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fer'd one Day in God's House before a thousand elsewhere-, and had rather be a Door-keeper in the House of God, than be found in the Tents of Ungodliness. And surely a greater Blessing may be reasonably expected in the publick Assemblies of God's People, than in the private Meetings and Conventicles of Sectaries: which mould teach us to frequent the publick Places of Divine Worship, and to forfake the private Nurseries of Discord and Division. This for the Place.
T?;ey went up to the Temple, but for what End? Why, it was to pray: the next'thing to be consider'd. Both the Pharisee and the Publican went to the fame Place, and upon the fame Errand, to offer up their Prayers and Devotions unto God : and a good Errand it was, to meet together to pay their Duty and Homage to their Maker, and in the proper Place delign'd and dedicated to that Service. But how did each of them perform it? The Answer to that will lead us, in the next place, to consider,
The different Make and Manner of their Prayers. And here indeed the difference between them was very great: for the Pharisee's Prayer was attended with Prolixity, Pride, and Hypocrisy; the Publican's with Brevity, Humility, and Sincerity. Which things make a vast difference both in the Nature, End. and Issue of their Prayers, as the following Words of the Parable will plainly declare.
The Pharisee stood up and pray'd: here, by the way, his standing up and praying sliew'd some Reverence, and upbraids the rude and unmannerly Devotion of many in our days, who stt at their Prayers, and shew less Reverence in their Approaches unto God, than will be allow'd in their Addresses unto Men.
But to go on The Pharisee stood up, and pray'd thus with him]elf, God I thank thee, that I am not as other Men, Extortioners, Unjust, Adulterers, or even as this Publican, &c. Where he soins out' his Prayer into length and multitude of words, and with Reflections too more on others than himself, measuring and extolling his own Goodness byothers Badness. His long Prayer is not indeed set forth in Words at length, but only the Heads upon which he enIarg'd himself: he thank'd God, not so much for his Mercies, as for his own Merits, that he was not so bad as other Men, Extortioners, Unjust, Adulterers, and the like: wherein he reflected upon the Public4ns,v/ho werecommon}y charg'd with those Faults, from which he boasted him'.'' self self to be free and the following words, Or even as this Publican, plainly shew whom he had an eye at. Indeed he was not as this Publican; for the Publican's Carriage and Prayer, and the Success of it too, was much better, as we shall see after.
At present we may observe, 1st, That the Pharisee's Prayers were often remark'd, but never commended for their Length; they enlarg'd their Prayers as they did their Phylacteries, and ran out their Petitions into many Words and vain Repetitions therein imitating the Heathens, and thinking to be heard for their long Prayers, as they did for their much speaking. And herein they are but too much imitated by the Tautologies and vain Repetitions used in Prayer by many in our days.
zdly, The Pharisee's Prayer was attended not with Prolixity only, but with abundance of Pride; for he enlarges himself upon the Topicks of his own Righteousness, and instead of being sensible of his Unworthiness, sets forth his Worth, and magnifies his own Perfections: he does not beg of God more Grace, but seems to tell him that he had enough already ., and when he should ask pardon for his Sins, thanks God that there was no need of it. He compares himself with others, not to humble, but to exalt himself: and instead of preferring another, or esteeming others better than himself, he proclaims his own Excellencies, and prefers himself above all; I am not as other Men, faith he, meaning, that he was much better, being free from many heinous Crimes, that they may be charg'd withal. He was no Extortioner, if we will believe himself^ thoour Saviour, who knew his Heart, tells us, that within the Pharisees were full of Extortion and Excess, Mat. 23.25. He was no unjust Person, tho charg'd in the fame Chapter with Rapine and Oppression. No Adulterer, tho he could creep into Houses, and lead captive filly Women^ laden -with divers Lusts, whom he despoil'd both of their Substance and Vertue together. Particularly, he despises the poor Publican, as one stain'd with all these things, and so not fit to be named or compar'd with him.
And as he thus boasted of his Freedom from the Vices of other Men, so did he glory in his own Vertues: / sast (faith he) twice in the Week; that is, on the second and fifth Day of the Week, which are our Monday and Thursday, when they had the Law expounded to them in their Synagogues. I give Tithes (faith he) of all that I posses: '\ . , . , - . in in which they were very punctual, even to the Tubing of Mint, Annise, and. Cummin. These things our Saviour commended in them, tho he blam'd their omitting of other weightier Matters of the Law, faying, These things ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone. Their Care and Conscience herein, justly condemns the Robbery and Sacrilege, committed in these Matters by many Christians. In short, the Pharisee prides himself here, not only that he was not so great a Sinner as others, but that he was a greater Saint, and arriv'd to a higher Pitch of Holiness than they: a second Fault of his Prayer.
idly, The Pharisee's Prayer was attended with Hypocrisy, the greatest Flaw and Blemish of all. This our Saviour proves at large, throughout the whole 23d Chapter of St. Matthew, where he shews their long Prayers and their long Robes, to be only a covering for their Injustice and Extortion ; who by their greater Pretences of Piety,' made a prey of the Simple, and devour'd Widow's Houses. He compares them to whited Sepulchres, that appear'd fair and beautiful without, but within were full of Rottenness and Corruption j and though they took care to wash the Out-side of the Cup 1 and Platter, yet they matter'd not how foul and sluttish it was within , their Fastings, Prayers, and Alms were all to be seen of Men, and the whole Design of them was not so much directed to the Glory of God, as to promote their own. Of this kind was the Pharisee's Prayer here, which we see was attended with Prolixity, Pride, and Hypocrisy.
