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How unkindly must thou needs take the delays of our conversion ? Certainly, had Zaccheus staid still in the tree, thou badst baulked his house as unworthy of thee.
What construction canst thou make of our wilful dilations, but as a stubborn contempt? 'how. canst thou but come to us in vengeance, if we come not down to entertain thee in a thankful obedience ?
Yet do I not hear thee say, Zaccheus, cast thyself down for haste (this was the counsel of the tempter to thee) but, “Come down in haste," and he did accordingly. There must be no more haste than good speed in our performances : we may offend as well in our heady acceleration, as in our delay. Moses ran so fast down the hill, that he stumbled spiritually, and brake the tables of God: we may so fast follow after justice, that we outrun charity. It is an unsafe obedience that is not discreetly and leisurely speedful.
The speed of his descent was not more than the alacrity of his entertainment: “ He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.” The life of hospitality is cheerfulness : let our cheer be never so great, if we do not read our welcome in our friend's face, as well as in his dishes, we take no pleasure in it.
Can we marvel, that Zaccheus received Christ joyfully? Who would not have been glad to have his house, yea himself, made happy with such a guest ? Had we been in the stead of this publican, how would our hearts have leaped within us for joy of such a presence? How many thousand miles are measured by some devout Christians, only to see the place where his feet stood ? how much happier must he needs think. himself, that owns the roof that receives him? But, О the incomparable happiness, then, of that man whose heart receives him, not for a day, not for years of days, not for millions of years, but for eternity! This may be our condition, if we be not straitened in our own bowels. O Saviour, do thou welcome thyself to these houses of clay, that we may receive a joyful welcome to thee in those everlasting habitations.
Zaccheus was not more glad of Christ, than the Jews were discontented. Four vices met here at once; envy, scrupulousness, ignorance, pride : their eye was evil because Christ's was good. I do not hear any of them invite Christ to his home, yet they snarl at the honour of this unworthy host: they thought it too much happiness for a sinner, which themselves willingly neglected to sue for. Wretched men! they cannot see the mercy of Christ, for being bleared with the happiness of Zaccheus; yea, that very mercy which they see torments them. If that viper be the deadliest which feeds the sweetest, how poisonous must this disposition needs be, that feeds upon
What a contrariety there is betwixt good' angels and evil men! the angels rejoice at thật whereat men pout and stomach; men are ready to cry and burst for anger, at that which makes inusic in heaven. O wicked and foolish elder brother, that feeds on hunger and his own heart without doors, because his younger brother is feasting on the fat calf within !
Besides envy, they stand scrupulously upon the terms of traditions. These sons of the earth might not be conversed with, their threshold was unclean! “ Touch me not, for I am holier than thou.” That he, therefore, who went for a prophet, should
go to the house of a publican and sinner, must needs be a great eyesore. They that might not go in to a sinner, cared not what sins entered into themselves; the true cousins of those hypocrites, who held it a pollution to go into the judgment hall, no pollution to murder the Lord of life. There cannot be a greater argument of a false heart, than to stumble at these straws, and to leap over the blocks of gross impiety. Well did our Saviour kuow how heinously offensive it would be to turn in to this publican ; he knows, and regards it not: a soul is to be won, what cares he for idle misconstruction ? Morally good actions must not be suspended upon danger of causeless scandal. In things indifferent and arbitrary, it is fit to be overruled by fear of offence; but if men will stumble in the plain ground of good, let them fall without our regard, not without their own peril
. I know not if it were not David's weakness to "abstain from good words while the wicked were in place.” Let justice be done in spite of the world, and, in spite of hell, mercy.
Ignorance was in part guilty of these scruples: they thought Christ either too holy to go to a sinner, or in going made unholy. Foolish men! to whom came he? to you righteous ? let him speak: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Whither should the physician go but to the sick ; "the whole need him not."
Love is the best attractive of us; and “hę to whom much is forgiven loves much.”
O Saviour, the glittering palaces of proud justiciaries are pot for thee; thou lovest the lowly and ragged cottage of a contrite heart. Neither could here be any danger of thy pollution : thy sun could cast his beams upon the impurest dunghill, and not be tainted. It was free and safe for the leper and bloody-fused to touch thee; thou couldst heal them, they could not infect thee. Neither is it otherways in this moral contagion. We, who are obnoxious to evil, may be insensibly defiled; thy purity was enough to remedy that which might mar a world; thou canst help us, we cannot hurt thee. O let thy presence ever bless us, and let us ever bless thee for thy presence.
Pride was an attendant of this ignorance : so did they note Zaccheus for a sinner, as if themselves had been none ; his sins were written in his forehead, theirs in their breast: the presumption of their secrecy makes them insult upon his notoriousness. The smoke of pride still flies upward, and, in the mounting, vanisheth : contrition beats it down, and fetcheth tears from the tender eyes. There are stage sins, and there are closet sins; these may not upbraid the other : they may be more heinous, though less manifest. It is a dangerous vanity to look outward at other men's sins with scoru, when we have more need to cast our eyes inward to see our own with humiliation.
