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great and terrible. (Matt. vii. 23, 24; Job viii, 11-15.)-“Can X
Can bull-rushes but hy the rivers grow?
Deceive their trust, and crush them in their fall, &c.
For the deluder bastens his own fall,
They in the summer of their age shall die.
As sleepy opium fortifies the brain,
Against the sense of sicknesses and pain.
As thorns beneath a cauldron catch the fire,
This vanity in their distemper rules.
to the clouds ; yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall flee away as a dream, and shall not be found; yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.” Or, as the aforesaid Paraphrase
This is a truth with which the world began,
Thus as the hypocrite's religion is vain, so all his hopes' and joys will be vain, and will deceive him, as he deceived himself. As Zophar concludeth of him: (Job xi. 20 :) " But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost." Poor soul ! thy religion also is so vain, that it giveth thee no solid satisfaction or delight : thou art fain to go to thy lands, or friends, or pleasures, or carnal accommodations for delight: thy religion, which should let thee into heaven, and there refresh thee with the foretastes of everlasting pleasures, and should daily fetch thee fresh delights from the face of God, alas ! is an impotent lifeless thing; acquainted with shadows, but strange to the invisible substance; acquainted with formal shows and ceremonies, but unacquainted with God; acquainted with the letter, but not with the spirit; familiar with the orders of the church, but strange to the foretastes of heaven. If thou hadst no other comfort but what thy dead religion brings thee from the face of God, thy pensive heart would be better disposed to consideration and recovery than it is. If thou hadst a faith that brought thee in any solid, stablishing content, what needest thou be hunting abroad the world among thy crowd of vanities and deceits, to beg or borrow some short delight, which thou must return with griping usury? and what needest thou so many pitiful shifts to muzzle thy conscience, and to keep that peace a little longer, which will end in sorrow, and will part with thee as the devil went out of the possessed person (Mark ix. 26) that rent him, and left him as a dead man? That religion is certainly vain, that is not sufficient to acquaint the soul with matter of solid comfort and content, but leaves that felicitating work to worldly transitory things, while itself is used only as a screen, to keep hell-fire from scorching the conscience, or as children's rackets, to quiet them when they are apt to cry.
2. But the vanity of a superficial religion will most appear in the hour of extremity; when their help, as well as their hope and comfort, will to them prove vain. Prosperity will not always last: as sure as winter followeth summer, and as the darksome night succeeds the day, so sure will adversity take its turn: sickness will follow the longest health, and death succeed the longest life; and your house of darkness in the dust will hold you longer than your present habitations. And when thou seest all things fail, o what wouldest thou give for a hope and help that will not fail, that thou mightest be received into the everlasting habitations ! The conscience that is now asleep, will be shortly awakened in such a manner, that it will be utterly past the skill and power of thyself, and all the friends thou hast, to cast it asleep, or quiet it again. And then, what wouldest thou not give for a lenitive to pacify it! no wonder if thou sit here as senseless as if no harm were near thee: it is now in thy power not to believe that there is a hell for hypocrites, or that it is thy own inheritance : but the day is near, (if a supernatural change prevent it not,) when it shall no more be in thy power, but sight and feeling shall convince thee whether thou wilt or
Now we must entreat thy own consideration, and solicit thee for thy own consent, to know thy grievous sin and misery, and yet leave thee unconvinced, because thou art unwilling to know the truth, and because we cannot show thee heaven and hell while we are speaking of them: but then God will not crave, but force thy consideration: nor will he ask thy consent to feel thy misery: but the less thou art willing, the more thou hast to feel. And which way then wilt thou look for help? which way ever it be, it will be all in vain, because thy religion was but vain; wilt thou look to thy duties and supposed honesty, whose sincerity now thou art so confident of? alas, this is the vain religion that could deceive thee, bnt cannot save thee. Thou art like a man in a falling house, that hath nothing to lay hold on, but that which is falling, and it is that will break him unto death. Or like a drowning man that hath nothing but a handful of water to lay hold upon; which is it that will choke him, but