- Character. A sincere heart is a plain heart, a simple heart, sine plicis—a heart without folds. The hypocrite is of the serpent’s brood. He can, as the serpent, shrink up, or let himself out for his advantage—unwilling to expose himself much to the knowledge of others. And he has reason to do so. For he knows he hath most credit where he is least known. The hypocrite is one that ‘seeks deep to hide his counsel,’ Isa. 29:15; ‘their heart is deep,’ Ps. 64:6; their meaning and intent of heart lies nobody knows how far distant from their words. A sincere heart is like a clear stream in a brook; you may see to the bottom of his plots in his words, and take the measure of his heart by his tongue. I have heard say that diseases of the heart are seen in spots of the tongue, but the hypocrite can show a clear tongue and yet have a foul heart. He that made that proverb, loquere ut te videam—speak that I may see you, did not think of the hypocrite, who will speak that you shall not see him. The thickest clouds that he hath to wrap up his villany in, are his religious tongue and sandy profession. Wouldst thou know whether thou hast a true heart in thy bosom? look if thou hast a plain-dealing heart. See them joined, II Cor. 1:12, for Paul and the rest of the faithful messengers of Christ, had their conversation among the Corinthians ‘in simplicity and godly sincerity.’ They had no close box in the cabinet of their hearts, in which they cunningly kept anything concealed from them of their designs, as the false apostles did. Now this plain dealing of the sincere heart appears in these three particulars.
(1.) Particular. A sincere heart deals plainly with itself, and that in two things chiefly.
(a) In searching and ransacking its own self. This it doth to its utmost skill and power. It will not be put off with pretenses, or such a mannerly excuse as Rachel gave Laban, when at the same time she sat brooding on his idols. No, an account it will have of the soul, and that such a one as may enable it to give a good account to God, upon whose warrant it does its office. O the fear which such a one shows lest any lust should escape its eye, and lie hid, as Saul in the stuff; or that any, the least grace of God, should be trodden on regardlessly by belying ir denying it! When David found his thoughts of God, which used to recreate him, and be his most pleasing company, occasion some trouble in his spirit—‘I remembered God, and was troubled,’ Ps. 77:3—this holy man, wondering what the matter should be, do but see what a privy search he makes. He hunts backwards and forwards, what God’s former dealings had been, and ‘communes with his heart, and makes diligent search’ there, ver. 6; never gives over till he brings it to an issue; and finding the disturber of his peace to be in himself, he is not so tender of his reputation as to think of smothering the business or smoothing it over, but attacks the thief, indicts his sin, and confesseth the fact, to the justifying of God, whom before he had hard thoughts of. ‘And I said, This is my infirmity,’ ver. 10; as if he had said, ‘Lord, now I see the Jonas that caused the storm in my bosom, and made me uncomfortable in my affliction all this while; it is this unbelief of mine that bowed me down to attend so to the sorrow and sense of my present affliction, that it would not suffer me to look up to former experiences, and so, while I forgat them, I thought unworthily of thee.’ Here was an honest plain-dealing soul indeed. What akin art thou, O man, to holy David? is this thy way in of searching thy soul? dost thou do it in earnest, as if thou wert searching for a murderer hid in thy house; as willing to find out thy sin, as ever Papist in Queen Mary’s days was to find Protestants—to discover whom they would run their swords and forks into beds and haymows, lest they should be there? Or, when thou goest about this work, art thou loath to look too far, lest thou shouldst see what thou wouldst willingly overlook? or afraid to stay too long, lest conscience should make an unpleasing report to thee? Tertullian said of the heathen persecutors, noluerunt audire, quod auditum damnare non possint—they would not let the Christians be heard, because they could not then easily have had the face to condemn them, their cause would have appeared so just. The contrary here is true. The hypocrite dares not put his state upon a fair trial, because then he could not handsomely escape condemning himself. But the sincere soul is so zealous to know its true state, that when he hath done his utmost himself to find it out, and his conscience upon this privy search clears him, yet he contents not himself here; but jealous lest self-love might blind his eyes, and occasion too favourable a report from his conscience, he calls in help from heaven, and puts himself upon God’s review. ‘Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? Ps. 139:21. His own conscience answers to it: ‘I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies,’ ver. 22. Yet David, not wholly satisfied with his own single testimony, calls out to God, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart;…see if there be any wicked way in me,’ ver. 23,24. And wise physicians will not trust their own judgments about the state of their own health; nor sincere Christians themselves about their souls’ welfare. It is God that they attend to. His judgment alone concludes and determines them. When they have prayed and opened their case to him, with David, they listen what he will say. Therefore you shall find them putting themselves under the most searching ministry, from which they never come more pleased than when their consciences are stripped naked, and their hearts exposed to their view; as the woman of Samaria, who commended the sermon, and Christ that preached it, for this unto her neighbours, that he had told her all that ever she had done, John 4:29. Whereas a false heart like not to hear of that ear. He thinks the preacher commits a trespass when he comes upon his ground, and comes up close to his conscience; as if he could, he would have an action against him for it. This stuck in Herod’s stomach, that John should lay his finger on his sore place. Though he feared him, being conscious, yet he never loved him, and therefore was soon persuaded to cut off his head, which had so bold a tongue in it, that durst reprove his incestuous bed.