Tenth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Luc.18. v. 9. Saturday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves as being just and despised others. Two men went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and began to pray thus within himself: ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men, robbers, dishonest, adulterers, or even like this publican. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I possess.’ But the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went back to his home justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
Having learned this first lesson of the Publican to be ashamed and confounded for our sins, least that of the Prophet Jeremy be verified in us which he said unto the Nation of the Jews; Thou hast the forehead of a whore (that is impudent) that will not blush at her abominations, we will consider the other circumstances, to wit,his standing a far off from the Altar,his knocking of his breast, casting down his eyes, and his prayer, O God be merciful unto me a sinner,meaning a grievous sinner:
And we will here note that they being external Ceremonies,how exactly Christ, setteth them down to his praise, and thereby seemeth to approve and praise the like external Ceremonies of the Church, howsoever some new Teachers reject the same.
Of a just man the Prophet David sayth thus: He shall be like a tree that is planted by the river side, which shall bring forth her fruit in due season, and her leaf shall not fall away: under which Metaphor lyeth his this spiritual sense, that as leaves are necessary for the conservation of the fruit upon the tree, and an ornament thereunto.
So in the Church there are certain ceremonies, which as leaves do conserve the fruit, and help the growth thereof,and adorn the tree; so do they devotion,and religious worship of God, and that God wold not have these leaves or Ceremonies to fall away, from the Church, as certain new teachers would have them, of which new teachers God did mystically foretell, & complain by the Prophet Joel in these words: A Nation shall ascend upon my land, her teeth shall be like the teeth of a lion, she hath eaten the bark of my fig tree, and made it naked, & cast it away, and the bowes of it she hath made white, by pilling away the rind.
As the Prophet David compared Ceremonies to the leaves of a tree, so here the Prophet Joel compareth them to the bark, and sayth in effect, there shall come a Nation that shall go about to abolish all ceremonies out of the Church, & leave it naked and white, like a tree without leaves or bark, which is a thing not only ill favored to be seen, but bringeth destruction both to the fruit and tree, which the Prophet calleth Cruelty to the Church, comparing them to the cruel teeth of a lion.
Men are composed of a double substance, corporal and spiritual, & therefore they must serve God with a double worship,corporal & spiritual: but as the spiritual is the chiefest, so is the corporal referred to the spiritual, & the spiritual to God, and those signs of humility which we do corporeally exhibit, we stir up our devotion, and affection to subject ourselves unto God.
There can be no external worship of God, nor association of men in religion either true or false, without corporal Ceremonies.
The Jews were clogged, yoked, and kept occupied with innumerable carnal, gross and burdensome Ceremonies, to keep them from sliding away into Idolatry, which they learned when they dwelt in Egypt four hundred years, the most Idolatrous country in the world; but Catholics have only a few, & those easy, sweet seemly, and significant, both instructing and elevating the mind unto the worship of God, and exhibiting, as is due unto him, both corporal and spiritual worships together.
The prayer of the Publican was brief but pithy, and full of humility,and compunction for his sins.
The prayer of the Pharisee was full of pride, or rather no prayer at all, though he went to the Temple to pray.
The prayers of these two were like opening a vein to let blood.
If a vein be opened, and there commeth out good blood, it is an ill sign, that Nature letteth out the good blood, and keepeth in the bad: if there commeth out bad blood,it is a good sign, that Nature letteth out the bad & keepeth in the good, to conserve itself.
The Pharisee vented out his good blood and kept in the bad: the Publican vented out the bad, and kept in the good, and therefore Christ justified the Publican, & condemned the Pharisee.
The publican by standing a far of from the Altar, out of humility & confusion for his sins,approximated himself the nearer to God: the Pharisee standing near & justifying himself made himself remote & far of.
The publican not presuming to look up to heaven,drew heaven unto him,as a loadstone draweth iron unto it: the pharisee exalting himself to heaven, was cast down to hell.
We have heard the accuser,and the guilty, the Pharisee, and the Publican, sayth Christ the Judge,went home justified, more then the other.
Oh the secret judgments of God! the searcher of our intentions, hearts, and reins!
What man seeing both these together in the Temple, the one laden with sins,the other full of good works,would have judged of them as Christ did? and the reason why Christ judged so, he sheweth in those words: for, sayth he, every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Behold humility is here accounted the sum & accomplishment of all Christian righteousness, for true humility keepeth us from sin: & if in case we have never so many sins,it stirreth us up to compunction for them, as it did the publican; whereas if we had never so many good works,and be proud of them, and disdainful of others, as the Pharisee was, we may loose the merit thereof, as he did.