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A Discourse Upon
T H E
P H A R I S E E
A N D - T
P U B L I C A N
Wherein several great and weighty things are handled:
as, the nature of prayer, and of obedience to the law,
with how it obliges Christians, and wherein it consists.
Wherein is also shewed, the equally deplorable condition of the Pharisee,
or hypocritical and self-righteous man; and of the Publican, or sinner that lives
and in open violation of the Divine laws. Together with the way and method of God's
F R E E - G R A C E
in pardoning penitent sinners;
proving that He justifies them by imputing Christ's
righteousness to them.
Author of "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
Edited by George Offor.
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ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
This important treatise unveils, in few but telling words, the nature of prayer,
about which mankind has made most awful mistakes. Multitudes conceive that the heart-searching
God can be influenced and propitiated by eloquent words and forms of prayer; whilst
the few, who are taught by the Holy Spirit, feel and know that the ardent desire,
the aspirations, the fervent wishes of the mind, can alone be accepted by the Eternal;
and even then only through the merits of the Redeemer.
The first edition appeared in 1635, and it soon became a very popular book. The use
and application announced at the end do not appear to have been published, unless
the author meant one of his later productions to answer that purpose. The twelfth
edition has no date on the title page; to it is added Bunyan's last Sermon, and his
dying sayings,—"Licensed, Sept. 10th, 1688"; but this announcement had
been probably continued from some earlier edition. The number of cheap reprints of
this little volume may account, in some measure, for the amazing errors which crept
in and deformed the book; for with the exception of "Grace Abounding,"
"The Pilgrim," and "The Holy War," few books have been so carelessly
and disgracefully printed. For more than a century Bunyan has been represented as
saying, "How did God deal with sinners before his righteousness was actually
in being." In fact, no reader can conceive the mutilated state in which this
valuable treatise has been published, unless by actual comparison with those printed
before the author's decease. Some considerable omissions, doubtless, arose from political
causes. Bunyan died very shortly before the glorious revolution in 1688,—and in drawing
a faithful portrait of a publican or tax gatherer, he supposed the country to be
conquered by a foreign power. "Would it not be an insufferable thing? yea, did
not that man deserve hanging ten times over, that should, being a Dutchman, fall
in with a French invader, and farm at his hands, those cruel and grievous taxations,
which he, in barbarous wise, should at his conquest lay upon them; and exact and
force them to be paid with an over, and above of what is appointed." He goes
on to argue, that if this would be a severe trial at the hand of a foreigner, how
much more oppressive would it appear if exercised by a fellow countryman.
"If these things are intolerable, what shall we think of such men as shall join
to all this compliance with a foreign prince, to rob the church of God? yea, that
shall become a man in power under them, to wring out of the hand of a brother, his
estate; yea, his bread and livelihood." These paragraphs, and much more, were
omitted, probably, from a fear of giving offence to the new government, and, until
the present edition, they had not been restored. In Bunyan's time, severe and awful
persecutions fell upon the church of God in England, and he must have felt the utmost
compassion, mingled with deep abhorrence, for those emissaries of Satan, the Informers,
who plundered mercilessly all who refused obedience to the order of common prayer.
These men, aided by fanatic justices and clergymen, reduced many pious families to
the severest sufferings, while thousands fled to the wilds of America for that refuge
among men called savages, which was denied them by their much more savage countrymen.
It is distressing to read the narrative, published in 1670, of those proceedings
in Bedford, while Bunyan was an inmate in its jail. The porters, charged to assist
in carrying off the people's goods, ran away, saying, that "they would be hanged,
drawn, and quartered, before they would assist in that work"; two of them were
sent to gaol for thus refusing to aid in this severe enforcement of impious laws.
This populous town "was so thin of people that it looked more like a country
village than a corporation; and the shops being generally shut down, it seemed like
a place visited with the pest, where usually is written upon the door—Lord, have
mercy upon us." When in the presence of the justice the officers took all his
goods from Thomas Arthur, he appealed to the humane feelings of the magistrate on
behalf of his children,—"Sir, shall my children starve," to which he replied,
"yes, your children shall starve." All these bitter sufferings were inflicted
for worshipping God according to the directions of his holy word. Can we wonder then
that Bunyan uses hard words. He felt that state hierarchies were anti-christian;
their fruit declared that those who supported them by such cruelties were aliens
and enemies to the church of Christ.
As a theological treatise, this of the Pharisee and Publican is invaluable. It is
clear and perfectly intelligible to every candid and prayerful inquirer. When our
author is proving the impossibility of a sinner's recommending himself to the divine
favour by any imperfect good works of his own, he draws a vivid picture. A lord invites
his friends to a sumptuous banquet, the provision is bountiful and in rich abundance,
when some of the guests take a few mouldy crusts out of their pockets and lay them
on their plates, lest the prince had not provided a sufficient repast for his friends;
"would it not be a high affront to, a great contempt of, and a distrust in,
the goodness of the Lord." We are bound to produce good works as a fruit of
faith—a proof of love to him that hath redeemed us, but not to recommend us to his
favour. The picture of such a feast drawn by John Bunyan must make upon every reader
a deep, a lasting, an indelible impression.
How bitter and how true is the irony, when the Pharisee is represented as saying,
"I came to thy feast out of civility, but for thy dainties I need them not,
I have enough of my own; I thank thee for thy kindness, but I am not as those that
stand in need of thy provisions, nor yet as this Publican." And how excellent
is the reasoning and the Christian philosophy of that paragraph which was suppressed
after Bunyan's death. The language is bold and striking, but it exhibits the unvarnished
truth; an inward change of nature is the only cause of good and acceptable works—good
or evil actions are but the evidences of our state by grace or by nature—they do
not work that change or produce that state. It is a soul-humbling view of our state
of death by sin, or of life by the righteousness and obedience of Christ. Bunyan's
train of reasoning on Romans 5 is worthy of our profound consideration,—"When
we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." What is
a sinful man in himself, or in his approach to God, but as stubble fully dry in the
presence of a consuming fire, unless he is washed and cleansed by the atoning sacrifice
May the glorified spirit of Bunyan rejoice among the angels of heaven, over souls
converted by the instrumentality of this solemn and searching treatise.
TO THE READER.
I have made bold once again to present thee with some of my meditations; and they
are now about the PHARISEE and the PUBLICAN: Two men in whose condition the whole
world is comprehended, both as to their state now, and condition at the judgment.
Wherefore in reading this little book thou must needs read thyself. I do not say
thou must understand thy condition; for it is the gift of God must make thee do that.
Howbeit, if God will bless it to thee, it may be a means to bring thee to see whose
steps thou art treading, and so at whose end thou art like to arrive.
And let me beg this at thy hand, now thou art about to read; reserve thy judgment
or sentence as to me, until thou hast passed through the discourse.
Justification is treated of here, and the way for men to be saved.
I have also O PUBLICAN here, as my skill hath served me, for thy encouragement, set
before thee the Pharisee and the Publican in their colours, and shewed thee, that
though the Publican seemed to be far behind, yet in running he got the prize from
the lofty Pharisee. I say, Art thou a Pharisee? Here is a Pharisee for thee! Art
thou a Publican? Here is a Publican for thee!
God give thee the Publican's heart, if thou art in the Publican's sins, that thou
mayest partake with the Publican, of mercy.—So wisheth thy friend.
A DISCOURSE UPON THE PHARISEE AND PUBLICAN.
"TWO MEN WENT UP INTO THE TEMPLE TO PRAY; THE ONE A PHARISEE, AND THE OTHER
A PUBLICAN: THE PHARISEE STOOD AND PRAYED THUS WITH HIMSELF, GOD, I THANK THEE, THAT
I AM NOT AS OTHER MEN ARE, EXTORTIONERS, UNJUST, ADULTERERS, OR EVEN AS THIS PUBLICAN.
I FAST TWICE IN THE WEEK, I GIVE TITHES OF ALL THAT I POSSESS. AND THE PUBLICAN,
STANDING AFAR OFF, WOULD NOT LIFT UP SO MUCH AS HIS EYES UNTO HEAVEN, BUT SMOTE UPON
HIS BREAST, SAYING, GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER." LUKE 18:10-13.
In the beginning of this chapter you read of the reason of the parable of the unjust
judge and the poor widow; namely, to encourage men to pray. He spake a parable to
THIS END, that men ought always to pray and not to faint. And a most sweet parable
for that purpose it is: For if through importunity, a poor widow-woman may prevail
with an unjust judge; and so consequently with an unmerciful and hard-hearted tyrant;
how much more shall the poor, afflicted, distressed, and tempted people of God, prevail
with, and obtain mercy at the hands of a loving, just and merciful God? The unjust
judge would not hearken to, nor regard, the cry of the poor widow for a while: "But
afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because
this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary
me." Hark, saith Christ, "what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God
avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?" I tell you, that he
will avenge them speedily.
This is therefore a very comfortable parable to such of the saints, that are under
hard usages by reason of evil men, their might, and tyranny. For by it we are taught
to believe and expect, that God, though for a while he seemeth not to regard, yet
will, in due time and season, arise and set such in safety from them that puff at
them. (Psa 12:5)
Let the good Christian pray always; let him pray and not faint at seeming delays;
for if the widow by importunity prevailed with the unjust judge, how much more shall
he with his heavenly Father. "I tell you, [says Christ,] that he will avenge
But now, forasmuch as this parable reacheth not (so directly) the poor publican in
the text, therefore our Lord begins again, and adds to that another parable, this
parable, which I have chosen for my text. By the which he designeth two things: First,
The conviction of the proud and self-conceited Pharisee. Secondly, The raising up
and healing of the cast down and dejected Publican. And observe it, as by the first
parable he chiefly designeth the relief of those that are under the hand of cruel
tyrants: So by this he designeth the relief of those that lie under the load and
burden of a guilty and disquieted conscience.
This therefore is a parable that is full of singular comfort to such of the sinners
in the world, that are clogged with guilt, and a sense of sin; and that lie under
the apprehensions of, and that are driven to God by, the sense of the judgment, that
for sin is due unto them.
In my handling of this text, I shall have respect to these things.
First, To the PERSONS in the text.
Secondly, To the CONDITION of the persons in the text.
Thirdly, To the CONCLUSION that Christ makes upon them both.
First, For the PERSONS. They were, as you see, far one from another in their own
apprehension of themselves; one good, the other bad; but yet in the judgment of the
law, both alike, both the same, both sinners; for they both stood in need of merit.
True, the first mentioned did not see it, as the other poor sinner did; but that
altereth not the case. He that is in the judgment of the law a sinner, is in the
judgment of the law for sin condemned, though in his own judgment he be never so
Men must not be judged, or justified, according to what themselves do think, but
according to the verdict and sentence that cometh out of the mouth of God about them.
Now the sentence of God is, "They are all under sin - - There is none righteous,
no, not one"(Rom 3): 'Tis no matter then what the Pharisee did think of himself,
God by his word hath proclaimed him a sinner. A sinner, by reason of original sin.
A sinner by reason of actual transgression. Personally therefore, with reference
to the true nature of their state, they both were sinners, and both by the law under
condemnation. True, the Publican's leprosy was outward; but the Pharisee's leprosy
was inward: his heart, his soul, his spirit, was as foul, and had as much the plague
of sin, as had the other in his life or conversation.
Secondly, As to their CONDITION. I do not mean by condition, so much a habit of mind,
as the state that they had each of them put themselves into by that mind. The one,
says the text, was a Pharisee, the other a Publican. A Pharisee: That is, one that
hath chosen to himself such a course of life. A Publican: That is, one that hath
chosen to himself such a course of life. These terms therefore shew, the divers courses
of life that they had put themselves into. The Pharisee, as he thought, had put himself
into a condition for heaven and glory; but the Publican was for this world, and his
lusts. Wherefore when the Pharisee stands in the temple, he boasteth of himself and
good condition; but condemneth the Publican, and bitterly inveigheth against him.
But, as I said, their personal state by the law, was not at all changed. The Pharisee
made himself never the better; the Publican also abode in his place. Indeed the Publican
is here found to recant, and repent of his condition; of the condition that he had
put himself into; and the Pharisee to boast of his: But the Publican's repentance
was not of himself, but of God; who can also, yea, and sometimes it is evident (Acts
9), he doth make Pharisees also repent of that condition that they have chosen to
be in themselves. (Phil 3:3-8) The Pharisee, therefore in commending of himself,
makes himself never the better. The Publican also, in condemning of himself, makes
himself never the worse. Nay, contrariwise, the Pharisee by commending of himself
makes himself much the worse (verse 14). And the Publican, by condemning of himself,
makes himself much the better. "I tell you, [says Christ] This man went down
to his house justified rather than the other: For every one that exalteth himself
shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
But, I say, as to men's commending of themselves, yea, though others should commend
them also, that availeth, to Godward, nothing at all. "For not he that commendeth
himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." So then, men in "measuring
themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
(2 Cor 10:18,12)
Now this was the way of the Pharisee, I am not, saith he, as other men; I am no extortioner,
nor unjust, no adulterer, nor yet as this Publican.
TWO MEN WENT UP INTO THE TEMPLE TO PRAY. And they two, as I said, as opposite one
to the other, as any two men that ever went thither to pray. One of them was over
righteous, and the other wicked over much. Some would have thought, had they not
by the word of Christ been otherwise described, that they had been both of the same
religion; for they both went up into the temple to pray; yea, both to pray, and that
at the same time, as if they did it by appointment, by agreement, but there was no
such thing. The one was a Pharisee, the other a Publican; for so saith the after
words: And therefore persons as opposite as light and darkness, as fire and water;
I mean as to their apprehensions one of another. The Pharisee could not abide the
Publican, nor could the Publican brook the Pharisee, and yet both went up into the
temple to pray. It is strange to see, and yet it is seen, that men cross in their
minds, cross in their principles, cross in their apprehensions; yea, and cross in
their prayers too, should yet meet together in the temple to pray.
TWO MEN, Men not of the middle sort, as afore is shewed; but two, and them too, picked
out of the best and worst that was: as shall now be a little more largely handled.
Two men, a Pharisee and a Publican.
To be a Pharisee was in those days counted honourable for religion, and for holiness
of life. A Pharisee was a man of esteem and repute among the Jews, though it is a
term of reproach with us. Else Paul would not as he did, and at such a time as he
did it, have said, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee."
(Acts 23:6, Phil 3:5) For now he stood upon his purgation and justification, especially
it appears so by the place first named. And far be it from any to think, that Paul
would make use of a colour of wickedness, to save, thereby, himself from the fury
of the people.
A Publican was in those days counted one of the vilest of men, as is manifest; because
when they are by the word, by way of discrimination, made mention of, they are ranked
with the most vile and base. Therefore they are joined with sinners. "He eateth
and drinketh with publicans and sinners"; and with harlots. "The publicans
and the harlots go into the kingdom of God." Yea, when our Lord Christ would
have the rebellious professor stigmatized to purpose, he saith: "Let him be
unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican."
We therefore can make no judgment of men upon the outward appearance of them. Who
would have thought, but that the Pharisee had been a good man, for he was righteous;
for he prayed. And who could have thought, that the other had been a good man? For
he was a Publican: A man, by good men, and bad men, joined with the worst of men,
to wit, with sinners, harlots, heathens.
The Pharisee was a sectarian; the Publican was an officer. The Pharisee even because
he was a sectarian, was had the more in esteem; and the Publican because he was an
officer, was had the more in reproach. To speak a little to both these.
The Pharisee was a sectarian, one that deviated, that turned aside in his worshipping
from the way of God, both in matter and manner of worship; for such an one I count
a sectarian. That he turned aside from the matter, which is the rule of worship,
to wit, the written word, it is evident; for Christ saith, That they rejected the
commandments of God, and made them of no effect, that they might keep their own traditions.
(Mark 7:9-14) That they turned aside also as to their manner of worship, and became
sectarians there, is with no less authority asserted; For "all their works they
do for to be seen of men." (Acts 26:5, Matt 23:5)
Now this being none of the order or ordinance of Christ, and yet being chose by,
and stuck to of these sort of men, and also made a singular and necessary part of
worship, became a sect, or bottom for these hypocritical factious men to adhere unto,
and to make of others, disciples to themselves. And that they might be admired, and
rendered venerable by the simple people to their fellows, they loved to go in long
robes; they loved to pray in markets, and in the corners of the streets; they shewed
great zeal for the small things of the law, but had only great words for things that
were substantial. "They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders
of their garments." (Matt 23:5)
When I say the Pharisee was a sectarian, I do not mean that every sectarian is a
Pharisee. There was the sect of the Herodians, and of the Alexandrians, of the Sadducees,
with many others; but to be a Pharisee, was to be of the straitest sect: After the
most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee; that therefore of all the
sects, was the most strait and strict. Therefore, saith he in another place, I was
"taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers." (Acts
22:3, 26:4- 6) And again, "Touching the law a Pharisee." (Phil 3:5) The
Pharisees therefore did carry the bell, and did wear the garland for religion;
for he out-did, he went beyond all other sectarians in his day. He was the strictest,
he was the most zealous; therefore Christ in his making of this parable, waveth all
other sects then in being, and pitcheth upon the Pharisee as the man most meet, by
whose rejection he might shew forth, and demonstrate the riches of his mercy in its
extension to sinners: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee."
The one such a brave man as you have heard.
The PUBLICAN also went up thither to pray. The Publican, I told you before, was an
officer. An officer that served the Romans and themselves too; for the Romans at
that time were possessors of the land of Jewry, the lot of Israel's inheritance,
and the Emperor Tiberius Caesar placed over that land four governors, to wit, Pilate,
Herod, Philip, and Lysanias (Luke 3:1); all these were Gentiles, heathens, infidels;
and the Publicans were a sort of inferior men, to whom was let out to farm, and so
men that were employed by these to gather up the taxes and customs, that the heathens
had laid upon the Jews to be paid to the emperor. (Luke 2:1, 3:12,13)
But they were a generation of men that were very injurious in the execution of their
office. They would exact and demand more than was due of the people; yea, and if
their demands were denied, they would falsely accuse those that so denied them to
the governor, and by false accusation obtain the money of the people, and so wickedly
enrich themselves. (Luke 3:13, 19:2,8) This was therefore grievous to the Jews, who
always counted themselves a free people, and could never abide to be in bondage to
any. And this was something of the reason, that they were so generally, by all the
Jews, counted so vile and base, and reckoned among the worst of men, even as our
informers and bum bailiffs are with us at this day.
But that which heightened the spirit of the people against them, and that made them
so odious and filthy in their eyes, was for that, at least so I think, these Publicans
were not, as the other officers, aliens, heathens, and Gentiles, but men of their
own nation, Jews, and so the brethren of those that they so abused. Had they been
Gentiles, it had not been to be wondered at; that they abused, accused and by false
accusations peeled and wasted the people; for that cannot but be expected at the
hands of aliens and strangers.
The Publican then was a Jew, a kind of a renegade Jew, that through the love that
he had to unjust gains, fell off in his affections from his brethren, adhered to
the Romans, and became a kind of servant to them against their brethren, farming
the heathenish taxations at the hand of strangers, and exacting of them upon their
brethren with much cruelty, falsehood, and extortion. And hence, as I said, it was,
that to be a Publican, was to be so odious a thing, so vile a sinner, and so grievous
a man in the eyes of the Jews. And would it not be an insufferable thing? Yea, did
not that man deserve hanging ten times over, that should, being a Dutchman, fall
in with a French invader, and take place or farm at his hands, those cruel and grievous
taxations, which he in barbarous wise should at his conquest lay upon them; and exact
and force them to be paid him with an over and above of what is appointed. Why
this was the Publican, he was a Jew, and so should have abode with them, and have
been content to share with his brethren in their calamities; but contrary to nature,
to law, to religion, reason, and honesty, he fell in with the heathen, and took the
advantage of their tyranny, to pole, to peel, to rob and impoverish his brethren.
But for proof that the Publican was a Jew.
1. They are, even then, when compared with, yet distinguished from the heathen; Let
him be to thee as an heathen man and a Publican (Matt 18), which two terms, I think,
must not here be applied to one and the self-same man, as if the heathen was a Publican,
or the Publican a heathen, but to men of two distinct nations; as that Publican and
Harlot, is to be understood of sinners of both sexes. The Publican is not an harlot,
for he is a man, &c. and such a man as has been described before. So by Publicans
and Sinners, is meant Publicans, and such sinners as the Gentiles were; or such as,
by the text, the Publican is distinguished from: Where the Pharisee saith he was
not an extortioner, unjust, adulterer, or even as this Publican. Nor can he by Heathen
Man, intend the person, and by the term Publican, the office or place of the heathen
man; but by Publican is meant the renegade Jew, in such a place, &c. as is yet
further manifest by that which follows. For,
2. Those Publicans, even every one of them that by name are made mention of in the
New Testament, have such names put upon them; yea, and other circumstances thereunto
annexed, as doth demonstrate them to be Jews. I remember the names of no more but
three, to wit, Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheus, and they were all Jews.
(1.) Matthew was a Jew, and the same Matthew was a Publican; yea, and also afterward
an apostle. He was a Jew, and wrote his gospel in Hebrew; He was an apostle, and
is therefore found among the twelve. That he was a Publican too, is as evident by
his own words: For though Mark and Luke in their mentioning of his name and apostleship,
do forbear to call him a Publican. (Mar 3:18, Luke 6:15) Yet when this Matthew comes
to speak of himself, he calls himself Matthew the Publican (Matt 10:3), for I count
this the self-same Matthew that Mark and Luke maketh mention of, because I find no
other Matthew among the apostles but he: Matthew the Publican, Matthew the man so
deep in apostasy, Matthew the man of that ill fame among his brethren. Love in Mark
and Luke, when they counted him among the apostles, did cover with silence this his
Publican state; and it is meet for Peter to call Paul his beloved brother, when Paul
himself shall call himself the chief of sinners; but faithfulness to the world, and
a desire to be abased, that Christ thereby, and grace by him, might be advanced,
made Matthew, in his evangelical writings, call himself by the name of Matthew the
Publican. Nor has he lost thereby; for Christ again to exalt him, as he hath also
done by the apostle Paul, hath set, by his special providence, the testimony that
this Matthew hath given of his birth, life, death, doctrine, and miracles, in the
front of all the New Testament.
(2.) The next Publican that I find by the testament of Christ, made mention of by
name, is Levi, another of the apostles of Jesus Christ. This Levi also, by the Holy
Ghost in holy writ, is called by the name of James. Not James the brother of John,
for Zebedee was his father; but James the son of Alpheus. Now I take this Levi also
to be another than Matthew; first, because Matthew is not called the son of Alpheus;
and because Matthew and Levi, or James the son of Alpheus, are distinctly counted
where the names of the apostles are mentioned (Matt 10:3), for two distinct persons:
And that this Levi, or James the apostle was a Publican, as was the apostle Matthew,
whom we mentioned before, is evident; for both Mark and Luke do count him such. First,
Mark saith, Christ found him when he called him, as he also found Matthew, sitting
at the receipt of custom; yea, Luke words it thus: "He went forth, and saw a
publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow
me." (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27)
Now that this Levi, or James the son of Alpheus, was a Jew, his name doth well make
manifest. Besides, had there been among the apostles any more Gentiles save Simon
the Canaanite; or if this Levi James had been [one] here, I think the Holy Ghost
would, to distinguish him, have included him in the same discriminating character
as he did the other, when he called him Simon the Canaanite. (Matt 10:4)
Matthew, therefore, and Levi or James, were both Publicans, and, as I think, called
both at the same time; were both Publican-Jews, and made by grace the apostles
of Jesus Christ.
(3.) The next Publican that I find by name, made mention of in the testament of Christ,
is one Zaccheus. And he was a chief Publican; yea, for ought I know, the master of
them all. "There was a man, [saith Luke,] named Zaccheus, which was the chief
among the Publicans, and he was rich." (Luke 19:2) This man, Christ saith, was
a son of Abraham, that is, as other Jews were; for he spake that to stop the mouths
of their Pharisaical cavillations. Besides, the Publican shewed himself to be such
an one, when under a supposition of wronging any man, he has respect to the Jewish
law of restoring four-fold. (Exo 22:1, 2 Sam 12:6)
It is further manifest that he was a Jew, because Christ puts him among the lost;
to wit, among the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Luke 19:8-10, Matt 15:24), for
Zaccheus was one that might properly be said to be lost, and that in the Jews account:
Lost I say, and that not only in the most common sense, by reason of transgression
against the law, but for that he was an apostate Jew; not with reference to heathenish
religion, but as to heathenish, cruel, and barbarous actions; and therefore he was,
as the other, by his brethren counted as bad as heathens, Gentiles, and harlots.
But salvation is come to this house, saith Christ, and that notwithstanding his Publican
practices, forasmuch as he also is the son of Abraham.
3. Again, Christ by the parable of the lost sheep, doth plainly intimate, that the
Publican was a Jew. "Then drew near unto him all the Publicans and sinners for
to hear him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners,
and eateth with them." (Luke 15:1,2)
But by what answer doth Christ repel their objections? Why, he saith, "What
man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety
and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it?"
Doth he not here, by the lost sheep, mean the poor Publican? Plenty of whom, while
he preached this sermon, were there, as objects of the Pharisees" scorn; but
of the pity and compassion of Jesus Christ! he did without doubt mean them. For,
pray, what was the flock, and who Christ's sheep under the law, but the house and
people of Israel? (Exo 34:30,31) So then, who could be the lost sheep of the house
of Israel, but such as was Matthew, James, Zaccheus, and their companions in their,
and such like transgressions.
4. Besides, had not the Publican been of the Jews, how easy had it been for the Pharisees
to have objected, that an impertinency was couched in that most excellent parable
of the lost sheep? They might have said, We are offended, because thou receivest
the Publicans, and thou for vindication of thy practice, propoundest a parable of
lost sheep; but they are the sinners of the house of Israel, and the Publicans are
aliens and Gentiles. I say, How easily might they thus have objected? But they knew
full well, that the parable was pertinent, for that the Publicans were of the Jews,
and not of the aliens. Yea, had they not been Jews, it cannot, it must not be thought,
that Christ, in sum, should call them so; and yet he did do so, when he called them
Now that these Publicans were Jews, what follows, but that for this they were a great
deal the more abominated of their brethren. And, as I have also hinted before, it
is no marvel though they were; for a treacherous brother is worse than an open enemy.
(Psa 55:12,13) For, if to be debauched in open and common transgressions is odious,
how odious is it for a brother to be so? For a brother in nature and religion to
be so? I say again, if these things are intolerable, what shall we think of such
men, as shall join to all this compliance with a foreign prince to rob the church
of God? Yea, that shall become a tenant, an officer, a man in power under them, to
exact, force, and wring out of the hand of a brother his estate; yea, his bread and
livelihood. Add to all this, What shall we say to him that shall do for an enemy
against a brother in a way of injury and wrong, more than in strictness of law they
were commanded by that same enemy to do? And yet all this they did, as both John
insinuates, and Zaccheus confesses.
The Pharisee therefore was not so good, but the Publican was as bad: Indeed, the
Publican was a notorious wretch, one that had a way of transgressing by himself;
one that could not be sufficiently condemned by the Jews, nor coupled with a viler
than himself. 'Tis true, you find him here in the temple at prayer; not because he
retained in his apostasy, conscience of the true religion, but God had awakened him,
shewn him his sin, and bestowed upon him the grace of repentance, by which he was
not only fetched back to the temple, and prayer, but to his God, and to the salvation
of his soul.
The Pharisee, then, was a man of another complexion, and stood as to his own thoughts
of himself; yea, and in the thoughts of others also, upon the highest and better
ground by far. The Publican was a notorious sinner; the Pharisee was a notorious
righteous man. The Publican was a sinner out of the ordinary way of sinning; and
the Pharisee was a man for righteousness in a singular way also. The Publican pursued
his villanies, and the Pharisee pursued his righteousness; and yet they both meet
in the temple to pray. Yea, the Pharisee stuck to, and boasted in the law of God;
but the Publican did forsake it, and hardened his heart against his way and people.
Thus diverse were they in their appearances; the Pharisee, very good; the Publican,
very bad. But as to the law of God, which looked upon them with reference to the
state of their spirits, and the nature of their actions, by that they were both found
sinners; the Publican an open outside one, and the Pharisee a filthy inside one.
This is evident, because the best of them was rejected, and the worst of them was
received to mercy. Mercy standeth not at the Publican's badness, nor is it enamoured
with the Pharisee's goodness: It suffereth not the law to take place on both, though
it findeth them both in sin, but graciously embraceth the most unworthy, and leaveth
the best to shift for himself. And good reason that both should be dealt with after
this manner; to wit, that the word of grace should be justified upon the soul of
the penitent, and that the other should stand or fall to that, which he had chosen
to be his master.
There are three things that follow upon this discourse.
[Conclusion.] 1. That the righteousness of man is not of any esteem with God, as
to Justification. It is passed by as a thing of naughtiness, a thing not worth the
taking notice of. There was not so much as notice taken of the Pharisee's person,
or prayer, because he came into the temple mantled up in his own good things.
[Conclusion.] 2. That the man that has nothing to commend him to God, but his own
good doings, shall never be in favour with him. This also is evident from the text:
The Pharisee had his own righteousness, but had nothing else to commend him to God;
and therefore could not by that obtain favour with God, but abode still a rejected
one, and in a state of condemnation.
[Conclusion.] 3. Wherefore, though we are bound by the law of charity to judge of
men, according as in appearance they present themselves unto us: yet withal, to wit,
though we do so judge, we must leave room for the judgment of God. Mercy may receive
him that we have doomed to hell, and justice may take hold on him, whom we have judged
to be bound up in the bundle of life. And both these things are apparent by the persons
We, like Joseph, are for setting of Manasseh before Ephraim; but God, like Jacob,
puts his hands across, and lays his right hand upon the worst man's head, and his
left hand upon the best, to the amazement and wonderment even of the best of men.
[THE PHARISEE'S PRAYER.]
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other
a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that
I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."
In these words many things are worth the noting. As,
FIRST. THE PHARISEE'S DEFINITION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS; the which standeth in two things:
1. In negatives. 2. In positives.
In negatives; to wit, what a man that is righteous must not be: I am no extortioner,
no unjust man, no adulterer, nor yet as this Publican.
In positives; to wit, what a man that is righteous must be: I fast twice a week,
I give tithes of all that I possess, &c.
That righteousness standeth in negative and positive holiness is true; but that the
Pharisee's definition is, notwithstanding, false, will be manifest by and by. But
I will first treat of righteousness in the general, because the text leadeth me to
First then, A Man that is righteous, must have negative holiness; that is, he must
not live in actual transgressions: He must not be an extortioner, unjust, an adulterer,
or, as the Publican was. And this the apostle intends, when he saith, "Flee
fornication (2 Tim 2:22), flee also youthful lusts (1 Cor 6:18), flee from idolatry"
(1 Cor 10:14), and "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John
5:21) For it is a vain thing to talk of righteousness, and that ourselves are righteous,
when every observer shall find us in actual transgression. Yea, though a man shall
mix his want of negative holiness, with some good actions, that will not make him
a righteous man. As suppose, a man that is a swearer, a drunkard, an adulterer, or
the like, should, notwithstanding this, be open handed to the poor, be a greater
executor of justice in his place, be exact in his buying, selling, keep touch with
his promise and with his friend, or the like. These things, yea, many more such,
cannot make him a righteous man; for the beginning of righteousness is yet wanting
in him, which is this negative holiness: For except a man shall leave off to do evil
he cannot be a righteous man. Negative holiness is therefore of absolute necessity
to make one in one's self a righteous man. This therefore condemns them, that count
it sufficient if a man have some actions that in themselves, and by virtue of the
command are good, to make him a righteous man, though negative holiness is wanting.
This is as saying to the wicked, Thou art righteous, and a perverting of the right
way of the Lord. Negative holiness therefore must be in a man before he can be accounted
Second. As negative holiness is required to declare one a righteous man; so also
positive holiness must be joined therewith, or the man is unrighteous still. For
it is not what a man is not, but what a man does, that declares him a righteous man.
Suppose a man be no thief, no liar, no unjust man; or, as the Pharisee saith, no
extortioner, no adulterer, &c., this will not make him a righteous man. But there
must be joined to these, holy and good actions, before he can be declared a righteous
man. Wherefore, as the apostle, when he pressed the Christians to righteousness,
did put them first upon negative holiness, so he joineth thereto an exhortation to
positive holiness; knowing, that where positive holiness is wanting, all the negative
holiness in the whole world cannot declare a man a righteous man. When therefore
he had said, "But thou, O man of God, flee these things," (sins and wickedness)
he adds, "and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
meekness." (1 Tim 6:11) Here Timothy is exhorted to negative holiness, when
he is bid to flee sin. Here also he is exhorted to positive holiness, when he is
bid to follow after righteousness, &c., for righteousness can neither stand in
negative nor positive holiness, as severed one from another. That man then, and that
man only, is, as to actions a righteous man, that hath left off to do evil, and hath
learnt to do well (Isa 1:16,17), that hath cast off the works of darkness, and put
on the armour of light. Flee also youthful lusts, (said Paul,) but follow righteousness,
faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim
The Pharisee therefore, as to the general description of righteousness, made his
definition right; but as to his person and personal righteousness, he made his definition
wrong. I do not mean, he defined his own righteousness wrong; but I mean, his definition
of true righteousness, which standeth in negative and positive holiness, he made
to stoop to justify his own righteousness, and therein he played the hypocrite in
his prayer: For although it is true righteousness, that standeth in negative and
positive holiness; yet that is not true righteousness, that standeth but in some
pieces and ragged remnants of negative and positive righteousness. If then the Pharisee
would in his definition of personal righteousness, have proved his own righteousness
to be good, he must have proved, that both his negative and positive holiness had
been universal: to wit, that he had left off to act in any wickedness, and that he
had given up himself to the duty enjoined in every commandment. For so the righteous
man is described (Job 1:8), As it is also said of Zacharias and Elizabeth his wife,
"they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances
of the Lord blameless." (Luke 1:6) Here the perfection, that is, the universality
of their negative holiness is implied, and the universality of their positive holiness
is expressed: They walked in all the commandments of the Lord; but that they could
not do, if they had lived in any unrighteous thing or way. They walked in all blamelessly,
that is, sincerely with upright hearts. The Pharisee's righteousness therefore, even
by his own implied definition of righteousness, was not good, as is manifest these
1. His negative holiness was not universal.
2. His positive holiness was rather criminal than moral.
1. His negative holiness was not universal. He saith indeed, he was not an extortioner,
nor unjust, no adulterer, nor yet as this Publican: but now of these expressions
apart, nor all, if put together, do prove him to be perfect as to negative holiness;
that is, they do not prove him, should it be granted, that he was as holy with this
kind of holiness, as himself of himself had testified. For, (1.) What though he was
no extortioner, he might yet be a covetous man. (Luke 16:14)
(2.) What though, as to dealing, he was not unjust to others, yet he wanted honesty
to do justice to his own soul. (Luke 16:15)
(3.) What, though he was free from the act of adultery, he might yet be made guilty
by an adulterous eye, against which the Pharisee did not watch, of which the Pharisee
did not take cognizance. (Matt 5:28)
(4.) What, though he was not like the Publican, yet he was like, yea, was a downright
hypocrite; he wanted in those things wherein he boasted himself, sincerity; but without
sincerity no action can be good, or accounted of God as righteous. The Pharisee therefore,
notwithstanding his boasts, was deficient in his righteousness, though he would fain
have shrouded it under the right definition thereof.
2. Nor doth his positive holiness help him at all, forasmuch as it is grounded mostly,
if not altogether, in ceremonial holiness. Nay, I will recollect myself, it was grounded
partly in ceremonial, and partly in superstitious holiness, if there be such a thing
as superstitious holiness in the world, this paying of tithes was ceremonial, such
as came in and went out with the typical priesthood. But what is that to positive
holiness, when it was but a small pittance by the by. Had the Pharisee argued plainly
and honestly; I mean, had he so dealt with that law, by which now he sought to be
justified, he should have brought forth positive righteousness in morals, and should
have said and proved it too, that, as he was no wicked man with reference to the
act of wickedness, he was indeed a righteous man in acts of moral virtues. He should,
I say, have proved himself a true lover of God, no superstitious one, but a sincere
worshipper of him; for this is contained in the first table (Exo 20), and is so in
sum expounded by the Lord Christ himself. (Mark 12:30) He should also in the next
place have proved himself truly kind, compassionate, liberal, and full of love and
charity to his neighbour; for that is the sum of the second table, as our Lord also
doth expound it, saying, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Mark
True, he says, he did them no hurt; but did he do them good? To do no hurt is one
thing; and to do good, is another; and it is possible for a man to do neither hurt
nor good to his neighbour. What then, Is he a righteous man because he hath done
him no hurt? No verily; unless, to his power, he hath also done him good.
It is therefore a very fallacious and deceitful arguing of the Pharisee, thus to
speak before God in his prayer: I am righteous, because I have not hurt my neighbour,
and because I have acted in ceremonial duties. Nor will that help him at all to say,
he gave TITHES of all that he possessed. It had been more modest to say, that he
had paid them; for they, being commanded, were a due debt; nor could they go before
God for a free gift, because by the commandment they were made a payment; but proud
men and hypocrites, love so to word it both with God and man, as at least to imply,
that they are more forward to do, than God's commandment is to require them to do.
The second part of his positive holiness was superstitious; for God hath appointed
no such set fasts, neither more nor less, but just twice a week: I fast twice a week.
Ay, but who did command thee to do so; commanded to fast when occasion required
if thou wast, but that thou shouldest have any occasion to do so as thou doest, other
than by thy being put upon it by a superstitious and erroneous conscience, doth not,
nor canst thou make to appear. This part therefore of this positive righteousness,
was positive superstition, an abuse of God's law, and a gratification of thy own
erroneous conscience. Hitherto therefore, thou art defective in thy so seemingly
brave and glorious righteousness.
Yet this let me say in commendation of the Pharisee: In my conscience he was better
than many of our English Christians; for many of them are so far off from being at
all partakers of positive righteousness, that all their ministers, bibles, good books,
good sermons, nor yet God's judgments, can persuade them to become so much as negatively
holy, that is, to leave off evil.
SECOND.—The second thing that I take notice of in this prayer of the Pharisee, is,
HIS MANNER OF DELIVERY, as he stood praying in the temple. "God, I thank thee
[said he] that I am not as other men are." He seemed to be at this time, in
more than an ordinary frame, while now he stood in the presence of the divine majesty:
for a prayer made up of praise, is a prayer of the highest order, and is most like
the way of them that are now in a state beyond prayer. Praise is the work of heaven;
but we see here, that an hypocrite may get into that vein, even while an hypocrite,
and while on earth below. Nor do I think that this prayer of his was a premeditated
stinted form, but a prayer extempore, made on a sudden, according to what he felt,
thought, or understood of himself.
Here therefore, we may see, that even prayer, as well as other acts of religious
worship, may be performed in great hypocrisy; although, I think, that to perform
prayer in hypocrisy, is one of the most daring sins that are committed by the sons
of men. For by prayer, above all duties, is our most direct, and immediate personal
approach into the presence of God: and as there is an uttering of things before him,
especially a giving of him thanks for things received, or a begging, that such and
such things might be bestowed upon me. But now to do these things in hypocrisy, and
'tis easy to do them so, when we go up into the temple to pray, must needs be intolerable
wickedness, and it argueth infinite patience in God, that he should let such as do
so, arise alive from their knees, or that he should suffer them to go away from the
place where they stand, without some token or mark of his wrath upon them. I also
observe, That this extempore prayer of the Pharisee, was performed by himself, or
in the strength of his own natural parts; for so the text implieth, "The Pharisee,"
saith the text, "stood and prayed thus with himself," with himself, or
by himself, and may signify, either that he spoke softly, or that he made this prayer
by reason of his natural parts. "I will pray with the Spirit," said Paul.
(1 Cor 14:15) The Pharisee prayed with himself, said Christ. It is at this day wonderful
common, for men to pray extempore also. To pray by a book, by a premeditated set
form, is now out of fashion. He is counted no body now, that cannot at any time,
at a minute's warning, make a prayer of half an hour long.
I am not against extempore prayer, for I believe it to be the best kind of praying;
but yet I am jealous, that there are a great many such prayers made, especially in
pulpits and public meetings, without the breathing of the Holy Ghost in them: For
if a Pharisee of old could do so, Why may not a Pharisee do the same now? Wit, and
reason, and notion is now screwed up to a very great height; nor do men want words,
or fancies, or pride, to make them do this thing. Great is the formality of religion
this day, and little the power thereof. Now where there is a great form and little
power, and such there was also among the Jews, in the time of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
there men are most strangely under the temptation to be hypocrites; for nothing doth
so properly and directly oppose hypocrisy, as the power and glory of the things we
profess. And so on the contrary, nothing is a greater temptation to hypocrisy, than
a form of knowledge of things without the savour thereof. Nor can much of the power
and savour of the things of the gospel be seen at this day upon professors, I speak
not now of all, if their notions and conversations be compared together. How proud,
how covetous, how like the world in garb and guise, in words and actions, are most
of the great professors of this our day! But when they come to divine worship, especially
to pray, by their words and carriages there, one would almost judge them to be angels
in heaven. But such things must be done in hypocrisy, as also the Pharisee's were.
The Pharisee stood and prayed THUS WITH HIMSELF.
And, in that it is said, "he prayed with himself"; it may signify, that
he went in his prayer no further than his sense and reason, feeling and carnal apprehensions
went. True, Christian prayer ofttimes leaves sense and reason, feeling, and carnal
apprehensions behind it, and it goeth forth with faith, hope, and desires to know
what at present we are ignorant of, and that unto which our sense, feeling, reason,
&c., are strangers. The apostle indeed doth say, "I will pray with the understanding"
(1 Cor 14:15), but then it must be taken for an understanding spiritually enlightened.
I say, it must be so understood, because the natural understanding, properly as such,
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God when offered, and therefore cannot
pray for them; for they to such, are foolish things. (1 Cor 2:14)
Now a spiritually enlightened understanding may be officious in prayer these ways.
1. As it has received conviction of the truth of the being of the things that are
of the Spirit of God; For to receive conviction of the truth and being of such things,
comes from the Spirit of God, not from the law, sense, or reason. (1 Cor 2:10-12)
Now the understanding having, by the Holy Ghost, received conviction of the truth
of the being of such things, draweth out the heart to cry in prayer to God for them.
Therefore he saith, he would pray with the understanding.
2. A spiritually enlightened understanding, hath also received by the Holy Ghost,
conviction of the excellency and glory of the things that are of the Spirit of God,
and so enflameth the heart with more fervent desires in this duty of prayer; for
there is a supernatural excellency in the things that are of the Spirit; "But
if the ministration of death, [to which the Pharisee adhered] written and engraven
in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold
the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious. For if the ministration
of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed
in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by
reason of the glory that excelleth." (2 Cor 3:7- 10) And the Spirit of God sheweth,
at best, some things of that excellent glory of them to the understanding that it
enlighteneth. (Eph 1:17-19)
3. The spiritually enlightened understanding hath also thereby received knowledge,
that these excellent supernatural things of the Spirit, are given by covenant in
Christ to those that love God, that are beloved of him. "Now we have received,
[says Paul] not the Spirit of the world, [that the Pharisee had] but the Spirit which
is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
(1 Cor 2:12) And this knowledge, that the things of the Spirit of God are freely
given to us of God, puts yet a greater edge, more vigour, and yet further confidence
into the heart to ask for what is mine by gift, by a free gift of God in his Son.
But all these things the poor Pharisee was an utter stranger to; he knew not the
Spirit, nor the things of the Spirit, and therefore must neglect faith, judgment,
and the love of God (Matt 23:23, Luke 11:42), and follow himself, and himself only,
as to his sense, feeling, reason, and carnal imagination in prayer.
He stood and prayed thus WITH HIMSELF. He prayed thus, talking to himself; for so
also it may, I think, be understood. It is said of the unjust judge, "he said
within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man," &c. (Luke 18:4)
That is, he said it to himself. So the Pharisee is said to pray with himself. God
and the Pharisee were not together, there was only the Pharisee and himself. Paul
knew not what to pray for without the Holy Ghost joined himself with him, spake with
him and helped him with groans unutterable. But the Pharisee had no need of that,
it was enough that HE and HIMSELF were together at this work; for he thought without
doubting that he and himself together could do. How many times have I heard ancient
men, and ancient women, at it, with themselves, when all alone in some private room,
or in some solitary path; and in their chat, they have been sometimes reasoning,
sometimes chiding, sometimes pleading, sometimes praying, and sometimes singing;
but yet all has been done by themselves when all alone: But yet so done, as one that
has not seen them, must needs have concluded, that they were talking, singing, and
praying with company, when all that they said, they did it with themselves, and had
neither auditor nor regarder.
So the Pharisee was at it with himself, he and himself performed, at this time, the
duty of prayer. Now I observe, that usually when men do speak to, or with themselves,
they greatly strive to please themselves: Therefore it is said, there is a man, That
"flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful."
(Psa 36:2) He flattereth himself in his own way, according as his sense and carnal
reason dictates to him; and he might do it as well in prayer, as in any other way.
Some men will so hear sermons, and apply them that they may please themselves: And
some men will pray, but will refuse such words and thoughts in prayer as will not
Oh, how many men speak all that they speak in prayer, rather to themselves, or to
their auditory, than to God that dwelleth in heaven! And this I take to be the manner,
I mean something of the manner of the Pharisee's praying. Indeed, he made mention
of God, as also others do; but he prayed with himself to himself, in his own spirit,
and to his own pleasing, as the matter of his prayer doth manifest. For was it not
pleasant to this hypocrite, think you, to speak thus well of himself at this time?
doubtless it was. Also children and fools are of the same temper with hypocrites
as to this; they also love without ground, as the Pharisee, to flatter themselves
in their own eyes. But not he that commendeth himself is approved.
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers,
or even as this Publican, &c.
Thus he begins his prayer; and it is, as was hinted before, a prayer of the highest
strain. For to make a prayer all of thanksgiving, and to urge in that prayer, the
cause of that thanksgiving, is the highest manner of praying, and seems to be done
in the strongest faith, &c., in the greatest sense of things. And such was the
Pharisee's prayer, only he wanted substantial ground for his thanksgiving; to wit,
he wanted proof of that he said, "he was not as other men were," except
he had meant, as he did not, that he was even of the worst sort of men: For even
the best of men by nature, and the worst, are all alike. "What, then? are we
better than they?" said Paul, "No, in no wise." (Rom 3:9) So then,
he failed in the ground of his thankfulness, and therefore his thankfulness was grounded
on an untruth, and so became feigned, and self-flattering, and could not be acceptable
with the God of heaven.
Besides, in this high prayer of the Pharisee, he fathered that upon God which he
could by no means own; to wit, that his being so good as he thought himself to be,
was through distinguishing love and favour of God, "God, I thank thee, that
I am not as other men are." I thank thee, that thou hast made me better than
others. I thank thee that my condition is so good, and that I am so far advanced
above my neighbour.
THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS FLOW FROM THIS PRAYER OF THE PHARISEE, THAT ARE WORTH OUR
First, That the Pharisees and hypocrites, do not love to count themselves sinners,
when they stand before God. They choose rather to commend themselves before him for
virtuous and holy persons, sometimes saying, and oftener thinking, that they are
more righteous than others. Yea, it seems by the word, to be natural, hereditary,
and so common for hypocrites to trust to themselves that they are righteous, and
then to condemn others; this is the foundation upon which this very parable is built:
"He spake this parable, [saith Luke] unto certain which trusted in themselves
that they were righteous"; or that they were so, "and despised others."
I say, hypocrites love not to think of their sins, when they stand in the presence
of God; but rather to muster up, and to present him with their several good deeds,
and to venture a standing or falling by them.
Second, This carriage of the Pharisee before God informs us, that moral virtues,
and the ground of them, which is the law, if trusted to, blinds the mind of man,
that he cannot for them perceive the way to happiness. While Moses is read, and his
law, and the righteousness thereof trusted to, the vail is upon their heart. "For
until this day, [said Paul] remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of
the old testament, which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when
Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." (2 Cor 3:14,15) And this is the
reason that so many moral men, that are adorned with civil and moral righteousness,
are yet so ignorant of themselves, and the way of life by Christ.
The law of works, and the righteousness of the flesh, which is
the righteousness of the law, blinds their minds, shuts up their eyes, and causeth
them to miss of the righteousness that they are so hotly in the pursuit of. Their
minds were blinded, saith the text: Whose minds? Why those that adhered to, that
stood by, and that sought righteousness of the law. Now,
The Pharisee was such an one, he rested in the law, he made his boasts of God, and
trusted to himself that he was righteous; And all this proceeded of that blindness
and ignorance that the law had possessed his mind withal; for it is not granted to
the law to be the ministration of life and light, but to be the ministration of death,
when it speaks; and of darkness, when trusted unto, that the Son of God might have
the pre-eminence in all things: Therefore 'tis said, "When the heart shall turn
to him, the vail shall be taken away." (2 Cor 3:16)
Third, We may see by this prayer, the strength of vain confidence; it will embolden
a man to stand in a lie before God; it will embolden a man to trust to himself and
to what he hath done; yea, to plead his own goodness instead of God's mercy before
him. For the Pharisee was not only a man that justified himself before men, but one
that justified himself before God. And what was the cause of his so justifying of
himself before God; but that vain confidence that he had in himself and his works,
which were both a cheat and a lie to himself. But, I say, the boldness of the man
was wonderful, for he stood to the lie that was in his right hand, and pleaded the
goodness of it before him. But, besides these things, there are four things more
that are couched in this prayer of the Pharisee.
Fourth, By this prayer the Pharisee doth appropriate to himself conversion, he challengeth
it to himself and to his fellows. I am not, saith he, as other men; that is, in unconversion,
in a state of sin, wrath, and death. And this must be his meaning; for the religion
of the Pharisee was not grounded upon any particular natural privilege. I mean not
singly, not only upon that, but upon a falling in with those principles, notions,
opinions, decrees, traditions, and doctrines that they taught distinct from the true
and holy doctrines of the prophets. And they made to themselves disciples by such
doctrine, men, that they could captivate by those principles, laws, doctrines, and
traditions: And therefore such are said to be of the sect of the Pharisees; that
is, the scholars, and disciples of them, converted to them and to their doctrine.
Oh! it is easy for souls to appropriate conversion to themselves, that know not what
conversion is. It is easy, I say, for men to lay conversion to God, on a legal, or
ceremonial, or delusive bottom, on such a bottom that will sink under the burden
that is laid upon it; on such a bottom that will not stand when it is brought under
the touch-stone of God, nor against the rain, wind, and floods that are ordained
to put it to the trial, whether it is true or false. The Pharisee here stands upon
a supposed conversion to God; "I am not as other men"; but both he, and
his conversion are rejected by the sequel of the parable: "That which is highly
esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15) That is,
that conversion, that men, as men, flatter themselves that they have, is such. But
the Pharisee will be a converted man, he will have more to shew for heaven than his
neighbour, "I am not as other men are"; to wit, in a state of sin and condemnation,
but in a state of conversion and salvation. But see how grievously this sect, this
religion beguiled men. It made them two-fold worse the children of hell than they
were before: And than their teachers were (Matt 23:15), that is, their doctrine begat
such blindness, such vain confidence, and groundless boldness in their disciples,
as to involve them in that conceit of conversion that was false, and so if trusted
Fifth, By these words, we find the Pharisee, not only appropriating conversion to
himself, but rejoicing in that conversion: "God, I thank thee," saith he,
"that I am not as other men"; which saying of his, gives us to see that
he gloried in his conversion; he made no doubt at all of his state, but lived in
the joy of the safety that he supposed his soul by his conversion to be in. Oh! thanks
to God, says he, I am not in the state of sin, death, and damnation, as the unjust,
and this Publican is. But a strong delusion! to trust to the spider's web, and to
think, that a few of the most fine of the works of the flesh, would be sufficient
to bear up the soul in, at, and under the judgment of God. "There is a generation
that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."
(Prov 30:12) This text can be so fitly applied to none, as to the Pharisee, and to
those that tread in the Pharisee's steps, and that are swallowed up with is conceits,
and with the glory of his own righteousness.
So again, "There is a way [a way to heaven] which seemeth right unto a man,
but the end thereof are the ways of death," (Prov 14:12) This also is fulfilled
in these kind of men; at the end of their way is death and hell, notwithstanding
their confidence in the goodness of their state.
Again, "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing." (Prov 13:7)
What can be more plain from all these texts, than that some men, that are out of
the way think themselves in it; and that some men think themselves clean that are
yet in their filthiness; and that think themselves rich for the next world, and yet
are poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked. Thus the poor, blind,
naked, hypocritical Pharisee thought of himself, when God threatened to abase him:
Yea, he thought himself thus, and joyed therein, when indeed he was going down to
the chambers of death.
Sixth, by these words, the Pharisee seems to put the goodness of his condition upon
the goodness of God. I am not as other men are, and I thank God for it. God, saith
he, I thank thee that I am not as other men are. He thanked God when God had done
nothing for him. He thanked God, when the way that he was in was not of Gods prescribing,
but of his own inventing. So the persecutor thanks God that he was put into that
way of roguery that the devil had put him into, when he fell to rending and tearing
of the church of God: "Whose possessors slay them, [saith the prophet,] and
hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for
I am rich." (Zech 11:5) I remember that Luther used to say, "In the name
of God begins all mischief." All must be fathered upon God: the Pharisee's conversion
must be fathered upon God; the right or rather the villany of the outrageous persecution
against God's people, must be fathered upon God. God, "I thank thee," and
blessed be God, must be the burthen of the heretic's song. So again, the free-willer,
he will ascribe all to God; the quaker, the ranter, the socinian, &c. will ascribe
all to God. "God, I thank thee," is in every man's mouth, and must be entailed
to every error, delusion, and damnable doctrine that is in the world: But the name
of God, and their doctrine, worship, and way, hangeth together, much as doth it and
the Pharisee's doctrine; that is to say, nothing at all; for God hath not proposed
their principles, nor doth he own them, nor hath he commanded them, nor doth he convey
by them the least grace or mercy to them; but rather rejecteth them, and holdeth
them for his enemies, and for the destroyers of the world.
Seventh, We come in the next place to the ground of all this; and that is, to what
the Pharisee had attained. To wit, that he was no extortioner, no unjust man, no
adulterer, nor even as this Publican, and for that he fasted twice a week, and paid
tithes of all that he possessed. So that you see he pretendeth to a double foundation
for his salvation, a moral and a ceremonial one; but both very lean, weak, and feeble:
For the first of his foundations, what is it more, if all be true that he saith,
but a being removed a few inches from the vilest men in their vilest actions, a very
slender matter to build my confidence for heaven upon.
And for the second part of his ground for life, what is it but a couple of ceremonies,
if so good. The first is questioned as a thing not founded in God's law; and the
second is such, as is of the remotest sort of ceremonies, that teach and preach the
Lord Jesus. But suppose them to be the best, and his conformity to them the thoroughest,
they never were ordained to get to heaven by, and so are become but a sandy foundation.
But anything will serve some men for a foundation and support for their souls, and
to build their hopes of heaven upon. I am not a drunkard, says one, nor a liar, nor
a swearer, nor a thief, and therefore, I thank God, I have hopes of heaven and glory.
I am not an extortioner, nor an adulterer, nor unjust, nor yet as this Publican;
and therefore do hope I shall go to heaven. Alas! poor men! will your being furnished
with these things, save you from the thundering claps and vehement batteries, that
the wrath of God will make upon sin and sinners in the day that shall burn like an
oven? No, no, nothing at that day can shroud a man from the hot rebukes of that vengeance,
but the very righteousness of God, which is not the righteousness of the law, however
christened, named, or garnished with all those gew- gaws that men's heads and fancies
can invent, for that is but the righteousness of man.
[MAN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS REJECTED, AND THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE TO BE
RELIED ON FOR JUSTIFICATION.]
But, O thou blind Pharisee, since thou art so confident that thy state is good, and
thy righteousness is that that will stand, when it shall be tried with fire (1 Cor
3:13), let me now reason with thee of righteousness. My terror shall not make thee
afraid; I am not God, but a man as thou art, we both are formed out of the clay.
First, Prithee when didst thou begin to be righteous? Was it before or after thou
hadst been a sinner? Not afore, I dare say; but if after, then the sins that thou
pollutedst thyself withal before, have made thee uncapable of acting legal righteousness.
For sin, where it is, pollutes, defiles, and makes vile the whole man; therefore
thou canst not by after acts of obedience make thyself just in the sight of that
God thou pretended now to stand praying unto. Indeed, thou mayest cover thy dirt,
and paint thy sepulchre; for that acts of after obedience will do, though sin has
gone before. But Pharisee, God can see through the white of this wall, even to the
dirt that is within: God also can see through the paint and garnish of thy beauteous
sepulchre, to the dead men's bones that are within; nor can any of thy most holy
duties, nor all, when put together, blind the eye of the all-seeing majesty from
beholding all the uncleanness of thy soul. (Matt 23:27) Stand not therefore so
stoutly to it, now thou art before God; sin is with thee, and judgment and justice
is before him. It becomes thee, therefore, rather to despise and abhor this life
of thy hand, and to count all thy doings but dross and dung, and to be content to
be justified with another's righteousness instead of thine own. This is the way to
be secured. I say, blind Pharisee, this is the way to be secured from the wrath which
is to come.
There is nothing more certain than this, that as to justification from the curse
of the law, God has rejected man's righteousness, for the weakness and unprofitableness
thereof; and hath accepted in the room of that glorious righteousness of his Son;
because indeed, that, and that only, is universal, perfect, and equal with his justice
and holiness. This is in a manner the contents of the whole bible, and therefore
must needs be most certainly true. Now then, Mr. Pharisee, methinks, what if thou
didst this, and that while thou art at thy prayers; to wit, cast in they mind what
doth God love most, and the resolve will be at hand. The BEST righteousness, surely
the BEST righteousness; for that thy reason will tell thee: This done, even while
thou art at thy devotion, ask thyself again, But WHO has the best righteousness?
And that resolve will be at hand also; to wit, he that in person is equal with God;
and that is his Son Jesus Christ. He that is separate from sinners, and made higher
than the heavens; and that is his Son Jesus Christ. He that did no sin, nor had any
guile found in his mouth; and there never was any such HE in all the world but the
Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Now Pharisee, when thou hast done this, then as thou art in thy devotion, ask again,
But what is this best righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, to do? And the
answer will be ready. It is to be made by an act of the sovereign grace of God over
to the sinner, that shall dare to trust thereto for justification from the curse
of the law. He is made unto us of God, righteousness. (1 Cor 1:30) "He hath
made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness
of God in him." (2 Cor 5:21) "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness
to every one that believeth." (Rom 10:4)
This done, and concluded on, then turn again Pharisee, and say thus with thyself;
Is it most safe for me to trust in this righteousness of God? This righteousness
of God-man, this righteousness of Christ? Certainly it is. Since, by the text, it
is counted the best, and that which best pleaseth God; since it is that which God
hath appointed, that sinners shall be justified withal. For in the Lord have we righteousness
if we believe: And, in the Lord we are justified, and do glory. (Isa 45:24,25)
Nay Pharisee, suppose thine own righteousness should be as long, as broad, as high,
as deep, as perfect, as good, even every way as good, as the righteousness of Christ.
Yet since God has chosen by Christ, to reconcile us to himself, canst thou attempt
to seek by thine own righteousness to reconcile thyself to God, and not be guilty
of attempting, at least, to confront this righteousness of Christ before God. Yea,
to dare with it, yea, to challenge by it, acceptance of thy person contrary to God's
Suppose, that when the king has chosen one to be judge in the land, and has determined
that he shall be judge in all cases, and that by his verdict every man's judgment
shall stand. I say, suppose, after this another should arise, and of his own head
resolve to do his own business himself. Now, though he should be every whit as able
as the judge of the king's appointing to do it; yea, and suppose he should do it
as justly and righteously too, yet his making of himself a judge, would be an affront
to the king, and an act of rebellion, and so a transgression worthy of punishment.
Why Pharisee, God hath appointed, that by the righteousness of his Son, and by that
righteousness only, men shall be justified in his sight from the curse of the law.
Wherefore, take heed, and at thy peril, whatever thy righteousness is, confront not
the righteousness of Christ therewith. I say, bring it not in, let it not plead for
thee at the bar of God, nor do thou plead for that in his court of justice; for thou
canst not do that and be innocent. If he trusts to his righteousness, he hath sinned,
says Ezekiel. Mark the text, "When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall
surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses
shall not be remembered: but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die
for it." (Chron 33:13)
Observer a few things from this text, and they are these that follow.
First, Here is a righteous man; a man, with whom we do not hear that the God of heaven
Secondly, Here is a promise made to this man, that "he shall surely live";
but on THIS condition, that he trusts not to his own righteousness. Whence it is
manifest, that the promise of life to this righteous man, is not for the sake of
his righteousness, but for the sake of something else, to wit, the righteousness
1. Not for the sake of his own righteousness. This is evident, because we are admitted,
yea, commanded, to trust in the righteousness that saveth us. The righteousness of
God is unto all, and upon all that believe; that is, trust in it, and trust to it
for justification. Now therefore, if thy righteousness, when most perfect, could
save thee, thou mightest, yea oughtest most boldly to trust therein. But since thou
art forbidden to trust to it, it is evident it cannot save, nor is it for the sake
of that, that the righteous man is saved. (Rom 3:21, 22)
2. But for the sake of something else; to wit, for the sake of the righteousness
of Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,
to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the
forbearance of God. "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that
he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." (Rom 3:26)
See also Philippians 3:7-9.
"If he trusts to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness
shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed [in trusting
to his own righteousness] he shall die for it."
Note hence further.
1. That there is more virtue in one sin to destroy, than in all thy righteousness
to save thee alive. If he trust, if he trust never so little, if he do at all trust
to his own righteousness, all his righteousness shall be forgotten; and by, and for,
and in, the sin that he hath committed in trusting to it, he shall die.
2. Take notice also, that there are more damnable sins than those that are against
the moral law. By which of the ten commandments is trusting to our own righteousness
forbidden? Yet it is a sin. It is a sin therefore forbidden by the gospel, and is
included, lurketh close in, yea, is the, or a root of unbelief itself; "He that
believeth not shall be damned." But he that trusteth in his own righteousness
doth not believe, neither in the truth or sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ
to save him, therefore he shall be damned.
But how is it manifest, that he that trusteth to his own righteousness, doth it through
a doubt, or unbelief of the truth or sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ?
I answer, Because, even because he trusteth to his own. A man will never willingly
choose to trust to the worst of helps, when he believes there is a better as near,
and to be had as soon, and that too, upon as easy, if not more easy terms. If he
that trusteth to his own righteousness for life, did believe, that there is indeed
such a thing as the righteousness of Christ to justify; and that this righteousness
of Christ has in it ALL sufficiency to do that blessed work, be sure he would choose
that, thereon to lay, lean, and venture his soul, that he saw was the best, and most
sufficient to save; especially when he saw also, (and see that he must, when he sees
the righteousness of Christ) to wit, that that is to be obtained as soon, because
as near, and to be had on as easy terms; nay, upon easier than may man's own righteousness.
I say, he would sooner choose it, because of the weight of salvation, of the worth
of salvation, and of the fearful sorrow, that to eternity will overtake him, that
in this thing shall miscarry. It is for heaven, it is to escape hell, wrath, and
damnation, saith the soul; and therefore I will, I must, I dare not but choose that,
and that only, that I believe to be the best and most sufficient help in so great
a concern, as soul-concern is. So then he that trusteth to his own righteousness,
does it of unbelief of the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ to save him.
Wherefore this sin of trusting to his own righteousness is a most high and damning
transgression: because it contemneth the righteousness of Christ, which is the only
righteousness that is sufficient to save from the curse of the law. It also disalloweth
the design of heaven, and the excellency of the mystery of the wisdom of God, in
designing this way of salvation for man. What shall I say, It also seeketh to rob
God of the honour of the salvation of man. It seeketh to take the crown from the
head of Christ, and to set it upon the hypocrite's head; therefore, no marvel, that
this one sin be of that weight, virtue and power, as to sink that man and his righteousness
into hell, that leaneth thereon, or that trusteth unto it.
But Pharisee, I need not talk thus unto thee, for thou art not the man that hath
that righteousness, that God findeth not fault withal; nor is it to be found, but
with him that is ordained to be the Saviour of mankind; nor is there any such one
besides Jesus, who is called Christ. Thy righteousness is a poor pittance, a serap:
nay, not so good as a serap of righteousness. Thine own confession makes thee partial
in the law; for here, in the midst of thy boasts, thou hast not, because thou canst
not say, thou hast fulfilled all righteousness. What madness then has brought thee
into the temple, there in audacious manner to stand and vaunt before God; saying,
"God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are."
Dost thou not know, that he that breaks one, breaks all the commandments of God;
and consequently, that he that keeps not all, keeps none at all of the commandments
of God. Say I this of myself? saith not the scriptures the same? "For whosoever
shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
(James 2:10) Be confounded then, be confounded.
Dost thou know the God with whom now thou hast to do? He is a God that cannot, no,
that cannot, as he is just, accept of an half righteousness for a whole; nor of a
lame righteousness for a sound; nor of a sick righteousness for a well and healthy
one. (Mal 1:8) And if so, how should he then accept of that which is not righteousness?
I say, how should he accept of that which is none at all, save an hypocritical and
feigned one, for thine is only such. And if Christ said, when you have done all,
say, "We are unprofitable," How camest thou to say before thou hadst done
one thing well, I am better, more righteous than other men?
