John viii. 10, 11. When Jesns had lift up himself, and saw none
but the woman, he said unto her, IVoman, ivhere are those
thine accusers P hath no man condemned thee P She said, o
¦man. Lord. And Jesus said unto her, either do I condemn
thee : go, and sin no 7nore.
IT is surprising to see in what a variety of ways
the wickedness of the human heart will betray itself:
sometimes in the commission of gross iniquity, and
sometimes in apparent indignation agahist it : some-
times in open hostility against Christ, and sometimes
in hypocritical professions of regard for him. Who
that had seen the zeal of the Scribes and Pharisees
against an adulterous woman, would not have thought
them the purest of the human race ? Who that had
heard their citations of Moses' law, and their respect-
ful application to Christ as an authorized expositor of
that law, would not have supposed that they truly
feared God, and desired to perform his holy will?
Who would have imagined that the whole was only
a murderous plot against the life of Christ? Yet so
it was. These accusers had no indignation against
the sin of adultery, nor any love to the law of Moses,
nor any zeal for the honour of God : they were actu-
ated solely by an inveterate hatred of Christ, and a
determination to find, if possible, some occasion
againt him, that they might accuse him. Their pro-
fessed object was, to punish the woman ; but their
real object was, to lay a snare for his life.
We forbear to notice, that in some old Manuscript
copies this short history is not recorded, because
there can be no doubt of its authenticity; and the very
care with which the early Christians examined the
authenticity of every part of Scripture, is a strong
proof of the genuineness of the ew Testament, as
it has been handed down to us.
That which we wish you particularly to observe, is,
I. In what manner Christ extricated himself- —
The snare laid for him was well contrived —
[The Scribes and Pharisees brought him a woman, who
had been taken in the very act of adultery, and was therefore
incapable of uttering a word in her own defence. The law
of JIoses had prescribed that all who were guilty of that
crime should be put to death. If the woman were not abso-
lutely married, but only espoused, she was still to be put to
death, and that by stoning \ Hence, it should seem, the par-
ticular death to which adulterers in general were condemned,
was that of stoning ^ But the point which they referred to
our Lord's decision, was, Whether they should execute the
law, or not. ow there were but four things which our Lord
could do: either he might acquit the woman, or condemn her,
or dismiss the matter without any attention to it, or refer them
to another tribunal ; but whichever of these he sliould do,
they would make it a ground of accusation against him : if
he should acquit her, they would represent him as an enemy
to Moses, and a patron of iniquity : if he should condemn
* Lev. XX. 10. Deut, xxii. 22 — 24. * Ezek. xvL38, 40.
74 JOH, VIII. 10, II. [812.
her, they would accuse him to the Romans as resisting the
government of Caesar, and encouraging sedition : if he should
dismiss the matter, they would say he shewed no zeal for the
honour of God, whom he pretended to call his Father, and
had no pretensions to the office of the Messiah, whose first
object would be to " make an end of sins, and to bring in
everlasting righteousness." If he should refer them to any
other tribunal, to whomsoever he referred them, whether to
the Roman or Jewish authorities, they wovdd equally find
matter of accusation against him ; either of sanctioning the
usurpation of the Romans on the one hand, or of setting him-
self against it, on the other: so that, whatsoever he should
say or do, they would lower him in the estimation of the
people, and open a way for his destruction.]
