Luke 10:38
As they traveled along, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.
The Good Samaritan, and the Good PartR.M. Edgar Luke 10:25-42
Activity and RestR. Collyer.Luke 10:38-42
And Mary Hath Chosen that Good PartJ. Horton.Luke 10:38-42
But One Thing is Necessary, or NeedfulJ. Horton.Luke 10:38-42
Christ At BethanyW. Clarkson Luke 10:38-42
Christ's Visit to Martha and MaryEssex Congregational RemembrancerLuke 10:38-42
Domestic CaresDr. Talmage.Luke 10:38-42
LessonsJames Foote, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
Lessons from the Incident At BethanyW. Jay.Luke 10:38-42
Love At HomeC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 10:38-42
Martha and MaryJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
Martha and MaryC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 10:38-42
Martha; Or, Thoughts on the Active LifeW. H. Aitken, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
Martha's InterferenceT. T. Lynch.Luke 10:38-42
Mary and MarthaAlex. Macleod, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
Mary; Or, the Contemplative LifeW. H. Aitken, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
Mary's Better ChoiceS. H. Tyng, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
Mary's ChoiceR. Sibbes, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
Mary's ChoiceH. Smith.Luke 10:38-42
Need of Both Martha and MaryL. O. Thompson.Luke 10:38-42
Now it Came to Pass, as They Went, that They Entered, EtcJ. Horton.Luke 10:38-42
On Unity of Effort in the Service of GodDean Goulburn.Luke 10:38-42
One Thing is NeedfulM. Pattison.Luke 10:38-42
One Thing is NeedfulVan Oosterzee.Luke 10:38-42
One Thing is NeedfulW. P. Lockhart.Luke 10:38-42
One Thing is NeedfulT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
One Thing Only is NecessaryA. Farindon.Luke 10:38-42
Over-CarefulnessH. W. Beecher.Luke 10:38-42
Realizing the Love of God as the One Thing NeedfulLuke 10:38-42
Reflection and ActionH. W. Beecher.Luke 10:38-42
Scriptural Religion the One Thing NeedfulJ. Smyth, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The Best DishS. Cox, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The Better PartJ. Martineau, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The Care of Our Souls, the One Thing NeedfulArchbishop Tillotson.Luke 10:38-42
The Choice of MaryD. Rees.Luke 10:38-42
The Essential ThingE. H. Chapin, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The Good PartThomas Brooks.Luke 10:38-42
The Good Part BestLuke 10:38-42
The Good Part ChosenBishop Ryle.Luke 10:38-42
The Good Part of MaryJ. H. Newman, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulT. Nicholson.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulDean Goulburn.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulA. Alexander, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulNewman Hall, LL. B.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulPresident Davies.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulC. H. Spurgeon., W. P. Lockhart.Luke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulLuke 10:38-42
The One Thing NeedfulJ. Jackson Wray.Luke 10:38-42
The Only Thing of ImportanceLuke 10:38-42
The Service of RestJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
The Single NeedM. R. Vincent, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
The Worthy PortionT. Taylor, D. D.Luke 10:38-42
Thought and ActivityF. Jacox., Longfellow., Anon.Luke 10:38-42
True Religion Exemplified in MaryC. Bradley, M. A.Luke 10:38-42
Variety in God's WorksH. R. Burton.Luke 10:38-42
What Cannot be Taken AwayW. Baxendale.Luke 10:38-42
WorryH. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.Luke 10:38-42

There are few places at which we so much like to think of our Lord's presence as Bethany. We like to think that there the Son of man, who had not where to lay his head, did find a home; that there, away from the conspiracies of those who hated him, he found a refuge with those who loved him. We like to think that there he found a diligent disciple in one sister, and an assiduous and eager ministrant in the other. We must carefully consider -

I. THE COMPARISON WHICH OUR LORD WAS MAKING. (Ver. 42.) For it was comparison, not a contrast - a comparison between the choice that was good but was not the best, and the choice that was the good one. It was not a contrast between the absolutely bad and the positively good; it was a comparison between the good that was insufficient and the good that sufficed. There are those who choose the positively bad - pleasures which are unlawful, profits which are dishonest, a life that is ungodly. Christ condemns this elsewhere; but here (in the text) he is condemning another thing. He condemns the too-absorbing pursuit of that which is not supreme, which is good only up to a certain point, and beyond that is powerless. Christ was comparing the woman who was absorbed in doing a right but an inferior thing with her sister who was intent on the highest and best of all.

II. THE INFERENCE HE WAS DRAWING. That many good things, however many they may be, do not constitute the good thing, and that they will disappear and disappoint. Health, home comforts, worldly position, literary delights, art, - these are good in their measure; but they will not together make up our human requirement; they are not "the bread of life" and "the water of life;" they do not satisty, and they will not last; sooner or later they break down and leave us portionless and hopeless.

III. THE POINT WHICH HE WAS PRESSING. There is one thing which is so surpassingly excellent that it may be considered the one good thing - that good part which shall not be taken away." To Mary this was Divine truth as it came to her in the Person and in the words of Jesus Christ. And to us it is also heavenly wisdom, as we gain it direct from our Divine Lord. She drank in that immortal truth as she "sat at his fact, and heard his word." We also receive it into our hearts as we "go unto him" and "learn of him," as we follow him, and as we abide in him. Of him we learn the way to God, the way to the light and the peace and the life which are in him. From him we gain forgiveness, friendship, purity, usefulness, a hope that does not make ashamed. This is the "good part," the intrinsically precious, the invaluable thing, of which no figures can indicate the worth; it is the good part which can never be lost. For there is no power on earth that can touch it to harm it. Disease will not waste it, fire will not consume it, force will not crush it, fraud will not steal it, time will not enfeeble it, death will not destroy it, the grave will not hold it. It lives ever and outlives everything which the eyes can see, on which the hand can rest. This is the one thing which is above high-water mark; all other, all earthly good things will be washed away by the incoming tide; but this portion, this heritage, no wave will reach in the mightiest storm. This is the "part" to choose.

1. We all can choose it. God is opening his hand to offer it; we can open ours to take it if we will; our destiny is in our choice.

2. We must choose it. If we fail to do so, we shall not only shut ourselves out from all that is most worth having and being, but we shall shut ourselves in to loss, to shame, to death. - C.

Martha received Him into her house.
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.

1. It is observable that as soon as He entered the house, He attended to the great work for which He came into the world.

2. It is further observable that Christ noticed the manner in which the two sisters were employed, and that the rule of his judgment was the claim of His doctrine upon their attention.


1. In Martha there was an error of judgment: not of that kind which proves the entire want of real piety, but which implies great oversight, and a disregard to existing circumstances.

2. She neglected a religious opportunity. Christ was travelling with His disciples, and hence His stay would be short. It was a privilege of rare occurrence to have Him as a guest. But by Martha it was neglected, and the reason was not one of necessity but of choice. It was not because affliction, or acts of mercy to others prevented her, but because she deprived herself by gratifying a useless inclination.

3. There was evil passion in her conduct. It was the warmth of her temper which prompted her to make the appeal, "Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" She felt irritated because her sister did not think and act like herself. She measured her sister's conduct by her own line, and hence her rash reflection on Mary's composure.


1. The narrative evidently gives the highest importance to the concerns of the soul.

2. Let the examples set before us in the text be regarded as very instructive in this respect. One is an example by which we are warned against the evil of earthly-mindedness. Influenced in such a way the heart is in danger of being entangled so as not only to be kept from attending to what is better, but to think it strange that others should differ from ourselves. We sustain a serious loss without being sensible of it. The other is an example which we ought to imitate. In Mary we witness that readiness to hear Divine instruction, that improvement of a present opportunity, that subordination of temporal things to spiritual, which show the seriousness and correct preference of the mind — the purity and fervour of the affections. Hers was thinking and acting for eternity.

3. The narrative teaches us in what way we are to expect the notice and approbation of our Divine Redeemer. Not when pursuing our own plans, not when devoting ourselves to worldly concerns; but when honouring His word, when learning His will and seeking His grace.

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

I. CONSIDER THE DILIGENCE OF THE SAVIOUR IN THE IMPROVEMENT OF TIME. He goes about doing good. He always pays for His entertainment. In the parlour as well as the temple, He furnishes admonition and counsel. No sooner does He enter this house than we find Him teaching.

II. OBSERVE, HOW IMPROPER IT IS FOR A FOLLOWER OF THE LORD JESUS TO BE SENSUAL AND SELFISH. Mary who hears His word pleases Him better than Martha who prepares His meal: yea, Martha even grieves Him by her assiduity to entertain Him. He would rather feed than be fed.

III. SEE WHAT DIVERSITIES THERE ARE IN THE FOLLOWERS OF OUR LORD. Many things diversify the degree and the exercises of religion. Thus the stations in which Providence places good men differ; one shall be favourable to devotion, another shall afford less leisure and create more distraction. Constitutional complexion also has its influence. Thus some Christians are more inclined to contemplation and the shades; ether are formed for the active virtues. The difficulties which chill the timid serve only to rouse and animate the bold and courageous, Religion, like water, partakes a little of the nature of the soil over which it runs.

IV. WE MAY MEET WITH HINDRANCES IN RELIGION FROM THOSE WHO SHOULD BE OUR ASSISTANTS. Such are friends and relations. Michal ridicules the holy joy of David. A brother may discourage a brother. A sister may reproach and repel a sister. Our foes may be those of our own household. Yea, even by religious friends and relations we may sometimes be injured. They may be wanting in sympathy. They may censure and condemn our actions from ignorance of our circumstances and motives.

V. How ANXIOUS SOEVER WE MAY BE ABOUT MANY THINGS, ONE THING ALONE REALLY DESERVES OUR ATTENTION: "one thing is needful." It is, hearing the Saviour's words; it is, an attention to the soul; it is — religion. What? is nothing else necessary? Yes; many things. But, compared with this, they are less than nothing and vanity. Other things are accidentally needful — this is essentially so. Other things are occasionally needful-this is invariably so. Other things are partially needful — this is universally so-needful for prosperity and adversity; needful for the body and the soul; needful for time and eternity. Some things are needful fur some individuals, but not for others; but this is needful for all.

(W. Jay.)

1. This passage suggests important cautions as to domestic, and all worldly affairs. The difficulty here is to pursue the proper medium — to pay sufficient attention to these matters, and yet not to carry that attention to an excessive and hurtful length. On the one hand, let all needful attention be paid by the pious mistresses of families to have everything in their house in a judicious, orderly, and comfortable state, according to the station of life in which they are placed; and let them conscientiously avoid all indolent, careless, and slovenly habits, as they would avoid bringing a scandal on their profession, and prejudicing the worldly against it. In describing the virtuous woman, Solomon says, "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." On the other hand, this care must not be carried to excess; it must not be the chief business; it ought to be managed so as not to interfere with, but to promote, the one thing needful. One breach of duty, in consequence of excessive domestic care, occurs when it is the means of preventing secret and family worship altogether, or of impeding their regular and calm exercise; and this is very similar to the situation to which Martha now reduced herself. Another sinful error, in this respect, is that of giving or requiring from servants more time and attention to the preparation of food, and to other family concerns, on the Lord's-day, than is necessary.

2. Improve this passage as a test of your state and character. Ask yourselves, What has had the chief place in your thoughts — the world and its cares, or Christ and His salvation?

3. Consider the folly, guilt, and danger of neglecting the one thing needful, and the good portion.

4. Let me earnestly urge you all to make Mary's choice.

(James Foote, M. A.)

I. Let us clear the way, by a brief statement as to WHAT THESE SISTERS WERE NOT. It is clearly wrong to take them as representatives severally, of the worldly and heavenly sides of life. It was not for diligence in housewife's tasks that our Lord took Martha to task, if He did take her to task; and it was not contemplative piety that He commended in Mary, if He really did commend her. Nothing is more striking, in the life we are called to follow, than the way in which we are taught to serve God. We are called to serve God, actively if possible, passively at any rate, but in any case to serve Him. Mere gazing, mere reading, mere listening, mere dreaming, have never prospered as forms of Christian life; and we can be certain that it was not for anything that could be so named that Mary was commended by the Lord. The Jaw for our spiritual life is, "Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Martha served; Mary sat at His feet; and the Lord, by what tie said, did not put any mark of disapproval on Martha's serving.

II. Let us try to gather up THE TRUE LESSONS OF THE INCIDENT.

1. Observe the word "also" in ver. 39. It refers to something that had gone before. She was Martha's sister. It can hardly refer to that. Must not this be the meaning — she had joined with Martha in receiving their Guest, had taken part with Martha in the household tasks; and also, in addition to that, when all she considered needful was done, she sat at the Master's feet.

2. Observe next, that what brought Martha with her complaint to Jesus, was not her sister's freedom from service and neglect to fulfil her household duties, but just this — she was "cumbered with much service." A temporary entanglement with many things; a confession that she was unable to undertake her tasks. What we have to deal with is not her whole life, but a special and exceptional moment of it — that moment when Patience was not allowed to have its perfect work in her, when Care sat on the hearth. Caught in this moment of weakness, and weighed down by the very burden which her love had taken up, she stumbled at what seemed, but was not, the indifference of her sister, and came to the Lord and said, "Dost Thou not care that I am left to do all the work alone?"

3. Now let us turn to the words and meaning of the Lord. They are not to be taken as words in a sermon, but as words spoken in the quiet atmosphere of the house, with holy emphasis attached to them. "Dear Martha! Art thou troubled so? My coming has proved indeed a burden to thee. Do not suffer My coming to be a burden; do not trouble about many things for the table; one thing is enough for Me." Then consider the words about Mary. Martha wanted our Lord to tell Mary to rise from sitting at His feet, and come and help in the preparation of the meal; she was grudging her the place she had taken. The Lord replies: "Oh Martha! only look. It is not the seat of honour; it is the lowliest place. It is at My feet. She has not taken thy place as head of the house, but simply the retired place, the place of a disciple, at My feet — the humblest place there was at the table. She has chosen that good place which shall not be taken from her."


1. We gain, first of all, an escape from the mere conventional reading of the story. We gain what painting does when taken from the monastic attitudes and golden halos which surround the heads of mediaeval martyrs, and get back to natural forms, to nature and to humanity.

2. And next, we gain an immense freshness in the reading and application of this story, instead of having to descend to lower levels of Christian truth. Mary and Martha are brought nearer and more akin to us, seem to be more certainly our own flesh and blood.

(Alex. Macleod, D. D.)

In this we have two things observable —

1. The nature of the place, which Christ at this time turned into — "He entered into a certain village."

2. The party that entertained Him, and took Him in upon His entering into the town — "A certain woman named Martha, received Him into her house." To speak a word of the first, THE NATURE OF THE PLACE — "He entered into a certain village." We see here that Christ did not only take care of cities and great towns. This was the temper and disposition of Christ, to condescend so far to such places as these are, for the scattering of His heavenly Word and doctrine amongst them.And thus there is a very good reason for other ministers likewise to do, upon occasion, in divers regards.

1. Because here's an opportunity of doing good, as well as elsewhere. There are souls to be saved in the villages, as well as in the great cities.

2. There's encouragement of a man's ministry in these, as well as in other places, and sometimes more. All religion is not compassed and comprehended within the walls of a city.

3. For a difference of gifts, and various improvements of those abilities which God pleases to dispense.The second is THE PARTY THAT ENTERTAINED HIM. "And a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house."

1. The protection and blessing which she was likely to receive from His person and presence with her. The presence of holy men casts a blessing upon the places where they are; which are in so much the greater safety and security for their sakes. As Jacob tells Laban, "God has blest thee since my coming to thee"; te-ragli, alms-foot; "since I set my foot within thy doors." Such a Guest was Christ to Martha, a blessing and protection to her.

2. The benefit she should have from His instruction, and doctrine, and conversation, and communion with Him. "This day is salvation come to this house," i.e., in the means (Luke 19:9).

3. The special love and affection which she bare unto Him by way of thankfulness, and requital to Him. It is said, "Jesus loved her" (John 11:5). And now she shows her love to Him again. She had taken Christ at first into her affections, and now she takes Him into her house.It follows in the text: "And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his words."

1. I say, Christ was here to good purpose, as indeed He was everywhere else. From whence we learn the like duty, and disposition, and practice, both ministers and others; where we see any coming forward in religion, to promote them, and bring them on further all we can. Thus did Christ here to these two sisters, Martha and Mary; He took occasion, from his presence with them, to establish them further in religion. Here there are divers rules which, by the way, are to be observed by us; as, namely these:

1. That we always carry about us a full heart. We should be full of heavenly meditations, that so we may the better be fitted for heavenly discourse.

2. We must also have respect to the company we converse withal. There's a casting of pearls before swine; which our Saviour has given us warning of.

3. To time and season: "Everything is beautiful in its season," and a word spoken then, "is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." The second is that which is expressed. The different entertainment of Him by these two sisters: Mary, she sat at His feet, and heard His word; but Martha, "she was cumbered about much serving." We'll speak to the carriage of them both, etc.

1. Of the carriage of Mary: "She sat at His feet, and heard His word." Wherein we have divers things observable of us.

1. Here was her wise improvement of the opportunity for the good of her soul. She was not sure to have Christ always, therefore she would make use of Him while she had Him.

