BY THOMAS WATSON,
WE are met this day to humble our souls, and to bring our censer, as once Aaron did, and step in, that the wrath of the great God may be appeased. And was there ever more need to lie in sackcloth, than when the kingdom almost lies in ashes? or to shed tears, than when this nation hath shed so much blood? These days are called in scripture, Soul-afflicting days, Lev. 23.9. 'For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.' And certainly that may be one reason why there is so much state-affliction, because there is so little soul-affliction. Our condition is low, but our hearts are high. God sees with what hearts we now come, what is our spring, what our centre; his eye is upon us. So saith my text, 'All things are naked and open.'
HEB. 4.13. But all Things are naked and open unto the Eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
I shall wave the coherence, lest I be prevented, and handle the words as an entire proposition. We have here a map of God's knowledge. But before I extract any thing, I will first open the terms. In the law, first the lamps were lighted before the incense was burned: I may allude, first the judgment is to be enlightened by doctrine, before the affections are set on fire. Ministers must be first shining and then burning lamps.
All things are naked. It is a metaphor from the taking off the skin of any beast, which doth then appear naked. Thus our hearts are said to be naked; they lie open to the eye of God, they have no covering; there is no vail over the heart of a sinner, but the vail of unbelief; and this covering makes him naked.
This is not all, the apostle goes higher: they are naked and open. It alludes to the cutting up of the sacrifices under the law, where the priest did divide the beast in pieces, and so the intestina, the inward parts, were made visible. Or it may allude to an anatomy, where there is a dissection and cutting up of every part, the mesentery, the liver, the arteries. Such a kind of anatomy doth God make; an heart-anatomy: he doth cut up the inwards, and make a difference; this is flesh, that is spirit; this is faith, that is fancy. He makes a dissection, as the knife that divides between the flesh and the bones, the bones and the marrow, the sinews and the veins. 'All things are open;' they are cut up before him.
The next word is all things. There is nothing escapes his eye: and herein God's knowledge doth infinitely differ from ours. We cannot see in the dark, nor can we see many things at once; but it is not so with him; there is nothing so deep, but God will bring it above-board, 'who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness;' and he sees many things at once, nay, all are as if they were but one. All things being represented to him in the pure crystal of his own essence, are but as one individual thing.
Again unto his eye. Eyes are ascribed to God, not properly, but metaphorically: idols have eyes, 'yet they see not;' God hath no eyes, yet he sees; the eye of God is put in scripture for his knowledge; all things are naked to his eye, that is, they are obvious to his knowledge. We cannot sin, but it must be in the face of our Judge.
The last word is, With whom we have to do. To whom we must give an account. To whom we must be responsible. The words thus opened fall into these parts
The proposition I shall dilate on is this:
- Here is the Judge, that is God. Unto the eyes of Him.
- The matter of fact All things.
- The evidence given in, All things are naked.
- The clearness of the evidence, Naked and open.
- The witnesses his eyes.
- The persons to be adjudged either for life or death, we that is every individual person: there are none excepted from this general assize. With whom we have to do.
Doctrine. That the most secret cabinet-designs of man's heart are all unlocked and clearly anatomized before the Lord.
I might produce a whole cloud of witnesses, giving in their full vote and suffrage to this truth. I shall rest in two or three, that in the mouth of three witnesses this great truth may be established.
'He knows the secrets of the heart,' Psalm. 42.21. in the original it is, the hidden things of the heart; those which are most veiled and masked from human perception.
And Psalm. 139.2. 'Thou knowest my thoughts afar off.' Here are two words that set out the infiniteness of God's knowledge.
First, Thou knowest my thoughts, there is nothing can be paralleled with a thought.
First, For its subtilty, it is called 'the imagination of the thought,' Gen. 6.5. or, as the word may bear, the first embryo and forming of the thought, that is, a thing very subtle, and scarce discernable.
Secondly, For its celerity, our thoughts are winged, like the cherubims, they will in an instant travel over the world: they are 'swifter than eagles,' 2 Sam. 1.23. but he that rides upon the swift cloud can overtake them, he can out-march them.
Thirdly, For its incongruity: our thoughts are snarled and tangled one with another, they have no dependence; yet even these thoughts are known to God, and set in their proper sphere: what David saith of his members, may be said of our thoughts, 'Are they not all written in thy book?'
