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The Conversion of Zaccheus.

The Conversion of Zaccheus.

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Published by glennpease
BY REV. WILLIAM CHARLES ROBERTS, D.D.. LL.D.


Luke xix. 5, 6 : " Zacclieus. make haste, and come down ;
for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste,
and came down, and received him joyfully."

BY REV. WILLIAM CHARLES ROBERTS, D.D.. LL.D.


Luke xix. 5, 6 : " Zacclieus. make haste, and come down ;
for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste,
and came down, and received him joyfully."

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Published by: glennpease on Mar 07, 2013
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THE CONVERSION OF ZACCHEUS.
BY REV. WILLIAM CHARLES ROBERTS, D.D.. LL.D.
Luke xix. 5, 6 : " Zacclieus. make haste, and come down ;for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste,and came down, and received him joyfully."THE disciples whose conversion was con-sidered in our last, lived in the quiethamlets that dotted the shores of theSea of Galilee. Their calling was that of fish-ermen, which was held in high repute amongthe Jews. They had not been contaminated bythe dissipation of society or by the corruptionof wealth in large and royal cities like Jericho.Zaccheus, on the other hand, was born andreared amid the pomp and splendor, the viceand temptations of the Herodian capital whichwas called " the city of fragrance," because thewhole plain was covered with aromatic shrubs;" the city of roses," because the valley of theJordan looked in the spring like a sea whippedinto foam, and " the city of palm trees," because24NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS. 25the whole region abounded in richer vegeta-tion than that found in any other part of Pales-tine. At this time, Jericho was able to boastof the royal palace of Herod Antipas and of the gorgeous abodes of his courtiers. It formedthe golden key which unlocked Palestine andthe Mediterranean to the nations of the East.Its population was about one hundred thousandsouls, exclusive of the pilgrims who stopped therefor a season on their way home from observingthe Jewish passover.Zaccheus not only lived in a place full of temptations, but he occupied a position pecu-liarly trying to his religious principles, so faras he had any. He was the chief of the publi-cans ù an office of considerable importance underthe Roman government. A publican was thecollector of the imperial taxes. The methodsused by the Romans of collecting them, in acity like Jericho, was to farm them out ; thatis, to bind the officer to pay a certain sum tothe government, with the understanding that hewas entitled to all he could exact from the people.Under such circumstances a most favorable op-portunity was afforded him for extortion, fraudand violence. The strongest temptation was thus
 
laid in the publican's way to become rich byw^hat the sacred penman calls " false accusation."Zaccheus was not only a native of Jericho,and the chief of the tax gatherers, but he wasrich. It is not stated whether his wealth was26 NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS.accumulated b}^ his own efforts or fell to himby inheritance. The inference from the recordis that he made most of it himself, and a largeportion perhaps by extortion.The subject to which 3'our attention is invitedis " The Conversion of a Rich Tax Gatherer ùZaccheus."Notice first, the obstacles in the way of hisconversion. These were mainly three ; viz., local,circumstantial and associational ; m other words,they sprang from the three sources referred toin the text, namely, the place where he lived,the office which he held, and the social [)Ositionlie occupied in the communit3^The place in which he lived exposed him tothree temptations. First, to a low estimate of the religion of his fathers. Jericho was a cityof priests, who were at this time exceedinglycorrupt. Consequentl}^, the publicans concludedthat a religion which had such men to minis-ter at her altars was not of much value, if itwas from God. On the same principle the peo-ple of Rome judge in our day of the Christianreligion from the priests whose lives are knownto all who observe them.Zaccheus was exposed also to the paralysisarising from breathing the foulest atmosphereof home and foreign corruption. Jericho wasnot onl}^ a city of priests, but of all sorts of people, many of whom were among the most de-graded of the nations. On account of its loca-NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS. 27tion, wealth and royal splendor, Jericho becamethe home of tlie Roman tax gatherers and extor-tioners generally. Through their wealth andnumbers they commanded a larger amount of respect than they were really entitled to. Fortheir low morality did not appear in as glaringa light there as it would have done in Jerusa-
 
lem or Capernaum.Zaccheus was further exposed to the temp-tations of g^yety and licentiousness. In Jericho,Herod the Great lived and displa3'ed his wealthand extravao^ance. The conduct of the kingrand his courtiers was naturally imitated by allwho could afford it, and even by man}^, as inour own day, who could not afford it. Thisled the ambitious and unscrupulous to all kindsof expedients to amass riches in order to makea display.Not only the place in which Zaccheus lived,but also the ofllce he held, exposed him totemptations. First, to extortion ù a practice whichdegraded him even in his own eyes. He knewthat the only redress open to an overtaxedpeople was an appeal to law, in which theirchance of redress was slender before a tribunalof which the judge was a heathen and thegatherer an unscrupulous oflicial of the Romangovernment. This comparative freedom from de-tection was a temptation to indulge in dishonestyand fraud.It exposed him also to hardness of heart28 NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS.and harshness of manner, destructive of kindlyfeelings. He came in contact with human na-ture in the line of the most degraded busi-ness. He had to contend with men's ignorance,stupidit}'', and plans to deceive ; consequentl}'',if he was ever tender hearted, he would become,in time, impatient, if not feelingless.Zaccheus's ofRce exposed him, once more, toindifference to moral and religious restraints.He was despised and looked upon by the peo-ple as one totally devoid of character. Theyregarded the publicans as excluded from thereligious life and communion of the true Israel,as devoid of conscience and without the fearof God before their eyes. Zaccheus acceptedas true this sentiment regarding the class towhich he belonged, and followed his callingwithout expectation of anything better. Thesame thing is largely true of certain classes of men in our own day. They conclude that itis useless to try to do anything toward becom-ing religious, because they cannot rise in theestimation of their fellow-men or convince eventheir friends that they are sincere.

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