Robert Philip.

The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

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and evincing our participation of the Holy
Spirit, as when we mounted on eagles' wings
in devotion, or melted in love and penitence at
the Sacrament. Yes ; and we should both
soar and sing oftener, if we habitually tried to
possess our souls in patience and equanimity.


But even this is not the duty, which has
" no comeliness" that commends it to our taste.
The worst tempered do not admire passion
even in themselves, however they may justify
or palliate it at times. They often excuse it,
but they never praise it, nor pretend that it
makes them happy. Perhaps no Christians
see so clearly, in one sense, the deformity of
ill temper, as those who are, themselves, very
irritable. They smart and suffer so much from
giving way to it frequently, that they know
well all its sad effects, however they may
forget its sinfulness, or try to soften its guilt, in
their own case. Neither are they insensible
to the beauty of a meek and quiet spirit in
others. They even wish they were like them;
and, if wishing could make them so, they would
be very glad ! Of course, it never will : for in
speaking thus, they are wishing for what no
one has or can get in this world, — a spirit that
should need neither rulincr nor watching over.
Grace to rule and watch over their own rebel-
lious spirit, they might obtain by turning their


idle wishes into honest prayers : but even
prayer itself, however fervent, will not bring
down from heaven into any bosom, a spirit
which nothing could ruffle, or which would re-
quire no looking after. There is no such tem-
per in the universe, except in heaven. Let us
not, therefore, amuse ourselves by dreaming
about a lovely fiction, nor deceive ourselves by
imagining that those who have an " excellent
spirit," are so gifted with it, as to need no self-
government nor pains-taking, in order to excel.
Those who excel us most in temper, will all
be found to exceed us equally in watchfulness
I do not forget, whilst writing thus, that
many are good-humoured, and even sweet-tem-
pered, who yet have no grace whatever, nor any
concern about it. In such cases, therefore, I
readily allow, and solemnly affirm, that the
sweetness of their disposition proves nothing
but the healthiness of their nervous system, or
the harmony of their physical powers, or the
absence of provocation. In such females,
therefore, habitual gentleness and suavity do



not amount even to moral principle, and are in
no sense the fruits of the Spirit, The utmost
and the best which can be said of this happy
temperament, is, that it is an invaluable gift of
Providence, very favourable to all the duties of
life and godliness, and very useful to society.
It ought, therefore, to be highly prized by all
who possess it : for it is unquestionably given
by Providence, as a motive to seek grace ; and
thus it involves weighty responsibilities, and
leaves its possessors without excuse, if they
neglect the great salvation.

Much more responsible and inexcusable,
however, are we who have found some grace,
and hope for still more, if we neglect our tem-
per, or leave it to accident. For if nature, when
unusually gentle, bind to improvement, how
much grace confirms that obligation ! If they
sin who spoil a fine natural disposition by ex-
posing it unnecessarily to temptation, how
guilty are we when we allow grace to be de-
feated by nature, just because we did not try to
ride our spirit at the time !


It will not do to set off against this nerrlect,
the attention we pay to the great salvation
itself, and to some of the spiritual duties which
love to Christ involves. Indeed, the more at-
tention we pay to them, the more inexcusable
we are when we give way to a wrong spirit.
Besides, we do not attend to them, whilst the
fit of ill humour lasts. That which clouds our
brow or convulses our frame, hides both Divine
and eternal things from our sight, for the time ;
and renders it difficult, even afterwards, to re-
new clear and calm views of them again. Thus,
what is really spiritual about us, is any thing
but a set-off against what is natural. " The
image of the heavenly," instead of excusing or
palliating " the image of the earthy," only ag-
gravates its inconsistency, Avhenever that in-
consistency is allowed, or not singled out for

Nothing is farther from the real design of
these hints, than to set an amiable spirit above
a devotional spirit. My object is, to show
clearly how they help each other, and how


mucli they depend on each other ; that thus
we may be equally careful to cultivate both.
They are emphatically, the wings on which
the soul rises to heaven ; and if either wing is
allowed to drop often, the other will not bear
the soul far nor frequently within the veil.
Hence the necessity of making Christian tem-
per a matter of deliberate study. And I mean
by studying it, not merely trying to rule your
spirit better than you have done, nor even being
more upon your guard than formerly ; but also
contemplating its own native loveliness, and its
" great price" in the sight of God and man, as
an " ornament" of female character. It must
be loved, in order to be habitually attempted.
But loved it will not be, until its own loveliness
is seen and felt. We must be charmed by the
beauty of this feature of the Divine Image, as
well as charge ourselves by its authority or its
necessity, if we would really abound in it.

