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heart. He will not, like unhumbled Adam, tacitly lay the fault of his vileness upon God, and say, the “passions which thou gavest me, they deceived me, and I sinned :" he is too penitent thus to reproach his Maker; he smites upon his breast, his treacherous, ungrateful, desperately wicked breast; a breast now ready to burst: and at length, out of the abundance of his heart, I doubt not with many tears, he at last cries out,
God be merciful to me a sinner.” Not, God be merciful to yonder proud pharisee. He found enough in himself to vent his resentment against, without looking abroad upon others. Not, God be merciful to me a saint; for he knew all his righteousness were but filthy rags. Not, God be merciful to such or such a one; but, God be merciful to me, even to me a sinner; a sinner by birth; a sinner in thought, word, and deed ; a sinner as to my person ; a sinner as to all my performances; a sinner in whom is no health, in whom dwelleth no good thing; a sinner, poor, miserable, blind, and naked, from the crown of the head to the soul of the feet, full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores; a self-accused, self-condemned sinner. What think you? would this publican have been offended if any minister had told him that he deserved to be damned ? would he have been angry, if any one had told him, that by nature he was half a devil and half a beast? No: he would have confessed a thousand hells to have been his due, and that he was an earthly, devilish sinner. He felt now what a dreadful thing it was to depart from the living God : he felt that he was inexcusable every way; that he could in no wise, upon account of any thing in himself, be justified in the sight of God; and therefore lays himself at the feet of sovereign mercy:
“ God be merciful to me a sinner." Here is no confidence in the flesh, no plea fetched from fasting, paying tithes, or the performance of any other duty; here is no boasting that ho was not an extortioner, unjust, or an adulterer. Perhaps he had been guilty of all these crimes, at least he knew he would have been guilty of all these, had he been left to follow the devices and desires of his own heart; and therefore, with a broken and contrite spirit, he cries out, “God be merciful to me a sinner."
This man came up to the temple to pray, and he prayed indeed. And a broken and contrite heart God will not despise. I tell you, says our Lord, I who lay in the bosom of the father from all eternity; I who am God, and therefore know all things ; I who can neither deceive, nor be deceived, whose judgment is according to right; I tell you, whatever you may think of it, or of me for telling you so, this man, this publican, this despised, sinful, but broken-hearted man, went down to his house
justified (acquitted, and looked upon as righteous in the sight of God) rather than the other.
Let pharisees take heed that they do not pervert this text: for when it is said, “ this man went down to his house justified rather than the other," our lord does not mean that both were justified, and the publican had rather more justification than the pharisee: but it implies, either that the publican was actually justified, but the pharisee was not ; or, that the publicani was in a better way to receive justification, than the pharisee; according to our Lord's saying, “ the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before you.” That the pharisee was not justified is certain, for God resisteth the proud; and that the publican was at this time actually justified (and perhaps went home with a sense of it in his heart) we have great reason to infer from the latter part of the text, “ For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The parable therefore now speaks to all who hear me this day: for that our Lord intended it for our learning, is evident, from his making such a general application ; " for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
The parable of the publican and pharisee, is but as it were a glass, wherein we may see the different dispositions of all mankind; for all mankind may be divided into two general classes. Either they trust wholly in themselves, or in part, that they are righteous, and then they are pharisees ; or they have no confidence in the flesh, are self-condemned sinners, and then they come under the character of the publican just now described. And we may add also, that the different reception these men met with, points out to us in lively colors, the different treatment the self-justifier and self-condemned criminal will meet with at the terrible day of judgment. “Every one that exalts himself shall be abased, but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Every one, without exception, young or old, high or low, rich or poor, (for God is no respecter of persons) every one, whosoever he be, that exalteth himself
, and not free-grace; every one that trusteth in himself that he is righteous, that rests in his duties; or thinks to join them with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, for justification in the sight of God, though he be no adulterer, no extortioner, though he be not outwardly unjust, nay though he fast twice in the week, and give tithes of all that he possesses ; yet shall he be abased in the sight of all good men who know him here, and before men and angels, and God himself
, when Jesus Christ comes to appear in judg
ment hereafter. How low, none but the Almighty God can tell. He shall be abased to live with devils, and make his abode in the lowest hell for evermore.
