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firmation of their self-deceit : when they hear them swear and curse, and rant, and see them drunk, they secretly with the Pharisee rejoice and say, "I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as this publican.” And this is one reason why such hypocrites are well content to have some servants in their families, or some neighbours or company about them that are notoriously profane, that their deluded consciences, considering that they are more civil and religious themselves, may hence gather comfort, that they are the servants of God, and in a state of grace.
Hence also it is, that those of them that go on the schismatical side, do purposely go into separated societies, that, by withdrawing from so many, and (as they speak) coming out from among them, they may seem to themselves to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and to be of the little flock that shall have the kingdom. This is the use that self-deceivers make of their companions.
8. Moreover, the hypocrite confirmeth his self-deceit, by observing the great numbers of ungodly persons, worse than he, that are in the world : this makes him think that God should be unmerciful, and heaven be empty, if all such as he should be shut out : the damnation of so many seemeth so incredible to him, that it much increaseth his confidence and self-deceit.
9. And he deceiveth himself also by a mis-observing and mis-applying the faults and infirmities of the servants of the Lord, and the scandalous lives of many hypocrites like himself. When he readeth of Noah's drunkenness and incest, and David's adultery and murder, and Peter's denial of his Master, with cursing and swearing, he considereth not how much these singular actions were contrary to the scope of their lives, nor by what serious repentance they did rise, and do so no more ; but he hence coneludeth that sure he is in a state of grace, that hath no such heinous sins as these : though indeed he hath more heinous continually within him, (even a love of the world and pleasure above God, a secret root of unbelief, a servitude to the flesh, &c.) when he seeth any about him that profess the fear of God, prove hypocrites, or apostates, or fall into any scandalous sin, he strengtheneth his presumption by it, and concludeth that this profession of greater holiness than he himself hath, is but hypocrisy; and that he is as good as those that seem more devout, though he make not so much ado with his religion : or at least that he shall be saved, when those are so bad that are accounted better: if there be but a Ham in the
Ark and family of Noah, an Ishmael in Abraham's house, an Esau in Jacob's, an Absalom in David's, a Judas among the disciples of Christ, these self-deceivers will thence fetch matter for their own delusion and perdition, as if the rest were all as bad, or sanctification were not necessary to salvation.
10. The self-deceiver also is confirmed in his presumption, by taking to himself the comforts that ministers hold forth, for truly humbled, upright souls, that are apt to be too much disquieted and cast down. Our congregations are mixed of godly and ungodly, and broken-hearted and hard-hearted, dejected and self-confident sinners (besides all those that are well settled in their spiritual peace). And as we cannot tell how to tell the wicked of their misery, nor open the hypocrite's selfdeceit, but the self-suspecting humbled soul, will mis-apply it to themselves, and be more dejected by it, and say, it is thus with me; so we cannot tell how to comfort the distressed, and clear up the evidences of a drooping soul, but the presumptuous hypocrite will lay hold upon it, and think that it belongs to him. Every comfortable book or scripture that he readeth, and every comfortable sermon or discourse which he heareth, is abused to increase his self-deceit.
11. It increaseth the hypocrite's self-deceit, when he findeth some partial reformation in himself, and that he hath mended many things that were amiss ; this he takes for a true conversion, and thinks that the civilizing and smoothing of his life, the change of his opinion, and the taking up a form of godliness, are true sanctification ; and that he is not the man that once he was, and therefore is in a safe condition. Though, alas! he hath never yet known by experience the new heart, the new ends, the new resolutions, affections, and conversation of a saint.
12. Lastly, he deceiveth himself by misunderstanding the nature of hypocrisy. Because he perceiveth not that he is a gross dissembler, but meaneth as he speaks, so far as he goes, therefore, he thinks that he is no hypocrite; whereas, besides the gross hypocrite that knoweth that lie doth dissemble, and only deceiveth others, there are also close hypocrites, that know not they are hypocrites, but deceive themselves. And these are they that my text here speaks of, when it saith, “ He deceiveth his own heart.” It is hypocrisy (to seem better than one is, and to profess to be a sincere Christian when he is none,) though he confidently think that he is what he professeth himself to be.
III. But what is it that can move a reasonable creature to be wilfully guilty of such self-deceit in the day-light of the
gospel, when he hath so much help to see his way?
