Robert Philip.

The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

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was feelingly alive to its beauties, but dead to
its real spirit. Whilst it inspired thoughts


54 A daughter's

which breathed, and words which burned, with
iramortahty, she was enraptured with it : but
when its oracles or ordinances led to thoughts
of penitence, or words of humiliation, she had
no sympathy of spirit with them. She wept,
indeed, over her fallen nature ; but not because
it was fallen from the moral image of Jehovah.
The loss of intellectual power, not the loss of
holy feeling, grieved her. She felt deeply
mortified, because she could not maintain all
the mental elevation of a rational being ; and
she thought her mortification, humility ! She
deplored the weakness and waywardness of
her mind, in the strongest terms of self-abase-
ment ; but not because her mind disliked secret
prayer and self-examination. She lamented
that she had so little comnmnion with God ;
but it was not the communion of a child with
a Father, nor of a penitent with a Saviour, but
the communion of a poet with the God of na-
ture — of a finite Spirit with the Infinite Spirit
— ^that had charms for her. She admired the
prophets ; but not for the holiness which ren-


dered them temples meet for the Holy Spirit
to dwell in, and speak from ; but because of
their mysterious dignity, as the ambassadors
of Heaven. She gloried in the altars and
mercy-seat of the temple ; not as they were
types of salvation by the atonement of the pro-
mised Messiah, but as they were the seat and
shrine of the cloud of glory and the sacred fire.
All this Sheshbazzar saw and lamented. But
Rachel was gentle, and he loved her ; she had
genius, and he admired her. Men of one idea
thought her mad ; and men with half a heart
deemed her a mere visionary. Sheshbazzar
regarded her as a young vine among the
rocks of the Dead Sea, whose grapes are em-
bittered by the bitumen of the soil ; and he
hoped, by transplanting and pruning, to dis-
place its poisonous juices. But the difficulty
was, to convince her, that even her virtues
were like the grapes of Gomorrah, unfit to be
presented "before the Lord, in the waive-
offering of the first fruits," or to be mingled in
"the drink-ofi'ering." They were, indeed.

56 A dadghter'3

so ; for, like the vines of Gomorrah, she bore
fruit to herself, not to the glory of God. Her
morality was high-toned ; but only because
she reckoned immorality beneath the dignity
of female character. Her taste was simple ;
but only because she deemed follies unworthy
of her talents. Her sympathies were prompt
and tender ; but they were indulged more for
the luxurj* of deep emotion, than for the sake
of doing good. What became her — as a wo-
man, and a woman whom Sheshbazzar reck-
oned " one of a thousand," was both the
reason and the rule of her excellencies. She
never prayed for grace to sanctify or sustain
her character : and as her tastes and pursuits
were far above even the comprehension, as
well as the level, of ordinary minds, Rachel
never suspected that her " heart was not
right with God." The Elders of the city had,
indeed, often told her so in plain terms, made
plainer by the shaking of their hoary heads :
but, although she was too gentle to repel
the charge, she only pitied their prejudices.


Sheshbazzar, as she imagined, thouglit very
differently of her ; and his smile was set
against their insinuations. He perceived
this mistake, and proceeded to correct it.
He had borne with it long, in hope that
it would gradually correct itself. He had
made allowances, and exercised patience, and
kept silence on the subject, until his treatment
of Rachel began to be reckoned weakness, and
not wisdom, .by his best friends. His plan
had been to bear aloft his young eaglet upon
his own mighty wings, until she breathed the
air of spirits, and bathed in the light of eter-
nity : and then to throw her off upon the
strength of her own pinions, that she might,
whilst he hovered near to intercept a sudden
fall, soar higher in the empyrean of glory, and
come down " changed in the same image,"
and humbled by the " exceeding weight" of
that glory. But the experiment failed : she
descended mortified because of her weakness,
not humbled because of her unworthiness. He
resolved, therefore


" To change his hand, and check her pride."
" Rachel," said Sheshbazzar, " the first day
of vintage is near at hand, and there is but
little fruit on my vines : could we not send to
the Dead Sea for grapes of Gomorrah, and pre-
sent them before the Lord, ' as a waive-ofFer-
ing, and pour them out as a drink-offering V "

Rachel was surprised at the question ; for
it was put solemnly, and betrayed no symptom
of irony.

