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The Pharisee And The Publican by John Bunyan

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This etext was produced by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk,
from the 1845 Thomas Nelson edition.


by John Bunyan

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the
other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself;
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners,
unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the
week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican,
standing afar off would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.--
Luke, xviii. 10-13.

In the beginning of this chapter you read of the reason of the
parable of the unjust judge and the poor widow; namely, to encourage
men to pray. "He spake a parable to this end, that men ought always
to pray, and not to faint;" and a most sweet parable for that purpose
it is: for if through importunity, a poor widow woman may prevail
with an unjust judge, and so consequently with an unmerciful and
hard-hearted tyrant, how much more shall the poor, afflicted,
distressed, and tempted people of God, prevail with, and obtain mercy
at the hands of, a loving, just, and merciful God? The unjust judge
would not hearken to, nor regard the cry of, the poor widow, for a
while: "But afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God,
nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge
her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." "Hark," saith
Christ, "what the unjust judge saith." "And shall not God avenge his
own elect, which cry day and night unto him?--I tell you that he will
avenge them speedily."

This is therefore a very comfortable parable to such of the saints as
are under hard usage by reason of evil men, their might and tyranny:
for by it we are taught to believe and expect, that God, though for a
while he seemeth not to regard, yet will, in due time and season,
arise and set such in safety from them that puff at them; Psalm xii.

Let the good Christian pray always; let him pray, and not faint at
seeming delays; for if the widow by importunity prevailed with the
unjust judge, how much more shall he with his heavenly Father. "I
tell you," says Christ, "that he will avenge them speedily."

But now, forasmuch as this parable reacheth not (so directly) the
poor Publican in the text, therefore our Lord begins again, and adds
to that other parable, this parable which I have chosen for my text;
by which he designeth two things: First, The conviction of the proud
and self-conceited Pharisee: Secondly, The raising up and healing of
the cast down and dejected Publican. And observe it, as by the first
parable he chiefly designeth the relief of those that are under the
hands of cruel tyrants, so by this he designeth the relief of those
that lie under the load and burden of a guilty and disquieted

This therefore is a parable that is full of singular comfort to such
of the sinners in the world that are clogged with guilt and sense of
sin; and that lie under the apprehensions of, and that are driven to
God by the sense of the judgment that for sin is due unto them.

In my handling of this text, I shall have respect to these things -

1. To the persons in the text.

2. To the condition of the persons in the text.

3. To the conclusion that Christ makes upon them both.

First, For the persons. They were, as you see, far one from another
in their own apprehension of themselves; one good, the other bad; but
yet in the judgment of the law, both alike, both the same, both
sinners; for they both stood in need of mercy. True, the first
mentioned did not see it, as the other poor sinner did; but that
altereth not the case: he that is in the judgment of the law a
sinner, is in the judgment of the law for sin condemned, though in
his own judgment he be ever so righteous.

Men must not be judged, or justified, according to what themselves do
think, but according to the verdict and sentence that cometh out of
the mouth of God about them. Now, the sentence of God is, "All have
sinned:" "There is none righteous, no, not one;" Rom. iii. It is no
matter, then, what the Pharisee did think of himself; God by his word
hath proclaimed him a sinner: a sinner, by reason of original sin; a
sinner, by reason of actual transgression. Personally, therefore,
with reference to the true nature of their state, they both were
sinners, and both by the law under condemnation. True, the
Publican's leprosy was outward; but the Pharisee's leprosy was
inward: his heart, his soul, his spirit, was as foul, and had as
much the plague of sin, as had the other in his life or conversation.

Secondly, As to their conditions (I do not mean by condition, so much
a habit of mind, as the state that they had each of them put
themselves into by that mind.) "The one," says the text, "was a
Pharisee, the other a Publican." A Pharisee: that is, one that hath
chosen to himself such a course of life. A Publican: that is, one
that hath chosen to himself such a course of life. These terms,
therefore, shew the divers courses of life that they had put
themselves into. The Pharisee, as he thought, had put himself into a
condition for heaven and glory; but the Publican was for this world
and his lusts. Wherefore when the Pharisee stands in the temple, he
boasteth of himself and good condition, but condemneth the Publican,
and bitterly inveigheth against him. But, as I said, their personal
state, by the law, was not at all changed. The Pharisee made himself
never the better; the Publican also abode in his place.

Indeed the Publican is here found to recant, and repent of his
condition, and of the condition that he had put himself into; and the
Pharisee to boast of his. But the Publican's repentance was not of
himself, but of God, who can also, yea, and sometimes it is evident
(Acts ix.) he doth, make Pharisees also repent of that condition that
they have chosen to be in themselves; Phil. iii. 3-8. The Pharisee,
therefore, in commending of himself, makes himself never the better;
the Publican also, in condemning of himself, makes himself never the
worse. Nay, contrariwise, the Pharisee, by commending of himself,
makes himself much the worse, ver. 14; and the Publican, by
condemning of himself, makes himself much the better. "I tell you
(says Christ) this man went down to his house justified rather than
the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and
he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

But, I say, as to men's commending of themselves, yea, though others
should commend them also, that availeth, to God-ward, nothing at all.
"For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord
commendeth." So then, men in "measuring themselves by themselves,
and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise;" 2 Cor. x.

Now, this was the way of the Pharisee; I am not, saith he, as other
men: I am no extortioner, nor unjust, no adulterer, nor yet as this

"Two men went up into the temple to pray;" and they two, as I said,
as opposite one to the other, as any two men that ever went thither
to pray. One of them was over righteous, and the other wicked over
much. Some would have thought, had they not by the word of Christ
been otherwise described, that they had been both of the same
religion; for they both went up into the temple to pray; yea, both to
pray, and that at the same time, as if they did it by appointment, by
agreement; but there was no such thing. The one was a Pharisee, the
other a Publican: for so saith the after words: and therefore
persons as opposite as light and darkness, as fire and water; I mean,
as to their apprehensions one of another. The Pharisee could not
abide the Publican, nor could the Publican brook the Pharisee; and
yet both went up into the temple to pray. It is strange to see, and
yet it is seen, that men cross in their minds, cross in their
principles, cross in their apprehensions; yea, and cross in their
prayers too, should yet meet together in the temple to pray.

"Two men;" men not of the middle sort, and them too picked out of the
best and worst that was: two men, a Pharisee, and a Publican.

To be a Pharisee was in those days counted honourable for religion,
and for holiness of life. A Pharisee was a man of esteem and repute
among the Jews, though it is a term of reproach with us; else Paul
would not at such a time as he did it, have said, "Men and brethren,
I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee;" Acts xxiii, 6; Phil. iii. 5.
For now he stood upon his purgation and justification, especially it
appears so by the place first named. And far be it from any to
think, that Paul would make use of a colour of wickedness, to save
thereby himself from the fury of the people.

A Publican was in those days counted one of the vilest of men, as is
manifest; because when they are in the word, by way of
discrimination, made mention of, they are ranked with the most vile
and base; therefore they are joined with sinners--"He eateth with
publicans and sinners," and "with harlots." "Publicans and harlots
enter into the kingdom of heaven." Yea, when our Lord Christ would
have the rebellious professor stigmatized to purpose, he saith, "Let
him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican."

We therefore can make no judgment of men upon the outward appearance
of them. Who would have thought, but that the Pharisee had been a
good man? for he was righteous; for he prayed. And who could have
thought, that the other had been a good man? for he was a Publican; a
man, by good men and bad men, joined with the worst of men, to wit,
with sinners, harlots, heathens.

The Pharisee was a sectarian; the Publican was an officer. The
Pharisee, even because he was a sectarian, was had the more in
esteem; and the Publican, because he was an officer, was had the more
in reproach. To speak a little to both these:

1. The Pharisee was a sectarian; one that deviated, that turned
aside in his worshipping from the way of God, both in matter and
manner of worship; for such an one I count a sectarian. That he
turned aside from the matter, which is the rule of worship, to wit,
the written word, it is evident; for Christ saith, that they rejected
the commandments of God, and made them of no effect, that they might
keep their own traditions. That they turned aside also as to their
manner of worship, and became sectarians, there is with no less
authority asserted--"For all their works they do for to be seen of
men;" Acts xxvi. 5; Mark vii. 9-13; Matt. xxiii. 5.

Now this being none of the order or ordinance of Christ, and yet
being chosen by, and stuck to of these sort of men, and also made a
singular and necessary part of worship, became a sect, or bottom for
those hypocritical factious men to adhere unto, and to make of others
disciples to themselves. And that they might be admired, and
rendered 'venerable by the simple people to their fellows, they loved
to go in long robes; they loved to pray in markets, and in the
corners of the streets; they shewed great zeal for the small things
of the law, but had only great words for things that were
substantial--"They made broad their phylacteries, and enlarged the
borders of their garments;" Matt. xxiii.

When I say the Pharisee was a sectarian, I do not mean that every
sectarian is a Pharisee. There were the sects of the Herodians, of
the Alexandrians, and of the Sadducees, with many others; but to be a
Pharisee, was to be of the straitest sect: "After the most straitest
sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." That, therefore, of all
the sects, was the most strait and strict. Therefore, saith he, in
another place, "I was taught according to the perfect manner of the
law of the fathers." And again, "Touching the law, a Pharisee;" Acts
xxii. 3; xxvi. 4-6; Phil. iii. 5. The Pharisee, therefore, did carry
the bell, and wear the garland for religion; for he outdid, he went
beyond all other sectarians in his day. He was strictest, he was the
most zealous; therefore Christ, in his making of this parable, waived
all other sects then in being, and pitched upon the Pharisee as the
man most meet, by whose rejection he might shew forth and demonstrate
the riches of his mercy in its extension to sinners: "Two men went
up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee:" such a brave man as
you have heard.

2. The Publican also went up thither to pray. The Publican, I told
you before, was an officer: an officer that served the Romans and
himself too; for the Romans at that time were possessors of the land
of Jewry (the lot of Israel's inheritance), and the emperor Tiberius
Caesar placed over that land four governors, to wit, Pilate, Herod,
Philip, and Lysanias; all these were Gentiles, heathens, infidels;
and the publicans were a sort of inferior men, to whom was let out to
farm, and so men that were employed by these to gather up the taxes
and customs that the heathens had laid upon the Jews to be paid to
the emperor; Luke ii. 1; iii. 1, 2, 12, 13.

But they were a generation of men that were very injurious in the
execution of their office. They would exact and demand more than was
due of the people; yea, and if their demands were denied, they would
falsely accuse those that so denied them to the governor, and by
false accusation obtain the money of the people, and so wickedly
enrich themselves, Luke iii. 13, 14; xix. 2, 8. This was therefore
grievous to the Jews, who always counted themselves a free people,
and could never abide to be in bondage to any. And this was
something of the reason, that they were so generally by all the Jews
counted so vile and base, and reckoned among the worst of men, even
as our informers and bum-bailiffs are with us at this day.

But that which heightened the spirit of the people against them, and
that made them so odious and filthy in their eyes, was for that (at
least so I think) these publicans were not, as the other officers,
aliens, heathens, and Gentiles, but men of their own nation, Jews,
and so the brethren of those that they so abused. Had they been
Gentiles, it had not been wondered at.

The Publican then was a Jew, a kind of a renegade Jew, that through
the love that he had to unjust gains, fell off in his affections from
his brethren, adhered to the Romans, and became a kind of servant to
them against their brethren, farming the heathenish taxations at the
hand of strangers, and exacting of them upon their brethren with much
cruelty, falsehood, and extortion. And hence, as I said, it was,
that to be a publican, was to be so odious a thing, so vile a sinner,
and so grievous a man in the eyes of the Jews. Why, this was the
Publican! he was a Jew, and so should have abode with them, and have
been content to share with his brethren in their calamities; but
contrary to nature, to law, to religion, reason, and honesty, he fell
in with the heathen, and took the advantage of their tyranny to poll,
to rob, and impoverish his brethren.

