John 8:30
The startling and authoritative language in which the Lord Jesus, in conversation and discussion with the unfriendly Jews of Jerusalem, spoke both of himself and of them, not unnaturally prompted this blunt yet pertinent inquiry.

I. THE QUESTION. The spirit in which this inquiry is urged makes all the difference as to the light in which it must be regarded.

1. It may be a spirit of mere idle curiosity.

2. It may be a spirit of historical inquiry, such as on the part of one for the first time brought into contact with Jesus would be becoming.

3. It may be prompted by perplexity and doubt. Many in our own day have listened first to one and then to another explanation of our Lord's nature and mission, until their minds have been utterly bewildered, and they know not what to think of him. It is welt that such disturbed souls should repair to the Lord himself, and, neglecting all that men say of him, should seriously and earnestly put to him the question, "Who art thou?"

4. Some put this question for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs. Quickened from spiritual deadness, and alive to their own inability to save themselves, such earnest inquirers repair to Christ in the hope of finding in him a Divine Saviour and Friend. From their burdened, anxious heart comes the entreaty for a gracious revelation. Not so much to solve a speculative doubt, as to satisfy a practical necessity and inner craving, they come to Jesus with the imploring cry, "Who art thou?"

II. THE REPLY OF THE REFLECTING OBSERVER. Inattention, prejudice, malice, may in various ways answer the question proposed; but none of these answers can be deemed worthy of our consideration. But the candid student of Christ's character and life comes to conclusions which, though in themselves incomplete and insufficient, are, as far as they go, credible and reasonable.

1. Jesus is the faultless, blameless Man, the holiest and the meekest of whom human history bears record. He alone could in conscious innocence make the appeal, "Who of you convicteth me of sin?"

2. Jesus is the perfect Model of benevolence and devotedness to the welfare of others. He "went about doing good;" and his ministry was not only a rebuke to human selfishness, it was an inspiration to self-denying beneficence. Thus much even the student of Jesus' character, who does not acknowledge his Divinity, will be prepared to concede, and will perhaps be forward to maintain. But the Christian goes further than this.

III. THE REPLY OF THE BELIEVING DISCIPLE. Such a one takes the answers which Jesus gave in the course of his ministry, as they are recorded by the evangelists, and deems our Lord's witness to himself worthy of all acceptation. Thus his reply is that of Christ himself. Proceeding upon this principle, the Christian believes Jesus to be:

1. The Son of God, who, according to his own statements, stood in a relation to the Father altogether unique.

2. The Saviour and Friend of man, who gave his life a ransom for many, dying that men might live in God forever.

3. The Lord and Judge of the moral universe, empowered and commissioned to reign until all foes shall be beneath his feet. - T.







And the Scribes and the Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery.
It is probable that the hilarity and abandonment of the feast, which had grown to be a kind of vintage festival, would often degenerate into acts of licence and immorality; and these would find more numerous opportunities in the general disturbance of ordinary life caused by the dwelling of the whole people in their little leafy booths. One such act had been detected during the night, and the guilty woman had been handed over to the Scribes and Pharisees. Even had the morals of the nation at that time been as clean as in the days when Moses ordained the fearful ordeal of the "water of jealousy" — even had those rulers and teachers of the nation been elevated as far above their contemporaries in the real as in the professed sanctity of their lives — the discovery, and the threatened punishment of this miserable adulteress could hardly have failed to move every pure mind to a compassion which would have mingled largely with the horror which her sin inspired. They might then have inflicted the penalty with a sternness as inflexible as that of the Pilgrim Fathers; but the sternness of a severe and pure-hearted judge is a sternness which would not inflict one unnecessary, pang and is wholly incompatible with a spirit of malignant levity. But the spirit of these Scribes and Pharisees was not by any means the spirit of a sincere and outraged purity. In the decadence of national life, in the daily familiarity with heathen degradations, in the gradual substitution of a Levitical scrupulosity for a heartfelt religion, the morals of the nation had grown utterly corrupt. The ordeal of the "water of jealousy" had long been abolished, and the death by stoning as a punishment for adultery had long been suffered to fall into desuetude. Not even the Scribes and Pharisees, for all their external religiosity, had any genuine horror of an impurity with which their own lives were often stained. They saw nothing but a chance of annoying, and endangering One whom they regarded as their deadliest enemy. It was a curious custom among the Jews to consult distinguished Rabbis in cases of difficulty; but there was no difficulty here. It was long since the law of death had been demanded; and even had this not been the ease the Roman law would have interfered. On the other hand, divorce was open to the injured husband, and the ease of this woman differed from that of no other who had similarly transgressed. And even if they had sincerely desired the opinion of Jesus there was not the slightest excuse for baling this woman into His presence, and thus subjecting her to a moral torture, all the more insupportable from the close seclusion of women in the East. And therefore to subject her to the superfluous horror of this odious publicity — to drag her fresh from the agony of detection into the sacred precincts of the Temple — to subject this unveiled, disheveled, terror-stricken woman to the cold and sensual curiosity of a malignant mob, and this merely to gratify a calculating malice — showed a brutality of heart and conscience which could not but prove revolting to One who was infinitely tender because infinitely pure.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

Ecce Homo.
This remarkable story is a signal instance of the magical passing of virtue out of the virtuous man into the hearts of those with whom he comes in contact, and illustrates the difference between scholastic or scientific and living or instinctive virtue. It occurred to the religious leaders that the case afforded a good opportunity of making an experiment on Christ. They might use it to discover how He regarded the Mosaic law. That He was heterodox on this subject they had reason to believe, and to satisfy themselves and the people on this point they asked Christ whether He agreed with Moses on the subject of adultery. A judgment He gave them, but quite different from what they had expected. In thinking of the "case" they had forgotten the woman and even the deed. What became of the criminal appeared to them wholly unimportant; towards her crime or her character they had no feeling whatever. If they had been asked about her they might probably have answered, with Mephistopheles, "She is not the first"; nor would they have thought their answer fiendish — only practical and business-like. Perhaps they might on reflection have admitted that their frame of mind was not strictly moral, that it would have been better if they could have found leisure for some shame at the scandal and some hatred for the sinner. But they would have argued that such strict propriety is not possible in this world, that we have too much on our hands to think of these niceties, that a man who makes leisure for such refinements will find his work in arrears at the end of the day, and probably also that he is doing injustice to those dependent upon him. Thus they might fluently have urged. But the judgment of Christ was upon them, making all things seem new and shining like the lightning. The shame of the deed itself, and the brazen hardness of the prosecutors, the legality which had no justice and did not pretend to have mercy, the religious malice that could make its advantage out of the fall and ignominious death of a fellow creature — all this was rudely thrust before His mind at once. The effect upon Him was such as might have been produced upon many since, but perhaps upon scarcely any man that ever lived before. He was seized with an intolerable sense of shame. He could not meet the eye of the crowd. In His burning embarrassment He stooped down so as to hide His face and began writing on the ground. His tormentors continued their clamour until He raised His head for a moment and said, "He that is without sin," etc., and then instantly returned to His former attitude. They had a glimpse, perhaps, of the glowing blush upon His face, and awoke suddenly with astonishment to a new sense of their condition and conduct. The older men naturally felt it first and slunk away; the younger followed their example. The crowd dissolved and left Christ alone with the woman. Not till then could He bear to stand upright; and then, consistently with His principle, He dismissed the woman, as having no commission to interfere with the office of civil judge. But the mighty power of living purity had done its work. He had refused to judge a woman, but He had judged a whole crowd. He had awakened the slumbering conscience in many hardened hearts, giving them a new delicacy, a new ideal, a new view and reading of the Mosaic law. And yet this crowd was either indifferent or bitterly hostile to Him. Let us imagine the correcting, elevating influence of His presence upon those who were bound to Him by the ties which bind a soldier to his officer, a clansman to his chief, a subject to a king ruling by Divine right, aye, and by ties far closer. The ancient philosophers were accustomed to inquire about virtue, whether it can be taught. Yes! it can, and in this way. But if this way be abandoned, and moral philosophy be set up to do that which in the nature of things it can never do, the effect will appear in a certain slow deterioration of manners which it would be hard to describe had it not been described already in well-known words: "Sophistry and calculation" will take the place of "chivalry." There will be no more "generous loyalty," no more "proud submission," no more "dignified obedience." A stain will be no more felt like a wound, and our hardened and coarsened manners will lose the "sensibility of principle and the chastity of honour."

(Ecce Homo.)

Note:

I. That the VILEST SINNERS ARE OFTEN THE GREATEST ACCUSERS. Were there a worse lot of men in Judea or on the round earth than these Scribes and Pharisees, and members of the Sanhedrim, who now accused this woman? It is ever so: the more base and corrupt a man is, the more ready to charge crimes on others and the more severe in his censures.

II. That the SEVEREST JUDGE OF SINNERS IS THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE. "They which heard Him, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one." Observe two things —

1. Christ's method of awakening their conscience.(1) He expresses by a symbolical act His superiority over their malignant purposes. He stoops down as if He were utterly indifferent.(2) He puts the question of the woman's punishment upon their own consciences. "He that is without sin," etc. Observe —

2. The force of their awakened consciences. They were convicted, and went out one by one. Ah! there is no judge so severe and crushing in his sentence as that of a guilty conscience.

III. That THE GREATEST FRIEND OF SINNERS IS JESUS CHRIST. The accusers are gone, but the accused remains with Jesus alone. Observe —

1. He declines pronouncing a judicial condemnation upon her. "Neither do I condemn thee." He does not mean that He did not disapprove of her conduct and condemn her morally, but judicially. He declines to pronounce judgment.

2. He discharges her with a merciful admonition. "Go, and sin no more." An expression, this, implying(1) That she had sinned. Adultery is a terrible moral crime.(2) That He forgave her. "Go." I absolve thee.(3) That her future should be free from sin. "Sin no more." Let bygones be bygones; let oblivion cover thy past; let virtue crown thy future. Thus Jesus deals with sinners. Desolate, branded, forsaken of all, He alone will stand by thee.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Parts of this story are not fitted for public discourse. But if we may not preach about the woman, we may and ought about her accusers, and the sin of fault finding of which they were guilty.

I. CENSORIOUSNESS GROWS FROM AN EVIL EAGERNESS. Many forms of eagerness are invaluable — diligence in business, promptitude in doing good, in giving, helping, etc. Here was an occasion in which eagerness of kindness was much needed. "If ox or ass fall into a pit, straightway pull him out" — if man or woman, be quicker still. But this was an evil eagerness, as seen —

1. In the needless number of accusers — one or two would have done.

2. In their want of delicacy, disregarding the crowd and the woman's feelings.

3. In their unfairness. The law of Moses awarded the same penalty to man and woman; probably the fear of the knife of the man makes them more content with the capture of the woman, and so they come with no thoughts of her shame and painful future, but clamour for her condemnation. How common is this evil eagerness. Some lose languor with scandal as if it were a tonic. Some faces are never so full of interest as when telling or investigating something which the generous heart would cover and for which the devout heart would pray. Perhaps like these men you would find your fault finding has its root not in virtuous indignation, but in an evil eagerness.

II. CENSORIOUSNESS GENERALLY HAS OTHER GRAVE FAULTS CONNECTED WITH IT. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the more faults a man finds the less he has. On the contrary, the censorious are never faultless. "Being convicted in their own consciences" means convicted of having committed similar crimes. Their bitterness was not the indignation of the innocent against the guilty, but of the "not found out" against the "found out." Purity does not clamour for vengeance, but the worse we are the less patient are we with others as bad. It is hard to conceive of such hypocrisy, but a little thought will show how it would grow.

1. They want credit for character, and denunciation is the cheapest way of getting it: therefore are frequently taken. By condemning evil they are the more likely to be taken for good.

2. They had, like us, two standards of goodness — one for themselves and one for their neighbours. Divers weights are an abomination to God, but a comfort to us. We weigh our duties by one set and our neighbours by another. "If I am angry it is nervous irritability, or a habit of speaking my mind; but if you are, you are ill-mannered." So we all reason. So these men did. Their delinquencies were "gaieties," "hot blood of youth," "occasional excesses unimportant in their character," balanced by superior virtues. But for a woman to so act was intolerable. We like a monopoly of our vices: no one must poach on our preserves. So we dislike men of our own faults with an intensity the innocent never feel. You will learn the faults men have by listening to their favourite charges. It is the proud who judge most severely the proud; so with the greedy, the dishonourable, the selfish. Are you censorious? Take it as a sign of faultiness, and let severity begin at home.

III. CENSORIOUSNESS DISTRESSES THE HEART OF CHRIST. He stooped down as though He heard them not, distressed at sinners accusing a fellow sinner. He is the Great Judge, and soon all will be gathered at His bar; and yet they come accusing one another to Him. He sees how much each needs mercy, but instead of supplicating it, here are eleven sinners asking condemnation to the twelfth. No wonder he was shocked at the incongruity. Astonished that so few use their neighbours' faults as mirrors, and that for the mercy they could get there are so few applicants, and for the censure He was so slow to give, so many. This unseemliness attaches to all severity! He still, though unseen, overhears the slighting speech, etc., and turns His head from one of the most grievous activities that dishonour human nature.

IV. CENSORIOUSNESS SOONER OR LATER IS GRIEVOUSLY PUT TO SHAME. There is more hare than the shame of unholy censure — there is failure of a snare laid for Christ, and the awful rebuke of the Saviour's glance and speech. They came secure in being unknown to Him, forgetting that every fault leaves a mark — vice, some coarseness of feature as well as thought; pride, some line of scorn; falseness, some restlessness of eye. The Son of Man had only to look and see. Their souls wither beneath His strange words, "He that is without sin," etc. What a terrible rebuke in the Temple; in the presence of the people whose reverence they had won by hypocrisy; and it wrought no relenting. No one says "I perceive Thou art a prophet," or "Depart from me for I am a sinful man," or "Whence knowest Thou me? Thou art the Son of God, the King of Israel." Only shame and bitterness fill them. Doubtless all made excuses. One had a committee requiring immediate attendance; another willing to be the expositor declines to be the executioner of the law; another vaunted his exemption from any such vice, but had come to get the law sanctioned; another was going to Jericho and wanted to catch the caravan — but all suddenly abandoned the charge and in confusion left the place.

V. CENSORIOUSNESS AND ITS METHODS STANDS IN UTTER CONTRAST WITH CHRIST AND HIS METHODS. The Scribes have a zeal for public welfare and so has Christ. In their case coarse sin mixed with cruel anger unite to destroy a poor sinner; in His infinite purity mixed with tenderest love unite to destroy sin and save the sinner. He does not pardon because she has not yet repented; but, declining to condemn her, He bids her "go and sin no more."

