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to implore thy mercy, much less to deserve it. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
Far be it from me, with Pelagius, to make my felf great, by diminishing thy goodness, or to cast on my creation the disorders that spring from my
disobedience. Thou didst create me inno. cent: rebellion against thy command made me guilty, and guilt divested me of original justice, and all the consequences of this favour. But thou, O Son of God, didst make thyself man, to fortify my weakness by thy infirmities, and to put me into the way of life by thy dolorous, but precious death: this not only enables me to invoke thy name, but to obtain pardon for my offences: to execute thy commands, and follow thy counsels. Therefore all the good I do is the effect of thy grace, and the grace itself of thy liberality. It is a favour thou dost bestow, not a reward I deserve.
GOSPEL of St. Luke, Chap. xviii. Verse
9. And be spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.
10. Two men went up into the temple to pray i the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11. The Pharisee food and prayed thus witb. himself, God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I pollefs.
13. And tbe publican standing a-far off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but fmite upon bis breaft, saying, God be merciful to me @ finner,
14. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other ; for every one that exalteth himself fall be abased; and he that bumbleth himself Mall be exalted.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
E read here the condemnation of a Pha.
risee, and the justification of a publican. The one begg'd a favour of God by pleading his own merits; the other sued for pardon by a sincere acknowledgment of his sins, and of his unworthiness to obtain it. Yet that presuming saint return’d a sinner? and this humble penitent received pardon. This man went down to bis house justified rather than the other.
How often do we imitate the Pharisee's pride? How seldom the publican's humility? We enter into the church upon a pretence to pray ;
but we appear in state and equipage, not in the posture of a suppliant, much less of a sinner, and least of all of a penitent. No! like the pharisee, we stand ; as if we intended rather to brave our Maker, than to appease his anger. If we ask a favour, we expect the grant rạther as a debt, than an alms or a gratuity. If God refuses our requests, we fly out into complaints and murmurs : if he is pleased to grant them, into pride, that we are not like other men.
But why, proud worm, are you not like other men? Because God has favoured you more? His favours are indeed marks of his goodness, but not of your greatness. The account, you must once render, rises with the benefits you have received ; and so will your punishment, if you have misapply'd them. Is not this your care? How often has he warn'd you of your disorders by interior inspirations, by reading, and exhorta
tions ? How often has he conjured you to return to your duty: and yet, deaf to his call, you have refused his invitations, and rather obeyed the inclination of passion, than his persuasion to repentance. But you are not like other men, extortioners, adulterers. Thank God for the favour : his grace exempted you from these fins, not your own strength: your innocence is his gift, not your own purchase. Acknowledge it with humility, and compassionate your neighbour's weakness ; but take care not to insult. Whosoever wonders how a Christian can fall into such crimes, by a just judgment of God falls into the very fame, and learns by his own experience, that he, who commits the least fins, is capable to commit the greatest.
Let the misfortune of others put you upon your guard : let it move you to implore God's assistance, to avoid those occasions, and temptations that have overcome them; and assure yourself, your security lies rather in flight than resistance. If you are not like other men, that is, neither unjuft, nor unchafte ; you are at least in pride and presumption ; and certainly he, who is guilty of these criines, has no cause to applaud his own conduct, or to censure that of his neighbour.
O my God! I confess I am not like other men, but ten times more ungrateful, more wicked. Had they received of your bounty those graces, you have bestowed on me, they would have employed them to your glory, and their own perfection; whilft I, alas! by a supine negligence have turned them to my prejudice. How often have I received thy facred body and precious blood ? One communion, well performed, is fufficient to enflame a foul with the love of a seraphin, and to turn a finner into a saint. Yet, after so many communions, I am still the same; a Nave to my passions, and a stranger to virtue. I sleep in my imperfections, and, insensible of my folly, make no effort to remove them.
You fast twice a week: you pay tithes, and injure no man. The Pharisee did as much as this comes to ; however, it did not justify him. Those exterior duties of religion, that maceration of the body, if done with a pure heart, and a sincere intention, are, no doubt, laudable actions, and grateful to God. But oh! how often have such actions nothing pious but the appearance ? The angel of the church of Sardis was reprehended in the revelations because his works were not perfect before God, Rev. iii. 2. He did all the functions of a bishop: he preached, catechised, and laboured in the conversion of souls ; his conduct appeared not only regular, but zealous and edifying. Yet all this in the light of God was imperfect within, tho' dazling without. His zeal was mix'd with pride or interest, and one of those vices is sufficient to spoil the most laudable action, and to transform it into vice.
Let us not therefore lay too much stress upon those exterior actions ; neither mortifications, nor chastity, nor justice, will fanctify us, unless they are accompanied with christian humility. The Pharisee faited, prayed, and payed tithes ; yet he returned from the temple a finner as he came ; and the reason was, because he presumed too much on his own merits, and despised his neighbour. This should teach us to begin a spiritual life with humility. Upon this basis, virtue ftands firm: without it, it falls to the ground. God withdraws his hand, permits us to fall sometimes into the most shameful disorders, to teach us, by our own experience, that our virtue conies from him; and nothing but diffidence in our own
ftrength, and confidence in his goodness, can preserve it.
The publican entered the temple with the Pharisee ; but as their dispositions were different, fo was also the effects of their prayers. He durft not come near the altar; the publican flood a-far off ; he retired into a corner, awed by the majesty of the place, and more by his own unworthiness to appear before God, whom he had offended. He was so taken up with a true sense of his sins, that he never thought of his virtues. With eyes cast down, he smote his breast, and cried out for mercy, putting all his confidence in the goodnefs of God, and none in his own merit. He would not so much as lift up bis eyes unto heaven ; but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
But tho' he feared to look up to heaven, God cast down a favourable eye upon him ; and he obtained pardon, because he was almost ashamed to ask it, and thought himself wholly unworthy to receive it. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself, Mall be abased, and he that humbleth himself fall be exalted.
This publican's conduct is a pattern God has fet all sinners, who sincerely sue for pardon at his tribunal į they must acknowledge their fins with forrow and confusion ; ask pardon with confidence on the one side, and with a profound humility on the other ; rely on God's goodness, and our Saviour's merits, and place all their hope in his mercy. These dispositions foften his anger, and disarm his justice. He will not despise a contrite and bumble beart, Pfal. li, 17.
Give me, O God, the humble sentiments of this publican, and banish from my heart the pride of the Pharisee. I can lay before thy divine