The Hope of the Hypocrite
by James Smith, 1860
A person may be deceived by Satan, or may deceive himself, and for lack of impartial self-examination, may not be aware of it. But no person can be an hypocrite without knowing it! A hypocrite is a man with a mask. A person wearing a name that does not belong to him, or making a profession which he knows to be false. Hypocrites are often introduced to our notice in God's word — but they are always branded. Whatever they may think of themselves — God loathes them, and every sincere soul must despise them.
Job introduces the hypocrite in his reply to Bildad, and asks, "For what hope has the hypocrite when he is cut off, when God takes away his life? Does God listen to his cry when trouble comes upon him?" Job 27:8, 9. Men may gain by their hypocrisy — but their hope of heaven is fallacious. The hypocrite may cry unto God in his trouble — but God will not hear him. This latter idea, may perhaps be extended a little farther than Job has done. Let us briefly consider it, and notice,
The CAUSE of this prayer. Trouble. "Lord in trouble have they visited you," said the prophet, "they poured out a prayer when your chastening was upon them." Trouble is either for sin — or from sin. Some are troubled on account of sin — they will cry to God and shall be heard. Others may be troubled as the effect of sin — if such pray, we cannot speak of their success with such certainty. Trouble both tries and drives. It tries our principles, and at times drives to prayer. Troubles come alike to saints and sinners. Trouble, if sanctified — softens, humbles, and purifies us; but if unsanctified — it hardens, stirs up our corruptions, or leads us to the forms of religion. In trouble, many read the Bible, attend the preaching of the word, and bend the knee before God — but only while the trouble lasts; when the trouble ceases — their devotion dies.
The NATURE of the prayer. It is a CRY. It is forced, not natural, arising from a pressure upon us — and not from the Spirit of grace and supplication within us. It is selfish, not inspired, arising from nature in pain, and not from the breathing of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is occasional, not habitual, produced by external agents, not flowing from an hidden inward life. It is carnal, not spiritual, and is therefore only a cry for help, not a petition for sanctification. It is faithless, not believing, for there is no confidence in God's word, or faith in God's love. In a word, it is not produced by the Holy Spirit, it is not presented through Christ, it does not rise up from the depths of the heart, and therefore does not reach to, or affect a prayer-hearing God.
The UNPROFITABLENESS of this prayer. God will not hear it. Why? The person presenting it had refused to hear God, who says, "I spoke unto you in your prosperity — and you would not hear." "But since you rejected me when I called, and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke — I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes!" Proverbs 1:24-31
If we will not hear the Lord in prosperity — we must not be surprised if he will not hear us in adversity. If we will not pray in health — is it any wonder if God turns a deaf ear to us in sickness? If when all appears to go well with us, we mock and insult him — can we expect him to hear us, when trouble comes upon us? He may — but can we justly expect it?
Why will God not hear? Because he comes not in God's way, nor in God's time. Nor would he come now — if he could obtain relief elsewhere. Besides which, God knows that he will return to his old course, as soon as his trouble is removed. He only cries from pain, disappointment, or fear.
Let us then seek the Lord before trouble comes. Let us pray in fine weather, before the storm comes upon us. Now, while we are in health — now, while we are in comfortable circumstances — now is the accepted time; and now is the day of salvation. Let us therefore seek the Lord, while we are sure he may be found, and let us call upon him while he is near. We should seek reconciliation to God at once, and become familiar with God, before trouble comes. Now is the time to seek and cultivate friendship with God, and then in adversity we shall reap the fruits of it. How different is the state of the saint and the sinner — the believer and the unbeliever — God will hear the softest whisper of the one — but he will not hear the cry of the other.
Reader, do you pray? Is it natural for you to pray? Do you feel pleasure in prayer? Or, do you only pray in trouble, and then from fear? Do you pray daily, and is your prayer a conversing with a present God? Or, do you put off prayer, and think it will be time enough to pray in sickness, in trouble, or when death approaches? If the latter is your case — you must not be surprised if God should refuse to hear you. He is speaking to you now, and speaking to you daily; and calls you to come and speak with him; but if you refuse to speak with him until you can speak to no one else, or are persuaded that it is useless to speak to anyone else — can you expect that he will listen to you then?
Trouble is before you. The day of trouble will come upon you. To whom will you then flee for help, or to whom will you look for support? The only way to be safe — the only way to be sure that God will hear your prayer when trouble comes upon you — is to seek the Lord now, to come to him through Jesus, and to come at once. He will not refuse you now. And even if trouble has come upon you, pray — God will hear you, if you ask for spiritual blessings, even if he should refuse to give you temporal. Pray, and pray as for your life — pray, and cry as if your everlasting all depended on the answer — plead, and plead the name of Jesus, as if you must succeed or perish — and you will not plead in vain!