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Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. II by Francis Augustus Cox

Part 3 out of 6

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existence, and was destined to occupy a conspicuous place in the
recollections of eternity! And it is our privilege, as well as duty, to
remember the place of our spiritual birth, the instructer of our infant
piety, the guide of our religious inquiries, and all "the way in which the
Lord our God has led us in the wilderness." Experience will rivet our
affections to every circumstance; life will derive a charm, in many of its
future years, from such welcome reflections; and memory will not discard,
amidst the ineffable joys of paradise, the well--the stranger--the
converse--the whole scene of those first impressions, which ripened into
religion and were the seeds of immortality.

In a sense more important than that in which the subject of this narrative
originally employed the words, each reader may feel encouraged to address
the Saviour, "Give me this water, that I thirst not." Holy prophets concur
with the evangelical publishers of "glad tidings," in urging you to
partake of the heavenly supply, which is dispensed with perfect freeness,
and in undiminishing abundance. "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to
the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come,
buy wine and milk without money and without price."

The Woman Who Was a Sinner.

Chapter V.

Jesus and John contrasted--the former goes to dine at the House of a
Pharisee--a notorious Woman introduces herself, and weeps at his
Feet--Remarks on true Repentance and Faith, as exemplified in her
Conduct--Surmises of Simon the Pharisee--the Answer of Jesus--the Woman
assured of Forgiveness--Instructions deducible from the Parable.

There was a remarkable dissimilarity between Christ and his celebrated
precursor. The latter was unbending in his manners, austere in his mode of
living, and abrupt in his public discourses: in fact, John was
distinguished by all those qualities of a great reformer, which fitted him
for the service assigned him by Providence; zealous, eloquent, intrepid,
inconsiderate of himself, and resolutely exposing the vices of those
around him, to whom he pointed out "a more excellent way." The wildness of
the wilderness seemed to accord with the singularity of his character; and
the rocky standing from which he might probably often address his
auditors, was well adapted to the design of his preaching, and the mode of
his appearance. His Divine Master gave ample testimony to his
excellence--"What went ye out for to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you,
and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I
send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before
thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there has
not arisen a greater than John the Baptist."

But the character of the "Son of man" differed in many respects from that
of his forerunner. He was familiar, affable, and ready to associate with
others; he assumed no austerity of manners, and no reserve of behaviour.
The cast of his public preaching, too, was of a milder and more winning
strain, suited to his character as the image of the God who is love, and
adapted to the merciful nature of that dispensation which he came to

It was this diversity which excited the malignant revilings of the Jews,
who said of John, "he hath a devil;" and of Christ, "Behold a man
gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners:" but the
success of the means has fully justified the use of them, as the
prescriptions of the physician are justified by the restoration of health
to the diseased, and the mode adopted by the agriculturist in cultivating
his soil is effectually vindicated by its fertility. God bestows upon his
church a diversity of gifts, and upon men a variety of qualities, that
different stations may be occupied to the best advantage, and his cause
promoted in the most effectual manner. The formation of suitable
instruments to accomplish his purposes, is one of those arrangements of
Providence which we can never sufficiently admire. Whatever peculiarities
exist, they are all made to concur to the same end, and are all regulated
by the same influence: the "gifts" and the "operations" are diverse, but
"it is the same God which worketh all in all."

Happily for mankind, there was a sense in which a part of the accusation
preferred against Jesus Christ held true. He was indeed "a friend of
publicans and sinners"--if he had not been, what would have been the
situation of a Matthew, whom he called from the receipt of custom to
"follow him;" or of a Zaccheus, whom he addressed in the sycamore tree,
and to whose house he "that day" conveyed "salvation;" or of a Bartimeus,
"blind and sitting by the highway-side, begging," whose eyes he opened,
and to whose mind he imparted faith? If he had not been a "friend of
publicans and sinners" the songs of descending spirits would never have
charmed the shepherds of Bethlehem--a church would never have been formed
on earth and ultimately taken to heaven--the mansions of eternity would
never have been peopled by the children of transgression--the hymns of
human gratitude would never have mingled with the hallelujahs of the
blessed--nor would the sacred writings have contained such a history as
that before us of the penitent sinner.

It is introduced by an account of one of the Pharisees having solicited
the company of Jesus to dinner, and of his having accepted his invitation.
The Pharisees were amongst his bitterest enemies, and yet here is one who
courteously introduces him into his house. He might have been affected by
his discourses or miracles; and it is pleasing to recollect, that divine
grace is not limited in its operations to one community, class, or age,
but peoples the heavenly world by the redemption of sinners of every rank
in life, every period of time, every degree of moral corruption, and every
nation of the globe.

Our Saviour's visit to the Pharisee is related for the sake of the
incident and discourse with which it was connected, and which are given in
the following words: Behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner,
when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an
alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and
began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her
head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when
the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying,
This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of
woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering,
said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith,
Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors; the
one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had
nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of
them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to
whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And
he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, seest thou this woman? I
entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she
hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss; but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not
ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but this
woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her
sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little
is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are
forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within
themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the
woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace."

The woman is denominated a _sinner_, because incontinency was her trade
and the means of her subsistence. Her character is branded with merited
infamy, but her name is mercifully veiled. She was notorious in the city;
and one would have imagined that as it could be no defamation to name her,
the sacred historian need not have manifested any scrupulousness upon the
point; nevertheless, as justice did not require it, and as it was the
writer's purpose rather to record her penitence than to expose her crimes,
she is mentioned only in general terms, as _a sinner, a woman in
the city._

What compassionate mind can help deploring the immoralities of populous
towns and crowded cities! What an illustration of human depravity does it
afford, that wherever mankind resort in great multitudes, vice is
proportionably varied in its nature, atrocious in its character, and
barefaced in its practice--as if it were thought that the numbers who
perpetrated wickedness, tended to conceal from the view of Omniscience
individual delinquency! It is common to acquire boldness by association;
and society, which ought rather to purify the mind, is often the means of
its pollution. The facilities for secrecy in sin which exist in
considerable places, the incalculable variety of forms in which temptation
appears, the force of example operating upon an extensive scale, and
enhanced by a thousand tributary streams that pour into the tide of
transgression flowing down the streets, concur to involve the inhabitants
of populous vicinities in circumstances of great moral danger. Apart from
all persuasion or direct influence, the very sight of immoralities is
liable to injure that delicate sensibility to wrong which it is of the
utmost importance to preserve in a pure and uncontaminated state. The
nicely polished mind is susceptible of the breath of impurity; and when it
once becomes dim and obscure in its perceptions, it is difficult to
restore it. Many have on this account withdrawn into retirement,
supposing that they should be able to secure that leisure for devotional
exercises which they have believed conducive to religious eminence. But
they have forgotten that the human heart is sown with unholy principles,
which will spring up in solitude as well as in society; that in avoiding
dissipation, they are liable to be narrowed into selfishness; and that the
honourable and heroic part which Christianity requires, is not to fly from
difficulties, but, "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," to contend
with, and conquer them.

In the woman whose brief but instructive history is to be reviewed, we see
indications of a "repentance that needeth not to be repented of." It is to
be traced, in the first place, in the _posture_ she assumed, and the
_tears_ she shed. When she found that Jesus was dining in the house of
Simon, she went and "stood at his feet behind him weeping." She who had
known no shame, but whose unblushing impudence and obtrusive familiarities
had so often scandalized the city, now avoids a look, shrinks even from
respectful notice, and is overwhelmed with a consciousness of guilt.

This conduct bespeaks the most pungent and unaffected sorrow. Her sins
present themselves in array before her mind, and she "abhors herself, and
repents in dust and ashes." Though all around was festivity, her heart was
sad--she wept as in secret; and those eloquent tears bespoke the Saviour's
pity, in a manner more powerful than the most studied language could have
done! Those tears were precious in his sight--that silence expressed the
depth and sincerity of her grief--and he approved it!

With what pleasure must holy angels have contemplated from their radiant
spheres this impressive scene; for "there is joy in the presence of the
angels of God over one sinner that repenteth!" The gayeties of life, and
the appearances of worldly grandeur, excite no satisfaction in them; they
are not attracted by those tinsel shows and glittering nonentities which
fill the circle of human vanity, and fire the ardent wishes of mankind;
the most splendid titles, the most opulent condition, the most celebrated
heroes, pass before them like shadows that haste away, unregretted and in
quick succession; but they bend from their thrones of light to witness the
sorrows of the meanest penitent, and listen to his secret moanings.

It is to be apprehended that many substitute an external reformation of
manners for solid repentance towards God. They lay aside the filthy
garments of gross immorality, and invest themselves in the decent attire
of correct conduct; but the principle of genuine penitence consists in a
just estimate of the perfections of that Being whom we have offended, and
of the nature of sin, as violating those obligations which devolve on us
as creatures. It is an humbling consideration, that God must perceive the
guilt of sin with infinitely greater distinctness than is possible to the
most self-examining penitent; and that their number and variety must be
perfectly discerned by the eyes of his purity. We are apt to throw them
together, as in a confused heap; and instead of realizing them in detail,
to contemplate them only in the aggregate and mass, by which their
individual atrocity is overlooked.

The true penitent views sin in connexion with his personal obligations,
and the requirements of the divine law. The Being against whom he rebels,
has, he knows, conferred upon him all the blessings of existence; and has,
consequently, the most indisputable claim upon his entire obedience--an
obedience, however, which, in his presumption and folly, he has refused
to render.

It may be remarked, also of repentance, that it possesses a character of
universality. Its regrets extend to every sin, without exception or
excuse: it has no apologies to offer, and cannot hold the balance to
measure with cold and calculating nicety, the respective demerits of the
offences which have been committed, with a view to conciliate the mercy of
heaven, or institute a plea in mitigation of punishment. It is, besides, a
deep and permanent impression, which is perpetually renewed by reflection,
and by witnessing the transgressions of a degenerate world. What are "the
sacrifices of God," but a "broken spirit?" verily, "a broken and a
contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

We observe, in the next place, if not the _words_, certainly the very
_spirit_ of confession in this once profligate but now penitent woman. It
is impossible to imagine a finer or more complete specimen of
self-debasement than that which she exhibited upon this occasion. How
easily could she have avoided such an exposure of herself, and spared
those lamentations! She was under no necessity to introduce herself into
the presence of that holy man, whose looks would condemn her immoralities,
and whose words, should he condescend to address her, might be expected to
convey severe reproof. Surely she might have remained at home:--no--it
could not be--she _was_ unable to avoid this exposure, and to spare those
lamentations; she was under a most imperious necessity to go to the house
of Simon--she _could not_ have remained at home: the irresistible
influence of "godly sorrow" urged her in to these circumstances, and her
bursting heart was forced to seek relief at the feet of Jesus, Her own
vileness tormented her recollections; her views of sin were of the most
tragic and affecting kind; in the depths of humiliation, the waves and
billows rolled over her; and her tears were confessions of guilt, which he
who was perfectly acquainted with the emotions of her spirit, know how to

How common is it for persons suffering pain of conscience, to plunge into
new excesses, in order to disengage themselves from wretchedness of
remorse, and, as they hope, to divert their sorrows! This infatuation is
attended with mischievous effects: it diminishes sensibility to sin, and
confirms the habit. The thorns which at first grew in the path of
indulgence, are trampled down by frequent passage; and a return to God
becomes every day less and less probable. Familiarity with the various
modes of vice weakens the impression of disgust which is originally felt;
as we lose by degrees the horror with which an unsightly countenance was
beheld at the first interview, till at length we can more than tolerate
distortion, and even court deformity. Never was a more important maxim
delivered by the Saviour for the guidance of his disciples, than that
which respected their avoidance of the first step in transgression. "Watch
ye and pray," said he, "lest ye _enter_ into temptation." The fence which
is placed around the forbidden fruit-tree, by the interdictions of Heaven,
being once violated, the most alarming consequences ensue; and, unless
grace prevent, the transgressor must inevitably perish. Avoid then,
studiously avoid, whatever leads to the way of death. Escape for thy life,
O sinner, from the brink of transgression, if thou hast unhappily ventured
so far; and tremble at the yawning gulf below. If thou hast _fallen_,
while thou hast not yet passed the boundaries of life, thou art not
irrecoverably lost; but, O let a sense of thy danger induce thee to lift
up thine eyes to view the weeping penitent standing in the presence of
Jesus Christ, of whom she is accepted, and open thine ears to hear the
voice of kind invitation: "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the
Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful,
saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine
iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast
scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have
not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.... Return, ye backsliding children,
and I will heal your backslidings.... He that covereth his sins shall not
prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."

Further, this woman, who went into Simon's house at Nain, upon the
occasion already mentioned, is celebrated by Jesus himself for her faith,
which "worked by love." Addressing her in the presence of the astonished
company, he said, "Thy _faith_ hath saved thee, go in peace."

The Pharisees treated others with scornful contempt, especially those whom
they deemed to be of notorious character. Theirs was not like
Christianity, the religion of compassion--the religion, that, deriving its
characteristic peculiarities from its Author, pities the deluded,
sympathises with the miserable, seeks to reclaim the criminal, and marks
the tears of the penitent; but "trusting in themselves that they were
righteous, they despised others." Disregardful, however, of the sneers or
reproaches which she might have to encounter, this penitent woman presses
to the house of the Pharisee, because Jesus was a guest. Her object was
not concealment, but forgiveness; she was willing to be rebuked, so that
she might be saved; and while by obtruding in this manner into the house
of Simon, she exposed herself to the insults which her dissolute habits
would be likely to incur, she courageously adopted a course of proceeding
which brought her under the most solemn obligations to future chastity and
holiness of life. She was willing that the whole assembly or city should
witness her change, and that the reality of her penitence, and the
strength of her attachment to Christ, should be as notorious as her former
irregularities. Her courage, then, demands notice, and deserves imitation.
What might be the opinion of the motley assemblage who were the spectators
of her conduct, seemed to have had no influence upon her mind; but obeying
the impulse of sorrow for sin, and hope in Jesus, she dismissed every
thought of personal exposure, and with tears of undissembled grief,
hastened to him who was "full of grace and truth."

Timorousness, arising from an undue regard to the world, is too often a
hinderance to religious profession. Persons who have been awakened to some
sense of the evil of sin, and have perceived the importance, while they
have felt in some degree the claims of piety, frequently, alas! have been
deterred from that avowal of their sentiments, which is essential to
verify their convictions, and to honour God in the eyes of men. They would
be servants of Christ, if they were not slaves to human opinion: they
would go to Jesus, if it were not in the observers who stand around: they
would renounce the world, if they could avoid reproach: they would, in a
word, be decided, but they dare not be singular!

We are required to "_confess_ Christ _before men_," and it is only by such
a confession we can evince the sincerity of our attachment. Jesus Christ
was not ashamed to call us _brethren_, to assume our nature, to fill our
humble station, to suffer our sorrows, and to die an ignominious
death:--he is not ashamed to own his connexion with us, now he is ascended
into the highest heavens, or to be engaged in preparing a place for us
amidst the mansions of glory. Shall we be ashamed of him, or his cause?
Shall we be afraid to avow our regard, if we feel it?

It is the design of Christ to establish an interest in the world which
shall be universally prevalent, and this cause is rendered visible by the
public profession of its adherents. In the apostolic age, therefore, to
embrace Christianity, and to profess it, were considered as inseparably
connected; and why should they now be separated? "Then they that gladly
received the word were baptized."

Do any circumstances now exist to render it proper to act contrary to
apostolical example and precept? Is not the world the same? is not the
command of Jesus the same? is not his religion the same as in primitive
ages? This cause is to be now maintained as then; not by fear, but by
firmness--not by compliance with the world, but by resisting it--not by
sloth, inactivity, and shrinking into a corner, but by "putting on the
whole armour of God," and pressing to the field of battle. Not to be for
Christ, is to be against him; _inactivity_ is _enmity_; a dread of
standing in the ranks, or a refusal to enlist under the banners of
Immanuel, are indications of disloyalty, rebellion, and treason. The
territories of his grace are invaded by the troops of hell--the great
power that "ruleth in the children of disobedience" is opposing the
kingdom of the Redeemer, and extending his influence over the hearts of
men. Not to resist his encroachments, therefore, not to withstand in our
own person his dominion, and declare our cause, is, in fact, to favour his
designs, and betray him whom we profess to love. It is stated, that at the
second appearance of Christ "he will be glorified _in_ his saints, and
admired _in_ all them that believe;" and it is _in_ them he expects _now_
to be glorified before men; and the most effectual way to honour him is
to "confess him," to avow before the world our determination to be "on the
Lord's side.

"Perfect love," remarks an apostle, "casteth out fear;" of which we have a
striking exemplification in this woman of Nain. The expressions of her
attachment to Jesus were such as could not be mistaken, for she not only
caressed him, but made considerable sacrifices to show her love. The gifts
of nature had been the instruments of dissipation. With what care had she
been accustomed to adjust her smiles, to throw fascination into her
countenance, to beautify her person, to arrange her dress and her hair,
and to cultivate every exterior charm! What sums of money had she lavished
upon herself, with a view to attract admiration! Behold her now at the
feet of Jesus, careless of her personal attractions, and absorbed in the
contemplation of her Saviour: she washes his feet with her tears, wipes
them with the hairs of her head, kisses his feet, [31] and even expends an
alabaster box of ointment, very precious and costly, in anointing them.
Whatever has been the occasion or the means of transgression, becomes an
object of dislike; and in the true spirit of penitence, she not only
deserts what is obviously criminal, but detests and relinquishes whatever
may tend to renew the remembrance of indulgence, or rekindle the expiring
flame of desire. She renounces every superfluity, submits cheerfully to
every privation, and slays at once with unreluctant severity, the dearest
lusts that twine about her heart. It is thus that a sincere Christian will
abandon both the practice and principle of sin, and aware of his peculiar
propensities, he will watch with a scrupulousness proportioned to his
sense of danger, over those sins to which he knows himself to have been
most inclined in the days of his unregeneracy. "If thy right eye offend
thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should
be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast
it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

Reader! examine into the state of thy mind, the propensities that reign
within, and the principles that predominate in thy heart! Hast thou
professed an attachment to Jesus Christ? "Dost thou _believe_ in the Son
of God?" What sacrifices hast thou made, tending to evince the sincerity
of thy declarations, and the ardour of thy love? Hast thou braved
reproach--stood firm amidst opposition--abandoned criminal practices and
guilty associates--assisted the cause of thy Lord--encouraged and supplied
his disciples--and for his sake been willing even to renounce indulgences,
which, if they were innocent, might have proved offensive to others, or
ensnaring to thyself. Decision of character is important, both as a proof
of our own sincerity, and as a means of confirming others in religion; for
neutrality, which Christ himself has so pointedly condemned, is even more
prejudicial than hostility.

But it is not sufficient to inquire into the _extent_ of those sacrifices
which may have been offered to the service of religion, the _nature_ of
those sacrifices must be investigated; otherwise there may be "a fair
show in the flesh," while the individual is destitute of the essential
principles of Christianity. The love of the world, and indulgence in
secret sin, may be compatible with an ostentatious religion. What is
difficult to some, may prove comparatively easy to others, whose
constitutional tendencies or mental prepossessions are of another
description. The sacrifice, for example, of a spendthrift to religion must
be of a different kind from that of a miser; otherwise the one may obtain
undue credit for splendid charities, and the other for pious scrupulosity.
In estimating, therefore, the characters of men, or apportioning their
duties, the respective casts of mind, habits, and inclinations, are to be
investigated, in order to judge of the one, or prescribe the other. To
gain advantage from a course of self-inspection, it is requisite to study
the peculiarities of our own mind, and to ascertain what is really a
_sacrifice_ to ourselves, and how far we have made it, or are prepared to
offer it, to Christ. What gratifications have we relinquished? what sins
have we resisted? what lusts have we overcome? Where are we in point of
moral progress? Has our professed penitence led us to Christ? What degree
of assimilation to him have we attained? Have we, in fact, devoted to life
service our ENTIRE BEING--and do we feel that

"Our lives and thousand lives of ours"

can neither discharge our obligations, nor repay his love?

The state of the mind is often indicated by trifles, better than by what
appears to be of greater magnitude and importance. There are, certain
actions not intended for the public, and, therefore, not dressed up for
inspection, which mark the feelings of the heart, and the meaning of which
no vigilant observer can mistake. There is a truth and a certainty about
them sufficiently obvious; they as infallibly show the state of the man,
as the index points to the hour of the day. In the history of the penitent
sinner, the negligence of her dress and hair, which had doubtless before
been decorated, according to the habit of the age, with jewels, was such
an indication. Some professed penitents would have given, perhaps, the
costly presentation of the alabaster box of ointment, but would have found
it infinitely more difficult to renounce their vanity: but here the
sacrifice was complete; her best affections were engrossed with the new
object of her delight, and she virtually said, "Perish, thou love of the
world; perish, thou fond and criminal passion for show; perish, all ye
ministers of iniquity, at the feet of Jesus! I willingly exchange masters;
and henceforth I shall be regardless of personal attractions, solicitous
only of participating the blessings of salvation!"

Simon, during all this time, was an attentive observer of what passed; but
rashly concluded within himself that Jesus could not be a prophet, as he
seemed ignorant of the character of the woman whom he admitted to such
familiarity. He mistook both the character of the woman, and that of his
divine guest. She was not, in _his_ sense of the term, a _sinner_, but a
_penitent_ and a _believer_; nor was Jesus capable of contamination by her
touch. He knew perfectly, "who and what manner of woman it was," though
the Pharisee was too proud to see or acknowledge it. The important change
which had been produced upon her, essentially altered the case. She was no
longer what she had been, and what Simon supposed her. Grace had
constituted her a chosen vessel, and purified her heart by the impartation
of heavenly principles. The impurities of her life were rectified by the
"renewal of a right spirit" within her. She had been snatched from the
jaws of destruction; she had resorted to the "fountain opened for sin and
uncleanness," and proved that she was one of those "lost sheep" which
Jesus came into the wilderness to "seek and to save."

Simon had not _expressed_ his ideas, but the Saviour _knew_ them with
perfect certainty, and answered them with unerring wisdom. Having first
claimed the attention of his host, which was respectfully conceded, Jesus
delivered a parable respecting a creditor having two debtors, who owed,
the one five hundred, and the other fifty pence, but were both forgiven in
consideration of their poverty; and he put it to the Pharisee, which of
them would love him most? he properly answered, "he to whom he forgave
most." Then turning to the woman--and, O what sensations of joy must have
thrilled through her agitated bosom!--he continued to direct his discourse
to Simon; "Seest thou this woman?" _q.d._ "Art thou aware of the extent
and value of those sacrifices she has made to me? Hast thou observed the
tears she has shed, and the love she has manifested? Has it struck thy
mind, that the conduct of this woman, whom thou art despising in thy
heart, is far more deserving of my approbation than thine?" Mark, with
what punctuality and detail he proceeds to enumerate every act of
kindness! He mentions her tears, her caresses, the kisses, and the
ointment which she had lavished upon his feet--nothing is forgotten or
omitted--everything is distinctly told--her love is extolled, and her sins
are pardoned: Simon, "her sins, which are many, are forgiven"--Woman,
"thy sins are forgiven." There is a beauty and a propriety in this
repetition, which was well calculated to stimulate the inquiries, and to
correct the errors of the Pharisee, while it ministered consolation to the
weeping penitent. Ah! our secret desires, our silent tears, our meanest
services, are noticed by our Master and Lord! He will "reward us _openly_"
having given the grace of penitence, he will bestow the joys of faith; our
_many_ sins shall be overlooked and forgiven; our _few_ services
remembered and recorded for his sake!

This parable is illustrative of our moral obligations, and of our total
incapacity to discharge them. We are all _debtors_--to God; we are so, it
is true, in different proportions--some owe five hundred and some fifty
pence. A difference exists in the nature and atrocity of our respective
crimes--we have run to greater or less extravagances of iniquity--our sins
are more or less notorious, more or less limited or extensive in their
influence on others; more or less aggravated by knowledge, by vows, and by
repetition--indulged in for a longer or a shorter period, as there was a
great diversity of moral character between the Pharisee and the woman; but
"_all have sinned_, and, come short of the glory of God"--all have
incurred debt--and it is important to remark, that all are equally
incapable of discharging it--of atoning for their guilt, or rescuing
themselves from the pains and penalties they have incurred.

However plain this statement, and however frequently repeated, it is but
little believed and felt. If it were--if mankind were actually convinced
of the utter inefficiency of every attempt to recommend themselves to God,
and regain his forfeited favour; whence is it that they are perpetually
"going about to establish their own righteousness?" Why do they endeavour
to persuade themselves that sin is a trifling concern, or that at least
_their_ sins are trivial and excusable? It is obvious, that they form very
low and inadequate ideas of the greatness of their debt, and the utter
worthlessness of their own merit--they do not realize their ruined and
bankrupt condition, nor are they sufficiently persuaded that they have
"_nothing to pay_" not an atom of righteousness, not a grain of inherent
goodness, not a particle of real virtue!

