Bridges on Proverbs 16:1
 
Charles Bridges on Proverbs 16:1
 
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1.  The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. {preparations: or, disposings}
 
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.† He takes the stone out of the heart, that it may feel (Ezekiel 36:26); 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. (Acts 16:14. Jeremiah 31:33.) 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. (John 6:45.) His grace both prevents and co-operates (Art. x.): not working upon a stone, and leaving it in its dead condition; but as when in Paradise he breathed into the lifeless earth a principle of life and energy. (Genesis 2:7.)
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. (Philippians 2:13; Job 11:13.) 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 our dependence upon him for 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.’† 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. (Numbers 22:18.) And when the Christian’s thoughts are marshaled in due order, does not he depend upon the Lord for utterance? (Ephesians 6:19.) Often in prayer, the more we speak, the more we leave unspoken, till the answer of the tongue is fully given, “crying, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6.) 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; not from the LORD; 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.” (Hebrews 12:2.) He is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8), 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 Corinthians 15:10.) Dependence is not the excuse for indolence, but the spring of active energy.†
And if man’s reason disputes — ‘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, grace is ready to be vouchsafed. “Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matthew 7:7.)