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very probable that His visits to this memorable village were far more frequent than the record indicates. He was now in Bethany for the last time-in the course of His last journey to Jerusalem-a few days before the eventful crisis of His history was to take place. When our Lord arrived from Jericho, He was kindly and gratefully received into the house of Simon the leper, whom he had healed from His loathsome disease. Here there was a great feast or entertainment prepared and a company invited to attend. Lazarus was there, whose resurrection was still fresh in the memory of the people. Martha was there, busily engaged in attending to the outward necessaries of the feast. Mary was there, quiet and unobtrusive, yet full of adoring love, she occupied a position near the Saviour, and at length gave outward expression to her great affection by pouring upon Him an alabaster box of ointment, spikenard, very precious. Judas was there, in his mean, sinister, and unmanly spirit, upbraiding that act of Divine beneficence that shall live in the world's remembrance and admiration as long as the sun. This deeply interesting and touching history we shall employ to represent the various characters and offices sustained in the Church of the living God; and first of all we have,
I. A PICTURE OF SINNERS SAVED—“Simon and Lazarus."
These are the materials of which the true Church is built; without these there can be no spiritual superstructure. They are the stones wherewith the edifice of God is reared. There is no Church where there are no saved characters; because of these the building is erected, and “ fitly framed together into an holy temple in the Lord.” In every true Church we have the counterparts and the representative characters of the text. A Lazarus and a Simon : those who have been restored from a loathsome leprosy, and even those who have been raised from the dead. And this would lead us to observe
1. That such characters are distinctively changed.—The change in Simon was so great, so manifest, so thorough, that no one had the slightest occasion to doubt its reality. The cleansing he had received was perfect. A leper could not enter into any society without being immediately distinguished and abhorred. He was known and shunned. His best friends had to discard him. His entering into society was expressly prohibited. But on this occasion he was in the midst of his friends ! he made a grand entertainment for their reception. He is only called a leper now because of what he had been. There is no apprehension as to this in the minds of the people. They came in numbers to Simon's house, without the slighest dread of contagion. And so it should be in the Church of Christ. Professors should be thoroughly changed, so manifestly different in their life, character, and babits, as to convince even the ungodly that they are no longer lepers; that although they are sinners, they are sinners saved. The whole country knew of the resurrection of Lazarus. Many of them had been speaking words of condolence to the bereaved family. Many of them it may be had wept by his grave. There was not the shadow of a doubt in the minds of the people as to his death and as to his resurrection. And is
it not even so in the Church of God? Are not even the ungodly constrained to believe that some at least have been raised from the deadare born again into a new life? Would that all our members were like Simon and Lazarus, distinctive monuments of Christ's power to cleanse, to vivify, and save!
2. That such characters are consciously changed.—Simon was not ignorant of his true state. His experiences were so different, so thoroughly changed, that he could not but have felt himself a new man. Leprosy was not only a most loathsome and hopeless, but likewise a most pain. ful disease. Its poison entered into the very joints and marrow, and rendered its subjects objects of the greatest commiseration and pity. Such had Simon been, and is it to be for a moment supposed that he could have undergone so complete and important a change, without being thoroughly conscious of the fact? Of course not. The very idea would be absurd. Every true Christian may be regarded in the same light. He has been a leper from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head; he was loathsomely unclean. But he has been washed. He has been healed. He has received the Divine forgiveness, and can he be ignorant of his true position? Can he be ignorant of the great and stupendous change which he has undergone? We answer, No. A man whose sins are pardoned must know it. A man whose heart is changed cannot be ignorant of the fact. A man whose eyes have been opened must testify, “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” Lazarus could not have lain in the grave four days, and come forth by Divine command, and not know it. He knew that Christ had raised him from the dead. And so it is with those who have been called forth from the grave of corruption and moral death-they have a living testimony of the fact.