Answer. 1. They are first deceived by the vanities of the world, and the pleasures of sin, before they deceive themselves by their religion. Their religious self-deceiving is but subservient to their fleshly servitude, and the world's deceit. They are carnal from the birth, (for that which is born of the flesh only, is but flesh, John iii. 6,) and custom in sinning fixeth and increaseth their sinful disposition. Their hearts are éngaged to their worldly accommodations, and to their vain glory, and the things that please the flesh; they are willing slaves to their concupiscence. And therefore they cannot admit of that religion which would deprive them of that which they most dearly love. Christ speaks too late to them. They tell him they are promised already. Their affections are preengaged : sin hath taken up the chiefest rooms : and the heart that loveth sensuality and prosperity best, cannot love God best too: for it can have but one best. The nature of true sanctification is to take down the darling of a carnal heart, and to cross it in its dearest loves, and to lay that at our feet that before was our treasure, and to tame the body, and to bring it into subjection, which before was in the throne. The motions of such a change will not be acceptable, till they are made so effectual as to cause that change: the command will be unpleasant, till the heart be suited to the nature of the command. He that seeth what care and labour there is to gather a worldly treasure, and what a stir is made in the world about it, can never expect that all this should be vilified and despised at a word, and that any doctrine (how true and heavenly soever) can be welcome to these worldly men, that would debase their glory, and imbitter their delights, and make their idol seem but dung. The doctrine of Christ would take the old heart out of their bodies : and they will not easily leave their hearts. It doth not only command the drunkard to live soberly, and the glutton temperately, and the lascivious filthy sinner chastely, and the proud person humbly, and the covetous to live contentedly and liberally; but it commandeth the hearty. forsaking of all for the sake of Christ, (Luke xiv. 33,) and the accounting them but as loss and dung that we may win him, (Phil. iii. 7-9.) and mortifying of that flesh which before we daily studied to please, (Col. iii, 4-5,) and the crucifying of its affections and lusts, (Gal. v. 24,) and the denial even of ourselves. (Luke ix. 23; 24.) And for a carnal mind to love and yield to such commands, were no other than to cease to be a carnal mind. All this is largely expressed by the Apostle, (Rom. viii. I, &c,) They that are in Christ Jesus, " walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit-For they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God-For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die : but if ye then through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
You see here why it is that the self-deceiver will not entertain the power of godliness, nor be religious seriously according to the true intent of the gospel, and the nature of Christianity, even because he is engaged to a contrary object, and hath añother game in chase, which he will not leave, and which true religion requireth him to leave, and will not give him leave to follow. And therefore he parteth with the religion which would have parted him from that which he will not part with.
2. But withal, he is all this while under the threatenings of the law of God, and conscience is ready to bear witness against him; and betwixt law and conscience, the poor wretch is as the corn between two mill-stones; he would be ground to powder, and tortured with terrors before his time, if he had not some opiate, or intoxicating medicine, to ease him by deceiving him, and to abate his fears, and to quiet his conscience as long as a palliate cure will serve turn. So that here are two things for which the self-deceiving hypocrite is fain to fall into his vain religion: the one is, that it may be a cloak to the sin which he will needs keep: the other is, that it may save him from the terrors and disquietments that for this sin his conscience would else afflict him with. A belief that he may be saved, for all his sin, is the relief that he hath against the terrors of the law of God. He therefore chooseth out such parcels of religion as may serve him for this use, and yet will not separate him from the sin that he delighteth in. The power of godliness will not consist with his covetous, proud, or fleshly life; but the form and outside will. And therefore this regeneration, and mortification, and self-denial, and subjection to the whole will of God, and this heavenly-mindedness and watching the heart, and walking with God, and living above the trifles of this world, and making it the chief business to prepare for another; this kind of religion, which is religion indeed, he cannot because he will not) entertain. This is the strait gate and narrow way, that few men find. Here he must be excused. God is no God for him upon these terms; (and he can not and will not be his God upon any other terms;) Christ is no Christ for him unless he will excuse him from this trou. ble, and bear with him in his carnal course; that is, unless he will be indeed no Christ to him. Heaven is no heaven for him, unless he may pass to it through prosperity and sin; and unless he may have it without the trouble of a holy life; that is, unless God will be unjust or false, and heaven cease to be heaven, and God cease to be God.
But yet these men are convinced that God is their rightful governor, and that, indeed, they should love him, and serve him with all their heart and might, and that without true religion and godliness there is no salvation. To be irreligious and profane, they know is a state that can afford no comfort, or shelter from the wrath of God; and therefore some religion they must have: they are not able to endure the thoughts of lying under the curse of God. To conclude themselves to be utterly graceless, and the children of the devil, and in a state of condemnation, is so terrible, that they are not able to endure it: then every sermon they hear would torment them, and every chapter they read would torment them; and their pleasures would all be imbittered to them, and nothing that they enjoy in all the world would quiet and content them. (No, nor shall do long.) And therefore they must needs take up some religion, to quiet them for a little while, and to make them hope, that for all their sins, they are not so bad, nor in so dangerous a case as preachers tell them; some religion they must needs have for fear of being damned: a sound and serious religion they will not have, because they love the world and sin, which it would deprive them of; and therefore they patch up a vain religion, composed of so much truth and duty as will stand with their prosperity and pleasures : which will not save them, but sufficeth to deceive them.
Two parts make up this self-deceiving frame, as consistent with their sins: the one is the formal, outward, easy, cheap