That, however, will not be the pith of my sermon this morning. I am going after a certain class of men who have sins not unknown to themselves, but secret to their fellow creatures. Every now and then we turn up a fair stone which lies upon the green sward of the professing church, surrounded with the verdure of apparent goodness, and to our astonishment we find beneath it all kinds of filthy insects and loathsome reptiles, and in our disgust as such hypocrisy, we are driven to exclaim, "All men are liars; there are none in whom we can put any trust at all.
To you, sirs, who sin secretly, and yet make a profession; you break God's covenants in the dark and wear a mask of goodness in the light-to you, sirs, who shut the doors and commit wickedness in secret-to you I shall speak this morning. O may God also be pleased to speak to you, and make you pray this prayer: "Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
I shall endeavour to urge upon all pretenders present to give up, to renounce, to detest, to hate, to abhor all their secret sins. And, first, I shall endeavour to show the folly of secret sins ; secondly, the misery of secret sins ; thirdly, the guilt of secret sins ; fourthly, the danger of secret sins ; and then I shall try to apply some words by way of remedy, that we may all of us be enabled to avoid secret sins.
Pretender, thou art fair to look upon; thy conduct outwardly upright, amiable, liberal, generous and Christian; but thou dost indulge in some sin which the eye of man has not yet detected. Perhaps it is private drunkenness. Thou dost revile the drunkard when he staggers through the street; but thou canst thyself indulge in the same habit in private.
It may be some other lust or vice; it is not for me just now to mention what it is.
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But, pretender, we say unto thee, thou art a fool to think of harbouring a secret sin; and thou art a fool for this one reason, that thy sin is not a secret sin; it is known , and shall one day be revealed; perhaps very soon. Thy sin is not a secret; the eye of God hath seen it; thou hast sinned before his face. Thou hast shut-to the door, and drawn the curtains, and kept out the eye of the sun, but God's eye pierceth through the darkness; the brick walls which surrounded thee were as transparent as glass to the eye of the Almighty; the darkness which did gird thee was as bright as the summer's noon to the eye of him who beholdeth all things.
Knowest thou not, O man, that "all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do?
Dig deep, ay, deep as hell, but thou canst not find earth enough upon the globe to cover thy sin; if thou shouldst heap the mountains on its grave, those mountains would tell the tale of what was buried in their bowels. If thou couldst cast thy sin into the sea, a thousand babbling waves would tell the secret out. There is no hiding it from God. Thy sin is photographed in high heaven; the deed when it was done was photographed upon the sky, and there it shall remain, and thou shalt see thyself one day revealed to the gazing eyes of all men, a hypocrite, a pretender, who didst sin in fancied secret, observed in all thine acts by the all-seeing Jehovah.
O what fools men are, to think they can do anything in secret. This world is like the glass hives wherein bees sometimes work: we look down upon them, and we see all the operations of the little creatures. So God looketh down and seeth all.
Our eyes are weak; we cannot look through the darkness; but his eye, like an orb of fire, penetrateth the blackness; and readeth the thoughts of man, and seeth his acts when he thinks himself most concealed. Oh; it were a thought enough to curb us from all sin, if it were truly applied to us-"Thou, God, seest me! Drop thou that which thou hast taken to thyself. God seeth thee! No eye of detection on earth hath discovered thee, but God's eyes are now looking through the clouds upon thee.
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He keepeth a diary of all thine acts; and what wilt thou think on that day when a crowd shall be assembled, compared with which this immense multitude is but a drop of a bucket, and God shall read out the story of thy secret life, and men and angels shall hear it. Certain I am there are none of us who would like to have all our secrets read, especially our secret thoughts. If I should select out of this congregation the most holy man, should bring him forward and say, "Now, sir, I know all your thoughts, and am about to tell them," I am sure he would offer me the largest bribe that he could gather if I would be pleased to conceal at least some of them.
What will be thy terror and confusion then, when all the deeds thou hast done shall be published in the face of the sun, in the ears of all mankind. O renounce the foolish hope of secresy, for thy sin is this day recorded, and shall one day be advertised upon the walls of heaven. Of all sinners the man who makes a profession of religion, and yet lives in iniquity, is the most miserable.
A downright wicked man, who takes a glass in his hand, and says, "I am a drunkard, I am not ashamed of it," he shall be unutterably miserable in worlds to come, but brief though it be, he has his hour of pleasure.
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A man who curses and swears, and says, "That is my habit, I am a profane man," and makes a profession of it, he has, at least, some peace in his soul; but the man who walks with God's minister, who is united with God's Church, who comes out before God's people, and unites with them, and then lives in sin, what a miserable existence he must have of it! Why, he has a worse existence than the mouse that is in the parlour, running out now and then to pick up the crumbs, and then back again to his hole.
