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from above to choose the good, and refuse the evil. Mary, sister of Lazarus, is a well-known example. Others were busied about perishing, passing things. She sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word." And he praised her choice; she had laid hold on everlasting life, and was seeking first the kingdom of God. Others were surprised, and blamed her: she acted on principles which they could not understand: just as St. Peter afterwards observes, that the Christians, to whom he wrote, were marvelled at, because they ran not to the same excess of riot, as those who seek their portion in this life. * But the children of wisdom, in their turn, marvel at those who, while in their creed they confess Christ Jesus, and call him Lord, "in works deny him;" while they look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, confine their wishes and their thoughts, their hopes and their pursuits, to this present time.
Nothing is true wisdom, nothing is real understanding, which does not keep the end of life in constant view; and with that reference, make it the first thought in pursuing "things temporal," to render them subservient to "things eternal."
41 Pet. iv. 4.
A WOMAN WHO HAD BEEN A SINNER IS PARDONED, AND HER LOVE COMMENDED.
LUKE vii. 36-50.
36. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
37. And 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,
38. And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
This sign of respect and affection was similar in nature to that shown by Mary, sister of Lazarus, who, when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, poured an alabaster box of very precious ointment upon his head as he sat at meat. It was a distinguished mark of honour and attention to which Mary was led by her love of Jesus as her
"Who this woman was, does not appear. She is commonly confounded with Mary Magdalene, but without good ground in Scripture." Henry.
2 Their mode of sitting at meat made this easily practicable. They did not sit on chairs, but reclined on couches.
3 Matt. xxvi. 6; John xi. 2.
benefactor and divine teacher. This woman was a different character; she had been known as a sinner but she was one whose sins pressed heavily upon her conscience, for she shows extraordinary emotion; she stood at his feet weeping, and washed them with her tears. She had learnt that "the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." And whether she had before found comfort from his words, or whether she was now, for the first time, seeking it, her action and emotion testified the sincerity of her faith and repentance.
The Pharisee, Simon, who was receiving Jesus, was little aware of the purpose for which he had come into the world, and that that purpose was now fulfilled by the pardon of this woman's sin. His good opinion, therefore, of our Lord was shaken.
39. 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.
40. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell, me, therefore, which of them will love him most?
43. Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44. 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.
45. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47. 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.
This story exemplifies the wisdom of that method in which the Scriptures have been written for our instruction. The persons above all others who require comfort and encouragement, are those who have been brought by grace to repentance and conversion, after a course of heinous wilful sin, condemning them in their own eyes, and degrading them in the eyes of men. To such as these the remembrance of their offences is painfully grievous, as it ought to be; the burthen of them is intolerable. This woman, it is evident, was such an Her conduct displays the tenderness of her disposition; " and blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." Who could have expected that the gospel should contain, not only a general assurance "that Christ died for all," that he came to seek and to save that which was lost, but a particular assurance to penitents such as these?
To furnish such assurance, this scene providentially occurred, and is left among the things recorded. Nay, a reason is given why the sense of danger and unworthiness which such persons may be expected to feel, may lead to a degree of gratitude and love which is peculiarly acceptable to the Lord. The debtor who has been excused the largest sum will have most reason to be grateful to his creditor;
and the sinner whose sins have been of the deepest dye will owe most to the precious blood by which they have been cleansed. A sense of such obligation disposed this woman to show a greater attention to Jesus than others had paid him. A like sense may lead others to a degree of zealous exertion in the cause of religion, which many do not use, but which Christ approves and recommends. 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.
This may require some brief observations, Is it therefore desirable to have a conscience loaded with many sins, that much love may follow? Suppose that Simon and this woman were equally disciples of our Lord, would his case be worse than hers, because less had been forgiven him?
We must ever remember that sin is "the abominable thing which God hates," and against which the whole of his word is directed; and though penitent sinners are so gladly received by him, that there is joy in heaven over their conversion, presumptuous sin is a great gulf, out of which few who fall into it are restored.
Further, it is not the sin of this woman which Christ approves, but her love. She loved much, and she showed it by her conduct. The debtor who has been forgiven five hundred pence, has received more from his creditor's forbearance than one who has been forgiven fifty. But if fifty would equally have condemned him to end his days in prison, the escape of one is as much matter of thank