« AnteriorContinuar »
We see two very different prayers addressed to God at the same time and in the same temple. One full of presumption, pride, ignorance, hypocrisy and censoriousness. The other full of reverence, humility, self-abasement, sorrow for sin and faith in God.
This difference accounts for the different success of these prayers. Our Saviour says, This man, the publican, went down to his house justified rather than the other. The comparison implies a negation of the privilege to the pharisee, and the bestowment of it on the publican.
Such forms of speech are not uncommon in scripture. Judah says, in a particular case, Tamar has been more righteous than I -that is, she is blameless, and I am in fault. Saul says to David, Thou art more righteous than 1—that is, thou hast done right; I am wholly to blame. So Christ says in the case before us; the publican was justified rather than the pharisee—that is, the former was justified and the latter condemned. For the justness of this declaration, our Lord appeals to a maxim, which he often repeats. “ He that humbleth himself shall be exalted ; and he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Hence we learn with great certainty, that a prayer made in the manner of the pharisee will be rejected; but one made after the manner of the publican will be accepted.
This is a matter too plain to need discussion.
At another opportunity our attention may be called to some remarks on this subject.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves
that they were righteous, and despised others, &c. &c.
We have, in a preceding discourse, illustrated the difference
shewn their different success.
What I now propose is to make some remarks upon the parable.
I. Our Saviour, on a particular occasion, observed, that the publicans went into the kingdom of God before the pharisees. Hence some have inferred that the most vicious and profligate stand fairer for converting grace, than sinners who are more sober and correct in their morals—that the prayers and endeavors of the unrenewed are so far from bringing them nearer to the kingdom of heaven, that they place them at a greater distance from it. But the parable under consideration shews this inference to be unjust, and unfounded. It justifies an inference quite the re. verse; for the pharisees were most immoral of the two.
This parable, and other discourses of our Saviour, describe the pharisees, in general, as men abandoned to wickedness. If they
assumed an appearance of rectitude in their manners, it was only to cover a base and infamous design. They neglected justice, mercy, truth and piety. They were full of extortion, uneleanness and iniquity. They devoured widows' houses, corrupted the law of God and indulged all manner of wickedness in their hearts, and practised it when they could find a cloak under which to conceal it. They observed trivial ceremonies of their own invention, but disregarded the weighty matters which God's law enjoined. If they prayed, it was only in pretence of piety, that they might oppress the widow with less suspicion. The good which they did, had no goodness in it, for it was done to be seen of men. They were, in their morals, much more depraved than the publicans; for these, however depraved they might be, are never accused of abusing religion to cover their sins.
With respect to such men as the pharisees, who make an ostentation of picty, that they may sin with more secresy and security, it is doubtless true, that they are far from the kingdom of heaven. But we quite mistake the case, if we thence infer, that all the prayers, strivings and watchings of awakened sinners, who are secking their salvation, not the applause of men, are of the same kind, and that therefore the most vicious and profligate are more likely to obtain conversion, than they. Such an ipference cannot follow. The contrary is the just conclusion. .
The sacrifice and the prayer of the wicked is abomination, when he offers it with a wicked mind, as the pharisee did—that is, with a heart full of pride, hypocrisy, malice, and contempt of others, and without any resolutions against sin-- any conviction of guilt, or desire of pardon. They receive not, who ask amiss, that they may consume it on their lusts. It will not from hence fole low, that all the prayers and endeavors of awakened sinners, be, fore they are actually in a state of conversion, are equally amiss, and are equally abomination in the sight of God. Such a construction would lay a grievous burden on tender consciences, and prove a constant discouragement in the way of duty.
The scripture directs christians to pass the time of their so, journing in fear---to fear lest they come short of the promised rest—to give diligence to the full assurance of hope to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
Such directions evidently suppose, that the exact point, and precise time of real, saving conversion may be uncertain to the subjects of it; and that many true converts may be in painful doubts concerning their character. Now if all the prayers of the unconverted are abomination, what shall these doubting christians do ? Plainly they must live without prayer. For no man may do that which he doubts his right to do. He that doubts his right to do an action, is condemned if he does it. In this sense, the apostle says, " Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Whatsoever is done without a belief that it may be done, is sin in him who does it.
To know whether you have a right to pray in a particular case, and may hope for an answer to your prayer, enquire whether the thing which you ask be good,-be what you ought to seek and desire ; and whether you really desire it. If you have a desire, you may direct this desire to God, and may hope that he will hear and answer you.
II. Our subject teaches us, that men may make a show of religion before others, when they have no religion in heart.
The pharisee was one who went up to the temple to pray. He fasted often and paid tythes punctually; and, if we may take his word, he abstained from adultery, injustice and extortion. If he did all this, it was more than most of his brethren did; for our Saviour says, they were full of uncleanness, extortion and iniquity. The truth is, they had so corrupted the law of God, that it had become of little effect. In their estimation, nothing was adultery, but the outward act-nothing was oppression, but downright violence--nothing was injustice, but barefaced injury. Inward lusting, secret fraud, studied revenge, were not forbidden. As they had the art to cover their crimes from men, so they had the subtilty to conceal them from themselves. Hence we see, that men may abstain from many of the outward acts of iniquity, and shew à great zeal for the worship of God, while they are full of spiritual pride, luxury, avarice, malice and envy. It is not abstaining from a few vices in the external act, nor is it making a noise about modes of worship and artic'es of speculative faith,
that constitute one a saint, or give him a claim to heaven. He must become a new creature—must renounce all known sin in heart and life. He must make conscience of all known duty, as it respects the inward and outward man. He must have a faith which purifies the heart, and quickens him to works of righteousness.
III. We see that men sometimes grossly impose on themselves and entertain a high opinion of their own religious character, when their real character is odious in the sight of God.
The pharisee was vain, proud, ostentatious, uncharitable, censorious; yet he trusted in himself, that he was righteous. He seemed to himself to be religious, when all his religion was vain. It is a caution given us in scripture : Be not deceived. We are afraid of being deceived by others in our secular concerns. Let us rather fear lest we deceive ourselves in our spiritual concerns. The latter deception is probably more common-certainly more dangerous, than the former. Examine yourselves, says the apostle ; prove your own selves. The example of the Psalmist deserves our attention; “Search me, O God, and know my heart; prove me, and know my thoughts ; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Who can understand his errors ?--Cleanse thou me from secret faults."
IV. We here learn, for our caution, some of the ways in which hypocrites deceive themselves. We will attend to them particularly.
1. Self-deceit often takes its rise from an intention to deceive others. This was evidently the case with the pharisees. They did many good deeds to be seen of men. They made prayers and bestowed alms in a publick manner, that their pretended piety and charity might be known to the world, and regarded as real and sincere. Their great aim was to establish a reputation of uncommon benevolence and sanctity. In subservience to this end they managed all their religion. With a view to deceive others they did so much, and did it with such address, that they ultimately deceived themselves, and trusted that they were righteous. Like some men of whom it has been said, that having asserted a known untruth, they repeat it so often, and insist upon it so long,