Use First. Doth sincerity cover all defects? Then hypocrisy uncovers the soul, and strips it naked to its shame before God, when set forth with the richest embroidery of other excellencies. This is such a scab as frets into the choicest perfections, and alters the complexion of the soul; in God’s eye, more than leprosy or pox can do the fairest face in ours. It is observable, the different character that is given of those two kings of Judah, Asa and Amaziah. Of the first, ‘But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days,’ I Kings 15:14. He passeth current for a gracious person, and that with a non obstante—‘nevertheless his heart was perfect.’ Sincerity like true gold hath grains allowed for its lightness. His infirmities are not mentioned to stain his honour, and prejudice him in the opinion of any; but rather, as the wart or mole which the curious limner expresseth on purpose, the more to set forth the beauty of the other parts, so his failing are recorded to cast a greater lustre upon his sincerity; which could, notwithstanding these sins gain him such a testimony from God’s own mouth. But of Amaziah, ‘He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart,’ II Chr. 25:2. The matter of his actions was good, but the scope and drift of his heart in them was naughty, and this but makes a foul blot upon all, and turns his right into wrong. Wherein his hypocrisy appeared is expressed, ‘He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did,’ II Kings 14:3. He did for a while what David did, as to the matter, but imitated Joash as to the manner, whose goodness was calculated to please man rather than God, as appeared upon the death of his good uncle Jehoiada. Him did Amaziah write after, and not after David in his uprightness. Thus we see that Asa’s uprightness commends him in the midst of many failings, but hypocrisy condemns Amaziah doing that which was right. Sincerity! it is the life of all our graces, and puts life into all our duties, and, as life makes beautiful and keeps the body sweet, so sincerity the soul and all it doth. A prayer breathed from a sincere heart! it is heaven’s delight. Take away sincerity, and God saith of prayer as Abraham of Sarah —whom living he loved dearly, and laid in his bosom—‘Bury the dead out of my sight;’ he hides his eyes, stops his nostril, as when some poisonous carrion is before us. ‘Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination unto me;…the calling of assemblies I cannot away with;…your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble to me, I am weary to bear them,’ Isa. 1:13,14. What stinking thing is this that God cries so out upon? it is nothing but hypocrisy. Surely, friends, that must needs be very loathsome, which makes God speak so coarsely of his own ordinances, yea, make them a nehushtan—prayer no prayer, but a mere idol to be broken in pieces; faith no faith, but a fancy and a delusion; repentance no repentance, but a loud lie. ‘They returned and enquired early after God,’ Ps. 78:34; see how the Spirit of God glosseth upon this: ‘Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him,’ ver. 36,37. It smoked God out of his own house, and made him out of love with that place whereof he had said, it should be his ‘resting-place for ever.’ It brought the wrath of God upon that unhappy people to the uttermost. Mark how the commission runs which God gave the Assyrian, who was the bloody executioner of his wrath upon them. ‘O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets,’ Isa. 10:5,6; see Jer. 7:10-13. There needs not the coroner to be sent for, or a jury go upon this miserable people, to find out how they came to their dismal end; they were a ‘hypocritical nation.’ That was it they died of. God had rather see ‘the abomination of desolation’ standing in his temple making havoc of all, than the abomination of dissimulation mocking him to his face, while they worship him with their lips, and their lusts with their hearts. Of the two it is more tolerable in God’s account to see a Belshazzar, that never had a name of being his servant, to quaff and carouse it to his gods profanely in the bowels of the sanctuary, than for a people that would pass for his servants to pollute them in his own worship by their cursed hypocrisy. If God be dishonoured, woe to that man of all that doth it under a show of honouring him. God singles out the hypocrite as that sort of sinner whom he would deal with hand to hand, and set himself even in this life to bear witness against in a more extraordinary manner than others. The thief, murderer, and other the like sinners, provision is made by God that the magistrate should meet with them, they come under his cognizance; but the hypocrite, he is one that sins more secretly, God alone is able to find him out, and he hath undertaken it, ‘For every one of the house of Israel….which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me,’ Eze. 14:7. [This forms] an excellent description of a hypocrite; he is one that denies God his heart—reserving it for his idols, his lusts—yet is as forward as any to inquire after God in his ordinances. [He continues] ‘I the Lord will answer him by myself.’ And how will he answer him? ‘And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord,’ ver. 8; that is, my judgments shall be so remarkable on him, that he shall be a spectacle of my wrath for others to see and speak of. Thus God pays the hypocrite often in this life, as Ananias and Sapphira, who died by the hand of God with a lie sticking in their throats; and Judas, who purchased nothing by his hypocritical trade but a halter to hang himself withal. His playing the hypocrite with Christ ended in his playing the devil upon himself, when he became his own executioner. But if the hypocrite at any time steals out of the world before his vizard falls off, and the wrath of God falls on him, it will meet him sure enough in hell, and it will be poor comfort to him there to think how he hath cheated his neighbours in arriving at hell, whom they so confidently thought under sail for heaven. The good opinion which he hath left of himself in those that are on earth will cool no flames for him in hell, where lodgings are taken up, and bespoken for the hypocrite, as the chief guest expected in that infernal court. All other sinners seem but as younger brethren in damnation to the hypocrite, under whom, as the great heir, they receive every one their portion of wrath bequeathed to them by the justice of God. [In] Matt. 24:51, the evil servant is threatened by his master that he will ‘cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.’
Question. But why should God be so angry with the hypocrite? He seems a tame creature to other sinners, that like wild beasts rage and raven, not fearing to open their mouth like so many wolves against heaven, as if they would tear God out of his throne by their blasphemies and horrid impieties. The hypocrite is not thus woaded with impudency to sin at noon-day, and spread his tent with Absalom on the house-top. If he be naughty, it is in a corner. His maiden-blush modesty will not suffer him to declare his sin, and be seen in the company of it abroad. Nay, he denies himself of many sins which others maintain, and walks in the exercise of many duties which the atheistical spirits of the world deride and scorn. Why then should the hypocrite, that lives like a saint to others, be more distasteful to him?
Answer. Indeed, the hypocrite at first blush may be taken for a kind of saint by such as see only his outside, as he passeth by in his holiday dress, which he is beholden to for all the reputation he hath in the thoughts of others, and therefore is fitly by one called ‘the stranger’s saint,’ but a devil to those that know him better. He is like some cunning cripple, that is fain to borrow help from art to hide the defects of nature, such as false hair to cover his baldness, an artificial eye to blind his blindness from others’ sight, and the like for other parts. Here is much ado made to commend him for some beautiful person to others, but what a monster would he appear should one but see him through the key‑hole as he is in his bed-chamber, where all these are laid aside? Truly such a one, and far more scareful, would the hypocrite be found, when out of his acting robes, which he makes use of only when he comes forth upon the stage to play the part of a saint before others. It were enough to affright us only to see the hypocrite uncased; what then will it be to himself, when he shall be laid open before men and angels! So odious this generation is to God, that it is not safe standing near them. Moses, that knew Korah, Dathan, and Abiram better than the people—who, taken with their seeming zeal, flocked after them in throngs—commands them to depart from the tents of those wicked men, except they had a mind to be consumed with them. Such horrid hypocrisy he expected vengeance would soon overtake. But that it may appear to be a sin ‘exceeding sinful,’ I shall give a few aggravations of it, in which so many reasons will be wrapped up why it is so odious to God.