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dwelleth ;”— to see them coming to his temple, not from custom or for form's sake, or from human motives; but moved by gratitude and love, and humbled by a sense of sin, and by the knowledge of their want of a Redeemer. This alone can give true rest or happiness to
How, then, can any undervalue such a privilege! How can they absent themselves from the sanctuary; and instead of coming to draw comfort from the wells of salvation, give themselves up to sloth or worldly ease, or the inclinations of their hearts ; forgetful of the solemn duty of the sabbath ;-neglecting Him who “maketh sore,” and who only “bindeth up.'
Job v. 18. And are there none of those present who think it right to make, at least, appearances of piety, who do not serve him “in spirit and in truth ?" God readeth the heart, when man can only see the countenance. He knoweth who do, and who do not, worship him sincerely:, and though to outward observation there may be no difference, his Spirit easily distinguishes the sincere and humble penitent from the lukewarm, unsanctified, time-serving hypocrite.
Convinced of these truths, the Jews never shewed any indifference to the glorious privilege of entering into the house of God. Three times a day did they make their public prayers in the temple at Jerusalem. And besides these stated times, at every hour were seen some faithful and devout persons in the act of adoration. Of this number apparently were those of whom our Saviour speaks in the
He simply calls them men ; and only designates them by their sect and their employment. Before God all persons are simply men. In his presence all distinctions cease, and every rank becomes the
God alone is great; and the first in his eyes is he who is most attentive to his word ; and whose heart is the most humble, most docile, and most submissive.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican.” The Publicans, who were receivers of the taxes imposed by the Romans, were exceedingly hated by the Jews. They were considered men of a suspected probity. They were regarded as persons of bad character; and were commonly designated by the name of sinners. For the hate, which naturally was excited in the Jews against the Roman oppressors of their race, was visited upon the heads of those, who, devoted to their service, shewed little of attachment to their own country, and but little sensibility to the opinions of their fellow-citizens. The Pharisees, on the contrary, were men whose exactness, in the observance of the law, was a proverb in Israel. They spared nothing to impose upon the people. In the streets and public places of the city did they stop to make long prayers. Their alms they openly distributed, assembling the distressed by the sound of the trumpet. Their garments were bordered with phylacteries ; i. e. large bands of parchment, upon which were written sentences of scriptures, in order to convince the world that they were penetrated with a sense of its importance; that it was engraven in their hearts as well as opened to their eyes ; and that in their worldly transactions they never lost sight of it. They submitted to great austerities; and to announce by a name what they pretended to be, they called themselves Pharisees, which signifies
separated and distinct. Therefore to say of these two men that one was a publican and the other a Pharisee, was to say that one passed for a sinner, and the other for a saint. The remainder of the parable convinces us that they were so in reality: for it teaches us, my brethren, that it is not by vain appearances that we can judge of the heart.
“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.
” He prayed thus with himself. But was this, therefore, a prayer ? Prayer is a profound sense of our wants and our misery. It is the ardent desire of succour from on high, by which man raises himself towards God, and draws down the fulness of his grace. Prayer is that sublime contemplation of the divine perfections in which the mind is swallowed up and absorbed; by which it is strengthened and rendered superior to worldly objects. Prayer is the transport of a heart penetrated by love and by gratitude towards the Author of all good. Prayer is the humble confession of our faults ;- the lamentation of a soul torn by these melancholy recollections ;-the repentance of our sins ;- the address of sorrow to the God of pardon ;-the grief of which the penitent soul drinks plentifully, as the most powerful safeguard against future failings. Now which of these sentiments do you discover in the language of the Pharisee ? He asks for nothing. He believes that he wants nothing. From the source of grace he neglects, and he disdains to draw. He
appears, to acknowledge that he has received some favours from heaven, for he says, “God, I thank thee.” This, however, is but the vain formula by which he introduces the exposition of his own virtues. Whilst these respectful words are on his tongue, his heart in secret is discoursing of himself. He seeks not for a motive of gratitude, but for a subject of confidence and a foundation for his pride. It is not to God that he gives the glory it is his own righteousness that he offers up as incense at the foot of the altar. It is not by the word of God that he values his conduct, but by comparison with man,-his vices and his failings. He would be sorry not to be surrounded by sinners with whom to make an estimate of excellence. The society of angels would present a series of virtues without a stain, and would therefore be to him a torment.
