Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ luke-18.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Calvin's Commentary
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Church Pulpit Commentary
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Hole's Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Gann on the Bible
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Parker's The People's Bible
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- MacLaren's Expositions
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Sermon Bible Commentary
- Horae Homileticae
- The Biblical Illustrator
- Coke's Commentary
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- AEK Concordant NT Commentary
- Abbott's NT
- Orchard's Catholic Commentary
- Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
- Daily Study Bible
- Expositor's Greek Testament
- Family Bible NT
- Godbey's NT Commentary
- Alford's Greek Testament Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Bible Study NT
- Bengel's Gnomon
- People's NT
- Robertson's Word Pictures
- Schaff's NT Commentary
- Vincent's Studies
- Burkitt's Expository Notes
- Daily Study Bible
- Golden Chain Commentary
- Lightfoot's Commentary
- Ryle's Exposiory Thougths
- Lapide's Commentary
- Godet on Selected Books
- International Critical
- Ironside's Notes
- Restoration Commentary
- Utley Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
- Zerr's N.T. Commentary
Of the importunate widow. Of the Pharisee and the publican. Children brought to Christ. A ruler that would follow Christ, but is hindered by his riches. The reward of them who leave all for his sake: he foresheweth his death, and restoreth the blind man to sight.
Anno Domini 33.
Luke 18:1. And he spake a parable, &c.— But, [δε, ] he taught them by a parable, that men ought to persevere in prayer, and not to be discouraged. Heylin. The particle. δε, but, plainly implies, that this parable has a relation to the discourse in the preceding chapter, and was delivered at the same time. The evangelist says it was designed to shew, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; that is, ought frequently to pray; for so the word παντοτε signifies, John 18:20. The figure is carried still higher in the epithet given to the morning and evening sacrifices; which, because of their frequency, are called, a continual burnt-offering: and, in allusion to this, men are directed to pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17. See on Luke 2:37. It is plain, therefore, that the parable was spoken to recommend continual praying, not in the strict sense of the words, but frequency, earnestness, and perseverance in the duty, not only for blessings on ourselves, but also for blessings on the church of God militant on earth; and being delivered on this occasion, it is designed to inspire the disciples with earnestness and perseverance in their prayers, particularly for the coming of the Son of man, to put an end to the Jewish polity, notwithstanding God should long defer the accomplishment of their desires. The comingof Christ to destroy the Jewish polity, is in this and other passages of scripture, spoken of as a thing exceedingly to be wished for by the disciples in those days; the reason was, the Jews in every country, being their bitter persecutors, were the chief opposers of the Christian religion. Our Lord often in the course of his ministry recommended frequency, earnestness, and perseverance in prayer; not because the Divine Being is tired out by our importunity, but because it is both an expression and exerciseof our firm belief and confidence in his goodness, without which it would not be fit for God to bestow his blessings upon us, nor should we be capable of receiving and using them. See Matthew 7:11.Luke 11:8; Luke 11:8. The word εκκακειν, rendered to faint, is expressive, and signifies, "to faint under pressures and persecutions,—to yield to evils, and despond under them,—to be so wholly wearied out with them, as to give place to them,—and to cease from prayer as unavailing to procure relief." See Ephesians 3:13. 2 Thessalonians 3:13.Hebrews 12:3; Hebrews 12:3.
Luke 18:3. Avenge me, &c.— Do me justice upon mine adversary. Heylin, Doddridge, &c. This is the undoubted import of the original phrase; and care should be taken in every version of it to express it so, as not to suggest the idea of revenge.
Luke 18:5. She weary me.— 'Υπωπιαξημε : the word properly signifies to beat on the face, and particularly under the eye; so as to make the parts black and blue. Hence it signifies to beat in general: see on 1 Corinthians 9:27. In the present passage it has a metaphorical meaning, as all the translators acknowledge, though they seem to have missed the exact propriety of the metaphor; for the word 'Υπωπιαξειν here signifies to give great pain, such as arises from a severe beating. The meaning therefore is, that the uneasy feelings which this widow raised in the judge's breast, by the moving representations that she gave him of her distress, affected him to such a degree, that he could not bear it: and therefore, to be rid of these feelings, he resolved to do her justice. The passage understood in this sense has a peculiar advantage, as it throws a beautiful light on our Lord's argument, (Luke 18:6-7.) and lays a proper foundation for the conclusions which it contains.