But for proof that the Publican was a Jew.

1. Publicans are, even then, when compared with, yet distinguished
from, the heathen; "Let him be to thee as an heathen man and a
publican," Matt. xviii.; which two terms, I think, must not here be
applied to one and the self-same man, as if the heathen was a
publican, or the publican a heathen; but to men of two distinct
nations, as that publican and harlot is to be understood of sinners
of both sexes. The Publican is not an harlot, for he is a man, &c.,
and such a man as has been described before. So by publicans and
sinners, is meant publicans and such sinners as the Gentiles were; or
such as, by the text, the Publican is distinguished from: where the
Pharisee saith he was not an extortioner, unjust, adulterer, or even
as this Publican. Nor can he by "heathen man" intend the person, and
by the term publican, the office or place, of the heathen man; but by
publican is meant the renegade Jew, in such a place, &c., as is yet
further manifested by that which follows. For -

2. Those publicans, even every one of them that by name are made
mention of in the New Testament, have such names put upon them; yea,
and other circumstances thereunto annexed, as doth demonstrate them
to be Jews. I remember the names of no more but three, to wit,
Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheus, and they were all Jews.

(1.) Matthew was a Jew, and the same Matthew was a publican; yea,
and also afterwards an apostle. He was a Jew, and wrote his gospel
in Hebrew: he was an apostle, and is therefore found among the
twelve. That he was a publican too, is as evident by his own words;
for though Mark and Luke, in their mentioning of his name and
apostleship, do forbear to call him a publican (Mark iii. 18; Luke
vi. l6); yet when this Matthew comes to speak of himself, he calls
himself Matthew the publican (Matth. x. 3); for I count this the
self-same Matthew that Mark and Luke make mention of, because I find
no other Matthew among the apostles but he: Matthew the publican,
Matthew the man so deep in apostacy, Matthew the man of that ill fame
among his brethren. Love, in Mark and Luke, when they counted him
among the apostles, did cover with silence this his publican state
(and it is meet for Peter to call Paul his beloved brother, when Paul
himself shall call himself the chief of sinners); but faithfulness to
the world, and a desire to be abased, that Christ thereby, and grace
by him, might be advanced, made Matthew, in his evangelical writings,
call himself by the name of Matthew the publican. Nor has he lost
thereby; for Christ again to exalt him (as he hath also done by the
apostle Paul), hath set, by his special providence, the testimony
that this Matthew hath given of his birth, life, death, doctrine, and
miracles, in the front of all the New Testament.

(2.) The next publican that I find by the Testament of Christ, made
mention of by name, is Levi, another of the apostles of Jesus Christ.
This Levi also, by the Holy Ghost in holy writ, is called by the name
of James: not James the brother of John, for Zebedee was his father;
but James the son of Alpheus. Now I take this Levi also to be
another than Matthew; First, because Matthew is not called the son of
Alpheus; and because Matthew and Levi, or James the son of Alpheus,
are distinctly counted where the names of the apostles are mentioned
(Matt. x. 3) for two distinct persons: and that this Levi, or James
the apostle, was a publican, as was the apostle Matthew, whom we
mentioned before, is evident; for both Mark and Luke do count him
such. First, Mark saith, Christ found him when he called him, as he
also found Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom; yea, Luke words
it thus: "He went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at
the receipt of custom, and he said unto him, Follow me;" Mark ii. 14;
Luke v. 27.

Now, that this Levi, or James the son of Alpheus, was a Jew, his name
doth well make manifest. Besides, had there been among the apostles
any more Gentiles save Simon the Canaanite, or if this Levi James had
been here, I think the Holy Ghost would, to distinguish him, have
included him in the same discriminating character as he did the
other, when he called him "Simon the Canaanite;" Matt. x. 4.

Matthew, therefore, and Levi or James, were both publicans, and, as I
think, called both at the same time; were both publican Jews, and
made by grace the apostles of Jesus Christ.

(3.) The next publican that I find by name made mention of in the
Testament of Christ, is one Zaccheus. And he was a publican; yea,
for ought I know, the master of them all. "There was a man," saith
Luke, "named Zaccheus, which was the chief among the publicans, and
he was rich," Luke xix. 2. This man, Christ saith, was a son of
Abraham, that is, as other Jews were; for he spake to stop the mouths
of their Pharisaical cavillations. Besides, the Publican shewed
himself to be such an one, when under a supposition of wronging any
man, he had respect to the Jewish law of restoring four-fold; Exod.
xxii. 1; 2 Sam. xii. 6.

It is further manifest that he was a Jew, because Christ puts him
among the lost; to wit, among the lost sheep of the house of Israel,
ver. 10; and Matt. xv. 24; for Zaccheus was one that might properly
be said to be lost, and that in the Jews' account: lost, I say, and
that not only in the most common sense, by reason of transgression
against the law, but for that he was an apostate Jew, not with
reference to heathenish religion, but as to heathenish, cruel, and
barbarous actions; and therefore he was, as the other, by his
brethren, counted as bad as heathens, Gentiles, and harlots. But
salvation is come to this house, saith Christ, and that
notwithstanding his publican practice, forasmuch as he also is the
son of Abraham.

3. Again, Christ, by the parable of the lost sheep, doth plainly
intimate, that the Publican was a Jew. "Then drew near all the
publicans and sinners for to hear him, and the Pharisees and Scribes
murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

But by what answer doth Christ repel their objections? Why, he
saith, "What man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of
them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go
after that which is lost until he find it?" Doth he not here, by the
lost sheep, mean the poor publican? plenty of whom, while he preached
this sermon, were there, as objects of the Pharisees' scorn, but of
the pity and compassion of Jesus Christ: he did without doubt mean
them. For, pray, what was the flock, and who Christ's sheep under
the law, but the house and people of Israel? Ezek. xxxiv. 11. So
then, who could be the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but such as
were Matthew, James, Zaccheus, and their companions in their and such
like transgressions?

4. Besides, had not the publicans been of the Jews, how easy had it
been for the Pharisees to have objected, that an impertinency was
couched in that most excellent parable of the lost sheep? They might
have said, We are offended, because thou receivest the publicans, and
thou for vindication of thy practice propoundest a parable of lost
sheep; but they are the sinners of the house of Israel, and the
publicans are aliens and Gentiles. I say, how easily might they thus
have objected? but they knew full well, that the parable was
pertinent, for that the publicans were of the Jews, and not of the
aliens. Yea, had they not been Jews, it cannot, it must not be
thought, that Christ (in sum) should call them so; and yet he did do
so, when he called them "lost sheep."

Now, that these publicans were Jews, what follows but that for this
they were a great deal the more abominated by their brethren; and (as
I have also hinted before) it is no marvel that they were; for a
treacherous brother is worse than an open enemy, Psalm lv. 12, 13;
for, if to be debauched in an open and common transgression is
odious, how odious is it for a brother to be so; for a brother in
nature and religion to be so. I say again, all this they did, as
both John insinuates, and Zaccheus confesses.

The Pharisee, therefore, was not so good, but the Publican was as
bad. Indeed the Publican was a notorious wretch, one that had a way
of transgressing by himself; one that could not be sufficiently
condemned by the Jews, nor coupled with a viler than himself. It is
true, you find him here in the temple at prayer; not because he
retained, in his apostacy, conscience of the true religion; but God
had awakened him, shewed him his sin, and bestowed upon him the grace
of repentance, by which he was not only fetched back to the temple
and prayer, but to his God, and to the salvation of his soul.

The Pharisee, then, was a man of another complexion, and good as to
his own thoughts of himself; yea, and in the thoughts of others also,
upon the highest and better ground by far. The Publican was a
notorious sinner: the Pharisee was a reputed righteous man. The
Publican was a sinner out of the ordinary way of sinning; and the
Pharisee was a man for righteousness in a singular way also. The
Publican pursued his villanies, and the Pharisee pursued his
righteousness; and yet they both met in the temple to pray: yea, the
Pharisee stuck to, and boasted in, the law of God: but the Publican
did forsake it, and hardened his heart against his way.

Thus diverse were they in their appearances: the Pharisee very good,
the Publican very bad: but as to the law of God, which looked upon
them with reference to the state of their spirits, and the nature of
their actions, by that they were both found sinners; the Publican an
open, outside one, and the Pharisee a filthy, inside one. This is
evident, because the best of them was rejected, and the worst of them
was received to mercy. Mercy standeth not at the Publican's badness,
nor is it enamoured with the Pharisee's goodness: it suffereth not
the law to take place on both, though it findeth them both in sin,
but graciously embraceth the most unworthy, and leaveth the best to
shift for himself. And good reason that both should be dealt with
after this manner; to wit, that the word of grace should be justified
upon the soul of the penitent, and that the other should stand or
fall to that which he had chosen to be his master.

There are three things that follow upon this discourse.

1. That the righteousness of man is not of any esteem with God, as
to justification. It is passed by as a thing of naughtiness, a thing
not worth the taking notice of. There was not so much as notice
taken of the Pharisee's person or prayer, because he came into the
temple mantled up in his own good things.

2. That the man that has nothing to commend him to God, but his own
good doings, shall never be in favour with him. This also is evident
from the text: the Pharisee had his own righteousness, but had
nothing else to commend him to God; and therefore could not by that
obtain favour with God, but abode still a rejected one, and in a
state of condemnation.

3. Wherefore, though we are bound by the law of charity to judge of
men according as in appearance they present themselves unto us; yet
withal, to wit, though we do so judge, we must leave room for the
judgment of God. Mercy may receive him that we have doomed to hell,
and justice may take hold on him, whom we have judged to be bound up
in the bundle of life. And both these things are apparent by the
persons under consideration.

We, like Joseph, are for setting of Manasseh before Ephraim; but God,
like Jacob, puts his hands across, and lays his right hand upon the
worst man's head, and his left hand upon the best (Gen. xlviii.), to
the amazement and wonderment even of the best of men.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the
other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself;
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners,
unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the
week I give tithes of all that I possess."

In these words many things are worth the noting. As,

First, The Pharisee's definition of righteousness; the which standeth
in two things: 1. In negatives; 2. In positives.

1. In negatives; to wit, what a man that is righteous must not be:
"I am no extortioner, no unjust man, no adulterer, nor yet as this

2. In positives; to wit, what a man that is righteous must be: "I
fast twice a-week, I give tithes of all that I possess," &c.

That righteousness standeth in negative and positive holiness is
true; but that the Pharisee's definition is, notwithstanding, false,
will be manifest by and by. But I will first treat of righteousness
in the general, because the text leadeth me to it.

First, then, a man that is righteous, must have negative holiness;
that is, he must not live in actual transgressions; he must not be an
extortioner, unjust, an adulterer, or as the Publican was. And this
the apostle intends, when he saith, "Flee fornication," "Flee
youthful lusts," "Flee from idolatry;" and, "Little children keep
yourselves from idols;" 1 Cor. vi. 18; x. 14; 2 Tim. ii. 22; 1 John
v. 21. For it is a vain thing to talk of righteousness, and that
ourselves are righteous, when every observer shall find us in actual
transgression. Yea, though a man shall mix his want of negative
holiness with some good actions, that will not make him a righteous
man. As suppose, a man that is a swearer, a drunkard, an adulterer,
or the like, should, notwithstanding this, be open-handed to the
poor, be a great executor of justice in his place, be exact in his
buying, selling, keeping his promise with his friend, or the like;
these things, yea, many more such, cannot make him a righteous man;
for the beginning of righteousness is yet wanting in him, which is
this negative holiness: for except a man leave off to do evil, he
cannot be a righteous man. Negative holiness is therefore of
absolute necessity to make one in one's self a righteous man. This
therefore condemns them, that count it sufficient if a man have some
actions that in themselves, and by virtue of the command, are good,
to make him a righteous man, though negative holiness is wanting.
This is as saying to the wicked, Thou art righteous, and a perverting
of the right way of the Lord: negative holiness, therefore, must be
in a man before he can be accounted righteous.