Didst thou believe, when thou saidst it, That God knew thy heart? Hadst thou said
this to the Publican, it had been a high and rampant expression; but to say this
before God, to the face of God, when he knew that thou wast vile, and a sinner from
the womb, and from the conception, spoils all. It was spoken to put a check to thy
arrogancy, when Christ said, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before me;
but God knoweth your hearts." (Luke 16:15)
Hast thou taken notice of this, that God judgeth the fruit by the heart from whence
it comes? "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that
which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth
that which is evil." (Luke 6:45) Nor can it be otherwise concluded, but that
thou art an evil man, and so that all thy supposed good is nought but badness. For
that thou hast made it to stand in the room of Jesus, and hast dared to commend thyself
to the living God thereby: For thou hast trusted in thy shadow of righteousness,
and committed iniquity. Thy sin hath melted away thy righteousness, and turned it
to nothing but dross; or, if you will, to the early dew, like to which it goeth away,
and so can by no means do thee good, when thou shalt stand in need of salvation and
eternal life of God.
But further, thou sayest thou art righteous, but they are but vain words. Knowest
thou not that thy zeal, which is the life of thy righteousness, is preposterous in
many things. What else means thy madness, and the rage thereof, against men as good
as thyself. True, thy being ignorant that they are good, may save thee from the commission
of the sin that is unpardonable, but it will never keep thee from spot in God's sight,
but will make both thee and thy righteousness culpable.
Paul, who was once as brave a Pharisee as thou canst be, calleth much of that zeal,
which he in that estate was possessed with, and lived in the exercise of, madness;
yea, exceeding madness (Acts 26:9-11, Phil 3:5,6), and of the same sort is much of
thine, and it must be so; for a lawyer, a man for the law, and that resteth in it,
must be a persecutor; yea, a persecutor of righteous men, and that of zeal to God;
because by the law is begat, through the weakness that it meeteth with in thee, sourness,
bitterness of spirit, and anger against him that rightfully condemneth thee of folly,
for choosing to trust to thine own righteousness, when a better is provided of God
to save us. (Gal 4:28-31) Thy righteousness therefore is deficient; yea, thy zeal
for the law, and the men of the law, has joined madness with thy moral virtues, and
made thy righteousness unrighteousness; How then canst thou be upright before the
Further, Has not the pride of thy spirit in this hot-headed zeal for thy Pharisaical
notions, run thee upon thinking that thou art able to do more than God hath enjoined
thee, and so able to make thyself more righteous, than God requireth thou shouldest
be. What else is the use of thy adding of laws to God's laws, precepts to God's precepts,
and traditions to God's appointments? (Mark 7:8) Nay, hast thou not by thus doing,
condemned the law of want of perfection, and so the God that gave it, of want of
wisdom, and faithfulness to himself and thee?
Nay, I say again, hath not thy thus doing charged God with being ignorant of knowing,
what rules there needed to be imposed on his creatures to make their obedience complete?
And doth not this apish madness of thine intimate, moreover, that if thou hadst not
stept in with the bundle of thy traditions, righteousness had been imperfect, not
through man's weakness, but through impediment in God, or in his ministering rules
of righteousness unto us.
Now, when thou hast thought on these things fairly, answer thyself in these few questions:
Is not this arrogancy? Is not this blasphemy? Is not this to condemn God, that thou
mightest be righteous? And dost thou think, this is, indeed, the way to be righteous?
But again, what means thy preferring of thine own rules, laws, statues, ordinances
and appointments, before the rules, laws, statutes and appointments of God? Thinkest
thou this to be right? Whither will thy zeal, thy pride, and thy folly carry thee?
Is there more reason, more equity, more holiness in thy traditions, than in the holy,
and just, and good commandments of God? (Rom 7:12) Why then, I say, dost thou reject
the commandment of God, to keep thine own tradition? Yea, Why dost thou rage, and
rail, and cry out when men keep not thy law, or the rule of thine order, and tradition
of thine elders; and yet shut thine eyes, or wink with them, when thou thyself shalt
live in the breach of the law of God? Yea, why wilt thou condemn men, when they keep
not thy law, but study for an excuse, yea, plead for them that live in the breach
of God's (Mark 7:10-13) Will this go for righteousness in the day of God Almighty?
Nay rather, will not this, like a millstone about thy neck, drown thee in the deeps
of hell? Oh, the blindness, the madness, the pride, and spite, that dwells in the
hearts of these pretended righteous men.
Again, What kind of righteousness of thine, is this, that standeth in a misplacing,
and so consequently in a misesteeming of God's commands? Some thou settest too high,
and some too low; as in the text, thou hast set a ceremony above faith, above love,
and above hope in the mercy of God: When, as it is evident, the things last mentioned,
are the things of the first rate, the weightier matters. (Matt 23:23)
Again, Thou hast preferred the gold above the temple that sanctifieth the gold, and
the gift upon the altar, above the altar that sanctifies the gift. (Matt 23:17)
I say again, What kind of righteousness shall this be called? What back will such
a suit of apparel fit, that is set together just cross and thwart to what it should
be? Just as if the sleeves should be sewed upon the pocket-holes, and the pockets
set on where the sleeves should stand. Nor can other righteousness proceed where
a wrong judgment precedeth it.
This misplacing of God's laws cannot, I say, but produce misshaped and misplaced
obedience. It indeed produceth a monster, an ill-shapened thing, a mole, a mouse,
a pig, all which are things unclean, and an abomination to the Lord. For see, saith
he, if thou wilt be making, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed
to thee in the mount. Set faith, where faith should stand, a moral, where a moral
should stand; and a ceremony, where a ceremony should stand; for this turning of
things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: And wilt thou call this
thy righteousness; yea, wilt thou stand in this, plead for this, and venture an eternal
concern in such a piece of linsey-woolsey as this? O fools, and blind!
But further, let us come a little closer to the point. O blind Pharisee. Thou standest
to thy righteousness, what dost thou mean? Wouldest thou have MERCY for thy righteousness,
or JUSTICE for thy righteousness?
[FIRST MERCY.] If mercy, what mercy? Temporal things God giveth to the unthankful
and unholy; nor doth he use to SELL the world to man for righteousness. The earth
hath he GIVEN to the children of men. But this is not the thing; thou wouldest have
eternal mercy for thy righteousness; thou wouldest have God think upon what an holy,
what a good, what a righteous man thou art, and hast been. But Christ died not for
the good and righteous, nor did he come to call such to the banquet, that grace hath
prepared for the world. "I came not," I am not come, saith Christ, "to
call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:27, Rom 5) Yet this
is thy plea; Lord God, I am a righteous man, therefore grant me mercy, and a share
in thy heavenly kingdom. What else dost thou mean, when thou sayest, "God I
thank thee, that I am not as other men are?" Why dost thou rejoice, why art
thou glad that thou art more righteous, if indeed thou art, than thy neighbour, if
it is not because thou thinkest, that thou hast got the start of, the better of thy
neighbour, with reference to mercy; and that by thy righteousness thou hast insinuated
thyself into God's affections, and procured an interest in his eternal favour. But,
What, What hast thou done by thy righteousness? I say, What hast thou given to God
thereby? And what hath he received of thy hand? Perhaps thou wilt say, righteousness
pleaseth God: But I answer no, not thine, with respect to justification from the
curse of the law, unless it be as perfect, as the justice it is yielded to, and as
the law that doth command it. But thine is not such a righteousness: no, thine is
speckled, thine is spotted, thine makes thee to look like a speckled bird in his
Thy righteousness has added iniquity, to thy iniquity, because it has kept thee from
a belief of thy need of repentance, and because it has emboldened thee to thrust
thyself audaciously into the presence of God, and made thee there, even before his
holy eyes, which are so pure, that they cannot look on iniquity (Hab 1:13), to vaunt,
boast, and brag of thyself, and of thy tottering, ragged, stinking uncleanness; for
all our righteousnesses are as menstruous rags, because they flow from a thing, a
heart, a man that is unclean. But,
Again, Wouldest thou have mercy for thy righteousness? For who wouldest thou have
it; for another, or for thyself? If for another, and it is most proper, that a righteous
man should intercede for another by his righteousness, rather than for himself, then
thou thrusteth Christ out of his place and office, and makest thyself to be a saviour
in his stead; for a mediator there is already, even a mediator between God and man,
and he is the man Christ Jesus. There is therefore no need of thine interceding by
thy righteousness for the acceptation of any unto justification from the curse.
But dost thou plead by thy righteousness, for mercy for thyself? Why, in so doing
First, That thy righteousness can prevail with God, more than can thy sins. I say,
that thy righteousness can prevail with God, to preserve thee from death, more than
thy sins can prevail with him to condemn thee to it. And if so, what follows? but
that thy righteousness is more, and has been done in a fuller spirit than ever were
thy sins: but thus to insinuate is to insinuate a lie; for there is no man, but while
he is a sinner, sinneth with a more full spirit, than any good man can act righteousness
A sinner when he sinneth, he doth it with all his heart, and with all his mind, and
with all his soul, and with all his strength; nor hath he in his ordinary course
any thing that bindeth. But with a good man it is not so; all, and every whit of
himself, neither is, nor can be, in every good duty that he doth. For when he would
do good evil is present with him. And again, "The flesh lusteth against the
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other,
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Gal 5:17)
Now if a good man cannot do good things with that wholeness and oneness of soul,
with that oneness and universalness of mind, as a wicked man doth sin with, then
is his sin heavier to weigh him down to hell, than is his righteousness to buoy him
up to the heavens.
And again, I say, if the righteousness of a good man comes short of his sin, both
in number, weight and measure, as it doth, for a good man shrinks and quakes at the
thoughts of God's entering into judgment with him (Psa 143:2), then is his iniquity
more than his righteousness. And I say again, if the sin of one that is truly gracious,
and so of one that hath the best of principles, is heavier and mightier to destroy
him, than is his righteousness to save him, how can it be, that the Pharisee, that
is not gracious, but a mere carnal man, somewhat reformed and painted over with a
few, lean, and lousy formalities, should with his empty, partial, hypocritical righteousness,
counterpoise his great, mighty, and weighty sins, that have cleaved to him in every
state and condition of his, to make him odious in the sight of God?
Second. Dost thou plead by thy righteousness for mercy for thyself? Why in so doing
thou impliest, that mercy thou deservedst; and that is next door to, or almost as
much as to say, God oweth me what I ask for. The best that can be put upon it,
is, thou seekest security from the direful curse of God, as it were by the works
of the law, and to be sure betwixt Christ and the law, thou wilt drop into hell.
(Rom 9:31-33) For he that seeks for mercy, as it were, and but as it were, by the
works of the law, doth not altogether trust thereto. Nor doth he that seeks for that
righteousness, that should save him, as it were, by the works of the law, seek it
only, wholly and solely at the hands of mercy. So then, to seek for that that should
save thee, neither at the hands of the law, nor at the hands of mercy, is, to be
sure, to seek it where it is not to be found; for there is no medium betwixt the
righteousness of the law, and the mercy of God. Thou must have it either at the door
of the law, or at the door of grace. But sayest thou, I am for having of it at the
hands of both. I will trust solely to neither. I love to have two strings to my bow.
If one of them, as you think, can help me by itself, my reason tells me, that both
can help me better. Therefore will I be righteous, and good, and will seek by my
goodness to be commended to the mercy of God: for surely, he that hath something
of his own to ingratiate himself into the favour of his prince withal, shall sooner
obtain his mercy and favour, than one that comes to him as stript of all good.
I answer, But there are not two ways to heaven, not two living ways; there is one
new and living way, which Christ hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is
to say, his flesh; and besides that one, there is no more. (Heb 10:19-24) Why then
dost thou talk of two strings to thy bow? What became of him that had, and would
have, two stools to sit on? Yea, the text says plainly, that therefore they obtained
not righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works
of the law. See here, they are disowned by the gospel, because they sought it not
by faith; that is, by faith only. Again, the law, and the righteousness thereof,
flies from them, nor could they attain it, though they followed after it, because
they sought it not by faith.
Mercy then is to be found alone in Jesus Christ! Again, the righteousness of the
law is to be obtained only by faith of Jesus Christ: that is, in the Son of God is
the righteousness of the law to be found; for he, by his obedience to his Father,
is become the end of the law for righteousness. And for the sake of his legal righteousness,
which is also called the righteousness of God, because it was God in the flesh of
the Lord Jesus that did accomplish it, is mercy and grace from God extended, to whoever
dependeth by faith upon God by this Jesus his righteousness for it. And hence it
is, that we so often read, that this Jesus is the way to the Father: That God, for
Christ's sake, forgiveth us: That by the obedience of one, many are made righteous
or justified: And that through this man, is preached to us the forgiveness of sins;
and that by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could
not be justified by the law of Moses.
Now, though I here do make mention of righteousness and mercy, yet I hold there is
but one way, to wit, to eternal life; which way, as I said, is Jesus Christ; for
he is the new, the only new, and living way to the Father of mercies, for mercy to
make me capable of abiding with him in the heavens for ever and ever.
But sayest thou, I will be righteous in myself that I may have wherewith to commend
me to God, when I go to him for mercy?
I answer, But thou blind Pharisee; I tell thee thou hast no understanding of God's
design by the gospel; which is, not to advance man's righteousness, as thou dreamest;
but to advance the righteousness of his Son, and his grace by him. Indeed, if God's
design by the gospel was to exalt and advance man's righteousness, then that which
thou hast said, would be to the purpose. For what greater dignity can be put upon
man's righteousness, than to admit it?
I say then, for God to admit it, to be an advocate, an intercessor, a mediator; for
all these is that which prevaileth with God to shew me mercy. But this God never
thought of, much less could he thus design by the gospel: for the text runs flat
against it. Not of works, not of works of righteousness, which we have done; not
of works, lest any man should boast, saying, Well, I may thank my own good life for
mercy. It was partly for the sake of mine own good deeds that I obtained mercy to
be in heaven and glory. Shall this be the burden of the song of heaven? Or is this
that which is composed by that glittering heavenly host, and which we have read of
in the holy book of God! No, no, that song runs upon other feet, standeth in far
better strains, being composed of far higher, and truly heavenly matter: For God
has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself,
according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace,
wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through
his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph
1:5-7) And it is requisite, that the song be framed accordingly; wherefore he saith,
that the heavenly song runs thus: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to
open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood,
out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our
God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9,10)
He saith not that they have redeemed, or helped to redeem and deliver themselves;
but that the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain; the Lamb only was he that had redeemed
them. Nor, saith he, that they had made themselves kings and priests unto God to
offer any oblation, sacrifice, or offering whatsoever; but that the same Lamb had
made them such. For they, as is insinuated by the text, were in, among, one with,
and no better, than the kindreds, tongues, nations, and people of the earth. Better!
No, in no wise, saith Paul (Rom 3:9), therefore their separation from them was of
mere mercy, free grace, good will, and distinguishing love: not for, or because of,
works of righteousness which any of them have done; no, they were all alike. But
these, because beloved, when in their blood, according to Ezekiel 16 were separated
by free grace. And as another scripture hath it, redeemed from the earth, and from
among men by blood. (Rev 14:3,4) Wherefore deliverance from the ireful wrath of God,
must not, neither in whole, nor in part, be ascribed to the whole law, or to all
the righteousness that comes by it; but to the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Saviour of
the world; for it is He that delivered us from the wrath to come: and that according
to God's appointment; "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain
salvation by [or through] our
Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 5:9) Let every man, therefore, take heed what he
doth, and whereon he layeth the stress of his salvation, "For other foundation
can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 3:11)
But dost thou plead still as thou didst before, and wilt thou stand thereto? Why
then, thy design must overcome God, or God's design must overcome thee. Thy design
is to give thy good life, thy good deeds, a part of the glory of thy justification
from the curse. And God's design is to throw all thy righteousness out into the street,
into the dirt, and dunghill, as to that. Thou art for glory, and for glorying here
before God; yea, thou art for sharing in the glory of justification, when that alone
belongeth to God. And he hath said, "My glory will I not give to another."
Thou wilt not trust wholly to God's grace in Christ for justification; and God will
not take thy stinking righteousness in, as a partner in thy acquitment from sin,
death, wrath, and hell. Now the question is, who shall prevail? God, or the Pharisee?
And whose word shall stand? His, or the Pharisee's?
Alas! The Pharisee here must needs come down, for God is greater than all. Also,
he hath said, that no flesh shall glory in his presence; and that he will have mercy,
and not sacrifice. And again, that it is not, nor shall be, in him that wills, nor
in him that runs, but in God that sheweth mercy. What hope, help, stay, or relief
then is there left for the merit-monger? What twig, or straw, or twined thread is
left to be a stay for his soul? This besom will sweep away his cobweb: The house
that this spider doth so lean upon, will now be overturned, and he in it to hell
fire; for nothing less than everlasting damnation is designed by God, and that for
this fearful and unbelieving Pharisee: God will prevail against him for ever.
Third, But wilt thou yet plead thy righteousness for mercy? Why, in so doing, thou
takest away from God the power of giving mercy. For if it be thine as wages, it is
no longer his to dispose of all pleasure; for that which another man oweth me, is
in equity not at his, but at my disposal. Did I say, that by this thy plea, thou
takest away from God the power of giving mercy; I will add, yea, and also of disposing
of heaven and life eternal. And then, I pray you, what is left unto God, and what
can he call his own? Not mercy; for that by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Not
heaven; for that by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Not eternal life; for that
by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Thus, Pharisee, O thou self-righteous man,
hast thou set up thyself above grace, mercy, heaven, glory; yea, above even God himself,
for the purchaser should in reason be esteemed above the purchase.
Awake man! What hast thou done? Thou hast blasphemed God, thou hast undervalued the
glory of his grace; thou hast, what in thee lieth, opposed the glorious design of
heaven! Thou hast sought to make thy filthy rags to share in thy justification.
Now, all these are mighty sins; these have made thine iniquity infinite. What wilt
thou do? Thou hast created to thyself a world of needless miseries. I call them needless,
because thou hadst more than enough before. Thou hast set thyself against God in
a way of contending; thou standest upon thy points and pantables: Thou wilt not
bate God an ace, of what thy righteousness is worth, and wilt also make it worth
what thyself shalt list. Thou wilt be thine own judge, as to the worth of thy righteousness;
thou wilt neither hear what verdict the word has passed about it, nor wilt thou endure,
that God should throw it out in the matter of thy justification, but quarrellest
with the doctrine of free grace, or else dost wrest it out of its place to serve
thy Pharisaical designs; saying, "God, I thank thee, I am not as other men";
fathering upon thyself, yea, upon God and thyself, a stark lie; for thou art as other
men are, though not in this, yet in that; yea, in a far worse condition than the
most of men are. Nor will it help thee any thing to attribute this thy goodness to
the God of heaven: for that is but a mere toying; the truth is, the God that thou
intendest, is nothing but thy righteousness; and the grace that thou supposest, is
nothing but thine own good and honest intentions. So that,
Fourth, In all that thou sayest, thou dost but play the downright hypocrite. Thou
pretendest indeed to mercy, but thou intendest nothing but merit. Thou seemest to
give the glory to God; but at the same time takest it all to thyself. Thou despisest
others, and criest up thyself, and in conclusion fatherest all upon God by word,
and upon thyself in truth. Nor is there any thing more common among this sort of
men, than to make God, his grace, and kindness, the stalking-horse to their own praise,
saying, God, I thank thee when they trust to themselves that they are righteous,
and have not need of any repentance; when the truth is, they are the worst sort of
men in the world, because they put themselves into such a state as God hath not put
them into, and then impute it to God, saying, God, I thank thee, that thou hast done
it; for what greater sin [is there] than to make God a liar, or than to father that
upon God which he never meant, intended, or did. And all this under a colour to glorify
God; when there is nothing else designed, but to take all glory from him, and to
wear [it] on thine own head as a crown, and a diadem in the face of the whole world.
A self-righteous man therefore can come to God for mercy none otherwise than fawningly:
For what need of mercy hath a righteous man? Let him then talk of mercy, of grace,
and goodness, and come in an hundred times with him, "God, I thank thee,"
in his mouth, all is but words, there is no sense, nor savour, nor relish of mercy
and favour; nor doth he in truth, from his very heart, understand the nature of mercy,
nor what is an object thereof; but when he thanks God, he praises himself; when he
pleads for mercy, he means his own merit; and all this is manifest from what doth
follow; for, saith he, "I am not as this Publican!" Thence clearly insinuating,
that not the good, but the bad, should be rejected of the God of heaven: That not
the bad but the good; not the sinner, but the self- righteous, are the most proper
objects of God's favour. The same thing is done by others in this our day: Favour,
mercy, grace, and "God I thank thee," is in their mouths, but their own
strength, sufficiency, free-will, and the like, they are the things they mean, by
all such high and glorious expressions.
[SECOND JUSTICE.] But, secondly, If thy plea be not for mercy, but for justice, then
to speak a little to that. Justice has measures and rules to go by; unto which measures
and rules, if thou comest not up, justice can do thee no good. Come then, O thou
blind Pharisee, let us pass away a few minutes in some discourse about this. Thou
demandest justice, because God hath said, that the man that doth these things shall
live in and by them. And again, the doers of the law shall be justified; not in a
way of mercy, but in a way of justice. He shall live by them. But what hast thou
done, O blind Pharisee! What hast thou done, that thou art emboldened to venture,
to stand and fall to the most perfect justice of God? Hast thou fulfilled the whole
law, and not offended in one point? Hast thou purged thyself from the pollutions
and motions of sin that dwell in the flesh, and work in thy own members? Is the very
being of sin rooted out of thy tabernacle? And art thou now as perfectly innocent
as ever was Jesus Christ? Hast thou, by suffering the uttermost punishment that justice
could justly lay upon thee for thy sins, made fair and full satisfaction to God,
according to the tenor of his law for thy transgressions? If thou hast done all these
things, then thou mayest plead something, and yet but something for thyself in a
way of justice. Nay, in this I will assert nothing, but rather inquire:—What hast
thou gained by all this thy righteousness? (we will now suppose what must not be
granted) Was not this thy state when thou wast in thy first parents? Wast thou not
innocent, perfectly innocent and righteous? And if thou shouldest be so now, what
hast thou gained thereby? Suppose that the man, that had forty years ago forty pounds
of his own, and had spent it all since, should yet be able now to show his forty
pounds again? What has he got thereby, or how much richer is he at last, than he
was, when he first set up for himself. Nay, doth not the blot of his ill living betwixt
his first and his last, lie as a blemish upon him, unless he should redeem himself
also by works of supererogation, from the scandal that justice may lay at his door
But, I say, suppose, O Pharisee, this should be thy case, yet God is not bound to
give thee in justice that eternal life, which by his grace he bestoweth upon those,
that have redemption from sin, by the blood of his Son. In justice therefore, when
all comes to all, thou canst require no more than an endless life in an earthly paradise;
for there thou wast set up at first; nor doth it appear from what hath been said,
touching all that thou hast done or canst do, that thou deservedst a better place.
Did I say, that thou mayest require justly an endless life in an earthly paradise.
Why? I must add to that saying, this proviso: If thou continuest in the law, and
in the righteousness thereof, else not. But how dost thou know that thou shalt continue
therein? Thou hast no promise from God's mouth for that, nor is grace or strength
ministered to mankind by the covenant that thou art under. So that still thou standest
bound to thy good behaviour, and in the day that thou dost give the first, though
never so little a trip, or stumble in thy obedience, thou forfeitest thine interest
in paradise, and in justice, as to any benefit there.
But alas, what need is there that we should thus talk of things, when it is manifest,
that thou hast sinned, not only before thou wast a Pharisee, but when, after the
most strictest sect of thy religion, thou livedst also a Pharisee; yea, and now in
the temple, in thy prayer there, thou showest thyself to be full of ignorance, pride,
self-conceit, and horrible arrogancy, and desire of vain-glory, &c., which are
none of them the seat of fruits of righteousness, but the seat of the devil, and
the fruit of his dwelling, even at this time, in thy heart.
Could it ever have been imagined, that such audacious impudence could have put itself
forth in any mortal man, in his approach unto God by prayer, as has showed itself
in thee? "I am not as other men!" sayest thou; but is this the way to go
to God in prayer? Is this the way for a mortal man, that is full of sin, that stands
in need of mercy, and that must certainly perish without it, to come to God in prayer?
The prayer of the upright is God's delight. But the upright man glorifies God's justice,
by confessing to God the vileness and pollution of his state and condition: He glorifies
God's mercy by acknowledging, that that, and that only, as communicated of God by
Christ to sinners, can save and deliver from the curse of the law.
This, I say, is the sum of the prayer of the just and upright man (Job 1:8, 40:4,
Acts 13:22, Psa 38, 51, 2 Sam 6:21,22), and not as thou most vain-gloriously vauntest,
with thy, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are."
True, when a man is accused by his neighbours, by a brother, by an enemy, and the
like; if he be clear, and he may be so, as to what they shall lay to his charge,
then let him vindicate, justify, and acquit himself, to the utmost that in justice
and truth he can; for his name, the preservation whereof is more to be chosen than
silver and gold; also his profession, yea, the name of God too, and religion, may
now lie at stake, by reason of such false accusations, and perhaps can by no means,
as to this man, be recovered, and vindicated from reproach and scandal, but by his
justifying of himself. Wherefore in such a work, a man serveth God, and saves religion
from hurt; yea, as he that is a professor, and has his profession attended with a
scandalous life, hurteth religion thereby: So he that has his profession attended
with a good life, and shall suffer it notwithstanding, to lie under blame by false
accusations, when it is in the power of his hand to justify himself, hurteth religion
also. But the case of the Pharisee is otherwise. He is not here a dealing with men,
but God; not seeking to stand clear in the sight of the world, but in the sight of
heaven itself; and that too, not with respect to what men or angels, but with respect
to what God and his law, could charge him with and justly lay at his door.
This therefore mainly altereth the case; for a man here to stand thus upon his points,
it is death; for he affronteth God, he giveth him the lie, he reproveth the law,
and in sum, accuseth it of bearing false witness against him; he doth this, I say,
even by saying, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are"; for
God hath made none of this difference. The law condemneth all men as sinners, and
testifieth, that every imagination of the thought of the heart of the sons of men
is only evil, and that continually. Wherefore they that do as the Pharisee did, to
wit, seek to justify themselves before God from the curse of the law, by their own
good doings, though they also, as the Pharisee did, seem to give God the thanks for
all, yet do most horribly sin, even by their so doing, and shall receive a Pharisee's
reward at last. Wherefore, O thou Pharisee, it is a vain thing for thee either to
think of, or to ask for, at God's hand, either mercy or justice. Because mercy thou
canst not ask for, from sense of want of mercy, because thy righteousness, which
is by the law, hath utterly blinded thine eyes, and complimenting with God doth nothing.
And as for justice, that can do thee no good, but the more just God is, and the more
by that he acteth towards thee, the more miserable and fearful will be thy condition,
because of the deficiency of thy, so much by thee, esteemed righteousness.
[The Pharisee seeth no need of mercy, but thinketh himself righteous before God.]
What a deplorable condition then is a poor Pharisee in! For mercy he cannot pray,
he cannot pray for it with all his heart; for he seeth, indeed, no need thereof.
True, the Pharisee, though he was impudent enough, yet would not take all from God;
he would still count, that there was due to him a tribute of thanks: "God, I
thank thee," saith he, but yet not a bit of this, for mercy; but for that he
had let him live, for I know not for what he did thank himself, till he had made
himself better than other men; but that betterment was a betterment in none other
judgment than that of his own, and that was none other but such an one as was false.
So then, the Pharisee is by this time quite out of doors; his righteousness is worth
nothing, his prayer is worth nothing, his thanks to God are worth nothing; for that
what he had was scanty, and imperfect, and it was his pride that made him offer it
to God for acceptance; nor could his fawning thanksgiving better his case, or make
his matter at all good before God.
But I'll warrant you, the Pharisee was so far off from thinking thus of himself,
and of his righteousness, that he thought of nothing so much as of this, that he
was a happy man; yea, happier by far than other his fellow rationals. Yea, he plainly
declares it when he saith, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are."
O what a fool's paradise was the heart of the Pharisee now in, while he stood in
the temple praying to God! "God, I thank thee," said he, for I am good
and holy, I am a righteous man; I have been full of good works; I am no extortioner,
unjust, nor adulterer, no nor yet as this wretched Publican. I have kept myself strictly
to the rule of mine order, and my order is the most strict of all orders now in being:
I fast, I pray, I give tithes of all that I possess. Yea, so forward am I to be a
religious man; so ready have I been to listen after my duty, that I have asked both
of God and man the ordinances of judgment and justice; I take delight in approaching
to God. What less now can be mine than the heavenly kingdom and glory?
Now the Pharisee, like Haman, saith in his heart, To whom would the king delight
to do honour, more than to myself? Where is the man that so pleaseth God, and consequently,
that in equity and reason should be beloved of God like me? Thus like the prodigal's
brother, he pleadeth, saying, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither
transgressed I at any time thy commandment." (Luke 15:29) O brave Pharisee!
But go on in thine oration: "Nor yet as this Publican."
Poor wretch, quoth the Pharisee to the Publican, What comest thou for? Dost think
that such a sinner as thou art shall be heard of God? God heareth not sinners; but
if any man be a worshipper of God as I am, as I thank God I am, him he heareth. Thou,
for thy part, hast been a rebel all thy days: I abhor to come nigh thee, or to touch
thy garments. Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am more holy than thou. (Isa
Hold, stop there, go no further; fie Pharisee, fie; Dost thou know before whom thou
standest, to whom thou speakest, and of what the matter of thy silly oration is made?
Thou art now before God, thou speakest now to God, and therefore in justice and honesty
thou shouldest make mention of his righteousness, not of thine; of his righteousness,
and of his only.
I am sure Abraham, of whom thou sayest he is thy father, never had the face to do
as thou hast done, though it is to be presumed he had more cause so to do, than thou
hast, or canst have. Abraham had whereof to glory, but not before God; yea, he was
called God's friend, and yet would not glory before him; but humbled himself, was
afraid, and trembled in himself, when he stood before him, acknowledging of himself
to be but dust and ashes. (Gen 18:27,30, Rom 4:2) But thou, as thou hadst quite forgot,
that thou wast framed of that matter, and after the manner of other men, standest
and pleadest thy goodness before him. Be ashamed Pharisee! Dost thou think, that
God hath eyes of flesh, or that he seeth as man sees? Is not the secrets of thy heart
open unto him? Thinkest thou with thyself, that thou, with a few of thy defiled ways
canst cover thy rotten wall, that thou hast daubed with untempered mortar, and so
hide the dirt thereof from his eyes: Or that these fine, smooth, and oily words,
that come out of thy mouth, will make him forget that thy throat is an open sepulchre,
and that thou within art full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness? Thy thus cleansing
of the outside of the cup and platter, and thy garnishing of the sepulchres of the
righteous, is nothing at all in God's eyes, but things that manifest, that thou art
an hypocrite, and blind, because thou takest no notice of that which is within, which
yet is that, which is most abominable to God. For the fruit, alas, what is the fruit
to the tree, or what are the streams to the fountain! Thy fountain is defiled; yea,
a defiler, and so that which maketh thy whole self, with thy works unclean in God's
sight. But Pharisee, how comes it to pass, that the poor Publican is now such a mote
in thine eye, that thou canst not forbear, but must accuse him before the judgment
of God: for in that thou sayest, "that thou art not even as this Publican,"
thou bringest in an accusation, a charge, a bill against him. What has he done? Has
he concealed any of thy righteousness, or has he secretly informed against thee that
thou art an hypocrite, and superstitious? I dare say, the poor wretch has neither
meddled nor made with thee in these matters.
But what aileth the Pharisee? Doth the poor Publican stand to vex thee? Doth he touch
thee with is dirty garments; or doth he annoy thee with his stinking breath? Doth
his posture of standing so like a man condemned offend thee? True, he now standeth
with his hand held up at God's bar, he pleads guilty to all that is laid to his charge.
He cannot strut, vapour, and swagger as thou dost? but why offended at this? Oh but
he has been a naughty man! and I have been righteous, sayest thou. Well, Pharisee,
well, his naughtiness shall not be laid to thy charge, if thou hast chosen none of
his ways. But since thou wilt yet bear me down, that thou art righteous, shew now,
even now, while thou standest before God with the Publican, some, though they be
but small, yea, though but very small fruits of thy righteousness. Let the Publican
alone, since he is speaking of his life before God. Or if thou canst not let him
alone, yet do not speak against him; for thy so doing will but prove, that thou rememberest
the evil that the man has done unto thee; yea, and that thou bearest him a grudge
for it too, and that while you stand before God.
But Pharisee, the righteous man is a merciful man, and while he standeth praying,
he forgiveth; yea, and also crieth to God that he will forgive him too. (Mark 11:25,26,
Acts 7:60) Hitherto then thou hast shewed none of the fruits of thy righteousness.
Pharisee, righteousness would teach thee to love this Publican, but thou showest
that thou hatest him. Love covereth the multitude of sins; but hatred and unfaithfulness
Pharisee, thou shouldest have remembered this thy brother in this his day of adversity,
and shouldest have shewed, that thou hadst compassion to thy brother in this his
deplorable condition; but thou, like the proud, the cruel, and arrogant man, hast
taken thy neighbour at the advantage, and that when he is even between the straits,
and standing upon the very pinnacle of difficulty, betwixt the heavens and the hells,
and hast done what thou couldest, what on thy part lay, to thrust him down to the
deep, saying, "I am not even as this Publican."
