Luke 18:9
To some who trusted in their own righteousness and viewed others with contempt, He also told this parable:
Lessons in PrayerR.M. Edgar Luke 18:1-14
A Sermon for the Worst Man on EarthC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 18:9-14
A Sinner Praying for MercyC. Bradley, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
Acceptable and Unacceptable PrayerJ. R. Thompson, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
After Confession of Sin Comes ForgivenessBishop Walsham How.Luke 18:9-14
An Egotistical UtteranceJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
As a SinnerLuke 18:9-14
Belief in the Virtues of OthersT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
Christian HumilityC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 18:9-14
Earnestness is BriefT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
Forgiveness Most NeededBishop Walsham How.Luke 18:9-14
HumilityH. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
Humility and Self-Reproach RewardedJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
Humility of PrayerJ. Schmitt.Luke 18:9-14
JustificationHeintzeler.Luke 18:9-14
Justification as the Result of PrayerDean Vaughan.Luke 18:9-14
Lessons from the Pharisee's PrayerA. Gladwell, B. A.Luke 18:9-14
Need, not Magnificence, the Best Aid to PrayerW. Baxendale.Luke 18:9-14
Pharisaical PrayersDean Stanley.Luke 18:9-14
Remarks on the ParableN. W. Taylor, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
Satisfaction with External Ceremonial ActsF. W. Robertson.Luke 18:9-14
Self-Exaltation and Self-AbasementFlavel Cook.Luke 18:9-14
Self-Praise in PrayerJ. Wells.Luke 18:9-14
Sin a Personal Affront to GodBishop Huntington.Luke 18:9-14
The Church is a Place for PrayerA. Gladwell, B. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Cry that Opens HeavenDe W. Talmage, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Fine PrayerLuke 18:9-14
The Humble Prayer the BestSunday School TimesLuke 18:9-14
The Ingredients of Real MercyJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Nature and Necessity of HumilityN. Emmons, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Penitent's PrayerJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee and the PublicanD. C. Hughes, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee and the PublicanJ. Jortin, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee and the PublicanCanon Liddon.Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee and the PublicanR. Winterbotham, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee and the PublicanW. Clarkson Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee's MistakeJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Poorest the BestPreacher's Promptuary.Luke 18:9-14
The Prayer of PrideR. Farindon, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Publican's PrayerJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Publican's PrayerT. Gibson, M. A.Luke 18:9-14
The Publican's PrayerW.M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
The Publican's Prayer Used in DeathJ. Wells.Luke 18:9-14
The Purpose of the ParableA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 18:9-14
True Thoughts of OneselfCanon Liddon.Luke 18:9-14
Whom the Lord ReceivesA. H. Currier.Luke 18:9-14

The scene indicated by our Lord's opening sentences is easily realized. We readily picture to our minds the place and the two persons in whom we are interested - the haughty Pharisee and the humble-minded publican. We readily imagine their demeanor as they enter, their posture as they pray, their reception as they pass through the courts going and returning. But we ask how and why was it that the Pharisee was rejected and the publican accepted. And in reply we say:

1. In some respects the two men stood on the same ground. Both were free from the taint of idolatry and were worshipping God; both appreciated the privilege of prayer; both came to the same building, and, using the same invocation, each uttered the uppermost thought in his mind.

2. In some aspects the Pharisee seemed to have the advantage.

(1) He had the respect of the public, the good and God-fearing public, of the respectable people of his day;

(2) he had lived the worthiest life in all social and political relations;

(3) he was much the more "religious ' of the two, in the sense that his habit of life Was devout and charitable, while that of the publican had been godless and avaricious.

3. The terms of their respective prayers are not decisive of their acceptableness in the sight of God.

(1) A truly humble man might speak to God in the strain, though not in the spirit, of the Pharisee. It is quite right to thank God for being preserved from presumptuous sins and being kept in the path of rectitude and devotion (see Psalm 41:12, 13).

(2) A thoroughly formal worshipper might present the petition of the publican. How often, since then, have these or very similar words been used by "penitents" who have been impenitent, by those who have taken the language of humility on their lip while they "have regarded iniquity in their heart"! A modern writer (T. T. Lynch) represents these two men as going up again to the temple; but this time the Pharisee, adopting the publican's form of words in hope of acceptance, is again rejected; while the publican, giving thanks to God for his reconciliation and renewal, is again accepted -

"For sometimes tears and sometimes thanks,
But only truth can please." How, then, do we explain the fact that "this man went down to his house justified rather than the other"?

I. THE PHARISEE HAD FORMED A RADICALLY FALSE ESTIMATE of his own character, and the publican a true one of his. The Pharisee thought he was everything God wished him to be, and was miserably wrong in his estimate; he was reckoning that God cared chiefly if not exclusively for the outside in religion, that his favour was secured by ceremonies, by proprieties, by punctualities, by utterances of prescribed forms. He failed to understand that this was only the shell and not the kernel, and that the shell of correct behaviour is nothing without the kernel of a reverent and loving spirit. The publican, on the other hand, believed that he was very far from right with God; that he had been living a guilty life, and was condemned of God for so doing; and his thought was true.

II. THE PHARISEE'S FALSE ESTIMATE LED HIM INTO SELF-FLATTERY; the publican's true estimate into frank, penitential acknowledgment. Under the cover of gratitude, the one man paid himself handsome compliments, and held on high his great meritoriousness, thus confirming in his own mind the delusion that he was a favourite of Heaven; the other, moved by a deep sense of personal unworthiness, made honest confession of sin, and sought the mercy he knew he needed.

III. GOD HATES THE PROUD, AND HONOURS THE HUMBLE-HEARTED. Old and New Testaments may be said to be full of this truth. God has said and has repeated, he has most plainly and emphatically declared, that pride is odious and unpardonable in his sight; but that humility shall live before him (ver. 14; see also Psalm 32:5; Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 5:3; 1 Peter 5:6; 1 John 1:8, 9). Here is:

1. A message of solemn warning. It concerns those who are the spiritual descendants of the Pharisee; who are satisfied with their spiritual condition but have no right to be so; who are building the hope of their hearts on things which are external, but in whom the love of God does not dwell. And here is:

2. A message of gracious encouragement. It concerns those who are burdened with a sense of sin and need not remain so. The way of mercy is open to every penitent soul. Jesus Christ is the "Propitiation for the sins of the whole world," and the grace of God in him far more than suffices for every guilty heart. In him we have forgiveness of sins; in him we have peace and hope and joy, even eternal life. - C.

Two men went up into the temple to pray.
Observe, from the parable —

I. HOW GOD LOOKS UPON THE HEART, RATHER THAN UPON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE. It is not the spoken service that is regarded, but the hidden words of the heart.



IV. WE SEE WHAT SPIRIT GOD REQUIRES OF AND APPROVES IN US. Not those who are satisfied with themselves are commended of Him, but those who see and deplore their sinfulness. As a bird must first stoop to fly, so must the soul humble itself ere it finds God. "Behold a great wonder," says , "God is high; exalt thyself, He flees from thee: humble thyself, and He stoops to thee." Because, as the Psalmist says, "Though high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly, but the proud He knoweth afar off." So the Pharisee returned from the temple as poor as he came, while the publican, whom he despised, wondering how he dared to come, returned made rich by God's kiss of forgiveness and peace. Little do men know who among them are blessed. God's angels of joy do not always enter where they most naturally are supposed to go.

(A. H. Currier.)


1. This spirit is against God, on whom all depend, before whom all men are dust and uncleanness.

2. Is ignorance, no man having real spiritual knowledge could allow this spirit to dwell in him.

3. Is guilty ignorance, for the Old Testament Scriptures expose and condemn this spirit (Ezekiel 21:26; Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 8:14; Habakkuk 2:4; Isaiah 65:5).

4. Is pleasant to corrupt human nature, flattering to natural pride.

5. Is contrary to the mind of God.

6. Is a subtle, hypocritical spirit, often appearing as religious.

7. Deceives the heart it occupies.

8. Defeats itself, for it ends in abasement and shame.


1. This spirit is but another form of pride; others are despised in contrast with self, which is exalted.

2. Is against God, breaking both the law and the gospel, which enjoin loving neighbour as self.

3. Is against the precepts and example of Jesus, who despised not the poorest and outcast, the fallen and foul.


1. Often branded by worldly men as meanness of spirit or cowardice.

2. Is acceptable to God, and according to Christ's example.

3. May bring on us some loss or inconvenience for a season, that must be borne as a cross.

4. Has blessing now, and recompense of honour hereafter.

5. The chief example of self-abasement being blessed thus, is that of our Lord Himself (Philippians 2:5-11).

6. In the publican's case, the blessing began at once.Application:

1. "Every one" marks universal rule or principle.