Hear this, all ye self-justifiers, tremble, and behold your doom! a dreadful doom, more dreadful than words can express, or thought conceive! If you refuse to humble yourselves, after hearing this parable, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that God shall visit you with all his storms, and pour all the vials of his wrath upon your rebellious heads; you exalted yourselves here, and God shall abase you hereafter; you are as proud as the devil, and with devils shall you dwell to all eternity. Be not deceived, God is not mocked ; he sees your hearts, he knows all things. And notwithstanding you may come up to the temple to pray, your prayers are turned into sin, and you go down to your houses not justified, if you are self-justifiers; and do you know what it is not to be justified ? Why, if you are not justified, the wrath of God abideth upon you ; you are in your blood ; all the curses of the law belong to you. Cursed are you when you go out; cursed are you when you come in; cursed are your thoughts; cursed are your words ; cursed are your deeds; every thing you do, say, or think from morning to night, is only one continued series of sin. However highly you may be esteemed in the sight of men ; however you may be honored with the uppermost seats in the synagogues in the church militant, you will have no place in the church triumphant. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God. Pull down every self-righteous thought, and every proud imagination, that now exalteth itself against the perfect, personal, imputed righteousness of the dear Lord Jesus. For he and he alone) that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
He that humbleth himself, whatever he be ; if, instead of fasting twice in a week, he has been drunk twice in the week ; if, instead of giving tithes of all that he possesses, he has cheated the minister of his tithes, and the king of his taxes; notwithstanding he be unjust, an extortioner, an adulterer, nay, notwithstanding the sins of all mankind centre and unite in him; yet, if through grace, like the publican, he is enabled to humble himself, he shall be exalted ; not in a temporal manner; for christians must rather expect to be abased, and to have their names cast out as evil, and to lay down their lives for Christ Jesus in this world. But he shall be exalted in a spiritual sense ; he shall be freely justified from all his sins by the blood of Jesus; he shall have peace with God—a peace which passeth all understanding; not only peace, but joy in believing; he shall be translated from the kingdom of Satan, to the king
dom of God's dear Son : he shall dwell in Christ, and Christ in him: he shall be one with Christ, and Christ one with him: he shall drink of divine pleasures as out of a river: he shall be sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body; in one word, he shall be filled with all the fullness of God. Thus shall the man who humbleth himself be exalted here; but O how high shall he be exalted hereafter! as high as the highest heavens, even to the right hand of God. There he shall sit, happy both in soul and body, and judge angels; high, out of the reach of all sin and trouble, eternally secure from all danger of falling. O sinners, did you but know how highly God intends to exalt those who humble themselves and believe in Jesus, surely you would humble yourselves, at least beg of God to
for it is he that must strike the rock of your hearts, and cause floods of contrite tears to flow therefrom. O that God would give this sermon such a commission, as he once gave to the rod of Moses ! I would strike you through and through with the rod of his word, until each of you was brought to cry out with the poor publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” What pleasant language would this be in the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth !
Are there no poor sinners among you? What are you all pharisees ? Surely, you cannot bear the thoughts of returning home not justified ; can you? What if a fit of the apoplexy should seize you, and your souls be hurried away before the awful judge of quick and dead? What will you do without Christ's righteousness? If you go out of the world not justified, you must remain so for ever. O that you would humble yourselves ! then would the Lord exalt you; it may be, that, whilst I am speaking, the Lord might justify you freely by his grace. I observed, that perhaps the publican had a sense of his justification before he went from the temple, and knew that his pardon was sealed in heaven. And who knows but you may be thus exalted before you go home, if you humble yourselves? O what peace, love, and joy would you then feel in your hearts! You would have a heaven upon earth. O that I could hear any of you say (as I once heard a poor sinner, under my preaching, cry out) “He is come, he is come !" How would you then, like him, extol a precious, a free-hearted Christ! How would you magnify him for being such a friend to publicans and sinners! Greater love can no man show, than to lay down his life for a friend ; but Christ laid down his life for his enemies, even for you, if you are enabled to humble yourselves, as the publican did. Sinners, I know not how to leave off talking with you; I would fill my mouth with arguments, I would plead with you. Come, let us reason to
gether; though your sins be as scarlet, yet if you humble yourselves, they shall be as white as snow. One act of true faith in Christ justifies you for ever and ever; he has not promised you what he cannot perform; he is able to exalt you. For God hath exalted, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow; nay, God hath exalted him to be not only a Prince, but a Savior. May he be a Savior to you! and then I shall have reason to rejoice in the day of judgment, that I have not preached in vain, nor labored in vain.
THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCING THE WORLD OF SIN, RIGHT
EOUSNESS, AND JUDGMENT.
John xvi. 8.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of right
eousness, and of judgment.
These words contain part of a gracious promise, which the blessed Jesus was pleased to make to his weeping and sorrowful disciples. The time was now drawing near, in which the Son of man was first to be lifted upon the cross, and afterwards to heaven. Kind, wondrous kind ! had this merciful High priest been to his disciples, during the time of his tabernacling amongst them. He had compassion on their infirmities, answered for them when assaulted by their enemies, and set them right when out of the way either in principle or practice. He neither called or used them as servants, but as friends; and he revealed his secrets to them from time to time. He opened their understandings, that they might understand the scriptures; explained to them the hidden mysteries of the kingdom of God, when he spoke to others in parables. Nay, he became the servant of them all, and even condescended to wash their feet. The thoughts of parting with so dear and loving a master as this, especially for a long season, must needs affect them much. When on a certain occasion he intended to be absent from them only for a night, we are told, he was obliged to constrain them to leave him: no wonder then, that when he now informed them he must entirely go away, and that the pharisees in his absence would put them out of their