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Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT

Luke 7

Verse 1

In our Saviour's miraculous cure of the centurion's servant, we have several particulars very observable:

1. The person applying himself to our blessed Saviour for help and healing: he was a Gentile, an Heathen, a Roman soldier, an officer and commander; yet he believes in, and relies upon the power of Christ.

Note, that such is the freeness of divine grace, that it extends itself to all sorts and ranks, to all orders and degrees of men, without exception; even the bloody trade of war yields worthy clients to Christ: he does not so much regard what we are and which we are, as with what dispositions and the desires, with what purposes and inclinations, we come unto him.

Observe, 2. The person whom the centurion came to Christ for: not for himself, nor for his own, but for his servant. His servant was sick; he does not drive him out of doors, nor stand gazing by his bedside, but looks out for help and relief for him: a worthy example of humanity! Some masters have not so much regard to their sick servants as they have to their oxen and their swine. But he is not worthy of a good servant that in a time of sickness is not willing to serve his servant.

Observe, 3. Unto whom the centurion seeks, and with what zeal and application; he seeks not to wizards and conjurers, but to the physician, for his sick servant; yea, to Christ, the chief Physician; and this not with a formal relation in his mouth, but with a vehement aggravation of his disease. My servant lies sick of the palsy, grievously tormented, Matthew 8:6 Where the master's condolency, and tender sympathy, with his afflicted servant, is both matter of commendation and imitation.

Observe, 4. The happy mixture of humility and faith which was found in this centurion. See his wonderful humility in not thinking himself worthy to come into Christ's presence, or that Christ should come under his roof. The best men have always the lowest thoughts of themselves; when we esteem ourselves unworthy of any favors, Christ accounts us worthy of all.

See also his faith in Christ's divine power; he believed that Christ was able at a distance, and by a single word, to command off the distemper of his servant; he tells him, that diseases were as much at Christ's command, as his servants were at his command.

Humility, we see, is both the fruit of faith, and the companion of faith. An humble soul has evermore an high esteem of Christ's power, and a low esteem of itself.

Observe, 5. How our blessed saviour exceeds not only the centurion's desires, but his expectations. Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. Matthew 8:7.

O wonderful condescension. In John 4:47 we read of a certain nobleman and ruler that twice entreated our Saviour to come to his house and heal his son, but our Lord refused. Here the centurion does but barely tell Christ of his poor servant's sickness, and Christ, both unasked and undesired, says, I will come and heal him.

O how far is Christ from seeming in the least to honor riches and despise poverty! He that came in the form of a servant goes down to visit a sick servant upon his poor pallet bed, who did not come near the rich couch of the ruler's son.

Observe, 6. The notice and observation which our Saviour takes of the centurion's faith: he wondered at it from him. Admiration agreed not to Christ as God, but as man it did. Christ wrought faith as God, and wondered at it as man. What can be more wonderful than to see Christ wonder? We find not our Saviour wondering at worldy pomp and greatness: when the disciples wondered at the magnificence and stately buildings of the temple, Christ rather rebuked them than wondered with them; but when he sees the gracious act and exercise of fatih, he is ravished with wonder.

Let it teach us to place our admiration where Christ fixes his; let us be more affected with the least measure of grace in a good man, than with all the gaities and glories of a great man; let us not envy the one, but admire and imitate the other.

Observe, lastly, Christ does not only admire the centurion's faith, but publishes it: Verily I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel; that is, amongst the generality of the Jewish nation.

For, as to particular persons, several had showed a greater faith that this, as Joseph and Mary. This expression lets us know, that where the means of faith are but small, the nobler act and exercise of faith are wonderful and soul amazing.

Verse 11

There were three persons raised from death to life by the powerful word of Christ's mouth; namely, Jairus's daughter, mentioned by St. Matthew; Lazarus recorded by St. John; and here the widow's son, only taken notice of by St. Luke.