What cruelty can be greater; what rage more furious; and what spite and hatred more
damnable and implacable, than to follow, or take a man while he is asking of mercy
at God's hands, and to put in a caveat against his obtaining of it, by exclaiming
against him that he is a sinner? The master of righteousness doth not so: "Do
not think," saith he, "that I will accuse you to the Father." (John
5:45) The scholars of righteousness do not so. "But as for me," said David,
"when they [mine enemies] were sick, [and the Publican here was sick of the
most malignant disease] my clothing was sackcloth, I humbled my soul with fasting;
and my prayer [to wit, that I made for them] returned into mine own bosom. I behaved
myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that
mourneth for his mother." (Psa 35:13,14)
Pharisee, Dost thou see here how contrary thou art to righteous men? Now then, where
shall we find out one to parallel thee, but by finding out of him that is called
the dragon; for he it is that accuseth poor sinners before God. (Zech 3, Rev 12)
"I am not as this Publican": Modesty should have commanded thee to have
bit thy tongue as to this. What could the angels think, but that revenge was now
in thine heart, and but that thou comest up into the temple, rather to boast of thyself
and accuse thy neighbour, than to pray to the God of heaven: For what one petition
is there in all thy prayer, that gives the least intimation, that thou hast the knowledge
of God or thyself? Nay, what petition of any kind is there in thy vain-glorious oration
from first to last? only an accusation drawn up, and that against one helpless and
forlorn; against a poor man, because he is a sinner; drawn up, I say, against him
by thee, who canst not make proof of thyself that thou art righteous: But come to
proofs of righteousness, and there thou art wanting also. What though thy raiment
is better than his, thy skin may be full as black: Yea, what if thy skin be whiter
than his, thy heart may be yet far blacker. Yea, it is so, for the truth hath spoken
it; for within you are full of excess and all uncleanness. (Matt 23)
Pharisee, there are transgressions against the second table, and the Publican shall
be guilty of them: But there are sins also against the first table, and thou thyself
art guilty of them.
The Publican, in that he was an extortioner, unjust, and an adulterer, made it thereby
manifest that he did not love his neighbour; and thou by making a God, a Saviour,
a deliverer, of thy filthy righteousness, doth make it appear, that thou dost not
love thy God; for as he that taketh, or that derogateth from his neighbour in that
which is his neighbour's due, sinneth against his neighbour, so he that taketh or
derogateth from God, sinneth against God.
Now then, though thou hast not, as thou dost imagine, played at that low game as
to derogate from thy neighbour; yet thou hast played at that high game as to derogate
from thy God; for thou hast robbed God of the glory of salvation; yea, declared,
that as to that there is no trust to be put in him. "Lo, this is the man that
made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened
himself in his wickedness" or substance. (Psa 52:7)
What else means this great bundle of thy own righteousness, which thou hast brought
with thee into the temple? yea, what means else thy commending of thyself because
of that, and so thy implicit prayer, that thou for that mightest find acceptance
All this, what does it argue, I say, but thy diffidence of God? and that thou countest
salvation safer in thine own righteousness, than in the righteousness of God; and
that thy own love to, and care of thy own soul, is far greater, and so much better,
than is the care and love of God. And is this to keep the first table; yea, the first
branch of that table, which saith, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God?"
For thy thus doing cannot stand with love to God.
How can that man say, I love God, who from his very heart shrinketh from trusting
in him? Or, how can that man say, I would glorify God, who in his very heart refuseth
to stand and fall by his mercy?
Suppose a great man should bid all the poor of the parish to his house to dinner,
and should moreover send by the mouth of his servant, saying, My lord hath killed
his fatlings, hath furnished his table, and prepared his wine, nor is there want
of anything, come to the banquet: Would it not be counted as a high affront to, great
contempt of, and much distrust in the goodness of the man of the house, if some of
these guests should take with them, out of their own poor store, some of their mouldy
crusts, and carry them with them, lay them on their trenchers upon the table before
the lord of the feast, and the rest of his guests, out of fear that he yet would
not provide sufficiently for those he had bidden to his dinner that he made?
Why Pharisee, this is thy very case, Thou hast been called to a banquet, even to
the banquet of God's grace, and thou hast been disposed to go; but behold, thou hath
not believed, that he would of his own cost make thee a feast, when thou comest;
wherefore of thy own store thou hast brought with thee, and hast laid upon thy trencher
 on his table, thy mouldy and hoary crusts in the presence of the angels, and
of this poor Publican; yea, and hast vauntingly said upon the whole, "God, I
thank thee, that I am not as other men are." I am no such NEEDY man. (Luke 15:7)
"I am no extortioner, nor unjust, no adulterer, nor even as this Publican."
I am come indeed to thy feast, for of civility I could do no less; but for thy dainties,
I need them not, I have of such things enough of mine own. (Luke 18:9) I thank
thee therefore for thy offer of kindness, but I am not as those that have, and stand
in need thereof, "nor yet as this Publican." And thus feeding upon thine
own fare, or by making a composition of his and thine together, thou condemnest God,
thou countest him insufficient or unfaithful; that is, either one that hath not enough,
or having it, will not bestow it upon the poor and needy, and therefore, of mere
pretence thou goest to his banquet, but yet trustest to thine own, and to that only.
This is to break the first table; and so to make thyself a sinner of the highest
form: for the sins against the first table, are sins of an higher nature than are
the sins against the second. True, the sins of the second table are also sins against
God, because they are sins against the commandments of God: but the sins that are
against the first table, are sins not only against the command, but against the very
love, strength, holiness, and faithfulness of God. And herein stands thy condition;
thou hast not, thou sayest thou hast not done injury to thy neighbour; but what of
that, IF THOU HAST REPROACHED GOD THY MAKER? This is, as if a man should be in with
his fellow- servant, and out with his master.
Pharisee, I will assure thee, thou art besides the saddle; thy state is not good,
thy righteousness is so far off from doing of thee any good, that it maketh thee
to be a greater sinner than if thou hadst none at all, because it fighteth more immediately
against the mercy, the love, the grace, and goodness of God, than the sins of other
sinners, as to degree, does.
And as they are more odious and abominable in the sight of God, as they needs must,
if what is said be true, as it is; so they are more dangerous to the life and soul
of man: for that they always appear unto him in whom they dwell, and to him that
trusteth in them, not to be sins and transgressions, but virtues and excellent things.
Not things that set a man further off, but the things, that bring a man nearer to
God, than those that want them are or can be. This therefore is the dangerous estate
of those that go about to establish their own righteousness, that neither have, nor
can, while they are so doing, submit themselves to the righteousness of God. (Rom
10:3) It is far more easy to persuade a poor wretch, whose life is debauched, and
whose sins are written in his forehead, to submit to the righteousness of God, that
is, to the righteousness that is of God's providing and giving; than it is to persuade
a self- righteous man to do it. For the profane are sooner convinced, as of the necessity
of righteousness to save him: so that he has none of his own to do him that pleasure,
and therefore most gladly he accepteth of, and submitteth himself to the help and
health and salvation that is in the righteousness and obedience of another man.
And upon this account it is, that Christ saith, "The Publicans and the Harlots"
enter into the kingdom of heaven before the Scribes and Pharisees. (Matt 21:31) Poor
Pharisee, what a loss art thou at? thou art not only a sinner, but a sinner of the
form. Not a sinner by such sins (by such sins chiefly) as the second table doth make
manifest; but a sinner chiefly in that way, as no self-righteous man did ever dream
of. For when the righteous man or Pharisee shall hear that he is a sinner, he replieth,
"I am not as other men are."
And because the common and more ordinary description of sin, is the transgression
against the second table, he presently replieth again, I am not as this Publican
is; and so shrowdeth himself under his own lame endeavours, and ragged, partial patches
of moral or civil righteousness. Wherefore when he heareth, that his righteousness
is condemned, slighted, and accounted nothing worth, then he fretteth, and fumeth,
and chafeth and would kill the man, that so slighteth and disdaineth his goodly righteousness;
but Christ and the true gospel-teacher still goeth on, and condemneth all his righteousness
to be as menstruous rags, an abomination to God, and nothing but loss and dung.
Now menstruous rags, things that are an abomination, and dung, are not fit matter
to make a garment of to wear, when I come to God for life, much less to be made my
friend, my advocate, my mediator and spokesman, when I stand betwixt heaven and hell,
to plead for me that I might be saved. (Isa 64:6, Luke 16:15, Phil 3:6-8)
Perhaps some will blame me, and count me also worthy thereof, because I do not distinguish
betwixt the matter and the manner of the Pharisee's righteousness. And let them condemn
me still; for, saving the holy law, which is neither the matter nor manner of the
Pharisee's righteousness, but rather the rules, if he will live thereby, up to which
he should completely come in every thing that he doth. And I say again, that the
whole of the Pharisee's righteousness is sinful, though not with and to me, yet with
and before the God of heaven. Sinful I say it is, and abominable, both in itself,
and also in its effects.
[The Pharisee's whole righteousness sinful.]
First, In itself; for that it is imperfect, scanty, and short of the rule by which
righteousness is enjoined, and EVEN with which every act should be: For shortness
here, even every shortness in these duties, is sin, and sinful weakness; wherefore
the curse taketh hold of the man for coming short, but that it could not justly do,
if he coming short was not his sin: Cursed is every one that doeth not, and that
continueth not to do all things written in the law. (Deu 27:26, Gal 3:10)
Second, It is sinful, because it is wrought by sinful flesh; for all legal righteousness
is a work of the flesh. (Rom 4:1, Phil 3:3-8)
A work, I say, of the flesh; even of that flesh, who, or which also committeth the
greatest enormities. For the flesh is but one, though its workings are divers: Sometimes
in a way most notoriously sensual and devilish, causing the soul to wallow in wickedness
as the sow doth to wallow in the mire.
But these are not all the works of the flesh; the flesh sometimes will attempt to
be righteous, and set upon doing actions, that in their perfection would be very
glorious and beautiful to behold. But because the law is only commanding words, and
yieldeth no help to the man that attempts to perform it; and because the flesh is
weak, and cannot do of itself that which it beginneth to meddle with, therefore this
most glorious work of the flesh faileth.
But, I say, as it is a work of the flesh, it cannot be good, forasmuch as the hand
that worketh it, is defiled with sin: For in a good man, one spiritually good, "that
is in his flesh there dwells no good thing," but consequently that which is
bad; how then can the flesh of a carnal, graceless man, and such a one is every Pharisee
and self-righteous man in the world, produce, though it joineth itself to the law,
to the righteous law of God, that which is good in his sight.
If any shall think that I pinch so hardly, because I call man's righteousness which
is of the law, of the righteous law of God, flesh; let them consider that which follows;
to wit, That though man by sin, is said to be dead in sin and trespasses, yet not
so dead, but that he can act still in his own sphere. That is, to do, and choose
to do, either that which by all men is counted base, or that which by some is counted
good, though he is not, nor can all the world make him capable of doing anything
that may please his God.
Man by nature, as dead as he is, can, and that with the will of his flesh, will his
own salvation. Man by nature can, and that by the power of the flesh, pursue and
follow after his own salvation; but then he wills it, and pursues or follows after
it, not in God's way, but his own. Not by faith in Christ, but by the law of Moses,
see Romans 10:16, 31, 10:3-7.
Wherefore it is no error to say, that a man naturally has Will, and a Power to pursue
his will, and that as to his salvation. But it is a damnable error to say, that he
hath will and power to pursue it, and that in God's way. For then we must hold that
the mysteries of the gospel are natural; for that natural men, or men by nature,
may apprehend and know them; yea, and know them to be the only means by which they
must obtain eternal life: for the understanding must act before the will; yea, a
man must approve of the way to life by Jesus Christ, before his mind will budge,
or stir, or move that way: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God; [of the gospel] for they are foolishness unto him, neither can
he know them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14)
He receiveth not these things; that is, his mind and will lie cross unto them, for
he counts them foolishness; nor can all the natural wisdom in the world, cause that
his will should fall in with them, because it cannot discern them.
Nature discerneth the law, and the righteousness thereof; yea, it discerneth it,
and approveth thereof; that is, that the righteousness of it is the best and only
way to life, and therefore the natural will and power of the flesh, as here you see
in the Pharisee, do steer their course by that for eternal life. (1 Cor 2:14)
The righteousness of the law therefore is a work of the flesh, a work of sinful flesh,
and therefore must needs be as filth and dung, and abominable as to that for which
this man hath produced it, and presented it in the temple before God.
Nor is the Pharisee alone entangled in this mischief; many souls are by these works
of the flesh flattered, as also the Pharisee was, into an opinion, that their state
is good, when there is nothing in it. the most that their conversion amounteth to,
is, the Publican is become a Pharisee; the open sinner is become a self-righteous
man. Of the black side of the flesh he hath had enough, now therefore with the white
side of the flesh he will recreate himself. And now, most wicked must he needs be,
that questioneth the goodness of the state of such a man. He, of a drunkard, a swearer,
an unclean person, a sabbath-breaker, a liar, and the like, is become reformed; a
lover of righteousness, a strict observer, doer, and trader in the formalities of
the law, and a herder with men of his complexion. And now he is become a great exclaimer
against sin and sinners, defying to acquaint with those that once were his companions,
saying, "I am not even as this Publican."
To turn therefore from the flesh to the flesh, from sin to man's righteousness: yea,
to rejoice in confidence, that thy state is better than is that of the Publican:
I mean, better in the eyes of divine justice, and in the judgment of the law; and
yet to be found by the law, not in the spirit, but in the flesh; not in Christ, but
under the law; not in a state of salvation, but of damnation, is common among men:
For they, and they only, are the right men, "which worship God in the Spirit,
and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Where by
flesh, must not be meant the horrible transgressions against the law, though they
are also called the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19), for they minister no occasion
unto men, to have confidence in them towards God: but that is that, which is insinuated
by Paul, where he saith, he had "no confidence in the flesh," though he
might have had it, as he said, "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh.
If any other man," saith he, "thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust
in the flesh, I more" (Phil 3:3,4): And then he repeats a two-fold privilege
that he had by the flesh. First, That he was one of the seed of Abraham, and of the
tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, &c.
Secondly, That he had fallen in with the strictest men of that religion, which was
such after the flesh; to wit, to be a Pharisee, and was the son of a Pharisee, had
much fleshly zeal for God, and was "touching the righteousness which is in the
law blameless." (Phil 3:6)
But, I say still, there is nothing but flesh, flesh; fleshly privileges, and fleshly
righteousness, and so consequently a fleshly confidence, and trust for heaven. This
is manifest for these very things, when the man had his eyes enlightened, he counted
all but loss and dung, that he might be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness
which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness
which is of God by faith.
[Godly men are afraid of their own righteousness.]
And this leads me to another thing, and that is, to tell thee, O thou blind Pharisee
that thou canst not be in a safe condition, because thou hast thy confidence in the
flesh, that is, in the righteousness of the flesh. For "all flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field": and the flesh
and the glory of that being as weak as the grass, which today is, and tomorrow is
cast into the oven, is but a weak business for a man to venture his eternal salvation
upon. Wherefore, as I also hinted before, the godly-wise have been afraid to be found
in their righteousness, I mean their own personal righteousness, though that is far
better, than can be the righteousness of any carnal man: for the godly man's righteousness
is wrought in the spirit and faith of Christ; but the ungodly man's righteousness
is of the flesh, and of the law. Yet I say, this godly man is afraid to stand by
his righteousness before the tribunal of God, as is manifest in these following particulars.
First, He sees sin in his righteousness, for so the prophet intimates, when he saith,
"All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6): but there is nothing
can make one's righteousness filthy but sin. It is not the poor, the low, the mean,
the sickly, the beggarly state of a man, nor yet his being hated of devils, persecuted
of men, broken under necessities, reproaches, distresses, or any kind of troubles
of this nature, that can make the godly man's righteousness filthy; nothing but SIN
can do it, and that can, doth, hath, and will do it. Nor can any man, be he who he
will, and though he watches, prays, strives, denies himself, and puts his body under
what chastisement or hardships he can; yea, though he also shall get his spirit and
soul hoisted up to the highest peg, or pin of sanctity, and holy contemplation, and
so his lusts to the greatest degree of mortification; but sin will be with him in
the best of his performances. With him, I say, to pollute and defile his duties,
and to make his righteousness specked and spotted, filthy and menstruous.
I will give you two or three instances for this. 1. Nehemiah was a man, in his day,
one that was zealous, very zealous for God, for his house, for his people, and for
his ways; and so continued, and that from first to last, as they may see that please
to read the relation of his action; yet when he comes seriously to be concerned with
God about his duties, he relinquisheth a standing by them. True, he mentioneth them
to God, but confesseth that there is imperfections in them, and prayeth that God
will not wipe them away: "Wipe not out my good deeds, O my God, that I have
done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof." And again, "Remember
me, O my God, concerning this," also another good deed, "and spare me according
to the greatness of thy mercy: - Remember me, O my God, for good." (Neh 13)
I do not think that by these prayers he pleadeth for an acceptation of his person,
as touching justification from the curse of the law, as the poor blind Pharisee doth;
but that God would accept of his service, as he was a son, and not deny to give him
a reward of grace for what he had done, since he was pleased to declare in his testament,
that he would reward the labour of love of his saints with an exceeding weight of
glory; and therefore prayeth, that God would not wipe away his good deeds, but remember
him for good, according to the greatness of his mercy.
2. A second instance is that of David, where he saith, "Enter not into judgment
with thy servant": O Lord; "for in thy sight shall no man living be justified."
(Psa 143:2) David, as I also have hinted before is said to be a man after God's own
heart (Acts 13:22), and as here by the Spirit he acknowledges him for his servant;
yet behold how he shrinketh, how he draweth back, how he prayeth, and petitioneth,
that God would vouchsafe so much as not to enter into judgment with him. Lord, saith
he, if thou enterest into judgment with me, I die, because I shall be condemned;
for in thy sight I cannot be justified; to wit, by my own good deeds. Lord, at the
beginning of thy dealing with me, by thy law and my works I die, therefore do not
so much as enter into judgment with me, O Lord. Nor is this my case only, but it
is the condition of all the world: "For in thy sight shall NO man living be
3. A third instance is, that general conclusion of the apostle, "But that no
man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall
live by faith." (Gal 3:11) By this saying of Paul, as he taketh up the sentence
of the prophet Habakkuk (2:4), so he taketh up this sentence, yea, and the personal
justice of David also. No man, saith he, is justified by the law in the sight of
God; no, no just man, no holy man, not the strictest and most righteous man. But
why not? why? Because the just shall live by faith.
The just man, therefore, must die, if he has not faith in another righteousness,
than that which is of the law; called his own: I say, he must die, if he has none
other righteousness than that which is his own by the law. Thus also Paul confesses
of himself: I, saith he, know nothing by myself, either before conversion or after;
that is, I knew not, that I did anything before conversion, either against the law,
or against my conscience; for I was then, touching the righteousness which is of
the law, blameless. Also, since my conversion, I know nothing by myself; for "I
have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day." (Acts 23:1)
A great saying, I promise you. I doubt this is more than our glorious justitiaries
can say, except they say and lie. Well, but yet, "I am not hereby justified."
(1 Cor 4:4, Phil 3:7) Nor will I dare to venture the eternal salvation of my soul
upon mine own justice, "but he that judgeth me is the Lord." That is, though
I, through my dimsightedness, cannot see the imperfections of my righteousness; yet
the Lord, who is my judge, and before whose tribunal I must shortly stand, can and
will; and if in his sight there shall be found no more but one spot in my righteousness,
I must, if I plead my righteousness, fall for that.
Second, That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal, there to
be judged by the law as to life and death, according to the sufficiency or non-sufficiency
of their righteousness, is evident, because by casting away their own, in this matter,
they make all the means they can for this; that is, that his mercy, by an act of
grace, be made over to them, and that they in it may stand before God to be judged.
Hence David cries out so often, "Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness."
(Psa 5:8) "Deliver me in thy righteousness." (Psa 31:1) "Judge me,
O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness." (Psa 35:24) "Quicken me
in thy righteousness." (Psa 119:40) "O Lord," says he, "give
ear to my supplications; in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
And enter not into judgment with thy servant": O Lord: "For in thy sight
shall no man living be justified." (Psa 143:1,2) And David, What if God doth
thus? Why then, saith he, "My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness."
(Psa 35:28) "My tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness." (Psa 51:14)
"My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness." Yea, "I will make mention
of thy righteousness, even of thine only." (Psa 71:15,16)
Daniel also, when he comes to plead for himself and his people, he first casts away
his and their righteousness, saying, "For we do not present out supplications
before thee for our righteousnesses." And pleads God's righteousness, and that
he might have a share and interest in that, saying, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth
unto thee" (9:7,18), to wit, that righteousness, for the sake of which, mercy
and forgiveness, and so heaven and happiness is extended to us.
Righteousness belongeth to thee, and is thine, as nearly as sin, shame, and confusion,
is ours, and belongeth to us, which righteousness he afterwards calleth "The
Lord," saying, do it, for the Lord's sake; read the 16, 17, verses of the ninth
of Daniel. "O Lord," saith he, "according to all thy righteousness,
I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem,
thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem
and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our
God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to
shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake." For the sake
of the Lord Jesus Christ; for on him Daniel now had his eye, and through him to the
Father he made his supplication; yea, and the answer was according to his prayer,
to wit, that God would have mercy on Jerusalem, and that he would in his time send
the Lord, the Messias, to bring them in everlasting righteousness for them.
Paul also, as I have hinted before, disclaims his own righteousness, and layeth fast
hold on the righteousness of God: seeking to be found in that, or in him that has
it, not having his own righteousness; for he knew that when the rain descends, the
winds blow, and the floods come down falls on all men, but they that have that righteousness.
Now the earnest desire of the righteous to be found in God's righteousness, ariseth
from strong conviction of the imperfections of their own, and of good knowledge that
was given them of the terror that will attend men at the day of the fiery trial;
to wit, the day of judgment. For although men can now flatter themselves into a fool's
paradise, and persuade themselves that all shall be well with them then, for the
sake of their own silly and vain-glorious performances; yet when the day comes that
shall burn like an oven, and when all that have done wickedly shall be as stubble,
and so will all appear to be that are not found in Christ, then will their righteousness
vanish like smoke, or be like fuel for that burning flame. And hence the righteousness
that the godly seek to be found in, is called the name of the Lord, a strong tower,
a rock, a shield, a fortress, a buckler, a rock of defence, UNTO which they resort,
and INTO which they run and are safe.
The godly wise therefore do not, as this Pharisee, bring their own righteousness
into the temple, and there buoy up themselves and spirits by that into a conceit,
that for the sake of that, God will be merciful and good unto them: but throwing
away their own, they make to God for his, because they certainly know, even by the
word of God, that in the judgment none can stand the trial, but those that are found
in the righteousness of God.
Third, That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal by the law,
there to be judged to life and death, according to the sufficiency or non-sufficiency
of their righteousness, is evident: for they know, that it is a vain thing to seek
by acts of righteousness to make themselves righteous men, as is the way of all them
that seek to be justified by the deeds of the law.
And herein lieth the great difference between the Pharisee and the true Christian
man. The Pharisee thinks, by acts of righteousness he shall make himself a righteous
man, therefore he cometh into the presence of God well furnished, as he thinks, with
his negative and positive righteousness.
Grace suffereth not a man to boast it before God, whatever he saith before me: "His
soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him" (Hab 2:4): And better is the
poor in spirit, than the proud in spirit. The Pharisee was a very proud man, a proud,
ignorant man, proud of his own righteousness, and ignorant of God's: for had he not,
he could not, as he did, have so condemned the Publican, and justified himself.
[The Pharisee ignorant that he must be righteous before he can do righteousness.]
And I say again, that all this pride and vain-glorious shew of the Pharisee, did
arise from his not being acquainted with this; that a man must be good, before he
can do good; he must be righteous, before he can do righteousness. This is evident
from Paul, who insinuateth this as the reason, why "none do good," even
because There is none that is righteous, no, not one. "There is none righteous,"
saith he; and then follows, "There is none that doeth good." (Rom 3:10-12)
For it is not possible for a man, that is not first made righteous by the God of
heaven, to do anything that in a proper, in a law, or in a gospel-sense may be called
righteousness. Meddle with righteous things he may; attempt to make himself a righteous
man, by his so meddling with them, he may; but work righteousness, and so by such
works of righteousness, make himself a righteous man, he cannot.
The righteousness of a carnal man, is indeed by God called righteousness; but it
must be understood, as spoken in the dialect of the world; or with reference to the
world's matters. The world indeed calls it righteousness; and it will do no harm,
if it bear that term with reference to worldly matters. Hence worldly civilians are
called good and righteous men, and so, such as Christ, under that notion, neither
died for, nor giveth his grace unto. (Rom 5:7,8) But we are not now discoursing about
any other righteousness, than that which is so accounted either in a law, or in a
gospel-sense; and therefore let us a little more touch upon that.
A man then must be righteous in a law-sense, before he can do acts of righteousness,
I mean that are such, in a gospel-sense. Hence first, you have true gospel-righteousness
made the fruit of a second birth. "If ye know that he [Christ] is righteous,
ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him." (1 John 2:29)
Not born of him by virtue of his own righteous actions, but born of him by virtue
of Christ's mighty working with his word upon the soul; who afterwards, from a principle
of life, acteth and worketh righteousness.
And he saith again, "Little children, let no man deceive you, he that doeth
righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." (1 John 3:7) Upon this
scripture, I will a little comment, for the proof of what is urged before; namely,
that a man must be righteous in a law-sense, before he can do such things that may
be called acts of righteousness in a gospel-sense. And for this, this scripture,
ministereth to us two things to be considered by us.
The first is, that he that doeth righteousness is righteous.
The second is, that he that doeth righteousness is righteous, as Christ is righteous.
First, He that doeth righteousness; that is, righteousness which the gospel calleth
so, is righteous; that is, precedent to, or before he doth that righteousness. For
he doth not say, he shall make his person righteous by acts of righteousness that
he shall do; for then an evil tree may bear good fruit: yea, and may make itself
good by doing so: But he saith, he that doeth righteousness is righteous; as he saith,
he that doeth righteousness IS born of him.
So then, a man must be righteous before he can do righteousness, before he can do
righteousness in a gospel-sense.
Second, Our second thing then is to inquire, with what righteousness a man must be
righteous, before he can do that which in a gospel-sense is called righteousness?
And first, I answer, He must be righteous in a law-sense; that is, he must be righteous
in the judgment of the law. This is evident, because he saith, he that doeth righteousness
is righteous as he is righteous. That is, in a law-sense; for Christ in no sense
is righteous in the judgment of charity only; but in his meanest acts, if it be lawful
to make such comparison, he was righteous in a law-sense, or in the judgment of the
law. Now the apostle saith, "That he that doeth righteousness IS righteous,
as HE is righteous." They are the words of God, and therefore I cannot err in
quoting of them, though I may not so fully, as I would, make the glory of them shine
in speaking to them.
But what righteousness is that, with which a man must stand righteous in the judgment
of the law, before he shall or can be found to do acts of righteousness, that by
the gospel are so called? I answer.
First, It is none of his own which is of the law, you may be sure; for he hath this
righteousness before he doeth any that can be called his own. "He that doeth
righteousness is righteous" already, precedent to, or before he doth that righteousness;
yea, he is righteous before, even as HE is righteous.
Second, It cannot be his own which is of the gospel; that is, that which floweth
from a principle of grace in the soul: for he is righteous before he doeth this righteousness.
He that doeth righteousness, IS righteous. He doth not say he that hath done it,
but he that doeth it; respecting the act while it is in doing, he is righteous. He
is righteous even then, when he is a doing of the very first act of righteousness;
but an act, while it is in doing, cannot, until it is done, be called an act of righteousness;
yet, saith the text, "He is righteous."
But again, if an act, while it is in doing, cannot be called an act of righteousness;
to be sure, it cannot have such influences as to make the actor righteous; to make
him righteous, as the Son of God is righteous, and yet the righteousness with which
this doer is made righteous, and that before he doeth righteousness, is such; for
so saith the text, that makes him righteous as he is righteous.
Besides, it cannot be his own, which is gospel-righteousness, flowing from a principle
of grace in the soul; for that in its greatest perfection in us, while we live in
this world, is accompanied with some imperfections; to wit, our faith, love, and
whole course of holiness is wanting, or hath something lacking in it. They neither
are apart, nor when put all together, perfect, as to the degree, the uttermost degree
But the righteousness under consideration, with which the man, in that of John, is
made righteous, is a perfect righteousness; not only with respect to the nature of
it, as a penny is as perfect silver as a shilling; nor yet with respect to a comparative
degree; for so a shilling arriveth more toward the perfection of the number twenty,
than doth a two-penny or a three-penny piece: but it is a righteousness so perfect,
that nothing can be added to it, nor can any thing be taken from it: for so implieth
the words of the text, "he is righteous, as Christ is righteous." Yea,
thus righteous before, and in order to his doing of righteousness. And in this he
is like unto the Son of God, who was also righteous before he did acts of righteousness
referring to a law of commandment: wherefore it is said, that as he is, so are we
in this world. As he is or was righteous, before he did acts of righteousness among
men by a law, so are HIS righteous, before they act righteousness among men by a
law. "He that doth righteousness is righteous, as HE is righteous."
Christ was righteous, before he did righteousness, with a two- fold righteousness.
He had a righteousness as he was God; his godhead was perfectly righteous; yea, it
was righteousness itself. His human nature was perfectly righteous, it was naturally
spotless and undefiled. Thus his person was righteous, and so qualified to do that
righteousness, that because he was born of a woman, and made under the law, he was
bound by the law to perform.
Now, as he is, so are we: not by way of natural righteousness, but by way of resemblance
thereunto. Had Christ, in order to his working of righteousness, a two-fold righteousness
inherent in himself, the Christian, in order to his working of righteousness, hath
belonging to him a two-fold righteousness. Did Christ's two-fold righteousness qualify
him for that work of righteousness, that was of God designed for him to do? Why the
Christian's two-fold righteousness doth qualify him for that work of righteousness,
that God hath ordained, that he should do and walk in this world.
But you may ask, what is that righteousness, with which a Christian is made righteous
before he doth righteousness?
I answer, It is a two-fold righteousness.
I. It is a righteousness put upon him.
II. It is a righteousness put into him. I. For the first, It is righteousness put
upon him, with which also he is clothed as with a coat or mantle (Rom 3:22), and
this is called the robe of righteousness; and this is called the garments of salvation.
(Isa 61:10) This righteousness is none other but the obedience of Christ; the
which he performed in the days of his flesh, and can properly be called no man's
righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ; because no man had a hand therein,
but he completed it himself. And hence it is said, That "by the obedience of
one shall many be made righteous." (Rom 5:19) By the obedience of one, of one
man Jesus Christ, as you have it in verse 15 for he came down into the world to this
very end; that is, to make a generation righteous, not by making of them laws, and
prescribing unto them rules: for this was the work of Moses, who said, "And
it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before
the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." (Deu 6:25, 24:13) Nor yet by taking
away by his grace the imperfections of their righteousness, and so making of that
perfect by additions of his own; but he makes them righteous by his obedience; not
in them, but for them, while he personally subjected himself to his Father's law
on our behalf, that he might have a righteousness to bestow upon us. And hence we
are said to be made righteous, while we work not; and to be justified while ungodly
(Rom 4:5), which can be done by no other righteousness than that, which is the righteousness
of Christ by performance, the righteousness of God by donation, and our righteousness
by imputation. For, I say, the person that wrought this righteousness for us, is
Christ Jesus; the person that giveth it to us, is the Father; who hath made Christ
to be unto us righteousness, and hath given him to us for this very end, that we
might be made the righteousness of God in him (1 Cor 1:30, 2 Cor 5:21), And hence
it is so often said, One shall say, surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.
And again, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall
glory." "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness
is of me, saith the Lord." (Isa 45:24,25, 54:17)
This righteousness is that which justifieth, and which secureth the soul from the
curse of the law; by hiding, through its perfection, all the sins and imperfections
of the soul. Hence it follows, in that fourth of the Romans, "Even as David
also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness
without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose
sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
And this it doth, even while the person that by grace is made a partaker, is without
good works, and so ungodly. This is the righteousness of Christ, Christ's personal
performances, which he did when he was in this world; that is that, by which the
soul while naked, is covered, and so hid as to its nakedness, from the divine sentence
of the law; "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness." (Eze
Now this obediential righteousness of Christ, consisteth of two parts. 1. In a doing
of that which the law commanded us to do. 2. In a paying that price for the transgression
thereof, which justice hath said, shall be required at the hand of man; and that
is the cursed death. In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death;
to wit, the death that comes by the curse of the law. So then, Christ having brought
in that part of obedience for us, which consisteth in a doing of such obediential
acts of righteousness which the law commands; he addeth thereto the spilling of his
blood, to be the price of our redemption from that cursed death, that by sin we had
brought upon our bodies and souls. And thus are the Christians made perfectly righteous;
they have the whole obedience of Christ made over to them; to wit, that obedience
that standeth in doing the law, and that obedience that standeth in paying of a price
for our transgressions. So then, Doth the law call for righteousness? Here it is.
Doth the law call for satisfaction for our sins? Here it is. And what can the law
say any more to the sinner but that which is good, when he findeth in the personal
obedience of Christ for him, that which answereth to what it can command, that which
it can demand of us.
Herein then standeth a Christian's safety, not in a bundle of actions of his own,
but in a righteousness which cometh to him by grace and gift; for this righteousness
is such as comes by gift, by the gift of God. Hence it is called the gift of righteousness,
the gift by grace, the gift of righteousness by grace, which is the righteousness
of one, to wit, the obedience of Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:15-19)
And this is the righteousness by which, he that doth righteousness, is righteous
as HE is righteous; because it is the very self-same righteousness, that the Son
of God hath accomplished by himself. Nor has he any other or more excellent righteousness,
of which the law taketh notice, or that it requireth, than this. For as for the righteousness
of his godhead, the law is not concerned with that; for as he is such, the law is
his creature, and servant, and may not meddle with him.
The righteousness also of his human nature, the law hath nothing to do with that;
for that is the workmanship of God, and is as good, as pure, as holy and undefiled,
as is the law itself. All then that the law hath to do with, is to exact complete
obedience of him that is made under it, and a due satisfaction for the breach thereof,
the which, if it hath, then Moses is content.
Now, this is the righteousness, with which the Christian, as to justification, is
made righteous; to wit, a righteousness, that is neither essential to his godhead,
nor to his manhood; but such as standeth in that glorious person, who was such, his
obedience to the law. Which righteousness himself had, with reference to himself,
no need of at all, for his godhead; yea, his manhood was perfectly righteous without
it. This righteousness therefore was there, and there only, necessary, where Christ
was to be considered as God's servant and our surety, to bring to God Jacob again,
and to restore the preserved of Israel. For though Christ was a Son, yet he became
a servant to do, not for himself, for he had no need, but for us, the whole law,
and so bring in everlasting righteousness for us.
And hence it is said, that Christ did what he did for us: He became the end of the
law for righteousness for us; he suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21); he died for us (1
Thess 5:10); he laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16), and he gave himself for
us. (Gal 1:4) The righteousness then that Christ did fulfil, when he was in the world,
was not for himself simply considered, nor for himself personally considered, for
he had no need thereof; but it was for the elect, the members of his body.
Christ then did not fulfil the law for himself, for he had no need thereof. Christ
again did fulfil the law for himself, for he had need of the righteousness thereof;
he had need thereof for the covering of his body, and the several members thereof;
for they, in a good sense, are himself, members of his body, of his flesh, and of
his bones; and he owns them as parts of himself in many places of the holy scripture.
(Eph 5:30, Acts 9:4,5, Matt 25:45, 10:40, Mark 9:37, Luke 10:16, 1 Cor 12:12,27)
This righteousness then, even the whole of what Christ did in answer to the law,
it was for his, and God hath put it upon them, and they are righteous in it, even
righteous as he is righteous. And this they have before they do acts of righteousness.
II. There is righteousness put into them, before they act righteous things. A righteousness,
I say, put into them; or I had rather that you should call it a principle of righteousness;
for it is a principle of life to righteousness. Before man's conversion, there is
in him a principle of death by sin; but when he is converted to Christ, there is
put into him a principle of righteousness, that he may bring forth fruit unto God.
Hence they are said to be quickened, to be made alive, to be risen from death to
life, to have the Spirit of God dwelling in them; not only to make their souls alive,
but to quicken their mortal bodies to that which is good. (Rom 8:11)
Here, as I hinted before, they that do righteousness are said to be born of him,
that is, antecedent to their doing of righteousness (1 John 2:29), "born of
him," that is, made alive with new spiritual and heavenly life. Wherefore the
exhortation to them is, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness
unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and
your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Rom 6:13)
Now this principle must also be in men, before they can do that which is spiritually
and gospelly good: For whatever seeming good thing any man doth, before he has bestowed
upon him this heavenly principle from God, it is accounted nothing, it is accounted
sin and abomination in the sight of God; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good
fruit: Men do not gather grapes of thorns; neither of a bramble gather they figs.
Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or the tree evil and his fruit evil.
(Luke 6:43-45) It is not the fruit that makes the tree, but the tree that makes the
fruit. A man must be good, before he can do good, and evil before he can do evil.
They be not righteous actions that make a righteous man; nor be they evil actions
that make a wicked man: for a tree must be a sweeting tree before it yield sweetings;
and a crab tree before it bring forth crabs.
This is that which is asserted by the Son of God himself; and it lieth so level with
reason and the nature of things, that it cannot be contradicted. (Matt 7:16-18) "A
good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good;
and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which
is evil." (Luke 6:45) But this, notwithstanding all that can be said, seemeth
very strange to the carnal world; for they will not be otherwise persuaded, but that
they be good deeds that make good men, and evil ones that make evil men: And so by
such dotish apprehensions do what in them lieth to fortify their hearts with the
mists of darkness against the clear shining of the word, and conviction of the truth.
And thus it was from the beginning: Abel did his first services to God from this
principle of righteousness; but Cain would have been made righteous by his deed;
but his deed not flowing from the same root of goodness, as did Abel's, notwithstanding
he did it with the very best he had, is yet called evil: For he wanted, I say, the
principles, to wit, of grace and faith, without which no action can be counted good
in a gospel sense.
These two things then, that man must have that will do righteousness. He must have
put upon him the perfect righteousness of Christ; and he must have dwelling in him,
as a fruit of the new birth, a principle of righteousness. Then indeed he is a tree
of righteousness, and God is like to be glorified in, and by him; but this the Pharisee
was utterly ignorant of, and at the remotest distance from it.
[The righteousness of Christ, unto justification, must be imputed to the Christian
before he can attain the principle of righteousness unto sanctification.]
Quest. You may ask me next, But which of these are first bestowed upon the Christian,
the perfect righteousness of Christ unto justification, or this gospel principle
of righteousness unto sanctification?
Answ. The perfect righteousness of Christ unto justification, must first be made
over to him by an act of grace. This is evident,
1. Because, he is justified as ungodly; that is, whilst he is ungodly: But it must
not be said of them, that have this principle of grace in them, that they are ungodly;
for they are saints and holy. But this righteousness, by IT God justifieth the ungodly,
by imputing it to them, when, and while they, as to a principle of grace, are graceless.
This is further manifested thus: The person must be accepted before the performance
of the person can; "And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering."
(Gen 4:4) If he had respect to Abel's person first, yet he must have respect unto
it for the sake of some righteousness; but Abel, in that, had no righteousness; for
that he acted after that God had had respect unto his person. "And the LORD
had respect unto Abel, and to his offering: But unto Cain, and to his offering, he
had not respect."
The prophet Ezekiel also shows us this; where, by the similitude of the wretched
infant, and of the manner of God's receiving it to mercy, he shows how he received
the Jews to favour. First, saith he, "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered
thy nakedness." (16:8) There is justification; "I covered thy nakedness."
But what manner of nakedness was it? Was it utter nakedness, nakedness in its perfection?
Yes, it was then as naked as naked could be, even as naked as in the day that it
was born. And as thus naked, it was covered, not with anything, but with the skirt
of Christ; that is, with his robe of righteousness, with his obedience, that he performed
by himself for that very purpose. For by the obedience of one many are made righteous.
2. Righteousness unto justification must be first, because the first duty that a
Christian performeth to God, must be accepted, not for the sake of the principle
from which in the heart it flows, nor yet for the sake of the person that acts it;
but for the sake of Christ, whose righteousness it is, by which, before the sinner,
he stands just before God. And hence it is said, "By faith Abel offered unto
God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." (Heb 11:4) By faith he did it; but
faith hath respect to the righteousness that justifies. For we are justified by faith,
not by faith as it is a grace, nor by faith as it is an acting grace; but by the
righteousness of faith; that is, by that righteousness that faith embraceth, layeth
hold of, and helpeth the soul to rest upon, and to trust to, for justification of
life, which is the obedience of Christ. Besides, it is said, by faith he offered;
faith then, faith in Christ, was precedent to his offering.
Now since faith was in being and in act before his offer, and since before his offer,
he had no personal goodness of his own, faith must look out from home: I say, it
must look out to another than to him in whom it resided for righteousness; and finding
the righteousness of Christ to be the righteousness, which by God was designed to
be performed for the justification of a sinner, it embraces it, and through it offereth
to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.
Hence it follows, "by which he obtained witness that he was righteous."
By which, not by his offering, but by his faith. For his offering, simply as an offering,
could not have made him righteous, if he had not been righteous before; "for
an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit." Besides, if this be granted, why
had not God respect to Cain's offering, as well as to Abel's?
For, did Abel offer? so did Cain. Did Abel offer his best? so did Cain his. And if
with this, we shall take notice of the order of their offering, Cain seemed to offer
first, and so with the frankest will, and forwardest mind; but yet, saith the text,
"The Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering." But why to Abel? Why,
because his person was made righteous before he offered his gift: "By which
he obtained witness that he was righteous." God testifying of his gifts, that
they were good and acceptable, because they declared Abel's acceptation of the righteousness
of Christ, for his justice, through the riches of the grace of God.
By faith then, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. He shrouded
himself under the righteousness of Christ, and so, as out of that righteousness,
he offered to God; God also looking and finding him there, where also he could not
have been, as to his own apprehension, no otherwise than by faith, he accepted of
his gift; by which acceptation, for so you may understand it also, God testified
that he was righteous: For God receiveth not the gifts and offerings of those that
are not righteous, for their sacrifices are an abomination unto him. (Prov 21:27)
Abel then was righteous before; he was, I say, made righteous first, as he stood
ungodly in himself; God justifieth the ungodly. (Rom 4) Now being justified, he was
righteous; and being righteous, he offered his sacrifice of praise to God, or other
offerings which God accepted, because he believed in his Son, as also other scriptures
manifest abundantly. But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
3. Righteousness by imputation must be first, because we are made so, to wit, by
another, "By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Now to
be made righteous, implies a passiveness in him that is so made, and the activity
of the work to lie in some body else; except he had said, they had made themselves
righteous; but that it doth not, nor doth the text leave to any the least countenance
so to insinuate: Nay, it plainly affirms the contrary, for it saith, by the obedience
of one, of one man Jesus Christ, many are made righteous; by the righteousness of
one (Rom 5), So then, if they be MADE righteous by the righteousness of one: I say,
if many be made righteous by the righteousness of one, then are they that are so,
as to themselves, passive and not active, with reference unto the working out of
this righteousness. They have no hand in that; for that is the act of ONE, the righteousness
of ONE, the obedience of ONE, the workmanship of ONE, even of Christ Jesus.
Again, if they are made righteous by this righteousness, then also they are passive,
as to their first privilege by it; for they are made righteous by it; they do not
make themselves righteous; no, they do not make themselves righteous by it.
Imputation is also the act of God. Even as David also describeth the blessedness
of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness. The righteousness then is the work
of Christ, his own obedience to his father's law; the making of it ours, is the act
of his father, and of his infinite grace; "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus,
who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness." "For he [God] hath
made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness
of God in him." And both these things God showed to our first parents when he
acted in grace towards them after the fall.
There it is said, the Lord God made unto Adam, and unto his wife, coats of skins,
and clothed them. (Gen 3:21)
(1.) That Adam and his wife were naked both in God's eye, and in their own. (verse
(2.) That the Lord God made coats of skins.
(3.) That in his making of them, he had respect to Adam and to his wife, that is,
he made them for them.
(4.) That when he had made them, he also clothed them therewith.
They made not the coats, nor did God bid them make them; but God did make them himself
to cover their nakedness with. Yea, when he had made them, he did not bid them put
them on, but he himself did clothe them with them: For thus runs the text; "Unto
Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."
O! It was the Lord God that made this coat, with which a poor sinner is made righteous!
And it is also the Lord God that putteth it upon us. But this our Pharisee understandeth
But now, if a man is not righteous before he is made so, before the Lord God has,
by the righteousness of another, made him so; then whether this righteousness come
first or last, the man is not righteous until it cometh, and if he be not righteous
until it cometh, then what works soever are done before it comes, they are not the
works of a righteous man, nor the fruits of a good tree, but of a bad. And so again,
this righteousness must first come before a man be righteous, and before a man does
righteousness. Make the tree good and its fruit will be good.
Now, since a man must be made righteous before he can do righteousness, it is manifest
his works of righteousness do not make him righteous, no more than the fig makes
its own tree a fig-tree, or than the grape doth make its own vine a vine. Hence those
acts of righteousness, that Christian men do perform, are called the fruits of righteousness,
which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:11)
The fruits of righteousness they are by Jesus Christ, as the fruits of the tree are
by the tree itself. For the truth is, that principle of righteousness, of which mention
has been made before, and concerning which I have said, it comes in, in the second
place; it is also originally to be found for us no where but in Christ.
Hence it is said to be by Jesus Christ, and again, "of his fulness have all
we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) A man must then be united to
Christ first, and so being united, he partaketh of this benefit, to wit, a principle
that is supernatural, spiritual, and heavenly. Now his being united to Christ, is
not of, or from himself, but of, and from the Father, who, as to this work, is the
husbandman; even as the twig that is grafted into the tree, officiateth not, that
is, grafteth not itself thereinto, but is grafted in by some other, itself being
utterly passive as to that. Now being united unto Christ, the soul is first made
partaker of justification, or of justifying righteousness, and now no longer beareth
the name of an ungodly man, for he is made righteous by the obedience of Christ,
he being also united to Christ, partaketh of the root and fatness of Christ; the
root, that is, his divine nature; the fatness, that is, that fulness of grace that
is laid up in him to be communicated unto us, even as the branch that is grafted
into the olive-tree, partaketh of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. Now partaking
thereof, it quickeneth, it groweth, it buddeth, and yieldeth fruit to the glory and
praise of God. (Rom 11:17)
But these things, as I have often said, the poor Pharisee was ignorant of, when so
swaggeringly he, with his, "God I thank thee," came into the temple to
pray and indeed, in that which hath here been said, is something of the mystery of
God's will in his way with his elect; and such a mystery it is, that it lieth hid
for ever to nature and natural men; for they think of nothing less than of this,
nor of nothing more, when they think of their souls and of salvation, than that something
must be done by themselves to reconcile them to God. Yea, if through some common
convictions their understandings should be swayed to a consenting to that, that justification
is of grace by Christ, and not of works by men; yet conscience, reason, and the law
of nature, not being as yet subdued by the power and glory of grace unto the obedience
of Christ, will rise up in rebellion against this doctrine, and will overrule and
bow down the soul again to the law and works thereof for life.
4. Righteousness by imputation must be first, because, else faith, which is a part,
yea, a great part, of that which is called a principle of grace in the soul, will
have nothing to fix itself upon, nor a motive to work by. Let this therefore be considered
by those that are on the contrary side.
Faith, so soon as it has being in the soul, is like the child that has being in the
mother's lap, it must have something to feed upon, not something at a distance, afar
off, or to be purchased, I speak now as to justification from the curse, but something
by promise made over of grace to the soul; something to feed upon to support from
the fears of perishing by the curse for sin. Nor can it rest content with all duties
and performances, that other graces shall put the soul upon; nor with any of its
own works, until it reaches and takes hold of the righteousness of Christ. Faith
is like the dove, that found no rest any where in all the world until it returned
to Noah into the ark. But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
Objection. Perhaps some may object, That from this way of reasoning it is apparent,
that sanctification is first, since the soul may have faith, and so a principle of
grace in it; and yet, as yet it cannot find Christ to feed and to refresh the soul
Answ. From this way of reasoning it is not at all apparent, that sanctification,
or a principle of grace is in the soul before righteousness is imputed, and the soul
made perfectly righteous thereby. And for the clearing up of this let me propose
a few things.
(1.) Justifying righteousness, to wit, the obedience of that one man Christ is imputed
to the sinner to justify him in God's sight. For his law calls for perfect righteousness,
and before that be come TO, and put UPON the poor sinner, God cannot bestow other
spiritual blessings upon him; because by the law he has pronounced him accursed;
by the which curse, he is also so holden, until a righteousness shall be found upon
the sinner, that the law, and so divine justice can alike approve of, and be contented
with. So then, as to the justification of the sinner, there must be a righteousness
for God; I say, for the sinner, and for God. For the sinner to be clothed with, and
for God to look upon, that he may, for the sake thereof in a way of justice, bless
the sinner with forgiveness of sins: For forgiveness of sins is the next thing that
followeth upon the appearance of the sinner before God in the righteousness of Christ.
Now, upon this forgiveness, follows the second blessing. Christ hath redeemed us
from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. And so, consequently, hath
obtained for us the forgiveness of sins: for he that is delivered from the curse,
hath received forgiveness of sins, or rather is made partaker thereof; now being
made a partaker thereof, the second blessing immediately follows: to wit, the blessing
of Abraham, that is, "the promise of the spirit through faith" (Gal 3:13,14),
but this our Pharisee understandeth not.
But now, although it be of absolute necessity that imputed righteousness be first
TO the soul; that is, that perfect righteousness be found upon the sinner first by
God, that he may bestow other blessings in a way of justice. Yet it is not of absolute
necessity that the soul should see this first.
Let God then put righteousness, the righteousness of his Son upon me; and by virtue
of that, let the second blessing of God come in to me; and by virtue of that, let
me be made to see myself a sinner, and Christ's righteousness, and my need of it,
in the doctrine of it, as it is revealed in the scriptures of truth. Let me then
believe this doctrine to be true, and be brought by my belief to repentance for my
sins, to hungering and thirsting vehemently after this righteousness; for this is
"the kingdom of God and his righteousness." Yea, let me pray, and cry,
and sigh, and groan day and night to the God of this righteousness, that he will
of grace make me a partaker: And let me thus prostrate before my God, all the time
that in wisdom he shall think fit. And in his own time he shall show me, that I am
a justified person, a pardoned person, a person in whom the Spirit of God hath dwelt
for some time, though I knew it not.
So then justification before God is one thing; and justification in mine own eyes
is another: not that these are two justifications, but the same righteousness by
which I stand justified before God, may be seen of God, when I am ignorant of it;
yea, for the sake of it I may be received, pardoned, and accounted righteous of him,
and yet I may not understand it. Yea, further, he may proceed in the way of blessing,
to bless me with additional blessings, and yet I be ignorant of it.
So that the question is not, Do I find that I am righteous? But am I so? Doth God
find me so, when he seeth that the righteousness of his Son is upon me, being made
over to me by an act of his grace? For I am justified freely by his grace, through
the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the redemption of sins
that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Rom 3:25) But this our Pharisee understandeth
I am then made righteous first, by the righteousness of another; and because I am
thus righteous, God accepteth of my person as such, and bestoweth upon me his grace;
the which, at first, for want of skill and experience in the word of righteousness,
I make use of but poorly, and have need to be certified that I am made righteous,
and that I have eternal life (Heb 5:13), not by faith first and immediately, but
by the written word, which is called the word of faith; which word declareth unto
me, to whom grace, and so faith in the seed of it is given, that I have eternal life;
and that I should with boldness, in peace and joy, believe on the Son of God. (Rom
15:13, 1 John 5:13) But,
Again, I, in the first acts of my faith, when I am come at Christ, do not accept
of him, because, I know I am righteous, either with imputed righteousness, or with
that which is inherent: both these, as to my present privilege in them, may be hidden
from mine eyes, and I only put upon taking of encouragement to close with Christ
for life and righteousness, as he is set forth to be a propitiation before mine eyes,
in the word of the truth of the gospel; to which word I adhere as, or because I find,
I want peace with God in my soul, and because I am convinced, that the means of peace
is not to be found any where but in Jesus Christ. Now, by my thus adhering to him,
I find stay for my soul, and peace to my conscience, because the word doth ascertain
me, that he that believeth on him hath remission of sins, hath eternal life, and
shall be saved from the wrath to come.
But alas! who knows the many straights, and as I may say, the stress of weather,
I mean the cold blasts of hell, with which the poor soul is assaulted, betwixt its
receiving of grace, and its sensible closing with Jesus Christ?  None, I daresay,
but IT and its FELLOWS. "The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger
doth not intermeddle with his joy." (Prov 14:10) No sooner doth Satan perceive
that God is doing with the soul, in a way of grace and mercy, but he endeavoureth
what he may, to make the renewing thereof bitter and wearisome work to the sinner.
O what mists, what mountains, what clouds, what darkness, what objections, what false
apprehensions of God, of Christ, of grace, of the word, and of the soul's condition,
doth he now lay before it, and haunt it with; whereby he fighteth, dejecteth, casteth
down, daunteth, distresseth, and almost driveth it quite into despair. Now, by the
reason of these things, faith, and all the grace that is in the soul, is hard put
to it to come at the promise; and by the promise to Christ, as it is said, when the
tempest and great danger of shipwreck lay upon the vessel in which Paul was, They
"had much work to come by the boat." (Acts 27:16) For Satan's design is,
if he cannot keep the soul from Christ, to make his coming to him, and closing with
him, as hard, difficult, and troublesome, as he by his devices can. But faith, true
justifying faith, is a grace, that is not weary by all that Satan can do; but meditateth
upon the word, and taketh stomach, and courage, fighteth, and crieth, and by crying
and fighting, by help from heaven, its way is made through all the oppositions that
appear so mighty, and draweth up at last to Jesus Christ, into whose bosom it putteth
the soul, where, for the time, it sweetly resteth after its marvellous tossings to
And besides what hath been said, let me yet illustrate this truth unto you by this
Suppose a man, a traitor, that by the law should die for his sin, is yet such an
one, that the king hath exceeding kindness for; may not the king pardon this man
of his clemency; yea, order that his pardon should be drawn up and sealed, and so
in every sense be made sure; and yet, for the present, keep all this close enough
from the ears, or the knowledge of the person therein concerned. Yea, may not the
king after all leave this person, with others under the same transgression, to sue
for, and obtain this pardon with great expense and difficulty, with many tears and
heart-achings, with many fears, and dubious cogitations.
Why this is the case between God and the soul that he saveth; he saveth him, pardoneth
him, and secureth him from the curse and death that to him is due for sin, but yet
doth not tell him so, but ascends in his great suit unto God for it. Only this difference
we must make in this between God and the potentates of this world: God cannot pardon
before the sinner stands before him righteous by the righteousness of Christ; because
he has in judgment, and justice, and righteousness threatened and concluded, that
he that wants righteousness shall die.
And I say again, because this righteousness is God's, and at God's disposal only;
it is God that must make a man righteous before he can forgive him his sins, or bestow
upon him of his secondary blessings; to wit, his Spirit, and the graces thereof.
And I say again, it must be this righteousness; for it can be no other, that must
justify a sinner from sin in the sight of God, and from the sentence of his law.
(2.) This is, and must be the way of God with the sinner, that faith may not only
have an object to work upon, but a motive to work by.
Here, as I said, Faith hath an object to work upon, and that is the person of Christ,
and that personal righteousness of his, which he in the days of his flesh did finish
to justify sinners withal. This is, I say, the object of faith for justification,
whereunto the soul by it doth continually resort. Hence David said to Christ, "Be
thou my strong habitation"; or as you have it in the margin, "Be thou to
me for a rock of habitation, whereunto I may continually resort" (Psa 71:3):
And two things he inserts by so saying.
The first is, That the Christian is a man under continual exercises, sometimes one
way, and sometimes another; but all his exercises have a tendency in them more or
less to spoil him; if he deals with them hand to hand; therefore he is rather for
flying than standing; for flying to Christ, than for grappling with them in and by
his own power.
The second is, That Christ is of God, provided to be our shelter as to this very
thing. Hence his name is said to be a strong tower, and that the righteous run into
it, and are safe. (Prov 18:10) That also of David in the 56th psalm is very pregnant
to this purpose; "Mine enemies," saith he, "would daily swallow me
up, for they be many that fight against me, O thou most high." And what then?
Why, "what time I am afraid," saith he, "I will trust in thee."
Thus you see, faith hath an object to work upon to carry the soul unto, and to secure
the soul in, in times of difficulty, and that they are almost continually, and that
object is Jesus Christ, and his righteousness. But,
Again, as faith hath an object to work upon, so it hath a motive to work by; and
that is the love of God in giving of Christ to the soul for righteousness. Nor is
there any profession, religion, or duty and performance, that is at all regarded,
where this faith, which by such means can work, is wanting. "For in Jesus Christ
neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh
by love." (Gal 5:6) So he saith not here, but faith which acteth lovely, or
but faith whose fruit is love, though true faith hath love for its offspring, but
faith which worketh BY love; that is true saving justifying faith, as it beholdeth
the righteousness of Christ, as made over to the soul for justification, so it beholdeth
love, love to be the cause of its so being made over. It beholdeth love in the Father,
in giving of his Son; and love in the Son, in giving of himself to be made soul-saving
righteousness for me. And this seeing, it worketh or this apprehending, it worketh
by it; that is, it is stirred up to an holy boldness of venturing all eternal concerns
upon Christ, and also to an holy endeared affecting love of him for his sweet and
blessed redeeming love. Hence the apostle saith, "The love of Christ constraineth
us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that
he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves,
but unto him which died for them, and rose again." (2 Cor 5:14,15)
Thus then is the heart united in affection and love to the Father and the Son, for
the love that they have shewed to the poor sinner, in their thus delivering him from
the wrath to come. Nor doth this love of God cause that the faith of the poor man
should work by IT to him alone, no; for by this love faith worketh, in sweet passions
and pangs of love, to all that are thus reconciled, as this sinner seeth he is. The
motive then, whereby faith worketh, both as to justification, and sanctification,
the great motive to them, I say, is love, the love of God, and the love of Christ:
"We love him because he first loved us." That is, when our faith hath told
us so; for so are the words above, "We have known and believed the love that
God hath to us." And then, "We love him because he first loved us."
And then, "This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, love his
brother also." (1 John 4:16-21) But this our poor Pharisee understandeth not.
5. Righteousness by imputation must be first, to cut off boasting from the heart,
conceit, and lips of men, Wherefore he saith as also was hinted before, That we are
justified freely by the grace of God, not through, or for the sake of an holy gospel
principle in us; but "through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ,"
&c. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay:
but by the law of faith." (Rom 3:24,27) And this is the law of faith that we
are justified as afore [is shewn].
Nor can any man propound such an essential way to cut off boasting as this, which
is of God's providing: for what has man here to boast of? No righteousness, nor yet
of the application of it to his soul. The righteousness is Christ's, not the sinner's.
The imputation is God's, not the sinner's. The cause of imputation is God's grace
and love, not the sinner's works of righteousness. The time of God's imputing righteousness,
is when the sinner was a sinner, wrapped up in ignorance, and wallowing in his vanity;
not when he was good, or when he was seeking of it; for his inward gospel goodness
is a fruit of the imputation of justifying righteousness, as has been already shewed.
"Where is boasting then?" Where is our Pharisee then, with his brags of
not being as other men are? It is excluded, and he with it, and the poor Publican
taken into favour, that boasting might be cut off. "Not of works, lest any man
should boast." There is no trust to be put in men, those that seem most humble,
and that to appearance, are farthest off from pride, it is natural to them to boast;
yea, to boast now, now they have no cause to boast. For by grace are we saved through
FAITH, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man
But if man is so prone to boast, when yet there is no ground of boasting in him,
nor yet in what he doeth, how would he have boasted, had he been permitted by the
God of heaven to have done something, though that something had been but a very little
something towards his justification. But God has prevented boasting by doing as he
has done. (Eph 2:8,9) Nay, the apostle addeth further, lest any man should boast,
that as to good works, "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto
good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." (verse
10) Can the tree boast, because it is a sweeting tree, since it was not the tree,
but God that made it such: Where is boasting then? "But of him are ye in Christ
Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,
and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory
in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:30,31) Where is boasting then? Where is our Pharisee
then, with all his works of righteousness, and with his boasts of being better than
Objection. It may be said, If we should be justified for the sake of our inherent
righteousness, since that righteousness is the gift of God, will it not follow that
boasting is in the occasion thereof, cut off.
Ans. No, for although the principle of inherent righteousness be the gift of God,
yet it bringeth forth fruits by man, and through man, and so man having a hand therein,
though he should have never so little, he has an occasion offered him to boast. Yea,
if a man should be justified before God by the grace, or the working of the grace
of faith in him, he would have ground of occasion to boast, because faith, though
it be the gift of God, yet as it acteth in man, takes man along with it in its so
acting; yea, the acting of faith is as often attributed to the man by whom it is
acted, and oftener, than to the grace itself. How then can it be, but that man must
have a hand therein, and so a ground therein, or thereof to boast.
But now! since justification from the curse of the law before God, lieth only and
wholly in God's imputing of Christ's righteousness to a man, and that too, while
the man to whom it is imputed, is in himself wicked and ungodly, there is no room
left for boasting before God, for that is the boasting intended; but rather an occasion
given to shame and confusion of face, and to stop the mouth for ever, since justification
comes to him in a way so far above him, so vastly without him, his skill, help, or
what else soever. (Eze 16:61-63)
6. Righteousness by imputation must be first, that justification may not be of debt,
but of mercy and grace. This is evident from reason: It is meet that God should therefore
justify us by a righteousness of his own, not of his own prescribing, for that he
may do, and yet the righteousness be ours; but of his own providing, that the righteousness
may be his. "Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but
of debt." (Rom 4:4) If I work for justifying righteousness, and that way get
righteousness, my justification is not of grace but of debt, God giveth it not unto
me, for he oweth it unto me; so then it is no longer his but mine: Mine not of grace,
but debt: And if so then, I thank him not for remission of sins, nor for the kingdom
of heaven, nor for eternal life; for if justifying righteousness is of debt, then
when I have it, and what dependeth thereon, I have but mine own, that which God oweth
Nor will it help at all to say, but I obtain it by God's grace in me, because that
doth not cut off my work, nor prevent my having of an hand in my justifying righteousness.
Suppose I give a man materials, even all materials that are necessary to the completing
of such or such a thing; yet if he worketh, though the materials be mine, I am to
him a debtor, and he deserveth a reward. Thou sayest, God has given thee his Spirit,
his grace, and all other things that are necessary for the working up of a complete
righteousness. Well, but is thy work required to the finishing of this righteousness?
If so, this is not the righteousness that justifieth, because it is such as has thy
hand, thy workmanship therein, and so obtains a reward. And observe it, righteousness,
justifying righteousness, consisteth not in a principle of righteousness, but in
works of righteousness; that is, in good duties, in obedience, in a walking in the
law to the pleasing of the law, and the content of the justice of God.
I suppose again, that thou shalt conclude with me, that justifying righteousness,
I mean that which justifies from the curse of the law, resideth only in the obedience
of the Son of God; and that the principle of grace that is in thee, is none of that
righteousness, no, not then when thou hast to the utmost walked with God according
to thy gift and grace: Yet if thou concludest that this principle must be in thee,
and these works done by thee, before this justifying righteousness is imputed to
thee for justification, thou layest in a caveat against justification by grace; and
also concludest, that though thou art not justified by thy righteousness, but by
Christ, yet thou art justified by Christ's righteousness, for the sake of thine own,
and so makest justification to be still a debt. But here the scripture doth also
cut thee off: "Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart
dost thou go to possess their land"; which was but a type of heaven, and if
our righteousness cannot give us by its excellency a share in the type, be sure,
that for it, we shall never be sharers in the antitype itself. "Understand therefore,
that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it, for thy righteousness;
for thou art a stiff-necked people." (Deu 9:5,6)
Gospel-performances therefore are not first; that was first, for the sake of which,
God did receive these people into favour with himself, and that was a covenant righteousness;
and where could that covenant righteousness be found but in the prince, mediator,
and high priest of the covenant? For it was HE and HE only that was appointed of
God, nor could any but himself, bring in everlasting righteousness. (Dan 9:24,25)
This is evident from these texts last mentioned; it was not for their righteousness,
that they possessed the land.
Again, As it was not for their righteousness, that they were made possessors of the
land, so it was not for the sake of their righteousness, that they were made partakers
of such a righteousness that did make them possess the land. This is plain to reason;
for then inherent or inherent and personal righteousness, when by us performed, is
of worth to obtain of God a justifying righteousness. But if it be of worth to obtain
a justifying righteousness, then it seems, it is more commodious to both parties
than is justifying righteousness. First, it is more commodious to him that worketh
it, for by it he obtaineth everlasting righteousness; and secondly, it is more commodious
unto him that receiveth it, else why doth he for it give us a due debt, and so put
upon us the everlasting justifying righteousness.
Perhaps it will be objected, that God doth all this of grace; but I answer, that
these are but fallacious words, spake by the tongue of the crafty. For we are not
now discoursing of what rewards God can give to the operations of his own grace in
us, but whether he can in a way of justice, or how he will, bestow any spiritual
blessings upon sinful creatures, against whom, for sin, he has pronounced the curse
of the law, before he hath found them in a righteousness, that is proved to be as
good justice and righteousness, as is the justice and righteousness of the law, with
which we have to do.
