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All this will be readily apprebended to be true of so pious a woman as Mary, who by the gracious and wonderful interposition of the Lord Jesus had received her dear brother alive after he had been dead four days.
Her esteem for Jesus was judicious, and determined, well grounded, and unalterable. She was persuaded he was the Christ, the chosen of God. She knew it from the prophets, from his own most excellent words, and from his mighty works. And his conduct had been admirable, lovely, and engaging, beyond expression. She believed he had the words of eternal life; and she would never cease to esteem him, and trust in him, whatever change there should be in his outward circumstances; or however basely and despitefully some others might think fit to treat him.
She had a higher idea of the dignity of Jesus, than most others had, and thought no testimony of respect could be too great to be shown him. Some, who possibly were not destitute of all regard for him, made computations of the value of the perfumed ointment, and thought the use she made of it no better than mere waste. But she having brought the vessel, and opened it, poured it forth without reserve upon Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. ANI this was done by her in the presence of many people, who were come to see Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. Many others treated him as a mean and ordinary person. She considers him as entitled to all the respect that is due to the greatest and the wisest. And certainly, this her regard for Jesus, since it was just and well grounded, is greatly to her commendation. Faith in Jesus, as the Christ, was a virtue. She excelled in that virtue, and was eminent among the believers of that time, when the Messiah abode in person on this earth.
Nor was her faith rash and inconsiderate. It was the fruit of diligent attention, just observations, and serious meditation. All this we can say assuredly of Mary sister of Lazarus. We can collect it from a history of this family, (before taken notice of) related by St. Luke, though he has said nothing of that action, which we are now considering; where he says, that when Jesus, in his journeying's, came to the village where they dwelt, “ Martha received him into her house." Whilst she was busy in preparing for the entertainment of Jesus, and the company with him, " Mary sat at Jesus's feet, and heard his word. Martha being cumbered about much serving," came to the Lord Jesus, and requested that her sister might" help her.” He answered, “ that Mary had chosen that good [or better] part, which should not be taken away from her," Luke x. 38_-42.
Finally, she manifested courage and resolution in this action, and with a readiness of thought, that is exemplary, she laid hold of the opportunity. Some resolution was needful, to exceed the common measures of respect, that were usually paid to Jesus. She actually met with rebukes, that were discouraging ; but our Lord interposed, and forbad the giving her any trouble, and declared, that this action should be long and often mentioned to her honour.
These virtues, as seems to me, were in the mind of this woman at that time. I presume I have not extolled this action beyond what it deserves. I have had no such design, though I have been willing to do justice to it, and to carry on the fulfilment of our Lord's prediction,
66 that wheresoever the gospel shall be preached, there also this, which this woman had done, should be told for a memorial of her.”
But something still remains. It is not enough that we celebrate, or acknowledge, the good dispositions of this woman. We are to imitate the virtues, which we admire in others. She bebaved commendably in her day. We are to do so in ours. She lived in the days of the Messiah, when he abode on this earth. She saw, and heard him. She was attentive, and open to conviction. She discovered his merit, and the evidences of his high character, and loved and honoured him as such, when many others despised and rejected him. And, as we have good reason to believe, was discreet and virtuous in the whole of her conduct, and so approved herself to be a true disciple of Jesus.
We also live in the days of the Messiah, which are times of greater light and knowledge, than any former times. He is not now on this earth. Nor have we seen him. But we have good reason to believe in him, and love him. The objects of faith are now increased. We believe his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven, and his exaltation to power; and have better assurance, that he will come again, and give to every man according to his work, than they had, who saw him here in person. We should behave accordingly, if we desire to be rewarded hereafter. We should be diligent in improving opportunities of serviceableness and usefulness. "He who neglects to sow at the proper season, must not expect to rejoice in the time of harvest. And, as the apostle says,
66 he that
soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly. And he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully,” 2 Cor. ix. 6.
5. From this, and other passages of our Lord's life, we can evidently perceive, that, with all his great and transcendent wisdom, he did not disdain what we call the weaker sex; but allowed them to be capable of true and distinguished worth and excellence. He found the woman of Samaria to be a
of an inquisitive temper, and of good understanding in the things of religion. And he condescended to discourse freely with her; and more clearly declared to her his character of the Messiah, than to most others. John iv.
He openly testified his accepting the repentance of the woman, spoken of in St. Luke, as a sinner," who had come into the house of a pharisee, when he sat at meat. He said to her: “ Thy sins are forgiven.” And for her farther assurance and comfort, added : “ Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace,” Luke iïi. 36—50.
