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II. ON HYPOCRISY.
There are two sorts of Hypocrisy ; the one consists in feigning a zeal for religion, when we have not its interests at all at heart: the other assumes the appearance of indifference for religion, or affects a disregard, perhaps a contempt of it; even under the consciousness, and with the full persuasion of its worth and excellence.
From a careful examination into the nature, character, and causes of these vices, we shall discover the strict alliance and close connexion between them; though they seem to be of all things the most distant, remote, and opposite, we shall see by what steps the first almost necessarily leads to the last.
False pretences to piety are formed either from motives of vanity, or interest, or ambition, or of all these taken together.
Excellence or superiority in any kind of attainments, is a natural ground of esteem; but, in religion, excites awe and veneration. The opinion of superior sanctity acts upon the minds of most men like a magic charm. This the Hypocrite knows full well; and vanity, interest, and ambition, all prompt him to make the most of this knowledge; to draw all the advantages he can from the igno. rance and credulity of bis fellow-creatures. For, if they may be so easily imposed on by silly and and solemn pretences, it is a cheap way of obtaining their esteem. If an outward attachment to the service of religion will go so much farther than a sincere, that is, a troublesome and painful observance of its rules, to him the shew is much better than the substance. Some pains are necessary to become skilful in his profession ; but surely much less than to practise all the precepts of Christianity. He is launched on the sea of life. To pass through it unsearched and unsuspected, with false colours, and in a foreign bottom, is matter, indeed, of some risk; but such he knows is the condition of every voyage. The course of honesty might have been more satisfactory and secure; but would have been neither so commodious, nor so lucrative. The traffic, indeed, is illicit ; but then the fraud is of such a nature as can neither be detected with ease, nor punished if it could. For men are usually so careless or so undiscerning as to judge by outside appearance ; and if they were not more cautious and penetrating, yet that religion for which he affects, and for which they retain such a high veneration, forbids allrash judgment of others, and enjoins charity as well in opinion as in practice. Upon the whole then, let him counterfeit qualities which are ever so different from those
possesses, and assume a part which is directly contrary to his real character; still with but tolerable talents, and moderate care in the application of them, he may succeed. Or, to suppose the worst that can well happen ; should his own prudence, or should fortune so far desert him; yet he must be “poor indeed” who can want a party or a friend to espouse him. These will not fail to attribute all the evil that is alleged or surmised to the envy and malice of his enemies. Nay, not even the fullest and clearest detection of his iniquity shall hinder them from defending his innocence. Though all men of sense and worth should agree to give up his character, yet these form but a feeble party, and are easily overborne if he can but secure an interest with the great, who may condescend to join with him in deluding the people for their own ends, that is, for the support of their own power and grandeur. Witness the Jewish Rulers, those corrupters of the Law of Moses. Witness the Romish Rulers, those corrupters of the Gospel of Christ. Addressing himself to the former, he thus exposes their character with equal plainness and severity: “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you Hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."" Far, indeed, replete as it was with the basest affections, the impurest motives, the most execrable purposes, though veiled and shrowded under the shew of sanctity! To eat with un..
washen hands, to do good on the Sabbath day; any the most indifferent, or the most excellent acts, were equally interdicted by them as criminal or prophane; but to violate all the commandments of God, and all the rules of morality in their daily practice; to supersede them by their visionary traditions ; to explain them away by their treacherous interpretations; to substitute in the room of virtue and piety a set of idle forms and ridiculous punctilios ; all this they did, not only without the least compunction and remorse, but even with complacency and self-satisfaction. And from hence we may collect the true nature and character of Hypocrisy, which includes every thing base and disingenuous, and implies a thorough corruption of the mind and heart; a vice in the formation of which neither the violence of passion, nor the blindness of prejudice, has any share; for which, therefore, nothing can be pleaded which carries the least colour of an excuse.
And yet there is one period in our own history (as well as of' most of the kingdoms of Europe) so renowned for all its fopperies and excesses, that on account of its public consequences, a particular description of it may not be unseasonable.
This nation, after having long been subjected to a usurped authority, after having suffered all the evils of a foreign and ecclesiastical tyranny, owed its delivery, not so much to its own wisdom or courage, as to the caprice of one of the worst
princes that ever ruled. It pleased God to render his bad qualities subservient to the general welfare. The Romish power, already endangered by the revival of letters, and progress of science, by an ill-timed opposition to his wayward humour, for ever lost that firm footing it had gained here. The discovery of the gross errors and enormous abuses which bad lately prevailed, made a deep impression on the minds of the people. The licentious maxims and loose morals of the reigning Clergy, threw some of the principal Reformers into the opposite extreme of rigor and austerity. To depart as far as possible from the received principles in religion and government, seemed to be the chief point in view. The passion for reforming soon kindled into republican fury and puritanical zeal. In consequence of the first, the rightful Prince, in spite of all the concessions he made, or by more regular applications might have been induced to make, was illegally condemned, and inhumanly put to death. In consequence of the last all order and decency in the worship of God was abolished. In the room of sober piety and rational devotion, fanaticism shewed itself in all its forms, and not without its usual attendants, spiritual pride and Hypocrisy. To such a degree did the last prevail, that the men of those times appear to us as actors in a kind of sacred farce; the part they assumed being that of an earthly saint. The merest trifles were always