Now to give some account of why this grace of sincerity is so taking with and delightful to God, that it even captivates him in love to the soul where he finds it, there are two things which are the inseparable companions of sincerity, yea, effects flowing from it, that are very taking to draw love both from God and man.
First. Effect. Sincerity makes the soul willing. When it is clogged with so many infirmities, as to disable it from the full performance of its duty, yet then the soul stands on tip-toe to be gone after it, as the hawk upon the hand, as soon as ever it sees her game, launcheth forth, and would be upon the wing after it, though possibly held by its sheath to the fist. Thus the sincere soul is inwardly pricked and provoked by a strong desire after its duty, though kept back by infirmities. A perfect heart and a willing mind are joined together. It is David’s counsel to his son Solomon, to ‘serve God with a perfect heart and a willing mind,’ I Chr. 28:9. A false heart is a shifting heart—puts off its work so long as it dares. And it is little thanks to set about work when the rod is taken down. Yet hypocrites are like tops that go no longer than they are whipped, but the sincere soul is ready and forward, it doth not want will to do a duty when it wants skill and strength how to do it. ‘The Levites’ are said to be ‘more upright in heart to sanctify themselves, than the priests’ were, II Chr. 29:34. How appeared that? In this, that they were more forward and willing to the work. No sooner did the word come out of the good king’s mouth, concerning a reformation, ver. 10, than presently the Levites arose to ‘sanctify themselves.’ But some of the priests had not such a mind to the business, and therefore were not so soon ready, ver. 34, showing more policy than piety therein—as if they would stay, and see first how the times would prove before they would engage. Reformation work is but an icy path, which cowardly spirits love to have well beaten by others, before they dare come on it. But sincerity is of better metal. Like the true traveller, that no weather shall keep from going his journey when set, the upright man looks not at the clouds, stands not thinking this or that to discourage him, but takes his warrant from the word of God, and having that, nothing but a countermand from the same God that sets him a work shall turn him back. His heart is uniform to the will of God. If God saith, ‘Seek my face,’ it rebounds and echos back again, ‘Thy face will I seek,’ yea, Lord; as if David had said with a good will, Thy word is press money enough to carry me from this duty to that whither thou pleasest. May be when the sincere soul is about a duty, he doth it weakly; yet this very willingness of the heart is wonderful pleasing to God. How doth it affect and take the father, when he bids his little child go and bring him such a thing, that may be as much as he can well lift, to see him not stand and shrug at the command as hard, but run to it, and put forth his whole strength about it; though at last may be he cannot do it, yet the willingness of the child pleaseth him, so that his weakness rather stirs up the father to pity and help him, than provokes him to chide him. Christ throws this covering over his disciples’ infirmities—‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ O! this obedience that, like the dropping honey, comes without squeezing, though but little of it, tastes but sweetly on God’s palate, and such is sincere obedience.
Second Effect. Sincerity makes the soul very open and free to God. Though the sincere soul hath many infirmities, yet it desires to cloak and hide none of this from God, no, if it could, it would not, and this is that which delights God exceedingly. To be sure he will cover what such a soul uncovers. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive, I John 1:9. It was a high piece of ingenuity and clemency in Augustus, that having promised by proclamation a great sum of money to any that should bring him the head of a famous pirate, did yet, when the pirate, who had heard of this, brought it himself to him and laid it at his foot, not only pardon him for his former offences against him, but rewarded him for his great confidence in his mercy. Truly thus doth God. Though his wrath be revealed against all sin and unrighteousness, yet when the soul itself comes freely and humbles itself before him, he cannot stretch forth his arm to strike that soul which gives such glory to his mercy; and this the sincere heart doth. Indeed, the hypocrite when he has sinned, hides it, as Achan his ‘wedge of gold.’ He sits brooding on his lust, as Rachel on her father’s idols. It is as hard getting a hen off her nest, as such a one to come off his lusts, and disclose them freely to God. If God himself find him not out, he will not bewray himself. I cannot set out the different disposition of the sincere and false heart in this matter better, than by the like in a mercenary servant and a child.
When a servant—except it be one of a thousand —breaks a glass or spoils any of his master’s goods, all his care is to hide it from his master, and therefore he throws the pieces of it away into some dark hole or other, where he thinks they shall never be found, and now he is not troubled for the wrong he hath done his master, but glad he hath handled the matter so as not to be discovered. Thus the hypocrite would count himself a happy man, could he but lay his sin out of God’s sight. It is not the treason he dislikes, but fears to be known that he is the traitor; and therefore, though it be as unfeasible to blind the eye of the Almighty, as with our hand to cover the face of the sun, that it should not shine, yet the hypocrite will attempt it. We find a woe pronounced against such, ‘Woe unto them that dig deep to hide their counsel from the Lord,’ Isa. 29:15. This is a sort of sinners whose care is not to make their peace when they have offended, but to hold their peace, and stand demurely before God, as Gehazi before his master, as if they had been nowhere but where they should be. These are they whom God will put to shame to purpose. The Jews were far gone in this hypocrisy, when they justified themselves as a holy people, and put God so hard to it as to make him prove his charge, rather than confess what was too true and apparent. This God upbraids them for, ‘How canst thou say, I am not polluted? I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done,’ Jer. 2:23. Hast thou such a whorish forehead to justify thyself, and hypocritical heart to draw a fair cover over so foul practices? would you yet pass for saints, and be thought a people unpolluted? Now mark, it is not long but this hypocritical people that thus hid their sin hath shame enough, ‘As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so,’ saith the prophet, ‘is the house of Israel ashamed,’ ver. 26; that is, as the thief, who at first is so insolent as to deny the fact he is accused of, yet when upon the search the stolen goods are found about him, and he brought to justice for it, then he is put to double shame, for his theft, and impudence also in justifying himself. So it is with this people, and with all hypocrites; though while in peace and at ease they be brag and bold, yea, seem to scorn to be thought what they indeed are; yet there is a time coming—which is called ‘their month wherein they shall be found,’ ver. 2:24—when God’s hue and cry will overtake them, his terrors ransack their consciences, and bring forth what they so stiffly denied, making it appear to themselves, and others also, what juggling and deceit they have used to shift off their sin. It is easy to think what shame will cover their faces and weigh down their heads while this is doing. God loves to befool those who think they play their game so wisely; because, with Ahab, they fight against God in a disguise, and will not be known to be the men.
But the sincere soul takes another course, and speeds better. As a child when he hath committed a fault doth not stay till others go and tell his father what the matter is, nor till his father makes it appear by his frowning countenance that it is come to his ear; but freely, and of his own accord, goes presently to his father—being prompted by no other thing than the love he bears to his dear father, and the sorrow which his heart grows every moment he stays bigger and bigger withal for his offence—and easeth his aching heart by a free and full confession of his fault at his father’s foot; and this with such plain‑heartedness—giving his offence the weight of every aggravating circumstance —that if the devil himself should come after him to glean up what he hath left, he should hardly find wherewithal to make it appear blacker;—Thus doth the sincere soul confess to God, adding to his simplicity in confession of his sin such a flow of sorrow, that God, seeing his dear child in such danger of being carried down too far towards despair—if good news from him come not speedily to stay him—cannot but tune his voice rather into a strain of comforting him in his mourning than of chiding for his sin.