Sinner, come to the test. Hear the indictment, and see if thou hast any
defence, if thou hast any plea, or if thou canst put in any just demurrer
to stay the proceedings of eternal justice and equity. But how shall human
language express the debt? Thou hast violated every divine precept,
pursued a course diametrically opposite to the commandments of God,
trampled on his authority, and lived to thyself. Every action, word, and
thought, has augmented the already incalculable debt. God has called, but
thou hast refused; his providence has warned thee, but thou hast despised
it, and made a covenant with hell. While thy personal transgressions have
abounded like the drops of the ocean, or the sands upon the shore, thy
example has perniciously influenced others. Thou owest thy whole existence
and all thy faculties, thy entire obedience and constant affection, to
God. He is thy _Father_--thy _Creator_--thy _Benefactor_, and what hast
thou to pay? what are thy resources? _Future_ obedience, supposing it
_perfect_, could not expiate _past_ offences. Pains, prostrations,
pilgrimages, penances, and mortifications, can be of no avail. Hecatombs
of animals would not suffice, or ten thousand rivers of oil; but, if they
would, the treasures are not _thine_: "for every beast of the forest is
_mine_, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the
mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I
would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will
I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" What then hast
thou to pay?--_Nothing_! absolutely _nothing_!

But the parable in question represents the free pardon, which it is the
privilege of the vilest transgressors to participate upon their return to
God, And we should mark the _sovereignty_, blended with the mercy of this
procedure. It is not supposed that the recipients of divine bounty and
blessing have any claim upon such favors; nor, indeed, that they can plead
any extenuating circumstance to conciliate offended justice. The debtors
had "nothing to pay," and their impoverished condition was a sufficient
excitement to their creditor to remit his dues. He "remembered them in
their low estate;" and, with a liberality characteristic of him to whom we
are so deeply indebted in a moral sense, he discharged them from every
obligation. There is not the slightest intimation of any urgency or
solicitation on their part; but he "_frankly_ forgave them." If sinners
had any just conception of their state, they would indeed seek mercy with
the utmost importunity, and relinquish their present courses with the most
fixed resolution of mind; but the grace of God operates in _calling_ men
to repentance, as well as in _constraining_ their attention and
acquiescence. They are "made willing" in "the day of his power;" and, like
a gale that rises upon a vessel drifting to a rocky shore, and bears it
from destruction, this influence effectually propels them to "the hope set
before them" in the Gospel.

The exercise of mercy is distinguished also for its _extensive and
diversified application_. Simon the Pharisee, and the woman who was a
sinner, differed in the nature and proportion of their guilt. He was as
much condemned for self-righteousness, as she for impurity--he
transgressed by pride, and she by rebellion: but "he frankly forgave them
_both_." "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and
passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth
not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy! He will turn
again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and
thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

If, reader, thou art impressed with a sense of guilt, and ready to
exclaim, "What must I do to be saved?" it is with unspeakable satisfaction
and confidence we point to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of
the world." That heart which was melted by the tears of this woman, is not
closed against _thee_! That Saviour who was all pity and benevolence in
the days of his humiliation, still waits to be gracious now he is exalted
to his throne!

Hast thou experienced the efficacy of his grace, and the joys of his
salvation? Be stimulated to _love him much_. What sins, what rebellions,
what broken vows, what ingratitude has he forgiven thee! All are
obliterated from the book of his remembrance; all are lost and buried in
the ocean of his grace; and he has fixed thy name amongst a thousand
promises, and in a page which his eye never peruses but with ineffable

The _plan_ upon which forgiveness is dispensed to a sinful world, and
which is now more fully developed, demands our admiration, as it glorifies
God, exalts the sinner, and harmonizes the universe.

It _glorifies_ God. The work of redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ is the
central point, where all the perfections of Deity assemble and meet. Every
attribute of God pointing to Calvary, seems to devout believers to say, as
Jesus did to his disciples, with reference to their last interview on a
mountain in Galilee, "There shall ye see me." His perfections had hitherto
appeared in the world in their distinct forms.--Justice in its inflexible
decisions, Truth in its firm decrees, Holiness in its terrible
inflictions, operated powerfully, but often separately--as in the
destruction of Pharaoh, and the deliverance of Israel--in the earthquake
that devoured the rebels who presented strange fire--in the deluge that
overwhelmed the world--in the burning tempest that descended upon Sodom,
and the sword that scattered the nations of Canaan; but round the brink of
that "fountain which was opened" on Calvary for "sin and uncleanness,"
they seem to unite and say, "Glory to God in the highest." This is the
common and sacred ground, on which "mercy and truth can meet together."
Inflexible justice does not remit her claims, but "the Lamb that was
slain" satisfies them--she still demands _blood_--and blood is shed--she
demands the _life_ of the guilty, and the guilty are furnished with a
victim who can endure the curse and suffer the chastisement--she requires
a recompense for the violated law; and "he hath magnified the law and made
it honorable," by becoming "obedient unto death, even the death of
the cross!"

This plan of mercy _exalts the sinner_. If the requisitions of justice
were strictly personal, and the economy of Heaven such as to admit of no
substitute, the sinner's salvation would have been impossible; because his
individual sufferings, though the just consequence of his guilt, could
never become the meritorious means of its removal. Suffering, extreme in
its nature, and perpetual in its duration, was the desert of
transgression; but it could neither repair the injury which sin had done,
nor constitute a claim upon divine forgiveness; or, if it _could_--by the
very supposition there would be no possibility of any period arriving when
that mercy could be enjoyed, because the suffering must be _eternal_.
Such, however, was the infinite merit of the Saviour, that in the plan of
forgiving mercy, his death was accepted as an equivalent for the
sufferings of creatures. By exercising faith in his name, we transfer the
burden of our debt, and he liquidates it: we confess we have nothing to
pay, and wholly confide in his ability to discharge on our behalf every
obligation; in consequence of which the transgressor is treated as
innocent; he is released--the door is opened, his chains are broken off,
and he is exalted to the favour and friendship of God; and "Who," he
inquires, "shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God
that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea
rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who
also maketh intercession for us"

This plan of mercy _harmonizes the universe_. Sin has separated chief
friends--it has divided man from God, man from angels, and man from his
neighbour. It has introduced a general war, and generated universal
anarchy and strife. But redemption is the great work that restores order
and promotes concord. It is on Calvary the terms are made, and the great
treaty ratified--divided interests are reunited, and peace on earth
proclaimed. It is there "God is in Christ reconciling the world to
himself;" and there, realizing the efficacy of atoning blood, and weeping
over the follies and criminality of past rebellion, the penitent exclaims,
"Abba, Father!" Thus God and man are united. It is there holy angels,
instead of being executioners of vengeance, become "ministering spirits to
the heirs of salvation;" while every Lazarus begins to anticipate the
period of "absence from the body," when "he shall be carried by _angels_
to Abraham's bosom," and be "ever present with the Lord." Thus men and
angels become one. It is there also before the cross, having "tasted that
the Lord is gracious," "the brother of low degree rejoices in that he is
exalted, and the rich in that he is made low." There the murderer Saul
meets his victim Stephen, with "all who in every place call on the name of
the Lord;" and (O happy change!) embraces as a brother him whom he
believed a foe! There the turbulence of passion is allayed--the violence
of animosity ceases--the battle of conflicting interests and petty
selfishness rages no more. Those who were enemies in the world, become
friends at the cross. The barbarian, Scythian, bond, and free, drink
together the cup of blessing, partake the "common salvation," and imbibe
the fraternal spirit. Thus man and man unite, while "Christ is all and
in all."

"Religion, in all its parts, requires the exercise of forgiveness. It is
required by its precepts, its spirit, and its prospects. Its
_precepts_--we are not to render evil for evil, but contrariwise blessing:
we are to love our enemies, to forgive our brother as often as he returns
acknowledging his misconduct, and saying, 'I repent.' Its _spirit_; the
Gospel, or the religion of Jesus, is emphatically styled 'the ministry of
_reconciliation_.' Its _prospects_; we are members of the same family,
heirs of the same kingdom, and going to the same heaven. Heaven is a state
of perfect and universal harmony and love. Nothing must enter there,
either to defile or disturb. There must be no little disputes, no rising
resentment, no shadow of reserve. All must be of one heart and of one
soul. Yes, if we both be Christians indeed, there we must meet our
brother, with whom wo have been angry, and towards whom we have even
indulged our anger; an anger upon which not only the 'sun went down,' but
over which life itself passed. Yes, happy necessity! there we _must_ meet
him! There will be no passing' by on the other side, no refusing to go
into his company. Countenance must sparkle to countenance, thought must
meet thought, bosom must expand to bosom, and heart bound to
heart forever,"

The Syrophenician; or Canaanitish Woman.

Chapter VI.

Introductory Observations--Christ could not be concealed--the
Syrophenician Woman goes to him on Account of her Daughter--her
Humility--Earnestness--Faith--the Silence of Christ upon her Application
to him--the Disciples repulsed--the Woman's renewed Importunity--the
apparent Scorn with which it is treated--her Admission of the
contemptuous Insinuation--her persevering Ardour--her ultimate
Success--the Necessity of being Importunate in Prayer--Remarks on the
Woman's national Character--Present State of the Jews--the Hope of their
final Restoration.

The facts and incidents of the New Testament furnish the best exposition
of its doctrines. Owing to the imperfection of human language, as a medium
of communicating truth, and, the very limited capacities of the human
mind, as well as the numerous prejudices that darken our understandings in
the present state, some obscurities will always attend even the clearest
revelations of Heaven. "Touched with a feeling of our infirmities," our
blessed Saviour often adopted a parabolic method of instruction, which was
calculated to awaken attention and to stimulate inquiry, as well as to
simplify the great principles he was perpetually inculcating; and he has
caused those frequent conversations into which he entered with different
individuals during his personal ministry, to be transmitted to succeeding
times for their instruction. We have by this means an opportunity of
witnessing the diversified modes in which truth operates on men; we see
the various workings of the passions, the progress of conviction, the
development of character, and the designs of Infinite Mercy. The sublimest
doctrines and the finest precepts are taught by example; and we are shown
what they _are_, by seeing what they _accomplish_. The sacred history
introduces us to persons of like passions with ourselves, and, by its
interesting details, gives us a participation of their hopes and fears,
their joys and sorrows, their difficulties and their successes. We are not
introduced into the school of Socrates, the academy of Plato, or the
Lyceum of Aristotle, where some wise maxims were undoubtedly dictated to
the respective admirers of these eminent men; but we are conducted from
the region of abstractions to real life. Christianity is taught, by
showing us, Christians--humility by holding up to view the
humble--repentance by exhibiting the penitent--charity by pointing out the
benevolent--faith by displaying, as in the narrative before us, the
true believer.

The case was this. Jesus went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, where,
having entered into a house, he intimated his wish for privacy and
concealment, "but he could not be hid;" upon which an ingenious writer [32]
observes: "I think I see three principal reasons for the conduct of our
Saviour; 'He would have no man know it.' Why? because he would fulfil the
prophecy--explain his own character--and leave us an example of virtue.
Once, 'when great multitudes followed him and he healed them all, he
charged them that they should not make him known; that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold, my
servant shall not cause his voice to be heard in the streets;' that is, he
shall not affect popularity, nor stoop to use any artifice to make
proselytes. Most likely this was one reason of our Lord's desiring to be
concealed on this occasion. Probably, he intended also to explain his own
character to the family where he was. Jesus was a person of singular
modesty, and a high degree of every virtue that can adorn a man, was a
character of the promised Messiah. It was necessary to give frequent
proofs by his actions of the frame and temper of his heart, and he
discovered the tenderness of a friend to the family where he was, and to
his disciples, who were along with him, just as he had done before, when
there were so many coming and going, that they had no leisure so much as
to eat.' Then 'he said unto his apostles, Come ye yourselves apart into a
desert place, and rest awhile. And they departed into a desert place by
ship privately.' Further, in the case before us we have a fine example of
the conduct proper for men exalted above their fellows. They ought not to
make a public show of themselves, nor to display their abilities in vain
ostentation. All their abilities should scent of piety and the fear of
God. The apostle Paul reproved the Corinthians for abusing extraordinary
gifts to make the people think them _prophets_ and _spiritual_ persons,
while they ought to have applied them to the 'edifying of the church.'
'God,' adds this apostle, 'is not the author of confusion, but of peace.'
For such reasons we suppose our blessed Saviour desired concealment in
this house; and so much right had he to rest after a journey, to refresh
himself with food and sleep, to retire from the malice of his enemies, and
to enjoy all the uninterrupted sweets of privacy, that had not his
presence been indispensably necessary to the relief and happiness of
mankind, one would have wished to have hushed every breath, and to have
banished every foot, lest he should have been disturbed; _but he could
not be hid_."

