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gospel uses great plainness of speech. Let us attend to this with a governing concern to be approved and accepted of God, and we shall meet with no obscurities, which will perplex our conscience, or endanger our salvation. Let us detest all hypocrisy, and abhor all duplicity in religion. Let us suppress all pride and shun all self-fattery in judging of our character. Let us avoid all selfishness, partiality and worldly affection in searching for truth and in choosing our religion. Let us have our conversation in simplicity and godly sincerity. Thus we may have rejoicing in ourselves, and may keep the rejoicing of hope firm unto the end.
Serious people often feel a solicitude concerning their religious state. There are few, who can say, they have risen above fear; and perhaps there are few, who would be safe without fear. Such is the imperfection of most christians, and such the temptation's which attend them in this evil world, that fear may be necessary to keep their minds awake to their danger, alive to their duty and attentive to their eternal interest. The apostle enjoins it on all christians to fear, lest they come short of the promised rest. This solicitude may be one evidence in their favor. It shews, at least, that they are not in a state of indifference to religion, to their present duty and future happiness. To relieve their anxiety, they must examine whether the temper of the gospel exists in them. If this be doubtful, let them follow the advice which St. Peter gives ; “ Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; for if these things be in you and abound, you will never fall." That kind of religion, which the apostle here describes, is solid wheat. Every thing different from this is chaff. If you find your religion to be only external works, or formal ceremonies, or speculative opinions, or transient feelings, or any thing which makes not the heart better, more assimilated to the character of God and the pattern of Christ, it is all but chaff, which the wind will drive away.
The nature of religious sincerity is clearly stated in the gospel. By attention we may understand what it is, and by examination we may form some judgment whether we possess it. It is called
godly sincerity; for it has God for its object. It acts with an aim to please him, and seeks his favor above all worldly interests. It is a conformity of temper to the gospel. Hence it is expressed by our obeying from the heart that form or mould of doctrine into which we are cast-by our having the law written on our hearts
-by our being sealed with the Holy Spirit-by our having the mind which is in Christ.
If we find in ourselves an assimilation to the example, precepts and doctrines of Christ—if we find the impress of his Spirit in those tempers which are called the fruits of the Spirit-if we find this to be our habitual and growing character, we may rejoice in hope of being glorified with him. And every one who hath this hope will now purify himself as Christ is pure. And though it doth not yet appear what he shall be, yet this he may know in general, that when Christ shall appear, he shall be like him, and see him as he is.
Let us give diligence to attain this character in such a degree, as to remove our anxious doubts and desponding fears.
The day is coming, which will try every man's work and every man's character of what sort it is; and will separate between the precious and the vile. The great husbandman, with a fan in his hand, will thoroughly purge his floor; he will gather the wheat into his barn, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.
LUKE XVIII, 9-14.
And he spake this parable unto certain, which trusted in themselves
that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up to 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 a week; I give tythes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to 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.
What was the occasion and design of this parable, the evangelist tells us in the introduction of it. It was spoken for the conviction and reproof of certain persons, numerous in that day, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.
It is a parable formed on existing characters. It represents the different tempers of two sorts of men, known by the denomination of pharisees and publicans.
The pharisees were nominally a religious sect, which affected great learning and superior sanctity ; but really were odious and detestable hypocrites. The character of them generally is thus given by our Saviour. They loved to pray and do alms in conspicuous places, that they might be seen of men. They for a pretence made long prayers, that they might devour widows' houses. They paid tythes of mint, anise and cummin, but neglected more weighty matters, justice, mercy, faith, and the love of God. They studied to appear outwardly righteous to men, but within were full of extortion, hypocrisy, uncleanness and all iniquity. Though they were so abominably wicked in heart, they trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.
The publicans were not so called as a religious sect, but as men employed in a civil office. They were the farmers of the public taxes, or men employed in collecting the tribute, which the Jews were compelled to pay to the Roman empire. Many of them were Romans, and some of them were Jews. And as they were employed in an office highly offensive to their countrymen, who could not patiently submit to a foreign tax, and as they had in their hands an advantage to make profits to themselves by exacting more than the appointed tax, hence they became objects of general odium, and were classed with the heathens.
A heathen and a publican were terms of equal reproach. We find, however, by our Saviour's account of them, that they were much less depraved than the pharisees, and that they much more readily and generally embraced his doctrines and obeyed his precepts. He says to the pharisees, “ The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” They repented at the preaching of John, and attended to the doctrines of Christ, while the pharisees, in opposition to both, persisted in their unbelief and impenitence.
The parable before us is formed on these two characters that of a vain, proud, ill-natured hypocrite--and that of a humble, prayerful, penitent sinner.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray.” Here is an allusion to the common usage of the Jews, who, in their daily pray
ers, resorted to the temple, if their situation were near it. If they were remote, they prayed with their face toward the temple.
We will consider the different manner in which these two men offered their devotions at the temple.
He 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 a week; I give tythes of all that I possess.”
1. It is said, “ The publican stood afar off.” This, being noted as a circumstance in which he differed from the pharisee, imports, that the pharisee approached near to the most holy place; that sacred inclosure in the temple, into which none but the high priest might enter, and he only once a year, on the great day of atonement. He pressed as near as he could to the Divine habitation. Such an opinion had he of his own sanctity and worthiness, that no ground was sacred enough for him to stand on-no intimacy with God too familiar for him to claim-no distance from the sinful publican too great for him to seek. How different was his approach from that of good men impressed with a sense of personal unworthiness. They draw near to God with reverence and godly fear. His dread falls upon them, and his excellency makes them afraid. They dare not be rash with their mouths, nor be hasty with their hearts to utter any thing before God, who is in heaven, while they are on earth. How different his temper from that of Abraham his boasted father, who, interceding for Sodom, said, Let not the Lord be angry, when I, who am but dust and ashes, take upon me to speak to the Almighty-from that of Jacob, who, when God appeared to him at Luz, was afraid, and said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not; this is no other than the house of God; it is the gate of heaven-from that of the prophet, who, having a vision of the appointed Saviour, humbly exclaimed, Wo is me; I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts—from that of the heavenly worshippers, who cover their faces before God, and cry one to another, Holy,