Luke 18:7. Though he bear long with them?— "Though he seem to refrain himself for a while, to hold his peace, and afflict them very sore." Elsner would render this, Shall he not avenge his own elect, who cry to him and wait patiently for it? that is, for his appearance in their favour. Some understand this as referring to the wicked; "though God bear long with the wicked who oppress his people, and seem deaf to the cries which they send up to his throne, the just view which he has of their afflictions, will in due time move him to punish severely their enemies." The sentiment painted in this parable is very beautiful; namely, that, "if the repeated importunate cries of the afflicted, at length make an impression on the hearts even of men so wicked, as to glory in their impiety, injustice, and barbarity, they will much more be answered by God most gracious, who is ever ready to bestow his choicest blessings, when he sees his creatures fit to receive them." Arguments of this kind, taken from the feeble goodness, or eyed from the imperfections of men, to illustrate the superior and infinite perfections of God, were often made use of by our Lord, and with great success, in working the convictions designed. Such appeals where grace is yielded to, force their waydirectly to men's hearts, bear down all opposition, and make a lasting impression.
Luke 18:8. He will avenge them speedily.— Rather suddenly; for so the original εν ταχει, may signify. Besides, scripture and experience teach, that in most cases punishment is not speedily executed against the evilworks of evil men; but that when the divine patience ends, oftentimes destruction overtaketh the wicked as a whirlwind; Psa 73:18-20 and by its suddenness becomes the more heavy. The question at the end of the verse implies, that at the coming of Christ to avenge and deliver his faithful people, the faith of his coming should in a great measure be lost; accordingly it appears, from 2Pe 3:4 that many infidels and apostates scoffed at the expectation of Christ's coming, which the godly in those days cherished. Instead of on the earth, the Greek would be more properly rendered in the land; for so the word Γη, very frequently signifies in the New Testament. See Acts 7:3; Acts 4:11. Some commentators read this and the foregoing verse thus; which cry day and night unto him? Though he may be slack towards them. Luke 18:8. I tell you, he will avenge them presently. But when, &c.
Luke 18:9. And he spake this parable— Our Saviour, having encouraged and enforced the duty of importunity and perseverance in prayer, proceeded, in another instance, to caution against a self-righteous Pharisaical spirit, which must be renounced, and to recommend humility and self-abasement, which must have a place in the heart, if ever we find acceptance of our persons and prayers: and he directed this discourse to a set of people, who had high confidence in their own merit, and made this their great plea with God for acceptance, and who looked with contempt and disdain upon others, as not worthy to be compared with themselves, or regarded of God.
Luke 18:11. The Pharisee stood, and prayed thus— The Pharisee, having a very high opinion of his own sanctity, would not mingle with the crowd of worshippers in the temple, lest he should have been defiled by them. See Isaiah 65:5. But he stood on a place by himself alone; this is plainly expressed in the Greek, which should be rendered, the Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed these things. He spoke them aloud in the hearing of those who were in the temple at their devotions. He shewed his pride and self-conceit by standing as near the sanctuary, the place of the divine habitation, as he could, that the priests might hear him also, and that he might be at as great a distance as possible from the prophane publican, who, he observed, was praying at the same time with himself. This circumstance of his standing near the sanctuary, is not indeed directly mentioned; but it is implied in that which is told of the publican, (Luke 18:13.) namely, that he stood afar off. Here therefore the Pharisee prayed, whose thanksgiving savoured of the rankestpride, being a praising of himself rather than God, and such a praising of himself, as implied the highest contempt of others, and particularly of his fellow-worshipper: for he did not simply thank God that he was possessed of this or that virtue, but truly that he was not like other men, and particularly like the publican, who was then addressing God. Moreover, he took care to do himself all manner of honour, by an exact detail of the sins to which other men, particularly the publicans, were prone, from which, in his own opinion, he was perfectly free; and of the duties, which they neglected, but which he failed not to perform. See the next verse. Or even as this publican, expresses a kind of contemptuous pointing at him as it were with the finger.
