Second Inquiry. What uncomeliness doth sincerity cover? I answer, all, especially what is sinful.
First kind of uncomeliness. There are several external temporal privileges, in which if any fall short —such excellency does this vain world put in them, more than their intrinsical worth calls for—they are exposed to some dishonour, if not contempt, in the thoughts of others. Now where sincere grace is, it affords a fair cover to them all, yea, puts more abundant honour on the person, in sight of God, angels, and men also if wise, than the other can occasion contempt.
- Beauty. This is the great idol, which the whole world wonders after, as they after the beast, Rev. 13, which, if God denies, and confines the souls of some to a more uncomely house—body I mean —than others, this their mean bodily presence prejudiceth them in the esteem of others. Now grace, if it be but graced with sincerity, shines through the cloud that nature hath darkened the countenance withal. A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, Ecc. 8:1. Who, that hath the use of his reason, would not prize and choose the vessel in the cellar full of generous wine, before a gilt tun that hangs up empty at the door for a sign? If sincere grace fills not the heart within, the beauty with which nature hath gilt the face without, makes the person but little worth. A beautiful person without true grace, is but a fair stinking weed—you know the best of such a one, if you look on him furthest off; whereas a sincere heart, without this outward beauty to commend it, is like some sweet flower not painted with such fine colours on the leaves—better in the hand than eye, to smell on than look on. The nearer you come to the sincere soul, the better you find him. Outward uncomeliness to true grace, is but as some old mean buildings you sometimes see stand before a goodly, stately house, which hide its glory only from the traveller that passeth by at some distance, but he that comes in sees its beauty, and admires it. Again,
- A mean parentage and inglorious descent is much despised in the world. Well, how base soever the stock and ignoble the birth be, when grace unfeigned comes, it brings arms with it—it clarifies the blood, and makes the house illustrious. ‘Since thou wast precious in my eye, thou hast been honourable,’ Isa. 43:4. Sincerity sets a mark of honour; if you see this star shining, though over a mean cottage, it tells thee a great prince dwells there, an heir of heaven. Sincerity brings the creature into alliance with a high family—no less than that of the high God; by which new alliance his own inglorious name is blotted out, and a new name given him. He bears the name of God, to whom he is joined by a faith unfeigned; and who dares say that the God of heaven’s child, or Christ’s bride, are of an ignoble birth? Again,
- A low purse, as well as a low parentage, exposeth to contempt, yea more. Some, by their purse, redeem themselves in time, as they think, from the scorn of their mean stock. The little spring from whence the water came, by the time it hath run some miles, and swelled into a broad river, is out of sight and not inquired much after. But poverty, that itself sounds reproach in the ears of this proud world. Well, though a man were poor, even to a proverb, yet if a vein of true godliness, sincere grace, be but to be found running in his heart, here is a rich mine, that will lift him up above all the world’s contempt. Such a one may possibly say he hath no money in his house, but he cannot say that he hath no treasure —that he is not rich—and speak true. He sure is rich, that hath a key to God’s treasury. The sincere soul is rich in God; what God hath is his, ‘all is yours, for ye are Christ’s.’ Again,
- In a word, to name no more, parts and endowments of the mind,these are applauded above all the former by some. And indeed these carry in them an excellency, that stands more level to man’s noblest faculty—reason—than the other. These others are so far beneath its spiritual nature, that—as Gideon’s soldier’s, some of them, could not drink the water till they bowed down on their knees—so neither could man take any relish in these, did he not first debase himself far beneath the lofty stature of his reasonable soul. But knowledge, parts, and abilities of the mind, these seem to lift up man’s head, and make him that he loseth none of his height; and therefore none so contemptible by the wise world, as those that are of weak parts and mean intellectual abilities. Well, now, let us see what cover sincerity hath for this nakedness of the mind, which seems the most shameful of all the rest. Where art thou, Christian, that I may tell thee—who sits lamenting, and bemoaning thy weak parts, and shallow understanding—what a happy man thou art, with thy honest sincere heart, beyond all compare with these, whose sparkling parts do so dazzle thine eyes, that thou canst not see thy own privilege above them? Their pearl is but in the head, and they may be toads for all that; but thine is in the heart. And it is the pearl of grace that is ‘the pearl of great price.’ Thy sincere heart sets thee higher in God’s heart, than thy weak parts do lay thee low in their deceived opinion. And thou, without the abilities of mind that they have, shalt find the way to heaven; but they, for all their strong parts, shall be tumbled down to hell, because they have not thy sincerity. Thy mean gifts do not make thee incapable of heaven’s glory, but their unsanctified gifts and endowments are sure to make them capable of more of hell’s shame and misery. In a word, though here thy head be weak and parts low, yet, for thy comfort know, thou shalt have a better head given thee to thy sincere heart, when thou comest to heaven, but their knowing heads shall not meet with better hearts in hell, but be yoked eternally to their own wicked ones in torment. But enough of this.
Second kind of uncomeliness. I come to the second kind of uncomeliness which sincerity covers, and that is sinful. Now this sinful uncomeliness must needs be the worst, because it lights on the most beautiful part—the soul. If dirt thrown on the face be more uncomely than on another member—because the face is the fairest—then, no uncomeliness like that which crocks and blacks the soul and spirit, because this is intended by God to be the prime seat of man’s beauty. Now that which most stains and deforms the soul, must be that which most opposeth its chief perfection, which, in its primitive creation, was, and can still be, no other than the beauty of holiness drawn on it by the Holy Spirit’s curious pencil. And what can that be but the soul-monster which is called sin? This hath marred man’s sweet countenance, that he is no more like the beauty God created, than dead Sarah’s face was like that beauty which was a bait for the greatest princes, and made her husband go in fear of his life wherever he went. Nay, it is no more like the beauty God created, than the foul fiend, now a cursed devil in hell, is like to the holy angel he was in heaven. This wound which is given by sin to man’s nature, Christ hath undertaken to cure by his grace in his elect. The cure is begun here, but not so perfected, that no scar and blemish remains; and this is the great uncomeliness which sincerity lays its finger on and covers. But here the question may be as follows.