Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

felf 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 fee after.

At present we may observe, ist, 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.

adly, 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 esteening 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; tho our 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 same Chapter with Rapine and Oppression. No Adulterer, tho he could creep into Houses, and lead captive filly Womens laden with divers Lufts, 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 : I faft (faith he) twice in the Week; that is, on the fecond and Àfth Day of the Week, which are our Monday and Thurfday, when they had the Law expounded to them in their Synagogues, I give Tithes (faith he) of all that I polless:

in

1

in which they were very punctual, even to the Tithing 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, saying, 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 fecond Fault of his Prayer.

3dly, 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 fhews 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, and though they took care to wash the Out-side of the Cup: and Platter, yet they matter'd not how foul and fluttish 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 ha ftanding afar off, would not lift up so much as his Eyes towards Heaven, but smute on his Breast, saying, God be merciful to me a Sinner. Where we may observe,

(1.) The Humility of his Prayer, he stood afar off, as thinking himself unworthy to draw nigh to fo facred a Majesty. He had scarce Confidence so much as to lift up his Eyes unto Heaven, against which he had finned; but thew'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 Jacob thought himself less than the least of all God's Mercies; Fob humbled himself even in Duft and Ames; David acknowledg'd himself a Worm, and no Man ; St. Paul stiles himself, the Chiefest of Sinners; and the Publican addresses here, not with any Opinion of his own Worth, but with a deep Sense of his own Unworthiness,

(2.) We may observe, the Brevity and Shortness of the Publican's Prayer, which consisted only of these few words, God be merciful to me a Sinner ; wherein he follow'd Solomon's 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 same 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, Jesus, 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 Publican's 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 own Vileness; 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,

a

Merits, only begs for Mercy, and casts himself wholly upon it: all which are Signs of great Sincerity.

Thus we see the Difference between the Pharisee's and the Publican's Prayer: the one was long, proud, and arrogant; the other short, humble, and sincere.

But what was the Event or Issue of their Prayers ? Why, that was very different too, as the next and last words declare;

I 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 ; the other had the Guilt of them remaining upon him, and both his Person and Performances were utterly rejected. He that justify'd himself was condemn'd, and he that condemn'd himself was justify'd before God : for which this reason is added in the Close; For every one that exalteth himself, all be abased; and be that humbleth himself, Mall. 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 refifteth the Proud (faith St. Peter) and giveth Grace only to the Humble. The proud Person fets himself against God; he offers Sacrifice to himself, and seeks more his own Praise, than the Honour of his Maker; and this must fet 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 mall 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 Thew 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

Pharisee

Pharisee (we see) was rather hated than heard for his arrogant and much Speaking; but the poor Publican, for his fhort, modest, and humble Prayer, found a gracious Aca ceptance; the one went away condemnd for his Self-conceit, the other went home justify'd for his Self-condenining? Which may teach us to mind chiefly the good Disposition of our Soul, and not to affect Length or Vanity in our Addresses untó God; for these things are neither necefsary nor becoming in our Approaches to the Divine Majesty. He is not to be inform’d by any Words, as Men must be ; for he knows our Necessities before we ask : He is not to be persuaded by many Words, as Men are; for he is void of all Passions, and so cannot be mov'd or wrought upon that way: nor is he to be pleas'd with new Words, as vain Men are wont to be ; for he is a

pure

and perfect' Mind, and so far above all the little Gratifications of Fancy and Imagination. That which God principally looks to, is the Heart, to find that inflam'd with the Love of him, and strong Desires of his Mercy and Pardon; and where that is, a few hearty words will serve the turn, and prevail for both,

In short then, this Parable may teach us, 1. To frequent the Temple, Church, or Publick Places of Divine Worship, fet apart and consecrated for that purpose; not creeping into Houses, nor following the separate Meetings of Secta ries and Seducers, which breed Strife and Confusion, and every evil Work'; but to assemble and meet together in God's House, where he hath promis'd to meet and bless us : and that will tend to beget Love and Charity, and best manifest our Union and Communion with one another.

2. In all our Addreffes to God, let us hence learn to subdue all Pride and Loftiness of Heart, and to approach him with all Humility and Lowliness both of Body and Mind. To shew our bodily Reverence, let us do it by standing or kneeling, not by sitting at Prayers, as the manner of fome is, who herein fhew more Rudeness and Irreverence to their Maker, than they are wont to do before a Magistrate. For the Reverence and Humility of the Mind, let us shew it by our mean and low Thoughts of our felves; and instead of boasting with the proud Pharisee, that we are better than other Men, let us rank our felves among the worst, and say with the poor Publican, Lord, be merciful to me a Sinner.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »