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those who confidently affirm, that an entirely different explanation is to be given of the text. They gravely inform us, that the object of the Saviour, in what he said, was merely to excuse Mary from aiding her sister, by assuring Martha that he had no desire for so great a variety of dishes as she was ambitious of preparing, and would be perfectly contented with a plain and frugal meal, such as could be most easily provided. According to the views of these deep-searching expositors, the language of our Lord may be paraphrased in this manner: “One dish will be quite enough. I ask for no more. Mary has done well in preferring a seat near to me, where she may enjoy the benefit of my instructions, to uniting with you in the vexatious cares of culinary occupations. The part which she has chosen, is a wise and good one, and shall not be taken away from her. Let her therefore sit still, and hear what I am saying.” Of this exposition, notwithstanding the plausibility with which some ingenious writers have endeavoured to invest it, we must uphesitatingly assert, that it is truly what the judicious and pious Matthew Henry styles it, “a low" and "forced construction put upon” the passage.

The Saviour, then, here teaches us that there is one thing which is emphatically needful. What this one thing is, may be inferred with sufficient clearness from the second clause of the text, where he speaks of Mary's having chosen the good part which should not be taken away from her. A comparison of the two members of the sentence leads to the conclusion, that the one thing needful” is the same with the good part which Mary had chosen. Now we have already seen what her choice was. She preferred spiritual to temporal concerns. She deemed it better to sit at the feet of her Lord, and imbibe the heavenly lessons which he delivered, than to lose the

golden opportunity which his presence afforded, of becoming more “ wise unto salvation,” by with drawing from his company, and busying herself about matters comparatively trivial. She acted judiciously. Her conduct was commendable. It deserves universal imitation. The same thing which was pre-eminently needful for her, is equally so for every human being. In short, to adopt the first lines of a well-known hymn

“Religion is the chief concern

Of mortals here below." We must not, however, infer from the language of our Lord on this occasion, that the concerns of our souls cannot be adequately attended to without the neglect of our secular occupations. There is no warrant in the text before us, nor in any other portion of the inspired record, for such an exclusive and absorbing attention to the business of religion, (momentous and all-important though it is,) as incapacitates us for the discharge of inferior duties. In fact, religion itself is not only neglected, but outraged, by those who would make it a cloak for indolence, seeking to excuse themselves from temporal pursuits, under the pretence that their minds are too deeply engrossed with transactions of a spiritual nature. In this sense, there is certainly such a thing as being “ righteous overmuch.” In seasons of high religious excitement, individuals, and perbaps females more particularly, are liable to be carried beyond the bounds of moderation, and to dissipate their thoughts and their time in a round of almost uninterrupted attendance on the exercises of public and social devotion. This circumstance is one of those which unhappily have furnished some ground for the reproach which scoffers have attempted to bring upon what are called “revivals." These are undoubtedly great blessings to the sections of the church to which they are

vouchsafed. But, like all the other bounties of heaven lavished on a corrupt world, they are alloyed in some degree with the noxious effects of human infirmity. Brethren, it is certain, as Solomon has told us, that there is a season for every thing;” and you may readily discern that Martha was censured by her Redeemer, not because she was careful about the affairs of her family, but because she suffered them to exercise an improper ascendency over her mind on an extraordinary occasion, when the great “Teacher come from God” was in her house, and an opportunity of religious improvement was presented, such as she might rarely again enjoy. On the same ground, Mary was commended for not allowing an ill-timed anxiety in relation to household concernments, to force her from the company of Him, “ who spake as never man spake.”

But the point now adverted to, is one on which it is not necessary to be very prolix. The opposite error is by far more common, as well as more generally dangerous. It happens comparatively seldom, that men neglect the concerns of time for those of eternity. Frequently, however, do we see them neglecting the concerns of eternity for those of time. The case of Martha is less rare than that of Mary. We would not, indeed, be understood as intimating by this remark, that Martha was not a truly pious woman, for we believe that on the whole she was. Our object is simply to say, that her conduct in being careful and troubled about many things,” is more in accordance with the way of the multitude, than that of Mary, who pursued just the opposite course.

It is not to be denied, that the cares of the world steal away even from the best of Christians, a portion of that time which should have been devoted to the performance of the duties having the Deity immediately for their object. The petty con


cerns of life—the thousand little items continually recurring in the transaction of domestic affairs,—too often interfere with our religious exercises, and thwart our pious resolves. This observation is emphatically true in respect to females; or, at least in respect to those females, who, like Martha, occupy the arduous post of housekeeper. They are so frequently “cumbered," or as the original term literally implies, “distracted with much serving"—they are subject to such various and nameless vexations arising from the perverseness of servants, and similar causes, that they cannot but realize the difficulty (insuperable, were it not for the allsufficient grace of God) of combining, with a due attention to inferior duties, a paramount regard for the “ one thing needful.” It is an easy matter to smile at these peculiar trials of the female sex; and, perhaps, a moderate share of judicious satire will be taken in good part, and can do them no harm. But we should always remember, that the difficulties with which they bave to contend are real, and the profoundest philosopher of the age has averred, that " it is no small panegyric of woman to be mistress of herself, though China fall.”

We have said, that religion is represented by our Lord, in the text, as the one thing needful.” And surely it deserves to be thus represented. Even if we were to look no higher than to its influence on the character and condition of man here below, we should perceive much that serves to demonstrate its supreme importance—its transcendent value. That it is the source of many temporal blessings, may be confidently affirmed. Indeed, this truth seems to be indirectly asserted by the Saviour himself, when he says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you;” where the expression, « all these things,"

refers, as may easily be seen from the context, to such comforts as are contemplated in the questions, “ What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and, wherewithal shall we be clothed ?” The apostle Paul expressly assures us, that “godliness is profitable unto all things, baving the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The Proverbs of Solomon, too, abound with passages of the same tenour. For example, speaking of wisdom, his language is, “ Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and bonoar.” It is true, that some consider passages of this kind as figurative allusions to spiritual blessings. But we are persuaded that they may likewise be understood literally. And we moreover believe, that both reason and experience will bear us out in the assertion, that the general tendency of pure and undefiled religion is to promote the real happiness of man even in this world. It preserves him from those evils wbich attend the unrestrained indulgence of the appetites and passions—it procures for him the esteem and confidence of the community in wbich he moves-it lends dignity and value to all the innocent joys of life.

But religion, viewed in relation to man as a candidate for eternity, is emphatically the one thing needful.” Much might be said in support of this position. We think, however, that its soundness will be sufficiently illustrated and evinced, if we consider, for a single moment, that the duties which religion prescribes, and the blessings which it confers and promises, are precisely accommodated to the condition and the wants of our race.

Let us first look at the duties of religion. These, though multifarious, may be conveniently reduced to three: viz. Repentance, Faith, and general obedience to the revealed will of heaven.

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