I assert he cannot, because he cannot lie, because he cannot deny himself: For if
he should first threaten the transgression of the law with death, and yet afterwards
receive the transgressor to grace, without a plenary satisfaction, what is this but
to lie, and to diminish his truth, righteousness, and faithfulness; yea, and also
to overthrow the sanction and perfect holiness of his law. His mercy therefore must
act so towards this sinner, that justice may be content, and that can never be, without
a justifying righteousness.
Now what this justifying righteousness should be, and when imputed, that is the question.
I say, it is the righteousness or the obedience of the Son of God in the flesh, which
he assumed, and so his own, and the righteousness of no body else, otherwise than
I say again, that this righteousness must be imputed first, that the sinner may stand
just in God's sight from the curse, and that God might deal with him both in a way
of justice as well as mercy, and yet do the sinner no harm.
But you may ask, How did God deal with sinners before this righteousness was actually
I answer, He did then deal with sinners even as he dealeth with them now; he justifieth
them by it, by virtue of the suretiship of him that was to bring it in. Christ became
surety for us, and by his suretiship laid himself under an obligation to bring in,
in time, for those for whom he became a surety, this everlasting and justifying righteousness,
and by virtue of this those of his elect that came into and went out of the world,
before he came to perform his work, were saved through the forbearance of God. Wherefore,
before the Lord came, they were saved for the Lord's sake, and for the sake of his
name. And they that were spiritually wise understood it, and pleaded it as their
necessities required, and the Lord for HIS sake also accepted them. (Heb 7:22, Rom
4:24, Dan 9:17, Psa 25:11)
7. Righteousness by imputation must be first: that justification may be certain;
"therefore it is of faith, [of the righteousness that faith layeth hold on]
that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed."
(Rom 4:16) That the promise, What promise? The promise of remission of sins, &c.
might be sure.
Now a promise of remission of sins supposeth a righteousness, a righteousness going
before; for there is no forgiveness of sins, nor promise of forgiveness, but for
the sake of righteousness: but not for the sake of righteousness that shall be by
us, but that IS already found in Christ as head, and so imputed to the elect for
their remission. "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph 4:32)
For Christ's sake; that is, for the sake of the righteousness of Christ. Therefore
imputed righteousness must be first; yea, it must be before forgiveness, and forgiveness
is extended by God, then when we lie in our blood, though to us it is manifested
afterwards. Therefore it is OF faith, he saith not BY it, respecting the act
of faith; but of, respecting the doctrine or word which presenteth me with this blessed
imputed righteousness: "They that are of faith, are the children of faithful
Abraham." They that are of the doctrine of faith, for all the elect are the
sons of that doctrine in which is this righteousness of Christ contained; yea, they
are begotten by it of God to this inheritance, to their comfortable enjoyment of
the comfort of it by faith.
That "the promise might be sure to all the seed"; to all them wrapped up
in the promise, and so begotten and born. That it might be sure, implying that there
is no certain way of salvation for the elect but this, because God can never by other
means reconcile us to himself; for his heavenly eyes perceive through and through
the silly cobweb righteousness that we work; yea, they spy faults and sins in the
best of our gospel performances. How then can God put any trust in such people, or
how can remission be extended to us for the sake of that? Yea, our faith is faulty,
and also imperfect; how then should remission be extended to us for the sake of that?
But now the righteousness of Christ is perfect, perpetual and stable as the great
mountains, wherefore he is called the rock of our salvation, because a man may as
soon tumble the mountains before him, as one would tumble a little ball, I say, as
soon as sin can make invalid the righteousness of Christ, when, and unto whom, God
shall impute it for justice. (Psa 36:6) In the margin it is said, to be like the
mountain of God; to wit, that is called Mount Zion, or that Moriah on which the temple
was built, and upon which it stood: All other bottoms are fickle, all other righteousnesses
are so feeble, short, narrow, and thin, yea, so specked and full of imperfections.
"For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,"
Christ did for us in the similitude of sinful flesh. But what could not the law do?
Why it could not give us righteousness, nor strengthen us to perform it. It could
not give us any certain, solid, well-grounded hope of remission of sin and salvation,
"but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God."
Wherefore this righteousness being imputed, justice findeth no fault therewith, but
consenteth to the extending to the sinner those blessings that tend to perfect his
happiness in the heavens.
8. Righteousness by imputation must be first, "that in all things he [Christ]
might have the pre-eminence." Christ is head of the church, and therefore let
him have the highest honour in the soul; but how can he have that, if any precede
as to justification, before his perfect righteousness be imputed? If it be said,
grace may be in the soul, though the soul doth not act it, until the moment that
justifying righteousness shall be imputed.
I ask, What should it do there before, or to what purpose is it there, if it be not
acted? And gain, how came it thither, how got the soul possession of it, while it
was unjustified? Or, How could God in justice give it to a person, that by the law
stood condemned, before they were quitted from that condemnation? And I say, nothing
can set the soul free from that curse, but the perfect obedience of Christ; nor that
either, if it be not imputed for that end to the sinner by the grace of God.
Imputed, that is, reckoned, or accounted to him. And why should it not be accounted
to him for righteousness? Who did Christ bring it into the world for, for the righteous
or for sinners? no doubt for sinners. And how must it be reckoned to them? when in
circumcision or in uncircumcision; not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision; not
as righteous, but as sinners. And how are they to consider of themselves, even then
when they first are apprehensive of their need of this righteousness? Are they to
think, that they are righteous or sinners.
And again, How are they to believe concerning themselves, then when they put forth
the first act of faith towards this righteousness for justification? Are they to
think, that they are righteous or sinners? Sinners, sinners doubtless they are to
reckon themselves, and as such to reckon themselves justified by this righteousness.
And this is according to the sentence of God, as appeareth by such sayings.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
"But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ
died for us."
"For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his
Son," &c. (Rom 5:6,8,10)
Out of these words I gather these three things.
1. That Christ by God's appointment died for us.
2. That by his death he reconciled us to God.
3. That even then, when the very act of reconciliation was in performing, and also
when performed, we were ungodly, sinners, enemies.
Now the act by which we are said to be reconciled to God while ungodly, while sinners,
and while enemies, was Christ's offering himself a sacrifice for us, which is, in
the words above- mentioned, called his death. Christ died, Christ died for the ungodly,
Christ died for us while sinners. Christ reconciled us to God by his death. And just
as here Christ is said to die for us, so the Father is said to impute righteousness
to us; to wit, as we are without works, as we are ungodly: "Now to him that
worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted
for righteousness." (Rom 4:5) He worketh not, but is ungodly, when this gracious
act of God, in imputing of the righteousness of Christ to him, is extended, the which
when he shall believe, his faith is counted to him for righteousness. And why should
we not have the benefit of the righteousness, while we are ungodly, since it was
completed for us while we were yet ungodly? Yea, we have the benefit of it: "For
- when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
When I say, the benefit, I mean that benefit that we are capable of, and that is
justification before God; for that a man may be capable of while he is in himself
ungodly, because this justice comes to him by the righteousness of another. True,
was it to be his own righteousness by which he was to be justified, he should not,
could not so be, as or while he is ungodly. But the righteousness is Christ's, and
that imputed by God, not as a reward for work, or of debt, but freely by his grace,
to the glory of it, and therefore may be done, and is so, while the person concerned
is without works, ungodly, and a sinner.
And he that denieth that we are capable of this benefit while we are sinners and
ungodly, may with like reason deny that we are created beings. For that which is
done for a man without him, may be done for him, not only at any time which they
that do it shall appoint, but for him while in any condition in this world. While
a man is a beggar, may not I make him worth ten thousand a year, if I can and will;
yea and yet he shall not know thereof in that moment that I make him so? yet the
revenue of that estate shall really be his from the moment that I make him so, and
he shall know it too at the rent-day.
This is the case, we are sinners and ungodly; there is a righteousness wrought out
by Jesus Christ, the which God hath designed we shall be made righteous by; and by
it, if he will impute it to us, we shall be righteous in his sight, even then when
we are yet ungodly in ourselves; "for he justifies the ungodly."
Now though it is irregular and blame-worthy in man to justify the wicked, because
he cannot for the wicked provide, and clothe him with a justifying righteousness;
yet it is glorious and for ever worthy of praise for God to do it; because it is
in his power not only to forgive, but to make a man righteous, even then when he
is a sinner, and to justify him, as afore is proved, while he is ungodly.
Objection. But it may be yet objected, That though God has received satisfaction
for sin, and so sufficient terms of reconciliation by the obedience and death of
his Son, yet he imputeth it not unto us but upon condition of our becoming good.
Answ. This must not be admitted: For,
1. The scripture saith not so; but that we are reconciled to God by the death of
his Son, and justified too, and that while, or when we are sinners and ungodly.
2. If this objection carrieth the truth in it, then it follows, that the Holy Ghost,
faith, and so all grace, may be given to us, and we may have it dwelling in us, yea,
acting in us, before we stand righteous in the judgment of the law before God; for
nothing can make us stand just before God in the judgment of the law, but the obedience
of the Son of God without us. And if the Holy Ghost, faith and so consequently the
habit of every grace, may be in us, acting in us, before Christ's righteousness be
by God imputed to us, then we are not justified as sinners and ungodly: but as persons
inherently holy and righteous before.
But I have over and over already shewed you, that this cannot be, therefore righteousness
for justification must be imputed first. And here let me present the reader with
two or three things.
(1.) That justification before God is one thing; and justification to the understanding
and conscience is another. Now, I am treating of justification before God, not of
it as to man's understanding and conscience, and I say, a man may be justified before
God, even then when himself knoweth nothing thereof (Isa 40:2, Matt 9:2), and so
when and while he hath not faith about it, but is ungodly.
(2.) There is a justification by faith, by faith's applying of that righteousness
to the understanding and conscience, which God hath afore of his grace imputed for
righteousness to the soul for justification in his sight. And this is that by which
we, as to sense and feeling, have peace with God: "Being justified by faith
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 5:1) And these two
the Apostle keepeth distinct, a little lower in this chapter: for after that he had
said in the tenth verse, that while "we were enemies we were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son": He addeth, "And not only so, but we also joy
in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."
(verse 11) Here you see that to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son, is
one thing; and for us actually, for that I think he aimeth at, to receive by faith,
this reconciliation, is another. That is a thing over and above, and not only so,
but we have received the atonement.
(3.) Men do not gather their justification from God's single act of imputing of righteousness,
that we might stand clear in his sight from the curse and judgment of the law; but
from the word, the which they neither see nor understand, till it is brought to their
understanding by the light and glory of the Holy Ghost.
We are not therefore in the ministry of the word to pronounce any man justified,
from a supposition that God has imputed righteousness to him, since that act is not
known to us, until the fruits that follow thereupon do break out before our eyes;
to wit, the signs and effects of the Holy Ghost's indwelling in our souls. And then
we may conclude it; that is, that such a one stands just before God, yet not for
the sake of his inherent righteousness, nor yet for the fruits thereof, and so not
for the sake of the act of faith, but for the sake of Jesus Christ his doing and
suffering for us.
Nor will it avail to object, That if at first we stand just before God by his imputing
of Christ's righteousness unto us, though faith be not in us to act, we may always
stand justified so; and so what need of faith? For therefore are we justified, first,
by the imputation of God, as we are ungodly, that thereby we might be made capable
of receiving of the Holy Ghost, and his graces in a way of righteousness and justice.
Besides, God will have those that he shall justify by his grace through the redemption
that is in Jesus Christ, to have the Holy Ghost, and so faith, that they may know
and believe the things not only that shall be, but that already ARE, freely given
to us of God. Now, says Paul, "we have received, not the spirit of the world,
but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given
to us of God." (1 Cor 2:12) To know, that is, to believe. It is given to you
to believe, who believe according to the working of his mighty power, "and we
have known and believed the love that God hath to us," preceding to our believing.
(1 John 4:16) He then that is justified by God's imputation, shall believe by the
power of the Holy Ghost; for that must come, and work faith, and strengthen the soul
to act it, because imputed righteousness has gone before. He then that believeth
shall be saved; for his believing is a sign, not a cause, of his being made righteous
before God by imputation: And he that believeth not shall be damned, because his
non-belief is a sign that he is not righteous, and a cause that his sins abide upon
And thus much for the Pharisee, and for his information; and now I come to that part
of the text which remains, which part in special respecteth the Publican.
[THE PUBLICAN'S PRAYER.]
And THE PUBLICAN, STANDING AFAR OFF, WOULD NOT LIFT UP SO MUCH AS HIS EYES UNTO HEAVEN,
BUT SMOTE UPON HIS BREAST, SAYING, GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER.
What this Publican was, I have shewed you, both with respect to his nation, office,
and disposition. Wherefore I shall not here trouble the reader as to that, with a
second rehearsal of these things; we now therefore come to his repentance in the
whole and in the parts of it; concerning which I shall take notice of several things,
some more remote, and some more near to the matter and life of it.
But first let us see how thwart and cross the Pharisee and the Publican did lie in
the temple one to another, while they both were presenting of their prayers to God.
First, The Pharisee he goes in boldly, fears nothing, but trusteth in himself that
his state is good, that God loves him, and that there was no doubt to be made but
of his good speed in this his religious enterprize. But alas! poor Publican, he sneaks,
he leers, he is hardly able to crawl into the temple, and when he comes there, stands
behind, aloof off, as one not worthy to approach the divine presence.
Second, The Pharisee at his approach hath his mouth full of something, yea of many
fine things, whereby he strokes himself over the head, and in effect calls himself,
and that in his presence, one of God's white boys, that always kept close to his
will, abode with him; or as the prodigal's brother said, "Lo, these many years
do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment" (Luke 15:29);
But alas! poor Publican thy guilt, as to these pleas, stops thy mouth, thou hast
not one good thing to say of thyself, not one rag of righteousness; thy conversation
tells thee so, thy conscience tells thee so; yea, and if thou shouldest now attempt
to set a good face on it, and for thy credit say something after the Pharisee in
way of thine own commendations, yet here is God on the one side, the Pharisee on
the other, together with thine own heart to give thee check, to rebuke thee, to condemn
thee, and to lay thee even with the ground for thy insolency.
Third, The Pharisee in his approach to God, wipes his fingers of the Publican's enormities,
will not come nigh him, lest he should defile him with his beastly rags: "I
am not as other men are, - or even as this Publican." But the poor Publican,
alas for him, his fingers are not clean, nor can he tell how to make them so; besides,
he meekly and quietly puts up this reflection of the Pharisee upon him, and by silent
behaviour, justifies the severe sentence of that self-righteous man, concluding with
him, that for his part, he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,
and not worthy to come nigh, or to stand by, so good, so virtuous, so holy, and so
deserving a man as our spangling Pharisee is.
Fourth, The Pharisee, as at feasts and synagogues, chose the chief and first place
for his person, and for his prayer, counting that the Publican was not meet, ought
not to presume to let his stinking breath once come out of his polluted lips in the
temple, till he had made his holy prayer. And poor Publican, how dost thou hear and
put up this with all other affronts, counting even as the Pharisee counted of thee,
that thou wast but a dog in comparison of him, and therefore not fit to go before,
but to come as in chains, behind, and forbear to present thy mournful and debrorous
supplication to the holy God, till he had presented him with his, in his own conceit,
brave, gay, and fine oration.
Fifth, The Pharisee, as he is numerous in his repeating of his good deeds, so is
stiff in standing to them, bearing up himself, that he hath now sufficient foundation
on which to bear up his soul against all the attempts of the law, the devil, sin
and hell. But alas, poor Publican! Thou standest naked; nay, worse than naked; for
thou art clothed with filthy garments, thy sins cover thy face with shame: nor hast
thou in, from, or of thyself, any defence from, or shelter against the attempts,
assaults, and censures of thy ghostly enemies, but art now in thine own eyes, though
in the temple, cast forth into the open field stark naked, to the loathing of thy
person, as in the day that thou was born, and there ready to be devoured or torn
in pieces for thy transgressions against thy God.
What wilt thou do Publican! What wilt thou do! Come, let's see, which way wilt thou
begin to address thyself to God; bethink thyself man, has thou any thing to say,
speak out man, the Pharisee by this time has done, and received his sentence. Make
an O yes; let all the world be silent; yea, let the angels of heaven come near
and listen; for the Publican is come to have to do with God! Yea, is come from the
receipt of custom into the temple to pray to him.
"And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes
unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
And is this thy way poor Publican! O cunning sinner! O crafty Publican! thy wisdom
has outdone the Pharisee, for it is better to apply ourselves to God's mercy, than
to trust to ourselves that we are righteous. But that the Publican did hit the mark,
yea, get nearer unto, and more into the heart of God and his Son than did the Pharisee,
the sequel of the matter will make manifest.
Take notice then of this profound speech of the Publican, every word is heavier than
the earth, and has more argument in it, than has ten thousand Pharisaical prayers.
"God be merciful to me a sinner." Yea, the Son of God was so delighted
with this prayer, that for the sake of it, he, even as a limner, draweth out the
Publican in his manner of standing, behaviour, gestures, &c. while he makes this
prayer to God: Wherefore we will take notice both of the one and of the other; for
surely his gestures put lustre unto his prayer and repentance.
FIRST, His prayer you see is this, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
SECOND, His gestures in his prayer were in general three.
First, He stood afar off.
Second, He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.
Third, He smote upon his breast, with his fist, saying, "God be merciful to
me a sinner."
FIRST, To begin first with is prayer. In his prayer we have two things to consider
of. First, His confession: I am a sinner. Second, His imploring of help against this
malady: "God be merciful to me a sinner."
First, In his confession divers things are to be taken notice of. As,
1. The fairness and simplicity of his confession: A sinner: I am a sinner; "God
be merciful to me a sinner." This indeed he was, and this indeed confesses;
and this, I say, he doth of godly simplicity. For, for a man to confess himself a
sinner, it is to speak all against himself that can be spoken. And man, as degenerate,
is too much an hypocrite, and too much a self- flatterer, thus to confess against
himself, unless made simple and honest about the thing through the power of conviction
upon his heart. And it is yet worth your noting, that he doth not say he was, or
had been, but that at that time his state was such, to wit, a sinner. "God be
merciful to me a sinner," or who am, and now stand before thee a sinner, or,
in my sins.
Now a little to shew you what it is to be a sinner; for every one that sinneth may
not in a proper sense be called a sinner. Saints, the sanctified in Christ Jesus,
do often sin, but it is not proper to call them sinners: But here the Publican calls
himself a sinner; and therefore in effect, calls himself an evil tree, one that hath
neither good nature, nor that beareth good fruit: one whose body and soul is polluted,
whose mind and conscience is defiled: one who hath "walked according to the
course of this world, and after the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."
They having their minds at enmity with or against God, and are taken captive by the
devil at his will. A sinner, one whose trade hath been in and about sin, and the
works of Satan all his days.
Thus he waves all pleas, and shews of pleas, and stoops his neck immediately to the
block. Though he was a base man, yet he might have had pleas; pleas, I say, as well
as the Pharisee, though not so many, yet as good. He was of the stock of Abraham,
a Jew, an Israelite of the Israelites, and so a privileged man in the things and
religion of the Jews, else what doth he do in the temple? Yea, why did not the Pharisee,
if he was a heathen, lay that to his charge while he stood before God? but the truth
is, he could not; for the Publican was a Jew as well as the Pharisee, and consequently
might, had he been so disposed, have pleaded that before God. But that he would not,
he could not, for his conscience was under convictions, the awakenings of God were
upon him; wherefore his privileges melt away like grease, and fly from him like the
chaff of the summer threshing-floor, which the wind taketh up and scattereth as the
dust; he therefore lets all privileges fall, and pleads only that he is "a sinner."
2. In this confession he judges and condemns himself: For, for a man to say, "I
am a sinner," is as much as to say, I am contrary to the holiness of God, a
transgressor of his law, and consequently an object of the curse, and an heir of
hell. The Publican therefore goeth very far in this his confession, but this is not
all; for, for a man to confess that he is a sinner, is in the
3. Third place, to confess, that there is nothing in him, done, or can be done by
him, that should allure, or prevail with God to do any thing for him. For a sinner
cannot do good; no, nor work up his heart unto one good thought: no, though he should
have heaven itself, if he could; or was sure to burn in hell fire for ever and ever
if he could not. For sin, where it is in possession and bears rule, as it doth in
every one that we may properly call a sinner, there it hath the mastery of the man,
hath bound up his senses in cords and chains, and made nothing so odious to the soul
as are the things that be of the Spirit of God. Wherefore it is said of such, that
they are enemies in their minds; that the carnal mind is enmity to God, and that
wickedness proceedeth of the wicked; and that the Ethiopian may as well change his
skin, or the leopard his spots, as they that are accustomed to do evil may learn
to do well. (Eph 2, Rom 8, 1 Sam 24:13, Jer 13:23)
4. In this confession, he implicitly acknowledgeth, that sin is the worst of things,
forasmuch as it layeth the soul without the reach of all remedy that can be found
under heaven. Nothing below, or short of the mercy of God, can deliver a poor soul
from this fearful malady. This the Pharisee did not see. Doubtless he did conclude,
that at some time or other he had sinned; but he never in all his life did arrive
to a sight of what sin was: His knowledge of it was but false and counterfeit, as
is manifest by his cure; to wit, his own righteousness. For take this for a truth
undeniable, that he that thinks himself better before God, because of his reformations,
never yet had the true knowledge of his sin: But the poor Publican he had it, he
had it in truth, as is manifest, because it drives him to the only sovereign remedy.
For indeed, the right knowledge of sin, in the guilt and filth, and damning power
thereof, makes a man to understand, that not any thing but grace and mercy by Christ,
can secure him from the hellish ruins thereof.
Suppose a man sick of an apoplexy unto death, and should for his remedy make use
only of those things that are good against the second ague, would not this demonstrate
that this man was not sensible of the nature and danger of this disease. The same
may be said of every sinner, that shall make use only of those means to justify him
before God, that can hardly make him go for a good Christian before judicious men.
But the poor Publican, he knew the nature of his disease, the danger of his disease;
and knew also, that nothing but mercy, infinite mercy could cure him thereof.
5. This confession of the Publican, declareth that he himself was born up now, by
an almighty, though invisible hand. For sin, when seen in its colours, and when appearing
in its monstrous shape and hue, frighteth all mortals out of their wits, away from
God; and if he stops them not, also out of the world. This is manifest by Cain, Judas,
Saul, and others, who could not stand up before God under the sense and appearance
of their sin, but fly before him, one to one fruit of despair, and one to another.
But now this Publican, though he apprehends his sin, and that himself was one that
was a sinner, yet he beareth up, cometh into the temple, approaches the presence
of an holy and sin-revenging God, stands before him, and confesses that he is that
ugly man, that man that sin had defiled, and that had brought himself into the danger
of damnation thereby.
This therefore was a mighty act of the Publican. He went against the voice of conscience,
against sense and feeling, against the curse and condemning verdict of the law; he
went, as I may say, upon hot burning coals to one, that to sin and sinners is nothing
but consuming fire.
Now then, did the Publican this of his own head, or from his now mind? No verily,
there was some supernatural power within that did secretly prompt him on, and strengthen
him to this most noble venture. True, there is nothing more common among wicked men,
than to tick and toy, and play with this saying of the Publican, "God be merciful
to me a sinner"; not at all being sensible either what sin is, or of their need
of mercy. And such sinners shall find their speed in the Publican's prayer, far otherwise
than the Publican sped himself; it will happen unto them much as it happened unto
the vagabond Jews, exorcists, who took upon them to call over them that had evil
spirits, the name of the Lord Jesus; that were beaten by that spirit and made fly
out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16) Poor sinner, dead sinner, thou
wilt say the Publican's prayer, and make the Publican's confession, and say, "God
be merciful to me a sinner." But hold, dost thou do it with the Publican's heart,
sense, dread and simplicity? If not, thou dost but abuse the Publican and his prayer,
and thyself, and his God; and shalt find God rejecting of thee and thy prayers, saying,
The Publican I know, his prayers, and tears, and godly tears I know; but who or what
art thou? And will send thee away naked and wounded. They are the hungry that he
filleth with good things, but the rich and the senseless, he sendeth empty away.
For my part, I find it one of the hardest things that I can put my soul upon, even
to come to God, when warmly sensible that I am a sinner, for a share in grace and
mercy. Oh! methinks it seems to me as if the whole face of the heavens were set against
me. Yea, the very thought of God strikes me through, I cannot bear up, I cannot stand
before him, I cannot but with a thousand tears say, "God be merciful to me a
sinner." (Ezra 9:15) At another time when my heart is more hard and stupid,
and when his terror doth not make me afraid, then I can come before him and talk
of my sins, and ask mercy at his hand, and scarce be sensible of sin or grace, or
that indeed I am before God: But above all, they are the rare times, when I can go
to God as the Publican, sensible of his glorious majesty, sensible of my misery,
and bear up, and affectionately cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
But again, the Publican by his confession, showeth a piece of the highest wisdom
that a mortal man can show; because by so doing, he engageth as well as imploreth
the grace and mercy of God to save him. You see by the text he imploreth it; and
now I will shew you that he engageth it, and makes himself a sharer in it.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh
them shall have mercy." (Prov 28:13) And again, "If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(1 John 1:9)
[He engageth it.] In the promise of pardon, He shall find mercy; he shall have his
sins forgiven. As also Solomon prays, that God will forgive them that know their
own sore, and they are indeed, such as are sensible of the plague of their own heart.
(2 Chron 6:29,30, 1 Kings 8:37,38) And the reason is, because the sinner is now driven
to the farthest point; for confession is the farthest point, and the utmost bound
unto which God has appointed the Publican to go, with reference to his work. As it
is said of Saul to David, when he was about to give him Micah his daughter to wife,
"The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines,
to be avenged of the king's enemies." (1 Same 18:25)
So says God in this matter, I desire no sacrifices, nor legal righteousness to make
thee acceptable to me, only acknowledge and confess thine iniquity that thou hast
transgressed against me. (Jer 3:12,13) And though this by some may be thought to
be a very easy way to come at, and partake of, the mercy of God; yet let the sensible
sinner try it, and he shall find it one of the hardest things in the world. And there
are two things, to which man is prone, that makes confession hard.
I. There is a great incidency in us to be partial, and not thorough and plain in
our confessions. We are apt to make half confessions; to confess some, and hide some;
or else to make feigned confessions, flattering both ourselves, and also God, while
we make confession unto him; or else to confess sin as our own fancies apprehend,
and not as the word descries them. These things we are very incident to: Men can
confess little sins, while they hide great ones. Men can feign themselves sorry for
sin, when they are not, or else in their confessions forget to judge of sin by the
word. Hence it is said, They turned to God, not with their whole heart, but as it
were feignedly. They spake not aright, saying, what have I done? They flatter him
with their lips, and lie unto him with their tongues, and do their wickedness in
the dark, and sin against him with a high hand, and then come to him and cover the
altar with their tears. These things therefore, demonstrate the difficulty of sincere
confession of sin; and that to do it as it should, is no such easy thing.
To right confession of sin, several things must go. As,
1. There must be found conviction for sin upon the spirit: for before a man shall
be convinced of the nature, aggravation, and evil of sin, how shall he make godly
confession of it? Now to convince the soul of sin, the law must be set home upon
the conscience by the Spirit of God; "For by the law is the knowledge of sin."
(Rom 3:20) And again, "I had not known sin except the law had said, Thou shalt
not covet." (Rom 7:7) This law, now, when it effectually ministereth conviction
of sin to the conscience, doth it by putting of life, and strength, and terror into
sin. By its working on the conscience, it makes sin revive, "and the strength
of sin is the law." (1 Cor 15:56) It also increaseth and multiplieth sin, both
by the revelation of God's anger against the soul; and also by mustering up, and
calling to view sins committed, and forgotten time out of mind. Sin seen in the glass
of the law is a terrible thing, no man can behold it and live. "When the commandment
came, sin revived, and I died"; when it came from God to my conscience, as managed
by an almighty arm, "then it slew me." And now is the time to confess sin,
because now a soul knows what it is, and sees what it is, both in the nature and
consequence of it.
2. To right confession of sin, there must be sound knowledge of God, especially as
to his justice, holiness, righteousness, and purity; wherefore the Publican here
begins his confession by calling upon, or by the acknowledgement of his majesty:
"God be merciful to me a sinner." As if he should say, God, O God, O great
God, O sin-revenging God, I have sinned against thee, I have broken thy law, I have
opposed thy holiness, thy justice, thy law, and thy righteous will. O consuming fire!
for our God is a consuming fire, I have justly provoked thee to wrath, and to take
vengeance of me for my transgressions. But, alas! how few, that make confession of
sin, have right apprehension of God, unto whom confession of sin doth belong! Alas,
'tis easy for men to entertain such apprehensions of God as shall please their own
humours, and as will admit them without dying, to bear up under their sense of sin,
and that shall make their confession rather facile, and fantastical, than solid and
heart- breaking. The sight and knowledge of the great God is to the sinful man the
most dreadful thing in the world; and is that which makes confession of sin so rare
and wonderful a thing. Most men confess their sins behind God's back, but few to
his face; and you know there is ofttimes a vast difference in one thus doing among
3. To right confession of sin, there must be a deep conviction of the certainty and
terribleness of the day of judgment. This John the Baptist inserts, where he insinuates,
that the Pharisees' want of sense of, and the true confession of sin, was because
they had not been warned, or had not taken the alarm, to flee from the wrath to come.
What dread, terror, or frightful apprehension can there be put into a revelation
of sin, where there is no sense of a day of judgment, and of our giving there unto
God an account for it. (Matt 3:7, Luke 3:7)
I say therefore, to right confession of sin there must be,
(1.) A deep conviction of the certainty of the day of judgment; namely, that such
a day is coming, that such a day shall be. This the apostle insinuates, where he
saith, "God commandeth all men every where to repent; Because he hath appointed
a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he
hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised
him from the dead." (Acts 17:30,31)
This will give a sense of what the soul must expect at that day for sin, and so will
drive to an hearty acknowledgment of it, and strong cries for deliverance from it.
For thus will the soul argue that expecteth the judgment day, and that believes that
he must count for all there. O my heart! It is in vain now to dissemble, or to hide,
or to lessen transgressions; for there is a judgment to come, a day in which God
will judge "the secrets of men by his Son," and at that day he will bring
to light "the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsel
of the heart." If it must be so then, to what boot will it be now to seek
to dissemble, or to lessen in this matter. (1 Cor 4:5) This also is in the Old Testament
urged as an argument to cause youth, and persons of all sizes to recall themselves
to sobriety, and so to confession of their sin to God; where the Holy Ghost saith
ironically, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee
in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of
thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment."
(Eccl 11:9) So again, "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every
secret thing, whether good, or whether evil." (Eccl 12:14)
The certainty of this, I say, must go to the producing of a sincere confession of
sin, and this is intimated by the Publican, who, with his confession, addeth a hearty
crave for mercy, "God be merciful to me a sinner." As if he should say,
if thou art not merciful to me, by thy judgment when thou comest I shall be swallowed
up; without thy mercy I shall not stand, but fall by the judgment which thou hast
(2.) As there must be, for the producing of sincere confession of sin, a deep conviction
of the certainty, so there must also be of the terribleness of the day of judgment.
Wherefore the apostle, makes use of the first, so of this to put men upon repentance,
an ingredient of which is sincere confession of sin. "For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in
his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore
the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." (2 Cor 5:10,11) The terror of the
Lord, as we see here, he makes use of that, to persuade men to come by confession
of sin, and repentance, to God for mercy.
And I am persuaded, that it will be found a truth one day that one reason that this
day doth so swarm with wanton professors, is, because they have not begun at sound
conviction for, nor gone to God at first with sincere confession of sin. And one
cause of that has been, for that they did never seriously fall in with, nor yet in
heart sink under, either the certainty or terribleness of the day of judgment.
O! the terrors of the Lord! the amazing face that will be put upon all things before
the tribunal of God. Yea, the terror that will then be read in the face of God, of
Christ, of saints and angels, against the ungodly; whoso believes and understands
it, cannot live without confession of sin to God, and coming to him for mercy.
Mountains, mountains fall upon us, and cover us, will then the cry of the ungodly
be, and "hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from
the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able
to stand?" This terror is also signified where it is said, "and I saw a
great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the [very] earth and
the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead,
small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was
opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which
were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead
which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and
they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast
into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written
in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev 20) Here is terror,
and this terror is revealed afore-hand in the word of the truth of God, that sinners
might hear and read and consider it, and so come and confess, and implore God's mercy.
The terror of the Lord, how will it appear, when he "shall be revealed from
heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know
not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess 1:7-9)
The terror of the Lord, how will it appear, when his wrath shall burn and flame out
like an oven, or a fiery furnace before him, while the wicked stand in his sight.
