« PreviousContinue »
to maintain, and in which they should study to abound.
2. We may infer from the passage before us, that such good works, such acts of love and faith, will not always, nor even in general, obtain the favour and applause of the world. I use the world here in the sense in which it is often used in Scripture, as comprizing and describing all persons who are not true Christians; who do not love the Lord Jesus in sincerity; and who, being destitute of the Christian principles of faith and love, are actuated by other motives of a worldly and selfish nature. To such persons the good works of the Christian are seldom either intelligible or gratifying. They themselves feel nothing of the principle by which he is governed, and so far as they comprehend it, only undervalue and despise it. How indeed can it be otherwise ? Self is their idol. Their own interest is the object which they have always in view. Consequently the unselfish and disinterested conduct of the true Christian is either a mystery, or an offence to them. They account it foolishness; and then are indignant at it. They give it a false name, and then censure and revile it. Was not this the case with the woman in the text? Did not her accusers blame her for the very work,which Jesus pronounced to be good? Though it sprung from faith and love, yet they murmured at it. Though it was a gift bestowed on Christ Himself, yet they said it was a waste, and a misapplication, and an extravagance. Surely the reason of their conduct is obvious. They had themselves no regard or affection for Jesus Christ, and were desirous of justifying their own disregard and neglect of Him. They were selfish and covetous, and thought only of their own interest, and how they might benefit themselves.
Such, My Brethren, was the case then, and such is the case now.
Persons who are under the influence of a worldly, selfish, covetous spirit, and consequently are strangers to Christ and to Christian principles, will act at this day precisely in the same manner. They will speak evil of things which they know not; and will contrive only how they may serve their own turn, and save their own pockets.
Propose for instance to such persons to join with you in supporting some charity at a distance; they will tell you how it is abused and
perverted, and that there are poor at home • to whom we are required to attend.'.
Ask them to contribute towards improving the condition of these very poor of whom they speak, by educating them, by giving to them religious instruction, by furnishing them with copies of the word of God. They will
say, “The poor are better without these things; and such munificence is but a waste of
charity. Furnish them (they cry) with food • and clothing, and you are doing them a · real good.'
Propose then to furnish them with these things. Propose to relieve the temporal wants of the poor; and how will these same persons treat your proposal ? They will answer, • The poor are idle enough already; and to ' make them presents is only to make them
Such zeal 'is but folly and extravagance under the pretence and name of charity.'
Thus selfishness and avarice plead their cause, and lead men to evade their plainest duties. Thus persons under the influence of these corrupt passions, evince their dislike of those “ good works,” in which the real Christian delights to join ; and by their futile and malignant objections, betray the evil state of their own heart. May all such persons see in the passage before us their true resemblance ! May they see that they are walking in the steps of Judas the false disciple, who indulged his covetous propensities, till at length for thirty pieces of silver he sold his Master, and his soul together! May these aweful words be deeply impressed on all our hearts. will it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
3. We may infer from the passage before us that those “ good works,” those fruits of faith and love, which the world misunderstands, misrepresents, and censures, are yet graciously noticed, and favourably accepted by Jesus Christ. Such we have seen was the case with the woman in the text. Jesus defended her conduct, and reproved her ac
He put the best construction on what she had done, and declared that it should be held in everlasting remembrance. And such is still the case. He still regards with favour and approbation those acts which spring from love to and faith in Him. He still in secret distinguishes and approves the principles from which they flow, and will one day proclaim · and reward them openly.
Though the service be little, though the offering be small, yet where he sees that the heart is right with Him, He graciously receives the gift according to what persons have, and not according to what they have not. Though in such persons there may yet be remaining much infirmity, ignorance, and weakness; though in their attempts to do good there may be found some error, mistake, and even indiscretion; yet He kindly overlooks these things for the sake of the motive which operates within, and in fact says to those who would reprove and censure them, “ Let them alone. Why trouble
them ? They have done what they could.”
Consider the real meaning of these gracious words,“
They have done what they could.” They might probably have done much more than they have done. They might probably have done it much better than they have done it. But Jesus overlooks these oinissions and defects; and tenderly says, “ They have done what they could :" • what they could to honour me, to testify their faith to me, • to evince their love and affection towards « me.'
My Brethren, what encouraging and consolatory reflections are these to all such as are endeavouring to serve the Lord Christ, and to be fruitful in good works! How animating is the prospect here given! While engaged in works and labours of love, you may often meet with discouraging treatment from the world around you. Covetous and selfish persons may oppose and blame your proceedings. They may impute to you, it may be, improper motives and intentions. They may misrepresent your conduct. They may defame both you and the object which you have in view. They may speak evil of you falsely; and may secretly, or even openly try to defeat your purposes, and to prevent your
These are difficulties which you may expect, and which you may probably experience. But be not moved or discouraged by them. There is nothing in all these things