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Nay, so far we may be called hypocritical, one and all ; for no Chris-
tian on earth altogether lives up to his profession.

But here some one may ask, whether, in saying that hypocrisy is
professing without practising, I am not, in fact, overthrowing all
external religion from the foundation, since all creeds, and prayers, and
ordinances, go beyond the real belief and frame of mind of even the
best Christians. This is even the ground which some men actually
lake. They say that it is wrong to baptize, and call Christians, those

* Matt, xviii. 7. t Job viii. 13—15. I Vide Sermon X.


who have not vet shown themselves to be really such. " As many as
are baptized into Christ, put on Christ ;" so says the text, and these
men argue from it, that till we have actually put on Christ, that is, tilF
we have given our heart to Christ's service, and in our degree become
holy as He is holy, it can do no good to be baptized into His name.
Rather it is a great evil, for it is to become hypocrites. Nay, really
humble, well-intentioned men, feel this about themselves. They shrink
from retaining the blessed titles and privileges which Christ gave them
in infancy, as being unworthy of them ; and they fear lest they are
really hypocrites like the Pharisees, after all their better thoughts and

Now the obvious answer to this mistaken view of religion is to say,
that, on the showing of such reasoners, no one at all ought to be baptized
in any case, and called a Christian ; for no one ads up to his baptismal
professions : no one believes, worships, and obeys duly, the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, whose servant he is made in baptism. And yet
the Lord did say, " Go, baptize all nations ; clearly showing us, that a
man may be a fit subject for baptism, though he does not in fact
practise every thing that he professes, and therefore, that any fears we
may have, lest men should be in some sense like the Pharisees, must
not keep us from making them Christians.

But I shall treat the subject more at length, in order that we may
understand what kind of disobedience is really hypocrisy, and what is
not, lest timid consciences should be frightened. Now men profess
without feeling and doing, or are hypocrites, in nothing so much as in
their prayers. This is plain. Prayer is the most directly religious of
all our duties ; and our falling short of our duty, is, then, most clearly
displayed. Therefore I will enlarge upon the case of prayer, to explain
what I do not mean by hypocrisy. We then use the most solemn words,
either without attending to what we are saying, or, (even if we do
attend,) without worthily entering into its meaning. Thus we seem to
resemble the Pharisees ; a question in consequence arises, whether, this
being the case, we should go on repeating prayers which evidently do
not suit us. The men I just now spoke of, affirm that we ought to leave
them off. Accordingly, such persons in their own case first give up the
Church prayers, and take to others which they think will suit them
better. Next, when these disappoint them, they have recourse to what
is called extempore prayer ; and afterwards perhaps, discontented in
turn with this mode of addressing Almighty God, and as unable to fix
their thoughts as they M'ere before, they come to the conclusion that
they ought not to pray, except when specially moved to prayer by the
influence of the Holy Spirit.


Now, in answer to such a manner of reasoning and acting, I woul '
maintain tiiat no one is to be reckoned a Pharisee or hypocrite in his
prayers who tries not to be one, — who aims at knowing r.d correcting
himself, — and who is accustomed to pray, though not perfectly, yet not
indolently or in a self-satistiod way ; however lamentable his actual
wanderings of mind may be, or, again, however poorly ^e enters into
the meaning of his prayers, even when he attends to them.

1. First, take the case of not being atlentive to the prayers. Men,
it seems, are tempted to leave off prayers because they cannot follow
them, because they find their thoughts wander when they repeat them.
I answer, that to pray attentively is a habit. This must ever be kept
in mind. No one begins with having his heart thorouglily in them ; but
by trying, he is enabled to attend more and more, and at length, after
many trials and a long schooling of himself, to fix his mind steadily on
them. No one (I repeat) begins with being attentive. Novelty in prayers
is the cause of persons being attentive in the outset, and novelty is out of
the question in the Cliurch prayers; for we have heard them from
childhood, and knew them by heart long before we could understand
them. No one, then, when he first turns his thoughts to religion, finds
it easy to pray ; he is irregular in his religious feelings ; he prays more
earnestly at some times than at others ; his devotional seasons come by
fits and starts ; he cannot account for his state of mind, or reckon upon
Jiimself ; he frequently finds that he is more disposed for prayer at any
time and place than those set apart for the purpose. All this is to be
expected ; for no habit is formed at once ; and before the flame of
religion in the heart is purified and strengthened by long practise and
experience, of course it will be capricious in its motions, it will flare
about (so to say) and flicker, and at times seem almost to go out.

