By Thomas Brooks, 1669
IV. Fourthly, A gracious heart is an UNIFORM heart.
Being consistent in all places, is a sure evidence of integrity. He who is truly godly, will be good in bad times, and in the worst of places. Principles of grace and holiness are lasting, yes, everlasting; they are not like the morning cloud, nor the early dew, Psalm 119:112; 1 John 3:9; Hosea 6:4. A gracious soul will be steady and fixed in its principles, in the worst times, in the worst places, and under variety of dispensations. Let times and places be what they will, he will not dishonor his God, nor blemish his profession, nor wound his conscience to preserve his safety, or to secure his liberty. An upright man is a righteous man. He is one who will not be bowed or bent by the sinful customs or examples of the times and places where he lives.
Abraham was righteous in Chaldea, and Noah was perfect in his generation, though it was the worst in the world. And Lot was just in Sodom, and Job was upright in the land of Uz, which was a place of much profaneness and superstition. And Nehemiah was courageous and zealous in Damascus. And Daniel as holy, yes, eminently and exemplarily holy, in Babylon. The several generations wherein these holy men lived, were wholly devoted to wickedness and superstition; and yet these precious, gracious souls had wholly devoted themselves to the Lord and his service.
So David, "My soul breaks for the longing it has to your judgments at all times," Psalm 119:20. Let the times be ever so dangerous, licentious, superstitious, idolatrous, or erroneous—yet David's heart was strongly carried forth to God's judgments; that is, to his word, for under this title, judgments, you are to understand the whole word of God. So there were some in Sardis who were of the same spirit with the worthies last mentioned: Rev. 3:4, "You have a few names even in Sardis, who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
In polluting times pure hearts will keep themselves pure. A holy heart will keep himself undefiled, even in defiling times, Psalm 119:1-3. Rev. 14:4, "These are those who were not defiled with women." When others are besmeared all over—he will keep his garments white and clean. The three Hebrew children, or rather the three champions, Dan. 3:17-20, were so highly resolved to keep themselves pure from the abominations of their day, that it was neither Nebuchadnezzar's music that would flatter them, nor his fiery furnace that could scare them from their God, or from their duty, or from their piety. Let the times ever so often change, you shall find that he who is really holy, he will be holy under every change; no change shall turn him out of a way of holiness: Job 17:9, "The righteous shall hold on his way; and he who has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."
The laurel keeps its freshness and greenness in the winter season; a gracious soul is semper idem—'always the same'. Let the wind, and the world, and the times turn which way they will, a gracious soul for the main will still be the same; he is "like mount Zion, which cannot be moved," Psalm 125:1. Job 27:5-6, "Until I die, I will not remove my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live." A gracious heart is, in some measure, like the heart of God—without variableness or shadow of changing. That Christian that is not for substance the same that once he was—was never what he ought to be, James 1:17. A gracious heart is firm and fixed for God and godliness, both in prosperity and in adversity. Take him among the godly or among the wicked; take him in storms or calms; in winter nights or in summer days; take him among friends or foes; take him at bed or board; take him in health or sickness; take him in an ordinance or out of an ordinance; take him in his work or take him at his recreations; take him in his commerce or in his converse; take him living or take him dying—and you shall still find that the bias of his soul is still God-wards, Christ-wards, holiness-wards, and heaven-wards.
A gracious man will stand his ground, and hold his own in all changes—his heart being fixed upon an unchangeable God. The godly man is four square; cast him where you will, like a dice he falls always square and sure. So cast a gracious man where you will, and into what company you will, and into what condition you will—yet still he falls sure and square for God and godliness. [Joshua 24:15; Ps 112:7; Mal. 3:6. The poor heathen could say, that change of place causes not any change of mind, etc.] Let the times be ever so sad, nor ever so bad—yet a gracious soul will keep his hold; he will let all go, he will let everything go, before he will let his God go, or his piety go, or his integrity go.
A gracious Christian is like gold. Now cast gold into the fire, or into the water; cast it upon the ash-heap, or into the kennel; cast it among the poor, or among the rich; among the pious, or among the superstitious, etc. Yet still it is gold, still it retains its purity and excellency. So cast a gracious Christian, who is the only golden Christian in the world, into what condition you will, and into what company you will—yet still he will retain his purity, his innocency.
Lapidaries tell us of the Chelydonian stone, that it will retain its virtue and luster no longer than it is enclosed in gold: a fit emblem of a hypocrite, who is only good while he is enclosed in golden prosperity, safety, and felicity. An unsound professor, like green timber, shrinks when the sun of persecution shines hot upon him, Mat. 13:6. The heat of fiery trials cools the courage of an unsound professor. If you put water into a tub, it will have the shape of the tub that you put it into; or if you put water into a glass, it will have the shape of the glass you put it into. This is the very picture of an unsound heart. But a sincere Christian is like a massive vessel of gold, that keeps its own shape and figure, at all times, in all places, and in all companies. Unsound hearts, they will be righteous among the righteous, and licentious among the licentious. They will be as the company is among which they are cast. With the good they will be good, and with the bad they will be bad; with the zealous they will be zealous; and with the superstitious they will be superstitious; and with the lukewarm they will be lukewarm. They are for all times and tides; they are for any turn that will serve their turn; they are for any mood that will bring either profit or pleasure to them. They are like Alcibiades, of whom it was said, that he was a man for all times; for he could swagger it at Athens, and take any pains at Thebes; he could live most sparingly at Lacedaemon, and tipple among the Thracians, and hunt among the Persians. They are like the chameleon, ready to change their hue with everyone they converse with; they are like Polypus, that resembles every stone that it sticks to; or they are like the buskins anciently used in tragedies, that would serve either leg alike; they are as fit for one society as another; or like the players that used them, such as acting princely parts, wear royal apparel, keep state, and behave themselves gravely and soberly, so long as they are in public view upon the stage. But when they have done acting, are no sooner off the stage—but they pass presently into another habit, and retain neither their princely behavior nor apparel—but are most beggarly, base, and debauched, either in private among themselves, or among their companions like themselves.
Unsound hearts can accommodate themselves to the times, and comply with them, whatever they be. With Proteus they will transform themselves into all shapes; as the times change, so will they; what the times favor, that they will favor; what the times commend, that they will commend; what the times cry up and admire, that they will cry up and admire. And what the times frown upon and condemn, that they will frown upon and condemn. Look! as curious and well drawn pictures seem to turn their eyes every way, and to smile upon everyone that looks upon them, so these can turn with the times, they can look as the times look, and smile as the times smile; they can say with the times, and sail with the times; sometimes they can act one part, and sometimes another part, as the times require. If the times require a large profession, they can make it; if the times bespeak them to leave their religion at the church door, they can leave it.
But now, a sincere Christian, he will labor to be so much the more gracious, by how much the more the times are licentious. A sincere Christian is like gold. If you cast it into the fire—it will not be destroyed; if you throw it into the water—it will not rust, it will retain its own purity and excellency wherever you put it.