C. H. SPURGEON
Copyright 2004 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied,
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Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from
the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD: www.gospelgems.com
“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” [Luke 12:1]
This age is full of shams. Deception never stood in so eminent a position as it does at the present hour. I fear that there are only a few who love the naked truth; we can scarcely endure it in our homes; you will scarcely find a person in business who absolutely states it. If you walked through our city streets, you might imagine that all the shops were built of marble, and that all the doors were made of mahogany and woods of the rarest kinds; and yet you soon discover that there is scarcely a piece of any of these precious materials to be found anywhere, but that everything has simulated grain, and painted, and varnished. I find no fault with this, except that it is an outward example of an inward evil that exists. As it is in our streets, so is it everywhere; graining, painting, and ornamentation, are at an enormous premium. Counterfeit has finally attained to such an eminence that it is very difficult to detect. The counterfeit so nearly approaches the genuine item that the eye of wisdom itself needs to be enlightened before it can discern the difference. This is especially true in religious matters. There was once an age of intolerant bigotry, when every person was evaluated, and if they were not precisely up to the orthodox standard of the day, the fire devoured them; but in this age of love and acceptance, we are very apt to allow the counterfeit to pass by, and to imagine that outward show is really as beneficial as inward reality. If ever there was a time when it was needful to say, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” it is now. The minister may not need to preach this doctrine in the days of severe persecution: when the stakes are blazing, and when the torture rack is in full operation, for few men and women will be hypocrites. These are the clear tests of impostors; suffering, and pain, and death, for Christ's sake, for they will not be endured by mere pretenders. But in this silky-smooth age, when being religious is respectable, when following Christ is honored, and when godliness itself has become gain, it is doubly necessary that the minister should cry aloud, and lift up his voice like a trumpet against this sin, “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
I am sure that every true child of God will, at times, doubt themselves, and their fear will probably take the shape of a suspicion concerning their own state. They will at times begin to be terribly alarmed, lest, the reality is that their godliness is only external, and their profession of faith is nothing but an empty vanity. Those who are true Christians will sometimes suspect that they aren’t truly saved, while those who are false believers will wrap themselves up in the constant confidence of their own sincerity.
My dear Christian brothers
and sisters, if you are at this time in doubt concerning your own salvation, then
the things I have to say this morning, will perhaps, help you in searching your
own heart and evaluating your faith, and I am sure that you will not blame me
if I should seem to be a bit severe, but you will rather say, “Sir, I desire to
find out for certain the true condition of my own soul, tell me faithfully and
tell me honestly what are the signs of a hypocrite, and I will sit down and try
to read my own heart, to discover whether these things have a bearing on me,
and I will be happy if I will come out of the fire like pure gold.”
We will note, then, this morning, first, the character of a hypocrite; then we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of being a hypocrite; and then we will offer a cure for hypocrisy, which, if constantly applied to our daily lives, will certainly prevent us from attempting to deceive. The cure is contained in these words which follow the text— “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” [Luke 12:2-3]
I. First, THE CHARACTER OF A HYPOCRITE.
1. A hypocrite may be known by the fact that their speech and their actions are contrary to one another.
We have an elaborate description of the hypocrite in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and I don’t know of a better way that I can portray him than by turning again to the words of Christ.
As Jesus says, “they do not practice what they preach.” The hypocrite can speak like an angel, he can quote texts with the greatest speed; he can talk concerning all matters of Christianity, whether they are theological doctrines, mystical questions, or practical difficulties. In his own mind he knows a lot and when he speaks, you will often feel embarrassed at your own ignorance in the presence of his superior knowledge. But watch him when he comes to actions. What do you see there? The fullest contradiction of everything that he has said. He tells others that they must obey the Bible: does he obey it? No! he doesn’t. He declares that others must experience this, that, and the other, and he sets up a fine scale of experience, far above even that of the Christian himself; but does he touch it? No, not with so much as one of his little fingers. He will tell others what they should do; but will he remember his own teaching? Not he! Follow him to his house; trail him to the marketplace, see him in the stores, and if you want to refute his preaching you may easily do it from his own life. My dear friends! is this the way it is with you? You are a member of a church, an elder, a deacon, a minister. Is this your case? Is your life a contradiction of your words? Do your hands witness against your lips? How is it with you? With embarrassment, each one of us must confess that, to some extent, our life is contradictory to our profession. We blush and we mourn over this. But I hope there are some here who can say, “Notwithstanding many weaknesses, with my whole heart have I endeavored to run in the ways of your commandments, O my God, and I have not intentionally spoken anything with my lips which I did not intend to carry out in my life.” Oh! believe me, my brothers and sisters, talk is easy, but walk is hard: speech any one may attain to, but action is difficult. We must have grace within us to make our life holy; but holiness only expressed with our lips needs no grace. The first mark of a hypocrite, then, is that they contradict by their acts what they say with their words. Do any of you do this? If so, stand convicted of hypocrisy, and bow your heads, and confess the sin.
