His Eyes Opened

From Notes on the Parables of Our Lord (1846) 

Here, as at Luke 15:11, are described, under the figure of two sons of one father, two great moral divisions of men, under one or other of which might be ranged almost all with whom our blessed Lord in his teaching and preaching came in contact. Of one of these classes the Pharisees were specimens and representatives, though this class as well as the other will exist at all times. In this are included all who have sought a righteousness through the law, and by help of it have been preserved in the main from gross and open outbreakings of evil. In the second class, of which the publicans and harlots stand as representatives, are contained all who have thrown off the yoke, openly and boldly transgressed the laws of God, done evil as “with both hands earnestly.’ 

Now the condition of those first is of course far preferable; that righteousness of the law better than this open unrighteousness; — provided always that it be ready to give place to the righteousness of faith, when that appears; provided that it knows and feels its own incompleteness; which will ever be the case, where the attempt to keep the law has been truly and honestly made; the law will then have done its proper work, and have proved “a schoolmaster to Christ.”  

But if this righteousness is satisfied with itself — and this will be, where evasions have been sought out to escape the strictness of the requirements of the law; if, cold and loveless and proud, it imagines that it wants nothing, and so refuses to submit itself to the righteousness of faith, then far better that the sinner should have had his eyes open to perceive his misery and guilt, even though this had been by means of manifest and grievous transgressions, than that he should remain in this ignorance of his true condition, of all which is lacking to him still; just as it would be better that disease, if in the frame, should take a definite shape, so that it might be felt and acknowledged to be disease, and then met and overcome, than that it should be secretly lurking in, and pervading the whole system; its very existence being denied by him the sources of whose life it was sapping.  

From this point of view St. Paul speaks (Rom. 7:7-9); and this same lesson, that there is no such fault as counting we have no fault, is taught us throughout all Scripture. It is taught us in the bearing of the elder son towards his father and returning brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:28-30); and again in the demeanor of the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his house toward him and toward the woman “which was a sinner” (Luke 7:36-50); and in that of another Pharisee, whose very prayers this spirit and temper made to be nothing worth (Luke 18:10; cf. 29-32). 

Richard Trench (1807-1886) was an Irish Anglican archbishop and Biblical scholar, who served as professor of theology at Kings College London and as Dean of Westminster Abbey before becoming Archbishop of Dublin. He is probably best known for today for his studies of Jesus’ parables and miracles.   


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