Handling Sincerity as a Sign of Grace.
2 COR. 1. 12.
AT the eighth verse in this Chapter, the Apostle beginneth a Narrative of his troubles, which he describeth from the place where (in Asia:) Some think this relates to the tumult raised by Demetrius against him, Act. 19. but it may referre to the many troubles he had severally in Asia. In the next place, these are amplified by the quality of them, it was a pressure above measure, above strength, it was not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an humane temptation; It was above the strength of nature, though not of grace. The heavinesse of it is expressed in that it made despair of life, to be altogether anxious not knowing any way to escape, in∣somuch that he had received the sentence of death in himself〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Though some understand it of some answer to be given immediatly by God, yet Beza doth most probably understand it as an expression from Malefactors who are sentenced to die: Further the Apostle illustrateth this from the finall cause, which was two-fold, first, not to trust in our selves; secondly, but in God which raiseth the dead. This is a comfortable consideration in all times of calamities, God who raiseth the dead. In the next place he declareth his deliverance amplified partly by their praiers for him, and partly by his sincerity towards them, so that in the words you have a twofold proposition: the first expresseth Pauls carriage in the world, especially in respect of his ministery, and that positively, then negatively; Positively in two emphaticall words, 1. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, simplicity, an heart that is not guileful, double, oppo∣sed to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; 2. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sincerity, a word they say from the Eagle that tryeth her genuine young ones by the sun-beams, or rather in the sun-beams, there being both 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, lux, or light, and by the light thereof we see the least motes, and thus it signifieth a man whose heart being inligh•ened findeth out all the secret and hidden motions of sinne, or else in the sun-beams there is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, heat, which doth separate those heterogeneal things that cold had congregated, and thus it doth signifie an heart purged from drosse, unmix'd with corrupt and sinfull ends, for as Aquinas observeth well, the soul may be joyned to things more noble then it self (as when silver is mingled with gold) and this doth not debase but ennoble the soul, for when it loveth God or is joyned to Christ, herein the soul is advanced: or se∣condly, it may be joyned to things inferiour to it, as when gold is mingled with lead, and this doth much debase and corrupt: now such a kinde of mixture is here denyed. The Apostle expresseth his carriage negatively, when he saith it was not in fleshly wisedom; wisedome may be called carnall or fleshly, either originally in respect of the fountain whence it floweth, or efficiently because it enclineth to, and pro∣duceth the works of the flesh, or finally, because it rules only for fleshly motives, and carnall ends. The second proposition in the Text is, that this sincere deport∣ment of Paul in the work of his ministery, was a sign unto him, a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a te∣stimony and witnesse of that goodnesse and grace which was in him, and so by con∣sequent the object of much joy and comfort to his soul.
Doct. That sincerity and uprightnesse of heart in our motives and ends, is a sure*Page 68and infallible sign of our being in the state of grace. To this purpose John also speaks, 1 John 3. 21, 22. If our hearts condemn us not, we have boldnesse with God.*
For the opening of this point, let us consider how unsafely it may be prest for a sign in some particulars, and then wherein the nature of it lyeth.
First, It is unwarrantably prest when uprightnesse is urged to the exclusion of all*respect unto any reward. For thus some do teach, Unlesse thou love God for himself, so that thou lookest neither at heaven or hell, unlesse in thy humiliation for sinne thou art so farre debased as to be willing to be damned, thy heart is not right. Hence I have read of one who passionately wished, there were neither heaven or hell, that so the party might know whether there was love to God purely, because of God. Whereupon many godly people are much troubled, and think the serving of God with eye to our salvation, is nothing but unlawfull self-love. But the pres∣sing of uprightnesse to such a strain and measure is unlawfull and uncomfor∣table.
1. Because the Scripture propounds heaven and salvation as a motive to obey * him, now no Scripture-motive can draw out any unlawfull affection, and what∣soever Gods Word requireth, the Spirit of God worketh in the heart of belee∣vers, which could not be if this desire of salvation be a sinne: therefore we reade of Moses, yea, and Christ himself, that they had an eye (yea, a sixed, constant eye, and firm, as the word signifieth) upon the reward: yet these cannot be denied to have upright hearts, all amor mercedis is not amor mercenarius: let not therefore the people of God condemn themselves for hypocrites, because of such affections. It is true there is in the people of God an ingenuous and supernaturall principle, whereby they love God, and holy things, because of the excellency of them: E∣ven as a carnall man loveth sinne, because of the suteablenesse of it with his own heart, but yet this is not exclusive of the love of our own happinesse: some make Gods glory and our happinesse, to differ as the supreme and subordinate ends, some as coordinate end• only; but to be sure, God hath so infallibly conjoyn∣ed them together, that one cannot be without the other.
2. It's uncomfortable, because it putteth a man upon the searching and finding out that which is impossible, for how canst thou ever come to know whether thou couldest be content to love God and serve him, if there were no heaven? Thou maist make metaphysicall abstractions about these things, but there can never be any reall separation of one from the other, and therefore it is impossible to know what thy heart would do in such cases. It is true, Paul Rom. 9. useth an hyper∣bolicall expression, I could wish to be an Anathema for my brethrens sake, that is, to be separated from Christ, and all communion with his priviledges, that so the Jews might be saved, for the saving of all them might seem to make more for Gods glory then the salvation of one man; but the Apostle speaks not absolutely I do wish, but I could wish, viz. if it were possible, or if it were lawfull; and in this he doth declare the vehemency of his love toward them. It is therefore good both for Ministers and people to be wary, that they lay no snares upon others or themselves in this point.
Secondly, This sign of uprightnesse may be prest unsafely when it is understood of such a perfect uprightnesse that hath no deceit or falshood at all joyned with it: but * as other graces are but in part, we know in part, we love in part, so we are sincere and upright in part. David though noted for sincerity, and a man after Gods own heart, yet cryeth out, Psal 19. Who can understand his error? There is more hypo∣crisie, self-ends in thee, then thou dost perceive, although there is so much disco∣vered in thee as to make thee humble, and to trust in Christ only; and Davids fail∣ing in sincerity made him so cry out Psal. 51. for truth in the inward parts, expect not therefore to finde thy heart freed from all guile and carnal respects thrusting of thee, and stirring in thee, more then from the reliques of other sinnes that still cleave close to thee. This is to manage the sign of integrity ill on the right hand. Then on the left; We may abuse this sign by going too low, and that may be these waies.
Page 69 First, When we take sincerity for quietnesse of conscience, that it doth not accuse.* Thus civill and formall men not being inlightned out of Gods Word, clear them∣selves, think their hearts and intentions good, when if they did throughly know themselves, they would be amazed. Thus Paul also, who said he walked with a good conscience, his conscience was good in that it was quiet, it did not check him, whenas if truly informed out of Gods Word, it would have given him as sad buf∣fetings as those of Satans: In this sense some of late have excused an heretick, that is willing to lose all temporall advantages for his conscience sake, yea, to die in the most exquisite way of •••ments rather then to forsake their judgement: how can these be judged any other (say they) then sincere upright men? But it is good to observe that then only may our hearts be said to be upright in a g〈…〉 manner, when they are according to Gods Word, which is the rule of uprightnesse. There∣fore if a man be now so fully perswaded of an heresie, that it is the truth of God, and take up his crosse and follow this errour, yet his heart cannot be called up∣right, for that is right which is according to the rule, to the measure which is the Scriptures. We grant therefore, that a Papist, a Socinian, or Arminian, may for his conscience sake endure joyfully the spoiling of his goods, refuse all earthly ad∣vantages that would thrust him against this, and thereupon finde incredible joy and peace in his soul, yet for all this, this man cannot be said to have an upright heart, because there wants true light within, and if the eye be dark, the whole body is dark also. In these times therefore it is good to have it pressed again and again, that in matters of opinions and doctrines a man may have a great deal of ease and com∣fort, and yet be in a very false way, and though such a man be not an hypocrite in a grosse sense, he doth not walk against the checks of his conscience, yet he is an hypocrite in a more refined sense, as hypocrisie is opposite to that which is true, and unfeigned: As we say a man doth many times lye, mendacium dicere, tell that which is false (a sin prohibited) when yet he doth not mentiri, go against his minde, or the light thereof. Therefore the conscience of every heretique, while under the saddest calamities for his opinion, is polluted and unclean.
Secondly, We abuse this in going too low, when we limit sincerity to one particular*fact, or to some particular passages only: For now even a naturall man, though not regenerated, may do some things in a naturall integrity and uprightnesse of his heart. Thus Abimelech Gen. 20. 5. said concerning Sarah, In the integrity of my heart, and innocency of my hands have I done this. Thus some take that U•iah whom the Prophet Esay called to be a faithfull witnesse unto him, to be the same with that Uriah the grosse idolater, who brought in the Altar of Damascus: If so, then as to that particular respect he was an intire man; Indeed no man is so to judge of him∣self by any particular time, but the constant course of his life is to be regarded. Hence a godly man is said to walk in the waies of uprightnesse; It is walking, and it is a way.
