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are slaves of Satan, and under the wrath and curse of God, that are indeed so, past all controversy ? but tell not him of it that makes no doubt but he is a member of Christ, a child of God, and an heir of heaven. He loveth to hear a minister rouse up the profane and grossly sensual offenders, and seems in pity to wish for their conversion, and perhaps will exhort them to turn and mend their lives himself. But he little thinks that he is faster in the prison of Satan than they, and that he is himself in the same condemnation. : Do you go about to tell him of the necessity of the fear of God, and of loving him above all, and of trusting him, and serving him as our only Lord? Why, all this he will confess, and perhaps is as forward to say as you, and verily thinks that he is one that doth it; you may as soon make him believe that he is not an Englishman, as that he is not a Christian, and that he loveth not himself, as that he loveth not God; even while he loveth not to think of him, to speak of him, to call upon him, to obey him; while he loveth not his word, his
ways, or servants, or while he loveth the world and the pleasures of sin more heartily, and seeketh them more eagerly, and cleaveth to them more tenaciously, yet if you would persuade him that he hath not a heart as true to God as any of
will lose your
labour. Do you tell him of hypocrisy ? he will tell you that it is the thing he hateth : who speaks against it more than he ? And because the world shall see he is no hypocrite, he will call them all hypocrites that are faithful to God and to their souls, and will not sit down in his truly hypocritical vain religion, but will be more holy and diligent than he. What can you say to such a man in order to his conversion, which his self-deceiving religion will not frustrate? Do you tell him of hell-fire, and of the wrath of God against the ungodly? All this he can hear as calmly as another man; for he thinks that he is none of the ungodly, he hath scaped the danger; let them be afraid of it whom it doth concern. If you tell him of his sins, he can tell you
that all men are sinners; we are imperfect; and you shall never persuade him that his reigning, deadly sins are any other than such human frailties and infirmities as may stand with grace. Do you put him
upon the inward practice of religion, and the fuller devoting of his soul to God, and the life of faith, and a heavenly mind? He will tell you, that in his measure, he doth all this already ; though none of us are so good as we should be; and his heart being unseen to you, he thinks you must believe him. Do you VOL. XVII.
blame him for his slightness and formality in religion, and put him upon a more serious, diligent course, and to live as one that seeketh heaven with all his heart, and soul, and might? Why, he thinks you do but persuade him to some self-conceited overzealous party, and draw him from his moderation to be righteous over much, and to make too much ado with his religion, Unless he be an hypocrite that falleth into the schismatical strain, and then he will make a greater bustle with his opinions and his outside services then you can desire. So that one with his mere book-prayers, forms, and ceremonies, and the other with his mere extemporate words, and affected outside seeming feryour, and both of them by a mere opinionative, lifeless, carnal kind of religion, subject to their fleshly ends and interests, do so effectually cheat their souls that they are armed against all that you can say or do, and you know not how to get within them, or fasten any saving truths upon their hearts,
3. This vain religion is not vain as to the preserving of his reputation in the world. It sayeth him from being numbered with the filthy rabble, and from being pointed at as notoriously vicious, or branded with the disgraceful characters of the scandalous. Men say not of him, 'There goeth a drunkard, a swearer, a curser, a fornicator, or a profane ungodly wretch. He may be esteemed civil, ingenuous, discreet, and perhaps religious, and be much honoured by wise, religious men; though most commonly his formal, or opinionative, heartless kind of religion is discerned or much suspected by experienced, judicious Christians, by his sapless, unexperienced, common and carnal kind of discourse and duty, sticking most in opinions, parties, or some outside things, and by his temporizing, and reserve, and uneven kind of conversation; yet it is not always so; but sometime he is as far unsuspected as the best; perhaps he may be esteemed a reverend preacher, or a discreet, religious, well-accomplished gentleman, and
be set in the head of church or commonwealth, as a leader of the saints on earth, that shall be thrust into the place of hypocrites, and not come near the meanest of the saints in heaven.
4. Lastly, (but better than all this,) his religion is not vain as to the good of others. He may, by the perfume and odour of his gifts, be kept from stinking to the annoyance of others, while he is dead in sin. He may be very serviceable in the church of God; a judicious, earnest expounder of the Scripture, and preacher and defender of the truth; in his place as a magistrate, or master of a family, he may be a severe corrector
of profaneness, and promoter of godliness; it being much easier to drive others from their sin, than to forsake their own, and to drive on others to a godly life, than to practise it themselves : and by their owning godliness, and disowning sin, they persuade themselves the more effectually that they are truly godly. The Church cannot well spare the gifts and services of hypocrites, and many ungodly men. As bad or sick physicians may be God's instruments to cure our bodies, and a wicked carpenter may make a good house; so a wicked minister may well expound and apply the Scriptures; and he that refuseth the grace of Christ, may prevail with others to accept it; the sign-post that stands out of door itself, may invite others into the house; and the hand upon a post that goes not one step of the way, may point it out to others. There is more self-denial required to the forsaking of their own sins, than to persuade others to forsake theirs ; a covetous man cares not how liberal others be; nor a glutton, drunkard, or fornicator, how temperate and chaste his neighbours be. And hence it is that many of these that refuse a holy life themselves, are willing their children or servants should embrace it. The end of the balance that goeth down itself, doth cause the other to go up. Other men's souls are more beholden to hypocrites than their own. They are like the common mariners, that enrich the merchant by fetching home his treasure, when they have nothing but a poor maintenance themselves; or like tailors, who make ornaments for others, which they never wear themselves; or like carpenters, that build fair houses which they never dwell in; or like the cook, that dresseth meat which he eateth not. God giveth hypocrites their usual gifts, for the service of the Church more than for themselves. He sometimes maketh those to be nursing fathers to his Church that are butchers of their own souls, and makes those his instruments to undeceive others, that deceive themselves. And thus far their religion is not vain.
