Four characters of truth of heart or sincerity 4/5

  1. Character.  The sincere, true-hearted Chris­tian is uniform.  As truth in the doctrine differs, from its opposite, that it is one, error diverse—there is no harmony among errors, as among truths—so truth of heart, or sincerity, is known from hypocrisy by the same character.  Indeed, truth in the heart is but the copy and transcript of the other.  They agree, as the face in the glass doth with the face in the man that looks in it, or as the image in the wax with the sculpture in the seal from which it is derived.  Therefore, if truth in the word be uniform and harmonious, then truth in the heart, which is nothing but the impression of that there, must also be so.  A sincere Chris­tian in the tenure of his course is like himself, vir unius coloris—a man of one colour; not like your changeable stuffs, so dyed that you may, by waving of them divers ways, see divers colours.  There is a threefold uniformity in the sincere Christian’s obedi­ence.  He is uniform, quoad objectum, subjectum, et circumstantias obedientiœ—as to the object, subject, and several circumstances that accompany his obedience.

(1.) The sincere Christian is uniform quoad objectum—as to the object.  The hypocrite indeed is in with one duty and out with another.  Like a globous body, he toucheth the law of God in one point—some particular command he seems zealous for—but meets not in the rest; whereas the sincere heart lies close to the whole law of God in his desire and endeavour.  The upright man’s foot is said to ‘stand in an even place,’ Ps. 26:12, he walks not hal­tingly and uncomelily, as those who go in unequal ways, which are hobbling and up and down; or [as] those whose feet and legs ‘are not even’—as Solomon saith, the legs of the lame are not even,’ and so cannot stand ‘in an even place,’ because one is long and the other short.  The sincere man’s feet are even, and [his] legs of a length, as I may say;—his care alike conscientious to the whole will of God.  The hypo­crite, like the badger, hath one foot shorter than another; or, like a foundered horse, he doth not stand, as we say, right of all four—one foot, at least, you shall perceive he favours, loath to put it down. The Pharisees pretended much zeal to the first table. They prayed and fasted in an extraordinary manner, but they prayed for their prey, and, when they had fasted all day, they sup at the cost of a poor widow whose ‘house’ they mean to ‘devour.’  A sad fast, that ends in oppression, and only serves to get them a ravenous appetite, to swallow others’ estates under a pretence of devotion!  The moralist is very punctual in his dealings with men, but very thievish in his car­riage to God.  Though he will not wrong his neigh­bour of a farthing, [he] sticks not to rob God of greater matters.  His love, fear, faith are due debt to God, but he makes no conscience of paying them.  It is ordinary in Scripture to describe a saint—a godly person—by a particular duty, a single grace.  Some­times his character is ‘he that feareth an oath,’ Ecc. 9:2; sometimes, ‘one that loves the brethren,’ I John 3:14; and so of the rest.  And why? but because, wherever one duty is conscientiously performed, the heart stands ready for any other.  As God hath en­acted all his commands with the same authority —wherefore, it is said, Ex. 20:1, ‘God spake all these words,’ one as well as the other—so God infuseth all grace together, and writes not one particular law in the heart of his children, but the whole law, which is a universal principle, inclining the soul impartially to all, so that if thou likest not all, thou art sincere in none.

(2.) The sincere Christian is uniform quoad sub­jectum—as to the subject.  The whole man, so far as renewed, moves one way.  All the powers and facul­ties of the soul join forces, and have a sweet accord together.  When the understanding makes discovery of a truth, then conscience improves her utmost authority on the will, commanding it, in the name of God, whose officer it is, to entertain it; the will, so soon as conscience knocks, opens herself, and lets it in; the affections, like dutiful handmaids, seeing it a welcome guest to the will—their mistress—express their readiness to wait on it, as becomes them in their places.  But in the hypocrite it is not so.  There one faculty fights against another.  Never are they all found to conspire and meet in a friendly vote.  When there is light in the understanding, the man knows this truth and that duty; then, oft, conscience is bribed for executing its office—it doth not so much as check him for the neglect of it.  Truth stands as it were before the soul, and conscience will not so much as befriend it as to knock, and rouse up the soul to let it in.  If conscience be overcome to plead its cause, and shows some activity in pressing for entertain­ment, it is sure, either to have a churlish denial, with a frown, for its pains—in being so busy to bring such an unwelcome guest with it—as the froward wife doth by her husband, when he brings home with him one she doth not like; or else only a feigned entertain­ment, the more subtlely to hide the secret enmity it hath against it.

(3.) The sincere soul is uniform quoad circum­stantias obedientiœ—as to the circumstances of his obedience and holy walking such as are time, place, and company and manner.  He is uniform as to time. His religion is not like a holiday suit—put on only at set times; but come to him when you will, you shall find him clad alike, holy on the Lord’s day, and holy on the week-day too.  ‘Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times,’ Ps. 106:3.  It is a sign it is not a man’s com­plexion, when the colour he hath while he sits by a fire dies away soon after.  There are some, if you would see their goodness and be acquainted with their godliness, you must hit the right time, or else you will find none.  [They are] like some flowers that are seen but some months in the year; or like some physicians that they call forenoon men—they that would speak with them to any purpose, must come in the morning, because, commonly, they are drunk in the afternoon. Thus, may be, in the morning, you may take the hypocrite on his knees in a saint’s posture, but, when that fit is over, you shall see little of God in all his course till night brings him again, of course, to the like duty.  The watch is naught that goes only at first winding up, and stands all the day after; and so is the heart, sure, that desires not always to keep in spiritual motion.  I confess there may be a great difference in the standing of two watches.  In one the difference may arise from the very watch itself, because it hath not the right make—and it will ever be so, till the work is altered; another, possibly, is true work, only some dust clogs the wheels, or [a] fall hath a little battered it, which removed, it will go well again.  And there is as great difference between the sincere soul and the hypocrite in this case.  The sincere soul may be interrupted in its spiritual motion and Christian course, but it is from some temptation that at present clogs him.  But he hath a new nature, which inclines to a constant motion in holiness, and doth, upon the removing the present impediment, return to its nat­ural exercise of godliness.  The hypocrite, however, fails in the very constitution and frame of his spirit; he hath not a principle of grace in him to keep him moving.

 

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