In the gospel by Mark we read: |After two days was the feast of the Passover, and of unleavened bread: and the Chief Priests and the Scribes sought how they might take Him by craft, and put Him to death. But they said, not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head. 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 for Me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good; but Me ye have not always. She hath done what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.'|
John tells us in his Gospel who this woman was. |Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 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 odor of the ointment. Then saith 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?' This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, 'Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.'|
This is the last time we have a glimpse of the family at Bethany. It was Christ's last week there, and here we have the last recorded interview between Christ and that lovely family.
Speaking of Martha and Mary some one has said: |They were both dear to Jesus and they both loved Him, but they were different. The eye of one saw His weariness and would give to Him; the faith of the other apprehended His fulness and would draw from Him; Martha's service was acceptable to the Lord and was acknowledged by Him, but He would not allow it to disturb Mary's communion. Mary knew his mind; she had deeper fellowship with Him; her heart clung to Himself.|
I want to call your attention specially to one clause from this fourteenth chapter of Mark, |She hath done what she could.| If some one had reported in Jerusalem that something was going to happen at Bethany on that memorable day, that should outlive the Roman Empire, and all the monarchs that had ever existed or would exist, there would have been great excitement in the city. A good many people would have gone down to Bethany that day to see the thing that was going to happen, and that was to live so long. Little did Mary think that she was going to erect a monument which would outlive empires and kingdoms. She never thought of herself. Love does not think of itself. What does Christ say: |Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.|
This one story has already been put into three hundred and fifty different languages, and it is now in circulation in every nation under heaven. Day by day this story is being printed and published. One society in London alone prints, every working hour of the day, five hundred records of this act that took place at Bethany. It is being spread abroad in all the corners of the earth. It will be told out as long as the Church of God exists. Matthew speaks of it; so does John; and so does Mark.
Men seek to erect some monument that will live after they are dead and gone. This woman never thought to erect a monument; she simply wanted to lavish her love upon Christ. But the act has lived and will continue to live while the Church is on earth. It is as fresh to-day as it was a hundred years ago: it is fresher than it was five hundred years ago. In fact there never was a time when it was so well known as to-day. Although Mary was herself unknown outside of Bethany when she performed the act, now it is known over all the world. Kings have come and gone; empires have risen and crumbled. Egypt, with its ancient glories, has passed away. Greece, with its wise men and its mighty philosophers and its warriors, has been almost forgotten. The great Roman empire has passed away. We do not know the names of those who are buried in the Pyramids, or of those who were embalmed in Egypt, with so much care and trouble, but the record of this humble life continues to be an inspiration to others.
Here is a woman whose memory has outlived Caesar, Alexander, Cyrus, and all the great warriors of the ancient world. We do not know that she was wealthy, or beautiful, or gifted, or great in the eye of the world. What we do know is that she loved the Savior. She took this box of precious ointment and broke it over the body of Christ. Some one has said it was the only thing He ever received that He did not give away. It was a small thing in the sight of the world. If there had been daily papers in those days, and some Jerusalem reporter had been looking out for items of news that would interest the inhabitants, I suppose he would not have thought it worth putting into his paper. Yet it has outlived all that happened in that century, except, of course, the sayings, and the other events connected with the life of Christ. Mary had Christ in her heart as well as in her creed. She loved Him and she showed her love in acts.
Thank God, everyone of us can love Christ, and we can all do something for Him. It may be a small thing; but whatever it is it shall be lasting; it will outlive all the monuments on earth. The iron and the granite will rust and crumble and fade away, but anything done for Christ will never fade. It will be more lasting than time itself. Christ says: |Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away.|
Look again and see that woman in the temple. Christ stood there as the people passed by and cast their offerings into the treasury. The widow had but two mites and she cast it all in. The Lord saw that her heart was in it, and so He commended her. If some nobleman had cast in a thousand dollars Christ would probably not have noticed it, unless his heart had gone with it. Gold is of little value in heaven. It is so plentiful there that they use it to pave the streets with; and it is transparent gold, much better gold than we have in this world. It is when the heart goes with the offering that it is accepted of Christ. So He said of this woman: |She hath cast in more than they all.| She had done all she could.
