So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE HYPOCRITE? All hypocrites may be comprehended under these two sorts.
1. The gross dissembler, who knowingly, and against his conscience, pursues some sinful course, endeavouring only to conceal it from the eyes of men. Such an one as Gehazi, or Judas.
2. The formal, refined hypocrite who deceives his own heart. He makes some advances into the practice of holiness; but not being sound at the heart, not being thoroughly divided from his sin, he takes that for grace which is not sincerity, and therefore much less grace; and being thus deceived, he misses of the power of godliness, and embraces only the form (Matthew 7:26, 27). Both these hypocrites agree in this, that they are deceivers. One deceives the world, the other deceives himself.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE HYPOCRITE'S HOPE? Those persuasions that a man has of the goodness and safety of his spiritual condition, whereby he strongly persuades himself that he is now in a state of grace, and consequently shall hereafter attain to a state of glory. This hope is not in the same proportion in all hypocrites. Distinguish in it these two degrees.
1. A probable opinion. This is but the lowest degree of assent.
2. A peremptory persuasion. This is its higher pitch and perfection. It seems seldom to be entertained but where hypocrisy is in conjunction with gross ignorance, or judicial searedness. Proposition —
I. A HYPOCRITE MAY PROCEED SO FAR AS TO OBTAIN A HOPE AND EXPECTATION OF A FUTURE BLESSEDNESS.
1. Hypocrites have and do obtain such hopes. Evinced by two arguments. From the nature and constitution of man's mind, which is vehement and restless in its pursuit after some suitable good. It is natural for man, both in his desires and designs, to build chiefly upon the future. Man naturally looks forward. Every man carries on some particular design, upon the event of which he builds his satisfaction; and the spring that moves these designs is hope. Hopes of the future are the causes of present action. It follows that the hypocrite has his hope, for he has his course and his way, according to which he acts, and without hope there can be no action. The other argument, proving that hypocrites have their hopes, shall be taken from that peace and comfort that even hypocrites enjoy; which are the certain effects, and therefore the infallible signs of some hope abiding in the mind. Assuredly, if it were not for hope, the heart of the merriest and most secure hypocrite in the world would break.
2. By what ways and means the hypocrite comes first to attain this hope. By misapprehending God. By his misunderstanding of sin. By mistakes about the spiritual rigour and strictness of the Gospel. By his mistakes about repentance, faith, and conversion.
3. By what ways and means the hypocrite preserves and continues this false hope. Those methods by which he first gets it, have in them also a natural fitness to continue, cherish, and foment it. Three ways more. Especially —
(1) By keeping up a course of external obedience, and abstaining from gross and scandalous sins.
(2) By comparing himself with others, who are openly vicious, and apparently worse than himself. There is no way more effectual for a man to argue himself into a delusion.
(3) By forbearing to make a strict and impartial trial of his estate. No wonder if the hypocrite discerns not his condition, when he never turns his eyes inwards by a thorough, faithful examination. The foulest soul may think itself fair and beautiful till it comes to view its deformity in the glass of God's Word. Proposition —
II. THE HYPOCRITE'S FAIREST AND MOST PROMISING EXPECTATION OF A FUTURE HAPPINESS WILL IN THE END VANISH INTO MISERABLE DISAPPOINTMENT.
1. Prove this proposition. From clear testimony of Scripture. A spider's web may represent a hypocrite's hope in the curious subtilty, and the fine artificial composure of it, and in the weakness of it; for it is too fine spun to be strong. From the weakness of the foundation on which the hope is built.
2. Show what are those critical seasons and turns in which more especially the hypocrite's hope will be sure to fail him.
(1) The time of some heartbreaking, discouraging judgment from God.
(2) At the time of death.
III. MAKE SOME USE AND IMPROVEMENT OF THE FOREGOING DISCOURSE. It shall be to display and set before us the transcendent, surpassing misery of the final estate of all hypocrites, whose peculiar lot it is to hope themselves into damnation, and to perish with those circumstances that shall double and treble the weight of their destruction. In this life the heart of man is not capable of such absolute, entire misery, but that some glimmerings of hope will still dart in upon him, and buoy up his spirits from an utter despondency. But when it shall come to this, that a man must go one way, and his hopes another, so parting as never to meet again, human nature admits not of any further addition to its sorrow; for it is pure, perfect, unmixed misery, without any allay or mitigation. Those appetites and desires, the satisfaction of which brings the greatest delight; the defrauding of them, according to the rule of contraries, brings the greatest and the sharpest misery. Nothing so comfortable as hope crowned with fruition; nothing so tormenting as hope snapped off with disappointment and frustration. The despairing reprobate is happier than the hoping reprobate. Both indeed fall equally low, but he that hopes has the greater fall, because he falls from the higher place.
(R. South, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: