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great and terrible. (Matt. vii. 23, 24; Job viii. 11-15.) “Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb: so are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish : whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand : he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.” Or~
Can bull-rushes but hy the rivers grow?
Deceive their trust, and crush them in their fall, &c. Job. xxxvi. 13. “ The hypocrites in their heart heap up wrath : : they cry not when he bindeth them.” Or as the paraphrase :
For the deluder hastens his own fall,
They in the summer of their age shall die. And what we say of the hypocrite's hope, we may say also of all his pleasures and delights. He may now be as merry as the most righteous of his neighbours, and seem the most happy, because the most jocund; and abound with medicines against melancholy, and all wise and sober consideration : even his business, his cups, his wantonness and uncleanness, or, at least, his less disgraceful pleasures and recreations, which fortify his mind against the fears of death and judgment, and all the threatenings of God
As sleepy opium fortifies the brain,
Against the sense of sicknesses and pain. And if this mirth could always last, how happ;-9 man were the self-deceiver! But, saith Solomon, (Eccles. vii. 6.) “As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.”
As thorns beneath a cauldron catch the fire,
This vanity in their distemper rules. And as Job xx. 4-9. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reacheth
to the clouds; yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung;
also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.” Or, as the aforesaid Paraphrase
This is a truth with which the world began,
Nor sumptuous roofs their builder entertain.
man? That religion is certainly vain, that is not sufficient to acquaint the soul with matter of solid comfort and content, but leaves that felicitating work to worldly transitory things, while itself is used only as a screen, to keep hell-fire from scorching the conscience, or as children's rackets, to quiet them when they are apt to cry.
2. But the vanity of a superficial religion will most appear in the hour of extremity; when their help, as well as their hope and comfort, will to them prove vain. Prosperity will not always last : as sure as winter followeth summer, and as the darksome night succeeds the day, so sure will adversity take its turn: sickness will follow the longest health, and death succeed the longest life; and your house of darkness in the dust will hold you longer than your present habitations. And when thou seest all things fail, O what wouldest thou give for a hope and help that will not fail, that thou mightest be received into the everlasting habitations ! The conscience that is now asleep, will be shortly awakened in such a manner, that it will be utterly past the skill and power of thyself, and all the friends thou hast, to cast it asleep, or quiet it again. And then, what wouldest thou not give for a lenitive to pacify it! no wonder if thou sit here as senseless as if no harm were near thee: it is now in thy power not to believe that there is a hell for hypocrites, or that it is thy own inheritance : but the day is near, (if a supernatural change prevent it not,) when it shall no more be in thy power, but sight and feeling shall convince thee whether thou wilt or no. Now we must entreat thy own consideration, and solicit thee for thy own consent, to know thy grievous sin and misery, and yet leave thee unconvinced, because thou art unwilling to know the truth, and because we cannot show thee heaven and hell while we are speaking of them: but then God will not crave, but force thy consideration: nor will he ask thy consent to feel thy misery: but the less thou art willing, the more thou hast to feel. And which way then wilt thou look for help? which way ever it be, it will be all in vain, because thy religion was but vain; wilt thou look to thy duties and supposed honesty, whose sincerity now thou art so confident of? alas, this is the vain religion that could deceive thee, bnt cannot save thee. Thou art like a man in a falling house, that hath nothing to lay hold on, but that which is falling, and it is that will break him unto death. Or like a drowning man that hath nothing
. but a handful of water to lay hold upon; which is it that will
choke him, but is vain to save him. It is thy superficial, hypocritical, complimental services that will fall with thee, and fall upon thee, that will thus both deceive thee, and choke thee in the time of thy distress. To be told now that thy religion is vain, is a thing that thy dead, unbelieving heart can too easily bear; but to find then, when thou lookest for the benefit
; of it, that it is vain, is that which is not borne so easily, but will overturn the stoutest heart with terrors. If thou wert a man of no religion, and so hadst none to deceive and quiet thee, thou couldst scarcely keep off thy terrors now: if thou hadst not thy hollow-hearted prayers, thy affected zeal, or forms, and shows, and tasks of duty, thy profession, with its secret exceptions and reserves, thy smoothed outside, with the good conceit thou hast of thyself, and the good esteem that other men have of thee; if thou hadst not these to flatter thy conscience, and cloak thee from the storms of threatened wrath, thou wouldest perhaps walk about like another Cain, and be afraid of every man thou seest, and tremble at the shaking of a leaf, and still look behind thee as afraid of a pursuit. But, alas! it will be ten thousand times more terrible to find thy confidence prove deceit; and thy religion vain, when God is judging thee, when hell is before thee, and thou art come to the last of thine expectations! nay, then to find not only that thy superficial religion was vanity, and lighter than vanity, nothing, and less than nothing ; but that it was thy sin, and that which will now torment thee, and the remembrance of it be to thee as the remembrance of drunkenness to the drunkard, and of fornication to the unclean, and of covetousness to the worldling, the rust of whose money will eat his flesh, and burn like fire. O what a doleful plight is this ! when the sentence is ready to pass upon thee, and hell is gaping to devour thee, and thou lookest for help to thy vain religion, and criest out, “O now, or never help! help me, or I am a firebrand of unquenchable wrath : help me, or I must be tormented in those fames : help me now, or it will be too late, and I shall never, never more have help!' Then to have thy self-deceit discovered, and thy seeming religion condemn thee, and torment thee, instead of helping thee, what anguish and confusion will this cast thy hopeless soul into, such as no heart can here conceive! Thy guilty soul will be like a hare among a company of dogs : whichsoever of thy duties thou fliest for help to, that will make first to tear thee, and devour thee.
Like a naked man in the midst of an army of his deadly enemies : whichsoever he flieth to for pity and relief, is like to be one of the first to wound him. Poor self-deceiver! what wilt thou then do, or whither wilt thou betake thy soul for help? The reason why thou canst now make shift with a lifeless shadow of religion, is, because thou hast thy sports or pleasures, thy friends and fatterers, thy worldly business to divert thy thoughts, and take thee up, and rock the cradle of thy security; and thy piety is not yet brought unto the fire, nor thy heart and duties searched by the all-discovering light: but when the light comes in, and when all thy fleshly contents are gone, and when thou comest to have use for thy religion, and seest that, if it prove unsound, thou art lost for ever, then it is not shadows, and shows, and compliments, that will quiet thee. That will not serve turn then, that serves turn now. Thou wilt find then that it was easier deceiving thyself than God. (Gal. vi. 3-5,7.) “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work: For every man shall bear his own burden. Be not deceived ; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but ne that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
But perhaps thou wilt say, it is not any duties, but Christ that I must trust to : he will be my help, and he is sufficient, and will not deceive the soul that trusteth in him.
Answer. Undoubtedly he is sufficient, and will not deceive thee. But doth he deceive thee, if he give thee not the salvation which he never promised thee? he never promised salvation to an hypocrite (without conversion). It is the upright soul devoted to him, that takes him for the absolute master of his life, and for his only portion and felicity, to whom Christ hath promised salvation: and his promise shall be made good, and the sincere shall find that Christ deceives them not. But where did he ever promise salvation to a superficial pharisee? to such a seeming Christian as thou? show such a promise from him if thou canst; and then trust it and spare not. But thou dost not trust him, but thy own deceit, if he have given thee no such promise to trust on. Nay, rather, should he not deceive all the world, if he should save such superficial hypocrites, when he hath professed in his word that he will not save them ? and if he should not condemn such heartless formalists, when he hath so often VOL. XVII.