(2.) Sincerity comforts the Christian when he wants success, visibly to crown his endeavours, in his place and calling. A great affliction this is, no doubt, to a gracious soul. It is as when a minister of the gospel spends his strength and sweals out his life to a gainsaying people, that sit like stocks and stones under his ministry, no more moved than the seats they sit on and the pillars they lean to; ignorant and profane he found them, and such he sees he is like to leave them, after twenty years may be, almost twice told, spent among them. This must needs be a heart-aching trial to one whom God hath given a compassionate heart to souls. It costs the mother no small pains to bring forth a living child; but what are the bitter throws of one that travails with a dead child? Such is the travail of a poor minister with a dead-hearted people, yet the portion of none of the meanest of God’s messengers; indeed, God sets his most eminent servants about the hardest work. Now sincerity lightens this affliction, and sends in what may cheer the soul under it. Paul saw he should not carry all to heaven with him he preached unto—to many the gospel was ‘a savour of death unto death.’ The sweet perfume of the gospel proved a deadly scent to hasten and heighten their damnation. This could not be but sad to so tender a physician—to see his patients die under his hands—yet he thanks God that makes him ‘triumph in Christ,’ II Cor. 2:14. But how can he do this? poor souls drop to hell from under his pulpit hearing him, and he triumph? This is as strange as to see the father follow his child’s mournful hearse, not weeping, but singing and dancing. Mark, and the wonder will cease. He doth not triumph that they perish, but that he is not guilty of their blood; not that they are damned, but that he sincerely endeavoured their salvation. ‘For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ,’ ver. 17. Had Paul dropped some wild gourd of error into his doctrine, or mingled some ingredient of his own, with what Christ the great physician had ordered, he would have had little list to triumph; but preaching pure gospel, and that purely, with a sincere heart, he might triumph in Christ that made him faithful, and shall triumph over them when he meets them again at the great day of the bar of Christ, where, to their face, he shall witness against them, and vote with Christ for their eternal destruction. Methinks I hear all the faithful ministers of Christ giving an account to him, on whose errand they were sent, in the language of Jeremiah’s prayer, ‘Lord, we have not desired the woful day, thou knowest,’ Jer. 17:16, which now hath taken hold of these wretched souls, and which we warned them of. That which came out of our lips, in our preaching to them, was right before thee. The life of their souls was dear and precious to us. We could have sacrificed our temporal lives, to save the eternal life of their souls; but nothing we could say, or do, would stay them; to hell they would go over all the prayers, tears, and entreaties out of thy word, which stood in their way. This will make the sincere ministers of Christ lift up their head with joy, and such forlorn wretches hang down their heads with shame to look Christ or them in the face, though now they can brazen it out with an impudent forehead. So for parents and masters, sincerity in your relations will comfort you, though you see not your seed come up which you have sown upon them in your godly examples, holy instructions, and seasonable corrections. David was one that ‘walked in his house with a perfect heart,’ Ps. 101:2—careful in the nurture of his children, as appears in his pious counsel to Solomon, I Chr. 28:9, though not without failings. But many of his children were none of the best; one incestuous, another imbruing his hands in his brother’s blood, a third catching traitorously at his crown while he was himself alive—a fact which made this holy man sadly foresee how the squares would go when he was dead and gone. Yet in this great disorder of his family, how comfortable do we find him on his dying bed! ‘Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,’ II Sam. 23:5. Surely he had done his duty sincerely. This was his evidence for his interest in the covenant, and the covenant was all his desire and salvation.
In a word, in times of public calamity, when the flood of God’s wrath comes rolling in upon a nation, like waves irresistibly, at the wide breach which the high crying sins of the times make, and the few righteous that are found upon the place labour to stand in the gap, by their prayers, begging the life of the nation, but God will not hear, even then sincerity will be a sweet support while we share with others in the common calamity. Thus, indeed, it sometimes falls out—although the righteous ones be, like Noah, Job, and Daniel, beloved of God—that no bail will be taken for a nation under the arrest of God’s judgments. Jeremiah, he bestirred him zealously for God in testifying against the sins of the times, and for the people faithfully and earnestly with God by prayer; but he could neither convert them by his preaching, nor divert the wrath of God by his praying. The Jews bade him hold his peace, and prophesy no more against them. God stops his mouth also, and bids him pray no more for them. Now in the dismal state of things, what easeth his sorrowful heart, swollen with grief for their sins, and judgments hastening upon them, like an eagle to her prey? Truly nothing can, but the remembrance of his sincerity to God and man in those debauched times. ‘Remember that I stood up before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them,’ Jer. 18:20. As if he had said, ‘O Lord, though I cannot prevail with this rebellious generation to repent of their sins, or with thy majesty, to repent of thy wrath gone out by an irreversible decree against them; yet remember that I have been faithful in my place both to thee and them.’ Whereas on the contrary, horror and amazement of spirit is the portion, in such times of public calamity of hypocrites, as we see in Pashur, Jer. 20; who was a man that bare great sway at court in Jeremiah’s time, a bitter enemy tot he prophet himself and to the message he brought from God to the Jews, labouring to soothe up the king and princes with vain hopes of golden days coming—point blank against the word of the Lord in the mouth of Jeremiah. And what becomes of him when the storm falls on that unhappy people? Jeremiah tells him his doom, ver. 4—that God will make him a magor missabib—a terror to himself. He should not only share in the common calamity, but have a brand of God’s special wrath set upon him above others.