Of the true Nature of Godly Sincerity.
2 COR. 1. 12.
THis is the second word, wherein is positively expressed, the manner of Paul's conversation in the world. Although both the words tend to the same purpose, yet simplicity doth more respect the frame and inward constitution of the heart: and sincerity doth more denote the purity and integri∣ty of our aims and ends in holy things.
In the expression we may take notice,
- 1. Of the grace it self, viz. Sincerity.
- 2. The limitation, or qualification of it, Godly sincerity.
The grace, or rather the gracious modification of Paul's life, is said to be in 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉in sincerity. The word as Lexicographers observe, cometh of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the Sunne-beams, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to judge. Now in them there are two things:
The 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, lustre and light, and so it is the same with 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that which is clear, transparent and manifest. Thus 2 Pet. 3. 1. it is called, your sincere mind.
2. In the Sunne-beams there is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, heat, whereby heterogeneals are separated, and homogeneals congregated; and then it is the same with 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, unmixt, as the word sincere is pure honey, sine cerâ, without wax. So that in this expression is denoted the purity of the heart in all its aims and intentions, not mingling other things of a contrary nature with holy actions; and then such an open, clear and diaphanous frame of soul, that it hideth not, or covereth any thing, but delighteth to have all things open and naked to the eyes of God.
Hence in the next place, you have the limitation or amplification, In the sin∣cerity of God;〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, we render it godly sincerity: Now this may be thus under∣stood:
1. By way of opposition, to that Natural, or Moral Truth, and Ingenui∣ty, which may be in men destitute of grace. The Romana fides was proverbial, because of the truth and sincerity that was in all their dealings; but because they did not know God, or look up to him, referring their actions to lower and more inferiour ends; therefore it was not godly sincerity. Thus many Page 414 civil men have an honest, upright heart to doe truly and righteously in all things relating to men, but they want the soul of all, which is to re∣ferre this to the glory of God, and to eye him principally in their actions.
2. It may be called, The sincerity of God, effectivè, because it is that which is wrought in us by God. The heart naturally is full of guile and hypocrisie, never performing holy things upon holy motives. So that it is the grace of God, which putteth truth in the inward parts, and maketh us Sheep of Foxes, Doves of Kites.
3. It is the sincerity of God, by way of direction and command, because he hath commanded, that with a pure and upright heart, we are to serve him in all our wayes. And this our Translators seem to aim at, rendring it godly sincerity, that is, such which is according to the rules of Gods word. And this excludeth that sincerity of conscience, which many heretical and deluded per∣sons may have in their zealous prosecution of their false wayes. Paul had a good conscience, and a sincere heart, while a Pharisee, that he did not go against the dictates of his conscience; yea he thought himself bound to doe what he did: But this is not enough to godly sincerity, this is humane sincerity, thou hast a clear perswasion in thy own heart of the goodnesse of thy wayes; but if it be godly, it must be according to the rule of godlinesse, and that is the Scripture. A mans own conscience or heart is not the supream rule of sincerity, but the Scripture. And this is very necessary to be observed, because we are apt to rest in our hearts, the sincerity we feel there, the comfort and quietnesse we have from thence, as if they were the utmost rule we were to resolve all into; whereas it must not be, what say our hearts, but what say the Scriptures inform∣ing and regulating our hearts?
4. It may be called sincerity of God, finaliter, because whatsoever a man doth, that is thus sincere, he doth it to the glory of God; that is his mark, if he falleth short of that, if he findeth his own glory, his own applause, his owne advantages interposing, this doth exceedingly grieve and trouble him; he accounts that as drosse, and not gold, he saith, This duty I have lost.
Lastly, It is called sincerity of God, objectivè, because he that is sincere, doth all things as in the presence of God, knowing that God beholdeth him, that he trieth the reins, and searcheth the hearts of all men. And this is principally meant in this place (though the other be not excluded.) And so we have Paul explaining himself in the next Chapter, vers. 17. As of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.
These things explained, Observe,
That godly sincerity carrieth a man above all self-respects in religious wayes,*even to God himself.
