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sinful man and the offended Majesty; and yet, what is there in all the world that is more abused to the deceiving of men's souls, than the name and grace of Jesus Christ? Men that may be saved by an effectual faith, are cheated and destroyed by false faith and presumption. The merciful nature of God is the ground-work of all the comforts of the godly, and yet there is nothing that is more abused to the deceiving of men's souls; that will profess that they trust in the mercies of God, while they are labouring to be miserable by the refusing and resisting the mercy that would save them. The free promises of the gospel do support true believers, but are abused to the deceiving of the presumptuous world. And so the Apostle telleth us that many do by their religion ; they will have a religion to deceive themselves, but not to save them.
It is the hypocrite that is the subject in my text, who is described by his double property. 1. That he seemeth to be religious. 2. That his obedience answereth not this seeming or profession; the instance is given in the bridling of his tongue, because that was the point that the Apostle had some special reason to insist on, with those to whom he immediately directed his epistle. Though it is plain, in verses 22, 23, &c., that it is the whole work of obedience that he implieth, where he instanceth in this particular. The sin of the tongue which he specially intendeth to reprove, was the bitter reproaching of their brethren, upon the account of their differences in matters of religion, and the vilifying of others, and uncharitable passionate contendings and censures, upon pretence of knowing more than others; as appeareth in the third chapter throughout.
The predicate is double; one by way of supposition, viz., that this hypocrite doth but deceive his own heart; the other by way of assertion, viz., that his religion is vain.
Whether. θρήρσκος and θρησκεία be fetched as far as from Orpheus, the Thracian, as Erasmus and many others imagine, is of no great moment to our understanding of the text, it being evident that it is the worshipping of God that is here meant by religion; and it is men addicted to his worship that are called religious. The seeming, here spoken of, refers both to himself and others; he that seemeth to himself to be religious, or is judged so by other men. By bridling the tongue, is meant, restraining it from evil speech. By deceiving himself, is meant the mistake of his judgment concerning the sincerity and acceptableness and reward of his religion, and the frustrating of his own expectations hereupon; his religion is said to be in vain, in that it shall not attain the ends of an unfeigned, true, religion, of which more anon. The sense of the text, then, is contained in these two propositions :
1. There is a seeming religiousness which is but self-deceiving, and will prove in vain.
2. Where sincere obedience doth not accompany the profession of religion, and, in particular, when such men bridle not their tongues, their religion is but vain, and self-deceiving.
These two being contained in the text, the former comprised in the latter, I shall handle them together, and show you, 1. What this seeming religion is, and how it differeth from true religion. II. Wherein this self-deceiving by a seeming religion doth consist. III. Whence it is that men are so prone to this self-deceit. IV. In what respects this religion is vain, and why. V. And then we shall consider how to improve these truths by a due application.
I. Concerning the first I must show youl, 1. What this seeming religion is made up of. 2. And what it wants, which maketh it delusory and vain.
In general, this vain religion is made up sometimes of all that, 1. A laudable nature or temperature of body; 2. And good education, and excellent means; 3. Assisted by the common workings of the spirit, can produce.
More particularly, 1. A vain religiousness may have a great deal of superficial opinionative knowledge, and so may have the truest religion for its object : the true doctrines of faith may be believed by a faith that is not true; the hypocrite, as to the materials of his creed, may be orthodox; when ignorance aboundeth, he may be a knowing man, and pity the ignorance of others; when errors abound, he may be of the right opinion in religion, and speak much against the errors of the times, as one that is wiser than the giddy, heretical, sort of people; he may “know the will of God, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law, and be confident that he himself is a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructer of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hath the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law. (Rom. ii. 18—20.) He may know as much materially as the upright may, and be able to convince gainsayers, and be a notable champion for the defending of the truth against the many adver
saries that oppose it; and so may be eminently useful in his generation.
2. He that is but religious in vain, may be frequent in the worshipping of God; and may“ seek him daily, and delight to know his ways, and to approach him, and ask of him the ordinances of justice," as if he were one of the people that “did righteousness,” and “forsook not the ordinances of their God.” (Isaiah lviii. 1, 2.) He may be oft in fasting, and punctual in keeping holy days and ceremonies, (as verse 3, Isaiah i. 12-15; Luke xviii. 11-13.) and exercise much severity on himself, “ after the commandments and doctrines of men, in things that have a show of wisdom, in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Col. ii. 20—22, 13.) Though he be slow-paced in the right way, he is swift in his mistaken paths. Though he liketh not preciseness, zeal, and forwardness, in the spiritual works that God prescribeth, yet, when it comes to his own, or other men's inventions, he will be religious and "righteous overmuch,” (Eccles. vii, 16.) and forward, to offer the sacrifice of a fool, that considereth not that he is but doing evil, while he thinks to please God with the sacrifice of his services, though he turn away his ear from an obedient hearing the word that should direct him. (Eccles. v. 1, 2; Prov. xxviii. 9.)
