The comforting strength of sincerity 1/4

Third. Sincerity hath a supporting, comforting strength.  It lifts the head above water, and makes the Christian float atop the waves of all troubles, with a holy presence and gallantry of spirit.  ‘Unto the up­right there ariseth light in the darkness,’ Ps. 112:4, not only light after darkness, when the night is past, but in darkness also.  Out of the eater cometh meat, and out of the strong, sweetness.  Those afflictions which feed on, yea, eat out the hypocrite’s heart, the sincere soul can feed on, suck sweetness from, yea, hath such a digestion, that he can turn them into high nour­ishment both to his grace and comfort.  A naughty heart is merry only while his carnal career is before him.  God tells Israel he will take away her feasts, and all her mirth shall cease, Hosea 2:11.  Her joy is taken away with the cloth.  Sincerity makes the Christian sing when he hath nothing to his supper.  David was in none of the best conditions when in the cave, yet we never find him merrier.  His heart makes sweeter music than ever his hasp did.  ‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise,’ Ps. 57:7.  The hypocrite’s joy, like the strings of musical instruments, crack in wet weather; but sincerity keeps the soul in tune in all weather.  They are unsound bodies that sympathize with the season—cheery in fair, but ill and full of aches in foul.  So the unsound heart.  A few pinching providences set him going, kill him as a sharp winter doth weak bodies.  Whereas the sincere soul never is more hale, never more comfort­able.  Afflictions do him but this courtesy—to call in his affections, which in the summer of pros­perity were possibly too much diffused and scattered among creature delights, and unite them more entirely and closely upon Christ, into whose bosom it goes as directly, when storms come, as the bee to its hive; and he must needs be comfortable that hath so oft a pillow to lay his head on as Christ’s lap. Sincerity keeps the soul’s mouth open, to receive the sweet consolations that drop from word and Spirit; indeed all the promises are directed to such.  But hypocrisy is like the squinancy in the throat of the sick man, he burns within, and can get nothing down to quench the fire which his sins have kindled in his soul.  Con­science tells him, when sweet promises are offered, ‘These are not for me, I have dealt falsely with God and man.  It is the sincere soul God invites; but I am a rotten-hearted hypocrite.’  And how much short comes such a poor wretch of Dives in his misery in hell, I pray?  Dives burns, and hath not a drop to quench his tongue.  The hypocrite in affliction, he burns too, and hath indeed, not a drop, but a river, a fountain full of water, yea of blood, presented to him, but he cannot drink it down, he cannot make any use of it for his good.  His teeth are set so close, no key can open them.  His hypocrisy stares him in the face; it lies like a mastiff at his door, and suffer no comfort to come near him.  And which is worst—he that hath no bread, or he that hath and cannot eat it?  None so witty and cunning as the hypocrite—in prosperity to ward off the reproofs, to shift from the counsels of the word; and in affliction, when conscience awakes, none so skilful to dispute against the comforts of the word.  Now he is God’s close prisoner, no comfort can come at him.  If God speak terror, who can speak peace?  ‘Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them,’ Lam. 3:65.  Sorrow of heart is the hypocrite’s curse from God in affliction; and what God lays on sticks close.  The word for sorrow in the Hebrew sig­nifies a shield that fenceth and covers over; and, saith one upon this place, it denotes the disease physicians call cardiaca passio, which so oppresseth the heart that is covered sicut scuto—as with a shield or lid over it, and keeps all relief from the heart.  Such is the sorrow of the hypocrite in affliction, when once his conscience awakes, and God fills him with the amazing thoughts of his own sins, and God’s wrath pursuing him for them.  But I shall descend to in­stance in a few particular kinds of afflictions, and show what comfort attends sincerity in them all.

  1. Sincerity supports and comforts the soul un­der reproaches from men.These are no petty trials; they are reckoned among the saints’ martyrdoms, Heb. 11:36, called there ‘cruel mockings,’ yea, not unworthy to be recorded among the sufferings of Christ.  The matchless patience and magnanimity of his spirit ap­peared not only in enduring the cross, but in ‘despis­ing the shame,’ which the foul tongues of his bloody enemies loaded him unmerci­fully with.  Man’s aspir­ing mind can least brook shame.  Credit and applause is the great idol of men that stand at the upper end of the world for parts or place.  Give but this, and what will men not do or suffer?  One wiser than the rest could see this proud humour in Diogenes, that en­dured to stand naked, embracing a heap of snow, while he had spectators about him to admire his pa­tience, as they thought it, and therefore was asked, ‘whether he would do thus, if he had none to see him?’  The hypocrite is the greatest credit-monger in the world; it is all he lives on almost, what the breath of men’s praise sends him in; when that fails, his heart faints; but when it turns to scorn and re­proaches, then he dies, and needs must, because he has no credit with God while he is scorned by man; whereas sincerity bears up the soul against the wind of man’s vain breath, because it hath conscience, and God himself, to be his compurgator, to whom he dare appeal from man’s bar.  O how sweetly do a good conscience, and the Spirit of God witnessing with it, feast the Christian at such a time! and no matter for the hail of man’s reproaches that rattle without, while the Christian is so merry within doors. David is a pregnant instance for this: ‘By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me,’ Ps. 41:11.  How, David? does not thy enemy triumph over thee?  I pray see the condi­tion he at present was in.  He had fallen into a great sin, and the hand of God was on him in a disease, chastening him for it, as appears, ver. 4.  His enemies from this take advantage to speak him all to naught, ver. 5.  ‘Mine enemies speak evil of me’—no doubt, charging him for a hypocrite.  When they come to visit him, it is but to gather some matter of reproach, which they presently blab abroad, ver. 6; yea, they are not ashamed to say, ver. 8, that an evil disease, or as it is in the Hebrew, ‘a thing of Belial’—that is, his sin—‘cleaveth to him.’  Now God had met with him; now he lieth, he shall rise no more; yea, his familiar friend, in whom he trusted, serves him as ill as the worst of his enemies, ver. 9.  Was ever poor man lower? and yet he can say his enemy triumphs not over him?  His meaning therefore we must take thus: that notwithstanding all these reproaches have been cast upon him, yet his spirit did not quail.  This was above them all.  God kept that up, and gave him such inward comfort as wiped off their scorn as fast as they threw it on.  Their reproaches fell as sometimes we see snow, melting as fast as they fell.  None lay upon his spirit to load and trouble it.  And how came David by this holy magnanimity of spirit—these inward comforts?  He tells us, ‘And as for me, thou up­holdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever,’ ver. 12.  As if he had said, ‘Thou dost not by me, O Lord, as mine enemies do.  They pick out my worst, and revile me for it.  If there be but one sore plat—one sinful part in my life—like flies, they light there, but thou overlookest my sinful slips and failings, pardoning them, and takest notice of my up­rightness, which amidst all my infirmities thou up­holdest, and so settest me before thy face, communi­cating thy love and favour to me, notwithstanding the sins that are found, mingled with my course of obedi­ence.’  This kept up the holy man’s spirit, and makes him end the psalm joyfully.  ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting’ ver. 13.

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