2. As negative holiness is required to declare one a righteous man;
so also positive holiness must be joined therewith, or the man is
unrighteous still. For it is not what a man is not, but what a man
does, that declares him a righteous man. Suppose a man be no thief,
no liar, no unjust man; or, as the Pharisee saith, no extortioner,
nor adulterer, &c., this will not make a righteous man; but there
must be joined to these, holy and good actions, before he can be
declared a righteous man. Wherefore, as the apostle, when he pressed
the Christians to righteousness, did put them first upon negative
holiness, so he joineth thereto an exhortation to positive holiness;
knowing, that where positive holiness is wanting, all the negative
holiness in the whole world cannot declare a man a righteous man.
When therefore he had said, "But thou, O man of God, flee these
things" (sin and wickedness), he adds, "and follow after
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness," &c.; 1
Tim. vi. 11. Here Timothy is exhorted to negative holiness, when he
is bid to flee sin. Here also he is exhorted to positive holiness,
when he is bid to follow after righteousness, &c.; for righteousness
can neither stand in negative nor positive holiness, as severed one
from another. That man then, and that man only, is, as to actions, a
righteous man, that hath left off to do evil, and hath learned to do
well, Isa. i. 16, 17; that hath cast off the works of darkness, and
put on the armour of light. "Flee youthful lusts (said Paul), but
follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on
the Lord out of a pure heart;" 2 Tim. ii. 22.

The Pharisee, therefore, as to the general description of
righteousness, made his definition right; but as to his person and
personal righteousness, he made his definition wrong. I do not mean
he defined his own righteousness wrong; but I mean his definition of
true righteousness, which standeth in negative and positive holiness,
he made to stoop to justify his own righteousness, and therein he
played the hypocrite in his prayer: for although it is true
righteousness that standeth in negative and positive holiness; yet
that this is not true righteousness that standeth, but in some pieces
and ragged remnants of negative and positive righteousness. If then
the Pharisee would, in his definition of personal righteousness, have
proved his own righteousness to be good, he must have proved, that
both his negative and positive holiness had been universal; to wit,
that he had left off to act in any wickedness, and that he had given
up himself to the duty enjoined in every commandment: for so the
righteous man is described; Job i. 8; ii. 3. As it is said of
Zacharias and Elisabeth his wife, "They were both righteous before
God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord
blameless;" Luke i. 5, 6. Here the perfection, that is, the
universality, of their negative holiness is implied, and the
universality of their positive holiness is expressed: they walked in
all the commandments of the Lord; but that they could not do, if they
had lived in any unrighteous thing or way. They walked in all
blamelessly, that is, sincerely, with upright hearts. The Pharisee's
righteousness, therefore, even by his own implied definition of
righteousness, was not good, as is manifest these two ways -

1. His negative holiness was not universal.

2. His positive holiness was rather ceremonial than moral.

1. His negative holiness was not universal. He saith indeed, he was
not an extortioner, nor unjust, no adulterer, nor yet as this
Publican: but none of these expressions apart, nor all, if put
together, do prove him to be perfect as to negative holiness; that
is, they do not prove him, should it be granted, that he was as holy
with this kind of holiness, as himself of himself had testified.

(1.) What though he was no extortioner, he might yet be a covetous
man; Luke xvi. 14.

(2.) What though, as to dealing, he was not unjust to others, yet he
wanted honesty to do justice to his own soul; Luke xvi. 15.

(3.) What though he was free from the act of adultery, he might yet
be made guilty by an adulterous eye, against which the Pharisee did
not watch (Matt. v. 28), of which the Pharisee did not take

(4.) What though he was not like the Publican, yet he was like, yea
was, a downright hypocrite; he wanted in those things wherein he
boasted himself, sincerity; but without sincerity no action can be
good, or accounted of God as righteous. The Pharisee, therefore,
notwithstanding his boast, was deficient in his righteousness, though
he would fain have shrouded it under the right definition thereof.

(5.) Nor doth his positive holiness help him at all, forasmuch as it
is grounded mostly, if not altogether, in ceremonial holiness: nay,
I will recollect myself, it was grounded partly in ceremonial and
partly in superstitious holiness, if there be such a thing as
superstitious holiness in the world; this paying of tithes was
ceremonial, such as came in and went out with the typical priesthood.
But what is that to positive holiness, when it was but a small
pittance by the by. Had the Pharisee argued plainly and honestly; I
mean, had he so dealt with that law, by which now he sought to be
justified, he should have brought forth positive righteousness in
morals, and should have said and proved it too, that as he was no
wicked man with reference to the act of wickedness, he was indeed a
righteous man in acts of moral virtues. He should, I say, have
proved himself a true lover of God, no superstitious one, but a
sincere worshipper of him; for this is contained in the first table
(Exod. xx.), and is so in sum expounded by the Lord Christ himself
(Mark xii. 30). He should also, in the next place, have proved
himself truly kind, compassionate, liberal, and full of love and
charity to his neighbour; for that is the sum of the second table, as
our Lord doth expound it, saying, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself;" Mark xii. 31.

True, he says, he did them no hurt; but did he do them good? To do
no hurt, is one thing; and to do good, is another; and it is possible
for a man to do neither hurt nor good to his neighbour. What then,
is he a righteous man because he hath done him no hurt? No, verily;
unless, to his power, he hath also done him good.

It is therefore a very fallacious and deceitful arguing of the
Pharisee, thus to speak before God in his prayers: I am righteous,
because I have not hurt my neighbour, and because I have acted in
ceremonial duties. Nor will that help him at all to say, he gave
tithes of all that he possessed. It had been more modest to say,
that he had paid them; for they, being commanded, were a due debt;
nor could they go before God for a free gift, because, by the
commandment, they were made a payment; but proud men and hypocrites
love so to word it both with God and man, as at least to imply, that
they are more forward to do, than God's command is to require them to

The second part of his positive holiness was superstitious; for God
had appointed no such set fasts, neither more nor less but just twice
a-week: "I fast twice a-week." Ay, but who did command thee to do
so, other than by thy being put upon it by a superstitious and
erroneous conscience, doth not, nor canst thou make to appear. This
part, therefore, of this positive righteousness, was positive
superstition, and abuse of God's law, and a gratification of thy own
erroneous conscience. Hitherto, therefore, thou art defective in thy
so seemingly brave and glorious righteousness.

Yet this let me say, in commendation of the Pharisee, in my
conscience he was better than many of our English Christians; for
many of them are so far off from being at all partakers of positive
righteousness, that neither all their ministers, Bibles, and good
books, good sermons, nor yet God's judgments, can persuade them to
become so much as negatively holy, that is, to leave off evil.

The second thing that I take notice of in this prayer of the
Pharisee, is his manner of delivery, as he stood praying in the
temple: "God, I thank thee," said he, "that I am not as other men
are." He seemed to be at this time in more than an ordinary frame,
while now he stood in the presence of the divine Majesty: for a
prayer made up of praise, is a prayer made up of the highest order,
and is most like the way of them that are now in a state beyond
prayer. Praise is the work of heaven; but we see here, that an
hypocrite may get into that vein, even while an hypocrite, and while
on earth below. Nor do I think that this prayer of his was a
premeditated stinted form, but a prayer extempore, made on a sudden
according to what he felt, thought, or understood of himself.

Here therefore we may see, that even prayer, as well as other acts of
religious worship, may be performed in great hypocrisy; although I
think, that to perform prayer in hypocrisy, is one of the most daring
sins that are committed by the sons of men. For by prayer, above all
duties, is our most direct and immediate personal approach into the
presence of God; as there is an uttering of things before him,
especially a giving to him of thanks for things received, or a
begging that such and such things might be bestowed upon me. But
now, to do these things in hypocrisy (and it is easy to do them so,
when we go up into the temple to pray), must needs be intolerable
wickedness, and it argueth infinite patience in God, that he should
let such as do so arise alive from their knees, or that he should
suffer them to go away from the place where they stand, without some
token or mark of his wrath upon them.

I also observe, that this extempore prayer of the Pharisee was
performed by himself, or in the strength of his own natural parts;
for so the text implieth. "The Pharisee," saith the text, "stood and
prayed thus with himself," or "by himself," and may signify, either
that he spoke softly, or that he made this prayer by reason of his
natural parts. "I will pray with the Spirit," said Paul; 1 Cor. xiv.
15. "The Pharisee prayed with himself," said Christ. It is at this
day wonderfully common for men to pray extempore also; to pray by a
book, by a premeditated set form, is now out of fashion. He is
counted nobody now, that cannot at any time, at a minute's warning,
make a prayer of half an hour long. I am not against extempore
prayer, for I believe it to be the best kind of praying; but yet I am
jealous, that there are a great many such prayers made, especially in
pulpits and public meetings, without the breathing of the Holy Ghost
in them; for if a Pharisee of old could do so, why not a Pharisee do
the same now? Wit and reason, and notion, are not screwed up to a
very great height; nor do men want words, or fancies, or pride, to
make them do this thing. Great is the formality of religion this
day, and little the power thereof. Now, where there is a great form,
and little power (and such there was among the Jews, in the time of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ), there men are most strangely
under the temptation to be hypocrites; for nothing doth so properly
and directly oppose hypocrisy, as the power and glory of the things
we profess. And so, on the contrary, nothing is a greater temptation
to hypocrisy, than a form of knowledge of things without the savour
thereof. Nor can much of the power and savour of the things of the
gospel be seen at this day upon professors (I speak not now of all),
if their notions and conversations be compared together. How proud,
how covetous, how like the world in garb and guise, in words and
actions, are most of the great professors of this our day! But when
they come to divine worship, especially to pray, by their words and
carriage there, one would almost judge them to be angels in heaven.
But such things must be done in hypocrisy, as also the Pharisee's

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself."

And in that it is said he prayed with himself, it may signify, that
he went in his prayer no further than his sense and reason, feeling
and carnal apprehensions went. True Christian prayer ofttimes leaves
sense and reason, feeling and carnal apprehensions, behind it; and it
goeth forth with faith, hope, and desires to know what at present we
are ignorant of, and that unto which our sense, feeling, reason, &c.,
are strangers. The apostle indeed doth say, "I will pray with the
understanding;" 1 Cor. xiv. 15; but then it must be taken for an
understanding spiritually enlightened. I say, it must be so
understood, because the natural understanding, as such, receiveth not
the things of God, therefore cannot pray for them; for they to such
are foolish things; 1 Cor. ii. 14.

Now, a spiritually enlightened understanding may be officious in
prayer these ways -

1. As it has received conviction of the truth of the being of the
Spirit of God; for to receive conviction of the truth and being of
such things, comes from the Spirit of God, not from the law, sense,
or reason; 1 Cor. ii. 10-12. Now the understanding having, by the
Holy Ghost, received conviction of the truth of things, draweth out
the heart to cry in prayer to God for them. Therefore he saith, he
would pray with the understanding.

2. The spiritually enlightened understanding hath also received, by
the Holy Ghost, conviction of the excellency and glory of the things
that are of the Spirit of God, and so inflameth the heart with more
fervent desires in this duty of prayer; for there is a supernatural
excellency in the things that are of the Spirit: "For if the
ministration of death (to which the Pharisee adhered), written and
engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel
could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his
countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the
ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the
ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the
ministration of righteousness exceed in glory: for even that which
was made glorious hath no glory in this respect, by reason of the
glory that excelleth;" 2 Cor. iii. 7-10. And the Spirit of God
sheweth, at least, some things of that excellent glory of them to the
understanding that it enlighteneth; Eph. i. 17-19.

