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What this “enlargement of the heart” is a man's own inward sense should easily explain to him. Surely it would, did men reflect on it, and were they acquainted with their own hearts; but the most are not. They would find the carnal natural heart a narrow, contracted, hampered thing, bound with cords and chains of its own twisting and forging, and so incapable of walking, much less of running, in this way of God's commandments, till it be freed and enlarged. The heart is taken generally in Scripture for the whole soul, the understanding, and the will, in its several affections and motions; and the phrase being here of an “enlarged heart,” it seems very congruous to take it in the most enlarged sense. It is said of Solomon that he had a “large heart” (the same word that is here), “as the sand of the sea-shore ” (I Kings iv. 29); that is, a vast comprehensive spirit, that could fathom much of nature, both its greater and lesser things. “He spake of trees, from the cedar in Lebanon, to the hyssop in the wall, and of great beasts and small creeping things.” Thus, I conceive, the “enlargement of the heart” compriseth the enlightening of the understanding. There arises a clearer light there to discern spiritual things in a more spiritual manner; to see the vast difference betwixt the vain things the world goes after, and the true solid delight that is in the “way of God's commandments” —to know the false blush of the pleasures of sin, and what deformity is under that painted mask, and not be allured by it; to have enlarged apprehensions of God, His excellency, and greatness, and goodness; how worthy He is to be obeyed and served. This is the great dignity and happiness of the soul; all other pretensions are low and poor in respect of this. Here then is enlargement, to see the purity and beauty of His law; how just and reasonable, yea, how pleasant and amiable it is, “that His commandments are not grievous,” that they are beds of spices—the more we walk in them, still the more of their fragrant smell and sweetness we find. And then, consequently, upon the larger and clearer knowledge of these things, the heart dilates itself in affection; the more it knows of God, still the more it loves Him, and the less it loves this present world. Love is the great enlarger of the heart to all obedience. Then nothing is hard, yea, the harder things become the more delightful.
All love of other things doth pinch and contract the heart, for they are all narrower than itself. It is framed to that wideness in its first creation, capable of enjoying God, though not of a full comprehending of Him. Therefore all other things gather it in, and straiten it from its natural size, only the love of God stretches and dilates it. He is large enough for it; yea, it, in its fullest enlargement, is infinitely too narrow for Him. Do not all find it, if they will ask themselves, that in all other loves and pursuits in this world, there is still somewhat that pinches? The soul is not at its full size, but, as a foot in a strait shoe, is somewhere bound and pained, and cannot go freely, much less run; though another who looks on cannot tell where, yet each one feels it. But when the soul is set free from these narrow things, and is raised to the love of God, then is it at ease and at large, and hath room enough; it is both “elevated ” and “dilated.” And this word signifies a “high-raised soul,” and is sometimes taken for “proud” and “lofty,” but there is a “greatness” and “height” of spirit in the love of God and union with Him, that doth not vainly swell and lift it up, but, with the deepest humility, joins the highest and truest magnanimity. It sets the soul above the snares that lie here below, in which most men creep and are entangled in that “way of life” which “is on high,” “the just,” as Solomon speaks. Good reason hath David to join these together, and to desire the one as the spring and cause of the other; an “enlarged heart,” that he might “run the way of God's commandments.” Sensible joys and consolations in God do encourage and enlarge the heart, but these are not so general to all, nor so constant to any. Love is the abounding fixed spring of ready obedience, and will make the heart cheerful in serving God, even without those felt comforts, when He is pleased to deny or withdraw them. In that course or race are understood constancy, activity, and alacrity, and all these flow from the enlargement of the heart. I. Constancy. A narrow enthralled heart, fettered with the love of lower things, and cleaving to some particular sins, or but some one, and that in secret, may keep foot awhile in the way of God's commandments in some steps of things, but it must give up quickly, is not able to run on to the end of the goal. But a heart that hath laid aside every weight, and the most closecleaving and besetting sin (as it is in that fore-cited place in the Epistle to the Hebrews), hath stripped itself of all that may falter or entangle it, it runs and runs on without fainting or wearying, it is at large, hath nothing that pains it in the race. 2. Activity. Not only holding on, but running, which is a swift, nimble race. It stands not bargaining and disputing, but once knowing God's mind, there is no more question or demur. “I made haste and delayed not,” as in this psalm the word is; did not stay upon why and wherefore. He stood not to reason the matter, but ran on. And this love, enlarging the heart, makes it abundant in the work of the Lord, quick and active, despatching much in a little time. 3. Alacrity. All is done with cheerfulness, so no other constraint is needful where this overpowering