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holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
He humbles himself to behold the things which are in heaven. He charges his angels with folly. Surely it becomes us who dwell on earth, and are polluted with sin, to approach him with a penitent sense of unworthiness and with a dread of his glorious majesty.
2. The pharisee came before God with a heart full of self-confidence. He valued himself on his superior sanctity. He boasted, that he was not as other men are. It is true, he pretended to thank God—but these were words of mere form; there was no sincerity in them; for he trusted in himself. He was particular in his self-commendation. I am no extortioner--no adulterer no unjust dealer. Yea more. I fast twice in a week and pay tythes of all that I possess.
His fasting twice in a week was not prescribed by the Divine law. The language of his prayer, therefore, is, I am not only more righteous than other men, but more pious than the law requires. He arrogantly insinuated, that God was under some obligation to him that he had no occasion to resort to mercy for pardon—that he might claim a reward from the justice of God. Such was his confidence in himself.
3. His confidence was accompanied with pride and ostentation. He takes pleasure in displaying his virtues and good works—in enumerating the sins which other men practised but he avoidedin detailing the duties which they neglected, but he performed. The sins and the omissions which he mentions, were only such as the publicans were reputed to be guilty of. Hence his boasting was a direct insult on them, and proves that he was entirely void of that righteousness for which he pretended to thank God. He discovers not the least sense of any spiritual wants. He makes no confession of any omission of duty, or of any defects in his righteousness, or of any remaining corruptions in his heart. He only boasts of his goodness. He dwells on the subject with a vain pleasure, as if his only business to the temple was to tell the Almighty how well he had behaved, and how high were his merits. 4. He discovered great ignorance of religion and of himself. What if he was such a man as he pretended to be—what if he had abstained from two or three vices which many practise—what if he had been more exact than most men in paying tythes, and had fasted much oftener than he needed to have done ? Did all this make a righteous, pious and good man ? No. Let us give him credit for every thing that he boasts of; still he might be corrupt and ungodly at heart. If he was not an extortioner, he might be avaricious. If he was not an adulterer, he might indulge those fleshly lusts which war against the soul. If he was not grossly unjust in his dealings, there might be malice and envy in his heart. If he observed forms and ceremonies with strictness, he might neglect moral duties. True religion is not partial. It includes a respect to all God's commandments—It is not merely external-It reaches to the hidden man of the heart. It consists not in ceremonial observances, but in love to God, charity to men, in pure aims and heavenly affections. If the pharisee had nothing more to say for himself than what we hear from him in the parable, and doubtless Christ related all that could be said, certainly he was very ignorant of the nature of religion, and of the plague of his own heart. He thought himself better than other men only because he was in some respects less vicious than he supposed some others to be.
5. His prayer was all hypocrisy. He affected to appear a better man than he was. He studied to cover his inward corruptions by the mask of outward forms. He laid great weight on mere cereinonies ; little on internal holiness. He was zealous in fasting and paying tythes even to excess; but a stranger to that meekness and humility, piety and benevolence, in which religion greatly consists.
6. He was censorious in his prayer. There were none, besides himself and his own proud sect, of whom he seems to have had a favorable opinion. Had he known himself more perfectly, he would have esteemed others more, and himself less. He speaks in general terms; “I am not as other men are;" as if no man was equally good. Not content with this general indiscriminate censure, he vilifies the poor publican, even at a time when he was
penitently confessing his sins, and sinking under a sense of his guilt. “I am not like this publican.” How did he know that the publican was so bad a man—that he was unjust, oppressive and lewd, as he plainly insinuates? Why, he was a publicanthat was enough to settle his character. He belonged to a fraternity, which the envy of the day had reprobated. And doubtless he was as bad as the rest. What a censorious spirit does this discover ? To condemn a man as unrighteous merely because he belongs to a class, some of which are reputed to be such. The business in which the publican was employed does not appear to be unlawful. And he might be honest, though others were oppressors. But, admitting him to be a man of evil manners, what occasion was there for the pharisee to reproach him in his prayers? He does not pray that God would bring the man to repentance and bestow on him pardon; he only accuses him to his Maker, and aggravates his imputed vices, that he may display his own imaginary virtues. We may observe;
Finally; It is said, He went up to pray. But what did he do when he came there ? He only boasted of himself, gave thanks that he was so righteous a man, and reproached others that they were not so good as he. This was all his prayer. Not one petition was made—not one sin confessed—not one want opened not one favor requested.
Let us now,
II. Consider the prayer of the publican. This exhibits to us a very useful example. “Standing afar off, he would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
1. The publican came to God with great reverence and humility-with a sense of the purity and majesty of God, and of his own vileness and unworthiness. He stood afar off, probably in the court of the Gentiles; and would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven. He was ashamed to lift up his face to God. His iniquities had taken hold of him, so that he could not look up. They had gone over his head as a heavy burden, under which his soul was depressed.
2. He discovered a painful conviction of, and a deep sorrow for his sins. This we may collect from his calling himself a sinner, and from his smiting on his breast, which is an action expressive of inward grief. Repentance includes sorrow and confession. I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation.
He shewed a sense of his dependence on the grace and mercy of God. He did not recount his good deeds. He did not attempt to excuse or 'extenuate his crimes. He did not plead any thing which he had done over and above his duty, to compensate for what he had come short of it in other respects. He did not intimate a hope of being able to expiate his guilt by a future reformation. His only hope was in the mercy of God. To this he applied-on this he rested. God be merciful. He does not pray, God be careful to remember, and just to reward my righteousness; but, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.”
His prayer resembled that of David in the fifty-first Psalm. “ Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to thy loving-kindness; in the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out all my sins. 'I ac-. knowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest. But hide thy face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities, and make me to hear the voice of gladness.”
3. The prayer of the publican was a prayer of faith. He care to God, believing that with him there was forgiveness and plenteous redemption. Though he was convinced that he was a sinner, and felt his ill desert, yet he did not despair of mercy from that God, whose tender mercies are over all his works, and who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. On the contrary, he with bumble faith, cast bimself on that mercy, which is the only foundation of hope to a convinced and awakened sinner.
Every man who believes there is a God, must believe that he requires of his intelligent creatures perfect holiness of heart and life-or, in other words, that he approves and allows no sin. He must believe also that God has a right to punish sinners. Every one therefore who is really convinced that he is a sinner, must see himself dependent on mercy. He can have no claim on the justice of God to pardon him-for it would not be unjust to punish him. Pardon therefore must come in a way of mercy. In mercy must be the sinner's hope. This the publican saw. Hence he prayed with earnestness and importunity. It was not a formal, indifferent prayer which he offered, such as may often proceed from the lips of those who still regard iniquity in their hearts. It was a prayer dictated by inward sentiments and feelings. He smote on his breast, when he įmplored mercy. Such an action accompanying his words, shewed that his prayer proceeded not from seigned lips. We often pray for the forgiveness of our sins, and for grace to lead and preserve us in the way of God's commands. Let ụs examinę, whether we really desire what we ask --whether our hearts go along with our words ? Įf our prayers are sincere, there is in our hearts a hatred of sin, and a resolution against it. Qur hearts can echo to such a promise and such a petition as this. We will not offend any more--that which we see not, teach thou uș. If we have done iniquity we will do no more. Incline our hearts to thy testimonies, that we may walk therein.
4. This prayer of the publican was short, as one observes, lyt it was very comprehensive. It contained all the important parts of prayer; as invocation, he called upon God-adoration, he acknowledged God's mercy—confession, he called himself a singer —and petition, he implored forgiveness. He did not waste his words in comparing himself with others. A sense of guilt pressed too closely to allow his thoughts and words to wander. He was a sinner; such he owned himself to be. He was dependent on mercy; to this he applied. Mercy must come from Godand to God he made his request. Mercy was what he neededthis only he sought. He asked not for worldly accommodations, for health, long lise, reputation, or riches. However desirable these may be, he viewed them as nothing in comparison with his salvation from sin and guilt. Though we may with submission ask for worldly good; (our Saviour teaches us to pray for our daily bread ;) yet a petition for worldly good could find no place in a prayer offered to God for his pardoning and saving mercy.