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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Luke 7

Verses 11-17

Young Man, Is This For You?

January 15, 1888 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

“And it came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him and much people. Now when He came near to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said unto her, Weep not. And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, Young man I say unto you, Arise. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God has visited His people. And this rumor of Him went forth throughout all Judea and throughout all the region round about.” Luke 7:11-17 . Behold, dear Brethren, the overflowing, ever-flowing power of our Lord Jesus Christ! He had worked a great work upon the centurion’s servant, and now, only a day after, he raises the dead. “It came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain.” Day unto day utters speech concerning His deeds of goodness. Did He save your friend yesterday? His fullness is the same. If you seek Him, His love and grace will flow to you today. He blesses this day and He blesses the day after. Never is our Divine Lord compelled to pause until He has recruited His resources. Virtue goes out of Him forever. These thousands of years have not diminished the greatness of His power to bless. Behold, also, the readiness and naturalness of the outgoings of His life-giving power. Our Savior was journeying and He works miracles while on the road “He went into a city called Nain.” It was incidentally, (some would say accidentally), that He met the funeral procession. But at once He restored to life this dead young man. Our blessed Lord was not standing still, as one professionally called in He does not seem to have come to Nain at anyone’s request for the display of His love. But He was passing through the gate into the city for some reason which is not recorded. See, my Brethren, how the Lord Jesus is always ready to save! He healed the woman who touched him in the throng when He was on the road to quite another person’s house. The mere spilling and droppings of the Lord’s cup of grace are marvelous. Here He gives life to the dead when He is en route. He scatters His mercy by the roadside and anywhere and everywhere His paths drop fatness. No time, no place can find Jesus unwilling or unable. When Baal is on a journey, or sleeps, his deluded worshippers cannot hope for his help. But when Jesus journeys or sleeps, a word will find Him ready to conquer death, or quell the tempest. It was a remarkable incident, this meeting of the two processions at the gates of Nain. If someone with a fine imagination could picture it, what an opportunity he would have for developing his poetical genius! I venture on no such effort. Yonder a procession descends from the city. Our spiritual eyes see death upon the pale horse coming forth from the city gate with great exultation. He has taken another captive. Upon that bier behold the spoils of the dread conqueror! Mourners, by their tears, confess the victory of death. Like a general riding in triumph to the Roman capitol, death bears his spoils to the tomb. What shall hinder him? Suddenly the procession is arrested by another a company of disciples and much people are coming up the hill. We need not look at the company but we may fix our eyes upon One who stands in the center, a Man in whom lowliness was always evident and yet majesty was never wanting. It is the living Lord, even He who only has immortality and in Him death has now met his destroyer. The battle is short and decisive no blows are struck for death has already done his utmost. With a linger the chariot of death is arrested with a word the spoil is taken from the mighty and the lawful captive is delivered. Death flies defeated from the gates of the city, while Tabor and Hermon, which both looked down upon the scene, rejoice in the name of the Lord. This was a rehearsal upon a small scale of that which shall happen by-and-by, when those who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and live then shall the last enemy be destroyed. Only let death come into contact with Him who is our life and it is compelled to relax its hold. Whatever may be the spoil which it has captured, soon shall our Lord come in His glory and then before the gates of the New Jerusalem we shall see the miracle at the gates of Nain multiplied a myriad times. Thus, you see, our subject would naturally conduct us to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which is one of the foundation stones of our most holy faith. That grand Truth of God I have often declared to you and will do so again and again. But at this time I have selected my text for a very practical purpose. It concerns the souls of some for whom I am greatly anxious. The narrative before us records a fact, a literal fact but the record may be used for spiritual instruction. All our Lord’s miracles were intended to be parables they were intended to instruct as well as to impress they are sermons to the eyes, just as His spoken discourses were sermons to the ears. We see here how Jesus can deal with spiritual death. And how He can impart spiritual life at His pleasure. Oh, that we may see this done this morning in the midst of this great assembly! I. I shall ask you first, dear Friends, to reflect that THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD CAUSE GREAT GRIEF TO THEIR GRACIOUS FRIENDS. If an ungodly man is favored to have Christian relatives, he causes them much anxiety. As a natural fact, this dead young man, who was being carried out to his burial, caused his mother’s heart to burst with grief. She showed by her tears that her heart was overflowing with sorrow. The Savior said to her, “Weep not,” because He saw how deeply she was troubled. Many of my dear young friends may be deeply thankful that they have friends who are grieving over them. It is a sad thing that your conduct should grieve them but it is a hopeful circumstance for you that you have those around you who do thus grieve. If all approved of your evil ways, you would, no doubt, continue in them and go speedily to destruction. But it is a blessing that arresting voices do at least a little hinder you. Besides, it may yet be that our Lord will listen to the silent oratory of your mother’s tears and that this morning He may bless you for her sake. See how the Evangelist puts it “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said unto her, Weep not.” And then He said to the young man, “Arise.” Many young persons who are in some respects amiable and hopeful, nevertheless, being spiritually dead, are causing great sorrow to those who love them most. It would perhaps be honest to say that they do not intend to inflict all this sorrow. Indeed, they think it quite unnecessary. Yet they are a daily burden to those whom they love. Their conduct is such that when it is thought over in the silence of their mother’s chamber, she cannot help but weep. Her son went with her to the House of God when he was a boy, but now he finds his pleasure in a very different quarter. Being beyond all control now, the young man does not choose to go with his mother. She would not wish to deprive him of his liberty, but she laments that he exercises that liberty so unwisely. She mourns that he has not the inclination to hear the Word of the Lord and become a servant of his mother’s God. She had hoped that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and unite with the people of God. But he takes quite the opposite course. She has seen a good deal about him lately which has deepened her anxiety he is forming companionships and other connections which are sadly harmful to him. He has a distaste for the quietude of home and he has been exhibiting to his mother a spirit which wounds her. It may be that what he has said and done is not meant to be unkind. But it is very grievous to the heart which watches over him so tenderly. She sees a growing indifference to everything that is good and an unconcealed intention to see the vicious side of life. She knows a little and fears more as to his present state and she dreads that he will go from one sin to another till he ruins himself for this life and the next. O Friends, it is to a gracious heart a very great grief to have an unconverted child. And yet more so if that child is a mother’s boy, her only boy, and she a desolate woman, from whom her husband has been snatched away. To see spiritual death rampant in one so dear is a sore sorrow which causes many a mother to mourn in secret and pour out her soul before God. Many a Hannah has become a woman of a sorrowful spirit through her own child. How sad that he who should have made her the most glad among women has filled her life with bitterness! Many a mother has had to grieve over her son as almost to cry, “Would God he had never been born!” It is so in thousands of cases. If it is so in your case, dear Friend, take home my words to yourself and reflect upon them. The cause of grief lies here we mourn that they should be in such a case. In the story before us the mother wept because her son was dead. And we sorrow because our young friends are spiritually dead. There is a life infinitely higher than the life which quickens our material bodies. And oh, that all of you knew it! You who are unrenewed do not know anything about this true life. Oh, how we wish you did! It seems to us a dreadful thing that you should be dead to God, dead to Christ, dead to the Holy Spirit. It is sad, indeed, that you should be dead to those Divine Truths which are the delight and strength of our souls dead to those holy motives which keep us back from evil and spur us on to virtue. Dead to those sacred joys which often bring us very near the gates of Heaven. We cannot look at a dead man and feel joy in him, whoever he may be a corpse, however delicately dressed, is a sad sight. We cannot look upon you, you poor dead souls, without crying out, “O God, shall it always be so? Shall not these dry bones live? Will You not quicken them?” The Apostle speaks of one who lived in pleasure and he said of her, “She is dead while she lives.” Numbers of persons are dead in reference to all that is true and noble and most Divine. And yet in other respects they are full of life and activity. Oh, to think that they should be dead to God and yet so full of happiness and energy! Marvel not that we grieve about them. We also mourn because we lose the help and comfort which they ought to bring us. This widowed mother no doubt mourned her boy not only because he was dead but because in him she had lost her earthly stay. She must have regarded him as the staff of her age and the comfort of her loneliness. “She was a widow” I question if anybody but a widow understands the full sorrow of that word. We may put ourselves by sympathy into the position of one who has lost her other self, the partner of her life. But the most tender sympathy cannot fully realize the actual cleavage of bereavement and the desolation of love’s loss. “She was a widow” the sentence sounds like a knell. Still, if the sun of her life was gone, there was a star shining. She had a boy, a dear boy, who promised her great comfort. He would, no doubt, supply her necessities and cheer her loneliness and in him her husband would live again and his name would remain among the living in Israel. She could lean on him as she went to the synagogue. She would have him to come home from his work at evening and keep the little home together and cheer her hearth. Alas, that star is swallowed up in the darkness. He is dead and today he is carried to the cemetery. It is the same spiritually with us in reference to our unconverted friends. With regard to you that are dead in sin we feel that we miss the aid and comfort which we ought to receive from you in our service of the living God. We want fresh laborers in all sorts of places in our Sunday school work, our mission among the masses and in all manner of service for the Lord we love! Ours is a gigantic burden and we long for our sons to put their shoulders to it. We looked forward to seeing you grow up in the fear of God and stand side by side with us in the great warfare against evil and in holy labor for the Lord Jesus. But you cannot help us, for you are yourselves on the wrong side. Alas, alas, you hinder us by causing the world to say, “See how those young men are acting!” We have to spend thought and prayer and effort over you which might usefully have gone forth for others. Our care for yonder great dark world which lies all around us is very pressing but you do not share it with us men are perishing from lack of knowledge and you do not help us in endeavoring to enlighten them. A further grief is that we can have no fellowship with them. The mother at Nain could have no communion with her dear son now that he was dead, for the dead know not anything. He can never speak to her, nor she to him, for he is on the bier, “a dead man carried out.” O my Friends, certain of you have dear ones whom you love and they love you. But they cannot hold any spiritual communion with you, nor you with them. You never bow the knee together in private prayer, nor mingle heart with heart in the appeal of faith to God as to the cares which prowl around your home. O young man, when your mother’s heart leaps for joy because of the love of Christ shed abroad in her soul, you cannot understand her joy. Her feelings are a mystery to you. If you are a dutiful son, you do not say anything disrespectful about her religion. But yet you cannot sympathize in its sorrows or its joys. Between your mother and you there is upon the best things a gulf as wide as if you were actually dead on the bier and she stood weeping over your corpse. I remember, in the hour of overwhelming anguish when I feared that my beloved wife was about to be taken from me, how I was comforted by the loving prayers of my two dear sons we had communion not only in our grief but in our confidence in the living God. We knelt together and poured out our hearts unto God and we were comforted. How I blessed God that I had in my children such sweet support! But suppose they had been ungodly young men? I should have looked in vain for holy fellowship and for aid at the Throne of Grace. Alas, in many a household the mother cannot have communion with her own son or daughter on that point which is most vital and enduring because they are spiritually dead while she has been quickened into newness of life by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, spiritual death soon produces manifest causes for sorrow. In the narrative before us the time had come when her son’s body must be buried. She could not wish to have that dead form longer in the home with her. It is a token to us of the terrible power of death that it conquers love with regard to the body. Abraham loved his Sarah. But after a while he had to say to the sons of Heth, “Give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” It happens in some mournful cases that character becomes so bad that no comfort in life can be enjoyed while the erring one is within the home circle. We have known parents who have felt that they could not have their son at home so drunken, so debauched had he become. Not always wisely, yet sometimes almost of necessity, the plan has been tried of sending the incorrigible youth to a distant colony in the hope that when removed from pernicious influences he might do better. How seldom so deplorable an experiment succeeds! I have known mothers who could not think of their sons without feeling pangs far more bitter than those they endured at their birth. Woe, woe to him who causes such heartbreak! What an awful thing it is when love’s best hopes gradually die down into despair and loving desires at last put on mourning and turn from prayers of hope to tears of regret! Words of admonition call forth such passion and blasphemy that prudence almost silences them. Then have we before us the dead young man carried out to his grave. A sorrowful voice sobs out, “He is given unto idols, let him alone.” Am I addressing one whose life is now preying upon the tender heart of her that brought him forth? Do I speak to one whose outward conduct has at last become so avowedly wicked that he is a daily death to those who gave him life? O young man, can you bear to think of this? Are you turned to stone? I cannot yet believe that you contemplate your parents’ heartbreak without bitter feelings. God forbid that you should! We also mourn because of the future of men dead in sin. This mother, whose son had already gone so far in death that he must be buried out of sight, had the further knowledge that something worse would befall him in the sepulcher to which he was being carried. It was impossible for her to think calmly of the corruption which surely follows at the heels of death. When we think of what will become of you who refuse the Lord Christ we are appalled. “After death the judgment.” We could more readily go into details as to a putrid corpse than we could survey the state of a soul lost forever. We dare not linger at the mouth of Hell. But we are forced to remind you that there is a place, “where their worm dies not and the fire is not quenched.” There is a place where those must abide who are driven from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. It is an unendurable thought that you should be, “cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.” I do not wonder that those who are not honest with you are afraid to tell you so and that you try yourself to doubt it. But with the Bible in your hand and a conscience in your bosom you cannot but fear the worst if you remain apart from Jesus and the life He freely gives. If you continue as you are and persevere in your sin and unbelief to the end of life, there is no help for you but that you must be condemned in the Day of Judgment. The most solemn declarations of the Word of God assure you that, “he that believes not shall be damned.” It is heartbreaking work to think that this should be the case with any of you. You prattled at your mother’s knee and kissed her cheek with rapturous love why, then, will you be divided from her forever? Your father hoped that you would take his place in the Church of God how is it that you do not even care to follow him to Heaven? Remember, the day comes when, “one shall be taken, and the other left.” Do you renounce all hope of being with your wife, your sister, your mother at the right hand of God? You cannot wish them to go down to Hell with you have you no desire to go to Heaven with them? “Come, you blessed,” will be the voice of Jesus to those who imitated their gracious Savior. And “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” must be the sentence upon all who refuse to be made like the Lord. Why will you take your part and lot with accursed ones? I do not know whether you find it easy to hear me this morning. I find it very hard to speak to you because my lips are not able to express my heart’s feelings. Oh that I had the forceful utterance of an Isaiah, or the passionate lamentations of a Jeremiah with which to arouse your affections and your fears! Still, the Holy Spirit can use even me, and I beseech Him so to do. But I have said enough on this point. I am sure you see that the spiritually dead cause great grief to those of their family who are spiritually alive. II. Now let me cheer you while I introduce the second head of my discourse, which is this FOR SUCH GRIEF THERE IS ONLY ONE HELPER BUT THERE IS A HELPER. This young man is taken out to be buried. But our Lord Jesus Christ met the funeral procession. Carefully note the “coincidences,” as skeptics call them but as we call them “Providences” of Scripture. This is a fine subject for another time. Take this one case. How came it that the young man died just then? How came it that this exact hour was selected for his burial? Perhaps because it was evening. But even that might not fix the precise moment. Why did the Savior that day arrange to travel five-and-twenty miles, so as to arrive at Nain in the evening? How came it to pass that He happened just then to be coming from a quarter which naturally led Him to enter at that particular gate from which the dead would be carried? See, He ascends the hill to the little city at the same moment when the head of the procession is coming out of the gate! He meets the dead man before the place of sepulture is reached. A little later and he would have been buried. A little earlier and he would have been at home lying in the darkened room and no one might have called the Lord’s attention to him. The Lord knows how to arrange all things His forecasts are true to the tick of the clock. I hope some great purpose is to be fulfilled this morning. I do not know why you, my Friend, came in here on a day when I am discoursing on this particular subject. You did not think to come, perhaps, but here you are. And Jesus has come here, too. He has come here on purpose to meet you and quicken you to newness of life. There is no chance about it eternal decrees have arranged it all and we shall soon see that it is so. You spiritually dead are being met by Him in whom is life eternal. The blessed Savior saw all at a glance. Out of that procession He singled out the chief mourner and read her inmost heart. He was always tender to mothers. He fixed His eye on that widow. For He knew that she was such, without being informed of the fact. The dead man is her only son He perceives all the details and nothing is hid from His infinite mind. O young man, Jesus knows all about you. Jesus, who is invisibly present this morning, fixes His eyes on you at this moment. He has seen the tears of those who have wept for you. He sees that some of them despair of you, and are in their great grief acting like mourners at your funeral. Jesus saw it all and, what was more, entered into it all. Oh, how we ought to love our Lord that He takes such notice of our griefs and especially our spiritual griefs about the souls of others! You, dear Teacher, want your class saved Jesus sympathizes with you. You, dear Friend, have been very earnest to win souls, Know that in all this you are workers together with God. Jesus knows all about our travail of soul and He is at one with us therein. Our travail is only His own travail rehearsed in us, according to our humble measure. When Jesus enters into our work it cannot fail. Enter, O Lord, into my work at this hour, I pray You, and bless this feeble word to my hearers! I know that hundreds of Believers are saying, “Amen.” How this cheers me! Our Lord proved how He entered into the sorrowful state of things by first saying to the widow, “Weep not.” At this moment He says to you who are praying and agonizing for souls, “Do not despair! Sorrow not as those who are without hope! I mean to bless you. You shall yet rejoice over life given to the dead.” Let us take heart and dismiss all unbelieving fear. Our Lord then went to the bier and just laid His finger upon it and they that carried it stood still of their own accord. Our Lord has a way of making bearers stand still without a word. Perhaps, today, yonder young man is being carried further into sin by the four bearers of his natural passions, his infidelity, his bad company, and his love of strong drink. It may be that pleasure and pride, willfulness and wickedness are bearing the four corners of the bier. But our Lord can, by His mysterious power, make the bearers stand still. Evil influences have become powerless, the man knows not how. When they stood quite still, there was a hush. The disciples stood around the Lord, the mourners surrounded the widow and the two crowds faced each other. There was a little space and Jesus and the dead man were in the center. The widow pushed away her veil and gazing through her tears wondered what was going on. The Jews who came out of the city halted as the bearers had done. Hush! Hush! What will HE do? In that deep silence the Lord heard the unspoken prayers of that widow woman. I doubt not that her soul began to whisper, half in hope and half in fear “Oh, that He would raise my son!” At any rate, Jesus heard the flutter of the wings of desire if not of faith. Surely her eyes were speaking as she gazed on Jesus, who had so suddenly appeared. Here let us be as quiet as the scene before us. Let us be hushed for a minute and pray God to raise dead souls at this time. [Here followed a pause, much silent prayer and many tears.] III. That hush was not long, for speedily the Great Quickener entered upon His gracious work. This is our third point JESUS IS ABLE TO WORK THE MIRACLE OF LIFE-GIVING. Jesus Christ has life in Himself and He quickens whom He will (John 5:21 ). Such life is there in Him that “he that lives and believes in Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Our blessed Lord immediately went up to the bier. What lay before Him? It was a corpse. He could derive no aid from that lifeless form. The spectators were sure that he was dead, for they were carrying him out to bury him. No deception was possible, for his own mother believed him dead and you may be sure that if there had been a spark of life in him she would not have given him up to the jaws of the grave. There was then no hope no hope from the dead man, no hope from anyone in the crowd either of bearers or of disciples. They were all powerless alike. Even so, you, O Sinner, cannot save yourself neither can any of us or can any of us save you. There is no help for you, dead Sinner, beneath yon skies. No help in yourself or in those who love you most. But, lo, the Lord has laid help on One that is mighty. If Jesus wants the least help, you cannot render it, for you are dead in sins. There you lie, dead on the bier and nothing but the sovereign power of Divine omnipotence can put heavenly life into you. Your help must come from above. While the bier stood still, Jesus spoke to the dead young man, spoke to him personally “Young man, I say unto you, Arise.” O Master, personally speak to some young man this morning. Or, if You will, speak to the old, or speak to a woman. But speak the Word home to them. We mind not where the Lord’s voice may fall. Oh that it would now call those around me, for I feel that there are dead ones all over the building! I stand with biers all about me and dead ones on them. Lord Jesus, are You not here? What is wanted is Your personal call. Speak, Lord, we beseech You! “Young man,” said He, “Arise.” And He spoke as if the man had been alive. This is the Gospel way. He did not wait till He saw signs of life before He bade him rise. But to the dead man He said, “Arise.” This is the model of Gospel preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus, His commissioned servants speak to the dead as if they were alive. Some of my Brethren laugh at this and say that it is inconsistent and foolish. But all through the New Testament it is even so. There we read, “Arise from the dead and Christ shall give you light.” I do not attempt to justify it. It is more than enough for me that so I read the Word of God. We are to bid men believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we know that they are dead in sin and that faith is the work of the Spirit of God. Our faith enables us, in God’s name, to command dead men to live and they do live. We bid unbelieving man believe in Jesus and power goes with the Word and God’s elect do believe. It is by this Word of faith which we preach that the voice of Jesus sounds out to men. The young man who could not rise, for he was dead, nevertheless did rise when Jesus bade him. Even so, when the Lord speaks by His servants the Gospel command, “Believe and live,” it is obeyed and men live. But the Savior, you observe, spoke with His own authority “Young man, I say unto you, Arise.” Neither Elijah nor Elisha could thus have spoken. But He who spoke thus was very God of very God. Though veiled in human flesh and clothed in lowliness, He was that same God who said, “Let there be light” and there was light. If any of us are able by faith to say, “Young man, Arise,” we can only say it in His name we have no authority but what we derive from Him. Young man, the voice of Jesus can do what your mother cannot. How often has her sweet voice wooed you to come to Jesus but wooed in vain? Oh, that the Lord Jesus would inwardly speak to you! Oh, that He would say, “Young man, Arise.” I trust that while I am speaking, the Lord is silently speaking in your hearts by His Holy Spirit. I feel sure that it is even so. If so, within you a gentle movement of the Spirit is inclining you to repent and yield your heart to Jesus. This shall be a blessed day to the spiritually dead young man, if now he accepts his Savior, and yields himself up to be renewed by Divine Grace! No, my poor Brother, they shall not bury you! I know you have been very bad and they may well despair of you. But while Jesus lives we cannot give you up. The miracle was worked straightway for this young man, to the astonishment of all about him, sat up. His was a desperate case but death was conquered, for he sat up. He had been called back from the innermost dungeon of death, even from the grave’s mouth. But he sat up when Jesus called him. It did not take a month, nor a week, nor an hour no, not even five minutes. Jesus said, “Young man, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” In an instant the Lord can save a sinner. Before the words I speak can have more than entered your ear, the Divine flash which gives you eternal life can have penetrated your breast and you shall be a new creature in Jesus Christ, beginning to live in newness of life from this hour no more to feel spiritually dead or to return to your old corruption. New life, new feeling, new love, new hopes, new company shall be yours, because you have passed from death unto life. Pray God that it may be so, for He will hear us. IV. Our time has gone and although we have a wide subject we may not linger. I must close by noticing that THIS WILL PRODUCE VERY GREAT RESULTS. To give life to the dead is no little matter.

