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while th fouls by losing as hot willing thos
from which dropt knowledge sweeter than honey from the honey-comb. Though she is solicitous for the comfort of her heavenly guest, yet she makes no great stir to provide for him an elegant or sumptuous entertainment ; for she knew his happiness did not confift in luxurious eating and drinking : it was his incat and his drink to do the will of his father; and as for the sustenance of his body, plain food was most acceptable to him. He was not willing that any should lose their fouls by losing opportunitics of instruction, while they were making sumptuous provision for him. Mary was also so deeply engaged about her falvation, that she was nobly careless about the little decencies of entertainments. The body and all its fupports and gratifications appeared of very small importance to her when compared with the immortal soul. O! if that be but fed with the words of eternal life, it is enough. All this she did with Christ's warın approbation, and therefore her conduct is an example worthy of cur imitation : and if it were imitated it would happily reform the pride, luxury, excessive delicacy, and multiform extravagance which have crept in upon us under the ingratiating names of politeness, decency, hospitality, good ceconomy, and I know not what. These guilty superfluities and refinements render the life of fome a course of idoJatry to so sordid a god as their bellies, and that of others a course of busy, laborious, and expensive triling.--But to return:
Martha, though a pious woman, yet like too many among us, was too solicitous about these things. She feemned more concerned to maintain her reputation for good economy and hospitality than to improve in divine knowledge at every opportunity; and to entertain her guest rather as a gentleman than as a divine teacher and the Saviour of souls. Hence, instead of fitting at his feet with her fifter in the pofture of a humble disciple, she was busy in making preparations; and her mind was distracted with the cares of her family. As moderate labour and care about earthly things is.lawful, and even a duty, perfons are not readily suspicious or easily convinced of their guilty excelles in these labours and cares. Hence Martha is so far from condemning herself on this account, that the blames her devout lifter for not following her example. Nay, she has the confidence to complain to Christ himself of her neglect, and that in language too that sounds fomewhat rude and irreverent. “ Carest thou not that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" Art thou so partial as to suffer her to devolve all the trouble upon me while she sits idle at thy feet ? • Jesus turns upon her with just severity, and throws the blame where it should lie. Moriha, Martha! There is a vehemence and pungency in the repetiti. on, Martha, Marthå, thou art careful and troubled about many things. “ Thy worldly mind has many objects, and many objects excite many cares and troubles, fruitless troubles and useless cares. Thy restless mind is scattered among a thousand things, and tossed from one to another with an endless variety of anxieties. But let me collect my thoughts and cares to one point, a point where they should all terminate : one thing is needful; and therefore dropping thy exceflive care about many things, make this one thing the great object of thy pursuit. This one thing is what thy fifter is now attending to, while thou art vainly careful about many things ; and therefore, instead of blaming her conduct, I must approve it. She has made the best choice, for she hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. After all thy care and labour, the things of this vain world must be given up at last, and lost for ever. But Mary hath made a wiser choice, the portion she hath chofen shall be hers for ever; it shall never be taken away from her.”
But what does Christ mean by this one thing which alone is needful?
made a wiferents and lost for everain world must be I answer, We may learn what he meant by the occasion and circumstances of his speaking. He mentions this one thing in an admonition to Martha for exceffive worldly care and the neglect of an opportunity for promoting her falvation ; and he expressly opposes this one thing to the many things which en. groffed her care; and therefore it must mean fomething different from and superior to all the pursuits of time. This one thing is that which Mary was so much concerned about while attentively listening to his instructions. And what can that be but salvation as the end, and holiness as the means, or a proper care of the soul? This is that which is opposite and superior to the many cares of life :this is that which Mary was attending to and pursuing: and I may add, this is that good part which Mary had chosen, which should never be taken away from her; for that good part which Mary had chosen seems intended by Christ to explain what he meant by the one thing needful. Therefore the one thing needful must mean the salvation of the soul, and an earnest application to the means necessary to obtain this end above all other things in the world. To be holy in order to be happy ; to pray, to hear, to meditate, and use all the means of grace appointed to produce or cherish holiness in us; to use these means with conftancy, frequency, earnestness, and zeal; to use them di. ligently whatever elfe be neglected, or to make all other things give way in comparison of this; this I apprehend is the one thing needful which Christ here intends: this is that which is absolutely necessary, necessary above all other things, and necessary for ever. The end, namely, salvation, will be granted by all to be necessary, and the necessity of the end renders the means also necessary. If-it be necessary you should be for ever happy, and escape everlasting misery, it is necessary you should be holy; for you can no more be saved without holiness than you can be healthy without health, see without light, or live
without without food. And if holiness be necessary, then the earnest use of the means appointed for the production and improvement of holiness in us must be necefsary too; for you can no more expect to become holy without the use of these means, than to reap without fowing, or become truly virtuous and good by chance or fatality. To be holy in order to be happy, and to use all the means of grace in order to be holy, is therefore the one thing needful.
But why is this concern which is so complex called One Thing? · I answer: Though falvation and holiness include various ingredients, and though the means of grace are various, yet they may be all taken collectively and called one thing; that is, one great business, one important object of pursuit, in which all our endea. vours and aims should center and terminate. It is also said to be one, in opposition to the many things that are the objects of a worldly mind. This world owes its variety in a great measure to contradiction and inconsistency. There is no harmony or unity in the earthly objects of mens pursuits, nor in the means they use to secure them. Riches, honours, and pleasures generally clash. If a man will be rich he must restrain himself in the pleasures of gratifying his eager appetites, and perhaps use some mean artifices that may stain his honour. If he would be honourable, he must often be prodigal of his riches, and ab. stain from some sordid pleasures. If he would have the full enjoyment of sensual pleasures, he must often squander away his riches, and injure his honour to procure them. The lufts of men as well as their objects, are also various and contradictory. Covetoufness and sensuality, pride and tranquillity, envy and the love of ease, and a thousand jarring passions, maintain a constant fight in the finner's breast. The means for gratifying these lusts are likewise contrary; sometimes truth, sometimes falfhood, sometimes indolence, sometimes action and labour are neceffary. In . these things there is no unity of design, nor consist,ency of means; but the finner is properly distracted, drawn this way and that, tossed from wave to wave; and there is no steadiness or uniformity in his pursuits. But the work of salvation is one, the means and the end correspond, and the means are consistent one with another; and therefore the whole, though consisting of many parts, may be said to be one.
It may also be called the one thing needful, to in. timate that this is needful above all other things. It is a common form of speech to say of that which is necessary above all other things, that it is the one or only thing neceffary : fo we may understand this pasfage. There are what we call the real necessaries of life; such as food and raiment: there are also neces. . sary callings and necessary labours. All these are necessary in a lower sense; neceffary in their proper place. But in comparison of the great work of our salvation, they are all unnecessary; if we be but saved, we may do very well without them all. This is fo necessary, that nothing else deserves to be called necessary in comparison of it. · This shews you also, not only why this is called one thing, but why or in what sense it is said to be necessary. It is of absolute and incomparable neceffity. There is no absolute necessity to our happiness that we should be rich or honourable ; nay, there is no absolute necessity that we should live in this world at all, for we may live infinitely more happy in another. And if life itself be not absolutely neceffary, then much less are food, oraiment, or health, or any of those things which in a lower fenfe we call the necefsaries of life. In comparison of this, they are all needless. I add farther, this one thing may be said to be necessary, because it is neceffary always, or for ever. The necessaries of this life we cannot want long, for we must foon remove into a world where there is no room for them; but holiness and salvation we shall find needful always: needful under the