Luke 18:12. I fast twice, &c.— The sins which the Pharisee mentioned, being such as were severally charged on the publicans, and the duties such as that sort of men were supposed to neglect, it shewed to what an intolerable pitch his vanity was grown, and proved that he possessed none of those virtues, for which he so vainly returned God his solemn thanksgiving. Besides, his fasting twice a week was a duty not prescribed by the law, no more than his paying tythes of all, according to the opinion of most casuists at that time, if, as is probable, he meant tythes of mint, anise, and cummin, a preciseness by which men of his sect made themselves remarkable. See ch. Luke 11:42, Wherefore the language of this part of his prayer was, "I not only far excel other men in point of holiness, but I am more righteous than the law requires." Thus did the proud Pharisee arrogantly insinuate, that he had laid God under an obligation to him. It has been observed by most commentators, that the Jews, especially, the Pharisees, used generally to keep private fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, as the primitive Christians did on Wednesdays and Fridays. But our Lord had formally removed the ostentatious manner of doing it for the direction of Christians. See Matthew 6:1
Luke 18:13. And the publican, standing afar off,— Impressed with a deep sense of his sins, the publican appeared so vile in his own sight, that he would not go up among the people of God, but stood afar off, in the court of the Gentiles, perhaps without the stone-wall, called by the apostle the middle wall of partition, which the Gentiles and unclean Israelites were not permitted to pass. Here, with eyes fixed on the ground, smiting on his breast, he by that action made a public acknowledgment of his great transgressions before all who were in sight of him, and, in the bitterness of his soul, earnestly cried for mercy. He too, as well as the Pharisee, pronounced his devotions aloud; but inregard that his prayer was a confession of his sin, his speaking it aloud proceeded not from vanity, but from the anguish of his soul: for instead of doing him honour, this prayer tended to abase him greatly, as he mentioned no mixture of good to palliate the evils of his past life; but openly acknowledged that he was a sinner, and sought refuge in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, the great propitiation, and the alone foundation of his hope. And that he did not act the hypocrite, was evident from the place which he chose for his devotions, where there were few to behold him, from the melancholy of his countenance, and from his whole deportment. The word αμαρτωλος, as here, often signifies an abandoned profligate, a grievous sinner. See Matthew 9:10-11.Luke 6:32-33; Luke 6:32-33; Luke 6:49.
Luke 18:14. Justified rather than the other:— Justified, and not the other. Heylin. The original δεδιχαιωμενος, η εκεινος is a peculiar idiom of the Greek language, and will not admit of a literal construction in English. The following passage will serve to shew, that its true import is as above given. In Joh 13:10 our Saviour says, He that is washed, need not to wash, save his feet; ου χρειαν εχει η τους ποδας νιψασθαι, where the phrase is exactly the same as here, and excludes all washing but that of the feet. The reader will observe, that there is nothing for rather in the original, and therefore it is printed in Italics in ourBibles. Besides, it is manifest to the least observation, that the Pharisee could not at all be acceptable in the sight of him, who has declared, that he abaseth all who exalt themselves. This appears to have been a very favourite maxim with our Lord. See on Matthew 23:12.
From the present parable we learn several important lessons; as,—that the generality of men are great strangers to themselves, and ignorant of their own characters;—that they oftentimes thank God in words for his benefits, while their hearts are by no means penetrated with any just sense of them;—that it is difficult for men in general to think of the sins from which they themselves are free, without censuring the persons who in their opinion are guilty of them;—that a man may be veryready to censure others, withouta single thought of reforming himself—and that in a certain sense, we may be clear of open and scandalous sins, while we are full of inward spiritual wickedness, pride, envy, malice, hypocrisy, and voluptuousness. We may farther observe, that by propounding this parable immediately after that of the importunate widow, our Lord has taught us, that although our prayers must be very earnest and frequent, theyshould always be accompanied with the deepest humility; because no disposition of mind is more proper for such weak and frail beings as men to appear with before the great God, than an absolute self-abasement. See the Inferences and Reflections.
Luke 18:22. Yet lackest thou one thing:— Namely, to love God more than mammon. Our Saviour knew his heart, and presently put him upon a trial, which laid it open to the ruler himself; and to cure his love of the world, which could not in him be cured otherwise, Christ commanded him to sell all that he had. But he does not command us to do this; but to use all to the glory of God. See on Mark 10:20. For the remainder of this chapter we refer the reader to the parallel passages.
Inferences drawn from the parable of the Pharisee and publican. Luke 18:9-14. The generality of the world make so little pretension to religion, that it is great pity there should be any pretensions made which are false and groundless. The greatest part of the world quite neglect all religion. They neither have it, nor seem to have it, nor desire to be thought to have it: and of the remainder who concern themselves about it, many mistake its nature, and having discharged its facile offices, they pride themselves in their vain performances, and treat the rest of the world with contempt and aversion. They christen their ill-nature by the name of zeal; and whoever attempts to undeceive them, is likely to incur the worst effects of it. This our Lord found by sad experience from the Pharisees, who, upon this account, long persecuted, and at last murdered him.
So pernicious a principle is this Pharisaical righteousness: such reason have we all to guard against it: which every reader will be better enabled to do, who considers its nature as represented in the above parable, with the beautiful illustration of it by the opposite character of the humble publican.
We are told that the Pharisee stood, and prayed thus within himself, God I thank thee, &c. It may be asked, "What is the fault of this prayer? If the Pharisee did mention his own good qualities, yet he seemed to do it with thankfulness, as ascribing them and the glory of them to God; thankfulness, which implies a humble confession of our own inabilities, and a grateful acknowledgment of the divine favour."
But see the deceitfulness of the heart of man! this Pharisee's giving God thanks, was but a pretence, a mere artifice to introduce his own praise; to authorise, and as it were sanctify his vain-glorious boasting. It was a kind of sacrilege thus to abuse the name of God to screen his pride, and to serve only as a plausible introduction of his arrogant commendations of himself, and his uncharitable censures and insolent contempt of others. God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men, &c.—or even as this publican. See how he seasons his private panegyric with public satire; and tramples upon the rest of the world, to extol his own merit upon their ruin. All inordinate self-love is necessarily attended with a proportionable want of charity; so that pride and ill-nature are inseparable. But what alliance have they with religion? What fellowship have light and darkness? What connection is there between calumny and devotion?
And yet, many men, pretendedly religious, have been so remarkable for these two diabolical qualities of pride and ill-nature; have been so notoriously arrogant, supercilious, and morose, so full of malicious censoriousness, and contempt of the rest of the world, and all this with such hypocritical pretences of zeal for virtue and religion; that they have given a handle to wicked men to charge religion itself as accessary to such criminal affections, though the tenor of all its precepts tends to their utter extirpation.
How ill this Pharisee performed these duties, is not here specified; but we may make a just estimate of them from his devotion, which is represented to us as exceedingly corrupt and prophane. It is said, He went up to the temple to pray: but when he came to the temple, he did no such thing. He indulged his pride, he vented his malice; he boasted, he railed, but he did not offer up one petition. No; he was so full of his own praises, that he forgot his prayers.
The wicked practice of concealing the true purpose of the heart under mere specious pretensions, is very common: men are intimately conscious that pride is an odious quality, odious to God and man; and therefore they disguise it with false colours.
Whoever has kept a due watch over his own heart, must have often observed these mean contrivances. Sometimes we pretend to blame ourselves for somewhat we are less careful to excel in, that we may make ourselves amends in assuming some other qualities which we have more at heart. Sometimes, we will cover our pride with an affected humility, and discommend ourselves, in hopes to be kindly contradicted, and that our talents may be displayed with greater lustre, when we seem less conscious of them. Sometimes we take occasion to commend others for some excellence, which we account conspicuous in our own character; hoping thereby to make our own to be taken notice of; and at other times, with the same base design, but by a more ungenerous method, we inveigh against such faults in others as we judge ourselves most exempt from, that our innocence may be the more advantageously remarked, with the benefit of such foils. But, not to mention any more of these vile disguises of vanity, this before us, of the Pharisee giving God thanks, is a very common and a very base one; and our Lord has singled it out for rebuke, that he might cure us, if possible, of a similar conduct.
So fallacious, and of such dangerous consequence, is the sophistry of pride! He was in the presence of his all-seeing Judge;—and yet, so far was he from owning his guilt and imploring mercy, that he affronted the divine omniscience with lying boasts of his innocence. Or, to set this absurdity in the light wherein St. Augustine has very elegantly placed it, "He was before his physician, and boasted of his health, instead of discovering his distemper."
