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Thus might our mourner think ; but to refer all her grief to motives of this kind would be to insult her repentance. She hath
my God demanded with so much condescension and love, I bare denied him, and given up to voluptuousness. This body, which should have been a temple of the Holy Ghost, is become the den of an im. pure passion. The time and pains I should have emploved in the work of my salvation, I have spent in robbing Jesus Christ of his conquests. I have disputed with my Saviour the souls he redeemed with his blood, and what he came to save I have endeavoured to sink in perdition. I am become the cause of the remorse of my accomplice in sin, he considers me with horror, he reproaches me with the very temptations, to which he exposed me, and when our eyes weet in a religious assembly, or in the performance of a ceremony of devotion, he tacitly tells me, that I made him unworthy to be there. I shall be his executioner on his death bed, perhaps I shall be so through all eternity. I have exposed myself to a thousand dangers, from which nothing but the grace of God hath protected me, to a thousand perils and dreadful consequences, the sad and horrible examples of which stain all history. Such are the causes of the tears of this penitent. She stood at the feet of Jesus Christ weeping, and washed his feet with tears. This is the first character of true repentance, it consists in part in keen remorse.
Repentance must be wise in its application. Our sinner did not go to the foot of mount Sinai, to seek for absolution under pretence of her own righteousness, and to demand justification as a reward due to her works. She was afraid, as she had reason to be, that the language of that dreadful mountain proceeding from the mouth of divine justice would pierce her through. Nor did she endeavour to ward off the blows of justice by covering herself with superstitious practices. She did not say, wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand of rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Micah vi. 7. She did not even require priests and Levites to offer propitiatory services for her. She discerned the sophisms of errour, and acknowledged the Redeemer of mankind under the veils of infirmity and poverty, that covered him. She knew, that the blood of bulls and of goats could not purify the conscience. She knew that Jesus sitting at table with the pharisee was the only offering, the only victim of worth sufficient to satisfy the justice of an offended God. She knew that he was made unto sinners wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption : that his name was the only one among men whereby they might be saved. It was to Jesus Christ that she had recourse, bedewing with tears the feet of him who was about to shed his blood for her, and receiving by an anticipated saith the benefit of the death, that he was going to suffer, she renounced dependance on every kind of satisfaction except bis. - The third character of the repentance of this sinner is loul. It
: shall seem, Jesus Christ, would have us consider all her actions as evidences of love, rather than as marks of repentance. She hath loved much. These things are not incompatible. Though perfect love casteth out fear, yet it doth not cast out grief, for the pardon of sin received by an elect soul, far from diminishing the regret which it feels for committing it, contributes to augment it. The more we love God, the greater the pain feit for offending him. Yea, this love that makes the happiness of angels, this love that inflames seraphims, this love that supports the believer under the most cruel torments, this love is the greatest punishment of a pepitent. To have offended the God we love, a God rendered amiable by infinite perfections, a God so tender; so compassionate as to pardon the very sins we lament ; this love excites in a soul such emotions of repentance as we should labour in vain to express, unless your hearts, in concert with our mouths, feel in proportion as we describe.
Courage is the fourth character of the repentance, or, if you will, the love of this woman. She doth not say, What will they say of me ? Ah, my brethren, how often hath this single consideration, What will they say of me? been an obstacle to repentance! How many penitents have been discouraged, if not prevented by it! To say all in one word, how many souls hath it plunged into perdition ! Persons affected by this, though urged by their consciences to renounce the world and its pleasures, have not been able to get over a fear of the opinions of mankind concerning their conversion. Is any one persuaded of the necessity of living retired? This consideration, What will be said of sne? terrifies him. It will be said, that I choose to be singular, that I affect to distinguish myself from other men, that I am an enemy to social pleasure. Doth any one desire to be exact in the performance of divine worship? This one consi. deration, What will they say of me? terrifies. They will say, I affect to set myself off for a religious and pious person, I want to impose op the church by a specious outside ; they will say, I am a weak man, full of fancies and phantoms. Our penitent breaks through every worldly consideration. “She goes,” said a modern author, “ into a strange house, without being invited, to disturb the pleasure of a festival by an ill-timed sorrow, to cast berself at the feet of the Saviour, without fearing what could be said, either of her past life, or of her present boldness, to make by this extraordinary action a publick confession of her dissoluteness and to suffer, for the first punishment of her sins, and for a proof of her conversion, such insults as the pride of the pharisees, and her own ruined reputation would certainly draw upon her.” We have seen the behaviour of the penitent; now let us observe the judgment of the pharisee, If this inan were a prophet, he would have known who, and what manner of woman that is that toucheth him, for she is a woman of bad fame.