This is equally true in regard to a forbearing
and forgiving spirit. The duty of long-suffering
under injury, and the still harder duty of both


forgiving and forgetting the injury, may stand
very clearly before the mind, and even have
much weight upon the conscience. We may
neither despise nor dispute our obligation, to
bury in oblivion whatever we have suffered
from the hand or tongue of others : and yet, all
our heart may rise and writhe against the duty
of telling, or showing, the offenders, that we do
forgive and forget. Indeed, we are inclined to
think it quite enough, if God knows that we are
trying to do it in his sight. Nothing, perhaps,
is more mortifying than the idea of making
known to theoflender, face to face, that we have
got over the offence : except, indeed, the idea
of confessinsf our own faults to those whom we
have offended. Both duties are sadlv against
the grain of human nature, even where grace
has no small influence upon the heart. Accord-
ingly, neither duty is, in general, well gone
through, even by those who cannot be easy be-
fore God until their breaches with man are
openly healed.

Here, again, the failure in this part of holi-


ness, arises from not studying the beauty of a
right spirit. We look at both confessing and
forgiving, too much in the lights of this world,
or through the eyes of others ; and thus come
to deem that mean-spirited or very weak, which
God reckons signally noble and peculiarly lovely.
Whilst, therefore, a deeper sense of positive
and imperative obligation to confess and forgive,
is of immense importance ; still, that alone,
\vill not lead to much of either until both are
admired for their beauty, as well as admitted
because of their authority. We must learn to
love these duties because they are lovely in the
sight of God ; and for the sake of the good they
create and the mischief they prevent, as well
as for the sake of the laws w^hich enforce
them : for, otherwise, we shall shrink from
them entirely, or perform them grudgingly.

I have now said quite enough to convince
you, that more than regard to the law of holi-
ness, or than the dread of the penal sanctions
which enforce it, is necessary, in order to a
cheerful and impartial following of holiness.


We must be drawn by its silken cords, as well
as driven by its knotted whip : for, otherwise,
we shall not go far enough, to make our call-
ing and election sure ; nor readily enough to
prove that " the love of Christ constraineth

The grand question here, however, is, how
are such winning views of the beauty of Holi-
ness to be acquired, without a degree of study
greater than we have time for, and deeper
than our talents can reach ? Now, happily,
the Ethics of Holiness are both few and sim-
ple. Its chief reasons are founded upon what
God is, upon what Christ has done for us, and
upon what is obviously wanted as preparation
for the enjoyments and engagements of Heaven.

Did you ever observe how the first of
these reasons (which is the most profound) is
brought before us in the Scriptures ? " As He
who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in
all manner of conversation : because it is
written. Be ye holy, for I am holy." 1 Pet. i.
15. Thus calling Grace introduces commanding


Holiness. God appeals to what he has done
for us, before telling us all we must be. What
is " written to us on the subject of holiness, is
founded upon what is " wrought" in us by the
Holy Spirit. God reminds us that he has called
us by his grace, when he invites us to contem-
plate and copy his holiness. Thus He interests
our hearts, that he may exercise our under-
standing, and sway our conscience, by the
glories of his own character. Truly God is
love, in the very manner in which he gives law
to his children !