Another error of the Pharisee is the false idea he has of his own holiness. He reduces it to the exemption from great crimes, or at least to an observance of the ceremonies of religion. I am not as other men are : I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. In this respect he was, perhaps, without reproach. He goes even beyond, in some points, the strict letter of the law; and therefore thinks that he has attained perfection. He is ignorant that in the career of virtue there is no limit where he ought to stop :— that in order to attain the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus he must forget those things which are behind, and press towards the mark.” He is ignorant that the principal character in a holy man is, “ that he hungereth and thirsteth after
it is true,
righteousness," and hastens to advance in the grace and knowledge of the Saviour. He seems ignorant that, without having committed either robbery or adultery, he may still be very corrupt; that his fastings, his almsgivings, and all the outward appearances of piety, without purity of life and manners, are, in the eyes of God, only acts of hypocrisy, and the oblations of vanity. He is ignorant, that, in observing most exactly the legal ceremonies, he was able to do more ; and that he ought not to have omitted the "weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith :--that these he ought to have done, and not to have left the others undone."
And behold another new and shameful error in the man of whom I speak! Occupied with what he fancies himself to be, he thinks not of his sins or his failings. He speaks of nothing but his good actions. He has no idea of fear, -no notion that his virtue may be suspected. He forgets that they are “ Pharisees, hypocrites, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers : .“ who make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within are full of extortion and excess : “ who are like unto whited sepulchres, which, indeed, are beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.' If he had escaped the exterior acts of crime, had he never meditated them in his heart? If he had done good, was it less to be seen of men, than to obey his Maker ? He thought nothing about this. His virtue seems blameless. He sees in himself no leprosy which would require the aid of the divine Physician ;-no fault of which he has to ask God for pardon.
But his great offence is, want of charity. “Had I,” says St Paul, “ all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and though I should bestow all my goods to feed the poor, yet if I have not charity,—that charity which thinketh no evil,—which hopeth all things, believeth all things, I am nothing." But the Pharisee, in his pretended prayer, expresses a profound contempt and scorn of other men, and in particular of the Publican. What right had he to judge “the servant of another? To his own master he standeth or falleth.” With such a narrow and contracted view of things—with such a superficial knowledge of himself, dare he anticipate the solemn hour when the sovereign Judge of men shall pronounce his doom according to his works? Presenting himself before the throne of the Eternal, whose mercy only suffers us to come to it, what right has any one to take the character of an accuser, and to denounce the guilty? Is it by such an impudent satire as this,-by such a haughty disdain of his children, that he hopes to render propitious the common Father of all men ? And upon what does he found this injurious opinion of his equals? Alas ! my brethren, he is not charitable, therefore he is not humble. He has no mercy for others, therefore he does not believe that he needs any himself; otherwise his pride, instead of finding out his own good qualities, would have been better exercised in the discovery and the appreciation of the virtues of his neighbour.
The Publican had, perhaps, lived in excess. He had, perhaps, committed some injustice. His profession, at least, disgraced him in public opinion. The Pharisee saw him only under this character. He did not ask whether some virtues might not redeem his faults;
he did not allow that public opinion always exaggerates in its judgment. He closed his eyes against the repentance of this man. Did I say closed his eyes? No, he could not shut them entirely against him. The humbled countenance, the downcast eye, the tears that fell, the gestures of his grief, the emotions of the repentance which were visible in his person-all these were apparent to the Pharisee; but, instead of inspiring him with that virtuous compassion, -that tender interest, which the good man feels in sight of a true penitent,--these things only attested in his eyes the crimes of which he thought the penitent to be guilty ;-only added new fuel to his pride, and made his look more haughty, and his aspect more disdainful. of the dispositions of the publican did he want! Struck with religious fear of the holy God whom he is to worship in his temple, and almost annihilated by the sense of his unworthiness, the Publican approaches tremblingly, and, in spite of the pressing want which leads him to the steps of the altar, he “stands afar off.” “He does not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.” He scarcely believes that he is permitted to offer his homage, and to take advantage of that august and consolatory communication which God has established between himself and man. You see, then, with what candour, and with what self-renunciation, he made the confession of his faults. He might, perhaps, have been able to allege, in his excuse, the effects of a bad education, dangerous examples, violent passions, the force of temptations, and the influence of circumstances.
