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ity may be observed and lamented every day. How often is a pretence of religion evidently made to serve the design of defrauding men! What tricking arts are practised under the mask of friendship! Such things as these, which often come to open light, may justly be the grief of serious Christians, who know the value of sincerity in itself, and how contrary every breach of it is to the obligations of Christianity.
2. As a measure of judging ourselves, whether we are in a state of acceptance with God. Here we may, and ought to, enter into the closest scrutiny of sincerity. We are privy to what passes within ourselves, though we cannot reach the secrets of others hearts. Conscience is the candle of the Lord within us, to enable us to discern the real state of our own case. Let us, therefore, bring ourselves within the light and judgment of our own consciences, upon this most important inquiry, Whether we are sincere or not? Whether the pleasing of God is our ordinary and prevailing design and aim? Whether we are impartial in our searches what the mind and will of God is? Whether universal obedience to all the known will of God is our stated aim, and resolution, and endeavour? Whether there be an agreement between our hearts and our words and actions? Another man cannot decide these questions for us, upon which our acceptance with God depends; but God knows how the matter stands, and we may discern it; and it is of the utmost importance that we pass a right judgment ourselves.
3. As a ground of humiliation to the best, for the defects in their sincerity, as well as in every particular branch of goodness. Sincerity, as prescribed by the rule, is to be considered as perfect, as well as the particular graces and virtues of which it is a qualification; that is, every failure in any of the articles wherein sincerity consists, is as contrary to sincerity, and as truly a breach of our duty, as every degree of doubting is contrary to faith, or any violation of truth to veracity. And though the grace of the gospel admits of prevailing sincerity as the term of life, as well as of the prevalence of other graces and virtues; yet a Christian has reason to humble himself before God, for the defects of his sincerity, as well as of every other fruit of the Spirit. other fruit of the Spirit. Though we can entertain hope that, we have been prevailingly sincere, yet who shall dare to say upon recollection, that he hath been perfectly
sincere? that his intention and design to please God has been so entire that he hath never deviated from it? that he has inquired into the mind of God with as much diligence and impartiality as he might, and ought to, have done? that his obedience has been unreserved and universal as it might have been? that he hath never been guilty of the least dissimulation, or false disguise? Now, though we may have good reason to hope for divine acceptance, according to the grace of the gospel, upon the consciousness of sincerity in a prevailing degree; yet we should confess and bewail every known defect in it in our temper or conduct, either to God or man.
4. As an engagement to cultivate and advance in this excellent qualification.
How greatly would this blessed end be promoted, if we would think, at every turn of the eye of the great God upon us, that we are wholly naked and open to him with whom we have to do! If we would frequently place ourselves by faith and serious meditation at the judgment-seat of Christ, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed! If we consider how high sincerity stands in divine estimation, how valuable it is to all men, as far as they can discern it, and what satisfaction it will produce in our breasts!
Let us then studiously mind and practise it as the principal thing in all the seeming good we do, either in the acts of piety to God, or of justice and charity to men.
Particularly, whenever we keep the gospel-feast of the holy supper, let not this qualification be wanting. It is the great thing requisite in every communicant, "the wedding-garment," without which we cannot be welcome guests. And it should attend every part of our work at that solemnity. We should be sincere in the reasons and ends of observing it, that it be done in pure obedience to our Master's will, and in hope of that spiritual benefit for which it was appointed; in the exercise of those dispositions which should attend the remembrance of a dying Saviour, such as thankfulness for the love of God in the work of our redemption, sorrow for sin, which should be excited by this evidence of its evil nature, and faith in the promises of God, which are ratified in Christ's blood; in our desire of the blessings offered us in virtue of his blood; in our resolutions of new obedience, and in our charity and affection to our fellow Christians.
We have there the highest instance of undissembled love set in view, faithful promises sealed on God's part. We are immediately transacting with him who can judge of sincerity; and without it, instead of receiving advantage by that holy institution, shall eat and drink judgment to ourselves.
CONSTANCY AND PERSEVERANCE.
1 COR. xv. 58. [former part.]
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
NEXT to sincerity, and indeed as very closely connected
or steadiness may be considered as a general qualification, which ought to run through every branch of the Christian temper.
The apostle, in this chapter, explains and proves at large the doctrine of the resurrection: a most comfortable and encouraging doctrine to every sincere Christian under the present difficulties which attend his pilgrimage, and in the prospect of death approaching, whether in the usual course of nature, or to be undergone for the testimony of Jesus. Upon this refreshing revelation, the apostle grafts the exhortation in the text. From the promised rewards, he excites Christians to attend to their present work. Seeing they have reason to look for a glorious and happy resurrection from the Lord Jesus, they should mind the work of the Lord now: by which we are to understand, the whole work and duty which our Master prescribes us by the way.
There are two qualifications of our Christian obedience, which are here recommended: the one is steadiness, and the other abounding in this work. For the last, that we should do our utmost, and make the highest advances we can therein, there will be occasion to consider it under another qualification yet to be discoursed of, namely, Christian zeal.
That which is to be our present subject, is stedfastness, and unmoveableness in the work of the Lord. Two words, near akin in their signification, are used to express one and the same thing with greater emphasis: the former is an allusion to a man seated, set down in a settled posture, in opposition to a man that is moving about and unfixed: the other word † directly expresses what was imported by that metaphor, unmoveable. This same apostle, writing to the Colossians, chap. i. 23. expresses steadiness in the faith by both words, with the addition of a third ‡. "If ye continue in the faith, grounded," or fixed upon a solid foundation, and settled or stedfast, "and not moved away from the hope of the gospel."
I am to prosecute this truth,
"That stedfastness in the graces and duties required of us, is a necessary qualification of the Christian temper."
Where I shall,
I. Explain this qualification. And,
I. For explaining the qualification, it may be observed, that it includes two things in it. 1. That the exercise of grace and duty be habitual and constant, in opposition to that which is merely occasional, or by fits and starts. 2. That it be persisted in to the end of life, in opposition to apostacy.
1. The Christian temper and course must be habitual and constant, in opposition to that which is merely occasional, or by fits and starts. It is not enough that now and then we attend to religion; but the ordinary bent of our spirits must run this way, and customary practice correspond with it. We should live soberly, righteously, and godly; that is, it should be the stated and even course of our lives, what we are fixedly designing and pursuing.
**Edgaño ab òga, sella, quod ab "Zouar, sedeo.
† Είγε ἐπιμένετε ἐν πίςμ τεθεμελιωμένοι και εδραῖοι, και με μετακινόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς ιλπέδος τῇ ἐ' ὑαγγελία.