However, impatient men do not well consider this ; they overlook or
are offended at the necessity of humble, tedious practice to enable them
to pray attentively, and they account for their coldness and wanderings
of thought in any way but the true one. Sometimes they attribute this
inequality in their religious feelings to the arbitrary coming and going of
God's Holy Spirit ; a most irreverent and presumptuous judgment,
which I should not mention, except that men do form it, and therefore it
is necessary to state in order to condemn it. Again, sometimes they
think that they shall make themselves attentive all at once by bringing
before their minds the more sacred doctrines of he Gospel, and thus
rousing and constraining their souls. This does for a time ; but when
the novelty is over, they find themselves relapsing into their former
inattention, without apparently having made any advance. And others
again, when discontented with their wanderings during prayer, lay the


fault on the prayers themselves as being too long. This is a common
excuse, and I wish to call your attention to it.

If any one alleges the length of the Church prayers as a reason for
his not keeping his mind fixed upon them, I would beg him to ask his
conscience whether he sincerely believes this to be at bottom the real
cause of his inattention ? Does he think he should attend better if the
prayers were shorter ? This is the question he has to consider. If he
answers that he believes he should attend more closely in that case, then
I go an to ask, whether he attends more closely (as it is,) to the first
part of the service than to the last ; whether his mind is his own, re-
gularly fixed on what heis engaged in, for any time in any part of the
service ? Now, if he is obliged to own that this is not the case, that
his thoughts are wandering in all parts of the service, and that even
during the Confession, or the Lord's Prayer, which come first, they are
not his own, it is quite clear that it is not the length of the service
which is the real cause of his inattention, but his being deficient in the
habit of being attentive. If, on the other hand, he answers that he
can fix his thoughts for a time, and during the early part of the service,
1 would have him reflect that even this degree of attention was not
always his own, that it has been the work of time and practice ; and,
if by trying he has got so far, by trying he may go on, and learn to
attend for a still longer time, till at length he is able to keep up his
attention through the whole service.

However, I wish chiefly to speak to such as are dissatisfied with
themselves, and despair of attending properly. Let a man once set his
heart upon learning to pray, and strive to learn, and no failures he may
continue to make in his manner of praying are sufficient to cast him
from God's favour. Let him but persevere, not discouraged at his wan-
derings, not frightened into a notion he is a hypocrite, not shrinking
from the honourable titles which God puts on him. Doubtless he should
be humbled at his own weakness, indolence, and carelessness ; and he
should feel (he cannot feel too much) the guilt, alas ! which he is ever
contracting in his prayers by the irreverence of his inattention. Still
he must not leave off his prayers, but go on looking towards Christ his
Saviour. Let him but be in earnest, striving to master his thoughts,
and to be serious, and all the guilt of his incidental failings will be
washed away in his Lord's blood. Only let him not be contented with
himself ; only let him not neglect to attempt to obey. What a simple
rule it is, to try to be attentive in order to be so ! and yet it is continu-
ally overlooked ; that is, we do not systematically try, we do not make
a point of attempting and attempting over and over again in spite of bad
success ; we attempt only now and then, and our best devotion is merely


when our hearts are excited by some accident which may or may not
happen again.

So much on inattention to our prayers, which, I say, should not sur-
prise or frighten us, which does not prove us to be hypocrites unless we
acquiesce in it ; or oblige us to leave them off, but rather to learn to at-
tend to them.

