Therefore I tell you, because her many sins have been forgiven, she has loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
1. He was an eminently respectable man; he was so in the true sense of the word, for as a virtuous man he could respect himself, and his neighbours could rightly respect him; he conformed his conduct to a high standard of morality.
2. He was an open-handed, hospitable man.
3. He was an open-minded man. It was not every Pharisee that would have invited Jesus Christ to supper, or would have given him such freedom to speak his mind without resentment. But he was a much-mistaken man. He was quite wrong in three important points.
I. HIS ESTIMATE OF JESUS CHRIST. When he found that Jesus did not resent the attention of "this woman," he came to the conclusion that he could not be a prophet, or he would have known that she was a sinner, and, knowing that, he would have repelled her. Here he was wrong in his conclusion; and he was also wrong in his reasoning. His argument was this: a man as holy as a prophet would be certain to repel such guilt as is present here; when the Holy Prophet comes, the Messiah, ha will be more scrupulously separate from sin and from sinners than any other has been. Here he was completely mistaken. The Holy One came to be the Merciful One; to say to guilty men and women, "Your fellows may despair of you and abandon you. I despair of none, I abandon nobody. I see in all the possibilities of recovery; I summon you all to repentance and to life. Touch me, if you will, with the hand of your faith; I will lay my hand of help and healing upon you."
II. HIS VIEW OF THAT WOMAN.. A sinner she had been; but she was more, and indeed other than a sinner now. That word did not faithfully describe her state before God. She was a penitent. And what is a penitent? A penitent soul is one who hates the sin that had been cherished, who has cast out the evil spirit from him, in whom is the living germ of righteousness, who is on the upward line that leads to heavenly wisdom and Divine worth, on whom God is looking down with tender grace and deep satisfaction, in whom Jesus Christ beholds a servant, a friend, an heir of his holy kingdom. This is not one to turn away from in scorn, but to draw nigh unto in kindness and encouragement.
III. HIS ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF.
1. He thought himself a very long way on in the kingdom of God as compared with that poor woman; he did not know that, she being poor in spirit and he being proud in spirit, she was much nearer to its entrance-gates than he.
2. He thought himself in a position to patronize Jesus Christ, and consequently withheld some of the usual courtesies from his Guest; he did not know that it was on himself the distinction was conferred.
3. He supposed himself to be possessed of all the cardinal virtues: he did not know that he lacked that which is the crowning excellence of all - love, the love that can pity, that can stoop to save. We draw two main lessons.
1. That Christ makes much of love. Dwelling on the various manifestations of this woman's feeling, he declares they are the signs of her love, and he then traces her love to her deep sense of forgiven sin. God wants our love, as we want the love of our children and of our friends, and cannot accept anything, however valuable, in its stead: so Christ wants the pure, deep, lasting affection of our souls. No ceremonies, or services, or even sacrifices, will compensate for its absence (see 1 Corinthians 13.). And the measure of our love will depend on the depth of our sense of God's forgiving love toward us. Hence it is of the first importance that we
(1) should understand how much God has forgiven us, how great and serious our guilt has been (see preceding homily);
(2) should recognize how great and full is the Divine forgiveness, how much it includes - how much in the sense of overlooking the past, and in the way of granting us present favour and of promising us future blessedness. Our wisdom and our duty, therefore, is to dwell on the greatness of God's mercy to us in Jesus Christ, to rejoice much in it, to let our souls bathe in the thought of it, be filled continually with a sense of it. For they who are (consciously) forgiven much will love much; and they who love much will be much beloved of God (John 14:23).
2. That we should be ready to receive Christ's correcting word. Simon was wholly wrong in his estimate of men and of things; but he was not unwilling to hear Christ's correcting word. "Master, say on," he replied, when the great Teacher said, "I have somewhat to say unto thee." Let us see to it that this is our attitude. Our Lord may have something very serious to say to us, as he had to those seven Churches in Asia Minor, which he addressed from his heavenly throne (Revelation 2., 3.). When, through his Word, his ministry, his providence, he does thus correct us, calling us to a renewed humility, faith, love, zeal, consecration, are we ready to receive his message, to bow our head, to open our heart, and say, "Speak, Lord; thy servants hear! Master, say on"? - C.