2. Afar off, that is, 1. God knows our thoughts before we ourselves know them. He knows what designs are in the heart, and men would certainly pursue, did not he turn the wheel another way. God knew what was in Herod's mind before Herod himself knew it, viz. that he would have destroyed the child Jesus. God knew his thoughts afar off: he sees what blood and venom is in the heart of a sinner, though it never comes to have vent: he looks at the intention, though it be not put in execution.
Secondly, Afar off; that is, God knows our thoughts when we have forgotten them: they are afar off to us, but they are present with him. 'These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest I was such an one as thyself,' &c. That is, that I had a weak memory, 'but I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order before thee,' Psalm 50.21. Millions of years are but as a short parenthesis between: and that we may not think God forgets, he keeps a book of records, Rev. 20.12. 'I saw the dead, small and great, stand before the Lord, and the books were opened:' God writes down, Item, such a sin; and if the book be not discharged, there will be an heavy reckoning: to every believer, the debt-book is crossed; the black lines of sin are crossed out in the red lines of Christ's blood.
To instance in one scripture more, 'The night shineth as the day,' Psalm 139.12. The clouds are no canopy; the night is no curtain to draw between, or intercept his knowledge: we cannot write our sins in so small or strange a character, but God can read, he hath a key for them. Indeed, we know not sometimes what to make of his providences, 'His way is in the sanctuary,' Ps. 77.13. we cannot read his handwriting; but he understands our hearts without a commentary: he is privy to all our treachery: we cannot climb so high but he sees us, we cannot dig so low but he takes notice. The men of Babel were climbing very high, they would make a city and tower, the top whereof should reach to heaven, and so indeed it did, for God saw them all the while: and what became of it? 'He divided their language,' Gen. 11.7,8. Achan digs deep to hide his counsels, saying, 'No eye shall see;' he takes the Babylonish garment, and hides it in the earth, with the wedge of gold, but God unmasks his thievery, Josh. 7.12.
If there be any here, that when they should have been doing God's work, have been by stealth hiding the Babylonish garment, making themselves rich, feathering their own nests; instead of driving in nails into God's temple to fasten it, have been driving a wedge of gold into their chests, God sees it; let me tell you, all the gain you get, you may put in your eyes; nay, if you belong to God you must, and weep it out again. God hath a window that looks into your hearts. Momus complained of Vulcan, that he had not set a grate at every man's breast. God hath such a grate, he is the great superintendent; we come into the world as upon a theatre, every man acts his several part or scene; God is both the Spectator and the Judge.
You have seen the Doctrine proved.
For the amplification, let us consider what the knowledge of God is; it is a most pure act by which he doth at one instant know himself in himself, and all things without himself, not only necessary, and contingent, but which shall ever be, after a most perfect, exquisite, and infallible manner. Out of this description we may gather two things. (1.) That there is no succession in God's knowledge: our knowledge is from the effect to the cause; it is not so in God. (2.) Things that are not, have an objective being in his knowledge; Rom. 4.17, 'He calls things that are not, as if they were;' even these non entia have an idea in his knowledge.
Question. Here a question may be started, If there be such perfection in the knowledge of God, then he knows sin?
Answer. The schools distinguish of a double knowledge in God. There is, (1.) A knowledge of pure intelligence; and thus he knows evil by a contrary good, as the light discovers the darkness. So we say, the straight rule shews the crooked. (2.) There is a knowledge of approbation. Thus God doth not know sin, for he hates it, he punisheth it. Christ was made sin, yet he knew no sin: he did know it so as to hate it, not so as to act or approve it.
I pass to the Reasons.
Reason 1. From his creation; God is the Father of lights, therefore must needs see. It is his own argument, 'He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see, Psalm 94.9. He that makes a watch, knows all the pins and wheels in it; and though these wheels move cross one to another, he knows the true and perfect motion of the watch, and the spring that sets these wheels a going; 'He that formed the eye, shall he not see?' Man may be compared to a spiritual watch. The affections are the wheels; the heart is the spring; the motion of this watch is false; the heart is deceitful; but God that made this watch knows the true motion of it (be it never so false) and the springs that sets the wheels a going. God knows us better than we know ourselves: he is as Ezekiel's wheels, full of eyes; and, as Augustine saith, he is all eye.