3. The spiritually enlightened understanding hath also thereby
received knowledge, that these excellent supernatural things of the
Spirit are given by covenant in Christ to those that love God, and
are beloved of him. "Now we have received," says Paul, "not the
spirit of the world (that the Pharisee had), but the Spirit which is
of God, that we make know the things that are freely given to us of
God;" 1 Cor. ii. 12. And this knowledge, that the things of the
Spirit of God are freely given to us of God, puts yet a greater edge,
more vigour, and yet further confidence, into the heart to ask for
what is mine by gift, by a free gift of God in his Son. But all
these things the poor Pharisee was an utter stranger to; he knew not
the Spirit, nor the things of the Spirit, and therefore must neglect
faith, judgment, and the love of God, Matt. xxiii. 23; Luke xi. 42,
and follow himself only, as to his sense, feeling, reason, and carnal
imagination in prayer.

He stood and prayed thus "with himself." He prayed thus, talking to
himself; for so also it may (I think) be understood. It is said of
the unjust judge, "he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor
regard man," &c., Luke xviii. 4; that is, he said it to himself. So
the Pharisee is said to pray with himself: God and the Pharisee were
not together, there was only the Pharisee and himself. Paul knew not
what to pray for without the Holy Ghost joined himself with him, and
helping him with groans unutterable; but the Pharisee had no need of
that; it was enough that he and himself were together at this work;
for he thought without doubting that he and himself together could
do. How many times have I heard ancient men, and ancient women at it
with themselves, when all alone in some private room, or in some
solitary path; and in their chat they have been sometimes reasoning,
sometimes chiding, sometimes pleading, sometimes praying, and
sometimes singing; but yet all has been done by themselves when all
alone; but yet so done, as one that has not seen them must needs have
concluded that they were talking, singing, and praying with company,
when all that they had said, they did it with themselves, and had
neither auditor nor regarder.

So the Pharisee was at it with himself; he and himself performed, at
this time, the duty of prayer. Now I observe, that usually when men
do speak to or with themselves, they greatly strive to please
themselves: therefore it is said, there is a man "that flattereth
himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful;"
Psalm xxxvi. 2. He flattereth himself in his own way, according as
his sense and carnal reason dictate to him; and he might do it as
well in prayer as in any other way. Some men will so hear sermons
and apply them that they may please themselves; and some men will
pray, but will refuse such words and thoughts in prayer as will not
please themselves.

O how many men speak all that they speak in prayer, rather to
themselves, or to their auditory, than to God that dwelleth in
heaven. And this I take to be the manner, I mean something of the
manner, of the Pharisee's praying. Indeed, he made mention of God,
as also others do; but he prayed with himself to himself, in his own
spirit, and to his own pleasing, as the matter of his prayer doth
manifest. For was it not pleasant to this hypocrite, think you, to
speak thus well of himself at this time? Doubtless it was. Also
children and fools are of the same temper with hypocrites, as to
this: they also love, without ground, as the Pharisee, to flatter
themselves in their own eyes; "But not he that commendeth himself is

"God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, or even as this Publican," &c.

Thus he begins his prayer; and it is, as was hinted before, a prayer
of the highest strain. For to make a prayer all of thanksgiving, and
to urge in that prayer the cause of that thanksgiving, is the highest
manner of praying, and seems to be done in the strongest faith, &c.,
in the greatest sense of things. And such was the Pharisee's prayer,
only he wanted substantial ground for his thanksgiving; to wit, he
wanted proof of that he said, He was not as other men were, except he
had meant, he did not, that he was even of the worst sort of men:
For even the best of men by nature, and the worst, are all alike.
"What, then, are we better than they? (saith Paul), No, in nowise;"
Rom. iii. 9. So then he failed in the ground of his thankfulness,
and therefore his thankfulness was grounded on untruth, and so became
feigned and self-flattering, and could not be acceptable with the God
of heaven.

Besides, in this high prayer of the Pharisee, he fathered that upon
God which he could by no means own; to wit, that he being so good as
he thought himself to be, was through distinguishing love and favour
of God--"God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are." I thank
thee, that thou hast made me better than others; I thank thee that my
condition is so good, and that I am so far advanced above my

There are several things flow from this prayer of the Pharisee that
are worth our observation: as -

1. That the Pharisees and hypocrites do not love to count themselves
sinners, when they stand before God.

They choose rather to commend themselves before him for virtuous and
holy persons, sometimes saying, and oftener thinking, that they are
more righteous than others. Yea, it seems by the word to be natural,
hereditary, and so common for hypocrites to trust to themselves that
they are righteous, and then to condemn others: this is the
foundation upon which this very parable is built: "He spake this
parable (saith Luke) unto certain which trusted in themselves as
being righteous," or "that they were" so, "and despised others," ver.

I say, hypocrites love not to think of their sins, when they stand in
the presence of God; but rather to muster up, and to present him with
their several good deeds, and to venture a standing or falling by

2. This carriage of the Pharisee before God informs us, that moral
virtues, and the ground of them, which is the law, if trusted to,
blinds the mind of man that he cannot for them perceive the way to
happiness. While Moses is read (and his law and the righteousness
thereof trusted to), the vail is upon their heart; and even unto this
day (said Paul) the vail remaineth "untaken away in the reading of
the Old Testament, which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto
this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart;" 2 Cor.
iii. 14, 15. And this is the reason so many moral men, that are
adorned with civil and moral righteousness, are yet so ignorant of
themselves, and the way of life by Christ.

The law of works, and the righteousness of the flesh, which is the
righteousness of the law, blinds their minds, shuts up their eyes,
and causeth them to miss of the righteousness that they are so hotly
in the pursuit of. Their minds were blinded, saith the text. Whose
minds? Why those that adhered to, that stood by, and that sought
righteousness of the law. Now,

The Pharisee was such an one; he rested in the law, he made his boast
of God, and trusted to himself that he was righteous; all this
proceeded of that blindness and ignorance that the law had possessed
his mind withal; for it is not granted to the law to be the
ministration of life and light, but to be the ministration of death,
when it speaks; and of darkness, when trusted unto, that the Son of
God might have the pre-eminence in all things: therefore it is said
when the heart "shall turn to him, the vail shall be taken away;" 2
Cor. iii. 16.

3. We may see by this prayer, the strength of vain confidence; it
will embolden a man to stand in a lie before God; it will embolden a
man to trust to himself, and to what he hath done; yea, to plead his
own goodness, instead of God's mercy, before him. For the Pharisee
was not only a man that justified himself before men, but that
justified himself before God; and what was the cause of his so
justifying himself before God, but that vain confidence that he had
in himself and his works, which were both a cheat and a lie to
himself? But I say, the boldness of the man was wonderful, for he
stood to the lie that was in his right hand, and pleaded the goodness
of it before him.

But besides these things, there are four things more that are couched
in this prayer of the Pharisee.

1. By this prayer the Pharisee doth appropriate to himself
conversion; he challengeth it to himself and to his fellows. "I am
not," saith he, "as other men;" that is, in unconversion, in a state
of sin, wrath, and death: and this must be his meaning, for the
religion of the Pharisee was not grounded upon any particular natural
privilege: I mean not singly, not only upon that, but upon a falling
in with those principles, notions, opinions, decrees, traditions, and
doctrines that they taught distinct from the true and holy doctrines
of the prophets. And they made to themselves disciples by such
doctrine, men that they could captivate by those principles, laws,
doctrines, and traditions: and therefore such are said to be of the
sect of the Pharisees: that is, the scholars and disciples of them,
converted to them and to their doctrine. O! it is easy for souls to
appropriate conversion to themselves, that know not what conversion
is. It is easy, I say, for men to lay conversion to God, on a legal,
or ceremonial, or delusive bottom, on such a bottom that will sink
under the burden that is laid upon it; on such a bottom that will not
stand when it is brought under the touchstone of God, nor against the
rain, wind, and floods that are ordained to put it to the trial,
whether it is true or false. The Pharisee here stands upon a
supposed conversion to God; "I am not as other men;" but both he and
his conversion are rejected by the sequel of the parable: "That
which is highly esteemed among men" (Luke xvi. 15) "is abomination in
the sight of God." That is, that conversion, that men, as men,
flatter themselves that they have, is such. But the Pharisee will be
a converted man, he will have more to shew for heaven than his
neighbour--"I am not as other men are;" to wit, in a state of sin and
condemnation, but in a state of conversion and salvation. But see
how grievously this sect, this religion, beguiled men. It made them
twofold worse the children of hell than they were before, and than
their teachers were, Matth. xxiii. 15; that is, their doctrine begat
such blindness, such vain confidence, and groundless boldness in
their disciples, as to involve them in that conceit of conversion
that was false, and so if trusted to, damnable.

2. By these words, we find the Pharisee, not only appropriating
conversion to himself, but rejoicing in that conversion: "God, I
thank thee," saith he, "that I am not as other men;" which saying of
his gives us to see that he gloried in his conversion; he made no
doubt at all of his state, but lived in the joy of the safety that he
supposed his soul, by his conversion, to be in. Oh! thanks to God,
says he, I am not in the state of sin, death, and damnation, as the
unjust, and this Publican is. What a strange delusion, to trust to
the spider's web, and to think that a few, or the most fine of the
works of the flesh, would be sufficient to bear up the soul in, at,
and under the judgment of God! "There is a generation that are pure
in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness."
This text can be so fitly applied to none as the Pharisee, and to
those that tread in the Pharisee's steps, and that are swallowed up
with his conceits, and with the glory of their own righteousness.

So again, "There is a way" (a way to heaven) "which seemeth right to
a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death;" Prov. xxx. 12;
xiv. 12. This also is fulfilled in these kind of men; at the end of
their way is death and hell, notwithstanding their confidence in the
goodness of their state.

Again, "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing;" Prov.
xiii. 7. What can be more plain from all these texts, than that some
men that are out of the way think themselves in it; and that some men
think themselves clean, that are yet in their filthiness, and that
think themselves rich for the next world, and yet are poor, and
miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked. Thus the poor, blind,
naked, hypocritical Pharisee thought of himself, when God threatened
to abase him: yea, he thought himself thus, and joyed therein, when
indeed he was going down to the chambers of death.

3. By these words, the Pharisee seems to put the goodness of his
condition upon the goodness of God. I am not as other men are, and I
thank God for it. "God (saith he), I thank thee, that I am not as
other men are." He thanked God, when God had done nothing for him.
He thanked God, when the way that he was in was not of God's
prescribing, but of his own inventing. So the persecutor thanks God
that he was put into that way of roguery that the devil had put him
into, when he fell to rending and tearing of the church of God;
"Their possessors slay them (saith the prophet), and hold themselves
not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I
am rich;" Zech. xi. 5. I remember that Luther used to say, "In the
name of God begins all mischief." All must be fathered upon God:
the Pharisee's conversion must be fathered upon God; the right, or
rather the villany of the outrageous persecution against God's
people, must be fathered upon God. "God, I thank thee," and,
"Blessed be God," must be the burden of the heretic's song. So
again, the free-willer, he will ascribe all to God; the Quaker, the
Ranter, the Socinian, &c., will ascribe all to God. "God, I thank
thee," is in every man's mouth, and must be entailed to every error,
delusion, and damnable doctrine that is in the world: but the name
of God, and their doctrine, worship, and way, hangeth together, as
the Pharisee's doctrine; that is to say, by nothing at all: for God
hath not proposed their principles, nor doth he own them, nor hath he
commanded them, nor doth he convey by them the least grace or mercy
to them; but rather rejecteth them, and holdeth them for his enemies,
and for the destroyers of the world.

4. We come, in the next place, to the ground of all this, and that
is, to what the Pharisee had attained; to wit, that he was no
extortioner, no unjust man, no adulterer, nor even as this Publican,
and for that he fasted twice a-week, and paid tithes of all that he
possessed. So that you see he pretended to a double foundation for
his salvation, a moral and a ceremonial one; but both very lean,
weak, and feeble: for the first of his foundation, what is it more,
if all be true that he saith, but a being removed a few inches from
the vilest men in their vilest actions? a very slender matter to
build my confidence for heaven upon.

