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says St. Luke," as they went, that he entered into a certain village. And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word." And what there follows: Luke x. 38, 39. And St. John, ch. xi. giving an account of the sickness, and death, and resurrection of Lazarus, assures us, that both his sisters were at home at Bethany. Here likewise it was, that Mary anointed our Lord with precious ointment, a short time before his last sufferings, as related, John xii. at the beginning. 3. Mary Magdalene is particularly mentioned with others, whom our Lord had miraculously healed of infirmities; and out of her, as is said, went seven demons. But nothing of this kind is ever said, or hinted, of Mary, sister of Lazarus.
Secondly, Some have supposed, Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus, to be the same with the woman called "a sinner," of whom St. Luke speaks in ch. vii,
For St. John writes, ch. xi. 1, 2, "Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, whose brother Lazarus was sick."
Here therefore we must again recollect what St. Luke says, ch. vii. 37, 38, "And behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping. And she began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."
Hence, then, it may be argued, that St. John has told us the name of the woman that 66 was a sinner," though St. Luke omitted it. She is Mary, sister of Lazarus.
To which I would answer. 1. Mary, sister of Lazarus, was a woman of good character, without any note of infamy. St. Chrysostom, in a homily upon the beginning of the eleventh chapter of St. John's gospel, says: Some have put the question, whether this be the same with her that is 'called "a sinner." But without reason, he says, for this was a virtuous woman of good credit.' And in a homily upon Matt. xxvi. 6, &c. he calls the sister of Lazarus, ‘an P admirable woman.' 2. The anointing, mentioned by St. Luke, was done at Naim or Capernaum, or some other place in Galilee. But Mary, sister of Lazarus, as was before
• "Avrη de kai σeμvŋ kaι owedαia. In Joan, hom. 62. [al. 61.] T. VIII. p. 368. Ρ. ̓Αλλ' έτερα τις θαυματη, ἡ τω Λαζαρε αδελφη. In Matt. hom. 80. [al. 81.] T. VII. p. 765.
shown, dwelt at Bethany. 3. St. John here intends that anointing of our Lord, of which himself has given a particular relation in ch. xii. 1-8. Which therefore we must now observe. "Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served. But Lazarus was one of them that sat at table. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him; Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?Then said Jesus: Let her alone; against the day of my burying has she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."
That this is a different anointing from that mentioned by St. Luke, is manifest from divers particulars. They differ in the circumstances of time and place as just shown. Again, in the former it was Simon the pharisee, who took offence at our Lord's suffering himself to be touched by a woman that was a sinner. Here it is Judas, one of the disciples, who murmurs at the expense. And our Lord's vindications are quite different. To which might be added, that the woman, of whom St. Luke writes, stood behind our Lord "weeping, and washing his feet with tears." But St John has not a word of Mary's shedding any tears, though he has twice said, that" she wiped his feet with her hair." See ch. xi. 2, and xii. 3.
In Matt xxvi. 6-13, and Mark xiv. 3-9, as is well known, is an account of our Saviour's being anointed by a certain woman a short time before the passover. Some learned interpreters think, that these are different histories, and that our Lord was twice anointed in Bethany, in the space of a few days; once by Mary sister of Lazarus, as related by St. John, and a second time by another woman not named, as related by those two evangelists. Others
Et quæ secundum Lucam est, plorat, et multum lacrymat, ut pedes Jesu lachrymis lavet. Quæ autem secundum Joannem est Maria, neque peccatrix, neque lachrymans introducitur. Orig. in Matt. hom. 35. num. 77. p. 892. Vid. et Hieron. in Matt. xxvi. 7. T. IV. p. 125.
Cleric. Harm. Evang. cap. lii. p. 350, 351. et cap. lix. p. 404, 405. Sec also Mr. Macknight's Harm. sect. 109. p. 97, 98. and sect. 124. p. 146.
G. J. Voss. Harm. Ev. 1. i. cap. 3. sect. 7. Calvin in Joan. Ev. xii. 1. Lampe Comm. in Jo. T. II. p. 822. Bynæus de Morte Christi. 1. i. cap. 3. num. v. &c. L'Enfant sur Matt. xxvi. 6. et Jean. xii. 2, 3. Doddridge's
think, that these three evangelists speak of one and the same anointing. Which to me appears very right. But it is not needful, that I should now stay to reconcile those
I have aimed to show, that Mary Magdalene is not the woman called " a sinner," of whom St. Luke writes, ch. vii. And I suppose, that most Protestant divines are of the same opinion. The learned Romanists have been divided. The grounds and reasons of the controversy among them may be seen in several.t
Nevertheless the learned Benedictine editor of St. Chrysostom's works has expressed himself very freely concerning this point, in a note upon one of the homilies above cited. 'It is a difficult question,' says he, whether the ' woman that was a sinner, who washed Christ's feet, be the same as Mary, sister of Lazarus. But that Mary Magdalene is different from them, is now denied by very 'few.'u
Tillemont begins his article of Mary Magdalene with these words: It is an ancient question in the church, and ' upon which all are not yet entirely agreed, whether Mary 'Magdalene be the same as Mary sister of Lazarus, and the 'woman that is said to be a sinner, or whether they are 'three different persons. The most illustrious churches of 'France, and almost all the learned men of our times, have declared for the distinction of these three persons. And 'it has been proved by reasons, which seem fully to decide 'the difficulty, if we will judge without prejudice.'
Du Pin, referring to Luke vii. says: It is commonly 'thought, that this woman was Mary Magdalene. Never'theless the evangelist, who relates this history, does not name her. All he says is, that she was a woman in that
Family Expositor, vol. II. p. 283. note (a). Hammond upon Luke vii. 37. Vid. et Hieron. in Matt. xxvi. T. IV. p. 125. fin.
