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fetched in to give sentence against himself, for her whom he condemned. O Saviour, thou hast made us fishers of men : how should we learn of thee, so to bait our hooks, that they may be most likely to take ! Thou, the great Householder of thy Church, has provided victuals for thy family ; thou hast appointed us to dress them : if we do not so cook them, as that they may fit the palates to which they are intended, we do both lose our labour and thy cost.
The parable is of two debtors to one creditor : the one owed a lesser sum ; the other, a greater : both are forgiven. It was not the purpose of him, that propounded it, that we should stick in the bark. God is our creditor; our sins our debts. We are all debtors; but one more deep than another. No man can pay this debt alone; satisfaction is not possible : only remission can discharge us. God doth in mercy forgive, as well the greatest as the least sins. Our love to God is proportionable to the sense of our remission. So then the Pharisee cannot choose but confess, that the more and greater the sin is, the greater mercy in the forgiveness ; and the more mercy in the forgiver, the greater obligation and more love in the forgiven.
Truth, from whose mouth soever it falls, is worth taking up. Our Saviour praises the true judgment of a Pharisee. It is an injurious indiscretion in those, who are so prejudiced against the persons, that they reject the truth. He, that would not quench the smoking flax, encourages even the least good. As the careful chirurgeon strokes the arm, ere he strikes the vein ; so did Christ here, ere he convinces the Pharisee of his want of love, he graceth him with a fair approbation of his judgment: yet the while turning both his face and his speech to the poor penitent; as one that cared more for a true humiliation for sin, than for a false pretence of respect and innocence.
With what a dejected and abashed countenance, with what earthfixed eyes, do we imagine the poor woman stood, when she saw her Saviour direct his face and words to her! She, that durst but stand behind him, and steal the falling of some tears upon his feet, with what a blushing astonishment doth she behold his sidereal countenance cast upon
her ! While his eye was turned towards this Penitent, his speech was turned to the Pharisee concerning that Penitent, by him mistaken : Seest thou this woman? He, who before had said, If this man were a prophet, he would have known what manner of woman this is; now hears, Seest thou this woman? Simon saw but her outside : Jesus lets him see, that he saw her heart; and will thus convince the Pharisee, that he is more than a prophet, who knew not her conversation only, but her soul.
The Pharisee, that went all by appearance, shall, by her deportment, sce the proof of her good disposition : it shall happily shame him, to hear the comparison of the wants of his own enter
tainments, with the abundance of hers. It is strange, that any of this formal sect should be defective in their lotions. Simon had not given water to so great a guest ; she washes his feet with her tears. By how much the water of the eye was more precious than the water of the earth, so much was the respect and courtesy of this Penitent above the neglected office of the Pharisee. What use was there of a towel, where was no water? She, that made a fountain of her eyes, made precious napery of her hair: that better flax shamed the linen in the Pharisee's
A kiss of the cheek had wont to be pledge of the welcome of their guests. Simon neglects to make himself thus happy : she redoubles the kisses of her humble thankfulness upon the blessed feet of her Saviour. The Pharisee omits ordinary oil for the head : she supplies the most precious and fragrant oil to his feet. Now the Pharisee reads his own taxation in her praise ; and begins to envy, where he had scorned. It is our fault, O Saviour, if we mistake thee.
We are ready to think, so thou have the substance of good usage, thou regardest not the compliments and ceremonies; whereas now we see thee to have both meat and welcome in the Pharisee's house, and yet hear thee glance at his neglect of washing, kissing, anointing. Doubtless, omission of due circumstances in thy entertainment may
deserve to lose our thanks. Do we pray to thee? do we hear thee preach to us? now we make thee good cheer in our house ; but if we perform not these things with the fit decency of our outward carriages, we give thee not thy water, thy kisses, thy oil. Even meet ritual observances are requisite for thy full welcome.
Yet, how little had these things been regarded, if they had not argued the woman's thankful love to thee, and the ground of that love, sense of her remission, and the Pharisee's default in both.
