« PreviousContinue »
The GOSPEL for the Eleventh Sunday after
Jefus Spake this Parable unto certain, which trufted in themselves that they were righteous, and defpis'd others: Two Men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharifee, and the other a Publican. The Pharifee food and prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee that I am not as other Men, &c.
HE Gofpel for this Day fets forth, in a Parable, the right Way and Manner of praying unto God, and the certain good Succefs that will enfue upon the due performing of it; as alfo a wrong way of addref fing to him, too often used, with the bad Iffue and Unfuc cessfulness thereof.
It begins thus, Jefus fpake this Parable to certain, which trufted in themselves that they were righteous, and defpis'd others. By which it appears, that this Parable is defign'd to check the Vanity of fuch as have too high an Opinion of their own Sanctity, and boaft of a purer Way of Wor ship, join'd with a Contempt of those that go not after their way.
Who they are, the Explication of the Parable will after fhew us: Two Men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharifee, and the other a Publican. Where we are to observe the Persons that went up, and they were a Pharifee and a Publican; the Place to which they went, and that was to the Temple; and the End or Errand upon which they went, and that was to pray: All which may be worth our Obfervation.
For the Perfons, they were a Pharifee and a Publican; the one the Name of a Sect, call'd in the Acts of the Apo
ftles, The ftritt Sect of the Pharifees; the other the Name of an Office, which was Collector of the Emperor's Tribute and Cuftoms.
The Pharifees were fo call'd from their Separation, for they feparated both from the Civil and Religious Converfation of other Men: they look'd upon themselves as the only heavenly Men, and kept a diftance from others as Men of the Earth; calling themselves Saints, and all others Sinners. They blamed our Saviour for eating with Publicans and Sinners, with whom they would have no fellowship, no not to eat. This Man receiveth Sinners (faith one of them) and eateth with them. If he were a Prophet (faith another) he would know who or what manner of Woman this is that toucheth him, for she is a Sinner. They affected a pompous Show of external Purity and Holiness, and were at great pains to polifh the outward Garb, without any regard how it was within. They were mighty careful of wafhing the Outfide of Pots, Cups, and Dishes, yea and of themselves too, when they came from Markets and Places of publick Concourfe, to take off all imaginary Defilement, In short, these were the Perfons here mention'd by our Saviour, who trufted in themselves that they were righteous, and defpis'd others.
On the other hand, the Publicans were Officers appointed to gather the Tribute-Mony, and other Revenues of the Emperor; which they often did with that Rigour and Oppreffion, that render'd them odious to the People, and were therefore generally rank'd with Sinners and Heathens. However, our Saviour call'd fome of thefe from the Publicans Stall to be his Difciples and Followers. Matthew obey'd his Call, and left all and follow'd him; and from the Receit of Custom became a Receiver of his Doctrine, and an Attendant on his Perfon, Zaccheus, another Publican, reftor'd fourfold; and from an Exactor of Tribute, became an Example of Righteoufnefs. Of this fort was the Publican here mention'd; where by the Pharifee is meant a precife Jew or Secretary, by the Publican a Convert or penitent Sinner. Thefe were the two Perfons that went up: From whence I proceed,
Secondly, To the Place to which they went up, and that was to the Temple; Two Men went up into the Temple. It feems this Pharifee, whatever he was at other times, was no Separatift here; for he went up with the Publican to
the Temple, the proper Place of publick Prayer: for fo our Saviour ftil'd the Temple the House of Prayer, faying, My Houfe is a House of Prayer, fet apart for that purpofe; call'd therefore God's House, becaufe dedicated to him, where he hath promis'd to meet, hear, and bless his People, and to make them joyful in his House of Prayer. I was glad (faith David) when they said unto me, Come let us go up to the House of God; our Feet hall ftand in thy Gates O Jerufalem. He rejoic'd to fee the People unanimously repair to the Temple, the publick Place of God's Worship; and for himself he tells us, that the Love or Zeal of God's Houfe had even eaten him up: fo much delighted was he in the Temple of God, the Place where his Honour dwells. In the New Teftament we find the Apoftles daily in the Temple, bleffing and praifing God; Luke 24. 53. Yea, we find our Bleffed Saviour conftantly repairing to Jerufalem, at the appointed Times of publick Worship; where he frequented the Temple and Synagogues fet apart for that end: yea, fo zealous was he for the Honour and Reverence of the Temple, that he whip'd out the Buyers and Sellers, as Profaners of it; faying, My Houfe is a House of Prayer, but ye have made it a Den of Thieves.
