« السابقةمتابعة »
with your own splendour, and fascinated with your own charms, you aspire at nothing less than to make all mankind your worshippers, offering incense to the idol you yourself adore; with this view you break through the bounds of law, and the decency of your sex; your dress is vain and immodest, your conversation is loose, your deportment is indecent, and you think the world take you for a sort of goddess. No such thing. You deceive yourself. People say you have put off Christian modesty, and laid aside even worldly decency, and as they judge of your private life by your public deportment, how can they think otherwise? Fathers forbid their sons to keep your company, and mothers exhort their daughters to avoid your bad example.
3. Observe how godliness influences our fortune, by procuring us the confidence of other men, and above all by acquiring the blessing of God on our designs and undertakings. You are sometimes astonished at the alarming changes that happen in society, you are surprised to see some families decay, and others fall into absolute ruin. You cannot comprehend why some people, who held the other day the highest places in society, are now fal- 5. Consider the peace which piety diffuses len from that pinnacle of grandeur, and involv- in the conscience. The prosperity of those ed in the deepest distress. Why this atonish- who desire to free themselves from conscience, ment? There is a Providence, and though is such as to make them miserable in the midst God often hides himself, though the ways of of their greatest success. What pleasure can his providence are usually impenetrable, though a man enjoy, who cannot bear to be one moit would be an unjust way of reasoning to say, ment alone; a man, who needs perpetual dissuch a person is wealthy, therefore he is holy, sipation to hide from himself his real condition; such a one is indigent, therefore he is wicked; a man, who cannot reflect on the past without yet the Lord sometimes comes out of that dark-remorse, think on the present without confuness in which he usually conceals himself, and sion, or the future without despair; a man, raises a saint out of obscurity into a state of who carries within himself that obstinate rewealth and honour. prover, on whom he cannot impose silence, a man, who already feels the "worm that dieth not" gnawing him; a man, who sees in the midst of his most jovial festivals the writing "of a man's hand," which he cannot read, but which his conscience most faithfully and terribly interprets; I ask what pleasure can such a man enjoy?
brethren, the heart of a man is sometimes the seat of two opposite tyrants, each of whom has views and interests different from the other. Avarice says keep, ambition says give, avarice says hold fast, ambition says give up. Avarice says retire, ambition says go abroad. Ambition combats avarice, avarice combats ambition, each by turns distresses the heart, and if it groans under tyranny, whether avarice or ambition be the tyrant is indifferent. The pleasure of seeing one passion reign is always poi soned by the pain of seeing the other subdued. They resemble that woman, whose twin "children struggled together within her," and who said during the painful sensations, If it must be so, why was I a mother?
Piety prevents these fatal effects, it makes us content with the condition in which Providence has placed us: it does more, it teaches us to be happy in any condition, how mean soever it may be. "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content: I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Every where and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need," Phil. iv. 11, 12.
4. Consider what an influence godliness has in our happiness by calming our passions, and by setting bounds to our desires. Our faculties are finite: but our desires are boundless. From this disproportion between our desires and our faculties a thousand conflicts arise, which distress and destroy the soul. Observe the labour of an ambitious man, he is obliged to sacrifice to his prince his ease, his liberty, and his life; he must appear to applaud what he inwardly condemns; and he must adjust all his opinions and sentiments by the ideas of his master. See what toils worldly honour imposes on its votaries; a man of honour must revenge an affront after he has pardoned it, and to that he must expose his establishment and his fortune, he must run the risk of being obliged either to quit his country, or to suffer such punishment as the law inflicts on those, who take that sword into their own hands, which God has put into the hand of the magistrate, he must stab the person he loves, the person who loves him, and who offended him more through inadvertence than animosity; he must stifle all the suggestions which conscience urges against a man who ventures his salvation on the precarious success of a duel, and who by so doing braves all the horrors of hell. Above all, what is the condition of a heart, with what cruel alternatives is it racked and torn, when it is occupied by two passions, which oppose and counteract each other. Take ambition and avarice for an example; for, my
Godliness not only frees us from these torments, but it communicates joy into every part of the pious man's life. If the believer be in prosperity, he considers it as an effect of the goodness of God, the governor of this universe, and as a pledge of blessings reserved for him in another world. If he be in adversity, indeed he considers it as a chastisement coming from the hand of a wise and tender parent: and the same may be said of every other condition.
6. In fine, consider how piety influences the happiness of life, by the assurance it gives us of a safe, if not a comfortable death. There is not a single moment in life, in which it is not possible we should die; consequently there is not one instant, that may not be unhappy, if we be not in a condition to die well. While we are destitute of this assurance, we live in perpetual trouble and agitation; we see the sick, we meet funeral processions, we attend the dying, and all these different objects become motives of horror and pain. It is only when we are prepared to die well, that we bid defiance to winds and waves, fires and shipwrecks, and that, by opposing to all these perilous casualties the hope of a happy death,
the human heart. There, ye earthly thoughts, ye worldly cares, ye troublesome birds of prey, that so often perplex us in life, there you have no access! There, revolving in his mind the divers objects presented to him in religion, he feels the various emotions that are proper to each. Sometimes the rich gifts of God in nature, and the insignificance of man the receiver, are objects of his contemplation, and then he exclaims, "O Lord, my Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained," Ps. viii. 1. 3. I cannot help crying, "What is man that thou art mindful of him! and the son of man that thou visitest him!" ver. 4. Sometimes the brightness of the divine perfections shining in Jesus Christ fixes his attention, and then he exclaims, "Thou art fairer than the children of men, grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever!" Ps. xlv. 2. Sometimes his mind contemplates that train of favours, with which God has en riched every believer in his church, and then he cries, " Many, O Lord my God, are thy won derful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order before thee! Would I declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered!" Ps. xl. 5. Sometimes it is the sacrifice of the cross, and then he says, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh!" I Tim. iii. 16. Sometimes it is the joy of possessing God, and then his language is, "My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness!" Ps. lxiii. 5. Sometimes it is the desire of enHaving taken up nearly all the time allotted joying God in a greater measure, and in a to this exercise, I will finish with one reflection. richer abundance, and then he says with Asaph, "Promise of the life to come," annexed to god-"My supreme good is to draw near to God. liness, is not a mere promise, it puts even in When shall I come, O when shall I come and this life the pious man in possession of one part appear before God!" Ps. lxxiii. 28, and xlii. 2. of the benefits, the perfect possession of which he lives in hope of enjoying. Follow him in four periods First in society-Next in the closet-Then in a participation of holy ordinances And lastly, at the approach of death: you will find him participating the eternal felicity, which is the object of his hope.
This eternal felicity the apostle had chiefly in view, and on this we would fix your attention in the close of this discourse. "Godliness hath promise of the life that now is," is a proposition, we think, plain and clear: but how ever, it is disputable you say, subject to many exceptions, and liable to a great number of difficulties: but "godliness hath promise of the life that is to come," is a proposition which cannot be disputed, it is free from all difficulty, and can admit of no exception.
In society. What is the life of a man, who never goes into the company of his fellow creatures without doing them good; of a man who after the example of Jesus Christ "goes about doing good;" a man, who every where shows the light of a good example, who endeavours to win all hearts to God, who never ceases to publish his perfections, and to celebrate his praise, what, I ask, is the life of such a man? It is an angelical life, it is a heavenly life, it is an anticipation of that life which happy spirits live in heaven, it is a foretaste and prelibation of those pleasures which are at the "right hand of God," and of that "fulness of joy," which is found in contemplating his majesty.
Follow this man in the participation of holy ordinances. Represent to yourselves a man, who after preparing himself some days, or some weeks for the holy communion, bringing thither a heart proportioned to the labour, which he has taken to dispose it properly: imagine such a man sitting at this table along with the ambitious, the impure, the revengeful, the vain, all the members of this community; suppose this man saying to himself, they are not only men who see and consider me, they are angels, who encamp around such as love God; it is Jesus Christ, who sits amidst his disciples assembled in his name; it is God himself who sees all, and examines all the dispositions I bring to his table. It is not only an invitation to this table given by ministers, it is "wisdom who hath furnished her table, mingled her wine," Prov. ix. 1, 2, and who cries, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," Isaiah lv. It is my Saviour, who says to me, "With desire I have desired to eat with you,' Luke xxii. 15. It is not only material bread that I am receiving, it is a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, it is his flesh and blood under the elements of bread and wine. It will be not only a little tranquillity of conscience, which I shall receive at this table, if I enter into the spirit of the mystery set before me: but I shall have consolations on my death-bed,
Follow the pious man into the silent closet. There he recollects, concentres himself, and loses himself in God. There, in the rich source of religion, he quenches the thirst of knowing, elevating, perpetuating, and extending himself, which burns within him, and there he feels how God, the author of his nature, proportions himself to the boundless capacity of
we every where experience the joy with which it inspires such as wait for it.
Collect all these articles, and unite all these advantages in one. I ask now, is it an improbable proposition, that virtue has a reward in itself, sufficient to indemnify us for all we suffer on account of it, so that though there were nothing to expect from this life, yet it would be a problem, whether it would not be better, all things considered, to practise godliness than to live in sin.
But this is not the consequence we mean to draw from our principles. We do not intend to make this use of our observations. We will not dispute with the sinner whether he finds pleasure in the practice of sin, but as he assures us, that it gives him more pleasure to gratify his passions than to subdue them, we will neither deny the fact, nor find fault with his taste, but allow that he must know better than any body what gives himself most pleasure. We only derive this consequence from all we have been hearing, that the advantages which accompany godliness, are sufficient to support us in a course of action, that leads to eternal felicity.
triumphs after death, and oceans of felicity and glory for ever. God has not preserved me till now merely to give me an opportunity of sitting here: but to open to me the treasures of his patience and long-suffering; to enable me to repent of my former negligence of breaking the sabbath, profaning the communion, committing iniquity, forgetting my promises, and offending my Creator.
I ask, my brethren, what is the man who approaches the Lord's table with such dispositions? Is he a common man? Verily with eyes of flesh, I see nothing to distinguish him from the crowd. I see this man confounded with all others, whom a lax discipline suffers to partake of this ordinance, and to receive with unclean hands and a profane mouth, the most holy symbol of our religion; at most, I see only an agitation of his senses, a spark shining in his eye, a look cast towards heaven, emotions which the veil of humility that covers him cannot entirely conceal: but with the eyes of my mind I behold a man of a superior order, a man in paradise, a man nourished with pleasure at the right hand of God, a man at whose conversion the angels of God rejoice, a man fastened to the triumphal car of Jesus Christ, and who makes the glory of the triumph, a man who has the happy art of making heaven descend into his soul; I behold amidst the miseries and vanities of the world, a man already “justified,” already “raised,” already "glorified," already "sitting in heavenly places with Jesus Christ," Rom. viii. 30; Eph. ii. 6. I see a man ascending to heaven along with Jesus Christ, amids the shouting of the heavenly choir, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the King of glory in," Ps. xxiv. 7. I see a man "with uncovered face beholding the glory of the Lord," and changing "from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord," 2 Cor. iii. 18. But it is particularly in a dying bed that the pious man enjoys foretastes of the life to come. A worldling is confounded at the approach of that dismal night, which hides futurity from him; or rather, despair seizes his soul at the rising of that dreadful light, which discovers to him a dispensation of punishment, in spite of his obstinate denial of it. Then he sees fire, flames, devils, "a lake of fire, the smoke of which ascendeth up for ever and ever." Then he shrinks back from the bitter cup, the
dregs of which he must drink; he tries, though in vain, to put off the end by his too late prayer, and he cries at its approach "Mountains fall on me, hills cover me!" As for the believer, he sees and desires nothing but that dispensation of happiness, which he has already embraced by faith, possessed by hope, and tasted by the comforts of the Holy Spirit in his soul; and hence comes that active fervour, which makes his countenance luminous like that of departing Stephen. I cannot better express such sentiments than in the words of the primitive saints, who so happily experienced them.
"I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord! I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another. Though thou slayest me, yet will I trust in thee, O God! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Neither count I my life dear so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Lord Jesus receive my spirit. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? In these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God? How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will be still praising thee! Thine altars, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God."
May you all, my brethren, may every one of you, know these truths by experience. God grant you the grace. To him be honour and glory for ever.
THE REPENTANCE OF THE UNCHASTE WOMAN.
LUKE vii. 36-50.
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. 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, 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. Mine 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 loveth 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. "LET me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great: but let me not fall into the hand of man," 2 Sam. xxiv. 14. This was the request that David made in the most unhappy moment of his life. A prophet sent by an avenging God came to bring him a choice of afflictions, "I offer thee three things, choose one of them, that I may do it unto thee. Shall three years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days pestilence in thy land? Now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me," ver. 12, &c.
that he had chosen the worst? Which would you have chosen had you been in his place, my brethren? Would you have determined for war? Could you have borne the bare idea of it? Could you have endured to see the once victorious armies of Israel led in triumph by an enemy, the ark of the Lord a captive, a cruel and barbarous soldiery reducing a kingdom to ashes, rasing fortresses, ravaging a harvest, and destroying in a moment the crop of a whole year? Would you have determined for famine? Would you have chosen to have the heaven become as iron, and the earth brass, the seed dying in the earth, or the corn burning before it was ripe? "The locust eating what the palmer worm had left, and the canker worm eating what the locust had left," Joel i. 4; men snatching bread from one another's hands, struggling between life and death, and starving till food would af ford no nourishment? Would you have chosen mortality? Could you have reconciled yourselves to the terrible times in which contagion on the wings of the wind carries its deadly poison with the rapidity of lightning from city to city, from house to house; a time in which social living is at an end, when each is wholly employed in guarding himself from danger, and has no opportunity to take care of others; when the father flees from the sight of the son, the son from that of the father, the wife avoids the husband, the husband the wife; when each dreads the sight of the person he most esteems, and receives, and communicates poisonous and deadly infection? These are the dreadful punishments out of which God required guilty David to choose one. These he was to weigh in a balance, while he agitated the mournful question, which of the three shall I choose for my lot? However, he determines, "Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great: but let me not fall into the hand of man." He thought, that immediate strokes from the hand of a God, merciful though displeased, would be most tolerable. He could conceive nothing more terrible than to see between God and himself, men who would intercept his looks, and would prevent his access to the throne of grace.
What a proposal was this to a man accustomed to consider Heaven as a source of benedictions and favours! Henceforth he was to consider it only as a cavern of thunder and lightning, flashing and rolling, and ready to strike him dead! which of these punishments would he choose? Which of them could he choose without reproaching himself in future
My brethren, the wish of David under his consternation may direct ours in regard to all the spots that have defiled our lives. True, the eyes of God are infinitely more pure than those of men. en. He indeed discovers frailties in our lives which have escaped our notice, and "if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart." It is true, he hath punishments to inflict on us infinitely more dreadful than any mankind can invent, and if men can "kill the body, God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." However, this Almighty God, this terrible, this avenging God, is a merciful God, "great are his tender mercies;" but men, men are cruel; yea, the very men who allow themselves to live in the most shameful licentiousness, men who have the most need of the patience of others, men who themselves deserve the most rigorous punishments, these very men are usually void of all pity for their fellows. Behold a striking example. The unchaste woman in the text experienced both, and by turns made trial of the judgment of God, and the But she met with a very judgment of men.
different treatment. In Jesus Christ she found a very severe legislator, who left her awhile to shed tears, and very bitter tears; a legislator, who left her awhile to her own grief, and sat and saw her hair dishevelled, and her features distorted; but who soon took care to dry up her tears, and to address this comfortable language to her, "Go in peace." On the contrary, in the hands of men she found nothing but barbarity and cruelty. She heard a supercilious Pharisee endeavour to arm against her the Redeemer of mankind, try to persuade him to denounce on her sentence of death, even while she was repenting of her sin, and to do his utmost to cause condemnation to flow from the very fountain of grace and mercy.
It is this instructive, this comfortable history, that we set before you to-day, and which presents three very different objects to our meditation, the conduct of the incontinent woman, that of the Pharisee, and that of Jesus Christ. In the conduct of the woman, prostrate at the feet of our Saviour, you see the principal characters of repentance. In that of the Pharisee you may observe the venom which not unfrequently infects the judgments which mankind make of one another. And in that of Jesus Christ you may behold free and generous emotions of pity, mercy, and compassion. Let us enter into the matter.
I. Let us first observe the incontinent woman now become a penitent. The question most controverted by interpreters, and very differently answered by them, is that, which in our opinion is the least important, that is, who was this woman? Not that a perfect knowledge of her person, and the history of her life, would not be very proper, by explaining the nature of her sins, to give us a just idea of her repentance, and so contribute to elucidate the text: but because, though we have taken a great deal of pains, we have found nothing on this article worthy to be proposed to critical hearers, who insist upon being treated as rational men, and who refuse to determine a point without evidence.
word signifies a sinner. This term sometimes signifies in Scripture the condition of such as lived out of the covenant, and in this sense it is used in the epistle to the Galatians, where St. Paul calls pagans sinners: but the word is applied in Greek authors to those women who were such as all the circumstances of our history engage us to consider this woman. Though it is easy to determine the sin of this woman in general, yet it is not easy to determine the particular kind, whether it had been adultery, or prostitution, or only some one criminal intrigue. Our reflections will by turns regard each of these conditions. In fine, it is highly probable, both by the discourse of the Pharisee, and by the ointment, with which this woman anointed the feet of Jesus Christ, that she was a person of some fortune. This is all I know on this sort of questions. Should any one require more, I should not blush to avow my ignorance, and to recommend him to guides wiser than any I have the honour of being acquainted with, or to such as possess that, which in my opinion, of all the talents of learned men, seems to me least to be envied, I mean that of having fixed opinions on doubtful subjects unsupported by any solid arguments.
I know, some expositors, misled by a resemblance between this anointing of Jesus Christ, and that mentioned in the eleventh chapter of St. John, when our Saviour supped with Lazarus, have supposed that the woman here spoken of was the same Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who paid such a profound attention to the discourse of Jesus Christ, and who, according to the evangelist, "anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair." And as other parts of the gospel speak of another "Mary called Magdalen," some have thought that Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalen, "out of whom" it is said, Jesus Christ had "cast seven devils," and the woman of our text, were one and the same person.
We do not intend to enter on these discussions. It is sufficient to know, first, that the woman here in question lived in the city of Nain, which sufficiently distinguishes her from Mary the sister of Lazarus, who was at Bethany, and from Mary Magdalen, who probably was so called, because she was born at Magdala, a little town in the tribe of Manasseh. Secondly, the woman of our text was one of a bad life, that is to say, guilty of impurity. The original
We will confine ourselves to the principal circumstances of the life of this sinner; and to put our observations into a kind of order, we will examine first, her grief-next, the Saviour to whom she applied-then, the love that inflamed her-and lastly, the courage with which she was animated. In these four circumstances we observe foar chief characters of repentance. First, Repentance must be lively, and accompanied with keen remorse. Our sinner weeps, and her tears speak the language of her heart. Secondly, Repentance must be wise in its application. Our sinner humbles herself at the feet of him, "who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," 1 John ii. 2. Thirdly, Repentance must be tender in its exercise, and acts of divine love must take place of the love of sin. Fourthly, Repentance must be bold. Our sinner surmounts all the scruples dictated by false honour, she goes into the house of the Pharisee, and acknowledges her misconduct in the presence of all the guests, and was no more ashamed to disavow her former crimes than she had been to commit them.
We consider, in the repentance of this woman the grief with which she was penetrated. Repentance must be accompanied with keen remorse. It is the chief character of it. In whatever class of unchaste people this woman ought to be placed, whether she had been a common prostitute, or an adulteress, or whether being unmarried she had abandoned her self for once to criminal voluptuousness, she had too much reason to weep and lament. If she had been guilty of prostitution, she could not shed tears too bitter. Can any colours sufficiently describe a woman, who is arrived at such a pitch of impurity as to eradicate every degree of modesty; a woman letting herself out to infamy, and giving herself up to the highest bidder; one who publicly devotes herself to the greatest excesses, whose house is a school of abomination, whence proceed those detestable maxims, which poison the minds of men, and