Brokenness of Heart
Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


1. It consists in a quickness of sense and apprehensiveness. A broken spirit is a sensible spirit; it presently discerns what is amiss, either in it, or towards it. As a broken bone or joint, it presently feels the least annoyance that is; even so likewise does a broken heart. That heart which is truly contrite and broken, it is sensible of the least grievance that may be; and this whether in regard of sin, or in regard of punishment,

(1) In regard of sin first, it is very quick and sensible here; those whose hearts are hardened and obdurate, they can commit one sin upon another, and yet never be affected with it, or lay it to heart; but those which are broken, and Be tender-spirited, the least miscarriage that troubles them, and goes to their souls, they are humbled, not only for greaser sins, but also for smaller infirmities; and not only for more notorious practices, but likewise for failings in duties themselves; and not only for outward and notorious miscarriages, which come into all men's view, but even also for the secretest obliquities and deflections of the inward man.

(2) So in regard of punishment also. Broken hearts and contrite spirits tremble at the very shak-ings of the rod. A wise man, that is, one spiritually wise, which has true grace and godliness in him, and has a principle of spiritual life, such an one is very sensible of judgment.

2. It consists in a pliableness and fashionableness of heart and spirit; a hard heart is capable of no impression; ye cannot work it, or frame it to anything; but a broken heart ye may mould it in any way, and turn it whithersoever ye please. And this is another thing which is considerable in it: it is such a heart as yields to all God's dealings and workings with it, to His Word, and to His Providence, and that in the several dispensations of it, it is pliable to everything.


1. It signifies the person in whom it is to be subjected to God, and brought in obedience to Him. A man may offer bodily sacrifice, and perform outward duties to God, and yet stand aloof from Him, and have his heart still reserved to himself; but now, when it is once broken and contrite, it then stoops and gives itself up to God's disposing; and this is that which God does mainly look after in those that come to Him, He desires still to have the better of them, and to have their spirits brought in order to Him, which is all in all in them; this is that which God calls for (Providence 23:16). Now, this is never done by us till it be in some manner broken and bruised in us; because till then, we shall be apt to rest upon our own bottom, and to subsist wholly in ourselves, and some worth of our own.

2. It is that which makes the best amends for all the sins which are committed by us. The breaking of our hearts, it best satisfies for the breaking of God's laws; not as if thereby we did indeed make satisfaction to God's justice (which is only done by the blood of Christ), but it is that which does carry the best shadow of compensation with it.

3. A broken heart is most desired, as that which makes the best improvement of all God's providences and dispensations, etc. This makes us more thankful for mercies, and this makes us more corrigible under afflictions'.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

WEB: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

A Broken and a Contrite Heart
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