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her to attend even to the economy of the tableyea, even to serve with her own hands when an emergency required. An affectation of state and delicacy in the mistress of a family, has occasioned disorders, wastes, and embarrassments, which have frequently ended in the ruin of the house.
The mother of Lemuel, in characterizing a wife even for a prince in those days-tells him, among other things, that "She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens-that she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."
Some things also may be said in her excuse. She was the mistress of the house, and it was her province to provide.-This appears to have been a sudden occurrence; many come in unawares; and perhaps she was unfurnished-this would naturally create hurry, confusion, uneasiness. But after all that can be said, in justification of Martha, our Saviour reproves her. She was therefore blame-worthy: for his judgment is always according to truth. He could read the state of the mind; he could weigh motives; he could distinguish circumstances.
And, from what he has mentioned, we may conclude that there was, in her, a considerable share of domestic vanity. I advert to that vanity which makes religion exclaim over thoughtless profusion, Why is this waste? Are there no charities to sustain? Are there no hungry wretches to feed? No naked to clothe? I advert to that vanity which descends lower than pride in dress and furniture; which commonly attends wealth newly acquired, and adheres to vulgar minds incapable of discerning that sim
plicity is essential to elegance. A vanity whose empire is as large as the table; a vanity which collects all its praise from sordid appetite; a vanity which, while it entertains the body of a visiter, generally starves the mind.
The Shunamite discovered much more good sense than Martha, on a similar occasion. She wished to entertain Elisha; but she considered character: she could not even suppose that a prophet of the Lord required splendour or luxury, she therefore said unto her husband, "Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither." But Martha, instead of a plain repast, was cumbered about much serving; and was all anxiety to furnish an entertainment, which, while it was rendered unnecessary by the plainness and piety of the visitants, allowed her no degree of leisure, and engrossed all her time and attention. Thus she deprived herself of an opportunity to hear our Saviour's discourse. This she should have prized. He was no ordinary teacher: his stay was not likely to be of long continuance; she knew not when the blessing would come again in her way.
This was not all. She rudely breaks in upon the devotion of the company; interrupts our Lord's discourse: condemns her sister as idle; and tries to involve our Saviour in the quarrel. "Lord, dost thou not care that any sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she help me. 99 Here we see ill-humour, fretfulness, snappishness; she is troubled about many
things; and in her heat, her temper boils over, and scalds others. I pity Martha's servants.It is easy to guess how they would be found fault with, when their mistress could behave thus in the presence of the twelve apostles, and the Son of God.
But behold Mary. All reverence, all attention, all composure, feeding on the doctrine of eternal life-She sat at his feet-She wisely and zealously improved the opportunity given her for the good of her soul-"This is my summer, my harvest: let me redeem the time."
It must have distressed Mary to hear her sister so passionately complain of her: and many a one in her circumstances would have replied, "Why could she not have called me aside, and have spoken to me alone? Why expose me before the whole house? If I have not been so attentive to other things-surely the occasion will plead some excuse. But not a word of this nature. The calm silence of this good woman seems to say, "I leave my defence to him; he is near that justifieth me." Nor was she mistaken. He more than vindicates:-he applauds her preference: and tells Martha that he will not comply with her demand, to send Mary to her assistance; but will suffer her to remain listening at his feet, and still enjoying the privilege she had chosen. It is the meaning of his declaration, when he said: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her."
But what is here said of a particular instance of pious disposition, will apply to religion at large.
To render this passage of scripture, therefore, more generally useful, let me call upon you, in
First place, to consider the diligence of the Saviour in the improvement of time. He goes about doing good. His lips drop as the honey comb. He always pays for his entertainment. In the parlour, as well as in the temple, he furnishes admonition and counsel. No sooner does he enter this house, than we find him teaching.
Let us be followers of him as dear children.Ministers should not be backward to speak, unless before large and public assemblies: the apostles, like their Saviour, not only taught publicly, but from house to house. Christians should labour to be useful wherever they are. Every place, every company should be the better for them.. They should render friendly, and even ordinary visits, edifying. Religion is not to be confined to the church, or the Sabbath. It is not to be a dress which you may assume, or lay aside at your pleasure: it is a nature; a life. It is to keep us in the fear of the Lord all the day long: to enter business with us; to attend us in all our common actions; and to teach us that "whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do it to the glory of God." Hence we are commanded to Comfort one another; to exhort one another; to provoke one another to love, and to good works, and-so much the more as we see the day approaching." But, alas! who does not stand reproved and condemned? "Are we not carnal, and walk as men? Do we redeem the time, because the days are evil? Does no communication proceed out of our mouth, but such as is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to
the hearers? Shall vain words never have an end? -A word fitly spoken, how good is it! It is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Secondly. Observe how improper it is for a follower of the Lord Jesus to be sensual and selfish. Mary, who hears his word, pleases him better than Martha, who prepares his meal: yea, Martha even grieves him by her assiduity to entertain him: he would rather feed than be fed.He pleased not himself. He shunned every kind of self-indulgence. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." And, calling ourselves by his name, are we fanciful? Are we finical? Are we fond of giving trouble? Are we slaves to our appetites, and desirous of dainty meat? "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself, also, to walk even as he walked. ey that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
Especially should ministers be like-minded with their Lord and Master. They often at least occasion excess, and draw upon themselves reflection. The preparations made to receive them would imply a fondness for extravagance, variety, delicacy. Let them attest their innocency. Let them show their people that there is something they value more than good cheer, and that they seek not theirs, but them. And if they do not refuse to visit where they are thus exposed and insulted, let them, by their words and actions, discountenance parade and excess. Are circumstances of this kind beneath our attention? Is it not one of the lessons which the passage before us is designed to teach? When our Saviour sent forth his apostles, did not his admonitions turn