Proverbs 16:1

An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
Charles Bridges

"The preparations of the heart in man,
and the answer of the tongue, is from Yahweh."

The grand question is here decided -- "Who is the first mover in the work of conversion? Can man prepare his own heart for the grace of God?" The preparations of the heart in man are from the Lord (Ps. 10:17). He takes the stone out of the heart that it may feel; draws it that it may follow; quickens it that it may live. He opens the heart that he may imprint his own law and mold it into his image. He works not merely by moral suasion or by the bare proposal of means of uncertain power, but by invisible Almighty agency. The work then begins with God. It is not that we first come and then are taught. But first we learn, then we come. His grace both prevents [goes before] and cooperates -- not working upon a stone and leaving it in its dead condition, but breathing into the lifeless earth a principle of life and energy as he did in Paradise.

Shall we then indolently wait until he works? Far from it. We must work, but in dependence upon him. He works not without us but with us, through us, in us, by us; and we work in him. Ours is the duty; his is the strength. Ours the agency; his the quickening life. His commands do not imply our power to obey, but [rather] our dependence upon him for the grace of obedience. "The work as it is a duty, is ours; but as a performance, it is God's. He gives what he requires, and his promises are the foundation of our performances," says Bishop Reynolds. Our works are not the cause but the effect of his grace; and never could they come out of us until God had first put them in us.

The fruit also as well as the root -- the answer of the tongue no less than the preparation of the heart -- is from the Lord. The tongue of the ungodly is under Divine restraint (Num. 22:18). And when the Christian's thoughts are marshaled in due order, does not he depend upon the Lord for utterance? Often in prayer, the more we speak the more we leave unspoken, till the answer of the tongue is fully given, crying, "Abba Father." But the fluency of the tongue without the preparation of the heart -- when prayer is without special business, when we read the precious promises and carry not a word to plead before the throne -- this is man's dead formality. It is not from the Lord. It is an abomination in his sight.

This habit of dependence must continue to the end. We can no more prepare ourselves after grace received than before it. He who is the Author must be the Finisher of faith. He is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," in this Almighty work. Our happiness and prosperity is in the humbling acknowledgment of praise -- "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). Dependence is not the excuse for indolence, but the spring of active energy.

And if a man's reason should argue -- "If God does not give me grace, how can I come?" -- we ask, "Did you ever desire, did you ever ask for grace? If not, how can you complain that you have never received it?" If helplessness is really felt, if it brings conviction, then grace is ready to be vouchsafed [bestowed]. "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7:7).

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