The Publican's Prayer, on the other hand, was accompanied with the much better Qualifications of Humility, Brevity, and Sincerity• , for hi standing asar of, would not lift up so much as his Eyes towards Heaven, but smote on his Breast, saying, God be merciful to me a Sinner. Where we may observe, •
(1.) The Humility of his Prayer, he stood asar of, as thinking himself unworthy to draw nigh to so facred a Majesty. He had scarce Confidence so much as to lift up his Eyes unto Heaven, against which he had finned •, but shew'd the greatest Contrition and Indignation against himself for what he had done. He smote upon his Breast, as conscious of the Evil he had harbour'd there; all Tokens of great Modesty, and a profound Humility, the first and main Ingredient of an acceptable Prayer. Accordingly, we find this to be the Guise and Practice of good Men in all Ages:
Jacob thought himself less than the least of all God's Mercies; Job humbled himself even in Dust and Afiies; David acknowledg'd himself a Worm, and no Man ; St. Paul stiles himself, the Chiesest of Sinners ; and the Publican addresses here, not with any Opinion of his own Worth, but with a deep Sense os his own Unworthinefs.
(2.) We may observe, the Brevity and Shortness of the Tublicaris Prayer, which consisted only of these few words, God be merciful to me a Sinner; wherein he follow'd Solomon% Direction, that in our addressing unto God, our Words should be few., Eccles. 5.2. Our Saviour caution'd his Disciples against the long Prayers of the Pharisees, and the vain Repetitions of the Heathens., who thought to be heard for their much speaking; Mat. 6. where to prevent such Tautologies, Christ gave his Disciples a short Form, known by the Name of the Lord's Prayer. And as his Precept was such, so was his Practice according ; for in his Agony, when he was praying, as it were for Life, he us'd only these few words ; Father, If it be possible let this Cup pass from me: which Request he put up three times upon that Occasion in the fame words. The Disciples in the Storm had no longer Prayer in that extreme Exigence than this, Lord save us, we peris)). , Mat. 8. 25. The blind Man in the Gospel, follow'd our Saviour with this short Prayer, Jefus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me; Luke 18. 38. that was all his Prayer, which he repeated several times, with great Earnestness and Importunity. And here the poor Publican pours out his Soul in this short Form and Collect, God be merciful to me a Sinner : And indeed, such short pious Ejaculations, darted out of a devout Heart, fly higher, and pierce deeper, than the longer Harangues of the Hypocrite. And this will lead me to the
Last, Though not the least Ingedient of the Publicans Prayer, and that was Sincerity, imply'd in these few hearty words, God be merciful to me a Sinner: which proceeded not from the Flatteries of the Tongue, but from the inward Longings of a devout Heart. Instead of infisting upon his own Righteousness, he acknowledges his ownVileness^ and when the Pharisee look'd upon himself as a Saint, this poor Publican owns himself a Sinner: He does not with the proud Pharisee thank God, that he was better than other Men, but reckons and ranks himself among the worst of them -, and instead of boasting of his
Merits, Merits, only begs for Mercy, and casts himself wholly upon it: all which are Signs of great Sincerity.
Thus we fee the Disference between the Pharisee's and the Publicans Prayer: the one was long, proud, and arrogant - , the other short, humble, and fincere.
But what was the Event or Issue of their Prayers? Why, that was very different too, as the next and last words declare / tell you, this Man went down to his House justified rather than the other: that is, the humble Suit of the poor Publican found better Success and Acceptance with God, than the conceited Vaunts of the proud Pharisee - , the one was absolv'd from his Sins, and receiv'd into Favour j the other had the Guilt of them remaining upon him, and both his Person and Performances were utterly rejected. He that justisy'd himself was condemn'd, and he that condemns himself was justisy'd before God: for which this reason is added in the Close; For every one that exalteth himself st.all be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. This Conclusion our Saviour draws from the foregoing Parable, and is indeed the standing Rule of Divine Providence; which putteth down the Haughty from their Seat, and exalteth the Humble and Meek. God resisttth the Proud (faith St. Peter) and giveth Grace only to the Humble. The proud Person sets himself against God j he offers Sacrifice to himself, and seeks more his own Praise, than the Honour of his Maker-, and this must set God against him, who will not be rival'd by his Creatures, or give his Glory to another, and is therefore concern'd to humble the Proud and Arrogant, and to vindicate his own Honour by their Abasement: Whereas the Lowly and the Humble, that give God all the Glory, and take nothing to themselves but the Shame of their own Misdoings, will surely be exalted by him, and rise the higher in his Opinion, by being low in their own-, for them that honour me (faith he) I-will honour, and they that despise me stall be lightly esteem'd: 1 Sam. 2. 30. Neither is the proud Man less hateful to Men, than he is to God- , both of them agreeing to pull down the haughty and assuming, and to shew Kindness to the meek and lowly in Heart.
This is the Sum of the Gospel for this Day, which shews the Qualifications of an acceptable and successful Prayer: and they consist not in the Length or Variety of Words, but in the Sincerity and Humility of the Heart. The proud