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"VERILY I say unto you, 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."-MATTHEW 26: 13.

GREAT love can impose great obligations. It is when justified by a deep and strong affection, that the right of one man to act for others, engaging and covenanting in their behalf-as a king for his subjects, or a patriarch for his descendants-is most freely recognized and scrupulously respected. The unwritten wish, the implied request, will often obtain a fulfillment which no decree of chancery could secure.

Saul, in his cruel zeal for the people of God, had violated the solemn treaty made in the days of Joshua with the inhabitants of

Gibeon. But when David sought to make atonement for the crime, by delivering up seven of Saul's posterity to be slain before the Lord, he remembered the promise he had made to Jonathan, that he would show kindness unto his house forever; and he spared the son of Jonathan, "because of the Lord's oath that was between them." (2 Sam. 21: 7.)

The Jews had broken every covenant, and made void every vow, when Jeremiah the prophet found one family, the house of Rechab, who had obeyed the voice of Jonadab their father in all that he had charged them, "to drink no wine, nor to build houses, nor to plant vineyards, but to dwell in tents forever." (Jer. 35.) It is a precious privilege to carry out the intention of a friend. Years after a parent's death, the son discovers in some neglected corner, a manuscript which makes known the unsuspected destination of property left without bequest. It needs no signature or seal to prove the familiar characters. Whatever sacrifice the duty may involve, he cheerfully assumes, rejoicing that somewhat still remains, whereby to honor a memory so dear.

In the Testament or Will of our Lord and Saviour, my brethren, there are some legacies yet unpaid, to be discharged by you and by me. It is true that in a sense he has left us little to accomplish. We are far less executors than inheritors of his grace; a treasure won with his own arm, and distributed with his own hand. But it must gratify us, here and there among these pages, to light upon some clause, some codicil, which it remains for us, in these latter days, and these ends of the earth, to execute; some wise and kindly purpose for us to carry out. Such a privilege is disclosed in the verse of the Gospel which I have read. Let it be our congenial task to fulfill this Scripture on this day. We have here a pledge to redeem, a promise to make good; and that for Jesus' sake. To a poor woman who had done him a valued service, our Friend and Master gave this assurance in our name: "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done, shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." (Mark 14: 9.)

In order to the more convenient treatment of our subject, we shall discuss it under three heads:

The Deed, its Significance, and its Commemoration.

I. It was at Bethany, six days before the Passover, the last that Jesus ate with his disciples. He had been absent but a little while from the group of faithful friends who so often had entertained him in that village. But this was his first visit among them since that astonishing miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus. If he did not linger then, to rejoice with the sisters over the happy restoration of the brother they had mourned, too well they knew the reason. The good work performed in raising up their dead,

cost him the intensified hatred and persecution of his foes. From that day forth they took counsel together to put him to death. Having for a time concealed himself in a country near to the wilderness, Jesus was now returning to suffer at Jerusalem all things that had been foretold concerning him. Bethany, two miles from that city, was in his way. While there a guest in the house of Simon, a leper whom he probably had cured, perhaps a relative of the family whom he loved, there was prepared for him a supper, at which Martha served; and Lazarus sat with him at the table. And what a scene was that! Christ the first-fruits of the resurrection; and at his side, the earnest of his coming victory, one whom he had raised to show forth in advance his power! Angels were bending over to behold it; and even the obtuse and unbelieving Jews crowded around, "not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead."

Then was this memorable deed performed. "A woman"-say two Evangelists, fearing, it may be, lest by the mention of her name, they should expose her to the malice of the priests, as she was doubtless alive when they wrote "Mary," says the Evangelist John, who wrote long after, "took an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, very costly, and she brake the box, and poured the ointment on his head, as he sat at meat, and anointed his feet, and wiped them with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."

We have no precise knowledge as to the material of which this fragrant balsam consisted. It was prepared in part at least of nard, a medicinal shrub brought from the far East. It appears to have been a liquid of very subtle and pervasive aroma; and in order to the preservation of its delicate perfume, was imported in flasks made of a sort of marble called alabaster. As well from its scarcity as from the distance and the difficulty of transportation, this unguent was most expensive. Judas Iscariot, whose opinion seems to have been shared by his fellow disciples, at once calculated its worth in money, at three hundred pence, equivalent to the sum of forty-five or fifty dollars. This, unquestionably, in the moderate circumstances of the parties, was a great outlay, and could be justified only by the importance of the occasion, or the dignity of the person in whose honor the deed was performed. It is a trait of human nature, which we see illustrated every week among ourselves, to lavish upon the dead what is withheld or begrudged to the living. Grief loosens the grasp of avarice, and often impels the liberal to a profusion wasteful and ruinous. The Jews did not carry this practice to the extreme witnessed among the Egyptians, whose process of embalmment, lasting from thirty to seventy days, demanded an expenditure ranging from three to five hundred dollars and even upward; but they used spices and other costly compounds, often with great prodigality. Thus it is

recorded of Asa: "They buried him in his own sepulchers, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him." (2 Chron. 16 : 14.)

And how did Mary happen to be possessed of this costly and precious ointment? It does not appear that she had purchased it recently, or with a view to this application; for our Lord speaks of her as having kept it against the present hour, implying a lapse of time since its procurement; and the disciples who murmured against her, said, It might have been sold for much, as though aware that it had been for some time on hand. Hence the plausible notion, that this may have been the remainder of the ointment which Mary and Martha had purchased for the funeral of Lazarus. That it was used on such occasions, we know. At the moment of our Lord's resurrection, this Mary, with other women, was on her way to his tomb, bearing sweet spices and ointment, bought and prepared, that they might anoint his body after its burial. Perhaps it was a similar design which the coming of Jesus and the raising of their brother to life had interrupted, and rendered unnecessary.

If this be a warrantable conjecture, it leads us to believe that the act, so appropriate, so beautiful, of anointing the body of her Master "aforehand, to the burying," was performed intelligently, by virtue of that prescience which a mighty affection sometimes seems to inspire, if not a distinct fore-knowledge of the event divinely imparted. The friends of Christ, indeed, could not be ignorant of his danger. The chief-priests and the Pharisees had published their intention to destroy him, giving commandinent, "that if any man knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him." Jesus himself had spoken plainly of the fate he was soon to meet; and all things presaged a speedy fulfillment of the prediction. It is not likely that he had concealed from the family at Bethany what he had long since disclosed with such particularity to the twelve: that "the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief-priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day." (Luke 9: 22.) But the malice of men should not cheat his humble follower of the privilege of preparing that sacred body for the burial. Jesus was now going up to Jerusalem. The threatened vengeance might soon burst upon his head. Severed from those who loved him, it might be that no moistened eye should look on his dying pains, no gentle hand wipe his bleeding brow, no womanly care lay out his inanimate form. Let others provide for his present wants; she thinks of that extreme and bitter hour when all shall have forsaken, and the sufferer be left to cruelty and shame. And bringing forth the costly treasure, kept, it may

be, with some thought of her own decease and burial, she breaks the bottle, and pours out its fragrant contents upon his head, so soon to be crowned with thorns; upon his feet, so soon to be nailed to the tree; and she wipes them with her hair.

II. Observe, secondly, the SIGNIFICANCE of the deed. One only, of those present at this transaction, was competent fully to declare its import. If, as we have supposed, Mary herself, by an instinct of that holy love prompting her to the performance, apprehended somewhat of its meaning, it could have been but a dim and sha dowy conception at most. The disciples, from their more elevated. stand-point, ought to have been able to form a just as well as generous opinion of this good deed wrought upon their Master; but they were not. Possessed for the time by the bad spirit of parsimony which their apostate companion diffused, their eyes were holden, that they could not see the fitness and the timeliness, the grace and the sweetness and the glory of this loving, adoring prodigality. ONE saw it. But for his divine appreciation, the purest and most beautiful deed that ever woman wrought, had been forgotten out of mind, or had come down to us with the stain of a mean and sordid imputation.

With Christ for witness and interpreter, my brethren, we have little to fear from that most potent of all baneful influences, misconstruction. Ignorant or malignant, the comments of human censors, rectified by one sentence from his holy lips, lose all their noxious power. It can scarcely go harder with us than with her. whom the very friends and followers of her Lord condemned with oracular prudence and virtuous indignation. Yet the simple monument of Mary's love, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, rises at his command through the earthborn mists that strive to shut it in. And we may well believe, that one happy result of this lesson, to the disciples of our Lord themselves, was a vivid apprehension of their own privilege of appeal to him as an all-seeing and impartial Arbitrator of motive and action. For the moral grandeur they subsequently attained, as stewards of the mysteries of God, when in the words of one who was added to their company, they could say, "With us it is a very small thing that we should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, we judge not our own selves: but he that judg eth us is the Lord," (1 Cor. 4: 3, 4;) for the dignity of this position, they were perhaps indebted, in no slight degree, to the recollection riveted upon their minds by the saying of Jesus which we have taken for our text; the recollection of that woman, slandered by an apostate, censured by the Jews, rebuked by her kindred, misjudged by themselves; but looking through her streaming tears, confident of a generous appreciation, from

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