2. "She sat at His feet." Here's another expression of her carriage; which has also its several intimations contained in it; as especially these two:

1. Her reverence and composedness of carriage and quietness of mind. A roving and unsettled hearer can never be a good hearer (Psalm 46:10). For this purpose we should come with preparation and premeditation aforehand; labouring to disburden our minds of those cumbrances which are apt to molest us.

2. Here was her humility: "She sat at His feet." We have many hearers sometimes which do not sit at the feet, but rather at the head of their teachers; which will be teaching those which should teach them (Colossians 2:18).

3. She heard His word. She attended to the things which were spoken; as is said of Lydia.

2. Delight. She had a sweet savour and relish of them, and complacency in them.

3. Reposition. She retained them, and laid them up in her heart. And thus much for the carriage of Mary.The second is, Martha's carriage herself, which was very different from it.

1. I say, Here is her own behaviour for for her own particular: "She was cumbered about much serving:" that is, in the friendly entertainment of Christ's person. But, accordingly as it is here qualified in her; so it had somewhat which was vicious in it.

1. Luxury and excess. She was too large in her entertainments. It may be she provided more than was fitting for such a time.

2. Curiosity for the manner. "She was cumbered" about it. She was too punctual, and curious, and exact in her preparations, that she thought nothing good enough.

3. There was a turbulency and unquietness of spirit. Sometimes it proceeds from unskilfulness; as those things which people have no skill in, they are troublesome to them to go about them. Sometimes it proceeds from unaccustomedness; as those things which they are not used to, they are disquieting when they undertake them. But more especially, it does arise from a weakness and impotency of mind. And so much for her own behaviour. The second thing here considerable, is the censure of her sister's carriage; yea, upon the point of Christ Himself: wherein also there were many weaknesses and infirmities involved at once.As —

1. There was a spice of pride and vain-gloriousness in her obsequiousness: "Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" As who should say, Dost Thou not take notice of how much pains I take to entertain Thee? While she finds fault with her sister, she does implicitly commend herself; which is oftentimes the end of such speeches. She saw she outstripped her sister in this service, and now she would needs be commended for it. The remedies of this distemper are these:

(1)A reflection upon our weaknesses and failings other ways.

(2)A consideration that all we do, is a due debt.

(3)That others may be better in other respects, &c. That's the first.

2. Here was a spice of envy and censoriousness of her sister's forwardness in religion: "Lord, dost Thou not take care that my sister," &c. Here was a quarrelling and contending with her sister; as one weakness brings in another. From pride comes contention (Proverbs 13:10). And this is joined with envy, and censure, and emulation. She would needs be thought the best of the two, and she pleased herself in her own good performances; and hence falls upon her sister. And where there's one neglects the world for the looking after their souls, there are hundreds which lose their souls for attending too much upon the world. And that's a second infirmity here observable.

3. Here was a spice also of impiety, in interrupting the good discourse of Christ. Those which have no mind to listen themselves, when they come at any time to the hearing of the Word; they are the forwardest to distract others: and those which care not themselves to discourse, will not suffer others to do it neither.

4. Here was a great deal of incivility in her carriage to her Guest Himself; a great deal of fondness, and trespassing upon the rules of hospitality; and that in sundry particulars, that we may see the unseasonableness of this passion in this pious woman.

1. She does here commend her own diligence and care of entertainment — "I am left alone to serve." What a sad thing is this! As she desired to be commended by Christ, which we spake of before; so, for want of it, she commends herself for her own attendance: this was absolutely contrary to the rules of hospitality and entertainment.

2. Which was as bad on the other side; she finds fault with her Guest, and picks a quarrel with Him, which now was a stranger to her. This was another trespass upon entertainment.

3. She puts Christ, which was a stranger, upon finding fault with His own entertainment, which was another ridiculous business. For though Christ, as He was in His proper person, might justly find fault with anything; yet, take him now under the notion of a Guest, here it was not so proper for Him.

4. There was this incivility and disrespect to Christ her Guest, and so a trespass upon hospitality; that she wrangles with her sister in His presence, which was very unseemly.

(J. Horton.)

1. Here is the reprehension itself; He checks and reproves Martha: and thus it may be amplified to us according to a various and different apprehension and notion, in which we may here look upon her: and that especially threefold.

(1)As she was a good and godly woman.

(2)As she was a kind and friendly woman.

(3)As a woman beloved.

1. She was good, and yet Christ reproves her, and checks her, where she was now amiss. Whence we note; that even those which are good, are to be reproved when they do that which is evil. And good reason for it: For —(1) The goodness of the person does not change the nature of the action. Sin is no better than sin, whosoever they be that commit it.

2. The goodness of the person sometimes makes the action worse.

3. Those which are good may be better; and this is a means so to make them; therefore the rather to be reproved in this regard. Indeed, in the reproof of good persons, there are some cautions which are fit to be observed.(1) That we be sure to reprove them for that which is evil, and no other (1 Samuel 1:14).(2) We must do it with another kind of spirit, than those which are commonly profane persons; looking upon them as brethren and sisters in Christ.(3) So order the business as near as we can, that our reproof of good persons may not reflect upon goodness itself.

2. We may look upon her as a friendly woman. She was one that entertained Christ; took Him into her house. Whence we note, that the receiving of courtesies from any persons, does not discharge us from our duty towards them; where, by our place and occasions, we are called to the reproving of them.This, then, it serves, for the use of it, to meet briefly with two sorts of persons.

1. With people, who think by their courtesies sometimes to stop the ministers mouths where they show any testimony of respect and kindness.

2. It meets also with some ministers: their pusillanimity and lowness of spirit in this regard, which are silent, and meal-mouthed, where at any time they receive courtesies, and will not reprove where things are amiss. The second is the matter of reproof, or the thing which He reproves her for: "Thou art careful, and troubled about many things."In which passage of Christ's to her, there are divers particulars couched, as reprovable in this good woman.

1. Here was a mistake in her, and misapprehension of Christ Himself. She did not judge aright of Him in this particular. That we are all apt, by nature, to think we please Christ most, when we abound in outward services and performances to Him. Martha, because she stirred herself in the entertainment of Christ in her house, therefore she thinks she has now quitted herself, though she neglect, and let pass His doctrine.

2. Another thing reprovable here in Martha, was, as a misapprehension of Christ, so a misplacing of her own affections. She looked after that which was but trivial, and nothing to speak of, the providing of her feast, etc., and neglected the main chance of all, which was the word of Christ. "Thou art careful, and troubled about many things"; where that which expresses "many things" is in the Greek τὰ πολλὰ; that is, ordinary, and common, and vulgar things, τὰ τυχόνζα. And here we learn thus much; that it is a great fault in Christians, and those who are professors of religion, to have their minds and thoughts taken up about slight and trivial matters (Colossians 3:2).This minding of such things is very unfitting in these respects.

1. In regard of the unsuitableness of these things to their minds; they are things below a Christian spirit. Take an heart which is sanctified by grace, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, has the Spirit of God dwelling in it; and how far are these outward things inferior to it? as much, and a great deal more, than the sports and pastimes of children are to the thoughts of grown and grave men.

2. Because they have better, and other things to take their minds up.

3. Because they little conduce to that end to which themselves are appointed. Our main end is a better life, and to be fitted and prepared for that. The third and last thing which Christ seems here to tax in Martha, is her solicitude and distraction of spirit and excess in this business.

1. Here was her excess and superfluity, in the word "many things," as a note of variety. Christ did not find fault with her hospitality, but she was too curious, and superfluous in it. We are very ready and subject to over-shoot ourselves in things lawful and necessary, and to go beyond our bounds in them. And this now leads us to the second thing, which is the last observable in this verse; and that is, Martha's solicitude and distraction.First, she was cumbered. Secondly, she was careful. Thirdly, she was troubled.

1. Distraction, it does noway further or promote "Which of you, by taking" care, can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:27).

2. Distraction, it does very much hinder, and put back; both formally, and demeritoriously; forasmuch as it weakens the mind, and makes it unfit for service.

3. Distraction, it does contract a great deal of guilt with it. It is a very vicious and inordinate affection, as that which casts a disparagement upon His promises and care over His people. For this purpose, it may be very pertinent to consider both the causes and remedies of this distemper; and the one will very fitly and pertinently follow upon the other.The causes of it are partly these:

1. Sometimes a dependence too much upon outward means. He which trusts to outward means, will be distracted; because these, they oftentimes fail, and give a man the slip.

2. A limiting of God's providence to such a particular way. This is another thing which causes distraction.

3. An over-prizing and over-valuing such a project and design. Our distractions are oftentimes according to our estimations; where we make too much of anything, it will be sure to trouble us, when it falls contrary to us. Lastly. A special cause of distraction is a special sickness which is upon the soul in this regard: weak things are apt to be unquiet; and frowardness, it causes trouble. Now, the remedies against distraction are likewise these:

1. A commending of ourselves and our ways to God by prayer (Philippians 4:6).

2. A consideration of our call to such and such businesses and ways which we fall into.

3. A meditation on the promises which God has made in such and such conditions.

(J. Horton.)

This is the one thing which is necessary. And here there are two things further to be explained. First, how this is said to be "one thing." And, secondly, how this, alone, is said to be necessary, as if none were so but this.

1. How it is said to be but one. For if we speak of spiritual matters, we know that there are divers and sundry things of this nature, and they have their varieties in them. There is the Spirit of God, and there is the Kingdom of God. These, they are not one, blot many, in the kinds and in the operations of them. To this we answer: That these all, they come to one, and tend to one purpose in conclusion.

1. This is that which is most noble and excellent in its own nature, that is mainly and principally to be regarded, and looked after by us; which, of all other things, is most noble and excellent, considered in itself. It is that which does indeed excel all the comforts and contentments of this world; they are nothing in comparison with it. There is an emptiness and a defectiveness in them, and such as will be unable to satisfy at another day: whereas this, it makes a man fully and completely happy. Now, this is this "one thing" in the text. It can be least spared of all other things besides.

2. It is of the greatest influence, and extent, and usefulness to us; it is that which we have occasion for in the whole course and compass of our lives, and we cannot properly do anything without it. It manages all callings, and all providences, and all affairs whatsoever they be. And a man cannot carry himself in them so decently, and as becomes him, that wants it. That man that neglects his soul, there is nothing else which can be well minded by him.

3. It is of the greatest continuance and duration.

4. This is also the main purpose for which every man was sent into the world; therefore it is mainly to be regarded and looked after by him. For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should live according to the truth.The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us.

1. To teach us where especially to spend our chiefest thoughts and endeavours. And that is, upon this one thing, which is so needful and necessary for us, as we have heard it is. We see hero where to begin, and fasten our studies:

1. To take care of necessaries, before we take care of superfluities. We count him to be a madman, in reference to the world, who looks after flowers, and pictures, and music, and such things as these; and, in the meantime, suffers himself to starve, and want bread. Well, there is a time coming when things will appear in another kind of view than now they do; when this "one thing needful" will appear to be needful indeed. Now, therefore, this is that which in the first place we should work ourselves into; an apprehension of the necessity of religion. The way hereunto is first of all to get a spiritual favour and relish and appetite in us; what makes men to think meat to be needful, but because their stomachs call for it from them, and their mouths crave it at their hands? And so, what is that which makes men to think grace to be necessary? It is because they have gracious dispositions in them, which accordingly we must labour for. This will make us, with the prophet David, to think the word of God to be to us as our necessary and appointed food.

2. Labour to be convinced of the vanity and insufficiency of the creature. This will make us to think one thing necessary; that is religion, and nothing else. For, it may be, we think it necessary; but other things as necessary as that; and this divides our cares about it.

3. Get our hearts freed from those lusts and corruptions which are in them, and are apt to prevail over them; that's another way to make us to mind this one thing necessary. A covetous heart wilt never prize this "one thing," nor care for attaining unto it. Secondly. Seeing "one thing is need-rid," we should therefore not only mind this "one thing" itself, but also mind everything else in reference to that one.We should make all our projects, and actions, and undertakings, subordinate and subservient hereunto; whatever we do, we should examine what connection it hath with this; how it furthers our salvation? how it advances the glory of God?

1. In matters of doctrine, and opinion, look at the" one thing needful" here. There are many frivolous and unnecessary disputes which the world sometimes is troubled withal; which take up men's heads, and minds, and divert them from better things. They never consider the influence or extent of those things which they hold, as to the making of a man better or worse; but indifferently rush upon them without any heed or regard at all.

2. In the duties and exercises of religion, look still at the one thing which is needful; and that according to the particular nature and quality of them. There are many religious performances, which have that which is merely accessory to them. In prayer, to pray in the Holy Ghost; in hearing, to receive the word with meekness; in fasting, to afflict the soul; in communicating, to feed upon Christ; and so of the rest.

3. In our employments and the works of our ordinary callings let us have an eye also still to this; consider what that is which is principally required of us. Lastly. In all the several passages and contrivances and occasions in the whole course of our lives, let us still have a regard to that which is of greatest concernment. Again, further, take it in men's dwellings, and the contrivances of their habitations; they should still look at that which is most needful, not only as to corporal or secular accommodations, but as to spiritual. Men commonly look at the goodness of the air, at the convenience of the soil, at the pleasantness of the situation; what it is for trade, what it is for health, what it is for pleasure; and it may not be amiss in them to do so. But is there nothing else to be regarded by them, but only these? or, are these the chief, and the principal? What are the means for Heaven? and salvation? and spiritual improvements? So again likewise for marriage, and the altering of men's conditions in the world, what is the one thing needful? The third is this: that feeling but one thing is needful, we should therefore take heed of all needless and frivolous distractions in ourselves.

4. We learn from hence how to judge both of others, and likewise of ourselves. If there be but "one thing" which is needful, let us see what we are, according to the abiding, and the abounding of this "one thing" in us. We commonly reckon of ourselves from other qualifications and endowments. No, but let us do it rather by this. No, but we count him a rich man, that has a great deal of gold, and silver, and jewels, and plate, and the like. And so it is here in this particular, as to the whole compass of happiness; he is not so happy a man that does abound with outward accommodations as he that doth abound with the excellencies of grace, and the adorning of the inward man. All perfections besides, without these, am very imperfect; and such as being truly considered, are of no account at all. Lastly. Seeing "one thing is needful," we have here also a very good account of God's dealings and proceedings with His people here in the world, as a special ground and argument of satisfaction, and contentation unto them. Seeing He provides this one thing for them, they have no cause to murmur against Him, as to some outward and worldly deprecations. Again, further, this may also satisfy us in all the hard and severe courses which God seems sometimes to take with His children, when He lays His corrections upon them here in this life, as a means to work out their corruptions, and to prepare them for an heavenly condition: all this is needful and necessary, and such as can. not be well omitted. Physic, it is as needful as health, which is procured by it. That the way to be freed from superfluous cares, is to divert, and so turn to necessary. The looking after salvation will take men off from distraction about the world and the things that belong thereunto. This we gather from the course which was taken by our Saviour with Martha in her present condition, who suggests this unto her as that which was most seasonable for her. This it does upon a twofold account.

1. As it is another thing; and so it does it by way of interruption.

2. As it is a greater thing; and so it does it by way of absorption.

1. I say, as it is another thing; and so it does it by way of interruption. Diversions, they break the force of anything, and cheek it in its full pursuit. As inordinate bleeding in one part is cured by opening of a vein in another, and the violence of it is stopped by revulsion; even so it is here.

2. As it is a greater thing, and so it does it by way of absorption, and swallowing up; the greater devours the less. As when a man is in care about his life, he forgets some small and petty matter that troubled him; even so it is here. When men are made sensible of the concernments of their souls and their future salvation, other matters do not so closely stick by them as otherwise they would. This, it serves to give us account of so much inordinacy as there is in the world. Therefore we are commonly troubled about many things because this one thing is so neglected by us.We should still have this sentence in our remembrance — that "one thing is needful" and we should accordingly be affected with it.

1. By way of specification: Seeing there is "one thing needful," therefore be sure to mind that; and, at the least, not to neglect it.

2. By way of order: Seeing it is the " one thing needful "therefore take care of that first; mind religion afore anything else.

3. By way of measure and degree: Seeing it is the " one thing needful,' therefore give it the greatest care and endeavour. And to make it full and complete, let us take it also in its fall latitude and extent. Religion, it is the "one thing needful," and it is needful for all persons, and all ages, and all conditions. It is needful for people in their youth to look after their souls then, and to begin with God. And it is needful for people in their old age, that so they may end their days in peace, and exchange this life for a better.

(J. Horton.)

1. Here is His judgment itself, which is in a way of praise and commendation; "Mary hath chosen that good part." Christ commends Mary for her choice. Where there are divers things observable of us. We will take them as they offer themselves to us to be handled by us.

1. We learn from hence thus much: That it is the commendation of a Christian to make choice of such ways as are best and most approvable to Christ. If there be any way better than other in the course and tenour of his life, to be sure to pitch and fasten upon that. This is also commendable in every one else besides, and that upon these following grounds.

1. It is an argument of a good and sound judgment; it is an argument of persons well grounded and principled in religion, and that know what belongs unto it.

2. It is an argument also of a gracious and savoury spirit. Men choose commonly according to their affections, and there is much of their spirit in those things which they fasten upon. We may see what is within them, and what principles they are acted by, according to that which they make choice of. A spiritual heart is most affected with spiritual objects, and places its greatest delight and contentment in such things as these.