(R. Glover.)

It has been often urged, to the disparagement of Christianity, that modern civilization lacks a certain severity of tone and simplicity of manners very observable in classic antiquity; and the charge is not without a plausible foundation. But to argue that the lack is a loss or a step backward is quite another thing. In ancient times woman occupied a very inferior position; her influence upon society was hardly perceptible; consequently she scarcely entered as a moulding power into education and civilization. There was a certain severe hardness, or hardiness, if you like, characterizing men of classical lands. But Jesus Christ came into the world "made of a woman," reproducing in His person and life the finer features of a woman. By His means female influence became a factor in the history of the world, and entered as a softening, transforming element into education and civilization; and as an inevitable result the severe manly hardness of olden times has been much tempered. The equipoise has not hitherto been definitely fixed, for the world is only in its transition state; but the recognized ideal of Christianity is indisputable — it is the happy union of masculine simplicity and firmness with feminine delicacy and grace.

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

In the olden times, even the best rooms were usually of bare brick or stone, damp and mouldy, but over these in great houses, when the family was resident, were hung up arras, or hangings of rich material, between which and the wall persons might conceal themselves, so that literally walls had ears. It is to be feared that many a brave shew of godliness is but an arras to conceal rank hypocrisy; and this accounts for some men's religion being but occasional, since it is folded up or exposed to view as need may demand. Is there no room for conscience to pry between thy feigned profession and thy real ungodliness, and bear witness against thee?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

When Dr. Donne took possession of his first living, he walked into the churchyard as the sexton was digging a grave; and on his throwing up a skull, the doctor took it into his hands, to indulge in serious contemplation. On looking at it, he found a headless nail sticking in the temple, which he secretly drew out, and wrapped it in the corner of his handkerchief. He then asked the gravedigger whether he knew whose skull it was. He said he did, adding it had been a man's who kept a brandy shop — a drunken fellow, who one night, having taken two quarts of ardent spirits, was found dead in his bed the next morning. "Had he a wife?" "Yes." "Is she living?" "Yes." "What character does she bear?" "A very good one; only her neighbours reflect on her because she married the day after her husband was buried. This was enough for the doctor, who, in the course of visiting his parishioners, called on her. He asked her several questions, and, among others, of what sickness her husband died. She giving him the same account, he suddenly opened the handkerchief, and cried, in an authoritative voice, "Woman, do you know this nail?" She was struck with horror at the unexpected question, instantly acknowledged that she had murdered her husband, and was afterwards tried and executed.

This is the legitimate conclusion of the two texts, Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22, when compared. There seems no ground for the comment of some writers, that Moses did not command an adulteress to be put to death by stoning.

(Bp. Ryle.)

The dilemma: — They knew His clemency and expected He would showy it. A noble testimony from His enemies to His well-known mercy. He had hinted that publicans and harlots might find forgiveness (Matthew 21:31). They hoped that He, professing to be Messiah would contradict Moses. They knew that Messiah, was bound to sustain Moses' law. If He bade them stone her, He would give two-fold offence —

1. He would condemn a laxity of morals sadly and widely prevalent.

2. He would infringe on Roman authority and offend the rulers, as Jews had no longer the right of capital punishment. They challenged Him to carry out a law which prevailing license had rendered a dead letter. They expected a very favourable decision from the past (Luke 7:47; Matthew 11:28; Luke 15:11). Thus the trap was cunningly laid. If He say that the law must be executed the Roman authorities would object; if that the law must be waived, then Moses would be sacrificed.

(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)

The offender was led to a place without the gates, two cubits high, his hands being bound. From hence one of the witnesses knocked him down by a blow upon the loins. If that killed him not, the witness lifted up a stone, being the weight of two men, which chiefly the other witness cast upon him. If that killed him not, all Israel threw stones upon him. The party thus executed was afterwards, in greater ignominy, hanged on a tree till towards the sunset, at which time both he and the tree were buried.

(Godwin.)

Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
As St. John gives no explanation, we are left to conjecture.

1. Some think, as , Rupertus, and Lampe, that our Lord wrote on the ground the texts of Scripture which settled the question brought before Him, as the seventh commandment, and Leviticus 20:10, and Deuteronomy 22:22. The action would then imply, "Why do ye ask Me? What is written in the law, that law which God wrote with His own finger as I am writing now?"

2. Some think, as Lightfoot and Burgon, that our Lord meant to refer to the law of Moses for the trial of jealousy, in which an accused woman was obliged to drink water into which dust from the floor of the Tabernacle or Temple had been put by the priest (Numbers 5:17). The action would then imply, "Has the law for trying such an one as this been tried? Look at the dust on which I am writing. Has the woman been placed before the priest, and drank of the dust and water?"

3. Some think, as , Melancthon, Brentius, Toletus, and a Lapide, that our Lord's action was a silent reference to the text, Jeremiah 17:13: "They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth."

4. One rationalist winter suggests that our Lord "stooped down" from feelings of modesty, as if ashamed of the sight before Him, and of the story told to Him. The idea is preposterous, and entirely out of harmony with our Lord's public demeanour.

5. Some think, as Euthymius, Calvin, Rollock, Chemnitius, Diodati, Flavius, Piscator, Grotius, Poole, and Hutcheson, that our Lord did not mean anything at all by this writing on the ground, and that He only signified that He would give no answer, and would neither listen to nor interfere in such matters as the one brought before Him. Calvin remarks: "Christ intended, by doing nothing, to show how unworthy they were of being heard; just as if anyone, while another was speaking to him, were to draw lines on the wall, or to turn his back, or to show by any other sign that he was not attending to what was said." I must leave the reader to choose which solution he prefers. To my eyes, I confess, there are difficulties in each view. If I must select one, I prefer the last of the five, as the simplest. Quesnell remarks: "We never read that Jesus Christ wrote but once in His life. Let men learn from hence never to write but when it is necessary or useful, and to do it with humility and modesty, on a principle of charity, and not of malice."

(Bp. Ryle.)

Most religious leaders have given important writings to their followers — the Law, the Koran. The reformers, Wiclif, Luther, Calvin, etc., wielded as much power by their pen as by their tongue. But the only writing ascribed to Jesus is that of the text, and now doubt is thrown even upon that. Consider the significance of this. It could not be to discourage literature, because —

1. Christ was a great teacher, and dealt with ideas as well as conduct.

2. His disciples wrote under His commission. What, then, may we learn from the literary silence of Christ?

I. CHRIST WAS CARELESS OF FAME. It came, but unsought. Among those Galilean hills Jesus spoke words which make the most brilliant sayings of the Greek philosophers and poets look commonplace. Yet He had no thought of attracting the world's admiration. His words are like wild flowers. We set our plants in conspicuous beds in trim gardens where our friends can admire them. God scatters His flowers in pathless woods, on lonely moors, etc. They bloom in the wilderness, but fade in the city. Consider how some of the best of Christ's words were spoken to one individual — to Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, Martha, etc. True they have been reported; but —

1. There is no reason to suppose that Jesus thought of any record being made of them.

2. He must have said many other similarly great and beautiful things of which there is no report (John 21:25). Learn simplicity, humility, and self-forgetfulness from this literary silence. Let it silence the pretensions of literary vanity.

