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Pharisee (we see) was rather hated than heard for his arrogant and much Speaking; but the poor Publican, for his fhort, modest, and humble Prayer, found a gracious Aca ceptance; the one went away condemnd for his Self-conceit, the other went home justify'd for his Self-condenining? Which may teach us to mind chiefly the good Disposition of our Soul, and not to affect Length or Vanity in our Addresses untó God; for these things are neither necefsary nor becoming in our Approaches to the Divine Majesty. He is not to be inform’d by any Words, as Men must be ; for he knows our Necessities before we ask : He is not to be persuaded by many Words, as Men are; for he is void of all Passions, and so cannot be mov'd or wrought upon that way: nor is he to be pleas'd with new Words, as vain Men are wont to be ; for he is a
and perfect' Mind, and so far above all the little Gratifications of Fancy and Imagination. That which God principally looks to, is the Heart, to find that inflam'd with the Love of him, and strong Desires of his Mercy and Pardon; and where that is, a few hearty words will serve the turn, and prevail for both,
In short then, this Parable may teach us, 1. To frequent the Temple, Church, or Publick Places of Divine Worship, fet apart and consecrated for that purpose; not creeping into Houses, nor following the separate Meetings of Secta ries and Seducers, which breed Strife and Confusion, and every evil Work'; but to assemble and meet together in God's House, where he hath promis'd to meet and bless us : and that will tend to beget Love and Charity, and best manifest our Union and Communion with one another.
2. In all our Addreffes to God, let us hence learn to subdue all Pride and Loftiness of Heart, and to approach him with all Humility and Lowliness both of Body and Mind. To shew our bodily Reverence, let us do it by standing or kneeling, not by sitting at Prayers, as the manner of fome is, who herein fhew more Rudeness and Irreverence to their Maker, than they are wont to do before a Magistrate. For the Reverence and Humility of the Mind, let us shew it by our mean and low Thoughts of our felves; and instead of boasting with the proud Pharisee, that we are better than other Men, let us rank our felves among the worst, and say with the poor Publican, Lord, be merciful to me a Sinner.
. The Epistle for the Twelfth Sunday after
2 Cor. iii. 4-10. Such Trust have we through Christ to God-ward :
not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our selves; but our Sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able Ministers of the New Testament, &c.
"HE Service for this Day puts us in mind of God
Almighty's great Readiness to hear our Prayers,
and to give more than we can defire or deserve; and from thence teaches us to implore the Abundance of his Mercy, for the Pardon of our Sins, and the pouring out of his Graces upon us. To which end,
The Epistle for the Day speaks of putting our Trust in God thro Jesus Chrift: Such Trust (faith the Apostle) have me thro Chrift to God-ward; which words relate chiefly to the Fidelity of the Apostles in the Work of the Ministry, and the Success they had thereby, which they look'd upon as their greatest Glory, and needed no other Conimendation; not arrogating any thing of it to themselves, but ascribing all to the Power and Grace of God: for in the next words he acknowledges their utter Insufficiency to think or do any good thing of themselves; saying, Not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our Selves: To which he adds God Almighty's All-fufficiency to help them ; But our Sufficiency is of God. Which they found in the Exercise of a Ministration far beyond that of Mo. ses, as the Sequel of this Epistle will make plainly appear.
The first and great Lesson here taught us is our utter Insufficiency to think or do any good thing of our selves, in these words, Not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our. selves; and if not to think, fure
not to do any good thing by our own Power: which made the Apostle ask the Question, Who is sufficient for these things implying our natural Impotence and Inability to every good Word or Work. This is evident from many Passages in Holy Scripture, and likewise from many Ex-' amples of human Frailty recorded therein : to which we may add our own woful Experience for a Proof and Confirmation of this fad Truth.
The Holy Scriptures abound with Expressions that set forth this our great Impotence and Inability. Without me (faith our Saviour) ye can do nothing ; John 15.5. I can do nothing of my self, faith the great Apostle St. Paul: And if that great Champion of the Faith were so sensible of his own Weakness, how much more ought we to own and lament our greater Impotence? We can call nothing our own, but our Infirmities and Imperfections: all the rest is freely given us of God, in whom we live, move, and have our Being; and who worketh in us both to will and to do, ac. cording to his good Pleasure.
Moreover, The many Instances of human Frailty recorded in Scripture may abundantly convince us of this Insufficiency. David, when left to himself, fell into great Enormities, even to the committing the crying Sins of Mur. der and Adultery, which cost him a fore and fad Repen, tance. St. Peter shamefully deny'd his Master after many Promises and Protestations to the contrary, which made him weep very bitterly; and may be a warning to all, that think of standing, to take heed left they fall. St. Paul confess'd that in him, that is, in his Flesh, there dwelt no good thing. And if we consult our own fad Experience, we shall find, that we are not sufficient of our felves so much as to think a good Thought, and much less to perform any good Action.
