Hypocrite (Greek ὑποκριτής) signifies one who feigns to be what he is not; who puts on a false person, like actors in tragedies and comedies. It is generally applied to those who assume appearances of a virtue without possessing it in reality. Our Savior accused the Pharisees of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is vain and foolish, and, though intended to cheat others, is, in truth, deceiving ourselves. No man would flatter or dissemble if he thought that he was seen and discovered. All his hypocrisy, however, is open to the eye of God, from whom nothing call be hid. The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he seeth all his doings; there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. Whoever dissembles, and seems to be what he is not, thinks that he ought to possess such a quality as he pretends to; for to counterfeit and dissemble is to assume the appearance of some real excellence. But it is best for a man to be in reality what he would seem to be. It is difficult to personate and act a false part long, because, where truth does not exist, nature will endeavor to return, and make a discovery. Truth carries its own light and evidence with it, and not only commends us to every man's conscience, but to God, the searcher of our hearts. Hence sincerity is the truest wisdom, for integrity has many advantages over all the artful ways of dissimulation and deceit. On the contrary, a dissembler must be always upon his guard, lest he contradict his own pretences lie acts an unnatural part, and puts a continual force and restraint upon himself. Truth always lies uppermost, and will be apt to make its appearance; but he who acts sincerely has an easy task, and needs not invent pretences before, or excuses after, for what he says or does. Insincerity is difficult to manage; for a liar will be apt to contradict at one time what he said at another. Truth is always consistent with itself, needs nothing to assist it, and is always near at hand; but a lie is troublesome; it sets a man's invention upon the rack, and is frequently the occasion of many more. Truth and sincerity in our words and actions will carry us through the world, when all the arts of cunning and deceit shall fail and deceive us. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, plainness and sincerity will appear the most perfect beauty; the craftiness of men, who lie in wait to deceive, will be stripped of all its colors; all specious pretences, all the methods of deceit, will then be disclosed before men and angels, and no artifice to conceal the deformity of iniquity can there take place. Then the ill-designing men of this world shall with shame be convinced that the upright simplicity, which they despised, was the truest wisdom, and that those dissembling and dishonest arts which they so highly esteemed were in reality the greatest folly.
Hypocrites have been divided into four sorts:
1. The worldly hypocrite, who makes a profession of religion, and pretends to be religious merely from worldly considerations (Mt 23:5);
2. The legal hypocrite, who relinquishes his vicious practices in order thereby to merit heaven, while at the same time he has no real love to God (Ro 10:3);
3. The evangelical hypocrite, whose religion is nothing more than a bare conviction of sin; who rejoices under the idea that Christ died for him, and yet has no desire to live a holy life (Mt 13:20; 2Pe 2:20);
4. The enthusiastic hypocrite, who has an imaginary sight of his sin and of Christ; talks of remarkable impulses and high feelings; and thinks himself very wise and good while he lives in the most scandalous practices (Mt 13:39; 2Co 11:14). — Robinson, Theol. Dictionary; Buck, Theol. Dictionary; Warner, System of Morality, 3, 323; Grove, Moral Philosophy, 2, 253; Gilfillan, Essays on Hypocrisy (1825); Ellis, Sef Deceiver discovered (1731); Edwards, Worls (see Index). SEE HYPOCRISY.