Love and action do necessarily evince each other. True love cannot lurk long unexpressed: it will be looking out at the eyes, creeping out of the mouth, breaking out at the fingers' ends, in some actions of dearness ; especially those wherein there is pain and difficulty to the agent, profit or pleasure to the affected. O Lord, in vain shall we profess to love thee, if we do nothing for thee. Since our goodness cannot reach up unto thee, who art our Glorious Head; O let us bestow upon thy feet, (thy poor members here below,) our tears, our hands, our ointment, and whatever our gifts or endeavours may testify our thankfulness, and love to thee in them.
O happy word! Her sins, which are many, are forgiven her. Methinks, I see how this poor Penitent revived with this breath; how new life comes into her eyes, new blood into her cheeks, new spirits into her countenance : like unto our mother earth ; when in that first confusion, God said, Let the earth bring forth
grass, the herb that beareth seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit ; all runs out into flowers, and blossoms, and leaves, and fruit. Her former tears said, Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Now her cheerful smiles say, I thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord.
Seldom ever do we meet with so perfect a Penitent: seldom do we find so gracious a dismission. What can be wished, of any mortal creature, but remission, safety, faith, peace ? All these are here met, to make a contrite soul happy : remission, the ground of her safety ; faith, the ground of her peace ; safety and salvation, the issue of her remission; peace, the blessed fruit of her faith.
O woman, the perfume, that thou broughtest, is poor and base, in comparison of those sweet savours of rest and happiness, that are returned to thee. Well was that ointment bestowed, wherewith thy soul is sweetened to all eternity.
CONTEMPLATION XVII.-MARTHA AND MARY.
We may read long enough, ere we find Christ in a house of his own. The foxes have holes, and the birds have nests : he, that had all, possessed nothing. One while, I see him in a Publican's house; then in a Pharisee's ; now, I find him at Martha's.
His last entertainment was with some neglect ; this, with too much solicitude.
Our Saviour was now in his way. The sun might as soon stand still as he. The more we move, the liker we are to heaven, and to this God that made it.
His progress was to Jerusalem, for some holy feast. He, whose devotion neglected not any of those sacred solemnities, will not neglect the due opportunities of his bodily refreshing : as not thinking it meet to travel and preach harbourless, he diverts, where he knew his welcome, to the village of Bethany. There dwelt the two devout sisters, with their brother, his friend Lazarus. Their roof receives him. O happy house, into which the Son of God vouchsafed to set his foot!
O blessed woman, that had the grace to be the hostesses to the God of Heaven! How should I envy your felicity herein, if I did not see the same favour, if I be not wanting to myself, lying open to me!
I have two ways to entertain my Saviour ; in his members, and in himself : in his members, by charity and hospitableness ; Whut I do to one of those his little ones, I do to him ; in himself by faith ; If any man open he will come in and sup with him. O Saviour, thou standest at the door of our hearts, and knockest by the solicitations of thy messengers, by the sense of thy chastisements,
by the motions of thy Spirit: if we open to theç by a willing admission and faithful welcome, thou wilt be sure to take souls with thy gracious presence; and not to sit with us for a momentary meal, but to dwell with us for ever. Lo, thou didst but call in at Bethany ; but here shall be thy rest for everlasting.
Martha, it seems, as being the elder sister, bore the name of the housekeeper; Mary was her assistant in the charge. A blessed pair; sisters, not more in nature than grace, in spirit no less than in flesh. How happy a thing is it, when all the parties in a family are jointly agreed to entertain Christ!
No sooner is Jesus entered into the house, than he falls to preaching : that no time may be lost, he stays not so much as till his meat be made ready ; but while his bodily repast was in hand, provides spiritual food for his hosts. It was his meat and drink, to do the will of his Father. He fed more upon his own diet, than he could possibly upon theirs. His best cheer was, to see them spiritually fed. How should we, whom he hath called to this sacred function, be instant in season and out of season !