But whence comes this utter Impotence and Inability to all Good? Why, this proceeds partly from the original Corruption and Depravedness of our Nature, contracted by the Fall of our first Parents; and partly from the evil Suggestions and Temptations of our ghostly Enemies.
First, I say, this proceeds from the original Corruption and Depravedness of our Nature, contracted by the Fall of our first parents. This is the first and great Cause of all the Impiety and Imbecility of Mankind; How weak is thine Heart (faith God) seeing thou hast done these things? Ezek.
16.30. Indeed God made Man at first upright, and endow'd him with Faculties sufficient to enable him to do his Will; but he hath perverted bis Way, and sought out many Inventions : Eccleß. 7:29. Our first Parents, by difobeying their Maker, loft both their Strength and their Innocence together, and have deriv'd down Weakness and Misery to their Pofterity ever since. This brought Darkness into our Minds, Crookedness into our Wills, Disorder into our Affections, and thereby an Impotence upon the whole Man: And hence it comes to pass, that we are not sufficient of our felves to think any thing that is good; the Imaginations of the Heart, in this degenerate State; being evil, only evil, and that continually. Again,
Secondly, This proceeds partly from the evil Suggeftions and Temptations of our spiritual Enemies; who, working upon the Corruption of our Nature, encrease our Weak. ness, and render us both unwilling and unable to do any thing as we ought: These daily assault and follicit us to Sin, plying us with their Temptations, whereby they im. pair our Strength, and create this Impotence. Satan, the great Enemy of Mankind, hath his Wiles, his Devices, and his fiery Darts to wound and weaken us. The World hath Baits and Snares to allure and entrap us; both which are too apt to prevail upon us, and render us too feeble to refist or conquer them. Beside which, we have an Enemy in our Borom that is still ready to join issue with the two former; the Flesh lufting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flemi by which our Strength is mightily weaken'd and impair'd in the Combat; insomuch that we may all say with St. Paul, The Good that we would do, we do not, and the Evil that we would not, that we do : which is sufficient to convince us of our utter Inability to think or do any thing that is good of our selves.
But what Remedy have we in this case, or how may we be reliev'd under this Impotence? Why, that the next words tell us, Our Sufficiency is of God. We are not left helpless, to sink under the Burden of our Infirmities, but we have a Door of Hope open'd for us, and are succour'd by a Divine Hand : for tho we are insufficient of our felves, yet our Sufficiency is of God; and we are allifted by him whó is all-sufficient, and can do more than we can ask or think. Of this Sufficiency we have abundant Proof from Scripture, from Example, and from our own Experience. The
Lord himself told St. Paul, that his Grace was sufficient for him, and that his Strength was made perfect in Weakness; 2 Cor. 12.9. This made him tell the Corinthians, that God was able fo to make all Grace abound towards them that they always having all Sufficiency in all things, might abound to 'evea ry good Work ; 2 Cor. 9. 8. Hence we find the Apostle de claring, that tho he could do nothing of himself, yet he could do all things through Christ that Atrengthned him; Phil. 4. 13. And though he could do nothing against the Truth, yet he could do or suffer any thing for it; 2 Cor. 13. 8. His Weakness was turn'd into Strength; and he who was not sufficient to think or do a good thing, was able to perform the hardest Task, and nothing was impossible to him. And to this the Experience of good Christians can set their Seals, wbó have found greatest Assistance in times of greatest Exia gence, and have been thereby enabled to act not only above their Hopes, but beyond their Strength.
But whence is this Sufficiency? Why, the Text tell us, 'tis of God; 'tis not of our felves, who have nothing but Impotence and Infirmities to boast of: but 'tis of God,
who hath All-fufficiency in himself, and is willing to impart what is sufficient for us. All our natural Powers, whereby we perform any natural Action, are wholly from him ; fór he giveth us Life, and Breath, and all things. And all the fupernatural Aids and Affistances of Divine Grace, whereby we do any spiritual and acceptable Service to him, are more especially and entirely his, which is the Sufficiency here principally intended, whereby our natural Parts and Powers are rais'd to higher degrees of spiritual Strength in God's Service, than of themselves they could arrive to.
And to this the Apostle here chiefly refers, in fayingy Our Sufficiency is of God, who hath made us abte Ministers of the New Testament : meaning, that by the Power of Divine Grace they were affifted in the Work of the Ministry, and enabled to do greater things for the Conversion of Souls, than could be done without it. 'Tis this that makes the Man of God perfect, and thorowly furnish'd for every good Word and Work: by which we likewise are made able Ministers of the New Testament; that is, of the New Covenant made with us in Christ, in contradistinction to the Legal Covenant deliver'd by Moses: of which New Covenant we are, by the Ability that God hath given us, the Preachers and Dispensers; not of the Letter, which conlists only in the Words or Writing, without any inward Vol. IV. Part 2