2. The next mark of a hypocrite is that whenever they do right it is that they may be seen of others.
The hypocrite sounds a trumpet as he gives money to the poor, and chooses the corner of the streets for his prayers. To him virtue in private is almost a vice, he can never detect any beauty in virtue, unless she has a thousand eyes looking at her, and then she is something special. The true Christian, like the nightingale, sings in the night; but the hypocrite sings all his songs in the day, when he can be seen and heard of men. To be well spoken of is the ecstasy of his life; if he is praised, it is like sweet wine to him. The criticism of man on a virtue would make him change his opinion concerning it in a moment; for his standard is the opinion of his fellow creatures, his law is the law of self-seeking, and of self-honoring: he is virtuous, because to be virtuous is to be praised; but if tomorrow wickedness were to be praised then he would be as wicked as the rest. Applause is what hypocrites are seeking after. They avoid all secret religion, and only live where men may see them. Now, is this the way it is with us? Let us deal honestly with ourselves; if we give to the poor, do we desire to do it in secret, where no one will know? Are our prayers offered in our closets, where only God can hear the cry of our secret prayers? Can we say, that if every person were struck stone blind and deaf and dumb, that we would not alter our conduct in the least? Can we declare that the opinion of others is not our guiding law, but that we stand servants to our God and to our conscience, and will not do a wrong thing just to be accepted, nor are we urged to do the right thing from fear of being condemned by others? Note that the person who does not act properly from a higher motive than that of being praised, gives evidence that they are a hypocrite, but they who do the right thing against the opinion of every man, and simply because they believe it is right, and sees the stamp of God's approval on it, that person need not be afraid that they are a hypocrite. Hypocrites do their good works for applause. Is it this way with you? If so, be honest, and as you would convict another convict yourself.
3. Again; hypocrites love titles, and honors, and respect from others.
The Pharisee was never so happy as when he was called “Rabbi,” he never felt himself to be really great as when he was given the most honored seat in the synagogue. But the true Christian does not care for titles. It is one of the marks of true Christians—that they have generally taken names of abuse to be their distinctive titles. There was a time when the name “Puritan” was the lowest of all; it was the name which was always used by the drunkard and blasphemer to express a godly man. “Well,” says the godly man, “I will be called a puritan; if that is a name of reproach I will take it.” It has been this way with Christians all over the world. They have chosen for themselves the name which their enemy has given them as a name of reproach. Not so the hypocrite. They take that which is the most honorable; they always wish to be thought to belong to the most respectable religious group, and to hold an office in that religion which will confer upon them the most honorable title.
Can you honestly say from
your inmost soul, that in religion you are not seeking for honors or titles,
but that you can tread these beneath your feet, and want no higher degree than
that of a sinner saved by grace and no greater honor than to sit at the feet of
Jesus and to learn from him? Are you willing to be the despised followers of
the carpenter's son, as were the fishermen on the lake? If so, I think you have
very little hypocrisy in you; but if you only follow Jesus because you are
honored by men, farewell to the sincerity of your religion, you are unmasked,
and stand before the face of this congregation as an acknowledged hypocrite.
4. There was another evidence of hypocrites which was equally good, namely, that they strained out a gnat but swallowed a camel.