Reason 2. From his Ubiquity. He is omniscient, because omnipresent, Jer. 23.24. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth?' He is no-where included, and yet no-where excluded; his circumference is every where: God hath an eye in councils, in armies, he makes an heart-anatomy; he sees what mens' designs are, and whither they are driving. If hatred wears the livery of friendship, if ambition comes masqued with humility, if religion be made a stirrup to get into the saddle of preferment, God sees it; 'And tho' they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them,' Amos 9.2. God can unlock hell; Plato saith of the king of Lydia, he had a ring, when he turned the head of it to the palm of his hand, he could see every one, but himself walk invisible. Thus God observes all our actings, but himself is not seen, as the apostle argues, 1 Tim. 6.16. Therefore the schoolmen say well, Deus est in loco repletive, man may be circumscribed, the angels may be defined, but God is in every place by way of repletion. His centre is every where, and his eye is ever in his centre.
Objection. 1. But is it not said, Gen. 18.21. 'I will go down and see whether it be done altogether according to the cry?'
Answer. It could not be that God was ignorant; because there is mention made of a cry, but it is spoken after the manner of a judge, who will first examine the cause before he will pass the sentence. Therefore, to answer that scripture, 'I will go down and see:' It implies two things.
First, The moderation God useth when he is upon a work of justice; God doth not make the sword the judge; he doth first weigh things in the balance; he doth ever lay judgment to the line, before he draws the line of confusion. God, when he is upon a work of justice, is not in a riot, as if he did not care where he hits, but goes in the way of a circuit against offenders, 'I will go down and see;' he doth not punish rashly: and this may be a good hint to them that have power in their hand, they must work by line and plummet, judging the cause rather than the person; they must proceed in righteousness; else seeming zeal is no better than wild-fire; it is not justice, but violence.
Secondly, 'I will go down and see.' It denotes God's patience in waiting for sinners; he staid till the cry came up: God puts up with a great deal of injury at our hands, before justice draws the sword. He spins out mercy into patience, and ekes out patience into long-suffering. Oh! had not God's patience been infinite, we have spent so long time upon it, that we had quite spent the stock. But let no sinner presume: though God be long-suffering, he doth not tell us how long: when the cry comes up, God comes down. If pride, lust, oppression abound, God will hear the cry, and will quench the fire of sin with a shower of blood.
Objection. 2. 2 Zeph. 2.1. 'I will search Jerusalem with candles.' Implying, that something is hid out of his reach.
Answer. Not that God needs any candles to see by; for though it be said, 'The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,' Prov. 10.27. This candle is not for him to see by, but for us. Therefore this searching implies two things:
First, The exactness of God's knowledge: he hath such a deep insight as usually men have upon search. (2.) God threatens to search, because he would have us search. As Lam. 3.40. 'Let us search and try our ways.' God's searchers are now abroad, his judgments; let us find out our sins, or else our sins will find us out.
Use 1. Information. And this hath two branches.
Branch 1. 'What manner of persons ought we to be,' 2 Peter 3.11. Hath God a window that opens into our hearts? doth he make a critical descant upon our actions? Oh what holiness, what sincerity, what exemplary piety becomes us, being in such a presence! Were we to come before some great monarch, what solemn preparations would we make? Shall the eye of a king do so much, and not the eye of God? The king can only see the outside; there may be a treason within for ought he knows: but God hath a key for the heart, Jer. 17.10. 'I the Lord search the heart;' and will not this command reverence? in these days of solemn humiliation, God's eye is principally upon the heart. God looks there most, where we look least; some have no heart at all; sin hath stolen away their heart; others have an heart too much, 'An heart and an heart,' Psalm 12.2. others have hearts good for nothing, earthly hearts, like 'Saul that was hid among the stuff,' 1 Sam. 10.22. some have angels tongues, but, as Nebuchadnezzar he had the heart of a beast given to him. Brethren, did our hearts stand where our faces do, this would be a day of blushing, we should be ashamed to look one upon another; remember, God hath a key for the heart.
When we come to these solemn duties, God asks that question, as Jehu did Jehonadab, 2 Kings 10.15. he saluted him, and said to him, 'Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?' and he said, 'It is. If it be, give me thy hand: and he took him up into the chariot.'
This is God's question. You come this day to humble yourselves and make atonement, 'Is your heart right with me?' If we can answer as he did, Lord, thou knowest it is; though I have much weakness, yet my heart is right, I have no false bias upon it; though I am not perfect, I hope I am sincere; then will God say, Give me your prayers, give me your tears, now 'come up with me into the chariot.' A tear from a bleeding heart is a precious perfume in heaven. Oh did we consider this all-seeing eye, we durst not bring so much strange fire into the Divine presence. We read of Ezekiel's wheels, they had a wheel within a wheel. Thus God hath a thought within a thought: he comes between us and our thoughts.
