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in which they were very punctual, even to the Tithing of Mint, Annife, and Cummin. These things our Saviour commended in them, tho he blam'd their omitting of other weightier Matters of the Law, faying, Thefe things ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone. Their Care and Confcience herein, juftly condemns the Robbery and Sacrilege, committed in thefe Matters by many Christians. In fhort, the Pharifee prides himself here, not only that he was not fo 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 Pharifee's Prayer was attended with Hypocrify, the greateft 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 Rottennefs and Corruption; and though they took care to wash the Out-fide of the Cup and Platter, yet they matter'd not how foul and fluttish it was within; their Faftings, Prayers, and Alms were all to be feen of Men, and the whole Design of them was not fo much directed to the Glory of God, as to promote their own. Of this kind was the Pharifee's Prayer here, which we fee was attended with Prolixity, Pride, and Hypocrify.
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 fo much as his Eyes towards Heaven, but fmote on his Breaft, faying, God be merciful to me a Sinner. Where we may obferve,
(1.) The Humility of his Prayer, he food afar off, as thinking himself unworthy to draw nigh to fo facred a Majefty. He had fcarce Confidence fo much as to lift up his Eyes unto Heaven, against which he had finned; but fhew'd the greatest Contrition and Indignation against himself for what he had done. He fmote upon his Breaft, as conscious of the Evil he had harbour'd there; all Tokens of great Modefty, and a profound Humility, the firft and main Ingredient of an acceptable Prayer. Accordingly, we find this to be the Guife and Practice of good Men in all Ages:
Jacob thought himself less than the leaft of all God's Mercies; fob humbled himself even in Duft and Ashes, David acknowledg'd himself a Worm, and no Man, St. Paul ftiles himself, the Chiefeft of Sinners; and the Publican addreffes here, not with any Opinion of his own Worth, but with a deep Senfe of his own Unworthiness,
(2.) We may obferve, the Brevity and Shortnefs of the Publican's Prayer, which confifted only of these few words, God be merciful to me a Sinner; wherein he follow'd Solomon's Direction, that in our addrefling unto God, our Words fhould be few, Ecclef. 5.2. Our Saviour caution'd his Difciples against the long Prayers of the Pharifees, and the vain Repetitions of the Heathens, who thought to be heard for their much Speaking; Mat. 6. where to prevent fuch Tautologies, Chrift gave his Difciples a fhort Form, known by the Name of the Lord's Prayer. And as his Precept was fuch, fo was his Practice according; for in his Agony, when he was praying, as it were for Life, he us'd only. thefe few words, Father, If it be poffible let this Cup pafs from me which Request he put up three times upon that Occafion in the fame words. The Difciples in the Storm had no longer Prayer in that extreme Exigence than this, Lord fave us, we perish; Mat. 8. 25. The blind Man in the Gofpel, follow'd our Saviour with this fhort Prayer, Jefus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me; Luke 18. 38. that was all his Prayer, which he repeated feveral times, with great Earneftness and Importunity. And here the poor Publican pours out his Soul in this fhort Form and Collect, God be merciful to me a Sinner: And indeed, fuch fhort 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
Laft, Though not the leaft 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 pro-ceeded not from the Flatteries of the Tongue, but from the inward Longings of a devout Heart. Inftead of infifting upon his own Righteoufnefs, he acknowledges his own Vileness; and when the Pharifee look'd upon himfelf as a Saint, this poor Publican owns himself a Sinner: He does not with the proud Pharifee thank God, that he was better than other Men, but reckons and ranks himself among the worst of them; and inftead of boafting of his
Merits, only begs for Mercy, and cafts himself wholly upon it all which are Signs of great Sincerity.
Thus we fee the Difference between the Pharifee's and the Publican's Prayer: the one was long, proud, and arrogant; the other fhort, humble, and fincere.
But what was the Event or Iffue of their Prayers? Why, that was very different too, as the next and laft words declare; I tell you, this Man went down to his Houfe juftified 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 Pharifee; the one was abfolv'd from his Sins, and receiv'd into Favour; the other had the Guilt of them remaining upon him, and both his Perfon and Performances were utterly rejected. He that juftify'd himfelf was condemn'd, and he that condemn'd himself was juftify'd before God: for which this reafon is added in the Clofe; For every one that exalteth himfelf, fall be abafed; and he that humbleth himself, fhall be exalted. This Conclufion 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 Perfon fets himself against God; he offers Sacrifice to himself, and feeks more his own Praife, 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 Abafement: Whereas the Lowly and the Humble, that give God all the Glory, and take nothing to themselves but the Shame of their own Mifdoings, will furely be exalted by him, and rife the higher in his Opinion, by being low in their own; for them that honour me (faith he) I will honour, and they that defpife me shall be lightly efteem'd: 1 Sam. 2. 30. Neither is the proud Man lefs hateful to Men, than he is to God; both of them agreeing to pull down the haughty and affuming, and to thew Kindness to the meek and lowly in Heart.
This is the Sum of the Gospel for this Day; which fhews the Qualifications of an acceptable and fuccessful Prayer: and they confift not in the Length or Variety of Words, but in the Sincerity and Humility of the Heart. The proud
Pharifee (we fee) was rather hated than heard for his arrogant and much fpeaking: but the poor Publican, for his fhort, modeft, and humble Prayer, found a gracious Acceptance; the one went away condemn'd for his Self-conceit, the other went home juftify'd for his Self-condenining: Which may teach us to mind chiefly the good Difpofition of our Soul, and not to affect Length or Vanity in our Addreffes unto God; for these things are neither neceffary nor becoming in our Approaches to the Divine Majefty. He is not to be inform'd by any Words, as Men muft be; for he knows our Neceffities before we ask: He is not to be perfuaded by many Words, as Men are; for he is void of all Paffions, and fo 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 fo 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 Defires of his Mercy and Pardon; and where that is, a few hearty words will ferve the turn, and prevail for both.
In fhort then, this Parable may teach us, 1. To frequent the Temple, Church, or Publick Places of Divine Worship, fet apart and confecrated for that purpofe; not creeping into Houses, nor following the feparate Meetings of Sectaries and Seducers, which breed Strife and Confufion, and every evil Work; but to affemble 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 manifeft our Union and Communion with one another.
2. In all our Addreffes to God, let us hence learn to fubdue all Pride and Loftiness of Heart, and to approach him with all Humility and Lowlinefs both of Body and Mind. To fhew our bodily Reverence, let us do it by ftanding or kneeling, not by fitting at Prayers, as the manner of fome is, who herein fhew more Rudenefs and Irreverence to their Maker, than they are wont to do before a Magistrate. For the Reverence and Humility of the Mind, let us fhew it by our mean and low Thoughts of our felves; and inftead of boafting with the proud Pharifee, that we are better than other Men, let us rank our felves among the worst, and fay with the poor Publican, Lord, be merciful to me a Sinner.
The EPISTLE for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.
2 Cor. iii. 410.
Such Truft have we through Chrift to God-ward: not that we are fufficient of our felves to think any thing as of our felves; but our Sufficiency is of God, who alfo hath made us able Minifters of the New Teftament, &c.
HE Service for this Day puts us in mind of God Almighty's great Readiness to hear our Prayers, and to give more than we can defire or deferve and from thence teaches us to implore the Abundance of his Mercy, for the Pardon of our Sins, and the pouring out of his Graces upon us. To which end,
The Epiftle for the Day speaks of putting our Truft in God thro Jefus Chrift: Such Trust (faith the Apostle) have we thro Chrift to God-ward; which words relate chiefly to the Fidelity of the Apostles in the Work of the Ministry, and the Success they had thereby, which they look'd upon as their greatest Glory, and needed no other Commendation; not arrogating any thing of it to themselves, but afcribing all to the Power and Grace of God: for in the next words he acknowledges their utter Infufficiency to think or do any good thing of themselves; faying, Not that we are fufficient of our felves to think any thing as of our felves: To which he adds God Almighty's All-fufficiency to help them; But our Sufficiency is of God. Which they found in the Exercife of a Miniftration far beyond that of Mofes, as the Sequel of this Epiftle will make plainly appear.
The firft and great Leffon here taught us is our utter Infufficiency to think or do any good thing of our felves, in thefe words, Not that we are fufficient of our felves to think any thing as of our felves; and if not to think, fure