Hypocrites in these days do
not find fault with us for eating with unwashed hands, but they still focus on
some ceremonial omission. Sabbatarianism has furnished hypocrisy with an
extremely convenient refuge. Acts of necessity done by the Christian, are the
objects of the sanctimonious horror of Pharisees, and labors of mercy and
smiles of joy, are damning sins in the esteem of hypocrites, if done on a Sunday.
Though our Father worked, and Christ worked, and though works of kindness, and
mercy, and love are to be done every day of the week, to include Sundays: yet
if the Christian does these things on Sunday, the hypocrite accuses them of
violating God's holy law. The slightest infringement of any ceremonial
observance becomes a great sin in the eye of the hypocrite. But the hypocrite who
will find fault with you for some little thing in this respect, straining out a
gnat, is the man you will find cheating, committing adultery, lying, boasting,
and taking advantage of the poor. I have always noticed that hypocrites watch for
the little things, they are always searching out little points of difference, and
yet they themselves have neglected the more important matters of the law, and
while they are so particular about the tithe of mint and cumin, yet they horde
wheat and other commodities in their own barns. Always suspect yourself when
you are more careful about little things than about great things. If you find
it hurts your conscience more to be absent from the Lord’s Supper than to cheat
a widow, then rest assured that you are a hypocrite. And there are many people,
who, if they should do any work on Sunday consider themselves wicked; but if
they are lazy the other six days of the week, it no sin at all. Be assured,
that the person who strains out a gnat but yet swallows the camel, is a
deceiver. But note this, my dear friends, I like for you to strain out the
gnats; I have no objection to that at all—only do not swallow the camel
afterwards. Be as particular as you like about right and wrong. If you think a
thing is a little wrong, it is wrong to you. “Everything that does not come
from faith is sin.” If you can’t do it, believing yourself to be right in not
doing it, though another man could do it and do right, yet to you it would not
be right. Strain out the gnats; they are not good things in your wines, strain
them out; it is good to get rid of them; but then do not open your mouth and
swallow a camel afterwards, for if you do that, you will give no evidence that
you are a child of God, but prove that you are a damnable hypocrite.
5. But read on in this chapter, and you will find that these people neglected all the inward part of religion, and only observed the outward.
As our Savior said, they “clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” [Matthew 23:25]. There are many books which are beautifully bound, but there is nothing worthwhile inside; and there are many persons that have a very spiritual exterior, but there is nothing whatever in the heart. Don’t you know some of them? Perhaps if you know yourself you may discover one. Don’t you know some who are extremely religious who would scarcely miss attending a church service, or reading their Bibles or praying, or going to the Lord’s Table. They practice the ritual in all of its forms and all of its ceremonies, and would not turn aside as much as a hair's breadth from any outward command? Before the world they stand as being eminently devout, because they are minutely attentive to the externals of Christianity; but yet they are careless of the inward matters. So long as they take the bread and wine they are not careful about whether they have eaten the flesh and drunk the blood of Christ; so long as they have been baptized with water they are not careful whether they have been buried with Christ in baptism unto death. So long as they have been to church, it is nothing to them whether they have had communion with Christ, or not. No, they are perfectly content, so long as they have the shell, without looking for the kernel of wheat within.
Some people I know of are
like inns and public places of lodging, which have an angel hanging outside for
a sign, but they have a devil within for a landlord. There are many men of that
kind; they are careful to have an excellent sign hanging on the outside, they want
to be known by everyone to be strictly religious; but within, which is the most
critical part, they are full of wickedness. But I have even heard people who
are wicked on the outside be given credit for being good on the inside! People
will say, “Ah! well, poor man, he is a sad drunkard, certainly, but inside he
is a very good-hearted man.” Now, as Rowland Hill used to say, that is a most
astonishing thing for any man to say of another, that he was bad on the outside
and good inside. When men take their fruit to market they cannot make their
customers believe, if they see rotten apples at the top of the basket, that
there are good ones at the bottom. A man's outward conduct is generally no
better than his heart. Therefore, do not misunderstand me. When I say we must pay
attention more to the inward than the outward, I would not have you leave the
outward to itself. “Be sure to clean the outside of the cup and dish”—make it
as clean as you can, but also be sure that the inside is clean too. Look to
that first. Ask yourself these questions— “Have I been born again? Have I
passed from darkness to light? Have I been brought out of the realms of Satan
into the kingdom of God's dear Son? Do I live by private communion with My Lord
Jesus? Can I say that my soul pants after the Lord, just as the deer pants for
streams of water? For if I cannot say this, whatever my outward life may be, I
am self-deceived and deceive others, and am nothing but a hypocrite who will
incur God’s judgment. I have cleansed the outside of the cup and dish, but inside
is still full of wickedness. Does this apply to any of you? Am I preaching personally
to you? Then God be blessed for it. May the truth be the death of your
6. You may know a hypocrite by another sign. His religion depends on the place, or on the time of day.
Perhaps he rises at seven a.m.,
and you will find him religious for fifteen minutes; for he is saying his
prayers to himself in the first part of the morning. Well, then you find him
pretty pious for another half-hour, for there is family prayer; but when the
business day begins, and he is talking to his employees, I won't guarantee that
you will be able to admire him. If one of his employees has been doing
something a little wrong, you will find the hypocrite perhaps using angry and shameful
language. You will find him too, if he gets a customer whom he thinks to be rather
naive, not quite so pious, for he will take advantage of the customer. You will
find, too, that if he sees a good chance at any hour of the day, he will be
ready to be a bit dishonest. He was a saint in the morning, for there was
nothing to be lost by it; but he has a religion that is not too strict;
business is business, he says, and he puts religion aside by stretching his
conscience, which is made of very elastic material. Well, some time in the
evening you will find him very pious again, unless he is on a business trip,
where neither wife, nor family, nor church can see him and you will find him at
questionable places of entertainment. He would not go if there was a chance of
the minister hearing of it, for then he would be excommunicated, but he does
not mind going when the eye of the church or of any of his friends is not on
him. Fine clothes make fine gentlemen, and fine places make fine hypocrites;
but the man who is true to his God and to his conscience, is a Christian all
day, and all night long, and a Christian everywhere. “Though you were to fill
my house full of gold,” he says, “I would not be impure or unethical; though
you would give me the stars and the countless wealth of empires, yet I would
not do that which would dishonor God, or disgrace my profession of faith.” Put
the true Christian where he might sin, and be praised for it, and he will not
do it. He does not hate sin for the sake of the company, but he hates it for
its own sake. He says, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
You will find him a fallible man, but not a false man; you will find him full
of weaknesses, but not a man of premeditated lust and sin. As a Christian, you
must follow Christ in the mire as well in the green meadows; you must walk with
him in the rain as well as in the sunshine, you must go with Christ in the
storm as well as in fair weather. He is no Christian who cannot walk with
Christ, come poverty, come contempt or shame. A person is the hypocrite who can
walk with Christ in silver slippers and leave the Master when it becomes
necessary for him to go barefoot. The hypocrite's religion is like a chameleon,
it takes its color from the light which falls on it, but the true Christian's
religion is always the same. Is this true of us? Can we say we desire to always
be the same? Or do we change with our company and with the times? If so, we are
confessed hypocrites, and let us confess it before God, and may God change us
to be sincere Christians.
7. There is another sign of a hypocrite, and now it will get very personal to most of us here. Hypocrites are generally severe with others, and very lenient with themselves.
Have you ever heard a hypocrite describe himself? I describe him this way:—you are a mean, selfish person. “No,” he says, “I am not; I am economical.” I say to him, “You are dishonest, you are a thief.” “No,” says he, “I am only shrewd and clever.” “Well, but,” I say to him, “you are proud and conceited.” “Oh!” he says, “I am simply a well-bred person.” “Yes, but you are a flatterer and a cowardly fellow.” “No,” he says, “I am all things to all men.” Somehow or other he will make vice look like a virtue in himself, but he will deal the opposite with others. Show him a Christian who is really humble, and he says, “I hate his submissive ways.” Tell him there is one who is very courageous for Christ; and he says, “Oh! he is insensitive to the feelings of others!” Show him one who is doing what he can for his Master's service, spending, and being spent for him, and the hypocrite says that, “He is rash, and irresponsible, and extravagant; the man does not know what he is doing.” You may point out a virtue, and the hypocrite will immediately say it is a vice. Have you ever seen a hypocrite turn doctor? He has a plank of wood in his eye, large enough to shut out the light of heaven from his soul, but nevertheless he is a very skillful ophthalmologist. He waits on some poor brother, whose eye is a little affected with a speck of sawdust so tiny that the full blaze of the sun can scarcely reveal it. Look at our plank-eyed friend, he puts on a knowing look, and cries out, “Allow me to take the speck out of your eye.” “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” [Matthew 7:5]. There are people like that who make virtues in others into vices, and vices in themselves they transform into virtues.
Now, if you are a Christian,
I will tell you what your spirit will be like, it will be the very opposite; you
will always be making excuses for others, but you will never be making excuses
for yourself. The true Christian, if he sees himself sin, mourns over it. He
says to another, “Oh! I feel so sinful;” and the other one says, “I cannot
really see it; I can see no sin in you; I could only wish that I were as holy
as you.” “No,” says the other, “I am full of weaknesses.” John Bunyan describes
Mercy, and Christiana, and the children, after having been washed in the bath,
and sealed with the seal, as coming up out of the water, and being all fair and
lovely to look upon; and one began to say to the other, “You are fairer than I!”
and “You are more beautiful than I!” said another. And then each began to
bemoan their own imperfections, and to praise the beauty of the others. That is
the spirit of a Christian; but the spirit of the hypocrite is the very reverse;
he will judge, and condemn, and severely punish every other man; and as for
himself, he is exempt, he is a king, he knows no law, and his conscience
slumbers and allows him to go on easily in the very sins which he condemns in
others. This is a very prominent mark of the hypocrite, and I question whether
all of us must not blame ourselves a little here.
II. And now we are going to LOOK AT THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF BEING A HYPOCRITE.
Now, sir, bring us your ledger, and let us have a look at it. You are a hypocrite. Well, what is on the profit side? A good deal, I must confess.
Here is, first of all credit and honor. If you were to say outright, “You are a thief, you are a secret drunkard, you can curse God as well as any man;” or if the world would hear as much, you would have no honor; but as it is you have joined the church, and the minister is very fond of you, the deacons and elders think a great deal of you, and you are a very honorable, respectable man. You go walking to your pew with your Bible, and everybody says, “There is an exemplary character;” and they pat their little boys on the head, and say, “May you grow up to be a very good man like Mr. So-and-so.”
The next advantage is the
case which you enjoy. The minister often preaches a solemn, thundering sermon
against sin. You know it doesn’t apply to you; you are not a sinner, are you?
not at all; who would suspect you? You are one of the brightest of the saints;
it is almost a pity you were not one of the twelve; there was one among them
almost as good as you, and his end will probably be yours. You escape every
thunder of the law; your conscience rests easy, and the very thing which makes
the child of God tremble, puffs you up, and the very marks and evidences which
cast him down, help to exalt you. The sun of the gospel which melts wax,
hardens the poor clay of your hearts, and you get the more exalted in your
self-conceit through everything you hear. And that is good too, is it not? Certainly
very much in your favor. And then there is another advantage of being a
hypocrite. How nicely your business has prospered through it; that, perhaps, is
the part of the bargain which you like the best. Ever since you have made a
profession of Christianity, haven’t those who go to your church supported your
business? You would not have done half as well if you had been suspected to be
what you really are, but because of that fine cloak of yours, that fine garment
of hypocrisy, how nicely you have prospered! What a nice little round sum you
have been able to lay aside, haven’t you? Again, all that is on the profit
side. And besides that, what honors haven’t you received in the church. Aren’t
you a deacon, or an elder; yes, and perhaps a minister too: how pleasant that
is! And you puff yourself up, and you feel satisfied. “Oh, what a good man I am,
other people think I am, therefore I must be. It is true I devour the widow's
house; it is true I am not very particular about what I do; nevertheless the
minister, the elders, the deacons think I am a godly person, the whole church
applauds me; they cannot all be mistaken; surely I must be a special saint.”
