Answered by George Swinnock, an English Puritan (1627-1673):
Suppose thou wert a person of great quality and estate, and the king should send thee word that he would dine with thee to morrow. What preparation wouldst thou make for his entertainment? Would not thy first work be to cleanse thy house, by causing the dust to be swept out, the floors to be washed, nay, rubbed, everything to be neat and cleanly?
Wouldst thou not put up thy choicest hangings, lay out thy richest carpets, bring out thy best plate, adorn thy room with thy costliest furniture, endeavour that all things should be in place, somewhat suitable to the dignity of so great a prince?
I tell thee, that the great King of all the world doth give thee notice in his word, that on such a day, being the Sabbath, he intends to sup with thee.
Now, friend, what preparation wilt thou make to testify thy respect to this blessed and only potentate? Canst thou beforehand do less than sweep out the dust of sin, and wash the room of thine heart clean, adorn it with the best furniture, the graces, the embroidery of the Holy Ghost?
Truly unless this be done, Christ will not think himself welcome nay; all thy pretended entertainment of him, will be not only infinitely unworthy of, but also provoking to, so jealous and glorious a prince.
Believe it, thy profit by a Sabbath depends not a little upon thy preparation for the Sabbath; till the matter be prepared how can it receive the form? Job xi. 12, 13
Thou hast enjoyed many Lord’s days, and it may be got little soul-saving good ; thou goest to the house of God, where a table, in the preaching of the gospel, is set before thee, spread with all the dainties of pardon, love, grace, peace, and eternal life, at which others sit and feed ; their souls are filled with marrow and fatness, and their mouths praise the Lord with joyful lips; but thou hast no stomach, canst eat little, and savour nothing; I dare be the physician to tell thee the cause and cure of this.
The cause is, thy stomach is foul, thy heart is unclean ; and therefore as a man that hath a cold, or some disease predominant, cannot relish his meat, but complains sometimes of the meat, sometimes of the cook, when the fault is in himself, so thou canst taste no goodness in the best meat —
Neither prayer nor Scripture, neither sermon nor Sabbath are savoury to thee, yet it may be thou blamest the preacher, he doth not dress the meat to thy mind, when the fault is in the foulness of thy affections.
Thy cure must be, to purge out this old leaven, to take some pains beforehand in cleansing thy heart. When the stomach is clean, as after purging or fasting, how sweet is a piece of bread!
So if thou wouldst but in secret search thy soul, vomit up thy filth by a penitent confession, cleanse thine heart by sincere contrition, and wouldst then frequent the public ordinances, thou wouldst find prayer sweet, preaching sweet, the sacrament sweet, every service sweet. Oh how wouldst thou love ‘the habitation of God’s house, and the place where his honour dwelleth!’
“Prepare to meet thy God,’ O Christian! Betake thyself to thy chamber on the Saturday night, confess and bewail thine unthankfulness for, and unfruitfulness under the ordinances of God; shame and condemn thyself for thy sins, entreat God to prepare thy heart for, and assist it in, thy religious performances —
Spend some time in consideration of the infinite majesty, holiness, jealousy, and goodness of that God, with whom thou art to have to do in sacred duties; ponder the weight and importance of his holy ordinances; how they concern thy salvation or damnation, thine everlasting life or death, how certainly they will either further thine unchangeable welfare, or increase thine endless woe —
Mediate upon the shortness of the time thou hast to enjoy Sabbaths in; how near thy life may be to an end, how speedily and how easily God may take down thine earthy tabernacle, how there is no working, no labouring, no striving in the other world, to which thou art hastening; and continue musing and blowing till the fire burneth; thou canst not think the good thou mayest gain by such afterthoughts, how pleasant and profitable the Lord’s-day would be to thee after such preparation.
The oven of thine heart thus baked in, as it were, overnnight, would be easily heated the next morning; the fire so well raked up when thou wentest to bed, would be the sooner kindled when thou shouldst rise.
If thou wouldst thus leave thine heart with God on the Saturday night, thou shouldst find it with him in the Lord’s-day morning.
From “The Christian Man’s Calling” by George Swinnock, chapter 21, page 229