Robert Philip.

The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

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mony concerning Christ, I should bs justified
and adopted, and thus placed under the sancti-
fying influences of his Spirit, I found it impos-
sible not to love God. My way was then clear :
and now I see clearly how the perfection of the


atonement will give eternal peace to the con-
science, and secure snch purity of soul, that
the open vision of God will neither overpower
nor embarrass the followers of the Lamb."

" Miriam, Paul should have made an excep-
tion in your favour, and suffered you to speak
in the Church. I will certainly suffer you to
speak at home, if you are always thus eloquent.
1 love eloquence ; and, although I dislike your
Gospel, as you call it, I will not contradict you.
You shall have your own way in religion.
Can you wish for more from ' a Hebrew of the

Hebrews V " Miriam wept !


No. III.


It was, indeed, a Poet who compared " the
beauties of HoUness," to " the dew of the
morning ;" but the comparison is not a poetical
license. It is poetry of the highest order : but
it is also sober fact. The Harp of Juda breathed
it in music : but an inspired hand swept the
strings. David was a Prophet as well as a
poet ; and, therefore, we are both warranted
and bound to say, when he predicts the number
or the beauty of the Church, under the emblem
of morning dew, — " The prophecy came not in
old time by the will of man ; but holy men of
God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost." Thus it was the Eternal Spirit wha
suggested and sanctioned the comparison ; and
as he is both the author and finisher of all true



Holiness, we may be quite sure that dew is
neither a false nor a fanciful emblem of its
beauty. Besides, splendid as Old Testament
emblems of Holiness are, they are not so
splendid as those which occur in the New
Testament. The x\postles go far beyond the
Prophets, in emblazoning Holiness. They as-
sert its suhlimity^ as well as its beauty. "We
all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the
glory of the Lord, are changed into the same
image, from glory to glory, even as by the
Spirit of the Lord." Thus Paul represents
growth in grace as growth in glory ; or pro-
gressive sanctihcation on earth as akin to pro-
gressive glory in heaven. Neither the evening
stars of the Angelic hierarchy, pressing upon
the spheres of its morning stars ; nor the Ge-
neral Assembly of Time, rising to the stature
and strength of the elder spirits of Eternity ;
nor, indeed, any ascent in the scale of heavenly
perfection, could so dazzle him, or so eclipse
the beauty of earthly holiness, as to make him
ashamed to call its progress, a change " from


glory to glory." He goes even farther and
higher than this ; and declares that Believers
are made " partakers of a Divine nature," by
the influence of the great and precious promises.
Thus it is, as the Saviour said, " That which is
lorn of the Spirit is spirit.^^ Both Prophets
and Apostles understood this sublime fact, and
therefore admired and celebrated the beauty of
holiness. Paul, especially saw and pointed
out the " loveliness'^ of whatsoever things are
pure. Peter also does not hesitate to call
female holiness an " ornament, which is, in the
sight of God, of great price."

It is, therefore, neither wise nor humble to
overlook " the beauties of holiness." God him-
self admires them, and calls them " the riches
of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."
And the Saviour (who never flatters, sentimen-
talizes, or compliments) pronounces, not only a
special benediction upon "the pure in heart,"
but says also in unqualified terms, " Herein is
my Father glorijied, that ye bear much fruit.**
Thus the fruits of the Spirit are praised for


tlieir beauty, ?s well as enforced for their ne-

I am fully aware, however, that by bringing
together these Scriptural views of personal
holiness, I may startle, if not discourage for a
moment, some who sincerely desire to be holy.
It may seem, in this lovely and lofty form, an
impossible thing in our own case. V/e may
even be ready to exclaim, on casting a hurried
glance around the circle of our pious friends, —
Whose holiness is thus* beautiful? Where is
the sanctiiication to be seen which resembles
the dew of the morning ; or the grace, that is
glory in the bud 1 This is, however, a hasty
question. W^e have applied both these pure
emblems to some of our friends, who were ripe
for heaven, when they were removed from the
earth. Oiur memory lingers upon the beauty,
as well as upon the strength, of certain features
of their character and spirit. We said when
they died, and have often wliispered to our-
selves since,. O that I were as " 7ne€t for the
inheritance of the saints in light !" Yea, in