Now we fondly hope that what we have
felt of the power and sweetness of the Gospel,
is, the gracious " calling" of God. We may
be somewhat afraid to say that it is, positively,
that effectual calling of God, which is, " with-
out repentance" on his part : but we are very
anxious that it may prove to be so, and quite
sure that it has been effectual for some good
purposes upon both our hearts and habits
already. We may not ses so clearly the pre-
cise time of our call, as to be able, like Paul,


to point to the very moment of our conversion,
saying, " When it pleased God to call me by
his grace :" but we do remember the time,
when we disUked godliness, and felt no need
of grace. We are very glad that

" These times are past !"

and would not for worlds they should re-
turn !

Well ; the holiness of God did not prevent
Him from calling us by his Spirit, even whilst
we were " dead in trespasses and sins." In
fact, it was because He is glorious in holiness,
that the love wherewith he loved us when he
quickened us, was so "rich in mercy:" for
had he not loved Holiness infinitely, he would
never have taken one step, nor made one
stoop, to make us holy. We need not be
afraid, therefore, to study how holy the God
who called us, is. Had he been less holy, he
would not have called us nor any one. Well,
therefore, may the harp of Judah be listened

to and obeyed, when it invites us to *' give



thanks at the remembrance of His holiness :"
for were not God infinitely and immutably holy,
there would be no grace to give thanks for.

I mention this particularly, because it is too
common to speak and think only of the love or
the mercy of God, when gratitude for grace is
claimed from us. All grace, however, is given
for holy purposes ; and, therefore, it ought to
lead out our thoughts to the Divine Holiness
which is the moral reason of this, as well as to
the Divine Love which is the original fountain
of grace. The character, as well as the heart,
of God, must be kept in view. We have no
more right to look at the latter, apart from the
former, for comfort, than the twelve tribes of
Israel had to look only upon the breastplate of
Aaron for their names, when he interceded be-
fore the Lord. Their names were also upon
the heryl-stones, on his shoulders. Thus they
were placed upon the seat of authority, as well
as upon the seat of sympathy ; and borne where
government rested, as well as where grace
reigned. It is in allusion to this, that it is said


of Christ, " The government shall be upon his

There is, therefore, sometliing wrong in our
A'iews, if we are afraid to think of the holiness
of God : and if we dislike to think of it, there is
much wrong in our hearts. Our dislike will not
move, however, until our dread is removed. So
long as the holiness of God presents any thing
to terrify us ; or is regarded as an attribute which
is against us ; or as an awful perfection which
would turn from us with abhorrence, were it
not prevented by Love and Mercy ; so long we
shall not love it. We cannot love the Holiness
of God, whilst we reckon it our enemy, or re-
gard it as no farther our friend, than just as far
as the intercession of Christ keeps it from
breaking out upon us in fury.

This, alas ! is, however, the ordinary \dew
of it. In this light, the generality contemplate
it : and therefore dislike the subject. It seems
to them to have no " beauty" that they should
desire it. Do you feel at all in this way ? Does
the holiness of God appear to you an attribute


flashing rather with devouring fire, than with
soft splendour ? Do you look to it only from
necessity ; and never from choice, except when
you feel your need of a strong check upon
yourself ? Were you never so charmed by the
beauty of Jehovah's holiness, as to " give
thanks at the remembrance" of it ? Can you
hardly imagine how you could ever so get over
your instinctive dread of it, as to delight in
thinking of it, or to be capable of contempla-
ting it with composure ? Does it seem to you
impossible to be as much charmed with the
holiness of God, as vou have been with his
love and mercy ?

I multiply these questions, and magnify their
importance, just to throw your thoughts fully
off from vulgar opinion, and fairly forth upon
the revealed character of God in Christ. "In
the face of Jesus," the brightness of the glory
of the Divine holiness, shines as mildly as the
softest radiance of any perfection you admire.

In order to be convinced of this, you have
only to ask yourself the single question —


"Were God unholy, what security would re-
main for the continuance of any of his lovely
perfections ?" Do you not see at a glance, that
His holiness preserves them all 1 It is the
vital principle of the Divine character. Be-
cause it lives — Love, mercy, grace, truth, and
wisdom "live also."

But I have gone so fully into this subject,
in my little work on " Manly Piety," that I
must leave you to follow out the hint for your-
self ; for, in fact, I have exhausted all my de-
finite ideas already.