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)filiam diaboli, "the daughter of the devil," which bringeth forth many children to him daily. Nor doth any one such special service to the devil as an harlot.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)2 Chronicles 33:12; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 1:12, 13; Acts 2:38, 39; Luke 15:20. Though then thou hast been an egregious sinner and led a vicious life, defiling thy soul with many sins, yet suffer not thyself through Satan's malice to be plunged into the pit of despair; thou hast provoked God's justice grievously heretofore by thy presumption, wrong not His mercy through desperation.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
For she loved much.John 15:15), where declaring of those things to them is the effect not cause of His love. And that our Saviour here reasoneth from the effect to the cause is evident enough from the whole discourse.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)a posteriori) from the effect is a strong proof, and very demonstrative. Thus the truth of our faith is to be proved (James 2:18). And of repentance (2 Corinthians 7:11). And of charity (1 John 3:14). And so St. James proves wisdom from above by the effects (James 3:17). Still Scripture puts us upon the trial of our graces, by these kind of proofs. Grace is invisible in its nature, it cannot be seen in habitu. Therefore, as God was seen to Moses, so is grace to men, by its back parts; and as the wind, which no man can see in its proper essence, by the full sails of the ship is perceived which way it stands. Let this be a direction to us in our examination and trial of ourselves. Would I know if the sun shines? there is no climbing up to the sky to be resolved, nor examining what matter it is made of; I look upon the beams shining on the earth, I perceive it is up and shines by the light and heat it gives. Would I know if God hath elected me to life and to salvation? There is no climbing up into heaven to know His decrees and hidden counsel (as too many would most audaciously) but study well the marks of it from the effects. The head of Nilus cannot be found, but the sweet springs issuing from thence arc well known. No surer way to the sea, than by taking a river by the hand. Our vocation and sanctification will carry us to election (Romans 8:30; 2 Peter 1:5-10). These are the means whereby our election and salvation is made certain, not the efficient causes whereby it comes to be decreed. The sun, not the shadow, makes the day, yet we know not how the day goes by the sun, but by the shadow. In a word, as the planets are known by their influence, the diamond by his lustre, and the soul by her vital operations, so grace is more sensibly known to us by the effects thereof. Secondly, we observe from hence, that a true and unfeigned love of Christ is a sure sign that our sins are remitted.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)Matthew 13.) And those (Hebrews 6.) But this they cannot counterfeit to love the Lord. A hypocrite may hear the Word, pray, give alms, but to do these out of love, that is a thing which no hypocrite is able to reach unto. Secondly, though saving graces have their counterfeits, yet a man may be assured by the Word that he hath this and other graces in him in sincerity, so as that he cannot be deceived in them. For as God gave Moses in the Mount a pattern, according to which He would have all things made in the Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:5), so that when he viewed the work and saw all was done according to that pattern, He was sure He had done right, and blessed them, as we read (Exodus 39:43). So hath God given us a pattern in His Word, according to which He would have everything in His spiritual tabernacle (as faith, repentance, love, obedience, &c.) to be wrought. And if a man can find that the grace he hath be according to the pattern, as (if he take pains with himself to view the work, as Moses did) he may, then he may be sure it is right, and shall have cause of rejoicing, as the apostle saith (Galatians 6:4). Thirdly, Learn hence a notable way to establish our hearts in the assurance of the pardon of sin. Thou needest not climb up into heaven to search God's books, whether they be crossed or no, there to behold the face of God whether He smile or frown; but dive into thine own soul, and there find out what love thou bearest to thy Maker and blessed Saviour; if thou findest that thou lovest Him unfeignedly, that is, that thou lovest Him more than these, lovest Him for Himself, for those beauties and excellencies that are in Him. It is the greatest comfort that thou canst have in this life, for that thou mayest rest assured hereupon that God is reconciled to thee, and that thy sins (be they never so great or many) are forgiven thee. Finding this in thee, thou mayest be sure, and never till then canst thou be assured of it. For, we may easier carry coals in our bosom without burning, than by faith apprehend truly this love of God in the pardoning of sin without finding our hearts burn in love to Him answerably. Only see that our love be rightly qualified, that it hath these requisites which God's Word speaks of, that it be with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 10:30.) In the fourth place we do observe, That loving much argues much mercy received from the beloved party.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
