First. The hypocrite trades in the duties of God’s worship. Judas sits down with the rest of the apostles at the passover, and bids himself welcome as confidently as if he were the best guest—the holiest of all the company. The proud Pharisee gets to the temple as soon as the broken‑hearted publican. But what work doth the hypocrite make with these things that would be known indeed. Sad work, the Lord knows, or else God would not so abominate them as to think he hears a dog bark, or a wolf howl all the while they are praying. We think David had a curious hand at the harp that could pacify the evil raging spirit of melancholy Saul. But what a harsh unhappy stroke have they in the duties of God’s worship, that are able to make the sweet meek Spirit of God angry, yea, break out into fury against them? And no wonder, if we consider but these two things.
- The hypocrite does no less than mock God in all his duties.And of all things God can least bear that. God is not mocked. Christ preached this doctrine when he cursed the fig-tree, which did, by her green leaves, mock the passenger, making him come for fruit, and go ashamed without any. Had it wanted leaves as well as fruit, it had escaped that curse. Every lie is a mocking of him to whom it is told, because such a one goes to cheat him, and thereby puts the fool upon him. Why hast thou ‘mocked me,’ said Delilah to Samson, ‘and told me lies?’ Judges 16:10, as if she had said—as is usual upon the like with us —Do you make a fool of me? I leave it to the hypocrite to think seriously what he is going to make of God, when he puts up his hypocritical services. God’s command was none should appear before him empty. This the hypocrite doth; and therefore mocks God. He comes indeed full-mouth, but empty-hearted. As to the formality of a duty, he oft exceeds the sincere Christian. He, if any, may truly be called a ‘master of ceremonies,’ because all that he entertains God with in duty, lies in the courtship of tongue and knee. How abhorrent this is to God may easily be judged by the disdain which even a wise man would express to be so served. Better to pretend no kindness, than, pretending, to intend none. It is the heart God looks at in duty. If the wine be good, he can drink it out of a wooden cup. But let the cup be never so gilded, and no wine in it, he makes account that man mocks him that would put it into his hand. It was Christ’s charge against Sardis, ‘I have not found thy works perfect before God,’ Rev. 3:2. I have not found them full ‘before God,’ as the original hath it. Sincerity fills our duty and all our actions. And mark that phrase before God, which implies that this church retained such an outward form of devotion as might keep up her credit before men. She had ‘a name to live,’ but her works were not full before God. He pierced them deeper than man’s probe could go, and judgeth her by what he found her within.
- The hypocrite performs the duties of God’s worship on some base design or other.This makes him but yet more abominable to God, who disdains to have his holy ordinances prostituted to serve the hypocrite’s lust—used only as a stream to turn about his mill, and handsomely effect his carnal projects. When Absalom had formed his plot within his own unnatural bosom, and was as big with his treason as ever cockatrice was with her poisonous egg; to Hebron he goes in all haste, and that forsooth, to pay an old vow which in the time of his affliction he had made to the Lord, II Sam. 15:7,8. Who would not think the man was grown honest, when he begins to think of paying his old debts? But the wretch meant nothing less. His errand thither was to lay his treason under the warm wing of religion, that the reputation he should gain thereby might help the sooner to help to hatch it. And I wish, as Absalom died without a son to keep his name in remembrance, that so none had been left behind to inherit his cursed hypocrisy, that the world might have grown into a happy ignorance of so monstrous a sin. But alas, this is but a vain wish. Vivit imo in templum venit—this kind of hypocrisy yet lives, yea comes as boldly to out-face God in his worship as ever. Many make no better use of the exercise of it, than some do of their sedans, to carry them unseen to the enjoyment of their lust. And is it any wonder that God, who hath appointed his ordinances for such high and holy ends, should abhor the hypocrite, who thus debaseth them in the service of the devil? Did you invite some to a costly feast at your house, who instead of feeding on the dainties you have provided for them, should take and throw all to their dogs under the table; how would you like your guests? The hypocrite is he that casts God’s holy things to the dogs. God invites us to his ordinances, as to a rich feast, where he is ready to entertain us in sweet communion with himself. What horrid impiety is it then that the hypocrite commits, who, when he is set at God’s table, feeds not of these dainties himself, but throws all to his lusts—some to his pride, and some to his covetousness, propounding to himself no other end in coming to them than to make provision for these lusts. They act as Hamor, and Shechem his son, who, when they would persuade the people of their city to submit to circumcision, used this as a great argument to move them, that they should grow rich by the hand. ‘If every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours?’ Gen. 34:22,23. A goodly argument, was it not, in a business of such a high nature as coming under a solemn ordinance? They rather speak as if they were going to a horse-market or a cow-fair, than a religious duty. Truly, though most hypocrites have more wit than thus to print their thoughts, and let the world read what is writ in their hearts, yet as Queen Mary said of Callis—‘If she were ripped up it would be found in her heart,’—so some low things, as vainglory, worldly profit, &c., would be found engraven in the breast of all hypocrites, as that which they most aim at in the duties of religion.