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graces be in lively exercise, and the christian character supported by a holy and upright conversation, we shall resmble the church coming out of the wilderness, like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant. Cant. iii. 6.
6. Her contempt of the world. To see a woman of such a character in such a situation, might have an unfavourable aspect, and give occasion for evil surmisings; but we see she did not regard the censures and reproaches of Simon the pharisee: she was as ready to own herself a great sinner as he was to call her so. She did not mind the things of the world any more than the men of the world: the box of precious ointment was of little value to one who had found the pearl of great price. What she parted with was esteemed as worthless, in comparison of what she had obtained; precious faith, and a precious Saviour, made ample amends for all. When salvation had come to the house of Zaccheus, he gave the half of his goods to the poor, though before he could part with nothing, but loved to oppress. And when Paul had obtained mercy, he counted all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Luke xix. 8. Phil. iii. 7.
7. Her gratitude and joy. All her grief was mingled with love and thankfulness; her tears were tears of joy for sin pardoned, as well as of sorrow for sin committed. Her ointment became a thankoffering to her Saviour. Filled with adoring thoughts of divine grace, she could join in that triumphant song; Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Rev. i. 5, 6.
From this instructive history we may learn, that the displays of divine mercy have always a practical tendency. The encouragement afforded to humble. enquirers, by opening a door of hope to the vilest of
sinners, should excite the pardoned soul to the most ardent love, and the deepest abasement, as well as to abounding thankfulness and persevering obedience. Who would not prefer the situation of this penitent at the feet of Jesus, to that of a prince upon his throne! Yet there is something more blessed than even this. To lie at his feet is very desirable: but it is more so to behold him face to face!
After all, remember, that though our tears may wash Christ's feet; yet rivers, nay, an ocean of them cannot cleanse our own hearts. He himself must wash us, or we have no part in him. The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, and that only, cleanseth us from all sin. If I wash myself with snow-water, says Job, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own cloaths shall abbor me. If thou diest a martyr for Christ it will be of little service, unless he died as a sacrifice for thee. Thou shalt never be saved for thy repentance; and yet thou shalt not be saved without it. Art thou tempted to despair; to think thy sins so great, and thy case so singular, that there is no mercy for thee? Remember the case of this woman; and the Lord grant that her experience may be thine!
See that poor penitent,
To wash Christ's feet repair;
Her flowing tears prepare the bath—
Her love she now imparts,
Though he's ascended up,
By faith we may on earth,
The Power of Conscience.
ROM. ii. 15.
Their conscience also bearing witness.
AT the mouth of two or three witnesses, it is said,
shall the matter be established. Thus the record which God hath given of his Son is confirmed by three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the holy Spirit-and by three on earth; the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Thus also there will be three credible and authentic witnesses against the sinner in the great day. God himself who knows our secret thoughts, is an eye and ear-witness to all we do and say. Also the divine word, especially the holy and righteous law of God; for, says our Lord to the jews, there is one that accuseth, even Moses in whom ye trust. The word accuses the penitent sinner to himself, and the impenitent sinner unto God. Conscience also, which will then be freed from every corrupt bias, and roused from its present state of stupefaction. It is not indeed always in such a state even in this world: there are times when it is stirred. up to do its office, and in such a manner as to make the sinner tremble. The apostle is speaking of the heathen world when he says, Their conscience also bearing witness: but it may be applied to all mankind.
All I shall attempt from these words will be, to shew what a witness conscience is, in order to awaken our serious attention to that faithful monitor, and then make a short improvement of the subject.
Hearken, oh sinner! Hast thou not heard, hast thou not felt that thou hast a conscience, and that conscience is a powerful witness! Listen then, while I tell thee what a witness conscience is. I shall not inform thee now whether it be a distinct faculty of the soul, or a peculiar exercise of the understanding, taking cognizance of what passes in our own hearts, in a way of conviction or consolation; but shall attend. to its nature and operations as a "Witness."
1. Conscience is an inward witness. Other witnesses are without a man, and so may be set aside. One witness may be produced against another, one testimony against another, or circumstances may be alleged to destroy the probability of the testimony given; but it cannot be so where conscience is concerned, for that is a witness within a man. A man may as soon fly from God, as from his own conscience. It will follow him into all places-into all worlds! Nay, he may as soon fly from himself. Wherever he goes, it haunts him, meets him, faces or pursues him; at home and abroad, alone and in company. It presents itself in his thoughts by day, in his dreams by night. Now, that which is thus within a man, has certainly the greatest influence upon him, either for his comfort or terror: so that we had better have all the men in the world and devils in hell for our enemies, than our own conscience !
2. It is a knowing and intelligent witness. None can know what conscience knows, but he who knows all things, even God. It hath the best opportunities, and is very observant. It may be said of it as it is of the divine word, that it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Witnesses amongst men
are sometimes set aside on account of the weakness of their capacities: but it cannot be so with respect to the witness of which I am now speaking. Its knowledge is very extensive: it sees all our ways, and tells all our wanderings. It penetrates into the secret windings of our treacherous hearts; is well acquainted with the springs and principles of our actions, and sees those hidden works of darkness which are concealed from the most inquisitive eye. And as its discernment is clear, so its judgment is generally true. To which I may add, that what it once knows it never forgets so that when arraigned by it, we must plead guilty; when condemned by it, we must acknowledge its sentence to be just and well grounded.
3. It is an authorized and credible witness. Witnesses are sometimes disallowed, not only through a defect in their intellect, but a blemish on their moral characters; but it is not so with respect to conscience. The court of conscience is the court of God, where it acts in his name, and by his authority; as judge, jury, and witness. It speaks when and what he bids it; and when he commands it to be silent, it holds its peace. It is the king's witness, and therefore must not be treated with contempt. It speaks by commission; so that he who heareth conscience, heareth God; he that heareth not conscience, heareth not God. The apostle speaks of his conscience bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost; (Rom. ix. 1.) meaning that it was influenced and directed by the Holy Ghost: so that if the same question were put concerning the checks and restraints, the reproofs or approbations of conscience, which was put concerning John's baptism, Are they from heaven or of men;' the same answer must be returned: They are from heaven.
4. It is a faithful and true witness. It is said of a faithful witness, that he will not lie; that he delivereth souls: and the same may be said of conscience,