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forming the proper duties of the several relations he stands in, whether natural, ecclesiastical, or civil: and the doing this in simplicity and godly sincerity is the behaving ourselves in every such relation, without the mixture of any aims or designs that are contrary to what reason and religion require of us, and what those we converse with in such relations may be supposed to expect from us ; and in all things faithfully to prosecute, to the best of our ability, the great ends of God's glory and the public benefit; together with the particular good of those we are more especially concerned with, as far as is consistent with the other two.
Simplicity denotes an undisguised, plain, open way of carriage and behaviour, when a man appears to be no otherwise than he really is, pretends to no more than, upon the strictest inquiry, will be found to answer. And sincerity signifies the same as singleness of heart, when our intention in what we do is pure and unmixed, not designing one thing when we would make the world believe we aim at another; not putting a better gloss upon our actions than they deserve; not blending some good with a great deal of evil, to deceive and circumvent our neighbour to his prejudice; and when we are really incarnate devils, appearing like angels of light. For this is what the apostle calls flesh wisdom in my text, and what St. James says is earthly, sensual, devilishd; when men are doubleminded, crafty, and deceitful, and make use of the vilest arts to betray and ruin others, and even the community itself, that they may advance their own private interest ; carrying on, under a fair but false show of kindness and good-will to man, and devotion towards God, and a seeming probity of life, the worst sort of intrigues and managements that the infernal destroyer can suggest.
d James iii. 15.
Such wisdom as this, the apostle and all good men abhor, and give it its right epithet, when they call it hellish and black: whereas simplicity and godly sincerity carry a brightness and lustre before them, and are infinitely amiable, and command the honour they deserve. And those who guide their lives by these excellent principles, and by the grace of God, as it follows in the text, or according to the rules of the gospel, (which is very often styled the grace of God in scripture,) and without all guile and hypocrisy and dissimulation, worship him, and endeavour to be serviceable in their several stations to each other's good; those truly valuable persons we call men of candour, of a clear, shining character; and in the scripture they are styled children of light.
This is to have our conversation in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God; and however men's circumstances of life may differ, whatever their proper business is, whether relating to religion or secular affairs, in a public or a private capacity, with respect to society in general, or in some particular stations and employments, simplicity and godly sincerity should run through all our proceedings, and, as I shall shew in the
II. Next place, will prove our greatest wisdom, and is our only perfection.
First, simplicity and godly sincerity will prove our greatest wisdom. In matters of religion, and
the duty and service we are to pay to God, it is absolutely necessary; for to him nothing can be more provoking than religious hypocrisy. He who is truth itself cannot but infinitely hate so solemn a lie as that is, and will most severely punish what is so great a contempt of and dishonour to him. And how extremely foolish, as well as impious, is it, to think to put a trick upon God in what so nearly relates to himself; and take a great deal of pains to incense him to the highest degree by a false show and appearance of that, which, if performed with sincerity, would recommend us to his favour and his blessing; and the sincere performance of which is really more easy than that which is false and dissembled ! for true religion, doubtless, is less difficult than artificial; the one being forced, and therefore a mere laborious drudgery, without any sweetening of pleasure and delight; and the other spontaneous and free, proceeding from a willing mind, and therefore performed with ease and cheerfulness, and such an inward satisfaction as smooths off all the accidental ruggednesses of it, and renders it an employment highly grateful, as well as beneficial, and of great esteem both with God and man.
He that is a Christian in earnest, that loves and serves our Lord Jesus in sincerity; that looks upon religion as his chief good, and the only way to make him happy; and therefore applies himself heartily to the practice of what it requires, and is not content with an empty form of godliness, but daily presses after more and more of the power of it; and would not, for the gain of the whole world, do any thing that should hazard the salvation of his soul ; this man's mind must needs be serene and quiet, the applauses of his conscience continually cheering and encouraging him in his righteous course.
When he approaches to God in the duties of meditation and prayer, he does it with a filial freedom, and humble confidence, as good children come to and converse with a kind and indulgent parent: and when he begs his blessing, his protection, and assistance, and his pardon when he is conscious that he has done amiss; though he does it with the greatest reverence and awe, yet without the least doubt of success, or fear of being sent away in displeasure.
And as for his intercourse with men, it being honest and undesigning, without any artifice or disguise, and free from the sly, intricate windings of deceit; and his behaviour all throughout of a piece, and the thread of his dealings carried on even and true, as directed by religion and the fear of God; his reputation cannot but be very great and lasting; though he concerns himself very little about it, and is not at all solicitous concerning what men say or think of him, who, if they do him justice, he knows cannot say or think amiss; and if they should, a very little trouble will vindicate his innocence, and make his uprightness as clear as the noon-day.
But now, on the contrary, how odious both to God and man is the counterfeit saint, that appears very devout at church, and yet acts like a Judas or a devil every where else ? that makes more than ordinary pretences to piety and religion, and yet, by his dealings, shews that he has no manner of conscience, nor sense of even moral honesty in him ? that can pray, and speak good things, and lie, almost all in a breath; and lift up his eyes to heaven, with protestations of doing nothing but what is just and right by you, and, it may be, kind and good ; and yet at the same time shall cheat and defraud, oppress, and, it may be, ruin you? that puts on a mortified look, and the appearance of one that makes it his business to keep under his body, and practise self-denial, and despises the follies and vanities of the world; and yet, in secret, lets loose the reins to intemperance and lust, and makes continual provision for the flesh? How detestable, I say, must such a wretch as this needs be! how justly abominable both to God and man! like a painted sepulchre e, when opened, and the stench and rottenness exposed that lies within. To God he always is so, who can never be imposed on, and sees through all disguises ; and when once he is discovered by man, which is generally after a very little while, (for no cloak can long be thick enough to cover so much shame,) he looks but so much the uglier for the pains he has taken before to plaster over his deformities with false colours and various ways of deceit: and, as Job expresses it, men clap their hands at him, and hiss him out of his place. And after the vile creature finds himself detected, and sees how every body shuns and despises, reproaches, hates, and scorns him, and is conscious withal that it is no more than he deserves, how full of shame and confusion must he be; of bitter remorse and inexpressible anguish of soul, restless disquietude and torment without alloy, for losing his soul, and the world too, all at once; and in dreadful expectation of that insupportable storm of vengeance which