Sermon 801. The Woman Which Was a Sinner
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, March 22, 1868, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, broughtan alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears,and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment." Luke 7:37-38.
THIS is the woman who has been confused with Mary Magdalene. How the error originated, it would not be easy to imagine, buterror it certainly is. There is not the slightest shadow of evidence that this woman, who was a sinner, had even the remotestconnection with her out of whom Jesus cast seven devils. In delivering you a sermon a few Sabbaths ago, upon the life of Maryof Magdala, [#792, Mary Magdalene, January 26, 1868] I think I showed you that it was hardly possible, and most improbablethat she could have been a sinner in the sense here intended. And now I venture to affirm that there is as much evidence toprove that the woman in the narrative now before us, was the Queen of Sheba, or the mother of Sisera, as that she was MaryMagdalene-there is not a figment or fraction of evidence to be found! The fact is, there is no connection between the two.
Further, the sinner before us is not Mary of Bethany, with whom so many have identified her. Mary, the sister of Martha andLazarus, did anoint our Savior, but this is a previous anointing, by quite a different person, and the two narratives arealtogether distinct. There is a great likeness, certainly, between the two. The principal persons were both women, full ofardent love to Christ. They both anointed the Lord with ointment-the name of Simon is connected with both, and they both wipedthe Savior's feet with their hair. But it ought not to astonish you that there were two persons whose intense affection thusdisplayed itself-the astonishment should rather be that there were not 200 who did so, for the anointing of the feet of anhonored friend was by no means so uncommon a token of respect among the Orientals as to be an unprecedented marvel.
Loved as Jesus deserved to be, the marvel is that He was not more often visited with these generous tokens of human love.It is a pity to fuse two occasions into one, as though we grudged a double unction to the Anointed of the Lord. That bothevents should happen in the houses of persons named Simon is not at all remarkable-remember that the one was Simon the Pharisee,and the other Simon the leper-and that Simon is one of the most common of Jewish names. In our day a thing having happenedin the house of a "John," and another thing like it in the house of another "John," would not be remarkable since Johns areexceedingly common among us, as were Simons in the days of our Lord.
But that the two, or perhaps I should say three, anointings (for I am inclined to think there were three) are not the sameis evident from the following reasons: they differ in time. Our Lord lived at least six months after His anointing by thiswoman, and if you follow the narrative you read in the very next chapter, "And it came to pass afterward, that He went throughoutevery city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the Twelve were with Him." But whenMary anointed Him at Bethany, He said, "She did it for My burial," and our Lord was then within a very few days of His Crucifixion.
The anointing by Mary, the sister of Lazarus, took place at Bethany (Matthew 26:6), but this occurred in Galilee, which is quite another quarter. Moreover, the fact itself was really a very different one,for although both women anoint Christ with ointment, yet there was a peculiar preciousness and power of perfume about thespikenard of the wealthier Mary which is not mentioned in the ointment of this woman of a lower position in life. Mary, accordingto John (John 12:3), poured out a whole pound of the costly nard, but such is not said of the humble offering of the woman that was a sinner.
Matthew tells us that a woman poured the ointment on His head, but this poor penitent is only said to have anointed His feet.Tears are not mentioned in connection with Mary by either Matthew, Mark, or John, while they make a conspicuous feature inthe love of the gracious mourner now before us. After the transaction there was an objection raised in both cases, but markthe great difference! In this case, Simon the Pharisee objected because she, being a sinner, was allowed to have such familiaritywith the Lord. In the other case no such objection was raised to the person, but Judas Iscariot objected to her having beenso profuse and extravagant in the abundance and costliness of the anointing, and murmured, saying that this ointment mighthave been sold for much and given to the poor.
If you confuse these two occurrences, you not only make an flagrant mistake, but you lose a precious lesson. This case nowbefore us is the offering of a poor returning wanderer, who, under a deep sense of gratitude, brings the best she has to herLord and is accepted by His Divine Grace. In the case of Mary of Bethany, it was an advanced saint-one who had sat at Jesus'feet and heard of Him, and had before chosen the good part which should not be taken away from her-and she brings a costlytribute as the offering of her deep, sincere affection which had grown and deepened by the receipt of many favors from Hisloving hand.