Having heard of the miracles which Christ performed, for long since his
fame had gone throughout all Syria, a woman of Canaan, a Syrophenician by
birth, and a Greek by religion, [33] repaired to the house with haste,
under the pressure of a severe domestic calamity. Her young daughter had
an unclean spirit, or, as she expressed it, was "grievously vexed with a
devil." There was something peculiarly awful and mysterious in the nature
of this affliction, which was very prevalent in the days of Christ, and is
frequently mentioned by the historians of the New Testament. It does not
appear any longer to afflict mankind, and if the reason be inquired,
perhaps it is that the victorious power of Messiah might he displayed in
the expulsion of evil spirits, by his presence upon the earth.

This Syrophenician woman then was induced to hasten to Jesus, in
consequence of the distressing situation of her poor possessed daughter.
[34] How often has affliction proved the successful messenger of
Providence, when every other failed! It has gone out into the "highways
and hedges," and "compelled them to come in," when no entreaty or
remonstrance could overcome the obduracy of sinners, and thus has
replenished the table of mercy with thankful guests. It cannot be doubted,
that a part of the felicity of glorified spirits in eternity will consist
in tracing the mysterious goodness of God in conducting them through a
variety of painful dispensations in the present world; and it is by no
means improbable, that the very events of life, which once occasioned the
greatest perplexity, and filled the mind with the most overwhelming
anxieties, will hereafter prove the noblest sources of gratitude, and the
strongest incentives to praise. A personal or a relative affliction, which
agonizes the soul by the suddenness of its occurrence, or by its dreadful
nature, which embitters life, distracts the mind, confuses every scheme,
and confounds every hope, has often proved the real, though perhaps
unknown or unacknowledged means of turning the feet of the transgressor
into the way of peace. It has led the wayward mind to reflection, and the
wandering heart to its rest. It has proved the first effectual means of
exciting attention to religion; it has subdued and softened the mind, and
subjected it to divine teachings; and the once untractable rebel has
become tamed into submission, penitence, and obedience. In this manner
affliction is often essentially connected with salvation, and the
apostolic statement pleasingly realized; "Our light affliction, which is
but for a moment, _worketh for us_ a far more exceeding and eternal weight
of glory."

When this poor woman came to Jesus, she fell at his feet, explained her
situation, and earnestly entreated his kind interposal. Disregarding every
spectator, waiting for no formal introduction, and convinced of his mighty
power, she rushed into his presence, and with all the vehemence of
maternal agony, urged her suit.

Her conduct evinced great _humility_. She not only assumed the attitude,
but felt the spirit of a suppliant. It does not appear that the external
appearance of Jesus was in any respect remarkable, for on some occasions
where he was unknown, he was equally unnoticed. When he sat over against
the treasury observing the poor widow, he attracted no particular
attention--when he visited the sick and dying at the pool of Bethesda, he
was not at first recognized as any extraordinary personage, and the
prophet intimates that he possessed "no form nor comeliness: but his
visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of
men." It was before the majesty of his character this Syrophenician woman
bowed with holy reverence and humble admiration. Conscious of having no
claim upon his notice, but such as her affliction conferred--and this
indeed was to him, who "went about doing good," no insignificant
recommendation--and overawed by a deep sense both of her own unworthiness,
and his greatness and goodness, she "fell at his feet." O, that with
genuine prostration of spirit, we always presented ourselves before the
Lord! This is essential to success in all our applications to the "throne
of grace." Divested of this quality, our best services will prove but
religious mockery and useless parade; for "God resisteth the proud, but
giveth grace unto the humble."

The language of this woman is highly impassioned, and indicative of
extreme _earnestness_. She besought "him that he would cast forth the
devil out of her daughter;" she "cried out," like one overwhelmed with
grief, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David!" The case is
completely her own. The precious life for which she pleads is dear as her
own existence. But who can realize, or what language can express her
feelings? The affectionate mother alone, who has watched over the sick or
dying bed of a languishing daughter, or the agonized parent who has seen
some mighty and incurable disorder befall his child--some member
withered--some essential faculty enfeebled or destroyed--perhaps reason
distracted; can imagine the emotions of that moment when the woman
exclaimed, "Have mercy on _me_!!" What reason have we to be grateful for
domestic health, while many are afflicted by the severest trials!

We have here a remarkable specimen of _faith_. When, the father of the
young man who had a dumb spirit brought him to Jesus, "_If_," said he,
after describing his case, "_if_ thou _canst_ do any thing, have
compassion on us, and help us." This was an implication deregatory to the
glory, and disparaging to the power of the Son of God. It implied at least
a doubt of his capacity to afford the requisite assistance, and
consequently occasioned the remonstrance; "If thou _canst believe_, all
things are possible to him that believeth." _q.d._ "The question is not
whether I possess power, but whether you can exercise faith. Nothing
obstructs my benevolent exertion but human infidelity. This, and this
only, is the great barrier, the insurmountable impediment to the more
universal display of my character, and the multiplication of my wonderful
works" This woman, however, expressed no suspicion, intimated no doubt;
but, with unhesitating confidence, addressed him as the "Lord, the Son
of David."

"O blessed Syrophenician, who taught thee this abstract of divinity? What
can we Christians confess more than the Deity, the humanity, and the
Messiahship of our glorious Saviour? His Deity as Lord, his humanity as a
son, his Messiahship as the son of David. Of all the famous progenitors of
Christ, two are singled out by way of eminence, David and Abraham, a king
and a patriarch; and though the patriarch was first in time, yet the king
is first in place; not so much for the dignity of his person, as the
excellence of the promise, which, as it was both later and fresher in
memory, so more honorable. To Abraham was promised multitude and blessing
of seed, to David perpetuity of dominion. So as, when God promiseth not to
destroy his people, it is for Abraham's sake; when not to extinguish the
kingdom, it is for David's sake. Had she said, 'the Son of Abraham,' she
had not come home to this acknowledgment. Abraham is the father of the
faithful, David of the kings of Judea and Israel; there are many faithful,
there is but one king; so as in this title she doth proclaim him the
perpetual king of his church, the rod or flower which should come from the
root of Jesse, the true and only Saviour of the world. Whoso shall come
unto Christ to purpose, must come in the right style; apprehending a true
God, a true man, a true God and man: any of these severed from other,
makes Christ an idol, and our prayers sin." [35]

The disadvantageous circumstances of this woman illustrate the
_superiority_ of her faith. There is no evidence of her having seen the
Saviour before, much less of her having been a witness of his miraculous
works. She had only heard the report of them in her distant residence, and
yet, under the guidance of that Spirit who wrought conviction in her mind,
hastened to cast herself at his feet. Hers was the blessedness of those
who have "not seen, and yet have believed." What a fine contrast do her
faith and zeal exhibit to the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees of the
Jewish nation, who in defiance of evidence, of signs and wonders daily
performed before their eyes, persisted not only in rejecting Christ as the
Messiah, but in plotting against his life. She beheld the rising
brightness of the Sun of Righteousness, and was attracted by his glory,
though at a distance; whilst they who were near shut their eyes against
his heavenly light. She was, therefore, not only distinguished from her
fellow-countrywomen, but from the mass of the Jewish people, who
voluntarily forfeited their noblest privileges; and, under the influence
of the basest prejudice, eventually completed the long train of their
iniquities in rejecting and stoning the prophets, by crucifying the Son
of God.

Happy would it be for the best interests of mankind, did the annals of
succeeding ages present no other specimens of the same infatuation! But,
alas! similar follies are reacted every day. Amidst the most favourable
circumstances for spiritual improvement, what awful degeneracy of
character exists! Multitudes who have enjoyed the best means, who have
been religiously educated, repeatedly admonished, and carefully
superintended; who have been taught the holy Scriptures from their
youth--who have been led to the house of God, and had "line upon line, and
precept upon precept"--on whose behalf a thousand supplications have been
presented to heaven, and over whom ten thousand thousand tears have been
shed--have continued to manifest an aversion against the claims of truth,
and the disobedience of spirit to the commands of Christ. Like the barren
fig-tree, they have remained unproductive of any good fruits,
notwithstanding unusual cultivation; and have been unsightly as well as
useless "cumberers of the ground;"--on the other hand, some whose early
habits and irreligious connections were singularly unfavorable to piety,
have nevertheless been "brought out of darkness into marvellous light" Our
privileges enhance our responsibility: let us, therefore, anxiously avoid
the misconduct of the Jews, and beware lest those who have fewer means of
improvement, advance, through a better use of them, to higher degrees of
spiritual attainment and excellence.

The humility, the earnestness, and the faith we have been contemplating,
it is natural to expect, met with a welcome reception. It is true that
mankind often repay confidence with coldness, and shut the hand and the
heart against the most importunate entreaties. It is true there are wolves
in sheep's clothing, monsters in human form, who aggravate by unkindness
the wounds which Providence has inflicted, and who tear and devour as
their prey those whom they should supply as their pensioners; but Jesus
was "the _Lamb_ of God"--he was "touched with the feeling of our
infirmities"--he "went about doing good"--he pronounced blessings on "the
merciful"--he was no stranger to personal suffering--it was his nature to
sympathize--his element to relieve--the grand predicted feature of his
gentle character, that he should "come down like rain upon the mown
grass," and should "_spare_ the poor and needy." Who can express the
tenderness of that spirit which cherished "pity for us in our low estate"
while surrounded by the glories of his Father's throne, and charmed with
the harps of heaven, voluntarily descending into this vale of affliction
to dry up the tears that flow so copiously from the mourner's eye! We are
prepared then, to witness the overflowings of tenderness in his reception
of this afflicted mother! But, lo! "he answered her not a word."
Mysterious silence! And what were thy feelings, O thou agonized stranger,
in these moments of sad suspense? And what explanation can be offered for
this extraordinary conduct? Had she escaped his notice amidst the crowd?
Had she fallen unobserved at his feet? Did he not then hear that piercing
cry--that powerful appeal--that humble entreaty--those words of agony and
of faith?--Yes--but he "answered her _not_ A WORD!"

This is not, indeed, a solitary instance. When the adulterous transgressor
was brought into his presence by the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus "stooped
down, and with his finger wrote on the ground as though he heard them
not;" but this was to disappoint their malice, whose sole purpose was to
obtain some materials for his accusation. When he was attacked by
reiterated calumnies in the presence of Pilate, "he answered nothing;"
because he would manifest a holy indignation against their unreasonable
and exasperating conduct. The railing of the impenitent malefactor, who
was his fellow-sufferer on the cross, could provoke no reply; although
this dignified reserve was instantly changed into language of gracious
promise, when the other entreated his mercy. He could not remain a moment
inattentive to the penitent's petition, and far exceeded his desires; for
he requested only a place in his _memory_, but he gave him a place in his
_kingdom_. Delightful pledge, that "he will do for us exceeding abundantly
above all we ask or think."

If we were unable to discover any satisfactory reason for his silence,
when in the most supplicating attitude and with the profoundest humility
the Syrophenician woman besought him to restore her daughter, it would he
the height of imprudence to impeach his benevolence. His general conduct,
the kindness of all his other actions, the gentleness of his words, the
universal benignity of his deportment, would forbid our imputing this
apparent deviation from his general goodness to any other than some latent
cause, which it might not have been necessary or proper to disclose, or
the statement of which the brevity of the inspired narrative precluded.
But too frequently we misjudge, and even murmur against the divine
proceedings, because our limited capacities cannot trace their ultimate
design, or even their present connections and combinations. With a
characteristic presumption we act as if we expected that the plans of
Heaven ought to be submitted to our inspection, or stopped in their
progress to await our approval; whereas it is neither proper nor possible
to disclose to us more than "parts of his ways!"

