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no other conveyance to hell than this, which cannot be so pleasing to nature as it is hateful to God, who so speaks of it as if there were no sins but it; woman that was a sinner.”
She was a sinner, now she is not; her very presence argues her change. Had she been still in her old trade, she would no more have endured the sight of Christ, than that devil did which cried out, “Art thou come to torment me ?” Her eyes had been lamps and fires of lust, not fountains of tears ; her hairs had been nets to catch foolish lovers, not a towel for her Saviour's feet; yet still she carries the name of what she was: a scar still remains after the wound healed. Simon will be ever the Leper, and Matthew the Publican. How carefully should we avoid those actions which may ever stain us !
What a difference there is betwixt the carriage and proceedings of God and men ! The mercy of God, as it “calleth those things that are not as if they were, so it calleth those things that were as if they were not: “I will remember your iniquities no more.” As some skilful chirurgeon so sets the bone, or heals the sore, that it cannot be seen where the complaint
Man's word is, that which is done cannot be undone: but the omnipotent goodness of God doth, as it were, undo our once-committed sins. away my iniquity, and thou shalt find none.” What we were in ourselves, we are not to him, since he hath changed us from ourselves.
O God, why should we be niggardly where thou art liberal ? why should we be reading those lines which thou hast not only crossed, but quite blotted, yea wiped out ?
It is a good word, "She was a sinner.” To be wicked is odious to God, angels, saints, men : to have been so is blessed and glorious. I rejoice to look back and see my Egyptians lying dead upon the shore, that I may praise the Author of my deliverance and victory. Else, it matters not what they
“ Take ye are
were, what I was. O God, thou, whose title is, “I Am,” regardest the present. He befriends and honours us that says,
The place adds to the heinousness of the sin; “in the city.” The more public the fact is, the greater is the scandal. Sin is sin, though in a desert; other eyes do not make the act more vile in itself, but the offence is multiplied by the number of beholders.
I hear no name of either the city or the woman; she was too well known in her time. How much better is it to be obscure than infamous! Herein, I doubt not God meant to spare the reputation of a penitent convert. He who hates not the person, but the sin, cares only to mention the sin, not the person. It is justice to prosecute the vice, it is mercy to spare the offender. How injurious a presumption is it for any man to name her whom God would have concealed! and to cast this aspersion on those whom God hath noted for holiness! The worst of this woman is past,
She was a sinner;" the best is to come, "She sought out Jesus;" where! in the house of a Pharisee. It was the most inconvenient place in the world for a noted sinner to seek Christ in.
No men stood so much upon the terms of their own righteousness, no men so scornfully disdained an infamous person. The touch of an ordinary though honest Jew, was their pollution ; how much more the presence of a strumpet! What a sight was a known sinner to him, to whom his holiest neighbour was a sinner! How doth he, though a better Pharisee, look awry to see such a piece in his house, while he dares think, “ If this man were a prophet, he would surely know what manner of woman this is !” Neither could she fore-imagine less, when she ventured to press over the threshold of a Pharisee. Yet not the known austerity of the man, and her miswe come to the place, could affright her from seeking her Saviour even there. No disadvantage can deter the penitent soul from a speedy recourse to Christ. She says not, If Jesus were in the street, or in the field, or in the house of some humble Publican, or any where save with a Pharisee, I would come to him ; now I will rather defer my access, than seek him where I shall find scorn and censure; but, as not fearing the frowns of that overly host, she thrusts herself into Simon's house to find Jesus. It is not for the distressed to be bashful: it is not for a believer to be timorous. O Saviour, if thy spouse miss thee, she will seek thee through the streets : the blows of the watch shall not daunt her. If thou be on the other side of the water, a Peter will leap into the sea, and swim to thee; if on the other side of the fire, thy blessed martyrs will run through those flames to thee. We are not worthy of the comfort of thy presence, if, wheresoever we know thou art, whether in prison, or in exile, or at the stake, we do not hasten thither to enjoy thee.
The place was not more unfit than the time : a Pharisee's house was not more improper for a sinner, than a feast was for humiliation. Tears at a banquet are as jigs at a funeral. There is a season for all things. Music had been more apt for a feast than mourning
The heart that hath once felt the sting of sin, and the sweetness of remission, hath no power to delay the expressions of what it feels, and cannot be confined to terms of circumstance.
Whence then was this zeal of her access? Doubtless she had heard from the mouth of Christ, in those heavenly sermons of his, many gracious invitations of all troubled and labouring souls ; she had observed how he vouchsafed to come under the roofs of despised Publicans, of professed enemies; she had noted all the passages of his power and mercy, and now deep remorse wrought upon her heart for her former viciousness. The pool of her conscience was troubled by the descending angel, and now she steps in for a cure. The arrow stuck fast in her soul, which she could not shake out; and now she comes to this sovereign dittany to expel it. Had not the Spirit of God wrought upon her ere she came, and wrought her to come, she had never either sought or found Christ. Now she comes in, and finds that Saviour whom she sought ; she comes in, but not empty handed; though debauched, she was a Jewess. She could not but have heard that she ought “not to appear before the Lord empty.” What then brings she? It was not possible she could bring to Christ a better present than her own penitent soul; yet, to testify that, she brings another, delicate both for the vessel and its contents; "a box of alabaster;" a solid, hard, pure, clear marble, fit for the receipt of so precious an ointment: the ointment pleasant and costly, a composition of many fragrant odours, not for medicine but delight.
The soul that is truly touched with the sense of its own sin, can think nothing too good, too dear for Christ. The remorsed sinner begins first with the tender of “burnt offerings, and calves of a year old :" thence he ascends to hecatombs, “thousands of rams ;" and above that yet, to “ten thousand rivers of oil ;" and, yet higher, could be content to give the “first fruit of his body” to expiate “the sin of his soul.” Any thing, every thing is too small a price for peace. O Saviour, since we have tasted how sweet thou art, lo, we bring thee the daintiest and costliest perfumes of our humble obediences; yea, if so much of our blood, as this woman brought ointment, may be useful or pleasing to thy name, we do most cheerfully consecrate it unto thee. If we would not have thee think heaven too good for us, why should we stick at any earthly retribution to thee in lieu of thy great mercies?
Yet here I see more than the price. This odoriferous perfume was that wherewith she had wont to
make herself pleasing to her wanton lovers, and now she comes purposely to offer it up to her Saviour.
As her love was turned another way, from sensual to divine, so shall her ointment also be altered in the use: that, which was abused to luxury, shall now be consecrated to devotion. There is no other effect in whatsoever true conversion; "As we have given our members servants to iniquity to commit iniquity, so shall we now give our members servants unto righteousness in holiness.” If the dames of Israel, that thought nothing more worth looking on than their own faces, have spent too much time in their glasses, now they shall cast in those metals to make a laver for the washing off their uncleannesses. If I have spent the prime of my strength, the strength of my wit upon myself and vanity, I have bestowed my alabaster-box amiss; oh, now teach me, my God and Saviour, to improve all my time, all my abilities to thy glory! This is all the poor recompense can be made thee for those shameful dishonours thou hast received from me.
The woman is come in, and now she doth not boldly face Christ, but, as unworthy of his presence, she stands behind. How could she, in that sight,
, wash his feet with her tears ? Was it that our Saviour did not sit at the feast after our fashion, but according to the then Jewish and Roman fashion, lie on the one side ? or was it that this phrase doth not so much import posture as presence? Doubtless it was bashfulness, and shame arising from the conscience of her own former wickedness, that placed her thus. How well is the case altered! she had wont to look boldly in the face of her lovers, now she dares not behold the awful countenance of her Saviour. She had wont to send her alluring beams forth into the eyes of her wanton paramours; now she casts her dejected eyes to the earth, and dares not so much as raise them up to see those eyes
from which she desired commiseration. It was a true