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| while the rich is chambered up to sleep out CONTEMPLATION XV. THE WOMAN TAKEN
his surfeit. IN ADULTERY.
Out of these grounds is the woman
brought to Christ : not to the Mount of What a busy life was this of Christ's! Olives, not to the way, not to his private He spent the night in the Mount of Olives, lodging, but to the temple; and that not to the day in the temple ; whereas the night some obscure angle, but into the face of the is for a retired repose, the day for company: assembly. his retiredness was for prayer, bis compa- They pleaded for her death: the punishnionableness was for preaching. All nightment which they would onwards inflict, was he watches in the mount; all the morning her shame; which must needs be so much lie preaches in the temple. It was not for more, as there were more eyes to be witpleasure that he was here upon earth : his nesses of her guiltiness. All the brood of whole time was penal and toilsome: how sin affects darkness and secrecy, but this do we resemble him, if his life were all pain more properly: the twilight, the night, is for and labour, ours all pastime?
the adulterer. It cannot be better fitted He found no such fair success the day than to be dragged out into the light of the before: the multitude was divided in their sun, and to be proclaimed with hootings opinion of him ; messengers were sent, and and basins. O the impudence of those men suborned to apprehend him, yet he returns who can make merry professions of their to the temple. It is for the sluggard or the own beastliness, and boast of the shameful coward to plead a lion in the way; upon trophies of their lust! the calling of God, we must overlook and Methinks I see this miserable adulteress, contemn all the spite and opposition of how she stands confounded amidst that men: even after an ill harvest we must sow, gazing and disdainful multitude ! how she and after denials, we must woo for God. hides her head, how she wipes her blubbered
This Sun of righteousness prevents that face and weeping eyes! In the meantime, other, and shines early with wholesome it is no dumb-show that is here acted by doctrines upon the souls of his hearers; these Scribes and Pharisees; they step the auditory is both thronged and attentive, forth boldly to her accusation : “ Master, yet not all with the same intentions. If the this woman was taken in adultery, in the people came to learn, the Scribes and Phari. very act." How plausibly do they begin! sees came to cavil and carp at his teaching; Had I stood by and heard them, should I with what a pretence of zeal and justice yet not have said, What holy, honest, condo they put themselves into Christ's pre- scionable men are these! what devout sence! As lovers of chastity and sancti clients of Christ! with what reverence they mony, and haters of uncleanness, they bring come to him! with what zeal of justice ! to him a woman taken in the flagrance of when he that made and ransacks their her adultery.
bosom tells me, “ All this is done but to And why the woman rather, since the tempt him.” Even the falsest hearts will man's offence was equal, if not more; be- have the plausiblest mouths : like to Solocause he should have had more strength of mon's courtezan, “ Their lips drop as an resistance, more grace not to tempt? Was honeycomb, and their mouth is smoother it out of necessity ? perhaps the man, know-than oil; but their end is bitter as worming his danger, made use of strength to shift | wood." away, and violently break from his appre. False and hollow Pharisees ! he is your henders. Or was it out of cunning, in that Master whom ye serve, not he whom ye they hoped for more likely matter to accuse tempt: only in this shall he be approved your Christ, in the case of the woman than of Master, that he shall pay you your wages, the man ? for that they supposed his merci- and give you your portion with hypocrites. ful disposition might more probably incline The act of adultery was her crime: to be to compassionate her weakness rather than taken in the very act, was no part of her the stronger vessel? Or was it rather out sin, but the proof of her just conviction ; of partiality ? was it not then, as now, that yet her deprehension is made an aggrava. the weakest soonest suffers, and impotency tion of her shame. Such is the corrupt lays us open to the malice of an enemy? judgment of the world : to do ill, troubles Small flies hang in the webs, while wasps not men, but to be taken in doing it; unbreak through without control; the wand known filthiness passes away with ease; it and the sheet are for poor offenders, the is the notice that perplexes them, not the great either out-face or out-buy their shame: guilt. But, О foolish sinners, all your pack. - beggarly drunkard is haled to the stocks, I ing and secrecy cannot so contrive it, but that ye shall be taken in the manner; your God spake to Moses." It had been quarrel conscience takes you so, the God of heaven enough to oppose so known a prophet. Still takes you so; and ye shall once find, that I find it the drift of the enemies of truth, your conscience is more than a thousand to set Christ and Moses together by the witnesses, and God more than a thousand ears, in the matter of the Sabbath, of circonsciences.