And for the second part of his ground for life, what is it but a
couple of ceremonies, if so good? the first is questioned as a thing
not founded in God's law; and the second is such, as is of the
remotest sort of ceremonies, that teach and preach the Lord Jesus.
But suppose them to be the best, and his conformity to them the
thoroughest, they never were ordained to get to heaven by, and so are
become but a sandy foundation. But any thing will serve some men for
a foundation and support for their souls, and to build their hopes of
heaven upon. I am not a drunkard, says one, nor a liar, nor a
swearer, nor a thief, and therefore I thank God, I have hopes of
heaven and glory. I am not an extortioner, nor an adulterer; not
unjust, nor yet as this Publican; and therefore do hope I shall go to
heaven. Alas, poor men! will your being furnished with these things
save you from the thundering claps and vehement batteries that the
wrath of God will make upon sin and sinners in the day that shall
burn like an oven? No, no; nothing at that day can shroud a man from
the hot rebukes of that vengeance, but the very righteousness of God,
which is not the righteousness of the law, however christened, named,
or garnished with all the righteousness of man.

But, O thou blind Pharisee! since thou art so confident that thy
state is good, and thy righteousness is that that will stand when it
shall be tried with fire (1 Cor. iii. 13), let me now reason with
thee of righteousness. My terror shall not make thee afraid; I am
not God, but a man as thou art; we both are formed out of the clay.

First, Prithee, when didst thou begin to be righteous? Was it before
or after thou hadst been a sinner? Not before, I dare say; but if
after, then the sins that thou pollutedst thyself withal before, have
made thee incapable of acting legal righteousness: for sin, where it
is, pollutes, defiles, and makes vile the whole man; therefore thou
canst not by after acts of obedience make thyself just in the sight
of that God thou pretendest now to stand praying unto. Indeed thou
mayst cover thy dirt, and paint thy sepulchre; for that acts of after
obedience will do, though sin has gone before. But, Pharisee, God
can see through the white of this wall, even to the dirt that is
within: God can also see through the paint and garnish of thy
beauteous sepulchre, to the dead men's bones that are within; nor can
any of thy most holy duties, nor all when put together, blind the eye
of the all-seeing Majesty from beholding all the uncleanness of thy
soul (Matt. xxiii. 27.) Stand not therefore so stoutly to it, now
thou art before God; sin is with thee, and judgment and justice is
before him. It becomes thee, therefore, rather to despise and abhor
this life, and to count all thy doings but dross and dung, and to be
content to be justified with another's righteousness instead of thy
own. This is the way to be secured. I say, blind Pharisee, this is
the way to be secured from the wrath which is to come.

There is nothing more certain than this, that as to justification
from the curse of the law, God has rejected man's righteousness, for
the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, and hath accepted in the
room of that the glorious righteousness of his Son; because indeed
that, and that only, is universal, perfect, and equal with his
justice and holiness. This is in a manner the contents of the whole
Bible, and therefore must needs be more certainly true. Now then, Mr
Pharisee, methinks, what if thou didst this, and that while thou art
at thy prayers, to wit, cast in thy mind what doth God love most? and
the resolve will be at hand. The best righteousness, surely the best
righteousness; for that thy reason will tell thee: This done, even
while thou art at thy devotion, ask thyself again, But who has the
best righteousness? and that resolve will be at hand also; to wit, he
that in person is equal with God, and that is his in Jesus Christ; he
that is separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, and
that is his Son Jesus Christ; he that did no sin, nor had any guile
found in his mouth; and there never was any such he in all the world
but the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Now, Pharisee, when thou hast done this, then, as thou art at thy
devotion, ask again, But what is this best righteousness, the
righteousness of Christ, to do? and the answer will be ready. It is
to be made by an act of the sovereign grace of God over to the sinner
that shall dare to trust thereto for justification from the curse of
the law. "He is made unto us of God, righteousness." "He hath made
him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him." "For Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth;" 1 Cor. i. 30; 2 Cor. v.
21; Rom. x. 4.

This done, and concluded on, then turn again, Pharisee, and say thus
with thyself--Is it most safe for me to trust in this righteousness
of God, this righteousness of God-man, this righteousness of Christ?
Certainly it is; since, by the text, it is counted the best, and that
which is best pleaseth God; since it is that which God hath
appointed, that sinners shall be justified withal. For "in the Lord
have we righteousness" if we believe: and, "in the Lord we are
justified, and do glory;" Isa. xlv. 24, 25.

Nay, Pharisee, suppose thine own righteousness should be as long, as
broad, as high, as deep, as perfect, as good, even every way as good,
as the righteousness of Christ; yet since God has chosen, by Christ,
to reconcile us to himself, canst thou attempt to seek by thy own
righteousness to reconcile thyself to God, and not attempt (at least)
to confront this righteousness of Christ before God; yea, to
challenge it by acceptance of thy person contrary to God's design?

Suppose, that when the king has chosen one to be judge in the land,
and has determined that he shall be judge in all cases, and that by
his verdict every man's judgment shall stand; I say, suppose, after
this, another should arise, and of his own head resolve to do his own
business himself. Now, though he should be every whit as able, yea,
and suppose he should do it as justly and righteously too, yet his
making of himself a judge, would be an affront to the king, and an
act of rebellion, and so a transgression worthy of punishment.

Why, Pharisee, God hath appointed, that by the righteousness of his
Son, and by that righteousness only, men shall be justified in his
sight from the curse of the law. Wherefore, take heed, and at thy
peril, whatever thy righteousness is, confront not the righteousness
of Christ therewith. I say, bring it not in, let it not plead for
thee at the bar of God, nor do thou plead for that in his court of
justice; for thou canst not do this and be innocent. If he trust to
his righteousness, he hath sinned, says Ezekiel. Mark the text,
"When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he
trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his
righteousness shall not be remembered: but for his iniquity that he
hath committed, he shall die for it;" Ezek. xxxiii. 13.

Observe a few things from this text; and they are these that follow.

1. Here is a righteous man; a man with whom we do not hear that the
God of heaven finds fault.

2. Here is a promise made to this man, that he shall surely live;
but on this condition, that he trust not to his own righteousness.
Whence it is manifest, that the promise of life to this righteous
man, is not for the sake of his righteousness, but for the sake of
something else; to wit, the righteousness of Christ.

1. Not for the sake of his own righteousness. This is evident,
because we are permitted, yea, commanded, to trust in the
righteousness that saveth us. The righteousness of God is unto us
all, and upon all that believe; that is, trust in it, and trust to it
for justification. Now therefore, if thy righteousness, when most
perfect, could save thee, thou mightst, yea oughtst, most boldly to
trust therein. But since thou art forbidden to trust to it, it is
evident it cannot save; nor is it for the sake of that, that the
righteous man is saved; Rom. iii. 21, 22.

2. But for the sake of something else, to wit, for the sake of the
righteousness of Christ, "Whom God hath set forth to be a
propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness
for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of
God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might
be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus;" Rom. iii.
25, 26; see Phil. iii. 6-8.

"If he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his
righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he
hath committed (in trusting to his own righteousness), he shall die
for it."

Note hence further.

1. That there is more virtue in one sin to destroy, than in all thy
righteousness to save thee alive. If he trust, if he trust ever so
little, if he do at all trust to his own righteousness, all his
righteousness shall be forgotten; and by, and for, and in, the sin
that he hath committed, in trusting to it, he shall die.

2. Take notice also, that there are more damnable sins than those
that are against the moral law. By which of the ten commandments is
trusting to our own righteousness forbidden? Yet it is a sin: it is
a sin therefore forbidden by the gospel, and is included, lurketh
close in, yea, is the very root of, unbelief itself; "He that
believes not shall be damned." But he that trusteth in his own
righteousness doth not believe, neither in the truth, nor sufficiency
of the righteousness of Christ to save him, therefore he shall be

But how is it manifest, that he that trusteth to his own
righteousness, doth it through a doubt, or unbelief of the truth or
sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ?

I answer, because he trusteth to his own. A man will never willingly
choose to trust to the worst of helps, when he believes there is a
better as near, and to be had as soon, and that too, upon as easy, if
not more easy terms. If he that trusteth to his own righteousness
for life, did believe that there is indeed such a thing as the
righteousness of Christ to justify, and that this righteousness of
Christ has in it all-sufficiency to do that blessed work, be sure he
would choose that, thereon to lay, lean, and venture his soul, that
he saw was the best, and most sufficient to save; especially when he
saw also (and see that he must, when he sees the righteousness of
Christ), to wit, that that is to be obtained as soon, because as
near, and to be had on as easy terms: nay, upon easier than man's
own righteousness. I say, he would sooner choose it, because of the
weight of salvation, of the worth of salvation, and of the fearful
sorrow that to eternity will overtake him that in this thing shall
miscarry. It is for heaven, it is to escape hell, wrath, and
damnation, saith the soul; and therefore I will, I must, I dare not
but choose that, and that only, that I believe to be the best and
most sufficient help in so great a concern as soul-concern is. So
then he that trusteth to his own righteousness, does it of unbelief
of the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ to save him.

Wherefore this sin of trusting to his own righteousness is a most
high transgression; because it contemneth the righteousness of
Christ, which is the only righteousness that is sufficient to save
from the curse of the law. It also disalloweth the design of heaven,
and the excellency of the mystery of the wisdom of God, in designing
this way of salvation for man. What shall I say, It also seeketh to
rob God of the honour of the salvation of man. It seeketh to take
the crown from the head of Christ, and to set it upon the hypocrite's
head; therefore, no marvel that this one sin be of that weight,
virtue, and power, as to sink that man and his righteousness into
hell, that leaneth thereon, or trusteth unto it.

But, Pharisee, I need not talk thus unto thee; for thou art not the
man that hath that righteousness that God findeth not fault withal;
nor is it to be found, but with him that is ordained to be the
Saviour of mankind; nor is there any such one besides Jesus, who is
called Christ. What madness then has brought thee into the temple,
there in an audacious manner to stand and vaunt before God, saying,
"God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are?"

Dost thou not know, that he that breaks one, breaks all the
commandments of God; and consequently, that he that keeps not all,
keeps none at all of the commandments of God? Saith not the
scripture the same? "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet
offend in one point, he is guilty of all;" Jam. ii. 10. Be
confounded then, be confounded.

Dost thou know the God with whom now thou hast to do? He is a God
that cannot (as he is just) accept of an half righteousness for a
whole; of a lame righteousness for a sound; of a sick righteousness
for a well and healthy one; Mal. i. 7, 8. And if so, how should he
then accept of that which is no righteousness? I say, how should he
accept of that which is none at all, for thine is only such? And if
Christ said, "When you have done all, say, We are unprofitable," how
camest thou to say, before thou hadst done one thing well, I am
better, more righteous than other men?

Didst thou believe, when thou saidst it, that God knew thy heart?
Hadst thou said this to the Publican, it had been a high and rampant
expression; but to say this before God, to the face of God, when he
knew that thou wert vile, and a sinner from the womb, and from the
conception, spoils all. It was spoken to put a check to thy
arrogancy when Christ said, "Ye are they that justify yourselves
before men; but God knoweth your hearts;" Luke xvi. 15.

Hast thou taken notice of this, that God judgeth the fruit by the
heart from whence it comes? "A good man, out of the good treasure of
his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of
the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil;"
Luke vi. 45. Nor can it be otherwise concluded, but that thou art an
evil man, and so that all thy supposed good is nought but badness;
for that thou hast made it to stand in the room of Jesus, and hast
dared to commend thyself to the living God thereby: for thou hast
trusted in thy shadow of righteousness, and committed iniquity. Thy
sin hath melted away thy righteousness, and turned it to nothing but
dross; or, if you will, to the early dew, like to which it goeth
away, and so can by no means do thee good, when thou shalt stand in
need of salvation and eternal life of God.

