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Luke 7:2 . A certain centurion’s servant. As soon as this officer heard of Christ, he believed in him, having been assured of the miracles by competent witnesses. Being a gentile, he sent the rulers to Christ, to ask mercy on behalf of a favourite domestic.
Luke 7:5 . He hath built us a synagogue. Works done for God are sure in the issue to receive a divine reward; and they who shelter his flock on earth shall find a sanctuary in his kingdom, provided that their piety be sincere.
Luke 7:9 . I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. The jews had at that time a general notion that they must touch the Saviour, in order to receive a cure; but here is a faith that the Saviour’s healing virtue was unlimited, either as to case or distance. This surpassed Martha’s faith, when she said, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. John 11:21-32. It is added in Matthew, “As thou hast believed, so let it be done to thee;” and his servant was found restored to his wonted vigour.
Luke 7:11 . A city called Nain. Bochart describes this little city as situate between mount Tabor, Nazareth, and mount Hermon the less.
Luke 7:12 . There was a dead man carried out. Grace met the widowed mother following her only son to the grave. Grace came opportunely, as in the case of Elijah and Elisha, to other afflicted mothers. Grace said, weep not; the grave shall restore its dead, and in the highest perfection of beauty. Jesus is never unmindful of the widow’s tears.
Luke 7:14 . He came and touched the bier, and bade the dead arise, as he had bidden all nature rise in the first creation. Though the passing away of the living to join the sleeping dead must not be interrupted, yet for once the Saviour would disclose his power and grace. Oh touch my dead heart with thy quickening power and love, that I may rise and live for thee.
Luke 7:18 . The disciples of John came to him in the castle of Macherath. Matthew 11:2. Mark 6:0.
Luke 7:37 . A woman is the city which was a sinner. I can by no means admit the conjecture that this was Mary Magdalene, for she is mentioned by name immediately after this narrative, and as quite another person. Neither could it be Mary, sister of Lazarus, for she was not an inhabitant of “the city,”
but of Bethany, a village; and she anointed the Lord six days before his crucifixion, which farther distinguishes the similarity of the action in point of time. It was usual with the jews to anoint at feasts, as in Psalms 23:5. Thou spreadest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. It was likewise usual for the master of the house to receive his guests with a kiss. See Calmet on Jewish Festivals.
Luke 7:50 . Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace. Father Cheminais, whose sermons Ostervald admits have abundance of unction, at the close of his sermon on this woman, asks his hearers, (and his interrogations I beg leave to translate)
“Why does not such a conversion convert you? What hinders your giving up your hearts to the Lord? What occasions the delay? Do you say, I await grace? I await the happy moment which shall break all my chains? What, sinners, and are not the truths I have just announced, grace sufficient for you? But what, I pray, is the grace which you expect? It is illumination in the mind, it is an ardour in the will. And does not the striking example just set before you diffuse light the most cheering, and afford motives the most powerful that can be presented you from without? You await grace! Dare you say that grace is withheld, after the sentiments with which the Lord has inspired you by my mouth. Dare you blaspheme against providence, which assures you that God wills your conversion, and you will it not? ‘How often,’ he says, ‘would, I have gathered you, and you would not.’ Matthew 23:37.
“But you await a grace more efficacious; that is, you insult God by the allegation, that he invites you, but not sufficiently; and your heart does not yield to solicitations so weak. Oh ungrateful race! His seeking you is of small account, while your apathy presumes to prescribe to him the manner in which he must draw you from your sins.
“You hope to receive grace more efficacious; and what are the ways you take to obtain it, but those of hardening your heart against all its first attractions. Of how many gracious feelings were you once susceptible, which to-day make no impression on your heart. A death unforeseen, the perfidy of a woman, a mortification, an example of conversion, once occasioned serious reflections. Grace in the early ardours of youth found the avenues of your heart; but now nothing strikes you; and yet you await grace. What illusion!
“But a word more. What is the grace which you expect? A grace which shall irresistibly accomplish the work of your conversion? Another chimera. Is there any grace, how strong soever it may be, whose effects are not dependent on the coöperation of man. Now, while you expect such a grace, your goodness does not deign to act: therefore, while you delay, your conversion is impossible.
“But you await a victorious grace, which shall vanquish nature, and whose attractive sweetness shall turn you to piety without trouble, without pain, without conflict. Another illusion. The heart does not change all at once from its objects of delight, without doing violence to itself. The strong-armed man who is in possession of your heart, will dispute the entrance of grace; he will dearly sell his defeat. He must be fought, he must be vanquished by force. We do not make so easy a transition from nature to grace. It is requisite that the victory should cost a battle, and that the storm should presede the calm. Grace indeed softens the heart, but does not supersede labour.
