( Originally Published 1879 )
THERE is no foolishness in the world so great as to be a hypocrite. He is hated of the world for seeming to be a Christian; he is hated by God for not being one. He hates himself and he is even despised by Satan for serving him and not acknowledging it. They are really the best followers and the greatest dupes that he has, they serve him better than any other, but receive no wages. And what is most wonderful, they submit to greater mortifications to go to hell than the most sincere Christian to go to heaven. They desire more to seem good than to be so, while the Christian desires more to be so than to seem so. They study more to enter into religion than that religion should enter into them. They are zealous in little things but cold and remiss in the most important. They are saints by pretension, but satans in intention. They testify, they worship only to answer their wicked purposes. They stand as angels before their sins so as to hide them. A scorpion thinks when its head is under a leaf it cannot be seen. So the hypocrite. The false saints think when they have hoisted up one or two good works. that all their sins therewith are covered and hid.
Let us ask ourselves seriously and honestly, "What do I believe after all? What manner of man am I after all? What sort of a show should I make after all, if the people around me knew my heart and all my secret thoughts? What sort of show, then, do I already make, in the sight of Almighty God, who sees every man exactly as he is?" Oh, that poor soul, though it may fool people and itself, it will not fool God!
Hypocrisy shows love, but is hatred; shows friend-ship, but is an enemy; shows peace, but is at war; it shows virtue, but is wretched and wicked. It flatters; it curses; it praises; it slanders. It always has two sides of a question; it possesses what it does not pre-tend, and pretends what it does not possess.
Men are afraid of slight outward acts which will injure them in the eyes of others, while they are heedless of the damnation which throbs in their souls in hatreds, and jealousies, and revenges.
They are more troubled by the outburst of a sinful disposition, than by the disposition itself. It is not the evil, but its reflex effect upon themselves, that they dread. It is the love of approbation, and not the conscience, that enacts the part of a moral sense, in this case. If a man covets, he steals. If a man has murderous hate, he murders. If a man broods dishonest thoughts, he is a knave. If a man harbors sharp and bitter jealousies, envies, hatreds, though he never express them by his tongue, or shape them by his hand, they are there. Society, to be sure, is less injured by their latent existence than it would be by their overt forms. But the man himself is as much injured by the cherished thoughts of evil, in his own soul, as by the open commission of it, and sometimes even more. For evil brought out ceases to disguise itself, and seems as hideous as it is. But evil that lurks and glances through the soul avoids analysis, and evades detection.
There are many good-seeming men who, if all their day's thoughts and feelings were to be suddenly developed into acts, visible to the eye, would run from themselves, as men in earthquakes run from the fiery gapings of the ground, and sulphurous cracks that open the way to the uncooled center of perdition.
Pretension ! profession ! how haughtily they stride into the kingdom of the lowly Redeemer, and usurp the highest seats, and put on the robes of sanctity, and sing the hymns of praise, and utter aloud, to be heard of men, the prayers which the spirit ought to breathe in silent and childlike confidence into the ear of the listening and loving Father ! How they build high domes of worship with velvety seats and golden altars and censers and costly plate and baptismal fonts by the side of squalid want and ragged poverty! How their mocking prayers mingle with the cry of beggary, the curse of blasphemy, the wail of pain and the lewd laugh of sensuality ! How mournfully their organ chants of praise, bought with sordid gold, go up from the seats of worldliness and pride, and how reproach-fully the tall steeples of cathedrals and synagogues and churches look down on the oppression and pride and selfishness which assemble below them, and the slavery, poverty, and intemperance which pass and repass their marble foundations ! Oh! shade of religion, where art thou? Spirit of the lowly bleeder on Calvary, hast thou left this world in despair ? Comforter of the mourning, dweller with the sinful, how long shall these things be? Religion is made a show-bubble. Pride is her handmaid, and selfishness her leader. What a tawdry show they make! And who believes the sub-stance is equal to the show, the root as deep as the tree is high, the foundation as firm as the structure is imposing? Nowhere does show more wickedly usurp the dominion of substance than in the realm of religion. In the world we might expect to see hypocrisy. But the true religion is above the world. "My kingdom is not of this world," said its founder. It has a world of its own. It is built on substance. But men have sought to make it a world of show, to carry the deception and Pharisaism of this world up into the Redeemer's world, and palm them off there for the golden reality that shall be admitted to heaven. But poorly will hypocrisy pass at the bar of God. No coin but the true one passes there. No gilding will hide the hollowness of a false soul. No tawdry displays will avail with that eye whose glance, like a sword, pierces to the heart. All is open there : all hypocrisy, vanity; worse than vanity ; it is sin. It is a gilded lid, a varnished cheat. It is proof of the hollowness within, the sign of corruption. Yea, more ; it is itself corrupting ; a painted temptation. It lures men away from the truth; wastes their energies on, a shadow wins their affections to fading follies, and gives them a disrelish for the real, the substantial, and enduring. Who can expect that God will not hide in every hollow show intended to deceive, a sharp two-edged sword that shall cut with disappointment, and pierce with inward, wasting want?