But let us see, if he was not mistaken even in what he took for the sound part, that needed no physician,—in his boasted virtues, for which he pretended such devout thankfulness. God, I thank thee, &c. there was no ground perhaps for this thanksgiving. He might be a very bad man, though he was not as other men were. Singularity is not always attached to virtue: it is sometimes a vice. Error is various, sin is of all modes and professions; but is then most abominable, when it is most concealed, and wears the mask of virtue. So that the Pharisee might be not as other men were, to his greater condemnation. But, supposing his sense of the words,—that many were worse than himself; yet hell, as well as heaven, has diverse mansions; and not to deserve the lowest place in it, is small matter of praise or consolation.
This general expression of his own goodness being thus considered, let us now view the particulars which he chose to specify. For we read that he was not an extortioner, &c. but that he fasted twice a week, and gave tythes of all that he possessed.
Here he commends himself both negatively and positively; for his merits lying in a narrow compass, he was glad to make the most of them. Such negative commendations as he urges, are but a wretched kind of praise; yet we see vanity often have recourse to them. You shall hear an extravagant spendthrift boasting that he is not covetous, and the covetous extortioner glorying that he is not extravagant: all the moral virtues stand between two vicious extremes; and the man who is far gone in one, is generally exempt from the other. Our Pharisee was no extortioner, nor adulterer, nor unjust, as he says; but he was proud, and hypocritical, and malicious, and censorious to a heinous degree. Witness his insolent mention of the humble penitent beside him,—nor even as this publican!—But he that saw the heart of both, has told us the difference, and that he was not indeed as that publican, in a contrary sense to that which he intended.
Thus much for his negative. Speak we now of his positive merits,—his fasting and almsgiving. These are two externals of religion very edifying, when animated by the proper inward disposition of the heart. Fasting is a means, which, under the influence of divine grace, much conduces to mortify the appetites and passions; and when we fast with this intention, we shall grow in holiness and virtue, and promote the great work of salvation. But there are some who, as Isaiah speaks, (Isaiah 58:3-4.) fast through self-will, for strife and debate, and grow thereby more wilful, peevish, and contentious. This man gave, as he says himself, the tenth part of his substance; but, according to St. Paul, he might have given all his goods to feed the poor, yea, and his own body to be burned,—yet have wanted love; and then his alms and his martyrdom would have profited him nothing.
But enough of this Pharisee: look now, on the other hand, and behold the reverse of his character in the poor publican! Very probably this man had been guilty of those crimes which were incident to his profession. He had no merits to plead, no fasting, no alms, or other good works, wherewith to justify himself: he was a sinner, indeed; probably a great sinner; but he knew it, and was ashamed; he was sorry for it, and confessed it. The Pharisee had despised him; but he despised none but himself. He stood afar off,—far from the sanctuary, in the entrance, perhaps, of the temple; as it were excommunicated by his own voice, and fully conscious of his own unworthiness to appear there. He would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, filled with a pious indignation against himself, and said, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!"
And yet our Lord has declared, in this sinner's favour,—that he returned justified rather than the other. And the only reason was, "because he did not justify himself." He adds, For every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted. Such is the moral wherewith our Lord concludes this most beautiful parable: and what better influence or application can we make or derive from his divine remark, than by repeating and recommending it to the serious meditation of his sincere disciples? Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The intention of the parable given us, Luk 18:1-8 as we are informed in the first verse, is to encourage us in persevering prayer, even though we may not always find the immediate answer of our requests. We have,
1. The parable of the importunate widow and unjust judge. He was a man of abandoned principles, destitute of religion and honesty, neither fearing God nor regarding man: and miserable is that country, where such magistrates are in office. A poor oppressed widow appealed to him for redress: some crafty or covetous wretch, cruelly taking advantage of her weakness, had defrauded or injured her; and with ceaseless importunity, at the judge's gate, she cried for justice to be done her. Deaf for a while to her intreaties, he paid no regard to her cause, till, wearied out with her perpetual clamour, merely to get rid of it, he granted her suit, and redressed her wrongs.
2. Christ applies the case, for the encouragement of his praying people. If the unjust judge was thus prevailed upon by importunity, how much more shall God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily? Note; (1.) Dear as God's believing people are to him, they meet with many a severe trial, and much oppression in this world; and to him they carry all their complaints. (2.) We must not be weary, though our requests do not immediately succeed, but patiently persevere in calling upon God day and night. (3.) God bears long with his enemies, to see if they will yet repent and turn to him; and sometimes he defers long, comparatively speaking, the prayers of his people, to exercise their graces; but he will speedily avenge them, punishing their enemies, and rescuing them from their sufferings.
3. He foretels his disciples, how little faith would be found among the Jewish people, when he came to judge them: an aweful intimation! Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall, and redouble his prayers that he may never faint nor fail under any trials.
2nd, The purport of the parable delivered to us in Luk 18:9-14 is intimated in the opening of it, He spake this parable unto certain, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. They were puffed up with a vain conceit of their excellence above other men; they presumed that their own doings and duties would ensure their acceptance with God; and, high in self-opinion, looked down with contempt on the herd of vulgar sinners, as far beneath them: though in God's sight they were far more vile and abominable than those whom they despised. We have,
1. The account of two men of very different characters, who went up to the temple to pray.—The one a Pharisee, proud, self-righteous, who, confident of his own goodness, expected the admiration of men, and counted even God his debtor.—The other a publican, a poor broken-hearted, self-condemned sinner, who, feeling his misery, fled to God for mercy. Note; (1.) Prayer is every man's duty. They must be inexcusable, who live in the neglect of it. (2.) The temple was the type of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone our prayers can come up before God with any prospect of acceptance.
2. The Pharisee's address to God bespoke the abominable arrogance of his heart. He stood and prayed thus with himself, in some conspicuous place where others might admire his devotion and piety, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. He pretends to thank God, but in fact all he said was merely a compliment on himself. Much evil he had avoided, much good he had done; not only abstaining from grosser vices, from extortion, adultery, injustice, but also he was often in fastings, and scrupulous in paying tithes of all that he possessed; and with much self-complacence congratulates himself, that he was so much superior to other men; and boasts to God, how far he exceeded in goodness that vile publican, whom he passed in the outer-court of the temple. Thus spoke this swelling worm: what he called his prayers, breathed nothing but the language of pride, uncharitableness, and censure. Yet, detestable as this character appears, how many who hope for heaven, come short of it in many things, and live in the indulgence of those vices from which even this Pharisee was free.
3. The publican's prayer was just the very reverse. In humility, self-abhorrence, and earnest desire after mercy, he bows into the dust before God. He stood afar off, keeping a humble distance from the Pharisee, whom he counted so much his superior; or in the outer-court of the Gentiles, as unworthy a place among true Israelites; and would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; with downcast looks, which bespoke the deep dejection of his soul, as if he was unworthy to turn even his eyes towards God's holy habitation; but smote upon his breast, where that vile heart lodged in which so much evil had dwelt, and against which he would express a holy indignation: then, raising, as it were, a deep sigh from his inmost soul, in one short ejaculation he breathed forth the desires of his sinful heart, God be merciful to me a sinner! he owns his guilt, by nature, by practice, ill-deserving, hell-deserving; he disclaims all hope and dependence upon himself, and trusts alone upon the promised mercy of God through the Blood of Atonement, assured that he must otherwise eternally perish: and therefore he casts his soul down before the throne of God's grace, earnestly begging that mercy which he so greatly needed.—A pattern which every poor sinner must imitate; and in this way alone may the miserable hope to find mercy. We are all sinners; and if ever we would be saved, we must learn the spirit and adopt the prayer of this penitent publican.
4. Very different was the acceptance which these men's prayers met at the throne of grace. However to outward view the specious Pharisee might be generally among men preferred to this despised publican, God seeth not as man seeth: this poor, self-abased, and penitent sinner went down to his house justified, his sins pardoned, his person, accepted, his prayer granted, and peace spoken to his soul; and not the other; the proud self-justifier was left to his native guilt and sin, abhorred of God, his very prayers an abomination; and all his boasts were but delusion, and must prove his destruction. And the reason of this is added, which contains also an axiom that will be for ever proved true; every one that exalteth himself, in the vain imagination of his own self-sufficiency and self-righteousness before God, looking down with disdain upon others, as so much his inferiors in goodness, he shall be abased; his pride will be mortified, his sins will take hold of him, and the wrath of God in hell for ever abide upon him: while he that humbleth himself, taking shame for his sinfulness and baseness before God, confessing his guilt, and acknowledging his unworthiness of the least mercy, shall be exalted to the favour of God in this world, and, continuing faithful, to his eternal glory in a better.
3rdly, The passage of sacred history contained in Luk 18:15-17 has before been twice recorded; and a third time it is profitable to consider it:
1. As an encouragement to parents early to bring their infants to Jesus, in prayer committing them to his benediction, by baptism offering them to become visible members of his church, and engaging to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
2. We must not be disheartened in our applications, if we find those discountenance us, from whom we hoped for encouragement; the Master himself will treat us more kindly.