“However efficacious, however persuasive the attractions of grace might be which converted St. Augustine, what conflicts did he not sustain in disengaging his heart from vice. With what perplexities was he not agitated. What horror of himself. What dread at the very idea of a change. What regret at what he was about to quit. What fear of the future, what reluctance, what irresolution. What discord of sentiment held not his mind floating in a continual state of uncertainty. One must take upon one’s self to do the greatest violence to correspond with the calls of grace; and yet you pretend that conversion shall cost you nothing!
“You await grace. Oh heaven! And what is the manner of your awaiting it? In resisting it in fighting against it in shutting up all the avenues of your heart against its entrance. Are you young? This is the season of pleasure; one must wait for maturer age. Have you attained to that maturer age? You have now the calls of business, and must defer till future years. Are you in health? This is not the time to dream of religion. Are you sick? Yes; but things are not yet come to extremities. Does the good example of others reproach you? It is hypocrisy, it is constraint. A sudden death, does it admonish you? It was a person in a bad state of health, or far advanced in years. Does a virtuous action edify you? You empoison it: in a word, whatever grace God may confer, you stifle it in the birth; and meanwhile you await grace.
“This being the case, it is not divine illumination, it is not the drawing of the Spirit, which are become useless; it is not our sermons, it is not pastoral advice; these are lost. It is not the favoured time of mercy and salvation, it is not the solemn festivals of the church. These you suffer to pass away, under the idle pretences of awaiting grace; and as to myself, I declare that I await your conversion no longer.”
To a wicked and profligate world, the case of this woman must be highly interesting: for the sinner and his God must have a reckoning, and settle the long account either for mercy or for judgment, However long he may evade his conscience, he must ultimately yield to an arrest of justice, And if it be true, that the law of God extends to the thoughts of the heart, it must be a case of great interest to the sinner of higher reputation.
The case of a woman who has lost her character is still more instructive. She is placed in a deplorable situation. She can enjoy no company but the dregs of society. Nor is the brand less opprobrious, in a moral view, on her seducer; though his professional duties and other affairs may still retain him exterior respect. See Reflections, Proverbs 7:0.
The gates of repentance are open to the worst of sinners who turn in due time. We are not told how this woman was brought to repentance; yet it is natural to presume that Christ’s preaching had reached her heart. He had opened the purity and glory of the law, he had traced crimes from the first emotion of passion to perpetration; and the mirror of truth confounded the culprits by a full portrait of themselves. In this mirror the woman recognized herself. She saw her sins, and abhorred the scene. She was overwhelmed with guilt, and shame, and grief. She knew not which way to go for comfort; but impelled by anguish, she took the bold and laudable resolution to prostrate in silence at his feet who had seemed to preach to her alone. Salvation was her sole errand and grand concern, the anointing of the Lord was simply a pretext of decency. It is good therefore for sinners to hear the gospel, for God may yet grant them repentance unto life; and it is equally good for persons entangled in the snares of sin, to ask advice of those who are able to instruct them in cases of conscience, and the great concerns of salvation. It is also a fact that the pharisee, or fifty- pense debtor, has the same need to come with tears for a pardon as the most unhappy of the human kind. We are all of one mass, and though education may have saved us from some of the more scandalous sins, we are all guilty in the sight of God.
The mercy of God to contrite sinners exceeds the conceptions of men, and the expectations of the penitent. Christ suffers such sinners to approach him, to touch him, and to weep at his feet. Happy omen of pardon. When justice has forbearance to hear all the sad tale; when redeeming love listens to all these sighs, is witness to all these tears, and protestations of future purity, vengeance drops her aspect, and Satan has lost his prey.
Christ will advocate the cause of sinners truly contrite, how great soever their crimes have been. While the rigid pharisee changed his reverence of this great prophet, as he thought the Lord to be, and indulged in secret contempt, and while all the company was silent, behold Jesus pleads the cause of this reputed harlot. But he advocates her cause with fairness and equity. She had prostrated, she had washed his feet with tears, she had wiped them with her hair, she had anointed, she had kissed his feet. Simon had showed no such marks of love.
Sinners, come and see this glorious sight; come and see an emanation of godhead steal from the Son of man. He tells his murmuring host the thoughts of his heart. He endeavours to gain him by the fair argument of the two debtors; he does more, he astonishes the penitent with grace greater than expectation. He says, her sins which are many are forgiven. He crystalizes all the large flowing tears into gems of joy. He causes a full tide of heaven to irradiate her countenance, exciting adorations of praise and love, which none can know but by the like approach to Christ The greatest offenders may receive a full assurance of pardon. This is often done by a promise whispered to the heart, as now in the ears of this woman; but it is always one by a manifestation of God’s forgiving love shed abroad in the heart. The consciousness of pardon is more than a counterpoise to the consciousness of guilt. She loved much. Hence when a penitent is favoured with this inward witness and sentiment of divine mercy, he loves God and all mankind with an expansion of soul he never knew before. He enters into the sanctity of God, clothes himself with his glory, and tramples on his former sins.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11