3. It is an argument of some courage and self-denial and resolution of mind. For the better part, it is not commonly without opposition and resistance in the world. Lastly. It is also an argument of an elect and chosen vessel. It is a sign that God has chosen us, when we choose Him, and such ways as these, which are good and pleasing to Him. We see in other matters for the world, how careful men are (what they are able) to make the best choice that may be, and there is nothing good enough for them, so exact and curious are they. And how much rather should they then choose the best in spiritual matters. The way hereunto is first of all to beg direction of God Himself for the guiding of us. Alas! we are but fools of ourselves without His Spirit to teach us, and therefore we must have recourse to Him.

2. We must also seriously weigh and compare one thing with another. Good election, it proceeds from good deliberation.

3. Take in the advice and experience of wellgrounded and experienced Christians to help us. Lastly. To labour to be acquainted with the power of religion ourselves. Religion, it is a matter of election; it is not a business of chance, but a business of choice. We are not to be carried only by others principles, but by principles of our own, not only to take the better part, but to choose the better part; that is, to take it out of a liking of it, and out of an affection to it; at least, to do so at last, and before we have done. And, further, they have also more delight and contentment in it. That which is forced, it is commonly burdensome, and men undertake it with a great deal of reluctancy, and are not themselves in it. But that which comes from them upon their own choosing, it is so much a great deal more pleasing and acceptable to them. We do not hereby advance the power of nature, as if we could do it of ourselves, without the grace of God assisting us; for that we cannot do. In the last place, we may here take notice of the object itself here propounded — "that good part." For the better opening of this point unto you I shall briefly do two things.

1. Show you what, in religion, may be lost and taken away from us. And —

2. What may net. For somewhat is considerable in both.

1. For what may be lost. And we may take it in these particulars.(1) The outward means of salvation, that may be sometimes lost, and taken away.(2) Liberty of outward profession, and expression of the several graces of the Spirit, that may be restrained also.(3) The sense and feeling of grace in us, that may also be taken away, and removed from us — we may lose that. Now, further —

2. (which is more proper to the text) We may here consider what it is which cannot. Now, sure it holds good of religion that it cannot be taken away, as is here expressed in this particular case of Mary.(1) In regard of its root and principle — This " shall not be taken away." Thus Job intimates of himself, when he was deprived almost of everything else; yet, that the "root of the matter was found in him" (Job 19:28). And (Isaiah 6:10) a godly man is compared to an oak, "whole substance is in him, when he casts his leaves." The second is in regard of its operations and effects which it works in the heart. The better part shall not be taken away thus; it still leaves somewhat behind it, which is sure to stick fast.(3) In regard of its reward and recompense both here in this life, and in another world; it shall not be taken away so neither.

(J. Horton.)

Some are full of fever and excitement; some live in the shade.

1. The essence of the Christian religion is, that it is a religion of receiving. Martha was studious of giving; Mary, of receiving. Both had reference to Christ; nevertheless, Martha was reproved, while Mary was praised. Now, brethren, be persuaded of this — those please God most who take in most, and dwell in the calm contemplation of His glory till we reflect something of His likeness.

2. But the difference between Martha and Mary did not, after all, lie so much in what they did, as in the spirit in which they did it. Martha worked anxiously. Mary's mind rested. Had Martha gone about all her business with a heart quiet and at ease, I do not suppose that she would ever have been reproved. Now what is the great end for which Jesus lived and died — the end of ends, next to the glory of God? That you may have peace — that the soul of the sinner may be quiet, and rested, and happy. Christ had more pleasure in Mary's peace than He had in Martha's work.

3. But once more. Mary had learnt to do what Martha could not do-to concentrate her mind. She could gather all to one single point, and that point was Christ. It is impossible to suppose that Martha had not several motives as she bustled about that day in the house. Was not she thinking about who was looking at her? Had not she some desire for admiration? Were not there some grovelling feelings, and some unnecessary cares? "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. THE MARTHA SPIRIT IS VERY PREVALENT IN THE CHURCH at this period — prevalent in some quarters to a mischievous degree, and among us all to a perilous extent.

1. There is a considerable tendency among Christian people, in serving Christ, to aim at making a fair show in the flesh. Jesus would be better pleased with a grain of love than a heap of ostentatious service.

2. The Martha spirit shows itself in the censuring of those persons who are careful about Christ's word, who stand up for the doctrines of the gospel, who desire to maintain the ordinances as they were delivered unto them and who are scrupulous and thoughtful, and careful concerning the truth as it is in Jesus. Mary, treasuring Up every word of Christ, Mary, counting each syllable a pearl, is reckoned to be unpractical, if not altogether idle. Contemplation, worship, and growth in grace are not unimportant. I trust we shall not give way to the spirit which despises our Lord's teaching, for if we do, in prizing the fruit and despising the root we shall lose the fruit and the root too. In forgetting the great well-spring of holy activity, namely, personal piety, we shall miss the streams also.

3. The Martha spirit crops up in our reckoning so many things necessary. To bring us back to first principles, "one thing is needful," and if by sitting at Jesus' feet we can find that one thing, it will stand us in better stead than all the thousand things which custom now demands. To catch the Spirit of Christ, to be filled with Himself, this will equip us for godly labour as nothing else ever can.

4. The censurable quality in the Martha spirit appears in the satisfaction which many feel with mere activity. To have done so much preaching, or so much Sunday-school teaching, to have distributed so many tracts, to have made so many calls by our missionaries, all this seems to be looked at as end rather than means. If there be so much effort put forth, so much work done, is it not enough? Our reply is, It is not enough, it is nothing without the Divine blessing.

5. Once more, Martha's spirit is predominant in the Church of God to a considerable extent now, in the evident respect which is paid to the manifest, and the small regard which is given to the secret.


1. It brings the least welcome offering to Christ.

2. It brings self too much to remembrance.

III. THE MARY SPIRIT. I have to show you that it is capable of producing the noblest form of consecration to Christ. Its noblest results will not come just yet. Martha's fruits ripen very quickly, Mary's take time. While she was sitting at Christ's feet, she was forming and filling the springs of action. You are not losing time while you are feeding the soul. While by contemplation you are getting purpose strengthened and motive purified, you are rightly using time. When the man becomes intense, when he gets within him principles vital, fervent, energetic, then when the season for work comes he will work with a power and a result which empty people can never attain, however busy they may be. If the stream flows at once, as soon as ever there is a shower, it must be little better than a trickling rivulet; but if the current stream is dammed up, so that for awhile nothing pours down the river bed, you will in due time, when the waters have gathered strength, witness a torrent before which nothing can stand. Mary was filling up the fountain head, she was listening and learning, feeding, edifying, loving, and growing strong. The engine of her soul was getting its steam ready, and when all was right her action was prompt and forcible.

1. The manner of her action was being refined. Her estimate of Christ was truer than Martha's. Those who think not, who meditate not, who commune not with Christ, will do commonplace things very well, but they will never rise to the majesty of a spiritual conception, or carry out a heart-suggested work for Christ.

2. That sitting of Mary was also creating originality of act. Martha is in a hurry to be doing something — she does what any other admirer of Jesus would do, she prepares meat and a festival; but Mary does what but one or two besides herself would think of — she anoints Him, and is honoured in the deed. She struck out a spark of light from herself as her own thought, and she cherished that spark till it became a flaming act.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The name of Martha suggests to the minds of most of us, I fancy, the thought of an anxious, troubled, and perhaps a somewhat fussy woman, with a short temper and a hasty tongue. That I think is the picture that many of us have drawn of Martha in our own minds. But you must remember that there is something to be said on the other side, something to be said on Martha's behalf; and while we do not shut our eyes to Martha's faults, we may learn something from that which is recorded to her credit. Martha, herself, the managing spirit of the household, is the person who invites the Lord Jesus Christ to come and take His abode for a season in her house. And here let me say that it is a happy thing when a strong mind and a vigorous will are turned in the right direction, and employed for the right purpose. It is something to be thankful for if we have such qualities as a strong mind and a vigorous will to present to the Lord for His service; and although these are not unfrequently coupled with an ungentleness and hastiness which are net altogether lovely, nay, may sometimes be repulsive and painful, yet let us acknowledge the fact that God can utilize that element in our temperament which Satan seeks to abuse, and that where a strong will and a vigorous determination may be employed by the devil with the worst possible results, such natural characteristics, dedicated to the service and glory of God, may prove of priceless value. Now we must remember that Martha had to face a good deal in inviting Jesus Christ into her household. The test was a severe one to her, because it was to try her in her weakest point. There were thirteen hungry men to be provided for, and then no doubt some of the neighbours would also be expecting an invitation to meet this Jesus, who had come among them, and about whom there was so much talk. Perhaps, too, there may have been other unpleasant consequences that she may have had to think about. Jesus Christ not unfrequently may have seemed a troublesome guest, in other ways besides those that I have referred to. His presence may sometimes have exposed people to an amount of hostile criticism and censure which they would fain have avoided. One thing is clear, she was a brave woman, whatever faults she may have had. It required a good deal of moral courage to invite this much-maligned and much-abased Man into her house, and to treat Him as a loved and honoured guest. But Martha's courage was equal to the occasion. And, my dear friends, we too shall find it no light matter to receive Jesus into our hearts and into our homes. And it is as well that we should clearly understand what the consequences may be if we take so important a step. The question will have to be asked over and over again, "Is this and that in accordance with the mind of Him whom we have received and welcomed as our guest?" for we must bear in mind that wherever Christ goes He declines to occupy a subordinate position. It is possible for some of you to do what Martha did. You may be the means of introducing Jesus Christ into your household; and although His presence may cause a disturbance, just think what an honour it is to be the means of introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords into the household which belongs to Him, but which has not previously recognized His claims. Think of the beneficent results that may flow from your action — how the purifying and elevating influences of the Divine Presence may reach one person after another, until at last you can look around with holy joy, and exclaim, " As for me and my house we now serve the Lord." Not long since, at the close of a mission that I had conducted in the North of England, a gentleman, a man of property, returned to his country house, from the large l own where I was working, a changed man. On his arrival he summoned into his dining-room all his household, servants and all; and standing up before them all, he addressed them to this effect: "My dear friends, I have to confess with shame and sorrow that this has not been hitherto a Christian household. it has not been regulated upon Christian principles. I, as your master, have not been setting you a Christian example; but, on the contrary, all my influence has been thrown into the wrong scale. I cannot express the amount of sorrow I feel as I look back over the past. But I have called you all together to tell you that, through God's mercy, a great change has taken place in me, and now my supreme desire is that this household should be a Christian household, and that all that is done in it should be done just as the Lord would have it done." Turning to the butler, he said, "We have never hitherto had family prayers; but now understand that at such an hour in the morning, and such an hour in the evening, you ring the bell, and we will all gather together and acknowledge God in our family." And he added, "Be sure you make no difference; whoever may be in the house, whether they be worldly or whether they be religious people, make no distinction. From this time forth Jesus Christ must be Master in this household; we have ignored and dishonoured Him too long." It must have needed some courage, no doubt, to make such a declaration as that. But oh! do you not think he had his reward in the joy and satisfaction he must have felt as he knelt for the first time, surrounded by his family," at the feet of a reconciled God, and thus publicly received Jesus into his house? And remember you may be the means of introducing Christ into your household, even if you be not at its head. The humblest member of the family, or even one of the servants, may be the means of bringing Christ in, and by and by the influence and effect of His presence may be recognized and felt by all. Dear friends, do you think Martha ever regretted receiving Jesus Christ into her house? Martha received Jesus, but little did she know, when she did so, how soon she was to stand in terrible need of His sympathy and comfort and help! Ah, dear friends, sweet are such uses of such adversity as this I blessed are the sorrows that bring out such new and fresh revelations of our wealth in Christi It is only this that can make our sorrows fruitful of good. But it is time that we should look at the other side. So far we have been saying all we could in Martha's favour, but we must not shut our eyes upon her faults; for there is much to be learned from considering the faults and failings even of those whose hearts are in the right place, if we approach the consideration of these in the spirit of charity and humility. It is evident that Martha got some harm as well as some good out of Jesus' visit; for she seems here to be sadly flustered and flurried, and even somewhat peevish and irritable. She seems indeed to have been out of temper with the Master as well as with her sister, and to have implied some little reproach on Him as well as on Mary. But why all this disturbance and irritation? Surely it all came of this, that she was thinking more of serving Christ than of pleasing Him. If she had paused to reflect, she must have seen that a sharp, half-reproachful word, and the obvious loss of composure and temper, would cause the Master a good deal more pain than the best-served meal in the world could give Him pleasure. She was busy about Christ, but she failed to enter into sympathy with Christ. Here we have a very important lesson taught us, and one that we need to have impressed upon our minds as Christians and as Christian workers. Our object in life should not he so much to get through a great deal of work, as to give perfect satisfaction to Him for whom we are doing the work. If Martha had looked at things from His point of view she would have felt differently about Mary, differently about those household cares that were troubling her. But Martha in her attempts to serve Christ, though scarcely conscious of it, was really serving herself. Her great desire was, that everything should pass off well. Everything was to be clean and tidy, and well served and well managed, so that nobody should make any unfavourable criticism upon the whole entertainment. We are bound to offer Christ our very best, and nothing done for Him should be done in a slovenly, slip-shod, negligent way, as if anything were good enough for God. She was right in her principle, and yet she failed in carrying it out, and in that failure denied her Guest the very thing that pleased Him best. Martha is quite indignant, and doesn't care to conceal it. And you know people of her class, while they are very useful in a Church, and do a great deal of work, are very frequently indeed, like Martha, somewhat short-tempered. They have a great deal of energy, and a great deal of enthusiasm; but when things do not go exactly as they wish, the hasty word soon slips out, and the unpleasant thought is harboured, and that soon takes all the joy and all the blessing out of Christian work. How often is the work of the Church marred by this hasty spirit, and the Master is grieved in our very attempts to honour Him! And the same spirit, still, I fear, not unfrequently mars a useful life, and desecrates our sanctities. Yes, there is something better than service; there is something grander than doing. It is well to serve; but better still to offer acceptable service. It is well to do; but it is better still to do things in the right way. Martha had her own idea of what the right way was, and it was a worldly idea. What Martha needed was sympathy with Jesus Christ's spirit, to come within the charmed circle of His inner life — to understand His object and aims, to appreciate His longing desire, not to feed Himself with outward food, but to feed a famishing world with the revelation of God in His human form; to reciprocate His spiritual desires for those He sought to lift to a high and heavenly level of experience. This was where Martha went wrong, and this where Mary went right. As it was, Mary chose the good part which could not be taken from her, and Martha missed it, and by her very conduct showed that the Master was right in describing that good part as the one thing needful. Christian workers, let us learn our lesson. It is not enough to receive Jesus into our homes and into our lives — this we must do before anything else — but we need to sit at His feet, to gaze on His spiritual beauty, to hear His words, to yield ourselves wholly to His spiritual influence. Thus, and only thus, shall we find ourselves possessed of the one thing needful; and while hands or feet or brain are busy — or while all are busy together — there shall be a great calm within; there will be speed without feverish haste, and activity without bustle, and our work shall become sabbatic, and our lives an unbroken sanctity. Whatever happens let us not be too busy to sit at Jesus' feet.

(W. H. Aitken, M. A.)

These two sisters have been regarded, and rightly regarded, it seems to me, as illustrating to us, in their character, two contrasted elements of spiritual experience. Martha represents the active life, and Mary represents the contemplative life. For we know, and do let us bear in mind, that Christian work in itself is intensely interesting; indeed, there is nothing morn likely to become engrossing. We all know how absorbed men may become in their own special pursuits. For instance, we have read about Sir Isaac Newton, and how absorbed he used to be in his mathematical and astronomical researches until he was scarcely able to give a thought to the common duties and circumstances of life, but used frequently to make the most ridiculous blunders about commonplace things, because he took so profound an interest in, and was so fully occupied with, his own great discoveries. And so it is with other branches of knowledge. When men devote their attention to a particular branch of knowledge or science, it becomes a sort of passion, and they no longer find it necessary to stimulate themselves to exertion in that particular; rather they have to check or curb themselves, in order to prevent their minds from becoming too deeply absorbed in their favourite studies. And it sometimes happens that when the mind is given over to some special pursuit, interest in their work becomes so keen that men seem to lose all power of checking themselves, and their brains go on working, as it were, automatically, when they don't intend them to be working at all. I well remember some years ago hearing a touching story of a late Cambridge professor, who was one of the greatest Greek scholars of our time. For some few months before he died he was advised by his friends to shut up his books, give up his studies, and go as much as possible into social life, in order that he might be drawn away from those subjects in which his mind had become so absorbed that his constitution was impaired; indeed, he was threatened with softening of the brain. On one occasion he was in a drawing-room, surrounded by cheerful company, when a half-sad smile passed over his countenance as he observed to a friend, "What is the use of you shutting up my books and not allowing me to work? While I have been here I have traced the derivations of three distinct Greek words, and detected their connection with certain Sanscrit roots." Such was the force of his ruling passion. Now if we can become so absorbed in intellectual researches, is it a wonder that we should become even more absorbed in those higher pursuits in which it is the privilege of Christian people to engage? To be doing God's work; to be endeavouring to make people happy; to be the means of regenerating human hearts and lives, and of reforming the homes of the vicious and degraded; to be restoring those that are fallen, and rescuing those that are tempted — is not this necessarily a most engrossing work, and one that should employ all our energies? It is well, my friends, indeed it is necessary, that we should be interested; for no man ever yet did anything well until he threw his whole heart into it and felt an interest in it. Yet in this very interest lies the danger; for may not the work become everything to us, and He for whom we work be allowed to fall into the background, and eventually be almost forgotten? Nor is it only our work that suffers. We suffer ourselves; for our very work has practically clipped in between us and the Lord for whom we are working, and thus becomes to us, instead of a means of grace, drawing us nearer to God, on the contrary, rather a barrier between ourselves and God. How shall we guard against this error? Yon medieval monastic would reply, " Give up your work, tear yourself away from the activity of life, seclude yourself in the desert; and then you will be able to enjoy the fellowship of Christ and to enter upon the life of vision, the mystical blessedness of apprehension of the Divine." That is one answer; but it is not such as is given here, and we know what it has brought about in bygone ages. Let us look for an answer to all such misapprehensions to the scene that lies before us. On the one side, there is busy Martha; on the other, quiet, contemplative Mary. We are not told to be imitators of either Martha or Mary, but we are told to be imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ. Was there ever such a busy life as Christ's? Was there ever such a contemplative life as Christ's? He moved forward in the quietness of assured power. He was a true Quietist; for His life was very still, and yet its very stillness told. We may learn a good deal in this respect from observing outward objects. The mightiest things are not always the noisiest things. You go down to one of your own quays, and there you will see the little donkey-engine, on the deck of one of your ships, that is being employed in loading or unloading its freight. What a fuss it makes! Your ear is at once painfully arrested by its clatter and noise; but when you come to examine it, you find it is only a small and insignificant thing, in spite of the noise it makes. It is very useful, no doubt, and does its own work; but it does it very fussily, and that work is not a very great one. You descend into the vessel, and there you see the colossal engine which is to take the ship, donkey-engine and all, across the ocean; and it does all that work without making half as much noise as the little insignificant piece of mechanism that you have been listening to. Or take a picture from Nature. Look at yonder little bubbling rill flowing down the mountain side, dashing in and out between the rocks, and making a noise which can be heard a considerable distance away. You follow the stream until eventually it is absorbed in a great river, which flows smoothly, calmly, and quietly along in all the majesty of its strength. Perhaps it is strong enough to bear up the navy of a great nation, and yet it does not make the noise that the little stream did. Do let us endeavour, dear friends, in this somewhat noisy age, to distinguish between noise and power. We sometimes think that noise is power, and that if we can create a certain amount of bustle we are doing a large amount of work. I think our work is done well just in proportion to the absence of bustle from it. Now to correct this noisy fussiness we need to learn to imitate Mary and to sit at Jesus' feet, and in silence and stillness of soul to hear His words. No amount of service will make up for the loss of this inward and secret fellowship of the soul with Christ — this hidden life of love, in which Christ and the consecrated heart are bound together in a certain holy intimacy and familiarity. This it is that sanctifies even the most commonplace toil, and the loss of this robs even the holiest things of their sanctity. Notice then, first, Mary sat at Jesus' feet as a learner; and if we desire to learn, here it is that we must receive our lessons. Several thoughts suggest themselves to our minds as we see her sitting there. Let us dwell upon them for a few moments. First, sitting at His feet, she is taking the place of the lowly; and only those who wish to be such can learn of Jesus. The proud and sell-confident, whether they be intellectually proud, or morally proud, or spiritually proud, will ever have to go empty away; but "such as are gentle, them shall He learn His way." Next, observe, it is the place of true honour and dignity; for it is better to be a junior scholar in the school of Christ than to be a distinguished philosopher untaught by Him. Next, let me point out to you that while she was sitting here she was in a position, not only to learn by Him, but to learn of Him. It was not merely that she heard the truth from Him; it was rather that she found the truth in Him. He was Himself to her the Truth. And we, too, dear brethren, need to discern the difference between learning about Christ or learning by Christ and learning Christ. We may be good theologians and yet bad Christians. We cannot sit with Mary now before a visible Christ, but we can contemplate His moral features even as she gazed upon His outward countenance, and we can hear His spiritual teaching even as she heard His outward voice. And there is a sense in which we may be said to know more of Christ than at this time Mary did or could know; for she had never gazed upon the cross, and read the more perfect revelation of the Divine character as it is written there. Come, let us look at Mary, that we may learn to be a learner. How impressed she is with His superior wisdom; how little confidence has she in her own. Nay, the more she learns, I doubt not, the more she feels her ignorance. Oh, blessed is the ignorance that brings us so near to infinite wisdom, and blessed the child-like simplicity that enables us to understand what to the world may seem inexplicable! Then see how absorbed she is. I can never believe that Mary was selfish and inconsiderate. If she had been, I feel sure Jesus would have gently reproved and not commended her. When Mary is next introduced to our notice she is again at Jesus' feet, and this time she is at His feet as a mourner. Blessed are those mourners whom sorrow drives to Jesus' feet; for they shall indeed be comforted! I Refer for a moment to the passage (John 11:32): "Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Oh, blessed are the trials that bring us to Jesus' feet! The sorrows of this world harden and embitter some people. They grow sour and selfish. I dare say she felt as if she had never loved Him so much before, as she loved Him then when she saw those tears of His. When we feel crushed with sorrow, do lot us try to remember that Jesus Christ Himself was the Man of sorrows. Now, dear friends, let us look at Mary once again. We have seen her at the Lord's feet as a learner, and we have seen her there as a mourner: and now, in John 12., we shall see her at the Lord's feet as a worshipper. Turn for a moment to the beginning of that chapter: "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." Dear Martha! how I love her for it! Always true to her character; never weary of waiting on such a Guest, and this time not even in her own house. Even in the house of Simon Martha must wait upon her Lord; no mere hireling or slave shall be allowed to minister to Him while Martha's willing hands and heart are near. The truest form of worship is, first of all, the presentation to God of all that is most precious, all that is most costly, that we have or that we are.

(W. H. Aitken, M. A.)

I. First of all, I would speak of THE DECISION. "Mary," saith our Lord, "hath chosen." She had made up her mind; she had taken her choice. She had discerned what she loved; she had seen what was for her good; she had great courage, and, caring not for the praise or the blame of others, she determined to hold fast what she had chosen. How valuable is this decision of character! How valuable it is, even in the children of this world! How many statesmen, generals, leaders of men, have been distinguished by it! Look over the lists of the men who have moved the world, or who have led vast armies to battle; take such men as Julius Caesar, such men as the Emperor Napoleon; and mark how decision of character — bold, unflinching, unhesitating decision of character — is their leading feature. And mark how, in all the Word of God, we find this a leading characteristic of God's servants. We find Noah boldly and decidedly making the ark in the face of an ungodly and unbelieving world; we find Abraham leaving his father's house, to go to a land he had never seen; we find Moses forsaking the pleasures of Egypt, looking for recompense in the unseen reward; we find Joshua saying to the people, "As for me and my house," whatever ye do, "we will serve the Lord"; we find Daniel going down to the lion's den, choosing to meet with what was to ell appearance a dreadful death, rather than deny his principles; we find Paul the apostle opposing a world in arms against him, and withstanding even his brethren, when there seemed to be an article of the faith impugned. And coming later, we find men like , ready to meet the world and the Church too, when they seemed to be against them — men like Martin Luther, opposing all the professing Church of their day, when they saw the professing Church opposing the Bible. In all these men we find the same bold, firm, uncompromising decision of character. But when we turn to the world at large, how uncommon is this very decision of character which has such power and possesses such influence! Doubting they live, doubting they hear our sermons, doubting they come to our means of grace, doubting they pass through the course of this world, and doubting, hesitating, lingering, undecided, too often they lay down their lives, and leave this world for another! Dear brethren, for your own comfort's sake, for your own happiness' sake, for your own usefulness' sake in this world, if ever you would know the joy and peace of the gospel, if ever you would be useful in your day and generation, and have influence on the minds of men, cultivate this decision of character. Very beautiful is that allegory in which John Bunyan describes what happened to his pilgrim, when the interpreter took him up to the door of an elegant and well-furnished palace, within which were men and women taking their ease and in the enjoyment of all happiness; and at the door of the palace, and all round the entrance of it, there stood a body of armed men to withstand every one who would enter. Many come up to the palace; they dare not go forward; they fear the conflict; they shrink from the attempt. At last one bold man is described as coming up to the gate, saying to the person who had charge of the palace, "Set down my name, Sir," and putting a helmet on his head, and a sword in his hand, forcing his way through the armed men, when he hears a pleasant voice saying —

"Come in, come in;

Eternal glory thou shalt win."

There was Christian decision. That man is a model, a pattern, an example, to every one who would be a faithful soldier of Christ, laying hold on eternal life, fighting a good fight, warring a good warfare — to choose boldly and act decidedly — to go straight forward, not fearing any opposition that he may have to meet with.

II. Turn we next to THE CHOICE that Mary made. She chose "the good part." Now, what is it that our Lord Jesus Christ here calls the "good part" Mary had not chosen the riches of this world; she had not chosen the honour, or the rank, or the learning of this world: she had chosen none of those things that the world commonly thinks good. She sat at Jesus' feet; she heard the words of Jesus; she drank in the instruction that the Lord Jesus Christ is ever ready to give to those who listen. Because she did this — because she so gave evidence of the state of her heart — the Lord says of her here, "She hath chosen the good part." That "good part" was the good of her everlasting soul; a knowledge of God, as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. How many things, my brethren, are called "good" that do not deserve the name! How many things are said to be for man's good, and yet how little do they avail! How little comfort they can give him I and how short a time he is able to enjoy them! How many things are called "good" that will not last! They will not wear. Who that has eyes to see, who that has mind to observe, can fail to know, that what the world calls good does not give perfect happiness? Do those that have the most of them really enjoy what they possess? Like the two boys, Passion and Patience, spoken of in "The Pilgrim's Progress," to are the children of this world and the children of God. Passion must needs have his best things now; he has them, and lavishes them away. Patience waits for his best things, and when he has them keeps them. So the children of God may "endure hardness" for a season; they may seem to fail to prosper for a time; but they look forward, they wait, they know that their good things are yet to come, and that when their good things come, they shall not be taken away from them.

III. Pass on, finally, to THE CHARACTER OUR LORD GIVES TO THE PORTION THAT MARY CHOSE. He says it is "that good part which shall not be taken away from her." That favour of God which Mary sought, that peace of God which Mary longed for, that indwelling of the Holy Ghost which Mary craved, that spiritual wisdom after which Mary hungered and thirsted — all these abide for ever; he that has them shall never lose them; they are riches and treasures that shall never fade. In the time of health they are a man's best companions; in the time of sickness they "make all his bed." And now, in concluding, I would ask you all to take heed to make a right choice. And put not off that choice to a future day. Shall I not call on all the young persons that I see here in such numbers, to follow the example of her whose conduct we have this day been considering — to choose that good part which shall not be taken from them? I call upon you, as knowing that I may not meet you all face to face in this church again, to seek that peace with God that she sought after — that favour of God for which she longed.

(Bishop Ryle.)

What we want to bring about in ourselves is the due balance and equipoise between the principle of faith and the principle of action, so to pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal; to be in such a way convinced that but one thing is needful as not to destroy all stimulus and interest for the many things in which we find ourselves of necessity involved. First, then, it must be observed that the inward harmony of soul which is proposed must not be sought by the means of partitioning off the one province from the other, and fixing limits between them, by concluding a peace between the world and God, and giving part of our day to one, and part to the other. What we want, then, is a piety that shall be energetic and efficacious through our whole life, through every act we do, every word we speak, every breath we draw. We should not distinguish our day into one part given to God, and the rest to ourselves, but it should be all of one colour and texture. The one thing needful which we want to secure is a penetrating and all-powerful motive, universal in its extent to apply to our every act, minute, special, practical, to ensure its being brought out into our conduct, not lodged as a dormant creed in our understanding. We should not have any worldly employments, for our whole life should be a religious act. This is the inward and outward harmony which constitutes a sound being, when all our movements flow naturally from one central governing thought. Such a character is not a compound of two tendencies ill at ease in one another's neighbourhood, and subsisting by a forced compromise, but a uniform whole in which one pure aim informs each separate impulse. Life is then not a state of rest or equilibrium produced by opposite forces, but a sustained motion towards a fixed point. This habitual reference of everything we do to a single ruling motive is absolutely necessary for any. thing like consistency of action and of character. See the strength of will and steady power which a man derives from consistent adhesion to any, even the lowest purpose. Even obstinacy, which is more perseverance without a purpose, and is more often mischievous than useful, has something about it respectable. Much more does the steady persevering pursuit of an object of importance, whatever it be, command the esteem of men at large. When the "various talents" are united with the "single mind," they give their possessors a moral weight and mastery which is instantly recognized, and to which all around pay a willing homage.

(M. Pattison.)

We will, therefore, in this chapter offer some remarks on the principle of spiritual policy which we should adopt, if we desire successfully to meet that discouragement which results from distraction of mind. The principle is thus given us by our blessed Lord — "One thing is needful." Let there be one idea at the foundation of your spiritual character, round which that character forms itself: let one single principle be the foundation of all your obedience to God's commandments. You will never succeed while you are paying equal attention at one and the same time to every department of the Divine law. Again, it is the law of the natural characters of all of us that one particular feature or class of features stands out prominently, and gives its complexion to the whole character. We may be quite sure that our spiritual characters will form themselves in the same way. They will have a pervading colour, they will manifest a particular leaning, whether we wish it or not. Our minds are so constituted that each feature of them cannot be equally developed. Nor, indeed, is it consistent with God's design in regard to His Church that it should be so. But again, and this has a most important bearing on the question at issue — all growth proceeds upon the principle which we are recommending. Natural growth means the gathering together of particles of matter round a single nucleus, which nucleus appropriates and assimilates those particles. If we take a small fragment of the blossom of a flower, and examine it with a powerful microscope, we shall see that it consists of a series of colour-cells, ranged in perfect order (like the cells in a honeycomb, or the stones in a tessellated pavement), which contain the pigment of the flower. Originally there was but one single cell, containing the vital principle of the whole flower; but as the germ was fed by the dews and rains of heaven, and by the moisture of the earth, it gathered to itself particles from the elements which surrounded it, and gradually formed a neighbour cell, and then another, and another, until the whole resulted at length in this magnificent mosaic of cells, so far superior to any pavement which King Solomon had in his palace, or even in his temple. Well, spiritual growth proceeds by the same rule as natural; it is for the most part a development out of one sentiment, an accretion round the nucleus of one idea. It is our part to watch this law of our minds, and to endeavour by prayer and forethought, and wise effort, to turn it to account. Now, practically, how is this to be?

1. There can be no doubt that the besetting sin, or fault, if any one is prominent, should be the first quarter in which the Christian should turn his thoughts, and prayers, and efforts. His particular shortcoming is an indication by God in what part of the field his work lies. At all events it is certain that "the one thing needful" for those beset with any moral and spiritual infirmity, is to rid themselves of it, rooting it, as far as possible, out of their hearts, with loathing and abhorrence. Until this is achieved, there is no business for them of equal importance.

2. But supposing that, on a survey of our character, it should not appear that any one fault or sin has a greater prominence than another (though this will rarely be the case), we may then set ourselves to choose, according to our own inclinations, some broad Scriptural principle which may be made the foundation of our own spiritual character. Or we might attempt to make poverty of spirit — the subject of the first Beatitude — the leading thought of our religious character. We might set ourselves to cultivate this grace as the "one thing needful." Having chosen our principle, whatever it bet it will be part of the business of every morning to anticipate the occasions on which it may be brought into exercise. It will be well to say, in conclusion, one word of advice as to the sort of principle which it is desirable to choose for the purpose of building upon it a holy life. Choose not, then, too narrow a principle — by which I mean one which gives no scope for exercise or trial, except on rare occasions. Suppose, for example, that submission to the will of God under the loss of friends were chosen as the principle. There is not here room enough for every-day practice. Bereavement, much as it behoves us to conduct ourselves well when it does come, is of rare occurrence. On the other hands too broad a principle will destroy the unity of aim and endeavour, which is recommended. Too broad a principle is in fact more principles than one, and so defeats the end. Finally, choose a principle to which your mind is naturally drawn when in a right frame. We are all attracted by different lines of thought in religion, and no man has a right to impose upon his neighbour his own line.

(Dean Goulburn.)

I. LOVE AT LEISURE. When the evening comes on, and all the members of the family are around the fireside, then have rests and communes, forgetting all care, happily at home, oblivious of the outside world, and of time itself. Like Mary —

1. We would feel ourselves quite at home with Jesus our Lord.

2. We would be free from worldly care — leaving all with Jesus.

3. We would even be free from the care of His service, the battle for His kingdom, and the burden of the souls committed to our charge.

