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dent, says, 'Art thou a king?' The Son of God, who had disdained to utter any answer to the other questions of his judge, no sooner heard his title to royalty mentioned, than he abruptly replies, "Thou sayest that I am a king; to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.' Yes! I comprehend you, oh my Saviour, oh my king! It is your glory to suffer for the love of your people, and you will not claim the sceptre, till you are going, by the means of a victorious death, to deliver your subjects from eternal slavery. Let heaven and earth burst forth into a song of praise. You, oh faithful and happy subjects of the Saviour king, you, who have been regained and conquered to his protection at so high a price; what gratitude, what loyalty, what affection can ever repay the magnitude of such a benefit? It is not the palace, the throne, the gorgeous accomplishments of royalty, that lead my imagination captive. But when I behold, in whatever country, a whole people expecting and receiving liberty from the hand of a monarch; when I view a civilized state; when I see the land cultivated; when I see the freedom of the ocean unrestrained; when I see every person living unmolested beneath his peaceful roof; when I behold the rays of royalty, like the sunbeams, darting their salutary influence over the remotest part of the king
dom, then, then, my understanding moves a willing captive round the glorious spectacle. Send now your capacious view over the whole globe, and you will find that the dispensation of blessings, so profusely scattered, and so widely disseminated, is the gift of our celestial king.
THE CHARACTERS OF
MARTHA, though a pious woman, yet like too many among us, was too solicitous about worldly things. She seemed more concerned to maintain her reputation for good economy and hospitality, than to improve in divine knowledge at every opportunity; and to entertain her guest rather as a gentleman than as a divine teacher and the saviour of souls. Hence, instead of sitting at his feet with her sister, in the posture of a humble disciple, she was busy in making preparations, and her mind was distracted with the cares of her family. As moderate labor and care about earthly things is lawful, and even a duty, persons are not readily suspicious or easily convinced of their guilty excesses in these labors and cares. Hence Martha is so far from condemning herself on this account, that she blames her devout sister for not
following her example. Nay, she has the confidence to complain to Christ himself of her rude neglect, and that in language, too, that sounds somewhat rude and irreverent; 'Carest thou not that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Art thou so partial as to suffer her to devolve all the trouble upon me, while she sits idle at thy feet?'
Jesus turns upon her with a just severity, and throws the blame where it should lie. 'Martha! Martha!' there is vehemence and pungency in the repetition, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. Thy worldly mind has many objects, and many objects excite many cares and troubles, fruitless troubles and useless cares. Thy restless mind is scattered among a thousand things, and tossed from one to another with an endless variety of anxieties. But let me collect thy thoughts and cares to one point, a point where they should all terminate. One thing is needful; and therefore dropping thy excessive care about many things, make this one thing the great object of thy pursuit. The one thing is what thy sister is now attending to, while thou art vainly careful about many things; and therefore, instead of blaming her conduct, I must approve it. She has made the best choice, for she hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her. After all thy care and labor, the things of this vain world must be given up at last, and
But Mary hath made a wiser choice; the portion she hath chosen shall be hers forever.' But what does Christ mean by this one thing which alone is needful?
I answer, we may learn what he meant, by the occasion and circumstances of his speaking. He mentions this one thing in an admonition to Martha for excessive worldly cares and the neglect of an opportunity for promoting her salvation, and he expressly opposes this one thing to the many things which engrossed her care; and therefore it must mean something different from, and superior to, all the pursuits of time. This one thing that which Mary was so much concerned about, while attentively listening to his instructions. And what can that be but salvation as the end, and holiness as the means, or a proper care of the soul? This is that which is opposite and superior to the many cares of life; this is that which Mary was attending to and pursuing; and, I may add, this is that good part which Mary had chosen, which should not be taken away from her; for that good part which Mary had chosen seems intended by Christ to explain what he meant by the one thing needful. Therefore the one thing needful must mean the salvation of the soul, and an earnest application to the means necessary to obtain this end, above all other things in the world. To be holy in order to be happy; to pray, to hear,
to meditate, and use all the means of grace appointed to produce or cherish holiness in us; to use these means with constancy, frequency, earnestness, and zeal; to use them diligently, whatever else be neglected, or to make all other things give way in comparison to this; this, I apprehend, is the one thing needful which Christ here intends; this is that which is absolutely necessary; necessary above all other things, and necessary for ever. The end, namely, salvation, will be granted by all to be necessary, and the necessity of the end renders the means also necessary. If it be necessary you should be forever happy, and escape everlasting misery, it is necessary you should be holy; for you can no more be saved without holiness, than you can be healthy without health, see without light, or live without food. And if holiness be necessary, then the earnest use of the means appointed for the production and improvement of holiness in us, must be necessary too; for you can no more expect to become holy, without the use of these means, than to reap without sowing, or become truly virtuous and good, by chance or fatality. To be holy in order to be happy, and to use all the means of grace, in order to be holy, is, therefore, the one thing needful.