The great result was manifest, first, in the young man. Would you like to see him as he was? Might I venture to draw back the sheet from his face? See there what death has done? He was a fine young man. To his mother’s eye he was the mirror of manhood! What a pallor is on that face! How sunken are the eyes! You are feeling sad. I see you cannot bear the sight. Come, look into this grave where corruption has gone further in its work. Cover him up! We cannot bear to look at the decaying body! But when Jesus Christ has said, “Arise,” what a change takes place! Now you may look at him. His blue eyes have the light of Heaven in them. His lips are coral red with life. His brow is fair and full of thought. Look at his healthy complexion, in which the rose and the lily sweetly contend for mastery! What a fresh look there is about him, as of the dew of the morning! He has been dead but he lives, and no trace of death is on him. While you are looking at him he begins to speak. What music for his mother’s ear! What did he say? Why, that I cannot tell you. Speak yourself as a newly-quickened one and then I shall hear what you say. I know what I said. I think the first word I said when I was quickened was, “Hallelujah.” Afterwards, I went home to my mother and told her that the Lord had met with me. No words are given here. It does not quite matter what those words are, for any words proved him to be alive. If you know the Lord, I believe you will speak of heavenly things. I do not believe that our Lord Jesus has a dumb child in His house they all speak to Him and most of them speak of Him. The new birth reveals itself in confession of Christ and praise of Christ. I warrant you that his mother, when she heard him speak, did not criticize what he said. She did not say, “That sentence is ungrammatical.” She was too glad to hear him speak at all, that she did not examine all the expressions which he used. Newly-saved souls often talk in a way which after years and experience will not justify. You often hear it said of a revival meeting that there was a good deal of excitement and certain young converts talked absurdly. That is very likely but if genuine grace was in their souls and they bore witness to the Lord Jesus, I, for one, would not criticize them very severely. Be glad if you can see any proof that they are born again and mark well their future lives. To the young man himself a new life had begun life from among the dead. A new life also had begun in reference to his mother. What a great result for her was the raising of her dead son! Henceforth he would be doubly dear. Jesus helped him down from the bier and delivered him to his mother. We have not the words He used. But we are sure that He made the presentation most gracefully, giving back the son to the mother as one presents a choice gift. With a majestic delight which always goes with His condescending benevolence, He looked on that happy woman and His glance was brighter to her than the light of the morning, as He said to her, “Receive your son.” The thrill of her heart was such as she would never forget. Observe carefully that our Lord, when He puts the new life into young men, does not want to take them away with Him from the home where their first duty lies. Here and there one is called away to be an Apostle or a missionary but usually He wants them to go home to their friends and bless their parents and make their families happy and holy. He does not present the young man to the priest but He delivers him to his mother. Do not say, “I am converted and therefore I cannot go to business any more, or try to support my mother by my trade.” That would prove that you were not converted at all. You may go for a missionary in a year or two’s time if you are fitted for it. But you must not make a dash at a matter for which you are not prepared. For the present, go home to your mother and make your home happy and charm your father’s heart and be a blessing to your brothers and sisters and let them rejoice because, “he was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.” What was the next result? Well, all the neighbors feared and glorified God. If yonder young man who last night was at the music-hall and a few nights ago came home very nearly drunk. If that young man is born again, all around him will wonder at it. If that young man who has got himself out of a situation by gambling, or some other wrong-doing, is saved, we shall all feel that God is very near us. If that young man who has begun to associate with evil women and to fall into other evils, is brought to be pure-minded and gracious, it will strike awe into those round about him. He has led many others astray and if the Lord now leads him back it will make a great hubbub and men will enquire as to the reason of the change and will see that there is a power in religion alter all. Conversions are miracles which never cease. These prodigies of power in the moral world are quite as remarkable as prodigies in the material world. We want conversion, so practical, so real, so Divine that those who doubt will not be able to doubt because they see in them the hand of God. Finally, note that it not only surprised the neighbors and impressed them but the rumor of it went everywhere. Who can tell? If a convert is made this morning, the result of that conversion may be felt for thousands of years, if the world stands so long. Yes, it shall be felt when a thousand, thousand years have passed away, even throughout eternity. Tremblingly have I dropped a smooth stone into the lake this morning. It has fallen from a feeble hand and from an earnest heart. Your tears have shown that the waters are stirred. I perceive the first circlet upon the surface. Other and wider circles will follow as the sermon is spoken of and read. When you go home and tell what God has done for your soul, there will be a wider ring. And if it should happen that the Lord should open the mouth of one of this morning’s converts to preach His Word, then no one can tell how wide the circle will become. Ring upon ring will the Word spread itself, until the shoreless ocean of eternity shall feel the influence of this morning’s Word. No, I am not dreaming. According to our faith so shall it be. Grace this day bestowed by the Lord upon one single soul may affect the whole mass of humanity. God grant His blessing, even life forevermore. Pray much for a Blessing, my dear Friends, I beseech you, for Jesus Christ’s sake. And pray much for me. Amen.

Verses 37-38

The Woman Which Was a Sinner

Delivered on March 22nd, 1868

by

C. H. SPURGEON

"And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew

that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of

ointment, and stood at his feet behind 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."-- Luke 7:37-38 .

This is the woman who has been confounded with Mary Magdalene. How

the error originated it would not be easy to imagine, but error it certainly

is. There is not the slightest shadow of evidence that this woman, who was

a sinner, had even the remotest connection with her out of whom Jesus cast

seven devils. In delivering you a sermon a few Sabbaths ago, upon the life

of Mary of Magdala, I think I showed you that it was hardly possible, and

most improbable, that she could have been a sinner in the sense here

intended, and now I venture to affirm that there is as much evidence to

prove that the woman, in the narrative now before us, was the Queen of

Sheba, or the mother of Sisera, as that she was Mary Magdalene: there is

not a figment or fraction of evidence to be found. The fact is, there is no

connection between the two.

Further, the sinner before us is not Mary of Bethany, with whom so many

have confounded her. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, did anoint

our Saviour, but this is a previous anointing, by quite a different person,

and the two narratives are altogether distinct. There is a great likeness,

certainly, between the two. The principal persons were both women, full of

ardent love to Christ; they both anointed the Lord with ointment; the name

of Simon is connected with both, and they both wiped the Saviour's feet

with their hair. But it ought not to astonish you that there were two persons

whose intense affection thus displayed itself; the astonishment should

rather be that there were not two hundred who did so, for the anointing of

the feet of an honoured friend was by no means so uncommon a token of

respect among the Orientals as to be an unprecedented marvel. Loved as

Jesus deserved to be, the marvel is that he was not oftener visited with

these generous tokens of human love. It is a pity to fuse two occasions into

one, as though we grudged a double unction to the Anointed of the Lord.

That both events should happen in the houses of persons named Simon is

not at all remarkable: be it remembered that the one was Simon the

Pharisee, and the other Simon the leper; and that Simon is one of the

commonest of Jewish names; and that in our days, a thing having

happened in the house of a John, and another thing like it in the house of

another John, would not be remarkable, since Johns are exceedingly

common amongst us, as were Simons in the days of our Lord. But that the

two, or perhaps I should say three, anointings (for I am inclined to think

there were three) are not the same is evident from the following reasons:

they differ in time; our Lord lived at least six months after his anointing by

this woman, and if you follow the narrative, you read in the very next

chapter, "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city

and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of

God: and the twelve were with him." But when Mary anointed him at

Bethany, he said, "She did it for my burial;" and our Lord was then within

a very few days of his crucifixion. The anointing by Mary, the sister of

Lazarus, took place at Bethany (Matthew 26:6 ), but this occurred in

Galilee, which is quite another quarter. Moreover, the fact itself was really

a very different one, for although both women anoint Christ with ointment,

yet there was a peculiar preciousness and power of perfume about the

spikenard of the wealthier Mary, which is not mentioned in the ointment of

this woman of a lower position in life. Mary, according to John ( Joh

12:3 ), poured out a whole pound of the costly nard, but such is not said of

the humble offering of the woman that was a sinner. Matthew tells us that

a woman poured the ointment on his head, but this poor penitent is only

said to have anointed his feet: tears are not mentioned in connection with

Mary by either Matthew, Mark, or John, while they make a conspicuous

feature in the love of the gracious mourner now before us. After the

transaction there was an objection raised in both cases, but mark the great

difference! In this case, Simon the Pharisee objected because she, being a

sinner, was allowed to have such familiarity with the Lord; in the other

case, no such objection was raised to the person, but Judas Iscariot objected

to her having been so profuse and extravagant in the abundance and

costliness of the anointing, and murmured, saying that this ointment might

have been sold for much and given to the poor. If you confound these two

occurrences, you not only make an egregious mistake, but you lose a

precious lesson. This case now before us is the offering of a poor returning

wanderer, who, under a deep sense of gratitude, brings the best she has to

her Lord, and is accepted by his grace. In the case of Mary of Bethany, it

was an advanced saint, one who had sat at Jesus' feet and heard of him,

and had aforetime chosen the good part which should not be taken away

from her, and she brings a costly tribute as the offering of her deep, sincere

affection, which had grown and deepened by the receipt of many favours

from his loving hand. The advanced believer is more bold than the new

convert. She anoints his head when the other only anoints his feet, and she

is not less loving, for if there be fewer tears there is a more costly

spikenard. Jesus defended the penitent, and bade her go in peace; but in

Mary's case there was no need to say, "Thy sins are forgiven," for she

already possessed that priceless boon; our Lord, instead of merely

defending, warmly eulogised her love, and declared, "Wheresoever this

gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this

woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." Thus much will suffice

to show you that "the woman which was a sinner" is neither to be

confounded with Mary of Magdala on the one hand, or Mary of Bethany on

the other. Let us learn to read our Bibles with our eyes open, to study them

as men do the works of great artists, studying each figure, and even each

sweet variety of light and shade.

Too long have we been controverting on the threshold of the text, let us

now lift the latch. Lo, on the table I see two savoury dishes, let us feed

thereon. Here are two silver bells, let us ring them; their first note is

Grace, and the second tone is Love.

I. GRACE

the most costly of spikenard: this story literally drips with it, like those

Oriental trees which bleed perfume; or as the spouse when she rose up to

open to her beloved, and her hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers

with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock. Grace, that gentle

dew of heaven, is here plenteously distilled, and falls like small rain upon

the tender herb. Grace, sovereign, distinguishing, omnipotent, is

exceedingly magnified in this narrative; lo, I see it exalted upon a glorious

high throne, with the king's daughter waiting as an honourable woman

among its courtiers.

1. First, grace is here glorified in its object. She was "a sinner"--a sinner

not in the flippant, unmeaning, every-day sense of the term, but a sinner in

the blacker, filthier, and more obnoxious sense. She had forsaken the guide

of her youth, and forgotten the covenant of her God; she had sinned against

the laws of purity, and had made herself as a defiled thing; she had fallen

into that deep ditch concerning which it is written, "The abhorred of the

Lord shall fall therein." According to our Lord's parable, she was in

comparison with the Pharisee as a five-hundred- pence sinner, while the

Pharisee was but as fifty. She was one of the scarlet sinners that we read of

in Scripture--she sinned and made others to sin. Hers were offenses which

provoke the Lord to jealousy, and stir up his wrath. Yet, oh, miracle of

miracles, she was an object of distinguishing grace, ordained unto eternal

life! Why was this? On what legal grounds was she selected? For what

merit was she chosen? Was this an extraordinary and out-of-the-way

instance? By no means, dear friends, for the grace of God has frequently

chosen the lowest of the low, and the vilest of the vile. Recollect how, in

the pedigree of our Lord, you find the name of the shameless Tamar, the

harlot Rahab, and the unfaithful Bathsheba, as if to indicate that the

Saviour of sinners would enter into near relationship with the most

degraded and fallen of our race. This is, in fact, one of the dearest

titles of our Lord, though it was hissed at him from the lips of contempt,

"A friend of publicans and sinners." This is Jesus' character of which he

is not ashamed: "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." Free

grace has made no distinction among men on account of merit, whether false

or real, if real there be. The law has concluded us all in unbelief, and

then the abounding grace of God looking upon us all as equally cast away

and ruined both by Adam's fall and by our own personal transgression, has

predestinated and called whomsoever it would. Do you not hear from the

throne of mercy the echoes of that sovereign proclamation, "I will have

mercy on whom I will have mercy; I will have compassion on whom I will

have compassion"? Grace has pitched upon the most unlikely cases in

order to show itself to be grace; it has found a dwelling-place for itself in

the most unworthy heart, that its freeness might be the better seen. Do I

address one who has greatly fallen? Let this thought comfort thee, if thy

heart bewails thy sin--let this give thee hope of mercy, that in the election

of grace some of the grossest blasphemers, persecutors, thieves, fornicators,

and drunkards, have been included, and in consequence thereof they have

been forgiven, renewed, and made to live sober, righteous, and godly lives.