2. I proceed, secondly, to remark on the difficulty of entering inlo the
meaning of them, when we do attend to them.

Here a tender conscience will ask, " How is it possible I can rightly
use the solemn words which occur in the prayers V A tender con-
science alone speaks thus. Those confident objectors whom I spoke of
just now, who maintain that set prayer is necessarily a mere formal ser-
vice in the generality of instances, a service in which the heart has no
part, they are silent here. They do not feel this difficulty, which is the
real one ; they use the most serious and awful words lightly and without
remorse, as if they really entered into the meaning of what is, in truth,
beyond the intelligence of Angels. But the humble and contrite believ-
er, coming to Christ for pardon and help, perceives the great strait he
is in, in having to address the God of Heaven. This perplexity of mind
it was which led convinced sinners in former times to seek refuge in
beings short of God ; not as denying God's supremacy, or shunning
Him, but discerning the vast distance between themselves and Him, and
seeking some resting places by the way, some Zoar, some little city near
to flee unto,* because of the height of God's mountain, up which the
way of escape lay. And then gradually becoming devoted to those
whom they trusted, Saints, Angels, or good men living, and copying
them, their faith had a fall, and their virtue trailed upon the ground, for
want of props to rear it heavenward. We Christians, sinners though we
be like other men, are not allowed thus to debase our nature, or to de-
fraud ourselves of God's mercy ; and though it be very terrible to speak
as to the living God, yet speak we must, or die ; tell our sorrows we must
or there is no hope ; for created mediators and patrons are forbidden us,
and to trust in an arm of flesh is made a sin.

Therefore let a man reflect, whoever from tenderness of conscience
shuns the Church as above him (whether he shuns her services, or her
sacraments,) that, awful as it is to approach Christ, to speak to Him, to
" eat His flesh and drink His blood," and to live in Him, to whom shall he
go 1 See what it comes to. Christ is the only way of salvation open
to sinners. Truly we are children, and cannot suitably feel the words
which the Church teaches us, though we say them after her, nor feel

* Gen. xix. 20.


duly reverent at God's presence ! Yet let us but know our own ignorance
and weakness, and we are safe. God accepts those who thus come in
faith, bringing nothing as their offering, but a confession of sin. And
this is the highest excellence to which we can attain ; to understand our
own hypocrisy, insincerity, and shallowness of mind, — to own, while we
pray, that we cannot pray aright, — to repent of our repentings, — and
to submit ourselves wholly to His judgment, who could indeed be ex-
treme with us, but has already shown His loving-kindness in bidding us
to pray. And, while we thus conduct ourselves, we must learn to feel
that God knows all this before we say it, and far better than we do.
He does not need to be informed of our extreme worthlessness. We
must pray in the spirit and the temper of the extremest abasement, but
we need not search for adequate words to express this, for in truth no
words are bad enough for our case. Some men are dissatisfied with the
confessions of sin we make in Church, as not being strong enough ; but
none can be strong enough ; let us be satisfied with sober words, which
have been ever in use ; it will be a great thing if we enter into them.
No need of searching for impassioned words to express our repentance,
when we do not rightly enter even into the most ordinary expressions.

Therefore when we pray, let us not be as the hypocrites, making a
show ; nor use vain repetitions with the heathen ; let us compose our-
selves, and kneel down quietly as to a work far above us, preparing our
minds for our own imperfection in prayer, meekly repeating the wonder-
ful words of the Church our Teacher, and desiring with the Angels to
look into them. When we call God our Father Almighty, or own our-
selves miserable offenders, and beg Him to spare us, let us recollect that,
though we are using a strange language, yet Christ is pleading for us
in the same words with full understanding of them, and availing power ;
and that, though we know not what we should pray for as we ought, yet
the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with plaints unutterable.
Thus feeling God to be around us and in us, and therefore keeping
ourselves still and collected, we shall serve Him acceptably, with
reverence and godly fear ; and we shall take back with us to our com-
mon employments the assurance that He is still gracious to us, in spite
of our sins, not willing we should perish, desirous of our perfection, and
ready to form us day by day after the fashion of that divine image which
in baptism was outwardly stamped upon us.