I. CHRIST HERE STANDS AS A MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE LOVE COMING FORTH AMONGST SINNERS.
1. He, as bringing to us the love of God, shows it to us, as not at all dependent upon our merits or deserts. "He frankly forgave them both."
2. He tells us, too, that whilst that love is not caused by us, but comes from the nature of God, it is not turned away by our sins. Christ's knowledge of the woman as a sinner; what did it do to His love for her? It made that love gentle and tender, as knowing that she could not bear the revelation of the blaze of His purity. "Daughter, I know all about it — all thy wanderings and thy vile transgressions: I know them all, and My love is mightier than all these. They may be as the great sea, but My love is like the everlasting mountains whose roots go down beneath the ocean; and My love is like the everlasting heaven, whose brightness covers it all over."
3. Christ teaches us here that this Divine love, when it comes forth among sinners, necessarily manifests itself first in the form of forgiveness. There was nothing to be done with the debtors until the debt was wiped out.
4. We see here the love of God, last of all, demanding service.
II. THIS WOMAN — THE PENITENT LOVINGLY RECOGNIZING THE DIVINE LOVE. Great blunders have been built on the words of our text. I daresay you have often seen epitaphs written on gravestones, with this misplaced idea on them, "Very sinful; but there was a great deal of love in the person; and for the sake of the love, God passed by the sin!" Now, when Christ says, "she loved much," He does not mean to say that her love was the cause of her forgiveness — not at all. He means to say that her love was the proof of her forgiveness. As for instance, we might say, "The woman is in great distress, for she weeps;" but we do not mean thereby that the weeping is the reason of the distress, but the means of our knowing the sorrow. The love does not go before the forgiveness, but the forgiveness before the love. That this is the true interpretation you will see, if you look back for a moment at the narrative which precedes: "He frankly forgave them both: tell me, therefore, which of them will love Him most?"
1. Then all true love to God is preceded in the heart by these two things — a sense of sin, and an assurance of pardon.
2. Love precedes all acceptable and faithful service. If you want to do, love. If you want to know, love.
III. A third character stands here — THE UNLOVING AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS MAN, ALL IGNORANT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Simon is the antithesis of the woman and her character. What was it that made this. man's morality a piece of dead nothingness. What was it that made his orthodoxy just so many dry words, from out of which all the life had gone? This one thing: there was no love in it. And, love is the foundation of all obedience.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)The text teaches —
I. THAT SIN IS PARDONABLE. A very elementary truth, yet a very important one. The obstacle to forgiveness.
1. Not in God.
2. Not in nature.
3. Not in the sinner, if he repents.
II. MUCH SIN CAN BE REPENTED OF AND THEREFORE FORGIVEN. "Her sins, which are many."
III. A GREAT SINNER CAN BE A GREAT SAINT. Bunyan, in his sermon on "The Jerusalem sinner saved," explaining the reasons why Jesus would have mercy offered in the first place to the biggest sinners, remarks, "If Christ loves to be loved a little, He loves to be loved much; but there is not any that are capable of loving much, save those that have much forgiven them." Having cited Paul as an instance, he adds the quaint reflection, "I wonder how far a man might go among the converted sinners of the smaller size before he could find one that so much as looked anything this wayward." Then coming to the scene in Simon's house, the moral lesson it suggests is thus put: "Alas! Christ has but little thanks for the saving of little sinners, he gets not water for His feet by the saving of such sinners. There are abundance of dry-eyed Christians in the world, and abundance of dry-eyed duties too — duties that were never wetted with the tears of contrition and repentance, nor even sweetened with the great sinner's box of ointment."
