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us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."
A preacher may in his discourses propose to the people his own senses and interpretations of scripture, and offer his reasons for them. But in public addresses to God he should offer common requests and thanksgivings, in which all sincere christians can unite. In a word, public prayers ought to be agreeable to the "common faith of God's elect," Tit. i. 4, and the doctrine of the "common salvation," Jude 3, preached by Christ and his apostles, to Jews and Gentiles, and all men under heaven.
5. We hence learn how to pray to God so as to be heard.
So is the text.
"Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask," that is, in my name, " and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
To the like purpose in other places, already cited. John xv. 7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you; ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.' 1 John iii. 22, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." And ch. v. 14, 15, " And this is the confidence that we have in him; that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know, that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
It is therefore a great happiness to have our desires regulated by the reason of things, and the will of God. To desire nothing but what is reasonable; to desire the best things, and to have them. This is great happiness. To have no desires, but what will be gratified. If we desire perishing riches, and do not obtain them, we are ruined. If we take care to lay up to ourselves treasures in heaven, and seek the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, in the first place; we shall have what we most desire, and a competency of other things therewith. The best things cannot be taken from us. If some other things are lost, those which are most valuable, and remain, will satisfy and support us. Let us then do all things in the name of Jesus Christ, ever acting as his disciples. And let us ask in his name, according to his directions, that we may receive the things which we ask, and " our joy may be full," or we may have abundant satisfaction and joy.
THE WOMAN THAT ANOINTED JESUS WITH PRECIOUS
Verily I say unto you: Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Matt. xxvi. 13.
THIS action of the woman here spoken of, who anointed our Lord with precious ointment, may at first appear a thing of little moment. But since our Lord signified his approbation of it, and declared that it would in future times be celebrated; it is not unlikely that it may afford us some profitable meditations, if we carefully consider it.
For which reason I shall review this history, and then make some remarks upon it; in which I shall endeavour to show how we may improve it to our benefit.
I. In the first place I shall review and consider this his tory.
Our blessed Lord was now come up to Jerusalem, to keep the passover, at which he suffered. And, as you well know, he came up at this time several days before the day of the passover. But he took up his lodging at Bethany, a village near Jerusalem. In the morning he went up to Jerusalem, and taught there in the temple. In the evening he returned to Bethany. This was his method, till the night in which he ate the passover, according to the appointment of the law at Jerusalem.
Says St. Matthew, at ver. 6 and 7 of this chapter: "Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper," that is, who once had the leprosy, but had been cured, and probably by our Lord," there came unto him a woman, having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat."
In St. Mark xiv. 3, "And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and she brake," or opened, "the box, and poured it on his head."
For the whole of that history, in the several Evangelists, see Matt. xxvi. 6-13; Mark xiv. 3-9; John xi. 2; and xii. 1-8.
That is the first part of the history, the action of this woman, or the respect shown by her to our Lord.
The second part consists of the notice which some took of it, in a way of censure. In St. Matthew's gospel, ver. 8, 9, it is thus expressed," But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, to what purpose is this waste? For it might have been sold for much, and given to the poor."
Or, as in St. Mark, ver. 4, 5, " And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said: Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." In the computation of the price of the ointment, we must not think of our own, but of the Roman coin, then current in Judea, and other provinces of the Empire. The three hundred pence here mentioned might amount to about ten pounds of our money.
The third part of the history consists of our Lord's vindication of this action.
In St. Matthew, ver. 10-14, it is thus: "When Jesus understood it, he said unto them; Why trouble ye the woman? For she has wrought a good work upon me. ye have the poor always with you. But me ye have not always. For in that she has poured this ointment upon my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman has done, be told for a memorial of her."
In St. Mark this concluding part of the history stands in these words, ver. 6-9, " And Jesus said; Let her alone. Why trouble you her? She has wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor with you always; and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good. But me ye have not always. She has done what she could. She is come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done, shall be told for a memorial of her."
The sum and substance of this apology of our Lord is to this purpose. You always have among you necessitous 'objects. And you may relieve them, whenever you please. There will be frequent opportunities for showing benevo'lence to them, if you have ability. I am as a stranger, and my stay among you will be short. I have often spoken to you of my departure. And you may be assured, the
time is now at hand. And opportunities of testifying re'spect to me, in any such way as this, will soon be over.
You are apt, some of you, to think this expense exces'sive. But if this ointment were laid out upon a dead body, you would not think it too much. For that is an 'established custom among you, and you all think it laud' able to embalm at a great expense the bodies of persons, 'who are of eminence and distinction. You may consider 'this anointing as an embalming of me. And it may so
happen, that neither she, nor any others, shall actually have an opportunity to lay out all the rich spices and oint'ments upon me, when dead, which they may be disposed 'to make use of.
Upon the whole, the testimony of respect, which this woman has shown me, has in it nothing blamable; but it is worthy of commendation. And I readily testify my approbation of it. And I do now declare, that this action of hers will be published all over the world, and make a 'part of the history of things relating to myself, during my ' abode here among you. And the time is hastening, when 'some here present will be fully convinced, that this token ' of respect, now shown me, was not extravagant and undeserved, and will themselves cheerfully spread it abroad as ' an action of no small merit, and entitled to applause and 'commendation.'
There is a relation in St. John, which is very like this, though different in some particulars. Which has occasioned a difficulty, and raised doubts in the minds of attentive and inquisitive readers of the gospels, whether two several actions are spoken of, or one and the same only, with different circumstances.
Says St. John, ch. xii. 1-8, "Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served. But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus; Let her alone. Against
my burying has she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you. But me ye have not always."
To me it seems, that this is the same thing which is related by the two former evangelists. If so, St. John has let us know who this woman was. She was Mary sister of Lazarus. So he also says expressly at the beginning of the eleventh chapter: "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick."
St. John having before given the history of the resurrection of Lazarus, it was very natural for him, when he came to relate this anointing of our Lord, to say by whom it was done. But the two former evangelists having never mentioned Lazarus, or his sisters, in their gospels, when they came to relate this action, forbear to mention any name, and speak only of a certain woman.
St. Luke, ch. x. 38-42, has an account of our Lord's being entertained at the house of Martha; but he says nothing of this anointing. If he had related it, I make no question, that he, like St. John, would have said by whom it was done.
St. John indeed speaks of Judas only, who complained of the waste of the ointment, whereas the other evangelists express themselves as if other disciples also had disliked it. But it is well known to be very common with all writers to use the plural number, when one person only is intended. Nor is it impossible, that others might have some uneasiness about it, though they were far from being so disgusted at it as Judas was. And their concern for the poor was sincere. His was self-interested, and mere pretence.
One thing more should be observed for avoiding mistakes. It ought to be reckoned certain, that Mary, sister of Lazarus, is different from Mary Magdalen; and also from the woman that was a 66 sinner," of whom St. Luke speaks, ch. vii. 37, 38. She also "anointed our Lord's feet, and wiped them with her hair." But her name is no where mentioned. And it is very observable, that of the woman mentioned by him, St. Luke says," she stood at the feet of Jesus, behind him, weeping, and did wash his feet with tears." A particular quite omitted both by St. John, and by the two former evangelists, in their several accounts of the person who anointed Jesus at Bethany a short time be
fore his death.