cumcision, of marriage and divorce ; of the They that complain of the act, urge the use of the law, of justification by the law, punishment: “ Now Moses in the law com of the sense and extent of the law, and manded us that such should be stoned.” where not ? but they shall never be able to Where did Moses bid so ? Surely the par effect it: they two are fast and indissolubie ticularity of this execution was without the friends on both parts for ever ; each speaks book? Tradition and custom enacted it, not for other, each establishes other; they are the law.
subordinate, they cannot be opposite; Moses Indeed, Moses commanded death to both | faithful as a servant, Christ as a son. A the offenders, not the manner of death to faithful servant cannot but be officious to either. By analogy it holds thus: it is flatly the Son. The true use we make of Moses commanded in the case of a damsel be- | is, to be our schoolmaster to teach us, to trothed to a husband, and found not to be whip us unto Christ; the true use we make a virgin ; in the case of a damsel betrothed, of Christ is, to supply Moses: “ By him all who being defiled in the city, cried not : that believe are justified from all things, tradition and custom made up the rest ; from which they could not be justified by obtaining out of this ground, that all adul- the law of Moses.” Thus must we hold in terers should be executed by lapidation. | with both, if we will have our part in either : The ancienter punishment was burning; so shall Moses bring us to Christ, and Christ death always, though in divers forms. I to glory. sname to think, that Christians should slight Had these Pharisees, out of simplicity, that sin which both Jews and Pagans held and desire of resolution in a case of doubt, ever deadly.
moved this question to our Saviour, it had What a mis-citation is this ! " Moses com- | been no less commendable, than now it is manded." The law was God's, not Moses's. blameworthy. If Moses were employed to mediate betwixt O Saviour, whither should we have reGod and Israel, the law is never the more course, but to thine oracle ? thou art the his: he was the hand of God to reach the Word of the Father, the Doctor of the law to Israel, the hand of Israel to take it church: while we hear from others, what from God. We do not name the water from say fathers? what say councils ? let them the pipes, but from the spring. It is not hear from us, “What sayest thou?" for a true Israelite to rest in the second But here it was far otherwise: they came means, but to mount up to the supreme not to learn, but to tempt, and to tempt original of justice. How reverent soever that they might accuse like their father the an opinion was had of Moses, he cannot be devil, who solicits to sin that he may plead thus named without a shameful underva- against us for yieldance. Fain would these luing of the royal law of his Maker. There colleaguing adversaries draw Christ to conis no mortal man whose authority may tradict Moses, that they might take advannot grow into contempt: that of the ever- | tage of his contradiction. living God cannot but be ever sacred and | On the one side they saw his readiness inviolable. It is now with the gospel, as to tax the false glosses which their preit was then with the law : the word is no sumptuous doctors had put upon the law, other than Christ's, though delivered by with an “ I say unto you;" on the other, our weakness ;- whosoever be the crier, they saw his inclination to mercy and com. the proclamation is the King of heaven's. miseration in all his courses, so far as to While it goes for ours, it is no marvel if it neglect even some circumstances of the law lie open to despite.