Such as these have obtained mercy that in them first God might show forth

all longsuffering as a comfort and encouragement to others to cry unto the

Lord for mercy.

Grace reigns right majestically in the case before us, in that this particular

sinner should be chosen; to choose a sinner was something, but to choose

this one individual was even more astonishing. No doubt, she did in spirit

ask herself, "Why me, Lord? why me?" Had she been here this morning,

she would sing as heartily as any of us--

"Oh, gift of gifts! Oh, grace of faith!

My God, how can it be

That thou, who has discerning love,

Shouldst give that gift to me!

How many hearts thou mightst have had

More innocent than mine!

How many souls more worthy far

Of that pure touch of thine!

Ah, Grace! into unlikeliest hearts

It is thy boast to come;

The glory of thy light to find

In darkest spots a home."

At yonder table sits Simon the Pharisee, a good respectable body as he

thinks himself to be, and yet no choice divine has fallen upon him--while

this poor harlot is elected by distinguishing grace! How can we account for

this? Many there were in the city like to herself, some worse, some better;

but grace had marked her as its own. Oh, strange, yet admirable

sovereignty! Now, it is possible that you may not be much taken with the

glory of grace in selecting her, but I will ask you whether you are not

delighted with the grace which separated you to be the Lord's? O brethren,

when once a man discovers that God has chosen him, when he feels that

grace has broken his heart, has brought him to Christ, and has covered him

with a perfect righteousness, then he breaks out in wondering

exclamations, "How couldst thou have chosen me? What am I, and what is

my father's house, that I should be taken into such royal favour?" The more

a believer looks within, the more he discovers reasons for divine wrath,

and the less he believes in his own personal merit. How is the heart of a

true believer filled with adoring gratitude that ever the Lord's boundless

love should have been pleased to settle and fix itself upon him! This is not

so much for me to descant upon as it is for your private meditations. I

earnestly commend to you that precious thought, that Jehovah loved you

from before the foundations of the world, and chose you when he might

have left you, chose you when he passed over thousands of the great and

the noble, the wise, and the learned. The doctrine is not a dogma to be

fought over, as dogs over a bone, but to be rejoiced in, and turned to

practical account as an incentive to reverent wonder and affectionate

gratitude. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and the

"woman which was a sinner," is now before us a weeping penitent; the

sinner "of the city," a public sinner, is now openly a follower of the holy

One.

2. Grace is greatly magnified in its fruits. Who would have thought that a

woman who had yielded her members to be servants of unrighteousness, to

her shame and confusion, should have now become, what if I call her a

maid of honour to the King of kings?--one of Christ's most favoured

servitors? Who offered hospitalities to Jesus which the Pharisee omitted,

and offered them in an infinitely better spirit and style than the Pharisee

could have done it even had he tried! Let us remark, that the grace of God

brought this woman in a way of providence to listen to the Saviour's

discourses. In a former part of this chapter it appears he had been

preaching the gospel, and more especially preaching it to the poor. Perhaps

she stood in the street attracted by the crowd, and, as she listened to our

Saviour's talk, it seemed to hold her fast. She had never heard a man speak

after that fashion, and when he spoke of abounding mercy, and the

willingness of God to accept as many as would come to him, then the tears

began to follow each other down her cheek; and when she listened again to

that meek and lowly preacher, and heard him tell of the Father in heaven

who would receive prodigals and press them to his loving bosom, then her

heart was fairly broken, she relinquished her evil traffic, she became a new

woman, desirous of better things, anxious to be freed from sin. But she was

greatly agitated in her heart with the question, could she, would she, be

really forgiven? Would such pardoning love as she had heard of reach even

to her? She hoped so, and was in a measure comforted. Her faith grew, and

with it an ardent love. The Spirit of God still wrought with her till she

enjoyed a feeble hope, a gleam of confidence; she believed that Jesus of

Nazareth was the Messiah, that he had appeared on earth to forgive sins,

and she rested on him for the forgiveness of her sins, and longed for an

opportunity to do him homage, and if possible to win a word direct from

his mouth. The Lord of mercy came to the city where she lived. "Now," she

thought, "here is my opportunity; that blessed prophet has come; the man

who spake as never man spake is near me, and I have already derived such

benefit from him that I love him better than all besides; I love him as my

own soul. I will steal into the house of the Pharisee, that I may feast my

eyes with the sight of him." Now, when she came to the door, the Saviour

was reclining at his meat, according to the Oriental custom, and his feet

were towards the door; for the Pharisee had but little respect for Christ, and

had not given him the best and innermost place at the feast; but there he

lay with his uncovered feet towards the door, and the woman, almost

unperceived, came close to him, and, as she looked and saw that the

Pharisee had refused him the ordinary courtesy of washing his feet, and

that they were all stained and travel-worn with his long journeys of love,

she began to weep, and the tears fell in such plenteous showers that they

even washed his feet. Here was holy water of a true sort. The crystal of

penitence falling in drops, each one as precious as a diamond. Never were

feet bedewed with a more precious water than those penitent eyes showered

forth. Then, unbinding those luxurious tresses, which had been for her the

devil's nets in which to entangle souls, she wiped the sacred feet therewith.

Surely she thought that her chief adornment, the crown and glory of her

womanhood, was all too worthless a thing to do service to the lowest and

meanest part of the Son of God. That which once was her vanity now was

humbled and yet exalted to the lowest office; she made her eyes a ewer and

her locks a towel. "Never," says bishop Hall, "was any hair so preferred as

this; how I envy those locks that were graced with the touch of those sacred

feet."

There a sweet temptation overtook her, "I will even kiss those feet, I will

humbly pay reverence to those blessed limbs." She spake not a word, but

how eloquent were her actions! better even than psalms and hymns were

these acts of devotion. Then she bethought her of that alabaster box

containing perfumed oil with which, like most Eastern women, she was

wont to anoint herself for the pleasure of the smell and for the increase of

her beauty, and now, opening it, she pours out the costliest thing she has

upon his blessed feet. Not a word, I say, came from her; and, brethren, we

would prefer a single speechless lover of Jesus, who acted as she did, to ten

thousand noisy talkers who have no gifts, no heart, no tears. As for the

Master, he remained quietly acquiescent, saying nothing, but all the while

drinking in her love, and letting his poor weary heart find sweet solace in

the gratitude of one who once was a sinner, but who was to be such no

more.

Grace, my brethren, deserves our praise, since it does so much for its

object. Grace does not choose a man and leave him as he is. My brethren

and sisters, men rail at grace sometimes as though it were opposed to

morality, whereas it is the great source and cause of all complete morality--

indeed, there is no real holiness in the sight of God except that which grace

creates, and which grace sustains. This woman, apart from grace, had

remained black and defiled still to her dying day, but the grace of God

wrought a wondrous transformation, removing the impudence of her face,

the flattery from her lips, the finery from her dress, and the lust from her

heart. Eyes which were full of adultery, were now founts of repentance; lips

which were doors of lascivious speech, now yield holy kisses--the

profligate was a penitent, the castaway a new creature. All the actions

which are attributed to this woman illustrate the transforming power of

divine grace. She exhibited the deepest repentance. She wept abundantly.

She wept out of no mere sentimentalism, but at the remembrance of her

many crimes. She wept for sorrow and for shame as she thought over her

early childhood, and how she had slighted a mother's training, how she

had listened to the tempter's voice, and hurried on from bad to worse.

Every part of her life-story would rise before her as a painfully vivid

dream. The sight of those blessed feet helped her to remember the

dangerous paths into which she had wandered; the sluices of grief were

drawn up, and her soul flowed out in tears. O blessed Spirit of grace, we

adore thee as we see the rock smitten and the waters gushing. "He causeth

his wind to blow and the waters flow."

Note the woman's humility. She had once possessed a brazen face, and

knew no bashfulness, but now she stands behind the Saviour. She did not

push herself in before his face; she was content to have the meanest

standing-place. If she might not venture to anoint his head, yet, if she

might do service to his feet, she blushed as she accepted the honour. Those

who serve the Lord Jesus truly, have a holy bashfulness, a shrinking sense

of their own unworthiness, and are content to fulfil the very lowest office in

his household. That is no service for Christ when thou wouldst need ride

the king's horse, and wear the king's garment, and have it said, "This is the

man whom the king delighteth to honour." That is serving thyself rather

than Christ, when thou covetest the chief place in the synagogue, and

wouldst have men call thee Rabbi. But that is real service when thou canst

care for the poor; when thou canst condescend to men of low estate, and

become a teacher of the ignorant and an instructor of babes. He serves well

who works behind his master's back, unknown and unperceived--toiling in

the dark, unreported, unapplauded, and happy to have it so. See, beloved,

how in a woman who was once so shameless, grace plants and makes to

flourish the fair and modest flower of true humility.

Yet was the woman courageous, for she must have needed much courage to

enter into a Pharisee's house. The look of a Pharisee to this woman must

have been enough to freeze summer into howling winter. Those Pharisees

had an insufferable contempt of everybody who was not of their own

clique, who did not fast twice a week, and tithe their mint, anise, and

cummin; they said, by every gesture, "Stand by, I am holier than thou." To

a person of infamous character, the pompous Pharisee would be doubly

contemptuous, and a woman conscious of unworthiness would be sorely

wounded by his manners; besides, at a feast, her tears would be much out

of place, and therefore she would be the more rudely rebuked; but how

fearless she was, and how bravely she held her tongue when Simon railed!

What will not men and women do when grace moves them to love, and

love prompts them to courage! Ay, into the very jaws of hell the grace of

God would make a believer dare to enter, if God commanded him. There is

no mountain too high for a believing foot to scale, and no furnace too hot

for a believing heart to bear. Let Rome and its amphitheatres, Piedmont

and its snow, France and its galleys, Smithfield and its stakes, the

Netherlands and their rivers of blood, all speak of what grace can do when

once it reigns in the heart, what heroes it can make of the very weakest and

most timid of God's children, where it rules supreme.

I have said that in every part of this woman's action grace is honoured,

and it is so more especially in this respect, that what she did was

practical. Hers was not pretence, but real and expensive service. The

religion of some professors stops short at their substance; it costs them

nothing, and, I fear, is worth nothing. They appear before the Lord empty.

They buy no sweet cane with money, neither does the Lord receive the fat of

their sacrifices. I must confess myself utterly at a loss to understand the

piety of some people. I thank God I am not bound to understand it, and that

I am not sent into the world to be a judge of my fellow creatures, but I do

greatly wonder at the religion of many. There are to be found, and I have

found them, persons whose love to Christ is of such a sort that they give

to his cause the larger proportion of their substance, and do so gladly,

thinking it a privilege; yea, I know some who pinch themselves--some of the

poor and needy, who stint themselves that they may give to Christ. Such are

doubtless blessed in the deed. I do not understand those men who have

thousands upon thousands of pounds, perhaps hundreds of thousands, and

profess to love Christ, and dole out their gifts to Jesus in miserable

fragments. I must leave them to their Master, to be judged at the last, but I

confess I do not understand them or admire them. If I did love Christ at all,

I would love him so that I would give him all I could, and if I did not do

that, I think I would say, "He is not worth it, and I will not be a sham

professor. It is rank hypocrisy to profess love and then to act a miserly

part. Let those who are guilty of it settle the account between God and

their own souls. This woman's alabaster box was given freely, and if she

had had more to give, she would have given it, after the spirit of that

other woman, that memorable widow, who had two mites, which made a

farthing, which were all her living, but she gave it all out of love to

God. Grace reigns indeed with high control when it leads men who naturally

would be selfish to practice liberality in the cause of the Redeemer. Let

these gleanings suffice, the vintage of the fruits of grace is too great

for us to gather it all this morning.

3. I would have you remark, in the third place, that grace is seen by

attentive eyes in our Lord's acceptance of what this chosen vessel had to

bring. Jesus knew her sin. The Pharisee wondered that Jesus did not shrink

from contact with her. You and I may wonder too. We sometimes feel it a

task to have to commune with persons of a certain character even when

they profess to repent: our Lord's sensitiveness of the guilt of sin was much

keener than ours, yet he rested still upon the couch, and quietly accepted

what she brought, permitted her the fond familiarity of kissing his feet

again and again, and to bedew them with her tears--permitted all that, I

say, and accepted all that, and herein made his grace to shine most

brightly. Oh, that Jesus should ever accept anything of me, that he should

be willing to accept my tears, willing to receive my prayers and my praises!

We cheerfully accept a little flower from a child, but then the flower is

beautiful, and we are not far above the child; but Jesus accepts from us that

which is in its nature impure, and upbraids us not. O grace, how

condescending thou art; see, believer, Jesus has heard thy prayers and

answered them; he has blessed thy labours, given thee souls as thy reward,

and at this moment that which is in thy heart to do for him he receives, and

he raises no objection, but takes what thou bringest to him, takes it with

joy. O grace, thou art grace indeed, when the offerings of unworthy ones

become dear unto Jesus' heart.

4. Further, grace is displayed in this narrative when you see our Lord Jesus

Christ become the defender of the penitent. Everywhere grace is the object

of human cavil: men snap at it like evening wolves. Some attack it at the

fountain head; they cannot endure the doctrine of election. Some professors

almost foam at the mouth at the very mention of the word "predestination;"

they cannot bear it, and yet it is God's truth, let them say what they will,

and there shall it stand, let them kick against the pricks if they dare.

"It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that

sheweth mercy." Would to God men would give up their rebellious

questionings and bow before the King of kings. On this occasion, Simon

cavilled at grace in that a sinful woman should be allowed to approach the

Lord, he would have put her in quarantine at the least, if not in prison.

Some object to grace in its perpetuity, they struggle against persevering

grace; but others, like this Simon, struggle against the bounty of grace.

How could such a woman as she was be permitted to draw so near to Christ?

Certain captious spirits will demand, "How should Jesus give to such

unworthy ones such acceptance, such manifestations of himself, such

privileges?" Our Lord took upon himself to defend her, and therefore she

might well afford to hold her tongue. So shall it be with you. If Satan

accuse you, and your enemies with loud-mouthed accusations cry out against

you, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who

will certainly plead your cause and clear you. Jesus by his defensive

parable shows that he was justified in letting the woman approach, because

great love prompted her. There was no sin in her approach, but much to

commend, since her motive was excellent, and the motive is the true measure

of a deed. She felt intense love and gratitude towards the person who had

forgiven her; therefore, her acts were not to be forbidden, but commended.

He justifies her and incidentally justifies himself. Had he not done well in

having won a sinner's heart to penitence and love? Was not election

justified in having chosen one to such holy devotedness and fervency? At

the last great day, the Lord will justify his grace before the eyes of the

whole universe, for he will allow the grace-wrought virtues of his chosen

ones to be unveiled, and all eyes shall see that grace reigns through

righteousness. Then shall they for ever be silenced who accused the grace

of God of leading to licentiousness, for they shall see that in every case

free forgiveness led to gratitude, and gratitude to holiness. The chosen

shall be made choice men. Grace chose them notwithstanding all their

deformities; but when it has cast about them a supernal beauty, they shall

be the wonder and admiration of the universe, evidently made to be the

noblest and best of mankind. Show me where grace ever created sin! You

cannot, but lo, in what a manner has grace created holiness! It is not

ashamed to let its chosen sheep appear before the great dividing Shepherd's

throne, for of them all it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of my Father,

inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me

drink." Grace does not smuggle men into heaven, but brings them up to

heaven's requirements through the Spirit and the blood.

5. Once more, my brethren, the grace of God is seen in this narrative in the

bestowal of yet richer favours. Great grace saved her, rich grace

encouraged her, unbounded grace gave her a divine assurance of forgiveness.

It was proved that she was forgiven, for she loved much, but she had never

received the full assurance of it. She was a hopeful penitent rather than a

confirmed believer. But the Master said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" from

that moment full assurance of faith must have occupied her soul. And then

he gave her that choice dismissary benediction, "Go in peace," by which the

peace of God which passeth all understanding henceforth kept her mind, so

that even when she had to go out of this world into the unknown realm, she

heard in the midst of Jordan's billows, the divine sentence, "Go in peace."

Ah! beloved, you know not what grace can do for you. God is not stinted in

his grace. If he has lifted you up out of the miry clay he can do more, he

can set your feet upon a rock. If on the rock you already stand, he can do

more, he can put a new song into your mouth; and if already you lift the

joyous hymn, he can do more yet, he can establish your goings. You do not

know the exceeding bounty of your own heavenly Father yet. Unfathomable is

his goodness. Arise and enjoy it. Behold the whole land is before you, from

Dan unto Beersheba--all the provisions of the covenant of grace belong to

you. Have but faith, and you shall yet comprehend with all saints what are

the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ which passeth

knowledge.

Here, then, was grace in its object, grace in its fruit, grace in the

acceptance of that fruit, grace in the defence which Jesus made of the

gracious one, and grace in the blessings bestowed upon her. May grace

deal thus bountifully with us.

II. We have but two or three moments left for what requires far more space,

namely, LOVE.

The word blossoms with roses, and suggests the voice of the turtle and the

singing of birds. Our time, however, binds us to a narrow path, which we

must not leave, although the beds of lilies on either hand invite us.

Love--its source: it bubbles up as a pure rill from the well-head of grace.

She loved much, but it was because much had been forgiven. There is no

such thing as mere natural love to God. The only true love which can burn

in the human breast towards the Lord, is that which the Holy Ghost

himself kindles. If thou truly lovest the God who made thee and redeemed

thee, thou mayst be well assured that thou art his child, for none but his

children have any love to him.

