This is the beginning of a short series in which I shall post a portion of the above named book by Jacob Helffenstein. Jacob was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1802 and died in 1884. He was a pastor in the German Reformed Church. You may find the complete book by searching for it on the Internet. My copy was published by the American Tract Society in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
This little volume is affectionately commended to the serious perusal1perusal means to read carefully and studiously, not skimming over, as is commonly thought today. Ed. of every one bound to eternity, and especially of every professor of religion. It addresses them on a subject of infinite moment, involving their highest interest both for this world and the next. The writer would not excite the least unnecessary distrust or pain in a single bosom. He is well aware that there is a weak as well as a strong faith — that there are “babes” as well as “fathers” in Christ. The day of small things is not to be despised — the weak, timid believer is not to be crushed, but cherished and strengthened; yet it is better that the truth be faithfully exhibited , even though it should excite a momentary pang in the fearful, than to suffer multitudes who are trusting to “refuges of lies,” to live and die unwarned. Reader, lay not this work aside until the great subject of which it treats is settled as you will wish it had been when your head is laid on the pillow of death, and the realities of eternity open upon your vision.
The Nature and Forms of Self-Deception
Self-deception may be distinguished from hypocrisy. The former consists in a wrong judgment of our character; the latter, in assuming one which we are conscious we do not possess, with the view of imposing upon our fellow-men, and accomplishing some sinister design. With such gross dissimulation the reader may not be chargeable. The very name of hypocrite may be regarded by him with abhorrence. All his professions may be characterized by they utmost sincerity.
But though he may not intentionally deceive others, he may fatally deceive himself. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12. Sincerity affords no conclusive evidence of piety. A man may be sincere in the belief of error, as well as in the belief of truth — sincere in doing wrong as in doing right. Paul “verily thought that he out do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”
In the church of God there have ever been two classes of false professors. The one includes those who, in the common acceptation of the term, are hypocrites2In the Scriptures, the term hypocrite seems to possess a meaning somewhat different from that which is usually attached to it. Here it is applied not simply to the dissembler, or the man who assumes a character which he knows does not belong to him, but to the false professor. Hence we find it appropriated to the Pharisees, who, as a people, appear to have been remarkably sincere, while at the same time they were charged with being “full of all uncleanness.” Matthew 23. To this sect Saul of Tarsus belonged; and so devoted was he to the religion he professed, that he regarded himself “as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless.” — those who while they profess piety, are conscious they do not possess it; the other, those who view themselves as in a state of grace, when in fact they are in a state of nature — of sin and condemnation.
Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity or careless indifference. And as it is an act of kindness not less than an imperious duty to expose the delusions into which our fellow-men are liable to fall, we shall here endeavor to point out some of the modes in which the soul may be deceived in the judgment it forms of its spiritual state and eternal prospects.
Many are deceived by mistaking the mere dictates of the understanding for the gracious affections of the heart.
This class of persons may be distinguished by the correctness of their sentiments and their opposition to error. Early instructed in the principles of Christianity, their minds have become stored with evangelical truth, and they will, perhaps, even “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
The doctrines of entire depravity, of a vicarious atonement, of justification by faith, of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and of an eternal state of retribution, have their unqualified assent, and constitute more essential articles their creed. It may be that their speculative acquaintance with these doctrines is superior to that of many humble believers, and instances are not wanting in which unsanctified men have written in defense of those doctrines with great ability and effect.
Now it is easy to conceive how such persons may mistake a mere intellectual conviction of the truth for holiness of heart, especially if with an orthodox creed there be connected morality of life and a strict attention to the forms of godliness. The truth, however, may be seen, and yet not loved. The head may be filled with light, while the heart remains chilled with spiritual death. Such is the case with the fallen angels. They both know and believe the truth.
…To be continued.
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|1.||↑||perusal means to read carefully and studiously, not skimming over, as is commonly thought today. Ed.|
|2.||↑||In the Scriptures, the term hypocrite seems to possess a meaning somewhat different from that which is usually attached to it. Here it is applied not simply to the dissembler, or the man who assumes a character which he knows does not belong to him, but to the false professor. Hence we find it appropriated to the Pharisees, who, as a people, appear to have been remarkably sincere, while at the same time they were charged with being “full of all uncleanness.” Matthew 23. To this sect Saul of Tarsus belonged; and so devoted was he to the religion he professed, that he regarded himself “as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless.”|