Thus they stuinbled, and fell ; but Zaccheus stood : all their malicious murmur could not dishearten his piety and joy in the entertaining of Christ. Before, Zaccheus lay down as a sinner, now he stands up as a convert: sinning is falling, continuance in sin is lying down, repentance is rising and standing up : yet perhaps this standing was not so much the sight of his constancy or of his conversion, as of his re
Christ's affability hath not made him unmannerly; Zaccheu's stood : and what if the desire of more audibleness raised him to his feet? in that smallness of stature it was not fit he should lose ought of his height; it was meet so noble a proclamation should want no advantage of hearing: never was our Saviour better welcomed. The penitent publican makes his will, and makes Christ his supervisor: his will consists of legacies given, of debts paid, gifts to the poor, payments to the injured. There is liberality in the former,
in the latter justice, in both the proportions are large ; “Half to the poor, fourfold to the wronged.'
This hand sowed not sparingly: here must needs be much of his own that was well gotten, whether left by patrimony, or saved by parsimony, or gained by honest improvement; for when he had restored fourfold to every one whom he had oppressed, yet there remained a whole half for pious uses; and this he so distributes, that every word commends his bounty, "I give;" and what is more free than gift? In alms we may neither sell, nor return, nor cast away. We sell, if we part with them for importunity, for vain glory, for retribution; we return them, if we give with respect to former offices ; this is to pay, not to bestow : we cast away, if in our beneficence we neither regard order nor discretion. Zaccheus did neither cast away, nor return, nor sell, but give ; "I do give;" not I will.
The prorogation of good makes it thankless ; the alms that smells of the hand loses the praise; it is twice given that is given quickly. Those that defer their gifts till their death-bed, do as good as say, Lord, I will give thee something, when I can keep it no longer. Happy is the man that is his own executor; “I give my goods,” not another's. It is a thankless vanity to be liberal of another man's purse: whoso gives of that which he hath taken away from the owner, doth more wrong in giving than in stealing: God expects our gifts, not our spoils. I fear there is too many a school and hospital, every stone whereof may be challenged. Had Zaccheus meant to give of his extortions, he had not been so careful of his restitution : now he restores to others, that he may give of his own : "I give half my goods.” The publican's heart was as large as his estate; he was not more rich in goods than in bounty. Were this example binding, who should be rich to give? who should be poor to receive? In the straight beginnings of the church, those beneficences were requisite, which afterwards, in the larger elbow-room thereof, would have caused much confusion. If the first Christians laid down all at the Apostles' feet, yet, ere long, it was enough for the believing Corinthians, every first day of the week, to lay aside some pittance for charitable purposes. We are no disciples, if we do not imitate Zaccheus so far as to give liberally, according to the proportion of our estate.
Giving is sowing; the larger seeding, the greater crop; giving to the poor is feneration to God: the greater bank, the
more interest. Who can fear to be too wealthy ? Time was when men faulted in excess. Proclamations were fain to restrain the Jews, statutes were fain to restrain our ancestors; now there needs none of this, men know how to shut their hands alone : charity is in more danger of freezing than of burning How happy were it for the church, if men were only close-handed to hold, and not lime-fingered to take “To the poor,” not to rich heirs: God gives to him that hath, we to him that wants. Some want because they would, whether out of prodigality or idleness : some want because they must; these are the fit subjects of our beneficence, not those other. A poverty of our own making deserves no pity : he that sustains the lewd, feeds not his belly, but his vice. So then this living legacy of Zaccheus is free, “I give;" present, "I do give;" just
, “my goods;" large, “half my goods;" fit, “to the poor.
Neither is he more bountiful in his gift, than just in his restitution; “ If I have taken ought from any man by false accusation, I restore it fourfold.”
It was proper for a publican to pill and poll the subject, by devising complaints, and raising causeless vexations, that his mouth might be stopt with fees, either for silence or composition. This had Zaccheus often done: neither is this [if] a note of doubt, but of assertion. He is sure of the fact, he is not sure of the persons; their challenge must help to further his justice. The true penitence of this holy convert expresses itself in confession, in satisfaction : his confession is free, full, open.
What cares he to shame himself, that he may give glory to God? woe be to that bashfulness that ends in confusion of face. O God, let me blush before men rather than be confounded before thee, thy saints and angels !
His satisfaction is no less liberal than his gift. Had not Zaccheus been careful to pay the debts of his fraud, all had: gone to the poor: he would have done that voluntarily, which the young man in the gospel was bidden to do, and refusing went away sorrowful. Now he knew that his misgotten gain was not for God's Corban ; therefore he spares half, not to keep, but to restore: this was the best dish in Zaccheus's good cheer. In vain had he feasted Christ, given to the poor, confessed his extortions, if he had not made restitution. Woe is
me for the paucity of true converts : there is much stollen goods, little brought home. Men's hands are like the fisher's