Its secondary cause is faith. The fiftieth verse tells us, "Thy faith hath

saved thee." Our souls do not begin with loving Christ, but the first lesson

is to trust. Many penitents attempt this difficult task; they aspire to reach

the stair-head without treading the steps; they would needs be at the

pinnacle of the temple before they have crossed the threshold. First trust

Christ for the pardon of thy sin: when thou hast done this, thy sins are

forgiven, and then love shall flash to thy heart as the result of gratitude

for what the Redeemer has done for thee. Grace is the source of love, but

faith is the agent by which love is brought to us.

The food of love is a sense of sin, and a grateful sense of forgiveness. If

you and I felt more deeply the guilt of our past lives, we should love

Jesus Christ better. If we have but a clearer sense that our sins deserve

the deepest hell, that Christ suffered what we ought to have suffered in

order to redeem us from our iniquities, we should not be such coldhearted

creatures as we are. We are perfectly monstrous in our want of love to

Christ, but the true secret of it is a forgetfulness of our ruined and lost

natural estate, and a forgetfulness of the sufferings by which we have been

redeemed from that condition. O that our love might feed itself this day,

and find a renewal of its strength in remembering what sovereign grace has

done.

Love in the narrative before us shines in the fact that the service the

woman rendered to our Lord was perfectly voluntary. No one suggested it,

much less pressed it upon her. It takes the gloss off our service when we

need to be dragged to it, or pushed forward by some energetic pleader.

Brethren, the anointing was impromptu with her. Christ was there, and it

was at her own suggestion that she anointed his feet. Mary of Bethany had

not then set the example: the woman who was a sinner was an original in

her service. In these days we have many inventors and discoverers for our

temporal use and service, why should we not have inventors for Jesus who

will bring out new projects of usefulness? We are most of us content to

travel in the old rut, but if we had more love to Jesus we should be more

eccentric, and should have a degree of freshness about our service which at

present is all too rare. Lord, give us the love which can lead the way!

Her service to Jesus was personal. She did it all herself, and all to him. Do

you notice how many times the pronoun occurs in our text? "She stood at

his feet behind 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." She served Christ himself. It was neither service

to Peter, nor James, nor John, nor yet to the poor or sick of the city, but to

the Master himself; and, depend upon it, when our love is in active

exercise, our piety will be immediately towards Christ-- we shall sing to

him, pray to him, teach for him, preach for him, live to him. Forgetfulness

of the personality of Christ takes away the very vitality of our religion.

How much better will you teach, this afternoon, in your Sabbath-school

class, if you teach your children for Christ! How much better will you go

forth this evening to tell to others the way of salvation, if you go to do

it for his sake! Then you court no man's smile--you fear no man's frown. It

is enough for you that you have done it for the Master, and if the Master

accepts it you have the reward in that very fact.

The woman's service showed her love in that it was fervent. There was so

much affection in it--nothing conventional; no following chilly propriety,

no hesitating enquiry for precedents. Why did she kiss his feet? Was it not

a superfluity? What was the good of it? Did it not look sentimental,

affected, sensuous, indelicate? Little did she care how it looked; she knew

what she meant. She could not do otherwise. Her whole soul went out in

love, she acted naturally as her heart dictated, and, brethren, she acted

well. O for more of this guileless piety, which hurls decorum and

regulation to the winds. Ah, throw your souls into the service of Christ; let

your heart burn in his presence, and let all your soul belong to Jesus. Serve

not your Master as though you were half asleep, do not work with drooping

hands and half-closed eyes, but wake up the whole of your powers and

passions: for such love as he has shown to you, give the most awakened

and quickened love in return. O for more of this love! If I might only pray

one prayer this morning, I think it should be that the flaming torch of the

love of Jesus should be brought into every one of our hearts, and that all

our passions should be set ablaze with love to him.

One thought more, and I am done. This woman's love is a lesson to us in

the opportunity which she seized. She was evidently but just pardoned: she

was rather a weeper than one who had learned to rejoice, and yet for all

that, she would serve him at the first dawn of her spiritual life. Now, you

young converts, no longer say, "We will do something for Christ in a few

years' time, when we have made our calling and election sure; we will wait

till we have grown in grace, and then try to do what we can." No, no, but

as soon as you are washed, bring your offering to Jesus. The very day of

your conversion, enlist in his army, for speedy obedience is beautiful.

Perhaps if this woman had lingered, she had never anointed the Lord at all;

but in the hot flush of her first love, she did well to perform at once this

zealous, fervent act. Young converts maintain, by God's grace, the warmth

of the blood which circulates in the church's veins. Old churches generally

become diseased churches when they cease to grow. I do not know a

church in all England without conversions which is at all in a happy

spiritual state. The fact is, the fresh comers stir us all up by their

fervour, their simplicity, their childlike confidence. Now, beloved ones,

we encourage you to show this. For our sakes, for your own sakes, for

Christ's sake, do not hesitate--if there be anything you can do, though you

are uneducated in the divine school, do it. Though there may be a dozen

blunders in the method, yet do it, for Christ will accept it. The Pharisee

may cavil--well, perhaps it may keep his tongue from other mischief--let

him cavil, you can bear it, Christ will defend you, Jesus will accept you;

and as a reward for doing what you can, he may be pleased to give you

grace to do more, and may breathe over you a full assurance of faith, which

had you been idle you might not for years have attained; and he may give

you a peace of conscience in serving him which, had you sat still, might

never have come to you. I beseech all of you who love Jesus, do not hide

the light you have under a bushel, but come out and show it. If you have

but a little faith, use it; if you have only a grain of faith, turn it to

account. Put the one talent out at interest, and use it for the Master at

once, and the Lord bless you in such a work, by increasing your faith and

love, and making you to be as this woman was, a highly favoured servant of

this blessed Master. May the Lord give every one of you his blessing, for

Jesus' sake.

Verse 50

The Woman Which Was a Sinner and Saving Faith

The Woman Which Was a Sinner

Delivered on March 22nd, 1868

by

C. H. SPURGEON

"And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew

that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of

ointment, and stood at his feet behind 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."-- Luke 7:37-38 .

This is the woman who has been confounded with Mary Magdalene. How

the error originated it would not be easy to imagine, but error it certainly

is. There is not the slightest shadow of evidence that this woman, who was

a sinner, had even the remotest connection with her out of whom Jesus cast

seven devils. In delivering you a sermon a few Sabbaths ago, upon the life

of Mary of Magdala, I think I showed you that it was hardly possible, and

most improbable, that she could have been a sinner in the sense here

intended, and now I venture to affirm that there is as much evidence to

prove that the woman, in the narrative now before us, was the Queen of

Sheba, or the mother of Sisera, as that she was Mary Magdalene: there is

not a figment or fraction of evidence to be found. The fact is, there is no

connection between the two.

Further, the sinner before us is not Mary of Bethany, with whom so many

have confounded her. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, did anoint

our Saviour, but this is a previous anointing, by quite a different person,

and the two narratives are altogether distinct. There is a great likeness,

certainly, between the two. The principal persons were both women, full of

ardent love to Christ; they both anointed the Lord with ointment; the name

of Simon is connected with both, and they both wiped the Saviour's feet

with their hair. But it ought not to astonish you that there were two persons

whose intense affection thus displayed itself; the astonishment should

rather be that there were not two hundred who did so, for the anointing of

the feet of an honoured friend was by no means so uncommon a token of

respect among the Orientals as to be an unprecedented marvel. Loved as

Jesus deserved to be, the marvel is that he was not oftener visited with

these generous tokens of human love. It is a pity to fuse two occasions into

one, as though we grudged a double unction to the Anointed of the Lord.

That both events should happen in the houses of persons named Simon is

not at all remarkable: be it remembered that the one was Simon the

Pharisee, and the other Simon the leper; and that Simon is one of the

commonest of Jewish names; and that in our days, a thing having

happened in the house of a John, and another thing like it in the house of

another John, would not be remarkable, since Johns are exceedingly

common amongst us, as were Simons in the days of our Lord. But that the

two, or perhaps I should say three, anointings (for I am inclined to think

there were three) are not the same is evident from the following reasons:

they differ in time; our Lord lived at least six months after his anointing by

this woman, and if you follow the narrative, you read in the very next

chapter, "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city

and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of

God: and the twelve were with him." But when Mary anointed him at

Bethany, he said, "She did it for my burial;" and our Lord was then within

a very few days of his crucifixion. The anointing by Mary, the sister of

Lazarus, took place at Bethany (Matthew 26:6 ), but this occurred in

Galilee, which is quite another quarter. Moreover, the fact itself was really

a very different one, for although both women anoint Christ with ointment,

yet there was a peculiar preciousness and power of perfume about the

spikenard of the wealthier Mary, which is not mentioned in the ointment of

this woman of a lower position in life. Mary, according to John ( Joh

12:3 ), poured out a whole pound of the costly nard, but such is not said of

the humble offering of the woman that was a sinner. Matthew tells us that

a woman poured the ointment on his head, but this poor penitent is only

said to have anointed his feet: tears are not mentioned in connection with

Mary by either Matthew, Mark, or John, while they make a conspicuous

feature in the love of the gracious mourner now before us. After the

transaction there was an objection raised in both cases, but mark the great

difference! In this case, Simon the Pharisee objected because she, being a

sinner, was allowed to have such familiarity with the Lord; in the other

case, no such objection was raised to the person, but Judas Iscariot objected

to her having been so profuse and extravagant in the abundance and

costliness of the anointing, and murmured, saying that this ointment might

have been sold for much and given to the poor. If you confound these two

occurrences, you not only make an egregious mistake, but you lose a

precious lesson. This case now before us is the offering of a poor returning

wanderer, who, under a deep sense of gratitude, brings the best she has to

her Lord, and is accepted by his grace. In the case of Mary of Bethany, it

was an advanced saint, one who had sat at Jesus' feet and heard of him,

and had aforetime chosen the good part which should not be taken away

from her, and she brings a costly tribute as the offering of her deep, sincere

affection, which had grown and deepened by the receipt of many favours

from his loving hand. The advanced believer is more bold than the new

convert. She anoints his head when the other only anoints his feet, and she

is not less loving, for if there be fewer tears there is a more costly

spikenard. Jesus defended the penitent, and bade her go in peace; but in

Mary's case there was no need to say, "Thy sins are forgiven," for she

already possessed that priceless boon; our Lord, instead of merely

defending, warmly eulogised her love, and declared, "Wheresoever this

gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this

woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." Thus much will suffice

to show you that "the woman which was a sinner" is neither to be

confounded with Mary of Magdala on the one hand, or Mary of Bethany on

the other. Let us learn to read our Bibles with our eyes open, to study them

as men do the works of great artists, studying each figure, and even each

sweet variety of light and shade.

Too long have we been controverting on the threshold of the text, let us

now lift the latch. Lo, on the table I see two savoury dishes, let us feed

thereon. Here are two silver bells, let us ring them; their first note is

Grace, and the second tone is Love.

I. GRACE

the most costly of spikenard: this story literally drips with it, like those

Oriental trees which bleed perfume; or as the spouse when she rose up to

open to her beloved, and her hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers

with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock. Grace, that gentle

dew of heaven, is here plenteously distilled, and falls like small rain upon

the tender herb. Grace, sovereign, distinguishing, omnipotent, is

exceedingly magnified in this narrative; lo, I see it exalted upon a glorious

high throne, with the king's daughter waiting as an honourable woman

among its courtiers.

1. First, grace is here glorified in its object. She was "a sinner"--a sinner

not in the flippant, unmeaning, every-day sense of the term, but a sinner in

the blacker, filthier, and more obnoxious sense. She had forsaken the guide

of her youth, and forgotten the covenant of her God; she had sinned against

the laws of purity, and had made herself as a defiled thing; she had fallen

into that deep ditch concerning which it is written, "The abhorred of the

Lord shall fall therein." According to our Lord's parable, she was in

comparison with the Pharisee as a five-hundred- pence sinner, while the

Pharisee was but as fifty. She was one of the scarlet sinners that we read of

in Scripture--she sinned and made others to sin. Hers were offenses which

provoke the Lord to jealousy, and stir up his wrath. Yet, oh, miracle of

miracles, she was an object of distinguishing grace, ordained unto eternal

life! Why was this? On what legal grounds was she selected? For what

merit was she chosen? Was this an extraordinary and out-of-the-way

instance? By no means, dear friends, for the grace of God has frequently

chosen the lowest of the low, and the vilest of the vile. Recollect how, in

the pedigree of our Lord, you find the name of the shameless Tamar, the

harlot Rahab, and the unfaithful Bathsheba, as if to indicate that the

Saviour of sinners would enter into near relationship with the most

degraded and fallen of our race. This is, in fact, one of the dearest

titles of our Lord, though it was hissed at him from the lips of contempt,

"A friend of publicans and sinners." This is Jesus' character of which he

is not ashamed: "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." Free

grace has made no distinction among men on account of merit, whether false

or real, if real there be. The law has concluded us all in unbelief, and

then the abounding grace of God looking upon us all as equally cast away

and ruined both by Adam's fall and by our own personal transgression, has

predestinated and called whomsoever it would. Do you not hear from the

throne of mercy the echoes of that sovereign proclamation, "I will have

mercy on whom I will have mercy; I will have compassion on whom I will

have compassion"? Grace has pitched upon the most unlikely cases in

order to show itself to be grace; it has found a dwelling-place for itself in

the most unworthy heart, that its freeness might be the better seen. Do I

address one who has greatly fallen? Let this thought comfort thee, if thy

heart bewails thy sin--let this give thee hope of mercy, that in the election

of grace some of the grossest blasphemers, persecutors, thieves, fornicators,

and drunkards, have been included, and in consequence thereof they have

been forgiven, renewed, and made to live sober, righteous, and godly lives.

Such as these have obtained mercy that in them first God might show forth

all longsuffering as a comfort and encouragement to others to cry unto the

Lord for mercy.

Grace reigns right majestically in the case before us, in that this particular

sinner should be chosen; to choose a sinner was something, but to choose

this one individual was even more astonishing. No doubt, she did in spirit

ask herself, "Why me, Lord? why me?" Had she been here this morning,

she would sing as heartily as any of us--

"Oh, gift of gifts! Oh, grace of faith!

My God, how can it be

That thou, who has discerning love,

Shouldst give that gift to me!

How many hearts thou mightst have had

More innocent than mine!

How many souls more worthy far

Of that pure touch of thine!

Ah, Grace! into unlikeliest hearts

It is thy boast to come;

The glory of thy light to find

In darkest spots a home."

At yonder table sits Simon the Pharisee, a good respectable body as he

thinks himself to be, and yet no choice divine has fallen upon him--while

this poor harlot is elected by distinguishing grace! How can we account for

this? Many there were in the city like to herself, some worse, some better;

but grace had marked her as its own. Oh, strange, yet admirable

sovereignty! Now, it is possible that you may not be much taken with the

glory of grace in selecting her, but I will ask you whether you are not

delighted with the grace which separated you to be the Lord's? O brethren,

when once a man discovers that God has chosen him, when he feels that

grace has broken his heart, has brought him to Christ, and has covered him

with a perfect righteousness, then he breaks out in wondering

exclamations, "How couldst thou have chosen me? What am I, and what is

my father's house, that I should be taken into such royal favour?" The more

a believer looks within, the more he discovers reasons for divine wrath,

and the less he believes in his own personal merit. How is the heart of a

true believer filled with adoring gratitude that ever the Lord's boundless

love should have been pleased to settle and fix itself upon him! This is not

so much for me to descant upon as it is for your private meditations. I

earnestly commend to you that precious thought, that Jehovah loved you

from before the foundations of the world, and chose you when he might

have left you, chose you when he passed over thousands of the great and

the noble, the wise, and the learned. The doctrine is not a dogma to be

fought over, as dogs over a bone, but to be rejoiced in, and turned to

practical account as an incentive to reverent wonder and affectionate

gratitude. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and the

"woman which was a sinner," is now before us a weeping penitent; the

sinner "of the city," a public sinner, is now openly a follower of the holy

One.

2. Grace is greatly magnified in its fruits. Who would have thought that a

woman who had yielded her members to be servants of unrighteousness, to

her shame and confusion, should have now become, what if I call her a

maid of honour to the King of kings?--one of Christ's most favoured

servitors? Who offered hospitalities to Jesus which the Pharisee omitted,

and offered them in an infinitely better spirit and style than the Pharisee

could have done it even had he tried! Let us remark, that the grace of God

brought this woman in a way of providence to listen to the Saviour's

discourses. In a former part of this chapter it appears he had been

preaching the gospel, and more especially preaching it to the poor. Perhaps

she stood in the street attracted by the crowd, and, as she listened to our

Saviour's talk, it seemed to hold her fast. She had never heard a man speak

after that fashion, and when he spoke of abounding mercy, and the

willingness of God to accept as many as would come to him, then the tears

began to follow each other down her cheek; and when she listened again to

that meek and lowly preacher, and heard him tell of the Father in heaven

who would receive prodigals and press them to his loving bosom, then her

heart was fairly broken, she relinquished her evil traffic, she became a new

woman, desirous of better things, anxious to be freed from sin. But she was

greatly agitated in her heart with the question, could she, would she, be

really forgiven? Would such pardoning love as she had heard of reach even

to her? She hoped so, and was in a measure comforted. Her faith grew, and

with it an ardent love. The Spirit of God still wrought with her till she

enjoyed a feeble hope, a gleam of confidence; she believed that Jesus of

Nazareth was the Messiah, that he had appeared on earth to forgive sins,

and she rested on him for the forgiveness of her sins, and longed for an

opportunity to do him homage, and if possible to win a word direct from

his mouth. The Lord of mercy came to the city where she lived. "Now," she

thought, "here is my opportunity; that blessed prophet has come; the man

who spake as never man spake is near me, and I have already derived such

benefit from him that I love him better than all besides; I love him as my

own soul. I will steal into the house of the Pharisee, that I may feast my

eyes with the sight of him." Now, when she came to the door, the Saviour

was reclining at his meat, according to the Oriental custom, and his feet

were towards the door; for the Pharisee had but little respect for Christ, and

had not given him the best and innermost place at the feast; but there he

lay with his uncovered feet towards the door, and the woman, almost

unperceived, came close to him, and, as she looked and saw that the

Pharisee had refused him the ordinary courtesy of washing his feet, and

that they were all stained and travel-worn with his long journeys of love,

she began to weep, and the tears fell in such plenteous showers that they

even washed his feet. Here was holy water of a true sort. The crystal of

penitence falling in drops, each one as precious as a diamond. Never were

feet bedewed with a more precious water than those penitent eyes showered

forth. Then, unbinding those luxurious tresses, which had been for her the

devil's nets in which to entangle souls, she wiped the sacred feet therewith.

Surely she thought that her chief adornment, the crown and glory of her

womanhood, was all too worthless a thing to do service to the lowest and

meanest part of the Son of God. That which once was her vanity now was

humbled and yet exalted to the lowest office; she made her eyes a ewer and

her locks a towel. "Never," says bishop Hall, "was any hair so preferred as

this; how I envy those locks that were graced with the touch of those sacred

feet."

There a sweet temptation overtook her, "I will even kiss those feet, I will

humbly pay reverence to those blessed limbs." She spake not a word, but

how eloquent were her actions! better even than psalms and hymns were

these acts of devotion. Then she bethought her of that alabaster box

containing perfumed oil with which, like most Eastern women, she was

wont to anoint herself for the pleasure of the smell and for the increase of

her beauty, and now, opening it, she pours out the costliest thing she has

upon his blessed feet. Not a word, I say, came from her; and, brethren, we

would prefer a single speechless lover of Jesus, who acted as she did, to ten

thousand noisy talkers who have no gifts, no heart, no tears. As for the

Master, he remained quietly acquiescent, saying nothing, but all the while

drinking in her love, and letting his poor weary heart find sweet solace in

the gratitude of one who once was a sinner, but who was to be such no

more.

Grace, my brethren, deserves our praise, since it does so much for its

object. Grace does not choose a man and leave him as he is. My brethren

and sisters, men rail at grace sometimes as though it were opposed to

morality, whereas it is the great source and cause of all complete morality--

indeed, there is no real holiness in the sight of God except that which grace

creates, and which grace sustains. This woman, apart from grace, had

remained black and defiled still to her dying day, but the grace of God

wrought a wondrous transformation, removing the impudence of her face,

the flattery from her lips, the finery from her dress, and the lust from her

heart. Eyes which were full of adultery, were now founts of repentance; lips

which were doors of lascivious speech, now yield holy kisses--the

profligate was a penitent, the castaway a new creature. All the actions

which are attributed to this woman illustrate the transforming power of

divine grace. She exhibited the deepest repentance. She wept abundantly.

She wept out of no mere sentimentalism, but at the remembrance of her

many crimes. She wept for sorrow and for shame as she thought over her

early childhood, and how she had slighted a mother's training, how she

had listened to the tempter's voice, and hurried on from bad to worse.

Every part of her life-story would rise before her as a painfully vivid

dream. The sight of those blessed feet helped her to remember the

dangerous paths into which she had wandered; the sluices of grief were

drawn up, and her soul flowed out in tears. O blessed Spirit of grace, we

adore thee as we see the rock smitten and the waters gushing. "He causeth

his wind to blow and the waters flow."

Note the woman's humility. She had once possessed a brazen face, and

knew no bashfulness, but now she stands behind the Saviour. She did not

push herself in before his face; she was content to have the meanest

standing-place. If she might not venture to anoint his head, yet, if she

might do service to his feet, she blushed as she accepted the honour. Those

who serve the Lord Jesus truly, have a holy bashfulness, a shrinking sense

of their own unworthiness, and are content to fulfil the very lowest office in

his household. That is no service for Christ when thou wouldst need ride

the king's horse, and wear the king's garment, and have it said, "This is the

man whom the king delighteth to honour." That is serving thyself rather

than Christ, when thou covetest the chief place in the synagogue, and

wouldst have men call thee Rabbi. But that is real service when thou canst

care for the poor; when thou canst condescend to men of low estate, and

become a teacher of the ignorant and an instructor of babes. He serves well

who works behind his master's back, unknown and unperceived--toiling in

the dark, unreported, unapplauded, and happy to have it so. See, beloved,

how in a woman who was once so shameless, grace plants and makes to

flourish the fair and modest flower of true humility.

Yet was the woman courageous, for she must have needed much courage to

enter into a Pharisee's house. The look of a Pharisee to this woman must

have been enough to freeze summer into howling winter. Those Pharisees

had an insufferable contempt of everybody who was not of their own

clique, who did not fast twice a week, and tithe their mint, anise, and

cummin; they said, by every gesture, "Stand by, I am holier than thou." To

a person of infamous character, the pompous Pharisee would be doubly

contemptuous, and a woman conscious of unworthiness would be sorely

wounded by his manners; besides, at a feast, her tears would be much out

of place, and therefore she would be the more rudely rebuked; but how

fearless she was, and how bravely she held her tongue when Simon railed!

What will not men and women do when grace moves them to love, and

love prompts them to courage! Ay, into the very jaws of hell the grace of

God would make a believer dare to enter, if God commanded him. There is

no mountain too high for a believing foot to scale, and no furnace too hot

for a believing heart to bear. Let Rome and its amphitheatres, Piedmont

and its snow, France and its galleys, Smithfield and its stakes, the

Netherlands and their rivers of blood, all speak of what grace can do when

once it reigns in the heart, what heroes it can make of the very weakest and

most timid of God's children, where it rules supreme.

I have said that in every part of this woman's action grace is honoured,

and it is so more especially in this respect, that what she did was

practical. Hers was not pretence, but real and expensive service. The

religion of some professors stops short at their substance; it costs them

nothing, and, I fear, is worth nothing. They appear before the Lord empty.

They buy no sweet cane with money, neither does the Lord receive the fat of

their sacrifices. I must confess myself utterly at a loss to understand the

piety of some people. I thank God I am not bound to understand it, and that

I am not sent into the world to be a judge of my fellow creatures, but I do

greatly wonder at the religion of many. There are to be found, and I have

found them, persons whose love to Christ is of such a sort that they give

to his cause the larger proportion of their substance, and do so gladly,

thinking it a privilege; yea, I know some who pinch themselves--some of the

poor and needy, who stint themselves that they may give to Christ. Such are

doubtless blessed in the deed. I do not understand those men who have

thousands upon thousands of pounds, perhaps hundreds of thousands, and

profess to love Christ, and dole out their gifts to Jesus in miserable

fragments. I must leave them to their Master, to be judged at the last, but I

confess I do not understand them or admire them. If I did love Christ at all,

I would love him so that I would give him all I could, and if I did not do

that, I think I would say, "He is not worth it, and I will not be a sham

professor. It is rank hypocrisy to profess love and then to act a miserly

part. Let those who are guilty of it settle the account between God and

their own souls. This woman's alabaster box was given freely, and if she

had had more to give, she would have given it, after the spirit of that

other woman, that memorable widow, who had two mites, which made a

farthing, which were all her living, but she gave it all out of love to

God. Grace reigns indeed with high control when it leads men who naturally

would be selfish to practice liberality in the cause of the Redeemer. Let

these gleanings suffice, the vintage of the fruits of grace is too great

for us to gather it all this morning.

3. I would have you remark, in the third place, that grace is seen by

attentive eyes in our Lord's acceptance of what this chosen vessel had to

bring. Jesus knew her sin. The Pharisee wondered that Jesus did not shrink

from contact with her. You and I may wonder too. We sometimes feel it a

task to have to commune with persons of a certain character even when

they profess to repent: our Lord's sensitiveness of the guilt of sin was much

keener than ours, yet he rested still upon the couch, and quietly accepted

what she brought, permitted her the fond familiarity of kissing his feet

again and again, and to bedew them with her tears--permitted all that, I

say, and accepted all that, and herein made his grace to shine most

brightly. Oh, that Jesus should ever accept anything of me, that he should

be willing to accept my tears, willing to receive my prayers and my praises!

We cheerfully accept a little flower from a child, but then the flower is

beautiful, and we are not far above the child; but Jesus accepts from us that

which is in its nature impure, and upbraids us not. O grace, how

condescending thou art; see, believer, Jesus has heard thy prayers and

answered them; he has blessed thy labours, given thee souls as thy reward,

and at this moment that which is in thy heart to do for him he receives, and

he raises no objection, but takes what thou bringest to him, takes it with

joy. O grace, thou art grace indeed, when the offerings of unworthy ones

become dear unto Jesus' heart.

4. Further, grace is displayed in this narrative when you see our Lord Jesus

Christ become the defender of the penitent. Everywhere grace is the object

of human cavil: men snap at it like evening wolves. Some attack it at the

fountain head; they cannot endure the doctrine of election. Some professors

almost foam at the mouth at the very mention of the word "predestination;"

they cannot bear it, and yet it is God's truth, let them say what they will,

and there shall it stand, let them kick against the pricks if they dare.

"It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that

sheweth mercy." Would to God men would give up their rebellious

questionings and bow before the King of kings. On this occasion, Simon

cavilled at grace in that a sinful woman should be allowed to approach the

Lord, he would have put her in quarantine at the least, if not in prison.

Some object to grace in its perpetuity, they struggle against persevering

grace; but others, like this Simon, struggle against the bounty of grace.

How could such a woman as she was be permitted to draw so near to Christ?

Certain captious spirits will demand, "How should Jesus give to such

unworthy ones such acceptance, such manifestations of himself, such

privileges?" Our Lord took upon himself to defend her, and therefore she

might well afford to hold her tongue. So shall it be with you. If Satan

accuse you, and your enemies with loud-mouthed accusations cry out against

you, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who

will certainly plead your cause and clear you. Jesus by his defensive

parable shows that he was justified in letting the woman approach, because

great love prompted her. There was no sin in her approach, but much to

commend, since her motive was excellent, and the motive is the true measure

of a deed. She felt intense love and gratitude towards the person who had

forgiven her; therefore, her acts were not to be forbidden, but commended.

He justifies her and incidentally justifies himself. Had he not done well in

having won a sinner's heart to penitence and love? Was not election

justified in having chosen one to such holy devotedness and fervency? At

the last great day, the Lord will justify his grace before the eyes of the

whole universe, for he will allow the grace-wrought virtues of his chosen

ones to be unveiled, and all eyes shall see that grace reigns through

righteousness. Then shall they for ever be silenced who accused the grace

of God of leading to licentiousness, for they shall see that in every case

free forgiveness led to gratitude, and gratitude to holiness. The chosen

shall be made choice men. Grace chose them notwithstanding all their

deformities; but when it has cast about them a supernal beauty, they shall

be the wonder and admiration of the universe, evidently made to be the

noblest and best of mankind. Show me where grace ever created sin! You

cannot, but lo, in what a manner has grace created holiness! It is not

ashamed to let its chosen sheep appear before the great dividing Shepherd's

throne, for of them all it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of my Father,

inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me

drink." Grace does not smuggle men into heaven, but brings them up to

heaven's requirements through the Spirit and the blood.

5. Once more, my brethren, the grace of God is seen in this narrative in the

bestowal of yet richer favours. Great grace saved her, rich grace

encouraged her, unbounded grace gave her a divine assurance of forgiveness.

It was proved that she was forgiven, for she loved much, but she had never

received the full assurance of it. She was a hopeful penitent rather than a

confirmed believer. But the Master said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" from

that moment full assurance of faith must have occupied her soul. And then

he gave her that choice dismissary benediction, "Go in peace," by which the

peace of God which passeth all understanding henceforth kept her mind, so

that even when she had to go out of this world into the unknown realm, she

heard in the midst of Jordan's billows, the divine sentence, "Go in peace."

Ah! beloved, you know not what grace can do for you. God is not stinted in

his grace. If he has lifted you up out of the miry clay he can do more, he

can set your feet upon a rock. If on the rock you already stand, he can do

more, he can put a new song into your mouth; and if already you lift the

joyous hymn, he can do more yet, he can establish your goings. You do not

know the exceeding bounty of your own heavenly Father yet. Unfathomable is

his goodness. Arise and enjoy it. Behold the whole land is before you, from

Dan unto Beersheba--all the provisions of the covenant of grace belong to

you. Have but faith, and you shall yet comprehend with all saints what are

the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ which passeth

knowledge.

Here, then, was grace in its object, grace in its fruit, grace in the

acceptance of that fruit, grace in the defence which Jesus made of the

gracious one, and grace in the blessings bestowed upon her. May grace

deal thus bountifully with us.

II. We have but two or three moments left for what requires far more space,

namely, LOVE.

The word blossoms with roses, and suggests the voice of the turtle and the

singing of birds. Our time, however, binds us to a narrow path, which we

must not leave, although the beds of lilies on either hand invite us.

Love--its source: it bubbles up as a pure rill from the well-head of grace.

She loved much, but it was because much had been forgiven. There is no

such thing as mere natural love to God. The only true love which can burn

in the human breast towards the Lord, is that which the Holy Ghost

himself kindles. If thou truly lovest the God who made thee and redeemed

thee, thou mayst be well assured that thou art his child, for none but his

children have any love to him.

Its secondary cause is faith. The fiftieth verse tells us, "Thy faith hath

saved thee." Our souls do not begin with loving Christ, but the first lesson

is to trust. Many penitents attempt this difficult task; they aspire to reach

the stair-head without treading the steps; they would needs be at the

pinnacle of the temple before they have crossed the threshold. First trust

Christ for the pardon of thy sin: when thou hast done this, thy sins are

forgiven, and then love shall flash to thy heart as the result of gratitude

for what the Redeemer has done for thee. Grace is the source of love, but

faith is the agent by which love is brought to us.

The food of love is a sense of sin, and a grateful sense of forgiveness. If

you and I felt more deeply the guilt of our past lives, we should love

Jesus Christ better. If we have but a clearer sense that our sins deserve

the deepest hell, that Christ suffered what we ought to have suffered in

order to redeem us from our iniquities, we should not be such coldhearted

creatures as we are. We are perfectly monstrous in our want of love to

Christ, but the true secret of it is a forgetfulness of our ruined and lost

natural estate, and a forgetfulness of the sufferings by which we have been

redeemed from that condition. O that our love might feed itself this day,

and find a renewal of its strength in remembering what sovereign grace has

done.

Love in the narrative before us shines in the fact that the service the

woman rendered to our Lord was perfectly voluntary. No one suggested it,

much less pressed it upon her. It takes the gloss off our service when we

need to be dragged to it, or pushed forward by some energetic pleader.

Brethren, the anointing was impromptu with her. Christ was there, and it

was at her own suggestion that she anointed his feet. Mary of Bethany had

not then set the example: the woman who was a sinner was an original in

her service. In these days we have many inventors and discoverers for our

temporal use and service, why should we not have inventors for Jesus who

will bring out new projects of usefulness? We are most of us content to

travel in the old rut, but if we had more love to Jesus we should be more

eccentric, and should have a degree of freshness about our service which at

present is all too rare. Lord, give us the love which can lead the way!

Her service to Jesus was personal. She did it all herself, and all to him. Do

you notice how many times the pronoun occurs in our text? "She stood at

his feet behind 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." She served Christ himself. It was neither service

to Peter, nor James, nor John, nor yet to the poor or sick of the city, but to

the Master himself; and, depend upon it, when our love is in active

exercise, our piety will be immediately towards Christ-- we shall sing to

him, pray to him, teach for him, preach for him, live to him. Forgetfulness

of the personality of Christ takes away the very vitality of our religion.

How much better will you teach, this afternoon, in your Sabbath-school

class, if you teach your children for Christ! How much better will you go

forth this evening to tell to others the way of salvation, if you go to do

it for his sake! Then you court no man's smile--you fear no man's frown. It

is enough for you that you have done it for the Master, and if the Master

accepts it you have the reward in that very fact.

The woman's service showed her love in that it was fervent. There was so

much affection in it--nothing conventional; no following chilly propriety,

no hesitating enquiry for precedents. Why did she kiss his feet? Was it not

a superfluity? What was the good of it? Did it not look sentimental,

affected, sensuous, indelicate? Little did she care how it looked; she knew

what she meant. She could not do otherwise. Her whole soul went out in

love, she acted naturally as her heart dictated, and, brethren, she acted

well. O for more of this guileless piety, which hurls decorum and

regulation to the winds. Ah, throw your souls into the service of Christ; let

your heart burn in his presence, and let all your soul belong to Jesus. Serve

not your Master as though you were half asleep, do not work with drooping

hands and half-closed eyes, but wake up the whole of your powers and

passions: for such love as he has shown to you, give the most awakened

and quickened love in return. O for more of this love! If I might only pray

one prayer this morning, I think it should be that the flaming torch of the

love of Jesus should be brought into every one of our hearts, and that all

our passions should be set ablaze with love to him.

One thought more, and I am done. This woman's love is a lesson to us in

the opportunity which she seized. She was evidently but just pardoned: she

was rather a weeper than one who had learned to rejoice, and yet for all

that, she would serve him at the first dawn of her spiritual life. Now, you

young converts, no longer say, "We will do something for Christ in a few

years' time, when we have made our calling and election sure; we will wait

till we have grown in grace, and then try to do what we can." No, no, but

as soon as you are washed, bring your offering to Jesus. The very day of

your conversion, enlist in his army, for speedy obedience is beautiful.