The advanced Believer is more bold than the new convert. She anoints His head when the other only anoints His feet, but sheis not less loving, for if there are fewer tears, there is a more costly spikenard. Jesus defended the penitent, and badeher go in peace. But in Mary's case there was no need to say, "Your sins are forgiven," for she already possessed that pricelessgift! Our Lord, instead of merely defending, warmly eulogized her love, and declared, "Wherever this Gospel shall be preachedin the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman has done, be told for a memorial of her." Thus much will sufficeto show you that "the woman which was a sinner" is neither to be confused with Mary of Magdala on the one hand, or Mary ofBethany on the other. Let us learn to read our Bibles with our eyes open-to study them as men do the works of great artists-studyingeach figure and even each sweet variety of light and shade.
But too long have we been controverting on the threshold of the text! Let us now lift the latch. Lo, on the table I see twosavory dishes, let us feed thereon. Here are two silver bells, let us ring them! Their first note is Grace, and the secondtone is Love.
I. GRACE, the most costly of spikenard-this story literally drips with it-like those Oriental trees which bleed perfume, oras the spouse when she rose up to open to her Beloved, and her hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet-smellingmyrrh upon the handles of the lock. Grace, that gentle dew of Heaven, is here plenteously distilled and falls like small rainupon the tender herb. Grace-Sovereign, Distinguishing, Omnipotent-is exceedingly magnified in this narrative. Lo, I see itexalted upon a glorious high throne, with the king's daughter waiting as an honorable woman among its courtiers!
1. First, Grace is here glorified in its object. She was "a sinner"-a sinner not in the flippant, unmeaning, everyday senseof the term-but a sinner in the blacker, filthier, and more obnoxious sense. She had forsaken the guide of her youth and forgottenthe Covenant of her God. She had sinned against the laws of purity and had made herself as a defiled thing. She had falleninto that deep ditch concerning which it is written, "The abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein." According to our Lord'sparable, she was in comparison with the Pharisee as a 500-pence sinner, while the Pharisee was but as fifty.
She was one of the scarlet sinners that we read of in Scripture-she sinned and made others to sin. Hers were offenses whichprovoke the Lord to jealousy and stir up His wrath. Yet, oh, miracle of miracles! she was an object of Distinguishing Grace,ordained unto eternal life! Why was this? On what legal grounds was she selected? For what merit was she chosen? Was thisan extraordinary and out-of-the-way instance? By no means, dear Friends, for the Grace of God has frequently chosen the lowestof the low, and the vilest of the vile.
Recollect how, in the pedigree of our Lord, you find the name of the shameless Tamar, the harlot Rahab, and the unfaithfulBathsheba, as if to indicate that the Savior of sinners would enter into near relationship with the most degraded and fallenof our race! This is, in fact, one of the dearest titles of our Lord, though it was hissed at Him from the lips of contempt,"A friend of publicans and sinners." This is Jesus' Character of which He is not ashamed: "This man receives sinners and eatswith them."
Free Grace has made no distinction among men on account of merit, whether false or real, if real there is. The Law has concludedus all in unbelief, and then the abounding Grace of God, looking upon us all as equally cast away andruined both by Adam's Fall and by our own personal transgression, has predestinated and called whomever it would. Do you nothear from the Throne of Mercy the echoes of that Sovereign proclamation, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. I willhave compassion on whom I will have compassion"? Grace has pitched upon the most unlikely cases in order to show itself tobe Grace! It has found a dwelling place for itself in the most unworthy heart-that its freeness might be the better seen.
Do I address one who has greatly fallen? Let this thought comfort you, if your heart bewails your sin-let this give you hopeof mercy-that in the election of Grace some of the grossest blasphemers, persecutors, thieves, fornicators and drunkards havebeen included-and in consequence thereof they have been forgiven, renewed, and made to live sober, righteous, and godly lives!Such as these have obtained mercy so that in them, first, God might show forth all longsuffering as a comfort and encouragementto others to cry unto the Lord for mercy.
Grace reigns right majestically in the case before us, in that this particular sinner should be chosen. To choose a sinnerwas something, but to choose this one individual was even more astonishing! No doubt, she did in spirit ask herself, "Whyme, Lord? Why me?" Had she been here this morning, she would sing as heartily as any of us-
"Oh, gift of gifts! Oh, Grace of faith!
My God, how can it be
That You, who has discerning love,
Should give that gift to me?
How many hearts You might have had
More innocent than mine!
How many souls more worthy far
Of that pure touch of Yours!
Ah, Grace! Into unlikeliest hearts
It is Your boast to come;
The glory of Your light to find
In darkest spots a home."
At yonder table sits Simon the Pharisee, a good respectable body, as he thinks himself to be, and yet no Divine choice hasfallen upon him-while this poor harlot is elected by Distinguishing Grace! How can we account for this? Many there were inthe city like to herself, some worse, some better-but Grace had marked her as its own. Oh strange, yet admirable Sovereignty!
Now, it is possible that you may not be much taken with the glory of Grace in selecting her, but I will ask you whether youare not delighted with the Grace which separated you to be the Lord's? O Brothers and Sisters, when once a man discovers thatGod has chosen him-when he feels that Grace has broken his heart, has brought him to Christ and has covered him with a perfectrighteousness-then he breaks out in wondering exclamations, "How could You have chosen me? What am I, and what is my father'shouse, that I should be taken into such royal favor?" The more a Believer looks within, the more he discovers reasons forDivine wrath and the less he believes in his own personal merit. How is the heart of a true Believer filled with adoring gratitudethat ever the Lord's boundless love should have been pleased to settle and fix itself upon him!
This is not so much for me to discourse upon as it is for your private meditations. I earnestly commend to you that preciousthought, that Jehovah loved you from before the foundations of the world and chose you when He might have left you-chose youwhen He passed over thousands of the great and the noble, the wise, and the learned. The doctrine is not a dogma to be foughtover, as dogs over a bone, but to be rejoiced in and turned to practical account as an incentive to reverent wonder and affectionategratitude. Where sin abounded Grace did much more abound, and the "woman which was a sinner," is now before us a weeping penitent.The sinner "of the city," a public sinner, is now openly a follower of the Holy One!
2. Grace is greatly magnified in its fruits. Who would have thought that a woman who had yielded her members to be servantsof unrighteousness, to her shame and confusion, should have now become-what if I call her a maid of honor to the King of kings?-oneof Christ's most favored servitors? She offered hospitalities to Jesus which the Pharisee omitted, and offered them in aninfinitely better spirit and style than the Pharisee could have done if he had tried!
Let us remark that the Grace of God brought this woman in a way of Providence to listen to the Savior's discourses. In a formerpart of this chapter it appears He had been preaching the Gospel, and more especially preaching it to the poor. Perhaps shestood in the street attracted by the crowd, and, as she listened to our Savior's talk, it seemed to hold her fast. She hadnever heard a man speak after that fashion and when He spoke of abounding mercy, and the willingness of God to accept as manyas would come to Him, then the tears began to follow each other down her cheeks.
And when she listened again to that meek and lowly Preacher and heard Him tell of the Father in Heaven who would receive prodigalsand press them to His loving bosom, then her heart was fairly broken. She relinquished her evil traffic-she became a new woman,desirous of better things-anxious to be freed from sin. But she was greatly agitated in her heart with the question-couldshe, would she be really forgiven? Would such pardoning love as she had heard of reach even to her? She hoped so, and wasin a measure comforted. Her faith grew, and with it an ardent love.