The place where the miracle was wrought was the city of Nain; out of their cities, and not within them, the Jews were wont to bury their dead. Our Saviour at the gate of the city meets with the sad pomp of a funeral, a sorrowful widow attended with her mournful neighbors, following her only son to the grave.

Where note, 1. The doleful and distressed condition of the widow: there were many heart-piercing circumstances in her affliction.

1. It was the death of a son. To bury a child rends the heart of a parent; for what are children but the parent multiplied? But to lay a son in the grave, which continues the name and supports the family, is a sore affliction.

2. This was a young man in the strength and flower of his age, not carried from the cradle to the coffin. Had he died an infant, he had not been so much lamented; but then when the mother's expectations were highest, and the endearments greatest, even in the flower of his age, he is cut off.

3. He was not only a son, but an only son; one in whom all his mother's hopes and comforts were bound up. The death of one out of many, is much more tolerable than of all in one. The loss of that one admits of no consolation.

4. Still to heighten the affliction, it is added that she was a widow; she wanted the counsel and support of a loving yoke-fellow. Had the root been left entire, she might better have spared the branch; now both are cut down, and she has none left to comfort her in her comfortless state of widowhood. In this distressed conditon, Christ, the God of comfort, meets her, pities her, relieves her.

Observe, 2. Thee compassion of Christ towards this distressed widow: He saw her, and had compassion on her. Christ saw her, she did not speak to him; no tears, no prayers, can move Christ so much as our afflictions and his own compassion. Christ's heart pitied her, his tongue said to her, Weep not; his feet went to the bier, his hand touched the coffin, and the power of his Godhead raised the dead.

But how strange does Christ's counsel seem! To bid a woman not to weep for such a loss was to persuade her to be miserable, and not to feel it; to feel it, and not regard it; to regard it, and yet conceal and hide it. It is not the decent expression of our sorrow then which Christ condemns, but the undue excess and extravagance of it, which our Saviour blames.

And the lesson of instruction which we learn from hence is this, that Christians ought to moderate their sorrow for their dead relation, how many afflicting circumstances and aggravations soever do meet together in their death: here was a child, that child a son, that son an only son, that only son carried to the grave in the flower of his age; yet Christ says to the pensive mother, a sorrowful widow, Weep not.

Observe, 3. The power of Christ in raising the widow's son to life. The Lord of Life arrests the sergeant Death, and rescues the prisoner out of his hand. Christ says not, in the name of God, young man, arise; but, I say unto thee, arise.

Christ had a power in himself, and of himself, to command the dead to arise; and the same powerful voice which raised this young man, shall in the last day raise up our dead bodies; for it is as easy for Omnipotency to say, let them be repaired, as to say at first, let them be made.

The Socinians here own, that Christ raised this young man by a divine power, which God had communicated to him; yet deny him at the same time to be essentially God. But let them prove if they can, that a divine power, which is proper to God alone, ever was, or ever can be, communicated to a creature, without the communication of the divine nature.

True, we find St. Peter, Acts 9:40, commanding Tabitha to arise; but we find all he did was by faith in Christ, and by prayer unto Christ, Acts 9:34.

Jesus Christ healeth thee, arise: but Christ here raised the widow's son without prayer, purely by his own power; which undeniably proves him to be God.

Observe, 4. The reality of the miracle: he sits up, he begins to speak, and is delivered to his mother.

Death has no power to hold that man down, whom the Son of God bids rise up: Immediately he that was dead sat up; and the same power which raised one man, can raise a thousand, a million, a world; no power can raise one man but an almighty power, and that which is almighty can raise all men. It was not so much for the child's sake as the mother's sake, that the son was raised; it was an injury to the son, though a kindness to the mother, for he must twice pass through the gates of death, to others' once; it returned him from rest to labor, from the peaceful harbor, back again to the tempestous ocean.

Observe, lastly, what effects this miracle had upon the multitude: seeing the divine power thus manifestly exerted, they are filled with astonishment and amazement: they look upon our Saviour with awful and admiring looks; They glorify and praise God for sending a great prophet amongst them, accounting it a great act of favor that God had in this wonderful manner visited his people; yet a prophet was the highest name they could find for him, whom they saw like themselves in shape, but above themselves in power: A great prophet is risen up amongst us, and God hath visited his people.

