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ward deportment, all was irregular and uncultivated within ;-and all these fair pretences, how promising soever, blasted by the indulgence of the worst of human passions--pride,--spiritual pride (the worst of all pride-hypocrisy, self-love, covetous. ness, extortion, cruelty, and revenge. What pity it is that the sacred name of religion should ever have been borrowed, and employed in so bad a work as in covering over such a black catalogue of vices ! or that the fair form of virtue should have been thus disgraced and forever drawn into suspicion, from the unworthy uses of this kind to which the artful and abandoned have often put her! The pharisee seems to have had not many scruples of this kind ; and the prayer lie makes use of in the temple is a true picture of the man's heart, and shews with what a disposition and frame of mind he came to worship.
God! I thank thee that thou hast formed me of different materials from the rest of my species, whom thou hast created frail and vain by nature, but by choice and disposition utterly corrupt and wicked!
Me, thou hast fashioned in a different mould, and hast infused so large a portion of thy spirit into me, lo! I am raised above the temptations and desires to which flesh and blood are subject !—I thank thee that thou hast made me thus :-not a frail vessel of clay, like that of other me:)-or even this publican, but that I stand here a chosen and sanctified vessel unto thee !
After this obvious paraphrase upon the words, which speaks no more than the true spirit of the pharisee's prayer,--you would naturally ask, What reason was there for all this triumph ?-or what
foundation could he have to insult in this manner over the infirmities of mankind ?-or even those of the humble publican who stood before him ?-Why, says he, I fast twice in the week; I give cythes of all that I possess.-Truly, a very indifferent account of himself ;-and if that was all he had to offer in his own behalf, God knows, it was but a weak foundation to support so much arrogance and self-conceit ; because the observance of both the one and the other of these ordinances, might be supposed well enough to be consistent with the most profigate of life and manners.
The conduct and behaviour of the publican appear very different ;-and, indeed, as much the reverse to this as you cuuld conceive. But before we enter upon that, as I have spoken largely to the character of the pharisee, 'twill be but justice to say a word or two in general to his. The publican was one of that order of men employed by the Roman emperors in levying the taxes and contributions which were from time to time exacted from Judea as a conquered nation. Whether from the particular fate of that employment, owing to the fixed aversion which men have to part with what is their own, or from whatever other causes it happened,-so it was, that the whole set of men were odious ; insomuch, that the name of a publican was a term of reproach and infamy amongst the Jews.
Perhaps the many instances of rigour to which their office might direct them,-heightened sometimes by a mixture of cruelty and insolence of their own,—and possibly always made to appear worse than they were by the loud clamours and misrepresentations of others;ếali might have contributed to form and fix this odium. But it was here, no doubt, as in all other classes of men whose professions ex, pose them to more temptations than that of others, that there are numbers who still behave well, and who, amidst all the snares and opportunities which lie in their way,-pass through them, not only with an unblemished character, but with the inward tes. timony of a good conscience.
The publican, in all likelihood, was one of these; -and the sentiments of candour and humility which the view of his condition inspired, are such as could come only from a heart and character thus described.
He goes up into the temple to pay his sacrifice of prayer;- in the discharge of which, he pleads no merit of his own,--enters into no comparison with others,—or justification of himself with God, but, in reverence to that holier part of the temple where his presence was supposed more immediately to be displayed, he keeps afar off, is afraid to lift up his eyes towards heaven ;-but smites upon his breast, and in a short but fervent ejaculation,-submissively begs God to have mercy upon his sins.O God! how precious, how amiable is true humility!—what a difference in thy sight does it make to consist betwixt man and man! Pride was not made for a creature with such manifold imperfections: religious pride is a dress which still worse becomes him ;-because, of all others, 'tis that to which he has the least pretence :--the best of us fall seven times a day, and thereby add some degree of unprofitableness to the character of those who do all that is commanded them. Was I perfect therefore, says Job, I would not know my soul, I would be si. lent, I would be ignorant of my own righteousness;
for, should I say I was perfect, it would prove me to be perverse. From this introduction I will take occasion to recommend this virtue of religious humility, which so naturally falls from the subject, and which cannot more effectually be enforced, than by an inquiry into the chief causes which produce the opposite vice to it, that of spiritual pride ; for in this malady of the mind of man,—the case is parallel with most others of his body, the dangers of which can never rightly be apprehended ; nor can remedies be applied either with judgment or success, till they are traced back to their first principles, and the seeds of the disorder are laid open and considered.
And first, I believe, one of the most general causes of spiritual pride, is that which seems to have misled the pharisee :-a mistaken notion of the true principles of his religion. He thought, no doubt; that the whole of it was comprehended in the two articles of paying tythes and frequent fasting; and that when he had discharged his conscience of them,-he had done all that was required at his hands, and might with reason go, and thank God that he had not made him like others. It is not to be questioned, but through force of this error, the pharisee might think himself to be, what he pretended, a religious and upright man.For however he might be brought to act a double and insincere part in the eyes of men upon worldly views--it is not to be supposed—that when he stood by himself, apart in the temple, and no witnesses of what passed between him and his God, that he should knowingly and wilfully have dared to act so open and barefaced a scene of mockery in the face of heaven.
This is scarce probable ;--and therefore must have been owing to some delusion in his education, which had early implanted in his mind false and wretched notions of the essentials of religion, which, as he grew up, had proved the seeds of infinite error, both in practice and speculation,
With the rest of his sect, he had been so principled and instructed as to observe a scrupulous nicety and most religious exactness in the lesser matters. of his religion,-its frequent washings, its fastings and other external rites, of no merit in themselves, but to stand exempted from the more troublesome exactness in the weightier matters of the law, which were of eternal and unchangeable obligation. So that they were in truth blind guides, --who thus will strain at a gnat and yet swallow a camel; and, as our Saviour reproves them from a familiar instance of domestick inconsistency,-would make clean outside of the cup and platter,---yet suffer the inside the most material part, to be full of corruption and excess. From this knowledge of the character and principles of the pharisee, 'tis easy to account for his sentiments and behaviour in the temple, which were just such as they would have led one to have expected.
Thus it has always happened, by a fatality.common to all such abuses of religion, as mąke it to consist in external rites and ceremonies, more than inward purity and integrity of heart.-As these out. ward things are easily put in practice, and capable of being attained io without much capacity, or much opposition to flesh and blood-it too naturally betrays the professors of it into a groundless persua, sion of their own godliness, and a despicable one of