The Spirit of God still worked with her till she enjoyed a feeble hope, a gleam of confidence! She believed that Jesus ofNazareth was the Messiah, that He had appeared on earth to forgive sins and she rested on Him for the forgiveness of her sinsand longed for an opportunity to do Him homage, and if possible to win a word direct from His mouth. The Lord of Mercy cameto the city where she lived. "Now," she thought, "here is my opportunity. That blessed Prophet has come! The Man who spokeas never man spoke is near me and I have already derived such benefit from Him that I love Him better than all besides-I loveHim as my own soul. I will steal into the house of the Pharisee that I may feast my eyes with the sight of Him."
Now when she came to the door the Savior was reclining at His meat, according to the Oriental custom, and His feet were towardsthe door-for the Pharisee had but little respect for Christ and had not given Him the best and innermost place at the feast.But there He lay with His uncovered feet towards the door. And the woman, almost unperceived, came close to Him. And, as shelooked and saw that the Pharisee had refused Him the ordinary courtesy of washing His feet, and that they were all stainedand travel-worn with His long journeys of love, she began to weep, and the tears fell in such plenteous showers that theyeven washed His feet. Here was holy water of a true sort. The crystal of penitence falling in drops, each one as preciousas a diamond!
Never were feet bedewed with a more precious water than those penitent eyes showered forth. Then, unbinding those luxurioustresses which had been for her the devil's nets in which to entangle souls, she wiped the sacred feet with them. Surely shethought that her chief adornment, the crown and glory of her womanhood, was all too worthless a thing to do service to thelowest and meanest part of the Son of God. That which once was her vanity now was humbled and yet exalted to the lowest office-shemade her eyes a pitcher and her locks a towel. "Never," says Bishop Hall, "was any hair so preferred as this! How I envy thoselocks that were graced with the touch of those sacred feet."
There a sweet temptation overtook her, "I will even kiss those feet, I will humbly pay reverence to those blessed limbs."She spoke not a word, but how eloquent were her actions! Better, even, than Psalms and hymns were these acts of devotion!Then she thought of that alabaster box containing perfumed oil with which, like most Eastern women, she was likely to anointherself for the pleasure of the smell and for the increase of her beauty. And now, opening it, she pours out the costliestthing she has upon His blessed feet. Not a word, I say, came from her! And, Brothers and Sisters, we would prefer a singlespeechless lover of Jesus who acted as she did, to 10,000 noisy talkers who have no gifts, no heart, no tears!
As for the Master, He remained quietly acquiescent, saying nothing, but all the while drinking in her love and letting Hispoor weary heart find sweet solace in the gratitude of one who once was a sinner, but who was to be such no more. Grace, myBrethren, deserves our praise, since it does so much for its object. Grace does not choose a man and leave him as he is. MyBrothers and Sisters, men rail at Grace, sometimes, as though it were opposed to morality-whereas it is the great source andcause of all complete morality-indeed, there is no real holiness in the sight of God except that which Grace creates, andwhich Grace sustains.
This woman, apart from Grace, had remained black and defiled, still, to her dying day-but the Grace of God worked a wondroustransformation, removing the impudence of her face, the flattery from her lips, the finery from her dress and the lust fromher heart. Eyes which were full of adultery were now founts of repentance! Her lips which were doors of lascivious speech,now yielded holy kisses-the profligate was a penitent, the castaway a new creature. All the actions which are attributed tothis woman illustrate the transforming power of Divine Grace. She exhibited the deepest repentance. She wept abundantly. Shewept out of no mere sentimentalism, but at the remembrance of her many crimes.
She wept for sorrow and for shame as she thought over her early childhood, and how she had slighted a mother's training, howshe had listened to the tempter's voice and hurried on from bad to worse.