is vain to save him. It is thy superficial, hypocritical, complimental services that will fall with thee, and fall upon thee, that will thus both deceive thee, and choke thee in the time of thy distress. To he told now that thy religion is vain, is a thing that thy dead, unbelieving heart can too easily bear; but to find then, when thou lookest for the benefit of it, that it is vain, is that which is not borne so easily, but will overturn the stoutest heart with terrors. If thou wert a man of no religion, and so hadst none to deceive and quiet thee, thou couldst scarcely keep off thy terrors now : if thou hadst not thy hollow-hearted prayers, thy affected zeal, or forms, and shows, and tasks of duty, thy profession, with its secret exceptions and reserves, thy smoothed outside, with the good conceit thou hast of thyself, and the good esteem that other men have of thee; if thou hadst not these to flatter thy conscience, and cloak thee from the storms of threatened wrath, thou wouldest perhaps walk about like another Cain, and be afraid of every man thou seest, and tremble at the shaking of a leaf, and still look behind thee as afraid of a pursuit. But, alas! it will be ten thousand times more terrible to find thy confidence prove deceit; and thy religion vain, when God is judging thee, when hell is before thee, and thou art come to the last of thine expectations! nay, then to find not only that thy superficial religion was vanity, and lighter than vanity, nothing, and less than nothing ; but that it was thy sin, and that which will now torment thee, and the remembrance of it be to thee as the remembrance of drunkenness to the drunkard, and of fornication to the urclean, and of covetousness to the worldling, the rust of whose money will eat his flesh, and burn like fire. O what a doleful plight is this ! when the sentence is ready to pass upon thee, and hell is gaping to devour thee, and thou lookest for help to thy vain religion, and criest out, “O now, or never help! help me, or I am a firebrand of unquenchable wrath : help me, or I must be tormented in those flames : help me now, or it will be too late, and I shall never, never more have help! Then to have thy self-deceit discovered, and thy seeming religion condemn thee, and torment thee, instead of helping thee, what anguish and confusion will this cast thy hopeless soul into, such as no heart can here conceive! Thy guilty soul will be like a hare among a company of dogs : whichsoever of thy duties thou fliest for help to, that will make first to tear thee, and devour thee.
Like a naked man in the midst of an army of his deadly enemies : whichsoever he flieth to for pity and relief, is like to be one of the first to wound him. Poor self-deceiver! what wilt thou then do, or whither wilt thou betake thy soul for help? The reason why thou canst now make shift with a lifeless shadow of religion, is, because thou hast thy sports or pleasures, thy friends and flatterers, thy worldly business to divert thy thoughts, and take thee up, and rock the cradle of thy security; and thy piety is not yet brought unto the fire, nor thy heart and duties searched by the all-discovering light: but when the light comes in, and when all thy Aeshly contents are gone, and when thou comest to have use for thy religion, and seest that, if it prove unsound, thou art lost for ever, O then it is not shadows, and shows, and compliments, that will quiet thee. That will not serve turn then, that serves turn now. Thou wilt find then that it was easier deceiving thyself than God. (Gal. vi. 3–5,7.) “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work: For every man shall bear his own burden. Be not deceived; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
But perhaps thou wilt say, it is not any duties, but Christ that I must trust to : he will be my help, and he is sufficient, and will not deceive the soul that trusteth in him.
Answer. Undoubtedly he is sufficient, and will not deceive thee. But doth he deceive thee, if he give thee not the salvation which he never promised thee? he never promised salvation to an hypocrite (without conversion). It is the upright soul devoted to him, that takes him for the absolute inaster of his life, and for his only portion and felicity, to whom Christ hath promised salvation: and his promise shall be made good, and the sincere shall find that Christ deceives them not. But where did he ever promise salvation to a superficial pharisee? to such a seeming Christian as thou? show such a promise from him if thou canst; and then trust it and spare not. But thou dost not trust him, but thy own deceit, if he have given thee no such promise to trust on. Nay, rather, should he not deceive all the world, if he should save such superficial hypocrites, when he hath professed in his word that he will not save them and if he should not condemn such heartless formalists, when he hath so often