Second Sort. I come to the second sort, such, I mean, whose consciences, upon diligent inquiry, give a fair testimony for their sincerity, that their hearts are true and upright. That which I have by way of counsel to leave with them is, to gird this belt which they have about them, close in the exercise and daily practice of it. Gird this belt, I say, close to thee, that is, be very careful to walk in the daily practice and exercise of thy uprightness. Think every morning thou art not dressed till this girdle be put on. The proverb is true here, ‘Ungirt, unblessed.’ Thou art no company for God, that day in which thou art insincere. If Abraham will walk with God, he must be upright; and canst thou live a day without his company? Rachel paid dear for her mandrakes to part with her husband for them. A worse bargain that soul makes, that to purchase some worldly advantage, pawns its sincerity, which gone, God is sure to follow after. And as thou canst not walk with God, so thou canst not expect any blessing from God. The promises, like a box of precious ointment, are kept to be broken over the head of the upright: ‘Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?’ Micah 2:7. And sure it is ill walking in that way where there is found no word from God to bid us good speed. Some are so superstitious, that if a hare crosseth them, they will turn back, and go no farther that day. But a bold man is he that dares go on when the word of God lies cross his way. Where the word doth not bless, it curseth; where it promiseth not, it threatens. A soul is in its uprightness, approving itself to God, is safe. [It is] like a traveller going about his lawful business betwixt sun and sun; if any harm, or loss comes to such a soul, God will bear him out. The promise is on his side, and by pleading it he may recover his loss at God’s hands, who stands bound to keep him harmless. See to this purpose Ps. 84:11. But they are directions, not motives, I am in this place to give.
- Direction. If thou wouldst walk in the exercise of thy sincerity, walk in the view of God. That of Luther is most true, omnia præcepta sunt in primo tanquam capite—all the commands are wrapped up in the first. For, saith he, all sin is a contempt of God; and so we cannot break any other commands, but we break the first. ‘We think amiss of God before we do amiss against God.’ This God commended to Abraham instar omnium—of sovereign use to preserve his sincerity, ‘Walk before me, and be thou upright,’ Gen. 17:1. This kept the girdle of Moses strait and close to his loins—that he was neither bribed with the treasures of Egypt, nor brow-beaten out of his sincerity with the anger of so great a king—‘for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible,’ Heb. 11:27. He had a greater than Pharaoh in his eye, and this kept him right.
(1.) Walk, Christian, in the view of God’s omniscience. This is a girding consideration. Say to thy soul, cave videt Deus—take heed, God seeth. It is under the rose, as the common phrase is, that treason is spoken, when subjects think they are far enough from their king’s hearing; but did such know the prince to be under the window, or behind the hangings, their discourse would be more loyal. This made David so upright in his walking, ‘I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee,’ Ps. 119:168. If Alexander’s empty chair, which his captains, when they met in counsel, set before them, did awe them so, as to keep them in good order; what would it, for to set God looking on us in our eye? The Jews covered Christ’s face, and then buffeted him. So does the hypocrite. He first saith in his heart, ‘God sees not,’ or at least he forgets that he sees; and then makes bold to sin against him, Mark 14:60. He is like that foolish bird which runs her head among the reeds, and thinks herself safe from the fowler;—as if, because she did not see him, therefore he could not see her. Te mihi abscondam, non me tibi. Aug.—I may hide thee from my eye, but not myself from thine. Thou mayest, poor creature, hide God by thy ignorance and atheism, so that thou shalt not see him, but thou canst not so hide thyself as that he shall not see thee. ‘All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Heb. 4:13. O remember thou hast to do with God in all thou doest, whether thou beest in shop or closet, church or market; and he will have to do with thee, for he sees thee round, and can tell from whence thou comest, when, like Gehazi before his master, thou enterest into his presence, and standest demurely before him in worship, as if thou hadst been nowhere. Then he can tell thee thy thoughts, and without any labour of pumping them out by thy confession, set them in order before thee; yea, thy thoughts that are gone from thee, like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from him, and thou hast forgot what they were at such a time, and in such a place, forty, fifty years ago, God hath them all in the light of his countenance, as atoms are in the beams of the sun, and he can, yea will, give thee a sight of them that they shall walk in thy conscience to thy horror, as John Baptist’s ghost did Herod’s.