(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
THE WOMAN THAT WAS A SINNER.
Simon, her kisses will not soil;
Her tears are pure as rain;
Eye not her hair's untwisted coil,
Baptized in pardoning pain.
For God hath pardoned all her much,
Her iron bands have burst;
Her love could never have been such
Had not His love been first.
But oh! rejoice ye sisters pure,
Who hardly know her case;
There is no sin but has its cure,
Its all-consuming grace.
He did not leave her soul in hell,
'Mong shards the silver dove,
But raised her pure that she might tell
Her sisters how to love.
She gave Him all your best love can.
Was He despised and sad?
Yes; and yet never mighty man
Such perfect homage had.
Jesus, by whose forgiveness sweet
Her love grew so intense,
We, sinners all, come round Thy feet —
Lord, make no difference.
1. In the beginning it must not be supposed that love is to be derived only from a sense of benefit conferred, and that the conscious benefit of forgiven sin is the true fountain of the highest love. For love will be in proportion to the strength of the love-principle in the subject of it. We do not love God merely on account of what He has done for us. We begin to love God by a perception of His great mercy to us. It then goes higher, and widens and purifies itself.
2. Nor must we reason falsely upon the implications of this passage. For we might say, "If love is to be in proportion to the forgiveness of sins, then men should sin freely in order that they may love greatly." Paul had precisely the same ease presented to his mind by an objector. He had been urging that God's grace was in proportion to a man's sin; and the objector said, "Must we, then, go on and sin that grace may abound?" "No, God forbid!" said the apostle. "That would be contrary to the very nature of love. It is impossible for a man who loves to go on sinning for the sake of loving more, or for the sake of winning more grace. The two ideas are practically incompatible with each other." Nor are we to say, "As I have not been a great sinner, I am not bound to love much."
3. But not to speak longer upon these possible perversions of this truth here, I proceed further to say that it is a truth which opens for consideration the question of the value of great feelings, deep feelings — especially a profound experience of personal sinfulness incident to a Christian life. There is a powerful effect wrought upon a man's moral nature by the mental experience through which he goes. If a man has had such a struggle with himself that he is profoundly impressed with the might of evil in him; if there has been in his experience a revelation of the destructive tendencies of sin; all this experience would tend to produce, most vividly and most powerfully, a sense of God's grace. His sense of the gift is to be measured by this experience. No man that has a low conception of sin will ever have a very high conception of grace. God's rescue will seem great in proportion to your conscious peril. How much has been forgiven you will be determined by how much you consciously have been in debt. As a practical matter, almost all men know that eminent experiences have grown out of profound convictions of sin, and come up to this point of conviction of sin, and stopped there. It may be that you have not enough conviction of sin; you have enough to begin a life of reformation with. Then what will happen? In proportion as a man goes toward that which is right, his conscience becomes firm, his moral sense becomes stronger, and conviction of sin, like every other Christian experience, will develop and grow. Let the sense of sin grow as you grow. A profound experience of unworth will open more and more upon you as you go on in the Divine life. The magnitude of the debt that has been forgiven you, will constitute a growing practical Christian experience. You are like a child that wants to read a book, but will not learn his letters because he does not want to touch a book till he can go off all at once. You must learn your letters before you can read. The experience of every trait, of every element of Christian life, is an experience that begins small and waxes larger, and by and by becomes like a branch of a tree in full top. And that which is true of every other feeling is true of this one — namely, conviction of sin. If, then, you have enough feeling to condemn you, you have enough for yeast.