regard to some of the living in Jerusalem, we
feel that their character is truly lovely. It is
not spotless ; but it is very transparent in in-
tegrity and benevolence. It is not " already
perfect ;" but like light, it is shining more and
more unto the perfect day. Some of our pious
friends have such worth of character, that their
censure or approbation weighs with us, like
the decisions of a second conscience, in our
breast : we have such entire confidence in
their candour and prudence ; in their discern-
ment and uprightness. Thus there are both
Fathers and Mothers in Israel, whose holiness
we feel to be very beautiful. Even the world
cannot withold homage from it ; it is so con-
sistent. And in the fold of the Church, there
are both sheep and lambs, which so hear the
voice and follow the steps of the Good Shep-
herd, that we can easily beUeve in their case,
how He who laid down his life for them, should
lead them gently, and even " carry them in his
bosom," when the way is rugged, or their
strength exhausted.


Thus, there is some holiness on earth worthy
of 'ddmiration, as well as of imitation. The
image of God upon the soul, although not ge-
neral, and never perfect in this world, is yet to
be seen here and there, like " a lily amongst
thorns," lovely in itself and illustrious by con-
trast. Neither the Abrahams nor the Sarahs,
the Zechariahs nor the Elizabeths, the Rachels
nor the Marys of antiquity, are without paral-
lels in our own times, or without successors in
our spheres.

" But none of them," it may be said, " ad-
mire their own character, or see any beauty in
their own hohness. We admire them: but
even the best of them abhor themselves, and
can neither bear to speak nor think of their
own excellence : How is this ?" It is easily
accounted for. Eminent holiness is always
accompanied with profound humility. Accor-
dingly, even in Heaven, the Seraphim veil
their faces with their wings, and the crowned
martyr uncrowns himself before the throne : no
wonder, therefore, if the saints on earth hido


their faces in the dust of self-abasement, when
they think or speak about themselves. The
beauty of angelic holiness — the beauty of Je-
hovah's glorious holiness, is before their eye?
vividly and constantly ; and in its presence,
they may Vi^ell say, " Behold, I am vile, and
abhor myself:" for as the natural eye feels
nothing but its own weakness when it gazes
upon the meridian sun, so the eye of the mind
can see nothing but deformity and imperfection
in the heart and character, when it gazes upon
the infinite and immaculate purity of the God-
head. No saint, who comprehends at all the
heights or depths, the lengths or breadths, of
the Divine image, can ever be satisfied with
his ovfn holiness, or cease to be ashamed of it,
until he awake in heaven in all the beauty of
the moral image of God. " As for me," said
David, " I shall be satisfied when I awake in
thy likeness." Thus he who recognised in
earthly holiness the beauty of the morning dew,
was not satisfied with its purity or splendour.
He saw in it also, as in dew, an evanescence,


and a weakness, and a sediment, which filled
himself with shame, and kept him from compli-
menting others. Still, wliilst this is, and ever
ought to be, the humbling effect of clear and
solemn views of Divine Holiness, it is of him-
self, not of his holy principles themselves that
a Christian is thus ashamed. He does not
think lightly of the work of the Holy Spirit
upon his heart and conscience, because he
thinks meanly of himself. He does not con-
found the Spirit with the flesh, nor the law of
his mind with the law in his members, when
judging of his own character. He sees, in-
deed, far more evil than good in himself; but
he no more calls the good evil, than he calls
the evil good. He is more pained by the
plagues of his heart, than pleased with its best
feelings or principles : but still, he is very
thankful for whatever grace he has obtained.

In making these distinctions I do not forget,
that there are times, (and these not few nor
far between, in the case of some holy men and
women,) when a real Christian is so absorbed



and shocked by the plagues of his heart, that
he is ready to unchristianize himself entirely.
In the hurry and agitation of these awful mo-
ments, he does confound the Spirit with the
flesh : and instead of saying like Paul, " in me
(that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing,"
he says, " in me, soul, body, or spirit, dwelleth
no good thing." He forgets the law of his
mind, whilst the law of sin and death is thus
in fearful power.

