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TO JONAS HANWAY, ESQ.
IN WHICH SOME REASONS ARE ASSIGNED, WHY HOUSES FOR THE RECEPTION OF PENITENT WOMEN, WHO HAVE BEEN DISORDERLY IN THEIR LIVES, OUGHT NOT TO BE CALLED MAGDALEN HOUSES.
YOUR OUR generous concern to promote good designs occasions you this trouble. There is now, and has been for some while, much discourse about erecting a house, or houses, for the reception of penitent women, who have been disorderly in their lives: a design formerly unknown and unheard of among us. It has been proposed by some that they should be called Magdalen Houses. And there is already established a house of this kind in Goodman's-fields, which is called a Magdalen House for penitent prostitutes.
As that denomination is disliked by others beside myself, I have taken the liberty to address you upon this subject.
I presume it may be owing to a supposition, that the fine story, recorded in the seventh chapter of St. Luke's gospel, of the gracious reception which our Lord gave to a woman, there called “a sinner," relates to Mary Magdalene. And you, Sir, if I do not misunderstand you, in your Letter to Robert Dingley, Esq. at p. 22, speak of Mary Magdalene as a harlot.*
And that she is the woman, there spoken of, must have been at some times a prevailing opinion. For the summary of part of that chapter, in our English Bibles, is to this purpose. Our Lord showeth by occasion of Mary Magdalene, how he is a friend to sinners, not to 'maintain them in sins, but to forgive their sins upon faith and repentance.'"
Nevertheless I cannot think that Mary Magdalene is there meant.
One reason here offers from the history itself, at ver. 27, where she is said to be "a woman in the city," in which our Lord then was: which, according to most harmonizers of the gospels, was either Capernaum or Naim: whereas there can be no reason to believe that Mary Magdalene resided at either of those places. Says Mr. James Macknight, Harm. sect. xliii.
p. 134. • 'H paydaλnvn, the Magdalene or Magdalite, probably from Magdala, the place of her nativity, a ⚫ town situated somewhere beside the lake, and mentioned Matt. xv. 29.'
A passage at the beginning of the next chapter of St. Luke's gospel deserves particular attention, which, therefore, shall be here recited. "And it came to pass afterwards, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching, and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom
The words, to which I refer, are these: What judgIment did the Saviour of the world pass on a harlot ? What was the case of Mary Magdalene?'
The contents, or summaries, prefixed to the chapters in our Bibles, seem to have been annexed to the English translation now in use, which was made in the time of king James the first. For in all editions of that translation, so far as I have observed, they are the same, where there are any contents at all. But it is not to be supposed that they represent the sense of all learned men in general. For in an English Bible in the quarto form, printed in the reign of queen Elizabeth in 1599, by the deputies of Christopher
Barker, the summary of that paragraph in Luke vii. is this: The sinful woman washeth Jesus' feet.' In Pool's English Annotations it is this: Eating at Simon's house, a woman washeth his feet with tears,' &c. And in Dr. Clarke's Paraphrase, the same paragraph is briefly expressed in this manner: Jesus shows by the similitude of a forgiven debtor, that re'penting sinners often exceed other men in zeal and piety." I might refer to others; but these instances are sufficient to show, that not a few learned men have declined naming the woman there spoken of, and that they have not been satisfied she was the same with Mary Magdalene.
of God. And the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits, and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna, wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susannah, and many others. Which ministered to him of their substance, ch. viii. 1, 2, 3.
This text affords divers reasons for thinking, that Mary Magdalene is not the woman intended in the preceding chapter.
In the first place, it hence appears, that Mary Magdalene was a woman of quality. But it is very uncommon for such to deserve the character given, ch. vii. 37, " a woman in the city which was a sinner." And the pharisee, at whose house our Lord was then entertained, " spake within himself, saying: This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him. For she is a sinner."
Mr. Macknight, again, argues to the like purpose, p. 134. Mary Magdalene seems rather to have been a woman of high station and opulent fortune, being mentioned by St. Luke even before Joanna, the wife of so great a man as Herod's steward. Besides, the other evangelists, when they have occasion to speak of our Lord's female friends, commonly assign the first place to Mary Magdalene.' As Matt. xxvii. 56, 61. xxviii. 1. Mark xv. 40, 47. And see Luke xxiv. 10. But John xix. 25. affords an exception.
Grotius, in his Annotations upon Matt. xxviii. 1. speaks to the like purpose.* He likewise thinks, it was at her expence, chiefly, that the spices were prepared for embalming the body of Jesus.
To which I would add, that the precedence, just taken notice of, may have been, partly, owing to her age.
Secondly, In the text, which we are now considering, Mary Magdalene is mentioned with other women, "who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities." And of her is said, “out of whom went seven devils." Which is also observed by another evangelist, Mark xvi. 9. She therefore was one of those, who are sometimes called dæmoniacs, and had been possessed, as we generally say, by evil spirits."
Accordingly, Dr. Lardner, in his case of the dæmoniacs, mentioned in the New Testament, has several times taken notice of Mary Magdalene. He says: What was Mary's case, appears in general by St. Luke's account. ch. viii. 1, 2-Here Mary is reckoned among
those, whom our Lord had healed of infirmities, and such infirmities, as were ascribed to evil
But I do not think, we can with certainty conclude from those words, what was her particular affliction, because the Jews in those times imputed a great variety of distempers to the 'influence of dæmons. But though we dare not say positively, what was her case, whether a distempered frame of mind, or epilepsy, or somewhat else: it appears to me very evident, that 'some natural, not moral distemper, is hereby intended, and that by seven dæmons is meant many: a certain number being put for an uncertain. It was supposed, as in the case of the man, who called himself legion, that more than one dæmon, or unclean spirit, was concerned in inflicting, or aggravating the infirmity, which she had been afflicted with, and which our blessed Lord graciously removed.'
Thirdly, In this text Mary Magdalene is mentioned with divers other honourable women, who attended our Lord in his journies, and ministered to him of their substance."
But it may be justly questioned, whether our Lord would have allowed of that, if Mary's conduct had been unreputable in the former part of her life. For though he received such an one as a penitent, and assured her of the forgiveness of her sins; it would not be easily reconciled with the rules of prudence to admit such a person to a stated attendance.
This argument has affected the minds of many learned men."
Nor can it be imagined, that any women of distinction and good credit would admit into their company one who had been under the reproach of a disorderly life. By St. Luke they are here enumerated after this manner. Mary called Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others." In St. Matthew xxvii. 55, 56. "And many women were there, beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children." Compare Mark xv. 40, 47. xvi. 1. Luke xxiv. 10. John xix. 25. these must have been women of an unblemished character. And so far was there from being any exception to Mary Magdalene, that she is several times mentioned as the most honourable, and placed first of all.
Among them, whether she be expressly named or not, was our Lord's mother. And undoubtedly an exact decorum was observed, according to the Jewish custom.
Nor were they idle. As Jerom says, they provided for our Lord's accommodation in his food and garments. And, possibly, Mary Magdalene presided in the direction of the affairs which were under their care.
When they accompanied our Lord in any of his journies, they may have followed at a distance, and in a separate band. And, as may be well supposed, they had some female servants
of their own.
The woman called "a sinner," was absolutely excluded from having any part in that company. When she came into the room where our Lord was, and gave proofs of repentance, he graciously and openly received her as a penitent. Having delivered the similitude of two forgiven debtors, he addressed the pharisee, at whose house he was, in these words: "Wherefore, I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven," Luke vii. 47. Afterwards, at ver. 48. "And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven." Finally, at ver. 50. “And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace." Nor could any unprejudiced men disallow our Lord's ability to discern her real temper, and to pronounce a right sentence, after he had shown to the pharisee himself, that he knew his inmost thoughts.