2. Warn those who have not humbled themselves before God (Exodus 10:3).

3. No justification possible for man, but by self-abasement in repentance and faith.

4. The Holy Spirit convinces of sin, etc.

5. Encourage the first thoughts of self-abasement by examples of Ahab (1 Kings 21:9), and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12-19).

(Flavel Cook.)


1. Stated (ver. 9).

2. Suggestive —

(1)That self-righteousness is possible.

(2)That self-righteousness and contempt for others are closely allied.

(3)That self-righteousness grows from the root of self-deception.

(a)The self-righteous calls upon a heart-searching God.

(b)The self-righteous despise men.


1. The contrasted characters.(1) The prayer of the Pharisee.

(a)There is thanksgiving — but is it gratitude to God?

(b)There is reference to personal excellencies before God — but is it in humility?

(c)Thus prayer may be a mockery, and therefore a sin.(2) The prayer of the publican.

(a)There is keen remorse — but not despair.

(b)There is deep awe in God's presence — but an appeal to His mercy.

(c)Thus, the most agonizing prayer may be heartfelt and believing.


1. The self-exalting prayer of the Pharisee He condemns.

2. The contrite petition of the publican He approves.

3. The reality of answers to prayer He affirms.

4. Christ here enunciates a solemn truth (ver. 14).Lessons:

1. Conformity to religions forms no proof of true piety.

2. True penitence ever seen in self-abasement.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Our Saviour's design in this parable was —

1. To condemn a censorious disposition, a groundless contempt and bad opinion of others.

2. To correct those false notions of religion which lead men to overlook its principal duties.

3. To expose and reprove that part of selflove which makes us proud of our righteousness.

4. To recommend repentance and humility towards God as the first step to amendment.

5. Lastly, to caution us against all pride and conceit in general.

(J. Jortin, D. D.)

1. How vain must be the hope of those who expect heaven because they are not so wicked as others.

2. Let us beware how by comparing ourselves with others we are led to despise them.

3. No sinner, after such an example as that of the publican, can have any excuse for not praying right, immediately.

4. Every one of us must be humbled before God, if we would partake of His mercy.

(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

Who does not believe others virtuous, would be found, were the secrets of his heart and life known, to be himself vicious. We may lay it down as an axiom, that those who are ready to suspect others of being actuated by a regard to self-interest, are themselves selfish. Thieves do not believe in the existence of honesty; nor rakes in virtue; nor mercenary politicians in patriotism; and the reason why worldlings regard religious people as hypocrites is their own want of religion — knowing that were they to profess a warm regard for Christ, the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, they would be hypocrites.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Let us do this Pharisee justice. He put in a claim for something done, as well as something left undone: "I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess." But this was ceremonial goodness. We must distinguish: moral goodness is goodness always, and everywhere. Justice, mercy, truth, are the same under the tropic and at the pole, in the year 4000 before Christ and 4000 after Christ. But ceremonies are only good at certain times, and under certain circumstances. Fasting, if it make a man peevish, is no duty. Tithes are a way of supporting God's ministers; but the Church or the State may provide another way, and then tithes cease to be duties. Now observe why Pharisaical men find it easier to be content with ceremonial observances than with moral goodness. They are definite acts, they can be counted. Twice a week the ceremony is done. Go over my fields; not a tenth sheaf or shock is left standing. Search my stalls: not a tenth colt or calf is kept back. But moral goodness is more a state of heart than distinct acts. Take the law of love; you cannot at night count up, and say, "It is all done," for love has no number of acts.

(F. W. Robertson.)

Pharisee and publican, they both went up, as to a common home, to the great national temple. The Pharisee and the publican had this in common — they understood that prayer is a serious business — the highest business of man — that it is the highest and, if I may so say, the most noble, the most remunerative occupation in which a human being can possibly engage. Man has not always thus understood the real capacity of his soul — the real greatness of his destiny. There are thousands in this great city at this moment who do not understand it. Enervated by pleasure, or distracted by pain, absorbed in the pursuit of material objects, driven hither and thither by gusts of passion, slaves of the lust of the eyes or of the pride of life, men forget too easily why they are here at all, and what they have to do in order to fulfil the primal object of existence. When once a man has these fundamental truths well in view, the importance of prayer becomes immediately apparent. Prayer to something — prayer of some kind — is the higher language of humanity in all places, at all times. Not to pray is to fall below the true measure of human activity, just as truly as not to think. It is to surrender the noblest element of that prerogative dignity which marks men off as men from the brutes. Heathens have felt this; Deists have felt it. Jews felt it with an intensity all their own; and, therefore, when the two men, the Pharisee and the publican, went up into the temple to pray, they simply obeyed a law which is as old and wide as human thought. They gave expression to an instinct which cannot be ignored without wronging that which is noblest and best in our common humanity. Not to pray is not merely godless: it is, in the larger sense of the term, inhuman. They both obeyed this common, this imperious instinct; but here the difference begins. It was not the practice of the Pharisee, or the fact of his thankfulness, which made him less justified than the publican. What was it? My brethren, it was simply this — that the Pharisee had no true idea at all present to his mind, impressed upon his heart, of what it is that makes the real, the awful difference between God and His creatures. It is not chiefly that God is self-existent while man's is a dependent form of life. It is that God is, in Himself, in virtue of the necessary laws of His being, that which we are not — that He is perfectly, essentially holy. Until a man sees that the greatest difference of all between himself and his Creator lies, not in metaphysical unlikeness of being, nor yet in the intellectual interval which must separate the finite from the infinite mind, but pre-eminently in the moral chasm which parts a sinful, a sinning will, from the one all-holy, he does not know what he is doing in approaching God. Practically, for such a man, God is still a mere symbol, a name, whose most essential characteristic he has no eye for; and thus, like the Pharisee of old, he struts "into the awful presence, as if it were the presence of some moral equal, only invested with larger powers and with a wider knowledge than his own. While the angels above prostrate themselves eternally before the throne, crying, "Holy, holy, holy," proclaiming by that unvaried song the deepest difference between created and uncreated life, the Pharisee has the heart to turn in upon himself an eye of tranquil self-approval — to rejoice, forsooth, that he is not as others — to recount his little charities and his petty austerities — to enwrap himself in a satisfaction which might be natural if a revelation of the most holy had never been made; for observe, that the Pharisee does two things which speak volumes as to the real state of his soul.

1. He compares himself approvingly with others. "I thank Thee that I am not as other men, or even as this publican." He assumes that in God's sight he is better than others. But I ask, has he warrant for the assumption? He supposes that sin is measured solely by its quantity and weight, and not by the opportunities or absence of opportunities in the sinner. We know — every living conscience knows — that it is otherwise. If any one point is clear in our Lord's teaching it is this — that to whom much is given of him shall much be required, and, as a consequence, that in the case of the man to whom much is given a slight offence may be much more serious than a graver crime in another, at least in the eyes of the Eternal Justice. This consideration should prevent a readiness to compare ourselves with any others. We know nothing about them. We know not what they might have been had they enjoyed our opportunities. They may possibly be worse than we are; they may be better.

2. The Pharisee reflects with satisfaction upon himself. He may, he thinks, have done wrong in his day. Everybody, he observes, does so more or less. He is, as far as that goes, not worse than other people. In other matters he flatters himself that, at least of late years, he is conspicuously better. He has kept out of great sins which the law condemns and punishes. He could never by any possibility have been taken as a member of the criminal classes. He fasts twice a week according to rule: he pays his tithes conscientiously: he is fully in every particular up to the current standard of religious respectability. Surely, he thinks in his secret heart, surely God cannot but feel what he feels himself — that he bears a very high character — that he is entitled to general respect. And the publican has nothing to plead on his own behalf. He may have been a Zaccheus; he may have been a legal robber; but he can think of himself, whatever he was, in one light only — as a sinner standing before one Being only, the holy, the everlasting God. The Pharisee is nothing to him, not because he is indifferent, but because he is mentally absorbed — prostrate before One who has filled his whole mind and heart with a sense of unworthiness. "Out of the deep have I called to Thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Oh, let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? But there is mercy with Thee." That is his cry. That cry is condensed into the blow on the chest — into the "God be merciful to me, a sinner."

(Canon Liddon.)

In the old tombs of our cathedrals — in this cathedral three centuries ago — there were frequently two figures on the monuments, one of the deceased king, or knight, or bishop, resting above in his full robes of state as he wore them abroad in life, and another, beneath, of a thin, emaciated skeleton, which recalled to the eyes of the beholder the realities of the grave below. It is well, Christian brethren, to have in thought this double image of ourselves — what we are before the world, if we like, but, in any case, what we are before our God. It was the Pharisee's misery that he thought only of how he looked to others. It was the publican's blessing that he cared only for what he was before the eyes of God. Let us struggle, let us pray, while yet we may, for a real knowledge of ourselves. Let us endeavour to keep an account of that inward history which belongs to each one of us, and which will be fully unravelled at the Judgment — to which every day that passes adds its something — of which God knows all. To do this may take trouble, but the result is worth a vast deal of trouble. Anything is better, in religious matters, than that which St. Paul calls "beating the air" — an aimless religion which moves perpetually in a vicious circle, because it has no compass — because it has no object. The more we know of God, the more we shall have reason to be dissatisfied with self — the more earnest will be our cry for help and mercy to Jesus Christ, who took our nature upon Him, and who died upon the cross that He might save the lost, that He might save us. There is no real reason for anxiety if we will but come to Him simply with broken hearts. Now, as in the old time, "He filleth the hungry with good things, but the rich He hath sent empty away." The Pharisee and the publican stand before Him in the ranks of His Church from age to age. They are, in fact, eternal types of human character, and to the end of time, the world's judgment between them is falsified, and this man — the publican — goes down to that last home which awaits us all, justified, rather than the other.

(Canon Liddon.)

Suffer me to attempt to disabuse your minds of some of the misconceptions which have grown up around this parable, and which prevent (as it seems to me) the real point of its teaching coming home to our hearts.

1. In the first place, I think that we generally fail to understand the respective positions of the two men in regard of character. There ought, I think, to be no mistake about it that the Pharisee was the better man of the two in every practical sense. Of course it is possible that this Pharisee was a mere hypocrite, like many of his class, and that his account of himself was false; but there is no hint of such a thing, and it would be a perfectly gratuitous supposition. Taking his own account of himself as substantially true, it cannot be denied that he had much cause to give thanks to God for what he was. If he had thanked God with humility that he was not like other men, remembering that his comparative innocence was due to God's grace and to the advantages of his position and training, he would have done well. I do not know how we can thank God too much for keeping us back from evil. But he gave thanks that he was not even as that publican, and this of course goes against him in our estimation, because we know that the publican was nearer to heaven than he was. And yet, if he had humbly thanked God that he had been saved from the bad traditions of the publican's business, and the bad surroundings of the publican's life, we could not have blamed him. There are some occupations, some ways of making a living, so beset with temptations, in which a man is so dependent for success upon his own sharp dealings, in which he is so driven to take advantage of the follies and vices of others, that we may well thank God that we have been delivered from them. It is indeed sad to see Christian people entangled in these perilous and hurtful pursuits, obliged to defend themselves from the accusations of conscience by building up false and unchristian principles of morality.

2. Another misconception there is which I wish to point out to you, and that is the mistaken notion (as it seems to me) that the publican was actually justified by his lowly demeanour and self-condemning words. Our Lord does not say that. He says the publican was justified rather than the other. I imagine that neither was truly justified, but of the two the publican was nearer being justified than the PhariSee. Far as he yet was from the kingdom of heaven, he was not nearly so far as the Pharisee, for he was in the right way. In his humility he stood as it were on the threshold, and there was nothing to hinder his entering in if he was prepared for the necessary sacrifice; whereas the Pharisee had missed the entrance altogether, and was getting further and further from it. But never let us think that our Saviour meant this for an example of sufficient repentance. If the publican went back, as so many do after the same outbreak of self-reproach, to his exactions and extortions, to his tricks of trade, his petty deceits, and his unrighteous gains — if he went home from the temple to cook his accounts with the government, or to sell up some poor wretch who could not meet his demands; do you think that his beating upon his breast and calling himself a miserable sinner would avail him aught? Nay, it would but increase his condemnation, because it would show that his conscience was alive to his sin. What our Lord means to impress upon us in this parable is the fatal danger of spiritual pride, which made the Pharisee, with all his real cause for thanksgiving, to be further off from the kingdom and righteousness of God than the publican whom he despised. The spirit of self-righteousness is such a blinding spirit; it warps and distorts the whole spiritual vision. What should have been a prayer in the mouth of the self-righteous Pharisee was turned into a glorification of himself; and instead of asking God to make him better, he told God how good he was. And this brings me to the third and last misconception of which I shall speak. It is that of imagining that the spirit of self-righteousness must always take the same form which it presents in the parable; that Pharisaism must always be the proud relying upon the outward observances of religion; but, in fact, as a very little observation will show us, it has as many different forms as there are fashions in religion. The modern British Pharisee amongst ourselves, when he gave thanks that he was not like other men, would never think of speaking like the Pharisee in the parable; he would more probably say something of this sort — "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, priest-ridden, idolaters, superstitious, or even as this benighted Ritualist. I never fast, I never think of giving tithes," and so on. The error of the Pharisee was in substance this, that he thanked God that he punctually performed those duties which came quite natural to him, and that he sought to turn God's attention to other people's faults by way of exalting his own merits. Now, this is an error which is constantly reappearing under one guise or other. We are always disposed to thank God that we are not as this Dissenter, or as that Romanist, when all the while they may be living nearer to God than we in honesty of intention and purity of heart. We are always apt to imagine that we can commend our faith by protesting against other people's errors, and our practice by condemning faults to which we are not tempted.

(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

1. A contrast in attitude and manner.

2. A contrast in spirit.

3. A contrast in prayer.

4. A contrast in reception.

(J. R. Thompson, M. A.)

From the introduction it might be inferred that the chief purpose for which the parable was spoken was to rebuke and subdue the spirit of self-righteousness. To do this effectively is not easy, though that is no reason why it should not be attempted. Another service, however, was probably also kept in view by the Speaker, which was much more likely to be accomplished, viz., to revive the spirit of the contrite, and embolden them to hope in God's mercy. This is a service which contrite souls greatly need to have rendered them, for they are slow to believe that they can possibly be the objects of Divine complacency. Such in all probability was the publican's state of mind, not only before but even after he had prayed. He went down to his house justified in God's sight, but not, we think, in his own. He had not "found peace," to use a current phrase. In technical language, we might speak of him as objectively, but not subjectively, justified. In plain English, the fact was so, but he was not aware that the fact was so. In saying this, we do not forget that there is an instinct, call it rather the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, which tells a penitent, "there is hope in God," "there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared"; "wait for God, as they that wait for the dawn." But a man who beats his breast, and dares not look up, and stands afar off in an attitude which seems an apology for existence, has some difficulty in trusting this instinct. To fear and despond suits his mood rather than to hope. There are physical reasons for this, not to speak of spiritual ones. The whole behaviour of the publican speaks to a great religious crisis going on in his soul. For that beating of the breast, and that downcast eye, and that timid posture, are not a theatrical performance got up for the occasion. They bear witness to a painful, possibly a protracted, soul-struggle. But one who passes through such a crisis suffers in body as well as in mind. His nerves are sorely shaken, and in this physical condition he is apt to become a prey to fear and depression. He starts at his own shadow, dreads the postman, trembles when he opens a letter lest it should contain evil tidings, can scarce muster courage to go into a dark room, or to put out the light when he goes to bed. How hard for a man in this state to take cheerful views of his spiritual condition, to rejoice in the sunlight of Divine grace. In the expressive phrase of Bunyan, used with reference to himself when he was in a similar state, such an one is prone rather to "take the shady side of the street." Is it improbable that one object Christ had in view in uttering this parable and the judgment with which it winds up, was to take such contrite and fear-stricken ones by the hand and conduct them over to the sunny side?

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

A friend of mine — a missionary preacher — being once called upon to give spiritual consolation to a sick man on the point of death, asked him what he could do for him. "Pray for me," was the reply. My friend said that he would do so most willingly, but added, "For what shall I ask?" The man answered, "You know best." The preacher told him that this was not so, and that he, himself, could alone know what he wanted. Still the dying man would say nothing but, "You know best. I leave it to you." At length my friend left him, promising to return in a short time, and hoping that then he might be able to say what it was he wanted to pray for. When the preacher returned, the man directly said, "I have been a great sinner; I want forgiveness."

(Bishop Walsham How.)

We do not always know that we are forgiven; we are not told that the publican knew he was pardoned, although I think that as he went down to his house he must have had some sense of the fact that he was accepted of God. But still we do not always know of our forgiveness. I once visited a canal boatman on his death-bed, and I never remember to have seen a man more affected or more repentant of his sins. Yet he could not grasp the fact of his forgiveness. I tried all I could to bring it home to him, but unsuccessfully. Yet in my own mind I have no doubt that he was forgiven. In order to be pardoned I do not think it necessary to have a firm conviction that we are pardoned. In fact, it is logically absurd to think so.

(Bishop Walsham How.)

Sunday School Times.
You can fill an empty jug with clear water from the spring; but it would be foolishness to bring to the spring a jug already full. The Lord has no blessing for the heart that is full of haughtiness; that He reserves for the heart emptied of self. And remember that, after all, it is the worthiest who are the most humble. It is the best filled stalk of corn that bends its head the lowliest.

(Sunday School Times.)

These two men went up to the temple "to pray" — not to meet their friends, nor that they might comply with a respectable custom, nor for the purpose of agreeably passing away an hour in varying the ordinary tedium of every-day engagements. No, but to pray: And surely, this should be our great object when we come up to the temple of God. Many seem to think, that to hear the sermon is the great end they have in view when they enter a church; but God has said, "My house shall be called an house of prayer." If we had a petition to present to an earthly monarch, our great endeavour on entering the presence chamber would be to approach the throne, and make our wants and desires known. We would not think it the most important part of the proceeding to have a little conversation with the servants or attendants that stood around, nor would we feel satisfied by their giving us some information as to the character of the august personage who is indeed present himself, the way in which his favour may be conciliated, or his gifts procured. These things might be very important, but the king, the king is the absorbing idea — the servant is a minor consideration.

(A. Gladwell, B. A.)

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself
There are three cautions which the Pharisee impresses on us; "for these things were written for our learning,... he being dead, yet speaketh." And in the first place, let us beware of pride. This is the great lesson the parable inculcates. Spiritual pride incapacitates a man for receiving the blessings of the gospel; it is the great obstacle which the Spirit of God has to struggle with and overthrow. Secondly, let us beware of formality in religion. We are all born Pharisees — more anxious to appear than to be Christians. To conclude, let us beware of resting in anything short of the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(A. Gladwell, B. A.)

"God, I thank Thee" — such in spirit, and almost in word, was the expression of the great Roman historian, Tacitus — "I thank Thee I am not as the miserable sect called by the infamous name of Christians, odious to all mankind." "God, we thank Thee," said the philosopher of France, "that we are not like those benighted men who converted the barbarous tribes, or erected the Gothic cathedrals." "I thank Thee," said the splendid Pope Leo X., "that I am not as this ignorant monk, Martin Luther." "God, we thank Thee," said the great movers of the political and social revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England, "that we are not as those fanatics," the blind poet of Bunhill Row, and the wandering tinker of Bedford, or the scrupulous bishop who could not accept the Act of Settlement, or the Lincolnshire pastor who spent his long life in itinerant preaching; and yet those early Christian martyrs, those mediaeval missionaries and monk of Wittenberg, were mightier in the long run even than Tacitus, or the encyclopaedists of France, or the philosophers of the Renaissance. And those wayward Christians in England, as they seemed to be, John Milton, the author of "Paradise Lost," John Bunyan, the author of "The Pilgrim's Progress," Bishop Ken, author of the Morning and Evening Hymns, John Wesley, the author of the religious revival in England, went down to their graves as much deserving of the praise of true statesmen and philosophers, even as Clarendon and Bolingbroke, as Walpole and Hume.

(Dean Stanley.)

When Philip, king of Macedonia, laid siege to the fair city of Samos, he told the citizens that he came a-wooing to it; but the orator well replied, that it was not the fashion in their country to come a-wooing with a fife and a drum: so here we may behold this Pharisee in the posture of a beggar or petitioner, "going up to the temple to pray," and yet telling God he standeth in no need of Him; as if, saith , a beggar, that were to crave an alms, should hide his ulcers, and load himself with chains, and rings, and bracelets, and clothe himself in rich and costly apparel; as if a beggar should ask an alms in the robes of a king. His "heart did flatter him in secret, and with his mouth he did kiss his hands," as Job speaketh (Job 31:27). Coming before his Physician, he hideth his sores, and showeth his sound and healthful parts, in a dangerous case; like a man struck in a vein, that voideth his best blood, and retaineth his worst. And this is against the very nature of prayer; which should lay us at the feet of God, as nothing before Him; which should raise itself and take its flight on the wings of humility and obedience; which should contract the mind in itself, and secure it from pride; which should depress the soul in itself, and defend it from vainglory; which should so fill it that there may be no room for hypocrisy. Then our devotion will ascend as incense, "pure and holy" (Exodus 30:35), seasoned with the admiration of God's majesty, and the detestation of ourselves.

(R. Farindon, D. D.)

The mistake of this Pharisee was, that he compared his outward life with the lives of disreputable people, and so took to himself the credit of exalted superiority. He should have looked in the other direction. Ii you would come to a just estimate of your character, look at those better than you, and compare yourself with them; look at those whom God has set for our examples, the prophets, the apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and measure yourself by them; look at the holy ten commandments, and try yourself rigidly by their requirements; and this Pharisaic trust and pride in your own goodness will melt away like frost before the sun.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

With what prominence and frequency he flourishes the big "I!" "I thank thee that I am not as other men." "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." The whole utterance contains thirty.three words, of which one refers to God, five are "I's," and the remaining twenty-seven are either commendations of himself, or allusions to others in unfavourable contrast with his own superiority. Self — self — self — in utmost intensity runs through the whole of it. There is not a trace of genuine devotion in the entire piece. There is a marvellous thrusting forward of ego, to which all the references to God, the temple, and other people, are made subservient.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

The celebrated Professor Francke, who founded the great Orphan Asylum, in Halle, was walking one day in the fields with one of his colleagues. All at once the voice of a person praying drew their attention. They stopped, and on looking observed behind a bush two children on their knees, one of whom was praying fervently to God. The two professors listened, and were edified with the devotion which the young Christians seemed to possess. When the prayer was ended, the children rose. "Well," said the one who led the devotions, with a self-complacent air, "didn't I make a fine prayer?" This last remark caused Francke and his companion a painful surprise. But after a moment's reflection, one of them remarked: "This child has shown openly what often passes in our minds. How often, when God has disposed us to pray with some fervour in presence of our brethren, do we rise from our knees with a secret vanity; and if shame did not restrain us, we should ask with this child, 'have not I made a fine prayer?'"

Lucian, in one of his dialogues, relates the case of two men going into the theatre to play on the harp: one harp was covered with gold and jewels, but its strings broke, and the admiration of the spectators was changed to contempt; the harp of the other man was a very poor and common one, yet it gave out the sweetest sound, and delighted all. The former harp represents the Pharisee, who plays upon his outside worth and fair appearance; the latter harp resembles the poor publican.

(Preacher's Promptuary.)

When Morales, the painter, was invited by Philip the Second to court, he came in such a magnificent costume, that the King, in anger, ordered a sum of money to be paid him, and so dismissed him. The next time they met he appeared in a very different dress, poor, old, and hungry, which so touched the heart of the King, that he immediately provided him with a revenue which kept him in comfort for all the future. So when men come to the throne of grace it is not their magnificence but their very want which touches the heart of God.

(W. Baxendale.)

His prayer is like the pillar of brass which Trajan erected to himself in Rome, and which he covered with the record of his own triumphs. His prayer is a sort of monument over the tomb of his own dead heart, upon which he inscribes his fancied virtues.

(J. Wells.)

God be merciful to me a sinner
I. WHEN DO WE PRAY WITH HUMILITY? Learn this from the publican. It is when we acknowledge the infinite majesty of God and our own misery.


1. God demands that we should pray with humility.

2. Reason itself teaches the same. Who would pay any attention to a proud beggar?

III. WHAT WE ARE TO DO IN ORDER TO LEARN TO PRAY WITH HUMILITY. A humble prayer can only proceed from a humble heart. Therefore endeavour to become humble of heart, by employing the following means:

1. Being convinced that humility is a grace of God, pray to Him that He may give you this beautiful virtue.

2. Call frequently to your mind what you are in real truth.(1) What is your single self in comparison with the more than one thousand millions of men? You seem to disappear in the prodigious multitude.(2) What are you relative to your body? Dust and ashes.(3) What are you relative to your soul? True, your soul is the image and likeness of God; but what have you made of this Divine image by your sins of the past and of the present? And as to the future, when you reflect on your sins, have you not every reason to tremble before the severe judgment of God?

3. When you approach God in prayer, call to mind who God is in all His splendour and majesty, and who you are — a wretched sinner, a beggar sunk into the greatest misery, a culprit sentenced to death. And then, overwhelmed with the burden of your misery, speak from the depth of your heart to Him who alone is able to deliver you. And if you are troubled with distractions during your prayer, humble yourself again before your Lord and Master, and implore Him that He may not suffer you to commit new sins by negligence; but cease not praying in spite of distractions, and your prayer will be acceptable to the Lord.

(J. Schmitt.)

This is the only thought which befits a living man in the presence of his Creator. What other link can come between the God of holiness and love, and the sinner, but mercy! "God be merciful."

I. In these few words of the contrite soul there is AN ARGUMENT WHICH GOD WILL NEVER REJECT. It is the plea God loves. "God be merciful to me because I am a sinner." David knew that blessed argument when he said: "Lord pardon my iniquity, for it is great." God has made a book, and it is for sinners; God has filled it with promises, and they are for sinners. He has given His own Son, and it is only for sinners.