Perhaps if this woman had lingered, she had never anointed the Lord at all;

but in the hot flush of her first love, she did well to perform at once this

zealous, fervent act. Young converts maintain, by God's grace, the warmth

of the blood which circulates in the church's veins. Old churches generally

become diseased churches when they cease to grow. I do not know a

church in all England without conversions which is at all in a happy

spiritual state. The fact is, the fresh comers stir us all up by their

fervour, their simplicity, their childlike confidence. Now, beloved ones,

we encourage you to show this. For our sakes, for your own sakes, for

Christ's sake, do not hesitate--if there be anything you can do, though you

are uneducated in the divine school, do it. Though there may be a dozen

blunders in the method, yet do it, for Christ will accept it. The Pharisee

may cavil--well, perhaps it may keep his tongue from other mischief--let

him cavil, you can bear it, Christ will defend you, Jesus will accept you;

and as a reward for doing what you can, he may be pleased to give you

grace to do more, and may breathe over you a full assurance of faith, which

had you been idle you might not for years have attained; and he may give

you a peace of conscience in serving him which, had you sat still, might

never have come to you. I beseech all of you who love Jesus, do not hide

the light you have under a bushel, but come out and show it. If you have

but a little faith, use it; if you have only a grain of faith, turn it to

account. Put the one talent out at interest, and use it for the Master at

once, and the Lord bless you in such a work, by increasing your faith and

love, and making you to be as this woman was, a highly favoured servant of

this blessed Master. May the Lord give every one of you his blessing, for

Jesus' sake.

#####################################

Saving Faith

March 15, 1874

by

C. H. SPURGEON

"Thy faith hath saved thee."-- Luke 7:50 ; and Luke 18:42 .

I do not remember that this expression is found anywhere else in the Word

of God. It is found in these two places in the Gospel by Luke, but not in

any other Gospel. Luke also gives us in two other places a kindred, and

almost identical expression, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." This you

will find used in reference to the woman whose issue of blood had been

staunched (Luke 8:48 ), and in connection with that one of the ten lepers

who returned to praise the Saviour for the cure he had received (Luke 17:19 ).

You will find the expression, "Thy faith hath made thee whole"

once in Matthew and twice in Mark, but you find it twice in Luke, and

together therewith the twice repeated words of our text, "Thy faith hath

saved thee." Are we wrong in supposing that the long intercourse of Luke

with the apostle Paul led him not only to receive the great doctrine of

justification by faith which Paul so plainly taught, and to attach to faith

that high importance which Paul always did, but also to have a peculiar

memory for those expressions which were used by the Saviour, in which

faith was manifestly honoured to a very high degree. Albeit Luke would

not have written anything which was not true for the sake of maintaining

the grand doctrine so clearly taught by the apostle, yet I think his full

conviction of it would help to recall to his memory more vividly those

words of the Lord Jesus from which it could be more clearly learned or

illustrated. Be that as it may, we know that Luke was inspired, and that he

has written neither more nor less than what the Saviour actually said, and

hence we may be quite sure that the expression, "Thy faith hath saved

thee," fell from the Redeemer's lips, and we are bound to accept it as pure

unquestionable truth, and we may repeat it ourselves without fear of

misleading others, or trenching upon any other truth. I mention this

because the other day I heard an earnest friend say that faith did not save

us, at which announcement I was rather surprised. The brother, it is true,

qualified the expression, and showed that he meant to make it clear that

Jesus saved us, and not our own act of faith. I agreed with what he meant,

but not with what he said, for he had no right to use an expression which

was in flat contradiction to the distinct declaration of the Saviour, "Thy

faith hath saved thee." We are not to strain any expression to make it mean

more than the speaker intended, and it is well to guard words from being

misunderstood; but on the other hand, we may not quite go so far as

absolutely to negative a declaration of the Lord himself, however we may

mean to qualify it. It is to be qualified if you like, but it is not to be

contradicted, for there it stands, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Now we shall

this morning, by God's help, inquire what was it that saved the two persons

whose history will come before us? It was their faith. Our second inquiry

will be what kind of faith was it which saved them? and then thirdly, what

does this teach us in reference to faith?

I. WHAT WAS IT THAT SAVED the two persons whose history we are about to

consider?

In the penitent woman's case, her great sins were forgiven her and she

became a woman of extraordinary love: she loved much, for she had much

forgiven. I feel, in thinking of her, something like an eminent father of the

church who said, "This narrative is not one which I can well preach upon;

I had far rather weep over it in secret." That woman's tears, that woman's

unbraided tresses wiping the Saviour's feet, her coming so near to her Lord

in such company, facing such proud cavillers, with such fond and resolute

intent of doing honour to Jesus; verily, among those that have loved the

Saviour, there hath not lived a greater than this woman who was a sinner.

Yet for all that Jesus did not say to her, "Thy love hath saved thee." Love is

a golden apple of the tree of which faith is the root, and the Saviour took

care not to ascribe to the fruit that which belongs only to the root. This

loving woman was also right notable for her repentance. Mark ye well

those tears. Those were no tears of sentimental emotion, but a rain of holy

heart-sorrow for sin. She had been a sinner and she knew it; she

remembered well her multitude of iniquities, and she felt each sin deserved

a tear, and there she stood weeping herself away, because she had offended

her dear Lord. Yet it is not said, "Thy repentance hath saved thee." Her

being saved caused her repentance, but repentance did not save her. Sorrow

for sin is an early token of grace within the heart, yet it is nowhere said,

"Thy sorrow for sin hath saved thee." She was a woman of great humility.

She came behind the Lord and washed his feet, as though she felt herself

only able to be a menial servant to perform works of drudgery, and to find

a pleasure in so serving her Lord. Her reverence for him had reached a

very high point; she regarded him as a king, and she did what has

sometimes been done for monarchs by zealous subjects--she kissed the feet

of her heart's Lord, who well deserved the homage. Her loyal reverence led

her to kiss the feet of her Lord, the Sovereign of her soul, but I do not find

that Jesus said, "Thy humility hath saved thee;" or that he said, "Thy

reverence hath saved thee;" but he put the crown upon the head of her

faith, and said expressly, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

In the case of the blind man to whom my second text refers--this man was

notable for his earnestness; he cried, and cried aloud, "Son of David, have

mercy on me." He was notable for his importunity, for they who would

have silenced him rebuked him in vain; he cried so much the more, "Son of

David, have mercy on me." But I do not discover that Christ attributed his

salvation to his prayers, earnest and importunate though they were. It is not

written, "Thy prayers have saved thee"; it is written, "Thy faith hath saved

thee." He was a man of considerable and clear knowledge, and he had a

distinct apprehension of the true character of Christ: he scorned to call him

Jesus of Nazareth, as the crowd did, but he proclaimed him "Son of

David," and in the presence of that throng he dared avow his full

conviction that the humble man, dressed in a peasant's garb, who was

threading his way through the throng, was none other than the royal heir of

the royal line of Judah, and was indeed the fulfiller of the type of David,

the expected Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Son of David. Yet I do not

find that Jesus attributed his salvation to his knowledge, to his clear

apprehension, or to his distinct avowal of his Messiahship; but he said to

him, "Thy faith hath saved thee," laying the entire stress of his salvation

upon his faith.

This being so in both cases, we are led to ask, what is the reason for it?

What is the reason why in every case, in every man that is saved, faith is

the great instrument of salvation? Is it not first because God has a right to

choose what way of salvation he pleases, and he has chosen that men

should be saved, not by their works, but by their faith in his dear Son? God

has a right to give his mercy to whom he pleases; he has a right to give it

when he pleases; he has a right to give it in what mode he pleases; and

know ye this, O sons of men, that the decree of heaven is immutable, and

standeth fast forever--"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; he

that believeth not shall be damned." To this there shall be no exception;

Jehovah has made the rule and it shall stand. If thou wouldst have

salvation, "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"; but if

not, salvation is utterly impossible to thee. This is the appointed way;

follow it, and it leads to heaven; refuse it, and thou must perish. This is

God's sovereign determination, "He that believeth on him is not

condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he

hath not believed on the Son of God." Jehovah's will be done. If this be his

method of grace, let us not kick against it. If he determines that faith shall

save, so let it be; only, Good Master, create and increase our faith.

But while I attribute this to the sovereign choice of God, I do see, for

Scripture plainly indicates it, a reason in the nature of things why faith

should thus have been selected. The apostle tells us it is of faith that it

might be of grace. If the condition of salvation had been either feeling or

working, then, such is the depravity of our nature, that we should

inevitably have attributed the merit of salvation to the working or the

feeling. We should have claimed something whereof to glory. It matters not

how low the condition may have been, man would have still considered

that there was something required of him, that something came from him,

and that, therefore, he might take some credit to himself. But no man,

unless he be demented, ever claims credit for believing the truth. If he

hears that which convinces him, he is convinced; and if he be persuaded,

he is persuaded; but he feels that it could not well be otherwise. He

attributes the effect to the truth and the influence used. He does not go

about and boast because he believes what is so clear to him that he cannot

doubt it. If he did so boast of spiritual faith, all thinking men would say at

once, "Wherefore dost thou boast in the fact of having believed, and

especially when this believing would never have been thine if it had not

been for the force of the truth which convinced thee, and the working of

the Spirit of God which constrained thee to believe?" Faith is chosen by

Christ to wear the crown of salvation because--let me contradict myself--it

refuses to wear the crown. It was Christ that saved the penitent woman, it

was Christ that saved that blind beggar, but he takes the crown from off his

own head, so dear is faith to him, and he puts the diadem upon the head of

faith and says, "Thy faith hath saved thee," because he is absolutely certain

that faith will never take the glory to herself, but will again lay the crown

at the pierced feet, and say, "Not unto myself be glory, for thou hast done

it; thou art the Saviour, and thou alone." In order, then, to illustrate and

to protect the interests of sovereign grace, and to shut out all vain

glorying, God has been pleased to make the way of salvation to be by faith,

and by no other means.

Nor is this all. It is clear to every one who chooses to think that in order

to the renewal of the heart, which is the chief part of salvation, it is well

to begin with the faith; because faith once rightly exercised becomes the

mainspring of the entire nature. The man believes that he is forgiven.

What then? He feels gratitude to him who has pardoned him. Feeling

gratitude, it is but natural that he should hate that which displeases his

Saviour, and should love intensely that which is pleasing to him who saved

him, so that faith operates upon the entire nature, and becomes the

instrument in the hand of the regenerating Spirit by which all the faculties

of the soul are put into the right condition. As a man thinketh in his heart

so is he, but his thinkings come out of his believings; if he be put right in

his believings, then his understanding will operate upon his affections, and

all the other powers of his manhood, and old things will pass away, all

things will become new through the wonderful effect of the faith, which is

of the operation of God. Faith works by love, and through love it purifies

the soul, and the man becomes a new creature. See ye then the wisdom of

God? He may choose what way he will, but he chooses a way which at once

guards his grace from our felonious boastings, and on the other hand

produces in us a holiness which other wise never would have been there.

Faith in salvation, however, is not the meritorious cause; nor is it in any

sense the salvation itself. Faith saves us just as the mouth saves from

hunger. If we be hungry, bread is the real cure for hunger, but still it would

be right to say that eating removes hunger, seeing that the bread itself

could not benefit us, unless the mouth should eat it. Faith is the soul's

mouth, whereby the hunger of the heart is removed. Christ also is the

brazen serpent lifted up; all the healing virtue is in him; yet no healing

virtue comes out of the brazen serpent to any who will not look; so that the

looking is rightly considered to be the act which saves. True, in the deepest

sense it is Christ uplifted who saves, to him be all the glory; but without

looking to him ye cannot be saved, so that

"There is life in a look,"

as well as life in the Saviour to whom you look. Nothing is yours until you

appropriate it. If you be enriched, the thing appropriated enriches you; yet

it is not incorrect but strictly right to say it is the appropriation of the

blessing which makes you rich. Faith is the hand of the soul. Stretched out,

it lays hold of the salvation of Christ, and so by faith we are saved. "Thy

faith hath saved thee." I need not dwell longer on that point. It is self-

evident from the text that faith is the great means of salvation.

II. WHAT KIND OF FAITH WAS IT that saved these people? I will mention, first,

the essential agreements; and then, secondly, the differentia, or the points

in which this faith differed in its external manifestations in the two cases.

In the instances of the penitent woman and the blind beggar, their faith

was fixed alone in Jesus. You cannot discover anything floating in their

faith in Jesus which adulterated it; it was unmixed faith in him. the woman

pressed forward to him, her tears fell on him; her ointment was for him;

her unloosed tresses were a towel for his; feet she cared for no one else, not

even for the disciples whom she respected for his sake; her whole spirit and

soul were absorbed in him. He could save her; he could blot out her sins.

She believed him; she did it unto him. The same was the case with that

blind man. He had no thought of any ceremonies to be performed by

priests; he had no idea of any medicine which might be given him by

physicians. His cry was, "Son of David, Son of David." The only notice he

took of others was to disregard them, and still to cry, "Son of David, Son of

David." "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" was the Lord's

question, and it answered to the desire of his soul, for he knew that if

anything were done it must be done by the Son of David. It is essential that

our faith must rest alone on Jesus. Mix anything with Christ, and you are

undone. If your faith shall stand with one foot upon the rock of his merits,

and the other foot upon the sand of your own duties, it will fall, and great

will be the fall thereof. Build wholly on the rock, for if so much as a corner

of the edifice shall rest on anything beside, it will ensure the ruin of the

whole:--

"None but Jesus, none but Jesus

Can do helpless sinners good."

All true faith is alike in this respect.

The faith of these two was alike in its confession of unworthiness. What

meant her standing behind? What meant her tears, her everflowing tears,

but that she felt unworthy to draw near to Jesus? And what meant the

beggar's cry, "Have mercy on me?" Note the stress he lays upon it. "Have

mercy on me." He does not claim the cure by merit, nor ask it as a reward.

To mercy he appealed. Now I care not whose faith it is, whether it be that

of David in his bitter cries of the fifty-first Psalm, or whether it be that

of Paul in his highest exaltation upon being without condemnation through

Christ, there is always in connection with true faith a thorough and deep

sense that it is mercy, mercy alone, which saves us from the wrath to come.

Dear hearer, do not deceive yourself. Faith and boasting are as opposite to

one another as the two poles. If you come before Christ with your

righteousness in your hand, you come without faith; but if you come with

faith you must also come with confession of sin, for true faith always walks

hand in hand with a deep sense of guiltiness before the Most High. This is

so in every case.

Their faith was alike, moreover, in defying and conquering opposition.

Little do we know the inward struggles of the penitent as she crossed the

threshold of Simon's house. "He will repel thee," the stern, cold Pharisee

will say, "Get thee gone, thou strumpet; how darest thou defile the doors of

honest men." But whatever may happen she passes through the door, she

comes to where the feet of the Saviour are stretched out towards the

entrance as he is reclining at the table, and there she stands. Simon

glanced at her: he thought the glance would wither her, but her love to

Christ was too well rooted to be withered by him. No doubt he made many

signs of his displeasure, and showed that he was horrified at such a

creature being anywhere near him, but she took no notice of him. Her Lord

was there, and she felt safe. Timid as a dove, she trembled not while he

was near; but she returned no defiant glances for Simon's haughty looks;

her eyes were occupied with weeping. She did not turn aside to demand an

explanation of his unkind motions, for her lips were all engrossed with

kissing those dear feet. Her Lord, her Lord, was all to her. She overcame

through faith in him, and held her ground, and did not leave the house till

he dismissed her with "Go in peace."

It was the same with the blind man. He said, "Son of David, have mercy on

me." They cried, "Hush! Why these clamours, blind beggar? His eloquence

is music; do not interrupt him. Never man spake as he is speaking. Every

tone rings like the harps of the angels. Hush! How darest thou spoil his

discourse?" But over and above them all went up the importunate prayer,

"Son of David, have mercy upon me," and he prevailed. All true faith is

opposed. If thy faith be never tried it is not born of the race of the church

militant. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,"

but it is indicated in that very declaration that there must be something to

overcome, and that faith must wage war for its existence.

Once more, the faith of these two persons was alike in being openly

avowed. I will not say that the avowal took the same form in both, for it did

not; but still it was equally open. There is the Saviour, and there comes the

weeping penitent. She loves him. Is she ashamed to say so? It may bring

her reproach; it will certainly rake up the old reproaches against her, for

she has been a sinner. Never mind what she has been, nor who may be

present to see her. She loves her Lord, and she will show it. She will bring

the ointment and she will anoint his feet, even in the presence of Pharisees,

Pharisees who would say, "Is this one of the disciples of Christ? A pretty

convert to boast of! A fine conquest this, for his kingdom! A harlot

becomes a disciple! What next and what next?" She must have known and

felt all that, but still there was no concealment. She loved her Lord, and

she would avow it, and so in the very house of the Pharisee, there being no

other opportunity so convenient, she comes forward, and without words,

but with actions far more eloquent than words, she says, "I love him. These

tears shall show it; this ointment shall diffuse the knowledge of it, as its

sweet perfume fills the room; and every lock of my hair shall be a witness

that I am my Lord's and he is mine." She avowed her faith.

And so did the blind man. He did not sit there and say, "I know he is the

Son of David, but I must not say it." They said, some of them

contemptuously, and others indifferently, "It is Jesus of Nazareth." But he

will not have it so. "Thou Son of David," saith he; and loud above their

noise I hear him cry, like a herald proclaiming the King, "Son of David."

