« PreviousContinue »
can you painfully adhere to the form of it? Or, whert you go to the length of being very punctual in the exterpals of religion, why do you not go a little farther, and study to be really and inwardly what you outward.. ly profess, and would seem to be?
Is it the praise of men that you covet? This at best is but an empty, fading thing; neither can you be sure of attaining it. At any rate, the foundation of it shall be taken away at the final judgment, when every disguise shall be stripped off, and the bidden works of darkness shall be brought to light. Nay, God may detect your base hypocrisy, even before you leave this world; so that, as it is written, (Job xxvii. 23.) “Men shall clap their hands at you, and biss you out of your place." Is it riches you seek by your seeming religiousness? In this likewise you may be disappointed, according to that other threatening denounced against the hypocrite, (Job xxvii. 10.) “ Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; he may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the sil. ver.” Besides,“ riches profit not in the day of God's wrath.” And, after all, “ What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when the Lord taketh away his soul?"_“Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water? While it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish; whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure." And oh! how vain is that hope which shall“ perish” at the very time when enjoyment is expected! Be awakened then, ye self-deceivers, and know that your formality, like the
harlot's paint, is only a false and borrowed beauty, which shall melt away when you draw near the fire; and however you may now hope, while under the threatenings of God, be assured that you sball not be able to hope when under the execution of them; despair shall then become essential to your misery. My brethren, a dream so transient, so momentary, is not worth the hav. ing. For the Lord's sake, then, awake in time, repent unfeignedly of your past hypocrisy, and “ give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eye-lids," till your souls be acquainted with the power of godliness, that you may have something better to lean upon than delusive forms, when all earthly props shall slide from beneath you. “O seek the Lord while he is yet to be found, and call upon him while he is near.”
But there are sinners of another kind, to whom this subject leads me to speak; those I mean who have not so much as the form of godliness. You, I doubt not, have got a great deal to say against hypocrites; perhaps, too, you are very well pleased that so much bas been said to expose them in the course of this sermon; and now you exult in the thought, that such a hateful denomination cannot be applied to you; if you are not godly, yet surely you are honest, for you do not pretend to be godly. We shall by and by examine your boasted honesty; in the mean time, it deserves your serious consideration, that, by your own confession, you are in a great measure useless in the world; as you contribute nothing, either to the glory of God, or to the spiritual improvement of your brethren around you. Now, here the formalist bath plainly the advantage of you; for though he neglects and destroys his own soul, yet, by his fair vutside, and perhaps by the exercise of his gifts he may recommend religion to the esteem and choice of others; like the sign-post which, though it bath its station without, doth nevertheless mark the door to strangers, and invite them into the house; whereas you neither enter in yourselves nor give any assistance to others; but, on the contrary, do much to discourage and hinder them. But honesty, you say, is the qualification you chiefly value, and you are confident that your claim to that is unquestionable.-Not so unquestionable as you imagine. As you do not profess atheism, you must be understood to acknowledge the being of a God; and as you have not publicly renounced your baptism, you certainly mean to pass for Christians. None of you, I suppose, are willing to be reputed the enemies of God and of Christ; on the contrary, would you not exclaim against that man as a censorious, malevolent hypocrite, who should venture to hint the remotest suspicion of this kind? And now, wherein doth your honesty lie? You would be thought to love God, yet you live in open contempt of his authority, while you withhold that worship and homage wbich are due to him. Is this honesty ? You call yourselves Christians, yet you practically reject the institutions of Christ, and cast his most sacred commandments bebind your back. Is that to be honest, to profess one thing and to do the contrary? This, Į apprehend, is the very essence of hypocrisy; so that, if you bate hypocrites, you are bound in justice to hate yourselves; for even you are hypocrites no less than the formalist, though you are not commonly branded with that opprobrious title. The difference betwixt you lies chiefly in this;---the formalist is a sort of bashful hypocrite, who, because he cannot deny the debt, makes a show of paying part, and would be thought to pay the whole; whereas the profane sinner, who retains the appellation of Christian, though he pays no part of what he acknowledges to be due, would nevertheless be reputed an honest man; and therefore he too is a hypocrite as well as the other, with as little sense, and with much less modesty.
I shall conclude this discourse with a few advices, for the help of those who are aiming at real godliness, and would not be deceived with names and counterfeits.
Let your religion, then, my dear friends, be princi. pally seated in the heart; and never reckon that you are possessed of it so long as it lodges merely in the understanding. Knowledge and faith are in order to practice; and we neither know nor believe to any good purpose, unless our knowledge and faith influence our practice, and make us truly better men. Be sure to live upon the great fundamentals of religion, and let not your attention to these be diverted by an intemperate zeal about lesser things. Place not your religion in disputable points and ineffectual opinions, but in those weightier matters of the law and gospel, which are of undoubted importance, and in which boly men, among the different denominations of Christians, are better agreed than is commonly apprehended. Choose God for your portion and felicity; beware of thinking that any thing besides himself is necessary to make you happy; and live daily upon Christ Jesus, as the only Mediator by whom you can either have access to God, or acceptance with him. Indulge no sin; plead for no infirmity; but make it the daily business of your lives to “ mortify the deeds of the body," and "to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts." Walk continually as in the sight of a holy, just, and heart-searching God; and study to be the same in secret that you wish to appear in public. Rest not in a low degree of holiness, but love, and long, and strive for the highest, And, for these purposes, pray without ceasing for those promised influences of divine grace, which alone can heal your diseased natures, and carry you forward from one degree of holiness to another, till, being ripened for glory, an entrance sball in due time be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be glory and honour, dominion and thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.
Isaiah liii. 3.
He is despised and rejected of men: He was despised,
and we esteemed him not.
TAAT the whole of this chapter relates to the Messiah is so universally acknowledged, that I need not spend any of your time in proving it; and whosoever hath read the history of our Saviour's life with a proper de. gree of attention, cannot fail to have remarked the exact accomplishment of that part of the prophecy which I have chosen for the subject of the following discourse; “ Christ came unto his own, but his own received him not." The learned, the rich, and the mighty among the Jews, were almost universally combined against him; the most opposite parties, the Pharisees and the Sad. ducees, united their endeavours to discredit his doctrine