It is not man, either glory, or praise from him, but God alone that his heart is fixed upon. As those that did runne in a race (such is our Christianity) did not matter the acclamations of spectators, but the judgement of him who was the Moderator, to judge on whose side the victory was. Thus Paul, 1 Cor. 4. It is a very small thing with me, that I should be judged of you, or of mans judgement, but he that judgeth me is the Lord. It is a miserable bondage to please men, and to be like a looking-glasse to every one, seeming to be what he is, that he talketh with: such a man is inconstant, hypocritical, changeth the wayes of Religion often, according as humane advantages do intervene; whereas the sincere man, like Christ himself, is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Like those fishes, Nazianzen in his contemplations, by the Sea Page 415 side, observed that keeping close to the rock were not moved, but the rest were cast out, and are fetched in again according to the ebbing and flowing of the waters: but he that walketh with sincerity, as God is the same, the Scriptures the same, godlinesse is alwayes the same, so also is he the same. As the Pilot hath his eye alwayes to the Starre in the Heavens, not regarding the tempests, or tos•ings of his ship. Thus it is with the sincere man.
To work this upon our hearts, let us consider, *
First, What are those things in God, that the sincere man doth thus fix himself upon, living as if there were none in the world, but he and God alone. And
First, The Omniscience of God, that all-seeing eye of his, whereby he know∣eth * every secret turning, and winding of the soul, yea our thoughts afarre off, while they are but in the minting and womb, and thereby seeth that in us, which we cannot our selves. This is that, which is often in the thoughts of a sincere man. This all searching knowledge of God, David largely celebrateth, Psal. 139. 1, 2, 3, &c. Thus God commandeth Abraham, To walk before him, and be perfect, Gen. 17. The consideration of Gods presence, that he is with us, that he knoweth every thought, and every word, this will make us perfect and upright. Had Gehezi thought that Elijahs spirit would have gone along with him, as it were, and taken notice of the actions he did, he would not with such confidence have come into the Prophets presence, as if all had been well. Oh then, how vain is it to hide thy designs and intentions to men, to make pro∣testations and professions of thy integrity to men, if the all-seeing eye of God behold other things in thee? What greater obligation can there be, to have all the motions and turnings of thy heart cordial and faithfull towards God, seeing no man can more perfectly behold the outward gestures of thy body, then he doth the inward motions of thy soul? Oh say. God knoweth what I think, what my heart is upon, what is the spring of every duty I do!
Secondly, Sincerity respecteth God, As he is the first cause, and the last*end. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of whom are all things, and to whom are all things, Rom. 11. 36. Now this two-fold property in God, the sincere man doth greatly improve. First, As he is the Efficient cause, so that he expects all-sufficiency and power from the grace of God alone. The Scripture dot frequently affirm, That it is by the grace of God alone, that we are able to do any good thing; therefore the sincere man dareth not sacrifice to his own nets, dare not give any thing to his own power and free-will, neither dare he rob Christ of his glory, by setting up Angels and Saints, as Mediators, under any nice distinctions whatsoever; he trembleth to dispute against the grace of God, lest he want the blessed effects of it in the greatest necessities. You may observe David and Paul, who expresse such remarkable sincerity towards God, that they go out of themselves, depend on God alone: and not onely do they acknowledge God the supream giver of all the good they enjoy, but also they make him the ultimate end, to whom they referre all things; remembring the Apostles rule, 1 Cor. 10 31. Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. This is a very hard lesson to do, a very difficult duty to be performed; but yet the sincere man, he overlooketh all second causes and instruments with his Eagles-eye; he gets up (as it were) into the mountain, and leaveth all his carnal interests below, as Abraham did his beasts and ser∣vants, when he went to sacrifice Isaac. This single and pure intention of Gods glory, is not so easily accomplished, as it is quickly and commonly pretend∣ed. Oh how rare a thing is it to eat and drink, to study and preach, that hereby God may be glorified? How closely doth some carnal respect, or vain-glorious motive follow thee in the duty, as Asahel did Joab, which thou canst not make depart from thee, till thou thrust it (as it were) Page 416 thorow the fift rib, till thou give it its mortal blow by mortification.
Thirdly, The sincere heart relateth all to God, In regard of his Sovereignty*and dominion over him. Because God is the supream Lord and Lawgiver, who only can impose Laws upon the conscience; therefore in his obedience he doth principally look to the will and authority of the Lawgiver. This is a notable cha∣racter of since•ity, to obey, because thus saith the Lord; it is his will, and as the supream orb doth carry along with it the inferiour orbs, though against their particular inclination: Thus doth the will of God, because supream, bring the creatures will into obedience, when corrupt inclinations do propound a contra∣ry way. It is the matter of our prayer which we are constantly to pour forth unto God, That his will may be done, his will, not our will. Therefore if sincerity have a throne in thy heart, thy sense will be as soft wax to receive any stamp or impression from God; what God commands, though against pleasures, profits, and all the inclinations of thy corrupt heart, thou doest readily sub∣mit unto. Thus thou offerest up thy self as an whole burnt-offering unto God.
