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among them, and though our Saviour, therefore, reproves them perhaps more sharply, and certainly more frequently than any other party among the Jews, (possibly because from their numbers they oftener fell in His way; and possibly because, with all their faults, they were more within the ordinary reach of grace than their wicked and godless rivals the Sadducees,) yet they had, when compared with these last, many favourable circumstances in their character, and many among them were really good and godly men who, when their prejudices were once removed, became sincere and humble followers of the Messiah. They had kept entire the ancient and true doctrine of a resurrection from the dead, which the Sadducees ventured to deny; they were really zealous, though not according unto knowledge, for the honour of God's name and the observance of His Sabbaths; they were commendably anxious in spreading a knowledge of the law of Moses among the heathen and their own ignorant countrymen; and they were accordingly held in great reverence by the common people; and the scribes or teachers of the law of Moses, as well as the rulers or elders of the people, were most frequently of their number.

Of the publicans it is enough to say that they were collectors of taxes for the Romans, who, some time before, had conquered the Jews and held them in the same state of subjection, though of a far less just and gentle kind, than that in which the English now hold the inhabitants of India.

And it is easy to suppose not only that any Jew who undertook such an office would be extremely unpopular among his countrymen; but that, in fact, the more respectable Jews would, generally speaking, be slow to hold an office which at the same time made them hated by their own brethren, and exposed them to lose caste by living and eating with their heathen masters.

When, therefore, our Lord fixed on two persons of these different descriptions as going together to the House of God to pray, He fixed on characters the most different that His countrymen had seen, the most popular and respected and the least esteemed, the most outwardly careful of their religious interests and the most outwardly and generally neglectful of them; the class who were supposed in general to be most dear to God (and who certainly supposed themselves so) and those who were considered the greatest strangers to Him. And if we ourselves had been, with the same feelings and prejudices, among the number of our Saviour's hearers, and had been asked by Him, which of these two persons was in our opinion most likely to obtain a favourable answer to his prayers, and to conciliate the mercy of Heaven, we should have probably supposed, as the Jews no doubt supposed, that the advantage was decidedly with the pharisee.

"The pharisee, (however, the story then proceeds,) the pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even

as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you," adds our Lord," that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other!"

What, then, is the cause of this difference? What of the pharisee being rejected, what of the publican being, in comparison, preferred by the Almighty searcher of hearts? Was the pharisee a hypocrite, who laid claim to virtuous habits to which he had no pretension? Was it untrue that he was really strict beyond most of his countrymen in the mortification of his appetites, and the payment of a part of his substance to the service of God and the ceremonies of religion? That it would be hard to believe, nor have we any reason to believe it from the words of Scripture. He was, it will be observed, praying, and praying in words which nobody heard-" he prayed thus with himself." But no man is weak enough to believe that he can tell a lie to God; no man, who is not a madman, can dare to insult his Maker by laying claim, when that Maker only hears, to virtuous actions which he knows to be imaginary. Or is God indifferent whether our actions be good or evil ?-are prayers, or fastings, or a careful concern for the decencies of religion offensive to Him, or worthless in His eyes? On the contrary, our Saviour Himself has laid down rules for His disciples when they fast;

He has Himself set us an example of religious fasting; and He has Himself said, when blaming the pharisees for their neglect of the weightier matters of the law, that, while they sinned greatly in leaving these undone, it behoved them also by no means to neglect the others'.

Or was the publican, in reality, a person of exemplary conduct who afflicted himself unnecessarily on account of his spiritual state, and was, in truth, already a saint while he condemned himself as the worst of sinners. Neither of this is there any appearance. The pharisee, who seems to have known him, probably spoke the truth when he described him as a man of bad character. And it is remarkable, that neither does our Lord, notwithstanding his expressions of repentance, speak of him as of one, at present and absolutely in a justified state, but only that he was justified rather than the other, that his character, with all its faults, was less displeasing to God than the vain self praise and uncharitable censure of the pharisee. The publican might be, and probably was, a real sinner; the publican might be, and probably was, of a character offensive to God; and yet the pharisee might, in God's eyes, be still less accepted and acceptable. What then was his fault? He trusted in himself that he was righteous and despised others; and thus he threw away at a single stroke all the blessings which God might else have had in

St. Matt. xxiii. 23.

store for his abstinence, his purity, his justice, his attention to the religion of his Father; and by a little foolish self-love, and by a little ill-natured comparison of himself with his neighbour, made vain the endeavours of, perhaps, a long life, and, while he thought that he was standing firmly, made that very flattering thought the occasion of a dismal fall!

He was not

Is it necessary that I should go on to explain and vindicate the justice of such a sentence? Will not the common sense of those who hear me teach them, that for even the best of men to boast himself before his Maker, must be to that Maker most offensive, inasmuch as, however good he may be, it is God to whom he owes it all? The pharisee himself, indeed, acknowledged this. so vain, he was not so silly as to be ignorant that of himself he was able to do nothing; and he therefore gives, in words at least, the glory to God, and thanks Him that he was not like other men, an extortioner, unjust, or adulterous. But in this very enumeration of God's favours to him, he shows that he allowed himself to take a pride in them; that, instead of endeavouring after a further progress, he was idly amusing himself with viewing the progress which he had already made; unconscious all the while how much ground his rivals in the race were gaining on him. How much more blameable then, how much more ridiculous (if any thing could be a matter of ridicule in which the souls of men are concerned), must their pretensions

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