How sincerity covers the saint’s uncomeliness 2/2

 But as God hath strange punishments for the wicked, so he hath strange expressions of love and mercy for sincere souls.  He loves to outdo their highest expectations, kiss, robe, feast, all in one day, and that the first day of his return, when the memory of his outrageous wickednesses were fresh, and the stinking scent of the swill and swine from which he was but newly come hardly gone!  What a great favourite is sincerity with the God of heaven!  (2.) Again, God’s mercy is larger to his children, than their charity is towards one another.  Those whom we are ready to unsaint for their failings that appear in their lives, God owns for his perfect ones, because of their sincerity.  We find Asa’s failings expressed, and his perfection vouched by God together, as I may say, in a breath, II Chr. 15:17.  It was well that God cleared that good man, for had but the naked story of his life, as it stands in the Scripture, been recorded, without any express testi­mony, of God’s approving him, his godliness would have hazarded a coming under dispute in the opinion of good men; yea, many more with him—concerning whom we are now put out of doubt, because we find them canonized for saints by God himself—would have been cast, if a jury of men, and those holy men too, had gone upon them.  Elijah himself, because he saw none have such zeal for God and his worship, as to wear their colours openly in a free profession, and hang out a flag of defiance against the idolatry of the times, by a stout opposing it as he did—which might be their sin—makes a sad moan to God, as if the apostasy had been so general, that the whole species of the godly had been preserved in his single person.  But God brings the holy man better news, ‘I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed down to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him,’ I Kings 19:18.  As if God had said, ‘Com­fort thyself, Elijah.  Though my number be not great, yet neither is there such a dearth of saints as thou fearest in this ungodly age.  It is true their faith is weak, they dare not justle with the sins of the age as thou dost, for which thou shalt not lose thy reward; yet those night-disciples, that for fear carry their light in a dark lantern—having some sincerity, which keeps them from polluting themselves with these idolatries —must not, shall not be disowned by me.’  Yea, God who bids us be most tender of his lambs, is much more tender of them himself.  Observable is that place, I John 2:12-14.  There are three ranks of saints, ‘fathers,’ ‘young men,’ ‘little children.’ and the Spirit of God chiefly shows his tender care of them; as by mentioning them first, ver. 12, so by leaving the sweet promise of pardoning mercy in their lap and bosom, rather than in either of the other.  ‘I write unto you, little children, for your sins are forgiven you for my name’s sake.’  But are not the fathers’ sins, and young men’s also forgiven?  Yes, who doubts it?  But he doth not so particularly apply it to them, as to these; because these, from the sense of their own failings —out of which the other were more grown—were more prone to dispute against this promise in their own bosoms.  Yea, he doth not only in plain terms tell them their sins are forgiven, but meets with the secret objection which comes forth from trembling hearts in opposition to this good news, taken from their own vileness and unworthiness, and stoops its mouth with this, “forgiven for my name’s sake’—a greater name than the name of their biggest sin, which discourageth them from believing.

  1. Sincerity keeps up the soul’s credit at the throne of grace, so that no sinful infirmity can hinder its welcome with God.  It is the regarding of iniquity in the heart, not the having of it, [that] stops God’s ear from hearing our prayer.  This is a temptation not a few have found some work to get over—whether such as they who see so many sinful failings in them­selves, may take the boldness to pray, or, without pre­suming to expect audience, when they have prayed; and it sometimes prevails so far, that because they cannot pray as they would, therefore they forbear what they should—much like some poor people that keep from the congregation because they have not such clothes to come in as they desire.  To meet with such as are turning away from duty upon this fear, the promises—which are our only ground for prayer, and chief plea in prayer—are accommodated, and fitted to the lowest degree of grace; so that, as a picture well drawn faceth all in the room alike that look on it, so the promises of the gospel-covenant smile upon all that sincerely look to God in Christ.  It is not said, ‘If you have faith like a cedar,’ but ‘if you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this moun­tain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall re­move,’ Matt. 17:20.  Neither is justifying faith beneath miraculous faith in its own sphere of activity.  The least faith on Christ, if sincere, as truly removes the mountainous guilt of sin from the soul, as the strong­est.  Hence all the saints are said to have ‘like precious faith,’ II Peter 1:1.  Sarah’s faith, which in Genesis we can hardly see—as the story presents her —wherein it appeared, obtains an honourable mention, Heb. 11:11, where God owns her for a be­liever as well as Abraham with his stronger faith.  What love is it the promise entails the favours of God upon?  Is it not, “grace be with them that love our Lord Jesus’ {not} with a seraphim’s love, but with a sincerelove, Eph 6:24.  It is not ‘Blessed they who are holy to such a measure;’—this would have fitted but some saints.  The greatest part would have gone away and said, ‘There is nothing for me, I am not so holy.’ But that no saint might lose his portion, it is, ‘Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness;’ and this takes in all the children of God, even to the least babe that is newly born this day to Christ.  The new convert hungers after holiness and that sincerely.  And wherefore all this care so to lay the promises, but to show that when we go to make use of any promise at the throne of grace, we should not question our welcome, for any of our infirmities, if so be, this stamp of sincerity is upon our hearts?  Indeed, if sin­cerity did not thus much for the saint, there could not be a prayer accepted of God, at the hands of any saint that ever was or shall be on earth to the end of the world, because there never was nor shall be such a saint dwelling in flesh here below, in whom eminent failings may not be found.  The apostle would have us know that Elijah, who did as great wonders in heaven and earth too by prayer, as who greatest? yet this man —God could soon have picked a hole in his coat.  Indeed, lest we attribute the prevalency of his prayers to the dignity of his person, and some eminency which he had by himself in grace above others, the Spirit of God tells us, he was of the same make with his poor brethren.  ‘Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed,’ &c., James 5:17, 18. A weak hand with a sincere heart is able to turn the key in prayer.

 

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