But 1. It is vain as to God's special acceptation. True religion pleaseth God; but the self-deceiver's opinion he abhorreth. He hath no pleasure in fools. (Eccl. v. 4.) He asketh such, To what purpose is the multitude of their sacrifices? (Isaiah i. 11,) and saith, he is full of their burnt offerings, and delights not in them. When they come to appear before him he asketh them, Who required this at their hands, to tread in his courts and bids them, bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to him ; the calling of their assemblies he cannot away with, and their solemn meetings are iniquity; (ver. 12, 13;) their appointed feasts his soul hateth, they are a trouble to him, he is weary to bear them. When they spread forth their hands, he will hide his eyes; when they make many prayers, he will not hear; because they do not forsake their sins, (ver. 14,) because they turn away their ear from hearing his law, their prayer is abomination to him. (Pro. xxviii. 9. and xv. 8. and xxi. 27.) When they have sinned, instead of repenting and forsaking it, they think to please God by their religion, and stop the mouth of justice with their services; whereas they do but provoke him more, by adding hypocrisy to iniquity. Were they truly willing to let
go their sins, and to please God by universal obedience, he would willingly accept them, and be pleased with their services. But when men's religion, their prayers and other duties, are not used against their sins, but for them, not to kill them, but to cover them, not to overcome them, but as it were to bribe God to give them leave to sin, because they are not willing to forsake it, this is the self-deceiving religion of hypocrites, that is in vain.
2. And this religion is in vain, as to any promoting of a work of sanctification upon his soul. It weaneth him not from the world; it crucifieth not the flesh, with its affections and lusts; it doth not further his self-denial, nor driveth him to Christ, by a faith unfeigned; it never raiseth him to a heavenly life, nor kindleth the love of God within him; it is dead and ineffectual, and cannot produce these high effects. Yea, on the contrary, it hardeneth him in sin and self-deceit; it hindereth his repentance; it emboldeneth him in his fleshly, worldly life, and quieteth him in the neglect of Christ and heaven.
3. Moreover this kind of religion is vain as to any solid peace of conscience. It affordeth him none of the well-grounded, durable comforts of the saints; but, on the contrary, keep sout solid comfort by feeding him with airy, delusory conceits; and making him to be but his own comforter, upon fancies and confidence of his own, when the Spirit of Christ is not his comforter; nor doth the word of God speak any peace at all unto him.
4. Lastly, his religion is in vain, as to his salvation. As he had but an image of true religion, so he shall have but an image of heaven. Some dreams and self-created hopes of happiness may accompany him to the door of eternity, but there they will leave him to everlasting horror.
V. Use. 1. From what hath been said, you may see the reason why an outside, formal, seeining religiousness, is a thing so common in the world, in comparison of the life and power of godliness. It is an easier thing to bring men to the strictest opinion, than to bring them to the affectionate and deep reception and practice of the truth. A strict opinion may be held without any great cost and trouble to the flesh. It is the practice that bereaveth a sinner of the pleasure of his sin. It is the common trick by which most hypocrites cheat their souls, to turn to the side and opinion, and assemblies and company, which they think to be the best; that so they may persuade themselves the more easily, that they are as good as those opinions and that company doth import, and that they are truly such as those they join with. As men are taken by others for such as those they correspond with ; so hypocrites take themselves for such. As if it would prove that a man is sound, because he dwelleth with them that are so ? Or as it would prove a man rich or honourable, that he converseth with such ? As God will not save any nations on earth, because they are such nations; nor will he save men because they are of such or such a trade, or because they are skilled in this or that art or science; no more will he save men for being of this or that party or sect, in matters of religion. One thinks when he hath lived a fleshly life, he shall be saved for hearing or saying the common prayer, or because he is for prelacy and ceremonies; another thinks he shall be saved, because he can pray without a book, or form of words, or because he frequenteth the private meetings of those that more diligently redeem their time for spiritual advantages than others do; another thinks he shall be saved because he is mocked as a Puritan or as too strict, as others are that are serious believers, and diligent in the things of God; and another thinks that he shall be saved because he is re-baptized, or because he joineth with some separate congregation, which pretendeth to be more strict than others. But none shall be saved, on any such account as these. Cain could not be saved, for being the first born in the family of Adam ; Ham could not be saved for being in the ark and family of Noah; nor Esau for being in the house of Isaac ; nor Absalom for being the son of David; nor Judas for being a disciple in the family of Christ. Even Mary that brought him forth, could not have been saved by him, if she had not had a better title; and had not borne him in her heart. (Mark iii. 34, 35.) When they talk to him of his mother and his brethren, Christ looked upon those that sat about him, and told them that, whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is his brother, his sister, and his mother. It is no outward badge and livery, but a heart-title, that must