These were the advantages of being a hypocrite, but what about the disadvantages? I think we will be able to see that the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.
In the first place, I see a great disadvantage. Some of the people of the world do not think quite as much of you, as you imagine. The poor widow that you have taken advantage of knows that you are a wicked person. You will have to be very careful sir, or your true colors will be revealed. The very first disadvantage I see, is a fear that your hypocrisy will be discovered. It would take you only half as much time and trouble to be an honest man as it does to be a deceiver. A man who is in the habit of speaking truth, needn’t worry how he opens his mouth, nor where; but a man who lies, must be very careful, and have a very good memory, and remember all he has ever said before, lest he should trip himself up. So it is with you my friend, your religion is a Sunday religion, and you have to be very careful, so as to keep Monday’s dealings a secret and Sunday’s external worship as good as you can. Hard work! I would not stand in your place to have all the trepidation and fear of discovery which so often comes on you. No, I would sooner be a professed unbeliever, than I would have the fear that constantly haunts you, lest you should stand ashamed before the Church by your secret sins being discovered. But I see something worse than this, here is constant anxiety of conscience; hypocrites may seem as if they were at ease but they cannot really be. The Christian who is true to God, and is really his child, can confidently say, “I know that Jesus has taken away my sin.” Assurance, given to him by the Holy Spirit, calms his fears and he can rest in Christ. But the highest presumption, to which the hypocrite can attain, brings no such peace as that which is breathed upon the Christian by the lips of assurance. He can go to his bed, yes, he can go to his grave in peace, but the hypocrite is afraid of a shadow, and flees when no man pursues.
And last of all, Mr. Hypocrite, I see a disadvantage here which you usually forget, it is this—that despite your profession God abhors you, and if there is one man more than another who stinks in the nostrils of Jehovah, it is a person like you—you miserable pretender. There will be a special place reserved for you among the damned. Think man! Think what will be your misery when your secret deeds of iniquity are read before an assembled universe, and men and angels utter one unanimous hiss against you. What will it be like when your mask is torn off; when the masquerade of your hypocrisy is finished and you are stripped naked to your shame, to be observed by everyone and to be despised by everyone? What do you say to this? Will you go from your deaconship, or from your ministry, to be among the devils in hell? Will you go from the Lord’s Table to drink the sulfurous cup of torment? Will you descend from the song of the sanctuary and from the Church of the Living God to the abode of fiends and to the wailing of the damned? Yes, you will as sure as this word is true, if you continue on in your hypocrisy, Death will find you out, and hell will be your doom, for the hope of the hypocrite is like the spider's web, soon swept away; and where is he when God takes away his hope?
Such are the advantages and disadvantages of being a hypocrite, and there is an infinite amount of disadvantages.
III. Now for the matter of the CURE OF THE HYPOCRITE.
Oh! my friends, I feel that in speaking of the hypocrite, I have tried to speak in a direct and stern manner, but I have not been able to reach the heart as I wished, because it is a mark of human nature that this is the last sin of which we really suspect ourselves, and yet one into which it is most easy to fall. I often fall on my knees in an agony of doubt, and cry out, “Lord, make me sincere; if I am deceived, undeceive me.” I don’t think that any Christian will live long without some such seasons of anguishing self-examination.
Let me put it to you clearly today, let no one exempt themselves. You may have been professing Christians for many years, and yet you may have been hypocrites. Remember there was a hypocrite among the apostles, so there may be hypocrites among the ministers of Christ. There have been deceivers among the apostolic churches, how much more may we expect them among us. Don’t look around to search them out, it is God's business not yours, to search out hypocrites; but look at yourselves to see whether you might be one.
