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and poor, learned and ignorant, all have their particular faults, and some have their merits, in whatever situation of life they may be placed.
You know the old saying, "Give a dog a bad name, and hang him."
Perhaps you have heard some people say, "I don't like tramps about the place. Tramps are sure to get into mischief, and set the place on fire, or rob the house. I'll have nothing to do with tramps and vagabonds."
But, now, why should not a tramp be as good as any body else?
- A man may have met with misfortunes, or be out of work, or have got the habit of rambling about the country instead of settling down in one place; but yet he may have a good heart, and be as honest as the day, and love and serve the Lord Almighty as well as his richer neighbours; and although it may be true, that tramps sometimes do mischief and steal, we have no right to suppose that there are no well-disposed persons among them.
And this was the case with these Publicans. Though many of the Publicans were hard, cruel, drunken, profligate men, still there were a few who had some good left in them.
This particular Publican was certainly anxious
to obtain some good, for he went into the Temple to pray, at the same time with the proud Pharisee.
The two men were created by the same Hand, they breathed the same air, and enjoyed the same sunshine. They might both suffer from the same diseases, and in time they must both die, and be covered by the same dust. What, then, could be more natural than to see them enter the same place of worship, and pray together to the same God?
It would seem so to us; but I fear the Pharisee thought otherwise.
He seemed to fancy that he had a better right in the House of God than any one else; and he walked up to the farthest end of the Temple, just as if all the people there had nothing better to do than to notice him, and to think how good it was of him to come there at all.
As for the poor Publican, he stood afar off, near the door, and dared not so much as lift up his eyes unto Heaven. Nobody would welcome him to a good place. Probably the other Jews would all shrink away from him, and scorn even to share the same seat with a Publican. The Pharisees would hurry by him, pulling their beautiful long robes out of the way, lest they should happen to touch him as they passed,
and nobody would give him a kind look to make him feel at home and comfortable.
But the Publican did not care for that; he did not go to the Temple to be seen of men! he had none of that pride which will sometimes make a working man stay away from church because he has no pew to go into, and does not like to be near the door; or because, perhaps, he has no Sunday clothes to show, so good as his neighbour's.
No! the Publican never thought about himself at all. It never struck him to feel awkward or ashamed. He wanted to get God's pardon and God's peace, and he cared for nothing else besides.
Now mark the different way in which these two men worshipped God.
The Pharisee, we read, stood up in his grand place, where every one could see him, and he said
"I thank thee, O God! that I am not as other men are!" He began to reckon up all the faults he could find in his neighbours; and then turning round and seeing the poor Publican, he added, "or even as this Publican;' then he went on to boast of all the good things he had done himself, just as if God did not know his heart better than he did; or as if, after he had done all, he would be any thing
but an unprofitable servant to his Heavenly Master.
But the poor Publican's conduct was very different he only smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" That was all; he made no excuses, he took no credit to himself for any good deeds, though, no doubt, he could have found something to be proud of as well as the Pharisee if he had tried. He did not trouble his head about his neighbours, but he prayed God to be merciful to him because he was "a sinner."
What does our Saviour say about these two worshippers?
"I tell you, 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."
Boasting of our own goodness and finding fault with our neighbours will not serve us with Him before whom every heart is laid bare. We can only judge from each other's faces, but God looketh at the heart. We cannot tell what people are thinking about, we only know what they look like and what they say. Some men may seem very good to us,-they may be able to talk very well about their religious feelings, and give excellent advice to others; they may even do good sometimes, and yet all
the while they may perhaps have hard, proud, selfish hearts, like this Pharisee. We only see just the outside shell; but what does God care for the outward appearance? He throws aside the empty husk, and looks only for the fruit or kernel within. He can read our very thoughts almost before we know them ourselves. It is very easy to deceive our fellow-creatures, and there is no very great cleverness in taking in some other person, but can we deceive God? can we escape from His eye? "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord 1."
Now you have most of you seen, I dare say, lumps of iron-stone or of lead ore?
Those who do not know their value are very likely to throw them away as rough dirty stones, not worth the trouble of picking up; but if these rough stones are sent to the furnace and smelted down, they may be made into something, both of use and value.
So with the heart of a man in its natural state. It may be encrusted with sins, and hardened by contact with this wicked world, but if passed through the furnace of affliction and repentance, if melted by the grace of God,
Jer. xxiii. 24.