« ÎnapoiContinuă »
in danger of being overtaken with, Luke xii. 1. though he does not charge them with it as a reigning sin, as he did the Scribes and Pharisees, whom he compares to painted sepulchres, Matt. xxiii. 27, 28. nor were they such as the apostle speaks of, whom he calls double-minded men, who are unstable in all their ways, James i. 8.
As to that hypocrisy which we may call a reigning sin, this may be known,
[1.] By a person's accommodating himself to all those whom he converses with, how much soever this may tend to the dishonour of Christ and the gospel: And this may give us occasion to enquire,
First, Whether the apostle Paul was in any respects, chargeable with this sin, when he says, in 1 Cor. ix. 20-22. Unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak, became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. For the understanding of this scripture, and vindicating the apostle from the charge of hypocrisy, let it be considered,
1st, That this compliance he here speaks of, was not with a design to gain the applause of the world, but to serve the interest of Christ; neither did he connive at, or give countenance to, that false worship, or those sinful practices of any, that were contrary to the faith, or purity of the gospel. Therefore when he says, Unto the Jews, I became as a few; he does not intend that he gave them the least ground to conclude, that it was an indifferent matter, whether they adhered to, or laid aside the observation of the ceremonial law: For, he expressly tells some of the church at Galatia, who were supposed to Judaize, that this was contrary to the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, a being again entangled with the yoke of bondage; and that if they were circumcised, Christ should profit them nothing; and, that they were fallen from grace; that is, turned aside from the faith of the gospel, Gal. v. 1,-4. Therefore, in this sense he did not become as a Jew, to the Jews. Neither did he so far comply with the Gentiles, as to give them ground to conclude, that the superstition and idolatry, which they were guilty of, was an harmless thing, and might still be practised by them. Therefore,
2dly, The meaning of his compliance with the Jews or Gentiles, is nothing else but this; that whatever he found praise-worthy in them, he commended; and if, in any instan
ces, they were addicted to their former rites, or modes of worship, he endeavoured to draw them off from them, not by a severe, and rigid behaviour as censuring, refusing to converse with, or reproaching them, for their weakness; but using kind and gentle methods, designing rather to inform than discou rage them; while at the same time, he was far from approving of, or giving countenance to any thing that was sinful in them, or unbecoming the gospel.
Secondly, From what has been before said concerning an hypocrite's being one who performs religious duties with a design to be seen of men, as our Saviour says of the Pharisees, that they love to stand praying in the synagogues, or in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men, Matth. vi. 6. We may enquire, what may be said in vindication of the prophet Daniel, from the charge of hypocrisy ? concerning whom it is said, in Dan. vi. 10. that when Darius had signed a decree prohibiting any one from asking a petition of any god or man, save of the king, he should be cast into the den of lions: He went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber, towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. In answer to this we may observe,
1st, That this was not done to gain the esteem or applause of men, which they are charged with, who are guilty of hypocrisy; but he did it in contempt of that vile decree of the Persian monarch.
2dly, He did it at the peril of his life; and hereby discovered, that he had rather be cast into the den of lions, than give occasion to any to think that he complied with the king in his idolatrous decree.
3dly, Though it is said, that he prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime; yet this is not to be understood as though he set open his windows aforetime; so that his praying publicly at this time, was to shew that he was neither ashamed, nor afraid to own his God, whatever it cost him; therefore he was so far from being guilty of hypocrisy, that this is one of the most noble instances of zeal for the worship of the true God, that we find recorded in scripture.
[2.] Hypocrisy is a reigning sin when we boast of the high attainments in gifts or grace, or set too great a value on ourselves, because of the performance of some religious duties, while we neglect others, wherein the principal part of true godliness consists. Thus the Pharisee paid tithe of mint, annise, and cummin, while he omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgment, mercy and faith, chap. xxiii, 23, 24.
[3.] It farther consists, in exclaiming against, and censuring others, for lesser faults, while we allow of greater in ourselves ; F
like those whom our Saviour speaks of, who behold the mote that is in their brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in their own, Matt. vii. 3, 5. or, according to that proverbial way of speaking, strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. These are very fond of exposing the ignorance of others; though they have no experimental, saving knowledge of divine truth in themselves; or they are very forward, to blame the coldness and lukewarmness which they see in some, while at the same time, that zeal which they express in their whole conduct, is rather to advance themselves, than the glory of God.
[4.] When persons make a gain of godliness, 1 Tim. vi. 5. or of their pretensions to it. Thus Balaam prophesied for a reward; and accordingly it is said, that he loved the wages of unrighteousness, 2 Pet. i. 15.
5. When persons make a profession of religion, because it is uppermost, and are ready to despise and cast it off, when it is reproached, or they are like to suffer for it. Thus the Pharisees, how much soever they seemed to embrace Christ, when attending on John's ministry; yet afterwards, when they saw that this was contrary to their secular, interest, they were offended in him, and prejudiced against him; and therefore they say, Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him, John vii. 48.