II. THE WAY TO OBTAIN THIS FITTING CONDITION OF MIND. It is to be reached in the same way as the publican attained it. His whole mind appears to have been occupied with God, the rest was only secondary. Most persons when they try to cultivate penitence, look into themselves. It is the study of God, not of ourselves, which makes the penitent mind. Nothing makes sin seem so sinful and so hateful as the contemplation of the love of God.

III. WHOEVER WOULD BE TRULY A PENITENT MUST HAVE RIGHT VIEWS OF MERCY. It is an easy thing to say "God have mercy upon me." Upon the just apprehension of what this mercy is depends the whole power and acceptability of the prayer, If God, simply by an act of sovereignty, forgave a sin and remitted the punishment, it would not be mercy. Before God can show Himself merciful to a sinner He must receive a satisfaction and an equivalent. That satisfaction is Christ.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

1. When I come to analyze this prayer of the publican, I find in it, in the first place, an appreciation of his sinfulness. He proved himself honourable, and there were a great many admirable things about him, and yet he utters this cry of self-abnegation. What was the matter with him? Had he lost his reason? Had some low, contemptible cowardice seized upon him? O, no. For the first time in all his life he saw himself. He saw he was a sinner before God, utterly helpless and undone. At what moment that discovery flashed upon him I know not; but standing there in the court of the temple, surrounded by all the demonstrations of holiness and power, his soul has extorted from it the anguish-bitten cry of my text.

2. I pursue the analysis of my subject still further, and I find in this publican's prayer the fact that he expected nothing except mercy. He might have said: "I am honest in all my dealings. When ten dollars are paid to me for tax, I hand it over to the Government. If you look over all my books you will find them right. My life has been upright and respectable." He made no such plea. He comes and throws himself on God's mercy. Are there any in this house who propose, by making their life right, to commend themselves to God? Do you really think you can break off your bad habits? Where then are we to be saved? Is there no balm for this mortal wound of my soul? Is there no light for this Arctic night? Is there no hope for a lost sinner? Yes; and that is what I came to tell you about. Mercy. Free mercy. Pardoning mercy. Suffering mercy. Infinite mercy. Omnipotent mercy. Everlasting mercy.

3. I push this analysis of my text one step further, and I find that this man saw that mercy would be of no advantage to him unless he pleaded for it. He did not say: "If I am to be saved, I will be saved, and if I am to be lost, I will be lost. There is nothing for me to do." He knew that a thing worth having is worth asking for, and therefore, he makes the agonizing cry of my text. Mark you, it was an earnest prayer, and if you look through this Bible you will see that all the prayers that were answered were earnest prayers. But, mark you this, the publican's prayer was not only earnest, it was humble. The Pharisee looked up; the publican looked down. I remark further, there was a ringing confidence in that prayer. He knew he would get the blessing if he asked for it; and he did get it.

(De W. Talmage, D. D.)

I. THE BLESSING HE ASKS IS MERCY: "God be merciful to me.". Did you ever ask yourselves what mercy is? It means, in common language, pity Shown to me miserable for pity's sake. Strictly speaking, it ceases to be mercy, if the miserable have any claim on us. It takes then the character of justice. And mercy has exactly the same meaning in Holy Scripture. It signifies God's kindness extended to miserable man of God's own pure goodness.

II. We may turn now to THE CHARACTER IN WHICH THIS MAN PRAYS. He says, "God be merciful to me a sinner." He prays in a character that corresponds exactly with the temple. services, and also with the blessing he supplicates. There at the altar falls the sacrifice, and who needs a sacrifice but the sinful? He pleads for mercy, and who needs mercy but the guilty? And it a blessed thing for a sinful man to be thus willing to take his own proper ground when he prays. He must take it, if he means to obtain God's mercy. All the mercy that exists in God, bound. less as it is, is mercy for sinners.

III. Observe now THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS WORSHIPPER PRAYS. And here again all is in harmony. His manner accords well with his character and his petition.

1. He is a sinner, and consequently he prays most humbly.

2. This publican prayed also very earnestly. He "smote upon his breast." No matter what led him to do so. It was doubtless a mixture of feelings. Indignation against himself, a sense of his own pollution and misery, a thrilling apprehension of coming wrath — these things took possession of his mind; they agitated him; and like a man driven to extremities he could not restrain his agitation, he smote himself as he cried for mercy. He became exceedingly earnest in his prayer for it. He prayed for nothing else; he thought of nothing else. Mercy is everything with him.

IV. There is yet another circumstance in the parable to be noticed — THE SUCCESS OF THIS MAN'S PRAYER.

1. It was, first, abundant success, success beyond his petition.

2. His success was also immediate.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)


1. The light of nature teaches man there is a God, a supreme Being, and Governor of the world. There is not a rational creature to be found upon the earth but admits this truth. And, hence, all attend to same kind of worship.

2. Revelation makes known to man the true God in His nature and attributes, and exhibits His conduct towards the children of men.

3. But we must remember that God is never savingly known, even by those who have the Volume of Divine revelation, by the unassisted powers of nature. Hence, in addition to Revelation, it is necessary that the mind be enlightened, in order to its perception of Divine truth. And to do this is the exclusive prerogative of the Holy Spirit.

II. THE SUBJECT OF HIS PETITION — "mercy"; and the description he gives of himself — "a sinner." "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

1. On the part of man, here are two things implied:(1) Misery. A sense of deep wretchedness, as being sunk in iniquity — totally depraved, and in every part polluted. The truly awakened sinner feels that he is spiritually diseased; and that, "from the crown of his head to the soul of his foot, he is wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores."(2) A deep sense of unworthiness. The truly contrite soul brings no qualifications; no merit, no sacrifice of his own; but comes as a sinner, and having for his only plea, the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

2. There are also two things, in the exercise of mercy, on the part of God, which the spiritually enlightened sinner especially regards.(1) Pity, or compassion. When the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to a saving knowledge of God, He enables him to look up to his heavenly Father, as the God of compassion.(2) Pardon, or forgiveness. "I, even I," says God, "am He that pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin." The Holy Spirit teaches all true believers that the justice of God is for them, and on their side, as well as His mercy.


1. True humiliation for sin. Even after the manifestation of forgiving love, the man who enjoys it feels deeply humbled before God.

2. This prayer, when offered in a proper spirit, implies evangelical repentance. God says (Ezekiel 36:31).

3. This prayer implies submission to the righteous judgment of God.In conclusion, we learn from this subject —

1. That the ground (or cause) of a sinner's justification is out of himself.

2. Learn that no outward reformation, even though accompanied by the strictest attention to religious duties, can save the soul.

3. Learn that no sensible sinner, no humble penitent, need feel discouraged in approaching the God of mercy for pardon.

4. Learn, finally, to beware lest you make the mercy of God an excuse for your continuance in sin.

(T. Gibson, M. A.)


1. This man who was a sinner yet dared to approach the Lord. Emphatically he applies to himself the guilty name. He takes the chief place in condemnation, and yet he cries, "God be merciful to me the sinner." If this man who was the sinner found forgiveness, so also shall you if you seek it in the same way.

2. Next, remember that you may not only find encouragement in looking at the sinner who sought his God, but in the God whom he sought. Sinner, there is great mercy in the heart of God.

3. Moreover, the conception of salvation implies hope for sinners. That salvation which we preach to you every day is glad tidings for the guilty. Salvation by grace implies that men are guilty. The very name of Jesus tells us that He shall save His people from their sins.

4. Let me further say that, inasmuch as that salvation of God is a great one, it must have been intended to meet great sins. Think you God would have given His dear Son to die as a mere superfluity?

5. If you will think of it again, there must be hope for sinners, for the great commands of the gospel are most suitable to sinners.

6. If you want any other argument — and I hope you do not — I would put it thus: great sinners have been saved. All sorts of sinners are being saved to-day.

II. A SENSE OF SINNERSHIP CONFERS NO RIGHT TO MERCY. You will wonder why I mention this self-evident truth; but I must mention it because of a common error which does great mischief. This man was very sensible of his sin insomuch that he called himself THE SINNER; but he did not urge his sense of sin as any.reason why he should find mercy. I want you, therefore, to learn that a sense of sin gives no man a right to grace.

III. My third observation is this: THE KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR SINNERSHIP GUIDES MEN TO RIGHT ACTING. When a man has learned of the Holy Spirit that he is a sinner, then by a kind of instinct of the new life, he does the right thing in the right way.

1. This man went straight to God.

2. He went with a full confession of sin.

3. He appealed to mercy only.

IV. THE BELIEVING CONFESSION OF SINNERSHIP IS THE WAY OF PEACE. "God be merciful to me a sinner," was the prayer, but what was the answer? Listen to this: "This man went down," etc.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The arrangement of these words is perfect. On one side is Deity — alone — without an attribute, far grander in that solitude than if ten thousand titles had been added to His name — "God." On the other — thrown into the greatest possible distance — is man; and he, too, is alone; and his whole being is put into one single expression — it is not a description, it is a synonymy — "me, a sinner." And between these two extremes — spanning the distance, and uniting the ends — is one link — simple — grand — sufficient — "mercy," nothing but "mercy" Ñ "God be merciful to me a sinner." I may mention, for the sake of those who do not happen to know it, that there are three points in the original, which could not well be rendered in our version; but which make this strong language stronger still. There it is, "the God," and "the sinner"; as if the publican wished to give the greatest possible definiteness to all his expressions; — "the God" — the good God — "be merciful to me"; as though he were the only man on the face of the earth who needed the forgiveness — no comparisons, no distractions, no deductions; the mind concentrated, the mind absorbed, upon the one guilty self, "The God be merciful to me the sinner." And in the very phrase which he selects — "be merciful," — there is rolled up atonement; it is, "be propitiate." Doubtless that man had been taught to see mercy all in sacrifice; to recognize no pardon out of covenant, and no covenant out of blood. "The God be propitiate to me the sinner." I think you will see, brethren, that there is great force in that distinction of language. Weakness always deals in generalities. A man is general in his thoughts and his expressions till he begins to be in earnest; and the very moment he begins to be in earnest, he is individual. Hear men, as men generally speak about God. They say, "the Almighty"; and they say, "the Almighty is very good," and, "we are all of us bad," and, "none of us are as good as we ought to be"; that is the language of natural religion, if, indeed, it be religion at all. It is loose, because it cannot afford to be accurate; it shuns just what a spiritual man loves-personality. How different is the teaching of the Holy Ghost! The soul cannot be particular enough; it lives in exactnesses; it individualizes everything. "The God be propitiate to me the sinner." To make true prayer — or, which is the same thing — to make true peace, two things are wanted. Some persons, to a certain extent, attain the one, and some the other; while, because they do not, at the same moment, attain both, the end is frustrated. The truth lies in unity. The one thing is to exalt God very high; and the other, to demean self very low. If you lift up the attributes of God, and do not proportionably debase yourself, you are in danger of running into presumption. If you take deep views of your sinfulness, and do not, at the same time, magnify the grace of God, you will run into despair. A God high in His glory, and self down in the dust, that is best; and let me advise you to look well to it whether you are doing these two things with parallel steps.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

To make forgiveness — to make real "mercy" — four things are required. God must be Himself just in doing it. The forgiven man must be perfectly sure that he is forgiven. The forgiveness must not incline the forgiven man to go and sin again, but it must stop him. And the rest of mankind must see no encouragement in that man's pardon to go and do like him, but rather see the strongest argument not to do it. Now, in God's way of "mercy" these four things meet. First, God is lust, because He never remits a penalty till He has received an equivalent; the sinning soul has died in its covenant Head, and God keeps His word; and the very same attribute which compels God to punish man out of Christ, in Christ obliges God to pardon Him. Secondly, that forgiven man can never doubt his acceptance, because he knows that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ outweighs the universe. The infinity of Christ is in the ransom. Either he is perfectly pardoned, or the Son of God has died in vain. Thirdly, that pardoned man cannot go and sin again, because, unless he loves Christ, he is not forgiven; and if he does love Christ, he cannot love the sin which crucified Him; he cannot go and do lightly again that which grieves and wounds Him whom now his soul holds more precious than all the world. And, fourthly, the whole world in that man has seen sin in its greatest possible magnitude, because it has seen sin drag down to this earth and crucify the Lord of life and glory; the law is more honourable than if the whole world had perished; since, sooner than one iota of that law should be set aside, the Son of God has kept that law by His life, and satisfied it by His death; so sin is made viler by the very act which cancels it; and pardon is no more the parent of peace, than peace is the mother of holiness. That is mercy.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. The substance of this prayer evinces deep CONVICTION OF SIN.

II. HELPLESSNESS. He admits the righteousness of his condemnation, and sues for mercy.

III. FAITH. He took hold of God's promises, and made his appeal.

(W.M. Taylor, D. D.)

Earnestness does not express itself in long, inflated, pompous sentences. It is brief; it is simple. The moment has arrived when victory, long doubtful as the tide of success ebbed and flowed, may be won by one splendid, dashing, daring attack — the order is given in one brief word, Charge! On the distant waves a flag is seen, now sinking in the trough and again rising on the crest of the foaming billows; and beneath that signal, clinging to the fragment of a vessel that lies many fathoms down in the depths of ocean, are two human forms — and all the cry that sounds from stem to stern is, "A wreck, a wreck!" and all the order, "Lower the boat!" words hardly uttered when she drops on the water, and, pulled by stout rowers, is leaping over the waves to the rescue. One late in the deserted streets sees the smoke creep, and the flames begin to flash and flicker from a house whoso tenants are buried in sleep; he bounds to the door and thunders on it — all his cry, "Fire, fire!" Peter sinks amid the boisterous waves of Galilee and all the prayer of lips the cold water kisses is, as he stretches out his hand to Jesus, "Save me, I perish!" And with the brief, urgent earnestness of one who seeing his danger, knows that there is no time, and believing in God's great mercy, feels that there is no need for long prayers, the publican, like a man who in falling over a crag catches the arm of a friendly tree, throws his whole soul into this cry, these few, blessed, accepted words, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Brethren, we have here a pregnant word as to the possibilities and capabilities of worship. Two men went up into the temple to pray, and one of the two returned to his house justified. What is it to be justified? All true doctrine teaches us a great difference between being justified and being sanctified. Justification is an act, sanctification is a process. Both are of God. But whereas the one may be the act of a moment, restoring the sinner to the Divine acceptance by a simple forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, the other in most cases is the work of a lifetime, consisting in the gradual formation of a new character by the daily influence of the Spirit of Grace. There are other uses of the word, but this is its meaning when it is applied accurately. Now, of course, there is a sense in which justification stands at the beginning of the Christian course, and needs not, and indeed suffers not to be repeated. When a man comes to himself in the far country, and says, "I will arise and go to my Father," and when he not only says but does, and not only starts for, but arrives at, the home where the Father dwells, and receives from Him the kiss of peace, and the ring of the everlasting covenant then and there, that is his justification. God for Christ's sake freely forgives, bestows upon him the Holy Spirit, and, unless some terrible thing should happen afterwards, sets him in the sure way, of which the end is heaven. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." But our Lord Himself here speaks of a man going down to his house from a particular act of worship either justified or not justitied. And this seems to give an importance, quite beyond our common estimate, to such a service as this in which we are now engaged. You may say, indeed, that this particular occasion was the justification, in the first and fullest sense, of this publican. Now first, you may say, he felt himself a sinner, now first he sought mercy, and when he went back to his house he went back for the first time, and for all time a pardoned and accepted man. But this idea of restriction seems to have been imported into the parable. Is there anything in our Lord's words to imply that either the prayer of the Pharisee or the prayer of the publican was a single and isolated one, never offered before, suggested by some crisis of the life, sudden and not to be repeated? Was it not rather the habit of the two minds thus to express themselves? Would the Pharisee be a different man to-morrow, not the exception, and not the perfection that he now thinks himself? And would the publican when he came again to the temple be no longer the sinner of sinners, but an improved, and altered, and sanctified man? Where is all this in the parable! If not, then the justification spoken of may be repeated to-morrow, and we have before us the thought of the issues of worship rather than the thought of the issues of a fundamental spiritual change. This man went down to his house justified, on this particular occasion, rather than the other. The justification spoken of is forgiveness, or absolution. Brethren, the justified man wants forgiveness; the man who has bathed the whole body needs afterwards to wash the feet. This man has brought his load of sin with him to the temple; he has come guilty and burdened, conscience accusing, and convicted. He has left undone that which he ought to hare done since he last worshipped, he has done that which he ought not to have done since he last worshipped, there is no health in him; this morning he has come, just as he is, to the God of his life; he has sought no intervention, and no intermediation of priest, or of sacrifice; he has come straight to God. He has taken for granted God's knowledge of each of his transgressions, as well as of that root and spring of evil, which is the fallen and sinful self; and now, pre-supposing all this, he has simply to ask for mercy, which is, being interpreted, kindness to the undeserving, and he has received the answer of peace, and so now he goes back to his house justified. What of the other? His return is not described; it is left under the veil of a parable. The publican is justified beyond, or in comparison with, or rather than, the Pharisee — such is the Greek. Dare we suggest on the strength of this reticence two kinds or two degrees of justification, one the higher and more complete, but the other, though lower, perhaps sufficient? Let us look at the prayer, and judge by it of the answer, "God, I thank thee for my satisfactory condition, for my exemplary conduct, for my exceptional, my unique freedom from the otherwise universal wickedness of mankind." What is there here to suggest the thought of a justification, of which the other name is absolution, or forgiveness? What is there here to be forgiven? Not having asked, he surely has not received, a boon which is only acceptable, and only appropriate to the sinner.

(Dean Vaughan.)

"The best of God's people have abhorred themselves. Like the spire of a steeple, minimus in summo, we are least at the highest. David, a king, was yet like a weaned child." Manton is not very clear about the steeple, but he means that the higher a spire rises towards heaven the smaller it becomes, and thus the more elevated are our spirits the less shall we be in our own esteem. Great thoughts of self and great grace never go together. Self-consciousness is a sure sign that there is not much depth of grace. He who over-values himself under-values his Saviour. He who abounds in piety is sure to be filled with humility. Light things, such as straws and feathers, are borne aloft; valuable goods keep their places, and remain below, not because they are chained or riveted there, but by virtue of their own weight. When we begin to talk of our perfection, our imperfection is getting the upper hand. The more full we become of the presence of the Lord the more shall we sink in our own esteem, even as laden vessels sink down to their water-mark, while empty ships float aloft. Lord, make and keep me humble. Lift me nearer and nearer to heaven, and then I shall grow less and less in my own esteem.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sin is a personal affront, whose bitter consequences only the forgiveness of God Himself can remove, and toward which, with the publican, we must implore Him to be merciful. It does not read, "Nature be merciful," nor "Laws of my constitution be merciful," nor "Society be merciful," nor, "I will be merciful to myself," but, "God be merciful;" — nor yet, "God be merciful to sin in general," but "to me a sinner."

(Bishop Huntington.)

When the late Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, was expressing, in the prospect of death, some concern about the state of his soul, his physician endeavoured to soothe his mind by referring to his high respectability, and his honourable conduct in the distinguished situation in which Providence had placed him, when he stopped him short, saying, "No; remember, if I am to be saved, it is not as a prince, but as a sinner."

Many well-known Christians have died with the publican's prayer on their lips. Archbishop Usher did so. William Wilberforce, the liberator of the slaves, said when dying, "With regard to myself, I have nothing to urge but the poor publican's plea, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'" When the famous Grotius was a-dying at Rostock, the minister reminded him of the publican's prayer, "That publican, Lord, am I," said Grotius, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and then he died.

(J. Wells.)

I. We are to consider THE NATURE OF HUMILITY. There is the more occasion for describing this gracious exercise of heart with peculiar accuracy and precision, because mankind are naturally disposed to misunderstand and misrepresent it. Mr. Hume scrupled not to say, that "humility ought to be struck off from the catalogue of virtues, and placed on the catalogue of vices." This must have been owing to his gross ignorance, or extreme malignity. The most charitable supposition is, that he really mistook a mere selfish and painful sense of natural inferiority for true humility. This leads me to observe that a man's humbling himself is something very different from his having a mistaken and reluctant sense of his own inferiority in relation to his fellow mortals. Humility is likewise different from submission, which seems to resemble it. Submission is the respect which an inferior justly owes to a superior. Furthermore, humility is something different from condescension, which is the part of a superior, and consists in stooping to an inferior. Thus the Creator may condescend to a creature, the prince to a subject, the rich to the poor, and the aged to the young. But though condescension stoops, yet it is by no means degrading. Real condescension always displays a noble and amiable spirit. I may now safely say that humility essentially consists in selfabasement, which is self-degradation, or a voluntary sinking, not only below others, but below ourselves. It is, therefore, wholly founded in guilt. None but guilty creatures have any cause or reason for abasing themselves. But every guilty creature ought to abase himself, whether he is willing or unwilling to perform the mortifying duty.


1. God cannot consistently receive them into His favour, before they voluntarily humble themselves for their transgressions in His sight.

2. It is.impossible for sinners to receive Divine mercy before they take their proper places, and are willing to sink as low as Divine justice can sink them.Improvement:

1. If humility essentially consist in self-abasement for sin, then we may safely suppose that neither God the Father, nor the Lord Jesus Christ, ever exercised any affection which may be strictly called humility.

2. If humility consists in self-abasement, we may clearly see how low sinners must lie before God, in order to obtain His pardoning mercy.

3. If humility consists in a free and voluntary self-abasement for sin, then it is the most amiable and shining exercise of a holy heart.

4. Finally, it appears from this whole discourse that nothing short of real, cordial self-abasement, can qualify any of our sinful race to obtain and enjoy the happiness of heaven.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

An old writer of the Church says of humility that "it is the great ornament and jewel of the Christian religion. All the world, all that we are, and all that we have, our bodies and our souls, our actions and our sufferings, our conditions at home, our accidents abroad, our many sins and our seldom virtues, are as so many arguments to make our souls dwell low in the deep valley of humility." A moment's thought will convince you of the truth of this. Of what are you proud, of your holiness Think of the many shortcomings, the endless sins, great and small, the numberless yieldings to temptation, the constant infirmities of temper which have marked the course of your lives during the last year, and then set these off against the good deeds on which you congratulate yourselves, have you much to be proud of? Are you proud of your bodily strength, your health, your beauty? Remember that a sudden cold or the prick of a lancet will banish life from your bodies, that a week's sickness will mar your beauty for ever. The flowers which bloom and fade are more beautiful than the loveliest of living beings, hundreds of animals are stronger and more long-lived than man; have we then much to be proud of here? Are you proud of your intellect, of your superiority over your neighbours in know. ledge and education? Brethren, the most deeply learned knows that he is as a child amid the mysteries of nature; half his knowledge is but a groping after more light, which is long in coming, and feeble when it is gained. "Our learning is best when it teaches most humility, but to be proud of learning is the greatest ignorance in the world."

(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Justified rather than the other

1. Not by works in themselves, but by the disposition of the mind.

2. Not only by a moral disposition, but by a pious disposition.

3. Not only by a pious disposition in general, but by a believing disposition in the merits of Christ. Justification is God's gift, apart from any desert on our part.


1. Forgiveness of sin.

2. An incentive and power to a new life in repentance and satisfaction.

3. Always free access now to God, and new assurances of favour and a sure hope of eternal life.


I recently met with an account of a prince, the son of a king, who went to a house of correction to see the captives. Meeting there so many people, toiling at their tasks, and hobbling in their chains, his heart was moved with pity, and he resolved to give some of them their liberty. But he must first find out which of them deserved release. To satisfy himself on this point, he went from one to the other, asking each why he was there. According to the answers he got, all were brave, proper, and honourable men; one had simply been unfortunate; another had done no wrong; a third was slandered; a fourth was forced against his will; each pleading innocence, and entreating, on these grounds, to be released. At last he came to a young man, asking, "And what have you done, that has brought you here?" "Gracious sir," answered the man, "I am here because I deserve it. I ran away from my parents; I led an idle and dissolute life; I committed theft and forgery; and it would take an hour to tell all the bad things I have done. And this is what I justly deserve for my evil deeds." The prince facetiously remarked: "Indeed! and how does it happen that so bad a man ever found his way in among all these virtuous and honourable people? Take off his chains, open the gates, and let him out, lest he corrupt and spoil these good innocent men, who have all been put here without a cause." He meant to say, that this was the only honest-hearted one among them; that the rest had only lied and dissembled; and that people who have no sins to confess, are not fit to have their punishments remitted. "This young man," said he, "confesses his misdeeds; he has humbled himself before God and me; and him alone I deem worthy of his freedom. Therefore set him at liberty."