But, further, thou sayst thou art righteous; but they are but vain
words. Knowest thou not that thy zeal, which is the life of thy
righteousness, is preposterous in many things? What else means thy
madness, and the rage thereof, against men as good as thyself. True,
thy being ignorant that they are good, may save thee from the
commission of the sin that is unpardonable; but it will never keep
thee from spot in God's sight, but will make both thee and thy
righteousness culpable.

Paul, who was once as brave a Pharisee as thou canst be, calleth much
of that zeal which he in that estate was possessed with, and lived in
the exercise of, madness; yea, exceeding madness (Acts xxvi. 9-11;
Phil, iii. 5, 6); and of the same sort is much of thine, and it must
be so; for a lawyer, a man for the law, and that resteth in it, must
be a persecutor; yea, a persecutor of righteous men, and that of zeal
to God; because by the law is begotten, through the weakness that it
meeteth with in thee, sourness, bitterness of spirit, and anger
against him that rightfully condemneth thee of folly, for choosing to
trust to thy own righteousness when a better is provided of God to
save us; Gal. iv. 28-31. Thy righteousness therefore is deficient;
yea, thy zeal for the law, and the men of the law, has joined madness
with thy moral virtues, and made thy righteousness unrighteousness:
how then canst thou be upright before the Lord?

Further, has not the pride of thy spirit in this hotheaded zeal for
thy Pharisaical notions run thee upon thinking that thou art able to
do more than God hath enjoined thee, and so able to make thyself more
righteous than God requireth thou shouldst be? What else is the
cause of thy adding laws to God's laws, precepts to God's precepts,
and traditions to God's appointment? Mark vii. Nay, hast thou not,
by thus doing, condemned the law of want of perfection, and so the
God that gave it, of want of wisdom and faithfulness to himself and

Nay, I say again, hath not thy thus doing charged God with being
ignorant of knowing what rules there needed to be imposed on his
creatures to make their obedience complete? And doth not this
madness of thine intimate, moreover, that if thou hadst not stepped
in with the bundle of thy traditions, righteousness had been
imperfect, not through man's weakness, but through impediment in God,
or in his ministering rules of righteousness unto us?

Now, when thou hast thought on these things, fairly answer thyself
these few questions. Is not this arrogancy? Is not this blasphemy?
Is not this to condemn God, that thou mightst be righteous? And dost
thou think, this is indeed the way to be righteous?

But again, what means thy preferring of thine own rules, laws,
statutes, ordinances, and appointments, before the rules, laws,
statutes, and appointments of God? Thinkest thou this to be right?
Whither will thy zeal, thy pride, and thy folly carry thee? Is there
more reason, more equity, more holiness in thy tradition, than in the
holy, and just, and good commandments of God? Rom. vii. 12. Why
then, I say, dost thou reject the commandment of God, to keep thine
own tradition? Yea, why dost thou rage, and rail, and cry out, when
men keep not thy law, or the rule of thine order, and tradition of
thine elders, and yet shut thine eyes, or wink with them, when thou
thyself shalt live in the breach of the law of God? Yea, why wilt
thou condemn men, when they keep not thy law, but study for an
excuse, yea, plead for them that live in the breach of God's? Mark
vii. 10-13. Will this go for righteousness in the day of God
Almighty? Nay, rather, will not this, like a mill-stone about thy
neck, drown thee in the deeps of hell? O the blindness, the madness,
the pride, that dwells in the hearts of these pretended righteous men

Again, What kind of righteousness of thine is this that standeth in a
mis-esteeming of God's commands? Some thou settest too high, and
some too low; as in the text, thou hast set a ceremony above faith,
above love, and above hope in the mercy of God; when as it is
evident, the things last mentioned, are the things of the first rate,
the weightier matters; Matt. xxiii. 17.

Again, Thou hast preferred the gold above the temple that sanctifieth
the gold; and the gift above the altar that sanctifieth the gift;
Matt. xxiii. 17.

I say again, What kind of righteousness shall this be called? What
back will such a suit of apparel fit, that is set together to what it
should be? Nor can other righteousness proceed, where a wrong
judgment precedeth it.

This misplacing of God's laws cannot, I say, but produce misplaced
obedience. It indeed produceth a monster, an ill-shaped thing,
unclean, and an abomination to the Lord. For "see," saith he (if
thou wilt be making), "that thou make all things according to the
pattern shewn thee in the mount." Set faith, where faith should
stand; a moral, where a moral should stand; and a ceremony, where a
ceremony should stand: for this turning of things upside down shall
be esteemed as the potter's clay. And wilt thou call this thy
righteousness? yea, wilt thou stand in this? wilt thou plead for
this? and venture an eternal concern in such a piece of linsey-
woolsey as this? O fools, and blind!

But, further, let us come a little closer to the point. O blind
Pharisee, thou standest to thy righteousness: what dost thou mean?
Wouldst thou have mercy for thy righteousness, or justice for thy

If mercy, what mercy? Temporal things God giveth to the unthankful
and unholy: nor doth he use to sell the world to man for
righteousness. The earth hath he given to the children of men. But
this is not the thing: thou wouldst have eternal mercy for thy
righteousness; thou wouldst have God think upon what an holy, what a
good, what a righteous man thou art and hast been. But Christ died
not for the good and righteous, nor did he come to call such to the
banquet that grace hath prepared for the world. "I came not,--I am
not come (saith Christ) to call the righteous, but sinners to
repentance;" Mark ii.; Rom. v. Yet this is thy plea; Lord, God, I am
a righteous man; therefore grant me mercy, and a share in thy
heavenly kingdom. What else dost thou mean when thou sayst, "God I
thank thee, that I am not as other men are?" Why dost thou rejoice,
why art thou glad that thou art more righteous (if indeed thou art)
than thy neighbour, if it is not because thou thinkest that thou hast
got the start of thy neighbour, with reference to mercy; and that by
thy righteousness thou hast insinuated thyself into God's affections,
and procured an interest in his eternal favour? But,

What, what hast thou done by thy righteousness? I say, What hast
thou given to God thereby? And what hath he received of thy hand?
Perhaps thou wilt say, righteousness pleaseth God: but I answer no,
not thine, with respect to justification from the curse of the law,
unless it be as perfect as the justice it is yielded to, and as the
law that doth command it. But thine is not such a righteousness:
no, thine is speckled, thine is spotted, thine makes thee to look
like a speckled bird in his eye-sight.

Thy righteousness has added iniquity, because it has kept thee from a
belief of thy need of repentance, and because it has emboldened thee
to thrust thyself audaciously into the presence of God, and made thee
even before his holy eyes, which are so pure, that they cannot look
on iniquity (Hab. i. 13), to vaunt, boast, and brag of thyself; and
of thy tottering, ragged, stinking uncleanness; for all our
righteousnesses are as menstruous rags, because they flow from a
thing, a heart, a man, that is unclean. But,

Again, Wouldst thou have mercy for thy righteousness? For whom
wouldst thou have it: for another, or for thyself? If for another
(and it is most proper that a righteous man should intercede for
another by his righteousness, rather than for himself), then thou
thrustest Christ out of his place and office, and makest thyself to
be a saviour in his stead; for a mediator there is already, even a
mediator between God and man, and he is the man Christ Jesus.

But dost thou plead by thy righteousness for mercy for thyself? Why,
in doing so, thou impliest -

1. That thy righteousness can prevail with God more than can thy
sins; I say, that thy righteousness can prevail with God to preserve
thee from death more than thy sins can prevail with him to condemn
thee to it. And if so, what follows, but that thy righteousness is
more, and has been done in a fuller spirit than ever were thy sins?
But thus to insinuate, is to insinuate a lie; for there is no man
but, while he is a sinner, sinneth with a more full spirit than a
good man can act righteousness withal.

A sinner, when he sinneth, he doth it with all his heart, and with
all his mind, and with all his soul, and with all his strength; nor
hath he in his ordinary course any thing that bindeth. But with a
good man it is not so; all and every whit of himself, neither is, nor
can be, in every good duty that he doth. For when he would do good,
evil is the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are
present with him. And again, "The flesh lusteth against one to the
other, so that ye cannot do the things would;" Gal. v. 17.

Now, if a good man cannot do good things with that oneness and
universalness of mind, as a wicked man doth sin with, then is his sin
heavier to weigh him down to hell than is his righteousness to buoy
him up to the heavens.

And again, I say, if the righteousness of a good man comes short of
his sin, both in number, weight, and measure, as it doth (for a good
man shrinks and quakes at the thoughts of God's entering into
judgment with him, Psalm cxliii. 2); then is his iniquity more than
his righteousness. And I say again, if the sin of one that is truly
gracious, and so of one that hath the best of principles, is heavier
and mightier to destroy him than is his righteousness to save him,
how can it be that the Pharisee, that is not gracious, but a mere
carnal man (somewhat reformed and painted over with a few lean and
low formalities), should with his empty, partial, hypocritical
righteousness counterpoise his great, mighty, and weighty sins, that
have cleaved to him in every state and condition of his, to make him
odious in the sight of God?

2. Dost thou plead by thy righteousness for mercy for thyself? Why
in so doing thou impliest, that mercy thou deservest; and that is
next door to, or almost as much as to say, God oweth me what I ask
for. The best that can be put upon it is, thou seekest security from
the direful curse of God, as it were by the works of the law, Rom.
ix. 31-33; and to be sure, betwixt Christ and the law, thou wilt drop
into hell. For he that seeks for mercy, as it were, and but as it
were, by the works of the law, doth not altogether trust thereto.
Nor doth he that seeks for that righteousness that should save him as
it were by the works of the law, seek it only wholly and solely at
the hands of mercy.

So then, to seek for that that should save thee, neither at the hands
of the law, nor at the hands of mercy, is to be sure to seek it where
it is not to be found; for there is no medium betwixt the
righteousness of the law and the mercy of God. Thou must have it
either at the door of the law, or at the door of grace. But sayst
thou, I am for having of it at the hands of both. I will trust
solely to neither. I love to have two strings to my bow. If one of
them, as you think, can help me by itself, my reason tells me that
both can help me better. Therefore will I be righteous and good, and
will seek by my goodness to be commended to the mercy of God: for
surely he that hath something of his own to ingratiate himself into
the favour of his prince withal, shall sooner obtain his mercy and
favour, than one that comes to him stripped of all good.

I answer, But there are not two ways to heaven: there is but one new
and living way which Christ hath consecrated for us through the vail,
that is to say, his flesh; and besides that one, there is no more;
Heb. x. 19-24. Why then dost thou talk of two strings to thy bow?
What became of him that had, and would have two stools to sit on?
yea, the text says plainly, that therefore they obtained not
righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by
the works of the law. See here, they are disowned by the gospel,
because they sought it not by faith, that is, by faith only. Again,
the law, and the righteousness thereof, flies from them (nor could
they attain it, though they follow after it), because they sought it
not by faith.

Mercy then is to be found alone in Jesus Christ. Again, the
righteousness of the law is to be obtained only by faith of Jesus
Christ; that is, in the Son of God is the righteousness of the law to
be found; for he, by his obedience to his Father, is become the end
of the law for righteousness. And for the sake of his legal
righteousness (which is also called the righteousness of God, because
it was God in the flesh of the Lord Jesus that did accomplish it), is
mercy, and grace from God extended to whoever dependeth by faith upon
God by this Jesus his righteousness for it. And hence it is, that we
so often read, that this Jesus is the way to the Father; that God,
for Christ's sake, forgiveth us; that by the obedience of one many
are made righteous, or justified; and that through this man is
preached to us the forgiveness of sins; and that by him all that
believe are justified from all things from which they could not be
justified by the law of Moses.

