Loins Girt

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover.
~ Exodus 12:11

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
~ Isaiah 11:5, Luke 12:35, 2 Corinthians 6:7

(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
~ Ephesians 5:9

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
~ 1 Peter 5:8

Sincerity & Hypocrisy, by William Gurnall. The following is from his work, The Christian in Complete Armour

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
~ Ephesians 6:14

Second. I will lay down the grounds of the weak Christian’s fear for his being a hypocrite, and the weakness of them; in other words, the false grounds from which sincere souls do many times go about to prove themselves hypocrites, yea, for a while conclude they are such.

1. False Ground. ‘Sure I am a hypocrite,’ saith the poor soul, ‘or else I should not be as I am. God would not thus follow me on with one blow after another, and suffer Satan also to use me as he doth.’ This was the grand battery Job’s friends had against his sincerity, and sometimes Satan so far prevails as to make the sincere soul set it against his own breast, saying, much like him, ‘If God be with us, why is all this befallen us?’—if God be in us by his grace, why appears he against us?

Answer. This fire into which God casts thee, proves thou hast dross, and if, because thou art held long in the furnace, thou shouldst say thou hadst much dross, I would not oppose; but how thou shouldst spell ‘hypocrite’ out of thy afflictions and troubles, I marvel. The wicked indeed make much use of this argument to clap ‘hypocrite’ on them; but the Christian, methinks, should not use it against himself. Though the barbarians presently gave their verdict upon sight of the viper on Paul’s hand, that he was ‘a murderer,’ yet Paul thought not worse of him­self for it. Christian, give but the same counsel to thyself, when in affliction and temptation, that thou usest to do to thy fellow-brethren in the same con­dition, and thou wilt get out of this snare. Darest thou think thy neighbour a hypocrite merely from the hand of God upon him? No, I warrant thee, thou rather pitiest him, and helpest him to answer the doubts that arise in his spirit from this very argument. It would make one smile to see how handsomely and roundly a Christian can untie the knots and scruples of another, who afterward, when brought into the like condition, is gravelled[22] with the same himself. He that helped his friend over the stile is now unable to stride it himself. God so orders things that we should need one another. She that is midwife to others can­not well do that office to herself; nor he that is the messenger to bring peace to the spirit of another, able to speak it to his own. The case is clear, Christian. Affliction cannot prove thee a hypocrite, which wert thou without altogether, thou mightest safer think thou wert a bastard. The case, I say, is clear, but thy eyes are held for some further end God hath to bring about by thy affliction. But may be thou wilt say, it is not simply the affliction makes thee think thus of thyself; but because thou art so long afflicted, and in the dark also, as to any sense of God’s love in thy soul. Thou hast no smiles from God’s sweet coun­tenance to alleviate thy affliction, and if all were right, and thou a sincere child of God, would thy heavenly Father let thee lie groaning, and never look upon thee to lighten thy affliction with his sweet presence? As to the first of these—the length of thy affliction. I know no standard God hath set for to measure the length of his saints’ crosses by, and it becomes not us to make one ourselves. This we do, when we thus limit his chastisements to time, that if they exceed the day we have writ down in our own thoughts—which is like to be short enough, if our hasty hearts may appoint—then we are hypocrites. For the other; thou must know that God can, without any impeachment to his love, hide it for a while. And truly he may take it very ill that his children, who have security given them for his loving them—besides the sensible manifestation of it to their souls—should call this in question, for not coming to visit them, and take them up in his arms when they would have him. In a word, may be thy affliction comes in the nature of purging physic. God may intend to evacuate some corruption by it, which endangers thy spiritual health and hinder thy thriving in godliness. Now the manifestation of his love God may reserve, as physicians do their cordials, to be given when the physic is over.

2. False Ground. ‘I fear I am a hypocrite,’ saith the tempted soul; ‘why else are there such decays and declensions to be found in me? It is the character of the upright that he goes from strength to strength, but I go backward from strength to weakness.’ Some Christians—they are like those that we call close men in the world—if they lose anything in their trade, and all goes not as they would have it, we are sure to hear of that over and over again. They speak of their losses in every company; but when they make a good market, and gains come in apace, they keep this to themselves—not forward to speak of them. If Chris­tians would be ingenuous, they should tell what they get as [well as] what they lose. But to take it for granted that thou dost find a decay, and to direct our answer to it.

