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4. Hypocrites fix their whole attention on the things which apa pear commendable in their conduct, and overlook that which is censurable. The pharisee boasted, that he was not unjust, oppressive and adulterous If this were true, so far was well. But he did not consider wherein he had deviated from rectitude. He took no notice of his pride and uncharitableness, though these were so strong as to operate even in his prayers.
Some, we see, glory so much in a few good things which they do, and in their freedom from some common vices, that they conclude all is well, and never bring themselves to the light by a faithful examination. Or, if at any time conscience reminds them of their sins, they invent some plausible excuse for them, and study to balance them by a recurrence to their innocence and virtue in other respects.
5. Hypocrites support their pride and confidence by comparing themselves with other men, whom they think to be more faulty than they are themselves.
The pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous. Why? Because he was not such a man as he supposed the publican to be. He compared himself with one whom he had denounced as a very bad man, and because he thought that in the comparison he could claim a preference, he concluded himself to be righteous. But if the publican were as bad a man as he supposed, what was that to him? Was he at all the better, for his neighbour's being wicked? If he did not practise the three vices, which he imputed to another, did it follow from thence, that he practised none ! We must not conclude ourselves to be really virtuous, merely because we see, or think we see, others who are worse than we are. must draw this conclusion only from the evidence that we find of our own godly sincerity. The apostle's direction is, that we prove our own works, and thus have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not in another. True and safe rejoicing arises from the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have our conversation in the world.
The sins of good men, whose names are recorded in scripture, as those of David and Peter, are the main support of the hope of some hypocrites. They argue thus. We never committed such crimes as those men are charged with. If they were men after
God's own heart, what reason have we to doubt of our final acceptance ?' But ask yourselves ; Have you ever repented of your smaller sins, as they repented ? Have you ever sought mercy with the same importunity—the same humility—the same contrition of heart, with which they sought it? Their guilt consisted only in a particular transgression, and this was followed with repentance. Do you repeat your transgressions without remorse and without amendment ? Your case essentially differs from their's. Your comfort must be derived from your own repentance—not from the transgressions of other men. I would observe
Once more. Some deceive themselves into an opinion of their own piety, by their disposition to censure and condemn others. This pharisee, doubtless, made great complaints of the wickedness of the times. In his prayer he reprobated all men but himself and his own sect. 'I am not like other men.' Finding that he had a zeal, such as it was, against the sins of others, he made this an argument of his own piety. But what does a zeal against other men's sins avail, as long as we are content with our own ? If we have a zeal for God, according to knowledge, we shall be zealous to repent and to maintain good works.
Having illustrated the various arts of self-deception, we proceed to another remark on the parable.
6. It is common for men, when they think of sins which are not their own, to condemn them in others without examining themselves. The pharisee, when he thanked God that he was not as other men, immediately turned his eyes on the publican, and reproached him for not being as righteous as himself.
We are apt to excuse and palliate our own faults, whether others are guilty of them or not. But when others are guilty of faults, from which we think ourselves clear, we are little disposed to admit the same excuses for them. It will be more useful, and a better evidence of a good heart, to be candid toward others and severe with ourselves. Hypocrites will always be forward to censure others; but they take no care to know, examine, or mend their own hearts. The pharisee assumed an unbounded liberty in condemning mankind; but he was utterly insensible to his own guilt. He could diseern a mote in another's eye, when he felt not
a beam in his own eye. There are many who judge and condemn their neighbours, when they themselves do the same things. Our first care should be to correct the errors of our own hearts, and reform the irregularities of our own lives.
Nothing can be more absurd than for a man to be severe against the sins of his neighbours, and at the same time indulgent to his own. *Cast out the beam out of thine own eye,' says our Saviour, then thou canst see clearly to pull the mote out of thy brother's eye.' Then only can we have influence in our attempts to reform others, when we begin with ourselves. 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify God.
7. It becomes us to consider and admire the great mercy of God to guilty men. The publican, though he was a sinner, for such he confessed himself to be, yet upon his humble confession, penitence and prayer, obtained mercy. He went down to his house justified. This affords mighty encouragement to sinners of all descriptions to come to God for pardon with penitent supplication. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. Let sinners under an awakened sense of guilt read this parable, and they will see an encouraging hope set before them. Let them look to the cross on which the Saviour died and their hope will be increased and confirmed. The blood of Christ there shed, cleanses from all sin. And he that spared not his own son, but delivered him
for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things. Our hope stands on a better foundation, than did the hope of the publican. His hope rested on the mercy of God revealed in his word. Our hope may rest on this mercy more fully displayed in the death of Christ, and on a promise sealed by that blood which cleanses from all sin.
Finally. We see what is necessary to render our prayers acceptable to God. On the one hand we must guard against presumption, confidence in ourselves, spiritual pride, self-conceit, formality and hypocrisy, and a censorious, uncharitable spirit. These were the tempters which blasted the pharisee's devotions. On the other hand, we must come to God with humility, serious
iness and reverence; with a sense of our wants, and with correspondent desires; and our prayers must be animated with faith and hope. And since a dying, risen and interceding Saviour is revealed, whatever we do, we must do all in his name; praying and giving thanks to the Father through him.
Let no man think, that because the publican obtained mercy on this short petition, 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' he may also find mercy with God at any time, if he only utter the same, or the like form of words. For the publican's prayer proceeded from a heart penetrated with a sense of his sins. It was not the effect of sickness, distress or approaching death. He is represented as being able to go up to the temple; but it proceeded from conscious guilt and hope of mercy.
If we hope to be heard when we cry for mercy to pardon and grace to help, we must cry in the manner in which he did with humility-with importunity—with faith—with a sense of sinof our dependence on mercy-and of our desert of misery. It is sin which must affect us, rather than the immediate apprehension of death. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not
. hear us.
Let us come, as this penitent came, to the throne of grace, and we shall not be sent empty away. We shall go down to our houses justified. Jesus will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he send forth judgment unto victory. In him let the humble trust. This is his call: Come unto me all ye
that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke which is easy, and my burden which is light. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, and ye shall find rest to
THE EVIDENCES OF OUR TITLE TO THE HEAVENLY
GENESIS xv. 8.
And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know, that I shall in
The patriarch Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans to sojourn in the land of Canaan. While he was in this land, God appeared unto him in a vision, and made him a promise of a numerous posterity, and of an inheritance for them in the country in which he now sojourned. God said to him, “I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees to give thee this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Whereby shall I know, that I shall inherit it?” This he spake, not as disbelieving the truth of the promise, but as desiring a more full confirmation of his faith. This confirmation God was pleased to grant him, in the manner related in the following part of the chapter. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. He was distinguished by the eminence of his faith. He is called the father of all them that believe.
The land of Canaan, which was promised as an inheritance to Abraham, was a type of the heavenly inheritance, which is prom