Why, sirs, it seems to me he was exalted to a high office: he became the

herald of the King, and proclaimed him, and this belongs to a high officer

of State in our country. The blind beggar showed great decision and

courage. He cried in effect, "Son of David thou art; Son of David I

proclaim thee; Son of David thou shalt be proclaimed, whoever may

gainsay it; only turn thine eyes and have mercy upon me." Are there any of

you here who have a faith in Christ which you are ashamed of? I also am

ashamed of you, and so also will Christ be ashamed of you when he cometh

in the glory of his Father and all his holy angels with him. Ashamed to

claim that you are honest? Then methinks you must live in bad company,

where to be a rogue is to be famous; and if you are ashamed to say, "I love

my Lord," methinks you are courting the friendship of Christ's enemies,

and what can you be but an enemy yourself: If you love him, say it. Put on

your Master's regimentals, enlist in his army, and come forward and

declare, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Their faith was

alike then in these four particulars, it was fixed alone on him, it was

accompanied with a sense of unworthiness, it struggled and conquered

opposition, and it openly declared itself before all comers.

By your patience I shall now try to show the differences between the same

faith as to its manifestations. First, the woman's faith acted like a woman's

faith. She showed tender love, and the affections are the glory and the

strength of women. They were certainly such in her. Her love was intense,

womanly love, and she poured it out upon the Saviour. The man's faith

acted like a man's in its determination and strength. He persisted in crying,

"Thou Son of David." There was as much that was masculine about his

faith as there was of the feminine in the penitent's faith, and everything

should be in its order and after its season. It would not have been meet for

the woman's voice to be heard so boldly above the crowd; it would have

seemed out of place for a man's tears to have been falling upon the

Saviour's feet. Either one or the other might have been justifiable, but they

would not have been equally suitable. But now they are as suitable as they

are excellent. The woman acts as a godly woman should. The man like a

godly man. Never let us measure ourselves by other people. Do not, my

brother, say, "I could not shed tears." Who asked thee to do so? A man's

tears are mostly within, and so let them be: it is ours to use other modes of

showing our love. And, my sister, do not say, "I could not act as a herald

and publicly proclaim the King." I doubt not thou couldest do so if there

were need, but thy tears in secret, and those wordless tokens of love to

Jesus which thou are rendering, are not less acceptable because they are not

the same as a man would give. Nay, they are the better because they are

more suitable to thee. Do not think that all the flowers of God's garden

must bloom in the same colour or shed the same perfume.

Notice next that the woman acted like a woman who had been a sinner.

What more meet than tears? What more fitting place for her than at the

Saviour's feet? She had been a sinner, she acts like a sinner; but the man

who had been a beggar acted like a beggar. What does a beggar do but

clamour for alms? Did he not beg gloriously? Never one plied the trade

more earnestly than he. "Son of David," said he, "have mercy on me." I

should not have liked to have seen the beggar sitting there weeping; nor to

have heard the penitent woman shouting. Neither would have been natural

or seemly. Faith works according to the condition, circumstances, sex, or

ability of the person in whom it lives, and it best shows itself in its own

form, not in an artificial manner, but in the natural outflow of the heart.

Observe, also, that the woman did not speak. There is something very

beautiful in the golden silence of the woman, which was richer than her

silver speech would have been. But the man was not silent; he spoke; he

spoke out, and his words were excellent. I venture to say that the woman's

silence spoke as powerfully as the man's voice. Of the two I think I find

more eloquence in the tears bedewing, and unbraided hair wiping the

Saviour's feet, than in the cry, "Son of David, have mercy on me." Yet both

forms of expression were equally good, the silence best in the woman with

her tears, and the speech best in the man with his confident trust in Christ.

Do not think it necessary, dear friend, in order to serve, to do other

people's work. What thine own hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. If you

think you can never honour Christ till you enter a pulpit, it may be just

possible that you will afterwards honour him best by getting out of it as

quickly as you can. There have been persons well qualified to adorn the

religion of Christ with a lapstone on their lap who have thought it

necessary to mount a pulpit, and in that position have been a hindrance to

Christ and his gospel. Sister, there is a sphere for you; keep to it, let none

push you out of it; but do not think there is nothing else to do except the

work which some other woman does. God has called her, let her follow

God's voice; he calls you in another direction, follow his voice thither. You

will be most like that other excellent woman when you are most different

from her: I mean, you will be most truly obedient to Christ, as she is, if you

pursue quite another path.

There was a difference, again, in this. The woman gave--she brought her

ointment. The man did the opposite--he begged. There are various ways of

showing love to Christ, which are equally excellent tokens of faith. To give

him of her ointment, and give him of her tears, and give him the

accommodation of her hair, was well; it showed her faith, which worked by

love: to give nothing, for the beggar had nothing to give, but simply to

honour Christ by appealing to his bounty and his royal power, was best in

the beggar. I can commend neither above the other, for I doubt not that

both the penitent and the beggar gave Christ their whole heart, and what

more does Jesus ask for from any one?

The thoughts of the woman and the thoughts of the beggar were different

too. Her thoughts were mainly about the past, and her sins--hence her

tears. To be forgiven, that was her point. His thoughts were mainly about

the present, and did not so much concern his sin as his deficiency,

infirmity, and inability, and so he came with different thoughts. I do not

doubt that he thought of sin, as I dare say she also thought of infirmity; but

in her case the thought of sin was uppermost, and hence the tears; in his

the infirmity was uppermost, and hence the prayer, "Lord, that I might

receive my sight." Do not, then, compare your experience with that of

another. God is a God of wonderful variety. The painter who repeats

himself in many pictures has a paucity of conception, but the master artist

scarcely ever sketches the same thing a second time. There is a boundless

variety in genius, and God who transcends all the genius of men, creates an

infinite variety in the works of his grace. Look not, therefore, for likeness

everywhere. The woman, it is said, loved much, and she proved her love by

her acts; but the man loved much too, and showed his love by actions

which were most admirable, for he followed Jesus in the way, glorifying

God. Yet they were different actions. I do not find that he brought any box

of ointment, or anointed Christ's feet, neither do I find that she literally

followed Christ in the way, though no doubt she followed him in the spirit;

neither did she with a loud voice glorify God as the restored blind beggar

did. There are differences of operation, but the same Lord; there are

differences of capacity and differences of calling, and by this reflection I

hope you will be enabled to deliver yourselves from the fault of judging one

by another, and that you will look for the same faith, but not for the same

development of it.

So interesting is this subject that I want you to follow me while I very

rapidly sketch the woman's case, and then the man's, not mentioning the

differences one by one, but allowing the two pictures to impress themselves

separately upon your minds.

Observe this woman. What a strange compound she was. She was

consciously unworthy, and therefore she wept, yet she drew very near to

Jesus. Her acts were those of nearness and communion; she washed his feet

with her tears, she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and meanwhile

she kissed them again and again. "She hath not ceased," said Christ, "to

kiss my feet." A sense of unworthiness, and the enjoyment of communion,

were mixed together. Oh, divine faith which blends the two! She was

shamefaced, yet was she very bold. She dared not look the Master in the

face as yet; she approached him from behind; yet she dared face Simon,

and remain in his room, whether he frowned or no. I have known some

who have blushed in the face of Christ who would not have blushed before

a judge, nor at the stake, if they had been dragged there for Christ's sake.

Such a woman was Anne Askew, humble before her Master, but like a lioness

before the foes of God.

The penitent woman wept, she was a mourner, yet she had a deep joy; I

know she had, for every kiss meant joy. Every time she lifted that blessed

foot, and kissed it, her heart leaped with the transport of love. Her heart

knew bitterness for sin, but it knew also the sweetness of pardon. What a

mixture! Faith made the compound. She was humble, never one more so;

yet see how she takes upon herself to deal with the King himself. Brethren,

you and I are satisfied, and well we may be, if we may wash the saints' feet,

but she was not. Oh, the courage of this woman! She will pass through the

outer court, and get right to the King's own throne, and there pay her

homage, in her own person, to his person, and wash the feet of the

wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God. I know not that an angel ever

performed such suit and service, and therefore this woman takes

preeminence as having done for Jesus what no other being ever did. I have

said that she was silent, and yet she spake; I will add, she was despised, but

Christ set her high in honour, and made Simon, who despised her, to feel

little in her presence. I will also add she was a great sinner, but she was a

great saint. Her great sinnership, when pardoned, became the raw stuff out

of which great saints are made by the mighty power of God. Finally she

was saved by faith, so says the text, but if ever there was a case in which

James could not have said, "Shall faith save thee?" and in which he must

have said, "Here is one that shows her faith by her works," it was the case

of this woman. There she is before you. Imitate her faith itself, though you

cannot actually copy her deeds.

Now look at the man. He was blind, but he could see a great deal more

than the Pharisees, who said they could see. Blind, but his inward optics

saw the king in his beauty, saw the splendour of his throne, and he

confessed it. He was a beggar, but he had a royal soul, and a strong

sovereign determination which was not to be put down. He had the kind of

mind which dwells in men who are princes among their fellows. He is not

to be stopped by disciples, nay, nor by apostles. He has begun to pray, and

pray he will till he obtains the boon he seeks. Note well that what he knew

he avowed, what he desired he pleaded for, and what he needed he

understood. "Lord, that I might receive my sight;" he was clear about his

needs, and clear about the only person who could supply them. What he

asked for he expected, for when he was bidden to come he evidently

expected that his sight would be restored, for we are told by another

Evangelist that he cast away his beggar's cloak. He felt he should never

want to beg again. He was sure his eyes were about to be opened. Lastly,

what he received he was grateful for, for as soon as he could walk without

a guide he took Christ to be his guide, and followed him in the way,

glorifying him. Look on both pictures. May you have the shadows and the

lights of both, as far as they would tend to make you also another and

distinct picture by the selfsame artist, whose hand alone can produce such

wonders.

III. WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US IN REFERENCE TO FAITH?

It teaches us first that faith is all important. Do, I pray you, my hearers,

see whether you have the precious faith, the faith of God's elect. Remember

there are not many things in Scripture called precious, but there is the

precious blood, and there goes with it the precious faith. If you have not

that you are lost; if you have not that you are neither fit to live nor fit to

die; if you have not that, your eternal destiny will be infinite despair; but

if you have faith, though it be as a grain of mustard seed, you are saved.

"Thy faith hath saved thee."

Learn next that the main matter in faith is the person whom you believe. I

do not say in whom you believe. That would be true, but not quite so

scriptural an expression. Paul does not say, as I hear most people quote it,

"I know in whom I have believed." Faith believes Christ. Your faith must

recognise him as a person, and come to him as a person, and rest not in his

teaching merely, or his work only, but in him. "Come unto me, all ye that

labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." A personal Saviour

for sinners! Are you resting on him alone? Do you believe him? You know

the safety of the building depends mainly upon the foundation, and if the

foundation be not right, you may build as you will, it will not last. Do you

build, then, on Christ alone? Inquire about that as a special point.

Observe next, that we must not expect exactly the same manifestation in

each convert. Let not the elders of the church expect it, let not parents

require it from their children; let not anxious friends look for it; do not

expect it in yourself. Biographies are very useful, but they may become a

snare. I must not judge that I am not a child of God because I am not

precisely like that good man whose life I have just been reading. Am I

resting in Christ? Do I believe him? Then it may be the Lord's grace is

striking out quite a different path for me from that which has been trodden

by my brother, that it may illustrate other phases of its power, and show to

principalities and powers the exceeding riches of divine love.

And, lastly, the matter which sums up all is this, if we have faith in Jesus

we are saved, and ought not to talk or act as if there were any question

about it. "THY FAITH HATH SAVED THEE." Jesus says it. Granted, you

have faith in Christ, and it is certain that faith hath saved you. Do not,

therefore, go on talking and acting and feeling as if you were not saved. I

know a company of saved people who say every Sabbath, "Lord, have

mercy upon us, miserable sinners"; but they are not miserable sinners if

they are saved, and for them to use such words is to throw a slight upon the

salvation which Christ has given them. If they are saved sinners they ought

to be rejoicing saints. What some say others do not say, but they act as if it

were so. They go about asking God to give them the mercy they have

already obtained, hoping one day to receive what Christ assures them is

already in their possession, talking to others as if it were a matter of

question whether they were saved or not, when it cannot be a matter of

question. "Thy faith hath saved thee." Fancy the poor penitent woman

turning round and saying to the Saviour, "Lord, I humbly hope that it is

true." There would have been neither humility nor faith in such an

expression. Imagine that blind man, when Christ said, "Thy faith hath

saved thee," saying "I trust that in future years it will be found to be so."

It would be a belying at once of his own earnest character and of Christ's

honesty of speech. If thou hast believed, thou art saved. Do not talk as if

thou wert not, but now down from the willows take thy harp, and sing unto

the Lord a new song. I have noticed in many prayers a tendency to avoid

speaking as if facts were facts. I have heard this kind of expression, "The

Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we desire to be glad." The text

is, "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad;" and if

the Lord has done these great things for us our right is to be glad about

them, not to go with an infamous "if" upon our lips before the Lord who

cannot lie. If ye are dealing with your fellow creatures, suspect them, for

they mostly deserve it; if ye are listening to their promises, doubt them, for

their promises go to be broken; but if ye are dealing with your Lord and

Master, never suspect him, for he is beyond suspicion; never doubt his

promises, for heaven and earth and hell shall pass away, but not one jot or

tittle of his word shall fail. I claim for Christ that ye cast away forever

all the talk which is made up of "buts," and "ifs," and "peradventures," and

"I hope," and "I trust." You are in the presence of One who said, "Verily,

verily," and meant what he said, who is "the Amen, the faithful and true

witness."

You would not spit in his face if he were here, yet your "ifs" and "buts" are

so much insult cast upon his truth. You would not scourge him, but what

do your doubts do but vex him and put him to shame? If he lies, never

believe him; if he speaks the truth, never doubt him. Then shall ye know

when ye have cast aside your wicked unbelief, that your faith has saved

you, and ye will go in peace.

###################################

Go in Peace

September 23rd, 1883 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Luke 7:50 .

