Again, the sincere Christian is uniform as to place and company. Wherever he goes he carries his rule with him, which squares him. Within doors, amidst his nearest relations, David’s resolve is his, ‘He will walk within his house with a perfect heart,’ Ps. 101:2. Follow him abroad; he carries his conscience with him, and doth not bid it—as Abraham his servants, when ascending the mount—to stay behind till he comes back. The Romans had a law that every one should, wherever he went, wear a badge of his trade in his hat or outward vestment, that he might be known. The sincere Christian never willingly lays aside the badge of his holy profession. No place nor company turns him out of the way that is called holy. Indeed his conscience doth not make him foredo his prudence. He knows how to distinguish between place and place, company and company; and therefore when cast among boisterous sinners, and scornful ones, he doth not betray religion to scorn, by throwing its pearls before such as would trample on them, and rend him. Yet he is very careful lest his prudence should put his uprightness to any hazard. ‘I will behave myself wisely,’ saith David, Ps. 101:2, ‘in a perfect way;’ that is, I will show myself as wise as I can, so I may also be upright. Truly, that place and company is like the torrid zone, uninhabitable to the gracious soul, where profaneness is so hot, that sincerity cannot look out, and show itself by seasonable counsel, and reproof, with safety to the saint; and therefore, they that have neither so much zeal as to protest against the sins of such, nor so much care of themselves as to withdraw from thence, where they can only receive evil and do no good, have just cause to call their sincerity into question.
- Character. The sincere Christian is progressive—never at his journey’s end till he gets to heaven. This keeps him always in motion, advancing in his desires and endeavours forward; he is thankful for little grace, but not content with great measures of grace. ‘When I awake,’ saith David, ‘I shall be satisfied with thy likeness,’ Ps. 17:15. He had many a sweet entertainment at the house of God in his ordinances. The Spirit of God was the messenger that brought him many a covered dish from God’s table—inward consolations, which the world knew not of. Yet David has not enough. It is heaven alone that can give him his full draught. They say the Gauls, when they first tasted of the wines of Italy, were so taken with their lusciousness and sweetness, that they could not be content to trade thither for this wine, but resolved to conquer the land where they grew. Thus the sincere soul thinks it not enough to receive a little, now and then, of grace and comfort, from heaven, by trading and holding commerce at a distance with God in his ordinances here below; but projects and meditates a conquest of that holy land, and blessed place, that he may drink the wine of that kingdom in that kingdom. This raiseth the soul to high and noble enterprises —how it may attain to further degrees of graces, every day more than another, and so climb nearer and nearer heaven. He that aims at the sky, shoots higher than he that means only to hit a tree. ‘I press,’ saith Paul, ‘toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,’ Php. 3:14. Others admired Paul’s attainments—O that they had Paul’s grace, and then they should be happy!—but he would count himself very unhappy if he might have no more. He professeth he hath not apprehended what he runs for. The prize stands not in the mid‑way, but at the end of the race; and therefore he puts on with full speed, yea, makes it the trial of uprightness in all. ‘Let us therefore, as many as be perfect’—that is sincere—‘be thus minded,’ ver. 15. It is the hypocrite that stints himself in the things of God. A little knowledge he would have, that may help him to discourse of religion among the religious; and for more, he leaves it, as more fitting for the preacher than himself. Some outward formalities he likes, and makes use of in profession—as attendance on public ordinances—and sins which would make him stink among his neighbors he forbears; but as for pressing into more inward and nearer communion with God in ordinances, labouring to get his heart more spiritual, the whole body of sin more and more mortified, this was never his design: like some slightly tradesman, that never durst look so high as to think of being rich, but thinks it well enough if he can but hold his shop-doors open, and keep himself out of jail, though with a thousand shifting tricks.
Having laid down characters of the sincere heart, it will be necessary to make some improvement of them, as the report shall be that conscience makes in your bosoms, upon putting yourselves to the trial of your spiritual states by the same. Now the report that conscience makes, after examination of yourselves by those notes [or doctrines] prefixed, will amount to one of these three inferences. Either, First. Conscience will after examination condemn you as hypocrites: or, Second. It will, upon diligent inquiry, give fair testimony as to your sincerity; or, Third. It will, upon inquiry, bring you in as ignorant, and leave you doubting souls, who are indeed sincere, but dare not be persuaded to think yourselves so. That I may therefore find thee, reader, at one door, if I miss thee at another, I shall speak severally to all three.