Page images

hind 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.' This woman was said to be a sinnerprobably she was generally known as such. She had heard of the fame of Jesus, and of his tenderness to sinners, and learning that he was at the house of Simon, she obtruded herself upon his presence. She brought an alabaster box of ointment. In eastern countries, where the climate is very hot, perfumes are in frequent use; and it was usual to anoint the heads of such as were thought worthy of distinguished attention, with some kind of perfume. She is said, in the common version, to have stood at his feet, behind him, weeping. How was it possible, while Jesus sat at the table, that the woman could stand at his feet behind him? Dr. Campbell says, "she must in that case have been under the table. The chairs on which the guests were seated, would have effectually precluded access from behind." The difficulty is removed, if we reflect, that the Jews did not sit when they took their meals, but reclined upon couches. by which the table was surrounded, so that their feet extended out from the table on every side. In this position the feet were presented to any person who approached the table from without.1 The woman began to wash his feet with tears. The Jews wore no stockings, as we do; and before they reclined on their couches at meals, they put off their sandals, which had no upper leather, and were tied about with strings called latchets. Frequent washing of the feet was therefore necessary, and as a matter of civility, the feet

1 This subject is considered at large in Campbell's Prelim. Diss. viii. p. iii. sec. 3-6.

of visitors were washed by the Jews-a civility, however, that the Pharisee had neglected to shew to Jesus. The penitent sinner, who had entered the house, poured upon the feet of Jesus a flood of tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.' These were all expressions of high respect and


Verse 40. 'Now when the Pharisee which had bidden 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.' This was the test with Simon. Holy people, as he supposed, would have no intercourse with the unholy, not so much as to be even touched by them. Jesus did not drive this sinner from his presence with indignation, he permitted her to wash and anoint his feet, and this was sufficient to convince Simon, that he was not a prophet, but a vile impostor. These were his secret musings, and conclusions. Jesus knowing his thoughts said, ver. 40, I have some. what to say unto thee.' He rejoined, Master, say on;' and then Jesus spoke the parable before us. "There was a certain creditor, which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both."


It will now be perceived at once, that Jesus uttered this parable to justify his own conduct in relation to the woman, to produce in Simon the feeling of self-condemnation, and to shew him, that although he thought this woman a very great sinner, and although she actually was a sinner, yet he was the greater sinner of the two. After showing that the creditor fully and frankly forgave both his



debtors, Jesus asks Simon this question: tell me, therefore, which will love him most.' Ver. 42. The case was so evident, that Simon could not but answer correctly, and just as Jesus intended he should answer-and in a manner too directly cal culated to condemn himself 'I suppose that he to whom he forgave nost.' Ver. 43. To this Jesus. says, thou has rightly judged,' and immediately proceeds to make the application. He contrasts the coldness with which Simon had received him, with the warmth of this woman's love; and love and gratitude being the essence of pure religion, he had made Simon acknowledge, in the case of the forgiven debtor, that as the woman had had more sins forgiven, and therefore loved more than he, so he, of course, was the greater sinner of the two. He said unto Simon, 'seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet.' Thou didst not receive me with customary civility. But she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss,' the usual sign of welcome, but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore, I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven; therefore1 she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven the same loveth little.' Vers. 44-47. Here the case stood before Simon in such a form as would enable him to understand it. The parable was framed for his benefit, and intended to suit his views of himself. In his own estimation he had sinned little, and he was the debtor who owed



1 I follow the best commentators in rendering oti therefore. See Bp. Pearce, A. Clarke, Kenrick, Campbell, Whitby, Hammond, &c

fifty pence. The woman, as he thought, had sinned much, and she was the debtor who owed five hundred pence. To the question, which would love most, when both were freely forgiven? he answered, he to whom most was forgiven. This was the case of the woman according to Simon's view of her; and therefore he himself had decided, that she loved more than he. Jesus pointed out to him, that this was really the case; and that the woman's conduct justified the conclusion. Simon answered not a word. He stood self-condemned and self-upbraided before Jesus.

The lesson here taught Simon is a humiliating lesson for every Pharisee, and one that they all ought to learn.

Turn Pharisee, thine eyes within,
Nor longer look abroad for sin.'

People of this class can see sins in others, but they never can see any in themselves; and it is often necessary to present their characters, so that they shall not recognize them as their own, in order to procure from them a correct judgment thereon. When Nathan wished David to pass sentence on himself, he showed him his real character, as though it belonged to some other person; and David said immediately, the man that hath done this shall surely die. Simon decided, by the help of the parable, that the outrageous sinner, as he regarded the woman, had, in fact, more love to God than he, and acknowledged the justice of Jesus in receiving her to his presence, and forgiving her sins. Reader, let us really be on our guard, lest we imbibe the spirit of the Pharisees. If we are really better than others, we shall love them, and pity them, and be grateful to God that he hath made us to differ; and we shall not claim a reward

for this, but feel that the debt lies on us, a debt of gratitude-eternal gratitude, love-eternal love.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

MATT. XVIII. 23-34.

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him a hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done,they were very sorry,and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him."

THE object of this parable was to shew the obligation under which men are laid by the kindness and mercy of God to them, to exercise the spirit of forgiveness towards one another; and also to show

« PreviousContinue »