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among the children of the devil, among those that lie in wickedness, Ev To Tovnew, in the wicked one. What a world is this! how thoroughly impregnated with the spirit it continually breathes! As our God is good, and doth good, so the god of this world, and all his children, are evil, and do evil, (so far as they are suffered) to all the children of God. Like their father, they are always lying in wait, or "walking about, seeking whom they may devour:" using fraud or force, secret wiles or open violence, to destroy those who are not of the world: continually warring against our souls, and by old or new weapons, and devices of every kind, labouring to bring them back into the snare of the devil, into the broad road that leadeth to destruction.
11. "We have had our (whole) conversation in (such) a world, in simplicity and godly sincerity." First, in Simplicity. This is what our Lord recommends, under the name of a single eye, "The light of the body (saith he) is the eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." The meaning whereof is this. What the eye is to the body, that the intention is to all the words and actions. If therefore this eye of thy soul be single, all thy actions and conversation shall be full of light, of the light of heaven; of love, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
We are then simple of heart, when the eye of our mind is singly fixed on God: when in all things we aim at God alone, as our God, our Portion, our Strength, our Happiness, our exceeding great Reward, our All, in time and eternity. This is simplicity; when a steady view, a single intention of promoting his glory, of doing and suffering his blessed Will, runs through our whole soul, fills all our heart, and is the constant spring of all our thoughts, desires, and purposes.
12. "We have had our conversation in the world," Secondly, in godly Sincerity. The difference between simpli. city and sincerity, seems to be chiefly this: simplicity regards the intention itself, sincerity the execution of it. And this sincerity relates not barely to our words, but to our
whole conversation, as described above. It is not here to be understood in that narrow sense, wherein St. Paul himself sometimes uses it, for speaking the truth, or abstaining from guile, from craft, and dissimulation. But in a more extensive meaning, as actually hitting the mark, which we aim at by simplicity. Accordingly, it implies in this place, that we do, in fact, speak, and do all to the glory of God: that all our words are not only pointed at this, but actually conducive thereto; that all our actions flow on in an even stream, uniformly subservient to this great end: and that, in our whole lives, we are moving straight toward God, and that continually; walking steadily on in the Highway of Holiness, in the paths of Justice, Mercy, and Truth.
13. This sincerity is termed by the Apostle, godly Sincerity, or the Sincerity of God, expivia Oes, to prevent our mistaking or confounding it with the sincerity of the heathens: (for they had also a kind of sincerity among them, for which they professed no small veneration;) likewise to denote the object and end of this, as of every Christian virtue; seeing whatever does not ultimately tend to God, sinks among "the beggardly elements of the world." By styling it, the Sincerity of God, he also points out the Author of it, the "Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descendeth ;" which is still more clearly declared in the following words, "Not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God."
14. "Not with fleshly wisdom." As if he had said, We cannot thus converse in the world, by any natural strength or understanding, neither by any naturally acquired knowledge or wisdom. We cannot gain this simplicity, or practise this sincerity, by the force either of good sense, good nature, or good breeding. It overshoots all our native courage and resolution, as well as all our precepts of philosophy. The power of custom is not able to train us up to this, nor the most exquisite rules of human education. Neither could I Paul ever attain hereto, notwithstanding all the advantages I enjoyed, so long as I was in the flesh,
in my natural state, and pursued it only by fleshly, natural wisdom.
And yet, surely, if any man could, Paul himself might have attained thereto by that wisdom. For, we can hardly conceive any, who was more highly favoured with all the gifts both of nature and education. Besides his natural abilities, probably not inferior to those of any person then upon the earth, he had all the benefits of learning, studying at the University of Tarsus, afterwards brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a person of the greatest account both for knowledge and integrity, that was then in the whole Jewish nation. And he had all the possible advantages of religious education, being a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, trained up in the very straitest sect or profession, distinguished from all others by a more eminent strictness. And herein he had
profited above many" others, who were his equals in years, being more abundantly zealous" of whatever he thought would please God, and, "as touching the righteousness of the law blameless." But it could not be, that he should hereby attain this simplicity and godly sincerity. It was all but lost labour; in a deep, piercing sense of which he was at length constrained to cry out, "The things which were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ: Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,” Phil. iii. 7, 8.
