« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
part of duty to God and man in their practice; leaving out the spiritual, inward, difficult, dear, self-denying part. The other is, the strictest parts of religion in bare opinion and notion, while they shut it out of their hearts and lives. For both these may stand with a sensual, worldly, selfish life. He may read or say his prayers, and be a worldling still : he may come to church, and, with the greatest ceremony and seeming reverence, receive the sacrament, and bow before the Lord his Maker, and yet be sensual or a worldling still. And he may be of the strictest party or opinion, and notionally condemn all sin, and justify the most holy life, and yet be sensual and worldly still. And therefore this much he may be persuaded to take up, to save himself from the lashes of his conscience. And so the use of the hypocrite's religion is to be a screen betwixt him and the flames of wrath, that would scorch him too soon, if he were of no religion: and to be to him as a tent or penthouse to keep off the storms that would fall upon him, while he is trading for the world, and working for the flesh. His religion is but the sheath of his guilty conscience, to keep it from wounding him, and cutting his fingers, while they are busy in the brutish service of his lusts. It is but a glove to save his skin, , when he hath to do with the nettles and thorns of the threatenings of God, and the thoughts of vengeance, that else would rack his guilty soul. It is but as his upper garment, to save him from a storm, and then to be laid by as an unnecessary burden, when he is at home. The hypocrite's religion is but as his shoe: he can tread it in the dirt, so it will but save his foot from galling. As a man that hath an unquiet scolding wife, is fain to speak her fair by flatteries, lest he should have no rest at home; or as a thief is fain to cast a crust to the dog that barketh at him, to stop his mouth; so is an ungodly, sensual person
fain to flatter his conscience with some kind of religiousness, and to stop his mouth with some kind of devotion and seeming righteousness, that may deceive him into a belief that he is a child of God. Religion is the sovereign in a gracious soul, and the master in an upright conscience, and ruleth above all worldly interests. But with the unregenerate, it is but an underling and servant, that must do no more than the flesh and the world will give consent to; and is regarded no further than for mere necessity; and when it hath done the work which the hypocrite appointed it, it is dismissed and turned out of doors. God is acknowledged and confessed by the hypocrite, but not as God. Christ is believed in and accepted, but not as Christ, but as an underling to the world, and a journeyman to do some job of work for a distressed, wrangling, conscience; or as an unwelcome physician to give them a vomit when they have taken some extraordinary surfeit of sensual delight. When they have fallen into great affliction, or into any foul, disgraceful sin, then, perhaps, they take up their prayerbooks, or call upon Christ, and seem devout and very penitent. But their piety is blown over with the storm. The effect ceaseth with the cause. It was not the love of God, or of his holy ways and service, that set them upon their devotions, but some tempest of adversity, or shipwreck of their estates, or friends, or consciences ; and when the winds are laid, and the waves are still, their devotion ceaseth with their danger.
3. Add hereunto (to show you the reason of the hypocrite's self-deceit) that he is one that never practically saw the amiableness of holiness in itself; and never had a heart that was touched with the love of it by the spirit of holiness; and therefore he taketh it but for mere necessity; and therefore he taketh up no more than he thinks is of necessity to save him from damnation, when he can live in the pleasures of the world no longer. God never had his heart. He had rather be about his sports or worldly business, if he durst, and thought he could be so excused. He loveth a pair (pack) of cards, or dice, or a harlot, or his ambitious designs and honours, better than he loveth the Holy Scriptures, and the heavenly discourse or contemplation of the life to come. And therefore he will have to more religion than needs he must, because he taketh it not for love, but need. The matters of the world and the flesh are his diet, and his extraordinary successes and prosperity are his feaşt; and therefore he will take as much of them as he can and dare : but religion is but his physic, and therefore he will take it as little and seldom as he dare. Had he but seen the face of God by faith, and had he but the heart of a true believer, that is suited by holiness to the holy works that God commandeth, as the heart of a true friend is suited to the will of him whom he loveth, he would then be no longer religious against his will, and consequently in vain; but he would think the most pure and heavenly mind, and life, and the highest degree of love and holiness, to be the best and most desirable state for his soul, as every true believer doth. Had this hypocrite any true love to God, as he deceitfully pretends to have, he would love his image, and word, and ways; and then he would love best that kernel and marrow of religion, that life and soul of worship and obedience, which now he favoureth not, but shifteth off as a needless, or tedious, or unattainable thing.
The nature and use of these hypocrites' religion, is to save them from religion : they carry an empty gilded scabbard, accusing the sword of a dangerous keenness, as a thing more perilous than necessary to their use. When they seem most zealous, they are but serving God that they may be excused from serving him; and they worship him on purpose to shift off his worship. They offer him the lips, that the heart may be excused; and compliment him with cap and knee, that they may excuse themselves from real holiness : they offer him the empty purse for payment, and tender him a sacrifice of husks and shells, and lifeless carcasses: they will abound in the shadow and ceremony, that they may be excused from the spiritual life and substance. Alas! that dead-hearted hypocrite that sits there, and heareth all this, is so great a stranger to the opening of the heart, and the deep entertainment of saving truth, and to the savoury relish of the searching, healing, quickening passages of holy doctrine, and to the thankful welcoming of an offered Christ, and to the lookings and longings of the soul after God, and to the serious desires, and hopes, and labours of a gracious soul for life eternal, that he is idle, asleep, and dead as to all this spiritual work, and if he had not some customary service to perform, and some ceremonies or external task to do, and some bodily worship to be employed in, he would find little or nothing to do in the assemblies, but might sit here as a brute, or as one of a strange language, that comes but to see and to
And therefore if there be not somewhat more suitable to him than power and spirituality, it seemeth as no worship to the formal hypocrite. It is the pretty jingles and knacks of wit, and the merry jeers at the preciser sort, or some scraps of Greek and Latin authors, or shreds of fathers and philosophy, or at best an accurate, well-set speech, that makes the sermon acceptable to this hypocrite's ears. It is not spirit and life within him that brought hiin hither, nor is it spirit and life that he favoureth, and that he came for. And therefore it is that this sort of hypocrites are usually most impatient of a misplaced word, or of a worship performed in the primitive simplicity. If a man deliver the Lord's supper but as Christ did, and receive it but as the Apostles did, or serve God but 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
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 warm. 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 busivess, 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