Thirdly, We then also go too low when we judge of sincerity by the proxime and*immediate ends of actions, not at all attending to the principall and main; Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Every gracious action comes from God originally, and tends to him finally, now a man may do many glorious and good actions, and that with reference unfeignedly to the immediate ends, yet shoot not so farre as the utmost white and mark of all, which is Gods glory: Take many Heathens for example, Aristides, Caio, Themistocl•s, and divers others, who did many good things unfeignedly for the common-wealth; they sought not wealth, neither did they inrich themselves, but the publique good was their end, they went no higher; now as a naturall conscience may much di•qu•et and accuse a man, witnesse many heathens, so it may also if obeyed give great comfort and content, as some of the Heathens also had, but it is not enough to make an action supernaturally good, to referre it to its proxime end, but it must be to the chiefest.
In the next place, let us consider what this uprightnesse is, and so wherein it is a sign.
Page 70 And 1. There is no sincerity, but where there is a full and powerfull change of the whose man by the grace of God. For every mans heart is naturally full of * guile, and doth uti not frui Deo, referre God to humane ends and himself, but not himself and all his ends to God, Omnes homines sunt latrones & quotidiè la∣trocinantur gloriam Dei: It was a saying of one which Cassianus doth much approve: The heart of a man naturally is said to be deceitfull above all things, who can know it? There is no truth, no integrity, till God hath changed it. It is as Tertullian said of the Peacock, versicolor, multicolor, semper idem & nunquam idem. If therefore thou wouldest have a plain and even heart, desire it may be polished by grace, for till this be, a man makes himself the center, and all lines to meet in him, but this is inward, and so cannot be perceived but by the motions and actions which flow therefrom; As Lazarus perceived he had life, not by the principle of life put in to him, but by the effects thereof: and Saul perceived he had another spirit by the o∣perations that did flow from it: so in conversion a man doth not perceive the im∣mediate habits and principles of grace, but by the effects and fruits of them he comes to know he hath such.
2. Uprightnesse is a sign and then acknowledged to be sincerity, when we do any good duty because God commands. As in matters of faith, then we properly pro∣duce * a divine act, when we beleeve quia ipse dixit, because God hath commanded it: so then is it properly upright obedience when it is quia ipse voluit, because he willeth and commands it. A man may obey a command because those actions may consist with some carnall ends, but to do it because of Gods soveraignty, this is acceptable. Hence Saul for that act of disobedience, though he pleaded carnall pretences, yet was judged to commit a sinne as hainous as witchcraft. Adams sin was to be aggravated from this, in that it was expresly disobedience; for there being no other ground of the command, then Gods will to command, it was bonum quia mandatum, not mandatum quia bonum; hence his sinne was in a high manner disobedience. Do not therefore this or that, because this will agree with thy ends, this will stand with thy lust, but do it because God hath required it.
3. Uprightnesse is seen in the universality of obedience; We do not pick or choose, but because God commands all, therefore we obey all: do that which crosseth us, * which is troublesome unto our flesh, which is self-denying, as well as those things that do not so much offend us. The Apostle Jam. 2. urgeth this argument, He that said Thou shalt not stea•, said also Thou shalt not commit adult•ry. Aquatenus ad om∣ne valet consequentia, to obey any commandment because it is Gods will, doth in∣cline a man to obey every commandment, because it hath the same superscription; Herod did many things, but not all things, therefore not any thing upon a right ground: Aristotle useth the first word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 frequently for that which is opposite to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉secundum quid. Thus saith he, a blackamore though he hath white teeth, yet cannot be called white 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because it is in some respect only, so neither may a man be called sincere that hath only partiall obedience.
4. Then is uprightnesse a true sign when the motives of all our actions are pure and*heavenly; when all is done because of the glory of God, or for such motives that Gods word doth require: The Pharisees how glorious in praiers, fastings and alms, yet all they did was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to be on a Theater and admired by others ap∣plause: This is penetrating and discovers thousands of hypocrites: Jehu, who more zealous then he? who more active in reformation? yet it was not Gods glory he a•med at, but his own greatnesse. Mundus cadaver est, & petentes eum sunt canes, saith the Arabick Proverb, The world is a carcasse, and those that hunt after it are dogs; Oh how few then are Christs sheep, who are guided by direct and sincere motives, following Christ because of his precious ointment. All glorious acti∣ons without pure ends, are like sweet herbs upon a noisome dunghill.
