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upon their credulity, whereby they are injured, and truth is insulted.
But how increasingly hateful do men appear, when they put on the outward garb of piety to cover the hypocrisy of their souls! In what light they are viewed by the Searcher of all hearts, may be known from consulting his word. “ The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment.” “ What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?”
3. The Scribes and Pharisees, in the time of our Lord, were chargeable with this grievous sin. They pretended to be what they really were not. Christ reproved their hypocrisy, and described their character with great exactness. Thus he speaks concerning them: “Do not ye after their works; for they say and do noto.” Their practice did not accord with their profession. What good they did at any time, was, only “to be seen of men',” and to make an ostentatious shew of counterfeit virtue ; for under the cover of pious' appearances they concealed the most crying sins. Therefore they were compared to " whited sepulchres; beautiful without, but full of rottenness and defilement within."
In their religious duties, the same hypocritical spirit was discoverable. In the solemn act of prayer, when sincerity should mark our thoughts and expressions, the Pharisees made pompous professions of love to God. But He who could penetrate the recesses of their minds, saw the insincerity of their pretensions, and addressed them thus: “Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you, hypocrites! as it is
« Job xx. 5.
d ib. xxvii, 8.
• Mat. xxiii. 3.
written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me".
They were scrupulous enough in lesser matters, but neglected the more positive duties prescribed by the Law and the Gospel.
They paid tithe of mint and anise and cumin, but onnitted the weightier matters of the Law-righteousness, judgment, mercy, faith, and the love of God'.” They judged others severely for small faults, but spared and vindicated their own more heinous offences.
It was not surprising, therefore, that our Lord should have said unto them, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts ; for that which is highly esteemed among mien is abomination in the sight of Godk.”
4. Such hypocrites are still to be found in the bosom of the professing Church of Christ; and probably some such will remain in it to the end of the Gospel dispensation. Many will, in every age, appear “ in sheep's clothing, who are inwardly as ravening wolves!” Tares will be mingled with the wheat; and both must grow together until the time of harvest, when an eternal separation is to be made
Let us search our own hearts most diligently, that we may see if we can trace any symptoms of this accursed leaven in ourselves. Are we then sincere in our profession of religion? or do we make it from worldly motives, and with a prospect of gain or advantage ?
Do we join in the public worship of the sanctuary to glorify the Lord, and, as needy sinners, to obtain his blessing? Do we offer up our petitions for grace 1. Mark vii. 6. · Mat. xxiii. 23.
1ib. 24. Luke xvi. 15. "Mat. vii. 15.
m ib. xiii. 30.
and salvation with a penitent and believing heart; conscious, that without an interest in the redemption of Christ we must endure for ever the merited indignation of the Lord ?
When employed in your secret devotions in the closet, and when you assemble your family for prayer every morning and evening, do you engage in this sacred act to please God, and “ worship him in spirit and in truth" }” or, like hypocrites, do you think it expedient to make this outward shew of sanctity before the world, to varnish over the insincerity and deceit of your hearts? * When you perform an act of charity, is it done from Pharisaic pride, “ to be seen of men,” and to compound for your sins; or purely from a principl of gratitude to God, and compassion for the indigent?
Whilst you profess the faith which the Gospel enjoins, are you careful to maintain good works
, and walk holily before the Lord ; hating all unrighteousness, and shunning every wicked practice, even though it may cost you a little self-denial, and be attended with reproach for Christ's sake? If these are the principles and motives which induce you to assume the Christian name, and if scientiously honour God by an upright life, then you are not hypocrites, but true followers of Jesus ; and, though your best services may be marked by defects, yet God will accept of your attempts to serve him; and, if you remain stedfast in your obedience to Him, the merciful Lord of heaven and earth will, for the sake of Christ's righteousness and atonement, admit you into the realms of everlasting bliss. * John iv. 24.
I Cor. xii. 3.
But if, on examination, you find that you have been " dissemblers with God, and that your hearts have not been stedfast in his covenant'," be ashamed before him for your iniquity. Bear in mind, that he has seen all your specious acts of hypocrisy, with whatever industry you may have attempted to conceal them from the observation of your fellowcreatures.
What guilt, then, have you incurred before the Majesty of Heaven? How greatly have you dishonoured him, by the mock homage of your lips, and the feigned affection of your souls, whilst your lives have been distinguished only for transgression and deceit and falsehood.
5. Yet there is forgiveness for you, on your repentance and amendment. “Repent, therefore, of this your wickedness; and pray God, if, perhaps, the thoughts of your hearts may be forgiven youP:" and, in future, hate the least approach to dissimulation. Pray that your “heart may be sound in God's statutes;" “ that you may not be ashamed before Christ, at his coming, but rejoice with exceeding great joy."
And, as ever you wish to please the Lord, and to advance in the knowledge of the truth, not only abandon every mean and deceitful artifice, but cherish sincerity of heart as an inestimable jewel.
You should be prompted to this line of conduct, because the Spirit of God will not instruct or comfort those“ who hold fast deceit, and refuse to let it go9." The heart which covertly practises iniquity under the mask of godliness, is an abomination to the Lord. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant"." • Psalm lxxviii. 36, 37.
P Acts viii. 22. 9 Jer. viii. 5.
r Psalm xxv. 14.
“ But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."
6. And let no man avail himself of the hypocrisy of a few professors, as an argument for suspecting the sincerity of all the rest. Blessed be God! there are many who adorn their sacred profession by a righteous life. Their `conduct proves that there is a reality in religion, wherever it is savingly embraced.
Let no man, then, think himself at liberty to treat the Gospel as a cunningly-devised fable, because some "hold the truth in unrighteousness, and dishonour the Christian name. Men of reprobate minds will always convert truth into error, food into poison; and refuse to obey the Gospel, because it demands the utmost integrity of heart and life.
And if hypocrites can discern such excellence in religion, as to deem it worth their while to counterfeit it, this is no mean argument in its defence; since the circulation of base money proves the existence of good, of which it is an imitation. And you should no more despise true religion, nor depreciate its value, because hypocrites abuse it, than you should reject the current coin of the realm, because it is artfully imitated by that which is greatly inferior to it.
• Psalm xxxiv. 16. + 2 Tim. iv. 10. 1 John ii. 18,19,