Eleventh Sunday after Trinity.
"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness." Proverbs 30:12.
There are also those as Solomon says, there are those hypocrites and mouth Christians, who think that they are cleansed but are nevertheless not washed of their filthiness. But who recognizes them? The pagans think that Christianity is hypocrisy; the pharisee thinks that the publican is a hypocrite; everyone who lives thus so boldly in the world thinks that these awakened are hypocrites, and that they make themselves godly. We concede that all devils are not hypocrites, as some devils are proudly truthful and cannot stand to see hypocrisy, for example the devil of hatred, he cannot be a hypocrite, and his brother, the devil of pride cannot be a hypocrite. And when both live together in a sorrowless person's heart, they want to openly show to the world that they are truthful and noble, for they go to hell boldly, and behold others to be hypocrites who cannot travel so boldly on the wide road to destruction as they. Such people do not even say that they are Christians, nor do they practice any behavior of godliness, they do not go into the temple to pray as the pharisee, nor does he come there to sigh like the publican, and such people who live so boldly in sin do not care much to go to confession, they feel no doubt, that it does not pay for them to go there when they so boldly mock God; they imagine that the responsibility would be lighter in eternity when they overlook the mediums of grace. But all devils are not so serious as the devil of hatred and the devil of pride, all are not so bold to go along the broad way of destruction as these two, namely the devil of hatred and the devil of pride. Some enemies are so meek and so godly that no one can be as godly as they, and they think they are pure although they have not been washed of their filthiness. One of these is a meek devil who has not done wrong to anyone, nevertheless he does not remember that he would have done wrong not to God nor also to people. This meek devil is one pharisee, who thanks his God for that, that he is not so evil as other people. And although in the pharisee's ears it sounds as if his prayer is more beautiful than the publican's, especially since the pharisee thanks his God for that, that God has protected him from sin, nevertheless this prayer of the pharisee is an abomination before God, for the honor of the world and self righteousness, of which the meek devil is constructed, has protected the pharisee from those coarser sins, as robbery and adultery. Perhaps now the slaves of the world and the pharisee's brothers in faith do not believe that the devil protects a person from some sins, nevertheless it is one immovable truth, that that meek devil had protected the pharisee from those coarser and vulgar sins, that same meek devil also now protects some people from the coarser sins, as stealing, drinking, cursing, fighting, and other coarse sins, and such people should thank the devil and say, "I thank you dear devil of meekness, that you have protected me from adultery, stealing, and fighting. But the natural intellect here is very much opposed that it becomes terrified and says, "Does the devil protect from sin? does he not encourage to commit sin?" But the devil of meekness is not such, that he encourages one to sin, but rather he protects from those sins, which affect their honor. But the devil of meekness also protects his slaves from penitence; the pharisee cannot come to true penitence, for he does not have enough sin to repent of. What now pertains to the pharisee's good works, that same devil of meekness which protects him from the coarser sins puts him also to do good works, which he also enumerates, for they are his basis of salvation. Moreover, the pharisee has sharp eyes to see the faults of the Christians, when, namely, the pharisee does not see iniquity in himself, so he must watch in others' faults. — The other portion of those who think themselves pure are called thieves of grace, who cannot fit with the publican, for they have a false confidence of the grace of God, for surely all sorrowless are thieves of grace, for that reason that they own for themselves much from God's grace, when they have such a faith that God protects them not only naturally, but also from spiritual misfortune, and if they through their own foolishness, and after the encouraging of the devil, do some foolish deed from which some harm comes, then he puts all on God and says, "God made me poor, God put this cross on me, God took away my health." In that way they own for themselves God's blessing in an entirely wrong way, when they can put upon God all that the devil has done. If the wine merchant gets rich, God has done that, He has given the wine merchant goods and belongings If the drunkard, whore, or thief become poor, God has also done that. Such a faith cannot possibly fit in the skull of a sorrowless person, that the devil has such great power, that he can make some poor and some rich. But the true grace thieves are such who think themselves pure but nevertheless are not washed of their filthiness. With some, namely, the conscience has moved a little, but not to that extent, that the devil of honor would have received a death wound; such grace thieves cannot stand Judgement, they do not want to cry out their sins to the world, they do not want to reconcile their evil deeds, they stand behind the brush fence and there they own for themselves the gracious promises of God although the heart has never become broken. Some of these grace thieves have reached the first signs of grace and upon them they have gone to sleep. Such grace thieves do not want to know anything of God's severe righteousness, and they think they are pure although they nevertheless are not washed of their filthiness, for some old sins are fastened to them, and it especially can be recognized how they have gone beyond bounds in that, that they fear and avoid the Christians, they do not want to be with the other Christians in the meetings, they have a secret hatred toward the Christians. If they had love for the Christians they would keep fellowship with the Christians and would willingly hear the other Christians' thoughts of that only necessary thing. But just that matter, that they separate from God's congregation, shows clearly that they do not have love, that the fault is in the heart, and how could such ones fit anymore through the strait gate when the Old Adam has grown so big that he no longer fits into the Christians' heart, nor in the Christians' meetings.
