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Let it be remembered, that all other repentance must, and will be, repented of: all other repentance will leave us short of salvation: all other repentance will deceive us to our ruin. Our blessed Lord has told us, that, “except we repent, we must all perish:” and we have now seen the nature of repentance, not in a mere superficial manner, but as it may be distinguished from every thing that is apt to be mistaken for it. Behold then, life and death are before us; let us beg of God to undeceive us all, and to give unto us that repentance which shall never be repented of.]
DLXXXIV. THE SINNER'S FAITH.
Luke vii. 50. And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved
thee; go in peace. TO associate with the ungodly world is by no means expedient for those who have been redeemed out of the world. Yet there is a certain degree of intercourse with them which is both proper and desirable. There is a medium between an affecting of their society for our own gratification, and a contemptuous separation from them. Our blessed Lord has exhibited, as in every thing else, so in this also, a perfect pattern. When invited by a Pharisee to dinner, he accepted the invitation with a view to instruct him and do him good: and when a woman who had been a notorious sinner came to him at the Pharisee's house, he did not refuse her admission to his presence, but received with kindness the expressions of her regard, and imparted to her both the blessings and the comforts of his salvation.
The particular notice which our Lord took of the woman's “faith,” and the reward he gave her on account of it, leads us naturally to consider 1. The marks and evidences of her faith
The first thing that calls for our attention is 1. Her zeal
[She had doubtless seen many of our Lord's miracles, and heard many of his discourses; and though she was not yet one of his avowed followers, yet, having received good to her soul, she was desirous of honouring him to the utmost of her power. For this purpose she sought him out in the Pharisee's house,
and went to him with a full determination to shew him some signal mark of her regard.
Now this argued no little zeal. She was of the weaker sex, and therefore the more liable to be condemned as officious, impertinent, and obtrusive. She was of a notoriously vile character, and therefore still more obnoxious to insult and contempt. But unmindful of these things, she went uninvited, to the house of a proud Pharisee (where she was least of all likely to meet with any favour) and (indifferent to the construction that might be put upon her conduct by any censorious spectators, or even to the treatment she might receive from them) in the presence of the whole company expressed to him all that was in her heart.
And what was it that enabled her thus to “despise all shame,” and to triumph over the fear of man? Doubtless it was her faith: for the apostle says, “ This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”] 2. Her humility
[Though she was bent on executing her pious purpose, she was solicitous to do it in as private and modest a manner as she could. She therefore went behind him as he lay upon the couch, and, having easy access to his feet, placed herself there, without attracting the notice of the company, or interfering with the conversation that might be passing at table.
This also was a strong mark and evidence of her faith. She knew his august character, and felt herself unworthy to enter into his presence; yea, she accounted it the very summit of her ambition to be permitted to kiss his feet. It was in this way that the faith of the centurion and others shewed itself:b and though, through the remaining pride and ignorance of their hearts, young converts often, like Jehu, seek the notice and applause of men, humility will always be found to exist in the soul in exact proportion to our faith.] 3. Her contrition
[No sooner had she placed herself near the Saviour, than all her sins presented themselves to her mind, and filled her with deep compunction. Instantly she burst into a flood of tears, with which she bathed, as it were, the feet of her Lord, while she embraced them, in hopes of finding mercy from the friend of sinners.
Now it is the property of faith to “look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn.”e Yea, the more lively faith any have possessed, the more abundant has been their self-loathing
a They did not sit at table as we do, but lay on couches. b Luke vii 6,7. Mark v. 25-28. r Zech. xii, 10.
and self-abhorrence. We cannot doubt therefore but that faith was the principle from whence her humiliation flowed.] 4. Her love
(While she wept over the Saviour's feet, she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed them, and anointed them with odoriferous ointment. It was not possible for her to manifest stronger tokens of her affection.
And was not this also an evidence of her faith? Had she been an unbeliever, she would have seen “no beauty or comeliness in Jesus" that deserved her admiration:but believing in him, she accounted him “ fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely,” according to that declaration of the apostle, To them that believe, he is precious.8] 5. Her confidenc:
[She would not have ventured to approach the Pharisee in this manner, because she knew that he would despise her in his heart, and dismiss her with scorn. But she felt do apprehension of such treatment from the Saviour. She well knew his condescension and compassion; and therefore without reserve, and without fear, she cast herself upon his mercy,
In this too she showed the strength of her faith. Unbelief would have suggested many doubts; Will he receive me? Will he deign to look upon sach an abandoned wretch? But faith enabled her to approach him under a full persuasion, that “ whosoever came to him should in no wise be cast out."]