II. The evangelist expressly tells us, that the pharisee who thus judged, was the person at whose table Jesus Christ was eating Whether he were a disciple of Jesus Christ, as is very probable. and as bis calling Christ master seems to import, or whether he had
invited him for other reasons, are questions of little importance and we will not now examine them. It is certain, our Saviour did often eat with some pharisees, who far from being his disciples were the most implacable enemies of his person and doctrine. If this man were a disciple of Jesus Christ, it should seem very strange that he should doubt the divinity of the mission of Christ, and in wardly refuse him even the quality of a prophet. This pharisee was named Simon, however nothing obliges us either to confound Simon the pharisee with Simon the leper, mentioned in Matthew, and to whose house Jesus Christ retired, or the history of our text with that related in the last mentioned place, for the circumstances are very different, as it would be easy to prove, had we not subjects more inportant to propose to you Whoever this pharisee might be, he said within himself, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth himn : for she is a sinner. There are four defects in this judgmenta criminal indoleaceman extravagant rashness-ap intolerable pridem ap untia christian cruelty. As we cannot help condemning the opinion of the pbarisee for these four defects, so we cannot avoid censuring most of the judgments, that people form on the conduct of their Deigbbours for tbe same reasons.
A criminal indolence. That disposition of mind, I allow, is very censurable, which inspires a perpetual attention to the actions of our neighbours, and the motive of it is sufficient to make us abhor the practice. We have reason to think, that the more people pry into the conduct of their neighbours, the more they intend to gratisy the barbarous pleasure of defaming them: but there is a disposition far more censurable still, and that is to be always ready to form a rigorous judgment on the least appearances of impropriety, and without taking pains to enquire, whether there be no circumstances that diminish the goilt of an action apparently wrong, nothing that renders it deserving of patience or pity. It doth not belong to us to set ourselves up for judges of the actions of our brethren, to become ioquisitors in regard to their manners, and to distribute punishments of sin and rewards of virtue. At least, when we usurp this right, let us not aggravate our conduct by the manner, in which we exercise the bold imperious usorpation. Let us not pronounce like iniquitous judges on the actions of those sioners, lo whom nature, society, and religion ought to unite us in an affectionate manner. Let us procure exact informations of the causes of such criminals as we summon before our tribunals, and let us not deliver our sentences till we have weighed in a just balance wbatever tends to condemn, or to absolve them. This would bridle oor malignity. We should be constrained to suspend for a long time our avidity to solícit, and to hasten the death of a sinner. The pleasure of declar. ing him guilty would be counterbalanced by the pain of trying the cause. Did this pharisee give himself time to examine the whole conduct of the sinner, as he called her? Did he enter into all the discussions necessary to determine whether she were a penitent sinner, or an'obstinate sinner? whether she were reformed, or hardened like a reprobate in the practice of sin ? No certainly. At the sight of the woman he recollects only the crimes, of which she had been guilty; he did not see her, and he did not choose to see her in any other point of light; he pronounced her character rashly, and he wanted Jesus Christ to be as rash as himself, this is a woman of bad fame. Do you not perceive, my breihren, what wicked indolence animated this iniquitous judge, and perverted his judgment.
The pharisee sinned by rashness. See how he judges of the conJuct of Christ in regard to the woman, and of what the woman ought to expect of Jesus Christ, on supposition his mission had been divine, this man, if he were a prophet would have known who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, for she is a sinner. This opinion supposes, that a prophet ought not in any case to have patience with a woman of this sort. As if it were impossible for a prophet to have any design impenetrable to the eye of a pharisee! As if any one had a right to censure the conduct of a man under the direction of the infinite Spirit! But it is because this man is a prophet, it is because he is more than a prophet, it is because he is the spring, the ocean, from which all the prophets derived the supernatural knowledge of the greatest mysteries of revelation, of predicting events the least likely to come to pass, of seeing into the most distant and impenetrable suturity; it is because of this, that he is capable of forming a just nosion of the character of a sinner, and the nature of sin. Yes, none but God can form such a judge ment, Who art thou that judgeth another 2 Rom. xiv. 4. Such a judgment depends on so many difficult combinations, that pone but an iofinite intelligence is capable of making it with exactness.