II. CHRIST WAS MORE CONCERNED WITH THE SUBSTANCE THAN WITH THE FORM OF HIS TEACHING. He did not only speak for the benefit of His contemporaries; He entrusted His teaching to apostles. No doubt memory was stronger then than now we have injured it by the use of memoranda. Moreover, Christ promised the Spirit to help the memories of His apostles. Nevertheless, they did not report their Master's sayings with that absolute verbal accuracy which would have marked His writing of them. This is proved by differences in the records. Hence learn —

1. That Christ condemns worship of the letter. "The letter killeth."

2. That the method of studying Scripture by means of the minute pedantic analysis of texts and the building of ponderous arguments on small phrases — unstable as inverted pyramids — is wrong. We should seek rather for the broad lessons of a passage.

3. That distress and doubt, occasioned by various readings, changes in the Revised Version, alternative marginal renderings, etc., are due to a mistaken idea of Scripture. In the essence of revelation no vital truth is shaken by these variations.

III. THE PERSON OF CHRIST IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HIS WORDS. People say the Press is crushing the pulpit. The work of Christ is the greatest proof of the power of a living personal presence. Some men put their best selves in their books; but it is better to be loved by one friend than admired by ten thousand readers. Jesus was loved best by those who knew Him most. His influence is still powerful because personal.

1. We have to note in the Gospels not merely the words of Christ, but His whole life, death, resurrection; and for us the words are chiefly valuable as revealing the soul of speaker.

2. We have a living Christ, unseen but present.

IV. THE WORK OF CHRIST IS GREATER THAN HIS TEACHING. Christ's claims are essentially different in kind as well as degree from those of Socrates. He is the grandest of Teachers, but He is more; He is the Saviour of the world and the King of the new heavenly kingdom. His chief mission lay not in His preaching, but in His doing the work of the kingdom of God. It does not centre in the Sermon on the Mount, but in the death on Calvary.

V. THE TRAINING OF MEN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PUBLICATION OF IDEAS. Socrates resembles Christ in writing nothing and being chiefly concerned with the work of training the characters of disciples.

1. All Christian work must have this practical aim. In the mission, the Church, the Sunday school, the kind of teaching must be the training of souls. The teacher who simply propagates ideas is as sounding brass.

2. Christ's work in us is personal and spiritual. We may study His sayings, but we shall be no Christians till our lives are quickened by His life.

(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

No thoughtful Christian can fail to have been struck by the fact that except these few words Christ wrote nothing. He did not bow down over a table piled with manuscripts, and in hours of meditative thought, during which He outwatched the stars, erect a monument which might be admired by a succession of sages and critics; He did not write out the complete text of an elaborate system of theology. He went out into the throng of men. He spoke by the highways and the lake side, in words which, if they were high as heaven and deep as the transparent lake, were in form broad and popular. When we consider the analogy of the "tables which were the work of God" and "the writing which was the writing of God" (Exodus 32:16), and the value of books in excluding error and securing permanence, we ask why He did not write. There is one reason derived from His nature. In great books the truest element of greatness is the conviction that we can trace the pathway of a superior mind in pursuit of truth. When he seems to have found it, the writer quivers with delight. With the Word made flesh, truth cannot be an effort and a conquest — the conclusion toilfully drawn from premises laboriously acquired. Rather the truth dwells in Him. He does not say: "After long communion with Divinely-inspired books, after long self-questioning, prompted sometimes by voices that seemed to come from the ancient hills, and the glory of the sunlit heaven, I gradually worked out My system." He does not say: "I have found the truth." He does say: "I am the Truth." We may answer the question why Christ did not write — His thought is preserved in a Diviner way. "I will put My law in their mind, and write it in their heart."

(Bp. Alexander.)

1. It might seem that Christ ought to have written; for —

(1)Writing is best for an immortal doctrine (Luke 21:33).

(2)Analogy of old law (Deuteronomy 24:1; Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 31:18; Deuteronomy 24:12).

(3)Exclusion of error.

2. Christ wrote nothing because —

(1)The more excellent mode suited the most excellent Teacher (Matthew 7:1). The greatest teachers — and , e.g. — wrote nothing.

(2)Most excellent doctrine cannot be cramped into books (John 21:25).

(3)Due order through disciples to people (Proverbs 9:3).

3. Again —

(1)What was done by the members (apostles, evangelists) was done by the Head.

(2)Old law might be written, but 2 Corinthians 3:3.

(3)Those who believed not apostles would not have believed Christ.

( T. Aquinas.)

Perhaps He thus wrote to show that sin, which is written before God, and graven, as it were, with a pen of iron, and with the pane of a diamond, is pardoned and blotted out by Christ as easily as a writing slightly made in the dust.

(J. Trapp.)

Jesus is writing as one in an office, absorbed in some account, might write, not hearing the question another had put to Him. They think He will answer directly, but He continues writing. They continue asking, and press Him for a reply. Possibly they enlarge on the heinousness of the offence — an easy task and a sort of solace for a bad conscience. These men knew that they had committed sin enough, which should have made them charitable, but it did not. Christ is never in a hurry to condemn; hence His silence. Moreover, He had no wish to be judge. "Who made Me a ruler and a judge over you?" They think Jesus is pondering a reply; He has no need, for one is ready. He keeps it back for some time, knowing that silence up to a certain point is more powerful than speech. They ask Him the more vehemently, for the silence now becomes painful. How they wish He would cease that writing and say something! They could bear an open accusation. That could be rebutted with all the force of aggrieved innocence. But to be treated as though unworthy an answer, as though uncharitable in wishing to have the woman condemned, or as though mean in trying to entrap Christ — this is terrible! a taste of Gehenna. They press Him further; and now, rising, He glances first on the accused and then on the accusers. Slowly, quietly, witheringly, He utters a vivid sentence: "He that is without sin," etc. He looks away from law to conscience. Again He stoops and writes. Was it imagination that deceived them? His look was a lightning flash, quickly gone. His voice was as the blare of the judgment trumpet, echoing to the innermost recesses of their souls. They realized now the report of their officers — "Never man spake," etc. — and were almost as overpowered as the armed band in Gethsemane. The power of Christ's words lay in His character. He alone could say, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" He was therefore the only one who had a right to condemn. We have in this a foreshadowing of Christ's power at the Day of Judgment. How silently, surely, quickly, we shall be judged! Suppose now we had heard these words. Are we without sin? We must not hear for others, but listen for self. It is necessary to isolate each one, as I once saw the prisoners in the chapel of a prison. Each one was in a wooden enclosure, and no one could look at them but the chaplain. His eye could almost see into the heart of each. Thus we have to be isolated by the Word of Christ. As we feel His eye resting upon us, can we say that we are without sin? Enter those long-locked chambers of memory! Can you now blame others? Whatever we do, we should beware of playing the critic. The critic in society or in the house is a disagreeable person, and harms himself most by his criticisms. If manners or persons or utterances do not please, we may hide our dislike. We may take persons as we find them. Those who cannot please soon cease to try. Oh, that fault finders would remember these words! It is good to look to ourselves. We shall find failings enough to make us charitable. There is an old parable of a rusty shield that prayed, "O sun, illumine me," to which the sun replied, "First, polish yourself." We need to remember this and be pure ourselves. In men's eyes those respectable, well-dressed, pious-looking priests appeared of enviable purity, but a keen Eye saw their sin and sees ours.
And again He stooped down.
It is with sins as with men, some have pedigree and some have not; for some are, and have always been, held in respect and others in contempt. The sins of place, power, bravery, genius, and those of felony, vice, brutality, are judged differently. These distinctions had little weight with Christ, and He deals with the hypocrisies of religion, the impostures of learning, and the gilded shows gotten by extortion in terms of abhorrence. Hence the jealousy with which He was watched, and the endeavours of the rabbis to draw Him into some kind of treason in His doctrine, because they feared His influence with the people, and lest He might head a revolution which would subvert the present social order. Hence the plot here so signally frustrated. And now look upon these scribes, etc., as they withdraw and follow them as Christ add the whole assembly did. Observe the orderly manner of their shame, "beginning at the eldest," etc. See how care. fully they keep the sacred rules of good breeding and deference to age: even in their sniveling defeat, and you will find how base a thing may take on airs of dignity, and how contemptible these airs of dignity may be.

I. TO CLEAR THE INFLUENCE OF A FALSE OR DEFECTIVE IMPRESSION GROWING OUT OF THE FACT THAT WE LIVE SO ENTIRELY IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF DECENCY. Our range of life is so walled in by the respectability of our associations, that what is on the other side of the wall is a world unknown. Hence we have no such impression of sin as we ought to have. It is with us in all our associations much as it is with us in church. Sitting here how can you suffer any just impression of that evil which wears a look so plausible? If there came in a fair representation of the vice and drunkenness, etc., of the town, how different it would be for me to speak of sin and for you to hear. And so of the associations of life generally. Sin in its revolting forms seldom gets near enough to meet your eye.

II. WE NEED ALSO TO CLEAR ANOTHER WRONG IMPRESSION GROWING OUT OF THE TENDENCY TO IDENTIFY SIN WITH VICE, and therefore to judge that whatever sin is respectable is no sin at all. All vice presupposes sin, but sin may be the reigning principle of the life and never produce one scar of vice or blameable injury. Indeed, virtue, as the term is commonly used, classes under sin — conduct approved irrespectively of any good principle of conduct — a goodness wholly negative and consisting in abstinence from what is base. But sin is the negation of good as respects the principle of good, anything which is not in the positive power of universal love. Virtue, therefore, which consists in barely not doing is sin, because not in any positive principle of love or duty to God — respectable indeed, but having the same root with all sin, viz. the not being in a state of positive allegiance to God.

III. RESPECTABLE SIN IS NOT LESS GUILTY BECAUSE IT HAS A LESS REVOLTING ASPECT. Even those who blame themselves for not being Christians think their blame of a higher quality than it would be under the excesses which many practise, whereas all sin is of the same principle. There are different kinds of vice, but only one kind of sin, viz. the state of being without God. Respectable sin shades into the unrespectable as twilight shades into night. The evil spirit may be trained up to politeness and be elegant, cultivated sin, exclusive and fashionable sin, industrious thrifty sin; it may be a great political manager, commercial operator, inventor; it may be learned, eloquent, poetic sin; still it is sin, and has the same radical quality which in its ranker conditions produce all the most hideous crimes. There is, of course, a difference between a courteous and an ill-natured man, a pure and a lewd man, etc., yet both are twin brothers; only you see in one how well he may be made to look, and in the other how both would look if that which is in both were allowed to work unrestrained.

IV. RESPECTABLE SIN IS OFTEN MORE BASE IN SPIRIT THAN THAT WHICH IS DESPISED. This is not the judgment of those who are apt to rule the judgments of the world. The lies of high life, e.g., are the liberties asserted by power and respectable audacity; those of commoners are fatal dishonour. The conqueror who desolates a kingdom will be named with respect by history, when probably God will look upon him with much greater abhorrence than if he had robbed a hen roost. How very respectable those learned imposters and sanctimonious extortioners! How base those publicans and sinners. But Christ, who regarded no man's appearance, was of a different opinion. It is not a show of sin that makes it base, but what is in motive, feeling, thought.

V. RESPECTABLE SIN IS COMMONLY MORE INEXCUSABLE. The depraved classes have to a great extent been trained up to the very life they lead. They are ignorant by right of their origin, accustomed only to what is lowest. Sometimes the want of bread makes them desperate. They are criminal, but who does not pity them? It is incredible to you that in your own decent life of sin, taken as related to your high advantages, there may even be a degree of criminality, which as God estimates crime is far more inexcusable than that for which many are doomed to suffer the penalties of the law.

VI. RESPECTABLE SIN IS MORE INJURIOUS. The baser forms of vicious abandonment create for us greater public burdens in the way of charity and justice, and annoy us more. But have they not a wholesome influence? They tempt no one but warn away. They hang out a flag of distress upon every shoal of temptation. We should never conceive the inherent baseness of sin if it were not shown us in their experiment; revealed in their delirium, rags, bloated faces, etc. Meanwhile, respectable sin — how attractive its pleasures, gay hours, courteous society — even its excesses are only a name for spirit! Nay, church-going sin is the most plausible, and therefore the most dangerous; for if a man never goes to a place of worship, we take his sin as a warning, but if he is regular at church, a sober, correct character, then how many will be ready to imagine that there is one form of sin that is about as good as piety itself.

VII. APPLICATIONS.

1. With how little reason are Christians cowed by the mere name and standing of those who are living under the power of sin. Doubtless it is well enough to respect them, but, however high they are, allow them never to overtop your pity. How can a true Christian ennobled by the glorious heirship be intimidated by what is only respectable sin. If he goes to God with boldness, how much more should he stand before them and speak of Christ and His salvation. To falter is a great wrong to our Master's gospel, which puts the humblest far above the most honoured sinner.

2. It is impossible in such a subject as this not to raise the question of morality.(1) Morality, apart from religion, is but another name for decency in sin. There is no more heart of holy principle in it than in the worst of felonies. It is the same thing as respects denial of God or His claims as reprobacy, only well dressed. Will that save you?(2) A far greater danger is that the decent character of your sin will keep you from the discovery of its real nature as a root of character. How difficult is true conviction when its appearances are so fair, when it creeps so insidiously into our amiable qualities.(3) How necessary it is, then, to make a study of this subtle, cunningly veiled, reputable sin long enough to fashion its real import. Ask how, if unrestrained, it would look.(4) Another motive is, no matter how respectable, you can never tell where it will end. You may be confident that virtuous irreligious living will not lead to murder. Perhaps not. Avoiding what is bloody, you may fall into what is false or low, or if you keep your decency here, the proper end will show itself hereafter, and then it will be seen how deep in criminality is every soul becoming, even under the fairest shows, coupled with neglect of God.

3. Advancing a step, observe that it is on just this view of human character under sin that Christianity is based. Christ makes no distinction of respectable and unrespectable as regards the common want of salvation. Hence the declared impossibility of eternal life even to a Nicodemus or a young ruler save by a radical change of character, but the most fallen, like this woman, Christ wants to raise.

4. And so, when you go to stand before God, it will not be even your virtues, however much commended here, that will give you an entrance among the glorified. Respectable sin will not pass there as here, and as both forms are the same in principle, the world of retribution must be a world of strange companionships. The spirits of guilty men will not be assorted by their tastes, but by their demerits. Those now pleasing themselves in the dignity of their virtues may fall into group with those now avoided with revulsion.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

Being convicted in their own conscience.
I. PRELIMINARY DISTINCTIONS AS TO CONSCIENCE ITSELF. It may be considered as —

1. Ignorant or enlightened. The former, being vitiated by error or corrupted by prejudice, is an unsafe guide. It may condemn virtue and canonize vice. Hence the Jews persecuted Christians, thinking to do God service, and Christians have persecuted one another. But the latter, freed from corrupt influence and acquainted with the rule of duty, distinguishing between things that differ and approving those that are excellent, is a great blessing (Hebrews 13:8).

