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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 in 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 see 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 hovour 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 condemn 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 seareha ing 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 flames 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 discharged 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 are slaves of Satan, and under the wrath and curse of God, that are indeed so, past all controversy? but tell not him of it that makes no doubt but he is a member of Christ, a child of God, and an heir of heaven. He loveth to hear a minister rouse up the profane and grossly sensual offenders, and seems in pity to wish for their conversion, and perhaps will exhort them to turn and mend their lives himself. But he little thinks that he is faster in the prison of Satan than they, and that he is himself in the same condemnation.
Do you go about to tell him of the necessity of the fear of God, and of loving him above all, and of trusting him, and serving him as our only Lord? Why, all this he will confess, • and perhaps is as forward to say as you, and verily thinks that he is one that doth it; you may as soon make him believe that he is not an Englishman, as that he is not a Christian, and that he loveth not himself, as that he loveth not God; even while he loveth not to think of him, to speak of him, to call upon him, to obey him; while he loveth not his word, his ways, or servants, or while he loveth the world and the pleasures of sin more heartily, and seeketh them more eagerly, and cleaveth to them more tenaciously, yet if you would persuade him that he hath not a heart as true to God as any of
you all, you will lose your
labour. Do you tell him of hypocrisy? he will tell you that it is the thing he hateth : who speaks against it more than he ? because the world shall see he is no hypocrite, he will call them all hypocrites that are faithful to God and to their souls, and will not sit down in his truly hypocritical vain religion, but will be more holy and diligent than he. What can you say to such a man in order to his conversion, which his self-deceiving religion will not frustrate? Do you tell him of hell-fire, and of the wrath of God against the ungodly? All this he can hear as calmly as another man; for he thinks that he is none of the ungodly, he hath scaped the danger; let them be afraid of it whom it doth concern. If you tell him of his sins, he can tell
that all men are sinners; we are imperfect; and you shall never persuade him that his reigning, deadly sins are any other than such human frailties and infirmities as may stand with grace. Do you put him upon the inward practice of religion, and the fuller devoting of his soul to God, and the life of faith, and a heavenly mind? He will tell you, that in his measure, he doth all this already ; though none of us are so good as we should be; and his heart being unseen to you, he thinks you must believe him. Do you
blame him for his slightness and formality in religion, and put him upon a more serious, diligent course, and to live as one that seeketh heaven with all his heart, and soul, and might? Why, he thinks
you do but persuade him to some self-conceited overzealous party, and draw him from his moderation to be righteous over much, and to make too much ado with his religion. Unless he be an hypocrite that falleth into the schismatical strain, and then he will make a greater bustle with his opinions and his outside services then you can desire. So that one with his mere book-prayers, forms, and ceremonies, and the other with his mere extemporate words, and affected outside seeming fervour, and both of them by a mere opinionative, lifeless, carnal kind of religion, subject to their fleshly ends and interests; do so effectually cheat their souls that they are arıned against all that you can say or do, and you know not how to get within them, or fasten any saving truths upon their hearts.
3. This vain religion is not vain as to the preserving of his reputation in the world. It sayeth him from being numbered with the filthy rabble, and from being pointed at as notoriously vicious, or branded with the disgraceful characters of the scandalous. Men say not of him, "There goeth a drunkard, a swearer, a curser, a fornicator, or a profane ungodly wretch. He may be esteemed civil, ingenuous, discreet, and perhaps religious, and be much honoured by wise, religious men; though most commonly his formal, or opinionative, heartless kind of religion is discerned or much suspected by experienced, judicious Christians, by his sapless, unexperienced, common and carnal kind of discourse and duty, sticking most in opinions, parties, or some outside things, and by his temporizing, and reserve, and uneven kind of conversation; yet it is not always so; but sometime he is as far unsuspected as the best; perhaps he may be esteemed a reverend preacher, or a discreet, religious, well-accomplished gentleman, and may be set in the head of church or commonwealth, as a leader of the saints on earth, that shall be thrust into the place of hypocrites, and not come near the meanest of the saints in heaven.
4. Lastly, (but better than all this,) his religion is not vain as to the good of others. He may, by the perfume and odour of his gifts, be kept from stinking to the annoyance of others, while he is dead in sin. He may be very serviceable in the church of God; a judicious, earnest expounder of the Scripture, and preacher and defender of the truth ; in his place as a
; magistrate, or master of a family, he may be a severe corrector