Are you truly conscious of your spiritual state? Do you feel that you have been cleansed from your leprosy,—that you have been raised from the dead? Salvation is a real experience. You cannot possess it, and live in ignorance of the fact. May this exalted and sweet consciousness be yours and mine!
3. That such characters occupy the nearest position to Christ.--Simon and Lazarus were doubtless regarded with peculiar affection by the Master. The one had been cleansed; the other had been raised from the dead. He felt, doubtless, a deep interest in them on this account. There are none that occupy a higher position in the Saviour's heart than saved sinners. They are the objects of His peculiar affection and love on earth, and they stand nearest the throne in heaven. They are amongst the blood-washed multitude.
II. A PICTURE OF CHURCH SERVICE—“ Martha.” Martha was a truly representative character. We cannot fail to discern in her a picture of some Christian professors in every age. They are to be found in well-nigh every Church. Those who attend to the secular interests of the cause, who are busying themselves about the arrangements and requirements of the feast. And here we would
1. That this is a necessary department of Church life.-We can't do without our Marthas. We must have men to attend to the secular interests of the Church. If the arrangements of this entertainment in Simon's house had been left in the hands of the more devoted Mary, they would have been most imperfectly carried out. She had not that energy and business tact which would alone serve to fit her for these engagements. And is it not precisely so in the Church? We must have our Marthas. We must have those who devote much of their time and energy in attending to the temporal well-being of the cause. Without such men this entertainment must be meanly and inefficiently propared. The minister must suffer, and many benevolent institutions be cramped in their operations, without the Marthas in the Church of God.
2. That this is a commendable department of Church life.—The supper which was provided on this occasion was no doubt peculiarly grateful to Christ. It was a token of respect and gratitude. It was a demonstration of friendship—“Martha served." Though a person of quality and position, she did not think it below her station to serve when Christ sat at meat. Her conduct must have been pleasing to the Master as an evidence of her attachment to His person. Likewise those in every age who attend to the business matters of the Church, who devote their attention to its secular well-being and prosperity, if they do it in the spirit of love thereby commend themselves to the Master's kind approval.
3. That this is a department of Church service which may be over-exercised. There is a passage in Luke where Martha is rebuked by Christ for being cumbered with much serving; she is reminded that one thing is absolutely needful. It is necessary and commendable to serve, to attend to the secular department of Christian labour, to be given to hospitality. But when these things are attended to to the neglect of the spiritual requirements of the soul, when the attention and energies are directed to the temporal interests of the Church to the neglect of the higher life, there is merited exposure to the censure of the Almighty. Every department of Church life should be made subservient to the one thing needful, and all our services for the Master should be the natural development of our love to Him.
III. A PICTURE OF CHRISTIAN BENEFICENCE—"Mary."
1. Here we have supreme love to Christ.—She thought nothing of His entertainment, it did not strike her for a moment that He had travelled and needed refreshment, else she would have flown as on wings of love to satisfy His needs. Forgetting all the common rites of hospitality, she seemed completely absorbed in the contemplation of love and in the devotion of a true heart. Her eyes were fixed upon her Divine Lord as by a sacred charm, and her ears caught with avidity every word of wisdom and affection that fell from His lips. Thank God, we have our Marys in the Church still. Those who devotedly sit at the Master's feet and joyfully drink of the Master's spirit. They may be altogether ignorant of business qualities; the feast if left in their hands would be very imperfectly arranged ; but they have loving, devoted, earnest souls, full of enthusiasm for the Master, and precious in the sight of God.
