First Aggravation. Hypocrisy is a sin that offers violence to the very light of nature. That light which convinceth us there is a God, tells us he is to be served, and that in truth also, or all is to no purpose. A lie is a sin that would fly on the face of a heathen; and hypocrisy is the loudest lie, because it is given to God himself. So Peter told that dissembling wretch, ‘Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God,’ Acts 5:3,4.
Second Aggravation. Hypocrisy cannot so properly be said to be one single sin, as the sinfulness of other sins. It is among sins, as sincerity among graces. Now that is not one grace but an ornament, that beautifies and graces all other graces. The preciousness of faith is, that it is ‘unfeigned,’ and of love to be ‘without dissimulation.’ Thus the odiousness of sins is, when they are committed in hypocrisy. David aggravates the sin of those jeering companions—who made their table talk, and could not taste their cheer except seasoned with some salt jest quibbled out at him—with this, that they were ‘hypocritical mockers,’ Ps. 35:16. They did it slyly, and wrapped up their scoffs, it is like, in such language as might make some who did not well observe them think that they applauded him. There is a way of commending which some have learned to use, when they mean to cast the greatest scorn upon those they hate bitterly; and these ‘hypocritical mockers’ deserve the chair to be given them from all others scorners. Fevers are counted malignant according to the degree of putrefaction that is in them. Hypocrisy is the very putrefaction and rottenness of the heart. The more of this putrid stuff there is in any sin, the more malignant it is. David speaks of ‘the iniquity of his sin,’ ‘I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin,’ Ps. 32:5. This sin seems very probably to have been his adultery with Bathsheba, and murder of Uriah, by his long ‘keeping silence,’ ver. 3; by the pardon he had immediately given in upon confessing, ver. 5, which we know Nathan delivered to him; and by his further purpose to continue confessing of it, which appeared by the mournful Psalm 51, that followed upon his discourse with Nathan. Now David, to make the pardoning mercy of God more illustrious, saith he did not only forgive his sin, but the iniquity of his sin. And what was that? Surely the worst that can be said of that his complicated sin is, that there was so much hypocrisy in it. He woefully juggled with God and man in it. This, I do not doubt to say, was ‘the iniquity of his sin,’ and put a colour deeper on it than the blood which he shed. And the rather I lay the accent there, because God himself, when he would set out the heinousness of this sin, seems to do it rather from the hypocrisy in the fact, than the fact itself, as appears by the testimony given this holy man: ‘David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite,’ I Kings 15:5. Were there not other wry steps that David took besides this? doth the Spirit of God, by excepting this, declare his approbation of all that else he ever did? No, sure. The Spirit of God records other sins that escaped this eminent servant of the Lord; but all those are drowned here, and this mentioned as the only stain of his life. But why? Surely because there appeared less sincerity, yea more hypocrisy, in this one sin than in all his other put together. Though David in them was wrong as to the matter of his actions, yet his heart was more right in the manner of committing them. But here his sincerity was sadly wounded, though not to the total destruction of the habit, yet to lay it in a long swoon, as to any actings thereof. And truly the wound went very deep when that grace was stabbed in which did run the life-blood of all the rest. We see then that God had reason—though his mercy prompted him, yea, his covenant obliged him, not to let his child die of this wound, I mean finally miscarry of this sin, either through want of repentance on the one hand, or pardoning mercy on the other—so to heal it that a scar might remain upon the place, a mark upon the sin, whereby others might know how odious hypocrisy is to God.
Third Aggravation. Those considerations which may seem at first to lessen and pare off something from the heinousness of the hypocrite’s sin, viz. that he walks in a religious habit, hath a form of piety which others want, and performs duties that others neglect—these and the like are so far from taking from, that they add a further weight of aggravation to it. Let us consider the hypocrite in a twofold respect, and this will appear, either in the things he trades about; or secondly, in the things he lays claim to; these are both high and sacred, and a sin in these can be no ordinary sin. The things he trades in are duties of God’s worship. The things he lays claim to are relation to God, interest in Christ, consolations of the Spirit, and the like. These are things of high price—a miscarriage about these must be somewhat suitable to their high nature. As is the wool so is the thread and the cloth, coarse or fine. The profane person pretends not to these. He cannot spin so fine a thread, because the work he deals in is coarser. All his impieties will not have so high a price of wrath set upon them which he, being ignorant of God, and a stranger to the ways of God, hath committed, as the hypocrite’s impieties will.