So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
A common objection against religion is the existence of hypocrisy. The infidel uses it, the scoffer employs it, and the indifferent, who admit the obligation of religion, yet object to its restraint, always fall back upon the prevalence of hypocrisy. Nothing can be more absurd than for the people to cry down religion because of hypocrisy; it is like a man denying the existence of a subject because he saw a shadow, or asserting that because he had received or seen a few counterfeit sovereigns, there was not a piece of pure gold in the mint. The way of the hypocrite is such as Bildad describes; a brief season of profession, terminating in the extinction of what seemed spiritual life, when all his self-confidence proves to offer no better security than the flimsy web or house of the spider. The rush and flag are succulent plants, and can only live in miry or marshy spots; withdraw from them the moisture on which they grow, and you destroy them. So the hypocrite has no abiding principle of life in him, nor any aptness to derive benefit from those deep or heaven-sent sources which impart nourishment to the believer; some flood of excitement bears him up, some unwholesomeness in the soil enables him to look flourishing. The hypocrite is like the rush or the flag in his material; cut one of these and you will find but pith, or an arrangement of empty cells, you will not find the substance of the oak. Again he springs up all at once from the ground; the smooth stem of the rush, or the broad, waving leaf of the flag will represent the hypocrite's profession. There is a peculiarity in the common rush; you never can find one green at the top, get it fresh and flourishing as you will, it has begun to wither. Find the hypocrite ever so promising, there will be something to tell you, if you look narrowly, that his religious life has death in it already.
I. THE ORIGIN OF HYPOCRISY, or the assumption of a character which does not belong to us. In the first instance it comes from low notions of God, arising out of our deceived understanding. Hypocrisy argues a sense of obligation on the part of the hypocrite. He knows his responsibility, but having no clear notion of the purity and all-seeing eye of God, he puts on a form of religion while destitute of the power; he thinks that God is like himself, and therefore that he can deceive Him. These persons are without a relish for that state of mind which religion requires, the new heart, the right spirit, the single eye, the death unto sin, the life unto righteousness. Man must have a religion, so a religion he assumes.
II. THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF HYPOCRISY. How can we avoid setting down as a hypocrite the man who, devoid of Christ in his heart, attends religious services? One characteristic is self-deception. A man begins by dissembling with God; he proceeds to deceive his fellows; at length he palms the cheat upon himself. Nothing is so irksome even to the sincere Christian as the duty of self-examination. Where self-love is predominant, it is easy to believe that the man will, in the first place, shut his eyes to his faults: a false standard of holiness being set up, he will soon find others worse than himself; this will comfort him; he will substitute single acts for habits, or momentary feelings for abiding and governing principles of conduct.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF HYPOCRISY. The scoffer laughs at what he considers a satisfactory proof that there is no such thing as true religion. The careless or indolent content themselves with their present neutral (as they suppose it) condition, and think it better not to go any further in their profession. The child of God trembles and feels cast down. Yet there is good brought out of all this by God. The best method of avoiding the sin of hypocrisy is to have this constantly in our minds, that we have to deal with a God who is about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways, one on whom there can be no deception practised. Let us then seek to have that oneness of spirit by which only we can serve Him. In our religion let the heart agree with the head, the hands, and the feet.
(C. O. Pratt, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: