« AnteriorContinuar »
prayer, or a liberty of making our requests known to God, is an inestimable favour and privilege. He that considers the nature of God, and the nature of man, cannot question it: God i s a being of infinite fulness mi J perfection; a self-sufficient, and .111 all-sufficient good; and man an indigent, helpless, dependent creature, full of wants, and obnoxious to dangers. 2. That prayer is not only an inestimable privilege, but an indispensable duty. So solicitous is God for our welfare and happiness, that he makes our privilege our duty, by the authority of his command; so that we are at once ungrateful to God, and unjust to ourselves, in the most exalted degree, if we do not pray unto him, and spread our wants before him. 3. Tlut this duty of prayer is not an occasional, but a constant duty: Men ought always to pray; that is, 1. At all seasonable times and fit opportunities. We are said to do a thing continually, when we do it seasonably -, now the seasons for prayer are morning and evening. As the morning and evening sacrifice was constant among the Jews, and the fire was always upon the altar, and never went out; so he that prays morning and evening, may be said to be instant in prayeHj&aa to pray without ceasing. 3. Always to pray, is an endeavour always to keep the heart in a praying frame, and to be very frequent in offering up pious ejaculations, and short mental prayers to God, as occasion shall offer; when in the field, in the shop, in the bed, when sleep departs, in the journey when alone, this may be done advantageously without loss of time, and acceptably without danger of hypocrisy, which too often mingles itself with our more set prayers. Observe, 4. We must not only pray constantly, but pray fervently, yea, importunately; if we would pray successfully, we must cry to God as the widow to the judge: vehemency and importunity are both helps and ornaments to prayer; they both fortify and beautify our prayers; they pierce the heavens, and offer an holy violence to God: Oratio vincit invincibilcm, ct ligat omnipotcntem; hose vis Deo prata est, says Tertullian, " God delights in such importunity."—Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? If by the Son of man's coming we understand Christ's coming in judgment agaiust Jerusalem, then the sense is this; "That when he comes to take vengeance on the obstinate Jews,
and to destroy their city, he will find but little faith, and patient waiting for help from God, in the land of Judea, and consequently little importuning him with incessant cries and supplications, as this poor woman did the unjust judge." 2. If by the Son of man's coming, we understand Christ's coming to judge the world at the last day, then the sense is, "When he cometh, he will find but few faithful ones, comparatively speaking; he will find but few sincere and serious christians, in whom the genuine effects and fruits are found." Learn, That when Christ shall come to judgment, he will find comparatively very few whose hearts have not fainted, and very many, who through the power that temptation has upon the frailty of human nature are fallen away: When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth jf Verily, but little faith, and few faithful ones.
0 And lie spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men arc, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican: 12 I fast, twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to mc a sinner. 14 I tell you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that cxalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The design and scope of our Saviour in this parable is, to reprove and condemn th Pharisees, and in them all other self-justiciaries, who having an high opinion of, and trusting in, their own righteousness, despised others as vile persons, whose religion is not accompanied with ostentation, and who pretend not to such extraordinary degrees of sanctity as themselves. And the parable further shows, That an humble, self-condemned sinner, who though he has been wicked, is now sensible of it, and witli sliarae and sorrow confesses it before God, is more acceptable than he that vaunts of his virtue, and rests in the outward duties of religion: his pride and exaltation of himself shall abase him, while the other's humility shall exalt him. This is the general scope of the parable; the particular observations from it are these: I. The Pharisee and the publican both pray, they both pray together in the place of prayer, the holy temple, and they both pray, apud if, with and within themselves. Where the duty and action is the same, there may be a vast difference in the purpose and intention: Doth an humble saint pray? so may a haughty hypocrite: Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. Observe, 2. The Pharisee's prayer, He stood and prayed with himself, God, I thank thee, SeC Where note, His gesture, He stood and prayed; Standing and kneeling are praying gestures, but sitting is a rude indecency, except in cases of necessity. "In prayer (says pious hishop Hall) I will either stand as a servant to my Master, or kneel as a subject to my Prince." Note farther, It is said, He prayed: but here is not one petition, but thanksgiving! God, 1 thank thee, Sec. Whence leam, That thanksgiving is a part of piayer; Hannah's prayer, as it is called, 1 .Sow. ii. is a canticle, or song of praise; we then pray best when we praise God most. Again, see the Pharisee's pride in this his prayer: this proud beggar shows not his wounds, but his worth, not his rags, but his robes, not his misery, but his bravery; he brings God Almighty in a reckoning of his services: / fast twice a week, 1 give alms of all that I possess, and thanks God more that others were bad, than that himself was good. Had the Pharisee with an humble mind thanked God for his restraining grace, that though he was not so good as he should be, that yet he was not so vile and bad as some others, this had been no fault; but when he comes before God with a proud and scornful mind, inwardly pleased that others were so bad, and so much worse than himself; giving thanks rather for others' badness, than his own goodness: this is a wickedness incident to none but devilish dispositions. Learn hence, That whatsoever shows of goodness an hypocrite may make, yet he is inwardly glad of, and takes a secret delight in, others' badness. God, I thank thec that I am not as this pub
lican; which was a kind of triumph, and proud insultation over the poor publican . he would seem to thank God that he was not so bad as the publican, when indeed he was glad that the publican was not so good as himself. Observe, 3. The publican's behaviour, in an humble sight and sense of his own sinfulness and unworthiness, he stood afar off, probably in the court of the Gentiles, where all sorts of sinners might come; acknowledging thereby that he was unworthy to come near the holy majesty of God; not presuming to lift up his eyes to heaven, that place of perfect holiness and purity; but, like a true selfcondemned penitent, smote upon his breast, and in hitter remorse of soul said, God be merciful to'me a sinner. Hence leam, That a truly humble temper of mind well becomes us in all our approaches and addresses to God, and is more acceptable to him than all pompous performances whatsoever. For observe lastly, The publican being thus condemned of himself, departs justified by God: He went down to bts house justified rather than the Pharisee: the Pharisee justified himself, but the publican was justified by God. Thence leam, That a penitent sinner, who is indeed poor in spirit, is far m%r esteemed of God, than he that makes long prayers, fasts often, tithes all his substance, and prides himself in all this. Without humility all is vainglory and hypocrisy; and the seemmg most sanctified person that has it not, ts like a painted sepulchre, beautiful without, but full of rottenness within.