I think this is the lesson we are to learn from these Scripture incidents. The Lord expects us to do what we can. We can all do something. In one of our Southern cities a few Christian people gathered together at the beginning of the war to see what could be done about building a church in a part of the city where the poor were very much neglected. After they had discussed the matter they wanted to see how much could be raised out of the congregation.
One said he would give so much; others said they would give so much. They only got about half the amount that was needed, and it was thought they would have to abandon the project. Away back in the meeting there sat a washerwoman. She rose and said her little boy had died a week before. All he had was a gold dollar. She said: |It is all I have, but I will give the dollar to the cause.| Her words touched the hearts of many of those who heard them. Rich men were ashamed at what they had given. The whole sum was raised within a very short time. I have spoken in that church, and I know it to be a centre of influence in one of our great cities. This poor woman did what she could; perhaps she gave more in proportion than anyone in the city.
When we were in London eight years ago, we wanted the city to be canvassed; we called for volunteers to go and visit the people in their own homes and invite them to come to the meetings. Among those who came forward was an old woman, eighty-five years of age. She said she wanted to do a little more for the Master before she went home. She took a district and went from house to house, delivering the messages of invitation and the tracts to the people. I suppose she has now gone to her reward, but I shall never forget her. She wanted to do what she could. If every Christian man and woman will do what Mary did, multitudes will be reached and blessed.
Years ago, when Illinois was but a young State, there were only a few settlers here and there throughout a large portion. One of these was a man who used to spend his Sundays in hunting and fishing. He was a profane and notoriously wicked man. His little girl went to the Sabbath-school at the log school-house. There she was taught the way into the kingdom of God. When she was converted the teacher tried to tell her how she might be used of God in doing good to others. She thought she would begin with her father. Others had tried to reach him and had failed to do it, but his own child had more influence with him. It is written, |A little child shall lead them.| She got him to promise to go to the meeting. He came to the door, but at first he would not go in. He had gone to the school when he was young, but one day the boys laughed at him because he had a little impediment in his speech. He would not go back, and so he had never learned to read.
However he was at last induced to go to the Sabbath-school. There he heard of Christ, and he was converted to God. His little child helped him and others helped him, and he soon learned to read. This man has since been called to his reward, but about two years ago when I saw him last, if I remember well, that man had established on the Western prairies between 1,100 and 1,200 Sunday-schools. In addition to all these school-houses, scattered about over the country, churches have sprung up. There are now hundreds of flourishing churches that have grown out of these little mission schools that he planted. He used to have a Sunday-school horse, a |Robert Raikes| horse he called him, on which he traveled up and down the country, going into many outlying districts where nothing was being done for Christ. He used to gather the parents into the log school-houses and tell how his little girl led him to Christ. I have heard a great many orators, but I never heard any who could move an audience as he could. There was no impediment in his speech when he began to speak for Christ; he seemed to have all the eloquence and fire of heaven. That little girl did what she could. She did a good day's work when she led her father to the Savior.
Every one of us may do something. If we are only willing to do what we can, the Lord will condescend to use us; and it will be a great thing to be instruments in His hand that He may do with us what He will.
I remember reading in the papers that when the theatre in Vienna was on fire a few years ago, a man in one of the corridors was hurrying out. Many others of the people were trying to find their way out so as to escape from the fire. It was dark, but this man had a single match in his pocket. He struck it, and by doing so he was able to save twenty lives. He did what he could.
You think you cannot do much. If you are the means of saving one soul, he may be instrumental in saving a hundred more. I remember when we were in England ten years ago, there was a woman in the city where we labored who got stirred up. I do not know but it was this very text that moved her, |She hath done what she could.| She had been a nominal Christian for a good many years, but she had not thought that she had any particular mission in the world. I am afraid that is the condition of many professedly Christian men and women. Now she began to look about her to see what she could do. She thought she would try and do something for her fallen sisters in that town. She went out and began to talk kindly to those she met on the street. She hired a house and invited them to come and meet her there.
When we went back to that city about a year or so ago, she had rescued over three hundred of these fallen ones, and had restored them to their parents and homes. She is now corresponding with many of them. Think of more than three hundred of these sisters reclaimed from sin and death, through the efforts of one woman. She did what she could. What a grand harvest there will be, and how she will rejoice when she hears the Master say: |Well done, good and faithful servant.|
I remember hearing of a man in one of the hospitals who received a bouquet of flowers from the Flower Mission. He looked at the beautiful bouquet and said: |Well, if I had known that a bunch of flowers could do a fellow so much good, I would have sent some myself when I was well.| If people only knew how they might cheer some lonely heart and lift up some drooping spirit, or speak some word that shall be lasting in its effects for all coming time, they would be up and about it. If the Gospel is ever to be carried into the lanes and alleys, up to the attics and down into the cellars, we must all of us be about it. As I have said, if each of us will do what we can, a great multitude will be gathered into the kingdom of God.
Rev. Dr. Willets, of Philadelphia, in illustrating the blessedness of cultivating a liberal spirit, uses this beautiful figure --
|See that little fountain yonder -- away yonder in the distant mountain, shining like a thread of silver through the thick copse, and sparkling like a diamond in its healthful activity. It is hurrying on with tinkling feet to bear its tribute to the river. See, it passes a stagnant pool, and the pool hails it: 'Whither away, master streamlet?' 'I am going to the river to bear this cup of water God has given me.' 'Ah, you are very foolish for that: you'll need it before the summer's over. It has been a backward spring, and we shall have a hot summer to pay for it -- you will dry up then.' 'Well,' said the streamlet, 'if I am to die so soon, I had better work while the day lasts. If I am likely to lose this treasure from the heat, I had better do good with it while I have it.' So on it went, blessing and rejoicing in its course. The pool smiled complacently at its own superior foresight, and husbanded all its resources, letting not a drop steal away.
Soon the midsummer heat came down, and it fell upon the little stream. But the trees crowded to its brink, and threw out their sheltering branches over it in the day of adversity, for it brought refreshment and life to them, and the sun peeped through the branches and smiled complacently upon its dimpled face, and seemed to say, 'It's not in my heart to harm you;' and the birds sipped the silver tide, and sung its praises; the flowers breathed their perfume upon its bosom; the husbandman's eye always sparkled with joy, as he looked upon the line of verdant beauty that marked its course through his fields and meadows; and so on it went, blessing and blessed of all!
And where was the prudent pool? Alas! in its glorious inactivity it grew sickly and pestilential. The beasts of the field put their lips to it, but turned away without drinking; the breeze stopped and kissed it by mistake, but shrunk chilled away. It caught the malaria in the contact, and carried the ague through the region; the inhabitants caught it and had to move away; and at last, the very frogs cast their venom upon the pool and deserted it, and heaven, in mercy to man, smote it with a hotter breath and dried it up!
But did not the little stream exhaust itself? Oh, no? God saw to that. It emptied its full cup into the river, and the river bore it on to the sea, and the sea welcomed it, and the sun smiled upon the sea, and the sea sent up its incense to greet the sun, and the clouds caught in their capacious bosoms the incense from the sea, and the winds, like waiting steeds, caught the chariots of the clouds and bore them away -- away to the very mountain that gave the little fountain birth, and there they tipped the brimming cup, and poured the grateful baptism down; and so God saw to it that the little fountain, though it gave so fully and so freely, never ran dry. And if God so blessed the fountain, will He not bless you, my friends, if, as ye have freely received, ye also freely give? Be assured He will.|
A young lady belonging to a wealthy family in our country was sent to a fashionable boarding-school. In the school Christ had a true witness in one of the teachers. She was watching for an opportunity of reaching some of the pupils. When this young lady of wealth and position came, the teacher set her heart upon winning her to Christ. The first thing she did was to gain her affections. Let me say right here that we shall not do much toward reaching the people until we make them love us. This teacher, having won the heart of her pupil, began to talk to her about Christ, and she soon won her heart for the Savior. Then instead of dropping her as so many do, she began to show her the luxury of working for God. They worked together, and were successful in winning a good many of the young ladies in the school to Christ. When the pupil got a taste of work, that spoiled the world for her. Let me say to any Christian who is holding on to the world: Get into the Lord's work, and the world will soon leave you. You will not leave it, you will have something better. I pity those Christians who are all the time asking if they have to give up this thing and that thing. You won't be asking that when you get a taste of the Lord's work; you will then have something that the world cannot give you.
