So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
These words are supposed to be a quotation from one of the fathers. We can see that the quotation may begin at verse 11, but it is not easy to see where it ends.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE HYPOCRITE. All hypocrites belong to the class of those who forget God. In outward appearance, to the eye of man, they appear to remember God. Their outward services; their regular observance of everything that is external in religion; the words which they use; the subjects on which they converse — all appear to mark them out as those who remember God. But, in all this, as the very word hypocrite indicates, they are but acting a part. There is no reality in their services; no correspondence between their outward lives and the state of their heart; the two are altogether at variance. They are anxious for the praise of men; and so they are careful to adapt their outward lives — that which is seen of men — to a religious standard. They care not for the praise of God; and so they neglect their hearts, and withhold them from Him to whom they are due. All is show; there is no fruit. We meet with solemn examples of this character in the Scriptures. It is the motive; it is the power of godliness; it is Jesus dwelling in the heart; it is walking as in the presence of God, — it is this that constitutes the difference between the true Christian and the hypocrite; between him who serves God in truth, and him who serves in appearance. Then let us seek truthfulness of character and reality.
II. THE HOPE OF THE HYPOCRITE. The Christian's hope is laid up in heaven. It is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast. The hypocrite's hope fastens itself on some vain thing in the present life, some worldly gain, the praise of man, or some pecuniary benefit. And there is no single character in which there is so little hope of any real and saving change as in that of the hypocrite. But what is the issue and end of the hypocrite's hope, and of himself? The hypocrite, being destitute of the grace of God, cannot grow, but must wither away. Without the grace of God we are but as some succulent plant, when the moistened mire and water are withdrawn from its roots. It needs not to be cut down by the hand of man, but withers speedily in consequence of the lack of moisture. We may, however, explain the "mire" and the "water," not of inward grace, but rather of outward prosperity; and then the meaning will be this — It is only in circumstances of outward prosperity that the hypocrite can appear to flourish. Let these be changed let sifting trials come, as they will come, to try the heart, and he is as a rush or flag from which the "mire" and "water" are removed; he suddenly disappears, his hope vanishes, and he himself is lost. Another illustration is used. The hypocrite's hope is compared to a "spider's web." Beautifully formed as such a web is — a masterpiece of ingenuity and arrangement — it is easily swept away. A gust of wind, or the hand of man may carry it away in a moment. The poor spider may cling for safety to his house or web, woven out of its own body, but it cannot shelter him (ver. 15). What a vivid picture of the hypocrite's trust! His confidence of success rises high, when suddenly the hand of God sweeps away the spider's web, and the poor deceiver falls, clinging to its ruins Our subject has led us to speak of the thorough hypocrite, but we ought to remember that there are many degrees of this sin short of downright hypocrisy. Simplicity and transparency of character — one of the most beautiful graces of the Christian character — may be wanting.
Parallel VersesKJV: So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: