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the concern of those who feel themselves in possession of great abilities, great wealth, and great stations to do good in, as if these alone were intended to be admonished by it: but the way is, first, to regard every means and every opportunity of doing good to any as a talent in the meaning of the parable; and then to inquire what means, what opportunities are given to ourselves, either in our bodily health and vigour, or in our mental soundness and understanding, or in our place and relation as parents and children, as masters of servants, as members of a neighbourhood; and whereinsoever we find the means and opportunities (and no man who inquires fairly but will find many, and sometimes more than he had believed or thought of) to consider them as what he shall have to account for at last, and the use, or neglect, or abuse of which will form one principal subject of inquiry at the last day, and one principal ground of God's judgement; ever bearing in mind, what the parable very expressly avers-that the neglect simply will be imputed to us as a crime.
PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.
LUKE XVIII. 9-14.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. 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. And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
VANITY, which can mix itself with the best actions, is apt to steal into our religion as much as any one thing in the world; nor is it to be wondered at. Religion is what every man can pretend to; and religion being of so much greater importance
than any thing else, gives to some either real or even imagined superiority the highest value and excellence. Besides, when we have bestowed extraordinary pains and attention upon any subject whatever, it is very natural to value ourselves upon it; if this subject, then, be of an high nature and consequence, this value that we put upon our attainment of it will be high in proportion. Nor are men to be blamed for overvaluing religion-that is im possible; but for overvaluing their own proficiency in it—that is very possible; and for making religious excellence, whether real or supposed, a reason for despising others.
But hitherto we have only been observing that spiritual pride is very natural, is what men easily glide into. We will venture to say, that of all prides spiritual pride is the worst: the pride of riches, the pride of dress, the pride of family, the pride of beauty, though very absurd and offensive, are neither singly, nor all together, so bad as religious or spiritual pride. When I say so bad, I mean, it does so much harm to the man himself or to others.
The effect it has upon the man himself is no other than spoiling entirely his religion, by placing it all upon wrong motives. The pure and proper motive of religion is the desire of pleasing and obeying God. This simply and solely should be our motive; and this motive alone makes it like religion to any purpose. Now the man whose heart is touched or tinctured with spiritual pride performs whatever he
has to perform in religion, not so much to please God-which may or may not be in his thoughtsbut to vie with or surpass his neighbour; that he may indulge the pleasing contemplation of his advantages and superiority over him. This is no longer religion; it is not, from that time forth, assumed with the intention of aiming at final salvation: it is in reality envy and hatred, pride and ill-will, showing itself in the outward acts and forms of religion and piety; and it is pride, envy, and hatred still-for to the great Judge of all men, who knows well the heart and the secrets of it, and who judges not by appearance but principles, it makes no difference what cloke or colour our passions put on. Religion is that which must save us. How exceedingly pernicious, therefore, must any bad passions of our nature, that turn of temper be, which places all religion upon this wrong foundation; and so, by making it spring from a motive that is not right, makes it offensive and displeasing to God, instead of being an acceptable service to him!
This is the ground on which I choose at present to fix the pernicious nature of spiritual pride; namely, that it makes all religion proceed from wrong motives, though it might at the same time be accused of making men morose, censorious, unforgiving, and disdainful.
But this domineering opinion of our own proficiency in concerns of religion is pernicious in its effects upon others as well as upon the man himself
who is influenced by it. It raises in others a disgust and dislike of religion. When they see that religion only makes a man contemptuous and austere, they naturally enough begin to entertain a prejudice against such religion as an insult upon themselves. No man can bear to be despised in his religion any more than in other things; so that when they find any one so proudly and ostentatiously displaying his abundance of piety; when he seems by his carriage and conversation to let them know how much he is their superior in the most important thing in the world; it is not to be wondered at if they take an aversion to religion, which only tends, in this instance (and it is but few that will look beyond it), to engender superciliousness and self-conceit. I do not say that they argue rightly, but it is sure enough that many do argue so it is enough to render those justly chargeable with doing much mischief in the world who thus create an aversion to religion. We are to win our brethren, and bring them over to the service of holiness; and there is sufficient impiety in the world to make it altogether unnecessary to offend by a fastidious pride of godliness.
Such, then, is the nature and effect of religious pride; and I think I may say that no other sort of pride is so dangerous; and such were the effects which were too obvious to escape the censure of our Saviour-particularly as he had constantly before him examples of it in the Pharisees. The little parable which forms the text is calculated exactly to