Every part of her life story would rise before her as a painfully vivid dream. The sight of those blessed feet helped herto remember the dangerous paths into which she had wandered. The sluices of grief were drawn up and her soul flowed out intears. O blessed Spirit of Grace, we adore You as we see the rock smitten and the waters gushing. "He causes His wind to blowand the waters to flow." Note the woman's humility. She had once possessed a brazen face and knew no bashfulness, but nowshe stands behind the Savior. She did not push herself in before His face-she was content to have the meanest standing-place.If she might not venture to anoint His head, yet, if she might do service to His feet, she blushed as she accepted the honor.Those who truly serve the Lord Jesus have a holy bashfulness, a shrinking sense of their own unworthiness and are contentto fulfill the very lowest office in His household.
That is no service for Christ when you would need ride the king's horse, and wear the king's garment and have it said, "Thisis the man whom the king delights to honor." That is serving yourself rather than Christ when you covet the chief place inthe synagogue, and would have men call you Rabbi. But that is real service when you can care for the poor. When you can condescendto men of low estate and become a teacher of the ignorant and an instructor of babes. He serves well who works behind hismaster's back, unknown and unperceived-toiling in the dark, unreported, unapplauded, and happy to have it so. See, Beloved,how in a woman who was once so shameless, Grace plants and makes to flourish the fair and modest flower of true humility!
Yet was the woman courageous, for she must have needed much courage to enter into a Pharisee's house. The look of a Phariseeto this woman must have been enough to freeze summer into howling winter. Those Pharisees had an insufferable contempt ofeverybody who was not of their own clique-who did not fast twice a week, and tithe their mint, anise, and cumin. They said,by every gesture, "Stand by, I am holier than you." To a person of infamous character the pompous Pharisee would be doublycontemptuous, and a woman conscious of unworthiness would be sorely wounded by his manners. Besides, at a feast her tearswould be much out of place, and therefore she would be the more rudely rebuked.
But how fearless she was! And how bravely she held her tongue when Simon railed! What will not men and women do when DivineGrace moves them to love, and love prompts them to courage? Yes, into the very jaws of Hell the Grace of God would make aBeliever dare to enter if God commanded him. There is no mountain too high for a believing foot to scale, and no furnace toohot for a believing heart to bear. Let Rome and its amphitheatres, Piedmont and its snow, France and its galleys, Smithfieldand its stakes, the Netherlands and their rivers of blood-let them all speak of what Divine Grace can do when once it reignsin the heart-what heroes it can make of the very weakest and most timid of God's children where it rules supreme!
I have said that in every part of this woman's action Grace is honored, and it is so more especially in this respect, thatwhat she did was practical. Hers was not pretense, but real and expensive service. The religion of some professors stops shortat their substance-it costs them nothing, and, I fear, is worth nothing. They appear before the Lord empty. They buy no sweetcane with money, neither does the Lord receive the fat of their sacrifices. I must confess myself utterly at a loss to understandthe piety of some people! I thank God I am not bound to understand it, and that I am not sent into the world to be a judgeof my fellow creatures-but I do greatly wonder at the religion of many. There are to be found, and I have found them, personswhose love to Christ is of such a sort that they give to His cause the larger proportion of their substance, and do so gladly,thinking it a privilege! Yes, I know some who pinch themselves-some of the poor and needy who stint themselves that they maygive to Christ!
Such are doubtless blessed in the deed. I do not understand those men who have thousands upon thousands of pounds, perhapshundreds of thousands, and profess to love Christ, but dole out their gifts to Jesus in miserable fragments. I must leavethem to their Master, to be judged at the last, but I confess I do not understand them or admire them. If I did love Christat all, I would love Him so that I would give Him all I could, and if I did not do that, I think I would say, "He is not worthit, and I will not be a sham professor." It is rank hypocrisy to profess love and then to act a miserly part. Let those whoare guilty of it settle the account between God and their own souls. This woman's alabaster box was given freely, and if shehad had more to give she would have given it after the spirit of that other woman, thatmemorable widow, who had two mites which made a farthing-which were all her living-but she gave it all out of love to God.
Grace reigns, indeed, with high control when it leads men who naturally would be selfish to practice liberality in the causeof the Redeemer. Let these gleanings suffice-the vintage of the fruits of Grace is too great for us to gather it all thismorning.
