Four characters of truth of heart or sincerity 3/5

(b) The true heart shows its plain-dealing with itself, as in searching, so in judging itself, when once testimony comes in clear against it, and conscience tells it, ‘Soul, in this duty thou betrayedst pride, in that affection, frowardness and impatience.’  Such a one is not long before it proceeds to judgment, and this it doth with so much vehemency and severity, that it plainly appears zeal for God—whom he hath dishonoured—makes him forget all self-pity.  He lays about him in humbling and abasing himself, as the sons of Levi in executing justice on their brethren who knew ‘neither brother nor sister’ in that act. Truly such an heroic act is this of the sincere soul judging itself.  He is so transported and clothed with a holy fury against his sin, that he is deaf to the cry of flesh and blood, which would move him to think of a more favourable sentence.  ‘I have sinned,’ saith David, ‘against the Lord,’ II Sam. 12:13; in another place, ‘I have sinned greatly, and done very foolishly,’ II Sam. 24; in a third, he, as unworthy of a man’s name, takes beast to himself—‘so foolish was I, and ignor­ant: I was as a beast before thee,’ Ps. 73:22.  But with a false heart—if conscience checks him for this or that, and he perceives by this inward murmur in his bosom which way the cause will go, if he proceeds fairly on to put himself upon the trial—the court is sure to be broken up, and all put off to another hearing, which is like to be at leisure; so that, as witnesses, with delays and many put-offs, grow at last weary of the work, and will rather stay at home than make their appearance to little purpose, so con­science ceaseth to give evidence where it cannot be heard, can have no judgment against the offender.

(2.) Particular.  A true heart is plain as with itself so with God also.  Several ways this might appear. Take one for all; and that is in his petitions and re­quests at the throne of grace.  The hypocrite in prayer juggles, he asks what he would not thank God to give him.  There is a mystery of iniquity in his praying against iniquity.  Now this will appear in two particu­lars, whether we be plain-hearted or not.

(a) Observe whether thou beest deeply afflicted in spirit when thy request is not answered, or regard­est not what success it hath.  Suppose it be a sin thou prayest against, or some grace thou prayest for; what is thy temper all the while thy messenger stays, espe­cially if it be long?  Thou prayest, and corruption abates not, grace grows not.  Now thy hypocrisy or sincerity will appear.  If thou art sincere, every mo­ment will be an hour, every hour a day, a day a year, till thou hearest some news from heaven.  ‘Hope de­ferred’ will make ‘the heart sick.’  Doth not the sick man that sends for the physician think long for his coming?  O he is afraid his messenger should miss of him, or that he will not come with him, or that he shall die before he bring his physic.  A thousand fears disturb him, and make him passionately wish he were there.  Thus the sincere soul passeth those hours with a sad heart that it lives without a return of its request. ‘I am a woman,’ said Hannah to Eli, ‘of a sorrowful spirit,’ I Sam. 1:15.  And why so?  Alas, she had from year to year prayed to God, and no answer was yet come.  Thus saith the soul, ‘I am one of a bitter spirit, I have prayed for a soft heart, a believing heart, many a day and month; but it is not come.  I am afraid I was not sincere in the business.  Could my request so long have hung in the clouds else?’  Such a soul is full of fear and troubles—like a merchant that hath a rich ship at sea, who cannot sleep on land till he sees her, or hears of her.  But if, when thou hast sent up thy prayer, thou canst cast off the care and thoughts of the business, as if praying were only like children’s scribbling over pieces of paper—which when they have done, they lay aside and think no more of them—if thou canst take denials at God’s hands for such things as these, and blank no more than a cold suitor doth when he hears not from her whom he never really loved—it breaks not thy rest, embitters not thy joy—if so, a false heart set thee on work.  And take heed that, instead of answering thy prayer, God doth not answer the secret desire of thy heart, which should he do, thou art undone for ever.

(b) Observe whether thou usest the means to obtain that which thou prayest God to give.  A false heart sits still itself, while it sets God on work; like him that, when his cart was set in a slough, cried, Jupiter, help! but would not put his own shoulder to the wheel.  If corruptions may be mortified and killed for him, as Goliath was for the Israelites—he like them looking on, and not put to strike stroke—so it is; but for any encounter with them, or putting himself to the trouble of using any means to obtain the victory, he is so eaten up with sloth and coward­ice, that it is as grievous he thinks, as to sit still in slavery and bondage to them.  But a sincere soul is conscientiously laborious.  ‘Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens,’ Lam. 3:41. That is, saith Bernard, oremus et laboremus—let us pray and use the endeavour.  The hypocrite’s tongue wags, but the sincere soul’s feet walk, and his hands work.

(3.) Particular. The sincere soul discovers its plainness and simplicity to men.  ‘We have had our conversation’ among you, saith Paul to the Corinth­ians, ‘in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with flesh­ly wisdom.’  The Christian is one that cannot subject his heart to his head—his conscience to his policy. He commits himself to God in well-doing, and fears not others, if he be not conscious to himself; and therefore he dares not make a hole in his conscience to keep his skin whole, but freely and openly vouch­eth God without dissembling his profession; while the hypocrite shifts his sails, and puts forth such colours as his policy and worldly interest adviseth.  If the coast be clear, and no danger at hand, he will appear religious as any; but no sooner he makes discovery of any hazard it may put him to, but he tacks about, and shapes another course, making no bones of juggling with God and man.  He counts that his right road which leads to his temporal safety. But quite contrary is the upright, ‘The highway of the upright is to depart from evil,’ Prov. 16:17.  This is the road that this true traveller jogs on in, and if he be at any time seen out of it, it is upon no other account, than a man that hath unwillingly lost his way—never quiet till he hath strike into it again.

 

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