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burnt hot beneath the crust of his outward respectability ; who in the midst of praise or blame keeps ever before him with trembling awe that Everlasting Judge before whom in nakedness each soul must stand,—but one who cannot imagine he has committed a sin, so long as he has kept on the reputable side of grossness, fasted and paid tithes. We have here pictured, not the man so anxious to do justice to his neighbour that he fails to do justice to himself ; so eager to represent an opponent's thought as to leave his own to be more or less surmised; and (better still) so delighted with another's virtue as in praising it to forget that he himself has any merit at all; but one who quite quietly recommends himself to God by insinuations against his brother worshiper, and is evidently persuaded that the Lord will listen to him and not to his companion.
What is very noticeable also is the Pharisee's complete ignorance that he is making a prayer at all unacceptable. He plainly imagines that the Infinite God will be very gratified that so good a man should come into the Temple to pray. He has no doubt that the Lord will be as pleased to receive his thanks, as he is proud to thank the Lord. The accommodation is considered mutual. God has made the Pharisee a highly reputable man, and the Pharisee has fasted and given tithes to God. With exquisite self-complacency the worshiper at the altar of the Creator of heaven and earth and all things contained therein, strikes the balance even between himself and his Lord, and has no suspicion that his balance-sheet can be objected to by Angel or Archangel, Man or God.
In this description of character the startling point (upon which I am eager to fix your attention) is, its blank and utter practical atheism-atheism not of speculation, which may be innocent, but of life, which must be guilty. Trusting in ourselves that we are righteous and despising others, we have no God, because we lift no upward look into the deep heavens. To illustrate the heavenly from the human, look at a self-complacent man professing love towards a woman he would wed. Is he not wrapt up in the impression made by his own charms? Is he not (above all things) most flattered with pride that he has made a conquest? It is not another being he adores, for he never forgets himself; and hence can feel no love, for Love implies the surrender of self.
Love was given,
Even thus the self-satisfied egotist, in sober and solemn truth, adores no God. It is his own fancied righteousness he worships, not his heart that he surrenders. He who makes an accusation against his neighbour a claim before God, will soon make religion a compliment to himself, and condescend to patronize the Eternal Majesty of Heaven, placing himself alone upon the throne of Judgment.
The foundation of this moral atheism in the Pharisaic character is the absence of Reverence; and with the absence of Reverence comes the possibility of every sin. Every vice which has made the name of Pharisee a by-word through Christendom may be traced in more or less degree to this fatal source.
Consider, for a moment, what species of character is the most absolutely irreligious and unlovely, the most thoroughly antagonistic to all that is divinely just and beautiful in heavenly grace ? Old poetry and romance describe a disobedient Spirit—a Spirit seeking to command above God Himselfstruggling to grasp and wield the thunders of the Most High, and therefore vanquished (as vanquished must be each presumptuous rebel against the Omnipotent), and falling like a star from heaven into the yawning chasm of an unending despair. This conception, however, fails to exhaust the most terrible attributes of iniquity. Fearful as the picture may be of a disobedient rebel lifting an impious hand against the majesty of Heaven, there is an evil spirit yet more absolutely a terror to good and faithful hearts. The Spirit most fundamentally opposed to all that is comprised within the idea of a God, and the most utterly unlovely when contrasted with the noblest characters among men, is the Irreverential Spiritthe Spirit of scorn and mockery—that trembles before no innocence purer than itself in lowly awe—contemplates no majesty with fervent self-surrender — can be dazzled by no glory into forgetfulness of a sarcasm-heartily admires nothing
-and is as daringly self-possessed in the presence of manifest revelations of the Infinite Lord, as in the presence of the meanest victim of the meanest temptation.
Do we not know our own most wicked moments ? Our own most wicked moments are not so much when on the tide of wild passion the better thought is swept away, and the channel marked out by purer principle flooded o'er its banks, reckless and wrong as is such passionate tumult of the waters of life; not so much when rough, warm, battle feelings arise and anger flushes the fevered cheek, antagonistic as is the throbbing war to the spirit of the Cross ; NOT so much when the punishment of God is dared for the gratification of a wilful whim, terrible as it is to enter into opposition with the Most High and wrestle against Omnipotence with the weakness of mortality—as when we bow down in no reverential awe of human life, Divine government, eternal destiny; when we believe least in the sacredness of our being; when we are most unconscious of those giant mysteries bearing the orbed world in their pale arms through the sky, and casting their shadowy cloaks around it; when we find our hearts the slowest to acknowledge human worth, the fullest of foul suspicions concerning our neighbours, and the least pervaded with
The worship the heart lifts above,
From the sphere of our sorrow. When, in a word, we are most inclined to sneer, and are least conscious of the overarching Infinite, then may we know ourselves furthest removed from the love of righteousness and the arms of God. There is more hope that the tide of passion will fall back in murmurs of penitence within the channel of lawful restraint,—that the flush of anger will change into the downcast look of pity for the wound we have ourselves inflicted,—that wilfulness will own its weakness, and serve as a child where it was once ambitious to rule as a master,—than there is hope for the sneerer to forget his bitterness and the scorner his scorning.
The practical educator testifies to the same fact with reference to the children beneath his care. The most difficult mood the educator has to meet, is the mood in which nothing is respected. Wilfulness and disobedience may be mastered through resolute firmness; selfishness is harder to subdue, but will yield to the careful tenderness of long-suffering love ;-the most fearful problem in education, however, arises when a child makes game of everything and bows before nothing as worthy of reverential regard. Wrestling with this problem has placed many unnoted teachers of our ragged schools among the noblest heroes and martyrs of the age. Facing a crowd of neglected children, who are not simply ignorant of God, but esteem nothing in earth or heaven as of sacred Authority, they testify that the first step in educational success is the awakening of respectful admiration. When the rough young outcasts begin to admire some one more holy than themselves, the seed of their salvation is sown.
The reasons for these assertions, now made as facts of experience, are not far to seek, alike in our relationships to our own natures, our fellow-creatures and our God.
I. With respect to our personal characters,' we will notice the influence of irreverence upon the pursuit of truth and righteousness.
Wheresoever there is irreverence, there can be no advance towards truth.
In irreverence grows and flourishes the captious, hypercritical, admire-nothing spirit so supremely fatal to aspiration and culture. The irreverential critic aptly fancies that his own cleverness is more apparent when he refuses his respect to things others honour, than when he gives his heart to their praise. It is imagined that a very great man is needed to find fault with what others believe magnificent, and thus it becomes more flattering to critical pride to detect a blemish than to praise a glory. Yet unless a man can admire something, thoroughly and fervently, he cannot LOVE man or woman, Truth or God. Fault-finding people, full of hypercritical suspicions, cannot love, for they cannot give away their hearts ; and truth unloved never comes. Let a coldly captious man get hold of a fact, the chances are that by his false interpretation he will turn the fact into a fiction. Again and again in social life are facts turned into lies by the ungenial natures into which they are received. In chemical combinations, substances in themselves healthful and safe, when united may become virulent poisons; and so also poisonous falsehoods sometimes result from the union of simple innocent facts within hearts gifted with ingenious power to assign possible foul motives to actual heroic deeds.
By irreverence is cherished that self-satisfaction which generates more fear lest our own theories should be proved wrong to the shaming of our pride, than desire for the outpouring of brighter light. The more thoroughly, however, we feel that life has countless problems yet to be solved, the less content