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do not feel the need of mercy; for this is the first thing a convinced sinner prays for; and it is a good sign of grace when a desire for mercy sends a man to his knees. Angels rejoice on such an occasion, and point to the new-born soul, saying, "Behold, he prayeth!" My friends, do you pray for mercy? If not, how can you expect it; and what must become of you without it? Oh, that you may begin to pray!
This poor man cried to the Lord; and whither can a creature fly for help but to God? He is our Maker; he is our Governor; he is our Judge; he is able to save or destroy; he is offended with our sins; yet he is most 'gracious and ready to forgive. How reasonable, then, that a guilty, helpless sinner, ready to perish, should apply " to him that is able to save to the uttermost all who come to him by Jesus Christ!"
He begs for Mercy. What is mercy? We know what it is by our own feelings. It is compassion to the miserable; it is a disposition to pity and relieve the distressed; and we never speak of mercy but with reference to misery. It is not, then, a light, unfeeling use of solemn words, that can encourage us to hope for mercy: it is not saying, without feeling, "Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ, have mercy upon us!" but it is coming with the Publican's spirit, with his broken heart, with his remorse, with his desires, and, in earnest prayer, claiming this precious blessing.
Observe, it is mercy he asks. Here is not a word of merit. Mercy and merit are opposite things. The Pharisee's prayer was a mere boast of meritorious deeds; the Publican has nothing to plead; nor does he ask for wealth, or honour, or pleasure; his heart is dead to these; all his desires centre in one, and that one is mercy :—
'' Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask.
This is the total sum;
Oh let thy mercy come!"
But the petition, be merciful, includes something1 more than is commonly understood by it; the word translated merciful, has respect to the atonement made by blood; to the sacrifices offered up at the temple; which were types of Christ, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, '.through faith in his blood." Rom. iii. 25. At the temple, in the court of which the Publican stood, there was a lamb offered every morning at nine o'clock, and every evening at three; and these were the hours of prayer; so that the pious Jew came then to pray, that by virtue of the atonement of Christ represented by blood, and of his intercession represented by the incense, their prayers might find acceptance. His prayer then was —"God be propitious to me a sinner—accept the atonement in my behalf—let my soul be cleansed in the blood of Christ." In this manner, by faith in Jesus, let us seek the mercy of God. Let us not dream of mere absolute mercy. "A God all mercy, is a God unjust." The mercy of God cannot be bestowed without regard to his justice. Now God has glorified his justice by punishing sin in the person of our glorious Redeemer, upon whom " he laid the iniquities of us all," and through whom he is, at once, "a just God and a Saviour." In this way, and in no other, can a sinner obtain mercy; for our Lord declares, that no man cometh to the Father but by him;. and no mercy cometh to the sinner but through him; but in his dear name we may " come boldly to the throne of grace, and so obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need."
Thus came the Publican, and in this way he sue
ceeded. It was not the depth of his humility, the sincerity of his repentance, nor the fervency of his devotion, that merited acceptance: these dispositions were the gifts of God, and could merit nothing: but it was the merit of the Redeemer's precious blood, typified by the blood of lambs, which he pleaded, and which shall never be pleaded in vain. Our Lord tells us, ver. 14, "This man went down to his house justified rather than the other," or not the other; the reason of which he adds, "For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." O what a blessing!" He went down to his house justified;" there was no condemnation to him: he was accepted in the Beloved; he had passed from death to life. Happy man! he might "eat his bread with gladness, and drink his wine," or water either, "with a merry heart, for God accepted his works."
Shall we not, then, "go and do likewise?" Are we not sinners? Fly instantly to the throne of grace. The Lord waits to be gracious. This is the accepted time; lose it not by delay. To-morrow may be too late. Now, then, with the Publican's spirit, let each of us cry, God be merciful to me, the sinner!
But oh, beware of the Pharisee's spirit! Every man is born a Pharisee. Ask your little children why they hope to go to heaven; and if they have not been better taught, you will find their hope is, because they are not so bad as others. Would to God it were not so with grown-up persons too! But let no one dare to persist in a self-righteous course; "for he that exalteth himself shall be abased"—abased even to hell. Renounce, then, your own righteousness, as St Paul, the converted Pharisee, did, who says, Phil. iii. 1. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him."
The Publican's success is a great encouragement to every sensible sinner seeking for mercy. Seek like him, and like him you shall obtain it. And oh, let those who have obtained it be full of joy, " Praise the% Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever!" And as an evidence of having obtained mercy from God, show mercy to men. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
Behold, how sinners disagree,
This man at humble distance stands,
The Lord their different language knows,
Dear Father! let me never be
Romans X. 1
Brethren," my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
TRUE religion consists chiefly in love to God, and love to man; and wherever one of these is found, there is the other also. It was love that brought the Saviour down from the throne of glory to this mean and wretched world, that he might "seek and save those who were lost." While he lived on earth, "he went about doing good;" and when he returned to heaven, he commanded his ministers and people to follow his example, and to do good to all men as they should have opportunity. The apostles and first Christians gladly obeyed, and were very active in spreading abroad the knowledge of their gracious Master, and his great salvation. Among these, St. Paul was one of the most zealous. Our text is an expression of his strong desire for the salvation of his countrymen; and the particular reason of his anxiety was, because he knew they were not in the way to obtain salvation. They were seeking salvation by their own works, "for they stumbled at that stumblingstone." Knowing, therefore, the danger of their being eternally lost, he expresses his feelings in these words, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." And will you, my friends who are here present, permit us to say that we trust we are moved by the same desire? If any person should vox.. II. E