" Remember your rank, my Lord, and
respect it," said a venerable friend of mine,
(apart) to a young nobleman, who had so far
forgotten all that ho owed to his " order," as
to descend to vulgar manners and language in
the Mail. The deserved reproof had the de-
sired effect : the young man resumed all the
proverbial urbanity and politeness of his high

This is one of the beneficial influences of
hereditary and official rank : it imposes pro-
priety on power. It does not always prevent
vice ; but it presences decorum, and enforces
the semblance of virtue, in the intercourse of
society. When nobility, however, is enshrined
with noble recollections of patriotic ancestry



^vhich hallow it more than age, or wealth, or
heraldry, more is expected from it than deco-
nnii or courtesy. The descendants of the
champions and martyrs of both civil and reli-
gious Liberty, are expected to breathe the
spirit, as well as wear the mantle, of the patriots
who immortalized their name. A Russell,
Sidney, or Hampden, without public spirit ;
or a Wickliffe, Ridley, Cranmer, Baxter, or
Owen, without Protestant spirit, would be an
anomaly, equally unnatural and repulsive to
the public mind : for whilst " England expects
ever)'' man to do his duty," to her sacred
liberties, she calculates upon sacrifices, as well
as duty, from the lineal representatives of " the
mighty dead," who claimed with their voice,
or sealed with their blood, the charter of her
independence. Such associations are not,
however, the only sources of honourable and
inspiring feeling, which tells well upon the
interests of society at large. Nothing has
softened or purified the intercourse of social
life, more than the self-respect of females. By


respecting themselves, for the sake of their sex,
they have won respect and homage. Their
moral influence has kept pace with their moral
tastes and intellectual charactor, and made
itself felt like the fragrance, in all directions ;
and felt most when, like fragrance-flowers, they
seem unconscious of their own sweetness.
They have thus created " a law unto them-
selves," which promulgates itself without a
trumpet, and explains itself without words, and
prolongs its own authority by their silence. A
look defines it even to the dull ; and a blush
defends it like licrhtnino-, from the designincr.
A woman has only to respect herself as a
woman, in order to be respected.

You feel, accordingly, that you owe much
to your sex, on its own account. You see
at a glance, both what is worthy and what is
unworthy of it. You do not, and cannot,
forget what is expected from you on the single
ground of your sex. You are not sorry that
so much is expected. You are even gratified
and glad, that "whatsoever things are pure,


whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report," are calculated upon,
as almost matters of course in yom" character.
You can hardly regret that, when woman falls,

" Falls like Lucifer, to rise no more,"

in this world. The feeling in the public mind,
that women, like Angels, must stand or fall for
ever, is, indeed, a high one ; but it is highly
honourable to you, and unspeakably beneficial
to society. It may expect and exact too much
from you : but it enables you to do more and
better, and both more easily, than if the stand-
ard of female excellence were lower.

Why not, then, respect your piety as much
as your sex ? If there be any thing inspiring
and responsible in the consideration, — " I am
a woman, and one of Britain's daughters ;" how
much more in the consideration, — " I am a
Christian, and one of the daughters of the
Lord God Almighty !" The latter relationship
is, I am fully aware, not so easily realized or


claimed as the former ; the former is your
birth-riglit, which nothing but crime can forfeit.
The latter is an adoption, which no virtue can
merit. It is not, however, on that account less
obtainable, nor less free, nor less ascertainable :
for " to as many as receive Him — even to them
that believe on His name," Christ gives
"power," (that is, warrant and welcome,) to
regard themselves as the children of God.
" As many as are led by the Spirit of God,"
they are the children of God.