The Temple then, or the Church, is the proper Place of publick Worship, where we are commanded to refort, if we hope to be heard, or to receive a Bleffing; for those publick Places are by God's Appointment and Approbation fet apart from common Ufes, and confecrated for his Service, and being thus devoted to him, become holy unto the Lord.
Now this may plainly convince us of the Error aad Obftinacy of fuch Perfons, as prefer a Barn, a Stable, or any private House, before the Church or Houfe of God; and leave the confecrated Places of divine Worship, for the Places of Traffick and Merchandize, where beside other Fraud and Deceit, there are found those who deceive the Hearts of the Simple, and make merchandize of unstable. Souls. St. Paul diftinguishes between Houses to eat and drink in, and the Church of God to worship and pray in; faying, Have ye not Houses to eat and drink in, or defpife ye the Church of God? 1 Cor. 11. 22. And certainly it muft bet a great Contempt of God's Houfe, to frequent uncon fecra ted Places before it: yea, the fame Apostle defcribes falie Teachers by their creeping into private Houses, and there leading captive filly Women, 2 Tim. 3. 6. Holy David pre
fer'd one Day in God's Houfe 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 furely a greater Bleffing may be reasonably expected in the publick Affemblies of God's People, than in the private Meetings and Conventicles of Sectaries: which fhould teach us to frequent the publick Places of Divine Worship, and to forfake the private Nurseries of Difcord and Divifion. This for the Place.
They went up to the Temple, but for what End? Why, it was to pray the next thing to be confider'd. Both the Pharifee 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 defign'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 confider,
The different Make and Manner of their Prayers. And here indeed the difference between them was very great: for the Pharifee's Prayer was attended with Prolixity, Pride, and Hypocrify; the Publican's with Brevity, Humility, and Sincerity. Which things make a vaft difference both in the Nature, End, and Iffue of their Prayers, as the following Words of the Parable will plainly declare.
The Pharifee food up and pray'd: here, by the way, his standing up and praying fhew'd fome Reverence, and upbraids the rude and unmannerly Devotion of many in our days, who fit at their Prayers, and fhew lefs Reverence in their Approaches unto God, than will be allow'd in their Addreffes unto Men.
But to go on; The Pharifee ftood up, and pray'd thus with himfelf, God I thank thee, that I am not as other Men, Extortioners, Unjuft, Adulterers, or even as this Publican, &c. Where he fpins out his Prayer into length and multitude of words, and with Reflections too more on others than himself, measuring and extolling his own Goodness by others Badness. His long Prayer is not indeed fet forth in Words at length, but only the Heads upon which he enlarg'd himself: he thank'd God, not fo much for his Mercies, as for his own Merits, that he was not fo bad as other Men, Extortioners, Unjust, Adulterers, and the like; wherein he reflected upon the Publicans, who were commonly charg'd with thofe Faults, from which he boafted him
felf to be free; and the following words, Or even as this Publican, plainly fhew whom he had an eye at. Indeed he was not as this Publican; for the Publican's Carriage and Prayer, and the Succefs of it too, was much better, as we fhall fee after..
At prefent we may obferve, 1st, That the Pharifee'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 Pharifee's Prayer was attended not with Prolixity only, but with abundance of Pride; for he enlarges himself upon the Topicks of his own Righteoufnefs, and inftead of being fenfible of his Unworthiness, fets forth his Worth, and magnifies his own Perfections: he does not beg of God more Grace, but feems to tell him that he had enough already; and when he fhould 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 inftead 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 himfelf; tho our Saviour, who knew his Heart, tells us, that within the Pharifees were full of Extortion and Excels, Mat. 23. 25. He was no unjust Perfon, tho charg'd in the fame Chapter with Rapine and Oppreffion. No Adulterer, tho he could creep into Houfes, and lead captive filly Women laden with divers Lufts, whom he defpoil'd both of their Substance and Vertue together. Particularly, he defpifes the poor Publican, as one ftain'd with all these things, and fo not fit to be named or compar'd with him.
And as he thus boafted of his Freedom from the Vices of other Men, fo did he glory in his own Vertues: I faft (faith he) twice in the Week; that is, on the fecond and fifth 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 poffefs: