Who are hypocrites?

It is not a word a thinking man should use freely. The unclassifying mind hurls it as an allegation broadly.

In Leviathan, Hobbes uses the term but four times (and once in De Cive), each in the Christian or Jewish religious context. The origin in our language is from the Gospels, in the great sermons in which Jesus condemns those Pharisees and teachers of the law who practise outward signs of piety but fail to live a life of actual sanctity.

That this man, hated of the Pharisees (whose false doctrine and hypocriticall sanctity he had reproved) and by their means, of the People accused of unlawfull seeking for the Kingdome, and crucified, was the true CHRIST, and King promised by God,

The word used in the original Greek that has come down to us is ‘ὑποκριται‘, and that word does not mean what we think it does: it is not a philosophical or theological technical term but is Greek for ‘play-actors’.

Greek drama was very different from ours. Their playwrights were just as skilled, and I would hold out Aristophanes as equal to many of our own, but the performance was of static oration by an actor with a mask in front of his face. The mask, not the actor, was the character, the image or portrait, χαρακτηρ, of the man portrayed (or as the Romans called it, the persona). The origin of the Greek word for a stage actor, ὑποκριτής, is in words for ‘pronounce from under’; in short, to orate from behind a mask.

In the Gospels then, those Pharisees who were all portrayal and no action were ὑποκριται, actors speaking another’s lines from behind a carefully constructed mask.

There will have been many of the Pharisee party in those days who were genuine, who had real love for God and for their neighbour, practising charity and mercy, but it is a lot easier just to put on a show, to set out rules and visibly follow those rules as on a rail along a straight road (even if as a result you pass the needy by on the other side of the road). Today we would call it ‘virtue signalling’.

A life fully according to the law and the prophets, and the Gospel, is impossible. It is easier to whiten the sepulchre so it is at least bright and clean outside as a show for other, and turn your mind from the rottenness within.

Modernity uses the word ‘hypocrite’ too loosely. It is an unanswerable condemnation where any variance from ones pronouncements triggers a tri-syllabic denunciation. Looking back to the origin of the term, restricting it to that context, should restrain the accusing mouth. Anyone can live up to a narrow set of rules he himself has invented and can amend, but how many of those accusers would live up to the standards of the Gospel?

The leading theme of Christianity is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and must struggle towards amending ourselves, seeking an unearned forgiveness. We will not find perfection. We must strive for it. In doing so if we scorn as a hypocrite, as a masked actor, one who is striving but has failed in some respect, it is to speak from behind our own mask.

Condemning others for failings is a positive act nevertheless. If there is no condemnation from others, there is little motive to improve. The prophets condemned others in fierce terms, from Moses all the way to John the Baptist, and accepted it when God condemned them in turn for their own failings. Jesus condemned the wicked, and forgave the penitent. The apostles too had harsh words for sinners. They knew their own imperfections though.

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Of the Office of our Blessed Saviour

We find in Holy Scripture three parts of the Office of the Messiah: the first of a Redeemer, or Saviour: The second of a Pastor, Counsellour, or Teacher, that is, of a Prophet sent from God, to convert such as God hath elected to Salvation; The third of a King, and Eternall King, but under his Father, as Moses and the High Priests were in their severall times. And to these three parts are corespondent three times.

For our Redemption he wrought at his first coming, by the Sacrifice, wherein he offered up himself for our sinnes upon the Crosse: our conversion he wrought partly then in his own Person; and partly worketh now by his Ministers; and will continue to work till his coming again. And after his coming again, shall begin that his glorious Reign over his elect, which is to last eternally.

 His Office As A Redeemer

To the Office of a Redeemer, that is, of one that payeth the Ransome of Sin, (which Ransome is Death,) it appertaineth, that he was Sacrificed, and thereby bare upon his own head, and carryed away from us our iniquities, in such sort as God had required. Not that the death of one man, though without sinne, can satisfie for the offences of all men, in the rigour of Justice, but in the Mercy of God, that ordained such Sacrifices for sin, as he was pleased in his mercy to accept.

In the old Law (as we may read, Leviticus the 16.) the Lord required, that there should every year once, bee made an Atonement for the Sins of all Israel, both Priests, and others; for the doing whereof, Aaron alone was to sacrifice for himself and the Priests a young Bullock; and for the rest of the people, he was to receive from them two young Goates, of which he was to Sacrifice one; but as for the other, which was the Scape Goat, he was to lay his hands on the head thereof, and by a confession of the iniquities of the people, to lay them all on that head, and then by some opportune man, to cause the Goat to be led into the wildernesse, and there to Escape, and carry away with him the iniquities of the people. As the Sacrifice of the one Goat was a sufficient (because an acceptable) price for the Ransome of all Israel; so the death of the Messiah, is a sufficient price, for the Sins of all mankind, because there was no more required. Our Saviour Christs sufferings seem to be here figured, as cleerly, as in the oblation of Isaac, or in any other type of him in the Old Testament: He was both the sacrificed Goat, and the Scape Goat; “Hee was oppressed, and he was afflicted (Isa. 53.7.); he opened not his mouth; he brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumbe before the shearer, so opened he not his mouth:” Here he is the Sacrificed Goat. “He hath born our Griefs, (ver.4.) and carried our sorrows;” And again, (ver. 6.) “the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all:” And so he is the Scape Goat. “He was cut off from the land of the living (ver. 8.) for the transgression of my People:” There again he is the Sacrificed Goat. And again (ver. 11.) “he shall bear their sins:” Hee is the Scape Goat.

Thus is the Lamb of God equivalent to both those Goates; sacrificed, in that he dyed; and escaping, in his Resurrection; being raised opportunely by his Father, and removed from the habitation of men in his Ascension.

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Whom are you serving?

You are being used, and they will spit you out when they are done. You may gather at a school to make your feelings felt, and you may end a good man’s career this time, and believe that this means you now have power to force society to bend more to your preferred norms, but you are being used. You have no more power than an atheist mob permits to you.

It was a different world in 1989, before the Wall fell.  As the year opened, protests burst out upon the streets of many countries against a Whitbread Prize-winning novel few then had heard of. In Bradford, Muslim elders hung from a stick a book they had never read and burned it in protest – they made at that time no threat against people or property, but all of respectable opinion in Britain was against them. When Persia’s spiritual chief issued an actual death sentence against the author, not just British opinion but that of the world was repelled. It was a turning point, but not in favour of the freedom proclaimed from all ends of social opinion: it was a turning point against free expression.

The shock at that fire in Bradford was not the act itself, burning a book – it is a very good book, but it is only paper. It was the sudden discovery of a new political identity within the population. Before Bradford there were Asians, undistinguished amongst their tribes and sects for most of us. Now there were Muslims.

It was a rollercoaster year, 1989: the Satanic Verses, the invention of the World Wide Web, Tiananmen Square, and the collapse of European Communism, ushering in a new order to the world. The Wall fell, old, oppressed nations began to rediscover themselves and the thrive anew in freedom: except in the first to turn, Algeria, which fell to Islamicists. In the West, socialism was openly disgraced but a backlash began in quiet corners, and the events of Bradford were too good an opportunity to miss.

There was no conspiracy – there did not have to be when men of ill-will were thinking the same thoughts and swapping fake outrage in the Grauniad.

The Communist regimes in the East were no longer there. Their failures and brutality had been exposed to the world. Those who had long hated their own society and culture, who had supported the Communists to destroy that culture, were still there though. They saw in the ash from those book pages a new way to attack the Judeo-Christian normality of society.

After Bradford it became a necessity not to offend Muslims, and that sounds benevolent enough – I really have no wish to annoy Muslims unnecessarily. It was a power game though, and the power game is not about benevolence. There were two groups now, in natural opposition normally but working the same way. There were some Muslims who saw an opportunity to push an agenda of their own; to persuade schools to treat Islam as unchallengeable, for example: there are always people like that in any group. However their games are all far less important than the ‘liberal’ offensive, led by others.

Driving Christian references from public life moved on apace after 1989. The tabloids’ favourite is ‘banning Christmas’, but it goes far beyond that. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher ensured that school assemblies be ‘broadly Christian in character’, but thirty-three years later that seems inconceivable. State and society have been secularised from top to bottom, and discrimination laws so interpreted as to keep it that way.

So it was in 2005 or 2006 that I attended a talk on Islam in British life, and was shocked by something I heard from the mouth of a learned judge. The subject of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons had come up and common commentary in that season seemed to be that they were grossly offensive and should be shunned, even banned. An audience member then asked why the cartoons should be banned when we champion the right to free speech by Salman Rushdie. The judge, a renowned liberal and certainly not a Muslim, said that he thought we had got it the wrong way round, and the cartoons were unimportant but the Satanic Verses should have been banned.

How the world had turned in that short time: as Eastern Europe cast off servitude and embraced freedom, Western Europe has cast away freedom.

The result is not what Muslims would have wanted. Would the average Muslim be happy with what was once a religious society becoming enforcedly atheist? Barely any Muslim is bothered by the public celebration of Christmas, but may be greatly offended by the suppression of religious expression.

Those at that school gate in Batley may think they are defending their religion, but it is a game played by the Guardianista liberal, which is the bitterest enemy of all religion.

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Melchizedeck was King of Salem

This Melchizedeck was King of Salem, Priest of the most high God, vers. 2. First being by interpretation King of Righteousnesse, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace. Whence it is cleare, that Christ the King in his Kingdome placeth Righteousnesse and Peace together.

Psal. 34. Eschue evill and doe good, seek Peace and pursue it. Isaiah 9:6,7. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Sonne is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderfull, Counsellour, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. Isaiah 52:7. How beautifull upon the mountaines are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth Peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Sion, thy God reigneth! Luke 2:14.

In the Nativity of Christ, the voice of them that praised God saying, Glory be to God on high, and in earth Peace, good will towards men. And Isaiah 53:5.

The Gospell is called the chastisement of our Peace. Isaiah 59:8. Righteousnesse is called the way of Peace. The way of Peace they know not, and there is no judgement in their goings.

Micah 5:4,5. speaking of the Messias, he saith thus, He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they shall abide, for now shall he be great unto the end of the earth; And this man shall be your Peace, Prov. 3:1,2. My sonne forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my Commandements, for length of dayes, and long life, and Peace, shall they adde to thee.

from De Cive, by Thomas Hobbes

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A melancholy centenary for Wales

A hundred years ago, the Church was plundered of its wealth and sent out to die. The Church in Wales has had a quiet celebration of a hundred years, but it should be mourning its despoliation. A limb was torn from the Church of England and stripped of its assets by Parliament, by Lloyd George, a non-conformist.

The celebrations were booked for June; all cancelled because of the lockdown. Perhaps it is as well to spend the time looking at what actually happened.

The Act disestablishing and disendowing the Church in Wales was passed in 1914 against a great deal of resistance: the Lords refused approval and this was the only time the Parliament Act was ever invoked to override the Lords until 1949. The great F E Smith spoke against the Bill in the Commons with such vehemence that he was mercifully satirised for his claim that it was:

 “a bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community in Europe”

It was not about establishing a specific Welsh voice of the church: it was to strip the Anglican church of its privileges and assets in Wales and to let it die.

The Church of England was not wholly innocent: the valleys had been thoroughly evangelised in the past hundred years while the established church had its back turned, by Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and such enthusiastic, evangelical minsters such that the Church of England was a minority body, yet one which was still collecting tithes from farmers who did not worship with it, still running the schools and allegedly reacting to challenges by shutting non-conformists even from burying their dead in village graveyards. The distancing of the church form the people was made worse by the appointment of bishops of a ‘high-church’ persuasion when all around were more earthy evangelicals.

It took two years to pass the Welsh Church Act 1914, then it was suspended at the outbreak of war, and revived in 1920. It struck the Welsh dioceses, handing much of their property to the local councils and to the University of Wales. (Maybe the Church in Wales was meant to fade away but it has outlasted the University of Wales, which was dissolved in scandal a few years ago.) The Act is bland and bureaucratic in its wording, but effective. Smith and later Lord Robert Cecil examined the philosophy behind dis-endowment and found it wanting, but there was no stopping David Lloyd George; there never was.

As of 1920, in Wales, the bishops were no long bishops, ecclesiastical law and no longer law nor its courts courts, and the property of the church, beyond the churches themselves and vicarages and recent donations handed to Commissioners for disposal.

The distinction between what is England what is Wales is not a sharp line but a cultural slurring in the hills. There are parishes which spread across the line clerks drew on the map, and these were given a choice, to continue in the Church of England or leap into the newly stripped Church in Wales – all but one opted for the former, which is why the Cross of St George flies over the tower of St Andrew’s in Presteign, Radnorshire.

Looking at a hundred years, we see the Church in Wales shrinking (even before the churches were barred by the lockdown) so as barely to function in places. However its place is not filled now with the old enthusiasm of the Methodists and Baptists: they have shrunk away even faster. It is a curse of the Anglican churches that they cannot rise suddenly with effusions of the Spirit and preach sermons of fire to draw the people in as surely Christian churches should, but consequently they do not dry up as a puddle in the dawn the way less rooted churches do.

Today the Church of England has a radical power, to make and unmake any Act of Parliament affecting it, by a Measure of Synod passing three Houses of Synod and two of Parliament. If the Church in Wales looks at it decline, maybe the centenary should have been a time not to celebrate separation but to look for reunion.

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