Second. Consider the hypocrite in the things he lays claim to; and they are no small privileges —relation to God and interest in Christ. Who more forward to saint himself, to pretend to the grace and comforts of the Spirit, than the hypocrite? We see this in the Pharisees, whose great design was to get a name, and that, not such as the great ones of the earth have for prowess—worldly majesty and the like —but for sanctity and holiness. And they had it, if it would do them any good. ‘Verily,’ saith Christ, ‘they have their reward,’ Matt. 6:2. They would be thought for great saints; and so they were by the multitude, who did so applaud them for their holiness which faced their outside, that they had a proverb, ‘If but two could be saved, one of the two should be a Pharisee.’ We read of some that profess they know God, but in works they deny him, Titus 1:16. They boldly brag of their acquaintance with God, and would be thought great favourites of his, though their lives are antipodes to heaven. So, Rev. 3:9, we meet with some that say they are Jews, and are not, but lie. They dwell sure by ill neighbours. None would say so much for them but themselves. The hypocrite is so ambitious to pass for a saint, that he commonly is a great censurer of the true graces of others, as too much hindering the prospect of his own; like Herod, who, as Eusebius writes, being troubled at the baseness of his own birth, burned the Jews’ ancient genealogies, the better to defend his own pretended noble ascent. Who now is able to give a full accent to this high-climbing sin of the hypocrite? It is a sin that highly reproacheth God, to have such a vile wretch claim kindred with him. Christ indeed is not ‘ashamed to call’ the poorest saints ‘brethren,’ but he disdains to have his name seen upon a rotten-hearted hypocrite, as princes to have their effigies stamped on base metals. What scorn was put upon that mock-prince, Perkin Warbeck, who, having got some fragments of courtship and tutored how to act his part, was presented to the world as son to Edward the Fourth of this nation, but [who], when he had aped a while the state of a prince, was taken, and with his base ignoble pedigree, writ in great letters, pinned at his back, sent about, that wherever he came he might carry his shame with him, till in the end he was sent to act the last part of his play at the gallows. But what is all this to the hypocrite’s portion? who for abusing others here, with a seeming sanctity, as if indeed he was of heavenly extraction—a child of God—shall be brought at the great day, to be hissed and hooted at by men and angels, and after he had been put to this open shame to be thrown deepest into hell.
Of all sinners the hypocrite doth most mischief in this world, and therefore shall have most torment in the other. There is a double mischief which none stand at like advantage to do as the hypocrite by his seeming saintship. The one he doth while his credit holds, and he passeth for a child of God in the opinion of his neighbours; the other when his reputation is cracked, and he discovered to be what he is—a hypocrite. The mischief he doth when his mask is on, is as a deceiver. Machiavelli knew what he did in commending to princes a semblance of religion, though he forbade any more. It hath been found to be the most taking bait to decoy people into their snare, who come in apace when religion is the flag that is set up. Ehud could not have thought on a surer key to open all doors, and procure him admittance into king Eglon’s presence, than to give out he had a message from the Lord to him. This raised such an expectation, and bred such confidence, that room is made for him. Presently all depart and he is left alone with the king. Yea, the king will rise to hear this message that comes from the Lord, and so gives him a greater advantage to run him into the bowels. Had some in our days pretended highly to saintship, I doubt not but they would have found the door shut, where now they have too much welcome, and find it easy to procure belief to their errors. Even the elect are in some danger, when one cried up for a saint is the messenger that brings the error to town, and that under the notion of a message from God.
I confess the hypocrite acts his part so handsomely, that he may do some good accidently. His glistering profession, heavenly discourse, excellent gifts in prayer or preaching, may affect much the sincere soul, and be an occasion of real good to his soul. As the stage-player, though his tears be counterfeit, may stir up by his seeming passion real sorrow in his spectators, so as to make them weep in earnest; thus the hypocrite, acting his part with false affections, may be a means to draw forth and excite the Christian’s true graces. But then is such a Christian much more in danger to be ensnared by his error, because he will not be readily suspicious of anything that he brings, whom he hath found really helpful to his grace or comfort; and thus the good the hypocrite doth makes him but able to do the greater hurt in the end. Sisera had better have gone without Jael’s butter and milk, than by them to be laid asleep against she came with her nail; and it had been far happier for many on our days not to have tasted of the gifts and seeming graces of some, than to have been so taken with this sweet wine, as to drink themselves drunk into an admiration of their persons, which hath laid them asleep, and thereby given them whom they have applauded so much, but advantage the more easily to fasten their nail to their heads—errors I mean, to their judgments. The other mischief the hypocrite doth is when discovered, and that is as he is a scandal to the ways of God, and the servants of God. It is said of Samson, ‘The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life,’ Judges 16:30. Truly the hypocrite doth more hurt when he is discovered—which is the death of his profession —than when he seemed to be alive. The wicked world that are not long seeking a staff to beat the saints with, have now one put into their hand by the hypocrite. O how they can run division upon this harsh note, and besmear the face of all professors with the dirt they see upon the false brother’s coat, as if they could take the length of all their feet by the measure of one hypocrite. Hence comes such base language as this: ‘They are all of a pack, not one better than another.’ Indeed, this is very absurd reasoning. [It is] as if one should say that no coin were current and right silver, because now and then a brass shilling is found amongst the rest. But this language fits the mouth of the ungodly world. And woe be to the man that makes these arrows for them by his hypocrisy, which they shoot against saints; better he had been thrown with a millstone about his neck into the sea, than have lived to give such an occasion for the enemy to blaspheme.