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of exacting the respect of his neighbours for his deeper religion (which I need not say would be a serious mistake in such a place as Bedford), or if a person comes to daily service for the set purpose of pleading it before God as a part of his own righteousness, which is to stand him instead of the merits and death of Jesus Christ, then of course such an one would come under the reprobation of Christ as a Pharisee, or worse than a Pharisee ; but if a person say within himself, “I so love the service of my God that I cannot stint myself to His service on Sunday only: I feel that He has done so much for me both in creation and redemption that I will publicly acknowledge this in the courts of His house as often as I can : I feel that the service of His Holy Catholic Church is a fitting offering of prayer and praise for every day: I wish publicly to acknowledge not only on my knees in my closet, not only in my home with my family, but in His house, the house of prayer, that His mercies in His dear Son are daily renewed to me and to His Church -if, I say, any one of you come to daily service with these thoughts and feelings, then I assure you, as an ambassador of Christ, that you are in no danger of being accounted by Him as a selfrighteous Pharisee for so doing.
Again, there is a very solemn matter connected with the application of the parable to our own times which I can hardly pass over.
They who entertain what is called a high view of the Sacraments, and who strive to take the great things said of them in Scripture as literally as possible, are often accused of being actuated by a Pharisaical spirit.
It is supposed that the Pharisees, being formalists, made much of forms; that the Sacraments ordained by Christ are mere forms, and that they who strive to set them forth as they are undoubtedly set forth in the Bible and the Prayer Book, are in danger of this Pharisaical, formal spirit.
Now if the two blessed Sacraments of the Gospel were forms, if they were mere outward things there might be this danger—but they are not. They are each of them the "outward visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same and a pledge to assure us thereof." It is because we desire grace from Jesus Christ Himself, and because we believe His word that He will be faithful to His engagements to the end, that
much and think much of Sacraments. We come to them, not because we trust in ourselves, but because we do not trust in ourselves. Knowing our own weakness and dryness, we come to the Lord's table for the “strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the body and blood of Christ.”
More than this, we of the Church, if we
understand the doctrine of the Church, do not come to the Holy Communion to make any profession whatsoever of faith, or of anything else. With us nothing of self attaches to the Sacrament. We come to plead before God the Father; to show forth before God, angels, and men, not our own poor weak miserable faith, but “the love unspeakable, the love stronger than death and hell, the love that passeth knowledge, of the Son of the Most High God.”
While, then, men accuse us of trusting in ourselves, trusting in our forms, and of ignorance of the Gospel, we will meekly say in our hearts, Thou, God, seest me.' Thou knowest that we desire to love nothing but Thee, and to trust in nothing but the cross of Christ; and that we relinquish all self-reliance, and know ourselves in ourselves to have nothing but sin and misery, and esteem these ordinances of Thine, not for their own sake, but as memorials of Thy Son-memorials which He has appointed, which He has blessed, and in which, by faith, we see Him manifested."*
To return, then, What was it that the Lord blamed in the Pharisee?
Undoubtedly his self-sufficiency, his self-contemplation, his spiritual pride.
Now this spirit appears when we least expect it. It appears in the religious professor, in the man who fancies that because he has been con* Newman's “ Parochial Sermons," vol. iii. Sermon xix.
verted, or because he has attained to certain clear views of salvation by grace, that therefore he is safe, and can look down with pity upon those who have not attained to what he has. Remember, my brethren, that our Lord, in speaking of conversion, says, not merely "except ye be converted,” but “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The great sign of conversion in the sight of Christ and His Apostles is not speaking well and fluently on the doctrines of grace, not' having our feelings excited, not being able to say that “ Jesus is my Saviour,” but having the simple mind of children, receiving without hesitation the mysteries of the faith, taking Christ at His word in all things, and (if we are to believe St. Paul) “in lowliness of mind each esteeming other better than ourselves."
Take heed then lest, when you little think it, you resemble this Pharisee. In a spiritual dispensation like the present you may not have one outward feature like his, and yet your whole heart and mind may be pervaded by his spirit of self-esteem.
Indeed, so far as the portrait drawn by our Lord in this parable is concerned, he may be actually better than you.
Many a professor have I met who would think it popish to fast even on the days appointed by the Church, who, so far from giving
a tithe for religious purposes, would give next to nothing, except to advance his own sect or his own views, and yet every word which fell from him, every muscle of his countenance, would show the good terms on which he was with himself. What right has such a Christian to throw a stone at this Jew? With none of the Pharisee's self-denial, he has every atom of his self-esteem.
And take courage, 0 Christian, O weary, sinladen, self-hating Christian, from this publican.
You see, from his example, what God requires of you. He requires of you that you should seek, and throw yourself upon, His mercy. In coming to God, then, extenuate nothing. Do not say that such and such a temptation under which you fell was too strong for you, because He, no doubt, remembers what you forget; that there was a way of escape provided, if you would have seen it and not turned away your eyes from it. Do not plead your circumstances, because God, perhaps, may be able to show that others under more adverse circumstances have borne up where you have failed. It is the safest to come to God cloaking nothing, extenuating nothing, mentioning nothing, but His promises of mercy in Jesus Christ.