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not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.
But Jesus, instead of complying with Martha's request, gives her a gentle reproof for her anxiety to provide many things, when one was sufficient, and tells her that Mary had chosen a better employment, which should not be taken from her by him.
41. And Jesus answered, and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; that is, as the connection leads us to understand the words, “ about many
dishes." 42. But one thing is needful, rather, 6 when only one is needful,” that is, one dish; and Mary hath chosen that good part, the good part of hearing me, which shall not be taken from her.
This passage may serve to show how much they are liable to be misled, who, when a portion of scripture appears capable of two senses, choose to adopt that which seems most important and most honourable to the speaker or writer. Guided by this principle, commentators have been induced to suppose, that as to speak about one dish to be provided for an entertainment, appeared to be a matter not worth the attention of Jesus, he must refer to something of more conse. quence, and mean religion, or religious instruction, which is certainly needful, but by no means requires our sole or principal attention, as some have imagined, and have been hereby induced to spend all their time in retirement from the world. Our principal attention is to be given to that kind of honest labour or employment to which Providence has called us : for it is hereby that we shall render ourselves and others most happy.
1. Let us be careful to keep in mind the great duty of universal benevolence, inculcated upon us by this beautiful parable, by which you are not to understand that every man is entitled to an equal share in your beneficence, but that there are cases in which all men have a claim to your assistance. It is generally true, that men will do most good by attending to the wants of those who are near to them; because they are most within the reach of their assistance; and that by endeavouring to extend their efforts to those who are at a distance, they are likely to be lost. Upon this principle, it is our duty to attend to the wants of our own children and relatives, before the children and relatives of others; to the members of our own church or Christian society, before the members of another; and to our own countrymen before strangers : for it is evident that if every one acted upon the same principle, assistance would be given to all men, and more effectually than in any other way. Yet there are cases of human want or misery, where men can receive no assistance, except it be from strangers, or from none so effectually; was the case with this Jew; and therefore it is the duty of every one to exert himself in acts of beneficence, according to the ability which God hath given him. The wants of mankind are as extensive as human nature; so extensive also let our charity be: wherever we meet with a fellow-creature in distress, there let us do like this Samaritan, and be particularly careful that we do not suffer religious bigotry or national prejudices to obstruct or restrain our beneficence.
There are two cases in which the inhabitants of this country are in danger of forgetting the maxim here recommended, and in which they ought, therefore, to be particularly attentive to their behaviour. The first is in regard to those with whom we are at war. The enmity subsisting between us and them can hardly be greater than that which subsisted between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as apostates from the true faith, hated them as enemies and rivals, and refused all intercourse with them in private life; and, it may be presumed, that the Samaritans felt their passions inflamed against the Jews, from the like motives. Yet it was evidently the intention of this story to inculcate upon the Jews their obligation to show compassion to individuals of an hostile nation, when in distress; and, no doubt, the same obligation devolves upon us, if what is called the fortune of war should bring them into our power. In such cases, our religion, if rightly understood, instead of inflaming our passions and hardening our hearts against their distresses, will allay and soften our resentment into acts of humanity and tenderness: it will teach us, if our enemy hunger, to feed him; if he thirst, to give him drink.
The other case is not that of one nation, however, numerous, but of a great number of nations, of a fourth part of the inhabitants of the globe, including many millions of human beings, yet removed to a great distance from us, and differing greatly from ourselves in colour, in language, in religion and in manners; and, what tends still more to render us insensible to their sufferings, a body of men, by whose calamities we are supposed to be enriched. That these causes have led us to overlook their sufferings is but too evident: for they have called to us for pity for many years, without being heard; and when at length our compassion was awakened for a moment, it was soon stifled. Let us not forget, however, that they are our brethren, the children of one common Father; that they are placed within the reach of our assistance, and that they have every claim to it, which can arise from the number of the sufferers, the greatness of their sufferings, and the long time they have been endured; and, in proportion to the difficulty of procuring redress, ought to be the vigour and patience of our exertions. Vol. 2.1
2. In the conduct of Jesus towards Mary and Martha, we see how much more concerned he was about the success of the work in which he was engaged, than about the indulgence of his own appetites. Although the civility of a friend was not unacceptable to him, yet to listen to his instructions was far more agreeable. Whatever pleasure he might derive from the gratification of the senses, to do good afforded him much more. Thus has he fulfilled the character which he
of himself, that it was his meat and drink to do the will of his father; and left us herein an excellent pattern to imitate.
Luke xi. 1-5. corresponds with Matt. vi. 9-13.
Luke xi. 5—10. 27, 28. 37–41.
5. · And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, at the most unseasonable hour possible, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves:
6. For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him;
It was a case of the greatest urgency, which demanded immediate assistance. The person to whom he applied, being of a churlish disposition, begins to make excuses for refusing to comply with his request.
7. And he from within shall answer, and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me
in bed, i. e. are, as well as myself, in bed. I cannot rise and give thee?
It would be troublesome to us both to get up from bed, to unbar the door and let thee in: therefore, pray
These were very insufficient reasons for refusing assistance in a case of such necessity. Some ancient versions of the New Testament insert, between the end of this verse and the beginning of the next, the following words, which seem necessary to complete the sense, and have, by some means or other, been lost; and if he continue knocking: for he is said to use importunity, which could not be said with propriety, if he asked only once.
8. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet because of his importunity he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth,
What he would not yield to the calls of friendship, or to relieve the wants of a traveller, he will grant to procure ease, to free himself from the urgent requests of one who will take no denial. In the next verse, Jesus informs his disciples what his intention was in delivering this parable.
9. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened un
10. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
In order to understand the reason of introducing this parable, and to see to what cases it may be applied, it is necessary to observe that Jesus, in compliance with