sweet constraint of love is. “I will run,” not be hauled and drawn by force, but “skip" and “leap,” as the evangelic promise is “That the lame shall leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert " (Isa. xxxv. 6). The spouse desires her beloved “to hasten as a roe and hind in the mountains of spices,” and she doth so, and each faithful soul runs towards him to meet him in his way. It is a sad, heavy thing to do anything as in obedience to God while the heart is straitened, not enlarged towards Him by divine love; but that once taking possession and enlarging the heart, that inward principle of obedience makes the outward obedience sweet; it is then a natural motion. Indeed the soul runs in the ways of God as the sun in his course, which finds no difficulty, being naturally fitted and carried to that motion; he “goes forth as a bridegroom, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.” This is the great point which our souls should be studious of, to attain more evenness, and nimbleness, and cheerfulness, in the ways of God, and for this end we ought to seek, above all things, this enlarged heart. It is the want of this makes us bog and drive heavily, and run long upon little ground. Oh, my beloved, how shallow and narrow are our thoughts of God! Most even of those who are truly godly are led on by a kind of instinct, and carried they scarcely know how to give some attendance on God's worship, and to the avoidance of gross sin, and go on in a blameless course. It is better thus than to run to excess of riot and open wickedness with the ungodly world. But, alas! this is but a dull, heavy, and languid motion, when the heart is not enlarged by the daily growing love of God. Few, few are acquainted with that delightful contemplation of God, which ventilates and raises this flame of love. Petty things bind and contract our spirits, so that they feel little joy in God, little ardent, active desire to do Him service, to crucify sin, to break and undo self-love within us, to root up our own wills to make room for His, that His alone may be ours, that we may have no will of our own, that our daily work may be to grow more like Him in the beauty of holiness. You think it a hard saying to part with your carnal lusts and delights and the common ways of the world, and to be tied to a strict exact conversation all your days. But oh! the reason of this is because the heart is yet straitened and enthralled by the base love of these mean things, and that arises from the ignorance of things higher and better. One glance of God, a touch of His love, will free and enlarge the heart so that it can deny all, and part with all, and make an entire renouncing of all, to follow Him. It sees enough in Him, and in Him alone, and therefore can neither quietly rest on nor earnestly desire anything beside Him.
Oh, that you would apply your hearts to consider the excellence of this way of God's commandments. Our wretched hearts are prejudiced; they think it melancholy and sad. Oh, there is no way truly joyous but this “They shall sing in the ways of the Lord,” says the psalmist (Ps. cxxxviii. 5). Do not men, when their eyes are opened, see a beauty in meekness, and temperance, and humility, a present delightfulness and quietness in them? Whereas in pride, and passion, and intemperance, there is nothing but vexation and disquiet. And then, consider the end of this way, and of this race in it, rest and peace forever. It is the way of peace, both in its own nature and in respect of its end. Did you believe that joy and glory, which are set before you in this way, you would not any of you defer a day longer, but forthwith you would break from all that holds you back, and enter into this way, and run on cheerfully in it. The persuasion of those great things above would enlarge and greaten the heart, and make the greatest things here very little in your eyes.
But would you attain to this enlarged heart for this race, as you ought to apply your thoughts to these divine things, and stretch them on the promises made in the world, so, above all, take David's course; see this enlargement of heart from God's own hand. For it is here propounded and laid before God by way of request: See what is my desire; I would gladly serve Thee better, and advance more in the way of Thy commandments. Now this I cannot do, till my heart be more enlarged, and that cannot be but by Thy hand “when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Present this suit often: It is in His power to do this for thee. He can stretch and expand thy straitened heart, can hoist and spread the sails within thee, and then carry thee on swiftly; filling them, not with the vain air of man's applause, which readily runs a soul upon rocks and splits it, but with the sweet breathings and soft gales of his own Spirit, which carry it straight to the desired haven.
Findest thou sin cleaving to thee and clogging thee? Cry to Him: “Help, Lord! set me free from my narrow heart.” I strive, but in vain without Thee; still it continues so. I know little of Thee; my affections are dead and cold towards Thee. Lord, I desire to love Thee, here is my heart; and lest it fly out, lay hold on it, and take Thine own way with it, though it should be in a painful way, yet draw it forth; yea, draw it that it may run after Thee. All is His own working, and all His motive His own free grace. Let who will fancy themselves masters of their own hearts, and think to enlarge them by the strength of their own stretches of speculation; they alone, they alone are in the sure and happy way of attaining it, who humbly sue and wait for this enlargement of heart from His hand who made it.