2. Here we have supreme liberality for Christ.She brought forth a pound of ointment, spikenard, very costly and precious. The most precious thing she had, the most costly article, perhaps, that she could have unostentatiously employed as a manifestation of her overflowing affection for Christ. What can be withholden by those who truly know the Saviour ? The greater the love, the greater our beneficence. The language of true love is this
" Had I ten thousand worlds to give,
Lord, they all should be Thine." IV. A PICTURE OF WORLDLY INTERFERENCE—“ Judas.” 1. The Church of God has ever had its worldly hearted members. There never was an age in which the Church was perfect, and there are but few Churches, if any, that are free from the interference of ungodly men. The first Christian Church received into its fellowship a Judas, and his counterparts are reproduced in every age and in well-nigh every Church. 2. That such members exercise a pernicious influence over their fellows. Judas in this particular instance was not without his influence. His false charity carried the disciples with him; they sought to check the development of Mary's love; in a cold and heartless spirit they attempted to smother her enthusiasm for Christ. “Why this waste ?" And is there not much of this worldly interference still found in the Church of the living God? Is not the affection and devotion of the Marys often checked and chilled by the cold and heartless indifference of the disciples ? Have not some of you heard, while your hearts have been ablaze with a Saviour's love, and your energies directed to the accomplishment of the Saviour's will, your fellows, yea your very brethren, say, if not in words in actions, “Why this waste?” Cold, lifeless, inactive members, who are not in sympathy with the spirit of the Master, are terrible stumbling-blocks in the Church; they materially interfere with its progress, and with the development of its inner life. They cast a chilling, blasting influence upon all around them. It is as difficult for the rose or violet to thrive in a bed of weeds, as for the truly earnest, living Christian to thrive amidst a number of inanimate and worldly professors.
3. That a careless yielding to those influences is destructive to the best interests of the Church.-Had Mary listened to Judas, she would have ceased in her kindly offices to Christ, and the Master would have been wounded in the house of His friends.
V. A PICTURE OF DIVINE INTERPOSITION~" Christ.”
1. The Church is always the object of God's especial care.—He has ever watched over it. His language with regard to it is such as to assure us of His watchful interference. “I will water it every moment, I will keep it night and day;" “He walketh amidst the seven golden candle
sticks;" “I am with you alway." He never forgets His people, they are engraven upon His heart.
2. That no interference with the happiness and prosperity of the Church will be permitted long to succeed.—Things may get wrong for a time, but they will be righted. The cloud may gather, but it will be scattered, Dificulties may come, but they must be removed. A Judas may endeavour to check the flow of religious life, but God knows how to dispose of him. The Church has had much to suffer from within and from without in every age, but she has been ever protected and delivered Christ has interposed in her behalf.
Are you, reader, a Simon or a Lazarus? Have you been saved ? Have you been cleansed ? Have you been raised from the dead? I not, you are the object of the greatest commiseration and pity. This is the only condition of all spiritual realizations.
In well-nigh every Church there are Marthas and Marys, and it may be a Judas; the former two are conductive to her good, but the latter is a dead weight, an intolerable burden, keeping her down to earth.
The Marys and Marthas are indispensable to the life and prosperity of the Church. They form the wings whereby she ascends to the Soi of righteousness. Deprive her of either, and her upward progress i impeded. But the wings must work harmoniously. The secular an the spiritual must be attended to. The Lord give us faithful Martha and devoted Marys!
And above all let us seek to have the presence and blessing o the Master. Judas will be successful in his schemes, the spirit o coldness and indifference will cramp our energies and destroy our fer vour, without His word of reproof and encouragement. Him we want without Him all our assemblies cannot but be miserable formalities with Him we flourish and prosper. It matters little what danger surround us ; we may be in the midst of the breakers of the world's op position and temptation; our barque may be furiously dashed upon th bosom of the maddened ocean; rocks, quicksands, whirlpools, and tem pests may surround us; nevertheless
" With Christ in the vessel,
We'll smile at the storm." Neath.
THE FIRST OFFENCE. In the cheerful dining-room of my | opinions, and numerous were th friend Stevenson, a select party was arguments brought forward to sur assembled to celebrate his birthday. port them. A very animated discussion had The majority appeared to lean t been carried on for some time as to the side of "crush all offences i whether the first deviation from in the bud," when a warm-hearted ol tegrity should be treated with seve- | gentleman exclaimed, rity or leniency. Various were the “Depend upon it, more youn