Verse 18

About the time of our Saviour's appearing in the world there was a general expectation of a great prince that should come out of Judea, and govern all nations: this prince the Jews called the Messiah, or the Anointed, and waited for his appearance.

Accordingly, when John the Baptist appeared in the quality of an extraordinary prophet, the Jews went to know of him, whether he was the Messiah or not, John 1:19 He answered that he was not, but only the harbinger and forerunner of the Messiah; so that it was very evident that it was not for John's own information that he sent two of his disciples to Christ, to know whether he was the Messiah or not; for John was assured of it himself by a voice from heaven at our Saviour's baptism, Matthew 3:13-17.

But it was for his disciples' satisfaction that he sent them to Jesus; because John's disciples were unwilling to acknowledge Christ to be the Messiah, out of a great zeal for the honor of him their master; they were not willing to own any person greater than John their master, lest such an acknowledgment should eclipse and cloud him.

From whence we may note, how the judgments of the best of men are very apt to be biassed and perverted by faction or interest. No doubt John's disciples were good men, and no doubt their master had often told them, as he did others, that he was not the Messiah; yet they will not believe their own master, when they apprehend him to speak against their own interest; for they knew that they must rise and fall in their reputation and esteem, as their master did: therefore that John's disciples might receive full satisfaction from Christ, he sends two of his disciples to him to hear his doctrine, and see his miracles; for John perceiving his disciples to be ill-affected towards our Saviour, and hearing them speak with some envy of his miracles, he sent them to him, that being eye-witnesses of what he did, they might be convinced who he was.

Observe next, the way and means which our Saviour takes to convince and satisfy John's disciples that he was the true Messiah: he appeals to the miracles wrought by himself, and submits those miracles to the judgment and examination of their senses: Go and show John the miracles which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear.

Christ was all this in a literal and spiritual sense also: he was an eye of understanding to the ignorant, a foot of power to the weak, he opened an ear in deaf hearts to receive the word of life, and the poor receive and embrace the gospel.

Miracles are the highest attestation, and the greatest external confirmation and evidence, that can be given to the truth and divinity of any doctrine. Now our Saviour's miracles, for their nature, were divine and Godlike; they were healing and beneficial to mankind, freeing men from the greater calamities of human life; for their number, they were many; for the manner of their operation, they were publicly wrought in the sight and view of multitudes of people. To free them from all suspicion of fraud and imposture, he wrought them before his enemies, as well as in the presence of his friend and followers. And this was not done once or twice, or in one place, but at several times, and in several places, wherever he came, and this for a long time, even for three years and a half; so that our blessed Saviour had all the attestation that miracles can give, to evidence himself the true and promised Messiah.

Verse 22

The poor hear and receive the gospel. Matthew 11:5

Note, that all along, in our Saviour's time and since, the poor of the world have been more disposed to hear and embrace the gospel than other men; and the reasons of it are these:

1. Because the poor have no worldly interest to engage them to reject Christ and his gospel. The high-priest, the scribes and Pharisees, had a plain worldly interest to engage them to oppose Christ and his doctrine; but the poor were free from these incumbrances and temptations. They had nothing to lose; therefore our Saviour's doctrine went down more easily with them, because it did not contradict their interest, as it did the interest of those who had great possessions.

Those that are poor, and enjoy little of the good things of this life, are willing to entertain the glad tidings of happiness in another life. Such as are in a state of misery here, are glad to understand that it shall be well with them hereafter, and are willing to listen to the good news of a future happiness; wheras the rich, who have had their consolation here, are not much concerned what will become of them afterwards.