Many reasons, however, might be assigned for this remarkable silence. The
principal one was probably the purpose of proving her character, and
encouraging a perseverance, which from the strength of her faith he knew
would be the result, and which would eventually illustrate both her
character and his own. How many, had they even advanced to this point of
submission, would have withdrawn in disgust, and misrepresented the
conduct they could not comprehend! But she is not offended at this
seeming neglect. She does not exclaim, with the sarcastic vehemence of
disappointed hope, "Is this Son of David--the wonder-worker of Israel--the
meek, the compassionate, the condescending person of whom we have heard
such extraordinary reports?--Am I to be neglected while others are
relieved?"--but patiently waits the result, still persevering in her suit.
"O woman, great is thy faith!" Of this we may be fully assured on every
occasion of supplicating the throne of mercy, that if the "cry of the
humble" he deferred, it is not "forgotten," and that the trials to which
we are exposed always bear a well-adjusted proportion both to the
necessity of the case and to our capacity of endurance.

In this interval the disciples interceded for her dismission with the
answer she requested. They pleaded her vehement importunity; and, as
Christ had expressed a wish for concealment, they probably supposed her
cries would excite an unwelcome degree of popular observation. To this he
answered, "I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
As this was said in the hearing of this distressed woman, it was not only
calculated to silence the disciples, but to discourage the suppliant. A
mere inattention to her urgent plea might have been imputed to some deep
abstraction of mind, which we know sometimes renders a person in the full
exercise of his faculties as indifferent and insensible to external
objects or sounds as if he were in a profound sleep; or he might have been
supposed to be occupied in meditating upon the woman's distress, and
devising means to afford her an effectual and speedy assistance: but his
language is an argument to justify his disregard, rather than to solicit
time for consideration. His commission was to Israel; he was a "minister
of the circumcision;" and that period was not yet arrived when "the
Gentiles were to be brought to his light, and kings to the brightness of
his rising." That favoured people, who were for so many ages distinguished
by celestial visitations, were destined notwithstanding their ingratitude,
to receive the first communications of the Son of God. Amongst them he
came to labour, to preach, and to die!

The solicitude of the disciples on this occasion was highly laudable. It
becomes the fellow-members of the great mystical body to sympathize with
each other. By this we fulfil the law of nature, but especially "the law
of Christ:" and in nothing can this sentiment be better expressed than in
fervent available prayers. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and
all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is
Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be
Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to
drink into one Spirit.... And whether one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with
it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular."

Driven perhaps to the very borders of despondency, and yet unwilling to
relinquish every hope, this agonizing mother again rushed forward,
prostrated herself at the Saviour's feet, and with impetuous zeal
earnestly cried out, "Lord, help me!" She seemed reduced to the last
extremity; and yet, like Esther, who resolved to go in to the king,
whether she perished or not, and like Jonah, tossing about amongst the
waves of the ocean, determining "to look again towards the holy temple of
Jehovah," she ventured to renew her application, and in language implying
her conviction of his ability, and a glimmering hope of his willingness,
she does not merely say, "Lord, deign some answer--even if it be a
refusal," but "Lord, _help_ me!" She was vigorous in faith. She "laid hold
of the horns of the altar"--she "cleaved to the Lord with full purpose of
heart." Reader, what shall we say?--"Go thou and do likewise."

Her entreaties obtain an answer, Jesus turns to address the suppliant. He
is no longer deaf to her petitions or blind to her tears. Her throbbing
heart beats with unutterable emotion, and at that glad moment she is all
ear to the long-sought reply. "Who now can expect other than a fair and
yielding answer to so humble, so faithful, so patient a suppliant? What
can speed well, if a prayer of faith from the knees of humility succeeds
not? And yet behold, the further she goes the worse she fares: her
discouragement is doubled with her suit. 'It is not meet to take the
children's bread and to cast it to dogs.' First, his silence implied a
contempt, then his answer defended his silence; now his speech expresses
and defends his contempt. Lo, he hath turned her from a woman to a dog,
and, as it were, spurns her from his feet with a harsh repulse. What shall
we say?--Is the Lamb of God turned lion? Doth that clear fountain of mercy
run blood? O Saviour, did ever so hard a word fall from those mild lips?
Thou calledst Herod fox--most worthily, he was crafty and wicked; the
Scribes and Pharisees a generation of vipers, they were venomous and
cruel; Judas a devil, he was both covetous and treacherous. But here was a
woman in distress, and distress challenges mercy; a good woman, a faithful
suppliant, a Canaanitish disciple, a Christian Canaanite, yet rated and
whipped out for a dog by thee who wert all goodness and mercy! How
different are thy ways from ours! Even thy severity argues favour. The
trial had not been so sharp if thou hadst not found the faith so strong,
if thou hadst not meant the issue so happy. Thou hadst not driven her away
as a dog, if thou hadst not intended to admit her for a saint; and to
advance her so much for a pattern of faith, as thou depressedst her for a
spectacle of contempt." [36]

In nothing is the preposterous arrogance of mankind more apparent than in
the violence of their national antipathies. Did not the history of all
ages and countries furnish an ample catalogue of opprobrious epithets,
which they have not scrupled to bestow upon each other, we might wonder
that the Jews should have accustomed themselves to speak so contemptuously
of others as to call them _dogs_. Owing to the natural propensity of human
nature to villify and degrade, the vocabularies of all languages have been
swelled with such odious terms; and till the principles of the Gospel have
been universally disseminated, we cannot indulge the hope of seeing the
animosities of mankind removed. Then only will they love their neighbours
as themselves. It is to be most deeply lamented, that even where
Christianity has taken root in the mind, this unholy leaven does not seem
to be entirely purged away; and mutual jealousies, bickerings, and
recriminations exist, where love should be the ruling principle and bond
of union. O, when will the reign of perfect charity, that "thinketh no
evil," commence! When will "the whole earth be filled with the _glory of
the Lord_!" When will men of every rank and class associate as Christians,
and Christians of every order unite as brethren!

The term _dog_ in the mouth of our Saviour, and as applied to this
distressed supplicant, must not, however, be considered as used in
conformity to the vulgar prejudices of his countrymen, but for the double
purpose of a sarcastic allusion to the unreasonableness of their degrading
views of others, who were Gentiles by birth, and to try still further a
faith which he knew would endure the test, and display this persevering
woman to the greatest advantage. Jesus Christ must necessarily, in point
of personal feeling, have been infinitely superior to all those unworthy
littlenesses which were conspicuous in the multitude around him; and as he
was acting for the moment, to answer an important purpose, in an assumed
character, we cannot be surprised that he should personate a Jew elated
with self-conscious superiority, by saying, "it is not meet to take the
children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." We are reminded of Joseph, an
eminent antitype of Christ, who, though he knew his brethren, and was
overflowing with fraternal tenderness, "made himself strange unto them,
and spake roughly unto them;" and we are led to reflect also on the
impenetrable darkness which, to the human eye, sometimes envelopes the
dispensations of Heaven; when, as a pious poet represents it,

Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

The woman at once acknowledges the charge, but instantly extracts an
argument from her very discouragements. "Truth, Lord--the dogs ought not
to be fed with the supply designed for the children. I own the general
fact, and humbly submit to the painful but obvious application. It is not
from any conviction of meriting thy interposing mercy, that I have
ventured to solicit it, and to reiterate my plea. I am indeed a sinner--a
Gentile--a dog. 'And yet,'if I may pursue the allusion, 'the dogs eat of
the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' One act of kindness I
entreat amidst thy boundless liberalities--one word of consolation from
thy lips, which drop as the honey and the honeycomb--one, only one supply
from thine inexhaustible plenitude of grace and power--one fragment from
the table!"

It is done!--Joseph unveils himself! Jesus reassumes his proper character!
The stern air and attitude of repulsion is dismissed--he smiles with
ineffable affection--commends her faith, and with commanding authority
bestows the wished-for blessing; and though at so great distance, expels
the demon from the afflicted daughter. "Then Jesus answered and said unto
her, O woman, great is thy faith; he it unto thee even as thou wilt. And
her daughter was made whole from that very hour."

Such was the result of persevering _importunity_, which must ever
characterize successful prayer, and will necessarily spring from a genuine
and deep-rooted faith. We have been contemplating one of the finest
specimens of it that ever occurred in the world; and we are solemnly
exhorted to the practice of it in the introductory passage to one of our
Lord's parables--"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

Sometimes people are under the influence of very needless discouragements.
They "grow weary and faint in their minds," because they do not meet with
_immediate_ success; though this consideration constitutes no essential
part of the divine promises, would in many cases be injurious to our best
interests, and is by no means characteristic of some of the most
remarkable examples of successful prayer. At other times impatience arises
from observing that "the Father of lights," to whose wisdom it becomes us
to refer every petition, does not answer our requests in the _manner_
which we had anticipated, and, perhaps, dared presumptuously to prescribe.
But while in this, or in any other way, we approach God in the spirit of
dictation, rather than of faith and submission, we virtually renounce the
blessing even whilst we solicit it. From the history of the Syrophenician
woman we may learn, that our applications for mercy must be sincere,
fervent, and incessant. Whatever delays may occur, it is our happiness to
be assured that the ear of Infinite Goodness is always open; "the throne
of grace," to which we may approach "boldly," is always accessible. The
petitions of faith cannot escape the notice, or be obliterated from the
memory, of him to whom they are presented, but will prove ultimately
effectual; and, as prayer is the appointed means of divine communication,
it is _necessary_ to obtain the blessings of Heaven. "Whosoever _asketh_,

The value of the mercies we are required to seek is such as ought to
excite our utmost importunity. If the Syrophenician woman were so eager
and so persevering in order to obtain a temporal blessing, surely it
becomes us to manifest at least an equal zeal for spiritual good. She
entreated the cure of her possessed daughter; we are assured that "ALL
things whatsoever we ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive." At the
voice of prayer the treasures of grace are unlocked, the windows of heaven
opened, the riches of eternity dispensed. The language of _petition_
ascends above the language of _praise_, and is heard amidst the songs of
angels. "O thou that hearest _prayer_, unto thee shall all flesh come."

The interesting consideration, that this woman was a _Canaanite_, ought
not to be overlooked. This people was particularly denounced by Noah in
the person of their guilty progenitor, and in the following terms: "Cursed
be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." The
descendants of Canaan, that is, primarily of Ham, were remarkably wicked
and idolatrous. "Their religion," as bishop Newton observes, "was bad, and
their morality, if possible, worse; for corrupt religion and corrupt
morals usually generate each other, and go hand in hand together." Some
centuries after their predicted subjugation to the yoke of Shem and
Japheth, the Israelites, under the command of Joshua, smote thirty of
their kings, and Solomon made such as were not before extirpated or
enslaved his tributaries. The Greeks and Romans afterward subdued Syria
and Palestine, and conquered the Tyrians and Carthaginians. Subsequently
to this period, the Saracens, and finally the Turks, fastened upon them
the iron yoke of servitude.

Behold, then, from among the accursed Canaanites, a woman outstrips in
zeal and faith thousands, and tens of thousands, who were her superiors in
birth and privilege; and Jesus withholds not his blessing from this
insignificant Gentile! What an encouragement to the meanest, the
obscurest, and the most unworthy, to apply with instant haste to this
Almighty Saviour! His free and abundant salvation is dispensed to
penitents irrespectively of national distinctions or individual demerit;
and, instead of its being derogatory to his dignity to condescend to
persons of low estate, he chose to publish his Gospel to the poor, and to
"save the children of the needy." "His blood cleanseth from _all_ sin." He
came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." We have
here a specimen and pledge of the influence of Christ and his salvation.
He is become the centre of universal attraction, the powerful magnet of
the world, pervading by his influence the moral creation, and gradually
drawing all into himself. The designs of mercy were now enlarging, the
scale of its operations extending, and the ancient lines of demarcation
between Jew and Gentile were overstepped by the zeal of the Lord of Hosts.
In the person of this Canaanite we witness the first "lively stone"
brought from the Gentile quarry, and placed on the chief corner-stone of
the great spiritual edifice of the Christian church. "They shall come,"
said our Saviour, "from the east and from the west, from the north and
from the south."

The present condition of the Jews forms an awful contrast, to those clays
of boasted pre-eminence, How are they, who once regarded all other nations
as dogs, become contemptible in consequence of their treatment of the Son
of God, while the cordial reception given him by many Gentile nations has
elevated them into the dignity of children! For nearly eighteen centuries
the once honored people of the Jews have been dispersed in every direction
upon the surface of the globe. They furnish an example of one of these
dreadful recriminations of Providence which have sometimes been inflicted
on atrocious sinners in their collective and national capacities. Never
did the universe before witness so astonishing a spectacle, as a nation
destroyed as a nation, but preserved as individuals--preserved to suffer,
and to be accounted the offscouring of all things. At this moment they are
destitute of a temple, a priest, a sacrifice, a country, and a king. The
temporal dominion of their rulers and the succession of their priests have
ceased since the destruction of Jerusalem. No oblations and sacrifices
now exist. The fire burns no longer on the holy altar--the incense ascends
no more from the demolished temple--the flood of ages has swept away the
sacred edifices, and Desolation sits enthroned upon their ruins. The house
of Israel is, in consequence of the rejection of Christ, become a
spectacle to angels and to men--a melancholy monument of wo, on which the
hand of recriminating justice has inscribed in legible characters a
condemnatory sentence, which is read with silent awe by the inhabitants of
heaven, and by every king, and people, and nation of the globe.--But the
period of Jewish dispersion is hasting to its close. Party names and
ancient prejudices shall soon disappear, and mankind of every class and
country be eternally united in one blessed fraternity. "And it shall come
to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second
time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from
Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam,
and from Shinah, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he
shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of
Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners
of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries
of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall
not vex Ephraim."--"Other sheep," said Christ, "I have, which are not of
this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there
shall be one fold and one shepherd,"

Martha and Mary.

Chapter VII.

Bethany distinguished as the Residence of a pious Family, which
consisted of Lazarus and his two Sisters--their diversity of
Character--the Faults of Martha, domestic Vanity and fretfulness of
Temper--her counterbalancing Excellences--Mary's Choice and Christ's
Commendation--Decease of Lazarus--his Restoration to Life at the Voice
of Jesus--Remarks on Death being inflicted upon the People of God as
well as others--the Triumph which Christianity affords over this
terrible Evil--Account of Mary's anointing the Feet of Jesus, and his
Vindication of her Conduct.

Almost every spot in the vicinity of Jerusalem may be regarded as "holy
ground." The enraptured imagination cannot traverse this district without
recalling the many wonderful transactions that occurred there in different
periods of the Jewish history, but especially during the personal
residence of the Son of God upon the earth. Within the small circumference
of a few miles round the city, what a multitude of great events have taken
place! What miracles have been wrought! What mercies have been
distributed! What doctrines have been revealed! What characters have
appeared! What a development has been made of human nature! What a
surprising display of the perfections of the blessed God! What an
exhibition of the love of the incarnate Redeemer! Who, then, can think
without emotion, of Bethlehem--of Bethpage--of Bethany--of Mount
Olivet--of the brook Kedron--of Emmaus--and of Calvary?

Excepting only that mountain where Jesus "suffered, the just for the
unjust, that he might bring us to God," and where "once in the end of the
world" he "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," the village of
Bethany may, perhaps, be considered as the most interesting point in this
all-attractive scene. It is situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives,
on the way to Jericho. To this neighborhood the Son of God frequently
retired for meditation and prayer; thence he began to ride in triumph to
Jerusalem; thither he repaired after eating the last supper with his
disciples, and there they witnessed his ascending glory and heard his last
benediction--for "he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted up
his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he
was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him,
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the
temple, praising and blessing God."

Bethany, however, claims our present attention chiefly as being the
residence of one of the "households of faith," with whom our Saviour was
particularly intimate, and with whose history some remarkable
circumstances are connected. It was a small but happy family, consisting
of only three members, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. The two sisters, though
united by the ties of nature, and the still dearer bond of grace, were
distinguished by a considerable dissimilarity of character, which will
furnish us with some instruction. While charmed into an effort to imitate
remarkable persons by a description of their excellences, it is of great
importance to notice their defects, not only for the purpose of avoiding
them, but that we may not be overawed into despondency and paralyzed into
inaction by their superiority. Biography, to be useful, must be brought to
our level, capacities, and circumstances. We must see excellence that is
_attainable_, and view the same infirmities which are incident to our
nature, acting in our sphere, and struggling with perplexities,
resistance, vicissitude, and trial, similar to what we ourselves
experience. The appeal is powerful when we are called upon to be
"followers of them who," though circumstanced as we are, "through faith
and patience inherit the promises."

"Once they were mourners here below.
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears."

A history of angels might, indeed, excite our admiration, but would
conduce less to our real improvement than a history of our
fellow-creatures. We wish to witness the actions, and to be admitted into
the secret feelings, of those who, whatever elevation they may have since
obtained, were once in the same probationary state with ourselves, and
subjected to the same course of moral discipline. In this view it is
desirable to be introduced into the privacies of domestic life. It is in
the family and at the fireside we all occupy some station, and have some
appropriate duties to discharge; and on this account the narrative before
us is pre-eminently attractive. We are led to the native village--the
chosen residence--the family--the fireside--the _home_--of Martha and
Mary. We see them in all the undisguised reality of private life, and
participate at once their pleasures and their pains. We join the social
circle. We hear the Saviour conversing with them. We see them in
affliction--the common lot, the patrimony to which are all born--and
while we participate their sorrows, learn to sustain and profit by
our own.

In vain, to the great purposes of spiritual improvement, do we read the
lives of statesmen, heroes princes, philosophers, poets, orators, and the
mighty dead that emblazon the historic page. They excite our
astonishment, and perhaps our pity, and some moral lessons may be gained
from their reverses or the varieties of their characters; but the most
useful history is the history of religion--religion in the village, and in
the family--religion as exhibited at Bethany, in the house of Martha
and Mary.

It is a pleasing peculiarity of this household, that they were _all_ the
devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Lazarus appears to have been a solid,
established professor of religion, and of the two sisters it is recorded,
they "sat at Jesus's feet." We do not hear of another disciple in the
whole village, and all Judea could furnish but few, if any, similar
instances of three in a single dwelling; three solitary lights amidst
surrounding darkness; three flowers expanding to the newly risen Sun of
Righteousness, and blooming in a desolate wilderness. The dispensations of
providence and of grace are sometimes mysterious to the human eye, and we
feel disposed to inquire into the reasons why so few were touched by
divine influences, and bidden to follow Christ during his incarnation?
Could not that same commanding authority which drew twelve apostles and
seventy disciples into his train, and that same power which kindled the
lamp of truth in one village or city, and left another in moral darkness,
have filled Judea and the world with the glory of the Lord? Could not that
energy which pervades the universe, and imparts such inconceivable
fleetness to the morning beam when it irradiates the earth, have spread
the knowledge of salvation with equal rapidity, and multiplied the
disciples like the drops of dew?--Undoubtedly. No limits can be assigned
to divine efficiency; but in the present state no explanations are
afforded of the secret principles of his eternal government. Curiosity may
often be disposed to inquire, with one of the hearers of Christ, "Lord,
are there few that shall be saved?" But Scripture checks such
investigations, and admonishes us rather to cherish an availing solicitude
for our personal salvation: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."

The state even of the civilized world at this day is truly deplorable.
Although whole nations profess the Christian faith, yet every city, every
village, and almost every hamlet, contains families in which there is not
a single disciple of Jesus. The sun rises and sets upon a prayerless roof.
No altar is erected to God--no love exists to the Saviour--nothing to
attract his attachment or to furnish a subject for angelic joy--no
repentance--no faith--and none of "the peace of God which passeth all
understanding." Whatever may be the temporal circumstances of such
families, Christian benevolence cannot avoid weeping over their spiritual
condition. In many cases, the society admitted into their houses is of a
most pernicious class. Uninfluenced by the sentiments of David, who said,
"I am a companion of all them that fear thee," the friendships they form
are but too plainly indicative of their own principles. You will not see
them, like Martha and Mary, choosing the excellent of the earth, and
welcoming Christ or his disciples to their tables, to share their
comforts, to refine and improve their intercourse; but if they occupy a
high station in life, the gay, the dissipated, or the thoughtless--if in
an inferior situation, the vulgar, the sordid, the intemperate, and the
profane, frequent their dwellings. Religion is in both cases too often
treated with ridicule and contempt, vilified as mean-spirited in its
principle, and enthusiastic in its pretensions; and the truth of the
Gospel treated, as its Author was when upon earth, and would be were he
still incarnate, with contemptuous rejection.

Some pleasing exceptions may be found to these observations. In many
families exist at least _one_ example of genuine piety--an Abijah in the
impious family of a Jeroboam. There is reason to congratulate young
persons especially who dare to be singular, to incur reproach, and to
dismiss prejudices. The conquest in such instances is proportionably
honorable as the propensity in human nature is powerful to follow a
multitude to do evil. Such holy daring possesses great attractions, and
the most beneficial consequences have been known to result. The child has
become instrumental to the conversion of the parent, the parent to that of
the child; the brother has proved a blessing to the sister, the wife to
her husband: "for what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shall save thy
husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shall save thy wife?" In
other instances the sword of division is sharpened, and the discordances
already existing become more settled, more irreconcileable, and more
violent. The natural mind betrays its malignant animosity against the
spiritual principle, "and he that is born after the flesh persecutes him
that is born after the Spirit." But here the whole family was of "one
heart and of one soul." Religion was the law of the family, and the bond
of delightful union. They were possessed of one spirit; and, as Bishop
Hall observes, "jointly agreed to entertain Christ."

Can it be doubted, that the favored dwelling of Martha and Mary contained
a very large portion of domestic felicity--a felicity founded on the
noblest basis, cemented by the tenderest affection, and stamped with an
immortal character? The religion of Jesus is indeed calculated to diffuse
real happiness wherever it prevails; although, as we have intimated, it
may become the _occasion_ of discord in consequence of the perverseness
of human nature. Sin has disordered the mental and moral constitution of
man, and thrown the world into a state of anarchy. The unbridled dominion
of the passions disturbs the peace of the individual, and the harmony of
society. Sin makes a man at variance with himself, with his neighbors,
with his nearest connections, and with the whole constitution of the
universe. He becomes restless as the ocean, impelled by every contrary
wind, and tost about by every sportive billow. The desire of happiness
exists, but he is ignorant how to obtain it, and pursues those means which
only plunge him into greater misery. To this cause may be attributed all
the mental distresses and all the bodily afflictions of individuals--the
disturbances which too often prevent domestic enjoyment--the bickerings
and jealousies of families with their various alliances--the animosities
that annoy social life--the intestine broils, ambitious emulations, and
endless contentions, that distract a state, with every other form and mode
of evil. Hence the importance of promoting that kingdom which is
"righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" the basis of which
is the truth which Christ came into the world to propagate. It is this,
and this only, which renders mankind happy in every connection. It will
harmonize and felicitate to whatever extent it is diffused. It will allay
the discord of families, pacify the turbulence of nations, and silence the
din of war. There will be "great joy" in the heart, in the family, in the
city, and in the world. Under this influence "the wolf shall dwell with
the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and
the young lion, and the fattling together, and a little child shall lead
them.... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain."

One, however, as Martha and Mary were in principle, they differed in
character. When our Saviour first entered the house, it appears that they
both welcomed him, and listened for a time to his instructions. He was in
no haste for any refreshment, but eagerly improved every moment to benefit
his beloved friends. It was his meat and drink to do the Father's will,
and no kindness could afford him such satisfaction as a devout attention
to his words. It was, in fact, less to receive than to communicate that he
turned aside on his journey to visit these happy sisters. But if, at
first, they both attended to the "gracious words that proceeded out of his
mouth," Martha, anxious to furnish a suitable repast for their guest,
withdrew to make what she deemed the necessary preparations. Mary
continued riveted to the spot by a conversation which she could on no
terms relinquish. She would not lose a word. Every faculty was absorbed in
attention. Her eldest sister busied herself for sometime with her
preparations, till at length becoming impatient, she hastily demanded of
Jesus to send Mary to her assistance. This intrusion incurred the
memorable censure, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about
many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part
which shall not be taken away from her."

The defective points of Martha's character seem to have been two. The
first of these was domestic vanity and parade. Upon the arrival of her
divine guest she is "cumbered about much serving," anxious not only to
show a becoming hospitality, but to provide a great entertainment. In this
she betrayed a false estimate of our Saviour's spirit. He who willingly
submitted to every deprivation during his earthly career--who suffered
hunger, and thirst, and peril, and wretchedness, in every form, although
he could have commanded ten legions of angels to guard his life, or to
supply his necessities, could not have felt a moment's anxiety respecting
the abundance or the quality of the provision. This worthy woman not only
knew that he could have turned every stone of the wilderness into bread,
had he wished to pamper his appetite by luxurious living, but she had
surely sufficient opportunities to perceive his disposition, and the
perfect exemption of his mind from any kind of concern about his own
accommodation. Her anxiety was therefore mistaken in its object, as well
as excessive in its degree. And while remarking upon this subject, O that
we could impress upon all the ministers of his word the necessity of
imitating the conduct of their Master! It becomes them, as his avowed
disciples, and as persons who are perpetually exhorting others to
self-denial and courteousness, to manifest no care about their own
convenience, to give as little trouble as possible to those who, for the
sake of their office and their Master, treat tthemwith kind hospitality,
and to receive even a cup of cold water in a spirit corresponding to that
in which humble piety bestows it.

While thus betraying a false estimate of Christ, Martha's principal fault
becomes glaringly conspicuous. She is full of bustle, full of eagerness.
Her servants were, probably, dispatched in every direction to prepare a
sumptuous meal. Every thing must be in order; every dish in place. The
food, the arrangement, the preparation of every description, she was
probably solicitous should do her credit, as well as display the undoubted
affection which she cherished for her Lord. Who can tell what she lost by
her excessive care! He, "in whom dwelt all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge," was, during all this time, conversing with her sister; and
would have freely communicated the same instructions to her, had not she
precluded herself by needless anxieties.

But while we wonder at this voluntary sacrifice of spiritual advantages,
advantages too, which, generally speaking, she did not undervalue, let us
ask ourselves whether we have never merited a similar censure, whether we
have not been seduced by our worldly cares into a similar and culpable
remissness in religious duties? Happily, perhaps, like Martha, we love the
Saviour, we avow our attachment, we welcome him in the persons of his
representatives into our families; hut, at the same time, forfeit our
privileges, lose our opportunities, and suffer temporal concerns to
supersede the habitual impression of spiritual realities. Let pious women,
especially, take a lesson from this incident. Martha was by no means an
unique. She represents a very numerous class of female professors. Here is
a glass into which they may look and see a perfect reflection of
themselves; and we trust they will not retire from the salutary exhibition
of their own blemishes, _forgetting_ what manner of persons they are.
Domestic care, like every other, is liable to degenerate into excess.
There are many ladies whose piety excites universal admiration, but who,
from some constitutional proneness or some acquired habit, bestow a
disproportionate, and therefore, on many accounts, highly pernicious
concern upon their household arrangements. We are not the apologists of
uncleanliness or disorder; but it is possible to be over nice and over
anxious: by the former, we may injure the comfort of others, as well as
become burdensome even to ourselves; by the latter, we may soon interfere
with the superior claims of religion. The care of a family cannot
extenuate the guilt of neglecting private devotion or public duties; it
cannot exculpate a neglect of the word or the ordinances of God; and to be
"cumbered about much serving," is not only waste of time, but unfits the
mind for profitable intercourse, and is likely to produce an unhappy
effect upon the disposition.

This leads us to notice the second great defect in Martha, which the
present occasion tended to illustrate. This was fretfulness of temper. Her
language indicates extreme irritation. "Lord, dost thou not care that my
sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she help me."
It might be expected, that, overawed by the dignified and holy presence of
the Son of God, this woman would have felt ashamed to show her impatience,
and have been contented to remain silent. But nothing could restrain her.
Something went wrong. There was some mistake, some confusion, or perhaps
some dish out of order. She was bustling about to make preparations upon a
scale which no necessity existed to justify, and she wanted the assistance
of Mary. But Mary was bettor employed. She "sat at Jesus's feet, and heard
his word."

Let pious women beware of that anxiety which generates peevishness. It is
a greater fault than any which servants can commit by mere negligence, to
allow of those intemperate sallies against their misconduct, which, by
degrading their mistresses in their eyes, diminish the good effect a
genuine piety might otherwise produce. It is a weakness to be excessively
rigid about trifles--to be always contending, morose, and dissatisfied.
The particular sphere in which a woman is called to act, seems indeed
beset with temptations to this evil; but this consideration should serve
to awaken care and circumspection. Religion ought to be exemplified in
overcoming the difficulties of our situation, whatever they maybe; and
the more numerous they are, the more honourable the resistance. Private
life is a sphere of useful exertion. Though retired, it is important. If
it be not a field of valour, it is one for patience. If women cannot
obtain the laurels of heroism, they may win the better trophies of general
esteem and domestic attachment.

The animadversions we have thought proper to make upon the faults of
Martha, ought not however to obscure the view of her excellences. Jesus
Christ did not censure her concern, but the excess of it. It was the
unnecessary trouble she took, and as a consequence the extreme impatience
of temper she manifested, that produced this solemn remonstrance, and led
him to contrast her conduct with the silent piety of her sister. We must
still admire her generous hospitality, and her warm affection for Christ,
although her natural temperment and mistaken views betrayed her into an
improper mode of expressing it. She presents a lively contrast to those
who manifest no regard to religion or its ministers, and whose errors
originate not in mistake, but in cherished hostility and inveterate
prejudice. Her Master knew how to appreciate her character: and if he
censured her with a seriousness proportionable to her fault, the rebuke
was attempered with a kindness expressive of his friendship. The historian
distinctly records his personal affection for each member of this happy
family. "Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus." Let us
remember, then, that the real followers of Christ have their defects,
defects which perhaps appear the more conspicuous from their association
with such opposite excellences: and let us learn, like our divine Master,
to esteem even imperfect goodness, while we take every suitable
opportunity of affectionately, yet faithfully, correcting its follies.

Reader! pause for a few moments, to reflect upon the important apophthegm
pronounced by Christ upon this occasion, and the benediction upon Mary,
with which it was accompanied: "One thing is needful!" This was virtually
pronouncing religion, which involves a pre-eminent regard to the eternal
interests of the soul, to be supremely important--a principle of holiness,
a source of peace, and a pledge of immortal joy. It is, besides, of
universal concern, and comprehends whatever is essential to the present
and future felicity of a rational creature. "We should judge very ill of
the nature of this care, if we imagined that it consisted merely in acts
of devotion or religious contemplation; it comprehends all the lovely and
harmonious band of social and humane virtues. It requires a care, of
society, a care of our bodies and of our temporal concerns; but then all
is to be regulated, directed, and animated by proper regards to God,
Christ, and immortality. Our food and our rest, our trades and our labors,
are to be attended to; and all the offices of humanity performed in
obedience to the will of God, for the glory of Christ, and in a view to
the improving of the mind in a growing meetness for astate of complete
perfection. Name any thing which has no reference at all to this, and you
name a worthless trifle, however it may be gilded to allure the eye,
however it may be sweetened to gratify the taste. Name a thing, which,
instead of thus improving the soul, has a tendency to debase and pollute,
to enslave and endanger it, and you name what is most unprofitable and
mischievous, be the wages of iniquity ever so great; most foul and
deformed, be it in the eyes of men ever so honorable, or in their customs
ever so fashionable." [37]

How important is it, that we should make a similar choice with that of
Mary! This is obvious from the words of Christ, who represents it as "that
good part which shall not be taken away from her." Genuine piety is
calculated to prevent innumerable evils and sources of misery, by
preventing those indulgences which pollute while they gratify, poisoning
the constitution, impairing the reputation, and displeasing God: and by
elevating the affections to the purity of heaven. It augments incalculably
the pleasure which is derived from the possession of all other good of a
subordinate nature. While it possesses the power of extracting the
distasteful ingredients that imbitter the cup of adversity, it sweetens
the sweetest portion of prosperous life; and such is its prevailing
efficacy, that no changes can possibly deprive us of its consolations. It
shall "not be taken away." How strange, then, is the infatuation of such
as make a different choice, and how unfounded their seasons for such a
guilty preference! However their conduct may be artfully varnished over
with fair pretences, they betray consummate folly. The very foundation of
all their hopes will fail, the specious appearances of the world will
prove deceptive, like the rainbow that stretches its radiant curve over
half the heavens, but vanishes as you approach it into mist and
nothingness, and their condemnation will be no less remarkable than their
ultimate disappointment. O that, with Mary, we may sit at the feet of
Jesus, and by a prompt obedience to his comments "find rest to our souls."

Scarcely have we read of the privileges of the two sisters at Bethany,
when we are introduced to an account of their trials: so closely do
pleasures and pains follow each other in the train of human events! The
fairest fruit is often beset with thorns, the clearest day liable to be
overcast with clouds; and should the morning of life rise in brightness,
and the evening set in serenity, who can reasonably hope that no changes
shall occur in its intermediate hours? Religion indeed promises
consolation amidst afflictions, but not exemption from them: she is the
guardian of our spiritual interests, but not the disposer of our
terrestrial condition. How happily was the previous intercourse of Martha
and Mary with Jesus calculated to prepare them for their more gloomy
visiter, DEATH!

Lazarus, the brother of these excellent women, was taken ill, upon which
they immediately sent to inform their divine Friend of the distressing
circumstance. As soon as he heard it, he remarked to his disciples that
this event would prove the occasion of enhancing his own and his Father's
glory; but notwithstanding the ardent friendship which he cherished for
the family, and which the evangelist particularly notices, [38] he did not
hasten, as it seemed natural he should, to Bethany, but remained where he
was two days longer. It was his intention, doubtless, to prove the faith
of his disciples, to try the spirit of the two sisters, and to furnish an
opportunity of working the miracle with which he afterward astonished the
Jews. After this mysterious delay, he announced his purpose of proceeding
into Judea: upon which his disciples remonstrated with him, representing
the persecuting spirit of the people, which of late had been displayed in
attempts upon his life. To this he answered there were twelve hours in the
day, and consequently it was requisite to use despatch in the performance
of the labour assigned to him who would not stumble in the night, or leave
his work unfinished; and then intimating the departure of their friend
Lazarus, he said, "I go that I may awake him out of sleep." Mistaking his
meaning, and imagining that he had been speaking only of "taking rest," in
natural sleep, the disciples replied, that if this were the case, it was
probable he would soon recover, and therefore it was unnecessary to go to
Bethany. Jesus then said plainly, "Lazarus is _dead_." Seeing the
intrepidity of their Master, the disciples, stimulated by Thomas, resolved
to accompany him into Judea, and encounter every danger to which their
attachment might expose them.

When Jesus had arrived in the vicinity of Bethany, he found that his
beloved friend had been interred four days; and as this village was not
more than two miles from Jerusalem, many of the inhabitants who were
acquainted with the family, were come to condole with them upon their
loss. Martha hastened to meet Jesus, as soon as she heard of his approach;
but Mary, who perhaps was not yet informed of it, continued sitting upon
the ground, in the usual posture of mourners.

Having expressed her surprise at his delay, Martha intimated to Jesus that
she well knew that God would now grant every thing he might see fit to
request, and if he had been present before, the death of her brother might
have been prevented. Compassionating her distress, he replied, "Thy
brother shall rise again;" to which she answered, that she had the fullest
conviction of this fact, as she believed the doctrine of the final
resurrection. Her heart, however, was still overwhelmed with grief at her
present calamitous bereavement; and it was not without extreme reluctance,
that she admitted the idea of never seeing him more till that distant
period. Jesus then gave her the assurance of his being "the resurrection
and the life," and of the mighty power which he as the agent in
accomplishing this work, would display in elevating all his people to the
felicities of another and a better existence; in consequence of which
death ought not to be regarded with terror, but merely as the season of
repose previous to the morning of eternity, which would soon break with
ineffable splendour upon the tomb. Martha declared her full persuasion of
this sublime truth, founded upon her knowledge of him who addressed her as
the true Messiah, the Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth
was intrusted.

Upon this, she went by desire of Jesus to call her sister. As she had
communicated the information to Mary in a whisper, her friends who were
present supposed, when she rose up hastily, that she was going to visit
the sepulchre of Lazarus, there to renew her griefs and bewail her
bereavement. As soon as she found Jesus, she prostrated herself at his
feet, and expressed herself in terms similar to those of Martha,
indicative of a conviction that the death of her beloved relative might
have been prevented, if he had but hastened to Bethany upon the news of
his dangerous illness. This afflicting scene excited the deepest concern
in him, who, though he had every passion under the most perfect control,
now chose to indulge and to manifest his tenderness for Lazarus. He
inquired where they had laid him, and, as they conducted him to the spot,
he wept. Remembrance of the dead, sympathy for the living, and pity for
the impenitent Jews, drew forth his tears, which, while they sanction the
grief of his people at the loss of earthly connections, do not justify
its excess.

