PROFESSION and HYPOCRISY
"The hypocrite's hope shall perish!" Job 8:13
Such a generation there ever shall be, that mingle themselves with the saints of God; who pretend Heaven, with heavenly speeches — while their hearts are lined with hypocrisy, whereby they deceive others, and most of all themselves. Such may be the world's saints — but are devil's in Christ's account. "Have not I chosen you twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" And truly, of all devils, none so bad as the professing devil, the preaching, praying devil.
Satan can live very peaceably, as a quiet neighbor, by the door of such as will content themselves with an empty name of profession; this alters not his property. Judas' profession did not put him a step out of his way to Hell. Just so, the devil can show a man a way to damnation through duties and ordinances of God's worship. That covetous, traitorous heart which Judas carried with him to hear Christ's sermon, and preach his own, held him fast enough to the devil; and therefore he gives him line enough, liberty enough to keep his credit a while with his fellow apostles. The devil cares not though others think him a disciple of Christ, so he knows him to be his own slave.
The hypocrite at first blush may be taken for a saint, by such as see only his outside, as he passes by in his holiday dress, and therefore is fitly by one called the stranger's saint — but a devil to those who know him better.
The hypocrite can show a pious tongue — and yet have a foul heart.
He who has a false end in his profession, will soon come to the end of his profession, when he is pinched on that toe where his corn is; I mean, called to deny that which his naughty heart aimed at.
Many there are that have nothing to prove themselves Christians but a naked profession, of whom we may say as they do of the cinnamon tree, that the bark is more worth than all they have besides.
Many take up their saintship upon trust, and trade in religion with the credit they have gained from others' opinion of them. They believe themselves to be Christians, because others hope them to be such; and so their great business is, by a zeal in those exercises of religion that lie outermost, to keep up the credit they have abroad — but do not look to get a stock of solid grace within; and this proves their undoing at last.
They say trees grow as much in the root underground as in the branches above, and so does true grace. Remember what was the perishing of the seed in stony ground — it lacked root; and why so, but because it was stony? Be willing the plough should go deep enough to humble you for sin, and rend your heart from sin.
A hypocrite never got pardon in the disguise of a saint. He will call you by your own name, though you come to Him in the semblance of a penitent: "Come in, O wife of Jeroboam," said the prophet. Hypocrisy is too thin a veil, to blind the eyes of the Almighty. You may put your own eyes out, so as not to see Him — but you can never blind His eyes so that He should not see you.
Speak, O you hypocrites! can you show one tear that ever you shed in earnest for a wrong done to God? It is a good gloss Augustine has upon Esau's tears (Hebrews 12): "He wept that he lost the blessing, not that he sold it."
Time-serving. The hypocrite sets his watch, not by the sun, the Word I mean — but by the town clock; what most do, that he will do.
Self-righteousness. Take heed uprightness proves not a snare to you. The young man in the gospel might have been better, had he not been so good. His honesty and moral uprightness was his undoing, or rather his conceit of them. Better he had been a publican, driven to Christ in the sense of his sin — than a Pharisee, kept from Him with an opinion of his integrity. Maybe you are honest and upright in your course. Bless God for it — but take heed of blessing yourself in it: there is the danger; this is one way of being "righteous over much." There is undoing in this over-doing, as well as in any under-doing.
What men do by themselves, they do for themselves; they devour the praise of what they do. The Christian only that does all by Christ, does all for Christ. Many souls do not only perish, praying, repenting, and believing after a sort — but they perish by their praying and repenting, while they carnally trust in these.
Few are so bad indeed, but seem to like religion in the notion; but living and walking holiness bites; the pharisees can lavish out their money on the prophets' tombs — but Christ is scorned and hated. What is the mystery of this? The reason was, these prophets are off the stage — and Christ is on.
False zeal. Zeal without uprightness is of no service, nay, no one will go to Hell with more shame than the false-hearted zealot, who mounts up towards Heaven in his fiery chariot. Be not reluctant to be searched; there will need then no further search to prove you unsound; if God's officers are denied entrance, all is not right within. If your heart is sincere, it will delight in privacy. A false heart calls others to witness his zeal for God. It is the trick of the hypocrite, to strain himself to the utmost in duty, when he has spectators — and to be careless alone.
A false heart may seem very hot in praying against one sin — but can skip over another. A hypocrite will be favorable to one lust, and violent against another; whereas a sincere Christian abhors all sin: "Order my steps in your word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (Psalm 119:133).
The hypocrite seems hot in prayer — but you will find him cold enough at work; he prays very fiercely against his sins, as if he desired them to be all slain upon the place; but does he set himself upon the work of mortification? Does he withdraw the fuel that feeds them?
Hypocrisy in religion springs from the bitter fruit of some carnal affection unmortified. So long as your prey lies below, your eye will be on the earth — when you seem, like an eagle, to mount in your prayers to Heaven. God is in the hypocrite's mouth — but the world is in his heart, which he expects to gain through his good reputation.
No man can say that Jesus is the Lord — but by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). A man may say the words, without any special work of the Spirit — and so may a parrot. But to say Christ is Lord believingly, with thoughts and affections comporting with the greatness and sweetness thereof, requires the Spirit of God to be in his heart.
Knowledge without grace. An orthodox creed with an unholy heart and ungodly life — is like a man's head on a beast's shoulders! That man has little cause to boast that what he holds is truth, if what he does be wicked.
Knowledge may make you a scholar — but not a saint; orthodox — but not gracious. He who increases in knowledge, and does not get grace with his knowledge, increases sorrow to himself, yes, eternal sorrow! It would be an ease to gospel sinners in Hell, if they could erase the remembrance of the gospel out of their memories.
He who can venture on the appearance of evil under pretense of liberty, may, for anything I know, commit that which is more grossly evil, under some appearance of good. It is not hard, if a man will be at the cost, to put a good paint on rotten stuff and practice also.
It is possible that a man may have a rotten body under a gaudy suit! And also possible under fine language, to have a poor ragged conscience. Who had not rather be sincere with small abilities, than rotten-hearted with great abilities?
Hypocrisy exposed. The Christian, like a star in the heavens, wades through the cloud, that for a time hides his comfort; but the hypocrite, like a meteor in the air, blazes a little, and then drops into some ditch or other, where it is quenched. "The light of the righteous rejoices: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out" (Proverbs 13:9).
Sincerity enables the Christian to do two things in affliction which the hypocrite cannot — to speak good of God, and to expect good from God.
"Will he always call upon God?" (Job 27:10). The hypocrite is often exposed here. An unsound heart will be meddling with prayer now and then — but grows weary of the work at last, especially if he is made to wait long for an answer. Saul prays to God, and because he hears not from Him — goes at last to seek the devil in a medium.
One spot occasions, the whole garment to be washed. David overcome with one sin — renews his repentance for all (Psalm 51). A good husband, when he sees it raining at one place, sends for the workmen to look over all the roof. This indeed, differences a sincere heart from an hypocrite — whose repentance is partial, soft in one place and hard in another. Judas cries out of his treason — but not a word of his thievery and hypocrisy. The hole was no wider in his conscience, than where the bullet went in; whereas true sorrow for one, breaks the heart into shivers for others also.
If profession would serve the turn, and flocking after sermons with some seeming joy at the word, were enough to save — then Heaven would soon be full. But as you love your souls, do not try yourselves by this coarse sieve; that is, seek by an easy profession, and cheap religion, such as is hearing the word, performance of duties and the like. Of this kind there are many who will come and walk about Heaven's door, willing enough to enter, if they may do it without ruffling their pride in a crowd, or hazarding their present carnal interest by any contest and scuffle.
Take Christians under the notion of "seekers," and, by Christ's own words, there are many; but consider them under the notion of "strivers," such as stand ready shod with a holy resolution, to strive even to blood, if such trials meet them in the way to Heaven, rather than not enter, and then the number of Christian soldiers will shrink, like Gideon's goodly host, to a little troop.
In this old age of England's withered profession, how great a rarity is a sincere convert! When we see a tree that used to stand thick with fruit, now bring forth but little, maybe an apple on this bough, and another on that, we look upon it as a dying tree. Those golden days of the gospel are over, when converts came flying as a cloud, as the doves to the window in flocks. Now gospel news grows stale, few are taken with it. Our old store of saints, the treasure of their times, wears away apace; what will become of us, if no new ones come in their room? Alas! when our burials are more than our births — we must needs be on the losing hand. There is a sad list of holy names taken away from us; but where are those who are born to God? If the good go, and those which are left continue bad, yes, become worse and worse — we have reason to fear that God is clearing the ground, and making way for a judgment.
None sink so far into Hell as those that come nearest Heaven, because they fall from the greatest height. None will have such a sad parting from Christ as those who went half way with Him, and then left Him.