The words of the text explained. That for the character or quality of the persons that made way for, or brought in the great apostasy, some were liars, some had seared consciences, some forbade marriage and meats; others were guilty of all these imputations. What is meant by the hypocrisy of liars: that this appeared in three things: —1. Lies of miracles. 2. Fabulous Legends. 3. Counterfeit writings under the name of antiquity. —That lies of miracles appeared in —1. Their forgery. 2. Illusion. 3. Misapplication. —What is meant by having seared consciences. That the strange and indecent tales wherewith the legends and the like writings are stuffed, argue those that did either vent or believe them to be men of seared (that is, hard and unfeeling consciences.) Some instances of the indecency of those stories.
Now for the unfolding of the words, this must first be observed in general, that they are not to be so understood, as if those who are the bringers in and advancers of the doctrine of demons should every one of them be guilty of all the several imputations in this description: but they are to be construed rather as an asyndeton, by understanding the conjunction, as if it had been uttered thus —“through the hypocrisy of liars, and through the hypocrisy of men of seared consciences —and, lastly, by the hypocrisy of those who forbid marriage and meats:” —or thus “through the hypocrisy partly of liars, partly of men of seared consciences, partly of those who forbid marriage, and command to abstain from
meats:” that so though many were guilty of all, yet some may be exempt from some; as namely, some might be guilty of the last note, of “forbidding marriage” and “commanding from meats,” and yet free of the former, of being “counterfeit liars and men of seared consciences:” which I speak for reverence of some of the ancients, who, though otherwise holy men, yet cannot be acquitted from all the imputations here mentioned, nor altogether excused from having an hand accidentally through the fate of the times wherein they lived, in laying the ground work whereon soon after the great Apostasy was built.
This, therefore, being remembered, I come now to the unfolding of them in particular: and first of the first, “the hypocrisy of liars.”* The word hypocrisy signifies dissimulation, a feigning, counterfeiting, a semblance and shew of that which is not so indeed as it seemeth. And this word we must repeat, as belonging in common to the rest which follows. For all would be counterfeit; lying would carry the counterfeit of truth, the seared conscience a semblance of devotion, the restraint of marriage should be a shew of chastity, and abstaining from meats a false appearance of abstinence. For the persons of whom they are spoken, should either make a show of what themselves knew was not; or that which they thought they had, should be no better than a false show and counterfeit of what they took it for. The vulgar Latin, in
Mark , and the Syriac in the same place, turn the word hypocrisy,* craft and subtlety; which sense, if need were, would not be denied admittance here.
But I return to the hypocrisy of liars; which I conceive to be the same and no other than that which our apostle speaks in the same case, II Thessalonians 2 where he tells us, that the coming of the man of sin and the Apostasy attending him, should be “after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness,” or unrighteousness and ungodly deceiving, and that “God should send them strong delusions that they might believe a lie,” &c. Yea, some of this, and of that which follows in that place, may extend also to the rest which follows in my text; howsoever, the most thereof, as you hear, doth most evidently expound this hypocrisy of liars.
Now according to the event, this hypocrisy of liars doth appear in three things:—
1. Lies of miracles. 2. Fabulous legends of the acts of saints and sufferings of martyrs. 3. Counterfeit writings under the name of the best and first antiquity.
Lies of miracles will display their hypocrisy in three particulars: —1. Forgery. 2. Illusion. 3. Misapplication.
1. Forgery of miracles never done; as were the reports of wondrous dreams and visions, which had no other credit but the author’s honesty: or miraculous cures, by the power and
relics of saints deceased; as when those who never were blind, made others believe they had newly received sight.
2. Illusion; when though something were done, yet it was but a seeming and a counterfeit only of a miraculous work indeed; some juggling trick of the devil or his instruments.
Lastly, misapplication; either when
that was attributed to a divine power, which was nothing but *the work and operation of the devil; or
when it was interpreted or abused to invite and confirm men in some idolatrous
error, as it happened in the miracles at the shrines and sepulchers of the holy
martyrs, which were interpreted to be for confirmation of the opinion of their
power, presence, and notice of human affairs after death, and to warrant and
encourage men to have recourse unto them by prayer and invocation, as unto
mediators, and to give that honor unto their relics which was due unto God
alone. The like is to be said of the miracles of images and of the host; which,
though they smelt strong of forgery or illusion, were supposed by a divine
disposition to be wrought for the like end and purpose. All which was † the power of seduction, or strong delusion, to make the world
believe a lie, as
Concerning the hypocrisy of fabulous legend-writers of the acts of saints and martyrs, you know what it means: as also the last which was named, counterfeit authors under the name of
antiquity, as approving those errors which latter times devised, I shall not need here to use any further explication. And thus you see what is comprehended under the hypocrisy, counterfeiting or feigning of liars.
I should now come to display the truth of this particular of this prophecy in the event; but I will first unfold the next imputation, the hypocrisy of those who have their conscience seared: which, though it might be exemplified in other things, yet I mean to instance only in that aforementioned, and so must give you the story of both together.
Through the hypocrisy of those who have seared consciences. The Greek word cautery, , signifies both the place seared, and the mark printed by the searing of an hot iron. The Greek word to cauterize, , is to sear with an hot iron, or to cut off with searing, as surgeons do rotten members: now that which is seared becomes more hard and brawny, and so more dull, and not so sensible in feeling as otherwise. In this sense, those cauterized in their conscience signifies those who have a hard and brawny conscience, which hath no feeling in it. In the other sense, as to cauterize is to cut off by searing, it must signify those who have no conscience left. There is not much difference; but I follow the first, a hard and unfeeling conscience. And whether those liars whereof we spoke before (to use no other instances) were not of such metal for their conscience, I think no man can deny.
Who could have coined, or could have believed such monstrous stuff as the legends are stored with, but such as were cauterized? If they had had any feeling or tenderness, not only of conscience, but even of sense, they could never have believed or vented such stuff as there is.
[As that the Virgin Mary should draw out her breasts, and milk in I know not what cleric’s mouth. (Vincent. Hist. lib. vii. c. 4.) That she played the midwife to a certain unchaste abbess (head of a nunnery), and sent the bastard by two angels to a certain hermit to be brought up. (Idem ibid. c. 86. Eam venisse, et concubuisse prima nocte inter quondam sponsum et sponsam. Idem, lib. vii. c. 87.)
Cæsarius, in his seventh book, chapter 34, reports, that the Virgin Mary, for twelve whole years together, did supply the place of a certain nun called Beatrice, while the nun lay in the stews, till at length returning, she freed the Virgin from standing sentinel any longer. And lib. vii. cap. 33. —That she said to a certain soldier, I will be thy wife, come and kiss me; and made him so. That she took a monk about the neck and kissed him.
In an Italian book, called “The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin,”
But that which Joannes de Nicol, in his “Reformed Spaniard,” tells, that he read taken out of Trithemius, is more worthy to be remembered, as being a principal motive in his conversion, who was till then extremely addicted to the idol worship of the Blessed Virgin; which was much cooled, when he read, “That she came into the chamber of Friar Allen (a Dominican that made her rosary,) made a ring of her own hair, wherewith she espoused herself unto him, kissed him, ei ubera sua contrectare permisisse, et cum eo familiariter sicut sponsam cum sponso coiisse.”]
Whether think you not that these fellows were seared in their consciences? What block could have been more senseless? Melchior Canus, speaking of the Golden Legend, as they call it, a book fraught with such stuff as you have heard, methinks almost expresses the meaning of a cauterized conscience: “A fellow (saith he) of an iron mouth and leaden heart wrote this;” “Hanc homo scripsit ferrei oris et plumbei cordis,” as if he had said, of a brawny and unfeeling conscience.