In all this our our blessed Lord acted agreeably to his great design, which was to bring sinful men to repentance. And he faithfully discharged the important commission that had been given him, which was "to seek, and to save that which was lost," Matt. xviii. 11. Luke xix. 10.
But it cannot be reasonably supposed, that he would admit such a person into the number of his stated attendants. And I believe, that they who attentively observe our Lord's history, as recorded in the gospels, may perceive his life to have been an example of admirable wisdom and prudence, as well as of the strictest virtue, and the most generous goodness and compassion.
Let us now sum up the evidence, so far as we have gone. Mary of Magdala was a woman of distinction, and very easy in her worldly circumstances. For a while she had laboured under some bodily indisposition, which our Lord miraculously healed. For which benefit she was ever after very thankful. So far as we know, her conduct was always regular, and free from censure. And we may reasonably believe, that after her acquaintance with our Saviour it was edifying and exemplary. I conceive of her, as a woman of a fine understanding, and known virtue and discretion, with a dignity of behaviour becoming her age, her wisdom, and her high station. By all which she was a credit to him, whom she followed as her Master and benefactor. She showed our Lord great respect in his life, at his death, and after it. And she was one of those, to whom he first showed himself after his resurrection. As appears from Matt. xxviii. 1-10. Mark xvi. 9. and John xx. 1-18.
I am very unwilling to trouble you with the intricacies of criticism. But I fear, my argu ment will not be reckoned conclusive by all, unless I proceed a little farther, and take notice of
nisi quod abludere a majestate Domini videatur, quod in comitatu suo mulierem ob impuritates suas infamem voluerit circumducere- Neque consulit huic difficultati Nat. Alexander, quoad ansa omni scandalo per illustrem atque inter Judæos notam pœnitentiam præcisa fuerit. Nimis enim efferata erat Judæorum malitia, quam ut eapropter a conviciis cessaturi essent. Lampe in Joann. Evang. cap. xix. T. III. p. 608. Vid. et Basnag. Ann. 31. num. xlii.
secutæ sunt Jesum non otiosæ, sed facientes quæ
mandabantur ab eo, et delectabant eum. Ministrantes enim sequebantur eum. Orig. in Matt. Item. 35. num. 141. p. 929. T. III. ed. Bened.
Consuetudinis Judaïcæ fuit, nec ducebatur in culpam, more gentis antiquo, ut mulieres de substantiâ suâ victum atque vestitum præceptoribus ministrarent, &c. Hieron. in Matt. xxvii. tom. IV. p. 140. Bened.
ο Όύτω και αυτή αρχηγός των μαθητριών γενομενη, κ. λ. Modest. ap. Phot. Cod. 275. p. 1526.
some other things. For by some it has been supposed, that Mary, sister of Lazarus, was the same as Mary Magdalene. And by some it has been thought, that Mary, sister of Lazarus, is the same as the woman called "a sinner."
First, Some have supposed, that Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus, was the same as Mary Magdalene. This is an assertion of Baronius, who was confuted by Isaac Casaubon,” G. J. Vossius, and others. Grotius likewise has well argued against that opinion.
Indeed I think it very manifest, that they are different persons. For 1. Mary Magdalene was so called from a place situated in Galilee. Lazarus and his sisters were inhabitants of Bethany near Jerusalem in Judea, properly so called. John xi. 1, and elsewhere. 2. Mary Magdalene is frequently named with other women, who attended our Lord in his journies, and came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, at the times of the great feasts as we have seen. But Lazarus. and his sisters resided at Bethany. Nor do we read of any attendance, which either of those sisters gave our Lord, except at the place of their ordinary residence. St. Luke has recorded a visit, which our Lord made there, not improbably, as he was going up to the feast of the dedication, mentioned John x. 22. "And it came to pass," says St. Luke, " as they went, that he entered into a certain village. And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word." And what there follows: Luke x. 38, 39. And St. John, ch. xi. giving an account of the sickness, and death, and resurrection of Lazarus, assures us, that both his sisters were at home at Bethany. Here likewise it was, that Mary anointed our Lord with precious ointment a short time before his last sufferings, as related John xii. at the beginning. 3. Mary Magdalene is particularly mentioned with others, whom our Lord had miraculously healed of infirmities: and out of her, as is said, went seven dæmons. But nothing of this kind is ever said, or hinted of Mary sister of Lazarus.
