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SERMON XXI.

THE ONE THING NEEDFUL.

Luke x. 41, 42.- And Jesus answered and said unto her

Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things ; but one thing is needful : and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

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For what are we placed in this world? Is it to dwell here always? You cannot think so, when the millions of mankind that have appeared upon the stage of time are so many instances of the contrary. The true notion therefore of the present state is, that it is a state of preparation and trial for the eternal world; a state of education for our adult age. As children are sent to school, and youth bound out to trades, to prepare them for business, and qualify them to live in the world, so we are placed here to prepare us for the grand business of immortality, the state of our maturity, and to qualify us to live for ever. And is there a heaven of the most perfect happiness, and a hell of the most exquisite misery, just

a before us, perhaps not a year or even a day distant from us? And is it the great design, the business and duty of the present state, to obtain the one and escape the other? Then what are we doing? What is the world doing all around us ? Are they acting as it becomes candidates for eternity? Are they indeed making that the principal object of their most zealous endeavors, which is the grand design, business and duty of the present state ? Are they minding this at all adventures whatever else they neg. lect? This is what we might expect from them as reasonable creatures, as creatures that love themselves, and have a strong innate desire of happiness. This a stranger to our world might charitably presume concerning them. But, alas ! look upon the conduct of the world around you, or look nearer home, and where you are more nearly interested, upon your own conduct, and you will see this is not generally the case. No; instead of pursuing the one thing needful, the world is all in motion, all bustle and hurry, like ants upon a mole-hill, about other af

fairs. They are in a still higher degree than officious Martha, careful and troubled about many things. Now to recall you from this endless variety of vain pursuits, and direct your endeavors to the proper object, I can think of no better expedient than to explain and inculcate upon you the admonition of Christ to Martha, and his commendation of Mary upon this head.

Martha was the head of a little family, probably a widow, in a village near Jerusalem, called Bethany. Her brother and sister, Lazarus and Mary, lived along with her. And what is remarkable concerning this little family is, that they were all lovers of Jesus: and their love was not without returns on his side ; for we are expressly told that Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. What a happy family is this! but O how rare in the world! This was a convenient place of retirement to Jesus, after the labors and fatigues of his ministry in the city, and here we often find him. Though spent and exhausted with his public services, yet when he gets into the circle of a few friends in a private house, he cannot be idle, he still instructs them with his heavenly discourse; and his conversation is a constant sermon. Mary, who was passionately devout, and eager for instruction, would not let such a rare opportunity slip, but sits down at the feet of this great Teacher, which was the posture of the Jewish pupils before their masters, * and eagerly catches every word from his lips; from which dropped knowledge sweeter than honey from the honey-comb. Though she is solicitous for the comfort of her heavenly guest, yet she makes no great stir to provide for him an elegant or sumptuous entertainment; for she knew his happiness did not consist in luxurious eating and drinking: it was his meat and his drink to do the will of his Father ; and as for the sustenance of his body, plain food was most acceptable to him. He was not willing that any should lose their souls by losing opportunities of instruction, while they were making sumptuous provision for him. Mary was also so deeply engaged about her salvation, that she was nobly careless about the little decencies of entertainments. The body

Hence St. Paul's expression, that he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel.

and all its supports and gratifications appeared of very small importance to her when compared with the immortal soul. O! if that be but sed with the words of eternal life, it is enough. All this she did with Christ's warm approbation, and therefore her conduct is an example worthy of our imitation: and if it were imitated, it would happily reform the pride, luxury, excessive delicacy, and multiform extravagance which have crept in upon us under the ingratiating names of politeness, decency, hospitality, good economy, and I know not what. These guilty superfluities and refinements render the life of some a course of idolatry to so sordid a god as their bel. lies; and that of others, a course of busy, laborious, and expensive trifling. But to return:

Martha, though a pious woman, yet, like too many among us, was too solicitous about these things. She seemed more concerned to maintain her reputation for good economy and hospitality, than to improve in divine knowledge at every opportunity; and to entertain her guest rather as a gentleman than as a divine teacher and the Savior of souls. Hence, instead of sitting at his feet with her sister, in the posture of a humble disciple, she was busy in making preparations; and her mind was distracted with the cares of her family. As moderate labor and care about earthly things is lawful, and even a duty, persons are not readily suspicious or easily convinced of their guilty excesses in these labors and cares. Hence Martha is so far from condemning herself on this account, that she blames her devout sister for not following her example. Nay, she has the confidence to complain to Christ himself of her neglect, and that in language too that sounds somewhat rude and irreverent. # Carest thou not that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” Art thou so partial as to suffer her to devolve all the trouble upon me while she sits idle at thy feet?

