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morse, but without notice, as things below his sorrow, and not deserving repentance, much less condemnation. Gross external acts of sin, he knows, are visible, and therefore no ways for his advantage; so that no wonder if the hypocrite avoids these : but this is not his penitence, but his prudence; not because he hates the nature of sin, but because he fears the circumstance.
And thus I have shewn the two first ways by which the hypocrite gains his hope, namely, by misapprehending God, and misunderstanding sin. And when he has wrong apprehensions of that which deserves punishment, and of him who is alone able to inflict it, I suppose it will be no hard matter to conclude, that he may easily shuffle himself into hopes of an escape.
(3.) The third way by which the hypocrite first attains this false and spurious hope, is by mistakes about the spiritual rigour and strictness of the gospel. God at first gave man a righteous law, and entered with him into a covenant of works. According to the tenor of which covenant, the law required exact obedience, universal holiness, and perfection ; and this in the greatest rigour, not admitting any grains of allowance for the least defect or deviation. But man having sinned, and thereby broke this covenant, the law became weak through sin ; that is, weak and unable to justify, and powerful only to condemn: so that now all legal dispensations are dispensations of terror; and to tell sinners of the law, is only in another word to tell them of the curse. Hereupon God was pleased to introduce a new covenant, and instead of works to establish our salvation upon a law of faith, as it is in Rom. iii. 27. So that
no breach of the law whatsoever should be able to condemn him that believes.
Now the hypocrite seeing this, and reflecting upon the former unsupportable severity of the law, he naturally dashes upon the other extreme, and thinks that if the law were all justice, then certainly the gospel must be all mercy, without justice. Thus making it so the law of liberty, as not of duty; and getting a full liberty, or rather licentiousness of conscience, together with a plentiful stock of faith, without good works, he looks upon himself as perfect and evangelical: and henceforward in the business of justification, but to think any more of an holy life, he calls it (as the phrase of some is) a returning to Egypt. And therefore as for duty, obedience, and such other legal things, they must belong only to, moral men, who are not acquainted with this sublime mystery of the gospel.
Hereupon, having made so fair a progress, he proceeds further, and proposes to himself the gospel, as it is held forth in the most lax and favourable expressions, in some scriptures, which he first misunderstands, and then draws to his own purpose.
As for instance, that in 2 Corinth. viii. 12, where God is said to accept the will for the deed. From whence, though he lives in a continual omission of known duties, and a frequent commission of known sins; yet he will comfort himself in this, that his heart is good, that he means well, that his will is upright; and God accepts of this as well as the strictest obedience. But to rectify so perverse a mistake, such an one must know that God never accepts the will for the deed, where he puts it into a man's power to do as well as to will : but this holds
only where a man is disabled from the performance of his duty, in which case the inward sincerity of the will supplies the want of the outward action. As for instance, it is a man's duty both to frequent the public worship of God, and to worship him in private with the humblest postures of body, as kneeling and the like; but if God casts him upon his bed of sickness, and the man is not able to stir an hand or a foot, there is no doubt but God accepts of his desire to do these outward acts of reverence as much as if he actually did them. And if a man would receive the blessed sacrament, but is in a place where he cannot have it administered to him, it is as little to be questioned but that God accepts the devout pantings and breathings of his soul after that heavenly ordinance, as much as if he were really a partaker of it in the outward elements. But what is this to the hypocrite's case, who pretends will in contradiction to practice, when both are in his power ? thus deluding himself and abusing the grace of God, and withal not considering, that such kind of expressions as this, that God accepts the will for the deed, and the like, are not proposed to us as the standing rules of our obedience in our ordinary Christian course, but as special arguments of comfort in cases of extraordinary distress; not as our spiritual diet to feed and to sustain, but as cordials to recover us.
Again, when the hypocrite reads in Rom. x. 9, that whosoever shall confess with his mouth, and believe with his heart, that God hath raised Christ
, from the dead, shall be saved; he finds that it is no hard matter to own such a belief and profession, to carry the name and wear the colours of Christ,
and so long he concludes that this scripture warrants his salvation. And again, 1 John ii. 1, If any one sin, we have an advocate with the Father. Hence with much confidence he can cast all his sins upon Christ's intercession; and though he continues to sin, yet as long as Christ continues to intercede, he doubts not but the interest of his soul stands sure. Now these scriptures, with many others, being improved by a subtle, crafty, self-deceiving head, and a wicked, unsanctified heart, lay the foundation of all the hypocrite's hope. But if he would undeceive himself, and consider that obedience is still necessary, and that Christ came not to destroy, but to establish the law, as the rule of that obedience; that he came not to give any new law, (as Socinus and his school would have it,) but to vindicate and clear the old in its just purity and extent; I say, the thought of this would make him begin to question the soundness of his hope, and try the foundation before he finished the superstructure.
Christ's yoke is indeed easy, but it is still a yoke; and his burden is light, but it is still a burden, and will be so as long as we carry flesh and blood, and a body of sin about us. That one gospel-precept of self-denial seriously considered, how difficult it is to our corrupt nature, how contrary to our most native inclinations, would make the hypocrite confess, that notwithstanding all these gracious concessions and abatements of legal rigour, that shine forth upon mankind in the gospel, he must yet be forced to purchase heaven and happiness at a far higher rate than he did imagine.
(4.) The fourth and last way that I shall mention, by which the hypocrite attains his false hope, is by
his mistakes about repentance, faith, and conversion. And it is not to be questioned, but that mistakes about these have been the deplorable cause of the ruin of many thousands : for, as Quintilian says of eloquence, Multi ad eloquentiam pervenire potuissent, nisi se jam pervenisse putassent; so many, in all probability, might have attained to repentance, but that they thought they had repented already: many might have believed and been converted, had they not preferred speed before certainty, and too erroneously and hastily presumed upon these works, before they were ever thoroughly wrought upon them.
The carnal hypocrite is apt to think every fit of sorrow for sin, every grumbling of natural conscience, to be repentance; and therefore here he rests, thinking his sorrow to have atoned his sin, and his tears to have washed away his impurities : not considering the great and vast difference that is between peταμελέσθαι and μετανοείν ; between a bare regret and anguish for sin, causing the soul to wish only that it had not been committed, and between such a sorrow as is attended with a total change and renovation of the heart. The first may proceed from the principles of nature awakened, and so is common to those that finally perish, and prove castaways; the latter is a product of the special working of God's Spirit infusing grace into the soul, and therefore peculiar only to believers. Now, if the hypocrite would warily observe, whether the sorrow he so much trusts in did ever yet cleanse his heart, so as to turn the full bent and propensity of it to the commands of God, he would find little cause for hope, and see that his very repentance was to be re