2. Unnecessarily scrupulous or daringly presumptive. The former makes that a sin which God has not declared sinful, and is a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 10:12). The latter has no scruples, and bids defiance to the laws and vengeance of heaven (Deuteronomy 29:19).

3. Pure or defiled. The one is purged by the blood of Christ from guilt, and is thus pacified; the other is contaminated by sin, and lays no restraint on the appetites, nor reproves the motions of sin (1 Timothy 3:9; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Timothy 1:15).

4. Tender or seared. The one is a faithful monitor, and trembles at the Divine threatenings (Proverbs 20:27); the other is free from all fear, and too stupid to perform its functions (Zechariah 7:12).

5. Peaceable or troublesome. The one conscious of pardoned guilt and mortified corruptions is one of the greatest mercies this side of heaven. It clans us against the most virulent reproaches and supports under the most agonizing afflictions. The other is a worm at the root of all our comfort; there can hardly be a greater calamity (Proverbs 18:14).

6. Natural and renewed. The first does not entirely neglect its duty, but performs it in an imperfect manner (Romans 2); but the other fulfils its functions more perfectly. The conscience here spoken of is the former, awakened for a time, and then falling asleep again.

II. WHEREIN CONSISTS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CONVICTIONS WHICH ARISE FROM CONSCIENCE AND THOSE IMPRESSED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. There is a great difference in spiritual convictions. Some are sudden (Acts 2:37), others more gradual; some visible and violent, others invisible and easy, as in the case of the jailor and Lydia. But the distinction between these and natural lies in such things as these.

1. Natural convictions respect only the guilt of sin, spiritual are attended with a painful sense of inherent pollution. The former are illustrated in the cases of Cain, Lamech, Pharaoh, Ahab, and Judas; the latter in the case of the Prodigal, Peter, and Paul.

2. In natural convictions the soul is actuated by slavish fear of temporal and eternal punishments. Persons may dread the consequences of sin, and yet be addicted to it. But spiritual convictions have a respect to the honour and love of God, hence "against Thee, Thee only have I sinned." Godly sorrow proceeds from this.

3. Natural convictions extend only to some sins, and those generally of a more gross and heinous nature, as Achan and Judas. It is true that the Spirit of God in conviction fastens some particular sin, often, on the conscience; but He does not stop there, but leads to the corrupt fountain of sin in the heart, and to those spiritual sins which are beyond natural convictions, pride, avarice, etc.

4. Natural convictions are temporary and vanishing, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar and Felix. The unclean spirit quits its abode, but not its claim, and returns with seven other spirits, etc. It is otherwise with the truly awakened. He not only lies under conviction, but yields to the force of it, and acts permanently under it.

5. Natural convictions may consist with the love of sin. The legal convict is as much an enemy to real holiness as ever; but spiritual convictions are always attended with an abhorrence of sin.

(B. Beddome.)

I. NOTWITHSTANDING A BOLD AND CONFIDENT APPEARANCE. Innocence has boldness, so has guilt. Hides in imaginary concealment. But let there be a sense of impossibility of prevarication, as under the searching eye of God, and conscience condemns —

1. As to any special sin: Achan, David.

2. Sill generally. What a spectacle would the hearts of an assembly possess under the full persuasion of Divine omniscience l

II. OFTEN BY THE SIMPLEST THING. No fierce reprobations necessary. Calm, quiet words, enough, e.g.

1. "Son, remember." The burial places of memory give up their dead.

2. "Even thou wast one of them." Christ rejected.

3. "What dost thou more than others?" Slothful professor. When the rocks out of the "hell gate" in New York harbour were to be cleared away, the explosion of dynamite required no army to effect it, only the touch of a child on the battery.

III. LEADS TO WITHDRAWAL FROM OTHERS.

1. Sometimes for sullenness and anger, as probably here.

2. Sometimes for disastrous results, suicide, e.g., Judas.

3. If wise, for penitence and prayer.Learn —

1. The helplessness of the law admits no excuse or escape.

2. The method of the gospel begins with forgiveness.

3. The blessedness of the mission of Christ. He came not to hear accusations, but to save.

(G. McMichael, B. A.)

I. THE SINNER'S WAY OF TREATING SIN. It is a terrible thing for a sinner to fall into the hands of his fellow sinners. There is little hope for the sinner at hands like these. They may send him to the judge and the officer; to the gaol or the reformatory. They may make the case one for light gossip and casuistical distinctions, studying it as an anatomical deformity.

II. THE LAW'S WAY OF TREATING SIN. — "Moses said that such an one should be stoned." It is with the moral, as with natural law — the least violation of its provisions is immediately and terribly avenged.

III. THE SAVIOUR'S WAY OF TREATING SIN. In that bowed head and hidden face we get a slight indication of how much it costs Him. Sin cannot change His royal heart, or staunch His pity, or freeze the fountains of His compassion. Nay, it makes Him more careful to show His tender, pitying, pleading love. He sometimes seems to wait ere He utters the words of peace. But this is from no tardiness in His love.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

King Richard I of England, on his way to the Holy Land, was taken captive, and thrown into an unknown dungeon. He had a favourite minstrel named Blondel, who knew only that his master was imprisoned somewhere in a castle dungeon among the mountain forests. From one to another of these he travelled, playing some well-known airs before the dungeon bars, till at last his music without was answered by the voice of his king within. This discovery led to Richard's return from exile, and restoration to his throne. "Thus the spirit of man sits like a captive king in a dungeon, until the voice of divine music wakes echoes hitherto unknown along his prison house, and stirs him with new knowledge, new consciousness."

More than one hundred years ago there graduated at Harvard University a man by the name of Grindoll Rawson, who subsequently settled in the ministry at Yarmouth, on Cape Cod. He used to preach very pointed sermons. Having heard that some of his parishioners were in the habit of making him the object of their mirth at a tavern, he one Sabbath preached a discourse from the text, "And I was the song of the drunkard." His remarks were of a very moving character — so much so that many of his hearers rose and left the house in the midst of the sermon.. A short time afterwards the preacher delivered a discourse still more pointed than the first, from the text, "And they, being convicted out of their own conscience, went out one by one." On this occasion no one ventured to retire from the assembly, but the guilty ones resigned themselves, with as good a grace as possible, to the lash of their pastor.

(W. Baxendale.)

It is related of Mr. Richard Garratt that he used to walk to Petworth every Monday. In one of these walks a country fellow that had been his hearer the day before, and had been cut to the heart by somewhat he had delivered, came up to him with his scythe upon his shoulders, and in a mighty rage told him he would be the death of him, for he was sure he was a witch, he having told him the day before what no man in the world knew of him but God and the devil, and therefore he most certainly dealt with the devil.

(W. Baxendale.)

Where is there a power to be found comparable to that of an accusing conscience, which, with its condemning voice, fills even heroes with dismay, who otherwise would not have trembled before thousands; and, stronger than death, deprives mighty men, who are accustomed to fear nothing and no one, and even to look death in the face, of the brazen armour of their courage, and their confidence in a moment; which is able to make us feel the validity of its sentence, even though the whole world should deny it, and applaud and eulogize our names in opposition to it; and which transmutes into gall that which is the most valuable to us in the world, if we are obliged to enjoy it under the thunder of its reproaches?