We are, by his sacred ordination, the lights of the world. No sooner is the candle lighted, than it gives that light, which it hath; and never intermits, till it be wasted to the snuff.
Both the sisters, for a time, sat attentively listening to the words of Christ. Household occasions call Martha away: Mary sits still at his feet, and hears. Whether shall we more praise her humility, or her docility! I do not see her take a stool and sit by him, or a chair and sit above him ; but, as desiring to shew her heart was as low as her knees, she sits at his feet. She was lowly set, richly warmed with those heavenly beams. The greater sabmission, the more grace. If there be one hollow in the valley lower than another, thither the waters gather.
Martha's house is become a divinity-school: Jesus, as the doctor sits in the chair ; Martha, Mary, and the rest, sit as disciples at his feet. Standing implies a readiness of motion ; sitting, a settled composedness to this holy attendance.
Had these two sisters provided our Saviour never such delicacies, and waited on his trencher never so officiously, yet had they not listened to his instruction, they had not bidden him welcome ; neither had he so well liked his entertainment. This was the way to feast him; to feed their ears by his heavenly doctrine. His best cheer is our proficiency; our best cheer is his word. O Saviour, let my soul be thus feasted, by thee; do thou thus feast thyself, by feeding me. This mutual diet shall be thy praise and my happiness.
Though Martha was for the time an attentive hearer, yet now her care of Christ's entertainment carries her into the kitchen. Mary sits still. Neither was Mary more devout, than Martha busy. Martha cares to feast Jesus; Mary to be feasted of
him. There was more solicitude in Martha's active part : more piety in Mary's sedentary attendance: I know not in whether more zeal. Good Martha was desirous to express her joy and thankfulness for the presence of so blessed a guest, by the actions of her careful and plenteous entertainment. I know not how to censure the holy woman, for her excess of care to welcome her Saviour. Sure, she herself thought she did well; and, out of that confidence, fears not to complain to Christ of her sister.
I do not see her come to her sister, and whisper in her ear the great need of her aid ; but she comes to Jesus, and in a kind of unkind expostulation of her neglect, makes her moan to him ; Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Why did she not rather make her first address to her sister? Was it, for that she knew Mary was so tied by the ears with those adamantine chains, that came from the mouth of Christ, that until his silence and dismission she had no power to stir ? Or was it out of an honour and respect to Christ, that in his presence she would not presume to call off her sister, without his leave?
Howsoever, I cannot excuse the holy woman from some weaknesses. It was a fault, to measure her sister by herself; and, apprehending her own act to be good, to think her sister could not do well, if she did not so too. Whereas, goodness hath much latitude. Ill is opposed to good, not good to good. Neither in things lawful nor indifferent are others bound to our examples. Mary might hear. Martha might serve, and both do well. Mary did not censure Martha, for her rising from the feet of Christ, to prepare his meal ; neither should Martha have censured Mary, for sitting at Christ's feet, to feed her soul. It was a fault, that she thought an excessive care of a liberal outward entertainment of Christ, was to be preferred to a diligent attention to Christ's spiritual entertainment of them. It was a fault, that she durst presume to question our Saviour of some kind of unrespect to her toil, Lord, dost thou not care? What sayest thou, Martha ? Dost thou challenge the Lord of Heaven and Earth of incogitancy and neglect? Dost thou take upon theę, to prescribe unto that Infinite Wisdom, instead of receiving directions from him? It is well thou mettest with a Saviour, whose gracious mildness knows how to pardon and pity the errors of our zeal.
Yet I must needs say here wanted not fair pretences, for the ground of this thy expostulation. Thou, the elder sister, workest; Mary, the younger, sits still. And what work was thine, but the hospitable receipt of thy Saviour and his train; Had it been for thine own paunch, or for some carnal friends, it had been less excusable ; now it was for Christ himself, to whom thou couldst never be too obsequious.
But all this cannot deliver thee, from the just blame of this