John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

from the Spirit of consolation ; yet this is not always safe for us to have, neither safe
for us to e.i:pect and look for ; and when we do, it is apt to make us cool in our in-
quiries and waitings upon Christ, when we want them : it is a running after Him,
jiot for the miracles, but for the loaves ; not for the wonderful things of God, and the
desires of pleasing him, but for the pleasure of pleasing ourselves. And, as we must
not judge our devotion to be barren or unfruitful, when we want the ovci-flowings of
joy running over, so neither must we cease for want of tliem. If our spirits can
servo God choosingly and greedily, out of pure conscience of our duty, it is better in
itself, and more safe to us."



Luke lii. 1.

" When there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch
that they trode ono upon another. He began to say unto His disciples first of all,
Bewai'e ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."

Hypoceisy is a serious word. We are accustomed to consider the
hypocrite as a hateful, despicable character, and an uncommon one.
HoAV is it, then, that our Blessed Lord, when surrounded by an innu-
merable multitude, began, first of all, to warn His disciples against
hypocrisy, as though they were in especial danger of becoming like
those base deceivers, the Pharisees ? Thus an instructive subject is
opened to our consideration, which I will now pursue.

I say, we are accustomed to consider the hypocrite as a character of
excessive wickedness, and of very rare occurrence. That hypocrisy is
a great wickedness, need not be questioned ; but that it is an uncommon
sip, is not true, as a little examination will show us. For what is a hypo-
crite ? We are apt to understand, by a hypocrite, one who makes a
profession of religion for secret ends, without practising v.diat he pro-
fesses ; who is malevolent, covetous, or profligate, while he assumes an
outward sanctity in his words and conduct ; and who does so delibe-
rately and without remorse, deceiving others, and not at all self-deceived.
Such a man, truly, would be a portent, for he seems to disbelieve the ex-
istence of a God who sees the heart. I will not deny that in some ages,
nay, in all ages, a few such men have existed. But this is not what our
Saviour seems to have meant by a hypocrite, nor were the Pharisees

The Pharisees, it is true, said one thing and did another ; but they
were not aware that they were thus inconsistent ; they deceived them-
selves as well as others. Indeed, it is not in human nature to deceive
others for any long time, without in a measure deceiving ourselves also.
And, in most cases, v/e contrive to deceive ourselves as much as we de-
ceive others. The Pharisees boasted they were Abraham's children, not
at all understanding, not knowing, what was implied in the term. They


Avere not really included under the blessing given to Abraham, and they
"wished the world to believe they -were ; but then they also themselves
thought that they were, or, at least, with \rhateTer misgivings, they were»
on the whole, persuaded of it. They had deceived themselves as well
as the world ; and therefore our Lord sets before them the great and
plain truth, which, simple as it was, they had forgotten. " If ye were
Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham."*

This truth, I say, they had forgotten ; — for doubtless they once knew
it. There was a time, doubtless, when in some measure they knew
themselves, and v/hat they were doing. When they began (each of
them in his turn) to deceive the people, they were not, at the moment,
5eZf-deceived. But by degrees they forgot, — because they did not care
to retain it in their knowledge, — they forgot that to be blessed like Abra-
ham, they must be holy hke Abraham ; that outward ceremonies avail
nothing without inward purity, that their thoughts and motives must be
heavenly. Part of their duty they altogether ceased to know ; another
part they might still know indeed, but did not value as they ought.
They became ignorant of their own spiritual condition ; it did not come
home to them, that they were supremely influenced by v/orldly objects ;
that zeal for God's service was but a secondaiy principle in their con-
duct, and that they loved the praise of men better than God's praise.
They v/ent on merely talking of religion, of heaven and hell, the blessed
and the reprobate, till their discourses became but Avords of course in
their mouths, with no true meaning attached to them ; and they either
did not read Holy Scripture at all, or read it without earnestness and
watchfulness to get at its real sense. Accordingly, they were scrupu-
lously careful of paying tythe even in the least matters, of mint, anise^
and cummin, while they omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judg-
ment, mcrc}^ and faith ; and on this account our Lord calls them " blind
guides," — not bold impious deceivers, who Jcnew that they were false
guides, but blind.j Again, they were blind, in thinking that, had they
lived in their fathers' days, they would not have killed the prophets as
their fathers did. They did not know themselves ; they had unav.^ares
deceived themselves as well as the people. Ignorance of their own igno-
rance was their punishment and the evidence of their sin. " If ye were
blind," our Saviour says to them, if you were simply blind, and conscious
you were so, and distressed at it, " ye should have no sin ; but now ye
say. We see," — they did not even know their bUndness — " therefore
your sin remaineth.":]:

* John viii. 39. + Matt, xxiii. 24. Luke xi. 39—52.

t John ix. 40, 41. Vide James i. 22.


This then is hypocrisy ; — not simply for a man to deceive others,
knowing all the while that he is deceiving them, but to deceive himself
and others at the same time, to aim at their praise by a religious profes-
sion without perceiving that he loves their praise more than the praise of
God, and that he is professing far more than he practices. And if this
be the true Scripture meaning of the word, we have some insight (as it
appears) into the reasons which induced our Divine Teacher to warn
His disciples in so marked a way against hypocrisy. An innumerable
multitude was thronging Him, and His disciples were around Him.
Twelve of them had been appointed to minister to Him as His especial
friends. Other seventy had been sent out from Him with miraculous
gifts ; and, on their return, had with triumph told of their own wonder-
ful doings. All of them had been addressed by Him as the salt of the
earth, the light of the world, the children of His kingdom. They were
the mediators between Him and the people at large, introducing to His
notice the sick and heavy-laden. And now they stood by Him, partak-
ing in His popularity, perhaps glorifying in their connection with the
Christ, and pleased to be gazed upon by the impatient crowd. Then it
was that, instead of addressing the multitude. He spoke first of all to His
disciples, saying, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is
hypocrisy ;" as if He had said, "What is the chief sin of My enemies
and persecutors 1 not that they openly deny God, but' that they love a
profession of religion for the sake of the praise of men that follows it.
They like to contrast themselves with other men ; they pride them-
selves on being a little flock, to whom life is secured in the midst of re-
probates ; they like to stand and be admired, their religious per-
formances, and think to be saved, not by their own personal holiness,
but by the faith of their father, Abraham. All tliis delusion may come
upon you also, if you forget that you are hereafter to be tried one by one
at God's judgment-seat, according to your works. At present, indeed,
you are invested in My greatness, and have the credit of My teaching
and holiness : but ' there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed,
neither hid, that shall not be know^n,' at the last day."

This warning against hypocrisy becomes still more needful and im-
pressive from the greatness of the Christian privileges as contrasted with
the Jewish. The Pharisees boasted they were Abraham's children ; we
have the infinitely higher blessing which fellowship with Christ imparts.
In our infancy we have all been gifted with the most awful and glorious
titles, as children of God, members of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom
of heaven. We have been honxjured ^^•ith the grant of spiritual influ-
ences, which have overshadowed and rested upon us, making our ver\-
bodies temples of God ; and when we came to years of discretion, we


were admitted to the mystery of a heavenly communication of the Body
and Blood of Christ. What is more likely, considering our perverse
nature, than that we should neglect the duties, while we wish to retain
the privileges of our Christian profession ? Our Lord has sorrowfully
foretold in his parables what was to happen in His Church ; for in-
stance, when he compared it to a net v/hich gathered of every kind, but
not inspected till the end, and then emptied of its various contents, good
and bad. Till the day of visitation the visible Church will ever be full
of such hypocrites as I have described, who live on under her shadow,
enjoying the name of Christian, and vainly fancying they will partake
its ultimate blessedness.

Perhaps, however, it will be granted, that there are vast numbers in
the Christian v/orld thus professing without adequately practising ; and
yet denied that such a case is enough to constitute a hypocrite in the
Scripture sense of the word ; as if a hypocrite were one who professes
himself to be what he is not, ioish some had motive. It may be urged
that the Pharisees had an end in what they did, which careless and for-
mal Christians have not. But consider for a moment what was the mo-
tive which urged the Pharisees to their hypocrisy ; surely that they
might be seen of, have glory of men.* This is our Lord's own ac-
count of them. Now who will say that the esteem and fear of the-
world's judgment, and the expectation of worldly advantages, do not at
present m.ost powerfully influence the generality of men in their profes-
sion of Christianity 1 so much so, that it is a hard matter, and is thought
a great and noble act for men who live in the public world to do what
they believe to be their duty to God in a straightforward way, should the
opinion of society about it happen to run counter to them. Indeed,
there hardly has been a time since the Apostles' day, in which men were
more likely than in this age, to do their good deeds to be seen of men, to
lay out for human praise, and therefore to shape their actions by the
world's rule rather than God's will. We ought to be very suspicious,
every one of us, of the soundness of our faith and virtue. Let us con-
sider Avhether we should act as strictly as we now do, were the eyes of
our acquaintance and neighbours withdrawn from us. Not that a regard
to the opinion of others is a bad motive ; in subordination to the fear of
God's judgment, it is innocent and allowable, and in many cases a duty
to admit it ; and the opportunity of doing so is a gracious gift given from
God to lead us forv/ard in the right way. But when we prefer man's fal-
lible judgment to God's unerring command, then it is Ave arc wrong, —
and in two ways ; both because we prefer it, and because, being fallible^

* Matt. Ti. 2, 5.


it will mislead us ; and what I am asking you, my brethren, is, not
Avhether you merely regard man's opinion of you, (which you ought to
do,) but whether you set it before God's judgment, which you assuredly
should not do, — and which if you do, you are like the Pharisees, so far as
to be hypocrites, though you may not go so far as they did in their hol-
low self-deceiving ways.

1. That even decently conducted Christians are most extensively and
fearfully ruled by the opinion of society about them, instead of living by
faith in the unseen God, is proved to my mind by the following circum-
stance : — that according as their rank in life makes men independent of
the judgment of others, so the profession of regularity and strictness is
given up. There are two classes of men who are withdrav,-n from the
judgment of the community ; those v/ho are above it, and those who are
below it : — the poorest class of all, v/iiich has no thought of maintaining
itself by its ov/n exertions, and has lost shame ; and what is called (to
use a word of this world) high fashionable society, by which I mean not
the rich necessarily, but those among the rich and noble who throw them-
selves out of the pale of the community, break the ties which attach them
to others, whether above or below themselves, and then live to themselves
and each other, their ordinary doings being unseen by the world at large.
Now since it happens that these two ranks, the outlaws (so to sav) of
public opinion, are (to speak generally) the most openly and daringly
profligate in their conduct, how much may be thence inferred about the
influence of a mere love of reputation in keeping us all in the right
way ! It is plain, as a matter of fact, that the great mass of men are
protected from gross sin by the forms of society. The received laws of
propriety and decency, the prospect of a loss of character, stand as sen-
tinels, giving the alarm, long before their Christian principles have time
to act. But among the poorest and rudest class, on the contrary, such
artificial safeguards against crime are unknown ; and (observe I say) it
is them and that other class I have mentioned, that vice and
crime are most frequent. Are we, therefore, better than they ? Scarcely.
Doubtless their temptations are greater, which alone prevents our boast-
ing over them ; but, besides, do we not rather gain from the sight of
their more scandalous sins a grave lesson and an urgent warning for our-
selves, a call on us for honest self-examination ? for we are of the same
nature, with hke passions with them ; we may be better than they, but
our mere seeming so is no proof that we are. The question is, whether,
in spite of our greater apparent virtue, we should not fall like them, if
the restraint of society were withdrawn ; i. e. whether we are not in the
main hypocrites like the Pharisees, professing to honour God, while we
honour him only so far as men require it of us ?