And how did he escape the snare —
[At first he declined giving any answer at all; but
stooped down, and wrote upon the ground. What he wrote,
we know not: nor are we told precisely what he meant by
that significant action*^ : but his enemies, conceiving that they
had gained their point, became more and more urgent for a
decisive answer : he therefore addressed himself to their
consciences ; and as, in the case of idolatry, the law required
that the witnesses should ])e the first in stoning the offender
to death, so he bade the person that was without sin among
them begin to inflict the punishment of death upon her. He
did not by this intend, that under the Gospel dispensation
human laws should not be executed by any who were not
themselves without sin; but he determined to confound these
vile hypocrites, who, under a mask of zeal against sin, were
perpetrating the greatest of all sins. To give time for his
word to operate on their consciences, he stooped down and
wrote again : and behold, these accusers, self-condemned in
their own minds, and fearful lest their own secret abomina-
tions should be exposed to public view, withdrew as privately
as they could ; the elder part among them, as being most fear-
ful of exposure, retiring first, and gradually the younger also
following their example ; so that in a little time not a single
accuser was left. What an evidence was here of the power
of conscience, when awakened by the Spirit of God, and
armed against the sinner by a Divine power! Truly, the
blindest must see, tlie most obdurate must feel, the most im-
pudent nuist blush, and the most confident be confounded,
when once the voice of conscience is distinctly heard : and we
cannot but think it a good way of silencing a contentious and
* He might intend to intimate, that they should take heed to what
was written : or perhaps he wrote the very sentence which he after-
wards pronounced.
subtle adversary, to make a direct attack upon his conscience,
and to fix his attention upon what has passed within his own
It is not necessary to suppose that all the accusers had been
guilty of the precise sin which they laid to the charge of this
M'oman : there was now enough of their past iniquities pre-
sented to their view to produce the desired effect, of con-
straining them to proclaim their own shame, and to suspend
the prosecution which they had so wickedly commenced.
Thus was our Lord relieved from every difficulty ; and his
enemies had " fallen into the pit which they had digged " for
It remains for us now to notice,
II. In what manner he dismissed the woman —
We hear of no triumph that he expressed over
his disconcerted adversaries: he merely asks where
they were ; and finding that they had withdrawn, and
no longer chose to appear in the quality of accusers,
he dismisses the woman,
1. With condescending kindness —
[" Woman, hath no man condemned thee ? neither do I
condemn thee : go thy way :" It is not my office to exercise
the power of the civil magistrate ; nor is it my wish to de-
nounce the judgments of God against thee. " I came not
into the world to condemn the world, but that the world
through me might be saved''." Go, improve the time that is
now unexpectedly allotted thee : be thankful that thou art not
now sent into the presence of thy God with all thy sins upon
thee : let the " space which is given thee for repentance," be
well employed: lose not an hour in seekmg forgiveness with
thy God. Go to thy chamber, and pour out thy soul before
him : and remember, that the mercy which thou art experienc-
ing at my hands in relation to thy body, is an emblem of what
I am ready to bestow upon thy soul. " I came into the world
to seek and to save that which was lost :" nor shall the vilest
of the human race be condemned before me in the great and
awful day, provided he penitently confess his sins, and humbly
seek acceptance through me : " Though his sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow ; though they be red like crim-
son, they shall be as wool*."]
2. With an authoritative admonition —
[Greatly as our Lord delighted in mercy, he would not
so exercise it as to give the least countenance to sin. Whilst
therefore he dismisses her, he adds a solemn admonition, " Go,
Mohniii. 17. ' Isai i. 18. & Trov-xxviii 13.
70 JOH, VIII. 10, 11. [812.
and sin no more." Think not lightly of thy sins, because I
have expressed such tenderness towards thee ; neither imagine
that they will not be punished hereafter, if thou continuest in
the commission of them. The " goodness and long-suffering
and forbearance which thou hast experienced, should lead thee
to repentance ;" and, if they do not, they will aggravate thy
condemnation to all eternity. Go therefore, and sin no more.
Let a sense of thy past dangers deter thee : let a considera-
tion of the mercies vouchsafed to thee stimulate thine exer-
tions : let the hope of future mercies encourage thee : let the
prospect of a future judgment fix thy purpo!?e, and strengthen
thy resolution. Above all, commit thyself to God, who alone
is " able to keep thee from falling, and to present thee fault-
less before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."]