The goddess Minerva, as the Poets feign, was drawn in such lively colours, that which way soever one turned, still Minerva's eye was upon him. Thus, turn which way you will, fall in love with any sin, still God looks upon you: he hath an eye in your heart. What manner of persons ought we to be?
Branch 2. Of how dangerous consequence is it to act any thing against God? He sees it, and his knowledge is armed with power: he that hath an eye to see, will find an hand to punish. If there be any designs against God, though carried on ever so subtilely, remember there is a council of war sits in heaven.
Against God? will some say. By no means.
There are four things; and if we act either directly or indirectly against any of these, we act against God, and he sees it; he writes it down.
1. If we act against his Truth, we act against God; Truth is a beam of God, it is his essence; it is the most orient pearl of his crown: Take away his truth, and we ungod him. Truth is the precious seed by which we are begotten to life; it is the pillar of our salvation; it is not only the rule of faith, but it is the root out of which faith grows: take away truth, and what is faith but fancy? we believe ourselves into hell. Truth is the great purchase of Christ's blood, and it hath been transmitted to us in the blood of many saints and martyrs; if we strike at truth, we strike at God; and doth not God see this?
Give me leave to plead in God's cause: is not this pure wine of truth mixed with water, nay, with poison? How are the truths of God almost lost in the crowd of errors? what truth in divinity but is now called in question? some denying the scriptures, others denying the Lord that bought them; not only the foundations of the earth are out of course, but even the foundations of scripture are shaken. We read that, when the bottomless pit was opened, there arose a smoke as the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened. The late errors sprung out of the furnace of hell, have made such a smoke and mist in the church of God, that the bright sun of truth is much eclipsed in our horizon. How many religions are there now among us, and every day in a new dress? old heresies newly vamped. Our Saviour saith, 'If the son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?' yes sure, he may now find many faiths; so many men, almost so many faiths: these things are done, but are they punished? are they not countenanced? God sees: silence, when truth is wounded, is a loud sin.
Secondly, We act against God, when we act against his Covenant; a covenant is a serious thing. Suppose the matter of it civil, (though ours is more) the making of it is divine. We read of a covenant made with an heathen king, 'which being broken,' saith God, 'shall he prosper? shall he escape that doth such things?' Ezek. 17.16,17. what, when ol he had given his hand, verse 18. 'He shall not escape;' let us look upon our solemn league and covenant; I tremble when I read it: we covenanted not only against prelacy but popery; not only against hierarchy, but heresy; not only sin, but schism; and have we not gone against the letter of it? how is the covenant slighted by some as an almanack out of date? Those that did once lift up their hand to it, do now lift up their heel against it. Indeed at first the covenant was looked upon as sacred; the drunkard would be sober that day, the unclean person chaste; but within a while it is laid aside; we begin to play fast and loose with God, and for a trifle will venture the curse of the covenant; 'But they like men have transgressed the covenant,' Hos. 6.7. or as in the Hebrew, They like Adam; how is that? for a poor apple; so for a trifle, a penny in the shop, or the bushel, men will set their covenant and conscience to sale. God sees this, and hear what he saith, 'I will bring a sword, which shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant:' Lev. 26.25. Covenant-violation is a high affronting sin, and an affront will make God draw his sword; to set our hand and seal to the covenant, and then to tear off the seal: if the covenant will not hold us, God hath chains that will.
That which doth enhance the sin is, it must needs be against light; it is to be presupposed no man would take a covenant blindfold: either he was informed, or else might have been. This is that which dyes the sin in grain: take any sin, put it in the scales, and put in this weight with it, that before, and when it was done, it was against knowledge; this circumstance is as much as the sin itself; tho' it be but one sin, it weighs as much as two.
The covenant is a marriage knot; for a woman to go away from her husband after solemn contract, is sin of an high nature. The covenant is a girdle or golden clasp that binds us to God, and God to us. The girdle in ancient times was an emblem of chastity. When the covenant is broken, the church loseth her virginity; Israel was a people espoused to God in covenant; but having stained this fderal relation by idolatry, (a sin that directly cuts asunder the marriage-knot) God gives her a bill of divorce: 'Plead with her,' saith he, 'she is not my wife,' Hosea 2.2.
The Carthaginians were execrable for covenant-breaking, insomuch that it grew at last to a proverb, The faith of a Carthaginian; and I would to God it might not be said, that many of the christians in England are turned Carthaginians; they make no reckoning of their oaths.