There appear to have been four stages in Christ's dealing with this woman. I know not what had preceded the narrative as we have it recorded in this chapter; I need not enter into that question now. There had, doubtless, been a work of the Spirit of God upon that woman's heart, turning her from her sin to her Saviour; but when she stood at our Master's feet, raining tears of penitence upon them, wiping them with the hairs of her head, giving to them kisses of love, and anointing them with the ointment from the alabaster box, there were four stages m his gracious dealings with her. The first was, when he silently accepted her manifestations of love. When the copious tears from her eyes fell upon his feet, he did not withdraw them. When those feet were wiped with the luxuriant tresses of her hair, still he did not withdraw them; and when she ventured upon a yet closer familiarity, and not only kissed his feet, but did not cease to kiss them, he still did not withdraw them, but quietly accepted all that she did. And when the precious ointment was poured in lavish abundance upon those precious feet of his, he did not upbraid her, he did not refuse her gifts, but tacitly accepted them, though without a word of acknowledgment just then. And I think it is a very blessed thing for any one of you to be accepted before God, even though no word has come from his lips assuring you that it is so. When your tears, and cries, and secret love, and earnest seeking,--when your confession of sin, your struggle after faith, and the dawnings of your faith are just accepted by the Lord, though as yet he has not said to you, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," it is a very blessed stage for you to have reached, for the Lord does not begin to accept anyone, even by a silence which means consent, and then draw back. He accepted this woman's love and gifts, though, for a time, he gave her no assurance of that acceptance, and that fact must have greatly cheered her. Manoah's wife said to him, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands;" and I feel sure that, if the Lord had not meant to bestow his mercy upon this woman, he would not have submitted to her washing of his feet with her tears, and wiping them with the hairs of her head, and the subsequent continual kissing of them, and anointing of them with the precious ointment. Our Lord's favourable inclination towards this woman was still more marked in the second stage of his dealings with her, when he began to defend her against her accuser. When Simon's evil thoughts had condemned her, and her Lord also, Jesus spoke that wonderful parable which set forth the greatness of this woman's love, and justified the extraordinary way in which she manifested it. Christ did not speak to her, but he spoke up for her; and such action as that should be quite sufficient to stay the soul of a believer in him. What though my Lord has not revealed himself to me? He has revealed himself to the Father for me. What if he has not spoken to me? Yet, if he has spoken to God on my behalf, if he has Spoken in the Scriptures in defence of poor sinners, and advocated their cause in the High Court of Heaven, then how thankful I may be, and how thankful they may be! In the third stage, our Lord did still more for this woman, for he spoke to her these gracious words, "Thy sins are forgiven." Oh, how they must have dropped like dew into her poor soul! How she must have been refreshed by them! She, who was a sinner, a great sinner, a public sinner,--ay, a professional sinner, hears her Saviour say to her, "Thy sins are forgiven." The absolution pronounced by the man who calls himself a priest is utterly worthless; but it would be worth while to give a thousand worlds, if we had them, for absolution from our great High Priest! Yes, he who knew all about the woman's sin, he who had power on earth to forgive sins, had said to her, "Thy sins are forgiven." Was not that enough for her? Would not that short sentence set all the bells of her heart ringing as long as ever she lived? Ay, but there was still more to follow, for the Lord spoke to her a second time, and said, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." So she was not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but she was also delivered from the power of sin. Her faith had saved her; she was a saved woman, so she might go in peace. Now she is enjoying the sunlight of full assurance, the bright clear noontide of acknowledged acceptance: "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Some of us have this great blessing, and we rejoice in it; but if others of you have not come quite so far on the heavenly road, do not begin murmuring, or doubting. Bless the Lord Jesus Christ for any favour that he has shown to you, a poor unworthy sinner; and if you have even the faintest ray of light, pray him to make your path like that of the just, which "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." If you have received any token for good from your Lord, be thankful for it, and expect ere long to hear in your soul the sweet music of this gracious word, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." So we have come to our text, in which two things are, very clearly revealed. The first is, an assurance: "Thy faith hath saved thee and the second is, a dismission: "Go in peace." I. First, then, here is AN ASSURANCE: "Thy faith hath saved thee." That assurance teaches us, first, that salvation is a present thing: "Thy faith hath saved thee." This is something that is already accomplished. You are saved; not, you shall be saved; but you are even now in possession of the priceless boon of salvation: "Thy faith hath saved thee." All through the Scriptures, and especially in the New Testament, it is plainly asserted that believers in Christ are already in possession of salvation. I will not stay to prove that it is so, but will rather explain it. If anyone says to me, "In what respect are believers saved?" I answer, that they are saved in the price, in the promise, in the principles, and in the pledge of salvation. The alliteration will help you to remember these four points. First, they are saved in the price of salvation. All that was necessary to save them from the result of sin has been endured by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has ransomed them by his death upon the cross. He has stood in their stead, and borne their sin in his own body on the tree, and suffered the full penalty for it. He has finished the transgression, and made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in for them everlasting righteousness; so that they are saved. The great work of their salvation was completed by Christ upon the cross when he laid down his life for them, and now they are "bought with a price," even "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Next, they are saved in the promise of salvation. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who cannot lie, hath declared "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God's promise is certain of fulfilment, so that every believer in Jesus may be absolutely sure of salvation. We often take the cheque of a man who is known to be in a good financial position, and we consider his cheque to be as good as if it were hard cash; and, in like manner, we accept God's promise of salvation as being just as sure as the salvation itself. Paul tells us that God's promise has been confirmed by an oath, "that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Then, thirdly, we have salvation in the principles of it; that is to say, all those graces, which constitute the essentials of a perfect character, are in every true child of God. There is given to us, when we are regenerated, the very same life which we are to live for ever in heaven. We have now the root, the bulb, the seed, out of which immortality and perfection will most surely grow; we may not yet be perfect, but we have that which will come to perfection. We have within us a new nature, which cannot sin, because it is born of God; and this will gradually overcome the old nature, as the Israelites drove out the Canaanites, and we shall be perfect before the throne of the Most High. A man may have, in a very small room, a whole field of wheat lying in embryo, in the seed which is to be sown in the springtime, and reaped in the autumn; and we have, in the gift of God's grace, all heaven in embryo, in the seeds of faith and love, and the work of the Holy Spirit within our souls. Thus, we have salvation in the principles of it. And, once more, we have salvation in the pledge of it; for, when the Holy Spirit enters our heart, his coming there is the pledge and the earnest of heaven. There is a difference between a pledge and an earnest, and what I really mean is rather an earnest than a pledge. A pledge is taken back again, but an earnest is retained. A man, who has his wages to take at the end of the week, may get some earnest money in the middle of the week; and, if his master is what he should be, that will be a pledge that he will get the rest. So, the Holy Spirit is the Divine Person who virtually puts heaven into us, and makes us fit to be in the heaven which Christ has gone to prepare for us. What a mercy it is to have the witness of the Holy Spirit, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Heavenly Father, to have aspirations after holiness which we never had in our unregenerate state! All this is the pledge of heaven; and in having the pledge, we have practically the salvation itself. The Holy Spirit would not have come into our hearts, and given us all these blessings, if he had not meant to "perfect that which concerneth us," and to save us in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. Salvation, then, is a present thing, in price, in promise, in principles, and in pledge; but the important question for each of you to answer is, Have you obtained that salvation? If you have not, you are in a truly terrible condition, for you are "condemned already" because you have "not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." But if you have obtained this salvation, then you are indeed rich to all eternity. Perhaps you live in one poor room, and have to work very hard for a livelihood, yet you are much richer than those emperors and kings, who have much earthly pomp and state, hut who are not the subjects of God's grace, for you are saved; the Lord has given you that salvation which can never be taken away from you. So, rejoice in this salvation; and, if you have little else to cover you, let this salvation be your royal apparel; let this salvation load your table with heavenly dainties; let this salvation smooth your path, however rough it may be, and cheer your heart, however great your trials may be. So, this assurance means that salvation is a present thing. Next, it teaches us that salvation is obtained by faith: "Thy faith hath saved thee." "But," says someone, "was it not the Lord Jesus Christ who saved her?" Yes, certainly it was; but do you see what Christ does? He is so fond of faith that he takes the crown from his own head, and puts it on the head of faith, as he says to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Is that a safe thing for Christ to do? Oh, yes! because faith at once removes the crown from her own head, and puts it back upon Christ's, saying, "Not unto me, not unto me, but unto thy name be all the glory." Christ loves to crown faith because faith loves to crown Christ. As for boasting, faith cannot tolerate that for a moment; she hurls it out of the window, and will have nothing further to do with it. Our Saviour speaks thus, "Thy faith hath saved thee," because he knows that it will be understood that faith is only the connecting link with himself, that he really works the salvation, but that the faith of the believer is the means of obtaining it. There are four things concerning this faith, which I want you to notice, and I will put them under the same letter that I used before, so that it may be the easier for you to remember them. First, this woman's faith was a personal faith: "Thy faith hath saved thee." O dear friends, I implore you to give up all idea, of being saved by anybody else's faith! Thou must believe in Jesus for thyself, or thou wilt be a lost man for ever. What a dreadful falsehood it is when men stand up, as sponsors for a child, and promise and vow various things, none of which are within their power to perform! As to anything that anybody ever promised with regard to your soul, what can another person do for you in such a matter as that? The most earnest faith in your parents can never bring you to heaven, unless you also have faith in Jesus. There is a great blessing which may come to us through the faith of others, if they exercise it in prayer on our behalf; but, still, salvation can never come to us apart from our own personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He said to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee;" not Peter's faith, nor James's faith, nor John's faith, but her own; and thou also must have faith for thyself, or thou wilt assuredly be lost. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" but if thou dost not personally believe on him, thou canst not be saved. Notice, next, that this woman's faith was a practical faith. She was saved by faith, and not by works; but, she was not saved by a faith which did not produce works. Think of her works, she washes the Master's feet with her tears, and wipes them with the hairs of her head; she kisses them repeatedly, and anoints them with her precious ointment. I may truly say of her, "She hath done what she could." All that her affection prompted, her devotion performed; for she had the faith which works by love; and if you, dear friends, have a faith that never works for Christ, I beg you to get rid of it at once, for it will turn out to be a bastard faith. The faith that never kisses his feet is a faith that he will tread under his feet. The faith that never anoints him is a faith that will have no fragrance in his esteem, and he will not accept it. We are not saved by works and faith combined, much less by works alone; but, nevertheless, the faith which saves is not a barren faith; it produces the good fruit of love and service for Christ, So this woman's faith was personal and practical. It was also a penitent faith. While she stood at Christ's feet, behind him, her eyes showered tears upon them as she wept over her sin. I am always doubtful of the genuineness of a dry-eyed faith. The longer I live, the more I am afraid of those people who profess to leap into faith without any repentance; and there seem to be some, in these days, who do not believe in the old-fashioned sorrow for sin. I would rather see some men less confident than they are if they were more humbled on account of their past transgressions. This woman manifested a truly penitent faith. And, once more, it was a pure faith; I use that word pure to help your memory, and I mean that her faith was perfectly simple. She wept, but she did not trust in her weeping. She anointed Christ's feet with the ointment, but she did not rely upon her self-sacrifice. She kissed his feet, but she did not depend upon her kisses. Where was her trust all placed? Why, upon Christ, and-upon him alone. I do not know that she had ever read the Old Testament; certainly, she could not have read the New Testament, for it was not written then. She may not have known much about the Bible, but she knew him who is the very sum and substance of the Bible. I have heard people talk about a Body of Divinity; but there never was but one in the highest sense of the term, and Jesus Christ is that Body of Divinity. He is, in the truest sense, "the Word of God." This woman had seen him, she had learned to know him, he had forgiven her sin, and she had come into that house full of love to him, and full of trust in him, and now from his own lips she receives this gracious assurance, "Thy faith hath saved thee." It was faith in him, and in nothing else. There was not, and there could not, have been, in her case, anything to trust to but Christ. She was, in a very emphatic sense, a sinner; she had not set herself up as being a person of good character; there were, no doubt, scores of people in the city who could have borne lamentable evidence of her sinfulness. But she trusted herself absolutely to Jesus Christ, the sinners' Saviour, and she trusted him alone, and so her faith was proved to he of that pure kind that saves all who exercise it. Let yours be like that, dear friend, personal, practical, penitential, and pure. Further, upon this first point, note that salvation may be a matter of assurance. This woman had the assurance from Christ's own lips, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Those of you who were at the prayer-meeting here, last Monday night, will remember that one of our brethren, when he was giving an address, made you smile when he said, "He that believeth On the Son hath everlasting life," and then added, "h-a-t-h, that spells 'got it.'" That is a queer mode of spelling, which is not taught at the Board School; yet it is a heavenly way of spelling, and it is perfectly correct. "H-a-t-h; that spells 'got it.'" If you have the blessing of salvation, there is a possibility of knowing that you have it. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" he has got it; he has got it now. "I should believe it," says one, "if Jesus Christ spoke to me, and said so." My dear friend, he has said it in his Word. Is that Word a lie, or is it true? If it is true, then what more do you want? Christ has written it in his Word; and I like a thing that is written even better than that which is spoken. You know how a man says, when he wants a guarantee about a bargain, "Give it to me in writing; for some people will swear that they never said what we ourselves heard them say, so give it me in black and white." Well, here it is in black and white: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" and again, "There is therefore now" "now," mark, "no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" and yet again, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, cannot you also say, "got it"? Oh, but!" says someone, "I want evidence that it is so." Very well, you shall have evidence; you shall have the witness of the Spirit who has renewed you; you shall have the witness of your changed life; you shall have the witness of your new character; but, first of all, is not Christ's Word sufficient for you? Is not Christ's written Word enough? Is not this Book, which you believe to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and which reveals the Word of the Lord, enough for you? It is enough for me. If all the men in the world were to come, one after another, after I had read something in the Bible, and were all to say, in their different languages, "That is a lie," I should not believe it an atom the less; and suppose they were all to stand up, and say, "It is true," I should reply, "Of course it is, but I do not need your word to confirm what Christ has said." I am perfectly satisfied if he has said it; and there it stands, and all the powers of hell cannot prevail to overthrow it. Here is the solid rock for a soul to rest upon. Christ says, at this moment, to everyone who believes in him, and trusts in his blood and righteousness, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." II. So we come to the latter part of our text, which is, A DISMISSION: "Go in peace." What did Our Lord mean by saying this? I think he meant, first, "Quit this place of controversy, and go in peace." Do you notice that it was when those, who sat at meat with him, began to say within themselves, "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" that he said to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace"? See the black looks of those Jews, those Pharisees, round about Simon's table. Why, they are as sour as vinegar, and full of all kinds of scepticism, so the Saviour says to the woman, "Go home good soul, away from all of them." So, dear friends, whenever you meet with a book that is full of scepticism and unbelief, especially you who have lately found the Saviour, you had better throw it away. "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Unbelief will be no help to thee; thy faith hath already saved thee; then, what more dost thou want? Thou hast the assurance within thine own soul that thou art saved; do not go anywhere, or do anything to damage that assurance. I do not think it is worth while to go through a horse pond, and get covered with filth, just for the pleasure of being afterwards washed. It may be that some strong man, like another Samson, may have to go in among the Philistines, and pull their temple down about their ears; but poor Hannah could not do that, and those who are like her the women of a sorrowful spirit, had better go home, and get out of the way of that set of wranglers. They may even be wrangling professors, squabbling about this doctrine and that, and perhaps not understanding any of them properly; so the Saviour says to you, "You have the assurance of salvation; do not let anybody worry you out of that. Go in peace." This is what the apostle means when he says, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Then, next, I think our Saviour meant his words to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace;" to be a kind of dismission of her case from the Court. Here is Simon in thought accusing her, and thinking that she ought not to be permitted to come and touch the Master's feet, and here is the Lord Jesus Christ not only becoming a pleader for her, but deciding the case in her favour as he says to her, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." This was in effect saying, "Your case is dismissed; there is nothing against you. The Court clears you; go home, good soul." What a mercy it is when the Lord speaks thus to anyone! "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Christ has given us our dismission from the Court of Justice, so let us "go in peace." May not our Lord also have meant something more than we see upon the surface of these words? May he not have meant, "Go home in peace to thy daily avocations"? Ah! she had done a deal of mischief in that home of hers by her sin; for there never was a fallen woman who brought a blessing to her family while she lived in sin. And now that the Saviour has given to her the assurance of salvation, he says to her, "Go home, and attend to your ordinary household duties. Go and act as a woman should. Fulfil your part as a mother, or a daughter, or a servant, or whatever your calling may be. Go in peace." Do you not also think that this dismissory word would last her as long as ever she lived, --and that, all her life through, she would seem to hear the Saviour saying to her, "Go in peace"? Perhaps she was to go upstairs, and lie there ill; but she was to "go in peace." Possibly, she was to come down, and to confront opposition and persecution; if so, she was still to hear this message, "Go in peace." I think that word would come to her every morning as soon as ever she woke; and when she was about to close her eyes, and go to sleep, she would still hear it. With such a gracious message as that, she could even go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and "fear no evil." It may be that is just what the Lord meant it for, that, when she came to die, and she may have died a martyr's death, we cannot tell, at any rate, whenever she came to die, this message was ringing in her ears, "Go in peace." The practical point that I want to bring home to you Christian people, to you who are saved, is this. Beloved friends, as you go to your families, as you go through life, as you go into eternity, I pray you to "go in peace." It is heaven begun below to possess "the peace Of God, which passeth all understanding." Peace should be the continual portion of all believers. This is what the angels sang when our Lord Jesus appeared on earth, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to-ward men." And as it was at tho beginning Of Our Saviour's life, so it was at the end, for this was our Lord's legacy to all his disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." That which gives one of his titles even to God himself-for he is called "the God of peace," should be very precious to your soul. Peace is the fit result of what the Saviour has done for you. Has he forgiven you? Then you have peace. Has he saved you? Oh, then, feel an inward peace which none can take from you! Did he die for you? Then you can never die, in the full meaning of the word, so be at rest about that matter. Has he risen for you? Then, because he lives, you shall live also; so, let not your heart be troubled, but be at peace. Will he come again to receive you unto himself? Oh, then, let your peace be like a river flowing from the very throne of God! This peace within your heart is the blessed fruit of the Spirit of peace. Where the Spirit of God is, there must be peace, for he is the Sacred Dove. The fruit of the Spirit within us should be "quietness and assurance for ever." Do not despise this priceless boon of peace; but, as saved souls, covet more and more of it. Do you know what I mean by talking thus to you? Suppose you are thinking to yourself, "Alas! I am going home to an ungodly husband;" never mind, dear wife, "go in peace." "Oh, but! to-morrow, I have to go out among ungodly men." Never mind; "go in peace." Do not go among them disturbed and fluttered, but sing to yourself softly,

"My heart is resting, O my God!"

"Go in peace." Perhaps you are going to the sick-bed of one of your dearest friends. Possibly, there is one at home, who is so depressed in spirit as to depress you too. Never mind; "go in peace." It will strengthen you to have your own heart at peace. I remember once seeing an accident on a hill. I feared that a man had broken his leg, and I know that someone ran to fetch a doctor, and when he came, to my surprise, he walked coolly up to where the man was. If I had been sent for, I should have ran myself out of breath to get to the poor man; and when I reached him, I should have been all of a tremble, and should not have been able to do anything properly. But when the doctor heard that there was a man with his leg broken, he walked quietly to the spot, and the result was that he was able to do his work properly. Our Lord Jesus Christ was never in a hurry. It is marvellous to contemplate the leisure of the greatest Worker who ever lived. He always moved along with a holy calm and quiet dignity, and he therefore did everything well. Do you likewise; "go in peace," for it shall be your strength. Sometimes, your strength is to sit still; and, always, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength. This is the way in which you are to glorify God in your life, by going in peace. When this woman went back to her home, that same woman who had been such a poor, trembling, broken, bruised reed, because of her sin, those who knew her enquired, "What has come to Mary?"--if that was her name; I do not know; "What has come to her? Why, she looks so placid, so calm, she is not like the same woman that she used to be." I have no doubt that she was rather quick-tempered, for most very loving spirits are like that. "But now," say her friends, "she takes things so differently; she is so still, and quiet, and restful." Just so; and then they took knowledge of her, that she had been with Jesus, and had learned of him, for that was his style and his manner also. Ah, dear hearts! if Christ has saved you, you have the best reason in all the world for being the quietest, happiest people who ever lived. One said, one day, to a person who had spoken of his salvation in tones of assurance, "You ought to be the happiest man that lives;" and he answered, "So I am." It was well known that he was very poor, that he did not know where he would get a second coat to his back; but, then, he thought that he did not want a second coat till he had worn out the first one. They said that he did not know where he would get his next breakfast; but he had had his supper, so he was quite content to wait till God should give him his breakfast. He had such simple faith in God that, though he was so very poor, yet he said he was the happiest man in all the world. Go in for that, beloved, for surely you have a right to it if you are a believer in Jesus. Your greatest sorrows are over, your heaviest burdens Christ has carried; the most terrible disaster that could ever happen to you has been averted by him; the most fearful calamity that you once had cause to dread can never come to you. You are an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. You shall have all you really need in this life, and you shall have the heaven of God in the life to come. The supreme act of God, by which he blesses eternally, has been performed upon you already. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have all united to bless you; and the covenant of peace is signed, and sealed, and ratified, and you must and shall conquer at the last. So, "Let not Your heart be troubled; neither lot it be afraid;" but say to yourself,--

"All that remains for me Is but to love and sing, And wait until the angels come To bear me to the King."

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Luke 7". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/luke-7.html. 2011.