4. We would sweetly enjoy the happy leisure which He provides for us, as we muse upon the rest-giving themes which He reveals so clearly, and makes so true to us.(1) His work for us, finished, accepted, abidingly effectual, and perpetually overflowing with priceless blessings.(2) His great gifts received, which are greater than those to come.(3) All other needful and promised benedictions of grace, sure to come in due season (Romans 8:32).(4) All our future, for time and for eternity, safe in His dear hands. Let us, without fear, enjoy leisure with Jesus — leisure, but not laziness — leisure to love, to learn, to commune, to copy. Leisure in a home where others are cumbered (see verses 40-42). Leisure to sit, and to sit in the most delightful of all places.

II. LOVE IN LOWLINESS. "At Jesus' feet." In this let each one copy Mary. Let me be, not a busy housewife and manager, which any one may be, and yet be graceless; but. —

1. A penitent, which is an acknowledgment of my unworthiness.

2. A disciple, which is a confession of my ignorance.

3. A receiver, which is an admission of my emptiness.

III. Love LISTENING — "And heard His word." She could not have heard if she had not been at leisure to sit, nor if she had not been lowly, and chosen to sit at His feet. Be it ours to hear that love-word which says, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider" (Psalm 45:10). Listening to what Jesus says in His Word, in His creation, in His providence, and by His Spirit in our soul. Listening to Himself. Studying Him, reading His very heart. Listening, and not obtruding our own self-formed thoughts, notions, reasonings, questionings, desires, and prejudices. Listening, and forgetting the observations and unbeliefs of others. Listening, and bidding all cares lie still, that they may no more disturb the reverent silence of the heart. How sweet! How instructive! How truly "the good part"!


1. In full enjoyment.

2. In perfect satisfaction.

3. In full assurance.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This was scene at Bethany. It precedes the other accounts. If I mistake not, at is the earliest notice of this remarkable household.

1. Let us look at the scene itself. Martha, full of gladness and alacrity, and such affection as she had, was serving Him. It was household service. I do not suppose that she was without any sensibility of His loftiness and nobility; but her way was not in the interchange of soul qualities with soul qualities. She was practical. She was entirely domestic. She took a worldly view of this adorable personage, and felt as though the best thing she could do was to minister to His comfort. As she was thus, with anxious household cares, ministering, Mary was sitting still, at the feet of Jesus. Martha, seeing her sitting there, had not the least idea that anything was going on. Mary's feet were still, her hands were quiet. She neither sewed nor knit. She wove no flowers into wreaths or bouquets. She said nothing. She was not doing anything. There are a great many persons who do not suppose that there is anything going on unless there is some buzz and bustle, unless there is some outward show and development. Of the method of the soul they have no insight. Their whole brain-life expends itself in a rushing forth of intense activity. They have no idea of the lake that is hid far up in the mountain recesses, on which the day shines and the night sends down its starry beauty, and which does nothing except reflect the heavens. Ask the mill-brook that comes tearing down the gorge, and wipes the sweat off at every mill-wheel, what it is doing, and what it is, and it says, "I am working, working, working; I am an enterprising brook; but that lazy old lake up there in the mountain-top never did anything In the world for its living." And yet that lake in the midst of the mountain has some beauty and some merits to the poet. Now, Martha, in her soul, loved her sister, but she did not know much of that higher experience of the soul to which her sister had attained; and, instead of saying, "Mary, why do not you come and help me?" she said, "Master, see, she doesn't help me; tell her to come and help me." Christ's reply is significant.

2. Look for a moment at these two women as types of human society. Martha ticked and kept time; she talked all the while; she was a very useful person. Hers was a valuable character. There is room in all the world for such persons. On the other side, Mary was reflective. She was full of thought, and of various thought. Above all things she was hungry for the food of thought. Doubtless, in her own quiet way, she fulfilled the daily duties of practical life: as a sleep-walker, or as one sunk in a reverie, with all the absent-minded mysteries that fall to the lot of such persons. And when Christ came her thought was, "Now I shall receive; and her heart lay open in His presence as a flower to the dew, or as the grass to the rain, that she might live and grow by the feeding of her soul.

3. The perfect person is one who combines, in suitable degrees, both of these elements. There is the workshop of life below, and there are the serene hills, the crystal domes above. They have their hours for meditation; they also have their hours for labour and for communion with men.

4. But there are very few perfect people in the world; and the lineage of those who are born with a high moral endowment joined to an active temperament seems almost at times to have run out. Those, then, that are all activity, and those that are recluse, silent and meditative, ought to have enough in themselves to form an easy intercommunication, so that they shall accept one another.

5. The Church should also have precisely the same thing. No Church has any perfect members in it, and too often Church people associate themselves together, the intensely zealous with the intensely zealous, and the extremely intelligent with the extremely intelligent; but we are all of us so imperfect that we need somebody else here and there, for it takes about ten or fifteen persons to make one, and fill up all his deficiencies. "Receive ye one another." The imaginative are to take the practical, the practical are to take the imaginative, and both are to rejoice in the rich-souled silence of others; and let those who are given to a life of meditation look with toleration upon persons who have the art of developing and giving out into life. God receives them all and uses them all.

6. Let those who mourn because they have been set apart to be thinkers, and to dwell in the solitude of their own genius, remember that perhaps they are more active than they know. The largest and best work that ever is done in this world is done in silence. Go into the meadows over which birds sing, and out of which grass and all flowers spring. The silent attraction of all those roots is a greater power than all the steam engines on the face of the earth. Or go into the forests. There is no measure of gigantic power which is comparable with the strength which is developed in their internal tubes. It is not measurable by all the machinery on earth. And yet it is silent. Activity? Yes. There is the buzzing factory. It has turned out its thousands of yards of cotton every day, and is a very noble thing, doing a great deal of good. But yonder, off against the rocky shore, on the dangerous reef, stands the lighthouse. It neither spins nor turns a single wheel. All day long the lazy thing suns itself; and all night long it simply stands shining. But far off, beyond its own vision, are ships that come toward the shore; and they see its light; and they know where the rock, the shoal, and the danger are; and they pass on and make their port in safety. It has no trumpet, it does not speak, it sends out nothing but simply a light; and 10,000 ships are blessed by it.

(H. W. Beecher.)

We read in the biography of old Dr. Lyman Beecher that the young lady he married, Roxana Foote, had thought herself converted at five or six years of age, though far from satisfying the exactions of an apostle of absolute election; but at least she was the Mary among the three granddaughters of General Andrew Ward, who used to say that when the girls first came down of a morning, Roxana would put some thoughtful question, suggestive of study and meditation, while Harriet's voice could be heard briskly calling out, "Here I take the broom; sweep up; make a fire, make haste." Harriet's namesake, Dr Beecher's celebrated daughter (Mrs. Stowe) is fond, like other American lady-novelists, of referring to the Bethany sisters, as often as not in a vein of humour; where, for instance, Mrs. Twitchel characteristics her indispensable "help," Cerinthy Ann, as "one of the most master-hands to turn off work. Deacon was a-saying, if ever she was called she'd be a Martha, and not a Mary."

(F. Jacox.)


"O Master! when Thou comest, it is always

A Sabbath in the house. I cannot work:

I must sit at Thy feet, must see Thee, hear Thee!

I have a feeble, wayward, doubting heart,

Incapable of endurance or great thoughts,

Striving for something that it cannot reach,

Baffled and disappointed, wounded, hungry;

And only when I hear Thee am I happy,

And only when I see Thee am at peace.

Stronger than I, and wiser, and far better

In every manner is my sister Martha.

Thou seest how well she orders everything

To make Thee welcome; how she comes and goes,

Careful and cumber'd ever with much serving,

While I but welcome Thee with foolish words l

When'er Thou speakest to me I am happy;

When Thou art silent I am satisfied.

Thy presence is enough, I ask no more.

Only to be with Thee, only to see Thee

Sufficeth me. My heart is then at rest."



Christ never asks of us such busy labour

As leaves no time for resting at His feet;

The waiting attitude of expectation

He ofttimes counts a service most complete.

He sometimes wants our ear — our rapt attention,

That He some sweetest secret may impart;

'Tis always in the time of deepest silence

That heart finds deepest fellowship with heart.

And yet He does love service, where 'tis given

By grateful love that clothes itself in deed;

But work that's done beneath the scourge of duty,

Be sure to such He gives but little heed.

Then seek to please Him, whatsoe'er He bids thee,

Whether to do — to suffer — to lie still;

'Twill matter little by what path

He leads thee, If in it all thou seek'st to do His will.


I noticed once that in the ocean there was a beauty and power quite peculiar to its rest, as well as its motion. Once in a while there would come a day when the waters would leap into white foam in their strife with the great calm cliffs; and then a day when the blue waters would melt into the sky full of innocent dimples, which made you feel as if the tides were laughing with content. But this was what I noticed besides: that in the clear waters rested the full sun, while in the unresting waters you saw only broken lights. There was shining on the edges, but not in the deeps; a stormful grandeur, but no mirror of the quiet heavens. It was in a summer vacation, when I was glad enough to find reasons for lounging all day long on the sweetest bit of land I ever found west of the heathery Ramald's Moor, where I wandered a quarter of a century ago. And so I said to myself, Beautiful is the activity that works for good, and beautiful the stillness that waits for good. Blessed the self-sacrifice of the one and the self-abnegation of the other. Martha gives up everything that she may be hospitable, and is cumbered with much serving; and Mary sits still. But still the voice of the Lord tells her, and tells us through her, that she hath chosen the good part. I would like, then, if I could do it, to include both in their turn in the sum of my life. We cannot help believing in work; but there are days when we should be glad because we are quiet. When both the strong motion and the strong emotion of existence should be done with for a while, and all things be as naught to us except the pure stillness, which, like the still sea I saw, only drank in the sun and glassed his clear shining through its whole heart.

(R. Collyer.)

There is astonishing variety in God's works. What different creatures, plants, and other objects there are in the world; and probably not two of them precisely alike. "One star differed from another star in glory." How the forms and faces of human beings and various animals vary in appearance and expression. And, it is said, no two blades of grass, nor leaves of any tree, are exactly similar. Then, as to dispositions, some creatures are bold and fierce, others are fearful and timid; and even in any single family we find diverse tempers and inclinations. In a well-appointed army and navy there are many regiments, ranks, services, ships, &c., and probably all are necessary in order to greatest efficiency. In a large house, or place of business, or manufactory, there are individuals filling different posts, who have separate duties. In a flower garden, or nosegay of any pretensions, we find flowers of various forms, colours, and perfumes. In the grand and gorgeous sunrise or sunset, the most lovely tints, wonderfully blended, produce pictures, in comparison with which man's most admired paintings appear mean and paltry. Thus in God's Church and family, for beauty, utility, and perfection, we find the greatest conceivable variety. Take the characters referred to in our lesson. Martha was a good woman, diligent in business, a careful housewife, an excellent manager, and we suppose a model mistress of a family, only she was probably too anxious, and perhaps rather bad tempered; Mary was quiet, devout, thoughtful, one who might be in danger of spending too much time in her closet, or about good things, as her sister would spend too little. Could they have been blended, Romans 7:11 would have been perfectly observed. Lazarus was probably an amiable, easy man, who would lovingly and simply believe in Jesus. But Thomas was a doubter. He was thoughtful cautious; one who would "count the cost" before he would commit himself to any enterprise, and who would not take anything for granted, but would require irrefragable evidence for his faith.

(H. R. Burton.)

Cumbered about much serving.
I. THE TRIAL OF NON-APPRECIATION. This is what made Martha so mad with Mary. The younger sister had no estimate of her older sister's fatigues. As now, men bothered with the anxieties of the store, and office, and shop, or coming from the stock exchange, they say when they get home: "Oh, you ought to be over in Wall-street in these days; you ought to be in our factory a little while; you ought to have to manage eight, or ten, or twenty subordinates, and then you would know what trouble and anxiety are." Oh, sir! the wife and the mother has to conduct at the Same time a university, a clothing establishment, a restaurant, a laundry, a library, while she is health officer, police, and president of her realm! She must do a thousand things, and do them well, in order to keep things going smoothly; and so her brain and her nerves are taxed to the utmost. If, under all this wear and tear of life, Martha makes an impatient rush upon the library or drawing-room, be patient, be lenient. O! women, though I may fail to stir up an appreciation in the souls of others in regard to your household toils, let me assure you, from the kindliness with which Jesus Christ met Martha, that He appreciates all your work from garret to cellar; and that the God of Deborah, and Hannah, and Abigail, and grandmother Lois, and Elizabeth Fry, and Hannah More, is the God of the housekeeper.

II. THE TRIAL OF SEVERE ECONOMY. This is what kills tens of thousands of women — attempting to make five dollars do the work of seven. How the bills come in! The woman is the banker of the household; she is the president, the cashier, the teller, the discount clerk; and there is a panic every few weeks! This thirty years' war against high prices, this perpetual study of economies, this life-long attempt to keep the out-goes less than the income, exhausts millions of housekeepers. Of my sister, this is a part of the Divine discipline. If it were best for you, all you would have to do would be to open the front windows and the ravens would fly in with food; and after you had baked fifty times from the barrel in the pantry, the barrel, like the one of Zarepath, would be full; and the shoes of the children would last as long as the shoes of the Israelites in the wilderness — forty years. Beside that, this is going to make heaven the more attractive in the contrast.



(Dr. Talmage.)

Did you never see persons that are kind-hearted and good-natured but that are continually anxious? Not that they are peevish; not that they are cross; but they are filled with anxiety. Did you never see a boiler that carried just enough steam, so that there was no sound in the machinery? And have you never seen a boiler that carried a little too much steam, so that it hissed at every rivet, making a disagreeable sound day and night? There are persons that carry a little more steam than they can work, and that sing and hiss all the time; and Martha was one of those. Where this anxiety is brought suddenly in collision with those that are associated with us, and expresses itself with sharpness, it is called chiding if you are charitable, and fretfulness or peevishness if you are a little cross yourself. And so it seemed to be in Martha's case. When Christ came, nothing must be left undone that could be done for Him. Every room must be set aright.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Is Martha a little offended, and a little jealous? Has she often tried to reclaim her musing sister from what she thinks vagrancy of mind, and now considers that she has an opportunity to get her effectively reproved? How tyrannous may we become by the excess of our temperament, even towards those whom we best love! If Martha has her special opportunity of serving, and wisely employs all her active shrewdness, may not Mary have her special opportunity of listening, and wisely employ her meditative intelligence? Why should Mary be Martha any more than Martha Mary? "Lord, bid her that she come and sit at Thy feet with me, and hear Thy word." Would not such an invocation have been as proper a one as Martha's? They who are careful about many things must take care of this too: that, encumbering themselves, they be not burdensome to others also. Our excellency may become the occasion of our fault. We may be fussy because kindly busy, when only by being busy, but not fussy, can we provide a comfortable meal, as well as a sufficient one.

(T. T. Lynch.)

When the English lost the town of Calais in the reign of Queen Mary, she is said to have declared that at her death the name Calais would be found engraved upon her heart. The loss of the French town was the sorrow of her life. Most of us, my friends, have some name or another which sorrow has graven on our hearts, and printed in deep lines upon our faces. It may be a disappointment which will last all our lives; it may be the remorseful memory of a fault which cannot be atoned for here, or the name of one long dead and gone. It is not of these great sorrows of which I would speak now. Do you know what makes the stones on the sea beach so smooth and polished? They were rough fragments of rock once, and they have been smoothed and shaped into what they are, not by a furious tempest, when the waves rose mountains high, but by the constant action of the tide day after day, year after year. The deep furrows and channels in the face of the cliff were not formed by a flood, but by the continuous falling of a tiny stream of water. So, my brother, those grey hairs of yours, and those lines and furrows in your face, were not caused by some terrible, crushing calamity, but by the daily action of little troubles and anxieties which we call worry. These worries are some of God's teachers in the great school of this world. Properly met, they help on our education; if misused, they simply lead us into sin. How then shall we meet worry? First, I would say, don't meet it half-way. Don't torture yourselves with the thought of what may happen; don't neglect the sunshine of to-day, because it may rain to-morrow. It is simply want of faith in God to be always fearing what has not, and never may, come to pass. Excellent was the advice of the wise American President, "Never to cross the great and big muddy creek till you come to it." When the worry does come, try to look beyond it, try to see the land over the troubled waves, and to find the dawn after the dark night. There is a bright side to every trouble, if we would but look for it. There are some who love to shut themselves up in a dark room, as it were, with their troubles, and they will tell you that there is no sunshine outside. My advice to you is, keep out in the sunshine as much as you can, and the troubles will not seem half so dark or threatening.

2. Next, think less of self, and more of others. When things come to vex and annoy you, turn your thoughts to the troubles of others. Go and look at the real sorrows of your neighbour, and in helping them you will find your own burden easier to carry.

3. Lastly, yet above all, pray about your worry. Take it to Jesus Christ, tell Him all about it in plain language, ask Him to help you, so that your trouble may not drive you into sin, but lead you to your Saviour. Take up your cross, my brothers, you who are careful and troubled about many things. Bear with the crooked tempers, and the sharp tongues, and the ill-kept homes, and the narrow means, and the thousand worries of life, and these crosses shall one day bud and blossom for you into palms of victory.

(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

One thing is needful.
While the "one thing needful" may have had reference to the immediate matter of Martha's anxiety, it is also applicable to her own spiritual need, she being deficient in that element of inward life out of which all orderly methods and untroubled activities proceed. Thus, both fact and symbol lead us from those "many things" about which Martha was too careful, to the contrast of that "good part" which was Mary's choice.