3. He that is but religious in vain, may see the evil of discord and divisions, and inveigh much against schismatics, and see the excellencies of unity and peace; and therefore may join himself with the visible catholic church, and with the christians and congregations that are most for unity. There have always been hypocrites in the most orderly peaceable societies of believers, and still will be.
4. The self-deceiving hypocrite is oft-times very sensible of the evil of vertiginous mutability in religion; and, therefore, he may be much resolved to continue what he is, and may cast many a jeer at the weather-cocks of the times, and the unconstancy and levity of ignorant or temporising men; and may stand to his party and profession, against much opposition, as glorying in his constancy, and being ashamed to be thought a changeling, or such a turn-coat as others whom he merrily derideth.
5. An hypocrite that hath no other religion but delusory and vain, may observe the weaknesses of persons that are of lower education and parts, and may loath their indiscretion in
conference and behaviour, and their unhandsome expressions in prayer and other duties, and shake the head at them, as silly, contemptible, self-conceited fellows; and his heart may rise against their disorder, tautologies, and affectations : and it is like enough that hereupon he will jest at conceived prayer, or extemporate (as they call it), and bless himself as safe in his parrot-like devotions, because the same Spirit teacheth not fine words' and rhetorical language to all that it teacheth to pray with unutterable sighs and groans, (Rom. viii. 26, 27 ;) though the Searcher of hearts (who is not delighted with compliments and set speeches) doth well understand the meaning of the Spirit.
5. The self-deceiving hypocrite doth frequently pretend to be a man of moderation in matters of religion, as distasting the hair-brained zealots, as he counteth them, that cannot be content to have their faith and religion to themselves before God, and to live and talk as others do, but must be singular, and make a stir with their religion, and turn the world upside down. The true zeal of the godly is usually distasteful to him, and the corrupt zeal of schismatical persons doth cause him to bless himself in his lukewarmness, and to take his most odious indifferency, and want of fervent love to God and his holy ways, to be his virtue.
6. This self-deceiving hypocrite doth frequently pretend to an exceeding great reverence in the managing of the out. ward part of worship; and to an extraordinary zeal about the circumstantials of religion. He accounts them all schismatical and profane that place not as much of their religion as he doth in gestures and forms and other accidents of worship, acquainting us that the pharisaical temper in religion is natural, and will continue in the world.
7. If the temptation of the hypocrite lie on the other side, he can withdraw himself into some small or separating society, and place his religion in the singularity of his opinions, or in the strictness of the way and party that he owneth, and in his conceited ability in his conceived or ready expressions in prayer; and can cry out as much upon the formalist, as the formal hypocrite upon him, and glory in his zeal, as the other in his moderation. It is in the heart that hypocrisy hath its throne, from whence it can command the outward acts into any shapes that are agreeable to its ends;
use materials of divers natures, as the fuel and nutriment of its malignity. And whatever party such are joined to, and whatever way they have been trained up to, whether formality, or schism, or more regular, sober, equal, ways, in all of them their religion is but vain, and they do but deceive themselves by all.
8. The religion that is but delusory and vain, may be accompanied with much alms, and works of seeming justice, and charity. (Matt. vi. 1, 2; Luke xviii. 11, 12.) He may have many virtues called moral; and be a man of much esteem with others, even with the best and wisest, for his seeming wisdom, and piety, and justice. He may be no extortioner, unjust, adulterer, but as to gross sins seem blameless, (Luke xviii. 11, 12; Phil. iii. 6,) and be much in reproaching the scandalous lives of others, and thank God that he is none such. (Luke xviii. 11.)
.9. He that hath but a vain teligion, may, in his judgment, approve of saving grace, and like the more zealous, upright, self-denying, heavenly lives of others; and wish that he might die their death, and wish himself as happy as they, so it might be had on his own terms, and he may have some counterfeit of every grace, and think that it is true. (Numb. xxiii. 10; Jam. ii. 14, &c; 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3; Mark v. 20.)
10. None will be more forward to call another hypocrite, than the hypocrite ; nor to extol sincerity and uprightness of heart and life. And thus you see what this vain religion is made up with,
2. If you marvel what the hypocrite yet wants, that makes his religion delusory and vain, I shall now tell you, I hope, to your conviction and satisfaction.
1. For all his fore-mentioned religion, he wants the Spirit of Christ, to dwell as his sanctifier within him; and “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his.” (Rom. viii. 9.) But because this is known by the effects, I add,
2. He wants that spiritual new birth, by which he should be made spiritual, as his first birth made him carnal. (John iii. 5, 6; Rom. viii. 6-8.) He is born of the will of the flesh, and of man, but not of God. (John í. 13.) From the first man Adam he is become a living soul, but by the second man Christ, the Lord from heaven, he is not yet quickened in the spirit. (1 Cor. xv. 45, 46.) He is not born again of the incorruptible seed, the word of God, that liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Pet. i. 23.) He is not yet saved by the washing of regeneration (save only as to the outward baptism) and by renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is shed by Christ