" Grapes of Gomorrah !" Rachel exclaimed ;
" ask rather, if strange fire, or a torn lamb,
may be safely presented at the altar of Jeho-
vah ? But Sheshbazzar raocketh his hand-
maid. The curse is upon all the ground of the
cities of the plain ; and moreover, the grapes
of Gomorrah are as bitter as they are beauti-
ful. Even the wild goats turn away from the
vines of Sodom. What does my father mean ?
The form of thy countenance is changed ! Like
the spies, I will go to Eshcol or Engedi for
clusters to present before the Lord ; for the
Lord our God is 3. jealous God."


" True, my daughter," said Sheshbazzar ;
" and if it would be sacrilege to present the
grapes of Gomorrah in the waive-offering, be-
cause they grow on the land of the curse, and
have imbibed its bitterness ; how must a jea-
lous and holy God reject the homage of a
proud spirit ? The fruits of that spirit draw
their juices from a soil more deeply cursed
than the Asphaltic, — and of which Gomor-
rah, when in flames, was but a feeble em-

" But, Sheshbazzar," said Rachel, " to
whom does this apply? Not to your spirit;
for it is a veiled seraph, lowliest in itself when
loftiest in its adorning contemplations. And
my spirit — is too weak to be proud. I feel
myself a mere atom amidst infinity. I feel less
than nothing, when I realize the Infinite Spirit
of the universe."

" It is well, my daughter ; but what do you
feel when you realize Him as the Holy One
who inhabiteth eternity ? Rachel ! I never
heard you exclaim, God he merciful to me a


sinner I You have called yourself an atom in
the universe — an insect in the solar blaze — an
imperfect grape on the vine of being : any
thing, but a sinner. It was not thus that
Abraham, and Job, and Isaiah, felt before
the Lord. It is not thus that I feel. You
think me like the grapes of Sibmah and En-
gedi, ripe for the service of the heavenly
temple. Ah, my daughter ! nothing but * the
blood of the everlasting covenant' keeps me
from despair ; and there is nothing else be-
tween you and Tophet."

Rachel trembled. She had never marked
the humility of the Patriarchs, nor paused to
consider what the soul and sin must be — see-
ing they required such an atonement. She
retired weeping ; and, for the first time, re-
treated into her closet to pray for mercy.

However the first discoveries of the beauty
of holiness may be made, and whatever may be


the first motives which induce any one to de-
sire to follow holiness, neither its nature nor
its necessity are rightly understood, until both
the atoning sacrifice of Christ and the sancti-
fying grace of the Holy Spirit are duly con-
sidered. Until we look to the blood of the
Lamb and the sanctification of the Spirit, as
the only way of acquiring that holiness which
constitutes meetness for heaven, no moral sen-
timents, however pure, and no sense of the
beauty of virtue, however delicate, amount to
" a clean heart" or " a right spirit" towards
God. She who carries her inquiries after the
principles of true holiness no farther than just
around the circle of its duties, and over the
surface of its proprieties, ill deserves the high
privilege of possessing a Bible, and has no
right to call herself a Christian.

It is, indeed, both proper and necessary to
sit at the feet of Jesus on the Mount of Olives,
learning morality from his precepts : but it is
equally essential to sit at his feet in Gethse-
raane, where he trod the wine-press of the

62 A daughter's

wrath of God ; and on Mount Calvary, where
he made his soul an offering for sin ; learning
there, also, the real evil of sin, and the infinite
expense at which it is pardoned and taken away.
In saying this, I do not forget nor under-
value the sweet influence which holy example
exerts over some gentle and ingenuous spirits.
The Shunamite is not the only woman whose
attention and good will to piety have been con-
ciliated, in the first instance, by the weight
and worth of a ministerial character like Eli-
sha's. Day after day, she saw the prophet
moving about in his sphere of public duty, like
a commissioned angel, with equal meekness
and patience ; happy in his work, and transpa-
rent in all his character : and this contrast be-
tween Elisha and hirelings, led her to cultivate
his friendship. " She said unto her husband,
Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy
man of God, which passes by us continually :
let us make a little chamber on the wall, I pray
thee ; and set there for him a bed, and a table,
and a stool, and a candlestick."