4. Very wicked men ought to become very eminent and active Christians. Usually, men who have been very wicked, are men who have very strong natures. Men who have been dissipated, arc men who have had very strong passions and appetites. Usually a wicked man is a man of power and audacity, if he is very wicked; but where there is great power to do wrong, there is great power to react from wrong; and if a man has been going away from God with vigour, that same vigour should supply him with the elements by which to return. It is pitiful to see a man fruitful, energetic, from day to day, and constantly diversifying his experience in wickedness, but sterile, and close, and formal, and proper when he becomes a Christian. Bad men also are usually acquainted with human life. They know the dispositions of their fellow-men; and whatever knowledge there is of bad men they have. And such men are bound to consecrate their knowledge, and to bring it into the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has forgiven them, and renewed their life, if they are born again. If a man has been a gambler, and is converted from his wicked way, that ought to be a sphere in which he feels peculiarly called to labour. There is also a sense of Divine goodness that ought to go with cases of conversions of bad men, and that ought to be specially affecting and influential. I see a great many persons who try to serve God softly. The devil puts excuses into their mouths like these: "I ought not to meddle with sacred things. I ought not to put on airs in religion, or give people reason to suppose that I do." And under these guises they do but little, and very soon wither and go back to their old state. If, therefore, within the hearing of my voice, there are those who are thinking about a Christian life, I open the door of the church to you — but on this condition; come in with all your might! If you have been a swearing man, your lips must not be dumb now in the praise of that God whom you have been blaspheming all your life. If you were sick, and your case had been given over by all the physicians, and a stranger should come to your town, and should examine into your difficulty, and should say, "It is a struggle with death itself, but I am in possession of knowledge by which I think I can heal you;" and he should never leave you day nor night, but should cling to you through weeks and weeks, and at last raise you to health, would it not be contemptibly mean if you should be ashamed to acknowledge him to be your physician, and testify to what he had done for you? If I was that physician, would I not have a right to have my name and my skill made known by you?
5. Men who have sinned, not by their passions but by their higher faculties, if they would be true Christians, must have just the same spiritual momentum — though for different reasons — as those that have sinned by their lower faculties.
6. Let every man who is going to begin a Christian life pursue the same course that she pursued whose name has been made memorable, and whose soul this day chants before her Beloved in heaven — or she is one of those of whom Christ says, "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you," Pharisees.
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. THE FIRST OF THESE LESSONS IS, THAT GRATITUDE IN A LIVING HEART RISES WITH THE OCCASION. YOU know that gratitude is a joyous sense of obligation. I lay great stress upon that word "joyous." There may be a sense of obligation without thankfulness-there may be a sense of obligation associated with hatred, and malice, and revenge. There are men who are excited to indignation by obligations which they cannot cast off. Gratitude is a joyous sense of obligation to another, accompanied by a desire to confess that obligation. If this sense be absent, and if the consciousness be painful, and if a man shrink from the utterance of acknowledgment of the obligation, gratitude is not in his heart. Now, as the mercury in the barometer rises with the lightness of the atmosphere, and in the thermometer with the heat of the atmosphere, so gratitude in a true heart swells with the extent of the obligation. Christ says of this woman, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Thankfulness in this poor woman's soul had reached a very high point; that is, it responded to the demand made upon it. Gratitude in a living heart will not be stationary. As the clouds of guilt and sorrow are blotted out from the firmament of the man's heart, and from the firmament of the man's prospects, thankfulness will rise. Gratitude cannot be the same in two individuals of equal spiritual sensitiveness, but of different conditions. "She loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." The difference in the condition, the heart being alive, produces the difference in the thankfulness. As a trunk-line receives traffic from its branch-lines, or as the principal stream through a valley receives accession by tributary streams, so thankfulness is deep or shallow, wide or narrow, in proportion to the circumstances which call it forth. The highest occasion of thankfulness is large pardon from God — pardon dispensed by God abundantly. Sin admits of degree. Transgressions may be many or few, and they are marked by degrees of aggravation. Observe, too, the manner in which God dispenses forgiveness. He pardons freely, without money, and without price; readily, without the vain repetition of continued entreaty — abundantly, making the scarlet, snow, and the crimson, wool. Now, until a guilty man is forgiven by his God, none of the gifts of the Father of Mercies partake thoroughly of the nature of blessing. He has health, and strength, and life; but these are only adding distance to his wanderings from God. Strong gratitude, brethren, is very free in its utterance. It is not restricted to place. The man who is really thankful cannot expend his emotions in the sacredness of retirement only. Yet the thankful heart is not dependent upon the excitement of the multitude. Still, gratitude is not restricted to time, or to mode. It finds regular seasons for utterance — in the morning and evening, and at noon-day. It will lisp like an infant; it can chant like a seraph. It will utter itself in a sigh or in a song, in a tear or in an alabaster, in a look or in a course of service. Look at a third fact. Gratitude breaks the laws of propriety which a formalist would recognize. It puts its hand on the best and it offers the best. Now, how ought the gratitude of a forgiven man to be expressed? Honour the Saviour's person in the persons of His disciples.
