Second. Sincerity hath a recovering strength with it. When it doth not privilege from falling, yet it helps up again, whereas the hypocrite lies where he falls, and perisheth where he lies. He is therefore said to ‘fall into mischief,’ Prov. 24:16. The sincere soul falls as a traveller may do, by stumbling at some stone in his path, but gets up and goes on his way with more care and speed; the other falls as a man from the top of a mast, that is engulfed past all recovering in the devouring sea. He falls as Haman did before Mordecai—when he begins he stays not, but falls till he can fall no lower. This we see in Saul, who was never right. When once his naughty heart discovered itself, he tumbled down the hill apace, and stopped not, but from one sin went to a worse, and in a few years you see how far he was got from his first stage, when he first took his leave of God. He that should have told Saul, when he betrayed his distrust and unbelief in not staying the full time for Samuel’s coming—which was the first wry step taken notice of in his apostasy—that he, who now was so hot for the worship of God, that he could not stay for the prophet’s coming, would ere long quite give it over, yea, fall from inquiring of the Lord, to ask counsel of the devil, by seeking to a witch, and from seeking counsel of the devil, should, at the last and worst act of his bloody tragedy, with his own hands throw himself desperately into the devil’s mouth by self-murder; surely he would have stranged more than Hazael did at the plain character Elisha gave of him to his face. And truly all the account we can give of it is, that his heart was naught at first, which Samuel upon that occasion hinted to him, I Sam. 13:14, when he told him, ‘The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart’ —David he meant, who afterward fell into a sin greater as to the matter of the fact than that for which Saul was rejected of God, and yet having but a habitual sincerity as ‘the root of the matter in him,’ happily recovered out of it, for want of which hypocritical Saul miscarried finally. So true is that proverb, that ‘frost and fraud have dirty ends.’ Now there is a double reason for this recovering strength of sincerity —one taken from the nature of sincerity itself, the other from the promise by God settled on the soul where sincerity is found.
- From the nature of sincerity itself.Sincerity is to the soul as the soul is to the body. It is a spark of divine life kindled in the bosom of the creature by the Spirit of God. It is ‘the seed of God remaining’ in the saint, I John 3:9. Now as the seed cast into the womb of the earth, and quickened there by the influence of heaven upon it, doth put forth its head fresh and green in the spring, after the many cold nips it hath had in winter; so doth sincere grace, after temptations and falls, when God looks out upon it with the beams of his exciting grace. But the hypocrite wanting this inward principle of life, doth not so. He is a Christian by art, not by a new nature; dressed up like a puppet, in the fashion and outward shape of a man, that moves by the jimmers which the workman fastens to it, and not informed by a soul of its own. And therefore, as such an image, when worn by time, or broken by violence, can do nothing to renew itself, but crumbles away by piece meals, till it comes at last to nothing; so doth the hypocrite waste in his profession, without a vital principle to oppose his ruin that is coming upon him. There is great difference between the wool on the sheep’s back, which shorn, will grow again, and the wool of a sheep’s skin on a wolf’s back. Clip that, and you shall see no more grow in its room. The sincere Christian is the sheep, the hypocrite is the wolf, clad in the sheep’s skin. The application of it is obvious.
- The sincere soul is under a promise, and promises are restorative,Ps. 19:7. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,’ Heb.—restoring the soul. It fetcheth the soul back to life, as a strong cordial one in a fainting fit —which virtue is proper to the promissory part of the word, and therefore so to be taken in this place. Now the sincere soul is the only right heir of the promises. Many sweet promises are laid in for assuring succour and auxiliary aid to bring them off all their dangers and temptations: Prov. 28:18, ‘Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved;’ now mark the opposition—‘but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once;’ that is, suddenly, irrecoverably. ‘God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil-doers,’ Job 8:20—he will not take the them by the hand, Heb.—that is, to help them up when they fall. Nay, the hypocrite is not only destitute of a promise for his help, but lies also under a curse from God. Great pains we find him to take to rear his house, and, when he hath done, he leans on it, ‘but it shall not stand—he holds it fast, but it shall not endure,’ Job 8:15. ‘A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked,’ Ps. 37:16. But why? See the reason: ‘For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord upholdeth the righteous,’ ver. 17,18. The righteous man in that psalm is the upright; by the wicked is meant the hypocrite. A little true grace mixed with much corruption in the sincere Christian, is better than the hypocrite’s riches—the great faith, zeal, and devotion, he brags so of. The former hath the blessing of the promise, to recover it when decaying; these the curse of God threatening to blast them when in their greatest pomp and glory. The hypocrite’s doom is to grow ‘worse and worse,’ II Tim. 3:13. Those very ordinances which are effectual, through the blessing of the promise, to recover the sincere soul, being cursed to the hypocrite, give him his bane and ruin. The word which opens the eyes of the one, puts out the eyes of the other; as we find in the hypocritical Jews, to whom the word was sent, to make them blind, Isa. 6:9,10. It melts and breaks the sincere soul, as in Josiah, II Kings 22:19; but meeting with a naughty false heart, it hardens exceedingly, as appeared in the same Jews, Jer. 42:20. Before the sermon they speak fair, ‘Whatsoever God saith they will do;’ but when sermon is done, they are farther off than ever from complying with the command of God. The hypocrite, he hears for the worse, prays for the worse, fasts for the worse. Every ordinance is a wide door, to let Satan in more fully to possess him, as Judas found the sop.