This article is part of the Reading the Bible with Dead Guys series.
Reading the Bible With Dead Guys is a weekly blog series giving you the chance to read God’s Word alongside some great theologians from church history. With content adapted from the Crossway Classic Commentaries series, these posts feature reflections on Scripture by giants of the faith like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and more.
Today we’ll hear from Charles Bridges (1794–1869) on Proverbs 4:23
“Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.” - Proverbs 4:23
The rules laid out in verses 23-27 constitute an invaluable safeguard for our Christian lives. Since we are attacked at every point, every possible place where sin may gain a foothold has to be guarded against—the heart, the mouth, the eyes, the feet.
First the heart, man's citadel, the center of his dearest treasure. It is frightening to think about its many assailants. Let it be guarded carefully. Never let the guard sleep at his post (Deuteronomy 4:9). The heart must be known, so that it may be kept safe. Nothing is more difficult, but nothing is more necessary. If we do not know our hearts, it will be as if we knew nothing at all. Whatever else we know, to neglect this knowledge is to be a prize fool. If we do not know our weak points, Satan is well aware of them, "the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:2).
Then, when I know my heart and feel that it is in the middle of so many dangers, the question arises, can I guard my own heart? Certainly not. This is God's work, though it is carried out through the agency of man. He works through our efforts. He implants an active principle and sustains the ceaseless exercise. When this is done in his strength and guidance, all the means of our preservation are greatly increased. Watch and pray. Nurture a humble spirit and a dependent spirit. Live in the atmosphere of the Word of God. Resist the evil world, even in its most plausible forms. This will be a conflict until the end of our lives. "The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God, and after conversion to keep it with him" (Flavel). "What is there," asks Mede, "that will not entice and allure so fickle a thing as the heart from God?"
Above all else, exhorts the wise man, guard your heart.
As Satan keeps special watch here, so must we keep special watch as well. If the citadel is taken, the whole town must surrender. If the heart is captured, the whole man—affections, desires, motives, pursuits—will be handed over. The heart is the vital part of the body. If the heart is wounded, that means instant death. Spiritually as well as naturally, the heart... is the wellspring of life. It is the great vital spring of the soul, the fountain of actions, the center and the seat of both sin and holiness (Matthew 12:34-35).
The natural heart is a fountain of poison (Matthew 15:19); but the purified heart is a well of living water (John 4:14). As the spring is, so will be the streams. As the heart is, so will be the mouth, the eyes, and the feet. Therefore, above all else, guard your heart.
Guard the spring so that the waters are not polluted. If the heart is not guarded, everything else is of no avail.