Verse 23

No doubt our Saviour uttered these words with particular respect and reference to John's disciples, who, out of an extraordinary zeal for the honor of their master, were prejudiced against our Saviour; but the general import of the words does show that there are many to whom Christ is a Rock of offence; the Jews were offended at the meanness of his extraction, at the poverty of his parents, at the lowness of his breeding, at his suffering condition; from their traditions they expected the Messiah should be a temporal prince, whereas the prophets declared he should be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: be despised, and put to death.

Thus at this day many are offended at Christ; some are offended at the asserted divinity of his person, and the meritoriousness of his satisfaction. Some are offended at the sublimity of his doctrine, others at the sanctity and strictness of his laws; some are offended at the free dispensations of his grace; others that the terms of Christianity are very hard, and lay too great a restraint upon human nature: but, Blessed is he, says Christ, that shall not be offended at me: intimating, that such as, instead of being offended at Christ, do believe in him, and ground their expectations of heaven and salvation wholly upon him, are in a happy and blessed condition: Blessed is he that shall not be offended in me.

Verse 24

Our Saviour having given, as we may suppose, full satisfaction to John's disciples and sent them away, he enters upon a large commendation of John himself.

Where we have observable, 1. The persons whom he commended John before: not his own disciples, but before the multitude; for John's disciples had too high an opinion of their master already, insomuch, that they envied our Saviour for overshadowing their master: John 7:26

Behold Christ baptizeth, and all men come unto him. It was a great eye-sore to John's disciples, that Christ had more hearers and followers than their master; therefore not before John's disciples, but before the multitude, is John commended: for as John's disciples had too high, so the multitude had too low, an opinion of John; possibly because of his imprisonment and sufferings. There was a time when the people had high thoughts of John's person and ministry; but being now clouded with sufferings, they disesteem and undervalue him.

Learn hence, how vain it is for any men, but especially for the ministers of the gospel, to value themselves by popular applause. The people condemn today whom they admired yesterday; he who today is cried up, tomorrow is trodden down; the word and ministers are the same, but this proceeds from the fickleness and inconsistency of the people: nothing is so mutable as the mind of man; nothing so variable as the opinion of the multitude.

Observe, 2. The time when our Saviour thus commended John; when he was cast into prison by Herod. Not when he was in prosperity, when the people flocked after him, when he preached at court, and was reverenced by Herod; but when the giddy multitude had forsaken him; when he was disgraced at court, and had preached himself into a prison; now it is that Christ proclaims his worth, maintains his honor, and tells the people that the world was not worthy of such a preacher.

Learn hence, that Christ will evermore stand by, and stick fast unto, his faithful ministers, when all the world forsakes them. Let the world slight and despise them at their pleasure; yet Christ will maintain their honor, and support their cause; as they bear a faithful witness to Christ, so Christ will bear witness to their faithfulness for him.

Observe, 3. The commendation itself. Our Saviour commends John for four things! For his constancy, for his sobriety, for his humility, for gospel ministry.

1. For his constancy: he was not a reed shaken with the wind; that is, a man of an unstable and unsettled judgment, but fixed and steady.

2. For his sobriety, austerity, and high degree of mortification and self-denial: He was no delicate, voluptous person, but grave, sober, and severe. He was mortified to the glory and honor, to the ease and pleasure, of the world: John wrought no miracles, but his conversation was almost miraculous, and as effectual as miracles to prevail upon the people.

3. For his humility: John might once have been what he would, the people were ready to cry him up for the Messiah, the Christ of God: but John's humble and lowly spirit refuses all: He confessed, and denied not, saying, I am not the Christ, but a poor minister of his willing, but not worthy, to do him the meanest service. This will commend our ministry to the consciences of our people; when we seek not our own glory, but the glory of Christ.

4. Our Saviour commends John for his clear preaching the gospel, and for his making known the coming of the Messiah to the people: He was more than a prophet, because he pointed out Christ more clearly and fully than any of the prophets before him. The ancient prophets beheld Christ afar off, but John saw him face to face. They prophesied of him, he pointed at him, saying, This is he. The clearer any ministry is in discovering of Christ, the more excellent and useful it is.

Verse 28

Our Saviour having highly commended John in the former verses, here he sets bounds to the honor of his ministry; adding, that though John was greater than all the prophets that went before him, seeing more of Christ than all of them, yet he saw less than those that came after him.

The meanest gospel minister that preaches Christ as come, is to be preferred before all the old prophets who prophesied of Christ to come. That minister who sets forth the life and death, resurrection and ascension, of Christ, is greater in the kingdom of heaven, that is, has an higher office in the church, and a more excellent ministry, than all the prophets, yea, than John himself. The excellency of a ministry consists in the light and clearness of it: now though John's light did exceed all that went before him, yet it fell short of them that came after him; and thus he that was least in the kingdom of grace on earth, much more he that was least in the kingdom of glory in heaven, was greater than John. See note on Matthew 10:11

Verse 29

These words are our Saviour's farther commendation of John the Baptist; he tells us, that John had two sorts of hearers.

1. The common people and publicans.

2. The Pharisees and lawyers: and declares the different effect which John's ministry had upon these two different sorts of persons.

As to the former, the common people and the publicans: the common people were accounted by the Jewish doctors as the dregs of mankind, an ignorant and rude mob; the publicans were esteemed notoriously wicked, guilty of great injustice, oppression, and extortion; yet these vile persons were converted sooner than the knowing men of the time, the self-justifying Pharisees and lawyers; for it is said, The publicans were baptized of John, and justified God; that is, they looked upon John as a prophet sent of God; they owned his ministry, received his message, and submitted to his baptism. Those who believe the message that God sends, and obeys it, justifies God; they that do not believe and obey, accuse and condemn God.

But of the others it is said, namely, of the Pharisees and lawyers, That they rejected the counsel of God against themselves; that is, the revealed will of God: refusing to be baptized of him. This rejecting the counsel of God we are guilty of, when we have low and undervaluing thoughts of Christ and his gospel, when we are ashamed, in times of persecution, to own and profess him, when we stop our ears to the voice of his ministers and messengers, when we submit not ourselves to the reasonable laws and commands of Christ; and this rejection of Christ at the great day, will render our condition worse than the condition of Heathens, that never heard of a Saviour; than the condition of Jews, which cruciifed their Saviour; yea, than the condition of devils, for whom a Saviour never was intended.

Lord! Where shall we appear, if we either reject or neglect thy great salvation!

The chief thing then observable here, is this, that in rejecting John's baptism and ministry, they are said to reject the counsel of God towards themselves, that is, the gracious design of God in calling them to repentance, by John's ministry; by which refusal they declared, that they approved not of God's counsel as just and right in calling them to repentance, who were such zealots for the law, and so unblameable in their conversation, that it became a proverb amongst them, that if but two persons went to heaven, one of them must be a Pharisee. They therefore judged it an incongruous thing to call such righteous persons to repentance, as they took themselves to be, and to threaten them with ruin who were so dear to God: but the publicans and common people, being conscious to themselves of their sin and guilt, did approve of this counsel which God sent them by his messenger, and submitted to this baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins, to which God by the Baptist now called them.

Verse 31

Our blessed Saviour in these words describes the perverse humor of the Pharisees, whom nothing could allure to the embracing of the gospel, neither John's ministry nor Christ's.

This our Saviour sets forth two ways, allegorically and properly: by way of allegory he compares them to sullen children, whom nothing would please, neither mirth nor mourning; if their fellows piped before them, they would not dance; if they sang mournful songs to them they would not lament: that is, the Pharisees were of such a censorious and capricious humor, that God himself could not please them, although he used variety of means and methods in order to that end.

Next our Lord plainly interprets this allegory, by telling them that John came to them neither eating nor drinking, that is, not so freely and plentifully as other men, being a very austere and mortified man, both in his diet and habit; all which was designed by God to bring the Pharisees to repentance and amendment of life.

But, instead of this, they censure him for having a devil, because he delighted in solitude, and was not so free in conversation as some men, according to the ancient observation, "That he that delighteth in solitude, is either an angel or a devil," either a wild beast or a god.

