Sibbes next considers the distinguishing marks of a true Christian and a hypocrite. He locates the fundamental difference as a difference in the heart – not a difference in the displayed behavior. He raises this issue here from the text. There is sleep – the displayed behavior; but the heart wakes.
Obs.3. A Christian is what his heart and inward man is.
It is a true speech of divines, God and nature begin there. Art begins with the face and outward lineaments, as hypocrisy, outward painting and expressions; but grace at the centre, and from thence goes to the circumference. And therefore the church values herself here by the disposition and temper of her heart. Thus I am for my outward carriage, &c. ‘I sleep, but my heart, that waketh.’
If this is true, then it is a ground for testing. So we should begin with testing our own conscience:
Therefore, let us enter into our consciences and souls, for the trial of our estates, how it is with our judgments. Do we allow of the ways of God and of the law of the inward man?
Notice the nature of the trial: do we submit to the law and ways of God in our heart, where no other can see the outcome?
He then gives some detail to the question of whether “we allow the ways of God”. How do our affections (desires, will, emotions) respond to this law:
How is it with our affections and bent to good things? how with our hatred, our zeal? Is it not more for outward things than for inward?
He then draws an illustration of one man speaking to another: are you with me in this warfare?
We know what Jehu said to Jonadab, when he would have him into his chariot, ‘Is thine heart as mine? Then come to me,’ 2 Kings 10:15.
It is the same question of Christ to us: he seeks our heart and then he seeks our conduct, our hand:
So saith Christ, Is thine heart as mine? then give me thy hand. But first God must have our hearts, and then our hands.
A man who acts in a certain way without the matching heart, is a man who is like a ghost: a show without substance:
A man otherwise is but a ghost in religion, which goes up and down, without a spirit of its own; but a picture that hath an outside, and is nothing within. Therefore, especially, let us look to our hearts. ‘Oh, that there were such an heart in this people,’ saith God to Moses, ‘to fear me always, for their good,’ Deut. 5:29. This is it that God’s children desire, that their hearts may be aright set. ‘Wash thy heart, O Jerusalem,’ saith the prophet, ‘from thy wickedness,’ &c., Jer. 4:14.
If Satan can get the heart (for from it flow the springs of life, Prov. 4:23, he has success):
Indeed, all the outward man depends upon this. Therefore, Satan, if he can get this fort, he is safe, and so Satan’s vicar, Prov. 4:23.
The Devil is content with a heart which does not honor God. The Devil has done his work when he has the heart; he will tolerate all sorts of good works as long as the heart does not go with the work (for even a seemingly good work cannot truly be good in giving glory to God, if the heart is not in it).
God seeks the heart, but does not rest with the heart:
God is not content with the heart alone. The devil knows if he have the heart he hath all; but God, as he made all, both soul and body, he will have all. But yet in times of temptation the chief trial is in the heart.
Here he comes to the distinguishing mark of a human being:
And from hence we may have a main difference between one Christian and another. A sound Christian doth what he doth from the heart; he begins the work there. What good he doth he loves in his heart first, judgeth it to be good, and then he doeth it.
He then applies the principle to the hypocrite:
An hypocrite doth what he doth outwardly, and allows not inwardly of that good he doth. He would do ill, and not good, if it were in his choice. The good that he doth is for by-ends, for correspondence, or dependence upon others, or conformity with the times, to cover his designs under formality of religion, that he may not be known outwardly, as he is inwardly, an atheist and an hypocrite. So he hath false aims; his heart is not directed to a right mark.
Mr. By-ends was a character in Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan draws out the picture of this man:
CHR. Pray, who are your kindred there, if a man may be so bold?
By-ends. Almost the whole town; and in particular my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech, from whose ancestors that town first took its name; also, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother, by father’s side; and, to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality; yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another, and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.
CHR. Are you a married man?
By-ends. Yes, and my wife is a very virtuous woman, the daughter of a virtuous woman; she was my Lady Feigning’s daughter; therefore she came of a very honorable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. ’Tis true, we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide. Secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud him.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).
Sibbes then draws the contrast with the believer:
But it is otherwise with God’s child. Whatsoever good he doth, it is in his heart first; whatsoever ill he abstains from, he doth it from his heart, judging it to be naught; therefore he hates it, and will not do it. Here is a main difference of the church from all others. It wakes in the heart, though the outward man sleeps.
The hypocrite may do any-thing, however good, but without the appropriate heart:
But other men’s hearts sleep when they wake, as you know some men will walk and do many things in their sleep. An hypocrite is such a kind of man. He walks and goes up and down, but his heart is asleep. He knows not what he doth, nor doth he the thing out of judgment or love, but as one asleep, as it were. He hath no inward affection unto the things he doth. A Christian is the contrary; his heart is awake when he is asleep.
Sibbes then draws out a second distinction between the hypocrite and the believer; the conflict in the heart. First, the Christian is aware of the conflict which runs in his heart:
Another difference from the words you may have thus. A Christian, by the power of God’s Spirit in him, is sensible of the contrarieties in him, complains, and is ashamed for the same.
The hypocrite has no appreciation for being waking or sleep, because he is asleep:
But an hypocrite is not so; he is not sensible of his sleepiness. ‘I sleep,’ saith the church. So much as the church saith she slept, so much she did not sleep; for a man that is asleep cannot say he is asleep, nor a dead man that he is dead. So far as he saith he is asleep, he is awake.
And so, the believer confesses that he is in a conflict of wake and sleep:
Now, the church confesseth that she was asleep by that part that was awake in her. Other men do not complain, are not sensible of their sleepiness and slumbering, but compose themselves to slumber, and seek darkness, which is a friend of sleep. They would willingly be ignorant, to keep their conscience dull and dumb as much as they can, that it may not upbraid them. This is the disposition of a carnal man; he is not sensible of his estate as here the church is.