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My Naughty Heart

John Flavel was one of the great Puritan preachers and authors. Much of Flavel’s ministry was toward sailors, so he often relied on nautical metaphors and terminology. In An Honest, Well Experienced Heart, Adam Embry shares a poem titled “My Naughty Heart.” “Naughty” rhymes with “knotty,” a play on words that falls in the middle of the piece. Flavel writes of a heart that is so often steered in the wrong direction.

A ship of greatest burthen will obey
The rudder; he that sits at helm, may sway
And guide its motion: If the pilot please,
The ship bears up, against both wind and seas.
My soul’s the ship, affections are its sails,
Conscience is the rudder. Ah! But Lord, what ails
My naughty heart, to shuffle in and out,
When its convictions bid it tack about?
Temptations blow a counter blast, and drive
The vessel where they please, tho’ conscience strive.
And by its stronger persuasions it would force,
My stubborn will to steer another course.
Lord, if I run this course, thy word doth tell,
How quickly I must needs arrive in hell.
Then rectify my conscience, change my will;
Fan in thy pleasant gales, my God, and fill,
All my affections, and let nothing carry,
My soul from its due course, or make it vary;
Then if the pilot’s work thou wouldst perform.
I should bear bravely up against the storm.