2. Another test of being like or unlike the Pharisees may be
mentioned. Our Lord warns us against hypocrisy in three respects, —
in doing our alms, in praying, and in fasting. " When thou doest
thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do in
the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of
men .... When thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites
are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners
of the streets, that they may be seen of men .... When ye fast,
be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their
faces that thsy may appear unto men to fast."* Here let us ask
ourselves, first about our alms, v/hether we be not like the hypocrites.
Doubtless some of our charity must be public, for the very mentioning
our name encourages others to follow our example. Still I ask, is much
of our charity also private 1 is as much private as is public 1 I will
not ask whether much more is done in secret than is done before men,
though this, if possible, ought to be the case. But at least, if we think
in the first place of our public charities, and only in the second of the
duty of private alms-giving, are we not plainly like the hypocritical
Pharisees ?

The manner of our prayers will supply us with a still stronger test.
We are here assembled in worship. It is well. Have we really been
praying as well as seeming to pray ? have our minds been actively
employed in trying to form in us the difficult habit of prayer 1 Further,
are we as regular in praying in our closet to our Father which is in
secret as in public ?"}■ Do we feel any great remorse in omitting our
morning and evening prayers, in saying them hastily and irreverently 1
And yet should not v/e feel excessive pain and shame, and rightly, at
the thought of having committed any open impropriety in church ?
Should W9, for instance, be betrayed into laughter or other light conduct
during the service, should not v/e feel most acutely ashamed of ourselves,
and consider we had disgraced ourselves, notwithstanding our habit of
altogether forgetting the next moment any sinful carelessness at prayer
in our closet ? Is not this to be as the Pharisees ?

Take, again, the case of fasting. Alas ! most of us, I fear, do not
think at all of fasting. We do net even let it enter our thoughts, nor
debate with ourselves, whether or not it be needful or suitable for us to
fast, or in any way mortify our flesh. IVell, this is one neglect of
Christ's words. But again, neither do we disfigure our outward appear-
ance to seejn to fast, which the Pharisees did. Here we seem to differ
from the Pharisees. Yet, in truth, this very apparent difference is a

« Matt. vi. 2—16. t Matt. vi. 6.


singular confirmation of our real likeness to them. Austerity gained
them credit ; it would gain us none. It would gain us little more than
mockery from the world. The age is changed. In Christ's time the
show of fasting made men appear saints in the eyes of the many. See
then what we do. We keep up the outward show of almsgiving and
public Avorship, observances, which, (it so happens) the world approves.
We have dropped the show of fasting, which (it so happens) the world
at the present day derides. Are we quite sure that if fasting were in
honour, we should not begin to hold fasts, as the Pharisees ? Thus we
seek the praise of men. But in all this, how are we, in any good
measure, following God's guidance and promises ?

We see, then, how seasonable is our Lord's warning to us. His
disciples, first of all, to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is
hypocrisy : professing without practising. He warns us against it as
haven, as a subtle insinuating evil which will silently spread itself
throughout the whole character, if we sutler it. He warns us. His
disciples, lovingly considerate for us, lest we make ourselves a scorn and
derision to the profane multitude, who throng around to gaze curiously,
or malevolently, or selfishly, at His doings. They seek Him, not as
adoring Him for His miracles' sake, but, if so be, they can obtain any
thing from Him, or can please their natural tastes while they profess to
honour Him ; and in time of trial they desert Him. They make a
gain of godliness, or a fashion. So He speaks not to them, but to us,
His little flock. His Church, to whom it has been His Father's good
pleasure to give the kingdom ;* and He bids us take heed of falling as
the Pharisees did before us, and like them coming short of our reward.
He warns us that the pretence of religion never deceives beyond a little
time ; that sooner or later, " whatsoever we have spoken in darkness
shall be heard in the light, and that which we have spoken in the ear in
closets, shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops." Even in this world
the discovery is often made. A man is brought into temptation of some
sort or other, and having no root in himself falls away, and gives occasion
to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.j Nay, this will happen to
him without himself being aware of it ; for though a man begins to
deceive others before he deceives himself, yet he does not deceive them
so long as he deceives himself. Their eyes are at length opened to
him, while his own continue closed to himself. The world sees through
him ; detects, and triumphs in detecting, his low motives and secular
plans and artifices, while he is but very faintly sensible of them himself,
much less has a notion that others clearly see them. And thus he will

* Luke xii. 32. t 2 Sam. xii. 14.