as to touch the leper, to heal on the Sab. How captious a word is this ! Moses bath, to eat with known sinners, to dismiss said thus, " What sayest thou?" If they be | an infamous but penitent offender, to select not sure that Moses said so, why do they and countenance two noted publicans; and affirm it? and if they be sure, why do they hereupon they might perhaps think that bis question that which they know decided ? compassion might draw him to cross this They would not have desired a better ad- | Mosaical institution. vantage, than a contradiction to that re- What a crafty bait is here laid for our ceived lawgiver. It is their profession, “ We Saviour! such as he cannot bite at, and not are Moses' disciples,” and “ we know that be taken. It seems to them impossible he should avoid a deep prejudice either to his | He says not, Let her be stoned ; this had justice or mercy. For thus they imagine : been against the course of his mercy: he either Christ will second Moses in sen- says not, Let her not be stoned; this had tencing this woman to death, or else he been against the law of Moses. Now be so will cross Moses in dismissing her unpu- answers, that both his justice and mercy nished. If he commands her to be stoned, are entire; she dismissed, they shamed. he loses the honour of his clemency and It was the manner of the Jews, in those mercy; if he appoints her dismission, he heinous crimes that were punished with loses the honour of his justice. Indeed, lapidation, that the witnesses and accusers strip him of either of these, and he can be should be the first that should lay hands no Saviour.
upon the guilty: well doth our Saviour, O the cunning folly of vain men, that therefore, choke these accusers with the hope to beguile Wisdom itself!
conscience of their so foul incompetency. Silence and neglect shall first confound with what face, with what heart, could they those men, whom after his answer will send stone their own sin in another person? away convicted. Instead of opening his Honesty is too mean a term. These mouth, our Saviour bows his body; and Scribes and Pharisees were noted for extrainstead of returning words from his lips, ordinary and admired holiness: the outside writes characters on the ground with his of their lives was not only inoffensive, but finger. O Saviour, I had rather silently saint-like and exemplary. Yet that all. wonder at thy gesture, than inquire curi- seeing eye of the Son of God, which “found riously into the words thou wrotest, or the folly in the angels," hath much more found mysteries of thus writing; only herein I see wickedness in these glorious professors. It thou meanest to show a disregard to these is not for nothing, that “his eyes are like malicious and busy cavillers. Sometimes a flame of fire." What secret is there taciturnity and contempt are the best an. which he searches not? Retire yourselves, swers. Thou that hast bidden us “Be wise ye foolish sinners, into your inmost as serpents,” givest us this noble example closets, yea, (if you can) into the centre of thy prudence. It was most safe that of the earth : his eye follows you, and ob. these tempters should be thus kept fasting serves all your carriages; no bolt, no bar, with a silent disrespect, that their eagerness no darkness, can keep him out. No thief might justly draw upon them an ensuing was ever so impudent as to steal in the shame.
very face of the judge; O God, let me see The more unwillingness they saw in myself seen by thee, and I shall not dare Christ to give his answer, the more pressing to offend. and importunate they were to draw it from Besides, notice, here is exprobration. him. Now, as forced by their so zealous These men's sins, as they had been secret, irritation, our Saviour rouseth up himself so they were forgotten. It is long since and gives it them home, with a reprehen- | | they were done; neither did they think to sory and stinging satisfaction: “He that is have heard any more news of them. And without sin among you, let him first cast a now, when time and security had quite stone at her;" - as if his very action had worn them out of thought, he, that shall said, I was loath to have shamed you, and once be their Judge, calls them to a backtherefore could have been willing not to reckoning. have heard your ill-meant motion; but One time or other shall that just God since you will needs have it, and by your lay our sins in our dish, and make us posvehemence force my justice, I must tell you, sess the sins of our youth. “These things there is not one of you but is as faulty as thou didst, and I kept silence, and thou she whom you accuse; there is no differ. thoughtst that I was like unto myself; but ence, but that your sin is smothered in I will reprove thee, and set them in order secrecy, hers is brought forth into the light. before thee." The penitent man's sin lies Ye had more need to make your own peace before him for his humiliation ; the impeby an humble repentance, than to urge nitent's, for his shame and confusion. severity against another. I deny not but The act of sin is transient; not so the Moses hath justly from God imposed the guilt; that will stick by us, and return upon penalty of death upon such heinous of us, either in the height of our security, or fences, but what then would become of the depth of our misery, when we shall be you? if death be her due, yet not by those least able to bear it. How just may it be your unclean hands; your hearts know you with God to take us at advantages, and then are not honest enough to accuse.
to lay his arrest upon us when we are laid Lo, not the bird, but the fowler, is taken. I up upon a former suit!
