Imágenes de páginas

Every one knows what kind of a person this constant attendant on the Lord is commonly supposed to have been prior to her conversion. The notion that she was previously a woman of a very diesolute course of life, is so general, that the founders of hospitals for reclaimed prostitutes have thought they did her no injustice in giving her name to their institutions. Yet we may naturally wonder whence this notion took its rise ; for, after a diligent investigation, there will be found no sufficient foundation of it in the gospel narratives.

The first place in the New Testament where she is mentioned by name, is in the account of the crucifixion in Matthew, where it is said, “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him ; among which were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children." Mark also mentions her on the same occasion, and nearly in the same manner. All the four evangelists speak of her as going, with other women, early to the sepulchre, on the morning of the resurrection, and as being the first person who was favoured with a sight of the risen Lord. When we add to these testimonies the brief explanatory notice which Luke gives of her in our text, we shall have enumerated all the instances in which she is mentioned. The only express allusion to any previous part of her history is what is here so briefly mentioned : “And it came to pass afterward, that He (i.e. Jesus) went throughout every city and village, preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with Him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities--Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Su. sanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance."

Now none of these notices of Mary Magdalen give any intimation whatever as to what had been her former course of life : and certainly they do not give the least ground to suppose that it was such as is generally imagined. They who hare thought there was any foundation in Scripture for such an imputation, must therefore have confounded Mary Magdalen with some other per-son : we therefore will briefly shew that she is expressly called the Magdalen, or the Mary that was of Magdala, to distinguish her from others of the name of Mary, and that whenever the epithet “ Magdalene” is not added to the name, it is some other person that is meant.


We find in Scripture three other females mentioned of the name of Mary. The first is Mary the mother of Jesus, commonly denominated the Virgin Mary. A second is Mary the mother of James and Joses, as she is called by Matthew and Mark, or the wife of Cleophas, as she is designated by Luke, of whom nothing is recorded but that she was in company with Mary Magdalen at the Lord's crucifixion. It is evident, then, that neither of these is the same person as the Magdalen ; and that if it were otherwise, no light would thence be thrown on her previous course of life. The third Mary is she who was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who is mentioned in the tenth chapter of Luke as having chosen that good part which should not be taken away from her ; but of whom more is said in John. This evangelist states, in his twelfth chapter, that after the resurrection of Lazarus, when Jesus sat with him at supper, and Martha served, “Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.” A similar fact is mentioned in all the other evangelists, with this difference, that the name of the woman who did it is not stated by them ;-no mention is made of Lazarus and Martha in connection with the transaction; and it is said to have been done, not, as in John's narrative, in the house of Mary and Martha, but in that of Simon a Pharisee : and, as it is related in Luke, the Pharisee is said to have spoken within himself on the occasion, saying of Jesus, “ This man, if he were a prophet, would have known what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner.” This then is what appears to have given rise to the notion, that Mary Magdalen had been a woman of abandoned life. A woman whose name is not mentioned, and who is called by the self-righteous Pharisee a sin, ner, anointed the Lord's feet at this Pharisee's house, which appears by the context to have been in a town of Galilee: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, performed a similar action in her own house in Bethany a village of Judea; (for it is expressly said (John xi. 1) that Bethany was the town of Mary and her sister Martha :) and thence it is concluded, that Mary of Magdala was a woman of dissolute life. This is a very disjointed chain of proof, There is but little reason to suppose that the nameless woman whom the Pharisee denominated a sinner, was the same person as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus ; and it is quite impossible that Mary of Bethany in Judea, should be the same person as Mary of Magdala in Galilee : and unless both these suppositions are true, the one of which is not probable, the second beyond the limits of possibility, there can be no shadow of reason for imagining, that ever Mary Magdalen was the character commonly supposed, Besides, it is declared in our text and in the passages before quoted from Matthew and Mark, that Mary Magdalen followed Jesus from Galilee; whereas Mary the sister of Martha dwelt constantly at Bethany, and, though she received the Lord when He came there in his travels, she never accompanied Him in them.

It seems then absolutely certain, that Mary Magdalen was not the woman whom the Pharisee called a sinner; and, in fact, that whenever she is spoken of she is mentioned by her name, taken from her country, at length,-Mary Magdalen—that is, Mary the Magdalian or native of Magdala : and the reference we have before made to the passages in which she is so named, demonstrates, that nothing to her discredit is any where recorded.

But even if the broken hearted penitent called by the Pharisee a sinner, were Mary Magdalen, it would by no means follow that her sins were of the flagrant kind commonly supposed. The Jews in general denominated all those sinners, who were not strict in their observance of the ceremonial law, however irreproachable might be their moral conduct; and the Pharisees in particular applied this term, in contempt, to all who were inattentive to those frivolous observances with which they had still further burthened the law of Moses. That the Jews called all sinners who did not observe their law, is evident from a declaration of Paul to the Galatians, who says, We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the gentiles”; which implies, that, in the Jewish sense of the word, all who were not Jews were sinners : and yet that he did not consider all gentiles as wicked persons, is evident from his speaking of some “ who, not having the law, were a law unto themselves.” It may appear, then, that the woman condemned by the Pharisee as a sinner was not necessarily a profligate character. No doubt, she deeply felt her own corruptions, as every one must do that ever becomes receptive of any high degree of heavenly attainments ; but there is no reason to conclude that her outward conduct was worse than that of many who preserve the good opinion of society. But even if it should be otherwise, it would be no impeachment of the character of Mary Magdalen, who, it is certain, was not the same person.

It seems then perfectly clear, that the prevailing notion, that Mary Magdalen had been a woman of profligate habits, has had no better foundation than many other of the ridiculous legends in

[merged small][ocr errors]

the Romish Lives of the Saints, where fiction, as is well known, has almost entirely usurped the place of truth. And I have endeavoured to clear this matter up, on account of the mischievous tendency of such a notion. It is undoubtedly true that there is room for repentance in the vilest profligates on earth ; and far be it from us to drive the greatest sinner to despair, by representing his case as beyond the reach of mercy. But to allow that salvation is within the reach of all, how far soever they may have wandered from its ways, is a very different thing from holding the potion, too often encouraged, that the greatest sinners make the greatest saints; which notion must be much strengthened in those who imagine, that so great a saint as Mary Magdalen had just before been so abandoned a sinner. Most certain it is that all habitual evil has an unceasing tendency to harden the heart, and diminish its susceptibility of all elevated feelings. Let then no one persevere in what he knows to be wrong, in the vain persuasion that he may at any time repent, and receive the same share as otherwise of heavenly grace. Repent, indeed, at any time, he certainly may; but the probability continually diminishes that he ever will: and if he should, his capacity for advancing in heavenly attainments, and consequently of enjoying happiness hereafter, will inevitably be diminished more and more, the longer bis repentance is delayed. It is certainly true, as is sometimes observed, that the fault that humbles is better than the virtue that exalts. Humility is the true soil in which alone spiritual graces can grow, and in proportion to the depth of the soil will be the richness of the produce! But is it necessary to plunge into the unrestricted practice of vice, tu generate this humility ? May it not be attained, far more certainly, by observing what passes in our own hearts, and scrutinizing our actions, or inclinations to action, in common matters, aided by that instruction respecting the true nature and state of man which is furnished in the Word of God ? True humility, and innocence too, consists in acknowledging, what reason alone might teach us, that of and from ourselves can be nothing that is good, all of which is from the Lord aloue. If then nothing that is good can be from ourselves, it is evident that whatever is of ourselves can be nothing but evil. Our duty then is, to remove the evil that is from ourselves, and admit good from the Lord in its place; and in proportion as we are disposed to do so, in the heartfelt acknowledgment beforementioned, more and more of what we are to remove will be discovered to us, and more and more good and blessing will be communicated on its removal. It

will not be necessary, in order to see this evil, that we should actually plunge into it: he sees more of a turbid ocean who views it from a lofty cliff, than he who commits himself to its waves. It is true that there are different degrees of humility, and different degrees of every heavenly attainment. There may be minds whose tendency to arrogate to themselves every good that is imparted from the Lord is so great, that if they were not permitted to fall even into grievous evils, they could never be deprived of their trust in their self-derived righteousness : but certain it is that their capacity for the higher attainments is thereby impaired; and the deepest degree of humility, the fullest sense of man's nothingness and vileness, with the consequent most ample reception of divine mercies, will always be enjoyed by him, who suffers the Lord to bring to light in him, and convince him of, the evils of his nature, without first rushing extensively into their indulgence and appropriation.

Without, however, inquiring whether Mary Magdalen, as an individual, was of this character (which however seems highly probable), it will be sufficient if we can discover what principle in the mind of the regenerating person she represents. And here it certainly must be admitted, that although she was a distinct person from Mary the sister of Martha, and from the penitent who anointed the Lord's feet in the house of the Pharisee, and of course must represent a different principle, yet there seems to be so much similitude in the character of all the three, that it would be very difficult to point out what is the specific difference in their representation. The most tender affection and devotedness, with unlimited trust in the Lord, seems to characterize them all. The Lord's twelve apostles represent, we know, all the heavenly graces, taken together, which constitute the church in man, each in particular representing some general grace, and, of course, those members of the church in whom that particular grace has the preeminence : but females, when mentioned in the Word, usually denote the church itself, which is there considered, sometimes expressly and always by implication, as the bride or wife of the Lord. But Mary was one of those women who accompanied the Lord from Galilee, and who ministered to Him of their substance; in which respect two others are distinctly mentioned with her, namely, Joanna the wife of Chuza, and Susanna. So, when she is mentioned in Matthew and Mark as watching at a distance the proceedings at the crucifixion, two of her companions are also distinctly named, though they are there stated to be, Mary the mother

« AnteriorContinuar »