Counterfeits-Part 1 of 2


A portion of a lecture given by Spurgeon before the Young Men's Christian Association in Exeter Hall, London, in 1862. Published in Exeter Hall Lectures, 1861-2. Edited slightly for length and modern spellings.

"To be, or not to be,"-this is not now the question. That controversy has had its day, and the conflict bas ended in the triumph of the right; at least by all assembled here it is generally allowed, that, to be godly, to be virtuous, to be a follower of Christ, is a good thing. "To be, or seem to be,"-this is the question we have now to deal with. This is the struggle of the present age, when mammon and pride urge on a host of pretenders, and truth and holiness are meeting them in the fray. The battle shall continue for a little season; for a while hypocrisy may be honored more than honesty, but we are not doubtful as to what shall be the final issue, for falsehood is too hollow to endure, and pretense too unsubstantial to survive that trying storm which is shortly coming upon the earth.

In these days men are strongly tempted to believe that to look like a Christian will certainly be as useful as to be a Christian in heart. The clean outside of the platter puts itself in rivalry with inner purity. The merchants from the land of Sham, cry their wares and compete for patrons. If prayer be a good thing, let us march to church, with a prayer book under our arm-will not that avail? If charity of heart be an admirable grace, our names shall figure in the guinea list of every subscription-will not that suffice? If it be a noble thing to labor in the service of God, let us subscribe towards the support of another, who may do our duty by proxy-will not that be as acceptable as personal effort?

If to possess godliness be difficult, let us take an easier method-let us at once without fear, professit. Will there not be, all the advantage without the difficulty? This, I say is a suggestion which is practically visiting thousands of hearts, and has ensnared multitudes of souls.

Listen awhile to the logic of the Demon of Counterfeit. I will but put his reasoning into words, that simple ones may know the fiend and his communication when next he assails them. We have all of us heard his whispers in our ear, and there are some who have gone further, for they have been cajoled by his arguments, and subdued by his skill "Hearken,'' he says, "young man. To seem to be converted will answer every purpose.

Does religion win respect? So will the very appearance of religion. Men's eyes will be charmed with gilding, as surely as with massive gold, and they will admire skilful graining as much as costly woods. Would you gain a position of trust; would you win the confidence of an employer? Plainly enough, true piety will procure you these, but as that is troublesome, pretend to be religious, and you may gain the position quite as readily; you will be able to answer all the good man's demands, and to his pious questions you can give the orthodox, stereotyped reply. Or if to be zealous brings sure honor among honorable men, seem to be so, and you will have their approbation almost as certainly in the judgment of their charity they will believe you to be sincere, and without suspicion they will receive you with open arms.

"You shall ride upon the shoulders of the applauding crowd like a victor, though you have never handled sword or shield; you shall wear the garland, though you have never wrestled with the foe. Fair-Speech is a fine town, and has much traffic with Jerusalem; be but a dweller in Prating Row, and you shall have the confidence of the unsuspecting Israelites. Keep your lip in order and tune your speech after an orthodox fashion, and none shall refuse your company." The demon speaks, "To seem to be will answer all the purpose of being." But hear ye the word of warning, you who are charmed by the siren. Oh, you simple, turn not aside and be not ensnared with her devices, for the end of these things is death. "Be sure your sin will find you out."

"But," says the evil one, "remember how much cheaper is the sham than the real. Save your cost, if less expense will serve the same ends. If sculptors have produced statues of marble, fill up your niches with plaster; they will not cost so much by a hundredth part, and as they will answer all the purpose, and economy should be the order of the day, by all means patronize the mould and the clay, and leave chisels and Carrara to fools. It is troublesome," says the demon, "to repent; it is painful to pluck out right-eye sins or to tear off right-arm lusts. To be born again-to pass from death unto life, is a mysterious process. It is a superhuman work and needs the might of the Holy Spirit. Be not frightened into these stern realities; imitate them, and prosper. Pretend to be all that these would make you, and you will win all that they can give you, without the trouble, without the pain, without the sadness and the exercise of mind which the genuine thing might cost."

How many there are who have been tempted by this shortcut through By-path Meadow, and have perished on the forbidden ground. Oh, fond delusions, what legions have you slain! Hypocrisy, your victims are more numerous than the martyrs of truth! Those lamps without oil have left many in eternal darkness. It were better, O man, to spend your all upon the needful oil than to venture to the wedding without it. Yet the counterfeit will always have some admirers, from its cheapness in the market.

One must dig deep in dark mines for gold and silver; the precious treasure must be brought from far across the seas; it must be melted down, it must pass through many assays, and the dies must be worked with ponderous engines before the coin can be produced; all this to the sluggish many is a heavy disadvantage. Hush! Hearken! Steal silently upstairs; the Spirit of Deceit invites you to her chamber; a little plaster of Paris, a fire, a crucible, molten lead, the mould, and there's your money, sir, without troubling Per, Potosi, California, or the Mint. Slink out and change your fine new shillings, and your fortune's made without the ignoble waste of sweat and labor. But be quiet, for a detective may be near, a coarse-minded minion of unpoetic law, who may cruelly block up your road, or even lead you into prison. Short cuts to wealth have brought many to the hulks; and, let me add, there are short cuts to godliness which have brought many to perdition!

"It looks as well," whispers the demon; quite as well, and sometimes better." It is a well-known fact that cups fashioned of massive silver have not the same glittering appearance as plated goods. Even vessels of solid gold frequently pale in luster when put side by side with those which are but thinly coated with the precious metal. All gold does not glitter, and "all is not gold that glitters." Artificial piety droops not, but the fair lily of true grace often hangs its head. True faith is sometimes marred with unbelief; the most hallowed flame of love at times grows chill. Like ships at sea, true Christians have their storms, but mere professors, like pictured galleys on the canvass, ride on an unruffled ocean.

Life has its changes; tis death that abides the same. Life has muscle, sinew, brain, spirit, and these vary; but the petrified limbs of bony death lie still until the worm has devoured the carcass. Life weeps as well as smiles, but the ghastly grin of death relaxes not into anxiety or fear. It is because of these changes that piety sometimes loses its luster, and we find the child of light walking in darkness. He writes bitter things against himself, and mourns in secret before his God. Clouds and darkness are round about him, and that sacred, high, unclouded noon which is his proper state, is eclipsed for a season. It is not so with the hypocrite; he is not stirred and moved. Moab has no changes; he is "settled upon his lees;" he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. They have no afflictions in their life, and they have no bands in their death. They can keep their souls at perpetual ease, for their presumption is as a dead calm. As no weather can give ague to marble, as no variation of temperature can bring fever to wood or iron, so to these men the events of life, the temptations of prosperity, or the trials of adversity, bring little change.

They can mount, and climb, and leap, even better than the truly godly, and where the righteous limp they run, and where the godly walk they fly. Modesty never stops their mouth, humility never checks their boastings, and therefore their foolish hearts dream that to seem to be is even better than to be. At any rate, since the appearance of the counterfeit is not inferior to common eyes, it will always have its admirers among the shallow, the showy, the fickle, and the false. Let us, however, learn wisdom, and refuse the gaudy cheat, preferring truth in russet to lies in purple.

Then the demon adds an argument which he thinks will surely subdue all objections: "It will last as long." It is true there is a dark hour coming when it will crumble and molder into ruins, but a little spice of infidelity sprinkled on the conscience can conceal that source of trembling. "You can keep it up," he says, "for many and many a day; play your cards well, and the keenest observer shall fail to detect you, and you will win the game. See that you walk circumspectly and avoid the appearance of evil, and you may hide the reality of evil behind your back, and carry the lie privately in your right hand."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), "the Prince of Preachers," was a renowned pastor and author who served as pastor of London's Metropolitan Tabernacle for 38 years. His works are still widely read today.

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