It is but just there should be a requisi. | their sins from the mouth of Christ, than tion of innocence in them that prosecute they are gone. Had they been sincerely the vices of others. The offender is worthy touched with a true remorse, they would of stoning, but who shall cast them: how ill have rather come to him upon their knees, would they become hands as guilty as her and have said, Lord, we know and find that own! what do they but smite themselves, thou knowest our secret sins; this argues who punish their own offences in other thy divine omniscience. Thou that art able men? Nothing is more unjust or absurd, to know our sins, art able to remit them. than for the beam to censure the mote, the O pardon the iniquities of thy servants ! oven to upbraid the kiln. It is a false and Thou that accusest us, do thou also acquit vagrant zeal that begins not first at home. | us! But now, instead hereof, they turn their
Well did our Saviour know how bitter back upon their Saviour, and haste away. and strong a pill he had given to these false | An impenitent man cares not how little justiciaries: and now he will take leisure he hath, either of the presence of God, or to see how it wrought. While, therefore, of the mention of his sins. O fools ! if ye he gives time to them to swallow it, and could run away from God, it were someput it over, he returns to his old gesture what; but, while ye move in him, what do of a seeming inadvertency. How sped the ye? whither go ye? ye may run from his receipt?
mercy; ye cannot but run upon his judgI do not see any of them stand out with ment. Christ, and plead his own innocency; and Christ is left alone; alone in respect of vet these men, which is very remarkable, these complainants, not alone in respect of placed the fulfilling or violation of the law the multitude. There yet stands the mournonly in the outward act. Their hearts mis- ful adulteress: she might have gone forth gave them, that if they should have stood with them, nobody constrained her stay ; out in contestation with Christ, he would but that which sent them away, staid her have utterly shamed them, by displaying - conscience. She knew her guiltiness was their old and secret sins; and have so con- publicly accused, and durst not be by her. vinced them by undeniable circumstances, self denied : as one that was therefore fasthat they should never have clawed off the tened there by her own guilty heart, she reproach; and therefore, “when they heard stirs not till she may receive a dismission. it, being convicted by their own conscience, Our Saviour was not so busy in writing, they went out one by one, beginning at the but that he read the while the guilt and ab. eldest, even unto the last."
sence of those accusers; he that knew what There might seem to be some kind of they had done, knew no less what they did, mannerly order in this guilty departure; not what they would do. Yet, as if the matter all at once, lest they should seem violently had been strange to him, “ he lifts up himchased away by this charge of Christ; now self, and says, Woman, where are thy actheir slinking away “one by one,” may seem cusers ?" to carry a show of a deliberate and volun- How well was this sinner to be left there! tary discession. The eldest first : the an. Could she be in a safer place than before cienter is fitter to give than take example: the tribunal of a Saviour? might she have and the younger could think it no shame to chosen her refuge, whither should she rather follow the steps of a grave foreman. have fled ? O happy we, if, when we are
O wonderful power of conscience! man convinced in ourselves of our sins, we can can no more stand out against it, than it can set ourselves before that Judge who is our stand out against God. The Almighty, Surety, our Advocate, our Redeemer, our whose substitute is set in our bosom, sets Ransom, our Peace! it on work to accuse. It is no denying, Doubtless, she stood doubtful betwixt when that says we are guilty; when that hope and fear: hope, in that she saw her condemns us, in vain are we acquitted by accusers gone ; fear, in that she knew wl.at the world. With what bravery did these she had deserved: and now, while she hypocrites come to set upon Christ! with trembles in expectation of a sentence, she what triumph did they insult upon that hears, “ Woman, where are thy accusers." guilty soul! Now they are thunder-struck Wherein our Saviour intends the satis. with their own conscience, and drop away faction of all the hearers, of all the be.. confounded; and well is he that can run holders, that they might apprehend the away farthest from his own shame. No guiltiness, and therefore the unfitness of the wicked man needs to seek out of himself for accusers; and might well see there was no a judge, accuser, witness, tormentor. warrantable ground of his farther proceed.
No sooner do these hypocrites hear of | ing against her.
