Dear Brother Beebe: I desire your views on Proverbs 4:23. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
As this is the first request I have made, I hope you will comply, and oblige,
Morgan Co., Ga., Feb. 14, 1869.
Reply: As the mind of Elder Walker has been evidently exercised on this proverb, it is highly probable that he has clearer light in regard to its meaning than we can give. Still as he seems particularly anxious for our views, we will give him such as we have. The children of God being quickened and instructed in that wisdom which comes from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of good fruits, and without partiality or hypocrisy; and being in their relation to Christ, who of God is made unto them wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption, are known in the Scriptures as the children of wisdom, in distinction from all others of mankind, however proficient in the wisdom of this world, which the apostle says is from beneath, and is earthly, sensual and devilish. All the proverbs or maxims of divine wisdom recorded by inspiration in what we call the book of Proverbs are addressed by Wisdom to her children. Wisdom being personified as the parent of her children, deals instructing maxims, warnings and admonitions to her children, all of whom are made wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus; and in them all, “Wisdom is justified of her children.” The Wisdom that cries aloud, and puts forth her voice in the Scriptures, is the Wisdom of God; it is repudiated by the wise and prudent of this world, and is foolishness to the Greeks, as it is a stumbling block to the Jews; and so also is the wisdom of this world foolishness with God; because it is from beneath, and is sensual and devilish.
Among the very numerous lessons addressed in the inspired proverbs to the children of Wisdom, we should not overlook the admonition of the text under consideration. 1st, the heart; 2nd, its issues; 3rd, the charge to keep it diligently.
As in the physical organization of our natural bodies, the heart is the seat of vitality, from whence the warm current of life is constantly sent through a thousand arterial and venous channels to every part of the body. No disease of the heart can be seated there without corrupting and impregnating with disease and death the issues, or emanations which are indispensable to the life and health of the body, and all its members. The heart is used figuratively to illustrate the seat and center of human affections, thoughts, passions, desires, hopes, resolutions. All flows out from one fountain or spring of vitality, as the vital fluid, or blood is by the pulsation of the heart made to go out and course through every artery and vein, as God provided in our natural creation. In using this figure to illustrate spiritual things, that immortal life which the saints have received in their new and spiritual birth from the Second Adam, who is a quickening, or life giving Spirit, is called a new heart. “A new heart will I give unto them, and a new spirit will I put within them.” It is not a revision of the old heart; for that God has graciously promised to take away, and give them a new heart. New wine requires new bottles, and spiritual issues must flow from a spiritual spring. The Scriptures inform us of the natural heart, that it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Its issues are like the fountain; the thoughts, passions, affections, desires and devotions, are all deceptive: nothing else can be so deceitful.
While the natural man may believe that his motives are perfectly pure, his reasonings conclusive, his decisions just, and his affections holy, he is only the victim of a delusive infatuation; for no one can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. So when the apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” He does not mean the old natural and deceitful heart, for the same apostle has testified that the spiritual things which God has prepared for them that love him, has never entered into the heart of man; but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. Not to our natural man, for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things; yet he himself is judged of no man. I Corinthians 2. The natural heart is the heart of the natural man. It never has received, neither can it know, the things of the Spirit. But the spiritual man, and spiritual heart, is born of the Spirit; and the other is only born of the flesh.
The issues of the natural heart, or streams which flow therefrom, partake of the nature of the deceitful heart from which they flow. “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, nor can a good tree bring forth evil fruit.” “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45. Thus all the emanations of the heart of either good or bad men are issues of life, and these issues show what is the nature and quality of the heart or life from which they flow. Every tree is known by his own fruit; for of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. The fruits of the natural heart are the fruits of the flesh, “which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revilings, and such like.” And these issues show what kind of life they proceed from. While the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, etc., are the streams of divine and spiritual life, issuing from the heart that is sprinkled from an evil conscience, as the seat of life to that spiritual body which is washed in pure water, the man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Now the Christian is in possession of both these entire natures; the old man, and the new man; the inner, and the outward man; the flesh and the Spirit. He is warned to put off the one, and to put on the other; to crucify the one, and to cherish the other. If he lives after the one he shall die, for the issues of life from the one are corrupt and mortal; but the issues of life from the new heart are incorruptible and immortal. Hence the admonitions of Wisdom to her children, in this proverb, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” This closing admonition we will consider only in its application to the children of God, while here in the flesh. As from the heart are the issues of life, we may understand the charge to watch with all diligence the fountain from whence all the manifestations and evidences of spiritual vitality are ever flowing; nothing wrong in the fountain can be corrected in the stream. As we have observed the blood which animates the body in all its parts, and which is called the life, and is indispensable to the preservation of life, all flows through and from the heart of man; so all the functions and developments of life, which are of a pure, spiritual and holy nature, proceed, or issue from the new heart which God has given to us, and in which God has shined, and in which God works both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. So we need to watch every emotion, and every sentiment, and every action, to know that they all issue from the new heart which God has given to us. To illustrate, suppose we profess to believe in God, or believe that salvation is of the Lord, and by grace, or that we in form walk in the ordinances of the gospel; if we have no heart in our professions and practice, what will it avail us? “With the heart, man believeth unto righteousness.” But if only with our head, or reasoning powers of mind, we entertain a rational, or mere traditional belief even of that which is sound and orthodox, such a dead faith cannot issue from a vital fountain.
To keep the heart with all diligence, as we understand, is to put off the old man, or old deceitful and desperately wicked heart, with its issues of natural life, as described, Galatians 5:19-21, and to put on the new man, by diligently cherishing those immortal principles of holiness, which we have received from God in our new and spiritual birth, from which issues the living fruits of the Spirit; as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. There is life or vitality in all these, and they are called the issues of life because they emanate, or issue, from that life which we have of God. The keeping of the heart does not mean that we are to trust in our vigilance, or power, but rather that we should watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation. Diligently labor to suppress the corruptions of our evil heart, and cling to the hallowed principles of holiness which issue from the true heart with which we draw nigh unto God, in full assurance of faith, by the new and living way which our God has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14. This water which Jesus giveth is eternal life; it is called “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb.” This, when given, shall be in its happy recipient a well of water, springing into everlasting life; and all its out flowings are of life; and the charge to keep it diligently is equivalent to the many admonitions given to the saints in the word, to walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. To keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; and through the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the flesh. To deny ourselves of all ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in the world.
These are some of the views which have occurred to us on the text, and such as they are, we pass them over to brother Walker, and to all who may feel interested in the investigation of the subject.
March 15, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 378 – 382