There are probably few readers of the Bible who have not paused, on reading the incident of Jesus and the sinful woman, to wonder as to what he wrote on the ground in reply to her accusers. A selected article that appeared in the Christian Science Sentinel of May 17, 1900, states that Professor Gregory of Leipzig has discovered in an old manuscript a different reading of this passage, in which the ninth verse is thus rendered: And they when they read it went out one by one, etc. As the professor interprets it, Jesus wrote on the sand the secret sins of those who would have had their fellow-sinner stoned in support of their own self-righteousness. Their assumption of innocence in bringing a less fortunate culprit to punishment could not hide from the piercing purity of Jesus' consciousness the sinfulness they had hidden from the world; and he turned upon them the sentence of their own moral distance from purity and goodness.

If this rule of our Master were generally obeyed, and those only who are "without sin" should cast the stone of condemnation at the erring, what a benediction of mercy and love would rest upon this saddened, sinful world. Too many of us are prone to find fault with all whose manner of life and conduct does not conform to our ideals, and to harshly condemn those who have yielded to temptations that may not have come our way or against which we may have been more strongly fortified. What have we to glory in with respect to our own righteousness, that we should sit in the place of judge over the brother who may have stumbled and fallen? How many of us would have done better under the same circumstances? How can any one think that he would have been a better or a truer man than the one he may condemn, had he been in the other's place?

While the Christ-law condemns sin, and does not exempt the sinner from the punishment that may be necessary to bring him to repentance, it calls for compassion rather than condemnation, especially from those who are also liable to be tempted. Had Jesus spurned the woman in his natural abhorrence of her sin, instead of lovingly bidding her to "sin no more," the result would probably have been hardening instead of redemptive. He declared that his mission was to save, not to condemn. It is Love that uplifts, and heals, and regenerates, that raises the fallen and recalls the wanderer. If our exalted Master could not fulfil his Christ-work among men without the exercise of a love that is beyond human imagination to conceive, how much more should they love and be merciful who follow his example so fitfully and so feebly? What Christlikeness can there be in bringing another into condemnation for doing what we have not ourselves risen above? If Christ Jesus were likewise standing in our midst when we are accusing others, what, think you, would he write upon the sand for us to read?

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September 22, 1906

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