The terror of the Lord, how will it appear, while the angels at his commandment shall
gather the wicked in bundles to burn them! "As - the tares are gathered and
burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall
send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend,
and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall
be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 13:40-42) Who can conceive of this
terror to its full with his mind? Wherefore much more unable are men to express it
with tongue or pen; yet the truly penitent and sin- confessing Publican, hath apprehension
so far thereof, by the word of the testimony, that it driveth him to God, with a
confession of sin for an interest in God's mercy. But,
4. To right and sincere confession of sin, there must be a good conviction of a probability
of mercy. This also is intimated by the Publican in his confession; "God [saith
he] be merciful to me a sinner." He had some glimmerings of mercy, some conviction
of a probability of mercy, or that he might obtain mercy for his pardon, if he went,
and with unfeigned lips did confess his sins to God.
Despair of mercy, shuts up the mouth, makes the heart hard, and drives a man away
from God; as is manifest in the case of Adam and the fallen angels. But the least
intimation of mercy, if the heart can but touch, feel, taste, or have the least probability
of it, that will open the mouth, tend to soften the heart, and to make a very Publican
come up to God into the temple and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
There must then be this holy mixture of things in the heart of a truly confessing
Publican. There must be sound sense of sin, sound knowledge of God: deep conviction
of the certainty and terribleness of the day of judgment, as also of the probability
of obtaining mercy.
But to come to that which remains; I told you that there were two things that did
make unfeigned confession hard. The first I have touched upon.
II. And now the second follows: And that is, some private, close leaning to some
piece or parcel of goodness, that a man shall conceit that he hath done before, or
is doing now, or that he purposeth in his deceitful heart that he will do one of
these days, with which he hopes to prevail with God for the pardon of his sins. This
man to be sure knows not sin in the nature and evil of it, only he has some false
apprehensions about it. For where the right knowledge of sin is in the heart, that
man sees so much evil in the least transgression, as that it would, even any one
sin, break the backs of all the angels of heaven, should the great God but impute
it to them. And he that sees this is far enough off from thinking of doing to mitigate,
or assuage the rigour of the law, or to make pardonable his own transgressions thereby.
But he that sees not this, cannot confess his transgressions aright; for the confession
consisteth in the general, in a man's taking to himself his transgressions, and standing
in them, with the acknowledgement of them to be his, and that he cannot stir from
under them, nor do any thing to make amends for them, or to palliate the rigour of
justice against the soul. And this the Publican did when he cried, "God be merciful
to me a sinner."
He made his sins his own, he took them to him, he stood before in them, accounting
that he was surely undone for ever if God did not extend forgiveness unto him. And
this is to do as the prophet Jeremy bids; to wit, "only to acknowledge our iniquities,"
to acknowledge them and to stand in them at the terrible bar of God's justice, until
mercy takes them out of the way; not shifting our shoulders or conscience of them,
by doing, or promising to do, either this or that good work, only acknowledge, acknowledge
only. And the reason of this kind of confession is,
1. Because this carrieth in it the true nature of confession, to confess, and to
abide under the crimes confessed, without shifts and evasions, is the only real simple
way of confessions. "I said I would confess my transgressions unto the Lord";
and what then, "and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." (Psa 32:5)
Mark, nothing comes in betwixt confession and forgiveness of sin, nothing of works
of righteousness, nothing of legal amendments, nothing but an outcry for mercy; and
that act is so far off from lessening the offence, that it greatly heighteneth and
aggravates it. That is the first reason.
2. A second reason is, because God doth expect that the penitent confessors should
for the time that his wisdom shall think meet, not only confess, but bear their shame
upon them; yea, saith God, "be thou confounded also and bear thy shame,"
when God takes away thine iniquity, thou shalt be confounded and never open thy mouth
more because of thy shame. (Eze 16:52,63) We count it convenient that men, when their
crimes and transgressions are to be manifested, that they be set in some open place,
with a paper, wherein their transgressions are inserted, pinned upon their back or
their forehead, that they may not only confess, but bear their own shame. And
at the penitential confession of sinners, God has something of this kind to do; if
not before men, yet before angels, that they may behold, and be affected, and rejoice
when they shall see, after the revelation of sin, the sinner taken into the favour
and abundant mercy of God. (Luke 15)
3. A third reason is, For that God will in the forgiveness of sin, magnify the riches
of his mercy; but this cannot be, if God shall suffer, or accept of such confession
of sin, as is yet intermixed with those things that will darken the heinousness of
the offence, and that will be darkened either by a partial, feigned, or overly confession:
or by a joining with the confession any of the sinners pretended good deeds.
That God in the salvation, and so in the confession of the sinner, designs the magnifying
of his mercy, is apparent enough from the whole current of scripture, and that any
of the things now mentioned will, if suffered to be done, darken and eclipse this
thing, is evident to reason itself.
Suppose a man stand indicted for treason, yet shall so order the matter, that it
shall ring in the country, that his offences are but petty crimes; though the king
shall forgive this man, much glory shall not thereby redound to the riches and greatness
of his mercy. But let all things lie naked, let nothing lie hid or covered, let sin
be seen, shewn, and confessed, as it is with and in the sinner himself, and then
there will be in his forgiveness a magnifying of mercy.
4. A fourth reason is, for that else God cannot be justified in his sayings, nor
overcome when he is judged. (Psa 51, Rom 3) God's word hath told us what sin is,
both as to its nature and evil effects. God's word hath told us, that the best of
our righteousnesses are not better than filthy rags. God's word has also told us,
that sin is forgiven us freely by grace, and to for the sake of our amendments: and
all this God will have shewn, not only in the acts of his mercy towards, but even
in the humiliations and confessions of the penitent: For God will have his mercy
begin to be displayed even there where the sinner hath taken his first step toward
him: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom 5:21)
5. A fifth reason is, because God would have by the Publican's conversion, others
affected with the displays and discoveries of wonderful grace; but to cloud and cover
it with lessening of sin, and the sinful righteousness of man, is not the way to
do this. Wherefore the sinner's confession must be such as is full, nor must anything
of his to lessen sin come in betwixt confession and mercy; and this is the way to
affect others [who are] as bad as Publicans and sinners, and to make them come in
to God for mercy.
For what will such say when sin begins to appear to the conscience, and when the
law shall follow it with a voice of words, each one like a clap of thunder? I say,
what will such say when they shall read that the Publican did only acknowledge his
iniquity, and found grace and favour at the hand of God? But that God is infinitely
merciful; merciful indeed, and that to those, or to such, as do in truth stand in
need of mercy. Also that he sheweth mercy of his own good pleasure, nothing moving
him thereto but the bounty of his own goodness and the misery of his creature.
I say, this is the way to make others be affected with mercy; as he saith, by the
apostle Paul, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he
loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,
[by grace ye are saved] and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together
in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding
riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:4-7)
You may also see that: 1 Timothy 1:15, 16. 6. Another reason of this is, because
this is the way to heighten the comfort and consolation of the soul; and that both
here and hereafter. What tendeth more to this, than for sinners to see, and with
guilt and amazement to confess what sin is, and so to have pardon extended from God
to the sinner as such? This fills the heart; this ravishes the soul! this puts a
whole heaven of joy into every one of the thoughts of salvation from sin, and deliverance
from wrath to come. "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to
Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa 35:10) Indeed the belief of this
makes joy and gladness endless: I say, it will make it begin here, and make that
it shall never have consummation in heaven.
7. Besides, it layeth upon the soul the greatest obligations to holiness; what like
the apprehension of free forgiveness, and that apprehension must come in through
a sight of the greatness of sin, and of my inability to do anything towards satisfaction,
to engage the heart of a rebel and traitor to love his prince, and to submit to his
When Elisha had taken the Syrians captives, some were for using severities towards
them; but he said, "Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink,
and go to their master"; and they did so. And what follows, "So the bands
of Syria came no more into the land of Israel." He conquered their malice with
his compassion. And it is the love of Christ that constraineth to live to him. (2
Kings 6:22,23, 2 Cor 5:14)
Many other things might possibly be urged, but at present let these be sufficient.
[His imploring of mercy.]
Second. The second thing that we made mention of in the Publican's prayer was, an
imploring of help against this malady; GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. In which petition
I shall take notice of several things.
I. That a man's help against sins, doth not so absolutely lie in his personal conquest,
as in the pardon of them. I suppose a conquest, though there can indeed by man be
none, so long as he liveth in this world; I mean, a complete conquest and annihilation
The Publican, and so every graciously awakened sinner, is doubtless for the subduing
of sin; but yet he looketh that the chief help against it doth lie in the pardon
of it. Suppose a man should stab his neighbour with his knife, and afterwards burn
his knife to nothing in the fire, would this give him help against his murder? No
verily, notwithstanding this, his neck is obnoxious to the halter, yea, and his soul
to hell fire. But a pardon gives him absolute help: "It is God that justifies,
who shall condemn." (Rom 8) Suppose a man should live many days in rebellion
against God, and after that leave off to live any longer so rebelliously, would this
help him against the guilt which he contracted before? No verily, without remission
there is no help, but the rebel is undone. Wherefore the first blessedness, yea,
and that without which all other things cannot make one blessed, it lies in pardon.
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
(Psa 32:1) "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Rom
Suppose a man greatly sanctified and made holy; I say, suppose it; yet if the sins,
before committed by him, be not pardoned, he cannot be a blessed man.
Yet again, Suppose a man should be caught up to heaven, not having his sins pardoned,
heaven itself cannot make him a blessed man. I suppose these things, not that they
can be, but to illustrate my matter. There can be not blessedness upon any man who
yet remaineth unforgiven. You see therefore here, that there was much of the wisdom
of the Holy Ghost in this prayer of the Publican. He was directed the right, the
only, the next way to shelter, where blessedness begins even to mercy for the
pardon of his sins. Alas! What would it advantage a traitor to be taken up into the
king's coach, to be clothed with the king's royal robe, to have put upon his finger
the king's gold ring, and to be made to wear, for the present, a chain of gold about
his neck, if after all this the king should say unto him, but I will not pardon thy
rebellion; thou shalt die for thy treason? Pardon then, to him that loves life, is
chiefest, is better, and more to be preferred and sought after, than all other things;
yea, it is the highest point of wisdom in any sinner to seek after that first.
This therefore confuteth the blindness of some, and the hypocrisy of others. Some
are so silly, and so blind, as quite to forget and look over the pardon of sin, and
to lay their happiness in some external amendments; when alas poor wretches, as they
are, they abide still under the wrath of God. Or if they be not quite so foolish
as utterly to forget the forgiveness of sin, yet they think of it, but in the second
place; they are for setting of sanctification before justification, and so seek to
confound the order of God; and that which is worse unto them, they by so doing, do
what they can to keep themselves indeed from being sharers in that great blessing
of forgiveness of sins by grace.
But the Publican here was guided by the wisdom of heaven: He comes into the temple,
he confesseth himself a sinner, and forthwith, without any delay, before he removeth
his foot from where he stands, craveth help of pardon; for he knew that all other
things, if yet he remained as involved in guilt, would not help him against that
damnation that belonged to a vile and unforgiven sinner.
This also confuteth the hypocrites, such as is our Pharisee here in the text, that
glory in nothing more, or so much, as that they are "not as other men, - - unjust,
adulterers, extortioners, or even as this Publican"; for these men have missed
of the beginning of good which is the forgiveness of sin; and if they have missed
of the first, of the beginning good, they shall never, as so standing, receive the
second, or the third: Justification, sanctification, glorification, they are the
three things, but the order of God must not be perverted. Justification must be first,
because that comes to man while he is ungodly and a sinner.
Justification cannot be where God has not passed a pardon. A pardon then is the first
thing to be looked after by the sinner; this the Pharisee did not, therefore he went
down to his house unjustified; he set the stumbling-block of his iniquity before
his face when he went to enquire of the Lord; and as he neglected, slighted, scorned,
because he thought that he had no need of pardon; therefore it was given to the poor,
needy, and miserable Publican, and he went away with the blessing of it.
PUBLICANS, since this is so weighty a point, let me exhort you that you do not forget
this prayer of your wise and elder brother, to wit, the Publican, that went up into
the temple to pray. I say, forget it not, neither suffer any vain-glorious or self-
conceited hypocrite to beat you with arguments, or to allure you with their silly
and deceitful tongues, from this most wholesome doctrine. Remember that you are sinners,
equal to, or as abominable as are the Publicans, wherefore do you, as you have him
for your pattern, go to God, and to him confess in all simple, honest, and self-abasing-wise
your great, numerous, and abominable sins; and be sure that in the very next place
you forget not to ask for pardon, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
And remember that heaven itself cannot help you against, nor keep you from, the damnation
and misery that comes by sin, if 'twas possible you should go thither, if you miss
of pardon and forgiveness.
II. As the Publican imploreth help, so withal he closely approveth, notwithstanding,
of the sentence of the law that was gone out against him. This is manifest, for he
saith to God, "be merciful to me"; and also in that he concludes himself
"a sinner." I say, he justifieth, he approveth of the sentence of the law,
that was gone out against him, and by which he now stood condemned in his own conscience
before the tribunal of God's justice. He saith not as the hypocrite, "Because
I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me" (Jer 2:35); or "What
have we spoken so much against thee?" (Mal 3:13) No, he is none of these murmurers
or complainers, but fairly falls before the law, witnesses, judge and jury, and consenteth
to the verdict, sentence, and testimony of each of them.
To illustrate this a little, suppose a malefactor should be arraigned before a judge,
and that after the witnesses, jury, and judge, have all condemned him to death for
his fact, the judge again should ask him what he can say for himself why sentence
of death should not pass upon him? Now if he saith, nothing, but good, my lord, mercy;
he in sum confesseth the indictment, justifieth the witnesses, approveth of the verdict
of the jury, and consenteth to the judgment of the judge.
The Publican therefore in crying mercy, justifieth the sentence of the law that was
gone out against his sins: He wrangleth not with the law, saying, that was too severe,
though many men do thus, saying, God forbid, for then woe be to us. He wrangleth
not with the witness, which was his own conscience, though some will buffet, smite,
and stop its mouth, or command it to be silent. He wrangleth not with the jury, which
was the prophets and apostles, though some men cannot abide to hear all that they
say. He wrangleth not with the judge, nor sheweth himself irreverently before him,
but in all humble-wise, with all manner of gestures that could bespeak him acquiescing
with the sentence, he flieth to mercy for relief.
Nor is this alone the way of the Publican; but of other godly men before his time:
When David was condemned, he justified the sentence and the judge, out of whose mouth
it proceeded, and so fled for succour to the mercy of God. (Psa 51) When Shemaiah
the prophet pronounced God's judgments against the princes of Judah for their sin,
they said, "The Lord is righteous." (2 Chron 12:6) When the church in the
Lamentations had reckoned up several of her grievous afflictions wherewith she had
been chastised of her God, she, instead of complaining, doth justify the Lord, and
approve of the sentence that was passed upon her, saying, "The Lord is righteous;
for I have rebelled against his commandment." (Lam 1:18) So Daniel, after he
had enumerated the evils that befell the church in his day, addeth, "Therefore
hath the Lord - brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all his
works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice." (Dan 9:14)
I know that all these do justify the judgment of God that was gone out against them,
as the Publican did the sentence wherewith he was condemned. And I say, that unless
a man doth come hither, his confession and cry for mercy is not right, and so according
to the scripture, reason, and nature of things as they ought to be; for he that has
any other plea, why doth he cry God, Mercy! Surely not because he concludes that
what is done, is done justly and righteously against him, but because he is overruled
by spite, prejudice, tyranny, or the like.
But this is not the case with our Publican. He has transgressed a law that is holy,
just, and good: the witness that accuseth him of this, is God and his conscience;
he is also cast by the verdict of holy men of God; and all this he knows, and implicitly
confesses, even in that he directs his prayer unto his judge for pardon. And it is
one of the excellentest sights in the world to see, or understand a sinner thus honestly
receiving the sentence of the law that is gone out against him; to see and hear a
Publican thus to justify God. And this God will have done for these reasons.
1. That it might be conspicuous to all that the Publican has need of mercy. This
is for the glory of the justice of God, because it vindicates it in its goings out
against the Publican. God loveth to do things in justice and righteousness, when
he goeth out against men, though it be but such a going out against them as only
tendeth to their conviction and conversions. When he dealt with our father Abraham
in this matter, he called him to his foot, as here he doth the Publican. And sinner,
if ever God counts thee worthy to inherit the throne of glory, he will bring thee
2. The Publican, by the power of conviction stoops to, and falleth under the righteous
sentence gone forth against him, that it might be also manifest that what afterward
he shall receive is of the mere grace and sovereign goodness of God. And indeed there
is no way that doth more naturally tend to make this manifest than this. For thus;
there is a man proceeded against for life, by the law, and the sentence of death
is in conclusion most justly and righteously passed upon him by the judge. Suppose
now that after this, this man lives, and is exalted to honour, enjoys great things,
and is put into place of trust and power, and that by him that he has offended, even
by him that did pass the sentence upon him. What will all say, or what will they
conclude, even upon the very first hearing of this story? Will they not say, well,
whoever he was that found himself wrapped up in this strange providence, must thank
the mercy of a gracious prince; for all these things bespeak grace and favour. But,
3. As the Publican falleth willingly under the sentence, and justifieth the passing
of it upon him; so by his flying to mercy for help, he declareth to all that he cannot
deliver himself: He putteth help away from himself, or saith, it is not in me.
This, I say, is another thing included in this prayer, and it is a thing distinct
from that but now we have been speaking to. For it is possible for a man to justify
and fall under the sentence of the judge, and yet retain that with himself that will
certainly deliver him from that sentence when it has done its worst. Many have held
up their hand, and cried guilty at the bar, and yet have fetched themselves off well
enough for all that; but then they have not pleaded mercy, for he that doth so, puts
his life altogether into the hands of another, but privilege or good deeds either
done or to be done by them. But the Publican in the text puts all out of his own
hand; and in effect saith to that God before whom he went up into the temple to pray;
Lord, I stand here condemned at the bar of thy justice, and that worthily, for the
sentence is good, and hath in righteousness gone out against me; nor can I deliver
myself, I heartily and freely confess I cannot; wherefore I betake myself only to
thy mercy, and do pray thee to forgive the transgressions of me a sinner. O how few
be there of such kind of Publicans! I mean of Publicans thus made sensible, that
come unto God for mercy.
Mercy with most, is rather a compliment, I mean, while they plead it with God, than
a matter of absolute necessity; they have not awfully, and in judgment and conscience
fallen under the sentence, nor put themselves out of all plea but the plea of mercy.
Indeed, thus to do, is the effect of the proof of the vanity and emptiness of all
experiments made use of before. Now there is a two-fold proof of experiments; the
one is, the result of practice; the other is, the result of faith.
The woman with her bloody issue made her proof by practice, when she had spent all
that she had upon physicians and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. (Mark
5:26) But our Publican here proves the emptiness and vanity of all other helps, by
one cast of faith upon the contents of the bible, and by another look upon his present
state of condemnation; wherefore he presently, without any more ado, condemneth all
other helps, ways, modes, or means of deliverance, and betakes himself only to the
mercy of God, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
And herein he showeth wonderful wisdom. For,
(1.) By this, He thrusts himself under the shelter and blessing of the promise: and
I am sure it is better and safer to do so, than to rely upon the best of excellences
that this world can afford. (Hosea 14:1-4)
(2.) He takes the ready way to please God; for God takes more delight in showing
of mercy, than in any thing that we can do. (Hosea 6:6, Matt 9:13, 12:7) Yea and
that also is the man that pleaseth him, even he that hopes in his mercy. (Psa 147:11)
The Publican therefore, whatever the Pharisee might think, stood all this while upon
sure ground, and had by far the start of him for heaven. Alas! his dull head could
look no further than to the conceit of the pitiful beauty and splendour of his own
stinking righteousness. Nor durst he leave that to trust wholly to the mercy
of God; but the Publican comes out, though in his sins, yet like an awakened, enlightened,
resolved man, and first abases himself, then gives God the glory of his justice,
and after that the glory of his mercy, by saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner";
and thus in the ears of the angels he did ring the changes of heaven. Again,
(3.) The Publican, in his thus putting himself upon mercy, showeth, that in his opinion
there is more virtue in mercy to save, than there is in the law and sin to condemn.
And although this is not counted a great matter to do, while men are far from the
law, and while their conscience is asleep within them; yet when the law comes near,
and conscience is awake, who so tries it, will find it a laboursome work. Cain could
not do thus for his heart, no, nor Saul; nor Judas, neither. This is another kind
of thing than most men think it to be, or shall find it, whenever they shall behold
God's angry face, and when they shall hear the words of his law.
However our Publican did it, and ventured his body, soul, and future condition for
ever in this bottom, with other the saints and servants of God, leaving of the world
to swim over the sea of God's wrath if they will, in their weak and simple vessels
of bulrushes, or to lean upon their cobweb-hold, when he shall arise to the judgment
that he hath appointed.
In the mean time pray God awaken us as he did the Publican; pray God enlighten us
as he did the Publican; pray God grant us boldness to come to him as the Publican
did; and also in that trembling spirit as he did, when he cried in the temple before
him, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
THIRD. Thus having in brief passed over his prayer, we come in the next place to
his gestures; for in my judgment the right understanding of them will give us yet
more conviction of the Publican's sense and awakening of spirit under this present
action of his.
And I have observed many a poor wretch that has readily had recourse to the Publican's
prayer, that never knew what the Publican's GESTURES, in the presence of God, while
in prayer before him, did mean. Nor must any man be admitted to think, that those
gestures of his were in custom, and a formality among the Jews in those days; for
'tis evident enough by the carriage of the Pharisee, that it was below them and their
mode, when they came into the temple, or when they prayed any where else; and they
in those days were counted for the best of men, and men too in religious matters
they were to imitate and take their examples at the hands of the best, not at the
hands of the worst.
The Publican's gestures then, were properly his own, caused by the guilt of sin,
and by that dread of the majesty of God that was upon his spirit. And a comely posture
it was, else Christ Jesus, the Son of God, would never have taken that particular
notice thereof as he did, nor have smiled upon it so much as to take it, and distinctly
repeat it as that which made his prayer the more weighty, and the more also to be
taken notice of. Yea, in mine opinion, the Lord Jesus has committed it to record,
for that he liked it, and for that it shall pass for some kind of touchstone of prayer,
that is made in good sense of sin, and of God, and of need of his goodness and mercy.
For verily, all these postures signify sense, sight of a lost condition, and a heart
in good earnest for mercy.
I know that they may be counterfeited, and Christ Jesus knows who doth so too; but
that will not hinder, or make weak or invalid what hath already been spoken about
it. But to forbear to make a further prologue, and to come to the handling of particulars.
"And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes
unto heaven, but smote upon his breast."
Three things, as I told you already, we may perceive in these words, by which his
Publican posture, or gestures are set forth.
First. He stands afar off. Second. He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.
Third. He smote upon his breast. First. For the first of these, "He stood afar
off." "And the Publican standing afar off." This is, I say, the first
thing, the first posture of his with which we are acquainted, and it informeth us
of several things.
1. That he came not with senselessness of the majesty of God when he came to pray,
as the Pharisee did, and as sinners commonly do. For this standing back, or afar
off, declares that the majesty of God had an awful stroke upon his spirit: He saw
whither, to whom, and for what, he was now approaching the temple. It is said in
that 20th of Exodus, That when the people saw the thunderings and the lightnings,
and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, and all these were signs
of God's terrible presence, and dreadful majesty, they removed themselves, "and
stood afar off." (Exo 20:18) This behaviour therefore of the Publican did well
become his present action, especially since, in his own eyes, he was yet an unforgiven
sinner. Alas! What is God's majesty to a sinful man, but a consuming fire? And what
is a sinful man in himself, or in his approach to God, but as stubble fully dry.
How then could the Publican do otherwise than what he did, than stand afar off, if
he either thought of God or himself. Indeed the people afore-named, before they saw
God in his terrible majesty, could scarce be kept off from the mount with words and
bounds, as it is now the case of many: Their blindness gives them boldness; their
rudeness gives them confidence; but when they shall see what the Publican saw, and
felt, and understood as he, they will pray, and stand afar off, even as these people
did. They removed and stood afar off, and then fell to praying of Moses that this
dreadful sight and sound might be taken from them. And what if I should say, he stood
afar off for fear of a blow, though he came for mercy, as it is said of them, They
stood "afar off for the fear of her torment." (Rev 18:10)
I know what it is to go to God for mercy, and what it is to stand all that while
in my spirit through fear afar off, being possessed with this, will not God now smite
me at once to the ground for my sins. David thought something when he said as he
prayed, "Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from
me." (Psa 51:11)
There is none knows, but those that have them, what turns and returns, what coming
on and going off, there is in the spirit of a man that indeed is awakened, and that
stands awakened before the glorious Majesty in prayer. The prodigal also made
his prayer to his Father intentionally, while he was yet a great way off. And so
did the lepers too; "And as he entered into a certain village, there met him
ten men that were lepers, which stood AFAR OFF: And they lift up their voices and
said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." (Luke 17:12,13)
See here, it has been the custom of praying men to keep their distance, and not to
be rudely bold in rushing into the presence of the holy and heavenly majesty; especially
if they have been sensible of their own vileness and sins, as the prodigal, the lepers,
and our Publican was. Yea, Peter himself, when upon a time he perceived more than
commonly he did of the majesty of Jesus his Lord, what doth he do! "When Simon
Peter saw it," says the text, "he fell down at Jesus" knees, saying,
Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5:8) Oh! when men see
God and themselves, it fills them with holy fear, of the greatness of the majesty
of God, as well as with love to, and desire after his mercy.
Besides, by his standing afar off, it might be to intimate that he now had in mind,
and with great weight upon his conscience, the infinite distance that was betwixt
God, and him. Men should know that, and tremble in the thoughts of it, when they
are about to approach the omnipotent presence.
What is poor sorry man! poor dust and ashes, that he should crowd it up, and go jostlingly
in the presence of the great God? especially since it is apparent, that besides the
disproportion that is betwixt God and him, he is a filthy, leprous, polluted, nasty,
stinking, sinful bit of carrion. Esther, when she went to supplicate the king
her husband for her people, made neither use of her beauty, nor relation, nor other
privileges of which she might have had temptation to make use, especially at such
a time, and in such exigencies, as then did compass her about: But I say, she made
not use of them to thrust herself into his presence, but knew, and kept her distance,
standing in the inward court of his palace, until he held out the golden sceptre
to her; THEN "Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre." (Esth
Men also when they come into the presence of God, should know their distance; yea,
and shew that they know it too, by such gestures and carriages, and behaviors that
are seemly. A remarkable saying is that of Solomon. "Keep thy foot when thou
goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice
of fools; for they consider not that they do evil. [And as they should keep their
foot, so also he adds] Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty
to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore
let thy words be few." (Eccl 5:1,2) Three things the Holy Ghost exhorteth to
in this text.
The one is, that we look to our feet, and not be forward to crowd into God's presence.
Another is, That we should also look well to our tongues, that they be not rash in
uttering anything before God.
And the third is, because of the infinite distance that is betwixt God and us, which
is intimated by those words, "For God is in heaven, and thou upon earth."
The Publican therefore shewed great wisdom, holy shame, and humility, in this brave
gesture of his, namely, in his standing afar off, when he went up into the temple
to pray. But this is not all.
2. The Publican, in standing afar off, left room for an advocate, an high priest,
a day's-man to come betwixt, to make peace between God and this poor creature. Moses,
the great mediator of the Old Testament, was to go nigher to God than the rest of
the leaders, or of the people were. (Exo 20:21) Yea, the rest of the people were
expressly commanded to worship, standing afar off. (19:21) No man of the sons of
Aaron that hath a blemish was to come nigh. "No man that hath a blemish of the
seed of Aaron the priest, shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made
by fire: He shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God." (Lev 21:21)
The Publican durst not be his own mediator, he knew he had a blemish, and was infirm,
and therefore he stands back; for he knew that it was none of him that his God had
chosen to come near unto him, to offer the fat and the blood. (Eze 44:13-15) The
Publican therefore was thus far right: he took not up the room himself, neither with
his person, nor his performances, but stood back, and gave place to the high priest
that was to be intercessor.
We read, that when Zacharias went into the temple to burn incense, as at that time
his lot was, "The whole multitude of the people were praying without."
(Luke 1:9,10) They left him where he was, near to God, between God and them, mediating
of them; for the offering of incense by the chief priest was a figurative making
of intercession for the people, and they maintained their distance.
It is a great matter in praying to God, not to go too far, nor come too short in
that duty. I mean in the duty of prayer, and a man is very apt to do one or the other.
The Pharisee went so far, he was too bold, he came into the temple making such a
ruffle with his own excellences, there was in his thoughts no need of a Mediator.
He also went up so nigh to God, that he took up the room and place of the Mediator
himself; but this poor Publican, he knows his distance, and kept it, and leaves room
for the High Priest to come and intercede for him with God. He stood afar off, not
too far off; for that is the room and place of unbelievers, and in this sense that
saying is true, "For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish" (Psa
73:27): That is, they whose unbelief hath set them in their hearts and affections
more upon their idols, and that have been made to cast God behind their backs, to
follow and go a whoring after them.
Hitherto therefore it appears, that though the Pharisee had more righteousness than
the Publican, yet the Publican had more spiritual righteousness than the Pharisee:
And that though the Publican had a baser, and more ugly outside than the Pharisee,
yet the Publican knew how to prevail with God for mercy better than he.
As for the Publican's posture of standing in prayer, it is excusable, and that by
the very father of the faithful himself: For Abraham stood praying when he made intercession
for Sodom. (Gen 18:22,23) Christ also alloweth it where he saith, "And when
ye STAND PRAYING, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which
is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:25) Indeed there is
no stinted order prescribed for our thus or thus behaving of ourselves in prayer,
whether kneeling, or standing, or walking or lying, or sitting; for all these postures
have been used by the godly. "Paul KNEELED down and prayed." (Acts 20:36)
Abraham and the Publican STOOD and prayed. David prayed as he WALKED. (2 Sam 15:30,31)
Abraham prayed LYING upon his face. (Gen 17:17,18) Moses prayed SITTING. (Exo 17:12)
And indeed prayer, effectual fervent prayer, may be, and often is, made unto God,
under all these circumstances of behaviour: for God has not tied us to any of them;
and he that shall tie himself, or his people, to any one of these, doth more than
he hath warrant for from God; and let such take care of innovating, it is the next
way to make men hypocrites and dissemblers in those duties, in which they should
True, which of those soever a man shall chose to himself for the present, to perform
this solemn duty in, it is required of him, and God expects it, that he should pray
to him in truth, and with desire, affection, and hunger, after those things, that
with his tongue he maketh mention of before the throne of God. And indeed without
this, all is nothing. But alas! how few be there in the world whose heart and mouth
in prayer shall go together? Dost thou, when thou askest for the spirit, or faith,
or love to God, to holiness, to saints, to the word, and the like, ask for them with
love to them, desire of them, hungering after them? Oh! this is a mighty thing! and
yet prayer is no more before God, than as it is seasoned with these blesssed qualifications.
Wherefore it is said, that while men are praying, God is searching of the heart,
to see what is the meaning of the spirit, or whether there be the spirit and his
meaning in all that the mouth hath uttered, either by words, sighs, or groans; because
it is by him, and through his help only that any make prayers according to the will
of God. (Rom 8:26,27) Whatever thy posture therefore shall be, see that thy prayers
be pertinent and fervent, not mocking of thine own soul with words, while thou wantest
and art an utter stranger to the very vital and living spirit of prayer.
Now our Publican, had, and did exercises, the very spirit of prayer in prayer. He
prayed sensibly, seriously, affectionately hungering, thirsting, and with longing
after that, for which with his mouth he implored the God of heaven: His heart and
soul were in his words, and it was that which made his PRAYER; even because he prayed
in PRAYER; he prayed inwardly, as well as outwardly.
David tells us, that God heard the VOICE of his supplication, the voice of his cry,
the voice of his tears, and the voice of his roaring. For indeed there are all these
without this acceptable sound in them, nor can any thing but sense, and affection,
and fervent desire, make them sound well in the ears of God. Tears, supplications,
prayers, cries, may be all of them done in formality, hypocrisy, and from other causes,
and to other ends than that which is honest and right in God's sight: For God as
he had experience of, would search and look after the VOICE of his tears, supplications,
roarings, prayers, and cries.
And if men had less care to please men, and more to please God, in the matter and
manner of praying, the world would be at a better pass than it is. But this is not
in man's power to help, and to amen: When the Holy Ghost comes upon men with greater
conviction of their state and condition, and of the use and excellency of the grace
of sincerity and humility in prayer, then, and not till then, will the grace of prayer
be more prized, and the spacious flouting, complimentary lips of flatterers be more
laid aside. I have said it already, and I will say it again, that there is now-a-days
a great deal of wickedness committed in the very duty of prayer; by words, of which
men have no sense, by reaching after such conclusions and clenches therein, as
may make their persons to be admired; by studying for, and labouring after such enlargements
as the spirit accompanieth not the heart in. O Lord God, O Lord God, make our hearts
upright in us, as in all points and parts of our profession, so in this solemn appointment
of God, "If I regard iniquity in my heart," said David, "the Lord
will not hear me." But if I be truly sincere he will, and then it is no mater
whether I kneel, or stand, or sit, or lie, or walk; for I shall do none of these,
nor put up my prayers under any of these circumstances, lightly foolishly, and idly,
but to beautify this gesture with the inward working of my mind and spirit in prayer;
that whether I stand or sit, walk or lie down, glory and gravity, humility and sincerity
shall make my prayer profitable, and my outward behaviour comely in his eyes, with
whom in prayer I now have to do.
