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that they would hearken to no compromise between God and Mammon; that they coveted no man's wealth; but that in the name of their God they required an offering richer and purer than golda heart pious, honest, and sincere, devoted to the cause of religion, and animated with the hopes of salvation. This infliction upon Ananias was not the ordinary punishment of hypocrisy; it was a special punishment, inflicted for a special purpose. God must not be expected to interpose miracles, when the reasons for which miracles were required, have long since ceased to exist. We are not now to expect the immediate visitations of God's justice upon falsehood.
The hypocrite may flourish for a time; but there is a day of judgment; and to that day we are directed to look for the complete vindication of God's ways, and the final operations of his justice. And, in this point of view, we may apply the case of Ananias to our edification.
Though we cannot suppose at present that God will work a miracle to punish wickedness and deceit, yet the example before us denotes the indignation which such conduct cannot fail to incur. The reasons for miraculous interposition may pass away with the circumstances which gave rise to them ; but God's abomination of hypocrisy and lying never can pass away. The case of Ananias displays to us the awful force of His displeasure, and for ever remains on record as a dreadful warning against all false professions to Him. Bodily death is not the only penalty of sin, for death is common to all men. There are other, and far more terrible consequences of God's wrath revealed to us. Be cautioned then, my brethren, how you imitate the audacious falsehood and hypocrisy of Ananias; beware, lest you lie unto God!
It may be asked how we can lie unto God? We, it may be said, are not called upon, as Ananias was, to give an account before men endued with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, or furnished with miraculous powers of discerning the truth or falsehood of our assertions. It is true you are not before such men ; but the ministers of your religion are still the ministers of God. They still are, as we have urged', His ambassadors ; they still act in His name, and under His authority. They yet invite you, under His commission, to embrace and hold fast all the doctrines and precepts of His holy religion; they call upon you to seek salvation under the banner of the cross; they bid you be faithful soldiers and servants of Christ Jesus. Remember, too, that by your very attendance on the public ministrations of His religion, you profess to obey their call. But before whom do you profess this? Is it only before God's ministers? Is not God himself present in the midst of us? Is He not about our path, and about our bed? Are not the inmost thoughts of our hearts open to His view?
1 See Serm. XVIII.
What notion then can we have of His power and wisdom and justice—what knowledge can we have of His revelation of that wrath which awaits those who call upon Him with their lips, while their heart is far from Him, if we suppose that He will not hereafter visit hypocrisy with just vengeance, because He may not think fit to work a miracle for its immediate punishment. It is to God that you address yourselves whenever you attend the public worship; it is before Him that you confess your sins. It is Him whom you implore to spare them that confess their faults, and restore them that are penitent. If then you have no sense of the danger of those sins, if you have no real intention of forsaking them, what can you suppose will be the result of such insincerity? To whom do
you thus deceitfully and hypocritically lie? is it to man, or is it to God? He may not work a miracle for your punishment; but that punishment, though it tarry long, will come at last. Though the different circumstances of his dispensations may require different means, and different times, for the infliction of punishment, yet His displeasure at hypocrisy and insincerity, can never be different The same eye which beheld, and the same hand which chastised the falsehood of Ananias, still beholds, and still menaces the mockery and insincerity of every Christian who appeals to His mercy, and yet contemptuously persists in defiance of His laws.
Now let us apply this to the subject of Confirmation. To such of you as intend to partake of that solemn ordinance—to devote yourselves to the service of God—to claim the benefits of the Gospel dispensation—to ask the aid of His Holy Spirit, to you all let me suggest the awful nature of the appeal you are to make; and the great and allseeing God before whom you are to make it. The Bishop, as God's minister, will ask you “ Whether you do, in the presence of God and of the congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow made in your name at your Baptism, ratifying and confirming the same in your own persons, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and to do all those things which your Godfathers and Godmothers then undertook for you?” You will answer, “I do.”
“I do.” With what hearts, and with what intentions, you will respectively make that answer, no MAN can know; but we do know that if
you do not answer in sincerity and truth, you will, like Ananias, “ lie not unto men, but unto God.” In the presence of God you will make that answer, and God surely, sooner or later, will not fail to punish those that lie unto Him.
We intreat all to weigh this well; both those who have been confirmed, and those who are to be confirmed. The promise you take upon yourselves, and the promise you must take upon yourselves, if you expect to share the blessings of Christ's kingdom, is, that you will renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; that you will believe all the articles of the Christian faith; and that you will keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of your life. Can any individual for one moment believe, that he may with impunity dare to insult the All-seeing God with such a promise as this, if he has not seriously resolved to perform it ? Can he imagine, that after this promise, he is to neglect his duties to God and man? that he may continue swearing, blaspheming, despising the public worship of God, and profaning His holy name; that he may persist in idleness, drunkenness, and debauchery—in theft, or in slander-in lawlessness and in violence - or that he is not to study the word and the will of God, with a view to adorn the profession which he has embraced, and to secure the inheritance of that glorious kingdom, of which he is admitted a member? Surely, brethren, none can be so ignorant, as to suppose that this declaration is to consist in mere words, that this confirmation of our baptismal vow is to be an empty ceremony. Consider well what it is you are going to do: if you promise without meaning to perform, that promise will be a deliberate and a daring lie,a lie too not unto men, but unto God. It will be a lie unto that God who struck Ananias with instant death; and who threatens with a far more awful