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him, saying, This is he. The clearer any ministry is in discovering of Christ, the more excellent and useful it is.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
Our Saviour having highly commended John in the forma1 verses, here he sets bounds to the honour of his ministry; adding, that though John was greater than all the prophets that went before him, seeing more of Christ than all of them, yet he saw less than those that came after him. The meanest gospel minister that preaches Christ as come, is to be preferred before all the old prophets who prophesied of Christ to come. That minister who sets forth the life and death, resurrection and ascension, of Christ, is greater in the kingdom of heaven, that is, has an higher office in the church, and a more excellent ministry, than all the prophets, yea, than John himself. The excellency of a ministry consists in the light and clearness of it: now though John's light did exceed all that went before him, yet it fell short of them that came after him; and thus he that was least in the kingdom of grace on earth, much more he that was least in the kingdom of glory in heaven, was greater than John. See note on Matt. x. 11.
29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
These words are our Saviour's farther commendation of John the Baptist; he tells us, That John had two sorts of hearers. 1. The common people and publicans. 2. The Pharisees and lawyers: and declares the different effect which John's ministry had upon these two different sorts of persons. As to the former, the common people and the publicans: the common people were accounted by the Jewish doctors as the dregs of mankind, an ignorant and rude mob; the publicans were esteemed notoriously wicked, guilty of great injustice, oppression, and extortion; yet these vile persons were converted sooner than the knowing men of the time, the self-justifying Pharisees and lawvers; for it is said, The publicans
-were baptized of John, and justified God; that is, they looked upon John as a prophet sent of God; they owned his ministry, received his message, and submitted to his baptism. Those who believe the message that God sendeth, and obey it, justify God; they that do not believe and obey, accuse and condemn God. But of the others it is said, namely, of the Pharisees and lawyeis, That they rejected the counsel of God against themselves; that is, the revealed will of God: refusing to be baptized of him. This rejecting the counsel of God we are guilty of, when we have low and undervaluing thoughts of Christ and bis gospel, when we are ashamed, in times of persecution, to own and profess him, when we stop our ears to the voice of his ministers and messengers, when we submit not ourselves to the reasonable laws and commands of Christ; and this rejection of Christ at the great day, will render our condition worse than the condition of Heathens, that never heard of a Saviour; than the condition of Jews, which crucified their Saviour; yea, than the condition of devils, for whom a Saviour never was intended. Lord! where shall we appear, if we either reject or neglect thy great salvation! The chief thing then observable here, is this, That in rejecting John's baptism and ministry, they are said to reject the counsel of God towards themselves, that is, the gracious design of God in calling them to repentance, by John's ministry; by which refusal tbey declared, that they approved not of God's counsel as just and right in calling them to repentance, who were such zealots for the law, and so unblamable conversation, that it became a amongst them, That if but two went to heaven, one of them must be a Pharisee. They therefore judged it an incongruous thing to call such righteous persons to repentance, as they took themselves to be, and to threaten them with ruin who were so dear to God: but the publicans and common people, being conscious to themselves of their sin and guilt, did approve of this counsel which God sent them by his messenger, and submitted to this baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins, to which God by the Baptist now called them.
31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? 32 They are like onto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-hibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! 35 But Wisdom is justified of all her children.
Our blessed Saviour in these words describes the perverse humour of the Pharisees, whom nothing could allure to the embracing of the gospel, neither John's ministry nor Christ's. This our Saviour sets forth two ways, allegorically and properly: by way of allegory he compares them to sullen children, whom nothing would please, neither mirth nor mourning; if their fellows piped before them, they would not dance; if they sang mournful songs to them, they would not lament: that is, the Pharisees were of such a censorious and capricious humour, that God himself could not please them, although he used variety of means and methods in order to that end. Next our Lord plainly interprets this allegory, by telling them that John came to them neither eating nor drinking, that is, not so freely and plentifully as other men, being a very austere and mortified man, both in his diet and hahit; all which was designed by God to bring the Pharisees to repentance and amendment of life. But, instead of this, they censure him for having a devil, because he delighted in solitude, and was not so free in conversation as some men, according to the ancient observation, "That he that delighteth in solitude is either an augel or a devil," either a wild beast or a god. John being thus rejected, Christ himself comes to them, who being of a free and familiar conversation, not shunning the society of the worst of men, no not of the Pharisees themselves, but complying with their customs, and accompanying them innocently at their feasts; yet the freedom of our Saviour's conversation displeased them as much as John's reservedness of temper; for they cry, Behold a man gluttonous, a friend of publicans and sinners; Christ's affahility towards sinners they account an appro
bation of their sins; and his sociable disposition, looseness and luxury. Learn hence, That the faithful and zealous ministers of Christ, let their temper and converse be what it will, cannot please the enemies of religion, and the haters of the power of godliness; neither John's austerity, nor Christ's familiarity, could gain upon the Pharisees. It is the duty of the ministers of God, in the course of their ministry, to seek to please all men for their good: but after all our endeavours to please all, if we strenuously oppose the errors and vices of the times, we shall please but very few. But if God and conscience be of the number of those few, we are safe and happy. Observe, 2. That it has been the old policy of the devil, that he might hinder the success of the gospel, to fill the minds of persons with an invincible prejudice against the ministers and dispensers of the gospel. Here the Pharisees are prejudiced unreasonably both against John and against Christ, that the success of both their ministries must be frustrated and disappointed. Observe, 3. That after all the scandalous reproaches cast upon the christian religion, and the ministers and professors of it, such as are Wisdom's children, wise and good men, will justify religion, that is, approve it in their judgments, honour it in their discourses, and adom it in their lives: Wisdom is justified of all her children.
36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought au alabaster-box of ointment, 38 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.
Observe here, 1. The Pharisee's civility, and our Saviour's courtesy: the Pharisee invites Christ to eat with him; Christ readily accepts the invitation, never refusing any opportunity for doing good. There is a duty of civil courtesy which we owe to the worst of men: none are so bad but we may soberly eat and drink with them; only let us take care, that if our converse do not make them better, their example may not make us worse. Observe, 2. What an opportunity our Saviour lays hold upon in the Pharisee's house of doing good to a sinful woman; who coming to Christ bowed down in a sorrowful sight and sense of her sins, finds an hearty welcome to him, and is dismissed with comfort from him. The history runs thus: Behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, that is, a Gentile, say some; a remarkable, notorious, and infamous sinner, say others; probably, a lewd, unclean woman: she is led in with a note of admiration, Behold a woman that was a sinner! Learn, That to see a sensual and notorious sinner, out of true remorse of conscience to seek unto a Saviour, is a rare and wonderful sight. Observe farther, It is not said, Behold a woman that sinned, but, Behold, a woman that was a sinner. One action does not denominate a person a sinner, but a hahit and trade of sin. Again, it is said, Behold, a woman in the city; the place where she acted her lewdness added to the heinousness of her sin, it was in the city; the more public the offence, the greater the scandal. Sin is sin, though in the desert, where no eye sees it; but the offence is aggravated by the number and multitude of beholders. Yet observable it is, that there is no mention made, either of the woman's name, or of the city's name; and it is both presumption and injuriousness for any to name her, whose name God has been pleased 1o conceal; for this is not the same woman that anointed Christ's feet, Matt. xxvi. Mark xiv. and John xii.—that was in Bethany, this in Galilee; that in the house of Simon the leper, this of Simon the Pharisee. Observe, 3. The behaviour and demeanour of this poor woman; she appears in the posture of a penitent: She stood at Christ's feet behind him, weeping. Where note, 1. The great change wrought in this sinful woman, and the evident effects' of it: her eyes, which had been formerly lamps of fire by lust, are now a holy fountain of penitential tears; her hair, which she had used as a net to catch her fond and foolish lovers, doth now become a towel for her Saviour's feet. Verily, such a heart, as has once felt the sting and smart of sin, will make plentiful expressions of the greatness of its sorrow. Again, 2. She stands hehind Christ and weeps: this proceeded, no doubt, from a holy bashfuloess; she that was wont to rook boldly in the face of her lovers, dares not now behold the face of her Saviour; she that was wont to send her
alluring beams forth into the eyes of her wanton lovers, now casts her dejected eyes down upon the earth; and behold the plenty of her tears, they flow in such abundance that she washes Christ's feet with them. She began to wash his feet, savs the text, but we read not when she ended; never were our Saviour's feet bedewed with more precious liquor than this of remorseful tears. Thus doth a holy penitent account no office too mean that is done to the honour of its Saviour.