But he did not, it seems, seek or wish to extenuate his crimes. The depth of his misery, and the pressing want he felt of the divine mercy, were the only records which he employed to shew his emotions, and to exclaim, “God be merciful to me a sinner!" It is not in a languishing or feeble manner that he implores pardon : his prayer is the expression of the deepest feeling: it is the ejaculation of a heart oppressed.
Let us now, my brethren, from what has been said, apply to ourselves the wholesome admonition derived from the text, and let us reap the benefit of the important lesson. feel assured that there is no one present who is not struck with the two portraits which the parable in the text has given us. The penitent Publican has, doubtless, interested you in his favour; whilst indignation and regret attend the haughty Pharisee. His pride, however, appears to be the pride so common to the descendants of our great ancestor ; the original sin for which he paid the penalty, and of which we feel the effects. It may be that few amongst us have' ever sinned after the manner of the Pharisee; but has no approximation been made to it within our hearts? When we have seen a brother overtaken in a fault, have none of us ever cried, “ I am not such a man as that ?" Have we always lifted up the “bruised reed," instead of “breaking” it by our unkindness and reproaches ? Have we always revived the “ smoking flax," instead of “quenching" it by the cruel breath of pride? Do we never exaggerate in our blame, nor diminish the just measure of our praise? If we are forced to confess our own offences, do we not seek to extenuate them? And where, my brethren, where are the penitents, who, in the trouble and alarm which characterized the publican, exclaim, “ God be merciful to me a sinner ?” Even in the presence of God himself, when we come up into his temple to pray, has pride no share in our petitions? In thanking him for all “the benefits that he hath done unto us,” do we not frequently regard them as the natural reward of our virtues? In calling on him in the time of affliction, does no impatient word express that we consider ourselves worthy of a better lot? Do we not too often seem to pray for justice rather than for mercy? Do we, in short, when confessing with the mouth that we are saved by grace” (in consideration of the merits of the Saviour), at the same time convince ourselves that all our resources lie in the great expiation made by him for us upon the cross ? Do we not return in secret upon ourselves? Do we not look with pleasure on our own good works, as if they were the source of our justification, -as if they were not themselves a gift of God, and the fruit of the Spirit ?
I need not multiply these details. Enough has been said to shew in how many, and in how different ways, pride may insinuate itself into our hearts. And to teach you how to fear it,-how to defy it, what can I add to the parable before us ? Will it be in vain that that parable has taught you that God prefers the sinner who acknowledges and who detests his errors, before the just man who is proudly satisfied with his imperfect righteousness? Will it be in vain that, introducing us, as it were, to the full counsel of God, it has taught us that “he resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble;" – that " every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted ?" Let us, therefore, my brethren, humble ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God. Are we weak and fearful? Let us humble ourselves by imploring for that grace without which we can do nothing, and which he only gives to those who know their want of it, and of the aid of Jesus Christ. Have we had the happiness to escape any great sin? Let us humble ourselves in acknowledging that it is to God alone we are indebted. Let us thank him for having placed us in prosperous circumstances, or sustained us when in temptation. Have we fallen into the abyss ? Let us humble ourselves profoundly before our Judge ;- let him see our misery. him as poor and miserable sinners, to be washed and purified in his blood, -regenerated and sanctified by his Spirit. Have we received from God any especial favour? Let us humble ourselves in the sense of our unworthiness ;- let us celebrate his kindness to our souls. Have we made any progress in virtue ? Let us humble ourselves in seeing that we are so distant from the mark, in measuring the course we have to run. Let us humble ourselves in the comparison of our conduct with the law of God, and the example of the saints whom he has given us for our model. Then, my brethren, we shall have reason to believe that we are in the way of salvation, and that the Almighty, by his grace, will enable us to persevere.
Then shall we come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need." Then shall we be enabled to exclaim, “ We will offer untó thee, O God, in thy temple, a sacrifice agreeable to thee.” Then, when the Saviour shall have clothed our souls with those dispositions and that spirit of which he has deigned to set us the example, and we have so taken part in his humiliation, then shall we also share in his triumph and glory.
Let us go to