« EdellinenJatka »
as the churches in their days, he will seem unreverent, and slovenly, and sordid to these self-deceiving formalists. They are set upon excess of ceremonies, because they are defective in the vital parts, and should have no religion if they had not this. All sober Christians are friends to outward decency and order; but it is the empty self-deceiver that is most for the unwarrantable inventions of men, and sticketh in the bark of God's own ordinances, that taketh the garments for the man, and useth the worship of God, but as a masque or puppet-play, where there is great doings, with little life, and to little purpose. The chastest woman will wash her face; but it is the harlot, or wanton, or deformed, that will paint it. The soberest and the comeliest will avoid a nasty or ridiculous habit, which may make them seem uncomely, where they are not; but a curious dress, and excessive care, doth signify a crooked or deformed body, or a filthy skin, or, which is worst, an empty soul, that hath need of such a covering. Consciousness of such greater want, doth cause them to seek these poor supplies. The gaudiness of men's religion is not the best sign that it is sincere. Simplicity is the ordinary attendant of sincerity. It hath long been a proverb," the more ceremony, the less substance'; and the more compliment, the more craft.”
And yet if it were only for want of inward true religion that the hypocrite setteth up his shows, it were bad enough, but not so bad as with most of them, or all, it is. For it is an enmity to religion that accompanieth their religion. As in lapsed man, the body, that was before the soul's obedient attendant, is become its master, and the enemy of its perfection and felicity; so, in the carnal religion of the hypocrite, the outside, which should be the ornament and attendant of the inward spiritual part, hath got the mastery, and is used in an enmity against the more noble part which it should serve ; and much more are his humane inventions and mixtures thus, destructively employed. His bellows do but blow out the candle, under pretence of kindling the fire. He sets the body against the soul, and sometime the cloathing against both. He useth forms to the destruction of knowledge, and quenching of all seriousness and fervour of affection. By preaching, he destroyeth preaching, and prayeth till prayer is become no prayer, but the image or carcass of prayer at the best. And useth his words to the destruction of the due principle, sense, and ends. Having still his carnal self for his end, he preacheth, and
prayeth, and serveth God in a manner that seems most suitable to his end; so that it is not God's means that he useth, when he useth them, but his own; nor doth he indeed worship God, while he seems to worship; nor is indeed religious, but seems religious. It is-materially, perhaps, God's work that he doth, and his means he useth, but formally they are his own, and not God's at all ; when we meet with abundance of our people that are most nimble in their accustomed forms, that know not what religion or christianity is, nor who Christ is, nor almost
any of the substance of the gospel, it assures us that it is
easy to be infidels with christian expressions in their mouths, and that it is easier to teach a parrot to speak, than to be a man. As their bodies are but the prisons, or dungeons of their souls, so their formal words and ceremonies are used to be the prison and dungeon, or rather the grave, of true devotion, Their religion is excessively laced, but so scant of cloth, that it covereth not their nakedness, nor keeps them
It is always winter with the hypocrite in his formal lifeless services, and yet sometime his leaf doth never fall. He is like the box-tree that knows no fruit, and yet its leaves are always green.
Wherever his heart is, the formalist's prayers are always ready, for his prayer-book or memory is still the same; he can say them between sleeping and waking in his bed, and as he is dressing or washing him, and the interposition of a friend, or some intervenient word or business, is so small a rub; that it seldom puts him out of his way. Though he cannot make spiritual his common business, he can make his spiritual business common. Though he have not the art, the heart, to manage his trade or worldly business with a holy and heavenly mind, yet he can manage his holiest businesses with such a mind as he doth his trade. If you would know whether he be praying or playing, preaching or prating, serving God, or himself and the flesh, you must not search deep for an internal difference, but must discern it by the show and sound of words. He is not one of them that are above ordinances, as turning every day into a sabbath, and every thought into a prayer, and every morsel into a sacrament; but he cannot turn every sabbath into a common day, and every prayer into common thoughts, and every sacrament into common food; and therefore that which is holy to others, is to him unclean. Hypocrisy is a natural popery; it filleth the places of worship with images. Instead of prayer, there is
the image of prayer; and instead of preaching, hearing, praising God, and other parts of worship, there is the image of worship; and instead of Christians, believers, saints, (and I was going to say, of men,) there are so many images of these. Church images are usually handsomely adorned, and placed i a posture of reverence and devotion, and so are they. But life they have none, but merely natural. They are seeing, hearing, speaking images, but images they are. They have eyes, but sce not; ears, but hear not; hearts, but understand not.