John being thus rejected, Christ himself comes to them, who being of a free and familiar conversation, not shunning the society of the worst of men, no, not of the Pharisees themselves, but complying with their customs, and accompanying them innocently at their feasts. Yet the freedom of our Saviour's conversation displeased them as much as John's reservedness of temper; for they cry, Behold a man gluttonous, a friend of publicans and sinners; Christ's affability towards sinners they account an approbation of their sins; and his sociable disposition, looseness and luxury.

Learn hence, that the faithful and zealous ministers of Christ, let their temper and converse be what it will, cannot please the enemies of religion, and the haters of the power of godliness; neither John's austerity, nor Christ's familiarity, could gain upon the Pharisees. It is the duty of the ministers of God, in the course of their ministry, to seek to please all men for their good: but after all our endeavors to please all, if we strenuously oppose the errors and vices of the times, we shall please but very few. But if God and conscience be of the number of those few, we are safe and happy.

Observe, 2. That it has been the old policy of the devil, that he might hinder the success of the gospel, to fill the minds of persons with an invincible prejudice against the ministers and dispensers of the gospel. Here the Pharisees are prejudiced unreasonably both against John and against Christ, that the success of both their ministries must be frustrated and disappointed.

Observe, 3. That after all the scandalous reproaches cast upon the Christian religion, and the ministers and professors of it, such as are Wisdom's children, wise and good men, will justify religion, that is, approve it in their judgments, honor it in their discourses, and adorn it in their lives: Wisdom is justified of all her children.

Verse 36

Observe here, 1. The Pharisee's civility and our Saviour's courtesy: the Pharisee invites Christ to eat with him; Christ readily accepts the invitation, never refusing any opportunity for doing good. There is a duty of civil courtesy which we owe to the worst of men: none are so bad but we may soberly eat and drink with them; only let us take care, that if our converse do not make them better, their example may not make us worse.

Observe, 2. What an opportunity our Saviour lays hold upon in the Pharisee's house of doing good to a sinful woman; who coming to Christ bowed down in a sorrowful sight and sense of her sins, finds an hearty welcome to him, and is dismissed with comfort from him. The history runs thus: Behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, that is, a Gentile, say some; a remarkable, notorious, and infamous sinner, say others; probably, a lewd, unclean woman: she is led in with a note of admiration, Behold a woman that was a sinner!

Learn, that to see a sensual and notorious sinner, out of true remorse of conscience to seek unto a Saviour, is a rare and wonderful sight.

Observe farther, it is not said, "behold, a woman that sinned," but, Behold, a woman that was a sinner. One action does not denominate a person a sinner, but a habit and trade of sin.

Again, it is said, Behold, a woman in the city: the place where she acted her lewdness added to the heinousness of her sin, it was in the city; the more public the offence, the greater the scandal. Sin is sin, though in the desert, where no eye sees it; but the offence is aggravated by the number and multitude of beholders.

Yet observable it is, that there is no mention made, either of the woman's name, or of the city's name; and it is both presumption and injuriousness for any to name her, whose name God has been pleased to conceal; for this is not the same woman that anointed Christ's feet. Matthew 26:6-12

That was in Bethany, this in Galilee; that in the house of Simon the leper, this of Simon the Pharisee.

Observe, 3. The behavior and demeanor of this poor woman; she appears in the poster of a penitent: She stood at Christ's feet behind him, weeping.

Where note, 1. The great change wrought in this sinful woman, and the evident effects of it: her eyes, which had been formerly lamps of fire by lust, are now a holy fountain of penitential tears; her hair, which she had used as a net to catch her fond and foolish lovers, does now become a towel for her Saviour's feet.

Verily, such a heart, as has once felt the sting and smart of sin, will make plentiful expressions of the greatness of its sorrow.

Again, 2. She sits behind Christ and weeps: this proceeded, no doubt, from a holy bashfulness; she that was wont to look boldly in the face of her lovers, dares not now behold the face of her Saviour; she that was wont to end her alluring beams forth into the eyes of her wanton lovers, now casts her dejected eyes down upon the earth.

And behold the plenty of her tears, they flow in such abundance that she washes Christ's feet with them. She began to wash his feet, says the text, but we read not when she ended; never were our Saviour's feet bedewed with more precious liquor than this of remorseful tears. Thus does a holy penitent account no office too mean that is done to the honor of its Saviour.

Verse 39

Observe here, 1. How unreasonably the Pharisee was offended with Christ, for permitting this poor woman to come near him, and touch him. Admit she had been the greatest of sinners, might not such come to Christ, when he was come from heaven to them?

Oh, blessed Saviour! There is merit enough in thy blood, and mercy enough in thy bowels, to justify and save the vilest sinners, which by repentance and faith do make a timely application to thee.

Observe, 2. The parable which Christ makes use of, for the Pharisee's conviction, and the woman's comfort: namely, the parable of the two debtors, one of whom owed a greater sum, and the other a less, who both having nothing to pay, were both freely forgiven; and both upon their forgiveness loved their creditor much, but he most to whom most was forgiven.

Now from this parable we gather these lessons of instruction;

1. That great is the debt which all mankind have contracted, and lie under to the justice of God: 'tis here expressed by five hundred pence. Our debt is infinite; and, had not miraculous mercy interposed, divine justice could never have been satisfied, but by undergoing an infinite punishment.

2. That yet all sinners stand not alike indebted to the justice of God; some owe more, and others less; all are guilty, but not all alike; some owe five hundred talents, others fifty pence.

3. That be men's debt greater or less, their sins more or fewer, 'tis utterly impossible for any person of himself to clear his debt, and make satisfaction, but they that owe least stand in need of mercy and forgiveness; He forgave them both.

4. That the forgiveness that is in God is a free, gratuitous, and gracious forgiveness: he frankly forgave them both: Gracious art thou, O Lord, in thy doings towards thy children, and thy tender mercy is over all thy works.

Verse 44

Observe here, 1. How our Saviour recounts and sums up the several particular instances of this woman's love and respect towards himself: she washed, wiped, kissed, and anointed his feet, according to the custom of those eastern countries. Love will creep where it cannot go, it will stoop to the meanest offices, and is ambitous of the highest services for, and towards the persons we sincerely love.

Observe, 2. The words of comfort given by our Saviour to this poor woman: Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee.

Thence learn, that the pardoning mercy of God is boundless and unlimited; it is not limited to any degree of sins or sinners; Thy sins, that are many, are forgiven thee: and thy sins, which are heinous, are forgiven also.

Observe, 3. What is the effect and fruit, of great pardoning mercy; it is great love; her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. Her love to Christ was the effect of his pardoning love to her, and not the cause of it; she did not first love much, and then Christ forgave her, and then she loved much. Her love was a love of gratitude, because she was pardoned, and not a love of merit to purchase and procure her pardon.

The Papists interpret this word (for) as if it were the antecedent cause of her forgiveness; whereas it is a consequential sign and evidence, that the free grace and mercy of Christ had forgiven her; her many and great sins were forgiven her, and therefore she loved much. The debt is not forgiven, because the debtor loves his creditor; but the debtor therefore loves, because the debt is forgiven. Forgiveness goes before, and love follows after.

Hence learn, that much love will follow great forgiveness. Love will work in the heart towards God, in some proportion to that love which we have experienced from God.

Observe lastly, the very gracious dismission which this woman meets with from our blessed Saviour: what could she desire that is not here granted to her? Here is remission, safety, faith, and peace; all these here meet to make a contrite soul happy: remission is the ground of her safety, faith the ground of her peace, peace the fruit of her faith, and salvation the issue of her remission.

O woman! Great was thy sin, great was Christ's pardoning grace, and great was thy joy and comfort: Thy sins are forgiven thee, thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Luke 7". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/luke-7.html. 1700-1703.