1. The self-satisfied and self-applauding Christian —
[Many who are vehement against flagrant transgressors,
and many too who profess an outward reverence for Christ,
are yet exceeding vile in the sight of the heart-searching
God. Before men, perhaps, they appear in a favourable light :
but if all that they have thought and done in secret were
written on their foreheads, they could not endure the sight of
their fellow -creatures, but would retire from society, as these
Scribes and Pharisees retired, filled with shame and confu-
sion. Let each one of us examine the records of his own
conscience; and recollect all the transactions which have
passed from his youth up to the present hour: ah! who
amongst us would venture, after such a survey, to justify him-
self? Know ye, Brethren, that God sees all that has passed,
whether ye see it or not : you may have forgotten it ; but it is
all recorded in the book of his remembrance, and will be ex-
posed by him to the view of the whole assembled vmiverse.
Learn then to view yourselves as he views you ; and to esteem
yourselves as he esteems you : and know, that you never have
a just estimate of your own character till you see yourselves
to be the chief of sinners. Cast away, I say, your high
thoughts of yourselves, and learn to lothe and abhor your-
selves in dust and ashes.]
2. The sorrowful and self-condemning Christian —
[You see in the history before us how tender and com-
passionate the Saviour is. If then conscience have arrested
you, and brought you into his presence, remember, that he is
rich in mercy, and ready to forgive; and that he will never
condemn any but the impenitent and unbelieving '
At the same time, I would affectionately caution you against
'Isai, Iv. 7. 1 Tim. i. 15,1 6.
mistaking the nature of true repentance. Perhaps conscience
has condemned you, and you have felt ashamed and con-
founded on account of your great iniquities. But if you have
gone no further, you are no true penitent. The Scribes and
Pharisees advanced thus far; but they sought not mercy at
the Saviour's hands: they went from him, fearing more the
decrease of their reputation, than the loss of their souls. Had
they been truly penitent, they would have blessed him who
had thus flashed conviction on their minds, and have implored
his more effectual power to change and renew their souls.
Be not contented then to resemble them ; but seek to know
all the hidden abominations of your hearts, and to have them
washed away in the Redeemer's blood. Be assured that true
repentance will lead you to Christ: and, if you do not find
this effect from your convictions, you may know infallibly
that your sorrow is not of " a godly sort," and that your very
repentance needs yet to be repented of.
It is of great importance for you to make these distinctions ;
because many continue all their days gviilty, but not humbled ;
condemned, but not forgiven.]
3. The Christian who professes to have obtained
mercy of the Lord —
[The admonition given to the woman is equally addressed
to every true Believer. And here must I suggest a caution
against a common, but fatal error. If persons abstain from
some particular sins which they have before committed, they
are ready to think that they have done all that is required of
them. But to turn from gross iniquities is a small matter;
and to perform some particular duties is a small matter.
Pride and self-complacency may carry us thus far: but the
grace of God must carry us much farther. We must lay
the axe to the root: we must put away "our lesetlmg sin:"
we must become " new creatures," and " be renewed in the
spirit of our minds." Mark this expression: it conveys a
more complete idea of sound conversion than almost any
other expression in the whole Sacred Volume : contemplate
it : enter into it : beg of God to reveal to you its true import.
The bent of your minds was earthly : a directly opposite
bent must now be given it ; just as a river which recently
flowed with rapidity towards the ocean, now flows with equal
rapidity towards the fountain head : the tide has turned, and
completely changed its course. Thus must it be with you :
heavenly things must now have the place in your affections
that earthly things once held ; and the delight of your soul
must be in them, as that of a licentious man is in his plea-
sures, or an avaricious man in his wealth. To surrender up
all your faculties and powers as a Uving sacrifice to God, is
the proper fruit of his mercies, and the proper evidence of his
grace. ever think then that you have yet attained, but
press forward for higher degrees of grace and hoHness ; and
make it your endeavour to " stand perfect and complete in all
the will of God."]

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