Answer 1. I grant it as true that the sincere soul grows stronger and stronger—but how?—even as the tree grows higher and bigger, which we know meets with a fall of the leaf, and winter, that for a while intermits its growth. Thus the sincere soul may be put to a present stand by some temptation—as Peter, who was far from growing stronger when he fell from professing to denying Christ, from denying to swear­ing and cursing if he knew him. Yet as the tree, when spring comes, revives and gains more in the summer than it loseth in the winter, so doth the sincere soul. Just as we see in Peter, whose grace that squatted in for a while came forth with such a force, shaking temptations, that no cruelty from men could drive it in ever after; [so will the sincere soul ever] end in settlement, according to the apostle’s prayer, ‘The God of all grace,…after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you,’ I Peter 5:10.

Answer 2. There is a great difference between the decay of a sincere soul and of a hypocrite. The hypocrite declines out of an inward dislike of the ways of God. Hence they are called ‘backsliders in heart,’ Prov. 14:14. So long as they served his lust, and contributed any help to the obtaining his worldly interest, so long he had a seeming zeal; but the argument taken away, he begins to remit by degrees, till he comes to be key-cold, yea, as heartily sick of his profession as Ammon of Tamar. When the hypocrite begins to fall, he goes apace. Like a stone down the hill he knows no ground but the bottom. Now speak freely, poor soul. Darest thou say there is an inward dislike to the ways of God. May be thou dost pray not with that heat and fervency which thou hast; but is it because thou dost not like the duty as formerly? Thou dost not hear the word with such joy; but dost thou not therefore hear it with more sorrow? In a word, canst thou not say with the spouse, when thou sleepest thy ‘heart waketh,’ Song. 5:2; that is, thou art not pleased with thy present declining state, but heartily wishest thou wert out of it—as one that hath a great desire to rise and be at his work—his heart is awake—but is not able at present to shake off that sleep which binds him down. This will clear thee from being a hypocrite.

3. False Ground. ‘I fear,’ saith the poor soul, ‘I am a hypocrite, because I have such a divided heart in the duties I perform. I cannot, for my life, enjoy any privacy with God in duty, but some base lust will be crowding into my thoughts when I am at prayer, hearing of the word, or meditating. Now I am lift up with a self-applauding thought, anon cast down to the earth with a worldly thought. What with one and another, little respite have I from such a company. And do such vermin breed anywhere but in the dung­hill of a false hypocritical heart?’

Answer. Woe were it to the best of saints, if the mere rising and stirring of such thoughts as these, or worse than these, did prove the heart unsound; take heed thou concludest not thy state therefore, from the presence of these in thee, but from the comportment and behaviour of thy heart towards them. Answer therefore to these few interrogatories, and possibly thou mayest see thy sincerity through the mist these have raised in the soul.

(1.) Interrogatory. What friendly welcome have such thoughts with thee, when they present them­selves to thee in duty? Are these the guests thou hast expected and trimmed thy room for? Didst thou go to duty to meet those friends, or do they unmannerly break in upon thee, and forcibly carry thee—as Christ foretold of Peter in another case—whither thou wouldst not? If so, why shouldst thou bring thy sincerity into dispute? Dost thou not know the devil is a bold intruder, and dares come where he knows there is none will bid him sit down? And that soul alone he can call his own house, where he finds rest, Luke 11:24. Suppose in your family, as you are kneel­ing down to prayer, a company of roisters should stand under your window, and all the while you are praying, they should be roaring and hallooing, this could not but much disturb you; but would you from the disturbance they make, fall to question your sin­cerity in the duty? Truly, it is all one whether the dis­turbance be in the room, or in the bosom, so the soul likes the one no more than he doth the other.

(2.) Interrogatory. Dost thou sit contented with this company, or use all the means thou canst to get rid of them, as soon as may be? Sincerity cannot sit still to see such doings in the soul; but, as a faithful servant when thieves break into his master’s house, though [so] overpowered with their strength and mul­titude, that he cannot with his own hands thrust them out of doors, yet he will send out secretly for help, and raise the town upon them. Prayer is the sincere soul’s messenger. It posts to heaven with full speed in this case; counting itself to be no other than in the belly of hell with Jonah, while it is yoked with such thoughts, and as glad when aid comes to rescue him out of their hands, as Lot was when Abraham re­covered him from the kings that had carried him away prisoner.

Objection. But may be thou wilt say, though thou darest not deny that thy cry is sent to heaven against them, yet thou hearest no news of thy prayer, but continuest still pestered with them as before, which increaseth thy fear that thy heart is naught, or else thy prayer would have been answered, and thou delivered from these inmates.