15 And they brought unto hint also infants, that he would touch them : but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus railed them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forhid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Verily I say tinto you, Whosoerer shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall iu no wise enter therein.
Observe here, I. A solemn action performed; children, infants, sucking children, as the word signifies, are brought to Christ, that he might hless them; the parents looking upon Christ as a prophet, as a great and extraordinary prophet, persuade themselves, that by his prayers, and laying his hands on the children, they should be preserved from bodily diseases, and from Satan's power, and that he would confer upon them all needful blessings. Learn, 1. That infants are capable of benefit by Jesus Christ. 2. That it is the best office that parents can perform unto their children, to bring them unto Christ, that they may be made partakers of that benefit . 3. That if infants arc capable of benefit by Christ, if capable of his blessing on earth, and presence in heaven, if they be subjects of his kingdom of grace, and heirs of his kingdom of glory, then may they be baptized; for they that are within the covenant, Acts ii. 39. have a right to the privileges of the covenant, and to baptism, the seal of the covenant. And if Christ denies not infants the kingdom of heaven, which is the greater; what reason have his ministers to deny them the benefit of baptism, which is the less? Learn, 4. That Christ will have all his disciples and followers to resemble little children in such properties wherein they may be patterns to them, viz. in humility, and innocence, in freedom from malice and revenge, docihility and teachableness, in cleaving to, and depending upon, their parents, and in contentedness with their condition: Whosoever shall not receive tfeihigdom of God as a little child, sluilrnt mi wise enter therein.
18 And a certain ruler asked liim, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
We have here a considerable person, a ruler, coming to Christ, with an important quesiion in his mouth, What must I do to inherit eternal life? Where note, 1. He believes the certainty of a future state. 2. He professes a desire of an eternal happiness in that state. 3. He declares his readiness and willingness to do some good thing in order to the obtaining of that happiness. Hence learn, That the light of nature, or natural religion, teaches men, that good works are necessary to salvation; or that some good thing must be done by them who at death expect eternal life ; it is not talking well, and professing well, but living well, that entitles us to heaven and eternal life.
10 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good ? none is good, save one, that is, God.
Our Saviour here reproves this person for calling him good, when he did not own him to be God; saying, There is none good, that is, essentially and originally good, ab
solutely and immutably good, but God only: nor any derivatively good, but he that receives his goodness from God also.
20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
Note here, That the duties directed to by our Saviour, are the duties of the second table, nothing being a better evidence of our unfeigned love to God than a sincere performance of our duty to our neighbour; love to man is a fruit and testimony of our love to God. Learn thence, That such as are defective in the duties of the second table, charity and justice towards man, do make but a counterfeit show of religion, though they pretend to the highest degree of holiness and love towards God.
21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
This assertion might be very true, according to the Pharisees' sense and interpretation of the law, which condemned only the gross outward act, not the inward lusts and motions of the heart. An external obedience to the letter of the law this man might have possibly performed j this made him think well of himself, and conclude the goodness of his own condition. Learn hence, How prone men are to think the best of themselves, and to have too high an opinion of their own goodness and righteousness before God; this is very natural, but dangerous and fatal.
22 Now when Jesus beard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackcst thou one thing: sell all that thou bast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
Here observe, 1. Our Lord's admonition, Yet lackest thou one thing, which was true self-denial, in renouncing the sin of covetousness, and the inordinate love of worldly wealth. We ought, in the midst of our abundance, to maintain a readiness of disposition to part with all for God's sake, that is dear unto us in this world. Observe, 2. Our Lord's injunction, Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor. This was not a common, but a special precept, given particularly to this rich man for trial; like that given to Abraham, Gen. xxii. and to conviuce him of his corrupt confidence in riches; yet is the precept thus far of genera) use to all, to teach us so to contemn worldly possessions, as to be willing to part with them all at God's pleasure and when they prejudice our salvation.