In today's Gospel the Saviour sets before our eyes two men who had come into the temple to pray. One was a pharisee and one was a publican, and we think they were both here praying although with a little different mind. We must through God's grace consider with what intention each has come and what each one effects with his prayers in the temple, but we pray that Almighty King, that He would hear the sighs of the publican, which come from a broken heart, although the pharisee despises him and mocks his tears. Lord, look toward the publican with mercy and allow his sighs to be heard up to heaven, then we believe that he will go home more justified than the pharisee. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 18:9
The pharisee and the publican are two remarkable men who have come to the temple to pray. One is a meek and honorable man and kept in high esteem in the world, he is also godly and is also somewhat patient since he does not go out from the church although the publican stands there and sighs. The pharisees of this time are not so patient, for they leave the church when the publican begins to sigh, and lament that the publican spoils their devotion. But the publican is one person, despised by the world, a very poor person, who no doubt has not lived honorably, but he feels also that he has not merited any honor or thanks. The load of sin has become heavy on his conscience and when he smites his breast, it can surely be surmised from that, that his heart is sore. We must now through God's grace consider the pharisee and the publican. The first consideration: Why has the pharisee come into the church to pray? Second consideration: Why has the publican come here to sigh? Our hope is that the publican would go hone more justified, no matter how he would be despised and kept poor by the pharisee.
First: For what reason has the pharisee come here to pray? We do not know but anyway he has come, if he would only stay there so that the urge to urinate would not come before the prayer is over. We see that the pharisee stands and prays thus to himself; "I thank you, God, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." From this pharisee's prayer, we hear that the pharisee has such a faith that God has protected him from sin and we well surmise that the pharisee's brothers in faith have the same faith that God has protected them from sin, when they say, "I have not stolen, thanks to God, I am not a whore, thanks to God, I am not a drunkard, thanks to God," With these words they thank their God for that, that he has protected them from sin. But it is unknown what God it is, who has protected them from sin. I think that that god is in the lover heaven who has protected the pharisee and his brothers from sin. It is one decent devil who protects some from those coarser sins, such as adultery stealing, drinking, and fighting. And this meek devil is made up of worldly honor and self righteousness. Those pharisees who this meek devil protects from sin, avoid those coarser and more vulgar sins, which attack his honor, but from those finer sins, the devil of honor cannot protect them; moderate drinking is allowable to the pharisees, finery is allowable to them, greed in business is allowable to them, the joy of the world and worldly vanity are allowable. The pharisees of this time hold christening feasts, weddings, and funeral feasts and that is a custom of honor, and all that honor of the world gives in to, that the pharisees allow and seek after. But the pharisees have such a firm faith upon God that surely the publican does not have faith as much as a mustard seed compared to that which the pharisee has. For the pharisee think that God has protected them from sin and say also, "Surely the devil does not protect from sin, more likely he encourages." But now you must know, all you good pharisees who are here, that the devil of honor and the devil of self righteousness have protected you from sin, both from open stealing as well as adultery and also from drinking and fighting; and thank now your god who has protected you from sin, saying, "I thank you, God, that I am not as other people, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I have not stolen, thanks to God, I am not a whore, thanks to God, I am not a drinker, thanks to God"; so say the pharisees of this time. But if they believed that it is the devil who has protected them from sin, then they would thank him less. Is there even one sin on the conscience of the pharisee, of which the god of this world could not protect him? It has not yet been heard that sin would have begun to trouble the conscience of the pharisee, but the sins of the publican must be on the conscience of the pharisee. Why does the pharisee say that he is not so poor as this publican, no doubt the pharisee knows that this publican is one poor person, one whore and thief, who now came here to sigh right in the ears of the pharisee, who knows the devotion of the pharisee will even be spoiled by the sighs of the publican. We have heard that the pharisees saw many faults in the life of the Saviour and the disciples were Sabbath breakers already in the Saviour's time and after His death such bad people couldn't be found anywhere as the disciples of the disturber of the people. So the pharisees had received that assurance that the Nazarene sect which calls itself Christians was the worst kind of people, which should be destroyed with fire and sword. Do the pharisees even now have the same faith, that the Christians are the devil's group, when they do not allow honorable people peace of conscience? But certainly the pharisees even then thank their god although they carry spiritual hatred toward the Christians and despise the publican. Come now and thank your god, who has protected you from sin, and do not bow your knees at all when you pray, but stand as the lords of the world are accustomed to doing, as the pharisee also does, he stands and prays thus to himself, "I thank you God, etc." And when you have thus prayed, then go to that wine merchant who is in the lower end of the burning rapids and pray to him that he would give you flowing devil's dung for quackery for your heart, so that the sighs of the publican would not burn your conscience forever.