These volcanic bursts of the old nature are not,
however, so lasting as they are overwhelming.
Even whilst they do last, they are so deplored,
and hated, and loathed by the Christian him-
self, that it is quite obvious to others, however
he may overlook the facts, that neither his will
nor his taste is a consenting party to the re-
bellion within. The horror it creates, proves
that he loves holiness. The old man does not
rebel in this way, where there is no attempt
nor desire to " put on the new man, which is
created after the image of God." Both "righte-
ousness and true holiness," have struck their


roots deep into the heart, which thus bleeds
and is ready to break, when nature overpowers
grace. Indeed, it is " the root of the mat-
ter," making room for striking itself deeper
and spreading itself wider, that causes this
convulsion and struggling among the roots and
branches of indwelling sin. Accordingly,
Paul said, " when I would do good, evil is pre-
sent with me." And again, " when the com-
mandment came^ sin revived." Thus it is only
in the heart which tries to delight in the law
of God, that this strong rebellion is much felt
or noticed. There, however, it creates posi-
tive wretchedness whilst it lasts ; and when it
subsides, who can tell the joy of a Christian ?
It is joy unspeakable, when his gracious prin-
ciples begin to lift up their heads again after
the conflict : and it is " full of glory," Avhen
he finds himself looking again with some faith
and hope to Christ and Holiness. Then, like
Paul, he adds, " Thanks be unto God who
giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ :" this sweet song follows the bitter


cry, " wretched man that I am ! who shall
deUver me from the body of this death?"
Thus a Christian not only rallies after appa-
rent defeat, but also learns the worth of his
holy principles, which kept sin hateful when
it was most headstrong, and holiness beautiful
whilst most opposed. In ordinary circum-
stances, however, much caution is requisite, in
rightly dividing our attention between the ne-
cessity and the beauty of holiness. Far better
follow it, simply because Avithout it no one shall
" see the Lord," than follow it ostentatiously,
to be " seen of men." The Pharisees forgot
this, and became equally legal and lofty. As
soon as they thought themselves righteous,
they despised others. " Stand aside," soon
grew out of the boast, " I am holier than
thou." This melancholy fact should teach us
to be even jealous of our own hearts. They
are capable of being "puffed up," by moral,
as well as by intellectual superiority. Self-
complacency can plume itself upon graces, as
well as upon gifts.


"We must not, however, learn more from the
warning example of the Pharisees than it was
intended to teach. Now, it never was held up
to convey or suggest the idea, that true holi-
ness could betray us into pride or self-righte-
ousness. No ; the farther we follow real holi-
ness, the farther we shall be from vanity and
legality, and the lower we shall lie at the foot
of the cross, and at the footstool of the mercy-
seat. The holiest of the holy men and women
of old, were always the humblest of their ge-
neration : and for this obvious reason ; — they
made the law of God the standard, and the
image of God the model, of their holiness : and
with these infinite mirrors for ever before them,
they could neither admire themselves, nor di-
vide their confidence between faith and works.

It was ceremonial holiness that betrayed the
Pharisees. They made righteousness to con-
sist in repeating a certain number of prayers ;
in paying the regular tithes, and in observing
the stated feasts and festivals of the temple.
In these things they were more precise or more



ostentatious than others ; and thus they came
to despise others, and to flatter themselves.
Not a man of them, however, would or could
have done so, if he had studied holiness in the
moral law, or in the revealed image of God.
Either of these, if honestly contemplated,
would have been a " schoolmaster" to bring
them to Christ. For, who can look at the per-
fection required by the law, or at the purity
implied in conformity to the Divine image, and
not see that a justifying Saviour and a sancti-
fying Spirit are equally necessary in order to
her salv^ation ? The soul that is intent upon
true holiness, must depend on Christ and Grace
entirely, or despair entirely: for all the natural
reasons of duty are moral reasons for despair.
Mediatorial reasons only can give either heart
or hope to the soul, in the face of a law that
requires absolute perfection, and of a heaven
which admits nothing that defileth.

