Matthew 18:1,2,3 (KJV)
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying,
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him,
and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted,
and become as little children, ye shall not enter
into the kingdom of heaven.


From The Christian Herald, Feb. 14, 1900

In teaching men how to approach God,
Christ rendered a service to humanity
the value of which would be impossible
to overestimate. We know so little
of the Almighty, the finite mind is so little
able to conceive what kind of Being
He must be who made the world and
upholds the universe, that when we think
of coming into His presence we need to know
what attitude we should take and
what words we should use.
In approaching an earthly sovereign,
there are certain forms to be observed and certain
deferential lines of conduct to be followed
by anyone who hopes to stand
well with the potentate, or to obtain
some favor from him. How much more when
we enter the presence of the King of Kings
and take upon ourselves to address Him!

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican,
(Luke 18:10-14 Click here to read it,)
Christ gives us the instruction that
we need in this matter and shows us how we
ought to feel and speak when we approach God.
The Publican, he says, went away “justified.”
That is what we all need. If we
can so pray that we may be justified,
we have attained the highest
blessing. To be justified is to be put right,
to be approved, to be accepted;
and nothing better than that can come into any man’s life.
It places him in accord with the will of
his Maker and brings him into the sphere of the
highest development.

Christ puts the two men in striking contrast.
The Pharisee thanks God for his blameless life,
and surely that is a matter for which he had reason
to be thankful. There can be no harm in that.
We do well to be thankful
for being kept from sin and for being preserved
from falling under temptation.
But if he had really been so thankful as he professed,
if he had been as conscious as he pretended,
that it was to God that he was
indebted for the power to lead such a life,
he would not have proceeded
to boast of his performances, nor to disparage
his neighbors, his doing so indicated a
censorious spirit and a self-satisfaction
inconsistent with his prayer. He apparently
regards himself as perfect, as having no need of
any further help. He has nothing to ask because
he thinks he has already attained the highest
standard possible to him.
We have seen many exhibitions of this spirit
in our own time and they are invariably accompanied
by similar disparagement of ministers and other Christians.

It is sufficient condemnation of that course
to say that such people are not justified.
They are not in the way of progress,
they are outside the possibility of development.
Far other was the spirit of Paul, who
forgetting the things that were behind and
reaching to the things that were before,
pressed toward the mark.

Every step taken in the
spiritual life is a starting point
from which we are to climb to other and
still better things.

Perhaps the Publican, too, had things of which he
might have boasted.
A man who offered his prayer would be likely to
have already made some attainment in the spiritual life.
At any rate, he was in a more hopeful condition.
When a confession is made of faults and shortcomings,
there is a better promise of progress
than in boastfulness. He was conscious of imperfection,
but he was in the presence of One who could
impart the power to amend.
His attention was fixed, not on his excellencies,
but on his faults. He asked for mercy.
This is the beginning of all true progress.
It is an admission of guilt, of unworthiness,
and when a man reaches that stage that
he is dissatisfied with himself and asks for lenity,
there is ground for hope in regard to him.
The child who comes to
his father after some misconduct,
asking to be forgiven, is in a more hopeful condition
than the one who reminds his father of his general
good conduct and excuses his fault.
A child who admits his ignorance is more likely
to learn than one who thinks he knows everything.
So the Publican was justified, because he put himself
in the attitude of a sinner
needing forgiveness, and in the way of amendment by
confessing his wrongdoing. He was at the beginning
of the right path---
the path which leads to the highest attainment.

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