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works by love, and overcomes the world. Be not deceived then. Satisfy yourselves with nothing short of that which Christ will accept and approve of at last. This is doing the will of God; which will, as you have now heard, requires in the first place, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ; coming to him as a guilty helpless sinner, and receiving him as your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Come, then, my fellow-sinner, to Jesus. Beg of him to teach you. Beg of him to wash you in his blood: beg of him to give you his Spirit, and enable you, from a principle of love, to forsake every evil way, and cleave to him with purpose of heart. Then shall you know that the "kingdom of God is not meat and drink,"—forms and ceremonies; "but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"
Let me drop a word of caution to those who perhaps may boast that they are no hypocrites, for they do not pretend to any religion. Can you think that this will be admitted as an excuse? Will you dare to approach the awful bar of God, and plead, "Lord, I never pretended to serve thee? I never thought it worth my while to know or worship thee: I loved the world and my sins so well that I lived like an Atheist." Oh, Sirs, deceive not yourselves; answer that question if you can:—" How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation!" Formalists and hypocrites pay some compliment to religion, by counterfeiting and imitating it, yet will they perish; but you despise it. You treat the blessed God and the gracious Saviour as unworthy your notice. How then can you expect but to have your portion with hypocrites and unbelievers, and to be turned into hell with all those who forget God?
These words may probably be very alarming to the tender spirits of some who truly fear God. Some of the sincere and humble followers of the Lamb may be ready to fear lest he should be angry with them at last, and say, "Depart, I never knew you." But, my dear brethren, tell me, is it not your heart's desire to know and to do the will of God, particularly in those two grand points—faith and holiness? Say; is not Jesus high in your esteem; the chief of ten thousand, and altogether lovely; and would not you gladly be conformed to him in cheerfully doing and patiently suffering the will of God? Take courage, then ; these words are as full of comfort for you as they are full of terror to formalists and hypocrites. The Friend of sinners will say to his dear people, " Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you," and for which my grace prepared your souls on earth. "Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.''
And now is any one of you beginning to say, " I fear I have been deceived—I fear my religion will not stand the test—I have mistaken the shadow for the substance—the shell for the kernel. What shall I do?" I answer, It is an infinite mercy that you have discovered your mistake ; you might have died deceived, and have been rejected by Christ; but it may be hoped that it is a token for good, and the dawn of mercy to your soul. Let your fears bring you to your knees; and at the throne of grace implore divine aid. Say with the Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Luke Xviii. 13.
THERE is a time approaching when Mercy will appear to all mankind the most valuable thing in the world. Figure to yourselves the awful hour when you shall be about to quit this mortal state, and launch into an unknown world -T realize the moment, still more awful, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised; when the great white throne shall be erected, and the assembled world shall appear before the universal Judge; when the grand separation shall be made between the righteous and wicked; the one being placed at the right hand, the other at the left of Christ,—then, my friends, then will the full value of mercy be known. O what a word will mercy then be! a world for mercy then! "Vessels of mercy," obtainers of mercy—how will they shout and sing, " O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever!" While others, in all the bitterness of fruitless woe, shall cry, O that we had but known the need of mercy, the way of mercy, and the value of mercy, while it might have been had! But now the door is shut; "the mercies of God are clean gone for ever, and he will be favourable no more."
With this amazing scene in prospect, let us address ourselves to the text, and to the parable of the Pharisee and Publican, of which it is a part. The introduction to it, and the conclusion of it, will be the Vol. n. D
best key to its true meaning. Ver. 9. "Our Saviour spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." Here are two bad things in their character:—1. They trusted in themselves, which no man can do if he knows the holy law of God; and, 2. They despised others, which we cannot do if we know our own hearts. The conclusion shows how God dislikes such people, while he accepts a poor dejected sinner: for "every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." ver. 14.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican." ver. 10. The Pharisees were a sect of people in those days in high repute for religion; they separated themselves from others, as if more holy; they distinguished themselves by peculiar zeal for ceremonies; but many of them were rank hypocrites, neglecting the religion of the heart, and indulging themselves in cruelty and oppression. The Publican also appeared at the same place, at the same time, and on the same errand: but how different their characters! Had we seen them both together, we should perhaps have thought better of the Pharisee than of the Publican: "for man looketh only at the outward appearance, but God looketh at the heart." Very different motives brought them there. The Pharisee went because it was a public place, and he wished to be seen and admired; the Publican went because it was "a house of prayer," and he wanted to pour forth his soul before God. Thus, my friends, in all our places of worship there is a mixture of characters; but let us remember, God is the searcher of the heart, and he knows what brings us to his house.
Ver. 11. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself;"—he stood by himself, with great formality, in a place where the people must notice him; he prayed thus with himself, and to himself, not to God:—Ah, Sirs, there are many people who pray to themselves; they speak not to God; their words never reach him; they utter sounds, but not desires; this praying will do no good. It is remarkable that in all the Pharisee's prayer there is not one petition; he came to pray; but surely he forgot his errand, for he asks nothing. Praise to God is certainly a proper and noble part of prayer; but though he pretends to praise, he only boasts. But let us hear his fine prayer: "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are." What is this but ignorance, pride, and censoriousness? Besides, he begins his prayer with a lie. He was as other men are; for all men are sinners: in this respect all are on a level; there is no difference, as the Scripture speaks, Rom. iii. 22, 23. It is true that some men are restrained from sins that others commit; but the seeds of every sin are by nature in the heart of every man; and if we have not actually committed them, we owe it to the restraining power, or to the changing grace of God. The Pharisee seems to admit of this by saying, "God, I thank thee;" but we have reason to doubt his sincerity in so saying, and to think they were words of course and form: for so proud a heart as his could not be duly sensible of his obligations to divine grace; and there are many, who, like him, use words of praise, but feel no gratitude to God. His meaning was probably this, "O God, thou author of my being, I thank thee for the noble powers with which thou hast endowed me, by my own wise and careful improvement of which I have kept myself from being so wicked as other people."