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wind, whether it be rough or smooth, which blows over our grave. But we know what will then profit and avail. He who is owned of Christ ; whom the Redeemer is not ashamed of; who is saluted as a " good and faithful servant,”—he will not regret that he braved the term of Galilean or Nazarene :—or any other of those terms, by which, in all ages, those who "are not of the world,” have been distinguished by the “children of this generation.” And at that final season it will be remembered in behalf of Nicodemus, that he displeased his party for the sake of Christ, and stood up in defence of him whom others rejected and despised. His conduct in this case, comes under the description of that to which a blessed promise is given : “Whosoever receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.” “Whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”?
6 Matt. x. 41.
7 Mark. ix. 41.
CASE OF A WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY.
John viii. 1-11.
1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4. They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou ?
6. This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
There are many different reasons by which the scribes and Pharisees might have been instigated in prosecuting this guilty person. They might be affected by a zeal for the divine law and the majesty of God, by a desire that such an offence against it might not go unpunished. Or they might feel that adultery was a crime most injurious to human society, and deem it right to visit such transgressors severely, that others might be deterred by the example. Such was the commandment of the law : (Lev. xx. 10 :) “The adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.” 1
Motives such as these would have been laudable. It is the will of God, (as is seen Levit. xix. 17) that wickedness be restrained. “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”
But the Lord knew that these motives had no place in the mind of those who brought the woman before him on this occasion. Their object was “to entangle him in his talk.” “They spoke, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. So he evaded their question, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. As the law provided, (Deut. xvii. 7,) “The hands of the witnesses,” (of those who alleged and proved the crime,) “shall be first upon the convicted criminal to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.”
The answer was an answer of divine wisdom, suited to this particular case, and intended to confound the devices of the adversaries. We must not suppose it to imply that crimes are to escape punishment, because those whose duty or office it is to sit in judgment upon them are in their own characters partakers of corruption. Else, (as St. Paul says
1 The mode of punishment is not there pointed out: but in a similar case, (Deut. xxii. 21,) death by stoning is specified.
on another subject,) “else must we needs go out of the world,” if only he who was without sin might condemn sin in others.
At the same time we may collect here, that there is a way of looking upon crime which shows an unsanctified spirit, and is displeasing to Him who reads the heart. It is the same spirit as the Pharisees betrayed on other occasions, when they upbraided the Lord, because he joined the company of publicans and sinners. A humble mind, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, is grieved at sin. It “ rejoiceth not in iniquity,” but “ hopeth all things.” It joins in that pathetic sentiment of David, “Rivers of tears run down mine eyes, for the ungodly that forsake thy law.”! It perceives in the corruption of others that corruption of which all partake, and which has alienated man from a pure and holy God. It perceives that if in any thing we have been made to differ, that difference must be ascribed to the mercy of God which has kept us from temptation, or to his grace which has enabled us to resist it.
Jesus knew that such was not the mind of those who now came forward as the accusers of this woman. So he directed his arrow to their consciences. This woman is indeed a sinner; but what are you that you should exult over her ? Whilst you justly condemn her, be mindful of what you yourselves deserve. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers ? hath no man condemned thee ?
11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee : go, and sin no more.
Jesus uniformly refused to take upon himself the office of a judge. When one among a company invited him to interfere with his brother who had defrauded him of his inheritance, he declined to enter into the case ; but dismissed it, saying, " Who made me a judge or a divider over you ?” 3 And then he proceeded to use the example as a warning against covetousness. And so now in regard to this woman, when none had dared to execute the sentence of the law against her, neither would he. Neither do I condemn thee: that is, inflict the punishment which thy crime has incurred. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”+ Go, and sin no more.
This is a specimen of that mercy, which willeth not “that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The disgrace which this woman had suffered, the danger in which she had stood, made the present season a favourable time
3 Luke xii. 14.
+ John iii. 17.