(Krummacher.)

You may dim the surface of the glass, so that it shall no longer be painfully bright, like a little sun lying on the ground; but your puny operation does not extinguish the great light that glows in heaven. Thus to trample conscience in the mire, so that it shall no longer reflect God's holiness, does not discharge holiness from the character of God. He will come to judge the world, although the world madly silence the witness who tells of His coming.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

The Pharisees, convicted by their conscience, go away from Jesus; the woman, convicted by her conscience, remains with Jesus; the Pharisees conceal and withdraw from the Saviour their sin, which yet they cannot deny; the woman surrenders her sin to Jesus. for the burden of it she cannot bear. In short, the woman is penitent — the Pharisees are not. Thus it came to pass that the proceeding which the Pharisees were led to adopt through malignity only served to drive a lost sheep into the arms of the good Shepherd.

(R. Besser.)

A man may be saved from death by seeing the reflection of danger in a mirror, when the danger itself could not be directly seen. The executioner with his weapon is stealthily approaching through a corridor of the castle to the spot where the devoted invalid reclines. In his musings the captive has turned his vacant eye towards a mirror on the wall, and the faithful witness reveals the impending stroke in time to secure the escape of the victim. It is thus that the mirror in a man's breast has become in a sense the man's saviour, by revealing the wrath to come before its coming. Happy they who take the warning — happy they who turn and live!

(Dr. Arnot.)

Father Andre, preaching one day at Paris against the vices of gallantry and intrigue, threatened to name a lady present as being one of the guilty. He, however, corrected himself, saying, in Christian charity he would only throw his skullcap in the direction where the lady sat. As soon as he took his cap in his hand every woman present bobbed down her head, for fear it should come to her.

(W. Baxendale.)

And Jesus was left alone and the woman standing in the midst.
A sinner and the Saviour in the temple of God, face to face and alone. How solemn the interview! How suggestive the incident! Note —

I. THAT SINNERS NEED NOT DREAD A PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH JESUS NOW. Her accusers had placed the woman "in the midst," and now they had departed, and she might have gone, there she still stood. Solitary woman, guilty sinner, ashamed and awed by her situation, she is strangely bound to the spot. Not an effort made to escape His judgment. Condemned already by the law of Moses, what has she to fear from Him? If the worst should happen, she could but die; but perhaps her misery may find mercy. How instructive to sinners this conduct!

1. From the hour of the first transgression sinners have feared a personal interview with God. Jacob thought Bethel a dreadful place; Moses did exceedingly fear and quake; Monoah thought he would die because he had seen God. And now sinners try to do what Adam and Eve failed to do — "hide themselves from the presence of the Lord."

2. But to exorcise this demon of guilty dread God was manifest in the flesh. The Son of Man came to seek and to save, and to be the Friend of sinners. None has cause to shun Jesus. He does not repel, He invites. Known to Him is my sinful history; and whither shall I flee from His presence? There is no need, for He is a just God and a Saviour.

II. THAT "JESUS ALONE" IS THE SINNER'S COURT OF APPEAL FROM ALL ACCUSERS. These men never dreamed of the gospel truth they were signally illustrating. The woman was under legal penalty of death. The representatives of the law arraigned her, quoting the Mosaic statute, and by asking Jesus to adjudicate, perhaps in irony of His Messianic claims, they appealed from Moses to Christ. And when the accusers, themselves condemned, had left, she allowed her case to remain where they had lodged it, in the supreme court of appeal, and from His lips only would she receive her doom. Our case is parallel

1. Our sinfulness is indisputable. The penal sentence in the law has been promulgated: "The soul that sinneth it shall die." Moses indicts us, and demands judgment.

2. But our appeal is lodged in the gospel court. We are "come to Jesus and the blood of sprinkling." He satisfies the demands of the law and silences the accusers of all whom He shields with His mercy.

III. THAT WHEN A SINNER TRUSTFULLY LEAVES HIS CASE WITH JESUS ALONE THE ISSUE CANNOT BE DOUBTFUL. By tarrying she signified a wish that Christ should adjudicate, and thus gave evidence of her trust in His mercy. The verdict was not delayed: "Neither do I condemn thee," etc. Primarily the words refer to the civil penalty of death, which Jesus had been asked to confirm, and which, not being a magistrate, He declined to do. But this carried with it religious reprobation, and therefore Christ could not pronounce the words of judicial doom, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn," etc. If there be no man to cast the stone, the merciful Redeemer will not do so; He will save. There is no questionable leniency here. A more decisive censure could not have been uttered. Yet while there was in the admonition "sin no more" an emphatic reproof of her former sin, the words "Neither do I condemn thee: go," must have brought Divine absolution. "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Let sinners be encouraged to come to Jesus. This woman, who was brought to Him as a Judge, found Him a Saviour; the bar of judgment became the throne of grace. We are invited to come. The coming is a confession of need, an indication of penitence, a confession of trust.

(A. A. Ramsay.)

"How do you make your living?" "I hang about the drinking saloons," she replied. Not quite taking in the meaning of her answer, I asked her again, "What are your means of life?" But she laughed and gave no other answer. Hereupon the master of the lodging came in, and, casting a stern look at her, said, "She is a prostitute, sir!" After saying that to me, he turned to the woman as though she was a dog. "You hang about the drinking saloons. Well! give the answer you ought to give — prostitute. She does not know her own name." His tone pained me. "We have no right to insult her," I said. "If we men lived as God would have us live, there would be no prostitutes. We ought rather to pity them than to blame them." I had no sooner said this than I heard the boards of the beds creaking in the next room. Above the partition (which did not reach to the ceiling) there appeared a curly head, with little swollen eyes, and a dark red face; then another head popped up; and still another. These women had doubtless got on their beds to look over, and all stared at me earnestly. There was an awkward silence. The master of the lodging cast his eyes down in confusion. The women drew in their breath and waited. I felt more confused than any. I had never thought that a word dropped thus casually could have produced such an effect. It was almost like the movement of the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision. I had uttered without thought a word of love and pity, and that word had thrilled them all. They all looked at me as if they expected me to speak the words and do the deeds whereby these bones might come together, cover themselves with flesh, and live again.

(Count Tolstoi.)

When Jesus had lifted Himself up, and saw none but the woman.
I. THE FACT OF SHAMEFUL LIFE ITSELF.

1. In the midst of the great city, with all its grandeur and luxury, there hangs the dark shadow of one prevailing sin, the presence of which everyone knows and feels, but of which no one dare speak. We deprecate the contamination of the statement, while we suffer the curse of the fact. It is an ancient shame, coeval with the earliest corruption of the human heart; stalking in its painted abominations amongst the most splendid refinements; mingling its polluted stream with the foremost tides of civilization; moving with colonies; as sure to be found in every city as crime or death.

2. As in this passage, so everywhere, it is woman who stands in the foreground, and upon her the malediction falls. Consider this army of six thousand women, so many of them mere children, some of them from homes of sanctity where grey hairs have gone down, through them, in sorrow to the grave. Some indeed were born so low that they could not fall; but to many it has been a fall as awful as that of a star from its sphere. It may be easy to forget a lower state in rising to a higher, but never in the profoundest degradation the condition from which we have lapsed. Remorse can never abandon the human soul. This remorse accompanies the lost girl in her descending career. In the early stages there is an incongruity between that "soul's tragedy" and the gay welcome into the world of the lost; but as with rapid descent the steps go downward God's violated law of purity makes known its awful vindications. On that pallet of straw, in that damp, dark cellar reeking with the miasma of debauchery and death, the woman dies.

