The Acceptable Sacrifice
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heat, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” — Psalm 51:17
This book is John Bunyan’s final written work, in which this aged pastor sought to show why a broken heart is so very much acceptable to God. A heart-moving exposition sure to stir any true worshiper of God.
In John Bunyan’s book, Acceptable Sacrifice, he addresses the question, what can man bring to God which will be excellent and acceptable in His sight? Bunyan’s answer may surprise us – a broken and contrite heart. This is the ‘acceptable sacrifice’ of the title.
It was the very last work which Bunyan ever prepared for the press in his lifetime. He shows from Scripture why a broken heart is so acceptable to God. He characterizes the unbroken heart of man, showing why it must be made contrite, and explains the nature of the change which is involved. Bunyan also guides the reader in discerning whether this change has taken place, and shows how the heart, once broken, can be kept tender.
Table of Contents
- The Text Explained
- A Broken Heart is Truly Excellent
- The Unbroken Heart, and How It Is Made Contrite
- Signs of a Broken Heart
- Why the Heart Must Be Broken
- Why God So Esteems a Broken Heart
- Keeping the Heart Tender
- Uses of the Doctrine
- Some Objections Considered
Introduction by Professor Donald S. Whitney
The collected works of John Bunyan fill more than two thousand pages in three thick volumes, The Acceptable Sacrifice; or The excellency of a Broken Heart was the last of his manuscripts.
More than a dozen of his works were published after his death, most of them in 1692. But The Acceptable Sacrifice was the first of Bunyan’s posthumous publications. George Cokayn, one of those by his side throughout the tinker’s dying days, wrote a preface three weeks after his friend was buried in Bunhill Fields on September 3, and the book was released just before the end of 1688.
In this book Bunyan opens and richly applies verse 17 of David’s penitential Psalm 51, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Displaying the fruit of much meditation and Scripture-soaked reasoning, Bunyan demonstrates that “a spirit rightly broken, an heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing”.
This is a classic example of Puritan thoroughness when dealing with a subject. Bunyan begins by showing us “what a broken heart and what a contrite spirit is”, that the heart is broken and the spirit made contrite by the hammer of the Word of God, and what are the signs of a heart thus broken and a spirit made contrite. These aren’t dry, theoretical musings. George Offor, original editor of the book remarked, “No one could speak more feelingly upon this subject than our author”.