38 Now when the Pharisee which had hidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, 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. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty: 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave must. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Observe here, 1. How unreasonably the Pharisee was offended with Christ, for permitting this poor woman to come near him, and touch him. Admit she had been the greatest of sinners, might not such come to Christ, when he was come from heaven to them? Oh blessed Saviour! there is merit enough in thy blood, and mercy enough in thy bowels, to justify and save the vilest sinners, which by repentance and faith do make a timely application to thee. Observe, 2. The parable which Christ makes use of, for the Pharisee's conviction, and the woman's comfort: namely, the parable of two debtors, one of whom owed a greater sum, and the other a less, who both having nothing to pay, was both freely forgiven ; and both upon their forgiveness loved their creditor much, but he most to whom most was forgiven. Now from this parable we gather these lessons of instruction; 1. That great is the debt which all mankind have
and lie under to the justice of God: 'tis here expressed by five hundred pence. Our debt is infinite; and, had not miraculous mercy interposed, divine justice could never have been satisfied, but by undergoing an infinite punishment. 2. That yet ail sinners stand not alike indebted to the justice of God; some owe more, and others less; all are guilty, but not all alike; some owe five hundred talents, others fifty pence. 3. That be men's debt greater or less, their sins more or fewer, 'tis utterly impossible for any person of himself to clear his debt, and make satisfaction, but they that owe least stand in need of mercy and forgiveness: He forgave them both. 4. That the forgiveness that is in God is a free, gratuitous, and gracious forgiveness: he frankly forgave them both: Gracious art thou, O Lord, in thy doings towards ihy children, and thy tender mercy is over all thy works,
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time 1 came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 40 Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint; but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore, I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Whoisthis that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Observe here, 1. How our Saviour recounts and sums up the several particular instances of this woman's love and respect towards himself: she washed, wiped, kissed, and anointed his feet, according to the custom of those eastern countries. Love will creep where it cannot go, it will stoop to the meanest offices, and is amhitious of the highest services, for and towards the
persons we sincerely love. Observe, 2The words of comfort given by our Saviour to this poor woman: Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee. Thence learn, That the pardoning mercy of God is boundless and unlimited; it is not limited to any sort of sins or sinners; it is not limited to any degree of sins or sinners; Thy sins, that are many, are forgiven thee; and thy sins, which arc heinous, are forgiven also. Observe, 3. What is the effect and fruit, of great pardoning mercy; it is great love; her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. Her love to Christ was the effect of his pardoning love to her, and not the cause of it; she did not first love much, and then Christ forgave ber; but Christ first forgave her, and then she loved much. Her love was a love of gratitude, because she was pardoned, and not a love of merit to purchase and procure her pardon. The Papists interpret this word (for) as if it were the antecedent cause of her forgiveness; whereas it is a consequential sign and evidence, that the free grace and mercy of Christ had forgiven her; her many and great sins were forgiven her, and therefore she loved much. The debt is not forgiven, because the debtor loves his creditor; but the debtor therefore loves, because the debt is forgiven. Forgiveness "goes before, and love follows after. Hence learn, That much love will follow great forgiveness. Love will work in the heart towards God, in some proportion to that love which we have experienced from God. Observe lastly, The very gracious dismission which this woman meets with from our blessed Saviour: what could she desire that is not here granted to her? Here is remission, safety, faith, and peace; all these here meet to make a contrite soul happy: remission is the ground of her safety, faith the ground of her peace, peace the fruit of her faith, and salvation the issue of her remission. O woman! great was thy sin, great was Christ's pardoning grace, and great was thy joy and comfort: Thy sins are forgiven thee, thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.
A ND it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.
Observe here, The great work and business, which not only the apostles, but Christ himself was engaged in, and employed about, namely, preaching the gospel, those glad tidings of salvation to a lost world. Where note, That Christ himself laboured in this work of public preaching; he did not send forth his apostles as his curates to work and sweat in the vineyard, whilst he himself took his ease at home; but he accompanieth them himself, yea, he goes before them himself in this great and excellent work: Jesus went preaching the glad tidings of the gospel, and the twelve were with him. Learn thence, That preaching of the gospel is a great and necessary work, incumbent upon all the ministers of Christ, let their dignity and preeminence in the church be what it will. Surely none of the servants are above their Lord and Master! Did he labour in the word and doctrine? well may they. Observe, 2. The places where Christ and his apostles preached, not only in the populous cities, but in the poor country villages: They went through every city and village preaching the gospel. Some will preach the gospel, provided they may preach at court, or in the capital cities of the nation; but the poor country villages are overlooked by them. Our Saviour and his apostles were not of this mind: 'tis true, they were itinerary preachers, we are settled; but be the place never so mean and obscure, and the people never so rude and barbarous, we must not think it beneath the greatest of us to exercise our ministry there, if God calls us thither: Christ went through the villages, as well as cities, preaching.
2 And certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, 3. And Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
Amongst the number of those that did accompany our Saviour and his apostles, mention is here made of a certain woman, who had been healed by Christ of evil spirits and infirmities; that is, of spiritual and corporeal diseases, for the Jews were wont to call vices and evil hahits by the name of devils, as the devil of pride, the devil of malice, &c. Now as concerning these women's following of Christ, and
administering to him, several circumstances are observable; as, 1. That women did make up a considerable number of Chris's followers, aye, and of his apostles' followers too: The devout -women not a Jen, Acts xvii. 4. And verily it is no disgrace or shame, but matter of glory, and cause of thankfulness, if our ministry be attended by, and blest unto, the weaker sex. I believe in many of our congregations, and at most of our communions, are found two women for one man; God grant them knowledge answerable to their zeal, and obedience proportionable to their devotion. Observe, 2. One of these women that followed Christ was Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward. What! one of Herod's family transplanted into Christ's household! O the freeoess of the grace of God! Even in the worst societies and places God has a number to stand up for his name, and bear witness to his truth: we read of a Joseph in Pharaoh's court; of an Obadiah in Ahab's court; of a Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar's court; of a church in Nero's house; and of a Joanna here in bloody Herod's family, who had put John the Baptist to death. Observe, 3. The holy courage and resolution of our Saviour's female followers. No doubt they met with taunts and jeers, with scons and scams enough, and perhaps from their husbands too, for following the carpenter's son, and a few fishermen; but this does not damp, but inflame, their zeal. The Holy Ghost acquaints us with several instances of masculine courage and manly resolution m the women that followed Christ as his female disciples. At our Saviour's trial, the women clave to him, when his disciples fled from him; they accompanied him to his cross, they assisted at his funeral, they attended his hearse to the grave, they watched his sepulchre, fearing neither the darkness of the night nor the rudeness of the soldiers. These feeble women had more courage than all the apostles. Learn, That courage is the special and peculiar gift of God; and where he gives courage, it is not in man to make afraid. Observe, 4. "Hie pious and charitable care of these holy women, to supply the wants and outward necessities of our Saviour: They ministered unto him of their substance. Where note, 1. The great poverty of Christ: be lived upon the basket, he would not honour the world so far as to have any part of it in his own hand, but was beholden to others for what he ate and drank; yet must