From Keeping the Heart by John Flavel, from the chapter, Special seasons in the life of a Christian which require our utmost diligence in keeping the heart, under the heading, Season of duty.
Headings are not the author’s.
To the preacher tempted to jest from the pulpit
If you would keep your heart from vain excursions when engaged in duties, realize to yourself, by faith, the holy and awful presence of God. If the presence of a great man would compose you to seriousness, how much more should the presence of a holy God? Do you think that you would dare to be gay and light if you realized the presence and inspection of the Divine Being? Remember where you are when engaged in religious duty, and act as if you believed in the omniscience of God. “All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”1 Realize his infinite holiness, his purity, his spirituality.
Strive to obtain such apprehensions of the greatness of God as shall suitably affect your heart; and remember His jealousy over His worship. “This is that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”2
To the congregant inclined to daydream during prayers and preaching
“A man that is praying,” says Bernard, “should behave himself as if he were entering into the court of heaven, where he sees the Lord upon his throne, surrounded with ten thousand of His angels and saints ministering unto Him.”
When you come from an exercise in which your heart has been wandering and listless, what can you say? Suppose all the vanities and impertinences which have passed through your mind during a devotional exercise were written down and underlined with your petitions, could you have the face to present them to God? Should your tongue utter all the thoughts of your heart when attending the worship of God, would not men abhor you? Yet your thoughts are perfectly known to God. O think upon this Scripture: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.”3 Why did the Lord descend in thunderings and lightnings and dark clouds upon Sinai? Why did the mountains smoke under him, the people quake and trembled round about him, Moses himself not excepted? But to teach the people this great truth: “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”4 Such apprehensions of the character and presence of God will quickly reduce the heart inclined to vanity to a more serious frame.
1. Hebrews 4:13
2. Leviticus 10:13
3. Psalm 89:7
4. Hebrews 12:28