Jesus turns upon her with just severity, and throws the blame where it should lie. Martha, Martha ! There is a vehemence and pungency in the repetition, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. “Thy worldly mind has many objects, and many objects excite many cares and troubles, fruitless troubles and useless cares. Thy restless mind is scattered among a thousand things, and tossed from one to another with an

endless variety of anxieties. But let me collect my thoughts and cares to one point, a point where they should all terminate : one thing is needful ; and therefore, dropping thy excessive care about many things, make this one thing the great object of thy pursuit. This one thing is what thy sister is now attending to, while thou art vainly careful about many things; and therefore, instead of blaming her conduct, I must approve it. She has made the best choice, for she hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her. After all thy care and labor, the things of this vain world must be given up at last, and lost for ever. But Mary hath made a wiser choice; the portion she hath chosen shall be her's forever ; it shall never be taken away from her.”

But what does Christ mean by this one thing which alone is needful ?

I answer, We may learn what he meant by the occasion and circumstances of his speaking. He mentions this one thing in an admonition to Martha for excessive worldly cares and the neglect of an opportunity for promoting her salvation ; and he expressly opposes this one thing to the many things which engrossed her care; and therefore it must mean something different from and superior to all the pursuits of time. This one thing is that which Mary was so much concerned about while attentively listening to his instruction. And what can that be but salvation as the end, and holiness as the means, or a proper care of the soul? This is that which is opposite and superior to the many cares of life ;—this is that which Mary was attending to and pursuing: and I may add, this is that good part which Mary had chosen, which should never be taken away from her ; for that good part which Mary had chosen seems intended by Christ to explain what he meant by the one thing needful. Therefore the one thing needful must mean the salvation of the soul, and an earnest application to the means necessary to obtain this end above all other things in the world. To be holy in order to be happy ; to pray, to hear, to meditate, and use all the means of grace appointed to produce or cherish holiness in us; to use these means with constancy, frequency, earnestness, and zeal; to use them diligently whatever else be neglected, or to make all other things give way in comparison of this; this I

apprehend is the one thing needful which Christ here in. tends: this is that which is absolutely necessary, necessary above all other things, and necessary for ever. The end, namely, salvation, will be granted by all to be necessary, and the necessity of the end renders the means also necessary. If it be necessary you shall be for ever happy, and escape everlasting misery, it is necessary you should be holy; for you can no more be saved without holiness than you can be healthy without health, see without light, or live without food. And if holiness be necessary, then the earnest use of the means appointed for the production and improvement of holiness in us must be necessary too; for you can no more expect to become holy without the use of these means, than to reap without sowing, or become truly virtuous and good by chance or fatality. To be holy in order to be happy, and to use all the means of grace in order to be holy, is therefore the one thing needful.

But why is this concern which is so complex called one thing?

I answer: Though salvation and holiness include various ingredients, and though the means of grace are various, yet they may be all taken collectively and called one thing ; that is, one great business, one important object of pursuit, in which all our endeavors and aims should centre and terminate. It is also said to be one, in opposition to the many things that are the objects of a worldly mind. This world owes its variety in a great measure to contradiction and inconsistency. There is no harmony or unity in the earthly objects of men's suits, nor in the means they use to secure them. Riches, honors and pleasures generally clash. If a man will be rich he must restrain himself in the pleasures of gratifying his eager appetites, and perhaps use some mean artifices that may stain his honor. If he would be honorable, he must often be prodigal of his riches, and abstain from some sordid pleasures. If he would have the full enjoyment of sensual pleasures, he must often squander away his riches, and injure his honor to procure them. The lusts of men as well as their objects, are also various and contradictory. Covetousness and sensuality, pride and tranquillity, envy and the love of ease, and a thousand jarring passions, maintain a constant fight in

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