« AnteriorContinuar »
ficiency, our best cheer is his word. O Saviour, let my soul be thus feasted by thee; do thou thus feast thyself by feeding me; this mutual diet shall be thy praise and my happiness.
Though Martha was for the time an attentive hearer, yet now her care of Christ's entertainment carries her into the kitchen : Mary sits still. Neither was Mary more devout than Martha busy ; Martha cares to feast Jesus, Mary to be feasted of him. There was more solicitude in Martha's active part : more piety in Mary's sedentary attendance: I know not in whether more zeal. Good Martha was desirous to express her joy and thankfulness, for the presence of so blessed a guest, by the actions of her careful and plenteous entertainment. I know not how to censure the holy woman for her excess of care to welcome her Saviour. Sure she herself thought she did well; and, out of that confidence, fears not to complain to Christ of her sister.
I do not see her come to her sister, and whisper in her ear the great need of her aid ; but she comes to Jesus, and, in a kind of unkind expostulation of her neglect, makes her moan to him ; "Lord, dost thou not care that
sister hath left me to serve alone ?” Why did she not rather make her first address to her sister ? was it for that she knew Mary was so tied by the ears with those adamantine chains that came from the mouth of Christ, that, until his silence and dismission, she had no power to stir? or was it out of an honour and respect to Christ, that in his sence, she would not presume to call off her sister without his leave?
Howsoever, I cannot excuse the holy woman from some weaknesses. It was a fault to measure her sister by herself, and apprehending her own act to be good, to think her sister could not do well if she did not so too; whereas goodness hath much latitude. Ill is opposed to good, not good to good. Neither in things lawful nor indifferent are others bound to our
examples. Mary might hear, Martha might serve, and both do weli. Mary did not censure Martha for her rising from the feet of Christ to prepare his meal : neither should Martha have censured Mary for sitting at Christ's feet to feed her soul. It was a fault, that she thought an excessive care of a liberal outward entertainment of Christ was to be preferred to a diligent attention to Christ's spiritual entertainment of them. It was a fault that she durst presume to question our Saviour of some kind of unrespect to her toil, “ Lord, dost thou not care ?” What sayest thou, Martha ? dost thou challenge the Lord of heaven and earth of incogitancy and neglect ? dost thou take upon thee to prescribe unto that infinite wisdom, instead of receiving directions from him ? it is well thou mettest with a Saviour, whose gracious mildness knows how to pardon and pity the errors of our zeal.
Yet, I must needs say, here wanted not fair pretences for the ground of this thy expostulation. Thou, the elder sister, workest: Mary, the younger, sits still. And what work was thine, but the hospitable receipt of thy Saviour and his train ? had it been for thine own paunch, or for some carnal friends, it had been less excusable; now it was for Christ himself, to whom thou couldst never be too obsequious.
But all this cannot deliver thee from the just blame of this bold subincusation ; “Lord, dost thou not care ?” How ready is our weakness, upon every slight discontentment, to quarrel with our best friend, yea, with our good God; and, the more we are put to it, to think ourselves the more neglected, and to challenge God for our neglect! Do we groan on the bed of our sickness, and, languishing in pain, complain of long hours and weary sides ? straight we think, Lord, dost thou not care that we suffer? Doth God's poor church go to wreck, while the ploughers ploughing on her back, make long furrows ? “ Lord,
dost thou not care ?" But know thou, O thou feeble and distrustful soul, the more thou doest, the more thou sufferest, the more thou art cared for: neither is God ever so tender over his church, as when it is most exercised. Every pang and stitch and gird is first felt of him that sends it. O God, thou knowest our works, and our labour, and our patience: we may be ignorant and diffident, thou canst not but be gracious.
It could not but trouble devout Mary to hear her sister's impatient complaint; a complaint of herself to Christ, with such vehemence of passion, as if there had been such strangeness betwixt the two sisters, that the one would do nothing for the other, without an external compulsion from a superior. How can she choose but think, If I have offended, why was I not secretly taxed for it in a sisterly familiarity ? what if there have been some little omission, must the whole house ring of it before my Lord and all his disciples ? is this carriage beseeming a sister ? is my devotion worthy of a quarrel ? Lord, dost thou not care that I am injuriously censured? Yet I hear not a word of reply from that modest mouth. O holy Mary, I admire thy patient silence; thy sister blames thee for thy piety; the disciples afterwards blame thee for thy bounty and cost : not a word falls from thee in a just vindication of thine honour and innocence, but in an humble taciturnity, thou leavest thine answer to thy Saviour.
How should we learn of thee, when we are complained of for well-doing, to seal up our lips, and to expect our righting from above.
And how sure, how ready art thou, O Saviour, to speak in the cause of the dumb! “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen the better part.
What needed Mary to speak for herself, when she had such an advocate? Doubtless Martha was, as it
were, divided from herself with the multiplicity of her careful thoughts : our Saviour therefore doubles her name in his compellation, that, in such distraction, he may both find and fix her heart. The good woman made full account, that Christ would have sent away her sister with a check, and herself with thanks: but now her hopes fail her; and though she be not directly reproved, yet she hears her sister more approved than she; “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things." Our Saviour received courtesy from her in her diligent and costly entertainment; yet he would not blanch her error, and smooth her up in her weak misprision. No obligations may so enthral us, as that our tongues should not be free to reprove faults where we find them. They are base and servile spirits that will nave their tongue tied to their teeth.
This glance towards a reproof implies an opposition of the condition of the two sisters: themselves were not more near in nature, than their present humour and estate differed. One is opposed to many, necessary to superfluous, solicitude to quietness : “Thou art careful and troubled about many things, one thing is necessary." How far then may our care reach to these earthly things ? On the one side, O Saviour, thou hast charged us to “take no thought what to eat, drink, put on;" on the other, thy chosen vessel hath told us, that "he that provides not for his family hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” We may, we must care for many things; so that our care be for good and well: for good, both in kind and measure ; well, so as our care be free from distraction, from distrust : from distraction, that it hinder us not from the necessary duties of our general calling ; from distrust, that we misdoubt not God's Providence, while we employ our own. We cannot care for thee, unless we thus care for ourselves, for ours.
Alas! how much care do I see every where, but how few Marthas! Her care was for her Saviour's entertainment, ours for ourselves.
One finds perplexities in his estate, which he desires to extricate; another beats his brains for the raising of his house ; one busies his thoughts about the doubtful condition, as he thinks, of the times, and casts in his anxious head the imaginary events of all things, opposing his hopes to his fears; another studies how to avoid the cross blows of an adversary. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.' Foolish men ! why do we set our hearts upon the rack, and need not ? why will we endure to bend under that burden, which more able shoulders have offered to undertake for our ease ?
Thou hast bidden us, O God, to cast our cares upon thee, with promise to care for us. We do gladly unload ourselves upon thee: oh let our care be to depend upon thee, as thine is to provide for us!
Whether Martha be pitied or taxed for her sedulity, I am sure Mary is praised for her devotion : “One thing is necessary." Not by way of negation, as if nothing were necessary but this: but by way of comparison, as that nothing is so necessary as this. Earthly occasions must veil to spiritual. Of those three main grounds of all our actions, necessity, convenience, pleasure, each transcends other: convenience carries it away from pleasure, necessity from convenience, and one degree of necessity from another. The degrees are according to the conditions of the things necessary. The condition of these earthly necessaries is, that without them we cannot live temporally; the condition of the spiritual, that without them we cannot live eternally. So much difference then as there is betwixt temporary and eternal, so much there must needs be betwixt the necessity of these bodily actions and these spiritual : both are necessary in their kinds ; neither must here be an opposition, but a subordination. The body