When this young lady went back to her home the parents were anxious that she should go out into worldly society. They gave a great many parties, but, to their great amazement, they could not get her interested. She was hungering for something else. She went to the Sabbath-school in connection with the church she attended, and asked the Superintendent to give her a class. He said there were really more teachers than he needed.
She tried for weeks to find something to do for Christ. One day as she was walking down the street, she saw a little boy coming out of a shoemaker's shop. The man had a wooden last in his hand, and he was running as fast as he could after the boy. When he found he could not overtake him, he hurled the last at him and hit him in the back. When the shoemaker had picked up his last and gone back to his shop, the boy stopped running and began to cry. The scene touched the heart of this young lady. When she got up to him she stopped and spoke to him kindly.
|Do you go to the Sabbath-school?| |No.|
|Do you go to the day-school?| |No.|
|What makes you cry?| He thought she was going to make sport of him, so he said it was none of her business. |But I am your friend,| she said. He was not in the habit of having a young lady like that speak to him; at first he was afraid of her, but at last she won his confidence. Finally, she asked him to come to the Sabbath-school, and be in her class. No, he said, he didn't like study; he would not come. She said she would not ask him to study; she would tell him beautiful stories and there would be nice singing. At last he promised that he would come. He was to meet her on Sabbath morning, at the corner of a certain street.
She was not sure that he would keep his promise, but she was there at the appointed time, and he was there too. She took him to the school and said to the Superintendent: |Can you give me a place where I can teach this boy?| He had not combed his hair, and he was barefooted. They did not have any of that kind of children in the school, so the Superintendent looked at him, and said he did not know just where to put him. Finally he put him away in a corner, as far as he could from the others. There this young lady commenced her work -- work that the angels would have been glad to do.
He went home and told his mother he thought he had been among the angels. When the mother found he was going to a Protestant school she told him he must not go again. When the father got to know it, he said he would flog him every time he went to the school. However, the boy went again the next Sabbath, and the father flogged him; every time he went he gave the poor boy a flogging. At last he said to his father: |I wish you would flog me before I go, and then I won't be thinking about it all the time I am at the school.| You laugh at it, but, dear friends, let us remember that gentleness and love will break down the opposition in the hardest heart. These little diamonds will sparkle in the Savior's crown, if we will but search them out and polish them. We cannot make diamonds, but we can polish them if we will.
Finding that the flogging did not stop the boy from going to the school, the father said: |If you will give up the Sabbath-school, I will give you every Saturday afternoon to play, or you can have all you make by peddling.| The boy went to his teacher and said: |I have been thinking that if you could meet me on the Saturday afternoon we would have longer time together than on the Sabbath.| I wonder if there is a wealthy young lady reading this book who would give up her Saturday afternoons to teach a poor little boy the way into the kingdom of God. She said she would gladly do it; if any callers came she was always engaged on Saturdays. It was not long before the light broke into the darkened mind of the boy, and a change came into his life. She got him some good clothes and took an interest in him; she was a guardian angel to him. One day he was down at the railway station peddling. He was standing on the platform of the carriage, when the engine gave a sudden start; the little fellow was leaning on the edge, and his foot slipped so that he fell down and the train passed over his legs. When the doctor came, the first thing he said was: |Doctor, will I live to get home?| |No, my boy, you are dying.| |Will you tell my father and mother that I died a Christian?| Did not the teacher get well paid for her work? She will be no stranger when she goes to the better land. That little boy will be waiting to give her a welcome.
It is a great thing to lead one soul from the darkness of sin into the glorious light of the Gospel. I believe if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them was willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say: |Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ.| There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God's hand of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of heaven.
I have this motto in my Bible, and I commend it to you: |Do all the good you can; to all the people you can; in all the ways you can; and as long as ever you can.| If each of us will at once set about some work for God, and will keep at it 365 days in the year, then a good deal will be accomplished. Let us so live that it may be truthfully said of us: We have done what we could.