In like manner, the lovely character of ex-
emplary parents and friends, has often sug-
gested the first idea of the beauty of holiness,
and excited the first desire to be holy. The
simple reflection, " I should so like to resem-
ble them," has not unfrequently led to imitation.
But imitation, whenever it has been attempted
on a large scale, has soon compelled to an ex-
amination of the secret springs of eminent holi-
ness. The want of success, or the wayward-
ness of some temper, makes the young candi-
date pause and ask, why she could not equal
her models, nor realize her own wishes. She
expected to be as much a heroine in practice
and perseverance, as she felt herself to be in
theory. She took for granted, that she had
only to resolve and try, in order to be as good,
as amiable, as holy, and happy in religion, as
the friends she admired most ; but the fond as-
pirant after high m.oral excellence, soon found
out that it was not so easily attained as she
imagined, and that she herself was not so
strong in principle as she supposed.

64 A daughter's

This discovery is always the result of honest
endeavours to be very like very lovely Chris-
tians. It is, however, a most important dis-
covery. It may stop effort for a time, and even
discourage hope not a little ; but it leads to
such an observation of the principles and mo-
tives of those we have failed to copy, as soon
explains our failure. The discovery of our own
weakness is followed by a discovery of the
secret of their strength and success. We cease
to wonder, (however we may continue to weep,)
that we made so little progress, when we re-
solved to be as good as the best ; for we both
resolved and tried in our own strength ; or
with such a vague reference to the grace of
God for help, that success was impossible. It
could not be otherwise, whilst the cross of
Christ was to us only a solemn fact in sacred
history, and the work of the Holy Spirit merely
a cardinal article of the creed. Not in this
tame form did these great truths stand (we
saw!) before- the minds of those we admired
and wished to resemble. We discovered that


the Cross and Grace were the only pillars on
which their hopes rested ; the very poles upon
which their habits and spirits turned ; the very
source and centre of all their religion and mo-
rality. This, we saw, made the difference be-
tween them and us.

These are invaluable lessons in experience,
whether acquired in this way, or by some
other process. They are, however, incom-
plete lessons, whilst they only lead us to per-
fect our theology, by bringing it up to the
standard of eminent Christians. It is, indeed,
well to take care that both the Cross and
Grace have all that prominence in our creed
which they hold in their creed. It is wise to
mark minutely how they glory in the Cross,
and depend on the Spirit, at every step and
stage of their piety. It is, however, quite pos-
sible to embrace the faith of the saints, because
it is their faith, without embracing it for their
chief reasons. They glory only in the cross of
Christ because they are sinners. This is their
first and chief reason for believing as they do-.

66 A daughter's

I pray your attention to this fact. Your
pious friends are not, indeed, uninfluenced by
other considerations than their own sinfulness,
in thus making the Atonement " all and all,"
as the ground of their hope. They are much
influenced by the example of the great cloud
of witnesses around the throne ; all of whom
washed their robes and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb : by the example of the
innumerable company of angels ; all of whom
also look into the sufferings of Christ with un-
tiring wonder and intense admiration : and
especially by the example of the Father, who
counts the Cross the glory of his moral go-
vermnent ; and of the Holy Ghost, who con-
fines his agency to the exhibition and applica-
tion of the things of Christ, for the glory of
Christ. All these considerations are both
load-stars and leading-stars, to bring and bind
the confidence of your friends to the Lamb of
God. They often help their faith, by remem-
bering how the noble army of martyrs shook
the flames and the scaffold with the shout,


" None but Clirist !" and by listening to the
New Song, as it swells for ever louder from all
the harps of heaven. Even the historic truth
and the moral triumphs of the doctrine of the
Cross, have no small influence in confirming
the faith of the saints in the sacrifice of Christ.
They are glad, too, that the wisdom of philo-
sophy is foolishness, and the inspiration of
poetry tameness, compared with the sublimity
and glory of the Cross.

Still, whilst all these considerations have
much weight with intelligent and devoted
Christians, they are most influenced by a deep
sense of their own personal guilt and danger.
They feel their need of such a Saviour as the
Lamb of God. They not only see that there
is nothing but the blood of Christ to cleanse
from sin : they see also that nothing else could
cleanse them from their sins.

