And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone, why trouble Ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me.
This action of waste, which by some is brought, and by Christ traversed, was against a woman, saith St. Mark the verse before; which woman, as St. John hath it, was Mary Magdalene, now a glorious saint in heaven, some time a grievous sinner upon earth.
St. Augustine noteth; Of all those who sought to Christ, she was the only sinner that for sin only, and for no bodily grief or malady at all, sued and sought to Him. Of whom [37/38] being received to grace, and obtaining a quietus est for her many sins, a benefit inestimable, et quod nemo scit nisi acceperit, 'which they only know and none but they who have received it,' as much was forgiven her, so much she loved. And seeking by all means to express, her multam dilectionem propter multam remissionem, as Christ saith ver. 8, _ e"sceu epoihseu ['her sins, which are many are forgiven'] nothing she had was too dear. And having a precious confection or ointment of nardus, the chief of all ointments, and in it of pistikº., the chief of all nardi, and in it too not of the leaf, but of the very choice part thereof, of the spike or flower, both for making true, and for the value costly, that did she bestow. And that frankly, for she did not drop but pour; not a dram or two, but a whole pound; not reserving any, but breaking box and all; and that not now alone, but three several times, one after another.
This she did; and, as it may seem, the coherence fell out not amiss. This outward ointment and sweet odour she bestowed on Christ for the oil of gladness, for the 'spiritual anointing' (as St. John) and the 'comfortable savour of His knowledge' (as St. Paul calls it), He bestowed on her.
This, as it was well done, so was it well taken of Christ; and so should have been of all present but for Judas, saith St. John. Who, liking better odorem lucri ex re qualibet, than any scent in the apothecary's shop, seeing that spent on Christ's head that he wished should come into his own purse, repined at it. But that so cunningly, in so good words, with so colourable a motion. 1. that it was a needless expense, indeed 'a waste;' 2. that it might have been bestowed much better to the relief of many poor people; as that he drew the disciples, some of them, to favour the motion, and to dislike of Mary Magdalene and her doing. So that both they and he joined in one bill; but he of a wretched covetous mind, they of a simple plain intent and purpose, thinking all that was spoken had been well meant.
Which action of theirs, for that it was brought not only against her who bestowed it, but even against Christ also who admitted it, though not so directly; as it were against her with ut quid perditio? against Him with ut quid permissio? for that also it might be a dangerous precedent in ages to [38/39] come, if nothing were said to it, and shut all boxes and bar all ointments for ever; our Saviour Himself taketh on Him to plead her cause. Not only excusing it in sinite illam, as no 'waste,' but also commending it in bonum opus, as 'a good work;' that the ointment was not so pleasant to His sense, as her thankfulness acceptable to His Spirit; that the ointment, which then filled the house with the scent, should fill the whole world with the report of it; and as far and wide as the Gospel was preached, so far and wide should this act be remembered, as well for her commendation who did it, as for our imitation that should hear of it.
We see both the occasion and sum of these words read, which may aptly be said to contain in them disputation or plea about Mary Magdalene's act, whether it were well done or no. Whereof there are two principal parts; Judas with some ad appositum, 'against it,' to have Mary Magdalene reformed, and her box converted to better uses; Christ for it, and against them; sinite, that He would have it stand, yes that He would have it acknowledged, for that it was bonum opus.
In the entreating whereof, these three points I purpose: I. First of Judas' motion; and in it 1. The speech itself, ut quid perditio, &c? 2. The speaker 'some' of them; 3. The mind or affection, 'thought much.'
II. Secondly, of Christ's apology; and in it. 1. That it is sufferable; 2. That it is commendable; 3. The reason of both, in Me; for that on Him.
III, Last of all, laying both together: the former, that it is 'a good work;' the latter, that 'yet grudged at;' that good actions oft-times meet with evil constructions; therefore, 1. though we do well, yet we shall be evil spoken of; and again, 2. though we be evil spoken of, yet we must proceed to do well. The use we shall make is briefly, ex factis facienda discere, 'by report of that which hath been done heretofore, to learn what to do in like case hereafter.' Whereof that I may so speak, &c.
Of the tongue the Psalmist saith, it is, 'the best member' we have; and St. James, it is the worst, and it marreth all the rest. The nature of the tongue, thus being both good and bad, maketh that our speech is of the same complexion, good and bad likewise. Whereof this speech here is a pregnant [39/40] example. Good in substance, as I shall shew presently; evil in circumstance. As we shall afterward see, as neither well meant nor well applied.
In the speech I commend two good things: 1. The abuse noted, ut quid, &c. 2. The use set down, potuit &c. Not only the defect - not thus wasted; but the provision how 'turned into money, and distributed to the poor.
We begin with the first: Ut quid perditio &c. Surely a good speech and of good use, and to be retained. Religion and reason, both teach us, in all things, to regard both quid and ut quid; no less to what end we do, than what we do, and both of them censure not only what is done to an evil end wickedly, but what is done to no end vainly. Quem fructum, 'What fruit,' saith St. Paul, a good question; and if it have none, ut quid terram occupat, 'why troubleth it the ground?' saith Christ. So that religion allows not waste, censures idleness, and in all things calls us to our ut quid hæc?