Vol. L— 6


go on professing the highest principles and feelings, while bad men
scorn him, and insult true religion in his person.

Do not think I am speaking of one or two men, when I speak of the
scandal which a Christian's inconsistency brings upon his cause. The
Christian world, so called, what is it practically, but a witness for
Satan rather than a witness for Christ ? Rightly understood, doubtless
the very disobedience of Christians witnesses for Him who will overcome
whenever He is judged. But is there any antecedent prejudice against
religion so great as that which is occasioned by the lives of its
professors ? Let us ever remember, that all who follow God with but
a half heart, strengthen the hands of His enemies, give cause of exulta-
tion to wicked men, perplex inquirers after truth, and bring reproach
upon their Saviour's name. It is a known fact, that unbelievers
triumphantly maintain that the greater part of the English people is on
their side ; that the disobedience of professing Christians is a proof,
that (whatever they say) yet in their hearts they are unbelievers too.
This we ourselves perhaps have heard said ; and said, not in the heat
of argument, or as a satire, but in sober earnestness, from real and full
persuasion that it was true ; that is, the men who have cast off their
Saviour, console themselves with the idea, that their neighbours, though
too timid or too indolent openly to do so, yet in secret, or at least in
their real character, do the same. And witnessing this general incon-
sistency, they despise them as unmanly, cowardly, and slavish, and
hate religion as the origin of this debasement of mind. " The people
who in this country call themselves Christians (says one of these men,)
with few exceptions, are not beUevers ; and every man of sense, whose
bigotry has not blinded him, must see that persons who are evidently
devoted to worldly gain, or worldly vanities, or luxurious enjoyments,
though still preserving a little decency, while they pretend to believe the
infinitely momentous doctrines of Christanity, are performers in a
miserable farce, which is beneath contempt." Such are the words of
an open enemy of Christ ; as though he felt he dared confess his
unbelief, and despised the mean hypocrisy of those around him. His
argument, indeed, will not endure the trial of God's judgment at the
last day, for no one is an unbeliever but by his own fault. But though
no excuse for him, it is their condemnation. What, indeed, will they
plead before the Throne of God, when on the revelation of all hidden
deeds, this reviler of religion attributes his unbelief in a measure to the
sight of their inconsistent conduct ? When he mentions this action or
that conversation, this violent or worldly conduct, that covetous or
unjust transaction, or that self-indulgent life, as partly the occasion of
his falling away ? " Wo unto the world (it is written), because of


scandals ; for it must needs be that scandals come, but wo to that man
hy whom the scandal cometh !"* Wo unto the deceiver and self-
deceived ! ' " His hope shall perish, his hope shall be cut off, and his
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."! God give
us grace to flee from this wo while we have time ! Let us examine
ourselves to see if there be any wicked way in us; let us aim at
obtaining some comfortable assurance that we are in the narrow way
that leads to life. And let us pray God to enlighten us, and to guide
us, and to give us the will to please Him, and the power.



Galatians iii. 27.
" As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."

It is surely most necessary to beware, as our Lord solemnly bids us, of
the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.^ We may be infected
with it, even though Ave are not conscious, of our insincerity ; for they
did not know they were hypocrites. Nor need we have any definite
bad object plainly before us, for they had none,— only the vague desire
to be seen and honoured by the world, such as may influence us. So
it would seem, that there are vast multitudes of Pharisaical hypocrites
among baptized Christians ; i. e. men professing without practising.

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 76)