First. Sincerity hath a preserving strength to keep the soul from the defilement of sin. When temptation comes on furiously, and chargeth the soul home, a false heart is put to the run, it cannot possibly stand. We are told of Israel’s hypocrisy, they were ‘a generation that set not their heart aright’ —and what follows?—‘and whose spirit was not stedfast with God,’ Ps. 78:8. Stones that are not set right on the foundation, cannot stand strong or long. You may see more of this bitter fruit growing on the hypocrite’s branches, in the same Psalm, ver. 56,57. They ‘turned back, and dealt unfaithfully; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.’ When the bow is unbent, the rift it hath may be undiscerned, but go to use it by drawing the arrow to the head, and it flies a pieces. Thus doth a false heart when put to the trial. As the ape in the fable, dressed like a man, when nuts are thrown before her, cannot then dissemble her nature any longer, but shows herself an ape indeed; so does a false heart bewray itself before it is aware, when a fair occasion is presented for its lust. Sincerity however keeps the soul pure in the face of temptation. ‘He that walketh uprightly walketh surely,’ Prov. 10:9—that is, he treads strong on their ground, like one whose feet are sound—and though stones lie in his way, he goes over them safely; ‘but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.’ He is like one that hath some corn or other ailment about his feet. Though he may make a shift to go in a green smooth way, yet when he meets with a hobbling stony way, he presently comes down, and falters. Now that this preserving strength, which sincerity girds the soul with, may better appear, it will be requisite to instance in some of those seasons wherein sincerity keeps the soul from the power of temptation, as also some of those seasons wherein, on the contrary, hypocrisy cowardly and tamely yields the soul up into temptations’ hands.
- A false heart usually starts aside, and yields to sin, when it can hide itself in a crowd, and have store of company, under which it may shroud itself.The hypocrite sets his watch, not by the sun—the word I mean—but by the town clock. What most do, that he will be easily persuaded to do. Therefore it is, that you seldom have him swim against the tide of corrupt times. Light things are carried by the stream, and light spirits by the multitude. But the sincere Christian is massy and weighty. He will sooner sink to the bottom, and yield to the fury of a multitude by suffering from them, than float after their example in sinning with them. The hypocrite hath no inward principle to act him, and therefore, like the dead fish, must drive with the current. But sincerity being a principle of divine life, it directs the soul to its way, and improves it to walk in it, without the help of company to lean on, yea against any opposition it meets. Joshua spake what was in his heart, when ten of twelve that were sent with him, perceiving on which side the wind lay, accommodated themselves to the humour of the people, Num. 14:7. The false prophet’s pleasing words, with which they clawed Ahab’s proud humour, could by no means be brought to fit good Micaiah’s mouth, though he should make himself very ridiculous by choosing to stand alone, rather than fall in with so goodly a company, ‘four hundred prophets,’ who were all agreed of their verdict, I Kings 22:6.
- A false heart yields when sin comes with a bribe in its hand.None but Christ, and such as know the truth as it is in Jesus, can scorn the devil’s offer, omnia hæc dabo—‘all these will I give thee.’ The hypocrite, let him be got pinnacle high in his profession, will yet make haste down to his prey, if it lies fair before him; one that carries not his reward in his bosom, that counts it not portion enough to have God and enjoy him, may be bought and sold by any huckster, to betray his soul, God, and all. The hypocrite, when he seems most devout, waits but for a better market, and then he will play the merchant with his profession. There is no more difference betwixt a hypocrite and an apostate, than betwixt a green apple and a ripe one; come a while hence, and you will see him fall rotten-ripe from his profession. Judas, a close hypocrite, how soon an open traitor! And as fruit ripens sooner or later, as the heat of the year proves, so doth hypocrisy, as the temptation is strong or weak. Some hypocrites go longer before they are discovered than others, because they meet not with such powerful temptations to draw out their corruptions. It is observed that the fruits of the earth ripen more in a week, when the sun is in conjunction with the dog-star, than in a month before. When the hypocrite hath a door opened, by which he may enter into possession of that worldly prize he hath been projecting to obtain, then his lust within, and the occasion without, are in conjunction, and the day hastens wherein he will fall. The hook is baited, and he cannot but nibble at it. Now sincerity preserves the soul in this hour of temptation. David prays, Ps. 26:9, that God would ‘not gather his soul with sinners, whose right hand is full of bribes,’—such as, for advantage, would be bribed to sin. To this wicked gang he opposeth himself, ver. 11. ‘But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity;’ where he tell us what kept him from being corrupted, and enticed, as they were, from God—it was his integrity. A soul walking in its integrity will take bribes neither from men nor sin itself, and therefore he saith, ver. 12, ‘His foot stood in an even place;’ or as some read it, ‘my foot standeth in righteousness.’
- The hypocrite yields to the temptation, when he may sin without being controlled by man,which falls out in a double case. First. When he may embrace his lust in a secret corner, where the eye of man is not privy to it. Second. When the greatness of his place and power lifts him above the stroke of justice from man’s hand. In both these he discovers his baseness, but sincerity preserves the soul in both.