And this as in all things, in waste of time, waste words, addle questions, so yet chiefly in that which we call bonum utile. The very goodness of which things is in their use, and they no longer good than they have a use, which if they lose they cease to be good. So that in them not only those things that are misspent upon wicked uses, but even those also that idly spent to no use, they are lost, lavished, and no good comes of them. And therefore in them, ut quid perditio indeed? is well said. This they learned of Christ Himself, Who, in the gathering of the broken meat, gave charge, ut ne quid perdatur that no waste should be made. Indeed, ut quid perditio ulla, 'whereto either this or any waste at all?' So that religion is an enemy to riot, and good husbandry is good divinity.
It is God's will, that of our goods justitia condus sit, 'justice should be purveyor,'and they rightly gotten; 'temperance the steward,' and they not wastefully spent. Consequently neither waste in buying: but as Christ ïu creiau e"comeu. Not ïu crÁoiu but ïu creiau. 'not whereof we may have use, but whereof we have need' and cannot be without.
Neither waste in spending: oikouomia. 'a dispensation,' not a dissipation; a laying forth, iaokorpiomÑj, 'a casting away;' [40/41] a wary sowing not a heedless scattering; and a sowing ceiri, o_ qÚlaki 'by handfulls, not by basket fulls,' as the heathen man well said.
Neither waste in giving; not making c£ritaj, pÑruaj, the Graces, which be virgins, not prostituting them and making them common, but as the Apostle's rule is, kaq_ti ¥u tij creiau eice, 'as need shall require.' So that to all, to needless laying out, to superfluous expense, to unnecessary largess, ut quid perdito may be said. The reason whereof is well set down; that, if we waste it in needless expenses, we shall not have enough for necessary charges; if we lavish out in wasting, we shall leave but little for well-doing. Whereof our times do yield plenteous testimony, in which Nabal's waste, which being a subject makes a feast like a king; the Assyrian's waste, every mean person in apparel like a young prince; Esau's waste, in carrying a retinue of four hundred at his heels; Shallum's waste, in enclosing ourselves in cedar, and lifting up our gate on high: once for all, I protest, and desire it may be graciously received, I do not so much as in thought once aim at the estate of the highest, whose glory I wish to match, year to surpass, 'Solomon in all his loyalty;' but this riotous misspending, where no need is, has eaten up our Christian bestowing where need is. Less waste we must have, if we will have more good works. It is truly called perditio; it is the loss and destruction of all our good deeds, and I pray God it be not also of our reward for them.
Ut quid perditio is a fault, but ut quid perdito hæc is a greater. For hæc wanteth not his emphasis, but is as if he should say, If the sum had been little, or the value small, it might have been borne; if twenty or thirty pence, it might have been winked at; but if it comes once into the hundreds, so great a sum, so much - verily it may not, it ought not to be suffered.
Thus much for perdito, the idle waste, the abuse. Now followeth Judas' plot, the use he wisheth it put to. For the first he maketh a perfect valuation and estimate of what it would rise to, and it may seem strange how he should be so skilful an auditor of the price of rich ointments, but he hit it well, for so saith Pliny, the best narud was so worth; and that is a material point. For the greater the sum, the more colour of complaint: ut quid perditio ulla, but specially ut quid perditio hæc unguenti, [41/42] 'of so rich an ointment?' Then from the audit he cometh to his motion, potuit vendi &c. Sale to be made, the money to be divided, and the poor to be relieved. This is his supplication, and this second is better than the former. Indeed, ut quid perdito may be the speech of a niggard; but this second that followeth, cannot but proceed from a liberal mind; -potuit vendi &c. In that he speaketh not to have it spared, but to have it converted to better uses. And this is a blessed conjunction, when honest sparing and charitable relieving, when frugality and liberality go together. Such is this motion, whereto no man can take exception. Naturally our bowels yearn, and we have an inward compassion at the misery of our brethren; and God's law wills not to hide ourselves from our own flesh, but when we have served our need, to give to the poor.
The motion then is both frugal and charitable; and besides, if we look more narrowly into it, there appears great zeal in it. All waste things he wisheth the poor had. Yes, it seemeth he reckons it waste that the poor is not the better for; that to be misspent that might be better spent, and is not. And very exactly drives to this point; that our goods may go, not to some end, not to some good end, but to the very best end of all, the relief of the poor. Sure, when I consider the sobriety, bounty, zeal of the speech, I think many wise heads could not in so few words have contrived a better or more pithy motion; than that which is otherwise lavished upon one may be employed to the benefit of many; that these so many hundreds may be bestowed rather in nourishment, than in ointment; rather on necessary relief, than upon needless delight; rather on a continual good, than on a transistory smell; rather that many hungry bellies filled, than that one head anointed. Sure, howsoever it was meant or applied, the speech, in itself considered, is to very good purpose; even Judas' speech, without Judas' application.
We be now to enquire of the person by whom, and after, of the intent wherewith it was spoken.
We are naturally carried of a good speech to enquire the author: partly, in an honest inclination, as Solomon saith, 'to kiss the lips of him that answereth upright words;' partly, because it is a matter of importance, not only to weigh quid dicatur, [42/43] but quis dicat. Tr_poj _ peiqwu toà l_gj. 'Many times we be more persuaded with the mind of the speaker, than with the body of the speech;' and their positions move not so much, as do their dispostions. It is very material in all, and so in this, to ask, Quid hic loquitor? For who can choose but speak all good of the speech? Surely if we had not been told otherwise, Zelotæ vocem, 'we must needs have thought it to have been Simon Zelotes.' Zelote vocem putas, Iscariotæ est; 'one would imagine it was Simon the Zealous' it is not so, it was Judas the Covetous.' 'Some of them,' saith St. Mark. 'Of His Disciples,' saith St. Matthew. And namely Judas, saith St. John, who first stood up, and took this exception; and, after him, some others. So that it was Judas, and by his persuasion some besides; for if he had not stirred, they would have taken it well enough; such is the danger of sinsiter speeches. Let us begin with Judas. And here first, we begin somewhat to suspect, that it cometh from Judas. Judas, it was well known what he was. At that very instant that this very ut quid was in his mouth, his fingers were in Christ's coffers, and now might have said it to him, Ut quid &c. And for all he spake against waste, he wasted and made havoc of his Master's goods; and a little after he might have been charged with a worse matter, and yet he prefers motions. Christ telleth us what He was, filius perditionis; and this term marreth all, that 'the child of perdition' should find fault with perdition. The case is like, when they who have wasted many pounds complain of that penny waste which is done on Christ's body, the Church; or when they who in all their whole dealings, all the world sees, are unreformed, seriously consult how to reform the Church. When they who do no good with their own, devise what good may be done with Mary Magdalene's; they who have spent and sold and consumed themselves, and never in their whole lives showed any regard of the poor; when they talk of charitable uses. O dolor! saith Augustine; Quis tulerit? saith the Poet. Ut quid perditio? doth but evil fit their mouths. God help us, when Judas must reform Mary Magdalene!
This is a grief; would this alone! But a greater it is to see how he matched in this complaint; that in this murmuring [43/44] some other, divers well-disposed and of the better sort of Christ's disciples join with him, and take part against Mary Magdalene. Who rather carried with the speech than heeding the speaker, were drawn into the society of the same repining. And this sure is scandalum magnum, when evil counsel meets with easy relief, and subtility findeth credulity. When the Pharisees can persuade John's disciples to muster with them and say, 'Why do we and John's disciples fast?' whom you cannot but say are good men, whatsoever you think of us. When Judas can say, Why do I, and Christ's own disciples reprove this? So it is with us; not to see homines perditos queri de perditione, 'them speak of waste who have wasted themselves,' for that might be digested; but to see grave and good men err the same error, and draw in the same line with them. But no doubt that which carried these here leadeth them too, - Pretences; that which was able to deceive Christ's disciples, deceiveth them too. And this is the difference; that the disciples in a good meaning went with him, because they saw he said well; but Judas, upon a greedy covetous mind, to have his own turn served. For, cui bono? if it had come to the poor, who should have had the distribution? It was his office; so that it may be he spoke for himself, which did plainly appear by the issue. For upon better information given by Christ, the Disciples were answered and remained content. But Judas grew enraged and fell from evil to worse, from covetous to malice, from sacrilege to treason; even to this dangerous resolution, vendere naredum, or, if not, vendere Christum, and to subvert Him Whom he might not spoil. For all the world, as some in our time who sought help of authority, while they had hope that way to prevail; but when that came not, since begin to hold they will and may do it without stay for authority, and seek subvert the state they cannot form to their fancy. My hope is and so is my prayer, that those who have hitherto been carried with their plots and pretences, now they be informed and see what the truth is, may do as the Disciples, leave Judas in his murmuring, and let Mary Magdalene be quiet.
That which we learn of this part is; 1. From Judas, that a good speech may drop out of an evil mouth. As sure, setting [44/45] aside that the hands be Esau's, the voice might become Jacob well enough. This instruction we have from Judas; it was God's will, that even he should preach and we learn some good lessons by him. And this we may learn; that no waste is to be made; and if we learn it, even he shall cooperate to our good. And as from him we have this speech for our economy, so from Caiphas, as bad as he, we have another full as good for our policy, That speech, which St. Bernard can never enough commend, melius est ut pereat unus quam unitas. Both evil meant I grant, but both well spoken where their place is. So it pleaseth God that we should hear His 'wisdom justified,' not only out of the mouth 'of her own children,' but even out of the mouths of the children of folly. That He might condemn evil things even by evil men; and evil men, non ex ore Suo, not from His own, but from their own mouths, and so their condemnation be just.
From the Disciples' too easy belief we learn credit omni verbo, not to trust phrases and oiled speeches too fast; never by the list to conclude of the cloth. Seeing not only vasa electionis, but filii perditionis, say well. But if we hear much ado about ut quid perditio, to stay and think. May not this be Judas who speaks now as once it was? And if it be, to suspect when he speaketh well. Of this assuring ourselves, what St. Paul telleth us of sadly, that not only Mary Magdalene will be reformed, and her ointment maligned, and the poor opposed, but even Christ Himself preached, obtentu, 'under pretence.' Therefore it standeth us in hand to look to the disposition as well as the position; and not to run headlong to say straight ut quid as fast as they. So much for the speaker.
With the person by whom we propound the affection wherewith it is spoken. For as the person is a presumption; so if this can be had, it maketh a full evidence. And that is in these words ¢gaukathsij eu eautù that 'he thought much wiithin himself,'
The speech for the poor, if it be kindly, doth naturally come from the compassion of charity, and not from the grudging of a greedy desire, as this is said to do; and so should we have conceived of this, that from the care of the poor, no doubt, but that the Spirit of God maketh a window [45/46] in his breast, and lets us see the secrets of his heart, and telleth us it was not the care of the poor. Non, quia pertinebat ad eum de pauperibus, but quia fur erat, because he 'bare the bag,' and took order it should never be over heavy, but that he might well bear it, and thought all too much that went beside it.
Which is a point of great use to be understood. It is one of the mysteries of iniquity, that, ever there be two quias belonging to bad purposes, as St. Mark saith. 1. One eu eaut_ij. 'within,' in heart; 2. the other, cegoutej without 'in speech.' Another quia they 'think in their hearts,' and another they 'speak in our ears,' which is the non quia. 1. The one a true cause, inwardly intended; 2. the other, only a colour outwardly pretended. As in this; the true quia eu eaaut_ij, a wretched humour to provide for himself; the pretenced quia, cegoutej, a charitable affection to provide for the poor. All sins have so. Mundus sequitur Eum, the true cause - envy eu eaut_ij. But they told another quia - cegoutej. Veniet Romani, the safety of the state. Heord would learn where he might find Christ, the cause indeed to murder Him, the cause in show to worship Him.
It is no new thing, but common and usual, in all exceptions to religion; the true cause is ¢gau£ktsij. 'a thinking all too much,' a thinking all is perdito, all lost that cometh not to us, that we gain not by. We see it was the true reason the men of Shecehm made among themselves, why they would become of Jacob's religion, and be circumcised; Nonne omnia quæ habet nostra erunt? 'Shall not all they have be ours?' It was the very reason whereby the Jews' religion; Let it be done, and I will weigh so many thousands to the King's coffers. And in the New Testament it was the very reason Demetrius there useth; O, cry for Diana, magnify here, Quia inde nobis erit acquisitio, 'we shall be all gainers by it.' God knows this is the true cause, and the analogy of religion to many. It was so to Judas; and God grant the like be not found in Israel!
Now though this be the true, yet this in nowise must come into cegoutej, and be spoken. If Judas had dealt plainly he should have framed his speech; Ut quid perditio? potuit vendi et mitti in crumenam meam; [46/47] but that had been too harsh, for that had been plain sacrilege; and of sacrilege St. Paul seems to say, it is, if not worse, yet bad as idolatry, 'Thou that pullest down idols, committest thou sacrilege?' As if he held as good a false religion, as a spoiling religion. Therefore that must be kept eu eautù, and not come into cegoutej, but it must be shrouded, as indeed the heathen man said, .M_goutej detai proF£swj » pouhria. 'bad attempts need only an handsome pretence;' for with the rest they can dispense; with God and His word, and fear and conscience and all; and so a pretence, it is all they desire.
Now no pretence more fit to make them perfect maskers, than St. Paul's 'vizor,' m_rFwsij eusebeiaj; and St. Peter's 'cloke,' epik£lumma; the 'vizor of godliness,' and the 'cloke of religion.' And such was Judas here, a charitable careful provision for the relief of the poor. Whom, though the Holy Ghost saith expressly, he cared not for one jot, yet maketh he them his stalking-horse, and pauperibus is the point; that is it he seeketh for, and God knoweth, nothing else.
This his sacrilegious wicked humour he covereth under the zeal of the poor; and so, to hide one fault committeth two. First sacrilege, then hypocrisy.
And 'it is no new thing under the sun,' as Solomon tells us, to 'gild a potsherd with gold foil,' that is, to overlay a false heart with zealous lips. Absalom's vow was the mask for his conspiracy against David. Jezebel's fast, her vizor for the oppressing of Naboth. And here we have an invective against waste, a supplication for the poor, in Judas' mouth, and yet 'seven abominations in his heart.'
Is it not heaviness unto death to consider this? Well said the Wise Man; 'O wicked abomination, whence art thou come to cover the earth with deceit!'
But more need had we to beware than complain. And indeed all we learn from this point, is novisse et odisse, to 'know and avoid.' To know such there be as cover sacrilege with zeal, and with good uses cover no good intents. To know them and avoid them. And the better to do that, to make the end of him who here used it, and see what [47/48] became of him; how from this sin, by God's just judgment, he fell to perditio; and from it, after to make away himself. To whom in that case truly might have been said, ut quid perditio indeed? But this was his end in this life, and in the other he hath 'his portion with hypocrites,' and they with him `in the lake of fire and brimstone.
So much for the 1. speech itself, 2. for the speaker, and in him both his person, 3. and his intent.
Now as justice would, let us hear alteram partem. These are shrewd presumptions; yet let us not resolve, but stay till Christ have said; and if He mislike it too, sell it and spare not.
'But Jesus,' &c. There was, saith St. Gregory, no error of the Disciples, præsente Magistro, 'while Christ was present with them, but it was salutaris error, quia totius mundi sustulit errorem, 'a wholesome and profitable error, for it ride the world of an error for ever after.' We may well apply it to this. We should have been of Judas' mind, and that, that carried the Disciples, have gone for current, had not our Saviour Christ overruled the case, and stayed the sale of Mary Magdalene's ointment; and in staying it said enough to stop their mouths for ever, that make it the like motions.
Which to do the more firmly, albeit Christ might well have expected to Judas' person as unfit - what, the son of perdition talk of perdition! Or laid open his intent as wicked and execrable, ut quid hoc sacrilegum Ut quid hæc hypocrisis? - yet the more sufficiently to do it, he waves both, and joins issue upon the very point itself; admitting all had been simply and honestly both said and meant.
Wherein He keepeth this order; first propoundeth that was done, it was sufferable, and she not to be troubled for it; Sinite illam, &c. Secondly, it was a good work; and therefore she not only to be excused, but to be commended for it. Thirdly, the reason and warrant of both, in Me - for that it was done upon Him, on whom nothing that is bestowed can be said to be lost, but must and ought to be said to be well bestowed. So that there is a full answer to every point of Judas' bill: ut quid for ut quid; ut quid molestia hæc? for ut quid perdito? Potuit vendi is answered with sinite, 'let alone;' perdito, with bonum opus; and pauperibus with in Me, [48/49] Who is of more value than many poor, after Whom it may well become the poor to be served.
To begin then with the first. Sinite illam, saith Christ. Not as they hoped, sistite illam, 'stay her' - indeed it is but a waste work she is about; but sinite illam, 'let her alone, the work is good,' suffer her to proceed. His meaning is; Such acts as this was, are to be let alone, and they who so disposed, not to be troubled. Sure He foresaw many would be meddling, many ut quid would be framed, and many potuits devised, and much business be made, about Mary Magdalene's ointment, and about works of that nature; that every otherwhile, some motions, petitions, plots would be framed about altering it. To this day they will not let her alone, but disquiet her still. He has therefore left in His gospel these words, as a fit answer, to stay their hands, and stop their mouths, for ever. 'Let them be, suffer them to remain;' ut quid molestia hæc a meet reply to ut quid perditio hæc? to the world's end..
And this request, to my poor conceit, is very reasonable; if, in this kind, any thing may be allowed for reasonable. It is not imitamini illam, or adjuvate illam; 'do you the like contribute to her charge,' further and help her what you may; which yet He would have us. That would Judas never be got to; if Christ had wished him to like cost, what ado then would there have been! But this, Do but let her alone; if you will not further, yet hinder her not, trouble her not. That she has spent, of her ability she has done it; she has not had of you one penny toward her three hundred, nor she asks you none. Seeing you are at no cost, why should it grieve you? If you like not to follow her, yet let her alone.
And may not the same in like reason be said and entreated at this day? That what our Fathers and Elders in the Christian Faith bounteously employed on Christ; what they, I say, have that way dedicate, if we will not add to it and imitate them, yet we will let it alone and not trouble them; and at least be not with Judas, if we like not or list not to be with Mary Magdalene. On Christ it is, I dare say boldly; and if I say it, I shall have all the ancient Fathers on my side; and if I say it, St. Paul will warrant me, who in [49/50] 1Cor. 12.12, expressly calleth the Church Christ's Body. And he might well do it: the first speech Christ ever spake to him, Himself calleth the Church Me- the word He useth. On Christ it is spent, any part of Christ, be His glory more than other; and on that office and calling of the Church, which St. Paul, who best knew the dignity of it, calleth 'the glory of Christ.' This I say under correction, is as me thinketh not unreasonable; that seeing what superstition hath defiled is removed and gone, touching that which is remaining it be said, Sinite illam.
From this first degree of sinite, our Saviour Christ ascendeth to a higher; and lest we should mistake, as if He bare with her good mind and meaning rather than allowed the work, He tells us the very work itself is good; and so pleads and justifies it, not as sufferable only, but as commendable. For that this is the meaning of bonum opus operata est.
Wherein, first, He answereth the principal reason, perditio est. You may sell, saith Judas, it is but waste: you must let it alone, saith Christ, it is bonum opus.So that as His former, of sinite, crossed the motion; so this if bonum opus, overthroweth the reason, perditio.
In which our Saviour Christ looseth the knot, and teacheth us a point; to enquire first, Ecquid perditio, 'Whether it be a waste?' before we come to Ut quid, 'To what end is it?' If it be waste, it is well and truly said; but this He pleadeth is not any unless, which God forbid, good works be waste with us. And therefore joineth issue upon the word hæc; that is, that is done upon Him is no waste at all, as Judas termed it; but, as He christenth it by a new name, bonum opus. Therefore his reproof is nothing, tanquam cadens in materiam indebitam, 'as lighting upon an unmeet matter,' which deserveth no reproof, but rather commendation.
Indeed, if Judas sometime before had said it to Mary Magdalene, in the days of her former vanity, when she wasted thus much, and peradventure many a penny more, on her riot and wantonness; then indeed, ut quid perditio haec? had hit right. But now it was not on herself, but on Christ's head, it is out of season. As if our age now would apply to Nabal's riotous feasts, to the Assyrians' superfluous suits, to Esau's superfluous retinue, to the endless building Jeremy [50/51] findeth fault with, to our manifold idle excesses many ways; to every right and each of these an Ut quid perditio? there now it were right, there indeed were the true place of Ut quid perditio? But this is, among many, a strong illusion of these true wastes, so much in ointments and perfumes upon ourselves, so many hundred denarii, indeed no man can tell what, daily lavished; we can neither see ourselves, nor patiently hear of others, ut quid perditiones hæ? Here all is well - all is well bestowed. Neither ut quid, nor potuit dari pauperibus; the poor never comes in our head. No where but in Christ ought is amiss. Only in that that is meant to Him, and spent on Him, there comes out our ut quid, there comes the poor into our mind. No way to provide for them but by sale of Christ's ointment. That is the waste, and none but that; and none but that is maligned. We are perfect auditors, we can exactly reckon how many hundreds Christ wasteth; but who keepeth any account of his own? To ourselves too much is too little; to Him, too little is too much. And three hundred pence that way bestowed, is a greater eyesore than three hundred pounds, I dare be bold to say, to not so good uses.
Thus it is, and it is to be lamented that thus it is. But Christ teacheth us better, if we will learn of Him and let Judas go, that we may better bestow our ut quid any where than upon Him. And we shall find it true: the day will come, when that only that goeth to Him, shall be found to be no perditio; and all else perditio indeed, whatsoever or upon whatsoever. To be lost indeed, and fruit to come of it. That which is 'sown in the flesh, to be lost in corruption;' that which on the belly, eij ¢Fedrïua: and that which is in Me, shall prove no perditio, 'waste,' lost or lavished, but bonum opus, 'a good deed;' to be rewarded with a blessed remembrance on earth, and with a crown of glory in the Kingdom everlasting.
Thus, you see, Judas is answered, and the work quit from the name of perditio. So far from perditio, that it is bonum opus. 'A good work,' indeed; as proceeding from a good mind, [51/52] possessed with the virtue of virtue, thankfulness. For mercy bestowed on Him, Who only is good and goodness itself; Who here allows it for good, causes it to be registered in His Gospels for good, in the day of judgment will pronounce it good; rewardeth it for good in this world, with a good name; in that to come, with all the good of His kingdom, where no good is wanting.
The third remaineth, 'upon Me' wherein properly is meant His natural body of flesh, which should not always be with us. But they of whom we have learned to interpret the Scriptures, in a manner all extend it to His mystical Body too; and, as they think, by good consequence. That seeing He gave His natural Body to be bought and sold, rent and torn, crucified and slain for His Body mystical; His Body mystical is certainly dearer to Him, and better He loveth it. And then, if He will accept that is done to the less, and make it bonum opus; He will much more that which is done to the more beloved; and it will never go for less, never did I am sure. The Scriptures record, as a good work, that which was laid down at the 'Apostles' feet,' no less than this that was laid upon Christ's own head; and in them, Ananias, a Church robber, and Judas a Christ robber, both in one case. 'Satan' is said to have 'filled both their hearts' in that act; and like evil end came to both; and both are good remembrances for them who seek and say as they did. Yea, which would not be content to detain a part - Ananias and Judas went no farther - but would seize of all gladly, if a gracious Lady did not say, Sinite.
To conclude, it is St. Augustine, and so say all the rest; Tu intellige et de Ecclesiâ prædatur Judæ perdito comparatur: 'Understand this of the Church, and spare not; for he that taketh any thing - I say any thing, from it, is in Judas' case;' for the sin certainly, for the punishment as it pleaseth God.
Now we know what is meant by in Me; it is no waste word. We will consider it first as a reason of the two former, and then as a special answer to that of the poor.
It answereth Ut quid? 'To what end?' why, in Me, 'to Me,' and for My sake. [52/ 53] It answereth perditio; in Me - why, it is spent on Christ, 'on Me,' on Whom nothing that is spent is misspent.
It yieldeth a reason of sinite, 'spare her;' if not her, yet spare Me, trouble Me not. Ye cannot scrape off the ointment but with My trouble.
And a reason of bonum opus est; for His in Me is warrant sufficient, why the work is to be reckoned good. Yea, in saying it is not only good done, but done to Him, He giveth it a dignity, and lifteth up this work above.
But especially, it answereth the weight of Judas' reason, pauperibus, 'the poor.' Our Saviour Christ plainly sheweth that Judas is mistaken that draweth a diameter, and maketh opposition between devotion towards Christ, and alms to the poor. Tabitha was good to the poor, Mary Magdalene to Christ. Must we put Mary Magdalene to death, to raise Tabitha again? and is there no other way? Yes, indeed, Sinite illam, saith Christ in this verse - let this stand; and yet do those good too, date eleemosynam, in the next. There be other means to provide for the poor, than by sale of Christ's ointment; and we are not in pretence of them to omit this, or any office or duty unto Christ.
Pauperibus is not the only good work; this is also. And of the two, if any be preferred, it is in Me: He certainly to be served first. To which work, not only those of wealth, Mary Magdalene with her three hundred pence; but even poor and all, the poor widow with her mites is bound, as we see; even to add something to the offerings of God; and if not nardus, yet with oil to anoint His head, as Himself requireth. This, I say, if both could not stand. But, thanks be to God, there be ways they may both stand; and not one fall, that the other may rise. Malachi telleth us a way, and it is a special one; to do as this virtuous woman here; Inferte in Apothecas Meas, 'bring into Mine (that is, My Church's) treasures' and I will break the windows of Heaven and send you such plenty, as you and the poor both shall eat and have enough, and yet leave in abundance. So that we see the next and kindliest way to have Judas complaint redressed, is to speak and labour that Mary Magdalene's example may be followed.
Secondly, by in Me it plainly appears, how Christ [53/54] standeth affected to works of this kind. For permitting them, standing for them, defending and commending them, He shows plainly, He will be content with such as it is. For albeit He were the very pattern of true frugality, and an enemy to all excess, yet this service, chargeable as it was, He well alloweth of. Shewing us this, that as He is Christus Patris, anointed by God His Father, Quem unxit Dominus, so also He will be Christus noster, and that passively anointed by us, Quem inxit Maria. That as here He commendeth Mary Magdalene for the supply of it, so He giveth Simon an item, oleo caput Meum non inxisti; for being defective in this duty.
I would gladly ask this question: If the ointment may be sold, as Judas saith, and bought lawfully, and they that buy may lawfully use; if they may use it, why may not Christ? Num solis stultis apes mellificant? 'Do bees make honey, and nardus bear ointment, for wicked men only?' May any that pays for it, and may not Christ? Is He only of all other incapable or unworthy?
If it be because it is more than needs, let that be a reason of all. Let the law hold us, as well as Him. But if no man but allows himself a more liberal diet and proportion of port than in strict terms is needful, for all the poor, why should we bind Christ alone to that rule? Except we mean to go farther with Him, and not only except to Mary's ointment, but even to Simon's feast also; Ut quid unguentum hoc? then. Ut quid convivium hoc, too? seeing a smaller repast might serve, and the rest be given to the poor. So that his allowance shall be just as much, and no more, than will serve to hold life and soul together. But as He, without any bar or ut quid, alloweth us not only indumenta for nakedness, but ornamenta for daintiness; so good reason it is we think not much of His nardus, and tie Him only to those rules from which ourselves plead exemption.
I demand again, If ointment might be spent on Aaron's head under the Law, seeing a greater than Aaron is here, why not on His too? I find that neither under the Law He liked of their motion, What should the Temple do with cedar? neither under the Gospel of theirs, What should [54/55] Christ's head do with nardus? But that, to his praise he is recorded in the Old Testament that said, 'shall I dwell in my ceiled house, and the Ark of God remain under goat's skins?' And she, in the New, that though not here best ointment too good for Christ's head. Surely, they in Egypt had their service of God, it may be in a barn, or in some corner of an house. Yet when Moses moved a costly Tabernacle, no man was found that once said, Our fathers served God well enough without one, Ut quid perditio hæc? After that, many Judges and Prophets and righteous men were well when they might worship before the Ark, yet when Solomon moved a stately Temple, never any was found that would grudge and say, Why the ark is enough; I pray God, we serve God no worse than they, that knew nothing but a tent - Ut quid perdition hæc? Only in the days of the Gospel, which of all other least should, there steps up Judas, and dareth to say that against Christ's Church that no man durst ever either against Moses' tent, or Solomon's Temple.
And if Christ had taken it well or passedit in silence, or said, Sinite illum, 'suffer Judas; motion to take place,' we might have had some show. But seeing, He saith Molestus est to Judas, Sinite illam, 'suffer Mary to go forward;' and not that only, but bonum opus too; why should any, after Judas, be thought worthy the answering?
Surely, as the Gospel in this duty hath, and so ought to exceed the Law; so in the Gospel, we here and out country above all other. I will but say with Chrysostom, Appenda Christum ô homo; do but construe these two words, in Me, aright; poise and prize Who it is, et sufficit. It is Christ Jesus, Who hath not spared to anoint us with His own blood, and our souls with all the comforts and graces of His Holy Spirit. If towards us neither blood nor life were too dear on His part, shall on ours any nardus be too dear, or any cost too much, that is on Him bestowed?
Perhaps our particular will move us. It is Christ who created for us nard and all other delights whatsoever, either for use and necessity we have; or for fruition and pleasure we enjoy. It is He who has enriched us that we be able to bestow it, by this long prosperity, plenty and peace, as no other kingdom under heaven. Is there any good mind can [55/56] think that this is an indignity? that He is not worthy, hath not deserved, and doubly deserved this, and ten times more, at our hands?
An extraordinary conceit is entered into the world, by a new found gloss, to make whatsoever we like not, or list not to do ourselves, extraordinary; and so some deem of this as extraordinary, and whereof no example is to be made. No ancient writer is of that mind, but that for us it was written; and that, Vade tu et fac similiter, may be written upon her box. But be it so. Why may not I wish on our parts, Let us be extraordinary? For God hath not dealt ordinarily with us of this land; He hath not been to us a wilderness or a barren land, but hath, even our enemies being judges, been extraordinary in His goodness toward us all. And sure in us ordinary common thankfulness is not enough. Shall I set myself to recount His benefits? An easy matter to find entrance; but when then should I make an end? In one I will abridge them all. We spake of ointment. Verily, Christ hath anointed over us, and given us a most gracious sovereign, by whose happy and blessed reign we long have - and longer may we He grant! - enjoyed both the inward and outward anointing; the inward, the holy and heavenly comfort of God's truth and true 'oil of gladness;' the outward, of earthly plenty and delight, which nard or any rich confection may afford; and in a word, whatsoever happiness can fall to any nation under Heaven. For the holy oil of whose anointing, is as the 'dew of Hermon on Sion,' and as 'Aaron's ointment upon the skirts of his clothing,' there daily droppeth upon this whole realm pure nard, or if any thing else be more precious. I speak no more than we all feel. This is that one I spake of, and in this one is all - even the Lord's anointed. Whom, I make no question, but the Lord hath, and will more and more bless, for that her Highness hath said, as Himself said, Sinite illam. And blessed be God That hath put to have it so applied. I doubt not but this heroical virtue, among many others, shall make her sceptre long to flourish, shall make her remembrance to be in blessing to all posterity, and shall be, among other, her rejoicing in the [56/57] day of the Lord, and an everlasting crown of glory upon her head.
This is that ointment I spake of, that itself alone make us all confess, we have received from Christ extraordianry mercy, and are therefore to return more than ordinary duty. Non taliter fecit omni, nay, non taliter fecit ulli populo; 'He hath not dealt so with every, nay, not so with any people,' as with us; and therefore not any people to deal so thankfully with Him again.
This, if it were extraordinary. Howbeit, if antiquity may be admitted judge, this, as 'a good work,' is to be ordinary with us. Since everything done in this kind to Christ's Church, only upon a thankful regard, is with them reckoned a dram of Mary Magdalene's ointment.
