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16But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

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14. This man went down justified. The comparison is not exact; for Christ does not merely assign to the publican a certain degree of superiority, as if righteousness had belonged alike to both, but means that the publican was accepted by God, while the Pharisee was totally rejected. And this passage shows plainly what is the strict meaning of the word justified: it means, to stand before God as if we were righteous. For it is not said that the publican was justified, because he suddenly acquired some new quality, but that he obtained grace, because his guilt was blotted out, and his sins were washed away. Hence it follows, that righteousness consists in the forgiveness of sins. As the virtues of the Pharisee were defiled and polluted by unfounded confidence, so that his integrity, which deserved commendation before the world, was of no value in the sight of God; so the publican, relying on no merits of works, obtained righteousness solely by imploring pardon, 334334     “Seulement en confessant sa faute, et demandant pardon;”— “solely by confessing his faults and asking pardon.” because he had no other ground of hope than the pure mercy of God.

But it may be thought absurd, that all should be reduced to the same level, since the purity of saints is widely different from that of the publican I reply: whatever proficiency any man may have made in the worship of God and in true holiness, yet if he consider how far he is still deficient, there is no other form of prayer which he can properly use than to begin with the acknowledgment of guilt; for though some are more, and others less, yet all are universally guilty. We cannot doubt, therefore, that Christ now lays down a rule for all to this effect, that God will not be pacified towards us, unless we distrust works, and pray that we may be freely reconciled. And, indeed, the Papists are compelled to acknowledge this in part, but immediately afterwards they debase this doctrine by a wicked invention. They admit that all need the remedy of forgiveness, because no man is perfect; but they first intoxicate wretched men with reliance on what they call imperfect righteousness, and next add satisfactions, in order to blot out their guilt. But our faith needs no other support than this, that God has accepted us, not because we deserved it, but because he does not impute our sins.




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