« IndietroContinua »
it is a great wrong to him for us to value the rash suspicions of men, when we are secure of his knowlege, who seeth all our works, and trieth our hearts ;' who hath said, that if we commit our way to him, and trust in him, he will bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noonday.'
It is certainly better to be called hypocrite by men for doing our duty, than to be treated as a hypocrite by God for neglecting it; for all those who on any account do violate God's laws, shall have their portion with the hypocrites,' in that disconsolate place, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.' And good reason ; for indeed by thus avoiding hypocrisy, we really do incur it; by seeking to preserve an opinion of sincerity, we forfeit the reality of it; by the practice of disavowing the fear of God and care of goodness, we do constitute ourselves certain hypocrites and impostors; dissembling our thoughts, smothering our conscience, deluding our neighbors with false conceits of us, feigning that indifference which we have not, pretending to act without regret or remorse, which we cannot do; seeming otherwise than we are, signifying otherwise than we mean, doing otherwise than we judge fit, or like to do ; that is, if we be not stark infidels, or utterly void of conscience.
This is hypocrisy turned the wrong side outward, disguising a man in a fouler shape, and uglier garb, than that which is natural and true.
And if we compare the two hypocrisies, (that of pretending conscience which we want, and this of denying conscience which we have; that of seeming better than we are, this of seeming worse than we may be,) this in nature may more vile, in tendency more dangerous, in effect more mischievous than the other.
There is in both the same falsehood, the same prevarication, the like contempt and abuse of God; but the hypocrite of whom we speak doeth worse things, more directly wrongful to God, more prejudicial to goodness, more harmful to the world.
The specious hypocrite, counterfeiting goodness, and having a form of godliness, without the power' and reality of it, doth
yield to God some part (the exterior part) of his due honor and respect ; but the sneaking hypocrite, disowning goodness, doth apparently desert, slight, and affront God: the one serveth God with his face and his voice, though his heart be far from him ;' the other doth not so much as sacrifice a carcase of obedience to him : that may bring some credit and advantage to goodness, strengthen its interest by his vote and countenance; this by not avowing it doth assuredly weaken its reputation and cause : that hypocrisy, as such, is a private and single evil, whereby a man doth indeed prejudice himself, but doth not injure his neighbor, yea, may edify him by the appearing (which in this respect is the same with the real) goodness of his example; but this hypocrisy is a general mischief, a scandalous evil, a contagious pestilence, whereby a man not only harmeth himself, but wrongeth many others, seducing them into dissoluteness, infecting the world with base indifference to good, and easiness to comply with sin.
It is indeed a sad thing that God and goodness should be deserted on this account: that most men should be so uncharitable, so unjust, so imprudent, as to suspect all good men of hypocrisy ; as if it were incredible that any man should heartily love or fear God, (when it is rather strange that
man should do otherwise ;) that any man in good earnest, or otherwise than in pretence and for sinister respects, should embrace virtue, (when it is marvellous that a reasonable man should decline it :) that so many, of themselves inclinable to goodness, should be so weak as to be deterred from it by so vain an apprehension; and that the name of hypocrisy should drive away piety; that it should become desirable that hypocrites might abound in the world, lest religion both in truth and show should be discarded.
In fine, we may otherwise suppress this odious imputation than by deserting goodness; we may demonstrate ourselves serious and sincere by an inflexible adherence to it in the continual tenor of our practice ; and especially in some instances of duty, which are hardly consistent with hypocrisy : for no man can hold long in a strained posture; no man will take much pains, or encounter great difficulties, or sustain grievous hardships and afflictions, cross his appetites, forego gains and honors, for that which he doth not heartily like and love: he may counterfeit in ceremonies and formalities, but he will hardly feign humility, meekness, patience, contentedness, temperance, at least uniformly and constantly. Even the patient induring this censure will confute it, and wipe off the aspersion of hy. pocrisy.
SUMMARY OF SERMON LXVII.
II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. VIII.-VERSE 21.
6. ANOTHER great impediment of good conversation before men is a desire of seeming courteous and civil. Men usually conform to sinful practices, because they would not be rude and give offence to their company; and this is an ordinary snare to easy and ingenuous natures : but the ground of it is very unreasonable ; for it is better to be uncivil than ungodly; it is far better manners to offend any number of men, than to be rude to God: our own interest in such a case is too considerable to be sacrificed to the conceit or pleasure of any persons. Moreover it is the truest civility (implying real humanity and kindness) to stand off in such cases, and by modestly refusing to concur in sin with our companions, to check and warn them : nay, sometimes to repel, and even to reprove them is the greatest favor we can show them.
7. Another snare which catches and holds us in the open practice of sin, or neglect of duty, is deference to the authority, custom, or example of others. A man is prone to suspect his own judgment, when it thwarts the opinion of so many, and can hardly have the heart to oppose them. Yet wise men have ever been apt to suspect that as bad, which is most commonly admired and affected. All ages have deplored the paucity of good men ; wherefore popular use and practice is no good argument of truth or right. God never allowed the people to exempt themselves or us from their loyalty or obedience to his laws; but by express prohibitions hath obviated all such pretences and pleas. Indeed it is an aggravation of sin, that we therein conspire with others, and the more the worse : reasons for this given : examples of God's vengeance on guilty multitudes. We should therefore, in such a case, be more careful of our conversation, more shy of sinful compliance with others, for the preventing of public calamity. Instances given where God for the sake of a few righteous persons has been willing to remit his vengeance. Wherefore consideration, not only of our own welfare, but of the public good, should influence our conduct. If we sin with all, we must suffer with all; nor will much company in suffering yield us any true comfort under it; yea, rather it will augment our pain.
8. Another principle, near of kin to the former, is a dislike of singularity and solitude; together with the consequences and imputations usually cleaving thereto. But this is a vain principle; for really to be singular is no fault, to be held so is no disgrace; it is rather in many cases laudable and honorable ; and if in any, most reasonably is it in this. Instances given of men of singular eminence in various arts : and why should it be a reproach to be singular in the noblest of all faculties, that of living well ? It were indeed desirable that virtue were more common; but surely its being rare renders it more admirable and glorious. Heroical virtue is therefore such because so few attain to it : it has been the observation and complaint of all times, rari quippe buni. Hence the most renowned men for goodness, and who have been recommended to us as patterns thereof, have been very singular in it; and their singularity did much enhance the price of their goodness. Many instances given of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; of our Lord and his disciples. It can therefore be no just blame or reasonable discouragement to appear singular in the practice of virtue; nor is it any argument of conceit,