2 Corinthians 1:12
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom…
That sincerity and uprightness of heart in our motives and ends is a sure and infallible sign of our being in the state of grace (1 John 3:21, 22).
I. For the opening of this point, LET US CONSIDER HOW UNSAFELY IT MAY BE PRESSED FOR A SIGN IN SOME PARTICULARS, AND THEN WHEREIN THE NATURE OF IT LIETH.
1. It is unwarrantably pressed when uprightness is urged to the exclusion of all respect unto any reward.
2. This sign of uprightness may be pressed unsafely when it is understood of such a perfect uprightness that hath no deceit or falsehood at all joined 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. Who can understand his error? We may abuse the sign of sincerity by going too low.
(1) When we take sincerity for quietness of conscience that it doth not accuse.
(2) When we limit sincerity to one particular fact, or to some passages only.
(3) When we judge of sincerity by the immediate ends of actions, not at all attending to the principal and main, "Whatsover ye do, do all to the glory of God."
II. In the next place, let us consider WHAT THIS UPRIGHTNESS IS, AND SO WHEREIN IT IS A SIGN.
1. There is no sincerity but where there is a full and powerful change of the whole man by the grace of God.
2. Uprightness is a sign, and then acknowledged to be sincerity, when we do any good duty because God commands.
3. Uprightness is seen in the universality of obedience. Thus a blackamore, though he hath white teeth, yet cannot be called white, because it is in some respect only, so neither may a man be called sincere that hath only partial obedience.
4. Then is uprightness 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 God's Word doth require.
5. Uprightness is when a man is very diligent and conscientious in internal duties or secret, to perform them, and in spiritual or heart-sins and secret lusts to avoid them. These things thus explained, observe that it is a sure and comfortable sign of grace, when a man is willing to have his soul and all within searched by God (Psalm 17:3).
(1) Let us consider how God doth try, that so we may perceive our willingness therein. And the first way is by His Word, "Whatsoever doth manifest, and so reprove evil, is light" (Ephesians 5:13). As by the light of the sunbeams we see the little motes and flies in the air, so by God's Word shining into our hearts we come to see many things sinful and unlawful which we did not perceive before.
(2) A second way whereby God proveth is a powerful and soul-searching ministry.
(3) The work of conscience within us, that also doth prove us. God hath set up a light within us, and when this is enlightened by the Word, then it makes a man's breast full of light.
(4) God trieth us by the illuminations of His Spirit and strong convictions thereby.
(5) God trieth when by His Providence we are put upon many duties and commands which it may be at other times did not concern us. Thus God examined Abraham by a command to offer up his only son Isaac. Thus God tried the young man who had great confidence in himself. The vessel's soundness is tried in the fire; the mariner's skill in a storm; the trees in a windy tempest.
(6) And this is the fixed way of trial, viz., when God brings us under His chastisements. This manifesteth what metal we are of (1 Peter 1:7).As God useth these several ways to prove us, and the soul of a godly man is ready herein, so in these three cases especially doth a godly man give up himself to be examined.
1. In matters of doctrine. Although heresy may be merely in matter of conscience and opinion, yet for the most part carnal principles and motives are interwoven therewith.
2. In matter of received worship and traditional service of God. Although it be worship that can plead custom from prescription many years' commendation of the universality of learned men; yet an heart truly sincere desireth to have all things examined and proved out of God's Word.
3. This is eminently discovered in matter of practice.
III. In the next place let us consider WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF SUCH A GRACIOUS TEMPER IN THE HEART.
1. Where this is it doth not excuse or mitigate sin, but takes in with God against its own self.
2. Not resting upon generals, but particularly applying matters of duty.
3. A sincere heart loveth a godly reproof and those that give it. Use of examination. Here is a touchstone and trial for yourselves. Is there love of the light, or fear of the light; are you afraid of the Word of God, a soul-searching ministry, close and particular applications
4. Then suspect all is not sound within thee.
Parallel VersesKJV: For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
WEB: For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.