Such men must run out now and then to sin; and oh! One day, perhaps, their character turns up; with wonderful cunning they manage to conceal and gloss it over; but the next day something else comes, and they live in constant fear, telling lie after lie, to make the last lie appear truthful, adding deception to deception, in order that they may not be discovered. If I must be a wicked man, give me the life of a roystering sinner, who sins before the face of day; but, if I must sin, let me not act as a hypocrite and a coward; let me not profess to be God's, and spend my life for the devil.
That way of cheating the devil is a thing which every honest sinner will be ashamed of. He will say, "Now, if I do serve my master I will serve him out and out, I will have no sham about it; if I make a profession, I will carry it out; but if I do not, if I live in sin, I am not going to gloss it over by cant and hypocrisy. God forgive any of you who are so acting! I had almost said, I can scarce forgive you. I can forgive the man who riots openly, and makes no profession of being better, but the man who fawns, and cants, and pretends, and prays, and then lives in sin, that man I hate, I cannot bear him, I abhor him from my very soul.
If he will turn from his ways, I will love him, but in his hypocrisy he is to me the most loathsome of all creatures. A mere profession, my hearers, is but painted pageantry to go to hell in; it is like the plumes upon the hearse and the trappings upon the black horses which drag men to their graves, the funeral array of dead souls.
Take heed above everything of a waxen profession that will not stand the sun; take care of a life that needs to have two faces to carry it out; be one thing, or else the other. If you make up your mind to serve Satan, do not pretend to serve God; and if you serve God, serve him with all your heart. Above all, beware of committing acts which it will be necessary to conceal.
There is a singular poem by Hood, called "The Dream of Eugene Aram"-a most remarkable piece it is indeed, illustrating the point on which I am now dwelling.
Aram has murdered a man and cast his body into the river-"a sluggish water, black as ink, the depth was so extreme. Next he covered the corpse with heaps of leaves, but a mighty wind swept through the wood and left the secret bare before the sun:. In plaintive notes he prophesies his own discovery. He buried his victim in a cave, and trod him down with stones, but when years had run their weary round the foul deed was discovered and the murderer put to death.
Guilt is a "grim chamberlain," even when his fingers are not bloody red. Secret sins bring fevered eyes and sleepless nights, until men burn out their consciences, and become in very deed ripe for the pit. Hypocrisy is a hard game to play at, for it is one deceiver against many observers; and for certain it is a miserable trade, which will earn at last, as its certain climax, a tremendous bankruptcy. Sin, like murder, will come out; men will even tell tales about themselves in their dreams.
God has sometimes made men so pricked in their consciences that they have been obliged to stand forth and confess the story.
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Secret sinner! If thou wantest the foretaste of damnation upon earth, continue in thy secret sins; for no man is more miserable than he who sinneth secretly, and yet trieth to preserve a character. Yon stag, followed by the hungry hounds, with open mouths, is far more happy than the man who is followed by his sins. Yon bird, taken in the fowler's net, and labouring to escape, is far more happy than he who hath weaved around himself a web of deception, and labours to escape from it day by day by making the toils more thick and the web more strong.
Truly, one may pray, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Now, John, you do not think there is any evil in a thing unless somebody sees it, do you? You feel that it is a very great sin if your master finds you out in robbing the till-but there is no sin if he should not discover it-none at all. And you, sir, you fancy it to be very great sin to play a trick in trade, in case you should be discovered and brought before the court; but to play a trick and never be discovered, that is all fair-do not say a word about it Mr.
Spurgeon, it is all business; you must not touch business; tricks that are not discovered, of course you are not to find fault with them. The common measure of sin is the notoriety of it. But I do not believe in that. A sin is a sin, whether done in private or before the wide world. It is singular how men will measure guilt. A railway servant puts up a wrong signal, there is an accident; the man is tried, and severely reprimanded.
The day before he put up the wrong signal, but there was no accident, and therefore no one accused him for his neglect. But it was just the same, accident or no accident, the accident did not make the guilt, it was the deed which made the guilt, not the notoriety nor yet the consequence of it. It was his business to have taken care; and he was as guilty the first time as he was the second, for he negligently exposed the lives of men. Do not measure sin by what other people say of it; but measure sin by what God says of it, and what your own conscience says of it.
Now, I hold that secret sin, if anything, is the worst of sin; because secret sin implies that the man who commits it has Atheism in his heart. You will ask how that can be.