5. Direction. If thou wouldst walk in the exercise of thy sincerity, get above the love and fear of the world. The Christian’s sincerity is not eclipsed without the interposition of the earth betwixt God and his soul.
(1.) Get above the love of the world. This is a fit root for hypocrisy to grow upon. If the heart be violently set upon anything the world hath, and it comes to vote peremptorily for having it—I must be worth so much a year, have such honour—and the creature begins, with Ahab, to be sick with longing after them, then the man is in great danger to take the first ill counsel that Satan or the flesh gives him for attaining his ends, though prejudicial to his uprightness. Hunters mind not the way they go in—over hedge and ditch they leap—so they may have the hare. It is a wonder, I confess, that any saint should have so strong a scent after the creature, that hath the savour of Christ’s ointments poured into his bosom. One would think the sweet perfume, which comes so hot from those beds of spices, the promises, should spoil the Christian’s hunting game after the creature, and one scent should hinder the taking in the other. The purer sweetnesses—that breath from Christ and heaven in them—should so fill the Christian’s senses, that the other enjoyments, being of a more gross and earthly savour, could find no pleasing resentment in his nostrils; which indeed is most true and certain so long as the Christian hath his spiritual senses open, and in exercise, but alas! as upon some cold in the body, the head is stopped, and the senses bound up from doing their office, so through the Christian’s negligence, a spiritual distemper is easily got, whereby those senses, graces I mean, which should judge of things, are sadly obstructed. And now when the Christian is not in temper for enjoying these purer sweetnesses, the devil hath a fair advantage of starting some creature-enjoyment, and presenting it before the Christian, which the flesh soon scents and carries the poor Christian after, till grace comes a little to its temper, and then he gives over the chase with shame and sorrow.
(2.) Get above the fear of the world. The fear of man brings a snare. A coward will run into any hole, though never so dishonourable, so he may save himself from what he fears; and when the holiest are under the power of this temptation, they are too like other men. Abraham in a pang of fear dissembles with Abimelech. Yea, Peter, when not his life, but his reputation seemed to be in a little danger, did not ‘walk uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel.’ He did not foot it right as became so holy a man to do, but took one step forward, and another back again, as if he had not liked his way; now he will eat with the Gentiles, and anon he withdraws. Now what made him dissemble, and his feet thus double in his going? nothing but a qualm of fear came over his heart, as you may see, Gal. 2:12, compared with ver. 14: ‘Fearing them which were of the circumcision,’ he dissembled, and drew others into a party with him.
- Direction. If thou wouldst walk in the exercise of thy sincerity, keep a strict eye over thy own heart in thy daily walking. Hypocrisy is a weed with which the best soil is so tainted that it needs daily care and dressing to keep it under. He that rides on a stumbling horse had need have his eye on his way, and his hand on his bridle. Such is thy heart, Christian. Yea, it oft stumbles in the fairest way, when thou least fearest it; look to it therefore, and keep a strict rein over it, —‘above all keeping keep thy heart,’ Prov. 4:23. The servant keeps his way when he travels in his master’s company; but when sent of an errand alone, then he hath his vagaries. Many a wry step, and extravagancy in thy daily walking, may be prevented, didst thou walk in company with thyself, I mean observe thyself and way. In this sense, most in the world are besides themselves, strangers to their own walking, as much as to their own faces. Every one that lives with them knows them better than themselves, which is a horrible shame. And let not so vain an opinion find place with thee, that, because sincere, thou needest not keep so strict an eye over thy heart; as if thy heart which is gracious, could not play false with God and thee too. Doth not Solomon brand him on the forehead for a fool ‘that trusteth his own heart?’ If thou beest, as thou sayest, sincere, I cannot believe should so far prevail with thee. They are the ignorant and profane whose hearts are stark naught, that cry them up for good. But it is one part of the goodness of a heart made truly good by grace, to see more into, and complain more of, its own naughtiness. Bring thy heart therefore often upon the review, and take its accounts solemnly. He takes the way to make his servant a thief that doth not ask him now and then what money he hath in his hand. I read indeed of some in good Jehoiada’s days that were trusted with the money for the repair of the temple, with whom they did not so much as reckon how they laid it out; ‘for they dealt faithfully,’ II Kings 12:15. But thou hadst not best to do so with thy heart, lest it set thee on score with God, and thy own conscience, more than thou wilt get wiped out in haste. Many talents God puts into thy hand—health, liberty, Sabbaths, ordinances, communion of saints, and the like, for the repair of thy spiritual temple—the work of grace in thee. Ask now thy soul, how every one of these are laid out; may be thou wilt find some of this money spent, and the work never a whit more forward. It stands thee in hand to look to it, for God will have an account, though thou art so favourable to thy deceitful heart to call for none. We have done with the second sort of persons—those who, upon search, find their consciences bearing witness for their uprightness.