I. ONE THING IS NEEDFUL, AS A MOTIVE POWER. Love for God, for Christ, for all that is good. Only this can keep the appetites in their place.

II. ONE THING IS NEEDFUL AS A PRINCIPLE OF ACTION. The love of goodness for its own sake.

III. ONE THING IS NEEDFUL AS AN ELEMENT OF LIFE. The soul's communion with God.

(E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

I. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THIS CHOICE — "Shall not be taken away." Earthly goods are all transitory; but this is abiding.


1. Good in itself — its effect.

2. Good in its substance — Jesus.

3. Best in its association. Christ is more than the property; He is the joint possessor. "Partakers with Christ.


1. No violence done to our freedom.

2. Sweet consciousness that we gave ourselves to Christ.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

However far apart the streams may appear to flow, there is in the life one great ocean where they all meet, and in which they are all absorbed. Now, the Saviour, who was so entirely consecrated to one great object, would teach us an important truth in these words, and it is this — That it is a mistake to divide oneself among many cares and troubles. The great secret of life is to seize upon one thing, which will determine all else, and in the light of the context this one thing seems to be — a personal interest in Jesus Christ."

I. THIS IS THE ONE THING NEEDFUL TO GIVE LIFE A WORTHY AIM. If We would start aright, we must start at the feet of the Great Master. Here alone can we find reliable direction how to live. This is the way: walk ye in it. Bat who will set our feet upon that path? Jesus will. It is Jesus alone that teaches us to live so as to attain the object which God Himself had in creating.

II. THIS IS THE ONE THING NEEDFUL TO GIVE LIFE ANY REAL VALUE. The alchemists of old, who paved the way for the modern science of chemistry, were, it is said, searching for a substance which contained the original principle of all matter, and had the power of dissolving all things into their primitive elements. Here was the one thing needful to give value to all material objects brought into contact with it. We do not suppose this was ever discovered by them, or that it ever existed save in their wild imagination; but there are many present, I trust, who have found in effect a spiritual equivalent — that one thing needful which gives value to all brought into contact with it, that philosopher's stone which turns everything into glittering gold in the eye of Heaven itself. Even all the life becomes consecrated — the ruling of nations, the regulating of households, obeying monarchs, obeying parents, obeying masters, even what often seems trivial, eating and drinking. This one thing needful can set value to all.

III. THIS IS THE ONE THING NEEDFUL TO SUPPORT US UNDER THE TRIALS OF LIFE. We may glide easily, in virtue of a slight external impulse, along the levels of our life, we may go down the slopes ourselves, but if we mean to climb triumphantly over the rugged hills, we must link ourselves to a mighty Saviour.


(T. Nicholson.)

There can be no doubt as to what our Lord means by the "one thing" and the "good part" He here commends. They are both of them true religion. It does more, observe, than praise this blessed thing; it partially describes it.

I. We will begin with the latter of these two questions, and look at this Scripture as DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN CHRISTIAN AND CHRISTIAN. Both these sisters were undoubtedly sincere followers of our Lord; they were both converted, holy women. But yet we see here a great difference between them, and such a difference as natural disposition will not of itself account for. The main source of it lay elsewhere — one was high in spiritual attainments, the other was a learner in the same school, but as yet had learnt much less in it. We may discover in Mary two marks of a highly spiritual mind.

1. Notice, first, her composure; her composure, I mean, as to worldly things.

2. Observe in Mary another thing — an earnest desire of spiritual instruction. "She sat," we read, "at Jesus' feet." But love for Him, we say, might have placed her there. She wished, perhaps, to be near her holy Guest and enjoy His society. "No," says the evangelist, "she sat at His feet, and heard His word." Warm-hearted as she was, she forgets or half forgets the friend in the teacher. Martha, on the contrary, had no such feelings. She appears to have turned aside altogether from our Lord's instructions at this time, and to have done so almost without regret. She let the stream of heavenly wisdom flow by her untasted and unheeded. And indifference like hers is by no means uncommon now. There are some really Christian persons, who manifest a frame of mind exactly similar to it. They know very little of Divine things, and seem almost indifferent whether or not they ever know more. It is mournful that a dying sinner should be a thoughtful, inquiring man among his goods and merchandise, his sheep and cattle, shrewd and penetrating, taking nothing on trust, and sifting to the bottom everything that concerns him; and yet the same man put his mind to sleep as he opens his Bible or enters a church. Worldliness of heart only can account for this. "Much serving" leads us away from our great Teacher. Our low degree of knowledge is the result of a low degree of piety. We are not growing in grace, therefore we are not growing, nor desiring to grow, "in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Knowledge and grace are as closely connected as the day and the light. If any of you should think I have laid too much stress on the two things I have noticed in Mary, and made too much of them, mark this — they are the exact points in which at this moment she most visibly resembled our Lord. He was quiet in a house of bustle; so was Mary. He made much of heavenly wisdom, for He began to teach it at soon as He entered that house; she made much of it also, for she sat down at His feet to learn it. You know what follows — the more we resemble Christ, the holier we are; the more like Him, the nearer we are to Him.


1. It tells us that, with the real Christian, religion is a needful thing; it is known and felt to be such. The question is, be it what it may, has it this feature of sound piety — do you feel it to be absolutely necessary for you? Do you find that you need it at all times and in all things? Is it in your estimation of supreme importance?

2. But further — our Lord tells us here that true religion is something that is chosen; it is a matter of deliberate and serious choice. The religion that saves the soul, lays hold of the soul before it saves it, and the whole soul. It commends itself to the judgment, it wins the affections, it captivates the heart. It is first seen to be a necessary thing, then felt to be a blessed thing, then determined on as a thing which above all others shall be chosen, and followed, and held fast.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. Our Saviour in the text speaks of true religion as ONE THING; and He appears thus to represent it in contradistinction to those many things which harassed and distracted the mind of Martha. True religion is something more than bearing the name of Christ, making an outward profession of religion, using with diligence the means of grace, supporting an external decency of conduct, or being kind and charitable to the poor. What is it? It is a conformity of heart and life to the will of God as made known to us in holy Scripture; or it is a compliance with it both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls. And in this view it is fitly represented as one thing. This one thing, however, consists of many parts — repentance, faith, holiness, &c.

II. Our Saviour in the text represents true religion as a NEEDFUL THING.

1. What He means is, that it is so much more needful than other things, that our chief care and attention should be directed to it; and that nothing else ought to be allowed for a moment to come in competition with it. Other things pertain to the body, and to the life that now is; whereas religion regards the soul, and the life which is to come. And as the soul is more precious than the body, and eternity more important than time, so is true religion infinitely more needful for us than every earthly blessing whatsoever.

2. Nor is true religion a blessing we need only occasionally. We want it at all times and in all circumstances, whether we are in prosperity or adversity, in sickness or in health, in trouble or in joy.

3. Nor will the time ever come when true religion will not be needful for us. It will be as needful for us in death as it is in life, as necessary in eternity as it is in time. It will then indeed, if possible, be unspeakably more needful for us than ever. Death and eternity will stamp on it a value and an importance of which we can now form but a faint conception.

III. It is still more. Our Saviour here represents it as a GOOD PART OR PORTION.

1. It insures a supply of our temporal wants. St. Paul tells us that it "is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is," no less than "of that which is to come."

2. True religion enriches us. It puts us in possession, not indeed of the unrighteous mammon, but of the true riches While those who have no religion are represented in Scripture as "poor, and blind, and naked, and ready to perish," those who have it are described as "possessing all things." It is expressly said to them, "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's."

3. True religion contributes in a most essential manner to our contentment and happiness.

IV. True religion is A LASTING PORTION. It is a "good part, which shall not be taken away from us." This cannot be said of any worldly portion. Our earthly possessions are only for a time, and that often .a very short time.

(D. Rees.)

The mere posture of sitting down and listening to the Saviour's word was nothing in itself: it was that which it indicated. It indicated, in Mary's case, a readiness to believe what the Saviour taught, to accept and to obey — nay, to delight in, the precepts which fell from His lips. And this is the one thing needful. He that hath it hath the spirit of grace and life. To sit at Jesus' feet implies submission, faith, discipleship, service, love. We must not learn of Christ like unwilling truant boys, who go to school and must needs have learning flogged into them; we must be eager to learn; we must open our mouth wide that He may fill it, like the thirsty earth when it needs the shower, our soul must break for the longing it hath towards His commandments at all times. We must rejoice in His statutes more than gold, yea, than much fine gold. When we are moved by this spirit, we have found the one thing needful.

I. To begin, then, here is a word of CONSIDERATION, which, as I have already said, is interjected into the middle of our Lord's brief word to Martha. Shall I say a word that should discourage your industry? I will not; but, but is there nothing else? — is this life all? Is making money everything?

II. Our text speaks of NECESSITY — one thing is a necessity. If this be proven, it overrides all other considerations. We are nearly right when we say proverbially, "Necessity has no law." If a man steal, and it be found that he was dying of hunger, he is always half forgiven, and charity has been known to excuse him altogether. Necessity has been frequently accepted as a good excuse for what else might not have been tolerated; and when a thing is right, and necessity backs it, then indeed the right becomes imperative, and pushes to the front to force its way. Necessity, like hunger, breaks through stone walls. The text claims for sitting at Jesus' feet that it is the first and only necessity. Now, I see all around me a crowd of things alluring and fascinating. Pleasure calls to me; I hear her syren song — but I reply, "I cannot regard thee, for necessity presses upon me to hearken to another voice." Philosophy and learning charm me: fain would I yield my heart to them; bur, while I am yet unsaved, the one thing needful demands my first care, and wisdom bids me give it. Not that we love human learning less, but eternal wisdom more. Pearls? Yes. Emeralds? Yes; but bread in God's name — bread at once, when I am starving in the desert! What is the use of ingots of gold, or bars of silver, or caskets of jewels, when food is wanting? If one thing be needful, it devours, like Aaron's rod, all the matters which are merely pleasurable. All the fascinating things on earth may go, but needful things we must have. If you are wise, you will evermore prefer the necessary to the dazzling. About us are a thousand things entangling. This world is very much like the pools we have heard of in India, in which grows a long grass of so clinging a character that, if a man once falls into the water, it is almost certain to be his death, for only with the utmost difficulty could he be rescued from the meshes of the deadly, weedy net, which immediately wraps itself around him. This world is even thus entangling. All the efforts of grace are needed to preserve men from being ensnared with the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life. The ledger demands you, the day-book wants you, the shop requires you, the warehouse bell rings for you; the theatre invites, the ball-room calls: you must live, you say, and you must have a little enjoyment, and, consequently, you give your heart to the world. These things, I say, are very entangling; but we must be disentangled from them, for we cannot afford to lose our souls. In order to enter heaven, it is necessary that our nature should become like the nature of Christ. By sitting at His feet, and beholding Him, we become changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Some things in this world are necessary, after a measure, but this is necessary without measure; infinitely needful is it that you sit at Jesus' feet, needful now, needful in life; needful in life for peace, in death for rest, and in eternity for bliss. This is needful always. Many things have their uses for youth, others come not into value till old age; but one thing, the one thing, is needful for childhood, and needful for palsied age; it is needful for the ruddy cheek, and the active limb, and needful upon the sick bed; needful in the world, and in the Church, needful everywhere, and always. In the highest and most emphatic sense, "one thing is needful."

III. Thus much about the necessity, the next word is CONCENTRATION; "One thing is needful." I am glad it says "one thing," because a division of ends and objects is always weakening. A man cannot follow two things well. Our life-blood suffices not to fill two streams or three; there is only enough water, as it were, in our life's brooklet, to turn one wheel. It is a great pity when a man fritters away his energies by being "everything by turns, and nothing long"; trying all things, and mastering nothing. Oh, soul, it is well for thee that there is only one thing in this world that is absolutely necessary, give thy whole soul to that. If other things are necessary in a secondary place, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added unto you." One thing is needful, and this is well arranged, for we cannot follow two things. If Christ be one of them, we cannot follow another. It is an unspeakable mercy that the one thing needful is a very simple one. Little child, thou couldst not climb the mountain, but thou canst sit down at Jesus' feet; thou canst not understand hard doctrine, but thou canst love Him.

IV. The last word is IMMEDIATENESS, and there is no need that we say much upon it. One thing is a necessity, a necessity not of the future only, but of to-day. It is not written, "it shall be needful, on certain coming days, to sit at Jesus feet; but it is so now. Young man, one thing is necessary to you while yet young; do not postpone it till advanced years.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THAT THERE MUST BE ONE PREDOMINATING INTEREST IN THE LIFE — not a multiplicity of interests, swaying the mind by turns — "Thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful." Variety seems to you to be an essential element of happiness; and the systematizing of life, by reducing its component actions to one and the same principle, appears to exclude variety, and to involve such a repetition and recurrence of .the same idea as cannot fail to be dull. Is this your view? Then let me address myself to answer it; for it admits of an answer most satisfactory and conclusive. We fully admit that, as human nature is constituted, variety is an essential element of happiness. In our present state of existence, a continual recurrence of one action, however exciting, or of one strain of thought and feeling, however interesting, could not fail of becoming tedious and wearisome. Our nature, moral and intellectual, needs change. But in what has been said we have not been advocating uniformity of occupations, whether mental or bodily, but only the pervading of all occupations, diversified as they may be, by an unity of principle. Occupations the most various may be engaged in with one leading design. Business the most trivial and commonplace may be executed with a ruling aim and in a lofty spirit. Is it not evidently feasible to reduce our life from an unconnected series of movements, flowing from whatever impulse is at the time uppermost, to a system, composed, indeed, of divers parts, and exhibiting divers operations, but actuated by a common principle, and working towards a common end? And what we assert is that, without such organization, life is destitute of happiness, and destitute of dignity. Busy and bustling it may be — chequered with many incidents it may be; but it will always be agitated by an instinctive restlessness.

II. THAT THIS PREDOMINATING INTEREST MUST NOT BE OF A TRANSIENT NATURE — must have reference not to time, but to eternity. "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Every worldly interest must one day recede. If it have no reference to eternity, it must one day be taken away. If it be an interest which we are unable to carry with us beyond the barriers of the grave, the consistent prosecution of it may indeed impart a fugitive dignity to our few brief years of existence, but will never adequately develop the energies of our moral nature, and will never confer happiness — a boon unattainable, wherever the insecurity and precarious tenure of the object of pursuit is continually recurring to the mind. What remains then, brethren, but that we should set before you the ruling principle which governs, and pervades, and communicates unity to, the various actions of the Christian's life — the one good part which, when all objects of earthly interest are to our apprehensions dwindling into their native insignificance, shall not even then be taken away from him? This ruling principle, defined according to its motive, is the constraining love of a crucified Redeemer: defined according to its aim, it is the glory of God.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Christ's words imply no disapproval of active service as against a contemplative or meditative life. It is not Martha's activity that He is rebuking, but her anxiety and distraction. He who went about doing good, and who said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me," was not the one to rebuke active ministry. The point of His rebuke lies in enforcing the pursuit of one thing as against many things. It may have been that the peculiar form of the expression grew out of the feast itself. Martha has provided, with much worry and care, many things to eat. To sustain life, only one thing is absolutely needful; or, as some read it, "There is need of few things, or of one." Be this as it may, the lesson is plain: the life of the soul depends on one thing; the whole energy of the soul should be concentrated upon that. Suppose a man who had never seen a great machine-shop, and who knew nothing of the power of steam or water, were set down in a great hall full of lathes and looms and circular saws, and required to set the machinery in motion: how many men he would call in 1 how many separate contrivances he would apply to each machine! how he would bustle about from wheel to wheel, from lathe to lathe, now heaving away at a great trip-hammer, now cutting his fingers on a circular saw, now turning round the driving-wheel of a lathe! And at this point the experienced engineer comes in, and laughs as he sees the poor man's perplexity, and says to him, "My friend, all this trouble is unnecessary; only one thing is needful"; and he slips a belt over a drum, and pulls a lever, and behold I the whole hall is in a whirl — lathes, saws, trip-hammers, all in motion, without a hand on any of them. Or, here is a schoolboy with his arithmetic before him, and a whole page of "examples" to work out: and he takes each example by itself, and tries to think his way through it; trying all sorts of experiments, applying one method to one, and another to another, and getting more confused every minute. Presently the teacher looks over his shoulder at his slate covered with a chaotic mass of figures, and glances at the boy's hot and troubled face, and says to him, "You are taking a good deal of unnecessary trouble. This is not as hard as it looks: only one thing is needful; all these examples are illustrations of one law." And he sits down, and explains a simple principle to the lad; and then the work becomes a delight. The boy has a clue in his hand which leads him straight through the whole labyrinth of figures. He turns from the multitude of details to the principle, and finds that the details arrange themselves, and the answer comes right every time. So that there is nothing arbitrary or unnatural, or even unfamiliar, in the gospel's summing itself in one thing, and concentrating men's attention on that. When a man buys an estate of so many acres, he does not ask for separate titles for the woodland and the pasture and the streams and the mines. He wants one title to the estate. He pays so much; and then, if there is gold or coal or an oil-well on the estate, that is his. The purchase of the estate gives him command of all its possibilities, whether apparent or latent. And so, when God would lead a man to spiritual power and riches by the most direct road, He leads him to Christ. He says: "Receive Him implicitly. Only that one thing is needful; the rest follows, the rest is contained in Him, all things are in Him — all power, all grace, all wisdom, all spiritual possibilities of every kind; and, therefore, when you receive Him, you receive all these things with Him." The first thing with us all, the one thing, is to get home to Christ — not merely to read about Him or to speculate about His character, but to get face to face with Him. We contemplate too many things: we range all along the vast circumference of duty, instead of striking direct for the centre; we live by law, which takes up duty in detail, instead of by love, which masses and carries all details. We too often act as if God had merely recognized us as His children, and given us the freedom of His house, and then left us to ourselves to work out our life as best we could. That is not God's way. When He makes us His children through faith in Christ Jesus, He assumes the care of our life in all its details. He not only turns us loose in His house: He goes with us into every corner, and shows us its treasures. He not only gives us the freedom of His domain: He assigns each of us His plot of ground, and stands by us while we try to sow the seed and water the growths, and teaches us how to be workers for and with Him; and as for our care, all that tends to distract and cumber and confuse us He bids us cast it all on Him. Christian life, I say, is simple. It may seem to us that there is a little support on which to cast such a burden and problem as life is to most of us, but we shall do well to try it. Day before yesterday I had occasion to go to the lower part of the city by the elevated railroad; and, as I got out at Hanover Square, I looked down upon the street far below, and a thought something like this went through my mind: Supposing that, without any knowledge of the existence and mode of working of an elevated railway, I had been placed on this train while asleep or unconscious, and had awakened at this station, and been told that I must get down to that street. I get out of the train, and find myself on a narrow platform. I look down on either side, and say, "No way down there, except by being dashed to pieces." Instinctively I follow those in front of me. Steps, but the door is shut: no getting down there. I follow still. A door, but it opens into an enclosure. I follow still. Another door, and there are steps which lead me safely and easily down to the street. I might have stood still, and distracted myself with a dozen devices for getting down. I might have gone bustling about, looking for a rope or a ladder. There was only one thing needful, and that was, to follow those who knew the way. So in our Christian experience, one thing is needful — the part which Mary chose, to hear Jesus' words and to follow Him.