Lastly, This sincerity doth respect the wisdome of God, in all those sharp, and bitter providential temptations that a man may be exercised with, for his*faithfull service to God. The Scripture doth frequently inform of this, what cups of wormwood they must drink that will be Christs Disciples, what crowns of thorns they must endure upon their heads, who expect crowns of glory from him. Now the heart that is sincere, doth not cavil and murmur at Gods dispen∣sations herein, though so unpleasing to flesh and blood, but doth wholly ac∣quiesce in the wisdom of God, filencing the impetuous motions of his Spirit; God is wiser than I, he knoweth this is better for me, then I think it is. For certainly all discontents do arise from this, we think God might have shewed more love to us, and more wisdome, if he did not suffer such and such things to come upon us: Therefore afflictions and persecutions are the special Touchstone to discover our sincerity. This fire will manifest whether we be gold or drosse, these winnowings whether chaffor wheat. The hypocrite wanting root, doth commonly begin to wither, when the Sunnes scorching heat doth arise; and if they are at any times afflicted for Christ, it is against their wils, so that with Simon, they are compelled to carry the crosse of Christ; but sincerity doth not only admire the wisdome of God in such dispensations, but justifieth him, and condemneth its self. Thus you see, what are those high and sublime things a sincere man looketh at in all his religious wayes: That whereas in a bodily way, the beast looketh to the ground, when man hath an upright look towards Hea∣ven: So even every natural man hath a soul bowed down only to earthly re∣spects, while the sincere heart ascends up to God himself. Therefore it is that he doth prudently escape all those ambushments that low inferiour ends, are apt to lay in his way, thereby to intercept him from arriving at God himself. We cannot reckon all the inferiour and unworthy ends that are apt to interpose, no more than the creeping things in the Sea; onely some few we may instance in. As
1. Vain-glory and Self-applause, that many times clippeth the wings of our * souls, that while we are moving to Heaven, this maketh us fall to the ground. This made the Pharisees lose the heavenly reward of all their religious duties. And how often have the holiest of men complained of this Dalilah, this sweet poison, this flattering enemy; Is it not the worme that devoureth the sweetest flowers, and the ripest fruit? This maketh death in the pot, even damnation in excellent duties; therefore the sincere man doth constantly watch and ward, keeping a strict search into his heart, that no such thief enter in and steal away his treasure.
A second inferiour and base end, which would corrupt us in the service of Page 417 God, is The external greatnesse of honour, or the seeming profit of wealth.* This dust hath often blown into the eyes, that they have not been able to look up. What glorious things did Jehu do for God? If you look upon the ex∣ternal actions only? But his heart was not sincere in this, it was a tempo∣ral Kingdome that he aimed at, and the earthly advancing of himself. And the third kind of hearers, they did not apostatize, but the love of the world, and the deceiveablenesse of riches; these things like weeds did grow up with the good corne. It was Simon Magus his hainous transgression, to desire the Holy Ghost for money. And hath not this been as wickedly practi∣sed sometimes to make use of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, or at least the pretence of them for earthly gaine? To be religious for gaine, to make a profession for earthly advantages, what is this but to make use of God and his wayes for money? And if you say, These are base and unworthy ends indeed, this is to be a Judas, to sell Christ for money, an Esau, to sell our birthright for pottage. Therefore you must know, that if we could as the Peripateticks enjoyne, do virtuous actions for virtues sake; yet this were too low an end for a sincere Christian; when men do righteous actions for the publick good; when men performe religious duties meerly to please and content their consciences. These that are good, as proxime and seconda∣ry ends, being made the ultimate, do deprive the duties of their true, pro∣per sincere Christianity. This is to take John Baptist for Christ; or as some did, to take Christ onely for some great Prophet. This is to judge sinceri∣ty and godlinesse a lesse thing than it is; to take a counterfeit, for a pre∣cious pearl. And therefore the motive of duties in Popery, is wonderfully short of true spiritual ones; even as their faith of true divine motives, as they resolve their faith into the Authority of their Church, so their reli∣gious duties into their own power and merit. Whereas to be holy, so as to rest in our holinesse, and to make that our utmost end, is to unthrone Christ, and to put our graces in the room of Gods grace. So that we are not onely by sincerity to overlook all earthly objects, but even all duties and inherent graces, joyning with Christ onely as the beloved of our souls. This sincerity is that which maketh the way to Heaven so narrow. This is the reason why many are called, but few chosen. If the external performance of duties were enough, many thousands would go to Heaven, more than do: but sincerity is that which makes every holy duty so difficult.