But let us now behold, for what reason the pharisee is not like this publican. We hear him thank his god that he is not as this publican; it means that he is not so poor as this publican. The pharisee is, in the mind of the world, many thousand times better than this publican. First, the pharisee has lived meekly and avoided sin, for which he also thanks his god. But the publican cannot thank his God for that, that He has protected the publican from sin; the publican feels that he has not taken heed of his God then when he lived as an animal in sorrowlessness. The publican feels that he is a whore and a thief, for that reason he cannot thank his God for that, that God has protected him from sin. But there is one more reason why the pharisee despises that publican so much. They are the publican's sighs which make the pharisee feel bad. Namely, the pharisee cannot bear to see such, who cry and sigh. If the pharisee was not now in the Lord's temple, then he world say to the publican, go away from here now from sighing, you hypocrite. You have whored and stolen before and now you come here to sigh like a beast. But since the pharisee is in the Lord's temple, he does not dare to speak there, the pharisee would sooner go out of the church himself so that he would be relieved of seeing and hearing such; and if the devil himself was in the church, as his habit is, then he must go out as soon as the publican's sighs begin to be heard. The devil of meekness himself must go out as soon as the sighs of the publican begin to be heard. And the grace thief, who says he lies at the foot of Jesus1 cross every day, arises quickly and goes out quickly from the church as soon as the publican's sighs begin to be heard. Is it not strange that the devil and his slaves cannot at all stand to hear the sighs of the penitent ones. Already then the pharisees did not like it that one woman came to weep on Jesus' feet in that home of Simon the leper, no doubt their devotion was spoiled with that. It was in their mind so ugly to see that one wretched whore came to wash Jesus' feet with her tears, no doubt the pharisees must have thought, how could Jesus, who was kept as a prophet, suffer such a whore, why did Jesus rot drive the penitent whore away from crying and howling over Him. Such is the nature of the pharisee, that he cannot bear to see such ones who cry and sigh, he despises them so much that he thanks his god for that, that he is not as poor as this publican. Many pharisees have at this time prayed their god that they would never become so poor or so foolish as this publican, who began to sigh there. But when already here the tears of the penitent burn the conscience of the pharisee, who knows what those sighs will effect in eternity, when the pharisee begins to sigh and howl. There the sighs of the publican will probably burn the pharisee's conscience eternally. There the pharisee must curse himself when the publican's sighs come to memory, that he has not in this time of grace cried like the penitent whore in the house of Simon, nor has he sighed like the publican, he has not smote his breast and sighed, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!" There he begins to repent eternally that he has despised the publican, that he has blasphemed his prayer, that he has laughed when he should have wept, that he has borne spiritual hatred toward the publican when he should have loved. And although the pharlsee here overlooked the publican's sighs and said, "They also sigh like beasts," then that time must soon come that the devil's angels mock the pharisee's tears, when he also begins to shed serpent's tears, then the devil's angels will probably ask him, "What howling is this? Since you have not howled before and since you have not sighed before, then be without sighing now." The devil will probably begin to wipe away the serpent's tears when the pharisee begins to howl in hell, the devil is probably ready to treat, with quackery, the heart of the pharisee with flowing devil's dung as he is ready to doctor, with quackery, the pharisee here if some pharisee's conscience becomes troubled; the devil will probably put his breast in the pharisee's mouth in hell and say, "Suck now, brother, the devil's paps as you have sucked before." The pharisee has been accustomed here to suck the paps of the devil, as he sometimes, when the devil does not always release his milk, is accustomed to swallowing the flowing devil's dung, which drips from the devil's butt, as one spiritual swine is accustomed to do; but there in hell, the milk does not come anymore from the paps of the devil, nor does the devil's dung drip from his butt as we hear the rich man lamenting in hell that there is not a drop of water to drip on the tongue. Think now, good pharisee, there in your time, what befits your peace and stand no more and pray, "I thank you God that I am not as other people, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." But look now upon that penitent publican, how he goes home more justified than you, although he does not have beautiful prayers as you do.