The Scythians had a law, that if any man did bind two sins together, a lie and an oath, he was to lose his head, because this was the way to take away all faith and truth among men: if all liars and perjurers in this age should come to trial, I think we should scarce find men enough to bring them to the bar.
3. We act against God when we act against his ambassadors. I mean not such as have stolen into the priests' office, such as are gone out, 1 John 4.1. not sent out, they are gone without a commission; but such as are in a scripture method instituted into this holy function; he that acts against these, acts against God: and remember God sees, he writes it down: What injury is done to the ambassador, the King takes as done to his own person; so saith Christ, 'He that despiseth you despiseth me.' What a black vail is drawn over the face of the ministry? Let me plead with you: God might have come in his own person, and have preached to you in flames, as when he did once deliver the law upon mount Sinai; but then you would have said, Oh let not God speak, lest we die; let Moses speak: God might have preached to you in the ministry of angels, but you would not have been able to bear it: 'God is not in the fire, nor in the earthquake, but in the still small voice:' 1 Kings 19.11,12. He is pleased, in a sweet kind of humility, to send his ambassadors, and he puts an olive-branch in their mouth; they woo and beseech, and all in the bowels of Christ; will not love conquer?
This nation is sick of a spiritual pleurisy, we begin to surfeit upon the bread of life; when God sees his mercies lying under table, it is just with him to call to the enemy to take away. I heartily pray that plenty of ordinances doth not as much hurt in this city, as famine hath done in other places of the land; and if we once say, what is this manna? no wonder if we begin to say, who is this Moses? Oh what a sad change is there in our days! Those that once would have counted our feet beautiful, that would have been ready to have pulled out their eyes for their minister, are now ready to pull out their minister's eyes; and what is the quarrel? even this, 'Am I become your enemy because I tell yon the truth?' If ministers would preach smooth things, make the way to heaven nearer than ever Christ made it, then they should be admired. (You have more people gaze at a Comet or blazing star, than at the sun.) But if they come to lay the ax of the law to the root of conscience; if they fall a hewing and cutting down mens' sins, 'The land is not able to bear their words.' If the prophet goes to tell king Asa of his great sin in joining with a wicked army; 'Herein thou hast done foolishly.' if he goes about to imprison his sin, he himself shall be imprisoned. 'Then Asa was wroth with the Seer, and put him in a prison-house.' This was Jerusalem's sin, and it drew tears from Christ; 'O Jerusalem, thou that stonest the prophets!' &c. Mat. 23. And she stoned them so long, till she had not one stone left upon another.
Those that would annihilate the ministry, go to pull the stars out of Christ's hand; and they will find it a work not feasible; it will fare with them as with the eagle, that going to fetch a piece of flesh from the altar, a coal sticking to the flesh, she burnt herself and the young ones in the nest. 2 Chron. 36.16. 'They mocked the messengers of God, and misused his prophets, till there was no remedy.'
4. We act against God, when we act against that order and government which he hath set up in his church; God is the God of order, he hath set every thing in its proper sphere. The order and harmony of the world doth consist in degrees, one thing still above another. For as Aristotle saith, no harmony consists of union; there can be no music, if all the sounds be alike; the countertenor is above the Bass. In nature, the sun is commander in chief among the planets. Thus in the body politic, God hath set kings, nobles, judges, still in a descent; and this makes the harmony. And these powers are of God, Rom. 13.1. 'The powers that be, are of God.' Magistracy is the hedge of a nation, 'And he that breaks an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.'
Use 2. Reproof. Here is a just impeachment against two sorts of persons.
Branch 1. The libertine. And there are two kinds of them.
First, The profane libertine, that fancies to himself a God made up of mercy; and therefore he engulfs himself in sin, he is upon the spur to go to hell, as if he were afraid hell would be full before he could get thither. Doth not he say, 'God shall not see?'
Secondly, The religious libertine, That sins because grace abounds; that saith, God sees no sin in his people, and therefore what need we see it? After we are in Christ, we cannot sin; therefore repentance is out of date. Whom I shall refute in two words.
1. There needs repentance after we are in Christ: for though sin in a believer be covered, yet it is not perfectly cured. There are still some remainders of corruption; and certainly, as long as there is an issue of sin open, there must be an issue of sorrow kept open.
