(2.) Walk in the view of God’s providence, and care over thee. When God bids Abraham be upright, he strengthens his faith on him, ‘I am God Almighty, walk before me and be thou perfect;’ as if he had said, ‘Act thou for me, and I will take care for thee.’ When once we begin to call his care into question towards us, then will our sincerity falter in our walking before him. Hypocrisy lies hid in distrust and jealousy, as in its cause. If the soul dare not rely on God, it cannot be long true to God. Abraham was jealous of Abimelech, therefore he dissembled with him. Thus do we with God. We doubt God’s care, and then live by our wit, and carve for ourselves. ‘Up, make us gods,’ they say, ‘we know not what is become of Moses.’ The unbelieving Jews, flat against the command of God, keep manna while [i.e.until] the morrow, Ex. 16:19. And why? but because they had not faith to trust him for another meal. This is the old weapon the devil hath ever used to beat the Christian out of his sincerity with. ‘Curse God and die,’ said he to Job by his wife. As if she had said, What! wilt [thou] yet hold the castle of thy sincerity for God? Captains think they may yield when no relief comes to them, and subjects account [that] if the prince protect them not, they are not bound to serve him. Thou hast lain thus long in an afflicted state, besieged close with sorrows on every hand, and no news to this day comes from heaven of any care that God takes for thee; therefore ‘curse God, and die.’ Yea, Christ had him using the same engine to draw him off his faithfulness to his Father, when he bade him turn stone into bread. We see, therefore, of what importance it is to strengthen our faith on the care and providence of God, for our provision and protection, which is the cause why God hath made such abundant provision to shut all doubting and fear of this out of the hearts of his people. The promises are so fitly placed, that as safe harbours, upon what coast soever we are sailing—condition we are in—if any storm arise at sea, or enemy chase us, we may put into some one or other of them, and be safe; though this one were enough to serve our turn, could we find no more: ‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them,’ or strongly to hold with them, ‘whose heart is perfect toward him,’ II Chr. 16:9. God doth not set others to watch, but his own eyes keep sentinel. Now to watch with the child, like the own mother, there is the immediacy of his providence. We may say of sincere souls, what is said of Canaan, Deut. 11:12, ‘It is a land,’ so they are a people, ‘which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always on them.’ Again, ‘his eyes run to and fro;’ there is the vigilancy of his providence. No danger, no temptation, finds him napping; but, as a faithful watchman is ever walking up and down, so the eyes of God ‘run to and fro.’ ‘He that keepeth Israel’—the sincere soul which is the ‘Israelite indeed’—shall neither slumber nor sleep,’ Ps. 121:4. That is, not little or much—not slumber by day, or sleep by night. Two words are there used; one that signifies the short sleep used in the heat of the day; the other for the more sound sleep of the night.
(3.) Throughout the whole earth, there is the universality and extent of God’s care. It is an encompassing providence; it walks the rounds—not any one sincere soul left out the line of his care. He has the number of them to a man, and all are alike cared for. We disfigure the beautiful face of God’s providence, when we fancy him to have a cast of his eye, and care, to one more than another.
(4.) To show himself strong in the behalf of them, there is the efficacy of his care and providence. His eyes do not ‘run to and fro’ to espy dangers, and only tell us what they are; as the sentinel wakes the city when any enemy comes, but cannot defend them from their fury. A child may do this, yea, the geese did this for Rome’s capitol. But God watcheth not to tell us our dangers, but to save us from them. The saints must needs be a ‘happy people,’ because a ‘people saved by the Lord,’ Deut. 33:29. God doth not only see with his eyes, but also fights with his eyes. He gave such a look to the Egyptians, as turned the sea on them to their destruction.
- Direction. If thou wouldst walk in the exercise of thy sincerity, labour to act from love, and not fear. O, slavish fear and sincerity cannot agree. If one be in the increase, the other is always in the wane. See them opposed, II Tim. 1:7, ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,’ that is, sincere, where he implies that fear is weak, and impotent—easily scared from God, his truth, and service; and not so only, but unsound also—not trusting such a one with any great matter. The slave though he works hard, because indeed he dares no other, yet is soon drawn into a conspiracy against his master, because he hates him while he fears him. We see this not only among the Turks—against whom those Christians used as absolute slaves by them in their galleys do, when they have advantage in sight, often purchase their own liberty by cutting the throats of their tyrant masters—but also in kingdoms, where subjects rather fear than love their princes. How ready they are to invite another into the throne, or welcome any that should court them! Thus fast and loose will he be with God, that is pricked on with the sword’s point of his wrath, and not drawn with the cords of his love. Israel is an example beyond parallel for this, ‘When he slew them, then they sought him;…nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him,’ Ps. 78:34,36. They feared God, and loved their lusts, and therefore they betrayed his glory at every turn into their hands; as Herod did the head of John, whom he feared, into her hands whom he loved. And truly there is too much of this slavish fear to be found in the saints’ bosoms, or else the whip should not be so often in God’s hand. We find God checking his people for this, and make their servile spirit the reason of his severity towards them. ‘Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled?’ Jer. 2:14. As if God had said, What is the reason I must use thee, who art my dear child, as coarsely as if thou wert a servant, a slave, laying on blow after blow upon thy back with such heavy judgments? wouldst thou know, read ver. 17. ‘Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?’ Thou mayest thank thyself for this my unusual dealing with thee. If the child will forget his own ingenuity, and nothing but blows will work with him, then the father must deal with his child according to his servile spirit.