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LUKE Xviu. 10.



CONFESSION of our sins, and humiliation on account of them, are not duties, which belong exclusively to our prayers. But, if ever the sense of our unworthiness ought to take full possession of the soul, it is, when we stand in the presence of God, when, after acknowledging his purity, and contemplating his bounty, we turn to the consideration of the sinfulness of our hearts, the ingratitude of our conduct, and the poverty of our best services. It is, however, much to be feared, that, in our intercourse with God, as well as with one another, we are not always thoroughly bonest. Accustomed, as we are, to put on our best dress, and keep back our deficiencies in our conversation with mankind, especially when we are ourselves the subjects of it, there is much reason to suspect, that we sometimes carry, either our vanity, or our equivocation and concealment, to the foot of the mercy seat, and there, as well as in the world, we think to appear better than we are. Sometimes our confession of sins degenerates into an act of customary formality,


The catalogue of his excellencies would, perhaps, soon have been exbausted, even in his own account, had he not, percbance, turned his eyes upon a poor Publican, who had also come up to the temple to pray. The sight of this man adus another clause to his impious prayer. “God, I thank thee, I am not as this Publican !” The Publicans were a class of men exceedingly odious to the Jews, because they were the appointed collectors of a revenue, which, with a reluctance never to be subdued, was paid by this obstinate nation to the emperour of Rome. It is true, the receivers of this tribute were, in general, not less iniquitous than hateful ; and nothing but the most extravagant propensity to selfapplause could have found any satisfaction in a consciousness of superiority to this despised class of his countrymen. Here, indeed, closes the Pharisee's enumeration of vices, in abstaining from which he congratulates himself.

And now let us turn, my bearers, from tbis fictitious story, the temple, the Pharisee, and Jerusalem, and look at our own times, our own churches, our own characters. How often, in our secret meditations and prayers, have we deluded ourselves, and offended God, by partial estimates of our moral worth ! In examining ourselves, how we suffer our thoughts to glance over the dark, and repose with delight on the bright portions of our character! In our commerce with men, do we not try to lure their gaze to these illuminated spots, and even venture to hope, that they may catch and please the eye of omniscience itself ? Do we not value ourselves most upon our freedom from those sins, which we are least tempt. ed to commit ; and think it a great virtue to have been afraid of a great vice ? Few of us are extortioners ; fewer, perhaps, adulterers. We do not outstrip the age in degeneracy; and we do not care to fall far behind it. We are not guilty, forsooth, of

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any sins but those, which most easily beset us ; we allow ourselves those indulgences only, which belong to our profession, our occupation, our rank in the world. Are we to expect contrition, humiliation, godly sorrow, and repentance, in the prayers of such men-men, who prefer complaining of the increasing corruption of the times to stepping out of their old place and manners to resist its progress, and who compose their consciences by the thought, that the world abounds with more corrupt inhabitants than themselves?

The Pharisee, however, in the parable, relies not entirely on bis freedom from atrocious guilt. He has yet in reserve some works of supererogation, to recommend himself more certainly to the God, who bears and disdains his prayer. “I fast,” says be, “twice in the week; I give tithes of all I pos

I These fasts, it should be observed, were not required by the law of Moses. They were imposed only by the traditions of the Rabbins, and adapted to impress an ignorant populace with an opinion of their peculiar sanctity, temperance, piety and punctuality. It is true, that religious fasting is not the method, by which we are now disposed to discover our reverence for religion, or secure the reputation of saints. At the present day, a man would not be in the road to applause, if he were discovered by his fellow citizeps praying at the corners of the streets, or if he were known to introduce two fast days into his domestic arrangements for the week. But, though we are not now so Judaical, or so ignorant, as to suppose, that such punctilious observances can atone for the want of piety, or of integrity, still are there none, who take to themselves undeserved credit for many ba- . bits and opinions, in the hope of concealing their want of the real spirit of christianity? Thus, it is popular, I had almost said fashionable, in the society, in wbich we live, to acknowledge, with much


seriousnesss, the importance of religious institutions, and to condemn, without reserve, that infidel philosophy, wbich bad almost effected the desolation of the civilized world. It is creditable, at least among us, to lend to the cause of Christ the support of our eloquence, and, when circumstances require, to open our purses. It is customary, to pay to its ministers agreeable attentions; and not to witbhold from its ordinances bonourable respect. 'Our churches are not yet deserted, nor our sabbaths generally and openly profaned. Is it uncharitable or presumptuous, to inquire, whether there is not a disposition to rest our claim to the high and sacred character of christians on these easy expressions of good will and respect? Are we not in danger of substituting these for that thorough purity and inward devotion, which are the very life of the system? Is it not more common, to contribute a word in support of its institutions, than to give an example of the graces, it would form; to subscribe a sum to advance its interests, than to sacrifice a vice, which is at war with its spirit ? Far be it from me, to withhold the honour, which belongs to christian bounty, or diminish that respect, which the institutions of our religion, even in these tempting times, have preserved; but far be it from me, also, to encourage you in the delusion, that any professions of regard to christianity will counteract the influence of that example, which sets at nought its authority; or that any contributions to its support, or any attentions to its teachers can atone for an habitual worldliness, which chokes and stifles all its virtues, or for a love of pleasure, which swallows up the wealth, the passions, and pursuits of its votaries.

There is, also, a great danger of confounding a regard for our own system of belief with a regard for our common faith. The Pharisee paid tithes of all he possessed. Forget not, my friends, there is due a tithe of charity, as well as of zeal, or of

a rationality; and let us be less solicitous to oppose others, than to excel them. The spirit of christianity is wasted, whenever the flame of dissension burns; and in contending for the faith, it is easy to lose the temper of Jesus.

One farther observation shall close our reflections on the conduct and spirit of this haughty Pharisee. He thanks God, you observe, that he is not as other men are. Remember, then, that a man may acknowledge it is the grace of God which constitutes the difference between him and others, and profess this humbling sentiment of the gospel, with some degree of sincerity, and, at the same time, cherish and express bis pride in the very language, which declares his faith, and in the very prayers, which accompany bis imaginary humiliation. Beware, my hearers, of carrying into the presence of your God a tone of spiritual pride, which you would be ashamed to exhibit in the presence of your fellow men.

. But to return to the parable. “The Publican," continues our Saviour, “standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!" There is nothing in the bistory, which would lead us to conclude, that this humble worshipper bad been guilty of enormous sins, that any unexpiated crime pressed upon bis conscience, and drew forth this exclamation of abasement and remorse. He was, perhaps, as honourable, as pure, and as devout, as was expected of the class, to which he belonged in the community; still we bear him smiting his breast with anguish, and exclaiming, God be merciful to me a sinner! And what was there in his circumstances to suggest so different a prayer from the other? Why could be not have addressed bis Maker thus: I thank thee, O God, I am not, as other men are, pròud, vain, and super

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