Driving along the other day in the wind, I
observed a large branch fall off of a tree. I remarked that it was rotten, and
wondered within myself how long that might have been on the tree, and yet have
been rotten all along. Then I thought, “Oh! if the wind of persecution were to
sweep through the church, would I fall off like a rotten branch? Wouldn’t many
of my congregation fall off? They have professed to be united to Christ for a
long time, and have spoken for him, perhaps preached for him, but if the time
of trial, which will test the earth, should come on us again, how many of us
would stand? Oh! my friends don’t be content to take your Christianity for
granted; let it not be a superficial work. Don’t think that because you have
seen me and have seen my elders, and we have admitted you into the church, that
you are therefore a true Christian. We have been deceived many times; it is not
hard work to deceive a kind heart. I have looked into the eyes of some, and
have tried to read their very soul, and yet I have misjudged; I have seen tears
in their eyes when they have made a profession of Christ, and yet they have
been deceivers after all, and I have been very grossly taken in. In fact, the
more kind-hearted a person is, then the more human nature will endeavor to trust
them. I am certain I have used the utmost diligence to weed out of the church
those whom I have suspected of hypocrisy, and greater diligence will yet be
used. But, oh, do deal with yourselves, I beg you. I will not send you to hell
blind-folded if I can help it; I don’t wish to be in error myself, and God
forbid that I should allow you to be deceived. Oh! if you are not true
Christians, away with your profession altogether. If it is not sound work, then
down with it. Better to see the house tumble now, than let it stand until the
rain descends and the floods come, and the winds beat on it in the dread eternity
of the future. Oh, no, I would rather send every heart home uncomfortable than
let the hypocrite sit here and think all is well; I would rather wound the
child of God than allow the hypocrite to escape.
But now for the cure of the hypocrite. What will we do to cure ourselves of any hypocrisy that may exist among us?
Let us remember that we cannot do anything in secret even if we try. The all-seeing God, apprehended in the conscience, will be the death of hypocrisy. I cannot try to deceive when I know that God is looking at me. It is impossible for me to try to deceive others when I know that I am in the presence of the Most High, and that he is reading my thoughts and the secret purposes of my heart. The only way in which the hypocrite can play the hypocrite at all is by forgetting the existence of God.
Let us, therefore, remember—wherever I am, on my bed or in my secret place, God is there. There is not a secret word I speak in the ear of a friend that God doesn’t hear. Do I seek out the most private part of the city to commit my sin—God is there. Do I choose the darkness of night to hide my iniquity?—He is there looking at me. The thought of a ever present Deity, if it were fully realized, would keep us from sin; always looking at me, always looking in my heart.
We think we are doing many things in secret, but there is nothing concealed from God. And the day is coming, when all the sins of the hypocrite will be read and published. Oh! what a blush will be on the hypocrite when God will read the secret diary of his iniquity! O, those of you who claim to be Christians, let us always look on our actions in the light of the great revealing of them in the day of judgment. Pause over everything you do, and say, “Can I bear to have this sin shouted into the ears of all men and women?” No, before you sin, think this way, “Can I dare to do this and still to repeat the words, ‘You are the God who sees me.’”
You may deceive men, and deceive yourselves,
but you cannot deceive God. You may die with the name of Christ on your lips,
and men may bury you with a sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection,
but God will not be deceived neither by your profession of faith nor by men's
opinion. He will put you in the scales, and if you are found lacking, he will
cry out, “Away with him.” He will write down your name forever as a
counterfeit. He will strip the mask off you. To detect you, you will be
stripped naked, and reveal your wicked heart. How will you endure this? Will you
dig into the depths of the earth to hide yourselves? Will you plunge into the
sea to find a way of escape? Will you cry for the rocks to hide you, and the
mountains to fall on you? In vain will you cry out. The all-seeing God will
read your soul, will discover your secret, will reveal your hidden things, and
tell the world that, though you did eat and drink in his streets, though you
preached his name, yet he never knew you, you were still a worker of iniquity,
and must be driven away for ever.
Come let us just for one second reflect, that we will soon lie on our death bed. A few more months, and you and I will face the cruel tyrant, death. It will be hard work to play the hypocrite then; when the pulse is faint and few, when the eyes become weak, when the tongue is cleaving to the roof of your mouth, it will be vain to try to play the hypocrite then. O may God make you sincere; for if you die with an empty profession of faith, you will truly die for all of eternity. Of all deaths, I think the most awful is that of the hypocrite, and after death, for him to lift up his eyes and find himself lost—for all eternity! O make sure you know the true condition of your heart. May God give you true grace and true faith, and may we all meet in heaven. This is our earnest prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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