2. Every sin, after we are in Christ, is a sin of unkindness, the sin of a spouse; and if any thing will melt and break the heart, this will. The sins of the regenerate do wound Christ's heart deeper than others. Hath not Christ suffered enough already? Wilt thou wound him whom God hath wounded? Will you give him more vinegar to drink? O rather 'Give wine to him that is of an heavy heart;' cheer him with thy tears: look on a bleeding Christ with a bleeding heart.
Branch 2. It doth impeach the hypocrite, who is a practical atheist,he saith, God shall not see. The word in the Hebrew signifies to dissemble. The Syriac word, a face-taker. The hypocrite wears a vizor of sanctity. Aquinas in his Sums calls hypocrisy the counterfeiting of virtue. The hypocrite is a very mountebank, he pretends that which he is not. He is like those angels that assumed the dead bodies, but there was no soul to animate them, Gen. 19.1. he is a shape, an apparition, he doth not assume religion. The hypocrite is a walking landscape, a rotten post gilded over; he is like the painted grapes that deceived the living birds; or the beautiful apples of Sodom with this motto, 'No further than colour;' touch them, and they moulder to dust.
In short, hypocrites are like turning pictures, which have on one side the image of a lamb, on the other side a lion: so they are on their outside saints, but their inside devils. Hypocrites may be compared to trumpets that make a great sound, but within they are hollow. Do these believe the all-seeing eye? The hypocrite turns all religion into mere compliment; he walks with a dark lanthorn, saying, No eye shall see. He goes about to juggle with God, as Jeroboam's wife did think to do with the prophet, 1 Kings 14.6. but he pulled off her vizor, 'Come in thou wife of Jeroboam.' The hypocrite knows God is of purer eyes than to behold sin; yet for all this will play a devotion; he will venture to abuse God,that he may delude men. The hypocrite takes more care to make a covenant, than to keep it; and is more studious to enter into religion, than that religion should enter into him. This text arraigns the hypocrite: All things are naked, God sees our jugglings.
I shall give you two distinguishing characters whereby you may know an hypocrite.
Character 1. He is one that is partial in his goodness; zealous in lesser things, and remiss in greater: as Luther complained of some in his time, and our Saviour in his time, which 'strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.' He is one that sweats only in some part, but is cool in all the rest, which is a sign his zeal is distempered. He is zealous against a ceremony, a relick or painted glass (not that I plead for these), but in the mean time lives in known sin, lying, cozening, extortion, &c. Just as the High Priests, 'It is not lawful, say they, to put the money into the treasury, because it is the price of blood,' Matt. 27.6. They speak like conscientious men. Oh do not defile the treasury! But let me ask the question, Why did they shed that blood? it was innocent blood. They will not take the price of blood into the treasury, but they never scruple to take the guilt of blood into their souls. They were zealous for the temple, but in the mean time murderers of the Son of God. And we have a parallel scripture to this, Rom. 2.22. 'Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?' Who at the first blush would not have taken these for very holy, devout men, that were zealous against idolatry? But see a root of hypocrisy! They were partially good, they hated one sin, but not another; idolatry, but not sacrilege. Though it was an abominable sin, and there was an express law of God against it; yet these seeming zealots make no conscience of robbing God of his tithes.
And here as in a scripture looking-glass, we may see our own faces; have we not many now-a-days seemingly zealous against popery? If they see a cross, (though it be in a coat of arms), they are much offended, and are in a kind of convulsion: but in the mean time make no conscience of sacrilege, starving out the ministry, they put out the fire on God's altar, shut the doors of his temple; is not this visible hypocrisy? There are some, it may be, will not be heard to swear, it will not stand with their saintship; (this were to call the devil father aloud,) but they will defraud and defame, which is a sin they can never satisfy for; take away a man's name, what mends can you make him? it is no better than murder; and if these be saints, there are as good saints in hell.
Character 2. The second character of an hypocrite is, he makes religion a mask to cover his sin.
Herod pretended to worship Christ, but his zeal was no other than malice, for it was to have destroyed him. Thus oft bad purposes lie hid under good pretences. Jezabel, that she may dissemble her murderous intentions, proclaims a fast. Absalom, to colour over his treason, pretends a religious vow. How cunning is the heart to go to hell; sometimes covetousness pretends conscience; Judas fisheth for money under a pretence of religion, 'This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor,' John 12.5. how charitable Judas was! but his charity began at home, for he carried the bag. Many make religion a cloak for their ambition, 'Come, see my zeal, saith Jehu, for the Lord.' 1 Kings 10.16. No, Jehu, thy zeal was for the kingdom. It was not zeal, but state-policy. Jehu made religion hold the stirrup till he got possession of the crown; here was double-dyed hypocrisy.
