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But a more exact translation would be, " as God in Christ," or through Christ, "has forgiven you." So the apostle says at the beginning of the same epistle to the Ephesians, ch. i. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Through Christ God dispenseth all blessings to men, and particularly forgiveness of sins. Through him forgiveness is vouchsafed to all who repent. And men are called and invited to repent, with the gracious promise and assurance of forgiveness of sins, without taking on them the burden of the law of Moses. Luke xxiv. 47. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Acts x. 43. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." See likewise ch. ii. 19, and ch. xiii. 38." through his name is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." And see
2 Cor. v. 19; and Rom. vi. 23. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ
APPLICATION. I now proceed to mention some remarks by way of application; which also may be of use for farther illustrating this point.
1. We hence perceive that prayers and praises ought generally, if not always, to be offered to God the Father.
Says our Lord: "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." In St. Stephen, Acts vii. 59, is an instance of a prayer addressed to Christ, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And St. Paul, 1 Thess. iii. 11. "Now God himself, even our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you." But usually in the Acts and in the Epistles, prayers are directed to God the Father, to whom our Lord himself prayed when on earth.
Doubtless our blessed Lord, in his state of exaltation in heaven, knows all things done on this earth. And if he be intercessor for us, as we are taught in the New Testament, it is requisite he should know all the prayers that are offered by his people for whom he intercedes. Before he left the disciples he assured them, John xiv. 13. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do," I will take care it shall be done, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Jesus Christ, likewise, as constituted Lord and Judge of the world, must intimately know all things done therein. This knowledge of things he claims and manifests in his messages and warnings sent to the churches in the revelation. Rev. ii. 18, 19. "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira, write, These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and patience-ver. 23. And all the churches shall know, that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. And I will give unto every one of you, according to his works." Nevertheless, as we have seen, prayers and praises are usually in the New Testament presented to God the Father. And so St. Paul directs. Eph. v. 20. " v. 20. "Giving thanks always for all things unto God, even the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And Heb. xiii. 15. " And Heb. xiii. 15. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.
2. We are now able to solve that question, concerning the prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, and is recorded in Matt. vi. and Luke xi. whether it be proper to be used, since Christ's ascension.
For some have argued in this manner. Jesus Christ, say they, in St. John's gospel, a little before he left his disciples, directed them " to pray in his name.' But his name is not mentioned in the Lord's prayer. Therefore it was designed for the use of the disciples only, till he was risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
But that argument is of no force, according to the interpretation now given of asking the Father in Christ's name, that is, according to his directions, as his disciples, in a way suited to the sublimity of his institution. Such certainly is this prayer. It is truly evangelical, according to the utmost perfection of the rules delivered by Christ concerning prayer. For here spiritual blessings are asked in the first place, temporal good things with moderation, " daily bread," a sufficiency only. And when we offer up this prayer, we pray with a benevolent, forgiving temper of mind. Finally, the overruling Providence of God in all things is acknowledged, and we pray to be preserved from evil, or to be supported and strengthened under it, so as that we may not fall, and sin against God. All the petitions of this prayer therefore are evangelical. And if offered with a suitable temper, the prayer will be accepted.
There is another objection against the use of this prayer, which also will appear to be of no
moment. Here we pray, that the "kingdom of God may come:" whereas, say they, the kingdom of God is already come. The kingdom of God, or the gospel-dispensation, was set up, and made known upon Christ's ascension. And his apostles soon preached the gospel every where, and Jews and Gentiles were received into the church of God.
But in answer to this, it is obvious to say, that "God's name may [yet] be hallowed," and "his kingdom may come" more universally. And we may therefore reasonably pray, that it may be upheld and advanced.
This prayer then, in every part of it, is still very proper to be used, and without inserting Christ's name. For if the petitions be offered with a suitable temper, the petitioner prays the name of Christ, as a disciple of his."
This prayer therefore may be still very fitly used. be still very fitly used. But I do not say, that it ought to be always used, or that we ought never to address ourselves to God, without saying this prayer. 3. We can now understand those words of Christ to the disciples: "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name."
The meaning is not, as some have supposed, hitherto you have not made use of my name in your prayers: but hitherto you have not prayed, as my disciples ought to do. Hitherto your prayers have wanted somewhat of that spirituality, and heavenly-mindedness, which becomes my doctrine.