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

David, Jesus, Peter
Jericho, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Road to Jerusalem
Addressed, Contempt, Convinced, Despised, Despising, Everybody, Low, Nothing, Nought, Opinion, Parable, Relied, Rest, Righteous, Righteousness, Simile, Spake, Spoke, Story, Themselves, Trusted, Trusting, Viewed
1. Of the importunate widow.
9. Of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
15. Of Children brought to Jesus.
18. A ruler would follow Jesus, but is hindered by his riches.
28. The reward of those who leave all for his sake.
31. He foretells his death;
35. and restores a blind man to sight.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Luke 18:9

     5793   arrogance
     5914   optimism
     5942   security
     8032   trust, lack of
     8157   righteousness, as faith
     8804   pride, examples

Luke 18:1-17

     2360   Christ, prayers of

Luke 18:7-14

     2357   Christ, parables

Luke 18:9-12

     5956   strength, human
     7551   Pharisees, beliefs

Luke 18:9-14

     1620   beatitudes, the
     5381   law, letter and spirit
     5438   parables
     5813   conceit
     5849   exaltation
     5943   self-deception
     5961   superiority
     6040   sinners
     6121   boasting
     6126   condemnation, human
     6669   grace, and salvation
     6677   justification, necessity
     7552   Pharisees, attitudes to Christ
     8107   assurance, and life of faith
     8488   tithing
     8608   prayer, and worship
     8617   prayer, effective
     8620   prayer, practicalities
     8803   pride, evil of
     8820   self-confidence
     8822   self-justification
     8824   self-righteousness, nature of

Luke 18:9-17

     2036   Christ, humility

June 7 Morning
Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.--LUKE 18:1. Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

January 3 Evening
What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee . . . Lord, that I may receive my sight.--LUKE 18:41. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.--The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, . . . shall teach you all things.--Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

April 2 Evening
When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?--LUKE 18:8. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.--The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall from the faith. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

July 14. "Men Ought Always to Pray" (Luke xviii. 1).
"Men ought always to pray" (Luke xviii. 1). Let this be a day of prayer. Let us see that our highest ministry and power is to deal with God for men. Let us be obedient to all the Holy Spirit's voices of prayer in us. Let us count every pressure a call to prayer. Let us cherish the spirit of unceasing prayer and abiding communion. Let us learn the meaning of the ministry of prayer. Let us reach persons this day we cannot reach in person; let us expect results that we have never dared to claim before;
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

Three Kinds Op Praying
'And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2. Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5. Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6. And the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions Of Holy Scripture

Entering the Kingdom
'And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. 18. And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19. And Jesus said unto
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions Of Holy Scripture

The Man that Stopped Jesus
'And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, 41. Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?'--LUKE xviii. 40-41. This story of the man that stopped Christ is told by the three 'Synoptic' Evangelists, and it derives a special value from having occurred within a week of the Crucifixion. You remember how graphically Mark tells how the blind man hears who is passing and immediately begins to cry with a loud voice to Christ to have mercy upon
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions Of Holy Scripture

September the Fourteenth the Sense of Want
"This man went down to his house justified rather than the other." --LUKE xviii. 9-14. The Master sets the Pharisee and publican in contrast, and His judgment goes against the man who has made some progress in moral attainments, and favours the man who has no victories to show, but only a hunger for victory. The dissatisfied sinner is preferred to the self-satisfied saint. The Pharisee had gained an inch, but had lost his sense of the continent. The publican had not pegged out an inch of moral
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

On the Words of the Gospel, Luke xviii. 1,"They Ought Always to Pray, and not to Faint," Etc. And on the Two who Went up Into
1. The lesson of the Holy Gospel builds us up unto the duty of praying and believing, and of not putting our trust in ourselves, but in the Lord. What greater encouragement to prayer than the parable which is proposed to us of the unjust judge? For an unjust judge, who feared not God, nor regarded man, yet gave ear to a widow who besought him, overcome by her importunity, not inclined thereto by kindness. [3531] If he then heard her prayer, who hated to be asked, how must He hear who exhorts us to
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

Confession and Absolution
I. Brethren, let us imitate the publican, first of all in his CONFESSION. There has been a great deal of public excitement during the last few weeks and months about the confessional. As for that matter, it is perhaps a mercy that the outward and visible sign of Popery in the Church of England has discovered to its sincere friends the inward and spiritual evil which had long been lurking there. We need not imagine that the confessional, or priestcraft, of which it is merely an offshoot, in the Church
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858

The Worthy Communicant
LUKE xviii. 14. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. Which of these two men was the more fit to come to the Communion? Most of you will answer, The publican: for he was more justified, our Lord himself says, than the Pharisee. True: but would you have said so of your own accord, if the Lord had not said so? Which of the two men do you really think was the better man, the Pharisee or the publican? Which of the two do you think had his soul in the safer
Charles Kingsley—The Good News of God

The Charity of God
(Quinquagesima Sunday.) LUKE xviii. 31, 32, 33. All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. This is a solemn text, a solemn Gospel; but it is not its solemnity which I wish to speak of this morning, but this--What has it to do with the Epistle, and with
Charles Kingsley—The Good News of God

Tit. 2:06 Thoughts for Young Men
WHEN St. Paul wrote his Epistle to Titus about his duty as a minister, he mentioned young men as a class requiring peculiar attention. After speaking of aged men and aged women, and young women, he adds this pithy advice, "Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded" (Tit. 2:6). I am going to follow the Apostle's advice. I propose to offer a few words of friendly exhortation to young men. I am growing old myself, but there are few things I remember so well as the days of my youth. I have a most
John Charles Ryle—The Upper Room: Being a Few Truths for the Times

11th Sunday after Trinity. S. Luke xviii., 13. "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." INTRODUCTION.--I have spoken to you on former occasions pretty strongly upon the evil of backbiting, slandering, and casting of blame without sufficient cause. I am not going to address this day those who speak evil, but those of whom evil is spoken. The Publican in the Parable stood far from the
S. Baring-Gould—The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent

Man's Difficulty Concerning Prayer.
--and not to faint.'--ST. LUKE xviii. 1. 'How should any design of the All-wise be altered in response to prayer of ours!' How are we to believe such a thing? By reflecting that he is the All-wise, who sees before him, and will not block his path. Such objection springs from poorest idea of God in relation to us. It supposes him to have cares and plans and intentions concerning our part of creation, irrespective of us. What is the whole system of things for, but our education? Does God care for
George MacDonald—Unspoken Sermons

The Word of Jesus on Prayer.
They ought always to pray.'--ST. LUKE xviii. I. The impossibility of doing what we would as we would, drives us to look for help. And this brings us to a new point of departure. Everything difficult indicates something more than our theory of life yet embraces, checks some tendency to abandon the strait path, leaving open only the way ahead. But there is a reality of being in which all things are easy and plain--oneness, that is, with the Lord of Life; to pray for this is the first thing; and
George MacDonald—Unspoken Sermons

Impossible with Man, Possible with God
"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27). Christ had said to the rich young ruler, "Sell all that thou hast . . . and come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then turned to the disciples, and said: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, we read, were greatly astonished, and answered: "If it is so difficult to enter the kingdom, who, then, can be saved?" And Christ gave this blessed
Andrew Murray—Absolute Surrender

"Because of his Importunity. "
"Nov. 19 [1846].--I am now led more and more to importune the Lord to send me the means, which are requisite in order that I may be able to commence the building. Because (1) it has been for some time past publicly stated in print, that I allow it is not without ground that some of the inhabitants of Wilson Street consider themselves inconvenienced by the Orphan-Houses being in that street, and I long therefore to be able to remove the Orphans from thence as soon as possible. (2) I become more and
George Müller—Answers to Prayer

That all Things are to be Referred to God, as the Final End
"My Son, I must be thy Supreme and final end, if thou desirest to be truly happy. Out of such purpose thy affection shall be purified, which too often is sinfully bent upon itself and upon created things. For if thou seekest thyself in any matter, straightway thou wilt fail within thyself and grow barren. Therefore refer everything to Me first of all, for it is I who gave thee all. So look upon each blessing as flowing from the Supreme Good, and thus all things are to be attributed to Me as their
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ

Protesting Our Innocence?
We have all become so used to condemning the proud self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican,[footnote1:Luke 18:9-14] that we can hardly believe that the picture of him there is meant to apply to us--which only shows how much like him we really are. The Sunday School teacher was never so much a Pharisee, as when she finished her lesson on this parable with the words, "And now, children, we can thank God that we are not as this Pharisee!" In particular
Roy Hession and Revel Hession—The Calvary Road

Prayer and Humility
"If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth's grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God's will, and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham's bosom, or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home."--John
Edward M. Bounds—The Essentials of Prayer

Parable of the Importunate Widow.
^C Luke XVIII. 1-8. ^c 1 And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man [an utterly abandoned character]: 3 and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of [rather, Do justice to me as to] mine adversary. [In Scripture language widowhood is symbolic of defenselessness (Ex. xxii. 22-24; Deut. x. 18; xxvii. 19; Mal. iii. 5; Mark xii. 40),
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Parable of the Pharisee and Publican.
^C Luke XVIII. 9-14. ^c 9 And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought [It is commonly said that this parable teaches humility in prayer, but the preface and conclusion (see verse 14) show that it is indeed to set forth generally the difference between self-righteousness and humility, and that an occasion of prayer is chosen because it best illustrates the point which the Lord desired to teach. The parable shows that
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Three Last Parables of the Peræan Series: the Unrighteous Judge - the Self-Righteous Pharisee and the Publican - the Unmerciful Servant
If we were to seek confirmation of the suggestion, that these last and the two preceding Parables are grouped together under a common viewpoint, such as that of Righteousness, the character and position of the Parables now to be examined would supply it. For, while the Parable of the Unjust Judge evidently bears close affinity to those that had preceded - especially to that of him who persisted in his request for bread [4644] - it evidently refers not, as the other, to man's present need, but to
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

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