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

We learn from the text that true religion is needful, and is a good thing, and will never be taken away from those who possess it. We shall endeavour to show the excellence and necessity of Divine knowledge with its accompaniments, by several considerations.

I. This knowledge is necessary to our reconciliation with God. This is to him the good part which he has chosen for his heritage, and equally needful for all. Of this knowledge, Christ is the sum and substance.

II. The second consideration which serves to show the necessity and excellence of the knowledge of Divine truth, is, that in this knowledge, and the holy affections which flow from it, consists the highest dignity and supreme excellence and felicity of human nature. In proportion to our knowledge will be our love; and from this perennial fountain will flow uninterrupted happiness.

III. A third consideration which goes fully to justify the choice of Mary is, that the good part on which she had fixed her affections, should never be taken away from her.

(A. Alexander, D. D.)

1. The text reminds us that we are endowed with the power of choice, and are responsible for its exercise. "Mary hath chosen the good part." It was her own act, and she was commended for it. This truth is perfectly consistent with the assurance that we are saved, "not of ourselves, it is the gift of God." Universally it is true that "without Him we can do nothing." Yet it is also true that, as He does help us, we are able to do very much and are bound to do it.

2. Let me urge the importance of youth as a season for exercising this choice. A train of carriages once set in motion on the rails, easily goes forward on the same track. Most persons go through life as they first set out. If you, in youth, deliberately neglect the " one thing needful," your wrong choice now may be your evil genius in old age, and your ruin eternally.

3. Let me then urge on you the great motive to a right decision which the text suggests. "Many things" on the one hand, the "one thing needful" on the other, solicit your preference. The world sets before you its various objects of desire — wealth, ease, learning, pleasure, fame, power, admiration. Let me remind you that, however desirable, they are not necessary. Moreover, all these "many things" are fleeting, as well as non-essential. They can only be for a little while. Beauty, riches, rank, admiration, health, life, will be taken away.

(Newman Hall, LL. B.)

It is the one thing needful for —

1. The safety of man.

2. The usefulness of man.

3. The support and comfort of man.

4. The present and eternal well-being of man.

(J. Smyth, D. D.)


1. The due care of religion and our souls doth consist in the distinct knowledge, and in the firm belief and persuasion of those things which are necessary to be known and believed by us in order to our eternal salvation.

2. The due care of our souls consists in the frequent examination of outlives and actions, and in a sincere repentance for all the errors and miscarriages of them: in a more particular and deep humiliation and repentance for deliberate and wilful sins, so far as we can call them to our remembrance; and in a general repentance for sins of ignorance, and infirmity, and surprise.

3. The due care of our souls consists in the constant and daily exercise of piety and devotion, both in private and in public, if there be opportunity for it, especially at proper times, and upon more solemn occasions; by fervent prayer to God, and by hearing and reading the Word of God with reverence and godly fear; by frequenting His public worship, and demeaning ourselves in it with that solemnity and seriousness which becomes the presence and service of God.

4. The due care of our souls consists also in avoiding those things which are pernicious to our salvation, and whereby men do often hazard their souls.

5. The due care of our souls consists in the even and constant practice of the several graces and virtues of a good life; or, as the apostle expresseth it, in "exercising ourselves always to have a conscience void of offence towards God and men." For herein is religion best seen, in an equal and uniform practice of every part of our duty; net only in serving God devoutly, but in demeaning ourselves peaceably and justly, kindly and charitably towards all men; not only in restraining ourselves from the outward act of sin, but in mortifying the inward inclination to it, in subduing our lusts, and governing our passions, and bridling our tongues.

III. proceed now, in the second place, TO CONVINCE US ALL, IF IT MAY BE, OF THE NECESSITY OF MINDING RELIGION AND OUR souls. When we call anything necessary, we mean that it is so in order to some end, which cannot be attained without it. We call those things the necessaries of life, without which men cannot subsist and live in a tolerable condition in this world; and that is necessary to our eternal happiness, without which it cannot be attained. Now happiness being our chief end, whatever is necessary to that, is more necessary than anything else; and in comparison of that, all other things not only may, but ought to be neglected by us.

1. That religion is a certain way to happiness. And for this we hare God's express declaration and promise — the best assurance that can be. He that cannot lie, hath promised "eternal life to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality."

2. It is certain also that there is no other way to happiness but this. We must be like to God in the temper of our minds, before we can find any felicity in the enjoyment of Him.

3. If we neglect religion, we shall certainly be extremely and for ever miserable.

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

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; i.e., one great business, one important object of pursuit, in which all our endeavours and aims should centre and terminate.

1. It is also said to be one, in opposition to the many things that are the objects of a worldly mind.

2. It may also be called the one thing needful, to intimate that this is needful above all other things.

3. This is so necessary, that nothing else deserves to be called necessary in comparison of it.This shows you also, not only why this is called one thing, but why or in what sense it is said to be necessary. It is of absolute and incomparable necessity.

1. However well you have improved your time for other purposes, you have lost it all, unless you have improved it in securing the one thing needful. The proper notion of time is, that it is a space for repentance. Time is given us to prepare for eternity.

2. Whatever else you have been doing, you have lost your labour with your time, if you have not laboured above all things for this one thing needful. A child or an idiot riding upon a staff, building their mimic houses, or playing with a feather, are not so foolish as you in your conduct, while you are so seriously pursuing the affairs of time, and neglecting those of eternity.

3. This is not all: all your labour and pains have not only been lost while you have neglected one thing, but you have taken pains to ruin yourselves, and laboured hard all your lives for your own destruction. We were far from having any such design. But the question is not, what was your design? but, what is the unavoidable consequence of your conduct, according to the nature of things, and the unchangeable constitution of heaven? Whatever you design in going on in sin, the wages of sin is death, eternal death.

4. If you have hitherto neglected the one thing needful, you have unmanned yourselves, acted beneath and contrary to your own reason, and in plain terms behaved as if you had been out of your senses. If you have the use of your reason, it must certainly tell you for what it was given to you. And I beseech you tell me what it was given to you for but to serve the God that made you, to secure His favour, to prepare for your eternal state, and to enjoy the supreme good as your portion?

(President Davies.)

1. In order rightly to employ the time of life.

2. In order rightly to enjoy the joy of life.

3. In order rightly to endure the burdens of life.

4. In order rightly to await the end of life.

(Van Oosterzee.)

Run to and fro in the world, and in that great emporium and mart of toys and vanities find out one thing that is necessary if you can, though you search it, as the prophet speaks, with candles. Is it necessary to be rich? Behold Dives in hell, and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. Is it necessary to be noble? "Not many noble are called." Is it necessary to be learned? "Where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?" Everything hath its necessity from us) not from itself; for of itself it cannot show anything that should make it so: it is we that file these chains, and fashion these nails of necessity and make her hand of brass. Riches are necessary because we are covetous; honour is necessary because we are proud and love to have the pre-eminence. Pleasure is necessary because we love it more than God. Revenge is necessary because we delight in blood. Lord, how many necessaries do we make when there is but one? one, sine qua non debimus, without which we ought not, and sine quo non possumus, without which we cannot be happy; and that is our assimilation and being made like unto Christ, in whom alone all the treasures of wisdom, and riches, and honour, all that is necessary for us are to be found (Luke 14:18-20; Colossians 2:10).

(A. Farindon.)

The other day I stood outside of a church in my native county, in Scotland. I never was inside that church but once, and that was, I am afraid to say forty years ago, certainly thirty-five, at least, and I heard there a minister whom I had never heard before or since, and he preached from this text, "One thing is needful," and although years passed before I was converted to God, I can say here to-night, as before Him, that word went home to my soul in power, and never left me. That one short sentence taught me that I was wrong, and that I should never be right until I came to Christ. It followed me for years, until God in His infinite mercy led me to put my trust in that blessed Saviour whom I hope I still love and seek to serve.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

We need to combine the theoretical and the practical, the doctrinal with the experimental. Either extreme, exclusively, is to be avoided. Do not be ascetic when the world is full of work — good, honest, remunerative work, that requires the best wisdom for its performance. Three doctors of divinity were dining together. The character of the model wife was discussed. The first thought that Martha, of Bethany, filled the bill. The second, somewhat at a loss, thought he should prefer Mary. The third, when appealed to, immediately replied, "Oh, I think I should choose Martha before dinner, and Mary after it." May we all sit at the feet of Jesus as learners, that we may become all the more useful and helpful as workers.

(L. O. Thompson.)

In Whitefield's Tabernacle, Tottenham Court Road, is an inscription to a once celebrated sculptor, designed with the tomb by himself. It runs as follows: "What I was as an artist, seemed of some importance while I lived; but what I really was, as a believer in Christ Jesus, is the only thing of importance to me now."

St. Bernard, the son of a Knight of Burgundy, having devoted himself to a monastic life, persuaded four brothers, of whom the two elder were, like their father, stout fighting men, to follow his example. Only the youngest remained for a secular life, and he was but a child. As they were finally leaving the paternal castle, one of them said to the boy: "Nivard, you are now owner of all our property." "What?" replied the boy, "you have heaven, and I the earth; that is no fair division!"

— A little girl in Paris, seven years old. was observed to read the New Testament continually. Being asked what pleasure she found in doing so, she said, "It makes us wise, and teaches us how to love God." She had been reading the history of Martha and Mary. "What is the one thing needful?" asked her friend. "It is the love of God," she replied, very earnestly.

The preference which Jesus manifested for the character of Mary, has, I believe, been often esteemed more poetical than just. It has been accused as a romantic judgment, giving countenance to the mischievous belief that the qualities best adapted for this world are uncongenial with the spirit of the other. The passage has been read not without a secret pity for the good Martha; and many a worthy housewife has thought within herself, "It seems rather hard that this is what we get for our pains." From the outside it looks so easy to sit still and gaze upon the face of heavenly goodness, — so pleasant to take in the lessons of holy truth, that those who see the attitude from amid the toil and heat of the common day, regard it only as a mental luxury, a coolness from the tree of life upon the grass of thought; more fit to be envied of men than applauded of the Son of God. And yet there is the deepest truth discoverable in this verdict of Christ; and the whole history of individual character, and of collective society, leads us to the same result. Those to whom life is a succession of particular businesses, however intelligent, energetic, and conscientious, must rank in the scale of human excellence below those to whom life is rather the flow of one spirit.

(J. Martineau, D. D.)

It is an unspeakable mercy that the one thing needful is a very simple one. To sit at Jesus' feet in humble submission and quiet rest — He the Master and I the little child; I the vessel waiting to be filled and He my fulness; I the mown grass and He the falling dew; I the raindrop and He the sun that makes me glisten in life with diamond brilliance, and then exhales me in death to be absorbed in Him — this is all in all to me. Let love permeate everything and other virtues will grow out of it, as flowers spring from the soil. So when we say that sitting at Jesus' feet is the one thing needful, we have not uttered a mere truism; it comprehends a world of blessing.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. I WISH TO SPEAK OF SOME THINGS WHICH ARE NEEDFUL IN A SECONDARY OR SUBORDINATE SENSE. Cultivation of the mind; care for the body; diligence in business; faithfulness as a citizen.

II. THE ONE THING WHICH OUR LORD HERE REFERS TO AS BEING NEEDFUL. She sat. She sat at Jesus' feet. She heard His word.


1. It is a humbling thing.

2. Christianity is unmanly.

3. There are some very limp Christians.

4. There will have to be a very great deal of self-denial if I become a Christian.

5. It is such a difficult thing to live a Christian life. These objections will not bear examination.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

Write down a line of ciphers! You may add thousands, multiplying them till the sheets they fill cover the face of heaven and earth — they express nothing. Now take the lowest number of the ten, the smallest digit, and place that at their head; magic never wrought such a change! What before amounted to nothing, rises instantly by the addition of one figure, one stroke of the pen, into thousands, or millions, as the ease may be; and whether they represent pounds or pearls, how great is the sum of them!

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Mary hath chosen that good part.
I. It would appear, on our Lord's own authority, that there are TWO WAYS OF SERVING HIM — by active business, and by quiet adoration. And further, these two classes of His disciples do not choose for themselves their course of service, but are allotted it by Him, Martha might be the elder, Mary the younger. I do not say that it is never left to a Christian to choose his own path, whether he will minister with the angels or adore with the seraphim; often it is: and well may he bless God if he has it in his power freely to choose that good portion which our Saviour especially praises. But, for the most part, each has his own place marked out for him, if he will take it, in the course of His providence; at least there can be no doubt who are intended for worldly cares. The necessity of getting a living, the calls of a family, the duties of station and office, these are God's tokens, tracing out Martha's path for the many. Let me, then, dismiss the consideration of the many, and rather mention who they are who may be considered as called to the more favoured portion of Mary; and in doing so I shall more clearly show what that portion is. First, I instance the old, as is natural, whose season of business is past, and who seem to be thereby reminded to serve God by prayer and contemplation. Next those, who minister at the altar, are included in Mary's portion. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest and causest to approach unto Thee," says the psalmist, "that he may dwell in Thy courts." And next, I may mention children as in some respects partakers of Mary's portion. Till they go out into the world, whether into its trades or its professions, their school-time should be, in some sort, a contemplation of their Lord and Saviour. Further, we are told, on St. Paul's authority (if that be necessary on so obvious a point), that Mary's portion is allotted, more or less, to the unmarried. I say more or less, for Martha herself, though unmarried, yet as mistress of a household, was in a measure an exception; and because servants of God, as St. Paul, may remain unmarried, not to labour less, but to labour more directly for the Lord. "The unmarried careth for the things of the Lord, so as to be holy both in body and in spirit. And this I speak for your own profit, that ye may sit at the Lord's feet without being cumbered." And, further still, there are vast numbers of Christians, in Mary's case, who are placed in various circumstances, and of whom no description can well be given; rich men having leisure, or active men during seasons of leisure, as when they leave their ordinary work for recreation's sake. Certainly our Lord meant that some or other of His servants should be ever worshipping Him in every place, and that not in their hearts merely, but with the ceremonial of devotion. And, last of all, in Mary's portion, doubtless, are included the souls of those who have lived and died in the faith and fear of Christ. Scripture tells us that " they rest from their labours"; and in the same sacred books that their employment is prayer and praise.

II. MARY'S PORTION IS THE BETTER OF THE TWO. Our Lord's words imply, not that Martha's heart was not right with Him, but that her portion was full of snares, as being one of worldly labour, but that Mary could not easily go wrong in hers; that we may be busy in a wrong way, we cannot well adore Him except in a right one; that to serve God by prayer and praise continually, when we can do so consistently with other duties, is the pursuit of the one thing needful, and emphatically "that good part which shall not be taken away from us."

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

I. THE ONE THING. This one thing is not one dish, as ; nor unity, as ; nor one grace, whether faith, hope, or charity, as others. But this one thing is the Christian care that every one ought to have of his own salvation, because —

1. The cares of Mary and Martha are opposed.

2. This was the good part chosen by Mary, namely, a care how to be saved.

3. To this is perseverence promised, for as salvation is the good part of the elect, which shall never be taken away, so neither shall this care to attain that end by the means, for God preserves it by means.


