Every now and then, I will pick up Baxter's Practical Works, Volume 1: A Christian Directory. This is an almost 1,000 page, with very small font, work of Richard Baxter. In this book, he covers a multitude of items concerning the life of the Christian. Several months ago, I posted his Directions to Reading the Bible. But today, I wanted to share some helpful thoughts he has in regards to Hypocrisy.
He begins by defining hypocrisy as "the acting the part of a religious person, as upon a stage, by one that is not religious indeed; a seeming to be in religion to be what you are not, or to do what you do not." We all know that hypocrisy is an accepted sin in our world. I say it is accepted because it is so prevalent. But it should not be. There should be in none of us an acting that everything is religious or good when it is not. And yet how easy is it to find ourselves pretending that we are walking with Christ when we are not. We know the temptation to talk about what we are reading in the Bible when we have never opened it all week. We know the dangers of talking about Jesus in public, but never crying out to Him in private. To these things, Baxter has some helpful thoughts.
If you have never read Baxter before, you should be warned that it is old puritan English. Great content, but sometimes difficult to grasp in our shallow culture. You might have to think about each of these for some time to fully get what he is saying. In his book, he offers 27 directions to help us avoid hypocrisy. These are the five that impacted me the most.
Direction 3: Make conscience of the sins of the thoughts, and the desire and other affections or passions of the mind, as well as the sins of tongue or hand. A lustful thought, a malicious thought, a proud, ambitious, or covetous thought, especially if it proceed to a wish, or contrivance, or consent, is a sin the more dangerous by how much the more inward and near the heart; as Christ hath showed you, Matt. v. and vi. The hypocrite who most respecteth the eye of man, doth live as if his thoughts were free.
Direction 4: Make conscience of secret sins, which are committed out of the sight of men, and may be concealed from them, as well as of open and notorious sins. If he can do it in the dark and secure his reputation, the hypocrite is bold: but a sincere believer doth bear a reverence to his conscience, and much more to the all-seeing God.
Direction 5: Be faithful in secret duties, which have no witness but God and conscience: as meditation, and self-examination, and secret prayer; and be not only religious in the sight of men.
Direction 9: Be much more busy about yourselves than about others; and more censorious of yourselves than of other men; and more strict in the reforming of yourselves than of any others. For this is the character of the sincere: when the hypocrite is little at home and much abroad; and is a sharp reprehender o others and perniciously tender and indulgent to himself.
Direction 16: Be most suspicious of your hearts in cases where self-interest or passions are engaged; for they will easily deal deceitfully and cheat yourselves, in the smoke and dust of such distempers. Interest and passion so blind the mind, that you may verily think you are defending the truth, and serving God in sincerity and zeal, when all the while you are but defending some error of your own, and serving yourselves, and fighting against God.