« PreviousContinue »
babes; and concludes this sermon with an invitation of all wearied and disconsolate persons, loaded with sin and misery, to come to him,' promising ease to their burdens,' and 'refreshment to their weariness,' and to exchange their heavy pressures into an easy yoke,' and a light burden.""
9. When Jesus had ended this sermon, one of the Pharisees*, named Simon, invited him to "eat with him;" into whose house when he was entered, a certain "woman that was a sinner,” abiding there in the city, heard of it; her name was Mary: she had been married to a noble personage, a native of the town and castle of Magdal, from whence she had her name of Magdalen, though she herself was born in Bethany; a widow she was, and prompted by her wealth, liberty, and youth, to an intemperate life, and too free entertainments. She came to Jesus into the Pharisee's house: not (as did the staring multitude) to glut her eyes with the sight of a miraculous and glorious person; nor (as did the centurion, or the Syro-Phoenician, or the ruler of the synagogue,) for cure of her sickness, or in behalf of her friend, or child, or servant; but (the only example of so coming) she came in remorse and regret for her sins, she came to Jesus to lay her burden at his feet, and to present him with a broken heart, and a weeping eye, and great affection, and a box of nard pistic, salutary and precious. For she came trembling, and fell down before him, weeping bitterly for her sins', pouring out a flood great enough to "wash the feet" of the blessed Jesus, and "wiping them with the hairs of her head;" after which she "brake the box," and "anointed his feet with ointment." Which expression was so great an ecstacy of love, sorrow, and adoration, that to anoint the feet even of the greatest monarch was long unknown, and in all the pomps and greatnesses of the Roman prodigality it was not used, till Otho taught it to Nerom; in whose instance it was by Pliny reckoned for a prodigy of unnecessary profusion, and in itself, without the circumstance of so free a dispensa
* Luke, vii.
Per gemitum; propriique lavans in gurgite fletûs,
Munda suis lacrymis redit, et detersa capillis.—Sedul. lib. iii.
m Plin. Natur. Hist. lib. xiii. c. 3. Vide Athen. Deipnosoph. lib. xii. c. 30. Herodotus in Thalia.
tion, it was a present for a prince; and an alabaster box of nard pistic was sent as a present from Cambyses to the king of Ethiopia.
10. When Simon observed this sinner so busy in the expresses of her religion and veneration to Jesus, he thought with himself that this was "no prophet,” that did "not know her to be a sinner;" or no just person, that would suffer her to touch him. For although the Jews' religion did permit harlots of their own nation to live, and enjoy the privileges of their nation, save that their oblations were refused: yet the Pharisees, who pretended to a greater degree of sanctity than others, would not admit them to civil usages, or the benefits of ordinary society; and thought religion itself, and the honour of a prophet, was concerned in the interests of the same superciliousness: and therefore Simon made an objection within himself. Which Jesus knowing, (for he understood his thoughts, as well as his words,) made her apology and his own in a civil question, expressed in a parable of two debtors, to whom a greater and a less debt respectively was forgiven; both of them concluding, that they would love their merciful creditor in proportion to his mercy and donative and this was the case of Mary Magdalen; to whom, because "much was forgiven, she loved much," and expressed it in characters so large, that the Pharisee might read his own incivilities and inhospitable entertainment of the Master, when it stood confronted with the magnificency of Mary Magdalen's penance and charity.
11. When Jesus had dined, he was presented with the sad sight of a poor demoniac, possessed with a blind and a dumb devil, in whose behalf his friends entreated Jesus, that he would cast the devil out; which he did immediately, and "the blind man saw, and the dumb spake," so much to the amazement of the people, that they ran in so prodigious companies after him, and so scandalized the Pharisees, who thought that, by means of this prophet, their reputation would be lessened and their schools empty, that first a rumour was scattered up and down, from an uncertain principle, but communicated with tumult and apparent noises, that Jesus was "beside himself:" upon which rumour his friends and kindred came together to see, and to make provisions accordingly; and the holy Virgin-mother came
herself, but without any apprehensions of any such horrid accident. The words and things she had from the beginning laid up in her heart, would furnish her with principles exclusive of all apparitions of such fancies; but she came to see what that persecution was, which, under that colour, it was likely the Pharisees might commence.
12. When the mother of Jesus and his kindred came, they found him in a house, encircled with people, full of wonder and admiration: and there the holy Virgin-mother might hear part of her own prophecy verified, that the generations of the earth should call her blessed; for a woman, worshipping Jesus, cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck." To this Jesus replied, not denying her to be highly blessed, who had received the honour of being the mother of the Messias, but advancing the dignities of spiritual excellencies far above this greatest temporal honour in the world: "Yea, rather blessed are they, that hear the word of God, and do it." For, in respect of the issues of spiritual perfections, and their proportionable benedictions, all immunities and temporal honours are empty and hollow blessings; and all relations of kindred disband and empty themselves into the greater channels and floods of divinity.