The hypocrite doth set himself against God.
First, He opposeth him in his essence; God is a substance, the hypocrite is only a shape.
Secondly, In his unity; God is one, and made him [man] one at first; but he [the hypocrite] hath made himself two, an heart, and an heart; he gives God the tenth, and leaves the rest for that which he loves better.
Thirdly, In his goodness, God is good, and in him is no mixture. The hypocrite is therefore good in show, that he may be bad in deed, he is a devil in Samuel's mantle. Pilate would make the world believe he had a tender conscience: he washeth his hands; but he could not say as David, 'I will wash my hands in innocency;' for then he would never have given his vote for the shedding of innocent blood. God sees our prevarications. How odious is the hypocrite? We ourselves cannot endure treacherous dealing; therefore in the common-wealth, he that poisons, hath a greater punishment, than he that kills with the sword, because he offers it hypocritically under a shew of meat and drink. 'Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?' we may as well betray Christ with a tear, as Judas did with a kiss. You may see God's great dislike of this sin, in that he forbids his people in the old law, the very resemblances of it, linsy woolsy; and by his expostulation, Psalm 50.16. 'What hast thou to do to take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest to be reformed?' Thou hypocrite, what hast thou to do to meddle with religion, to pretend saint-ship, that makest religion odious, and the offering of God to be abhorred? Hear that dreadful commination, Isa. 29.14. 'They draw near to me with their lips.' They have God in their mouths, 'but their heart is far from me;' therefore, verse 14. 'I will take away the wisdom of the wise men;' I will blast their proceedings, I will infatuate their counsels. They are hypocrites! Christ pronounceth seven woes to this sin, in one chapter, that he never doth the like to any other, Matt. 23. 'Wo to you hypocrites,' wo, wo, wo, &c. To be an hypocritical nation, and to be the generation of God's wrath are made in scripture synonymous, and are all one, Isa 10.6. And when the Holy Ghost would enhance and aggravate the torments of hell, he sets them out under this notion, 'The place of hypocrites,' as if hell were taken up on purpose for the hypocrite to quarter in.
Use 3. A word of Exhortation. If the secrets of our hearts are unveiled and unmasked, walk as in the eye of God. Methinks that of Hagar should be a christian's motto, Thou God seest me. And David's prospect should be ever in our eye, Psalm 16.8. 'I have set the Lord always before me:' some set their bags of money always before them, others set the fear of men always before them; but a wise christian will set God, and judgment, and eternity always before him. If indeed God's eye were at any time off from us, we might take the more liberty; but if all things be naked, and open to his eye, we cannot sin but in the face of our Judge. Oh then reverence this eye of God.
First, it should be a bridle to keep us from sin: 'How shall I do this and sin against God?' Seneca gives his friend Lucilius this counsel, 'Whatever he was doing, he should imagine that some of the Roman worthies did behold him, and then he would do nothing dishonourable.' The eye of God should be ever in our eye; this would be as a counter poison against sin: nor is it enough to prune sin, viz. to cut off the external acts, but kill the root. Crucify complexion sins; let not thy heart sit brooding upon sin. Again, let God's omniscience deter thee from hiding sin. Who would hide a traitor? Now it sucks your breast, shortly it will suck your blood. Men think to walk in the dark, and to carry their sins under a canopy, that no eye shall see them: as those that have bad eyes think that the sky is ever cloudy, whereas the fault is not in the sky, but in their eyes; so when the prince of the world hath blinded men's eyes, because there is darkness within, they think it is dark abroad too, and now the sky is cloudy, God cannot see: but remember, all things are naked: do not go about to hide sin: confess, confess, it is a work proper for the day. Confession doth that to the soul which the surgeon doth to the body; it opens a spiritual vein, and lets out the bad blood. The only way to make God not see sin, is to see it ourselves, but not with dry eyes; point every sin with a tear.
2. It is a spur to virtue: art thou zealous for God? dost thou exhaust thyself in the cause of religion? God sees it, thou shalt loose nothing: for the present thou hast a promise, which is God's bill of exchange, and when God comes to make up thy accounts, thou shalt be paid with overplus: The more any man hath disbursed for God, the greater sums of glory are still behind.