At least, if we will not come so far as operata est, we do yet thus far it as to yield to Sinite illam; seeing Mary Magdalene, that gave it, paid for it, and it never came out of our purse.
And now this question being thus dilated, it is every man's duty, saith Theophylact, to set down, cujus partis sit, 'whose part he will take, whose mind he will be of.' Whether with Judas, Perditio est, or with Christ, Bonum opus est; whether Portui vendu, or Sinite illam.
But I trust we shall stand to Christ's judgment, and rather take part with Him for Mary Madgalene, than with Judas against her; that we may be with Mary Magdalene, that are of her mind, which at the hour of death we all shall desire.
The entrance I make. From this unhappy conjunction of Mary's good work and Judas' evil speech, this first consideration offers itself, nothing pleasant, but wholesome and requisite to be called to mind of all that mean to do well. That things well done will be evil taken, and often good affections have no good constructions, and that receiveth with the left hand that is reached with the right.
For this her act that was well done, if Christ knew what it was to do well, yet we see it is disdained, grudged at, and she molested for it; - all three are in my text. Whence we learn, Be a thing done to never so good purpose, yet some Judas will mutter and malign, and come forth with his ut quid? [57/58] Some Judas will cast his dead fly into Mary Magdalene's box of ointment.
No one creature had so good experience of this as this poor woman had. Three special virtues of hers the Gospel record, and in every one of the three she was repined at. 1. When, in the bitterness of her soul she showed her repentance with tears, Simon the Pharisee did what he could to disgrace her. 2. When, in a hungry desire to receive comfort by the word of grace, she showed her devotion in sitting at Christ's feet, Martha, her own sister, made complaint of her. 3. And now here again the third time; when, in an honest regard of her duty she shows her thankfulness for comfort received, Christ's own disciples both grudge and speak against her. So that, if she washeth His feet with tears, it contents not; if she anoint His head with balm, it is matter of mislike; if she sit still and say nothing, it is all one; still Mary is found fault with, ever her doings stand awry.
This is the lot and portion of all those who will follow their steps. Not only we of private estate, but even great personages, as Nehemias by Geshem, to bring detriment to the state by favouring the Church's case. Even princes: David by Shimei, to be a bloody persecutor, when if any thing he offended, it was in too much lenity. Even Christ Himself the Son of God, Who neither could have His feet, but Simon the Pharisee - nor His head anointed, but Judas His Apostle, malign and speak against it.
So that not only regium est, as the heathen said, bene cum feceris, audire male, 'to have evil speech for good deeds,' but divinum, a heavenly thing, as Christ saith, de bono opere lapidari.
This is their lot. And it serveth us to two purposes. 1. For judgment; to see this evil disease under the sun - the evil aspect which the world looks with on Mary Magdalene Whereby many times that which is commended in heaven is condemned in earth, and Judas' bag carries away even from Christ's. Whereby many times all good is said of them by whom little good is done, and some men's flagitia, which the heathen story lamenteth in Drusus shall find more favour and be better rewarded that Drusus' optime cogitata, the good counsel and course of many a better man.
[58/59] Such is the deceitfulness of the sons of men upon the weights. It serveth us, I say, to see and to sorrow at, and to say with Augustine, Væ tibi miser, bonus odor occidit te! 'Miserable man that thou art, how art thou choked with so good a scent!' To sorrow it, and to prepare ourselves to it, and resolve that though we do well, yet we shall be evil spoken of.
That first, and second this for practice. That though we be evil spoken of, yet not to be dismayed or troubled with this hard measure, but to go one and do as Mary Magdalene did: not once, or twice, but three several times, one after another; neither to hold our hand or shut our box, nor spare our ointment, if things well done be evil taken. To look not to Judas on earth, who disliketh, but to Christ in heaven who approveth it, and in all three cases made an answer for Mary Magdalene, against Martha, Simon and Judas, and all her accusers. To know that that which in Judas' divinity is perditio, in Christ's divinity is bonum opus. In regard therefore of our own duty, to be resolute with the Apostle Quod facio hoc et faciam, 'What I do, that I will do.' In respect of misconstruction with them, Mihin pro minimo est; because we may truly say and in the sight of God, sicut deceptores et veraces, 'as deceivers, yet true;' of with Mary Magdalene, as wasters, yet well-doers. Assuring ourselves, that it is well done; and will be commended on earth and rewarded in heaven. On earth; for posterity will better like of the shedding, than of the sale of this ointment. In heaven; for the day will come, qui male judicata rejudicabit, 'when all perverse judgments will have judgment against them;' and Mary Magdalene will look cheerfully on Him on Whom she bestowed it, and Judas ruefully behold Him from Whom he sold it.
This is Mary Magdalene's part, as Christ telleth; that howsoever Mary Magdalene be, in Simon's house, or in a corner, found fault with, amends will be made her; and as wide as the world is, and as far as the Gospel will sound, 'she shall be well spoken of.' Yes, when the great and glorious acts of many monarchs will be buried in silence, this poor box of nardus will be matter of praise, and never die. And contrary, howsoever Judas' motion may find favour and applause in the present, yet posterity will dislike and discommend it; and he be no less [59/60] infamous and hateful, than Mary famous and well spoken of, in all ages to the end of the world.
This is her portion from Christ; her soul refreshed with the sweet joys of heaven, and her name as nardus throughout all generations. This is his lot from the Lord; a name odious and loathsome to all who hear it, and his 'portion with hypocrites,' in the lake of fire and brimstone. From which, &c.
To which, &c.