Object. First. But some may object, that in this saying I seem too rigid and censorious; and will, if I moderate not these lines with something milder afterward, discourage many an honest soul.
Answ. I answer, Not a jot, not an honest soul in all the world will be offended at my words; for not one can be an honest soul, I mean with reference to its concerns in another world, that has not had a broken heart, that never had a contrite spirit. This I will say, because I would be understood aright, that all attain not to the same degree of trouble, nor lie so long there under, as some of their brethren do. But to go to heaven without a broken heart, or to be forgiven sin without a contrite spirit, is no article of my belief. We speak not now of what is secret; revealed things belong to us and our children; nor must we venture to go further in our faith. Doth not Christ say, 'The whole have no need of a physician'; that is, they see no need, but Christ will make them see their need before he ministers his sovereign grace unto them; and good reason, otherwise he will have but little thanks for his kindness.
Object. Second. But there are those that are godly educated from their childhood, and so drink in the principles of Christianity they know not how.
Answ. I count it one thing to receive the faith of Christ from men only, and another to receive it from God by the means. If thou art taught by an angel, yet if not taught of God, thou wilt never come to Christ; I do not say thou wilt never profess him. But if God speaks, and thou shalt hear and understand him, that voice will make such work within thee as was never made before. The voice of God is a voice by itself, and is so distinguished by them that are taught thereby (John 6:44, 45; Psa 29; Habb 3:12-16; Eph 4:20, 21; 1 Peter 2:2, 3).
Object. Third. But some men are not so debauched and profane as some, and so need not to be so hammered and fired as others; so broken and wounded as others.
Answ. God knows best what we need. Paul was as righteous before conversion as any that can pretend to civility now, I suppose; and yet that notwithstanding he was made to shake, and was astonished at himself at his conversion. And truly I think the more righteous any is in his own eyes before conversion, the more need he has of heart-breaking work, in order to his salvation; because a man is not by nature so easily convinced that his righteousness is to God abominable, as he is that his debauchery and profaneness is.
A man's goodness is that which blinds him most, is dearest to him, and hardly parted with; and therefore when such an one is converted, that thinks he has goodness of his own enough to commend him in whole or in part to God, but, but few such are converted, there is required a great deal of breaking work upon his heart, to make him come to Paul's conclusion, 'What! are we better than they? No, in no wise' (Rom 3:9). I say, before he can be brought to see his glorious robes are filthy rags, and his gainful things but loss and dung (Isa 64; Phil 3).
This is also gathered from these words, 'Publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of God before the Pharisees' (Matt 21:31). Why before them? But because they lie fairer for the Word, are easier convinced of their need of Christ, and so are brought home to him without, as I may say, all that ado that the Holy Ghost doth make to bring home one of these to him.
True; nothing is hard or difficult to God. But I speak after the manner of men. And let who will take to task a man debauched in this life, and one that is not so, and he shall see, if he laboureth to convince them both that they are in a state of condemnation by nature, that the Pharisee will make his appeals to God, with a great many God, I thank these; while the Publican hangs his head, shakes at heart, and smites upon his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner' (Luke 18:11-13).
Wherefore a self-righteous man is but a painted Satan, or a devil in fine clothes; but thinks he so of himself? No! no! he saith to others, Stand back, come not near me, I am holier than thou. It is almost impossible, that a self- righteous man should be saved. But he that can drive a camel through the eye of a needle, can cause that even such a one shall see his lost condition, and that he needeth the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ. He can make him see, I say, that his own goodness did stand more in his way to the kingdom of heaven than he was aware of; and can make him feel too, that his leaning to that is as great iniquity as any immorality that men commit. The sum then is, that men that are converted to God by Christ, through the Word and Spirit, for all this must go to effectual conversion, must have their hearts broken, and spirits made contrite; I say, it MUST be so, for the reasons showed before. Yea, and all decayed, apostatized, and backslidden Christians must, in order to their recovery again to God, have their hearts broken, their souls wounded, their spirits made contrite, and sorry for their sins.
Come, come, conversion to God is not so easy and so smooth a thing as some would have men believe it is. Why is man's heart compared to fallow ground, God's Word to a plough, and his ministers to ploughmen? if the heart indeed has no need of breaking, in order to the receiving of the seed of God unto eternal life (Jer 4:3; Luke 9:62; 1 Cor 9:10). Who knows not that the fallow ground must be ploughed, and ploughed too before the husbandman will venture his seed; yea, and after that oft soundly harrowed, or else he will have but a slender harvest?
Why is the conversion of the soul compared to the grafting of a tree, if that be done without cutting? The Word is the graft, the soul is the tree, and the Word, as the scion, must be let in by a wound; for to stick on the outside, or to be tied on with a string, will do no good here. Heart must be set to heart, and back to back, or your pretended ingrafting will come to nothing (Rom 11:17, 24; Jer 1:21).
I say, heart must be set to heart, and back to back, or the sap will not be conveyed from the root to the branch; and I say, this must be done by a wound. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, as a man openeth the stock to graft in the scions, and so the word was let into her soul, and so the word and her heart cemented, and became one (Acts 16:14).
Why is Christ bid to gird his sword upon his thigh? and why must he make his arrows sharp, and all, that the heart may with this sword and these arrows be shot, wounded, and made to bleed? Yea, why is he commanded to let it be so, if the people would bow and fall kindly under him, and heartily implore his grace without it? (Psa 45; 55:3, 4). Alas! men are too lofty, too proud, too wild, too devilishly resolved in the ways of their own destruction; in their occasions, they are like the wild asses upon the wild mountains; nothing can break them of their purposes, or hinder them from ruining of their own precious and immortal souls, but the breaking of their hearts.
Why is a broken heart put in the room of all sacrifices which we can offer to God, and a contrite spirit put in the room of all offerings, as they are, and you may see it so, if you compare the text with that verse which goes before it; I say, why is it counted better than all, were they all put together, if any one part or if all external parts of worship, were they put together, could be able to render the man a sound and a rightly made new creature without it? 'A broken heart, a contrite spirit, God will not despise'; but both thou, and all thy service, he will certainly slight and reject, if, when thou comest to him, a broken heart be wanting; wherefore here is the point, Come broken, come contrite, come sensible of, and sorry for thy sins, or thy coming will be counted no coming to God aright; and if so, consequently thou wilt get no benefit thereby.