Secondly, Some have supposed, Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus, to be the same with the woman called "a sinner," of whom St. Luke speaks in ch. vii.
For St. John writes, ch. xi. 1, 2. "Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, whose brother Lazarus was sick."
Here therefore we must again recollect what St. Luke says, ch. vii. 37, 38. "And behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping. And she began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."
Hence, then, it may be argued, that St. John has told us the name of the woman that was "a sinner," though St. Luke omitted it. She is Mary sister of Lazarus.
To which I would answer. 1. Mary, sister of Lazarus, was a woman of good character, without any note of infamy. St. Chrysostom, in a homily upon the beginning of the eleventh chapter of St. John's gospel, says: Some have put the question, whether this be the same with her that is called "a sinner." But without reason, he says, for this was a virtuous woman of ' good credit.' And in a homily upon Matt. xxvi. 6, &c. he calls the sister of Lazarus, an admirable woman.' 2. The anointing, mentioned by St. Luke, was done at Naim or Capernaum, or some other place in Galilee. But Mary, sister of Lazarus, as was before shown, dwelt at Bethany. 3. St. John here intends that anointing of our Lord, of which himself has given a particular relation in ch. xii. 1-8. Which therefore we must now observe. "Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served. But Lazarus was one of them that sat at table. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus,
In primis dicimus, attestatione Joannis Evangelista, immo Christi, apertissime constare, unam eamdemque personam fuisse Mariam Lazari et Martha sororem cum Maria Magdalena. Baron. Ann. 32. num. xix.
b Exercit. Antibar. xix. num. xi.
Longius vero a januâ, quod dicitur, videntur mihi aberrâsse, qui arbitrantur, Mariam, a quâ Dominus, priusquam pateretur, inunctus fuit, Mariam fuisse Magdalenam
Hæc enim non eâ notâ ab aliis distinguitur Mariis, quod inunxerit Dominum, sed quod Dominus ex eâ septem ejecerit dæmonia. G. J. Voss. Harm. Ev. 1. 1. c. 3. § vii.
Vid. Grot. in Matt. xxvi. 6.
e 'Αυτη δε και σεμνῃ και σπεδαία. In Joan. hom. 62 al. 61. T. VIII. P:
ε'Αλλ' έτερα τις θαυμαση, ή το Λαζαρε αδελφη. In Matt. hom. 8o. al. 81. T. VII. p. 765.
and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Then said Jesus : Let her alone against the day of my burying has she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you but me ye have not always."
That this is a different anointing from that mentioned by St. Luke, is manifest from divers particulars. They differ in the circumstances of time and place as just shown. Again, in the former it was Simon the pharisee, who took offence at our Lord's suffering himself to be touched by a woman that was a sinner. Here it is Judas, one of the disciples, who murmurs at the expence. And our Lord's vindications are quite different. To which might be added, that the woman, of whom St. Luke writes, stood behind our Lord " weeping, and washing his feet with tears." But St. John has not a word of Mary's shedding any tears, though he has twice said, that" she wiped his feet with her hair." See ch. xi. 2, and xii. 3.
In Matt. xxvi. 6—13, and Mark xiv. 3-9, as is well known, is an account of our Saviour's being anointed by a certain woman a short time before the passover. Some learned interpreters think, that these are different histories, and that our Lord was twice anointed in Bethany, in the space of a few days: once by Mary sister of Lazarus, as related by St. John, and a second time by another woman not named, as related by those two evangelists. Others think, that these three evangelists speak of one and the same anointing. Which to me appears very right. But it is not needful, that I should now stay to reconcile those accounts.
