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Heart Exam

It’s in the heart where holiness happens — or doesn’t happen. Here’s an examination that hurts and heals at the same time….

Excerpts from Thomas Watson’s Heaven Taken By Storm

Let us then examine whether we put forth this holy violence [strenuous effort] for Heaven? What is an empty profession without this? Like a lamp without oil. Let us all ask ourselves, what violence do we use for Heaven?

1. Do we strive with our hearts to get them into an holy frame [disposition]? How did David awaken all the powers of his soul to serve God (Psalm 57:8 — ‘I myself will awake early’). The heart is like a bell that is a long while rising.

2. Do we set time apart to call ourselves to account, and to try our evidences for Heaven? (Psalm 77:6 — ‘My spirit made diligent search.’) Do we take our hearts as a watch all in pieces, to see what is amiss and to mend it? Are we curiously inquisitive into the state of our souls? Are we afraid of artificial grace, as of artificial happiness?

3. Do we use violence in prayer? Is there fire in our sacrifice? Doth the wind of the Spirit, filling our sails, cause ‘groans unutterable?’ (Romans 8:25) Do we pray in the morning as if we were to die at night?

4. Do we thirst for the living God? Are our souls big with holy desires? Psalm 73:25 — ‘There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.’ Do we desire holiness as well as Heaven? Do we desire as much to look like Christ, as to live with Christ? Is our desire constant? Is this spiritual pulse ever beating?

5. Are we skilled in self-denial? Can we deny our ease, our aims, our interest? Can we cross our own will to fulfill God’s? Can we behead our beloved sin? To pluck out the right eye requires violence.

6. Are we lovers of God? It is not how much we do, but how much we love. Doth love command the castle of our hearts? Does Christ’s beauty and sweetness constrain us? 2 Cor. 5:14. Do we love God more than we fear hell?

7. Do we keep our spiritual watch? Do we set spies in every place, watching our thoughts, our eyes, our tongues? When we have prayed against sin, do we watch against temptation? The Jews, having sealed the stone of Christ’s sepulcher, ‘set a watch,’ (Matthew 27:66). After we have been at the word, or sacrament, (that sealing ordinance) do we set a watch?

8. Do we press after further degrees of sanctity? Philippians 3:13 — ‘Reaching forth unto those things which are before.’ A good Christian is a wonder; he is the most contented yet the least satisfied: he is contented with a little of the world, but not satisfied with a little grace; he would have still more faith and be anointed with fresh oil. Paul desired to ‘attain unto the resurrection of the dead’ (Philippians 3:11); that is, he endeavored (if possible) to arrive at such a measure of grace as the saints shall have at the resurrection.

9. Is there an holy emulation in us? Do we labor to out-shine others [false religions] in religion? To be more eminent for love and good works? Do we something which is singular? Matthew 5:47 — ‘What do ye more than others?’

10. Are we got above the world? Though we walk on earth, do we trade in Heaven? Can we say as David? Psalm 139:18 — ‘I am still with thee.’ This requires violence [strenuous effort]; for motions upward are usually violent.

11. Do we set ourselves always under God’s eye? Psalm 16:8 — ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ Do we live soberly and godly, remembering that whatever we are doing our Judge looks on?

If it be thus with us, we are happy persons. This is the holy violence the text speaks of, and is the right way of taking the kingdom of God. And surely never did Noah so willingly put forth his hand to receive the dove into the ark, as Jesus Christ will put forth His hand to receive us into Heaven.

more on the 17th-century Puritan Thomas Watson

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