These are neither equivocal nor discouraging
tests of adoption. They prove your adoption
into the redeemed family of God, if you ho-
nestly welcome Christ as your only hope of
salvation, and honestly desire to be led by the
Spirit into all truth and duty. And, do you
not? If you really did not, why are you so
deeply interested in this subject? Why, else,
are you so anxious to be a child of God ? How
came the question of your adoption to lay such
hold upon your mind and heart ! " Who
opened thine eyes" to see the need and nature


of " being born again," in order to becoming
one of God's spiritual family ? This persua-
sion cometh not from instinct, age. example,
or education. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
He has " quickened," " illuminated," and " led,"
wherever the Spirit of adoption is thus prized,
and prayed for, and longed after. The heart
is magnetized by grace, that turns to this holy

The question of your adoption is, however,
one which ought not, and never can be well
settled, by your own consciousness of certain
feelings or desires on the subject. It is a
practical, as much as an experimental ques-
tion. It turns quite as much upon what you
are trying to be and do, as upon what you wish
to feel and enjoy. If, therefore, in addition to
your solicitude to be a child of God, you are
trying to copy the likeness, and to cultivate the
spirit, of His regenerated family, the question
is settled : '* ye are no more strangers or fo-
reigners ;" but members of the " household of
God :" " ye were sometimes darkness ; but ye


are now light in the Lord : walk as children
of the light."

Amongst the many forms of Scriptural ap-
peal to those who are thus solicitous to ascer-
tain their adoption, the most frequent, if not the
most forcible is, " What ; know ye not that
your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost,
who is in you ?" " What agreement hath the
temple of God with idols ? For ye are the
temple of the Living God : as God hath said,
I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and 1
will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them," (the
ungodly,) " and be ye separate, and I will re-
ceive you, and will be a Father unto you, and
ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the
Lord Almighty ; and touch not the unclean
thing." 2 Cor. vi. 16.

I wish to fix your attention upon this view
of yourself as a Temple. It is a fascinating,
as well as a solemn, view of your state and
responsibility. It is a view more easily taken
and retained than some others : for, although


drawn from the ancient Temple of Jerusalem,
and thus associated with many sublime pecu-
liarities, to which parallels would be difficult
either to find or fancy, it is still a simple view
of a Christian. For, after all that can be said
or imagined of the Holy Temple, it was but a
house made with hands, and of earthly materi-
als ; and thus less likely to be made " a habita-
tion of God through the Spirit," than the human
frame. Solomon felt this, even when the first
temple was in all the fulness and freshness of
its architectural glory. " Will God," said he,
" in very deed dwell with man upon the earth?
Behold, heaven, and the heaven of heavens,
cannot contain Thee !" How much less this
House which I have built !" In this excla-
mation of Solomon, the inferiority of the
temple to man, as well as to heaven, is both
impUed and expressed. Or, if Solomon did
not intend to say this, " a greater than Solo-
mon" has said it again and again. " Thus
saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth

Eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the



high and holy place : with him also that is of
an humble and contrite sj^irit." Isa. Ivii. 15,
" Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my
throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where
is the house that ye build unto me ? And
where is the place of my rest ? But to this
man will I look, — even to him that is poor
and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my
word." Isa. Ixvi. 1,2.

This settles the inferiority of all temples to
both the human soul and body. They form a
" living temple," and may be a " holy temple"
in a higher sense than even the heaven of hea-
vens itself.

Let us not be misled by words, nor be-
wildered with splendid appearances. Even
your bodies are more " fearfully and wonder-
fully made," than the material heavens which
form the actual temple and throne of Deity :
and your spirits, both in their essence and im-
mortality, are nobler than the line ether which
is the firmament of glory. We think too
meanly of both our soul and body, when we


imagine that any thing material, in heaven or
on earth, is equal to them. We cannot, indeed,
think too meanly of their moral tastes and
tendencies by nature. We may well say of the
body, that it is Adle as well as frail ; and of the
soul, that it is depraved as well as weak : but
neither is worthless. Worthless ! no, no ;
Emmanuel counted them more valuable than
fallen angels : for he took not upon him the
nature of angels. He made His own soul an
offering for our souls, and he will make our
bodies " like unto His own glorious body."
The Temple, even when filled with the glory
of God, was but an emblem of what every
man and woman should be, and of what
any one may be ; — " an habitation of God

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Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 10 of 11)