3. I would have you remark, in the third place, that Grace is seen by attentive eyes in our Lord's acceptance of what thischosen vessel had to bring. Jesus knew her sin. The Pharisee wondered that Jesus did not shrink from contact with her. Youand I may wonder, too. We sometimes feel it a task to have to commune with persons of a certain character even when they professto repent-our Lord's sensitiveness of the guilt of sin was much keener than ours, yet He rested still upon the couch and quietlyaccepted what she brought-He permitted her the fond familiarity of kissing His feet again and again and to bedew them withher tears-He permitted all that, I say, and accepted all that, and herein made His Grace to shine most brightly.
Oh, that Jesus should ever accept anything of me! That He should be willing to accept my tears, willing to receive my prayersand my praises! We cheerfully accept a little flower from a child, but then the flower is beautiful and we are not far abovethe child. But Jesus accepts from us that which is in its nature impure, and upbraids us not! O Grace, how condescending youare! See, Believer, Jesus has heard your prayers and answered them! He has blessed your labors, given you souls as your reward,and at this moment that which is in your heart to do for Him He receives, and He raises no objection, but takes what you bringto Him-takes it with joy! O Grace, you are Grace, indeed, when the offerings of unworthy ones become dear unto Jesus' heart.
4. Further, Divine Grace is displayed in this narrative when you see our Lord Jesus Christ become the defender of the penitent.Everywhere Grace is the object of human mockery. Men snap at it like evening wolves. Some attack it at the fountain head-theycannot endure the doctrine of election. Some professors almost foam at the mouth at the very mention of the word "predestination."They cannot bear it, and yet it is God's Truth! Let them say what they will, and there shall it stand. Let them kick againstthe pricks if they dare. "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy."
Would to God men would give up their rebellious questions and bow before the King of kings! On this occasion, Simon quibbledat Grace in that a sinful woman should be allowed to approach the Lord-he would have put her in quarantine at the least-ifnot in prison. Some object to Grace in its perpetuity-they struggle against persevering Grace. But others, like this Simon,struggle against the bounty of Grace. How could such a woman as she was be permitted to draw so near to Christ? Certain captiousspirits will demand, "How should Jesus give to such unworthy ones such acceptance, such manifestations of Himself, such privileges?"
Our Lord took upon Himself to defend her, and therefore she might well afford to hold her tongue. So shall it be with you.If Satan accuses you and your enemies, with loud-mouthed accusations cry out against you, you have an Advocate with the Father,Jesus Christ the Righteous, who will certainly plead your cause and clear you! Jesus, by His defensive parable shows thatHe was justified in letting the woman approach, because great love prompted her. There was no sin in her approach, but muchto commend, since her motive was excellent, and the motive is the true measure of a deed. She felt intense love and gratitudetowards the Person who had forgiven her. Therefore her acts were not to be forbidden, but commended.
He justifies her and incidentally justifies Himself. Had He not done well in having won a sinner's heart to penitence andlove? Was not election justified in having chosen one to such holy devotedness and fervency? At the Last Great Day the Lordwill justify His Grace before the eyes of the whole universe, for He will allow the Grace-worked virtues of His chosen onesto be unveiled-and all eyes shall see that Grace reigns through righteousness! Then shall they forever be silenced who accusedthe Grace of God of leading to licentiousness, for they shall see that in every case free forgiveness led to gratitude, andgratitude to holiness. The chosen shall be made choice men. Grace chose them notwithstanding all their deformities-and whenit has cast about them a supernal beauty-they shall be the wonder and admiration of the universe, evidently made to be thenoblest and best of mankind.
Show me where Divine Grace ever created sin! You cannot, but lo, in what a manner has Grace created holiness! It is not ashamedto let its chosen sheep appear before the great dividing Shepherd's throne, for of them all it shall be said,"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry andyou gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink." Grace does not smuggle men into Heaven, but brings them up to Heaven'srequirements through the Spirit and the blood!
5. Once more, my Brethren, the Grace of God is seen in this narrative in the bestowal of yet richer favors. Great Grace savedher, rich Grace encouraged her, unbounded Grace gave her a Divine assurance of forgiveness. It was proved that she was forgiven,for she loved much, but she had never received the full assurance of it. She was a hopeful penitent rather than a confirmedBeliever. But the Master said, "Your sins are forgiven you." From that moment full assurance of faith must have occupied hersoul.
And then He gave her that choice benediction, "Go in peace," by which the peace of God which passes all understanding henceforthkept her mind-so that even when she had to go out of this world into the unknown realm, she heard in the midst of Jordan'sbillows, the Divine sentence-"Go in peace." Ah, Beloved, you know not what Grace can do for you! God is not stinted in HisGrace. If He has lifted you up out of the miry clay, He can do more-He can set your feet upon a rock! If on the rock you alreadystand, He can do more-He can put a new song into your mouth! And if already you lift the joyous hymn, He can do more yet-Hecan establish your goings! You do not yet know the exceeding bounty of your own heavenly Father! Unfathomable is His goodness!Arise and enjoy it!
Behold the whole land is before you, from Dan unto Beersheba-all the provisions of the Covenant of Grace belong to you. Havebut faith and you shall yet comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ whichpasses knowledge. Here, then, was Grace in its object, Grace in its fruit, Grace in the acceptance of that fruit, Grace inthe defense which Jesus made of the gracious one and Grace in the blessings bestowed upon her. May Grace deal thus bountifullywith us.
II. We have but two or three moments left for what requires far more space, namely, LOVE. The word blossoms with roses andsuggests the voice of the turtledoves and the singing of birds. Our time, however, binds us to a narrow path which we mustnot leave, although the beds of lilies on either hand invite us. Love-its source-it bubbles up as a pure rill from the wellheadof Divine Grace. She loved much, but it was because much had been forgiven. There is no such thing as mere natural love toGod. The only true love which can burn in the human breast towards the Lord is that which the Holy Spirit, Himself, kindles.If you truly love the God who made you and redeemed you, you may be well assured that you are His child, for none but Hischildren have any love to Him.
Its secondary cause is faith. The 50th verse tells us, "Your faith has saved you." Our souls do not begin with loving Christ,but the first lesson is to trust Him. Many penitents attempt this difficult task-they aspire to reach the top of the stairswithout treading the steps. They want to be at the pinnacle of the temple before they have crossed the threshold. First, trustChrist for the pardon of your sin-when you have done this, your sins are forgiven-and then love shall flash to your heartas the result of gratitude for what the Redeemer has done for you. Grace is the source of love, but faith is the agent bywhich love is brought to us.
The food of love is a sense of sin, and a grateful sense of forgiveness. If you and I felt more deeply the guilt of our pastlives we should love Jesus Christ better. If we have but a clearer sense that our sins deserve the deepest Hell-that Christsuffered what we ought to have suffered in order to redeem us from our iniquities-we should not be such cold-hearted creaturesas we are. We are perfectly monstrous in our lack of love to Christ, but the true secret of it is a forgetfulness of our ruinedand lost natural estate, and a forgetfulness of the sufferings by which we have been redeemed from that condition! O, thatour love might feed itself this day and find a renewal of its strength in remembering what Sovereign Grace has done!
Love in the narrative before us shines in the fact that the service the woman rendered to our Lord was perfectly voluntary.No one suggested it, much less pressed it upon her. It takes the gloss off our service when we need to be dragged to it, orpushed forward by some energetic pleader. Brethren, the anointing was impromptu with her! Christ was there and it was at herown suggestion that she anointed His feet. Mary of Bethany had not then set the example- the woman who was a sinner was anoriginal in her service.
In these days we have many inventors and discoverers for our temporal use and service-why should we not have inventors forJesus who will bring out new projects of usefulness? We are, most of us, content to travel in the old rut, but if we had morelove to Jesus we should be more eccentric and should have a degree of freshness about our service which atpresent is all too rare. Lord, give us the love which can lead the way! Her service to Jesus was personal. She did it allherself, and all to Him. Do you notice how many times the pronoun occurs in our text? "She stood at His feet behind Him weeping,and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed themwith the ointment."
She served Christ Himself. It was neither service to Peter, nor James, nor John, nor yet to the poor or sick of the city,but to the Master Himself! And, depend upon it, when our love is in active exercise, our piety will be immediately towardsChrist-we shall sing to Him, pray to Him, teach for Him, preach for Him, live to HIM! Forgetfulness of the Personality ofChrist takes away the very vitality of our religion. How much better will you teach, this afternoon, in your Sunday schoolclass, if you teach your children for Christ! How much better will you go forth this evening to tell others the way of salvation,if you go to do it for His sake! Then you court no man's smile-you fear no man's frown. It is enough for you that you havedone it for the Master, and if the Master accepts it, you have the reward in that very fact!
The woman's service showed her love in that it was fervent. There was so much affection in it-nothing conventional-no followingchilly propriety, no hesitating enquiry for precedents. Why did she kiss His feet? Was it not a superfluity? What was thegood of it? Did it not look sentimental, affected, sensuous, indelicate? Little did she care how it looked-she knew what shemeant! She could not do otherwise! Her whole soul went out in love-she acted naturally as her heart dictated. And, Brothersand Sisters, she acted well. O for more of this guileless piety which hurls decorum and regulation to the winds! Ah, throwyour souls into the service of Christ! Let your heart burn in His Presence, and let all your soul belong to Jesus!
Serve not your Master as though you were half asleep! Do not work with drooping hands and half-closed eyes, but wake up thewhole of your powers and passions! For such love as He has shown you, give the most awakened and quickened love in return.O for more of this love! If I might only pray one prayer this morning, I think it should be that the flaming torch of thelove of Jesus should be brought into every one of our hearts, and that all our passions should be set ablaze with love toHim.
One thought more and I am done. This woman's love is a lesson to us in the opportunity which she seized. She was evidentlybut just pardoned-she was rather a weeper than one who had learned to rejoice-and yet for all that, she would serve Him atthe first dawn of her spiritual life. Now, you young converts, no longer say, "We will do something for Christ in a few years'time when we have made our calling and election sure. We will wait till we have grown in Grace, and then try to do what wecan." No, no! As soon as you are washed bring your offering to Jesus. The very day of your conversion enlist in His army,for speedy obedience is beautiful. Perhaps if this woman had lingered she had never anointed the Lord at all-but in the hotflush of her first love, she did well to perform at once this zealous, fervent act.
Young converts maintain, by God's Grace, the warmth of the blood which circulates in the Church's veins. Old Churches generallybecome diseased Churches when they cease to grow. I do not know a Church in all England without conversions which is at allin a happy spiritual state. The fact is, the fresh comers stir us all up by their fervor, their simplicity, their childlikeconfidence. Now, beloved Ones, we encourage you to show this. For our sakes, for your own sakes, for Christ's sake, do nothesitate-if there is anything you can do, though you are uneducated in the Divine school-do it. Though there may be a dozenblunders in the method, yet do it, for Christ will accept it!
The Pharisee may quibble-well, perhaps it may keep his tongue from other mischief-let him-you can bear it, Christ will defendyou, Jesus will accept you! And as a reward for doing what you can, He may be pleased to give you Divine Grace to do more,and may breathe over you a full assurance of faith, which, had you been idle, you might not for years have attained. And Hemay give you a peace of conscience in serving Him which, had you sat still, might never have come to you at all.
I beseech all of you who love Jesus, do not hide the light you have under a bushel, but come out and show it! If you havebut a little faith, use it! If you have only a grain of faith, turn it to account. Put the one talent out at interest anduse it for the Master at once, and the Lord bless you in such a work by increasing your faith and love, and making you tobe as this woman was-a highly favored servant of this blessed Master. May the Lord give every one of you His blessing, forJesus' sake.