Now, though I here do make mention of righteousness and mercy, yet I
hold there is but one way, to wit, to eternal life; which way, as I
said, is Jesus Christ; for he is the new, the only new and living way
to the Father of mercies, for mercy to make me capable of abiding
with him in the heavens for ever and ever.

But sayst thou, I will be righteous in myself that I may have
wherewith to commend me to God, when I go to him for mercy?

I answer, But thou blind Pharisee, I tell thee thou hast no
understanding of God's design by the gospel, which is, not to advance
man's righteousness, as thou dreamest, but to advance the
righteousness of his Son, and his grace by him. Indeed, if God's
design by the gospel was to exalt and advance man's righteousness,
then that which thou hast said would be to the purpose; for what
greater dignity can be put upon man's righteousness, than to admit

I say then, for God to admit it, to be an advocate, an intercessor, a
mediator; for all these are they which prevail with God to shew me
mercy. But this God never thought of, much less could he thus design
by the gospel; for the text runs flat against it. Not of works, not
of works of righteousness, which we have done; "Not of works, lest
any man should boast," saying, Well, I may thank my own good life for
mercy. It was partly for the sake of my own good deeds that I
obtained mercy to be in heaven and glory. Shall this be the burden
of the song of heaven? or is this that which is composed by that
glittering heavenly host, and which we have read of in the holy book
of God? No, no; that song runs upon other feet--standeth in far
better strains, being composed of far higher and truly heavenly
matter: for God has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children
by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his
will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made
us accepted in the Beloved: in whom we have redemption through his
blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his
grace;" Eph. i. And it is requisite that the song be framed
accordingly; wherefore he saith, that the heavenly song runs thus--
"Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for
thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of
every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us
unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth;"
Rev. v. 9, 10.

He saith not that they have redeemed, or helped to redeem and deliver
themselves; but that the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain; the Lamb only
was he that redeemed them. Nor, saith he, that they had made
themselves kings and priests unto God to offer any oblation,
sacrifice, or offering whatsoever, but that the same Lamb had made
them such: for they, as is insinuated by the text, were in, among,
one with, and no better than the kindreds, tongues, nations, and
people of the earth. Better! "No, in no wise," saith Paul (Rom.
iii. 9); therefore their separation from them was of mere mercy, free
grace, good will, and distinguishing love; not for, or because of
works of righteousness which any of them have done; no, they were all
alike. But these, because beloved when in their blood (according to
Ezek. xvi.), were separated by free grace; and as another scripture
hath it, "redeemed from the earth," and from among men by blood; Rev.
xiv. 3, 4. Wherefore deliverance from the ireful wrath of God must
not, neither in whole nor in part, be ascribed to the whole law, or
to all the righteousness that comes by it, but to this Lamb of God,
Jesus, the Saviour of the world; for it is he that delivered us from
the wrath to come, and that according to God's appointment; "for God
hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by (or
through) our Lord Jesus Christ;" 1 Thess. i. 10; v. 9. Let every
man, therefore, take heed what he doth, and whereon he layeth the
stress of his salvation; "For other foundation can no man lay than
that is laid, which is Jesus Christ;" 1 Cor. iii. ii.

But dost thou plead still as thou didst before, and wilt thou stand
thereto? Why then, thy design must overcome God, or God's design
must overcome thee. Thy design is to give thy good life, thy good
deeds, a part of the glory of thy justification from the curse. And
God's design is to throw all thy righteousness out into the street,
into the dirt and dunghill, as to that thou art for glory, and for
glorying here before God; yea, thou art sharing in the glory of
justification when that alone belongeth to God. And he hath said,
"My glory will I not give to another." Thou wilt not trust wholly to
God's grace in Christ for justification; and God will not take thy
stinking righteousness in as a partner in thy acquitment from sin,
death, wrath, and hell. Now the question is, Who shall prevail?
God, or the Pharisee? and whose word shall stand? his, the

Alas! the Pharisee here must needs come down, for God is greater than
all. Also, he hath said, that no flesh shall glory in his presence;
and that he will have mercy, and not sacrifice. And again, that it
is not (or shall be) in him that wills, nor in him that runs, but in
God that sheweth mercy. What hope, help, stay, or relief, then is
there left for the merit-monger? What twig, or straw, or twined
thread, is left to be a stay for his soul? This besom will sweep
away his cobweb: the house that this spider doth so lean upon, will
now be overturned, and he in it, to hellfire; for nothing less than
everlasting damnation is designed by God, and that for this fearful
and unbelieving Pharisee: God will prevail against him for ever.

3. But wilt thou yet plead thy righteousness for mercy? Why, in so
doing thou takest away from God the power of giving mercy. For if it
be thine as wages, it is no longer his to dispose of at pleasure; for
that which another man oweth me, is in equity not at his, but at my
disposal. Did I say that by this thy plea thou takest away from God
the power of giving mercy? I will add, yea, and also of disposing of
heaven and life eternal. And then, I pray you, what is left unto
God, and what can he call his own? Not mercy, for that by thy good
deeds thou hast purchased: not heaven, for that by thy good deeds
thou hast purchased: not eternal life, for that by thy good deeds
thou hast purchased. Thus, Pharisee (O thou self-righteous man),
hast thou set up thyself above grace, mercy, heaven, glory; yea,
above even God himself, for the purchaser should in reason be
esteemed above the purchase.

Awake, man! What hast thou done? Thou hast blasphemed God; thou has
undervalued the glory of his grace; thou hast, what in thee lieth,
opposed the glorious design of heaven; thou hast sought to make thy
filthy rags to share in thy justification.

Now, all these are mighty sins; these have made thine iniquity
infinite. What wilt thou do? Thou hast created to thyself a world
of needless miseries. I call them needless, because thou hadst more
than enough before. Thou hast set thyself against God in a way of
contending, thou standest upon thy points and pantables; thou wilt
not bate God an ace of what thy righteousness is worth, and wilt also
make it worth what thyself shalt list: thou wilt be thine own judge,
as to the worth of thy righteousness; thou wilt neither hear what
verdict the word has passed about it, nor wilt thou endure that God
should throw it out in the matter of thy justification, but
quarrelest with the doctrine of free grace, or else dost wrest it out
of its place to serve thy Pharisaical designs; saying, "God I thank
thee, I am not as other men;" fathering upon thyself, yea, upon God
and thyself a stark lie; for thou art as other men are, though not in
this, yet in that; yea, in a far worse condition than the most of men
are. Nor will it help thee anything to attribute this thy goodness
to the God of heaven; for that is but a mere toying; the truth is,
the God that thou intendest is nothing but thy righteousness; and the
grace that thou supposest is nothing but thine own good and honest
intentions. So that,

4. In all that thou sayst thou dost but play the downright
hypocrite: thou pretendest indeed to mercy, but thou intendest
nothing but merit: thou seemest to give the glory to God, but at the
same time takest it all to thyself: thou despisest others, and
criest up thyself; and in conclusion, fatherest all upon God by word,
and upon thyself in truth. Nor is there anything more common among
this sort of men, than to make God, his grace, and kindness, the
stalking-horse to their own praise, saying, "God, I thank thee," when
they trust to themselves that they are righteous, and have not need
of any repentance; when the truth is, they are the worst sort of men
in the world, because they put themselves into such a state as God
hath not put them into, and then impute it to God, saying, God, I
thank thee, that thou hast done it; for what greater sin than to make
God a liar, or than to father that upon God which he never meant,
intended, or did: and all this under colour to glorify God, when
there is nothing else designed, but to take all glory from him, and
to wear it on thine own head as a crown, and a diadem, in the face of
the whole world.

A self-righteous man, therefore, can come to God for mercy no
otherwise than fawningly: for what need of mercy hath a righteous
man? Let him then talk of mercy, of grace, and goodness, and come in
an hundred times with his, "God, I thank thee," in his mouth, all is
but words; there is no sense, nor savour, nor relish, of mercy and
favour; nor doth he in truth, from his very heart, understand the
nature of mercy, nor what is an object thereof; but when he thanks
God, he praises himself: when he pleads for mercy, he means his own
merit; and all this is manifest from what doth follow; for, saith he,
I am not as this Publican: thence clearly insinuating, that not the
good, but the bad, should be rejected of the God of heaven: that not
the bad but the good, not the sinner, but the self-righteous, are the
most proper objects of God's favour. The same thing is done by
others in this our day: favour, mercy, grace, and, "God, I thank
thee," is in their mouths, but their own strength, sufficiency, free-
will, and the like, they are the things they mean by all such high
and glorious expressions.

But, secondly, If thy plea be not for mercy, but for justice, then to
speak a little to that. 1. Justice has measures and rules to go by;
unto which measures and rules, if thou comest not up, justice can do
thee no good. Come then, O thou blind Pharisee, let us pass away a
few minutes in some discourse about this. Thou demandest justice,
because God hath said, that the man that doth these things shall live
in and by them. And again, the doers of the law shall be justified,
not in a way of mercy, but in a way of justice: "He shall live by
them." But what hast thou done, O blind Pharisee? What hast thou
done, that thou art emboldened to venture to stand and fall to the
most perfect justice of God? Hast thou fulfilled the whole law, and
not offended in one point? Hast thou purged thyself from the
pollutions and motions of sin that dwell in thy flesh, and work in
thy own members? Is the very being of sin rooted out of thy
tabernacle? And art thou now as perfectly innocent as ever was Jesus
Christ? hast thou, by suffering the uttermost punishment that justice
could justly lay upon thee for thy sins, made fair and full
satisfaction to God, according to the tenor of his law, for thy
transgressions? If thou hast done all these things, then thou mayst
plead something, and yet but something, for thyself, in a way of
justice. Nay, in this I will assert nothing, but will rather
inquire: What hast thou gained by all this thy righteousness? (We
will now suppose what must not be granted:) Was not this thy state
when thou wast in thy first parents? Wast thou not innocent,
perfectly innocent and righteous? And if thou shouldst be so now,
what hast thou gained thereby? Suppose that the man that had, forty
years ago, forty pounds of his own, and had spent it all since,
should yet be able now to shew his forty pounds again; what has he
got thereby, or how much richer is he at last than he was when he
first set up for himself? Nay, doth not the blot of his ill living
betwixt his first and his last, lie as a blemish upon him, unless he
should redeem himself also, by works of supererogation, from the
scandal that justice may lay at his door for that.

But, I say, suppose, O Pharisee, this should be thy case, yet God is
not bound to give thee in justice that eternal which by his grace he
bestoweth upon those that have redemption from sin, by the blood of
his Son. Injustice, therefore, when all comes to all, thou canst
require no more than an endless life in an earthly paradise; for
there thou wast set up at first; nor doth it appear from what hath
been said, touching all that thou hast done or canst do, that thou
deservest a better place.

Did I say, that thou mayst require justly an endless life in an
earthly paradise? Why, I must add to that saying this proviso, If
thou continuest in the law, and in the righteousness thereof; else

But how dost thou know that thou shalt continue therein? Thou hast
no promise from God's mouth for that; nor is grace or strength
ministered to mankind by the covenant that thou art under. So that
still thou standest bound to thy good behaviour; and in the day that
thou dost give the first, though ever so little a trip, or stumble in
thy obedience, thou forfeitest thine interest in paradise (and in
justice), as to any benefit there.

But alas! what need is there that we should thus talk things, when it
is manifest that thou hast sinned, not before thou wast a Pharisee,
but when after the most strictest sect of thy religion thou livest
also a Pharisee; yea, and now in the temple, in thy prayer there,
thou shewest thyself to be full of ignorance, pride, self-conceit,
and horrible arrogancy, and desire of vain glory, &c., which are none
of them the seat or fruits of righteousness, but the seat of the
devil, and the fruit of his dwelling, even at this time in thy heart.

