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OF

RALPH ERSKINE,

MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, DUNFERMLINE, SCOTLAND.

Sermon 16.

THE FEMALE PREACHER, OR, THE WOMAN

OF SAMARIA'S SERMON TO THE MEN OF THE CITY;
OR, THE
SELF-HUMBLING AND CHRIST-EXALTING IN-

FLUENCES OF DIVINE DISCOVERIES. *

"Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?"-JOHN iv. 29.

IF our glorious Lord Jesus has been here present this day, conversing with us, as he did with the woman of Samaria, discovering us to ourselves, and discovering himself to us; if he has been telling us what vile sinners we are, and what a glorious Saviour he is, so that the entrance of his word has given light to us, to see our blackness on the one side, and his beauty on the other; surely it cannot but lead us to some such self-condemning and Christ-commending exercise as here this woman is employed in: "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ ?"

In the preceding part of this chapter there stands recorded a very notable conversation betwixt Christ and this woman, the particulars whereof are too many to be considered at this time, though some of them may fall in our way when we speak of the circumstances of her conversion; only, in the general, our Lord Jesus, as a wearied traveller, sitting down by Jacob's well, and this woman coming to draw water, he seeks a drink from her, both to quench his thirst and to take occasion of conferring with her, with a design of mercy to her soul. She, apprehending him to be a Jew, refuses to give him a drink, upon an old quarrel that was between the Jews and the Samaritans; whereupon Christ shows her how she mistook her own mercy, and that he had better water to give her than that which she refused to give him; (ver. 10;) and that if she knew what a valu

This subject was handled in one sermon, preached July 13th, 1729, immediately after the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, at Dunfermline.

No. 16. April.]

[Vol. 2.

But

able mercy were at her hand, she would have turned a supplicant to him, and not suffer him to be so to her. she still reasoning against his declaration, he points out further the excellency of his water. (Ver. 13, 14.) This raised some natural desire in her; but our Lord resolving to take hold of her heart, and knowing that the richest proclamation of his grace in the world will work no desire in the heart of sinners, further than what is natural and carnal, unless he effectively convince them of their sin and misery, and savingly manifest himself to them; therefore he takes this method with her:

1st. He convinces her of her sin and misery, and lets her understand that he knew all the lewdness and wickedness she was guilty of, by showing her how many adulteries she was chargeable with. (Ver. 18.) Whereupon she begins to conceive some high opinion of him as a prophet, and to seek further light from him with reference to the right way of worshipping God, there being controversies about religious matters, and particularly about the place of public worship, betwixt the Jews and the Samaritans; and, indeed, the woman's discourse here shows that though she was a profane Samaritan, yet she was no ignoramus. She had knowledge of the controversy of the day she lived in, and the grounds thereof; and knew that the Messias was to come; yet her knowledge was no sanctified knowledge. But now, her conscience being awakened with a sense of sin, she is solicitous to have her mind informed; and accordingly is instructed at large by our blessed Lord Jesus, both concerning the place and the right manner of worshipping God. And thus, from one thing to another, he leads her on until,

2ndly. He manifests himself to her. (Ver. 26.) Christ's discourse about the change of religion that was to take place brought the woman to mind of the Messiah's coming: "I know," says she, "that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things." And while she is expressing her high estimation of and great desire after this coming Messias, Jesus saith unto her, “I that speak unto thee am he." Christ may be present with people, and speaking to them, and yet they cannot know nor take him up till he reveals himself, as here he did to this woman: "I that speak unto thee am he."

No sooner did Christ thus kindly discover himself to

her, than immediately this sweet conference is broken up by the return of the disciples, who had gone to the city to buy meat. (Ver. 8.) The sweetest fellowship with Christ on earth is but of short duration; and the most pleasant manifestations may meet with very sudden interruptions; and poor sinners may have such a sweet time in Christ's company that even the company of disciples may be an interruption to it.

But now, how she was affected with this discovery is evident from two things.

1. She forgets her errand that she came upon: "She left her water-pot, and went her way." Having got a taste of the excellency of Christ, and a drink of the living water which he gave her, she minds no other water now; nay, she forgets all other things that before were in great esteem with her.

2. She spreads the name and fame of Christ in the place where she dwelt: "Come, see a man," says she, "that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?" Wherein we may notice,

(1.) An invitation: "Come, see a man." Having got a taste of his goodness, she would have the men in the city to taste and see with her.