And had not our Publican been inwardly seasoned with these, Christ would have taken
but little pleasure in his modes and outward behaviour: but being so honest inwardly,
and in the matter of his prayer, his gestures by that were made beauteous also; and
therefore it is that our Lord so delightfully dilateth upon them, and draweth them
out at length before the eyes of others.
I have often observed, that that which is natural, and so comely in one, looks odiously
when imitated by another, I speak as to gestures and actions in preaching and prayer.
Many, I doubt not, but will imitate the Publican, and that both in the prayer and
gestures of the Publican, whose persons and actions will yet stink full foully in
the nostrils of him that is holy and just, and that searcheth the heart and the reins.
Well, the Publican STOOD and prayed, he stood afar off, and prayed, and his prayers
came even to the ears and heart of God.
"AND THE PUBLICAN STANDING AFAR OFF, WOULD NOT LIFT UP SO MUCH AS HIS EYES UNTO
Second, We are now come to another of his postures. "He would not, [says the
text] so much as lift up his eyes to heaven." Here therefore was another gesture
added to that which went before; and a gesture that a great while before had been
condemned by the Holy Ghost himself. "Is it such a fast that I have chosen?
A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush."
But why condemned then, and smiled upon now? Why! Because done in hypocrisy then,
and in sincerity now. Hypocrisy and a spirit of error will so besmut God's ordinances,
that he shall take no pleasure in them: but sincerity, and honesty in duties, will
make even those circumstances that in themselves are indifferent, at least comely
in the sight of men. May I not say before God? the Rechabites were not commanded
of God, but of their father, to do as they did; but, because they were sincere in
their obedience thereto, even God himself maketh use of what they did to condemn
the disobedience of the Jews; and moreover doth tell the Rechabites, at last, that
they should not want a man to stand before him for ever. "And Jeremiah said
unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel;
Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts,
and done according unto all that he hath commanded you; therefore, thus saith the
LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man
to stand before me for ever." (Jer 35:18,19)
"He would not life up his eyes to heaven." Why? Surely because shame had
covered his face. Shame will make a man blush and hang his head like a bulrush. Shame
for sin is a virtue, a comely thing; yea, a beauty-spot in the face of a sinner that
cometh to God for mercy.
God complains of the house of Israel, that they could sin, and that without shame;
yea, and threateneth them too with sore and repeated judgments, "because they
were not ashamed," it is in Jeremiah 8:12. Their crimes in general were, they
turned every one to his course, as the horse runneth into the battle. In particular,
they were such as rejected God's word, they loved this world, and set themselves
against the prophet's crying peace, peace, peace, when they cried judgment, judgment:
"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination: nay, they were not at
all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that
fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."
Oh! to stand, or sit, or lie, or kneel, or walk before God in prayer, with blushing
cheeks for sin, is one of the excellentest sights that can be seen in the world.
Wherefore the church taketh some kind of heart to herself in that she could lie down
in her shame; yea, and makes that a kind of an argument with God, to prove that her
prayers did come from her heart, and also that he would hear them. (Jer 3:25)
Shame for sin argueth sense of sin, yea, a right sense of sin, a godly sense of sin;
Ephraim pleads this when under the hand of God: "I was," saith he, "ashamed,
yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." But what
follows? "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake
against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled
for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." (Jer 31:19,20)
I know that there is a shame that is not the spirit of an honest heart; but that
rather floweth from sudden surprisal, when the sinner is unawares taken in the act,
in the very manner. And thus sometimes the house of Israel was taken, and then when
they blushed, their shame is compared to the shame of a thief. "As the thief
is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings,
their princes and their priests, and their prophets."
But where were they taken, or about what were they found? Why they were found "saying
to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth."
(Jer 2:26,27) God catched them thus doing, and this made them ashamed, even as the
thief is ashamed when the owner doth catch him stealing of his horse.
But this was not the Publican's shame; this shame brings not a man into the temple
to pray, to stand willingly, and to take shame before God in prayer. This shame makes
one rather to fly from his face, and to count one's self most at ease when they get
farthest off from God.
The Publican's shame therefore, which he demonstrateth that he had, even by hanging
down of his head, was godly and holy, and much like that of the prodigal, when he
said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more
worthy to be called thy son." (Luke 15:21) I suppose that his postures were
much the same with the Publican's, as were his prayers, for the substance of them.
O however grace did work in both to the same end, they were both of them, after a
godly manner ashamed of their sins.
He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.
It saith not he could not, but he would not; which yet more fully makes it appear
that it was shame, not guilt, not guilt only or chiefly, though it is manifest enough
that he had guilt also by his crying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I say, guilt
was not the chief cause of hanging down his head, because it saith, he would not;
for when guilt is the cause of stooping, it lieth not in the will, or in the power
thereof, to help one up.
David tells us, that when he was under guilt, his iniquities were gone over his head:
"As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me." (Psa 38:4) And that with
them he was bowed down greatly. Or, as he says in another place, "Mine iniquities
have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up" (Psa 40:12); I am
not ABLE to do it; guilt disableth the understanding and conscience, shame makes
all willingly fall and bare at the feet of Christ.
"He would not." He knew what he was, what he had been, and should be, if
God had not mercy upon him: Yea, he knew also that God knew what he was, had been,
and would be, if mercy prevented not; wherefore thought he, Wherefore should I lift
up the head? I am no righteous man, no godly man; I have not
served God, but Satan; this I know, this God knows, this angels know, wherefore I
will not "lift up the head." It is as much as to say, I will not be an
hypocrite, like the Pharisee; for lifting up of the head signifies innocency and
harmlessness of life, or good conscience, and the testimony thereof, under, and in
the midst of all accusations. Wherefore this was the counsel of Zophar to Job: "If
thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands towards him; If iniquity be
in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and
shalt not fear." (Job 11:13-15)
This was not the Publican's state, he had lived in lewdness and villany all his days;
nor had he prepared his heart to seek the Lord God of his fathers, he had not cleansed
his heart nor hands from violence, nor done that which was lawful and right. He only
had been convinced of his evil ways, and was come into the temple as he was, all
foul, and in his filthy garments, and amidst his pollutions; how then could he be
innocent, holy or without spot? And consequently how could he lift up his face unto
God? I remember what Abner said to Asahel, "Turn thee aside, from following
me; wherefore should I smite thee to the ground? how then should I hold up my face
to Joab thy brother?" (2 Sam 2:22)
As if he had said, if I kill thee, I shall blush, be ashamed, and hang my head like
a bulrush, the next time I come into the company of thy brother.
This was the Publican's case, he was guilty, he had sinned, he had committed a trespass,
and now being come into the temple, into the presence of that God whose laws he had
broken, and against whom he had sinned, how could he lift up his head? how could
he bear the face to do it? No, it better became him to take his shame, and to hang
his head in token of guilt; and indeed he did, and did it to purpose too, for he
would not lift up, no, not so much as his eyes to heaven.
True, some would have done it, the Pharisee did it; though if he had considered,
that hypocrisy, and leaning to his own righteousness had been sin, he would have
found as little cause to have done it, as did the Publican himself. But, I say, he
did it, and sped thereafter; he went down to his house as he came up into the temple,
a poor unjustified Pharisee, whose person and prayers were both rejected, because,
like the whore of whom we read in the Proverbs, after he had practised all manner
of hypocrisy, he comes into the temple "and wipes his mouth, and saith, I have
done no wickedness." (Prov 30:20) He lifts up his head, his face, his eyes to
heaven; he struts, he vaunts himself; he swaggers, he vapours, and cries up himself,
saying, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are."
True, had he come and stood before a stock or a stone, he might have said thus, and
not have been reprehended; for such are gods that see not, nor hear, neither do they
understand. But to come before the true God, the living God, the God that fills heaven
and earth by his presence, and that knows the things that come into the mind of man,
even every one of them, I say, to come into his house, to stand before him, and thus
to lift up his head and eyes in such hypocrisy before him: this was abominable, this
was to tempt God, and to prove him; yea, to challenge him to know what was in man
if he could even as those did who said, "How doth God [see] know? can he judge
through the dark cloud?" (Job 22:13, Psa 73:11)
But the Publican, no the Publican could not, durst not, would not do thus: He would
not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven. As who should say, O Lord, I have been
against thee, a traitor and a rebel, and like a traitor and rebel before thee will
I stand. I will bear my shame before thee in the presence of the holy angels; yea,
I will prevent thy judging of me by judging myself in thy sight, and will stand as
condemned before thee, before thou passest sentence upon me.
This is now for a sinner to go to the end of things. For what is God's design in
the work of conviction for sin, and in his awakening of the conscience about it?
What is his end I say, but to make the sinner sensible of what he hath done, and
that he might unfeignedly judge himself for the same. Now this our Publican doth;
his will therefore is now subject to the word of God, and he justifies him in all
his ways and works towards him. Blessed be God for any experience of these things.
"He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven." He knew by his deeds
and deservings that he had no portion there; nor would he divert his mind from the
remembering, and from being affected with the evil of his ways.
Some men when they are under the guilt and conviction of their evil life, will do
what they can to look any ways, and that on purpose to divert their minds, and to
call them off from thinking on what they have done; and by their thus doing, they
bring many evils more upon their own souls: for this is a kind of striving with God,
and a shewing a dislike to his ways. Would not you think, if when you are shewing
your son or your servant his faults, if he should do what he could to divert and
take off is mind from what you are saying, that he striveth against you, and sheweth
dislike of your doings. What else means the complaints of masters and of fathers
in this matter? I have a servant, I have a son, that doth contrary to my will. O
but why do you not chide them for it: The answer is, so I do; but they do not regard
my words; they do what they can, even while I am speaking, to divert their minds
from my words and counsels. Why, all men will cry out this is base, this is worthy
of great rebuke; such a son, such a servant deserveth to be shut out of doors, and
so made to learn better breeding by want and hardship.
But the Publican would not divert his mind from what at present God was about to
make him sensible of, no, not by a look on the choicest object, he would not lift
up so much as his eyes to heaven. They are but bad scholars, whose eyes, when their
master is teaching of them, are wandering off of their books.
God saith unto men, when he is a teaching them to know the evil of their ways, as
the angel said to the prophet, when he came to shew him the pattern of the temple;
"Son of man," says he, "behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine
ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that
I might shew them unto thee, art thou brought hither." (Eze 40:4) So to the
intent that God might shew to the Publican the evil of his ways, therefore was he
brought under the power of convictions, and the terrors of the law; and he also like
a good learner gave good heed unto that lesson that now he was learning of God; for
he would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.
Looking downwards doth ofttimes bespeak men very ponderous and deep in their cogitations;
also that the matter about which in their minds they are now concerned, hath taken
great hold of their spirits. The Publican hath now new things, great things, and
long-lived things, to concern himself about: His sins, the curse, with death, and
hell, began now to stare him in the face; Wherefore it was no time now to let his
heart, or his eyes, or his cogitations wander, but to be fixed, and to be vehemently
applying of himself as a sinner, to the God of heaven for mercies.
Few know the weight of sin, and how, when the guilt thereof takes hold of the conscience,
it commands homewards all the faculties of the soul. No man can go out or off now.
Now he is wind-bound, or as Paul says, caught. Now he is made to possess bitter days,
bitter nights, bitter hours, bitter thoughts; nor can he shift them, for his sin
is ever before him. As David said, "For I acknowledge my transgressions: and
my sin is ever before me," in mine eye, and sticketh fast in every one of my
thoughts. (Psa 51:3)
He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven. THIRD, BUT SMOTE UPON HIS BREAST.
This was the third and last of his gestures. He smote upon his breast; to wit, with
his hand, or with his fist. I read of several gestures with the hand and foot, according
to the working and passions of the mind. 'Tis said Balak smote his hands together,
being angry because that Balaam had blessed and not cursed for him the children of
Israel. (Num 24:10)
God says also, that he had smitten his hands together, at the sins of the children
of Israel. (Eze 22:13) God also bids the prophet stamp with his feet, and smite with
his hand upon his thigh, upon sundry occasions, and at several enormities, but the
Publican here is said to smite upon his breast. (Chron 6:11, 21:12) And,
1. Smiting upon the breast betokeneth sorrow for something done, this is an experiment
common among men. And indeed, therefore as I take it, doth our Lord Jesus put him
under this gesture in the act and exercise of his repentance, because it is that
which doth most lively set it forth.
Suppose a man comes to great damage for some folly that he has wrought, and he be
made sorrowful for being and doing such folly: There is nothing more common than
for such a man, if he may, to walk to and fro in the room where he is, with head
hung down, fetching ever and anon a bitter sigh: and smiting himself upon the breast
in his dejected condition; "But smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful
to me a sinner."
2. Smiting upon the breast is sometimes a token of indignation and abhorrence of
something thought upon. I read in Luke, that when Christ was crucified, those spectators
that stood to behold the barbarous usage that he endured at the hands of his enemies,
"smote their breasts and returned." "And all the people that came
together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts,
and returned." (Luke 23:48) Smote their breasts; that is, in token of indignation
against, and abhorrence of their cruelty, that so grievously used the Son of God.
Here also we have our Publican smiting upon his breast, in token of indignation against,
and abhorrence of his former life. And indeed without indignation against, and abhorrence
of his former life, his repentance had not been good. Wherefore the apostle doth
make indignation against sin, and against ourselves for that, one sign of true repentance
(2 Cor 7:11), and his indignation against sin in general, and against his former
life in particular, was manifested by his smiting upon the breast. Even as Ephraim's
smiting upon the thigh was a sign and token of his: "Surely," says he,
"after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote
upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach
of my youth." (Jer 31:19) Man when he vehemently dislikes a thing, is very apt
to shew that dislike that to that thing he hath, by this or another outward gesture:
as in putting the branch to the nose, in snuffing or snorting at it (Eze 8:17,
Mal 1:13); or in deriding; or, as some say, in blowing of their noses at it. (Luke
16:14) But the Publican here chooseth rather to use this most solemn posture; for
smiting upon the breast, seems to imply a more serious, solemn, grave way or manner
of dislike, than any of those last mentioned do.
3. Smiting upon the breast, seems to intimate a quarrel with the heart for beguiling,
deluding, flattering, seducing, and enticing of him to sin: For as conviction for
sin begets in man, I mean if it be thorough, a sense of the sore and plague of the
heart. So repentance, if it be right, begets in the man an outcry against the heart;
for as much as by that light, by which repentance takes occasion, the sinner is made
to see, that the heart is the fountain, and well-spring of sin. "For from within,
out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, - covetousness,"
&c. (Mark 7:21,22) And hence it is, that commonly young converts do complain
so of their hearts, calling them wicked, treacherous, deceitful, desperate ones.
Indeed one difference between true and false repentance lieth in this. The man that
truly repents crieth out of his heart; but the other, as Eve, upon the serpent, or
something else. And that the Publican perceived his heart to be naught I conclude,
by his smiting upon his breast.
4. Smiting upon the breast, seems to intimate one apprehensive of some new, sudden,
strange and amazing thing: As when a man sees some strange sight in the air, or heareth
some sudden or dismal sound in the clouds: Why, as he is struck into a deep damp
in his mind, so 'tis a wonder if he can keep or hold back from smiting upon his breast.
Now ofttimes a sight of God and sense of sin, comes to the sinner like a flash of
lightning, not for short continuance, but for suddenness, and so for surprisal; so
that the sinner is struck, taken and captivated to his own amazement, with what so
unexpectedly is come upon him. It is said of Paul at his conversion, that when conviction
of his bad life took fast hold of his conscience, he trembled, and was astonished.
(Acts 9:6) And although we read not of any particular circumstance of his behaviour
under his conviction outwardly, yet it is almost impossibly but he must have some,
and those of the most solid sort. For there is such a sympathy betwixt the soul and
the body, that the one cannot be in distress or comfort, but the other must partake
of, and also signify the same. If it be comfort, then 'tis shewn; If comfort of mind,
then by leaping, skipping, cheerfulness of the countenance, or some other outward
gesture. If it be sorrow or heaviness of spirit, then that is shewed by the body,
in weeping, sighing, groaning, softly-going, shaking of the head, a lowering countenance,
stamping, smiting upon the thigh or breast as here the Publican did, or somewhat.
We must not therefore look upon these outward actions or gestures of the Publican,
to be empty insignificant things; but to be such, that in truth did express and shew
the temper, frame, and present complexion of his soul. For Christ, the wisdom of
God, hath mentioned them to that very end, that in and by them, might be held forth,
and that men might see, as in a glass, the very emblem of a converted, and truly
penitent sinner. "He smote upon his breast."
5. Smiting upon the breast, is sometimes to signify a mixture of distrust, joined
with hope. And indeed in young converts, hope and distrust, or a degree of despair,
do work and answer one another, as doth the noise of the balance of the watch in
the pocket. Life and death, life and death is always the motion of the mind then,
and this noise continues until faith is stronger grown, and until the soul is better
acquainted with the methods and ways of God with a sinner. Yea, was but a carnal
man in a convert's heart, and could see, he should discern these two, to wit, hope
and fear, to have a continual motion in the soul: wrestling and opposing one another,
as doth light and darkness, in striving for the victory.
And hence it is that you find such people so fickle and uncertain in their spirits;
Now on the mount, then in the valleys; now in the sunshine, then in the shade; now
warm, then frozen; now bonny and blithe, then in a moment pensive and sad; as thinking
of a portion nowhere but in hell. This will cause smiting on the breast; nor can
I imagine that the Publican was as yet farther than thus far in the Christian's progress,
since yet he was smiting upon his breast.
6. Smiting upon the breast, seems to intimate, that the party so doing is very apprehensive
of some great loss that he has sustained; either by negligence, carelessness, foolishness,
or the like, and this is the way in which men do lose their souls. Now to lose a
thing, a great thing, the only choice thing that a man has, negligently, carelessly,
foolishly, or the like, why it puts aggravations into the thoughts of the loss that
the man has sustained; and aggravations in the thoughts of them go out of the soul,
and come in upon a sudden, even as the bailiff, or the king's sergeant at arms, and
at every appearance of them makes the soul start; and starting, it smites upon the
I might multiply particulars; but to be brief, we have before us a sensible soul,
a sorrowful soul, a penitent soul: one that prays indeed, that prays sensibly, affectionately,
effectually. One that sees his loss, that fears and trembleth before God in consideration
of it, and one that knows no way, but the right way, to secure himself from perishing,
to wit, by having humble and hearty recourse to the God of heaven for mercy.
I should now come to speak something by way of use and application; but before I
do that, I will briefly draw up, and present you with a few conclusions that in my
judgment do naturally flow from the text, therefore in this place I will read over
the text again.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other
a Publican: The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that
I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican:
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican,
standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon
is breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
From these words I gather these several conclusions, with these inferences.
Conclusion First, It doth not always follow, that they that pray do know God, or
love him, or trust in him. This conclusion is evident by the Pharisee in the text;
he prayed, but he knew not God, he loved not God, he trusted not in God; that is,
he knew him not in his Son, nor so loved, nor trusted in him. He was, though a praying
man, far off from this. Whence it may be inferred, that those that pray not at all
cannot be good, cannot know, love, or trust in God. For if the star, though it shines,
is not the sun, then surely a clod of dirt cannot be the sun. Why, a praying man
doth as far outstrip a non-praying man, as a star outstrips a clod of earth. A non-praying
man lives like a beast, nay worse, and with reference to his station, a more sottish
life than he. "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but
[this man] Israel doth not know, [but this man] my people doth not consider."
(Isa 1:3) The prayerless man is therefore of no religion, except he be an Atheist,
or an Epicurean. Therefore the non-praying man is numbered among the heathens, and
among those that know not God, and is appointed and designed by the sentence of the
word to the fearful wrath of God. (Psa 79:6, Jer 10:25)
Conclusion Second, A second conclusion is, That the man that prays, if in his prayer
he pleads for acceptance, either in whole or in part, for his own good deeds, is
in a miserable state. This also is gathered from the Pharisee here, he prayed, but
in his prayer he pleaded his own good deeds for acceptance, that is, of his person,
and therefore went down to his house unjustified. Now to be unjustified is the worst
condition that a man can be in, and he is in this condition that doth thus. The conclusion
is true, forasmuch as the Pharisee mentioned in the parable is not so spoken of,
for the only sake of that sect of men, but to caution, forewarn, and bid all men
take heed, that they by doing as he, procure not his rejection of God, and be sent
away from his presence unjustified. I do therefore infer from hence, that if he that
pleadeth his own good doing for personal acceptance with God, be thus miserable;
then he that teacheth men so to do, is much more miserable. We always conclude, that
a ring-leader in an evil way, is more blame-worthy, than those that are led of him.
This falls hard upon the leading Socinians and others, who teach, that men's works
make their person accepted of God.
True, they say, through Christ; but that is brought in as a blandation, merely
to delude the simple with, and is an horrible lie; for we read not in all the word
of God, as to personal justification in the sight of God from the curse, and that
is the question under consideration, that it must be by man's righteousness, as made
prevalent by Christ's, but contrariwise by his, and his only, without the deeds,
works, or righteousness of the law which is our righteousness. Wherefore I say, the
teachers and leaders of this doctrine have the greater sin.
Conclusion Third, A third conclusion is. They that use high and flaunting language
in prayer, their simplicity and godly sincerity is to be questioned, as to the doing
of that duty sincerely. This still flows from our text, the Pharisee greatly used
this; for higher and more flaunting language can hardly be found, than in the Pharisee's
mouth; nor will ascribing to God by the same mouth laud and praise, help the business
at all: For to be sure, where the effect is base and rotten, the cause cannot be
The Pharisee would hold himself in hand that he was not as other men, and then gives
thanks to God for this: But the conclusion was most vilely false, and therefore the
praise for it could not but be foolish, vain, and frivolous. Whence I infer, that
if to use such language in prayer is dangerous, then to affect the use thereof is
yet more dangerous: Prayer must be made with humble hearts, and sensible words, and
of that we have treated before, wherefore high, flaunting, swelling words of vanity
becomes not a sinner's mouth, no, not at any time, much less when he comes to, and
presents himself before God in that solemn duty of prayer. But, I say, there are
some that so affect the Pharisee's mode, that they cannot be well if in some sort
or other they be not in the practice of it; not knowing what they say, nor whereof
they affirm; but these are greatly addicted to hypocrisy, and to desire of vain-glory,
especially if the sound of their words be within the reach of other men's ears.
Conclusion Fourth, A fourth conclusion is, that reformation and amendment, though
good, with, and before me, are nothing as to justification with God. This is manifest
by the condition of our Pharisee; he was a reformed man, a man beyond others for
personal righteousness, yet he went out of the temple from God unjustified, his works,
came to nothing with God. Hence I infer, that the man that hath nothing to commend
him to God of his own, yet stands as fair before God for justification, and so acceptance,
as any other man in the world.
Conclusion Fifth, A fifth conclusion is, it is the sensible sinner, the self-bemoaning
sinner, the self-judging sinner, the self- abhorring sinner, and the self-condemning
sinner, whose prayers prevail with God for mercy. Hence I infer, that one reason
why men make so many prayers, and prevail no more with God, is because their prayers
are rather the floatings of Pharisaical fancies, than the fruits of sound sense of
sin, and sincere desire of enjoying God in mercy, and in the fruits of the Holy Ghost.
The use and application we must let alone till another time.
 The word "merit" was changed for "mercy" after the author's
 "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
(2 Cor 10:18)
 "Carry the bell and wear the garland," alluding to our old English
races; the winner being rewarded with a silver bell, and crowned with a garland:
or to the morris dance, in which the leader carried the garland and danced with bells
fixed to his dress.—Ed.
 The glorious revolution, conducted by William, Prince of Orange, afterwards King
William the 3rd, took place soon after Bunyan's decease. It was probably on this
account that this paragraph was omitted from the edition of September, 1688, and
all the subsequent ones to the present time. The popular opinion, in those times,
was, that Dutchman and extortioner were nearly synonymous.
"We trade wid de Yankey, we deal wid de Scot. And cheaten de tain and de teither:
We cheaten de Jew, aye and better dan dat, We cheaten well ein aniether." Old
 "To pole, to peel," to take off the top and branches of a tree, and
then to peel off the bark; terms used to designate violent oppressions under pretended
legal authority. "Which pols and pils the poor in piteous wise." Fairy
Queen. "Pilling and polling is grown out of request, since plain pilfering came
into fashion." Winwood's Memorials. "They had rather pill straws than read
the scriptures." Dent's Pathway.—Ed.
 Immediately after the calling of Matthew and of James, our Lord sat at meat in
Levi's [James'] house, and made that gracious declaration, "I am not come to
call the righteous but sinners to repentance"; compare Matthew 9:10-13, with
Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 5:27-32.—Ed.
 Nearly half this paragraph is omitted from every edition since 1688, probably
from a fear lest it should be misinterpreted as reflecting upon the glorious revolution
under William and Mary.—Ed.
 This proud beggar shews not his wounds but his worth; not his rags, but his robes;
not his misery, but his stoutheartedness: he brings in God Almighty as a debtor to
him for his services, and thanks God more that others were bad, than for his own
 The word "criminal," used by Bunyan, has been altered in modern editions
to "ceremonial"; but it was not only ceremonial but superstitious, and
therefore more criminal than moral.
 It is singular that our modern Pharisees continue the custom of fasting twice
a week, on Wednesday and Friday. This is not so monstrous as pretending to do what
"God manifest in the flesh" alone could do—to fast for forty consecutive
 God heareth the heart, without the mouth; but never heareth the mouth acceptably,
without the heart. (1 Sam 1:13,15) Puritan Saying.
 To such poor deceived souls, our Lord's words are extremely applicable; "If
therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
If poor blind sinners are, through the ignorance of their minds, fully persuaded
that the destructive way in which they walk is the road to true happiness, how dangerous
is their error, and how deplorable the consequences.—Ryland.
 What home-thrusts are here! The two-edged sword of the Spirit, wielded by such
a man, pierces—divides—lays bare every refuge of lies to which poor souls vainly
fly for succour. It is a solemn and most important subject. May every reader have
grace given him to weigh his hopes of heaven in the balances of divine unerring truth.—Ed.
 Those who plead for mercy, as the reward of their own righteousness, are guilty
of gross absurdity. They may claim to employ the mercy which they have earned: why
plead with the God of justice for that to which they consider themselves in justice
entitled? God will give to all that to which they are entitled, without being sued
for their earnings.—Ed.
 "Points and pantables"; quibbles and quirks. "With periods, points,
and tropes, he slurs his crimes; He robb'd not, but he borrowed from the poor."—Dryden.
"Pantable," from pantoufle, a slipper. To stand upon his pantables, was
a contemptuous mode of speech, to express a very dishonourable man's "standing
upon his honour," which could so easily be slipped from under him. "What
pride is equal to the pope's in making kings kiss his pantables." Sir E. Sandys.
"He standeth upon his pantables, and regardeth greatly his reputation."
Saker's Character of a Fraudulent Fellow. Bunyan was peculiarly happy in his use
of popular and proverbial expressions.—Ed.
 "Meddle nor make," to interfere with matters that do not concern us.
"I think it no sin, to sleep in a whole skin, So I neither meddle nor make."—Old
"He that will meddle with all things, may go shoe the goslings." "I'll
neither meddle nor make, said Bill Heaps, when he spill'd the butter milk."
 The accurate knowledge of Bunyan as to the meaning of law terms is very surprising,
and proves him to have been an apt scholar. A caveat is a caution not to admit a
will that may injure some other party.—Ed.
 In this country the introduction of earthenware plates has driven the less cleanly
wooden plate, called a trencher, entirely out of use.—Ed.
 Sin-sick souls alone seek the Great Physician , and are the proper subjects
of Christ's healing power. Pride and unbelief bar the door of mercy and grace; and
if not subdued by the blood of the cross, will ruin the soul.—Ryland.
 "Thou art besides the saddle."
"I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition;
which o'erleaps itself, And falls on the other. - -" Macbeth.
A proud ecclesiastic requested one of his devotees to give him a leg on mounting
his horse, which he did so heartily as to throw him to the other side of the saddle,
and broke his neck.—Ed.
 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he
is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
 When we had no righteousness of our own to cover us, he put on us naked beggars
that rich robe, the righteousness of Christ. Though black in ourselves, we are comely
in Christ's comeliness; but we never live upon his righteousness, only as we see
none in ourselves.—Ryland.
 "Sweeting," an obsolete term for a sweet apple.—Ed.
 This whole paragraph is omitted from all editions subsequent to 1688, when the
author died. It is the practical illustration of his whole theory. By their fruit
ye shall know them; the fruit does not make them what they are by nature and sin
or by grace and righteousness. The rebuke of the Saviour, Matthew 15:16, falls heavily
on the man who rejected this paragraph.—Ed.
 Abel possessed righteousness before his offering, which influenced him to make
this acceptable sacrifice.—Ed.
 "Then was I most distressed with blasphemies, if I have been hearing the
word, then uncleanness, blasphemies, and despair would hold me as captive."
"I blessed the condition of the dog and toad, and counted their state far better
than this sate of mine."—Grace Abounding.
 Many are the devices of Satan to keep souls from Christ. The world and the flesh
are his grand instruments of seduction, while his temptations and snares drown them
in despair. Their wisdom is to resist manfully by faith in the serpent-bruiser, Jesus.
He will consummate his victories by a glorious triumph over all the powers of hell
 "A sweeting tree," a sweet apple, and not a crab apple tree.— Ed.
 As the disobedience of the first Adam is imputed to all his natural posterity,
and brings death upon all; so the righteousness of the second Adam is imputed to
all his spiritual progeny, to obtain life for them. As the carnal Adam, lost original
righteousness, derives a corrupt nature to all his descendants; so the spiritual
Adam, by his obedience, conveys a vital efficacy of grace to us. The same Spirit
of holiness which anointed our Redeemer doth quicken all his race, that as they have
borne the image of the earthly, THEY may henceforth bear the image of the heavenly
 "Debrorous," probably a misprint for "dolorous," sorrowful
"Through many a dark and dreary vale They passed, and many a region dolorous."—Milton.
 "Make an O yes," alluding to the form of proclamation at sessions
of the peace—"Oyer," the French for "Hear," now corrupted to
 "Boot," profit or advantage.—Ed.
 The mercy of God has not only a quick eye to spy out a penitent, but a swift
foot to run and embrace him. What infinite condescension! God the Father is said
to "run, fall on the neck of, and kiss" the sinner, whom he has by his
Spirit inclined to sue for mercy and peace, which, being obtained, he will withhold
from him no manner of thing that is good.—Ryland.
 The pillory, to which allusion is here made, was a cruel mode of punishment,
now out of date. In earlier times, the ears were nailed to the wood, and after an
hour's anguish were cut off, and the nose and cheeks slit; thus were treated Leighton
and other holy men. In later days, the victims were subjected to the brutality of
a mob, and sometimes excited by factious men.
"Tell us who 'tis upon the ridge stands there So full of fault, and yet so void
of fear; And from the paper in his hat Let all mankind be told for what."—Defoe.
 "Next," nighest or nearest. This sentence is highly poetical, as much
or more so as any in the writings of the most cultivated scholars.—Ed.
 A humbling view of our sinful selves is manifested to the soul by the Word and
Spirit of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ has all the properties of a great and true
light; it has a piercing power and penetrating virtue; it enters the darkest recesses
of the soul, and detects the errors of men's judgment, as well as discovers the enormities
of their lives.—Ryland.
 This sentence is peculiarly striking, and is very illustrative of Bunyan's homely,
cutting, faithful phraseology.—Ed.
 The newly awakened soul, beholding itself in the glass of the law, is shocked
at its own deformity. Sin is truly odious, and an intolerable burthen. So felt the
royal penitent when he cried, "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am
afraid of thy judgments." God's indignation at sin must be felt on this side
the grave, in the conscience of the sinner, if ever he hopes to escape the dreadful
punishment of it in the world to come. But blessed be God, the blood of atonement
is a sovereign balsam for sick and wounded souls, and is abundantly efficacious for
procuring pardon, peace, and reconciliation by the application of the eternal Spirit.—Ryland.
 These humbling words, being too rough for ears polite, have been omitted from
all the editions of this book published since the author's death, except the fifth,
 A simple-hearted man, at a prayer meeting, used the words, "Incline our
hearts to cast our bread upon the waters, that we may find it after many days."
Upon leaving the prayer meeting, while crossing a bridge, a youth said to him, "If
you were to throw a loaf into the river, what good would it be even if you did find
it after many days"; to which his elder replied, "Oh, it is a scripture
expression, though I do not know its meaning"!!! This happened to the editor
forty-five years ago, before Sunday schools and the Tract Society had spread their
flood of scriptural knowledge over the kingdom.—Ed.
 This is variously interpreted, but may it not mean an ancient mode of mocking,
now called taking a sight?—Ed.
 "Blandation," a piece of flattery. "They flattered the Bishop
of Ely with this blandation."—Camden.
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