1. In order above and before all things. "First seek the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33), that is, to get into the estate of grace, as Israel must seek manna the first thing they do in the morning.

2. This one thing is simply necessary for itself, all other things for this.

3. It is transcendently necessary far beyond all things in the world, for this is alone sufficient for happiness and salvation, all they insufficient.

4. It is perpetually necessary while we live, lest beginning in the spirit we end in the flesh. The crown is set on the head of the conqueror.


1. Because this one thing neglected, all other things are unprofitable, yea, all other things are vile without it; what would the gain of the whole world profit him that loseth his soul? How doth the apostle esteem all things loss and dung in comparison of Christ in the means? All without one's self, authority, wealth, favour, honour; yea, and all within one's self, knowledge, wisdom, memory, discourse, and the most excellent gifts which the apostle had in abundance, all dung and loss.

2. All actions, words, thoughts, profession, and the whole course not accompanied with this care, do swerve and err, and being not of faith are sinful, idle, hurtful; everything is lossful that helps not toward heaven, or that hinders heaven from being still held in our eye.

3. God delighteth only in such as in whom He espieth this care.

4. This one thing and care affordeth a man the surest comfort in the world, yea, in the agony of death it cheers the heart to have had a care of the best things. The point is this. In the most earnest affairs of this life a Christian must never forget the one thing necessary; as here we see, the care of salvation must take place of the care of entertaining Christ's own person.And why?

1. The excellency of grace and glory, of Christ and His gospel, is such as should draw all eyes from off these shadows and vanishing contentments to the surpassing brightness of it. What is earth to heaven, earthly goods to heavenly grace? What is gold and silver but dust of the earth, and base things to enter comparison with the blessings of the gospel? What a sin and shame is it to set the moon above the sun, to prefer pottage before the blessing, swine before Christ, and husks before the bread in our Father's house?

2. The dignity of the soul requires the chief care to keep and save it. It is a particle of Divine breath, called the precious soul of man (Proverbs 6:26), not made for the body, but the body to be the tabernacle of the soul, and the soul's instrument to work by, so precious, as that the ransom of it must be beyond all corruptible things; not gold and silver can deliver it, but only the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19). And the soul being lost, what recompense can be given?

3. The presence of grace makes a man serious in this care for the one thing necessary. It lets a man see the danger of the soul without it. It shows the means of recovery out of this woeful estate. It enables him to behold the worth of grace. Labour, then, to discern and conclude, that this is the one thing necessary.To do which, we must do three things.

1. Inform our judgments aright, which are the best things. They are such as serve to the main end, to uphold and maintain Christian life.

2. Resolve to do that which rightly-informed judgment suggests.

3. Avoid the lets and hindrances by which this care of the one thing necessary is usually put off; two specially.First, carnal and proud conceits. Martha must be counted a good housewife, and may not disgrace herself now at such a time, and Christ may be heard another time, or if not, she is well enough; she hath given Christ entertainment. Oh, but he is the best husband and she the best housewife who provide best for their souls, who have care-that everything lie handsome and cleanly within, who hear Christ upon all occasions, and give Him not a meal's-meat in their houses, or entertain His disciples and ministers at their tables, but give Him entertainment in their hearts; without which care the best entertainment is not worth a rush, no, not if Christ's own person were at thy table; for many will say at that day, "We have eaten and drunk with Thee," to whom He shall profess, "Depart from Me, I know you not." Secondly, evil example. It was so common for women to bestir themselves at such a time, as Martha makes a complaint of Mary to Christ, because she did not help her, saying, "Bid her come help me." But happy was Mary that attended Christ, though alone. If many run in byeways and see not the one thing necessary, yea, and account it the most unnecessary of all, we must not go in their way, but sit down (though alone) at the feet of Christ.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

Nay, this whole life is a life of necessities, how then is there but one thing necessary? I answer, it is true these things are necessary in their compass and sphere for this present life, but this life itself is nothing without a better being, and we had better not be than be and not be translated hereafter to a better life, and therefore Christ applies Himself to these means, as to that which conducteth us to that better life, which is only absolutely necessary. But, it may be urged, is not Christ's righteousness, faith, God's Spirit, more than one; and yet are they net all necessary? I answer, though they be diverse, yet they run all to one end. Even as many links make one chain, so all these tend to make a man one, that is a Christian; and therefore a wise soul considers them as one thing, and runs over them all at one view. And first, consider in everything what reference it hath to this one thing, what reference it hath to grace and glory. So long as we neglect this, the devil cares not what we have, whither we go, in what company we are; all is one to him. Secondly, carry ourselves respectively according to the necessity of the things that we are to be busied about, whereof some are more, some less necessary, according as they have more or less good in them. Those that cannot stand with this main one thing, cut them off, for other things that are necessarily required for our well-being in this life, as our daily bread, our callings in these, and the like. Thirdly, take heed of faithless cares, and beg wisdom to despatch business so as they prejudice not the main, and look still how they aim at the main end. As travellers and warriors do unburden themselves of things less necessary, so let us take heed of entangling ourselves in the cares of this life (2 Timothy 2:4). Fourthly, in all business we should observe what the main end is, and labour to direct them to that main end. All other things are temporal, and death buries them, but grace and glory are in extent equal to our souls, extending to all eternity. Grace and the fruits thereof is our own; all other things are not ours. Grace brings us to the greatest good, and advanceth us to the true nobility of sons and heirs of God, and grace makes us truly wise. It makes us wise to salvation; it makes us truly rich with such riches as we cannot lose. Grace is so good, it makes ill things good, so as afflictions with the word and grace are better than all the pleasures in Pharaoh's court in Moses's esteem (Hebrews 11:25). Seeing it is thus, let us be animated by this example of Mary; and to that end, first, beg the Spirit of revelation to open our eyes to see the high prize of our calling, the happiness thereof; and to get a sense and taste of the pleasures thereof, that we may judge by our own experience. For the meanest Christian out of experience knows this to be the good part; and this it is which the apostle prays for (Philippians 1:10), that the Philippians may approve the things that are excellent. The word signifies in all sense and feeling, to approve the things that are excellent, or do differ. Secondly, let us endeavour to balance things, by laying and comparing them together. For comparison gives lustre; and thus shall we see the difference and the excellency of some things above others, and the sooner be able to choose. Thus did David; and the effect thereof was this, "I have seen an end of all created perfection, but thy commandments are exceeding broad or large" (Psalm 119:96). Thirdly, labour for spiritual discretion to discern of particulars. This is, as it were, the steward to all actions, teaching what to cut off, what to add. In all particular affairs of this life, what time and what place fitteth best, tells what company, what life, what way is the best. And when we have done this — fourthly, proceed on and make this choice. If we do not choose it only, but stumble upon it, as it were, it is no thank to us. Though it be the fashion nowadays; men read the Word, and go to church; why? Not that they have, by balancing and the spirit of discretion, made choice of this as the best part, but they were bred up in it; and they went with company, and custom hath drawn them to it; they happen on good duties it may be against their wills; and this is the reason of those many apostates that fall off to embrace this present world, as Demas did (2 Timothy 4:10); for they not being grounded, must needs waver in temptation. Fifthly, in the next place, when we have made this choice, we must resolve with a deliberate resolution to stand by this choice. It is not enough to make an offer, or to cheapen, as we say, but come with resolution to buy, to choose. So David, "I have chosen the way of truth, and have stuck to Thy statutes (Psalm 119:30, 31); and (ver. 57), "I have said," that is, set down with myself, "that I would keep Thy words": for the will rules in our souls. If we be good, our will is good. There are many wicked men that understand and are persuaded what is best; but for want of this resolution and will they never make this determinate choice; and many rail at good men and persecute them. Let such know that God will not take men by chance. If they choose the worst part, they must look for to reap the fruit of their choice. Sixthly, in the next place, come we often, and sit at Christ's feet, as Mary here came to the ministry. "He that heareth you heareth Me," saith Christ. Live under a powerful plain ministry. Lastly, labour to draw on others to this choice. By so much the more earnest endeavour, by how much the more we have been a means to draw them to ill heretofore, and this will seal up all the rest, it being a sure sign of our perfect and sincere choice.

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)

As the head and the foot are both needful in the body, so Mary and Martha are both needful in a commonwealth; man hath two vocations, the one earthly by his labour, the other heavenly by his prayer. There is the active life, which consisteth in practising the affairs of this life, wherein man showeth himself to be like himself; and there is the contemplative life, which consisteth in the meditation of Divine and heavenly things, wherein man showeth himself to be like the angels; for they which labour in their temporal vocations, do live like men; but they which labour in spiritual matters, live like angels. A nurse which hath her breast full of milk doth love the child that sucks it from her; and Christ which hath His breast full of heavenly milk is glad when He hath children to suck the same; let us therefore, as the apostle willeth us (1 Peter 2:12), "laying aside all maliciousness, and all guile, and dissimulation, and envy, and all evil speaking, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby," to be perfect men in Christ Jesus. Let us breathe after the fountain of the living water, which springeth up into eternal life; and as the fainty hart desireth the water-brook to quench his thirst (Psalm 42:1).

(H. Smith.)

Jesus, Martha, Mary
Bethsaida, Capernaum, Chorazin, Jericho, Jerusalem, Road to Jerusalem, Sidon, Sodom, Tyre
Along, Entered, Home, Journey, Martha, Named, Opened, Pass, Pursued, Receive, Received, Town, Traveling, Village, Welcomed
1. Jesus sends out at once seventy disciples to work miracles, and to preach;
13. pronounces a woe against certain cities.
17. The seventy return with joy;
18. he shows them wherein to rejoice,
21. and thanks his Father for his grace;
23. magnifies the happy estate of his church;
25. teaches the lawyer how to attain eternal life,
30. and tells the parable of the good Samaritan;
38. reprimands Martha, and commends Mary her sister.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Luke 10:38

     5478   property, houses
     5765   attitudes, to people
     8447   hospitality, examples

Luke 10:33-38

     5699   guests

Luke 10:38-42

     5339   home
     5636   work, and rest
     5737   sisters
     5745   women
     5976   visiting
     8410   decision-making, examples

Definiteness of Purpose in Christian Work
TEXT: "Salute no man by the way."--Luke 10:4. Luke is the only one of the Evangelists giving us the account of the sending out of the seventy. The others tell us that Christ called certain men unto him and commissioned them to tell his story; but in this instance after Jesus had said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head," he calls the seventy and sends them forth prepared to endure any sacrifice or suffer any affliction if only
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot

October 28 Evening
The Enemy.--LUKE 10:19. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.--Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

June 14 Evening
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.--LUKE 10:41. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap. Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not. Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. Having food and raiment let us be therewith content . . . They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

January 9 Evening
One thing is needful.--LUKE 10:42. There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.--O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land,
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

March 8. "Pray Ye Therefore" (Luke x. 2).
"Pray Ye therefore" (Luke x. 2). Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest." We are asking God to touch the hearts of men every day by the Holy Ghost, so that they shall be compelled to go abroad and preach the Gospel. We are asking Him to wake them up at night with the solemn conviction that the heathen are perishing, and that their blood will be upon their souls, and God is answering
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Good Samaritan
LUKE x. 33, 34. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. No words, perhaps, ever spoken on earth, have had more effect than those of this parable. They are words of power and of spirit; living words, which have gone forth into the hearts and lives of men, and borne fruit in them of a hundred
Charles Kingsley—Discipline and Other Sermons

The Tables Turned: the Questioners Questioned
'But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, 36. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment. 39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Christ's Messengers: their Equipment and Work
'After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place whither He Himself would come. 2. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. 3. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. 5. And into whatsoever
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions Of Holy Scripture

Neighbours Far Off
'And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26. He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27. And he, answering, said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus,
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions Of Holy Scripture

SANCTIFICATION [1] St Luke x. 42.--"One thing is needful." I have read many writings both of heathen philosophers and inspired prophets, ancient and modern, and have sought earnestly to discover what is the best and highest quality whereby man may approach most nearly to union with God, and whereby he may most resemble the ideal of himself which existed in God, before God created men. And after having thoroughly searched these writings as far as my reason may penetrate, I find no higher quality than
Johannes Eckhart—Meister Eckhart's Sermons

On the Words of the Gospel, Luke x. 16, "He that Rejecteth You Rejecteth Me. "
1. What our Lord Jesus Crist at that time spake to His disciples was put in writing, and prepared for us to hear. And so we have heard His words. For what profit would it be to us if He were seen, and were not heard? And now it is no hurt, that He is not seen, and yet is heard. He saith then, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me." [3300] If to the Apostles only He said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me;" do ye despise us. But if His word reach to us, and He hath called us, and set us in their
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

On the Words of the Gospel, Luke x. 2, "The Harvest Truly is Plenteous," Etc.
1. By the lesson of the Gospel which has just been read, we are reminded to search what that harvest is of which the Lord says, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest." [3262] Then to His twelve disciples, whom He also named Apostles, He added other seventy-two, and sent them all, as appears from His words, to the harvest then ready. What then was that harvest? For that harvest was not among these
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

On the Words of the Gospel, Luke x. 38, "And a Certain Woman Named Martha Received Him into Her House," Etc.
1. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read out of the Gospel, give us to understand, that there is some one thing for which we must be making, when we toil amid the manifold engagements of this life. Now we make for this as being yet in pilgrimage, and not in our abiding place; as yet in the way, not yet in our country; as yet in longing, not yet in enjoyment. Yet let us make for it, and that without sloth and without intermission, that we may some time be able to reach it. 2.
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

Again, on the Words of the Gospel, Luke x. 38, Etc. , About Martha and Mary.
1. When the holy Gospel was being read, we heard that the Lord was received by a religious woman into her house, and her name was Martha. And while she was occupied in the care of serving, her sister Mary was sitting at the Lord's Feet, and hearing His Word. The one was busy, the other was still; one was giving out, the other was being filled. Yet Martha, all busy as she was in that occupation and toil of serving, appealed to the Lord, and complained of her sister, that she did not help her in her
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

On Dissipation
"This I speak -- that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." 1 Cor. 7:35. 1. Almost in every part of our nation, more especially in the large and populous towns, we hear a general complaint among sensible persons, of the still increasing dissipation. It is observed to diffuse itself more and more, in the court, the city, and the country. From the continual mention which is made of this, and the continual declamations against it, one would naturally imagine that a word so commonly used
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

The one Thing Needful
The mere posture of sitting down and listening to the Saviour's word was nothing in itself: it was that which it indicated. It indicated, in Mary's case, a readiness to believe what the Saviour taught, to accept and to obey--nay to delight in, the precepts which fell from his lips. And this is the one thing needful--absolutely needful; for no rebel can enter the kingdom of heaven with the weapons of rebellion in his hands. We cannot know Christ while we resist Christ: we must be reconciled to his
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871

The Good Samaritan
(Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.) S. LUKE x. 30. "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves." The scene of the parable is a wild, lonely road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It is a road with an evil name for murder and robbery, and is called the red, or bloody way. The mishap of the traveller was common enough in our Lord's day, and is common enough now. But I would take the scene of this parable in a wider sense; I would ask you to look at it as the wayside of
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton—The Life of Duty, a Year's Plain Sermons, v. 2

13th Sunday after Trinity. S. Luke x., 23. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" INTRODUCTION.--The Kingdom of Heaven, said our Lord, is like unto a treasure hid in a field. One day a man is turning over the stones which lie in a heap in a corner of the field, and he finds under them an iron chest, and this chest he believes to be full of gold. Then he carefully covers it up again with stones and earth, and goes off in the greatest excitement to the owner of the field, and offers him a price,
S. Baring-Gould—The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent

Lorimer -- the Fall of Satan
George C. Lorimer was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1838. He was brought up by his stepfather who was associated with the theater, and in this relation he received a dramatic education and had some experience on the stage. In 1855 he came to the United States, where he joined the Baptist Church and abandoned the theatrical profession. Later he studied for the Baptist ministry, being ordained in 1859. He died in 1904. His direct and dramatic, pulpit style brought him into great popularity in Boston,
Grenville Kleiser—The world's great sermons, Volume 8

Question on the Religious State
Are Contemplative Orders superior to Active Orders? Are Contemplative Orders superior to Active Orders? The Lord declared that Mary's was the best part, and she is the type of the contemplative life.[491] Religious Orders differ from one another primarily according to the ends they have in view, but secondarily according to the works they practise. And since one thing cannot be said to be superior to another save by reason of the differences between them, it will follow that the superiority of
St. Thomas Aquinas—On Prayer and The Contemplative Life

Christian Perfection
Definition of perfection: Unblemished, blameless, pure. We are commanded to be perfect. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."--Matt. 5:48. "For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."--2 Cor. 13:9, 11. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,
J. W. Byers—Sanctification

The Christian's Fellow Man
Scripture references: Luke 10:29-37; Matthew 7:12; 5:16; Luke 12:13-15; 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 7:3-5; 5:42-49; John 21:21, 22. MAN AND OTHER MEN The Question of Relationship.--One of the most important questions is that of the relation which a man shall hold to other men. 1. It is fundamental in every system of philosophy and religion. The answers, which are given, show their widespread practical bearing in the social, industrial and political spheres, as well as in the religious. 2. It is imperative
Henry T. Sell—Studies in the Life of the Christian

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