Now, we come to the point for close self-
examinaticn. We have seen that there are
two extremes, to which we are equally prone.


by turns ; sloth and self-complacency. By
■which of these are ivc most frequently be-
trayed ? If by sloth — we have most need to
study the necessity of holmess. The con-
viction, that without holiness we cannot see
the Lord, is very weak, if we can relax in duty,
or leave the state of our hearts to accident.
Whenever we reckon it a trouble to take pains
with our habits and spirit before God, we are
upon the highway to backsliding. Both the
heart and the conscience are perverted in
no small degree, when watchfulness or effort
ceases ; and when either ceases, under any ex-
cuse or pretence drawn from the grace of God,
it is high time to take alarm at ourselves : for
even our understanding is far perverted, if we
can pervert Grace into an apology for idleness
and inconsistency. yes ; a hlight has fallen
upon the eyes of our understanding, as well as
upon the tenderness of our conscience, if we
can tamper with express law because free Grace
abounds. For, what convert did not see, at
first, more in grace, than even in law to bind


him to circumspect holiness ? We certainly
saw nothing in the Cross or the Covenant, to
release us from high moral obligation or ha-
bitual watchfulness, when we first looked to
them for mercy to pardon and grace to help.
We intended and desired no compromise then,
between God and the world. If, therefore, we
now imagine that we see in the Cross or the
Covenant any thing to warrant or wink at
what our own conscience condemns, our " eye
is evil ;" for there is neither sanction nor shield
in them to protect any wrong habit or temper.
They reign and remain to crucify us to the
world, and the world to us : and therefore our
glorying in them is not good, so far as it ad-
mits a compromise between sin and duty.

But neither strong nor startling assertions,
however solemn and severe, will remedy this
evil effectually. Warnings, even declamations,
do not reach the root of it. Many who can. .
say as loudly as Paul, that his " damnation
is just, who sins because grace abounds," do
not like Paul make the abounding of grace a


universal and daily reason for abounding in
holiness. They do not venture, indeed, to sin
or compromise upon a large scale, because
grace abounds ; but they do some things, and
leave other things undone, which they would
not, and durst not, if grace did not abound. I
mean, that were certain habits and tempers
beyond the high-flood mark of the spring-tides
of mercy, and known to be unpardonable, there
Avould be a speedy rush of many from the dry
places they now occupy, to the spot washed by
the waves of pardon. It is, therefore, by re-
garding some wrong things as not unsafe nor
unpardonable, that many persist in them.
They would give them up at once and entirely,
if they deem.ed them fatal, or utterly irrecon-
cileable with a state of grace. Now this,
although not exactly sinning because grace
abounds, is very like it. For if a man do
what he would not dare, if he counted it un-
pardonable, it is very evident that the abound-
ing of grace, in some way, is his secret reason,
although not his assigned one. He does not,


indeed, say, " Let us sin" to any extent, " be-
cause grace abounds ;" but he evidently thinks,
or tries to think, that he is not actually and
altogether perilling or disproving his o\vn
hopes by his own indulgences. In a v^^ord, he
has some way of making out to himself, that
his own faults are not incompatible vrith being
really in a state of grace ; and, therefore,
although he does not exactly justify them, he
does not correct them, nor is he much afraid of
them. " Grace," he says, " has to bear with
something wrong, even in the best ; and as my
besetting sin is not of the very worst kind ;
and as there are some sins I would not commit,
and some duties I would not neglect, for
worlds, nor on any account whatever, I am
not surely presuming very much, when I
reckon myself in a state of grace, notwith-
standing all my faults." Thus, it is rather
some perverted notion about the securities of a
state of grace, than direct and determinate pre-
sumption upon the abounding of grace, that
betrays many into a lax holiness, or into al-


lowed inconsistencies of character and temper.
I do not, therefore, confound such persons
with those who " turn the grace of God into
licentiousness ;" but I do remind you and my-
self, and that with warning and weeping so-
lemnity, that this was the first step of the
antinomian process by which the primitive
compromisers became licentious apostates and
judicial reprobates. They begun their unholy
career by trying to bend grace into a shelter
for some one favourite sin ; and, having per-
suaded themselves that one was not fatal,
they went on from bad to worse, until they
drowned themselves in perdition. At first
they threw the cloak of Christian liberty over
a few faults ; by and by, over many ; and,
at last, they made it " a cloak for licentious-
ness" itself.