3. It is a whetstone to duty. O thou christian that art much in private, that settest hours apart for God, (a sign he hath set thee apart) thou sheddest many tears in thy closet: the world takes no notice; but remember, God's eye is upon thee, thy prayers are registered, thy tears are bottled up, 'and he that sees in secret will reward thee openly.' How should this add wings to prayer, and oil to the flame of our devotion? let us take heed of slacking our pace in religion, let not our tears begin to freeze; for this, if it doth not lose, yet it may lessen our crown.
Use 4. Here is a breast of consolation to the saints of God (in these sad times), in the midst of all that hard measure they may meet with; let the world frown, let men persecute and calumniate, (and it may be, think they do God service), here is sap in the vine, a strong cordial to take, all things are naked. They do nothing but what our Father sees. They make wounds, and then pour in vinegar; God writes down their cruelty, he sees what rods they use, and how hard they strike; and he that hath an eye to see, hath also an hand to punish; 'I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people,' not only with an eye of providence, but with an eye of pity. This was a great comfort to David in his affliction, and was like a golden shield in the hand of his faith, 'My groaning is not hid from thee,' Psalm 38.6. When I weep, Christ weeps in my tears, he bleeds in my wounds. There are two bloods will cry: the blood of souls, when they have been starved or poisoned, and the blood of saints. I do not mean saints without sanctity, titular saints, but such as have Christ engraven in their hearts, and the word copied out into their lives: it is dangerous meddling with their blood; if we spill their blood, it is no better than spilling Christ's blood, for they are members of his body, 'In all their afflictions he was afflicted.' The people of God are precious to him. There is blood royal running in their souls, 'they are his jewels,' Mal. 3.17. and his heart is exceedingly taken with them; it is wounded with love, 'I was jealous for Sion with great jealousy;' Zech. 8.2. Jealousy, we know, proceeds from love; nay, I was zealous for Sion; zeal is the flame of love. Oh then ye saints of God, be of good comfort; whatever your measure is, God sees it, Exod. 14.24. 'In the morning-watch the Lord looked through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians:' Remember, God hath an eye in the cloud.
Use 5. Caution. God being so infinite in wisdom; if things go cross in church or state, take heed of charging God with folly; do not censure but admire. All things are naked. There is not any thing that stirs in the world, but God hath a design in it, for the good of his church: he carries on his designs by mens' designs: all things are unveiled to the eye of providence. God is never at a stand: he knows when to deliver, and how to deliver.
1. When to deliver.
David saith, 'My times are in thy hand,' Psalm 31.15. If our times were in our own hand, we would have deliverance too soon; if they were in our enemy's hand, we should have deliverance too late: But my times are in thy hand; and God's time is ever best. Every thing is beautiful in its season: when the mercy is ripe, we shall have it. It is true, we are now between the hammer and the anvil: we may fear we shall see the death of religion, before the birth of reformation. But do not cast away your anchor; God sees when the mercy will be in season. When his people are low enough, and the enemy high enough, then usually appears the church's morning-star: let God alone to his time.
2. How to deliver.
'All things are naked.' God delivers sometimes in that way in which we think he will destroy. It might seem strange, when he would deliver Israel, he stirred up the hearts of the Egyptians to hate them. Could this be a likely way? yet by this means was deliverance ushered in. So now the hearts of many are stirred up to hate the people of God, to hate the covenant; but God can make use of their power and rage, as once he did of the High Priest's malice, and Judas's treason, for our greater advantage. There was no way for Jonah to be saved, but to be swallowed up; he sails safe to land in the whale's belly: God brings his people many times to shore upon the broken pieces of the ship: God can make the enemies do his work; he doth sometimes play his own game by their hand. Well then may we cry out with the apostle; 'O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!' God will not make us privy of his counsel, his path is in the deep: if we cannot see a reason of his proceedings; let us censure our own shallowness, not his depth.
It is a word of counsel, it shews us whither to have recourse in all our straits and doubts; go to God; all things are naked in his eye, he is the oracle of wisdom: 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God,' James 1.5. We are here in the dark; pray with David, 'Lord, light my candle,' shed some beams of divine knowledge into my soul. Beg of God, that as things are naked in his eyes, so they may be naked in our eyes, that we may see the sinfulness of sin, and the beauty of holiness. The times are evil: let us pray to God that he would be our pilot to steer us; that he would teach us to walk jealously towards ourselves, piously towards him, prudently towards others, that he would give us the graces of our relation which do bespangle and grace our profession; that so guiding us by his counsels, we may at last be received to glory.