Two things are necessary for the execution of a malefactor - evidence, sentence; CONTEMPLATION XVI. — THE THANKFUL the one from witnesses, the other from the
PENITENT. judge. Our Saviour asks for both. The accusation and proof must draw on the sen One while I find Christ invited bę a tence; the sentence must proceed upon the | publican, now by a Pharisee. Wherever be evidence of the proof: “Where are thy went, he made better cheer than he found, accusers ? hath no man condemned thee?" | in a happy exchange of spiritual repast for Had sentence passed legally upon the adul- bodily." teress, doubtless our Saviour would not Who knows not the Pharisees to have have acquited her: for, as he would not been the proud enemies of Christ; mes intrude upon others' offices, so he would | over-conceited of themselves, contemptunot cross or violate the justice done by | ous of others, severe in show, hypocrites in others. But now, finding the coast clear, deed, strict sectaries, insolent justiciaries; he says, “ Neither do I condemn thee.” yet here one of them in vites Christ, and
What, Lord! dost thou then show favour that in good earnest. The man was not, to foul offenders ? art thou rather pleased like his fellows, captious, not ceremonious: that gross sins should be blanched, and had he been of their stamp, the omission sent away with a gentle connivancy? Far, of washing the feet had been mortal. No far be this from the perfection of thy jus- profession hath not yielded some good: tice. He that hence argues adulteries not Nicodemus and Gamaliel were of the same punishable by death, let him argue the strain. Neither is it for nothing that tbe unlawfulness of dividing of inheritances; | Evangelist, having branded this sect for because, in the case of the two wrangling despising the counsel of God against them. brethren, thou saidst,“ Who made me a selves, presently subjoins this history of divider of inheritances ?" thou declinedst the Simon the Pharisee, as an exempt man. office, thou didst not dislike the act, either | O Saviour, thou canst find out good Phaof parting lands, or punishing offenders. risees, good publicans, yea, a good thief Neither was here any absolution of the wo. upon the cross; and that thou mayest find, man from a sentence of death, but a dismis thou canst make them so. sion of her from thy sentence, which thou At the best, yet he was a Pharisee, knewest not proper for thee to pronounce. whose table thou here refusedst not. So Herein hadst thou respect to thy calling, didst thou, in wisdom and mercy, attemper and to the main purpose of thy coming into thyself, as to “become all things to all men, the world, which was neither to be an ar. that thou mightst win some." Thy harbiter of civil causes, nor a judge of criminal, binger was rough; as in clothes, so in disbut a Saviour of mankind : not to destroy position, professedly harsh and austere: the body, but to save the soul. And this thyself wert mild and sociable: so it was fit was thy care in this miserable offender : for both. He was a preacher of penance, “Go, and sin no more." How much more thou the author of comfort and salvation : doth it concern us to keep within the bounds he made way for grace, thou gavest it. of our vocation, and not to dare to trench Thou hast bidden as to follow thyself, not upon the functions of others ! How can we thy forerunner. That, then, which politios ever enough magnify thy mercy, who takest and time-servers do for earthly advantages, no pleasure in the death of a sinner? who we will do for spiritual ; frame ourselves so camest to save, that thou challengest us to all companies, not in evil, but in pood, of unkindness for being miserable: “Why yea, in indifferent things. What wonder will ye die, O house of Israel ?"
is it, that thou, who camest down from But, O Son of God, though thou wouldst heaven to frame thyself to our nature, not then be a judge, yet thou wilt once be: shouldst, whilst thou wert on earth, frame thou wouldst not in thy first coming judge thyself to the several dispositions of med? the sins of men, thou wilt come to judge Catch not at this, 0 ye licentious hypothem in thy second. The time shall come, crites, men of all hours, that can eat with when upor that just and glorious tribunal gluttons, drink with drunkards, sing with thou shalt judge every man according to ribalds, scoff with profane scorners, and ser his works. That we may not one day hear talk holily with the religious, as if ye had thee say, “ Go, ye cursed," let us now hear hence any colour of your changeable coo. thee say, “Go, sin no more."
formity to all fashions. Our Saviour never sinned for any man's sake, though for our
sakes he was sociable, that he might keep I us from sinning. Can ye so converse with