holy name, says God; O but I will, says the sinner. Turn to me, says God; I will not, says the sinner. The right of dominion is mine, says God; but, like that young rebel (1 Kings 1:5), I will be king, says the sinner. Now, this is intolerable, this is unsufferable, and yet every sinner by practice says thus; for they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

      Here can be no concord, no communion, no agreement, no fellowship. Here, here is enmity on the one side, and flaming justice on the other (2 Cor 6:14-16; Zech 11:8). And what delight, what content, what pleasure, can God take in such men. None at all; no, though they should be mingled with the best of the saints of God; yea, though the best of saints should supplicate for them. Thus, says Jeremiah, 'Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me,' that is, to pray for them, 'yet my mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth' (Jer 15:1).

      Here is nought but open war, acts of hostility, and shameful rebellion, on the sinner's side; and what delight can God take in that? Wherefore, if God will bend and buckle the spirit of such an one, he must shoot an arrow at him, a bearded arrow, such as may not be plucked out of the wound: an arrow that will stick fast, and cause that the sinner falls down as dead at God's foot (Psa 33:1, 2). Then will the sinner deliver up his arms, and surrender up himself as one conquered, into the hand of, and beg for the Lord's pardon, and not till then; I mean not sincerely.

      And now God has overcome, and his right hand and his holy arm has gotten him the victory. Now he rides in triumph with his captive at his chariot wheel; now he glories; now the bells in heaven do ring; now the angels shout for joy, yea, are bid to do so, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost' (Luke 15:1-10). Now also the sinner, as a token of being overcome, lies grovelling at his foot, saying, 'Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee' (Psa 45:3-5).

      Now the sinner submits, now he follows his conqueror in chains, now he seeks peace, and would give all the world, were it his own, to be in the favour of God, and to have hopes by Christ of being saved. Now this must be pleasing, this cannot but be a thing acceptable in God's sight: 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' For it is the desire of his own heart, the work of his own hands.

      Third. Another reason why a broken heart is to God such an excellent thing is this, a broken heart prizes Christ, and has a high esteem for him. The whole have no need of a physician, but the sick; this sick man is the broken-hearted in the text; for God makes men sick by smiting of them, by breaking of their hearts. Hence sickness and wounds are put together; for that the one is a true effect of the other (Mark 2:17; Micah 6:13; Hosea 5:13). Can any think that God should be pleased, when men despise his Son, saying, He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him? And yet so say they of him whose hearts God has not mollified; yea, the elect themselves confess, that before their hearts were broken, they set light by him also. He is, say they, 'despised and rejected of men, - and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not' (Isa 53:2, 3).

      He is indeed the great deliverer; but what is a deliverer to them that never saw themselves in bondage, as was said before? Hence it is said of him that delivered the city, 'No man remembered that same poor man' (Eccl 9:15). He has sorely suffered, and been bruised for the transgression of man, that they might not receive the smart, and hell, which by their sins they have procured to themselves. But what is that to them that never saw ought but beauty, and that never tasted anything but sweetness in sin? It is he that holdeth by his intercession the hands of God, and that causes him to forbear to cut off the drunkard, the liar, and unclean person, even when they are in the very act and work of their abomination; but their hard heart, their stupefied heart, has no sense of such kindness as this, and therefore they take no notice of it. How many times has God said to this dresser of his vineyard, 'Cut down the barren fig-tree, ' while he yet, by his intercession, has prevailed for a reprieve for another year! But no notice is taken of this, no thanks is from them returned to him for such kindness of Christ. Wherefore such ungrateful, unthankful, inconsiderate wretches as these must needs be a continual eye-sore, as I may say, and great provocation to God; and yet thus men will do before their hearts are broken (Luke 13:6-9).

      Christ, as I said, is called a physician; yea, he is the only soul-physician. He heals, how desperate soever the disease be; yea, and heals who he undertakes for ever. 'I give unto them eternal life, ' and doth all of free cost, of mere mercy and compassion (John 10:28). But what is all this to one that neither sees his sickness, that sees nothing of a wound? What is the best physician alive, or all the physicians in the world, put all together, to him that knows no sickness, that is sensible of no disease? Physicians, as was said, may go a-begging for all the healthful. Physicians are of no esteem, save only to the sick, or upon a supposition of being so now, or at any other time.

      Why, this is the cause Christ is so little set by in the world. God has not made them sick by smiting of them; his sword has not given them the wound, his dart has not been struck through their liver; they have not been broken with his hammer, nor melted with his fire. So they have no regard to his physician; so they slight all the provision which God has made for the salvation of the soul. But now, let such a soul be wounded; let such a man's heart be broken; let such a man be made sick through the sting of guilt, and be made to wallow himself in ashes under the burden of his transgressions; and then, who but Christ, as has been showed afore, then the physician; then, wash me, Lord, then supple my wounds, then pour thy wine and oil into my sore; then Lord Jesus cause me to hear the voice of joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Nothing now so welcome as healing; and so nothing, no man, so desirable now as Christ. His name to such is the best of names; his love to such is the best of love; himself being now not only in himself, but also to such a soul, the chiefest of ten thousand (Can 5:10).

