“This age is full of shams. Pretence never stood in so eminent a position as it does at the present hour.”
For Charles Spurgeon, the “eminence” of pretence “at the present hour” was greatly distressing. Indeed, he lamented that “counterfeit has at length attained to such an eminence” that it was “with the utmost difficulty” that it could be detected. This counterfeit was so “near…to the genuine” that even the “eye of wisdom” needed special “enlightenment” to discern it.
With this in mind Spurgeon cautioned his flock, saying, “If ever there was a time…to say, ‘Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees…’ it is now.” Indeed, when the persecution was “hot,” when the “[pyres] are blazing,” and the “rack is in full operation,” hypocrisy was too costly. After all, “suffering,” “pain,” and “death” were “keen detectors” of impostors.
But, as Spurgeon said, “in this silken age, when to be religious is to be respectable” it was “doubly necessary” for the minister to “cry aloud” and warn all of this “leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon took note of “The hypocrite’s character.” Here Spurgeon first observed that “a hypocrite may be known by the fact that his speech and his actions are contrary to one another.” Indeed, the hypocrite could “speak like an angel,” but his life was “the fullest contradiction of everything that he has uttered.”
Second, Spurgeon noted that “whenever he does right it is that he may be seen of men.” Indeed, for the hypocrite a “virtue in the dark is almost a vice.” To be well spoken of was the “elixir of life,” but the public censure of a virtue would “make him change his opinion…in a moment.” Furthermore, if vice were more prized than virtue, then he would be “as vicious as the rest.
Third, Spurgeon asserted that hypocrites “love titles, and honours, and respect from men.” Truly, “the Pharisee was never so happy as when he was called Rabbi.” However “the true Christian [cared] not for titles.”
Fourth, Spurgeon reported that the hypocrite “strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel.” Here Spurgeon had in mind the “very particular souls” who invested everything in the “little things.” Indeed, such might tithe the tenth of their “mint,” “annis,” and “cumin,” while “whole loads of tithe-wheat [were] smuggled into their own barns.” As a precaution, Spurgeon urged, “always suspect yourself when you a more careful about little than great things.”
Fifth, Spurgeon observed that these hypocrites “neglected all the inward part of religion, and only observed the outward.” Indeed, Spurgeon affirmed that “they may have a very fine spiritual exterior,” but lamented “there is nothing in them.”
Sixth, Spurgeon noted that hypocrites are “generally severe with others, and very lenient with themselves.” Indeed, the hypocrite could “make vice look like a virtue in himself,” but “deal by the reverse rule with others.” According to Spurgeon, such a man had a “fine beam” in his eye “large enough to shut out the light of heaven.
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon turned to “Cast up the hypocrite’s account for him.” Here Spurgeon lamented that the “sun of the gospel which melts wax” would only “[harden] the poor clay of your heart.” Indeed, while world was deceived by the hypocrite, Spurgeon assured him that “your base deeds will come out.” Indeed, “hypocrites may seem as if they were at ease, but they cannot really be.”
In the third, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon addressed “The cure of the hypocrite.” Here Spurgeon lamented that “I have tried to speak severely, but I have not been able to reach the hearts as I could wish.” Indeed, Spurgeon urged his hearers not to be “content to take your religion at second-hand,” and to “not let it be a superficial work.”
Grieved, Spurgeon shared that “I have seen tears in their eyes while they have made a profession of Christ, and yet they have been deceivers after all.” Indeed, the sorrowful pastor noted that here “it is not hard work to deceive a kind heart.” Even the “Prince of Preachers” had fought the grief of dealing with false conversions, leading Spurgeon to his final charge: “Examine yourself.”
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Spurgeon, the “eminence” of pretence “at the present hour” was greatly distressing. In this sermon he lamented that “counterfeit has at length attained to such an eminence” that it was “with the utmost difficulty” that it could be detected. Accordingly, Spurgeon sought to shine a light on hypocrisy and urged his congregation to “examine yourselves.” For those wanting to grow in discernment, please be encouraged to take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/hypocrisy#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.