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Pharisee had censured him, in his own thoughts, for suffering this woman to come near him; but Jesus had shown that if her offences had been great, her gratitude for the hope of forgiveness had been proportionately great; and that, therefore, she was a sincere penitent, which justified his conduct towards her.
But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
Jesus, knowing what passed in the mind of this woman, as he had before known what passed in the mind of the Pharisee, by those extraordinary gifts which he possessed, and perceiving that she was sincerely contrite for her offences, assures her that they are forgiven by God.
49. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this, that forgiveth sins also?
These Jews thought that it was God only, who knew the hearts of men, that was qualified to assure any one that his sins were forgiven; and not being aware that Jesus possessed this knowledge, they thought it presumption in him to use the language which he addressed to the woman. Lest she should be embarrassed with the doubts which the rest of the company expressed, by their looks if not by their words, of the authority of Jesus for what he said, he repeats his assurance, mentioning at the same time the means by which it had been procured, as an inducement to others to follow her example.
50. And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.
By believing Jesus to be sent from God, and attending to his instructions, she had been induced to repent of her sins, and was hereby saved from the punishment which, if unrepented of, they would have brought upon her.
1. Let us rejoice in the view here given us of the pardoning mercy of God. In exercising that attribute towards sinners, he is like a creditor, who, having two debtors that had nothing to pay, freely forgave them both: not, as some have represented him, like a creditor, who, when the debtor had nothing to pay himself, required others to pay for him, and will remit nothing of his demand, unless he receives an equivalent. That representation is as inconsistent with the language of Scripture, as it is with the nature of mercy. These Sacred Writings always speak of God as forgiving freely, when men repent of their sins, and sincerely desire it, without regard to any future consideration to be received, or any thing to be done by another: remitting a larger debt, as readily as a smaller; one of five hundred pence, as soon as one of fifty. The number or magnitude of men's sins makes no difference to him, if they are sincerely repented of. Let this consideration chear and encourage those whose minds are at present oppressed with a consciousness of the long continuance or enormity of their offences. Go to the God of mercy, and say to him, that you are truly sorry for what you have done; that henceforward you will cease to do evil, and learn to do well; and then, although your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; although they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
2. Let those who have been forgiven much, remember that they ought to love much. In proportion as their past conduct has been irregular and disorderly, ought their sorrow to be deep and poignant, their humility unfeigned and their gratitude fervent, if they hope for forgiveness. This is nothing more than what God
may reasonably and justly expect. For the greater their guilt has been, the more reason have they to be grieved and ashamed for having contracted it; the more important the favour bestowed, the greater are their obligations to him from whom it comes. It is just and equitable in itself, and it is also necessary to their suc cess in the work of reformation: for the farther they have gone in sin, the more difficult for them it will be to trace back their steps. The greater their crimes and the more inveterate their habits, the more difficult it is to abandon them. If, therefore, their sorrow for sin and their gratitude for the hope of forgiveness, be not more than ordinary, they will not be sufficient to accomplish their deliverance. A degree of penitence and contrition, which may reclaim men of less guilt, and induce them to persevere in a virtuous course, may be consistent with their ruin. Let those who have sinned much examine themselves by this rule; if their tears and their exertions are not in proportion to the heinousness of their past offences, they have reason for the greatest alarm.
3. The conduct of Jesus towards this penitent well deserves our notice, as displaying the excellence of his temper, and affording a good example for us to imitate. Instead of driving from his presence one whose conduct had been irregular, or rejecting with disdain the expressions of respect which she offered, as the proud and self-conceited Pharisee would have done, he permits her to approach him, and accepts of her attentions as marks of gratitude: instead of reproaching her for her faults, and terrifying her with threatenings of punishment, he endeavours to quiet those apprehensions which he perceived to be already awakened, kindly assures her that her sins, although many, are forgiven, and bids her go in peace, enjoying the comfort of these assurances.Such was the humanity and tenderness of Jesus to an afflicted penitent, and so well did he fulfil the character given of him by the prophet; " A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench." Let us learn from his example not to shun the company of immoral persons, where they give signs of repentance
by reformation of conduct, and not to upbraid them harshly with their errors, lest we increase the anguish of a wounded spirit, and drive repentance to despair; thus extinguishing the spark of virtue, beginning to revive. But let us rather endeavour to quiet their fears and apprehensions, where it can be done upon good grounds, and give them every encouragement which kindness and tenderness can afford, to return to the path of virtue. It was thus that Jesus acted; and we cannot do better than imitate such a pattern.
Luke viii. 4-15. corresponds with Matt. xiii. 3-23.
v. 13. x. 26. xiii. 12.
X. 1-15. xiv. 1, 2. 13-21.
x. 38, 39.
xvii. 1- 9. 14-18.
Luke ix. 49-56.
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out dæmons in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
It appears from Matt. xii. 26, 27. that the Jews, of rather the disciples of the Pharisees, professed to cast out dæmons; for Jesus says, in reply to their objections, "If I by Beelzebub cast out dæmons, by whom do your children," that is, disciples, "cast them out?" They undertook, it seems, in the name of the God of Abraham, to order dæmons to depart from persons who were thought to be possessed by them; although they did not succeed in their attempts: for Jesus is only arguing with them upon their own principles, and reproaching them with their inconsistency, in imputing his cure of dæmoniacs to Beelzebub, when they ascribed to God the pretended success of their own exorcisms. Some person, observing what extraordinary success Jesus had in curing dæmoniacs, and what power he seemed to possess over evil spirits, attempted to perform the like miracles, by using over those who were supposed to be possessed, the name of Jesus, or by ordering the dæmons to depart from them in his name. These pretences imposed upon some persons, who were induced to believe that they performed real cures by these means, and might deceive some of the apostles themselves. This account of this matter appears to me more probable than that which supposes that a real miracle was wrought here; since we find that a similar attempt, mentioned Acts xix. 13, where Jews, who had received no commission from Jesus or the apostles, adjure evil spirits to depart, in the name of Jesus whom Paul preached, appears to have utterly failed by the most incontrovertible evidence: for the lunatic was so far from being cured, that he leaped upon his exorcists, and overcame them; and they fled out of the house, naked and wounded; and it is not likely that the power of working a miracle, which was denied in the one case, would be granted in the other, which seems to have been exactly of the same kind: for this man had no authority from Jesus, nor any connection with his disciples. John, and some other of the apostles, seeing hin perform what they thought real cures of dæmoniacs, by the name of their master, without any autho rity from him, became jealous for his and their own honour; because what had hitherto been peculiar to