How acute was the woman of Canaan, and how ingenious in her importunity! And how agreeable was the answer, which in the end our Lord gave her! “ () woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee, even as thou wilt,” Matt. xv. 21–28.
When he sat in the temple over against the treasury, and saw many rich men cast in their gifts, a poor widow woman, who cast in two mites, obtained from him the highest commendation. “ Of a truth, this poor widow has cast in more than they all. For all these bave of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury has cast in all the living that she bad,” Luke xxi. 1–4.
Yea it is said, that “ Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus," John xi. 5. Nor can there be any doubt, that they were worthy of the esteem which he manifested for them. He had observed in them qualities of the mind, and a prudent and virtuous conduct, truly amiable and commendable. That was a happy family! They were happy in each other. They were likewise happy in the favour and friendship of Jesus himself.
And not to mention any more instances of this kind, St. Luke has particularly informed us, that as our Lord “ went throughout every city and village of Judea, preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom of God, the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits, and infirmities : Mary Magdalen, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to him of their substance.” Luke viïj. 1-3.
And it seems, that they made great proficiency by their attendance on Jesus. They must have heard many of his public discourses, and seen many of his miracles. But they were not present, at any time, when our Lord ate the paschal supper with the disciples.' Nor did they hear his affecting discourses at those seasons. And they must have been absent upon many other occasions, when he discoursed and conferred with the disciples. In this respect it may be said, that they “ partook of the crumbs only, that fell from the disciples' table.” Their improvements therefore are surprising. For they appear not to have fallen short of the apostles themselves in understanding, faith, zeal, and affection for Jesus.
And St. Mark, relating the conclusion of our Lord's sufferings on the cross, says:
“ There were also women looking on afar off. Among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less, and of Joses, and Salome. Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him; and many other women, who came up with him unto Jerusalem," Mark xv. 40, 41.
Those women, therefore, who had before attended upon our Lord, persevered in their faith to the end. They attended his crucifixion, standing afar off, bewailing him. They afterwards observed where they laid him. And early on the first day of the week came to the sepulchre, with rich spices to embalm him. And they had the bonour to be the first, who saw the Lord after he was risen from the dead. Permit me to add a thought or two more.
persons named by St. Luke and St. Mark, as following our Lord, and ministering to him, were chiefly women of distinction, and of advanced age. Such were those, who, together with our Lord's mother, showed bim that respect. Among these I do not reckon the two sisters of Lazarus. They appear not to have attended upon our Lord any where, but at their own home, and, in the company of their brother, at the house of Simon the leper, a neighbour in the village of Bethany, where they dwelt. The reason we do not certainly know. But it may have been owing to their age. If they were still in the days of youth, it might not be fit that they should expose themselves abroad.
Hence we can infer, that the number of women, who believed in Jesus as the Christ, and professed faith in him, was not inconsiderable. Many of these there were, who had so good understanding, and so much virtue, as to overcome the common and prevailing prejudice. Without any bias of passion, or worldly interests, and contrary to the judgments and menaces of men in power, they judged rightly in a controverted point, of as much importance as ever was debated on this earth.
I have touched upon all these particulars, by way of encouragement to others. Despair to excel, and attain to eminence, enervates the powers of action, and obstructs those advances in knowledge and piety which otherwise might be made. High stations and public employments are not needful. Eminent virtue may be in any station. Wherever it is, it is discerned by the penetrating eye of Jesus, and is beheld with approbation, and will be rewarded by him in due time.
6. This text gives no encouragement to those honours, approaching to idolatry, or altogether idolatrous, which some have since given to departed saints, both men and women.
Our Lord, in this place, speaks not of any such thing. And it is inconsistent with the tenour of his, and his apostles' doctrine. But I need not enlarge upon this, in an assembly of persons, who think freely, and exercise their highest power of reason and understanding in things of religion, as well as about matters of less moment.
°7. We have in this history, an instance of the favour of our Lord for virtue.
A person having performed an action, which proceeded from laudable dispositions, he expresseth his approbation of it, and declares, that it should be celebrated. We may be assured therefore, that when our Lord shall come again, ot judgment, this benevolent, this remunerative property of his all-knowing and perfect mind, will be gratified, and displayed to the full. He will then bestow rewards, answerable to the riches, the honours, the delights, and entertainments of this world ; but greatly surpassing them, and the ideas, which we have formed from what now appears to us most splendid and magnificent.
8. And lastly, This text teacheth us to think, and judge for ourselves, and to act according to the light of our own judgment and understanding, after having taken due care to be well informed, without paying too great deference to the favourable, or the unfavourable sentences of others.
This woman met with checks and rebukes in her testimony of respect to Jesus. But he approved of it. Some acts of charity, some works of goodness, which appear rea