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good and happy? As for the other world, the religious hypocrite cannot be supposed to have any hopes relating to that; but rather hopes there is no state but the present, and no rewards and punishments to come when this life is ended : for an hypocritical pretender to religion is at least next door to an atheist. And when this poor wretch comes to quit the stage upon which he has trod his deceitful mazes so long, and finds himself upon the brink of eternity, and going to appear naked before the Searcher of hearts, what confusion and terror must then needs seize upon him Solomon tells us; The righteous hath hope in his death; but what then can be the hope of the hypocrite, when God taketh away his soul? will God hear his cry when trouble then cometh
him? In short, the plain truth is this: he that has sincerely lived well, may hope well when he comes to die; but he that has been a religious cheat all his life must needs be hopeless and without comfort at his death.
For our Lord's treatment of false pretenders to religion was always this, Woe unto you, hypocrites; and more woes are denounced by him against them, than any other sort of people whatsoevere: as if they were the most flagrant sinners of all, and such as had made themselves uncapable of mercy. And therefore, though he came into the world to die for sinners, and was full of compassion and tender pity towards them, and made it his great business to seek and to save them, and call them to repentance; and when he reproved them for their faults did it with all the friendly mildness that could be, and with a
e Matt. xxiii.
most affectionate concern endeavoured to persuade them to amendment: yet to the hypocritical Pharisees he carried himself quite otherwise, and as if incensed against them to the highest degree, after several times calling them fools and blind, and thundering out eight woes against them in one short discourse he had with them; he adds these terrible words, full of reproach, and expressing an irreconcilable indignation, Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hellf? as if it were impossible for such as they to be saved. And it is observable, that hypocrites and infidels are in his account the same; as will appear by comparing the 51st verse of the 24th of St. Matthew with the 46th verse of the 12th of St. Luke; that which is called the portion of hypocrites in the former being called the portion of unbelievers in the latter.
What then can be the hope of the hypocrite when he comes to die? His groundless confidence shall bring him to the king of terrors;—and a storm shall hurl him out of his place. For God shall cast upon him the furiousness of his anger, and not spare ;-he would fain flee out of his hand, but shall not be able : as it is here and there expressed in the Book of Job.
And when the time shall come of our Lord's rewarding every man according to his works, the portion of the hypocrite will be the lake of fire and brimstone 8; where he will suffer an endless shipwreck, and be tossed eternally upon the tormenting waves of horror and despair h, and weep and wail
Matt. xxiii. 33.
g Rev. xx. 10.
h Isa. lvii. 20.
and gnash his teeth for everi. But it is impossible fully to describe his misery; for, as it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, that is, the happiness and glory and joy that will hereafter crown the righteous, the truly good; so it is equally inconceivable what are the miseries reserved for those who were really very wicked, but made a fair show and specious pretence to religion.
May our knowledge in this respect never be improved ! and may we be so wise, as immediately to purge our souls from this pernicious leaven; and serve God for the future in sincerity and truth!
What has been hitherto said relates to the designing hypocrite: as for the unthinking customary one, who, though he is not what he appears to be, and minds nothing but the outside of religion, yet has none of the vile, underhand intrigues that the other hath ; it is a hard matter to say what his hopes and expectations are. His Christianity seems to be custom and habit, with very little further aim in it than to do as others do, and follow the way he was bred up in from his infancy; and if so, no wonder if it comes to little or nothing, and turns to no good account.
For though this man's guilt is not so great as that of the cunning, crafty hypocrite; yet it is great enough to deprive him of the benefits of our holy religion, and leave him in the same sad state as if there had been no Saviour of mankind; nay, indeed, his condition will be far worse: because, when he knew
i Matt. xxiv. 51.
of this Saviour, and professed to believe in him as such, and to be one of his disciples and followers, and was duly instructed in the methods he taught of attaining eternal life; he neglected all, and was no better than the shadow of a Christian.
Nay, though he should nourish some fond general hopes of being the better for his Christian profession, and that he shall be saved by it, and go to heaven when he dies; yet, as he manages the matter, these hopes are utterly without foundation, like building a house upon the sand, and are indeed presumption, not hope.
It is as if a man should expect a plentiful harvest, when he hath sown little or nothing but chaff. And it would be very strange indeed, should such an empty religion as this make a man eternally happy in the sight and enjoyment of God, it being the greatest contradiction that can be to the very end and design of the gospel, and to the express declaration of the apostle, that without holiness, not pretended, but real, no man shall see the Lord; and that whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also
reap. . A sincere, hearty religion will produce a substantial, full felicity; but that which is empty and formal will have as empty a reward, and the man's fond fancies of his being made happy by it is all the taste of happiness that he shall ever have. And when he seeks for fruit from his leafy, barren piety, he shall find none; unless it be the fate of the barren fig-tree in the parable, which was ordered to be cut down and cast into the fire.
So that a religious hypocrite mocks himself when he mocks God, and takes a great deal of pains to work up his mind into an expectation of the promises of Christianity, and miserably cheats himself of them when he has done. For heaven was never designed for the hypocrite, as the granary was not made for husks and weeds. It is the good wheat only, as our Saviour assures us, that shall be gathered into the garner, but the chaff shall be burnt up with fire unquenchablek.
It infinitely concerns us all, therefore, to resolve to be in reality what we have all along professed ourselves, disciples of the holy Jesus; for it is certain no man shall ever get to heaven in a disguise; and if we go to hell in it, what good will it do us there?
All things lie naked and open to the all-seeing eye of God, and the day of judgment will be a day of separation of the righteous from the wicked, of the sincere from the hypocritical professor; and the blessed angels shall be enabled to distinguish the one from the other, and sort them by themselves, and place the innocent, harmless, useful sheep on the right hand of the great Judge; but the impure goats, and the swine, the subtil, crafty foxes, and rapacious wolves on the left?. And then shall the former appear as children of the day; with a holy serenity and joy in their looks, as conscious of their having loved and served their great Master in sincerity; and so are neither afraid nor ashamed before him, at his coming, to require an account of their works: then shall the righteous, says our Lord the Judge, shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Fatherm
But as for those on the left hand, who used to
* Matt. iii. 12.
| Matt. xxv. 31, &c.
m Matt. xiii. 43.