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indeed hateful and odious to all Persons, it leads Men into many a heinous Sin, and brings on many a heavy Punishment: But Humility is the Parent of all Vertue, and tho it may seem to depress, yet it certainly leads to Exaltatation ; for he that exalteth himself shall be abased^ and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Let us therefore strip our selves of all Pride and Haughtiness of Mind, which ever goes before a Fall; and let us put on Meekness and Lowliness of Heart, that we may be exalted in due time. To which end, let us watch against the Temptations of the World and the Devil, which are apt to swell us with Pride and Vanity, and earnestly pray to be cloth'd with Humility, and to be found in the number os the poor in Spirit, to whom belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.
The Gospel for the Third Sunday after
St. Luke xv. 1 11.
Then drew near unto him all the Publicans and Sinners for to hear him: And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, faying, This Man receiveth Sinners, and eat eth with them. And he spake this Parable to them, &C.
THE great Fame of Christ's Doctrine and Miraclesdrew Persons of all Sorts and Countries unto him. Among the rest we read here, that the Publicans and Sinners, some of the worst of Men, were in that number, and likewise drew near unto him. The Publicans were Persons infamous, even to a Proverb, and by their great Oppressions and Exactions upon the People, had render'd themselves vile and odious in the sight of God and Man ., and therefore we find them here, and often elsewhere, coupled with Sinners, or Persons of a loose and profligate Converfation. However, these among others tame and
drew drew nigh to our Saviour; but upon what Errand? Why^ that we are here told was to hear him. They had heard much of him, and of the great things that he spake and did, and now they had a great Mind and Desire to hear him themselves j either out of Curiosity, as some think, it being usual to flock after new and much cry'd up Teachers \ or out of Design, as others imagine, to ensnare and entrap him, to seek to get some Advantage upon him, and to find what occasion they could against him as some hear, not to learn, but to carp. Others again, and I think with greater probability, conceive that they drew nigh to hear him with better Ends, namely, to learn their Duty from him, and how to direct and amend their Lives. They had seen what Change had been made in Matthew their Fellow-Publican, how he had left his Publican's Stall to follow Christ, and become one of his Disciples: They had heard likewise of Zaccheus another Publican, how he had restor'd fourfold, and for that reason Christ came to his House, and brought Salvation with him. The Noise of these and many other Matters brought them to Jesus to know the Truth, and to reap the Fruit of his Doctrine. To this end St. Matthew, whom our Saviour had lately call'd from the Receipt of Custom to be one of his Followers, made a Feast for him , to which he also invited many of the Publicans and Sinners, that by hearing his Discourse, they might receive the fame Benefit, and become his Disciples. Accordingly our Saviour came and fat down to Meat in his House, and many Publicans and Sinners came and sat down with him and his t>isciples -, which when the Pharisees faw, they began to take exception, asking the Disciples, Why eateth your Master with Publicans and Sinners f This Account St. Matthew gives of this Matter, Mat.g.io, n. St. Luke here to the fame effect tells us, that upon the Publicans and Sinners drawing near unto Christ to hear his Discourse, the Pharisees and Scribes murmur W, faying, This Man receiveth Sinners, and eateth with them. The thing they here murmur'd at, was our Saviour's Freedom of Converfation with such bad Men. The Publicans being the Tribute-gatherers for the Roman Emperors, were generally Heathens and great Oppressors, with whom it was forbidden by the Jewish Law to eat or converse. The Pharisees therefore tnd Scribes, who were supercilious Despisers of other Men, took great Offence at our Saviour's eating and conversing with, them j telling his Disciples, that it was.no way becoming so holy a Person, as their Master pretended to be, to converse so freely and familiarly with the worst df Men j if he were the true Messias, as they thought, he would decline such evil Company, and keep at a greater distance from Sinners. They expected other things from the Messias, viz.. that he should maintain the Dignity of his Person and Office by a stately Retirement, sequestring himself from common View, that the World might repair to him as a Divine Oracle, and never approach him without the greatest Reverence and Adoration. So that when they faw him so freely walk abroad, and to be so familiar with those who were none of the best, instead of receiving him as a. Saviour, they rejected him as an Impostor •, stiling him a Glutton, a Winebibber^ a Friend os Publicans and Sinners^ i Companion and Favourer of loose and vile Persons.
Now to remove this Offence, our Saviour Jets them know, that the end of his conversing with these Men, was not to encourage or harden them in their evil ways, but to reclaim them from them, and at once to convince and convert them from the Error of their ways: He was so far from approving the Exactions of the Publicans, that he exacted Repentance and Reformation from them, and convers'd with Sinners, not to countenance, but to reprehend and reform their Vice and Wickedness. By which means some of the Publicans, from being Exacters of Tribute, became the Teachers of Righteousness, and many of the Sinners were turn'd from Darkness to Lights and from the Power of Satan unto God: which was so far from being inconsistent with the Holiness of the Messiah, that 'twas indeed the main end of his Coming. He told them in St, Matthew s Gospel, that the Whole have no need of the Physician, but they that are sick; and that he vouchfafed his Company, not where it might be most desir'd, but where it was most needed, for he came not to call the Righteous, but Sinners to Repentance : meaning, that his main Businels was with those humble and modest Offenders, that were sensible of their Faults, and willing to amend them ', these being more likely to be reduc'd to a better Course of Life, than such as are conceited of their own Holiness, and scorn others, as unworthy of their Society and Converfation. Moreover, he bids them go and learn the meaning of that Saying of God Almighty, / will have Mercy, and not Sacrifice: wherein he prefers the Acts of Mercy and Charity jo Mens Souls, before all the ritual Observances of the Law, and much more before all the nice Formalities of Converfation. For this end it was, thit he so freely ate and drank with Publicans and Sinners, and tho he went up and down to and with all sorts of Men, yet it was still do* ing good, and healing all kinds of Maladies both of Body and Soul: so that the Pharisees might as well blame the Physicians of the Body for visiting Hospitals and sick Patients, as the Physician of the Soul for applying himself to such as labour'd under more spiritual and dangerous Distempers.
Again, he tells them, that he came to seek and to save all that were lost, that he was sent first to the lost Sheep of the House of Israel, to bring them home to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their Souls., and after that to reduce all that were gone astray both of Jews and Gentiles, to gather them all into one Flock, and to bring them into one Fold: which things could not be done, without making himself known to and conversing with them ., for thatyalone could give him the Opportunity of teaching and instructing Mankind, of instilling his Doctrine into them, and preaching to them the Mysteries os'the Kingdom of Heaven. This our Saviour here in St. Luke explains and exemplifies to usin two or three Parables, viz.. those of the lost Sheep, the lost Groats and the lost Son; in all which he insinuates his tender Love and Care of lost Man, and Willingness to save and reduce the greatest Sinners.
The first of these Parables is in the third and following Verses of this Gospel: And he spake this parable unto them, faying, What Man of you having an hundred Sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the Wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? Where Sinners are fitly resembled to lost Sheep ; (1.) Because no Creature is so apt to wander as the Sheep, which is so heedless as not to keep right, unless it be still under the Shepherd's Eye; and this shews how easily we are misled, how often we fall by Temptation, and seldom continue long in the right way. Again, (2O No Creature is. more helpless and liable to danger than a straying Sheep, it hath many Enemies, and no Guard against them-, the Dog, the Wolf, the Fox are all ready to devour and make itthsi r Prey. This represents the forlorn Condition of lost Man, who when out of the care of the good Shepherd, is intangled with the World, ensnar'd by Satan, oppress'd by wicked Min, and is utterly unable to escape or defend
himself himself against his Ghostly Enemies. Once more, a wandring Sheep of all Creatures is the most unlikely of it self ever to return; for being once bewilder'd, it will stray for ever, unless the Shepherd find and restore it t So is it with lost Man, who being out of the way would return no more, except he be reduc'd by the Shepherd, which is by hearing his Voice and following him.
Now who is there (faith the Parable) who having lost a Sheep, doth not bestir himself and go after it, till he find it? How much more then are erring and straying Sinners to be sought after, who would wander for ever in the Ways of Destruction, If not restor'd and directed into the Paths of Life? But to go on with the Parable, when the Owner of the lost Sheep had found it, 'tis said in the next words, He layeth it on bis Shoulders rejoicing; he feeleth not the Burden, which is much the lighter by removing the Heaviness and Trouble he had in the Lose of it: and when he cometh home, he calleth together hit Friends and Neighbours, saying unto them. Rejoice with mei for J have found the Sheep that was lojt. He makes merry with them, and doubles his Joys from the Fears he had of losing if, and the Pains he took in finding it. Likewise, / fay unto you (faith our Saviour) Joy shall be in Heaven over one Sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and ninauuji Persons, which need no Repentance; meaning, that GoSpho is represented here by the Owner of the lost Sheep, and the holy Angels and glorify'd Spirits above, which are meant by his Friends and Neighbours, conceive no small Joy at the Return of a penitent Sinner. As for the Angels, they being the Guardians of God's Children, and ministring Spirits to the Heirs of Salvation, may be well enough suppos'd to be affected with the Welfare and Happiness of each. For we find this heavenly Host singing at our Saviour's coming into the World for the Redemption of Mankind j and ever since desire to contemplate and admire this great Mystery. And every Occasion of this kind may minister to their Gladness, and give a new Accession to their Joy.
But when God is faid to rejoice at the Repentance of a Sinner, it must be understood as spoken after the manner of Men : for God is void of all Passions and Perturbations, and above the Transports of Joy and Sorrow. So that when God is faid to be angry, to be griev'd, or to be provok'd by Sinners, 'tis meant only of the Effects