Could it ever have been imagined, that such audacious impudence could
have put itself forth in any mortal man, in his approach unto God by
prayer, as has shewed itself in thee? "I am not as other men," sayst
thou! But is this the way to go to God in prayer? "The prayer of
the upright is God's delight." But the upright man glorifies God's
justice, by confessing to God the vileness and pollution of his state
and condition: he glorifies God's mercy, by acknowledging, that
that, and that only, as communicated of God by Christ to sinners, can
save and deliver from the curse of the law.

This, I say, is the sum of the prayer of the just and upright man,
Job. i. 8; xl. 4; Acts xiii. 22; Psalm xxxviii.; li.; 2 Sam. vi. 21,
22; and not as thou most vain-gloriously vauntest with thy, "God, I
thank thee, I am not as other men are."

True, when a man is accused by his neighbours, by a brother, by an
enemy, and the like, if he be clear (and he may be so, as to what
they shall lay to his charge), then let him vindicate, justify, and
acquit himself, to the utmost that in justice and truth he can; for
his name, the preservation whereof is more to be chosen than silver
and gold; also his profession, yea, the name of God too, and religion
may now lie at stake, by reason of such false accusations, and
perhaps can by no means (as to this man) be covered and vindicated
from reproach and scandal, but by his justifying of himself.
Wherefore, in such a work, a man serveth God, and saves religion from
hurt; yea, as he that is a professor, and has his profession attended
with a scandalous life, hurteth religion thereby, so he that has his
profession attended with a good life, and shall suffer it
notwithstanding to lie under blame by false accusations, when it is
in the power of his hand to justify himself, hurteth religion also.
But the case of the Pharisee is otherwise. He is not here a-dealing
with men, but God; not seeking to stand clear in the sight of the
world, but in the sight of heaven itself; and that too, not with
respect to what men or angels, but with respect to what God and his
law could charge him with, and justly lay at his door.

This therefore mainly altereth the case; for a man here to stand thus
upon his point, it is death; for he affronteth God, he giveth him the
lie, he reproveth the law; and, in sum, accuseth it of bearing false
witness against him; he doth this, I say, even by saying, "God, I
thank thee, I am not as other men are;" for God hath made none of
this difference. The law condemneth all man as sinners; testifieth
that every imagination of the thought of the heart of the sons of men
is only evil, and that continually; wherefore they that do as the
Pharisee did, to wit, seek to justify themselves before God from the
curse of the law by their own good doings, though they also, as the
Pharisee did, seem to give God the thanks for all; yet do most
horribly sin, even by their so doing, and shall receive a Pharisee's
reward at last. Wherefore, O thou Pharisee, it is a vain thing for
thee either to think of, or to ask for, at God's hand, either mercy
or justice. Because mercy thou canst not ask for, from sense of want
of mercy, because thy righteousness, which is by the law, hath
utterly blinded thine eyes; and complimenting with God doth nothing:
and as for justice, that can do thee no good; but the more just God
is, and the more by that he acteth towards thee, the more miserable
and fearful will be thy condition, because of the deficiency of thy
so much, by thee, esteemed righteousness.

What a deplorable condition then is a poor Pharisee in! For mercy he
cannot pray; he cannot pray for it with all his heart, for he seeth
indeed no need thereof. True, the Pharisee, though he was impudent
enough, yet would not take all from God; he would still count, that
there was due to him a tribute of thanks: "God, I thank thee," saith
he: but yet not a bit of this for mercy; but for that he had let him
live (for I know not for what he did thank himself), till he had made
himself better than other men. But that betterment was a betterment
in none other's judgment than that of his own; and that was none
other but such an one as was false. So then the Pharisee is by this
time quite out of doors: his righteousness is worth nothing, his
prayer is worth nothing, his thanks to God are worth nothing; for
that what he had was scanty and imperfect, and it was his pride that
made him offer it to God for acceptance; nor could his fawning
thanksgiving better his case, or make his matter at all good before

But I will warrant you, the Pharisee was so far off from thinking
thus of himself, and of his righteousness, that he thought of nothing
so much as of this, that he was a happy man: yea, happier by far
than other his fellow rationals: yea, he plainly declares it, when
he saith, "God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are."

O what a fool's paradise was the heart of the Pharisee now in, while
he stood in the temple praying to God! God, I thank thee, said he;
for I am good and holy; I am a righteous man; I have been full of
good works; I am no extortioner, unjust, nor adulterer, nor yet as
this wretched Publican. I have kept myself strictly to the rule of
mine order, and my order is the most strict of all orders now in
being: I fast, I pray, I give tithes of all that I possess. Yea, so
forward am I to be a religious man, so ready have I been to listen
after my duty, that I have asked both of God and man the ordinances
of judgment and justice; I take delight in approaching to God. What
less now can be mine than the heavenly kingdom and glory?

Now the Pharisee, like Haman, saith in his heart, To whom would the
king delight to do honour more than to myself? Where is the man that
so pleaseth God, and, consequently, that in equity and reason should
be beloved of God like me? Thus like the prodigal's brother, he
pleadeth, saying, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee; neither
transgressed I at any time thy commandments," Luke xv. 29. O brave
Pharisee! but go on in thine oration--"Nor yet as this Publican."

Poor wretch, quoth the Pharisee to the Publican, What comest thou
for? Dost think that such a sinner as thou art shall be heard of
God? God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God
(as I am, as I thank God I am), him he heareth. Thou, for thy part,
hast been a rebel all thy days: I abhor to come nigh thee, or to
touch thy garments. Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am
more holy than thou; Isa. lxv. 5.

Hold, stop there, go no further: fie, Pharisee, fie! dost thou know
before whom thou standest, to whom thou speakest, and of what the
matter of thy silly oration is made? Thou art now before God, thou
speakest now to God, and therefore in justice and honesty thou
shouldst make mention of his righteousness, not of thine; of his
righteousness, and of his only.

I am sure Abraham, of whom thou sayst he is thy father, never had the
face to do as thou hast done, though, it is to be presumed, he had
more cause so to do than thou hast, or canst have. Abraham had
whereof to glory, but not before God; yea, he was called God's
friend, and yet would not glory before him; but humbleth himself, was
afraid, and trembled in himself, when he stood before him
acknowledging of himself to be but dust and ashes; Gen. xviii. 27,
30, 22; Rom. iv. 1, 2; but thou, as thou hadst quite forgot that thou
wast framed of that matter, and after the manner of other men,
standest and pleadest thy goodness before him? Be ashamed, Pharisee!
dost thou think that God hath eyes of flesh, or that he seeth as man
sees? Are not the secrets of thy heart open unto him Thinkest thou
with thyself that thou, with a few of thy defiled ways, canst cover
thy rotten wall, that thou has daubed with untempered mortar, and so
hide the dirt thereof from his eyes; or that these fine, smooth, and
oily words, that come out of thy mouth, will make him forget that thy
throat is an open sepulchre, and that thou within art full of dead
men's bones, and all uncleanness? Thy thus cleansing of the outside
of the cup and platter, and thy garnishing of the sepulchres of the
righteous, is nothing at all in God's eyes, but things that manifest
that thou art an hypocrite and blind, because thou takest no notice
of that which is within, which yet is that which is most abominable
to God. For the fruit, alas! what is the fruit of the tree, or what
are the streams of the fountain? Thy fountain is defiled; yea, a
defiler, and so that which maketh the whole self, with thy works,
unclean in God's sight.

But, Pharisee, how comes it to pass that the poor Publican is now so
much a mote in thine eye, that thou canst not forbear, but must
accuse him before the judgment-seat of God--for in that thou sayst,
that thou art not even as this Publican, thou bringest in an
accusation, a charge, a bill, against him? What has he done? Has he
concealed any of thy righteousness? or has he secretly informed
against thee, that thou art an hypocrite and superstitious? I dare
say, the poor wretch has neither meddled nor made with thee in these

But what aileth thee, Pharisee? Doth the poor Publican stand to vex
thee? Doth he touch thee with his dirty garments? or doth he annoy
thee with his stinking breath? Doth his posture of standing so like
a man condemned offend thee? True, he now standeth with his hand
held up at God's bar; he pleads guilty to all that is laid to his

He cannot strut, vapour, and swagger as thou dost; but why offended
at this? Oh, but he has been a naughty man, and I have been
righteous! sayst thou. Well, Pharisee, well, his naughtiness shall
not be laid to thy charge, if thou hast chosen none of his ways. But
since thou wilt yet bear me down that thou art righteous, shew now,
even now, while thou standest before God with the Publican, some,
though they be but small, yea, though but very small, fruits of thy
righteousness. Let the Publican alone, since he is speaking for his
life before God. Or, if thou canst not let him alone, yet do not
speak against him; for thy so doing will but prove that thou
rememberest the evil that the man has done unto thee; yea, and that
thou bearest him a grudge for it too, and while you stand before God.

But, Pharisee, the righteous man is a merciful man, and while he
standeth praying, he forgiveth; yea, and also crieth to God that he
will forgive him too; Mark xi. 25, 26; Acts vii. 60. Hitherto then
thou hast shewed none of the fruits of thy righteousness. Pharisee,
righteousness would teach thee to love this Publican, but thou
shewest that thou hatest him. Love covereth the multitude of sins;
but hatred and unfaithfulness revealeth secrets.

Pharisee, thou shouldst have remembered this thy brother in this his
day of adversity, and shouldst have shewed that thou hadst compassion
on thy brother in this his deplorable condition; but thou, like the
proud, the cruel, and the arrogant man, hast taken thy neighbour at
the advantage, and that when he is even between the straits, and
standing upon the pinnacle of difficulty, betwixt the heavens and the
hells, and hast done what thou couldst, what on thy part lay, to
thrust him down to the deep, saying, "I am not even as this

What cruelty can be greater, what rage more furious, and what spite
and hatred more damnable and implacable, than to follow, or take a
man while he is asking of mercy at God's hands, and to put in a
caveat against his obtaining of it, by exclaiming against him that he
is a sinner? The master of righteousness doth not so: "Do not think
(saith he) that I will accuse you to the Father." The scholars of
righteousness do not do so. "But as for me (said David), when they
(mine enemies) were sick (and the Publican here was sick of the most
malignant disease), my clothing was of sackcloth, I humbled my soul
with fasting, and my prayer (to wit, that I made for them) returned
into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my
friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for
his mother;" John v. 45; Psalm xxxv. 13, 14.

Pharisee, dost thou see here how contrary thou art to righteous men?
Now then, where shall we find out one to parallel thee, but by
finding him out that is called "the dragon;" for he it is that
accuseth the poor sinners before God? Zech. iii.; Rev. xii.

"I am not as this Publican." Modesty should have commanded thee to
have bit thy tongue as to this. What could the angels think, but
that revenge was now in thine heart, and but that thou comest up into
the temple rather to boast of thyself and accuse thy neighbour, than
to pray to the God of heaven; for what petition is there in all thy
prayer, that gives the least intimation that thou hast the knowledge
of God or thyself? Nay, what petition of any kind is there in thy
vain-glorious oration from first to last? Only an accusation drawn
up, and that against one helpless and forlorn; against a poor man,
because he is a sinner; drawn up, I say, against him by thee, who
canst not make proof of thyself that thou art righteous; but come to
proofs of righteousness, and thou art wanting also. What, though thy
raiment is better than his, thy skin may be full as black; yea, what
if thy skin be whiter than his, thy heart may be yet far blacker.
Yea, it is so, for the truth hath spoken it; for within, you are full
of excess and all uncleanness; Matt. xxiii.

Pharisee, these are transgressions against the second table, and the
Publican shall be guilty of them; but there are sins also against the
first table, and thou thyself art guilty of them.

The Publican, in that he was an extortioner, unjust and an adulterer,
made it thereby manifest that he did not love his neighbour; and thou
by making a god, a saviour, a deliverer, of thy filthy righteousness,

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