The spectators, in general, were affected with this testimony of
friendship: but some of them inquired among themselves, whether he who had
opened the eyes of the blind, could not have prevented the calamity which
he appeared so deeply to deplore. This was a very natural question; and he
was about to convince them that he _could_, by performing a miracle far
more splendid and important than such an interposition. The sepulchre of
Lazarus was a cave, with a large stone upon its mouth. Jesus commanded
them to remove this stone, not choosing to do it miraculously, in order to
avoid unnecessary parade. Martha, who seems to have been agitated by a
great conflict of feelings, very improperly exclaimed against this
proceeding; and alleged, that as he had been interred four days, the
corpse must have become offensive. Jesus with his characteristic
gentleness, reminded her that he knew well what he had ordered: and that
his previous assurance, that if she would only believe she should see the
glory of God, ought to have sealed her lips in silence.

The stone being removed according to the request of Jesus, he uttered a
short but expressive prayer to Heaven; and then with a loud voice, cried
out, "Lazarus, come forth." The realms of death heard his sovereign
mandate, and their gloomy monarch yielded up his captive; "and he that was
dead came forth, bound hand and foot, with grave clothes: and his face was
bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him
go." The effect of this miracle was considerable; for many of the Jews,
who had come to sympathize with the bereaved sister, believed in Christ,
though others instantly repaired to the Pharisees, to inflame their
malignity by reciting what they had witnessed. With similar diversity of
effect, is the Gospel now proclaimed to men; its facts and evidences
kindling the resentment of some, or hardening them into increased
obduracy; while they convince the minds of others, interesting their best
affections, conquering their prejudices, and operating their salvation.

If there were any exception to that universal law which consigns man to
the grave, it might be hoped that such as compose the church of God, being
redeemed by the blood of his Son, called according to his purpose, and
sealed by his Spirit to the day of redemption, would be freed from this
calamity; but death extends his dreadful dominion over the families of the
righteous, as well as the impious. The people of God might, if he pleased,
have been delivered from the present curse: his goodness might have
indemnified them from the common evils which afflict human life, and
appointed them some favoured region, the Goshen of the universe, where
they should have passed their days in a state of rich possession and
unmolested tranquillity; but, if he have ordained otherwise, it is for
wise reasons; some of which, perhaps, we may succeed in explaining.

Is not such a dispensation, for instance, calculated to impress an awful
sense of the malignity of sin? So abominable is it, that the blessed God,
who has made an ample provision for the future, felicity of his saints,
and who is daily imparting to them on earth the invaluable blessings of
his grace, cannot, it seems, consistently with his perfection, exempt them
from the stroke of death. It is requisite that his detestation of it
should be evinced in a complete and undistinguishing overthrow of the race
of mortals, amongst whom even those whose names are written in the book of
life, on account of their nature being contaminated with depravity must
suffer the punishment of temporal death, and show to admiring immortals,
that God is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look
upon sin."

Besides, this demolition of the corporeal frame is an essential means of
its purification. The leprosy has infected every part of the building, the
members of the body have become instrumental to the working of
unrighteousness; and, consequently, "the earthly house of this tabernacle
must be _dissolved_."

The infliction of this calamity upon believers in Christ as well as upon
others, is calculated also to maintain their faith in vigorous and
perpetual exercise. Were it permitted to them to pass into another world,
as Enoch or Elijah did, by a sudden transportation beyond the regions of
mortality to those of undecaying existence, without undergoing "the pains,
the groans, the dying strife," or without experiencing the frightful
alteration that occurs in other human beings, there would no longer exist
the same opportunity as at present for the display of one of the noblest
principles of a renewed mind. Who can contemplate the debased condition of
the body, who can realize the amazing change which "flesh and blood is
heir to"--the icy coldness, the stony insensibility, the universal
inanimation that pervades the whole frame, the putrefaction to which it is
subject, and the general loathsomeness of that which once appeared the
fairest structure amongst the works of God, without an instinctive
shuddering, and without perceiving that faith alone can give the victory
over death? There is nothing surely in the state of the body _after_ this
event to indicate a future existence, but rather every thing to perplex
such a sentiment, and to confound such an expectation. There is nothing
in its aspect which seems to foretel life--nothing to predict
resuscitation. In general, however desperate the case, hope is sustained
by the most trifling circumstances, the feeblest glimmerings of the yet
unextinguished lamp; if there be the gentlest breath, or the slightest
motion, the solicitude of wakeful tenderness is still maintained, and the
_possibility_ at least of a return to health is admitted as a welcome and
not irrational idea; but when the breath entirely fails, when motion is
paralyzed, when the lamp is extinct, whence can any thought of a revival
be obtained? What succeeds the fatal moment, but progressive decay? And
who can discover the least trace of an indication that the departed friend
will resume his life? Every hour seems to widen the breach, to increase
the distance that separates the dead from the living, and to complete the
triumph of our mortal foe. All the powers of nature in combination would
prove incompetent to produce life in the smallest particle--the most
insignificant atom of dust; and hope naturally expires when animation
ceases. When Christians, therefore, are required to part with their
companions, or to die themselves, their only confidence must be in God;
and whoever cannot receive _his_ word, and rely upon the assurances which
he has given with regard to the exercise of divine power in the recovery
of man from the grave, has no adequate consolation amidst the desolations
that await him.

Christians also must pass through the change of death, because the glory
of Jesus Christ in the resurrection could not otherwise be so
illustriously displayed. Never did the character of the Son of God appear
with more commanding majesty than when he recalled the spirit of Lazarus
from the invisible state, and at a word raised his body from the
sepulchre. "Lazarus," said he, "come forth:" the summons entered the ear
of death, and the "last enemy" felt himself "destroyed."

The scene is infinitely cheering. Though we "fade as a leaf," dropping one
by one into the tomb like the foliage of autumn; the eternal spring
advances, when "they that are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall
come forth"--renewed in vigour, purified in character, perfected in
felicity--to return no more to this sublunary sphere, to descend no more
to the dust, to struggle no more with sin and sorrow, to be assaulted no
more with the "fiery darts of the devil."

Death is so truly alarming to human nature and to shortsighted reason, so
calculated by its external appearances to fill the mind with anxiety, that
in order to suppress our fears and cherish our hopes, it seemed requisite
to bring another existence into the nearest possible view, to render it in
a sense visible, and to embody immortality. In the resurrection of
Lazarus, as well as by other miraculous manifestations, this great purpose
was effected. We perceive incontestably that death is not annihilation,
and that the appearance which it assumes of an extinction of being is not
a reality. _That_ power which was exerted in one case, reason says _may_,
and revelation declares _shall_, be exerted in another; and that, by the
voice of Omnipotence, all the saints shall be raised at the last day from
the abodes of darkness and silence. It is here Christianity takes her
firmest stand--here she discloses her brightest scenes! Glorious
expectation of rising to eternal life, and through Jesus, "the first
begotten of the dead," becoming superior to our most formidable enemy!
What a train of happy beings will then be witnesses of his glory, trophies
of his power, and inhabitants of his kingdom! This will be the jubilee of
all ages, the anticipation of which is well calculated to suppress our
anxieties, and quicken us to every duty.

What mutual congratulations must have circulated through the family of
Lazarus, when he was restored to the affectionate embraces of his sisters!
What a renewal of love would take place on that happy day! How was their
sorrow turned into joy, and their lamentations info praises! What a
triumph of mind did they feel over the grave, and what expressions of
gratitude to their Deliverer burst from every heart! But who can imagine
the transports of that moment, when the same power that raised Lazarus
from the tomb, shall be exerted upon every believer in Jesus, who shall
"meet the Lord in the air," and be introduced to the eternal society of
kindred minds; when the redeemed world shall assemble on the celestial
shore, to recount their past labours and mercies, to renew their spiritual
fellowship, to hail each other's escape from the conflicts, the
temptations, and the diversified evils of mortal life, to behold the glory
of Him who has washed them in his blood and saved them by his grace, to
take possession of their destined thrones, and to mingle their strains of
acknowledgment with the holy by innings of the blest!

How _terrible_ then is death, but how _delightful_! Death is the _end_ of
life; death is the _beginning_ of existence! Death _closes_ our prospects,
and death _opens_ them! Death _debases_ our nature--death _purifies_ and
_exalts_ it! "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his!"

Curiosity, ever disposed to pry into what the wisdom of God has not
thought proper to reveal, has frequently inquired into the history of
Lazarus after his resurrection. It has been asked, what were his feelings,
what the nature of his recollections, and what the topics of his
conversation? Did he communicate to his sisters any important intelligence
from the invisible state, or was he withheld by any divine interdiction
from explaining the secrets of his prison-house? Was it not to be
expected that some record of those transactions in which he afterward
engaged, or of the manner in which he was at last removed from the world,
should have been given in Scripture, or of the impressions of his mind
respecting the amazing changes which he had experienced?

The probability is, that Lazarus had no remembrance of the state into
which he had passed during the four days of his interment; and that, as it
could answer no good purpose to himself or others to perpetuate in this
world impressions suited only to the spirit in another condition of
existence, the images of those realities were obliterated from his mind,
like the visions of a dream that have for ever vanished away. It is
sufficient for _us_, as it was enough for _him_, to know that the doctrine
of the resurrection was exhibited to the Jews, with an evidence which, but
for the violence of their prejudices, must have proved to all, as it did
to many of them, irresistibly convincing.

Six days before the passover, Lazarus appears again upon the page of
Scripture history, at supper with Jesus at Bethany; but our attention is
less directed to him than to his sisters and their divine Guest. Martha,
as usual, was busied with domestic preparations; and Mary, with her
characteristic zeal and affection, "took a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her
hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."

The disciples were displeased at what they deemed this _waste_ of the
rich balsam, and murmured against her. One of them especially, Judas
Iscariot, exclaimed, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred
pence, and given to the poor?" [39] But this objection, so far from being
dictated by any kindness for the needy, arose entirely from his eagerness
to increase the store with which he was intrusted, and which he was
intending to appropriate to himself. Aware of this design, and
disapproving the uncharitable disposition manifested by his disciples,
Jesus reproved them; and expressed his satisfaction with Mary's conduct as
indicative of a regard for which she should hereafter be celebrated
throughout the world. He intimated that he should soon leave them, and
that this might be considered as an expression of fondness towards a
friend who might be almost viewed as already dead, and to whom she would
have few other opportunities of testifying her affection.

And shall not we be ready to consecrate our most valued possessions to the
service of such a Master? Shall we hesitate to devote to him whatever he
claims, or whatever we can bestow? Shall we feel a moment's reluctance to
aid his cause by the application of some considerable part of our
pecuniary resources to his church and people? He has bequeathed his poor
to our care, and it is a solemn charge; neglecting which we shall miss the
honor of his final benediction; but fulfilling it, we may indulge the
delightful hope that he will recompense even the most trifling attention,
and inscribe upon each future crown, in characters visible to the whole
intelligent universe, _he_ or "_she_ HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD."

The Poor Widow.

Chapter VIII.

Account of Christ's sitting over against the Treasury--He particularly
notices the Conduct of an obscure Individual--She casts in two Mites--it
is to be viewed as a religious Offering--the Ground on which it is
eulogized by Christ--the Example honorable to the female Sex--People
charitable from different Motives--two Reasons which might have been
pleaded as an Apology for withholding this Donation, she was poor and a
Widow--Her pious Liberality notwithstanding--all have Something to
give--the most trifling Sum of Importance--the Habit of bestowing in
pious Charity beneficial--Motives to Gratitude deduced from the
Wretchedness of others, the Promises of God, and the Cross of Jesus.

Uncharitableness does not seem to have been characteristic of the Jews at
any period of their history, who erred rather on the side of ostentation
than of parsimony. During the three great annual festivals, the offerings
to the temple were very considerable, and of various kinds; although, in
the time of Christ, the country was in a state of comparative depression,
as tributary to the Roman empire. Many individuals, however, were no less
distinguished for their liberality than their opulence. But it is common
to be deceived by appearances; and an action which we may estimate as
good, may be of little value in the sight of that Being who "searcheth the
reins and _hearts_," and who will "give to every one according to
their works."

In the history before us our Saviour is represented as sitting "over
against the treasury;" for though on every proper, and almost on every
possible occasion, he addicted himself to solitude, both for the purpose
of exemplifying the propriety of frequent retirement, and of obtaining
spiritual refreshment; yet, at other times, he mixed with society to
notice and to correct the follies of mankind. His observant eye could not
overlook the minutest diversities of human character; and he never
permitted a favorable opportunity of deducing from these appearances
salutary lessons for his disciples, to pass unimproved. Happy, thrice
happy men, to have such an Instructer at hand--to live so near the "Light
of the world"--to have constant and intimate access to him, "in whom dwelt

Book of the day: