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 next35 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.36 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 hither. But,
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.37 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.38 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.39 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 5:2)
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 be sincere.
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,40 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 HEAVEN."
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." (Isa 58:5)
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,41 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 breast.
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,42 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 good.
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.
1 The word "merit" was changed for "mercy" after the author's death.—Ed.
2 "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." (2 Cor 10:18)
3 "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.
4 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 Song.
5 "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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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 fancied goodness.—Ryland.
9 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.
10 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 days.—Ed.
11 God heareth the heart, without the mouth; but never heareth the mouth acceptably, without the heart. (1 Sam 1:13,15) Puritan Saying.
12 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.
13 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.
14 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.
15 "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.
16 "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 Play.
"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." Old Proverbs.—Ed.
17 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.
18 In this country the introduction of earthenware plates has driven the less cleanly wooden plate, called a trencher, entirely out of use.—Ed.
19 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.
20 "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.
21 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
22 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.
23 "Sweeting," an obsolete term for a sweet apple.—Ed.
24 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.
25 Abel possessed righteousness before his offering, which influenced him to make this acceptable sacrifice.—Ed.
26 "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.
27 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 and darkness.—Ryland.
28 "A sweeting tree," a sweet apple, and not a crab apple tree.—Ed.
29 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 Adam.—Ryland.
30 "Debrorous," probably a misprint for "dolorous," sorrowful or dismal.
"Through many a dark and dreary vale They passed, and many a region dolorous."—Milton.
31 "Make an O yes," alluding to the form of proclamation at sessions of the peace—"Oyer," the French for "Hear," now corrupted to "O yes."—Ed.
32 "Boot," profit or advantage.—Ed.
33 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.
34 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.
35 "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.
36 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.
37 This sentence is peculiarly striking, and is very illustrative of Bunyan's homely, cutting, faithful phraseology.—Ed.
38 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.
39 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, 1702.—Ed.
40 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.
41 This is variously interpreted, but may it not mean an ancient mode of mocking, now called taking a sight?—Ed.
42 "Blandation," a piece of flattery. "They flattered the Bishop of Ely with this blandation."—Camden.