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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 thoughts, but 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 secrets of it, and who judges not by appearance but principles, it makes no difference what cloak or color 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 bis 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 selfconceit. 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 reprove this vice, and is most admirably contrived for that purpose, as well as to show the general temper and character of Christ's religion, which upon this, as upon all other occasions, abounds in quietness, humility, and peace.
What little is necessary to be explained in this parable I will now proceed to observe, though my discourse will answer a good purpose if it be the means only of making you mark and call to mind the parable itself, whenever any sentiment of selfsufficiency in religion rises in your minds; whenever you are tempted, that is, whenever you are tempted to be religious merely out of competition, or to view your own supposed state with vanity, and look upon that of others with disdain.
A Pharisee and Publican went up into the Temple to pray. The Pharisees were a religious sect who pretended to extraordinary strictness, and were of high repute amongst their countrymen for their supposed sanctity. A Publican was a taxgatherer, employed by the Romans, who had the Jews in subjection, to collect taxes among them. They were, as you may suppose, extremely odious and ill thought of, partly because the Jews, who were weary under their subjection, hated their profession, and partly because the persons themselves deserved it. Now it was not without design that our Saviour in this parable made choice of a Pharisee and Publican; as he thereby intimated that in people and professions of the highest repute you will often meet only pride and hypocrisy, while in others, the meanest, and most despised or disliked, you shall find sincere piety and virtue ; that with God, who seeth not as we see, who regardeth not names, or persons, or professions, the service of one shall be accepted, the other rejected. • The Pharisee prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. This might be all true; indeed, we ought to suppose it was true. But was it his business to remind, as it were, his God of it, or even to bear it in
his own mind whilst he was addressing God? It showed that his reflections were employed, not upon the purity and glory of his Creator, but upon himself. Had his thoughts been
. at all fixed upon his God; had he considered his own infinite remoteness from him, the adorable and astonishing perfections of the being he was addressing, and his own weakness, infirmity, and vileness, he would rather have trembled under the thoughts of addressing him at all, than have come to him with a proud recital of his imaginary virtues. Nothing, if you reflect upon it, could be more out of season. The Pharisee's prayer was, in truth, no devotion at all; for it was not God, the object of all devotion, that was in his thoughts, but his own good qualities. Though we must suppose, to give the parable
. its proper force, that the Pharisee was, what he pretended to be, guiltless of extortion and adultery; that he was, comparatively with this Publican, and generally speaking, virtuous; yet we must suppose also that he had his failings and his faults, of which we are to hear nothing. He seems to have no remembrance, to make no acknowledgment of his sins and frailties; these had no place in the worship of the Pharisee, if it can be called worship, and this was one reason that made it unacceptable to God.
But another part of the Pharisee's behaviour on this occasion is very strongly to be censured; that part is the uncharitableness of it. The Publican stood with him in the Temple, though afar off. This Pharisee could not pass by the opportunity of indulging his vanity, and declaring his superiority; he could not even there refrain from that contempt and hatred with which this order of men was treated. What had this poor Publican done to him? What right had he to insult him? Whatever this Publican was, he was not then, nor at any time, a subject of triumph or contempt to the Pharisee. Most men would have been softened down by such an occasion, and have considered that they, as fellow creatures and brethren, were kneeling down before their common Parent, imploring the same mercy, in need of the same bounty and protection. The Pharisee, on the contrary, did not only look upon this supposed sinner to cherish his own pride and complacency, but he must even turn intercessor with God against him, and presume to carry his arrogance and invective to the footstool of divine
No wonder that God should turn away his ears from prayers which are mingled with malice and presumption.
In our poor Publican we have a model, I take it, of true christian devotion. He comes with a deep and afflicting sense of his sins, and an earnest concern and contrition for them. He makes no comparisons, he draws no parallel betwixt himself and others, nor does he fly to those wild and superstitious modes of appeasing an angry God, which grief or dismay is wont to suggest; but, with that true and unaffected simplicity which comes pure from the heart, he casts himself on the compassion of his Maker; "he would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!'
We can never sufficiently admire the meekness and humility, the simplicity and earnestness, of this prayer.
I do not mean an affected humility, which is put on for the purpose, but that which is real and undesigned, flowing from a just sense of our own vileness and offences.
The Publican's prayer was agreeable to God; and the more our prayers resemble it in spirit, the more unmixed they come from the heart, the more simple they are in expression, the more we have reason, from this parable, to hope that they will be accepted. "I tell you,' says our Saviour, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.' Our Saviour does not directly say that either was justified, nor was it likely that the Saviour would give countenance to such a doctrine ; but so far as depended upon the act of devotion, the Publican was more acceptable to God than the Pharisee.
The application of this parable to ourselves is easy. Do we secretly allow ourselves to say or think we are not so bad as other men are, or even as this or that particular person ? Let us remember the parable. Do we profess a strictness in our religion, with a view, not only of pleasing and obeying God, but with a notion that we are surpassing our neighbour, and with a view of triumphing over him? Let us remember the parable. Does the pleasure and satisfaction we take in performing the duties of our religion, arise merely from the thought of obtaining God's approbation, or are we counting upon the applause of the world, feeding and flattering our own consequence? Does our notion of piety lead us to survey others, even bad men, with complacency and compassion, and to behave towards them accordingly? Does it cool or diminish our good will and benevolence towards our neighbours? Does it make us more curious to find out their faults; more willing to stick to their failings than to seek for virtues; more liberal of our censure ;
less inclined to forgive ; more disposed to hate; more ready to throw others at a distance, in order to indulge our own spleen, and swell out our own importance? then must we remember the parable. Do we bring this conceit of ourselves and contempt of others to church? Does it mix with and steal upon our devotions in private ? Whenever we find this temper growing upon us, we may be sure that our religion is taking a wrong turn; it does not proceed from a growth of Christianity within us; it is the religion of the Pharisee, and not that which will make us full of gentleness, meek, humble, affectionate, and compassionate ; tending to exercise and improve the love of our neighbour, instead of inclining us towards contempt and hatred.
ANALOGY BETWEEN OUR NATURAL AND RELI
1 CORINTHIANS XII. 11, 12.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.
St Paul in these words means to describe the imperfect state of our knowledge now, with respect to any of these mysterious parts of both natural and revealed religion, especially with respect to what shall take place after this life, compared 'with that clear and complete knowledge of these subjects which we shall be endowed with then ; and the similitude he makes use of, that of the thoughts and understanding of a child compared with the thoughts and understanding of the same person when become a man, always appeared to me to convey the justest conception of this matter, and the most likely to satisfy us in the darkness, and confusion, and uncertainty under which we labor, of any that could have been devised for the purpose. St Paul's words might be briefly explained thus ; Let a grown person look back upon the notions and views of things which