Article of the Month
by Thomas Watson
We have 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 has shed so much blood? These days are called in scripture, Soul-afflicting days, Lev. 23:9. “For whatever 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 in pride. God sees with what hearts we now come, what is our spring, what our center; his eye is upon us. So says my text, “All things are naked and open.”
We have here a map of God’s knowledge. But before I extract anything, 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 does 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 veil over the heart of a sinner, but the veil 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 cut the beast in pieces, and so 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, does God make—a heart-anatomy. He cuts open and dissects the thoughts and motives of the heart. 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 open for his inspection.
The next word is all things. There is nothing which escapes his eye: and herein God’s knowledge does 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.” He sees many things at once—just as if there were only one thing to view.
The eyes of Him. Eyes are ascribed to God, not properly, but metaphorically. Idols have eyes—“yet they see not.” God has 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. That is—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:
Doctrine. That the most secret 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 agreement 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. “You know my thoughts afar off.” Here are two words that set out the infiniteness of God’s knowledge.
1. You know my thoughts, there is nothing which can be so secret—as a thought.
First, For its subtlety (secrecy), 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 (quickness), our thoughts are winged, like the cherubim, they will in an instant travel over the world. They are `swifter than eagles,” 2 Sam. 1.23. But he who rides upon the swift cloud can overtake them—he can out-march them.
Thirdly, For its complexity: our thoughts are snarled and tangled one with another; yet even these thoughts are known to God, and set in their proper sphere. What David says of his members, may be said of our thoughts, “Are they not all written in your 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 which men would certainly pursue—did not God turn the wheel another way. God knew what was in Herod’s mind before Herod himself knew it, namely, 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 is never put in execution.
2. 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 have you done, and I kept silence: you thought I was such an one as yourself.” That is, you thought that I had a weak memory, “but I will reprove you, and set your sins in order before you,” Psalm 50.21. Millions of years are but as a short parenthesis to God. 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 sins on the book be not discharged, there will be an heavy reckoning! To every believer, the debt-book of sins is crossed out; the black lines of sin are crossed out in the red lines of Christ’s blood!
To instance in one scripture more, “Even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you,” Psalm 139.12. The clouds are no canopy; the night is no curtain to draw between, or to hide from his all-seeing eye. We cannot write our sins in so small or strange a character, but God can read them—he has a key to unravel them. He understands our hearts without our permission; 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 confused their language,” Gen. 11.7,8. Achan digs deep to hide his counsels, saying, “No eye shall see me!” 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 are 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; who, 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—God has a window which looks into your hearts! God is the great superintendent; we come into the world as upon a theater, every man acts his 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 does at one instant know all things past, present, and to come—in a most perfect, exquisite, and infallible manner.
How does God know all things?
Reason 1. From his creation. God is the Father of lights, therefore must needs see. It is his own argument, “He who planted the ear, shall he not hear? he who formed the eye, shall he not see,” Psalm 94.9. He who makes a watch, knows all the pins and wheels in it; and though these wheels move contrary one to another, he knows the true and perfect motion of the watch, and the spring which sets these wheels a going. “He who 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 who made this watch knows the true motion of it (be it ever so false) and the springs which set the wheels a going. God knows us better than we know ourselves! He is as Ezekiel’s wheels—full of eyes! Augustine says, “God is all eye!”
Reason 2. From his Ubiquity. He is omniscient, because he is omnipresent, Jer. 23.24. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” He excluded from nowhere; yet he is not bound in any one place. His circumference is everywhere. God has an eye in every council. He makes an heart-anatomy; he sees what men’s designs are, and where they are driving. If hatred wears the livery of friendship; if ambition comes masked with humility; if religion is made a stirrup to get into the saddle of advancement—God sees it. “And though they dig into hell, from thence shall my hand take them,” Amos 9.2. God can unlock hell.
God observes all our actings, but he himself is not seen, as the apostle argues, 1 Tim. 6.16. Man may be circumscribed, the angels may be defined—but God is in every place. His center is everywhere, and his eye is ever in his center.
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. This 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 close examination which God uses when he is upon a work of justice; God does not make the sword the judge. He first weighs things in the balance; he always lays judgment to the line, before he draws the line of judgment. God, when he is upon a work of justice, is not in a rush, as if he did not care where he hits, but goes in the way of close examination against offenders. “I will go down and see;” he does not punish rashly. This is a good hint to those who 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.” This denotes God’s patience in waiting for sinners; he staid until 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 would have exhausted it. But let no sinner presume. Though God is long-suffering, he does 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. Zeph. 2.1. “I will search Jerusalem with candles.” Implying, that something is hidden from his sight.
Answer. Not that God needs any candles to see by. 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 has such a deep insight as usually men have upon search. (2.) God threatens to search, because he would have us search. Lam. 3.40. “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn again in repentance to the Lord.” 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 has two branches.
Branch 1. “What manner of people ought we to be?” Has God a window which opens into our hearts? Does he make a close examination upon our actions? Oh what holiness, what sincerity, what exemplary piety befits 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 anything he knows. But God has a key for the heart, Jer. 17.10. “I the Lord search the heart!” 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 has stolen away their heart; others have a double heart, Psalm 12.2. Others have hearts good for nothing, earthly hearts, like “Saul that was hidden 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, open to everyone—this would be a day of blushing, we would be ashamed to look one upon another! Remember, God has 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 greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart one with mine?” “Yes, it is—Jehonadab replied.” “If you are,” Jehu said, “then give me your hand.” So Jehonadab put out his hand, and Jehu helped him into the chariot.”
This is God’s question. You come this day to humble yourselves and make atonement, but “Is your heart one with God’s?” If we can answer as he did, “Lord, you know 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, 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 dared 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 has a thought within a thought: he comes between us and our thoughts.
The goddess Minerva, as the Poets feign, was drawn in such lively colors, 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 has an eye in your heart. What kind of people ought we to be?
Branch 2. Of how dangerous consequence is it to act anything against God? He sees it, and his knowledge is armed with power! He who has an eye to see—will find an hand to punish! If there are any designs against God, though carried on ever so subtlety, remember there is a council of war which 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. First, 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. Truth 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 would only be believing ourselves into hell. Truth is the great purchase of Christ’s blood, and it has been transmitted to us in the blood of many saints and martyrs. If we strike at truth, we strike at God; and does not God see this?
Give me permission 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? Most truths of God’s Word, are now called in question? some denying the scriptures, others denying the Lord who 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? They are but old heresies, newly vamped. Our Savior says, “If the son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” Yes surely, he may now find many faiths; so many men—almost so many faiths! These things are done, are they not countenanced? God sees! Silence, when truth is wounded, is a great sin!
2. Secondly, We act against God, when we act against his Covenant. The covenant is a serious thing. 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 almanac out of date? Those who once lifted up their hand to it, do now lift up their heel against it. We have begun 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, men will set their covenant and conscience to sale. God sees this; hear what he says, “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! We set our hand and seal to the covenant, and then to tore off the seal! If the covenant will not hold us—God has chains which will!
That which enhances 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 clear knowledge. This circumstance is as much as the sin itself; though 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, which 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 loses her virginity. Israel was a people espoused to God in covenant; but having stained this federal relation by idolatry, (a sin that directly cuts asunder the marriage-knot) God gives her a bill of divorce. Says he, “she is not my wife!” Hosea 2.2.
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 scarcely 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 God’s commission. But such as are in a scripture method instituted into this holy ministry; he who acts against these, acts against God! Remember God sees, he writes it down! Whatever injury is done to the ambassador, the King takes as done to his own person! So says Christ, “He who despises you, despises me.” What a black veil 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 once delivered 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, in all in the affections of Christ; will not love conquer?
This nation has discarded the bread of life. When God sees his mercies lying on the floor, it is just with him to call to the enemy to take them away. I heartily pray that plenty of ordinances does not as much hurt in this city, as famine has done in other places of the land; and if we once say, “what is this manna?” it would be 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, who 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, “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
If ministers would preach smooth things, make the way to heaven easier than ever Christ made it, then they would be admired. (You have more people gaze at a Comet or shooting 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 men’s 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 you have done foolishly.” if he goes about to imprison his sin, he himself shall be imprisoned. “Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison.” This was Jerusalem’s sin, and it drew tears from Christ; “O Jerusalem, you who stone the prophets!” Mat. 23. And she stoned them so long—until she had not one stone left upon another.
Those that would annihilate the ministry—try 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 her feathers, she burnt herself and the young ones in the nest. 2 Chron. 36.16, “They mocked the messengers of God, and misused his prophets, until there was no remedy.”
4. We act against God, when we act against that order and government which he has set up in his church. God is the God of order, he has set everything in its proper sphere. The order and harmony of the world does consist in degrees, one thing still above another. For there can be no music, if all the sounds are alike. In nature, the sun is commander in chief among the planets. Thus in the body politic, God has set kings, nobles, judges, still in a descent; and this makes the harmony. And these powers are of God, Romans 13.1. “The powers that be, are of God.” Magistracy is the hedge of a nation, “And he who breaks an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.”
Use 2. Reproof. Here is a just impeachment against two sorts of people.
Branch 1. The LIBERTINE. And there are two kinds of them.
First, The profane libertine, who fabricates 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 there. He says, “God shall not see!”
Secondly, The religious libertine, who sins because grace abounds. He says, “God sees no sin in his people. After we are in Christ, we cannot sin; therefore repentance is out of date.” Whom I shall refute in two ways.
1. There must be repentance after we are in Christ: for though sin in a believer is 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 anything will melt and break the heart, this will. The sins of the regenerate wound Christ’s heart deeper than others. Has not Christ suffered enough already? Will you wound him whom God has wounded? Will you give him more vinegar to drink? O rather “Give wine to him that is of an heavy heart;” cheer him with your tears! Look on a bleeding Christ with a bleeding heart.
Branch 2. It impeaches the HYPOCRITE, who is a practical atheist—who says, “God shall not see!” The word in the Hebrew signifies to dissemble. The Syriac word, a face-taker. The hypocrite wears a mask of sanctity. Aquinas calls hypocrisy the counterfeiting of virtue. The hypocrite is a charlatan, 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 an apparition, he is not really pious. The hypocrite is a walking picture, a rotten post painted over. He is like the painted grapes which deceived the living birds; or the beautiful apples of Sodom—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. Just 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 externals; he walks with a dark lantern, 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 mask, “Come in you wife of Jeroboam.” The hypocrite knows God is of purer eyes than to behold sin; yet for all this will play at 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 who is partial in his goodness. He is zealous in lesser things, but remiss in greater things. As our Savior complained in his time, they “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” He is one who 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 relic or painted glass (not that I plead for these), but in the mean time lives in known sin, lying, immorality, 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 purity of the temple, but were murderers of the Son of God.
And we have a parallel scripture to this, Romans 2.22. “You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you do it? You condemn idolatry, but do you steal from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it.” Who at the first sight, would not have taken these for very holy, devout men—who were zealous against idolatry? But see a root of hypocrisy! They were partially good, they hated one sin, but not another! They hated 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, as it will not stand with their saintship; (this were to call the devil “father” aloud,) but they will defraud and defame, and take away a man’s name—which is no better than murder. And if these are 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, often bad purposes lie hid under good pretenses. Jezebel, that she may cloak her murderous intentions, proclaims a fast. Absalom, to color over his treason, pretends a religious vow. How cunning is the heart to go to hell! Judas hides his covetousness under a pretense of charity, “This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor,” John 12.5. How charitable was Judas! But his charity began at home—for he carried the money bag. Many make religion a cloak for their ambition, “Come, see my zeal, says Jehu, for the Lord.” 1 Kings 10.16. No! Jehu—your zeal was for the kingdom! Jehu made religion hold the stirrup until he got possession of the crown; here was double-dyed hypocrisy.
The hypocrite sets himself against God.
First, He opposes him in his essence; God is a substance, the hypocrite is only a shadow.
Secondly, In his unity; God is one, and made man one at first; but the hypocrite has made himself a double hearted man; 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 washes 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 who poisons another, has a greater punishment, than he who kills with the sword, because he offers it hypocritically under a pretense of friendship. “Judas, do you betray 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, and by his expostulation, Psalm 50.16. “What have you to do to take my covenant into your mouth, seeing you hate to be reformed?” You hypocrite, what have you to do to meddle with religion, to pretend saint-ship? You make religion odious, and the offering of God to be abhorred? Hear that dreadful sentence, Isaiah 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 confuse their counsels. They are hypocrites!
In one chapter, Christ pronounces seven woes against this sin of hypocrisy! Matt. 23. “Woe to you hypocrites,” Woe! Woe! Woe! etc. To be a hypocritical nation, and to be the generation of God’s wrath—are made synonymous in scripture, Isa 10.6. And when the Holy Spirit 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 under the eye of God. Methinks that saying of Hagar should be a Christian’s motto, “You God see 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 are naked and open to his eye, we cannot sin but in the face of our Judge. Oh then reverence this eye of God.
First, God’s eye 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 nobles were watching him, and then he would do nothing dishonorable.” 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, namely, to cut off the external acts; but we must kill the root. Crucify darling sins; let not your heart sit brooding upon sin. Again, let God’s omniscience deter you from hiding sin. Who would hide a traitor? Now it sucks your breast, shortly it will suck your blood. Men think, that to sin in the dark, and to carry their sins under a canopy—that no eye shall see them (like those who 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 has blinded men’s eyes, because there is darkness within, they think it is dark abroad too, and now the sky is cloudy, and they imagine that God cannot see. But remember, all things are naked and open to God! Do not go about to hide sin—confess, confess! Confession does that to the soul, which the surgeon does 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. God’s eye is a spur to virtue: are you zealous for God? do you exhaust yourself in the cause of religion? God sees it! You shall loose nothing. For the present you have a promise, which is God’s bill of exchange, and when God comes to make up your accounts, you shall be paid with extra. The more any man has disbursed for God, the greater sums of glory are still behind.
3. God’s eye is a whetstone to duty. O you Christian that are much in private, that set hours apart for God, (a sign he has set you apart) you shed many tears in your closet: the world takes no notice. But remember, God’s eye is upon you, your prayers are registered, your tears are bottled up, “and he who sees in secret will reward you 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. If slackness does not lose our crown—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 those hard treatment that they 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 and open to God.” 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. He who has an eye to see—has also a 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 hidden from you,” Psalm 38.6. When I weep, Christ weeps in my tears, he bleeds in my wounds. There are two bloods which 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, nominal saints, but such as have Christ engraved 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 protective of them; it is wounded with love. “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her!” Zech. 8.2. Jealousy, we know, proceeds from love; I am very zealous for Zion; zeal is the flame of love. Oh then you saints of God, be of good comfort; whatever your treatment 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 has 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 him—but admire hom. All things are naked and open before him! There is not anything which stirs in the world—but God has 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 perplexed: he knows when to deliver, and how to deliver.
1. God knows when to deliver.
David says, “My times are in your 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 would have deliverance too late: But my times are in God’s hand; and God’s hand is ever best. Everything 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. God knows how to deliver.
“All things are naked and open before God.” 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’ 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 does 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 shows us where to have recourse in all our straits and doubts. Go to God! All things are naked to his all-seeing eye, he is the oracle of wisdom: “If any man lacks 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 and open before 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 bespangle and grace our profession; that so guiding us by his counsels, we may at last be received to glory!
Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686) was an English, Puritan preacher and author. He was ejected from his London parish after the Restoration, but continued to preach privately. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a 16-year pastorate at St. Stephen's, Walbrook.
Watson showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love's plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen's Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity.
Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a licence to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly, while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.
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