15. It could not be that ever he should attain to this, but by the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ," our Lord: or "by the grace of God;" another expression of nearly the same import. By "the grace of God" is sometimes to be understood, that free love, that unmerited mercy, by which a sinner, through the merits of Christ, is reconciled to God. But in this place it rather means, that power of God, the Holy Ghost, which "worketh in us both to will and to do, of his good pleasure." As soon as ever the grace of God, in the former sense, his pardoning love, is manifested our souls; the grace of God, in the latter sense, the power of
his Spirit, takes place therein. And now we can perform, through God, what to man was impossible. Now we can order our conversation aright. We can do all things in the light and power of that love, through Christ, which strengtheneth us. We now have "the testimony of our conscience," which we could never have by fleshly wisdom, "that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have our conversation in the world."
16. This is properly the ground of a Christian's joy. We may now, therefore readily conceive, how he that hath this testimony in himself, rejoiceth evermore. My soul," may he say, "doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour." I rejoice in him, who of his own unmerited love, of his own free and tender mercy, "hath called me into this state of salvation," wherein, through his power I now stand. I rejoice because his Spirit beareth witness to my spirit, that I am bought with the blood of the Lamb; and that believing in him, "I am a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." I rejoice, because the sense of God's love to me, hath by the same Spirit wrought in me to love him, and to love for his sake every child of man, every soul that he hath made. I rejoice, because he gives me to feel, in myself, "the mind that was in Christ;" simplicity, a single eye to him, in every motion of my heart; power always to fix the loving eye of my soul on him who "loved me, and gave himself for me," to aim at him alone, at his glorious will, in all I think, or speak, or do: purity, desiring nothing more but God, "crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts," 66 setting my affections on things above, not on things of the earth:" holiness, a recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul after his likeness; and godly sincerity, directing all my words and works, so as to conduce to his glory. In this I likewise rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, because my conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, by the light he continually pours in upon it, that I "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I am called:" that I "abstain from all appearance of evil, fleeing from sin as from the face of a ser
pent;" that as I have opportunity, I do all possible good, in every kind, to all men; that I follow my Lord in all my steps, and do what is acceptable in his sight. I rejoice, because I both see and feel, through the inspiration of God's holy Spirit, that all my works are wrought in him, yea, and that it is he who worketh all my works in me. I rejoice, in seeing through the light of God, which shines in my heart, that I have power to walk in his ways, and that through his grace, I turn not therefrom, to the right hand or to the left.
17. Such is the ground and nature of that joy, whereby an adult Christian rejoiceth evermore. And from all this we may easily infer, First, That this is not a natural joy. It does not arise from any natural cause: not from any sudden flow of spirits. This may give a transient start of joy. But the Christian rejoiceth always. It cannot be owing to bodily health or ease; to strength and soundness of constitution. For, it is equally strong in sickness and pain; yea, perhaps far stronger than before. Many Christians have never experienced any joy, to be compared with that which then filled their soul, when the body was well nigh worn out with pain, or consumed away with pining sickness. Least of all can it be ascribed to outward prosperity, to the favour of men, or plenty of worldly goods. For then chiefly, when their faith has been tried, as with fire, by all manner of outward afflictions, have the children of God rejoiced in him, whom unseen they loved, even with joy unspeakable. And never surely did men rejoice like those, who were used as "the filth and off-scouring of the world;" who, wandering to and fro, being in want of all things; in hunger, in cold, in nakedness; who had trials, not only of "cruel mockings," but, "moreover of bonds and imprisonments:" yea, who at last counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so they might finish their course with joy."
18. From the preceding considerations, we may, Secondly, infer, That the joy of a Christian does not arise from any "blindness of conscience," from his not being able to discern good from evil. So far from it, that he was an