Second: Why has the publican come here to sigh? We do not know; but he has not come without a reason, even if the pharisee says, "What is this hypocrite sighing for?"
But that we know, that sighs do not come from nothing, there must be some substance before sighs will come forth. We hear from the Gospel that the publican smote his breast. Why did he beat his breast? Was there not pain and oppression? When, namely, the publican's conscience awakened, sin and the devil began to gnaw at his conscience and to oppress his breast. The spirit of God began to reproach him through his conscience of adultery, stealing, drinking, cursing, greed, whiskey trade, vanity of the world, stealing from tax money, and of all sins which he had committed in sorrowlessness before. From this rebuking of the spirit of God the publican became sorrowful and heavy-hearted, he in that way came to suffer tribulation of conscience. And not only that which the pain of sin brings with it like the accusations of the conscience and oppression of the heart, but also that spiritual enemy began to attack him terribly and accuse him night and day. The pharisee began to despise and blaspheme him, the world began to hate him, how does it go now when you have come at the same time with the pharisee to pray? Do you dare to bark at the pharisee because of hypocrisy? That penitent robber on the cross rebuked the other of sin, although he himself was in the same condition. We well surmise that the pharisee despised that publican so much, who was sighing, that he begins to thank his god that he is not so poor as this publican. The pharisee says, "I have not stolen, thanks to God, I have not whored, thanks to God, I am no drunkard, thanks to God", but no matter how poor the publican is, namely a whore, thief, drunkard, curser, and fighter, we anyway have that hope, he goes home more Justified than the other, for he is penitent, he beats his breast and says, "God have mercy on me, a sinner!" But the pharisee cannot bear to see such ones! And the devil himself, who is a great lord of the world and a very wise man, cannot bear such ones who cry and sigh, he becomes angry and says, "Go away from here you hypocrites from sighing. I cannot bear to see such who cry and sigh for no reason, go to the kingdom of heaven to sigh, there is no room here in hell for such." Where will you go now, you penitent publican, when all the lords of the world drive you out of their houses and the prince of hell him self drives you away from hell. Is it not the best instruction that you go to the door of heaven to cry and knock upon the door of grace. Is it not the best instruction that you go with Mary to the house of Simon the leper where Jesus the Nazarene is dining and begin to wash His feet with tears of penitence, do not heed what the pharisees think, but you wash the feet of that Great Cross-bearer, that Blood-sprinkled and Thorn crowned King with your tears of penitence; perhaps He will look with grace toward you and will give you that blessed assurance that you are fortunate in time and in eternity when you believe that your sins are forgiven to you. But woe you publican wretch, if you waste His grace and go to crucify your Saviour anew. Woe you publican wretch, if you again cause His spirit to become sorrowful because of your unwatchfulness through light mindedness, through love of the world. You have now received that answer to your sighs, that you will go home more justified than the pharisee, but take heed how you use this great grace that you do not become as the prodigal son, and waste that great substance and goods which he had received from the Father, and finally began to herd swine. For those wretches, who herd swine in the wilderness of this world and think they are earning peace of conscience, for because they wrestle with swine, they can surely die of hunger, can faint far from the Father's House. And if you penitent publican waste and spend that precious substance of grace, which you have now received, you will become a herder of swine and will perish in the wilderness of the world, but when you go home more justified than the pharisee, then travel now seriously on the road of life and keep God before your eyes, look back and ahead so that the enemy could not get you into the same wretchedness as before so that the pharisee who now despises you and keeps you poorer than others, could get joy in your fall and could truly reproach you. Travel now seriously on the road of life so that the name of Christ would not become blasphemed among the pagans because of you. And when you finally come into that temple, where you can pray and serve God forever, then sit in the lowest place, until then when that great Lord Who has called you into this wonderful light will say to you, Friend, step up higher, then it will happen that you will have honor in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.