This sin of hypocrisy, which is a practical lie, has a tendency to corrupt and vitiate all our pretensions to religion. It is like the dead flie, mentioned by Solomon, that causeth the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour, Eccl. x. 1. and it will, in the end, bring on those who are guilty of it, many sore judgments; some of which are spiritual. Thus it is said of the Heathen, that because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, and did not like to retain him in their knowledge; he gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient, &c. Rom. i. 21, 22, 28. And as for the false hope, and vain confidence, which the hypocrite entertains, this shall leave him in despair and confusion, Job viii. 13,-15. and be attended with unspeakable horror of conscience, chap. xxvii. 18. Isa. xxxiii. 14. Upon which occount such are said to heap up wrath, and bring on themselves a greater degree of condemnation than others, Job xxxvi. 13. Matt. xxiii. 14. Thus we have considered this Commandment as broken by speaking or acting that which is contrary, or prejudicial, to truth; which leads us,
II. To consider it as forbidding our doing that which is injurious to our neighbour's good name, either by words or actions; and this is done two ways, either before his face, or behind his back.
1. Doing injury to another, by speaking against him, before
his face. It is true, we give him hereby the liberty of yindicating himself. Nevertheless, if the thing be false, which is alleged against him, proceeding from malice and envy, it is a crime of a very heinous nature; and this is done,
(1.) By those, who, in courts of judicature, commence; and carry on malicious prosecutions, in which the plaintiff, the witness, the advocate that manages the cause, the jury that bring in a false verdict, and the judge that passes sentence contrary to law, or evidence, as well as the dictates of his own. conscience, with a design to crush and ruin him, who is maliciously prosecuted; these are all notoriously guilty of the breach of this Commandment.
(2.) They may be said to do that which is injurious to our neighbour's good name, who reproach them in common conversation; which is a sin too much committed in this licentious age, as though men were not accountable to God for what they speak, as well as other parts of the conduct of life. There are several things which persons make the subject of their reproach, viz.
[1.] The defect and blemishes of nature; such as lameness, blindness, deafness, impediment of speech, meanness of capacity, or actions, which proceed from a degree of distraction. Thus many suppose that the apostle Paul was reproached for some natural deformity in his body, or impediment in his speech, which is inferred from what he says, when he represents some as speaking to this purpose; His letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible, 2 Cor. x. 10. And elsewhere, he commends the Galatians for not despising him on this account; My temptation which was in my flesh, ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, Gal. iv. 14.
Here we may take occasion to speak something of the childrens sin, who reproached Elisha for his baldness, and the punishment that ensued upon it; namely, his cursing them in the name of the Lord; and two and forty of them being torn in pieces by two she-bears out of the wood, in 2 Kings ii. 23, 24. It may be enquired, by some, whether this was not too great an instance of passion in that holy man, and too severe a punishment inflicted; inasmuch as they who reproached him, are called little children. To this it may be answered,
1st, That the children were not so little, as not to be able to know their right hand from their left, or to discern between good and evil; for such are not usually trusted out of their parents sight; nor would they have gathered themselves to gether in a body, or went some distance from the city, on purpose to insult the prophet, as it is plain they did, under
stand that he was to come there at that time. This argues that they were boys of sufficient age, to commit the most presumptuous sin; and therefore not too young to suffer such a punishment as ensued thereupon.
2dly, Their sin was great, in that they mocked a grave old man, who ought to have been honoured for his age, and a prophet, whom they should have esteemed for his character; and in despising him, they despised God, that called and sent
3dly, Bethel, where they lived, was the chief seat of idolatry, in which these children had been trained up; and it was a prevailing inclination to it, together with an hatred of the true religion, that occasioned their reproaching and casting contempt on the prophet.
4thly, The manner of expression argues a great deal of profaneness, Go up thou bald head; that is, either go up to Bethel, speaking in an insulting way, as though they should say, You may go there, but you will not be regarded by them; for they value no such men as you are; or rather, it is as though they should say, you pretend that your predecessor Elijah is gone up to heaven, do you go up after him, that you may trouble us no longer with your prophecies; so that those children, though young in years, were hardened in sin; and this was not so much an occasional mocking of the prophet for his baldness, as a public contrivance, and tumultuous opposition to his ministry; which is a very great crime, and accordingly, was attended with a just resentment in the prophet, and that punishment which was inflicted as the consequence thereof.
The aggravations of this sin of reproaching persons for their natural infirmities, are very great. For, it is a finding fault with the workmanship of the God of nature, the thinking meanly of a person for that which is not chargeable on him as a crime, and which he can, by no means redress. It is a censuring those who are, in some respects, objects of compassion; especially if the reproach be levelled against the defects of the mind, or any degree of distraction; and it argues a great deal of pride and unthankfulness to God, for those natural endowments which we have received from him, though we do not improve them to his glory.
[2.] Some reproach persons for their sinful infirmities, and that in such a way, as that they are styled fools, who make a mock of sin, Prov. xiv. 9. This is done,
1st, When we reflect on persons for sins committed before their conversion, which they have repented of, and God has forgiven; and accordingly they should not be now charged against them, as a matter of reproach. Thus the Pharisee reproached the poor penitent woman, who stood weeping at