I have aimed to show, that Mary Magdalene is not the woman called "a sinner," of whom St. Luke writes, ch. vii. And I suppose, that most Protestant divines are of the same opinion. The learned Romanists have been divided. The grounds and reasons of the controversy among them may be seen in several."
Nevertheless the learned Benedictine editor of St. Chrysostom's works has expressed himself very freely concerning this point, in a note upon one of the homilies above cited. It is a difficult question,' says he, whether the woman that was a sinner, who washed Christ's feet, be the same as Mary, sister of Lazarus. But that Mary Magdalene is different from them, is • now denied by very few."
Tillemont begins his article of Mary Magdalene with these words: It is an ancient question in the church, and upon which all are not yet entirely agreed, whether Mary Magdalene be the same as Mary sister of Lazarus, and the woman that is said to be a sinner, or whether they are three different persons. The most illustrious churches of France, and almost all the ⚫ learned men of our times, have declared for the distinction of these three persons. And it has been proved by reasons, which seem fully to decide the difficulty, if we will judge without prejudice.'
Du Pin, referring to Luke vii. says: It' is commonly thought, that this woman was Mary Magdalene. Nevertheless the evangelist, who relates this history, does not name her. All he says, is, that she was a woman in that city, known for her disorderly life. It is not at all probable, that she was Mary Magdalene, or Mary sister of Lazarus, who were women of quality, and good • condition.'
After this long argument, and so many good authorities, I may leave you to consider, whether
* Et quæ secundum Lucam est, plorat, et multum laerymat, ut pedes Jesu lacrymis lavet. Quæ autem secundum Joannem est Maria, neque peccatrix, neque lacrymans introducitur. Orig. in Matt. hom. 35. num. 77. p. 892. Vid. et Hieron. in Matt. xxvi. 7. T. IV. p. 125.
Cleric. Harm. Evang. cap. lii. p. 350. 351. et cap. lix. p. 404, 405. See also Mr. Macknight's Harm. §. 109. p. 97, 98. and §. 124. p. 146.
G. J. Voss. Harm. Ev. 1. i. cap. 3. §. 7. Calvin in Joan. Ev. xii. 1. Lampe Comm. in Jo. T. II. p. 822. Bynæus de Morte Christi. . i. cap. 3. num. v. &c. Lenfant sur Matt. xxvi. 6. et Jean. xii. 2, 3. Doddridge's Family Expositor. vol. II. p. 283. note (a). Hammond upon Luke vii. 37. Vid. et Hieron. in Matt. xxvi. T. IV. p. 125. fin.
See in Bayle's Dictionary J. Fevre, d'Etaples, or Faber Stapulensis, particularly Note (E). They who have leisure
might also consult Tillemont's chapter of S. Marie Madelaine, Mem. Tom. II. and the Notes upon it, which are long, and contain a great deal of learning, relating to this subject.
Grandis quæstio, utrum peccatrix illa, que Christi pedes abluit, eadem ipsa sit, quæ soror Lazari; quam tractare præsentis non est instituti. Mariam autem Magdalenam ab his diversam esse, pauci jam negant. Ap. Chryst. T. VII. p. 765. f On croit communément, que cette femme étoit Marie Madelaine. Cependant l' Evangeliste S. Luc, qui rapporte cette histoire, ne la nomme point. C'étoit une femme connue dans la ville pour une femme de mauvaise vie. Il n'y a pas d' apparence, que ce fût ni Marie Madeleine, ni Marie Sœur de Lazare, dont nous parlerons, qui étoient des femmes de qualité, et de bonne condition. Du Pin Histoire de l'Eglise en Abrégé. Vol. i. p. 451.