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more give thanks unto Thee in Thy holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.
LUKE XVII. 9-14.
Like the cry of the widow, prayer must be the real expression of want. She sought for help because she knew, and bitterly felt, that she had an adversary. So feels the repentant sinner: "he cannot do the things that he would," the flesh, that is, his sinful nature, is always striving against him to turn him back from serving God: he too knows and bitterly feels, that he has an adversary, and day and night he cries unto God, to be delivered from his power.
Not so the self-righteous man;-well-pleased with himself he feels no difficulties, his life is no warfare,-he knows not that the strong man of sin rules over him; therefore he makes no struggles against his power, and dreams not that he needs help from on high. His need is the greatest of all; for if he dies thus, he is lost for ever. God hears the cry of His chosen ones, and will avenge them speedily; but this man raises no cry, therefore he has no part in that gracious promise, "Though he bear long with them, He will avenge them speedily."
It was to declare this truth, that the Lord Jesus,
LUKE xvii. 9-14. "Spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes
of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house, justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased, (brought low) and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted."
The last parable teaches us, that prayer must be earnest and persevering, and that it must also be humble; but it is not enough to see this, and then to pass on. In the picture of the Pharisee, and the Publican, we have set before us our greatest danger, and our greatest comfort.
We must in the first place remember, that it was to His disciples, our Lord spoke this parable. He had observed, that "certain" among them, "trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others." This is just the danger into which people who know that they are making sacrifices for the sake of doing right, are apt to fall. They know that they have chosen the better part: how natural it is to value themselves upon that very choice, and to despise others that understand it not.
Poor human nature is ever seeking to be something. It is from this sort of pride, that these grievous self-deceptions spring, which so much damage the cause of true religion. The spirit of the Pharisee lives in the very nature of mankind, and deceiving them utterly, often causes them to believe themselves to be saints; whereas, unless cast down from their pedestal of pride they never can be saved at all. God in mercy, often does cast them down, and causes them at last to cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner!
Sometimes this bitter lesson is taught by a sudden fall into disgraceful sin; sometimes by the departure of all those selfsatisfied feelings which buoyed up the mind. Has any one among us "after the most straightest sect of our religion lived
a Pharisee? Who will own to the hard name of Pharisee? Yet this may easily be our real name, so deceitful is the human heart. We may know whether the name belongs to us, by the signs given in this parable. The Pharisee looked upon himself as one of the only truly religious party in the world. Even in the house of God, his joy was, that he was not as other men. It was not the deep sense of sin,—not the awful distance made by that sin between him, and the Most Holy God, that filled his mind, even in the Temple of God-no, he thought with pleasure on what he was, 66 God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are," and then his thoughts ran on their sins,-" extortioners, unjust, adulterers." Nor was it only from among sinners that he rejoiced to differ, his eyes fell upon one of whose state of mind he knew nothing, only that he belonged to a set of people he was accustomed to consider as Godless; and he added, "or even as this publican." Oh! poor Pharisee! he forgot that from such as these God is continually calling His people-that over such a one as that publican, the angels of God were then rejoicing. All his self-sacrifices rose to his mind, "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." than he found commanded in the Word of God. in the year was appointed, the great day of atonement; * but the more religious Jews, both those who were truly so, and those who wished to appear so, and especially the Pharisees, kept two fasts in each week, (the second and fifth days;) nor was this all, the law commanded that a tenth or tithe of all the fruits of the field, and of the produce of the cattle, should be given up to the service of God, but he settled the many questions which had arisen among the Jews as to whether this law took in such trifles as herbs, &c., by giving tithes of all that he possessed. If his conscience was tender on such subjects, could this be wrong? Surely not, but it was a rule he made for himself, not one by which he had a right to judge another.
*Leviticus xvi. 29. Numbers xxix. 7.
He did more
Now, as we slowly read this parable, with deep thought, let such among us as are seriously-minded, consider whether we may not find in it a lesson, and a caution greatly needed. Is there no comfortable thought within us, that we are better than our neighbours. Is it not rather pleasant to us to compare our strictness, with the open sinfulness or even the carelessness of others? Are we not apt to console ourselves for our self-denials by despising those whom we believe to be living in thoughtless unconcern? There is no greater danger than this. Like an east-wind, it has nipped and blighted many a promising bud; for self-satisfaction, and true religion, cannot grow together. The more we know of the holiness of God, the more we study the character of Christ, the deeper shall we feel our want; and, scarcely daring to lift up our eyes to heaven, we shall with the publican "smite upon our breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner," so shall we be justified through Him, who is the Redeemer of sinners, "for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Let us see to this, for the hour is at hand: Behold, the judge standeth at the door.
Still sitting with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, Jesus spake to them a parable taken from the customs of daily life among the Jews. The most important part of a wedding was with them, as it now is among most eastern nations, the bringing home of the Bride. The Bridegroom with his friends goes to her father's house, and brings her with great pomp and gladness to his own. She is accompanied by a band of her young companions, and another party of them go out to meet her.
When the litter in which she is carried approaches with shouts and music, they join themselves to the procession, and then all go in together to the hall of feasting. The weddings are always at night, and the lights carried by the friends and attendants add greatly to the beauty of the scene.
While the Saviour spake, night was coming on, and the deepening gloom must have added to the solemn feelings of the disciples as they listened to their Lord's last warnings, and heard him say
MATTHEW xxv. 1-13. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh ! go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
Nothing can be more clear than the meaning of this Parable: and all we have to do is to see how exactly it pictures the solemn truths the Saviour sought to impress upon the minds of His disciples.