(2.) A commendation: "A man that told me ALL THINGS that ever I did," a man that hath discovered himself to be God as well as man, in that he hath ripped up and ransacked my heart and life. He had discovered her lewdness to her, and hereby represented all other things to her as seen by him. There is here implied a humble sense she had of her sinfulness, which Christ had given her a discovery and conviction of; and by his searching word she understood that he was the Searcher of hearts, and so commends him as "a man that told her all things that ever she did."

(3.) A conclusion, by way of interrogation and expostulation: "Is not this the Christ ?" Importing no manner of doubt about it in her own breast, but a strong affirmation, pointing at him unto them. He had told her what she was, and in this glass she saw her own vileness; and he had told her what he was, and in this glass she saw his glory; and by both these means he discovered himself to be the true Messias, the God-man, the promised IMMANUEL, God with us; and her heart being full of Christ, and over

flowing with the living water of the Spirit that he had given her, it vented itself and ran over in his praise and commendation unto others: "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ ?" I shall endeavour some further explication of this text upon a note of doctrine, passing over many others. What I mainly fixed upon is,

OBSERV. That those saving discoveries of Christ that make persons to condemn and abase themselves to the lowest, lead them, at the same time, to commend and exalt Christ to the highest.

Self-searching, soul-humbling, and sin-discovering manifestations issue in Christ-exalting commendations. I think it is remarkable in this woman, that kindly humiliation did not take place in ber till after that Christ had clearly manifested himself to her, saying, "I that speak unto thee am he." It is true, when Christ first discovered her wickedness and lewdness to her, she appeared to be self-condemned and convicted, saying, "I perceive that thou art a prophet," and a true prophet indeed, that can tell me how many acts of lewdness I have been guilty of; her conscience flying in her face, and subscribing to the truth of what he had told her. But yet, as her first conviction appeared to be very partial and weak, in that, as some think, she seemed to shift any discourse about her own vileness, and started a question relative to a national difference betwixt the Jews and the Samaritans, to divert that subject concerning her baseness; so, I think we may conclude that her convictions before were very legal, driving her rather to her works and duties than to Christ; for instantly she falls aquestioning him about the means of worshipping God, as if when now she was convinced of her sin against God, her only way of obtaining his favour was by endeavouring to please him by her duties of worship, whom she had displeased by her wickedness and lewdness. And, indeed, the first airth that an awakened conscience looks to is the law, the first husband. But now, when once Christ discovers and manifests himself to her, she is kindly humbled under a sense of her vileness; yea, and of all her heart and life wickedness represented to her under that; and in the light wherein Christ discovered himself she saw all her abominations: "He told me all things that ever I did." She is now humbled and abased to the lowest. Why? Her sense of

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sin is not now partial, but full: "He told me all things that ever I did." Neither is it now legal, but evangelical; for it was now in the glass of a saving manifestation, in the glass wherein Christ discovered his glory and excellency that she saw all her own filthiness and deformity. And while she is thus debased and humbled by the discovery of Christ, how does she commend and exalt him to the highest! She commends him to her neighbour citizens, and puts the greatest honour upon him, both as he is the true God incarnate, that by his omniscient eye could see, and so declare to her "all that ever she did;" and as he is the true Messias, the Anointed of God: "Is not this the Christ?"

The truth of this doctrine might be cleared from many Scripture passages, that saving discoveries of Christ tend to make persons condemn and debase themselves, and to commend and exalt Christ, as it was with Job, (xl. 4, 5,) God having manifested his glory, he cried out, "Behold, I am vile! What shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth;" as being unworthy to speak in the presence of such a great and glorious One; therefore he adds, "Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further." And xlii. 5, 6: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." See how the discovery of Christ makes the prophet Isaiah to condemn and abase himself to the lowest, and to commend and exalt Christ to the highest. (vi. 1, 5.) He saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filling the temple; then says he, "Woe is me, for I am undone! because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." To this purpose we may see: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." (Isa. xlv. 22, 25.) Well, what will issue upon that saving sight of Christ? Both the abasing of himself: "To him every knee shall bow;" (ver. 23;) and the high commendation and exaltation of Christ: "Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength; in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." (Ver. 24, 25.) But passing many other proofs, I suppose it will be found evident in the experience

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