Sce in Bayle's Dictionary J. Fevre, d'Etaples, or Faber Stapulensis, particularly note (e). They who have leisure might also consult Tillemont's chapter of S. Marie Madelaine, Mem. Tom. II. and the Notes upon it, which are long, and contain a great deal of learning, relating to this subject.
"Grandis quæstio, utrum peccatrix illa, quæ Christi pedes abluit, eadem ipsa sit, quæ soror Lazari; quam tractare præsentis non est instituti. Mariam autem Magdalenam ab his diversam esse, pauci jam negant. Ap. Chryst. T. VII. p. 765.
On croit communément, que cette femme étoit Marie Magdeleine. Cependant l'Evangeliste S. Luc, qui rapporte cette histoire, ne la nomme point. C'étoit une femme connué dans la ville pour une femme de mauvaise vie. Il n'y a pas d' apparence, que ce fût ni Marie Magdeleine, ni Marie Sœur du Lazare, dont nous parlerons, qui étoient des femmes de qualité, et de bonne condition. Du Pin, Histoire de l' Eglise en Abrégé. Vol. i. p. 451.
city, known for her disorderly life. It is not at all probable, that she was Mary Magdalene, or Mary sister of • Lazarus, who were women of quality, and good condition.' After this long argument, and so many good authorities, may leave you to consider, whether they have not some good reason for their judgment, who dislike the denomination or inscription, taken notice of at the beginning of this letter. A Magdalen house for penitent prtes.'
It appears to me a great abuse of the name of a truly honourable, and I think truly excellent woman. If Mary's shame had been manifest, and upon record, she could not have been worse stigmatized: whereas the disadvantageous opinion concerning the former part of her life is founded only in an uncertain, and conjectural deduction. And if the notion, that she was the woman in Luke vii. be no more than a vulgar error, it ought to be abandoned by wise men, and not propagated, and perpetuated."
Besides, are there no bad consequences of a moral kind to be apprehended from this mistaken, or at best very doubtful opinion? Some, perhaps many, will be admitted into these houses, who have lived very dissolute lives, and have been very abandoned creatures. And the proofs of the
Since writing what is above, and indeed the whole of this Letter, I have met with a book, entitled Thoughts on the Plan for a Magdalen House for Repentant Prostitutes, addressed to the promoters of this charity. Where, at p. 23, is this paragraph. Give me leave to take notice of the name of your 'charity. It does not appear to me, that Mary Magdalene was deficient in 'point of chastity, as is vulgarly understood. I rather imagine she was not. • It is certain, she was a lady of distinction, and of a great and noble mind. 'Her gratitude for the miraculous cure performed upon her was so remarkable, that her story is related with the greatest honour. And she will ever stand ⚫ fair in the records of fame. Your charity requires a zeal like hers. You are her disciples. And the dedication of your institution to her memory is entirely ⚫ consistent with the honour due to her character. And in this light no name more proper could be given to it.' Any one may be sensible, that the justice done to Mary Magdalene in the former part of this paragraph, is very pleasing But I do not perceive, how the title, pleaded for, can be consistent with the honour due to her character. For it carries in it an implication, that she once laboured under the like bad habits with the women placed under the roof of the houses dedicated to her; which houses, with this title, will uphold the popular opinion against the best arguments. And Mary Magdalene, rather than any other, must still be the patroness of penitents, because she is supposed to have been for some while a great sinner. An understanding man, like the author of these thoughts, may now and then declare in conversation, and in writing, that Mary Magdalene was not deficient in point of chastity: but to little or no purpose. These houses, so named, will be new monuments erected, in a protestant country, to the dishonour of a virtuous woman, added to all others of the like kind, which there are already in popish countries; in which, especially some of them, ignorance and superstition prevail to a great degree. And may they never so prevail, and be so general among us!
repentance of some may be very ambiguous. Nevertheless all who get into houses, called Magdalen houses, will reckon themselves Magdalens. If they have been first taught to impute to her their own vices, they will soon learn to ascribe to themselves her virtues, whether with reason or without. At the lowest, they will be encouraged to magnify themselves beyond what might be wished; where humility, as we may think, should be one requisite qualification. And indeed I imagine, it would be best, that these houses should not have the denomination of any saint at all.
It is not my intention to disparage your institution. I hope that many of your patients may be recovered to wisdom and virtue; though I cannot see the reason why they should be called Magdalens.
It may not be proper for me to recommend another inscription; but I apprehend that a variety might be thought of, all of them decent and inoffensive. I shall propose one, which is very plain: A charity house for penitent women:' which, I think, sufficiently indicates their fault; and yet is, at the same time, expressive of tenderness, by avoiding a word of offensive sound and meaning, denoting the lowest disgrace that human nature can fall into, and which few modest men and women can think of without pain and uneasiness. Or, if that title is not reckoned distinct and particular enough, with a small alteration, it may be made, for 'penitent harlots.'
Perhaps you will say, that this letter has been brought to you too late; and I could now almost wish you had had it sooner, provided it contains any thing deserving your regard; for these thoughts, or most of them, did early arise in my mind upon the first intelligence concerning this new design; but I declined the labour of putting them together. And I was also in hopes, that the point would be considered by some pious clergyman, or other learned man, apprehensive of consequences, and concerned for the honour of our Saviour, and his friends, as well as desirous to promote the good of his neighbours, and other fellow-creatures of his own time.
October 2, 1758.
Your humble Servant,