Now this, we not only do not want to do,
but we abhor it as much as we dread it. It
would be any thing but gratifying to us, if
grace could be thus perverted with safety.
What we are inclined or tempted to wish for,


is, such a forbearance or winking at what is
wrong about us, as shall allow our faults to go
on, without exactly throwing us out of a state
of grace, before we find it convenient and
agreeable to give them up : for we intend to
crucify, eventually, the very things we now try
to excuse. We even promise to ourselves and
to God, that they shall not go on to the end of
life, nor so near to it as to darken or embitter
our death-bed. What a shame, then, to yield
now to any thing we are thus pledged to con-
quer hereafter ! Why, if om general character
is rather consistent than inconsistent, should
we allow, even for another day, any fault or
flaw, which pains can cure, and prayer efface,
to remain ? It would cost us far less trouble
to correct at once the worst fault we have, than
it costs to get over the misgivings of heart and
the twinses of conscience, which that fault
occasions in the closet and at the sacrament.
Besides, we have already made greater sacri-
fices to conscience and duty, than any we have
to make. All our great sins are given up for


ever, and willingly too : and shall the little ones
hold us in bondage ?

Do we feel, in the presence of these expo-
sures and remonstrances, any inclination to
say, — " Why this is making grace as strict as
Law could be : what then is the advantage
of being under grace, instead of law, if so
much circumspection and impartiality be requi-
site ?"

Here is the advantage : " sin then shall not
have the dominion over" us, if we be under
grace: and if we reckon this no advantage, we
do not understand the Law well, nor Grace

Are we half-inclined to try the question in
another form, and to say, " Still, as something
wrong will remain, do whatever we may, why
not let that fault remain, which we find most
difficult to conquer ? Might there not come a
worse in its place ?"

I will not call this pleading for sin. It may
be merely put forward as clever casuistry, to
evade close reasoning, which we have no wish



to set aside. Indeed, no Christian would dare
to vindicate a sin, great or small, by name.
He must regard even Ms chief fault as an in-
firmity, or a weakness, or an imperfection,
before he can plead or apologize for it. As
sin — he has not a Avord to say on its behalf.
You at least, have not one.

Let, therefore, the emblems of holiness which
the Holy Ghost teaches by, suggest to you all
that he intends. That, of course, will seem
more than you can acquire ; but it will enable
you to do better than those do v\^ho compare
themselves only with others. Scriptural figures
are not fancies. " It seems to the honour of re-
ligion, that so many things can, without the
art of forcing resemblances, be accommodated
to its illustration. It is an evident and remark-
able fact, that there is a certain principle of
correspondence to religion throughout the econ-
omy of the world. He that made all things for
himself, appears to have willed that they should
be a great system of emblems, reflecting or
shadowing forth that system of principles in


wliicli we are to apprehend llim and our rela-
tions and obligations to Him : so that relio-ion,
standing up in grand parallel to an infinity of
things, receires their testimony and homage,
and speaks with a voice wliich is echoed by
creation." — Foster. The justness of these
profound and splendid remarks is almost self-
evident in the emblem of Dew, The history
of dew is a figurative history of coxversion ;
and, in its leading features, so strikingly similar,
that if dew had been created for no other pur-
pose but to image forth the " new creation," it
could hardly be more characteristic.

The design of God in establishing and point-
ing out the resemblances between natural and
spiritual things is obvious. He thus places us
so, that, whether we are in the house or the
fields, we may have before us " lively oracles"
of his great salvation : at home, in the Bible ;
abroad, in nature. For, as prophet unto pro-
phet, and apostle unto apostle, so " day unto
day uttereth speech, and night unto night
teacheth knowledge," — there being no voice


of nature wliich does not eclio some voice of

Thus, the origin of dew is an emblem of
human society in its natural state. The ori-
ginal elements of dew are as various in their
character, as the diversifijjd states in which
water and moisture exist on the earth. Now
they exist in swamps and seas, in marshes and
meadows, in stagnant pools and running
streams, in fetid plants and fragrant flowers :
but wherever water lies or lurks, whether in
the chalice of a rose or in the recess of a tank,

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Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 5 of 11)