And they are enemies to the life and power of religion, in others as well as in themselves. The publicans were not so bitter persecutors of Christ, as the Scribes and Pharisees were. He can hate and reproach the faithful by the Spirit, though he cannot, or will not, pray by the Spirit; for he hath the spirit of malignity, though not the spirit of supplication,
He can rail without book, though he cannot pray without book. Were it as natural and easy to be a saint, as to scorn a saint, and to worship God in spirit and in truth, as to hate such worship, the man might become a saint yet before he dies. But his vain religion changeth not his nature, and therefore destroyeth not his serpentine enmity against the holy nature and practice of believers, though perhaps the times may stop his hissing, or hinder him from putting forth his sting. These spiritual worshippers and heavenly, diligent sort of Christians, that make it the main business of their lives to honour God, and save their souls, are usually the greatest eyesore of the formalist. Many a disdainful thought he hath of them, and many a bitter gird he gives them : forgetting that their Redeemer heareth all, who is coming “ with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude, 14, 15.) The humble, spiritual, heavenly believers, are they that condemnn the hypocrite by their lives; were it not for them, he could easily believe that he is a saint himself, and should undoubtedly be saved. He looketh on the openly ungodly but as the beauty-spots of the assemblies that serve to set out the piety of such as he. If he saw no better than himself, he could easily take himself for one of the best. Every dotted post and glow-worm would be more resplendent and observable in the absence of all greater lights. They hate the sun for making their candle to be but a scarce-discerned flame. The life of a holy, heavenly person doth as much gall the conscience of the hypocrite, and proclaim his misery, and bear a terrible witness against him, as a searching, powerful sermon doth. And therefore, as it is a vexation to him to live under such a searching minister as is always rubbing on the galled place, and causing conscience to torment him before his time ; so is it a trouble to him to live among these heavenly believers, and to be daily condemned by their lives, and galled by their reproving practices.
By this time you may see the reason and use of the hypocrite's religion; the self-denying part of religion he cannot abide ; the life and power of it is above him, and seems against him; the fears of hell and gripes of conscience he cannot abide ; some hopes of heaven he must have awhile to keep him from despair, and therefore he must have some religion to deceive his heart, and maintain his hopes. And therefore he fitteth his religion to these uses, and takes up with so much as will not much trouble him, or undo him in the world, or absolutely forbid his sinful pleasures. And though sometime he be afraid lest the power and life of godliness will prove necessary to his salvation, yet he revives his fainting hopes by running for comfort to his lifeless form. The rest he hath no mind to, and therefore will hope to be saved without it, till his deceit have brought him to the place of desperation, where is no hope. As a merchant in a storm is loth to cast his goods into the sea, and therefore hopes he may save himself and them, till he and they are drowned together ; or as a patient that abhors his physic, or loves some forbidden thing too well, is hoping still that he may escape, though he use the thing he loves, and forbear the medicine which he loathes till he be past remedy, and he consents too late; so is it often with the self-deceiving hypocrite: he loves not this strict, and holy, and heavenly, and self-denying life, and therefore he will hope that God will save him without it, as long as he is religious in a way that he accounts more wise, and safe, and moderate, and comely, and suited to the nature and infirmity of man. These are his hopes, and to deceive his heart, by maintaining these, it is that he is religious, till either grace convert, or justice apprehend him, and his hopes and he are swallowed up by convincing fames and utter desperation.
IV. We are next to show you in what respect it is that this religion is called vain. And first, negatively, it is not vain to his own carnal ends, but to the true ends of religion.
1. He intendeth by it the quieting of his own accusing conscience, and the keeping up his hopes of salvation, and keeping off the terrors of the Lord, and so consequentially the deceiving of his own heart; and to these ends it is not in vain. Here he sitteth as quietly as if all were well between God and him, and heareth the threatenings as securely as if they concerned not him at all, and applieth the promises as boldly as if he were one of the heirs of promise ; you would little think that this man must shortly be cast into utter darkness, from the presence of the Lord, and have “his portion with the hypocrites.” (Matt. xxiv. 51.) His everlasting horrors appear not now to himself upon his heart, nor to others in his face ; what "sign can you see of the curse of the law, or the wrath of God in that man's countenance ? what sign of his spiritual captivity and slavery, and of the load of sin that lieth upon his soul, unless it be that he feels it not? what sign of a man in so great danger of eternal torment, unless it be that he little feareth'it ? Doth he sit there like a man that is within a step of hell, and shall shortly be there with the devil and his angels as sure as he is here, unless he be saved by that grace and holiness which he now resists? No; he is as confident to be saved as the precisest of you all; he is as little troubled with the fears of hell or the wrath of God as those that are dis. charged from it by justification, and perhaps much less. For all this he is beholden to his vain religion, that in the point of self-deceiving is not vain. As solid evidences promote the comforts of true believers, so this superficial kind of religion promoteth the present peace of the presumptuous.
2. This religion is not vain as to the frustration of all the means of grace, and hindering the conversion and salvation of the hypocrite. This is his armour of defence against the sword of the Spirit, that would pierce his heart, and let out his close corruption, and separate him from his beloved sin. What tell you him of repentance and conversion ? He thinks he needeth no conversion, or is converted long ago! What! is he not a Christian, a Protestant, a religious man? Tell swearers, and cursers, and drunkards, and extortioners, and cruel landlords, and fornicators, of conversion; tell these that they