I have spoken only of our prayers, and but referred to our general
profession of Christianity. It is plain, however, what has been said
about praying, may be applied to all we do and say as Christians. It
is true that we profess to be saints, to be guided by the highest principles
and to be ruled by the Spirit of God. We have long ago promised to


telicve and obey. It is also true that we cannot do these things aright ;
nay, even with God's help, (such is our sinful weakness), still we fall
short of our duty. Nevertheless we must not cease to profess. We
must not put off from us the wedding garment which Christ gave us in
baptism. We may still rejoice in Him without being hypocrites, that
is, if we labour day by day to make that wedding garment our own ; to
fix it on us and so incorporate it with ourselves, that death, which strips
us of all things, may bo unable to tear it from us, though as yet it be in
great measure but an outward garb covering our own nakedness.

I conclude by reminding you, how great God's mercy is in allowing
us to clothe ourselves in the glory of Christ from the first, even before
we are worthy * of it. I suppose there is nothing so distressing to a true
Christian as to have to prove hiviseJf snch to others ; both as being con-
scious of his own numberless failings, and from his dislike of display.
Now Christ has anticipated the difliculties of his modesty. He does not
allow such a one to speak for himself ; He speaks for him. He intro-
duces each of us to his brethren, not as we are in ourselves, fit to be
despised and rejected on account of "the temptations which are in our
flesh," but " as messengers of God, even as Christ Jesus." It is our hap-
piness that we need bring nothing in proof of our fellowship with Chris-
tians, besides our baptism. This is what a great many persons do not
understand; they think that none are to be accounted fellow-Chris-
tians but those who evidence themselves to be such to their fallible under-
standings ; and hence they encourage others, who wish for their praise,
to practice all kinds of display, as a seal of their regeneration. Who
can tell the harm this does to the true modesty of the Christian spirit ?
Instead of using the words of the Church and speaking to God, men are
led to use their own words, and make man their judge and justifier."}"
They think it necessary to tell out their secret feelings, and to enlarge
on what God has done to their own souls in particular. And thus mak-
ing themselves really answerable for all the words they use, which are
altogether their own, they do in this case become hypocrites ; they do
say more than they can in reality feel. Of course a religious man will
naturally, and unawares, out of the very fullness of his heart, show his
deep feeling and his conscientiousness to his near friends ; but when to
do so is made a matter of necessity, an object to be aimed at, and is an
intentional act, then it is that hypocrisy must, more or less, sully our
faith. " As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on
Christ;" this is the Apostle's decision. "There is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female ;

* Matt. xxii. 8. Col. i. 10. 1 1 Cor. iv. 3—5.


for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Our Church follows this rule, and
bidding us keep quiet, speaks for us ; robes us from head to foot in the
garments of righteousness, and exhorts us to live henceforth to God.
But the disputer of this world reverses this procedure ; he strips off all our
privileges, bids us renounce our dependance on the Mother of saints, tells
us we must each be a Church to himself, and must show himself to the
world to be by himself and in himself the elect of God, in order to prove
his right to the privileges of a Christian.

Far be it from us thus to fight against God's gracious purposes to
man, and to make the weak brother perish for whom Christ died !*
Let us acknowledge all to be Christians, who have not by open word or
deed renounced their fellowship with us, and let us try to lead them on
into all truth. And for ourselves let us endeavour to enter more and
more fully into the meaning of our own prayers and professions ; let
us humble ourselves for the very little we do, and the poor advance we
make ; let us avoid unnecessary display of religion ; let us do our duty
in that state of life to which God has called us. Thus proceeding, we
shall, through God's grace, form within us the glorious mind of Christ.
Whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, walking by this rule, we
shall become, at length, true saints, sons of God. We shall be upright
and perfect, lights in the world, the image of Him who died that we
might be conformed to His likeness.