It is well known to all, that for a good while Christ's disciples had ambitious and worldly views, and desires of pre-eminence: which produced jealousies and emulations, inconsistent with the perfection of mutual love. But our Lord's death, and resurrection, and ascension to heaven, together with illuminations received from above, would enable them fully to understand the tenour of his doctrine, and raise their minds to things above. The glory of God, the interests of religion, and the real welfare of mankind, would then be their prevailing concerns, and they would be able to pray in Christ's name, as his disciples, and according to the rules, which he had given concerning prayer.
We are led to this interpretation by the words, immediately following those of the text. "These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs," or parables. "The time cometh, when I
shall no more speak to you in proverbs. But I shall shew you plainly of the Father."
Our Lord had told the disciples "all things," John xv. 15, the whole scheme of the gospel: as we may clearly discern from the accounts of his ministry, which have been left us by the evangelists. But their prejudices, strengthened too by carnal affections, made them slow of understanding. Our Lord therefore now says to them: My discourses oftentimes have appeared to you obscure, and you have not fully perceived my intention. Nor could I speak so plainly, as was to be desired. Because of the danger of offending you, some truths have been represented in ambiguous expressions. But now the time is coming, when all your prejudices will ⚫ be removed, and you will clearly understand how God is to be worshipped, and you will comprehend and observe the directions which I have given you, as my disciples. Then you will be able to pray in a spiritual and acceptable manner. Ver. 26. "In that day ye shall" or will "ask in my name. And I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you. For the *Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed, that I came out from God." Your requests will then be so reasonable and acceptable, that I need not intercede for you, though I certainly shall do so. For your praying, and acting in other respects, as my disciples, the Father himself will love you, and manifest himself to you, and grant whatsoever
In that day, and thenceforward, you will not ask to sit, one of you on my right hand, and another on the left, in my kingdom: whilst the rest are offended, and jealous of partial respects for such petitioners: apprehensive, lest they should obtain a pre-eminence, to which they are ⚫ not entitled, and prejudicial to others. But you will all desire the best things, in the first place. Such things you will desire for yourselves, and for each other, and for all men. Your most earnest desires will be, that you may be faithful to God, and that others may be so ⚫ likewise, and so act in all things as to obtain eternal life.'
4. It is reasonable to infer, that all Christians should be desirous to pray in the name of Christ, or, as his disciples, agreeably to the nature of his doctrine, and according to the rules which he has given concerning prayer.
So we ought to endeavour to pray, both in private and in public, particularly in public. There, especially, we ought to be careful to pray, as disciples of Jesus. Some will bring into their prayers their own particular notions about the fall of Adam, and its consequences, original sin, the corruption of the human nature, the incomprehensible order of divine decrees, election, grace, and other points. Others, and possibly the same persons, at other times, will introduce their particuler system of the Trinity, or the person of Christ, and his transactions. But public prayer should be such as all Christians can join in. We are not in our prayers to strive to impose our own notions upon others, or to exclude any Christians from joining in the addresses we present to God. A minister, in his public prayers, is to offer up common requests and praises, the unfeigned devotions of the assembly. Public prayers are not to be Lutheran, nor Calvinistical, nor Arminian, but Christian, and scriptural. There should be in them neither Arianism, nor Nicenism. How contrary to the Christian and apostolical rule, to offer petitions, or make declarations in prayer, to which a sincere Christian cannot assent, or about which he has doubts and scruples! For according to St. Paul's argument in Rom. xiv. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," or doubtful, contested intricate systems and speculations: "but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of [wise] men. Let 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 sensos 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. 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 OINTMENT.
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 shew how we may improve it to our benefit.
I. In the first place I shall review and consider this history.
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."
That is the first part of the history, the action of this woman, or the respect shewn by her to our Lord.
The second part consists of the notice which some took of it, in a way of censure. 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 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. For 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
• 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.
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 shewing benevolence 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 be assured, the time is now at hand. And opportunities of testifying respect to me, in any 'such way as this, will soon be over.
You are apt, some of you, to think this expense excessive. 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 laudable 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 ointments upon me, when dead, which they may be disposed to make use of.
Upon the whole, the testimony of respect, which this woman has shewn me, has in it nothing blameable 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 peace, 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