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ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
AS JESUS was so shortly to suffer, he resolved first to make a farewell visit to his friends at Bethany, where he met with a welcome reception, and seems to have been generally esteemed in the neighbourhood. Simon the leper, who, it is likely, had been cured by CHRIST, to testify his gratitude made a feast. Martha, whose veneration for her honoured LORD was very great, resolved to shew it publicly; therefore, instead of sitting down at table with the rest of the guests, she humbly waited on him. The greatest honour Lazarus could pay to his divine friend was, to give proof that he was restored to life, by eating with the company, and exposing himself to the examination of any who should require satisfaction respecting the miracle. Mary, whose heart glowed with the warmest gratitude, resolved also to give some open testimony of it; for this purpose, instead of adorning her own person for the festive entertainment, she came with her tresses flowing in a negligent manner, and a box of costly ointment in her hand; thus approaching his honoured person she poured it on his head with the utmost respect; then kneeling down, she anointed his feet, wiping them, in token of humility, and veneration, with her hair. Perhaps she broke the box, that it might never be applied to any other use*. The expence of this ointment amounted to about nine pounds seven shillings and six-pence of our money. The fragrant perfume of it diffusing itself through the house, called the attention of every one to consider the respect due to so honourable a guest, but it had not a proper effect on all.
* If the box was made of what we call alabaster, it might easily be broken: but commentators in general suppose that she merely emptied it, and that the word brake relates to the contents of it.
When our Lond observed the secret murmurings of some of his disciples at this action of Mary's, he spared her gentleness the pain of justifying it; and knowing the design of Judas to set off with the bag, he disdained to give him a particular reply; but addressing himself to those who were displeased from better motives, he desired they would not give this amiable woman any uneasiness on the subject; reminding them, that they would never want objects for their charity, but he should soon be out of the reach of their kindness; for his death was so near, that Mary (though, as we may suppose unconscious of it) had in a manner embalmed him for his burial; since that would happen before the smell of the perfume would leave his body. And as her behaviour in this instance certainly proceeded from the best motives, he should receive it as an act of piety and love, neither should the remembrance of it ever be lost.
How astonishing does the fortitude of our blessed LORD appear! Though he knew he was soon to suffer a painful and ignominious death, his mind was perfectly serene; he did not retire to solitude, nor pass the few remaining days of his life in lamentations with his friends, on the necessity of his submitting to it, but joined with cheerfulness the social entertainment, and talked of his death with as much composure as if he had been only going a short journey. The secret source of his serenity was an inward assurance through the HOLY SPIRIT that his thoughts and actions were perfectly comformable to the will of Gon, and conducive to the happiness of mankind, and that THE FATHER Would support him in every conflict.
It is impossible for any man who believes in a future state, entirely to divest himself of the fear of death, by the strength of human reason alone; but this fear will
decrease in proportion to our consciousness of rectitude of conduct, and our confidence in divine mercy; and though our SAVIOUR'S example will ever remain superior in this instance, as well as in every other, to that of the best of men, every Christian who strives to imitate it will occasionally be comforted also with an inward assurance of future happiness.
There was great generosity in Mary's action, for the sum she expended on the ointment was much more than was usual for persons in her rank of life to apply to such a purpose. To be thus anointed was an honour fit for a prince, and it shews that Mary entertained the highest opinion of the dignity of our LORD's character. Though on this occasion our LORD accepted and commended Mary's liberality, in preference to her bestowing it in alms, we have reason to believe every act of real charity to the poor will now be received by him as if done to himself.
How detestable was the hypocrisy of Judas! There are still in the world persons of the same horrid principles, who make a pretended regard for the poor a cloak for an opportunity of enriching themselves with their spoils; but let us hope that there are not many such. It is needless to remark on the malice of the Jewish rulers, for it must appear in its proper light.
PART OF THE PROPHECY OF ZECHARIAH RELATING TO THE MESSIAH.
From Chap. ix.
I. REJOICE greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto
thee: he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.
And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow shall be cut off; and he shall speak peace unto the heathen; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
II. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their GOD, and will. not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
We read in the Old Testament, that judges, prophets, and great men, usually rode upon asses or mules. King David himself made use of a mule; and king Solomon, at his accession to the throne, was mounted on the very beast his father commonly rode. This custom was adopted in consequence of an express command given by the LORD, that the kings and people of Israel should not multiply horses to themselves: the reason of which was, that they should rely on His almighty power in the day of battle, and not on the natural strength and force of their armies. When Solomon was settled on the throne, he married the daughter of the king of Egypt, and opened a commerce with that country. Shortly after we read, that he had four thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; but instead of strengthening, Solomon weakened himself by this means, for he was not able, with his increased force, to repel the Edomites, and the king of Damascus, who annoyed his subjects at the latter end of his reign.
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, was still more unfor
tunate; for a division of the kingdom took place in his reign, and the forces of Israel, divided into two parts, were employed in weakening and destroying each other. The new king of Egypt took advantage of these disturbances, besieged Jerusalem, and carried away all the treasures of the temple, and of the royal palace, which had long been collecting by David and Solomon, particularly the golden shields; and Rehoboam became a servant or tributary, to the king of Egypt. From this time we may date the ruin of Israel : the two kingdoms were so weakened by their internal wars, that they were unable to defend themselves against their neighbours, and became servants by turns to the kings of Assyria and Babylon; till, after many and great distresses, they were carried into captivity; the people of Israel into Assyria, and those of Judah into Babylon.
During this period we find, that GOD had not utterly forsaken his people, but oftentimes gave them very signal deliverances; but it is to be observed, that their deliverances were not effected by their armed forces, but by the miraculous interposition of GoD, when their condition was such that they had lost all hope of defence from their own strength, and were willing to rely solely on Divine aid. The history of Hezekiah, and the successes of the Maccabees, in particular, confirm these remarks.
By this short account it appears, that David was the last of the rulers over Israel who observed the law against multiplying horses; not that this was the only crime the kings and people of Israel were chargeable with, for they had others of a deeper die; but this was certainly reckoned amongst their offences against God, as we may learn from their own prophets.
We find then, that the martial preparations made by