3. If the sufferings of the victim furnishes no reason for calling this fact before us, the peril of the young and innocent should. Silence and apathy are not justified by any motives of delicacy. The curse is in having a social cancer, not in talking about one. The only possibility of curing a wrong is to become clearly conscious of it. To prevent talk there is on the one hand a morbid sensitiveness, and on the other frivolity, which only finds the subject an occasion for jest or an insinuation that the reformer knows more about it than he ought. At least there is an unconsciousness of danger which cries, "Don't disturb this matter; let it rest as something that cannot be helped, or with which we have nothing to do." Is it so that innocent lives are in no danger? Is there a moral swamp whose foul vapours ever spread? We must have quarantine for pestilence. We break laws and burn buildings if it come too near. But a moral evil that oozes its damnation through brick walls, and saps the city with corruption, that breaks the hearts of good women — this we must not speak about, but let alone. So, then, it is a safe danger, is it? Who is safe? Are you in your respectability, O father I while this temptation waits for your sons? Are you in your honour, O mother! while mothers are broken-hearted for their daughters' shame? Are you, O citizen l with this many headed fountain of poverty and crime? Preach to the heathen, but this devil. worship — as to that walk about in silence. This is neither delicacy nor sense. No! bring into open view the shame, even as this woman was; let it be marked, that the full light of Christ's truth and purity may stream upon it.

II. THE RELATION OF IT TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT PERSONALLY INVOLVED IN IT.

1. The accusers felt by the Saviour's reply that in some way. they were related to the woman's guilt. Not by that, it may be, but by some sin. But how many are conscious of this special crime? People think the text a lesson of charity, but it is a lesson of justice also. But what justice is there in our modern custom that scarcely frowns on the guilty man — sometimes laughs at and even patronizes him — and pours all its vials of wrath upon the woman, the victim of his falsehood and meanness? What justice, honour, and delicacy, O refined woman! who, recoiling with virtuous scorn from that fallen sister, will welcome him by whom she fell? I suppose the mantle of Christian charity should cover everybody; but if there is anybody that it won't cover, and that ought to have the privilege of lying outside the hem of it in the cold blast and biting frost, it is that man who trades in a woman's affections, and leaves her to suffer in the guilt, and goes on to new conquests, and boasts of his victories — smooth, flattered, welcomed in refined society, when his only use in the world seems to be to make men feel that any particular devil is unnecessary. No! I insist that the shame should be divided, and that the sinning man should be branded as distinctly as the sinning woman.

2. The accusers went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, being convicted by their conscience. Yes, conscience, if nothing else, convicts —(1) The aged of participation in the shameful life. It is most awful to contemplate — a profligate old man without even a sinful excuse for his corruption.(2) And youth. Vain attempt to paint a picture which needs not to be painted, so terribly is every lineament of it drawn in thousands of faces, in hundreds of homes, in ruined character, in diseased manhood, in beautiful life recklessly thrown away into untimely graves.

3. What are the causes? Well, one is want. Thousands have struggled to the last thread of subsistence before yielding to temptation, and have, poor wretches I resorted to the streets to eke out a living. If you ask what you have to do with this matter, you have to cease to glory in buying cheap, which involves starvation wages.

III. CHRIST'S TREATMENT OF IT.

1. The first idea of all Christian treatment is to get rid of sin — not to palliate it. How? The very least we can do is to recognize our obligation of personal purity.

2. The other point of treatment is mercy, giving a chance of repentance and reformation to the sinner. This was what Christ did, and if He did, who shall refuse? But Society makes a Dante's hell of the state of shameful life; closes its doors and writes over them, "No hope." Consider the words of a poor girl: "Now I have once done wrong, I can't get anyone to give me work, and I must either stay here or starve." Have we any right to establish such an inexorable barrier? Conclusion: We hardly comprehend the full meaning of "Ye scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites — the publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of heaven before you." The Christian idea is to seek and to save the lost. Some one may suggest that those we may save are only like a drop in the ocean. But every drop is a soul. Mercy is justice in this case. Christ has proposed the true test: "Let him that is without sin," etc. No one can do that. But He interposes with His more excellent way — of hope and new life; and He says, and requires us to say, "Go and sin no more."

(E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Neither do I condemn thee.
What? does our Lord favour sin? No; observe what follows: "Go and sin no more." Therefore He condemned sin and pardoned the sinner. Let them who love Christ's mercy also fear His truth, for "gracious and righteous is the Lord" (Psalm 25:7). Observe also that this acquittal was pronounced by Christ under special circumstance, viz., when the teachers of the law were breakers of the law, as was shown by our Lord's test: "He that is without sin," etc.; and consequently great indulgence was due to those who were subject to their teaching and looked to their example. Hence our Lord's merciful reply. But let it not be abused by misapplication to the times of the gospel, when the sin of adultery has been made more heinous by the Incarnation, and by clearer teaching on the sanctity of marriage (Ephesians 5:32), and by still more awful denunciation on the sins of uncleanness (1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:3, 5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5-7; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah as well as the Lamb of God. Let us not presume on the meekness of the Lamb, lest we feel the wrath of the Lion.

(Bp. Wordsworth.)

Perhaps the most eminently practical grace which could be given to a man or a woman is the gift of tenderness in dealing with the erring. Where pitiless severity would harden, where cold contempt would embitter, a few words of tender human sympathy will often open the heart of one not yet wholly depraved to the teaching, and to the grace of Christ. Nothing thaws the frozen ground more quickly than the warm rains of spring; nothing will thaw a frozen heart like the warm rains of a Christian sympathy that can weep for the sins, as well as the woes, of others. Nearly ten years ago a minister was invited to address the inmates of a home for those who had been saved out of an infamy worse than death. As be rose to his feet, and saw, upturned to his, a hundred faces marred by the blight of lost innocence, a great wave of emotion surged over his soul, and he found himself unable to utter a word. For a moment he faced his audience; then he bowed his head on the reading desk with a great sob. During that moment's hush all held their breath, wondering at his silence. When he bowed his head to hide his tears, the strong wave of emotion surged from his heart to theirs, and in a few seconds, while yet no word had been uttered, nothing could be heard but the sobs of those bewailing their lost innocence. That wordless sermon was, in its results, the most effective sermon that had ever been preached in that institution. The sympathetic tenderness of that minister had done more than his logic could have done. Perhaps some of us would have more of his success in reaching the lost if we had more of that loving and sorrowing regard for the sinner which enabled him to realize so profoundly the pathos and the tragedy of those wrecked lives before him.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

A prisoner standing at the bar in the time of his trial seemed to smile when heavy things were laid against him. One that stood by asked him why he smiled. "Oh!" said he, "it is no matter what the evidence say, so long as the judge says nothing."

A writer relates that during a conversation with George Eliot, not long before her death, a vase toppled over on the mantelpiece. The great authoress quickly and unconsciously put out her hand to stop its fall. "I hope," said she, replacing it, "that the time will come when we shall instinctively hold up the man or woman who begins to fall as naturally and unconsciously as we arrest a falling piece of furniture."

(W. Baxendale.)

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