Matthew v. 14.
" Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be liid.

OrR Saviour gives us a command, in this passage of His Sermon on
the Mount, to manifest our religious profession before all men. " Ye
are the light of the world," He says to His disciples ; " A city that is
set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put
it under a bushel, but on a candlestick ; and it giveth hght unto all that

*1 Cor. viii. 11.


are in the house. Let 3-our light so shine before men, that they may
see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Yet
presently He says, " When thou doest alms . . . when thou prayest
. . . when ye fast . . . appear not unto men . . . but unto thy
Father which is in secret."* How are these commands to be reconciled 1
how are we at once to profess ourselves Christians, and yet hide our
Christian words, deeds, and self-denials ?

I will now attempt to answer this question ; that is, to explain how
we may be witnesses to the world for God, and yet without pretension
or affectation, or rude and indecent ostentation.

Now, first, much might be said on that mode of witnessing Christ
which consists in conforming to His Church. He who simply did what
the Church bids him do, (if he did no more,) would witness a good con-
fession to the world, and one which cannot be hid ; and at the same
time, with very little, if any, personal display. He does only what he
is told to do ; he takes no responsibility on himself. The Apostles and
Martyrs who founded the Church, the Saints in all ages, who have
adorned it, the Heads of it now alive, all these take from him the
weight of his profession, and bear the blame (so to call it) of seeming
ostentatious. I do not say, that irreligious men will not call such a
one boastful, or austere, or a hypocrite ; that is not the question. The
question is, whether in God's judgment he deserves the censure ;
whether he is not as Christ would have him, really and truly (what-
ever the world may say) joining humility to a bold outward profession ;
whether he is not, in thus acting, preaching Christ without hurting his
own pureness, gentleness, and modesty of character. If indeed a man
stands forth on his own ground, declaring himself as an individual a
witness for Christ, then indeed he is grieving and disturbing the calm
spirit given us by God. But God's merciful providence has saved us
this temptation, and forbidden us to admit it. He bids us unite to-
gether in one, and to shelter our personal profession under the authority
of the general body. Thus, while we show ourselves as lights to the
world far more effectively than if we glimmered separately in the lone
wilderness without communication, at the same time we do so with far
greater secrecy and humility. Therefore it is, that the Church does
so many things for us, appoints Fasts and Feasts, times of public prayer,
the order of the sacraments, the services of devotion at marriages and
deaths, and all accompanied by a fixed form of sound words ; in order,
(I say,) to remove from us individually the burden of a high profession,
of implying great things of ourselves by inventing for ourselves solemn

* 1 Matt. vi. 2—18.


prayers and praises, — a task far above the generality of Christians, to
say the least, a task which humble men will shrink from, lest they
prove hypocrites, and which will hurt those who do undertake it, by
making them rude-spirited and profane. I am desirous of speaking on
this subject as a matter of practice ; for I am sure, that if we wish
really and in fact to spread the knowledge of the Truth, we shall do so
far more powerfully as u-ell as purely, by keeping together, than by
witnessing one by one. Men are to be seen adopting all kinds of strange
ways of giving glory (as they think) to God. If they would but follow
the Church ; come together in prayer on Sundays and Saints' days,
nay, every day ; honour the rubric by keeping to it obediently, and
conforming their families to the spirit of the Prayer-book, I say, that
on the whole they would practically do vastly more good than by trying
new religious plans, founding new religious societies, or striking out
new religious views. I put out of account the greater blessing they
might expect to find in the way of duty, which is the first consideration.
2. One way of professing without display has been mentioned ; —
obeying the Church. Now in the next place, consider how great a
profession, and yet a profession how unconscious and modest, arises
from the mere ordinary manner in which any strict Christian lives.
Let this thought be a satisfaction to uneasy minds which fear lest they
are not confessing Christ, yet dread to display. Your life displays
Christ without your intending it. You cannot help it. Your words
and deeds will show on the long run (as it is said,) where your treasure

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 76)