In order to judge properly of a crime, and a crimioal, we must examine the power of the temptations, to which be was exposed, the opportunities given him to avoid it, the force of liis natural constitution, the motives that animated him, the resistance he made, the virtues he practised, the talents God gave him, the education he had, what knowledge he had acquired, what conflicts he endured, what remorse he has felt. An exact comparison ought to be made of his sins with his virtues, in order to determipe whether sin prevails over virtue, or whether virtue prevails over sin, and on this confronting of evidence a proper idea of the sidner in question must be formed. It must be examiped whether he were seduced by ignorance, or whether he were allured by example, or whether he yielded through weakness, whether dissipation or obstinacy, malice, or contempt of God and his law confirmed him in sin. On the examination of all these articles depends the truth of the judgment, which we form of a fellow creature. There needs nothing but one circumstance, nothing but one degree of more or less in a moral action to change the nature of it, to render it pardonable or irremissible, deserving compassion or horror. Now who is he, wbo is the man, that is equal to this combination ? Accordingly, nothing more directly violates the laws of benevolence and justice, than some decisive opinions, which we think proper to give on the characters of our neighhours. It is indeed the office of judges to punish such crimes as disturb the peace of society; and each indi. vidual may say to his brethren, this is the path of virtue, that is
the road of vice. We have authority indeed to inform them, that the unrighteous, that is, adulterers, idolators, and fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of Gud, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Indeed we ought to apprize then of danger, and to make them tremble at the sight of the bottomless pit, toward which they are advancing a great pace : but to make such a combination as we have described, and to pronounce such and such people reprobates is rashness, it is to assume all the authority of the sovereign judge.
There is in the opinion of the pharisee a selfish pride. What is It then that makes this woman deserve his indignation? At what tribunal will she be found more odious than other sinners who insolently lift their heads both in the world and the church ? It is at the tribunal of pride. Thou superb pharisee ! Open thine eyes, see, look, examine, there is within the walls, where thy feast is prepared, there is even at thy table a much greater sinner than this woman, and that sinner is thyself! The sin, of which thou art guilty, and which is more abominable than unchastity, more abominable than adultery, more abominable than prostitution itself, is pride, and above all, pharisaical pride. The sin of pride is always hateful in the eyes of God, whether it be pride of honour, pride of fortune, or pride of power : but pride, arising from an opinion of our own righteousness is a direct crime against the divine majesty. On wbat principles, good God! is such a pride founded! What insolence bas he, who is animated with it wben he presents himself before God? He appears without fear and dread before that terrible throne, in the presence of which seraphims cover their faces, and the heavens themselves are unclean. He ventures to say to himself, I have done all my duty. I have had as much respect for God Almighty as he deserves. I have had as much zeal and ardour in prayer as the exercise requires. I have so restrained iny tongue as to have no word, so directed my mind as to have no thought, so kept my heart as to have no criminal emotion to reproach myself with; or if I have had at any time any frailty, I have so fully made amends for it by my virtue, that I have sufficiently satisfied all the just demands of God. I ask no favour, I want nothing but justice. Let the judge of the world call me before himn. Let devouring fire, and eternal flames glitter in my presence. Let the tribunal of retribution be prepared before me. My arm shall save me, and a recollection of my own righteousness shall support me in beholding all these objects. You sufficiently perceive, my brethren, what makes this disposition so hateful, and we need not enlarge on the subject. Humility is the supplement of the virtues of the greatest saiols. What application soever we have made to our duty, we have always fallen short of our obligations. We owe so much homage to God as to acknowledge, that we cannot sland before him, unless we be objecis of his mercy; and a crime humbly acknowledged is more tolerable in his eyes, than a virtue set forth with pride and parade.
What above all poisons the judgment of the pharisee is that spirit of cruelty, which we have observed. He was content, though all the tears of true repentance shed by this woman were shed in vain, and wished when the woman had recourse to mercy, that God