13. For when, Jesus being in the house, they told him "his mother and his brethren staid for him without;" he told them, those relations were less than the ties of duty and religion for those dear names of mother and brethren, which are hallowed by the laws of God and the endearments of nature, are made far more sacred when a spiritual cognation does supervene, when the relations are subjected in persons religious and holy: but if they be abstract and separate, the conjunction of persons in spiritual bands, in the same faith, and the same hope, and the union of them in the same mystical head, is an adunation nearer to identity than those distances between parents and children, which are only cemented by the actions of nature, as it is of distinct consideration from the spirit. For Jesus, pointing to his disciples, said, "Behold my mother and my brethren; for whosoever doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."
14. But the Pharisees, upon the occasion of the miracles,
renewed the old quarrel: " He casteth out devils by Beelzebub." Which senseless and illiterate objection Christ having confuted, charged them highly upon the guilt of an unpardonable crime, telling them, that the so charging those actions of his, done in virtue of the Divine Spirit, is a sin against the Holy Ghost: and however they might be bold with the Son of Man, and prevarications against his words, or injuries to his person, might, upon repentance and baptism, find a pardon; yet it was a matter of greater consideration to sin against the Holy Ghost; that would find no pardon, here nor hereafter. But taking occasion upon this discourse, he, by an ingenious and mysterious parable, gives the world great caution of recidivation and backsliding after repentance. For if "the devil returns into a house once swept and garnished, he bringeth seven spirits more impure than himself; and the last estate of that man is worse than the first."
15. After this, Jesus went from the house of the Pharisee, and, coming to the sea of Tiberias or Gennesareth, (for it was called the sea of Tiberias from a town on the banks of the lake,) taught the people upon the shore, himself sitting in the ship; but he taught them by parables, under which were hid mysterious senses, which shone through their veil, like a bright sun through an eye closed with a thin eye-lid; it being light enough to show their infidelity, but not to dispel those thick Egyptian darknesses, which they had contracted, by their habitual indispositions and pertinacious aversations. By the parable of" the sower scattering his seed by the way-side, and some on stony, some on thorny, some on good ground," he intimated the several capacities or indispositions of men's hearts, the carelessness of some, the frowardness and levity of others, the easiness and softness of a third; and how they are spoiled with worldliness and cares, and how many ways there are to miscarry, and that but one sort of men receive the word, and bring forth the fruits of a holy life. By the parable of "tares permitted to grow amongst the wheat," he intimated the toleration of dissenting opinions, not destructive of piety or civil societies. By the three parables of the "seed growing insensibly," of the "grain of mustard seed swelling up to a tree," of " a little leaven qualifying the whole lump," he signified the increment of the Gospel, and the blessings upon the apostolical sermons.
16. Which parables when he had privately to his apostles rendered into their proper senses, he added to them two parables, concerning the dignity of the Gospel, comparing it to "treasure hid in a field,” and “a jewel of great price, for the purchase" of which every good "merchant must quit all that he hath," rather than miss it: telling them withal, that however purity and spiritual perfections were intended by the Gospel, yet it would not be acquired by every person; but the public professors of Christianity should be a mixed multitude," like a net, enclosing fishes good and bad." After which discourses, he retired from the sea-side, and went to his own city of Nazareth; where he preached so excellently, upon certain words of the prophet Isaiah ", that all the people wondered at the wisdom, which he expressed in his divine discourses. But the men of Nazareth did not do honour to the prophet, that was their countryman, because they knew him in all the disadvantages of youth, and kindred, and trade, and poverty; still retaining in their minds the infirmities and humilities of his first years, and keeping the same apprehensions of him, a man, and a glorious prophet, which they had to him, a child, in the shop of a carpenter. But when Jesus, in his sermon, had reproved their infidelity, at which he wondered, and, therefore, did but few miracles there, in respect of what he had done at Capernaum, and intimated the prelation of that city before Nazareth," they thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built," intending to "throw him down headlong." But his work was not yet finished; therefore he, "passing through the midst of them, went his way."
17. Jesus therefore, departing from Nazareth, went up and down to all the towns and castles of Galilee, attended by his disciples, and certain women, out of whom he had cast unclean spirits; such as were Mary Magdalen, Johanna, wife to Chuza, Herod's steward, Susanna, and some others, who did for him offices of provision, and "ministered to him out of their own substance," and became parts of that holy college, which, about this time, began to be full; because now the apostles were returned from their preaching, full of joy, that the devils were made subject to the word of their
n xi. 1.