Now, I need hardly say to you, that the
Christians you admire most, were not greater
sinners, before their conversion, than others.
In general, they had quite as fair a character


as their neighbours, so far as morals were con-
cerned. They were not, therefore, driven into
their deep self-condemnation, nor into their
fear of perishing, by having been worse than
others. How, then, came they to think, and
feel, and act towards the Saviour, just as if
they had been the very chief of sinners ? You
know that they are not pretending, when they
adopt humiliating confessions, nor when they
look with streaming eyes and bleeding hearts
to the Cross. The real secret is this : they
know their own hearts ; watch their own con-
sciences ; test their own spirits ; and thus see
and feel their natural alienation from God.
What pains, humbles, and alarms them chiefly
is, the awful want of love to God, which
marked their early history ; and the sad weak-
ness of their love to Him, since they believed
that " God is Love." Hence, they can hardly
conceive how their ingratitude and insensibi-
lity can either be forgiven or removed. Even
with all the glories and grace of the Cross be-
fore them, they find no small difficulty in try-


ing to hope for their own salvation : because
neither that salvation itself, nor the amazing
sacrifice at which it was provided, has such an
influence over them, as they know it ought to
have. Thus they find causes of fear or sus-
picion, even in the very grounds of hope ; be-
cause those grounds do not affect and interest
them more fully. It is, therefore, their sins
against the Cross, quite as much as the sins
which made the sacrifice of the Cross neces-
sary, that makes them feel so self-condemned.
They see enough, and more than enough, to
condemn them, in the way they have treated
the Atonement made to save them. Thus,
there is neither pretence nor parade in their
humility. They do — cling to the Cross, not
only because they wish to be holy, but al-
so because they are conscious that they de-
serve the wrath to come. They glory in
it, not merely that they may be sanctified,
soul, body, and spirit ; but also that they
may be plucked as brands from the burning. —
The peril of perishing, as well as the love



of holiness, influences both their conduct and

Now, unless these be your reasons for giv-
ing the Cross a higher place in your esteem
than it had at first, you cannot have " like
precious faith" in it with your pious friends ;
nor can it have all that holy influence upon
you which it has upon them. You must trust
it as a sinner, if you would have it transform
you into a saint. You must flee to it as the
only refuge of the Lost, as well as the only
remedy of the unholy.

You see this, I hope. I am quite sure you
will consider it. It may not be altogether
pleasant or plain to you at the first ; but you
have already thought so much about Christ, and
that too for a holy purpose, that you cannot
stop now. Your sense of duty, and your desire
to be truly pious, are too strong, to allow you
to halt half-way between Sinai and Calvary.
I will, therefore, suppose at once, that even
this night you will retire to your closet, and
bow down before God, as a penitent, and not


merely as a candidate for immortality, as a sin-
ner, needing deliverance from the wrath to
come ; and not merely as an imperfect being,
needing only improvement. Remember ! — there
are none in heaven, but those who came to the
Mercy-seat, in this spirit, and for this purpose.
This is, also, the very spirit of all those on earth,
whose piety you must admire.

Now, I should not at all wonder (however
much you may) if, on taking this view of your
own case, you find yourself led into self-ab-
horrence and self-abasement, as well as into
self-condemnation. It would not surprise me
in the least, to hear you cry, " Behold, I am
vile : unclean, unclean ; God be merciful to
me a sinner!" Nay; I should not be much
startled, even if you were so alarmed, at first,
by the discovery of your own alienation from
God, as to be unable for a time, to hope or
pray for mercy. Your guilt and vileness, in
caring so little about the God of salvation, may
open upon you in lights, which shall only re-
veal " clouds and darkness" around the Mercy-

72 A daughter's

seat at first : or, some one sin, which has only
made you ashamed hitherto, may so shock
your conscience, that you may feel as if you
never could get over it, nor be able to look up
to God again with complacency or composure.
This is not an uncommon case. Your pious
friends have felt in this way at times. Many
feel so, without knowing how to obtain relief,
or how the blood of Atonement meets such a
case. Now, do you know ? Do you see how
the blood of Christ can so "purge your con-
science from dead works," that you can hence-
forth " serve the living God," without slavish or
tormenting fear ? Do you see enough in the
grace and glory of the Atonement, to lift your
spirit over that sense of sinfulness and unwor-
thiness, which creates only a dread of God, or
doubts of his willingness to save 1 If not, you
have yet much to learn on this subject. In-
deed, you have not yet got hold of that "horn"
of the golden altar of the Atonement, which
enables a self-condemned penitent to lift her-
self above slavish fear, when she draws nigh to


God in prayer, in sacraments, and in practical
duty. Thus, you are not prepared to serve
the Living God " without fear, in holiness and
righteousness, all the days of your life."

And yet, you desire to do so. You not only
feel it to be your duty to serve " the Lord in
the beauty of holiness," but you are trying to
serve Him better than formerly, and willing to
increase and improve your present scale of
service. Like the Israelites at Shechem, in
the days of Joshua, you are not only ready to
say, " The Lord our God will we serve," but
ready also to enter into an everlasting cove-
nant of obedience. They, you recollect, in-
sisted upon ratifying their promise and inten-
tion by a covenant, and even engaged to be-
come witnesses against themselves if they drew
back. So far, this was a fine spirit. Joshua
must have been highly gratified to hear his
dying appeal, — " Choose ye this day whom ye
will serve," — thus warmly and honestly re-
sponded to. I say, honestly ; for there is no
reason whatever to doubt the sincerity of the


74 A daughter's

people, when tliey thus pledged themselves.
Nor do I nt all doubt your sincerity. You
may, however, doubt my kindness or candour,
when I venture to say to you, what Joshua
said to them, " Ye cannot serve the Lord ; for
he is a Holy God." I mean, you cannot serve
him "acceptably," mitil you are influenced by
other and liisher motives than either the love
of virtue or the fear of punishment. Even
some distinct and deliberate reference to the
merits of Christ, and to the grace of the Holy
Spirit, as necessary to help or perfect your
well-doing, will not mend the matter. Even a
determination to say, after having done your
best, " We are but unprofitable servants," will
not forward your success much. Ye cannot
serve the Lord acceptably, but as an entire
debtor to the blood of Christ for mercy and
grace ; " for He is a Holy God — a Jealous
God— the Living God!"

These distinctions are not too nice, nor these
cautions unnecessary, nor these solemn views
of God uncalled for, in your case. You need


them all, and will never do so well as you
wish, until you apply them all to yourself.
You doubt this, perhaps? It may seem to
you, that you could not serve God at all, if you
were to take such awful views of his character.
You may be ready to say, " Who can stand
before this Holy Lord God ?" Accordingly,
you deem it better, as you really wish to serve
him, to take sweet and soothing views of his
character ; to dwell chiefly upon His love and
mercy ; to realize God as a Father, and to rely
upon Him as a Friend. And, in one sense,
you are right in judging thus. Indeed, it is to
this lovely view of the Divine character I want
to bring and bind all your thoughts and affec-
tions. Nothing is further from my intention,
than terrifying you at the God with whom you
have to do. I would teach you to lay your
head upon his knee — yea, to lean it upon his
bosom — as calmly, and as confidingly, and as
cheerfully, as ever you hung upon a father's
neck, or reclined upon a mother's bosom. It
is not your pleasing ideas of God I want to in-



terfere with. I am not leading you to question
the truth of them ; but to question your own
right or warrant to take such views of God,
whilst your views of the Saviour are so im-
perfect. Now, they are very imperfect, if you
see and seek in His merits nothing more than
weights to turn the scale of mercy in your
favour ; or to make up the defects of your obe-
dience. This is not making Christ " all and
all" in salvation. This is not glorying in the
Cross only. This is making Christ but half a
Sa-viour !

You may not intend this ; nor yet be aware,
exactly, that such views of the Lamb of God
do not warrant confidence in the love, nor hope
in the mercy, of God. Such views, however,
do not warrant either. They are better than
Socinian views, which embrace nothing but the
example of Christ ; and better than legal prin-
ciples, which look for mercy as the reward of
good works, independently of Christ. I readily
allow this, and even wish you to attach very
great importance to the great difference which


thus exists between your creed and Socinianism.
You regard the Saviour as God manifest in the
flesh, and his death as a real sacrifice for sin.
You wonder how any one can pretend to be-
lieve the Bible, and yet deny the Divinity and
atonement of Christ, You feel, that were you
to treat Christ as merely a good man and a

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Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 3 of 11)