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gone, Moses, Elias, the cloud, the voice, the glory. Tabor itself cannot be long blessed with that divine light, and those shining guests: heaven will not allow to earth any long continuance of glory, only above is constant happiness to be looked for and enjoyed ; where we shall ever see our Saviour in his unchangeable brightness, where the light shall never be either clouded or varied.
Moses and Elias are gone, only Christ is left; the glory of the law and the prophets was but temporary, yea momentary, that only Christ may remain to us entire and conspicuous ; they came but to give testimony to Christ, when that is done they are vanished.
Neither could these raised disciples find any miss of Moses and Elias, when they had Christ still with them. Had Jesus been gone, and left either Moses or Elias, or both, in the mount with his disciples, that presence, though glorious, could not have comforted them ; now that they are gone, and he is left, they cannot be capable of discomfort. O Saviour, it matters not who is away while thou art with us; thou art God all-sufficient, what can we want, when we want not thee? Thy presence shall make Tabor itself an heaven; yea, hell itself cannot make us miserable with the fruition of thee.
THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY.
What a busy life was this of Christ's ! he spent the night in the Mount of Olives, the day in the temple; whereas the night is for a retired repose, the day for company : his retiredness was for prayer, his companionableness was for preaching. All night he watches in the mount; all the morning he preaches
in the temple. It was not for pleasure that he was here upon earth ; his whole time was penal and toilsome: how do we resemble him, if his life were all pain and labour, ours all pastime?
He found no such fair success the day before: the multitude was divided in their opinion of him ; messengers were sent and suborned to apprehend him, yet he returns to the temple. It is for the sluggard or the coward to plead a lion in the way; upon the calling of God we must overlook and contemn all the spite and opposition of men : even after an ill harvest we must sow, and after denials we must woo for God.
This Sun of righteousness prevents that other, and shines early with wholesome doctrines upon the souls of his hearers ; the auditory is both thronged and attentive, yet not all with the same intentions. If the people came to learn, the Scribes and Pharisees came to cavil and carp at his teaching : with what a pretence of zeal and justice yet do they put themselves into Christ's presence! As lovers of chastity and sanctimony, and haters of uncleanness, they bring to him a woman taken in the flagrance of her adultery:
And why the woman rather ? since the man's offence was equal, if not more ; because he should have had more strength of resistance, more grace not to tempt. Was it out of necessity? perhaps the man, knowing his danger, made use of his strength to shift away, and violently break from his apprehenders; or was it out of cunning ? in that they hoped for more likely matter to accuse Christ, in the case of the woman than of the man; for that they supposed his merciful disposition might more probably incline to compassionate her weakness, rather than the stronger vessel. Or was it rather out of partiality ? was it not then, as now, that the weakest soonest suffers, and impotency lays us open to the malice of an enemy? Small flies hang in the webs,
while wasps break through without control; the wand and the sheet are for poor offenders, the great either out-face or out-buy their shame : a beggarly drunkard is haled to the stocks, while the rich is chambered up to sleep out of his surfeit.
Out of these grounds is the woman brought to Christ : not to the Mount of Olives, not to the way, not to his private lodging, but to the temple ; and that not to some obscure angle, but into the face of the assembly:
They pleaded for her death; the punishment which they would onwards inflict was her shame; which must needs be so much more, as there were more eyes to be witnesses of her guiltiness. All the brood of sin affects darkness and secrecy, but this more properly; the twilight, the night is for the adulterer. It cannot be better fitted than to be dragged out into the light of the sun, and to be proclaimed with hootings and basins. On the impudence of those men who can make merry professions of their own beastliness, and boast of the shameful trophies of their lust!
Methinks I see this miserable adulteress, how she stands confounded amidst that gazing and disdainful multitude; how she hides her head, how she wipes her blubbered face and weeping eyes. In the mean time it is no dumb show that is here acted by these Scribes and Pharisees; they step forth boldly to her accusation; “Master, this woman
was taken in adultery, in the very act.” How plausibly do they begin! Had I stood by and heard them, should I not have said, “What holy, honest, conscionable men are these! what devout clients of Christ ! with what reverence they come to him! with what zeal of justice !" when he that made and ransacks their bosom tells me, All this is done but to tempt him.” Even the falsest hearts will have the most plausible mouths: like to Solomon's courtezan, “Their lips drop as an honeycomb, and their mouth is smoother than oil; but their end is bitter as wormwood.”
False and hollow Pharisees! he is your master whom ye serve, not he whom ye tempt ; only in this shall he be approved your master, that he shall pay your wages, and give you your portion with hypocrites.
The act of adultery was her crime ; to be taken in the very act was no part of her sin, but the proof of her just conviction; yet her deprehension is made an aggravation of her shame. Such is the corrupt judgment of the world ; to do ill troubles not men, but to be taken in doing it; unknown filthiness passes away with ease: it is the notice that perplexes them, not the guilt. But, О foolish sinners, all your packing and secrecy cannot so contrive it, but that ye shall be taken in the manner ; your conscience takes you so, the God of heaven takes you so; and ye shall once find, that your conscience is more than a thousand witnesses, and God more than a thousand consciences.
They that complain of the act, urge the punishment; "Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned.” Where did Moses bid so? surely the particularity of this execution was without the book ; tradition and custom enacted it, not the law.
Indeed Moses commanded death to both the offenders, not the manner of death to either. By analogy it holds thus : it is flatly commanded in the case of a damsel betrothed to a husband, and found not to be a virgin ; in the case of a damsel betrothed, who, being defiled in the city, cried not: tradition and custom made up the rest ; obtaining out of this ground, that all adulterers should be executed by lapidation. The more ancient punishment was burning ; death always, though in divers forms. I shame to think, that Christians should slight that sin which both Jews and Pagans held ever deadly.
What a miscitation is this ! “Moses commanded :" the law was God's, not Moses'.
If Moses were employed to mediate betwixt God and Israel, the law is never the more his : he was the hand of God to reach the law to Israel, the hand of Israel to take it from God. We do not name the water from the pipes, but from the spring. It is not for a true Israelite to rest in the second means, but to mount up to the supreme original of justice. How reverent soever an opinion was had of Moses, he cannot be thus named
without a shameful undervaluing of the royal law of his Maker. There is no mortal man whose authority may not grow into contempt : that of the ever-living God cannot but be ever sacred and iny able It is now with the Gospel, as it was then with the law; the word is no other than Christ's, though delivered by our weakness; whosoever be the crier, the proclamation is the King's of heaven. While it goes for ours, it is no marvel if it lie open to despite.
How captious a word is this ! Moses said thus, “What sayest thou ?” If they be not sure that Moses said so, why do they affirm it ? and if they be sure, why do they question that which they know decided ? They would not have desired a better advantage, than a contradiction to that received lawgiver. It is their profession, "We are Moses' disciples,” and, “ we know that God spake to Moses.” It had been quarrel enough to oppose so known a prophet. Still I find it the drift of the enemies of truth, to set Christ and Moses together by the ears, in the matter of the sabbath, of circumcision, of marriage and divorce, of the use of the law, of justification by the law, of the sense and extent of the law, and where not; but they shall never be able to effect it: they are too fast and indissoluble friends on both parts for ever; each speaks for other, each establishes