23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Here note, The effect which our Saviour's admonition had upon this person, He was very sorrowful. Learn thence, That carnal men are exceeding sorrowful when they cannot win heaven in their own way. 2. That such as are wedded to the world, will renounce Christ rather than the world, when the world and Christ stand in competition. He went away sorrowful, (St. Mark x. 22.) for he was very rich.
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God 1 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Our holy Lord takes occasion from the rich man's departure from him, to discourse concerning the danger of riches, and the difficulties that attend rich men in their way to heaven. From whence we may collect and gather, 1. That rich men do certainly meet with more difficulties in their way to heaven than other men; it is difficult to withdraw their affections from riches, to place their supreme love upon God in the midst of their riches, and to depend entirely upon God in a rich condition ; for the rich man's wealth is his strong tower. 2. That yet the fault lies not in riches, but in rich men, who by placing their trust and reposing their confidence in riches, do render their salvation difficult, if not impossible. 3. Our Saviour's proverhial speech of a camel's going through the eye of a needle implies thus much, that it is not only a great difficulty, but an utter impossihility, for such as abound in worldly wealth, and place their confidence therein, to be saved, without an extra
ordinary grace and assistance from God. Tis hard for God to make a rich man happy, because he thinks himself happy without God. 4. That as difficult and impossible as this may seem to men, yet nothing is impossible with God; he can change the heart of the rich, by the rich and powerful influences of his Holy Spirit: That whiei is impossible with men is possible with God.
28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
It was well done and wisely done of Peter, to leave all and follow Christ; it was the best bargain he ever made in all his life, But observe, How he magnifies that little he had left for Christ, and ushers it in with a nott of admiration: Lo! we have left all and followed thee. Learn hence, That though it be very little that we suffer for Christ, and have forsaken upon his account, yet we are prone to magnify and admire it, as if it were some great matter. Lord, says Peter, ire have left all. "What all, man, hadst thou to leave} A few ragged nets and taU tered fisher-boat: a great all indeed, next to nothing at all: scarce worth mentioning, and yet how it^ magnified!" Behold, we have left all,Undfollowed thee.
29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Observe here, The lenity and kindness of our Lord's gracious answer: he tells his disciples, that they who had left all and followed him, should be no losers by him; that is, in this world they shall receive manifold; St. Mark, chap. x. 30. says, an hundredfold; But how so? Non formaliter, sed cininenicr; non in specie, sed in ralore: "not in kind, but in equivalency :" not an hundred brethren, and sisters, and possessions, in kind; but he shall enjoy all that in God, which all creatures would be to him, if they were multiplied an hundred times. O the sanctifying gifts and saving graces, the supporting comforts and ravishing consolations, of the Holy Spirit, arc a sufficient compensation for any thing, for all, yea, for more than all, that we can pail with for the sake of Christ.
31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge him, and put hirn to death : and the third day he shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
We find our blessed Saviour very frequently acquainting his disciples with his approaching sufferings, to prevent the offence that they might take at them, when the providence of God brought them on: this design was to arm them witli expectation of his sufferings; and to quicken them to preparation for their own; yet, it is here said, That the disciples understood none of these sayings: Why so? were not the words easy enough to be understood? Yes, but they could not reconcile them to the notion of the Messiah which they had drank in: they concluded he should be a temporal prince, and subdue their temporal enemies: but could not conceive how he, that should redeem Israel, should die, and be thus barbarously used. We have great need to consider well what notions we have concerning the things of God, before we entertain them ; for false notions once taken up, are not without great difficulty laid down.
35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside, begging; 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, be asked what it meant. 37 And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 30 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace; but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be
brought unto him: ami when he was come near, he asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee, 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw t'f, gave praise unto God.
This chapter concludes with the recital of a famous miracle, wrought by our Saviour upon a blind man, whom St. Mark calls Bartimeus. Where we have observable, 1. The blind man's faith in acknowledging Christ to be the Messiah; for so much the title of .Son of David did import. 2. Observe his fervency as well as his faith: he cried to Christ for the mercy of healing, Have mercy on me, thou Son of David. A true sense of want, either bodily or spiritual, will cause a soul to cry to Christ with earnestness and importunity. Observe, 3. The great compassion and condescension of Christ towards this blind man: He stood still, he called him, and enlightened his eyes. Observe, 4. Before Christ would restore the blind man to sight, be must sensibly complain of the want of sight, and cry unto him for it. Christ knows all his creatures' wants, but takes no notice of them, till they make them known to him by prayer. Observe, 5. How much Christ magnifies faith, what he attributes to it, and how he rewards the least exercise of it: Jesus said, thy faith hath saved thee. Christ himself was the efficient Cause of the blind man's healing, but he exerted his divine power upon the exercise of the blind man's faith; and accordingly says, Thy Jallh hath saved thee. Note, 6. In what way and manner the blind man doth express his thankfulness to Christ for his recovered sight: He followed him, glorifying God. Mercy received from Christ is then well improved when it engages us to follow Christ; this should be the effect of all salvations wrought for us. He praiseth God best, that serveth him most. The life of thankfulness consists in the thankfulness of the life.
CHAP. XIX. AND Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, be