It was not in vain that she thus approached the Saviour; as we shall see, while we consider II. The fruits and consequences of her faith
Though despised and condemned by the Pharisee, she was well rewarded by her Lord. She obtained from him 1. The pardon of her sins
[Numerous as her iniquities had been, they were all in one moment blotted from the book of God's remembrance. Jesus, who had all power on earth to forgive sins," pardoned all her offences, and "cast them, as it were, behind him into the very depths of the sea.” What a blessed fruit and consequence of her faith was this! Had she been subjected to all the evil treatment that could have been shewn her, she would have had no reason to regret that conduct by which she had obtained so inestimable a blessing.
And was this peculiar to her? Shall not we also have our iniquities forgiven, if we apply to him in humility and faith?
Job xlii. 6. Isai. vi. 5. 1 Tim. i. 15. f Cant. v. 10, 16.
e Isai. liii. 2. $ 1 Pet. ii. 7.
Shall the greatness
of our sins be any bar to our acceptance with him, if we repent and believe? Let the word of God be deemed worthy of any credit, and all such apprehensions will vanish in an instant- --] 2. An assurance of her acceptance
[Twice did our Lord repeat to her the joyful tidings, that her sins were pardoned, and that her soul was saved; and to confirm it, he bade her depart in peace. What a cordial must this have been to her drooping spirit! How transported must she have been with the joyful sound! And what comfort must she enjoy through life in a sense of the divine favour, and in a prospect of the divine glory?
But neither was this peculiar to her. It is true, that many real Christians never attain to this high privilege: but it is owing to the weakness of their faith: if their faith operated as hers did, if it shewed itself in such humility, such contrition, such love, such confidence, such zeal, they also should hear him say to them, “Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee.” What though he should not utter it by an audible voice from heaven, can he not reveal it to the soul by his Spirit, and enable us to say, “ My beloved is mine, and I am his?”i Yes: let us only glorify him to the utmost of our power, and he will give us a peace that passeth all understanding, and a full assurance of hope unto the end.”''] 3. Everlasting happiness and glory
[In the declaration of Jesus she received both an earnest and a pledge of her eternal inheritance. Nor can we doubt but that after waiting her “ appointed time upon earth,” she was admitted to the enjoyment of her Lord in heaven, not any longer to weep at his feet, but to sit with him on his throne, and to participate his glory.
Thus also shall it be with all who truly believe: “they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life".__-) From this history we may LEARN 1. The nature of faith
[We cannot too carefully enquire into the nature of faith; for there is nothing respecting which so many, and such fatal, mistakes are made. Faith is not a mere assent to any doctrines whatsoever; but it is a living principle in the soul, which evidences itself by precisely such a regard to Christ as this woman manifested on this occasion. Would we then ascertain whether our faith be genuine and saving? let us enquire whether it lead us to Christ, in spite of all obstacles from without or from within, with humility and contrition, with love and confidence? For in proportion as we abound in these graces, or are destitute of them, we either
h Acts xiji. 39. Isai. i. 18. i Cant. ii. 16.
k Phil. iv. 7.
possess, or are destitute of, a living faith.] 2. The excellence of faith
[Admirable were the graces which this woman exercised; yet not one of them was noticed by our Lord: he overlooked them all; and noticed that only which was least apparent, and which every one else would have overlooked, namely, her faith. He knew that this was the root or principle from whence all her other graces sprang. It was this that led her so to honour him; and therefore he determined to honour it. And must not that be excellent which he so highly regarded, so studiously searched out, and so eminently distinguished?
But what is it that he here assigns to her faith? it is nothing less than the saving of her soul: he passes by all her other graces as having no weight or influence whatever in her justification before God, and specifies her “ faith" as that which “ saved” her. Is it possible to bestow a higher commendation on it than this?
If it be asked, why faith is thus distinguished above all other graces? we answer, it is because faith unites us unto the Saviour, and interests us thereby in all that he has done and suffered for us: but this cannot be said of any other grace whatever; and therefore, though every other grace adorns the soul, no grace but faith will save it.
Let us all seek to attain right sentiments on this most important point, and pray with the apostles, “ Lord, increase our faith.”] 3. The condescension of Christ to believing penitents
[If a person of an abandoned character, however changed in his conduct, should come to us when in the midst of company, and that company of a higher order and a pharisaic cast, and should express such affection for us, our pride would be apt to rise; and, while we blushed for the degradation we seemed to suffer, we should be ready to condemn him for his impertinent intrusion, or perhaps to suspect that he was deranged in his mind. But Jesus accounted himself honoured by the testimonies of the woman's regard: and, though he could not but know what reflections would be cast upon his character on account of his kindness to her, he vindicated her conduct, and richly recompensed her kind attentions.
Thus will he do to every believing penitent. He will compensate the scoffs of an unbelieving world by manifest tokens of his approbation. He will not regard the quantity or quality of a man's past offences; but will speak peace to his soul, and in due time “ wipe away all tears from his eyes” for ever. O that we might all consider this, and experience it to our eternal joy!]