Answer. Paul might as well have said so when he besought the Lord thrice, but could not have thorn in the flesh plucked out, II Cor. 12:8. He doth not by this show thee to be a hypocrite, but gives thee a fair advantage of proving thyself sincere—not much un­like his dealing with the Israelites, before whom he did not, as they expected, hastily drive out the na­tions, but left them as thorns in their sides. And why? Hear the reason from God’s own mouth, ‘That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not,’ Judges 2:22. Thus God leaves these corruptions in thee, to prove whether thou wilt at last fall in and be friends with them, or maintain the conflict with them, and continue praying against them; by which perseverance thou wilt prove thyself to be indeed upright. A false heart will never do this. He is soon answered that doth not cordially desire the thing he asks. The hypocrite, when he prays against his corruption, goes of his conscience’s errand, not his will’s; just as a servant that doth not like the message his master sends him about, but dares not displease him, and therefore goes, and may be knocks at the man’s door whither he is sent, yet very faintly—loath he should hear him. All that he doth is that he may but bring a fair tale to his master, by saying he was there. Even so prays the hypocrite, only to stop the mouth of his conscience with his flam[23], that he hath prayed against his lust. Glad he is when it is over, and more glad that he returns re infectâ—the matter being unaccomplished. Observe therefore the behaviour of thy heart in prayer, and judge thyself sincere, or not sincere, by that, not by the present success it hath. God can take it kindly that thou askest what at present he thinks it better to deny than give. Thou wouldst have all thy corrup­tions knocked down at one blow, and thy heart in a posture to do the work of thy God, without any stop or rub from lust within, or the devil without; wouldst thou not? God highly approves of your zeal, as he did of David’s, who had a mind to build him a tem­ple; but as he thought not fit that the house should in David’s time be reared—reserving it for the peaceful reign of Solomon—so neither doth he, that this thy request should be granted in this life, having reserved this immunity as an especial part of the charter of the city that is above, which none but glorified saints, who are inhabitants there, enjoy. He hath indeed taught us to pray, let thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; but we must expect the full answer to it when we come there. But learn therefore, poor soul, to take this denial as David did his. Because God would not let him build the house in his days, he did not therefore question the love and favour of God, neither did he desist from preparing materials for it, but did what he might towards it, though he might not what he would. Far be it from thee also, that thou shouldst for this either cast away thy confidence on God, or lay aside thy endeavour for God, in mortify­ing thy corruptions, and adding to the store thou hast at present of his graces, which, though now imperfect and unpolished, he will make use of in the heavenly building which he intends thee for, where all the broken pieces, as I may so say, of our weak graces shall be so improved by the power and wisdom of God, that they shall make up one glorious structure of perfect holiness, more to be admired by angels in heaven, for the rare workmanship of it, than Solo­mon’s temple was on earth by men when in its full glory.

4. False Ground. ‘Oh but,’ saith the tempted soul, ‘I have sometimes inward checks from my own conscience that this duty I did hypocritically, and that, in that action, much falseness of heart dis­covered itself. And if my heart condemn me, how can it be otherwise but I must needs be a hypocrite?’

Answer. I shall help to resolve this by laying down two distinctions, and applying them to the case in hand. (1.) We must distinguish between conscience proceeding by a right rule in its judgment, and conscience proceeding by a false rule. (2.) We must distinguish between a conscience that goes by a right rule, and is also rightly informed how to use it; and a conscience that judgeth by a right rule, but is not rightly informed in its use.

To apply the first—

(1.) We must distinguish between conscience proceeding by a right rule in its judgment, and con­science proceeding by a false rule. Then conscience proceeds by a right rule, when it grounds its charge upon the word of God; for, being but an under officer, it is bound up to a law by which it must proceed. And that can be no other than what God appoints it, who gives it commission, and puts it in office. And that is the word of God, and that only. So that we are to give credit to our conscience’s com­manding or forbidding, condemning or acquitting us, when it can show its warrant from the word of God for these; otherwise, as subjects that are wronged in an inferior court and cannot have justice there, may appeal higher, so may and ought we, from conscience, to the word of God. And you must know conscience is a faculty that is corrupted as much as any other by nature, and is very oft made use of by Satan to deceive both good and bad, godly and ungodly. Many that now {know?} their consciences, they say, speak peace to them, will be found merely cheated and gulled when the books shall be opened. No such dis­charge will then be found entered in the book of the word, as conscience hath put into their hand. And many gracious souls, who passed their days in a continual fear of their spiritual state, and were kept chained in the dark dungeon of a troublesome con­science, shall then be acquitted, and have their action against Satan for false imprisonment, and abusing their consciences to the disturbing their peace. And now let me ask thee, poor soul, who sayest thy con­science checks thee for a hypocrite, art thou a con­victed hypocrite by the word? Doth conscience show thee a word rom Christ’s law that proves thee so? or rather, doth not Satan abuse thy own fearfulness, and play upon the tenderness of thy spirit, which is so deeply possessed with the sense of thy sins, that thou art ready to believe any motion in thee that tells any evil of thee? I am sure it is oft so. The fears and checks which some poor souls have in their bosoms, are like those reports that are now and then raised of some great news, by such as have a mind to abuse the country. A talk and murmur you shall have in every one’s mouth of it, but go about to follow it to the spring-head, and you can find no ground of it, or author of credit that will vouch it. Thus here: —a bruit[24] there is in the tempted Christian’s bosom, and a noise heard as it were continually whispering in his ears, ‘I am a hypocrite, my heart is naught; all I do is dissembling;’ but when the poor creature, in earnest, sets upon the search to find out the business—calls his soul to the bar, and falls to examine it upon those interrogatories which the word propounds for trial of our sincerity—he can fasten this charge from none of them all upon himself, and at last comes to find it but a false alarm of hell, given out to put him to some trouble and affrightment for the present, though not [to] hurt him in the end. [It is] like the politician’s lie, which, though it be found false at last, yet doth them some service the time it is believed for true. As one serious question, such as this, seriously put to a gross hypocrite. is able to make him speechless, viz. —What promise in all the Bible hast thou on thy side for thy salvation?—so it is enough to deliver the troubled soul from his fears of being a hypocrite, if he would but, as David, ask his soul a Scripture reason for his disquietments—‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?’ The sincere soul hath firm ground for his faith at bottom, however a little dirt is cast by Satan over it, to make him afraid of venturing to set his foot on it. But we must also distinguish,

(2.) We must distinguish between a conscience rightly informed, and a conscience misinformed. A conscience may be regular, so as to choose the right rule, but not rightly informed how to use this rule in his particular case. Indeed, in the saint’s trouble of spirit, conscience is full of Scripture, sometimes, on which it grounds its verdict, but very ill interpreted; ‘O,’ saith the poor soul, ‘this place is against me:’—‘Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord im­puteth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile,’ Ps. 32:2. ‘Here,’ saith he, ‘is a description of a sincere soul, to be one in whose spirit there is no guile. But I find much guile in me. Therefore I am not the sincere one.’ Now this is a very weak, yea, false inference. By a spirit without guile, is not meant a person that hath not the least deceitfulness and hypocrisy remaining in his heart. This is such a one, as none, since the fall, but Christ himself, was ever found, walking in mortal flesh. To be without sin, and to be without guile, in this strict sense, are the same;—a prerogative here on earth peculiar to the Lord Christ; ‘who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,’ I Peter 2:22. And therefore, when we meet with the same phrase attributed to the saints —as to Levi, ‘Iniquity was not found in his lips,’ Mal. 2:6, and to Nathanael, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,’ John 1:47—we must sense it in an inferior way, that may suit with their imperfect state here below, and not put that which only was Christ’s crown on earth, and is the glorified saint’s robe in heaven, to wear on the weak Christian while militant on earth—not only with a devil without, but a body of sin within him. Wipe thine eyes again, poor soul, and then, if thou readest such places wherein the Spirit of God speaks so highly and hyperbolically of his saints’ grace, thou shalt find he doth not assert the per­fection of their grace as free from all mixture of sin; but rather, to comfort poor drooping souls and cross their misgiving hearts—which from the presence of hypocrisy are ready to overlook their sincerity as none at all—he expresseth his high esteem of their little grace by speaking of it as if it were perfect, and their hypocrisy as none at all. O Christian, thy God would have thee know that thou dost not more overlook thy little grace for fear of the hypocrisy thou findest mingled with it, than he doth thy great corruptions, for the dear love he bears to the little, yet true grace he sees amidst them. Abraham loved and owned his kinsman Lot when a prisoner carried away by those heathen kings. So does thy God [love and own] thy grace, [as] near in blood to him, when it is sadly yoked by the enemy in thy own bosom; and, for thy comfort know, when the book shall be opened, the word too, and also the judgment of thy own con­science in the great day of Christ. Christ will be the interpreter of both. Not the sense which thou hast in the distemper of thy troubled soul, when thou readest both with Satan’s gloss put upon them, shall stand; but what Christ shall say. And to be sure he hath al­ready declared himself so great a friend to weak grace, when on earth, by his loving converse with his dis­ciples, and [the] free testimony he gave to his grace in them—when God knows they were but raw and weak Chris­tians, both as to their knowledge and practice —that, poor soul, thou needst not fear he will then and there condemn, what here he commended and so dearly embraced. Yea, he that took most care for his little lambs how they might be used gently, when he was to go from them to heaven, will not be unkind himself to them, at his return, I warrant thee.