      As bread to the hungry, as water to the thirsty, as light to the blind, and liberty to the imprisoned; so, and a thousand times more, is Jesus Christ to the wounded, and to them that are broken-hearted. Now, as was said, this must needs be excellent in God's eyes, since Christ Jesus is so glorious in his eyes. To contemn what a man counts excellent, is an offence to him; but to value, esteem, or think highly of that which is of esteem with me, this is pleasing to me, such an opinion is excellent in my sight. What says Christ? 'My Father loveth you, because ye loved me' (John 16:27). Who hath an high esteem for Christ, the Father hath an high esteem for them. Hence it is said, 'He that hath the Son, hath the Father'; the Father will be his, and will do for him as a Father, who receiveth and sets an honourable esteem on his Son.

      But none will, none can do this, but the broken-hearted; because they, and they only, are sensible of the want and worth of an interest in him.

      I dare appeal to all the world as to the truth of this; and do say again, that these, and none but these, have hearts of esteem in the sight of God. Alas! 'the heart of the wicked is little worth, ' for it is destitute of a precious esteem of Christ, and cannot but be destitute, because it is not wounded, broken, and made sensible of the want of mercy by him (Prov 10:20).

      Fourth. A broken heart is of great esteem with God, because it is a thankful heart for that sense of sin and of grace it has received. The broken heart is a sensible heart. This we touched upon before. It is sensible of the dangers which sin leadeth to; yea, and has cause to be sensible thereof, because it has seen and felt what sin is, both in the guilt and punishment that by law is due thereto. As a broken heart is sensible of sin, in the evil nature and consequences of it; so it is also sensible of the way of God's delivering the soul from the day of judgment; consequently it must be a thankful heart. Now he that praises me, glorifies me, saith God; and God loves to be glorified. God's glory is dear unto him; he will not part with that (Psa 50:23; Isa 42:8).

      The broken-hearted, say I, forasmuch as he is the sensible soul, it follows that he is the thankful soul. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, ' said David, 'and all that is within me bless his holy name.' Behold what blessing of God is here! and yet not content herewith, he goes on with it again, saying, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.' But what is the matter? O! he has 'forgiven all thine iniquities, and healed all thy diseases. He has redeemed thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with loving kindnesses and tender mercies' (Psa 103:1-4). But how came he to be affected with this? Why, he knew what it was to hang over the mouth of hell for sin; yea, he knew what it was for death and hell to beset and compass him about; yea, they took hold of him, as we have said, and were pulling of him down into the deep; this he saw to the breaking of his heart. He saw also the way of life, and had his soul relieved with faith and sense of that, and that made him a thankful man. If a man who has had a broken leg, is but made to understand, that by the breaking of that he kept from breaking of his neck, he will be thankful to God for a broken leg. 'It is good for me, ' said David, 'that I have been afflicted.' I was by that preserved from a great danger; for before that I went astray (Psa 119:67, 71).

      And who can be thankful for a mercy that is not sensible that they want it, have it, and have it of mercy? Now, this the broken-hearted, this the man that is of a contrite spirit, is sensible of; and that with reference to mercies of the best sort, and therefore must needs be a thankful man, and so have a heart of esteem with God, because it is a thankful heart.

      Fifth. A broken heart is of great esteem with, or an excellent thing in, the sight of God, because it is a heart that desires now to become a receptacle or habitation for the spirit and graces of the Spirit of God. It was the devil's hold before, and was contented so to be. But now it is for entertaining of, for being possessed with, the Holy Spirit of God. 'Create in me a clean heart, ' said David, 'and renew a right spirit within me. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me, uphold me with thy free Spirit' (Psa 51:10-12). Now he was for a clean heart and a right spirit; now he was for the sanctifying of the blessed spirit of grace; a thing which the uncircumcised in heart resist, and do despite unto (Acts 7:51; Heb 10:29).

      A broken heart, therefore, suiteth with the heart of God; a contrite spirit is one spirit with him. God, as I told you before, covets to dwell with the broken in heart, and the broken in heart desire communion with him. Now here is an agreement, a oneness of mind; now the same mind is in thee which was also in Christ Jesus. This must needs be an excellent spirit; this must needs be better with God, and in his sight, than thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil. But does the carnal world covet this, this spirit, and the blessed graces of it? No, they despise it, as I said before; they mock at it, they prefer and countenance any sorry, dirty lust rather; and the reason is, because they want a broken heart, that heart so highly in esteem with God, and remain for want thereof in their enmity to God.

      The broken-hearted know, that the sanctifying of the Spirit is a good means to keep from that relapse, out of which a man cannot come unless his heart be wounded a second time. Doubtless David had a broken heart at first conversion, and if that brokenness had remained, that is, had he not given way to hardness of heart again, he had never fallen into that sin out of which he could not be recovered, but by the breaking of his bones a second time. Therefore, I say, a broken heart is of great esteem with God; for it, and I will add, so long as it retains its tenderness, covets none but God, and the things of his Holy Spirit; sin is an abomination to it.

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See Also:
   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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