The Tender Heart, by Richard Sibbes
2 Chronicles 34:27
Because your heart was tender, and you did humble yourself before God, when you heard his words against this place…
I. THAT GOD DOTH GRACIOUSLY FIT PROPHETS FOR PERSONS, AND HIS WORD TO A PEOPLE THAT ARE UPRIGHT IN THEIR HEARTS. Where there is a true desire to know the will of God, there God will give men sincere prophets that shall answer them exactly. But those that are false-hearted shall have suitable teachers, who shall instruct them according to their lusts. If they be like Ahab, they shall have four hundred false prophets to teach falsehood to please their lusts (1 Kings 22:6); but if they be Davids they shall have Nathans. If they be Josiahs they shall have Huldahs and Jeremiahs. God commended Josiah because his heart was tender. A tender heart is —
II. THAT IT IS A SUPERNATURAL DISPOSITION OF A TRUE CHILD OF GOD TO HAVE A TENDER, SOFT, AND A MELTING HEART. All by nature have stony hearts in respect of spiritual goodness. Say what you will to a hard heart, it will never yield. A hammer will do no good to a stone. It may break it in pieces, but not draw it to any form. So to a stony heart all the threatenings in the world will do no good. You may break it in pieces but never work upon it. It must be the Almighty power of God. All that are gracious must of necessity have soft hearts.
III. THEREFORE I WILL SHOW —
1. How a tender heart is wrought. It is made tender by Him who made it (Ezekiel 11:19).
1. God through the use of means softens it by His Word, in producing apprehension of judgment.
2. It is wrought by an apprehension of tenderness and love in Christ. Many say that an adamant cannot be melted with fire, but by blood. I cannot tell whether this be true or no; but I am sure nothing will melt the hard heart of man but the blood of Christ.
3. When the heart is made tender by the Spirit, many things will work tenderness.
(1) The works of God.
(2) His judgments.
(3) The Word and sacraments.
(4) God’s promises.
2. How it may be preserved and maintained.
(1) Keep under the means whereby God’s Spirit will work.
(2) Seek to realise the forlorn state of the Church abroad.
(3) Labour for a legal and evangelical faith.
(4) Associate with those who are tender-hearted.
(5) Take heed of the least sin against conscience. As water, when it begins to freeze, will not endure anything, not so much as the weight of a pin upon it, but after a while will bear the weight of a cart; even so at the beginning, the heart being tender, trembles at the least sin, and will not bear with any one; but when it once gives way to sins against conscience, it becomes so frozen that it can endure any sin, and so becomes more and more hard.
(6) Take heed of spiritual drunkenness; that is, be not drunk with an immoderate use of the creatures (Hosea 4:11).
(7) Take heed of hypocrisy.
(8) Take heed of great sins.
(9) Consider the miserable estate of hardness of heart.
8. How it may be discerned from the contrary. By applying of the soul unto objects —
(1) To God. As it is tender from God, so it is tender for God. He that hath a tender heart cannot endure to dishonour God himself, or to hear others dishonour Him.
(2) To His Word. A tender heart is sensitive to —
(a) Its threatening (Isaiah 66:2; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Peter 3:11); its promises, its directions (Isaiah 6:8; Psalm 27:8).
(3) To the works of God. A tender heart quakes when it sees the judgments of God upon others.
(4) To our regard of the estate of others, whether they be good or bad (Psalm 119:136; Philippians 3:18; Matthew 23:37; Matthew 11:25).Conclusion:
1. What an excellent thing a tender heart is (Isaiah 57:15).
2. It fits a man for the end for which he was created. The service of God.
3. It is fit for any blessedness. It is capable of any beatitude.
4. Consider the wretched state of a heart that is not tender, and will not yield.
( R. Sibbes..)
KJV: Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.
WEB: because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God, when you heard his words against this place, and against its inhabitants, and have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard you,” says Yahweh.