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the practice of what it at first abhorred; and hence it arises, that in the earlier part of life we meet with an openness and freedom which never fails to recommend itself to our esteem and approbation; but in the latter season, scarce any thing but doubts and diffidence. Youth is gay, fearless, and honest; age ever wary and designing, too often hypocritical: those who know mankind best, have been oftenest deceived by them, and therefore repose the less trust and confidence in others; this naturally loosens the ties of friendship, and the bonds of society, and, amongst many other circumstances, perhaps tends in a great measure to make the winter of our days so gloomy and uncomfortable, as it is most generally found to be.
Whilst we travel in a plain and smooth track, without fear or apprehension of danger or treachery, the paths of life are agreeable and delightful; but when we once come to be afraid, every step we take, of falling into snares and pit-falls, there is very little pleasure in the journey, and we begin to wish ourselves every hour nearer to the end of it.
But another ill confequerce arising from the practice of this vice, is, that it deprives virtue of that praise and efteem amongst men, which is fo juftly due to her.
Amongst all the advantages which arise from a steady and uniform obedience to the laws of God, and the practice of religion, the tribute of esteem and veneration which they are for the most part sure to meet with even
from the most vicious and abandoned, is by no means the least considerable : and it is this which doth perhaps in a great measure induce the hypocrite to put on the appearance of piety and goodness, that he may acquire that reward which is so frequently bestowed on the reality. The original has so strong and so indisputable a claim to our admiration, that even the most lame and imperfect copy of it, seldom fails of attracting our esteem and veneration: thus virtue is stripped of her inheritance, vice tricks herself out in her attire, puts in a false title to the estate, and bereaves her of her patrimony.
What altars of praise have been raised, what divine honours have been paid, what incense has been offered up to false prophets, imaginary saints, and martyrs! What pious frauds have been made use of, to recommend and adorn the characters of frantic visionaries and enthusiasts, designing hypocrites and impostors, in all ages and nations, from the priests of Baal to the followers of Mahomet!
But hypocrisy, even when discovered, always discredits virtue, because when men have been often deceived, they grow scrupulous and cautious: because a false Esau has imposed upon us, we begin like Isaac even to suspect the true: after we have suffered for our credulity on one hand, we run into a total unbelief on the other; and because the appearance of virtue betrayed us, we come at last to doubt the reality, and even the existence of it. Because many do evil, we are too apt to cry out with the psalmift, there is none that doth good, 2.0 not
H h 2
It was this which made the most virtuous of heathens fay, in his last moments, that virtue was nothing but a name; it was this which almost persuaded the good and patient Job to distrust the providence of his Creator, and it was this which raised such doubts and despair in the breast of the holy pfalmist, and caused him to cry out in anguish, that he had cleansed his heart in vain, and washed his hands in innocency.
When those who have for a long time worn the disguise of public spirit, are at last detected; when the mean and mercenary views by which they are actuated are laid open; when their zeal is found to be self-interest, and their affected patriotism degenerates into avarice or ambition; does it not greatly damp and discourage the friends of liberty, and almost extinguish that generous love of their country, which is the natural inmate of every noble breaft?
But hypocrisy, as it is the most hateful, so is it also the most dangerous enemy to the peace and happiness, of mankind: the serpent who lurks unseen and unsuspected, is more formidable than the lion who roams through the desert, and gives us notice of his approach; some of those evil affections to which we are subjected, have a mixture of bravery and ge. nerosity in them, but hypocrisy is the vice of cowards. It is the plague which walketh in darkness, and is afraid to walk at the noon day; it is the business of pirates, whose constant employment it is to plunder and destroy, and
who therefore hang out false colours, and dis
play the banners of friendship to entice those whom they would devour.
Such and so great are (amongst the infinite number which might be mentioned) some of the fatal consequences of this vice. And if such they are, it will be but common prudence in us to consider, in the second place, what the consequences may be in regard to ourselves: what great and mighty advantages will result from it; what those treasures are which hypocrisy has to bestow in recompense for that innocence which we part with, and that integrity which we sacrifice in the pursuit of it; a mine no doubt of inexhaustible riches; a fund of folid and permanent felicity. Alas! so far from it, that all which hypocrisy can give us, is barely this;
Very poor and uncertain hopes of short, transitory enjoyment here, and a very dismal and dreary prospect of certain and unavoidable misery hereafter.
For firit, in regard to the evil consequences from his fellow-creatures, it will become the hypocrite to consider, that he is no longer safe than whilft he is concealed; he is in a perpetual state of enmity with mankind, and therefore must expect to meet with perpetual opposition: if the mask fall off and discover him, he finks immediately into the lowest and most despicable condition; he is laughed at and despised by all. Every word he utters will from that hour be fufpected, and every action condemned, even truth will not meet with credit
from his lips, nor virtue itself recommend him to esteem.
And this we know very frequently happens, for when the varnish of dissimulation is laid on by an awkward hand, it is soon washed away; when the whiting is rubbed off the sepulchre, to make use of our Saviour's allusion, the rotten bones are quickly discovered. Be. sides, that in this case the features of the mind are in an unnatural state, and like those of the face when distorted, will be continually endeavouring to resume their original ease and pofition. So that the hypocrite's work is always beginning; his house is built upon the sand, and is quickly washed away; he walks, as Solomon says, as it were on the battlements of the city, and the least falfe ftep throws him head-long down to ruin and destruction.
Happy were it for the hypocrite, if the ignominy and contempt which he may chance to incur from his fellow-creatures were his only punishment; but there is another judge to whom he must give up his account; another and a heavier sentence is reserved for him.
It often happens that one weak finite creature shall deceive and delude another; but who shall delude or deceive the Lord and Crea. tor of them both? There is nothing covered which fhall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known: he that made the eye, shall he not see? and he that made the ear, frall he not hear? He is about our path and about our bed, and Spieth out What then must the hypocrite
all our ways: