Make My Heart Good Soil

I know, O Lord, and tremble to think, that three parts of the good seed fell upon bad ground.

Let not my heart be like the highway. Through hardness and want of true understanding it does not receive the seed, so the evil one comes and takes it away.

Let not my heart be like the stony ground, which bears with joy for a time, but falls away as soon as persecution arises for the gospel’s sake.

Let not my heart be like the thorny ground, which chokes the word and makes it altogether unfruitful because of the cares of this world and the deceit of riches.

Let my heart be like the good ground. Help me to hear your word with an honest and good heart. Enable me to understand and keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience, for your glory and my everlasting benefit. Amen.

Lewis Bayly (1575-1631) in Piercing Heaven, 165.


Listening to the Good Shepherd

Carefully regard your Shepherd’s voice. You cannot make the least stray but His whistle is at your ears, and His Word and Spirit beat at your consciences. Now hear His voice, feed only in His pastures, wander not after any pastures besides, though they seem more plentiful or more delightful. My meaning is, keep only in His ways, according to His directions, and do not be withdrawn or wander, through any enticements of sin or the world. Though other pastures seem more pleasant, yet they are full of thorny bushes. You cannot feed long on them, but you are caught and scratched, and shall hardly escape without much loss of your fleece. You may delight for a while in a sinful way, but your consciences will pay for it, and your graces. You cannot return without a great diminution of the one, and a strange vexation of the other; he, who will wander to get some pleasant evil, must necessarily be less good and more troubled. And what defense do you have when you do not hearken to your Shepherd? You are then as the silly sheep alone upon the mountains of Gilead.

Obadiah Sedgwick, The Shepherd of Israel (London, 1658), 15-16.


The Inward through the Outward

When God sends forth his holy gospel he deals with us in a twofold manner, first outwardly, then inwardly. Outwardly he deals with us through the oral word of the gospel and through material signs, that is, baptism and the sacrament of the altar. Inwardly he deals with us through the Holy Spirit, faith, and other gifts. But whatever their measure or order the outward factors should and must precede. The inward experience follows and is effected by the outward.

God has determined to give the inward to no one except through the outward.

For he wants to give no one the Spirit or faith outside of the outward Word and sign instituted by him, as he says in Luke 16:29, ‘Let them hear Moses and the prophets.’ Accordingly Paul can call baptism a ‘washing of regeneration’ wherein God ‘richly pours out the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). And the oral gospel ‘is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith’ (Rom. 1:16).

—Martin Luther,
LW, 40:146.


Delighting in God: Word and Prayer

If we do not delight in communion with him, we do not honour him as the chiefest good. Friends love to be often in one another’s company, and certainly ‘it is good to draw nigh to God,’ to preserve an acquaintance between him and us. He hath appointed his ordinances, the word and prayer, which are as it were a dialogue and interchangeable discourse between God and the creature. In the word he speaketh to us, and in prayer we speak unto him. He conveyeth his mind in the word, and we ask his grace in prayer. In prayer we make the request, and in the word we have God’s answer. Well, then, when men neglect public or private prayer, or opportunities of hearing, they are guilty of ungodliness. So far they break off communion with God, especially if they neglect prayer, which is a duty to be done at all times—a sweet diversion which the soul enjoyeth with God in private, a duty which answereth to the daily sacrifice. Therefore the neglect of prayer is made to be a branch of atheism, Ps. 14:3, 4. When men are loath to come into God’s presence, out of a love to ease and carnal pleasures, and care not if God and they grow strange, or seldom hear from one another, it is a great evil. Our comfort and peace dependeth much upon frequent access to God.

—Thomas Manton
The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 5:139.

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