5. Uprightnesse is when a man is very diligent and conscientious in internall duties*or secret, to perform them, and in spirituall or heart, sins and secret lusts to avoid them; God is a spirit, and Ioh. 4. he seeketh such that worship him in truth and spirit; and Page 71Paul expresseth himself thus, whom I serve in my spirit: The Pharisees (who were so often upbraided with their hypocrisie) were diligent in external obedience, when their inward vitals were wholly corrupt and rotten: Our Saviour directs us to pri∣vate duties in a most secret manner, with this encouragement, He that seeth in secret will reward openly: observe then how carefull thou art about the frame of thy heart, whether that be prepared and fitted with the graces of Gods Spirit; see how thou art in those things which none but God knoweth, and this will be a true touch-stone: Joseph made a notable discovery of his integrity when he said, how can I do this and sin against God? no secrecy or privacy could intice him. Therefore consider, that howsoever men know thee not, yet God knoweth thee; walk before me and be perfect, saith God to Abraham; eying of God sheweth sincerity.
6. Uprightness is a sign when a man doth zealously set against those sins that he most*inclineth to, either through outward or inward temptations, and hateth sin most in himself, and in those that are nearest to him; as a man hateth a toad most in his own bosome. David professed he kept himself from his iniquity: Hypocrisie hath commonly some Dalilah, some wolf or other in its breast, to whose sheaf (as it were) all other sins must make their sheaves to bow. This is the good old mark that godly Divines in former ages did so much presse, and you shall see when all false do∣ctrines and corrupt notions go out in a stink, such truths as these will be precious with the godly; Our Saviour in nothing more discovered the hypocrisie of the Pha∣risees, then that they were not sensible of their own sinfulnesse, they judged others, but understood not how noisome they themselves were: You are they which justifie your selves, but what is highly esteemed before men, is abomination before God; see therefore how lothsome and abominable thy own sinnes, thy family sinnes are unto thee.
7. Uprightnesse is seen in taking those waies and using those means only God hath*appointed for the obtaining of lawfull ends: Many times lawfull means are not so vi∣sibly advantagious, as shifts and carnall projects are, we see how Jacob got the blessing by fraud; David often became guilty of that deceitfulness and guil, which he so much in his Psalms complaineth of in others, and so farre as they engaged in unlawfull waies, so farre hypocrisie acted in them; They did not trust in God, neither beleeve in him for the accomplishment of his own promise. But this is a grosse mistake of flesh and bloud, for Gods means only brings about Gods ends in a mercy. When by unlawfull or unwarrantable waies we get any thing, it is as the Eagle got a coal from the sacrifice, she carrieth it to her nest, and setteth all on fire, Jonah 3. They that seek to lying vanities forsake their own mercy. Hence it is that so many promises are made to the upright man, especially in the Proverbs, that his in∣tegrity shall preserve him, because in outward probabilities he is most likely to be undone.
8. Uprightnes is seen not only when we have respect to all Gods Commandments, but*when we have it in that due order and respect, as God commandeth. The duties of the first table before the second, the Commandements of greater duties above those of lesse duties: As in faith there are fundamentals absolutely necessary to salvati∣on, and praeter or circa fundamentals, so in obedience there is that which is wholly necessary for every one to have, and those things which in some respect come only to be so. The Pharisees hypocrisie was made manifest in that they tythed mint and cummin, but neglected righteousnesse and judgement. Many times it fals out, that where men are diligent where they ought not to be, there they are negligent where they should not be. As Melancthon sharply reproved the Italians, Vos Itali Deum vultis esse in p•ne, quando non creditis eum esse in coelis; Ye Italians will beleeve God to be in the bread, when ye do not beleeve there is a God in heaven. Therefore ob∣serve the graduall difference God appointed concerning duties.
Use, To discover the p••city of those that are in the state of grace. If uprightnesse * and sincerity thus in all our ends and means be an inseparable sign of grace, may we not cry out with the Psalmist, help Lord for the upright man is perished out of the Page 72 earth: And in what age may the absence of it be more deplored then now, when Parties, Factions, Interests, have devoured and eaten up sincerity? But as the body is a carkasse without the soul, so is all religion without integrity. It is a blazing Starre though it make a great lustre for the time, yet it ends at last in noi∣some vapours. This was a comfort to Hezekiah in his sad distresse, That he had walked before God, with an upright and perfect heart. He that walketh uprightly walketh safely. He that liveth uprightly, and dieth uprightly, liveth and dieth safely. This is acceptable even where many failings are, and where this is absent, the most perfect Sacrifices are rejected.