Page images

all them that dwell on the face of the earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man*.”

*Luke xxi. 34, 35, 36.




E are now approaching the last sad scene of our Saviour's life, which commences with the 26th chapter, and continues in a progressive accumulation of one misery upon another to the end of St. Matthew's Gospel.

The 26th chapter, which will be the subject of the present Lecture, begins with informing us that two days before the great Feast of the Passover, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, assembled together unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty and kill him.

Whilst they were thus employed, Jesus himself was in Bethany (a small village near Jerusalem) at the house of a person called Simon,

Q 4

Simon, whom he had cured of a leprosy; and here an incident took place which marks at once the manners of the country and the. times, and places in a striking point of view the different characters of the several persons concerned in it.

As Jesus was sitting at meat in the house above mentioned, "there came unto him a woman, having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? for this ointment, might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble the woman, for she hath wrought a good me? For have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my -body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there also shall this which this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her."





There are in this little story several circumstances that deserve our notice.


The first is, that the act here mentioned, of pouring the ointment on the head of Jesus, though it may appear strange to us, yet was perfectly conformable to the customs of ancient times, not only in Asia, but in the more polished parts of Europe. Chaplets of flowers and odoriferous unguents are mentioned by several classical authors as in use at the festive entertainments both of the Greeks and Romans, and particularly among the Jews, the custom of anointing the head seems to have been almost as common a practice as that of washing the face. For they are mentioned together by our Lord in his direction to his disciples on the subject of fasting. "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which seeth in secret*."

[ocr errors]

But there was a much higher purpose to which the effusion of ointment on the head was applied to the Jews. It was by this ceremony that Kings, Priests, and Prophets, were set apart and consecrated to their respective offices. And for this reason it was

*Matth. vi. 17, 18.


that our blessed Lord himself, who united in his own person the threefold character of King, Priest, and Prophet, was distinguished by the name of the MESSIAH, which in the Hebrew language means THE ANOINTED. It was therefore with peculiar propriety that this discriminating mark of respect was shewn to Jesus by the devout woman here mentioned, though she herself was probably altogether unconscious of that propriety. Jesus however saw at once the piety of her heart, and the purity of her intentions, and with that sweetness of temper, and urbanity of manners which were natural to him, not only accepted her humble offering with complacency, but generously defended her against the illiberal cavils of his fastidious followers. And then he added a promise of that distinguished honour which should perpetuate this meritorious act of hers to all future ages. Verily say unto you, that wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her." This we know was no vain prediction; it has been most literally and punctually fulfilled, and we ourselves




« PreviousContinue »