3. The longest day we live, we need still to set before us a little child for our pattern. In the school of teachableness, humility, and simplicity, the best and wisest have yet many lessons to learn.
4thly, We have,
1. Our Lord's discourse with the young ruler, who inquired after the way to eternal life. The inquiry was important, and what the greatest of men need seriously to consider; for they are dying worms as well as others. Could man keep the commandments with immaculate obedience, this would be still the road to glory; but since the fall, that door of paradise is barred, and none can any longer hope to enter heaven by the merit of personal obedience, since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. To flatter ourselves we have thus kept the commandments, would prove our ignorance of the spirituality of God's law, and of the corruption of our own hearts by nature. Thus deceived was this young ruler; and the delusion was evident the moment he was called upon to part with all for Christ; when unable to bear that hard saying, he departed sorrowful. Note; Worldly things are usually dire hindrances in the way to glory: for the sake of some one darling lust, how many make shipwreck of their souls.
2. Our Lord took occasion hence to warn his disciples, whose hearts were too full of the hopes of temporal grandeur, how difficult, and next to impossible, it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And when they expressed their astonishment thereat, he refers them to that almighty grace which can effect that for all who sincerely and humbly come to God through Christ, which we could never do by our own native powers. Note; Instead of grasping at abundance, we should tremble at the perilousness of our situation, if God in his providence gives us much: we have so many more hindrances in our way to heaven, unless by prayer and faith we obtain proportionable grace to improve our talents to his glory.
3. In answer to St. Peter's question, what they should have who leave all to follow him, Christ replies, that they should be abundant gainers thereby, receiving manifold more in this present time, if not in kind, yet in comfort, in the present graces and gifts of God's Spirit, and in the enjoyment of his love and favour; and in the world to come life everlasting, which will infinitely overpay all our present losses.
5thly, We have,
1. The warning that Christ gave his disciples of the sufferings which he must endure, to arm them against that dire event. He was about to suffer every indignity, and at last death itself. Nor ought this to surprise them, since the scriptures had foretold that thus it must be; and not one jot or tittle of the divine word can fail. But as these sacred oracles declared his sufferings, they had insured his resurrection also; and therefore his disciples need not despond, having this glorious event in their view.
2. So strong were the unhappy prejudices which the apostles had imbibed, that they understood none of these things. The prophesies which spoke of the Messiah's sufferings and reproaches, were hidden from them; they could not reconcile the glorious things spoken of his kingdom, to such a scene of indignities and humiliation: and having their eyes dazzled with the temporal grandeur of the Messiah's kingdom, they overlooked all beside. But we should never forget, that the way to glory, both for the Head and the members, lies through much tribulation; and no cross, no crown.
6thly, It was prophesied of the Messiah, that he should open the eyes of the blind: in this chapter, as elsewhere, we find him fulfilling the prophetic word. And he who gave light to the darkened body, shines still with brighter beams as the Sun of righteousness into the benighted soul, and communicates also through faith the faculty of spiritual vision to those whose souls the god of this world had blinded.
1. The patient here was blind and poor; and such beggars have a claim upon our charity.
2. He sat by the way-side, where he hoped for relief; and there he found more than his most sanguine wishes expected: for while we are waiting upon God in his ways, he is pleased often to give us more than we can ask or think. He heard from the multitude that Jesus was passing by, and he now resolved to seize the happy moment to prefer his request; nor would be silenced by any rebukes of those who were near him, crying with loud and ceaseless importunity, Jesus thou son of David, have mercy on me.
3. Christ, in his wonted compassion, calls the poor man, bids him prefer his petition, and grants his request, giving him sight according to his desire. The tender-hearted Saviour feels for human wretchedness, and will not send the poor and humble supplicant away without an answer of peace. If we have faith to trust him, he has power and willingness to heal all our infirmities, and to supply all our wants.
4. The poor beggar, now restored to sight, with delight followed Jesus in the way, glorifying God for the mercy that he had experienced; and all the people joined in his praises. Note; (1.) If we enjoy spiritual sight, we shall follow Jesus without delay in all his holy ways. (2.) The mercies of others demand our thankfulness, as well as our own; for we are members one of another.