I. The secret springs of the poor sinner's conduct.
II. The nature of the action, which was viewed so diversely by the Pharisees and the Lord.
I. THE STRINGS OF THE WOMAN'S CONDUCT. The woman was "a sinner." Into the precise form or extent of her transgression there is no need to pry. The word was very significant; a "lost woman" would be its equivalent now. The sin was one which filled her whole consciousness. The springs of her action, perhaps, lie here.
1. In her desperate self-abandonment the Lord had lit one ray of hope within her spirit. "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" What sin-crushed spirit would not leap to hear such words from such Divine lips? Despair is the devil's own instrument. The first step in the reformation of the most abandoned profligates is to get them to care for themselves — to think themselves worth the care. Doubtless, this poor sinner had long loathed her vocation. Doubtless, the burning blush of shame had often stained her cheek, and tears, tears that had a tinge of blood in them, had often dimmed her eye, when she remembered that she had lost her womanhood, lost her soul, lost her life, for ever. Surely, too, the thought of reformation had often visited her. But the "Where shall I go, what shall I do?" as often checked her. "Who in this universe cares for a woman that is a sinner?"
2. The Lord had quickened within her numbed and withered heart the pulses of a blessed and purifying love. Love is the strong redeemer of pollution. How hard and how long will even a human love struggle against the pollution of a sensual life. The devil has not fairly secured his victim until the very embers of love are extinguished in the hearth-fire of the heart. Jesus made her a woman again. The tendrils of love, torn from their pristine hold, all tangled and rotting on the damp earth whereon she grovelled, began to tingle and thrill again. Heaven seemed to open above her and beam its benediction.
II. And now LET US TURN OUR THOUGHTS TO THE NATURE OF THE ACTION, AND ANALYZE THE OPPOSING JUDGMENTS WHICH WERE PASSED ON IT BY THE DISCIPLES AND THE LORD, Worldly wisdom would probably find a double objection to this transaction.
1. It was shameful that a woman, who was a sinner, should approach a prophet; and —
2. The gift was lavish and wasteful, and might, have been put to better use.And Jesus seems to me to say by His answers —
1. That love — such love- must be left to its native affinities. Its elections are absolute, its decisions are supreme.
2. The Lord said that there are gifts which a love like hers alone can justify. "She loved much," He pleaded, in answer to the glances which condemned the occasion as a scandal, and the gift as a waste. There are gifts which are simply the utterance of the heart of the giver, outlets of surcharged feeling, expressions of thoughts too deep for words, for tears. Let the cold and cautious stand aside while such are passing, nor stay the flight of these angels on the wing. The heart's first duty is to find itself expression. She loved much; she spent her living in telling how much she loved. Simon, there is malignant devil in that cautious calculation. Moreover, love like hers is not so uncalculating, though it disdains Pharisaic measures. The woman gave her living, but she won her soul. The ointment was lost, and the money which bought it, but her soul was for ever rid of its burden, and was braced for conflict and heavenly work. Love, though profuse in gifts, clears the intellect, kindles the spirit, stirs the courage, and nerves the hands.
3. The Saviour says that love like hers may well seek strange and profuse expressions, for it is the parent of a glory and blessedness which transcends all utterance and thought. Love is life. The woman who was a sinner, loving much, grew more swiftly and strongly to saintly perfectness, than Simon the just Pharisee measuring and obeying. Love, like electric fire, leaps swiftly to its object. Justness, the quiet sense of duty, the careful measuring of obligations, travels slowly, though wisely and surely, along the road. (Read Luke 7:47-50.)
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
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