Sincerity or truth of heart in all our ways covers all the Christian’s uncomeliness. In handling this point, this is our method: First. We shall inquire, which is the truth and sincerity that covers the Christian’s uncomeliness. Second. We shall inquire, what uncomelinesses they are that sincerity covers. Third. How sincerity covers them. Fourth. Why sincerity doth this; or some account given for all this.
What is the truth which covers the Christian’s uncomeliness.
First Inquiry. Which is that truth and sincerity that covers all uncomelinesses and deficiencies in the Christian. Here we must distinguish of a twofold sincerity, one moral, another evangelical.
[Moral truth and uprightness.]
First kind of sincerity. There is a moral truth, and uprightness, which we may call a field flower, because it may be found growing in the wild and waste of nature. It cannot be denied, but one that hath not a dram of sanctifying saving grace, may show some kind of uprightness and truth in his actions. God himself comes in as a witness for Abimelech, that what he did in taking Sarah, was in the uprightness of his heart: ‘I know,’ saith God, ‘that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart,’ Gen. 20:6, that is, thou didst mean honestly as to this particular business, and didst not intend any wrong to Abraham, whose wife she was unknown to thee. Joab, though a bloody man, yet dealt very uprightly and squarely with David concerning the rendition of Rabbah, when he had a fair advantage of stealing away the honour from his prince to himself. Many such instances may be given of men that have been great strangers to a work of grace on their hearts; but this is not the uprightness that we mean in the point laid down. It doth indeed render a person very lovely and amiable before men to be thus upright and honest in his dealings; but methinks I hear the Lord saying concerning such, as once he did to Samuel of Eliab, ‘Look not on their countenance,’ so as to think [that] these are they which he accepts. No, he hath refused them; ‘for the Lord seeth not as man seeth,’ God’s eye looks deeper than man’s, I Sam. 16:7. There are two great defects in this uprightness which God rejects it for.
- Defect. It grow, not from a good root—a renewed heart. This is a hair on the moral man’s pen, which blurs and blots his copy, when he writes fairest. It is like the leprosy to Naaman; that same ‘but he was a leper,’ took away the honour of his greatness at court, and [of his] prowess in the field. So here it stains the fairest actions of a mere moral man—‘But he is a Christless, graceless person.’ The uprightness of such does others more good in this world than themselves in another. They are by this moral honesty profitable to those that have civil commerce with them; but it doth not render themselves acceptable to God. Indeed, had not God left some authority in conscience to awe and keep men, that have no grace, within some bounds of honesty, this world would have been no more habitable for the saints, than the forest of wild beasts is now for man. And such is the uprightness of men void of sanctifying grace. They are rather rid by an overpowering light of conscience that scares them, than sweetly led by an inward principle inclining them to take complacency in that which is good. Abimelech himself—for whom, as we heard, God so apologized—is yet let to know that his honesty in that matter came rather from God’s restraint upon him, than any real goodness in him. I also withheld thee from sinning against me; therefore suffered I thee not to touch her, Gen. 20:6.
- Defect. This moral uprightness falls short of the chief end indispensably necessaryto make a person upright indeed. This is ‘the glory of God,’ I Cor. 10:31. ‘Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ The archer may lose his game by shooting short, as well as by shooting wide. The gross hypocrite shoots wide, the uprightest moralist shoots short. He may, and oft doth, take his aim right as to the particular and immediate end of his action, but ever fails in regard of the ultimate end. Thus, a servant may be faithful to his master, scorn to wrong him of a farthing, yea, cordially seek his master’s profit; and yet God may not be looked at or thought of in all this, and so all is worth nothing, because God, who is principally to be regarded, is left out of the story. Servants are commanded to do their ‘service as to the Lord and not to men,’ that is, not only, not chiefly to man, Eph. 6:7. It is true, the master is to be looked at in the servant’s duty, but in this way, only as it leads to the glory of God. He must not, when he hath desired to please his earthly master, sit down as at his journey’s end, but pass on—as the eye doth through the air and clouds to the sun where it is terminated —to God, as the chief end why he is dutiful and faithful to man. Now no principle can lead the soul so high as to aim at God, but that which comes from God. See both these excellently couched together. ‘That ye may be sincere,…being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God,’ Php. 1:10, 11. Where you may observe: (1.) That the sincerity of the right stamp, is that which brings forth fruits of righteousness to the praise of God, that is, where the glory of God is the end of all our actions. (2.) That such fruit cannot be borne, but ‘by Christ.’ The soul must be planted into Christ, before it can be thus sincere, to bear fruits of righteousness to the praise of God. Hence these fruits of righteousness are said to be ‘by Jesus Christ.’ What men do by themselves, they do for themselves. They eat their own fruit, devour the praise of what they do. The Christian only that doth all by Christ, doth all for Christ. He hath his sap from Christ, into whom he is graffed, that makes him fruitful; and therefore he reserves all the fruit he bears for him. Thus we see how this mortal uprightness is itself fundamentally defective, and therefore cannot be that girdle which hides and covers our other defects. Yet before I pass on to the other, I would leave a twofold caution for improvement of what hath been said concerning this uprightness. The one is to the sincere Christian, the other is to such as have no more than a moral uprightness.