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The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

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yourself before God. The question is — does
the light in which He chiefly manifests himself
to you, keep you afraid of sin, jealous of the



148 A matron's

world, and conscientious in the duties of life
and godliness ? That is the best light for you,
— which keeps you walking most humbly and
circumspectly with God. And whether the
light be lovely or solemn, it will keep you
dissatisfied with yourself, until you awake in
the image of God.

Another cause why some Christians are so

low in spirits and hope, is, that their sense of

the greatness of the gfreat salvation is more

than usually vivid. That salvation spreads

out before them in such vastness of grace and

glory, that they sink into nothing before its

august presence. They can hardly imagine

that it can be free to them. They see nothing

in any of their own feelings towards " so great

salvation," at all great enough or good enough

to prove that they truly value it. They find

it impossible to bring up their love or faith, to

a height worthy of its unspeakable worth.

Thus they lose sight of its freeness, by looking

so often and closely to its grandeur.

But arc they unbelievers, because they are



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 149

afraid to hope for a salvation which they thus
admire and adore ? There is, indeed, unbelief,
in not venturing to hope as freely as they
wonder deeply : but it is not the unbelief of
indifferencej nor of neglect, nor of formality.
It is not the unbelief of the natural mind, nor
of impenitence. It is humility sliding into
hesitation. It is diffidence sliding into timidity.

For, who gave the doubting Christians such
lofty and adoring views of the value of the
great salvation ? Whence came the light which
has so revealed and irradiated to them, the
heights and depths, the lengths and breadths
of the love of Christ, that they feel as if
nothing less than angelic love to Him could be
acceptable love ; or as if nothing short of
Abraham's faith could be true faith 1

I am not advocating nor excusing these
doubts and fears : but I am, and I avow it,
maintaining that their minds are not in nature's
darkness, who thus see the glory of salvation:
that their hearts are not in sin's or the world's
bondage, who thus revere the great salvation ;

13*



150 A MATRONS

that their spirit is not untouched by the Spirit
of God, who thus hesitate because they think
nothing good enough as a welcome to that sal-
vation.

I have no doubt of their piety or safety ;
but I do stand in doubt of the woman who is
satisfied with either her faith or love towards
so great salvation. It must seem but very little
to the woman who sees enough in her own
feelings and character to do justice to all its
claims. Again, therefore, I affirm, that a real
Christian cannot be satisfied with herself, until
she awake in the image of God.

Another cause of that dissatisfaction with
themselves, which keeps the hopes and hearts
of some Christians ver}- low, is, their high and
holy estimate of the work and witness of the
Holy Spirit. His agency, or influence, means
so much in their judgment, that they cannot
think how any thing they have felt, or are
capable of feeling, could amount to being
"born again of the Spirit." Indeed, it is
only by ascribing and criving credit to others,



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 151

for more fruits of the Spirit than others pos-
sess, that such persons can admit that any
change is a Divine change. They believe that
other Christians are much holier than they
seem; and thus account for their being happier
than themselves.

Now, although there is some mistake in all
this, the error is on the safe side. Better rate
the work of the Holy Spirit too high than too
low. Better hesitate to call any ordinary
change Diniie, than call every moral improve-
ment regeneration, or ever}' conviction con-
version. But there is no occasion for thus
soinsr to either extreme. Neither the work
nor the witness of the Spirit is a doubtful
thing, wherever there is humility before God,
and an honest desire to be like God. These
are principles which can neither be taught nor
learned without the Holy Spirit. They are
not natural, and they are never acquired by
mere human effort. Indeed, no one tries or
wishes to be truly humble before God, until
the Spirit of God touch the heart.



152 A. matron's

Let not, therefore, the timidity, nor even
the trembling, the doubts nor the fears, of
some " holy women," dishearten you, or draw
you into suspicions of the efficacy of the
Gospel to console as well as to sanctify. It
can do both equally. Its promises have only
to be as simply welcomed by your doubting
friends, as its precepts are meekly obeyed by
them, in order to their being as happy as they
are humble. Sheshbazzar would say to each
of them " Woman, why weepest thou ? Shake
the mulberry trees in the valley of Baca ; and
make it a well ; and thus go from strength to
strength, until you appear before God in
Zion."



The loM Hacchipurim, the great day of
Atonement, was drawing nigh ; and, from
Dan to Beersheba, the Israelites were prepar-
ing to appear before God in Zion. " The
songs of Degrees" were reviewed in every
family, that they might be repeated and sung



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 153

in the wilderness ; and every man that was
right-hearted said, " I was glad when they said
unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, Jeru-
salem !"

Amoncrst those who waited for the " Conso-
lation of Israel," none in Beersheba had ap-
peared in Zion so often as Sheshbazzar. From
year to year he had cheered the aged, and
charmed the young, on their pilgrimage. His
proverbs met all cases, and his smiles or
tears suited all hearts. He wept with the
weeping, and rejoiced with the joyful. And
yet, Sheshbazzar was a man that had seen
affliction. The An^el of Death had said twice
" Write that man a widower ;" and the " de-
sire of his eyes" was taken away at a stroke.
The Angel of Death stood on the tomb of his
grief, and said again, " Write that man child-
less ;" and it was done. His heart bled, but it
never murmured. He said that each loss had
become a new link between his heart and hea-
ven ; and that now, like the High Priest's



5c



1 54 A matron's

breast-plate, it was so linked, all around, tliat
it could not fall. The young wondered, and
the aged blessed the God of Israel, who gave
consolation in trouble, " and songs in the night."

His fellow-pilgrims regarded him as almost
a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by
night, whilst journeying with him in the wil-
derness. They resolved to ask him what was
the secret of his consolation under so many
calamities. They asked, and the old man an-
swered with a heavenly smile, " / shaTte the
mulherry trees. ''^ It was a dark sapng, and
they understood him not ; but, knowing that
he never spake unadvisedly with his lips, they
pondered that saying in their hearts.

Sheshbazzar knew that their curiosity was
neither idle nor impertinent, and said, " When
we come to the valley of Baca, I will ex-
plain myself." They came to the valley of
Baca, and, behold, it was very dry ! The
streams in the desert were passed away like
the summer brook, and the heavens gave no
sign of rain. The pilgrims were pantiixg " as



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 155

the heart for the water-brooks," but found
none. All eyes were turned to Sheshbazzar.
" Shake the mulberry trees," he said. They
shook them, and dew, pure and plenteous as
" the dew of Hermon," began to pour from
every leaf. They made wells around the mul-
berry trees to prevent the showers from being
absorbed in the sand of the desert, and then
shook the trees again. They drank ; but,
though refreshed, they were not satisfied.
They looked to Sheshbazzar again. His eyes
were up unto God. He raised " the song of
Degrees" in that " house of their pilgrimage."
All joined in it, and sung, " I will lift up mine
eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my
help. My help cometh from the Lord, who
made heaven and earth." The pilgrims paused.
No cloud appeared on Carmel, and no sound
of rain was heard from the wings of the wind.
" Hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious ?"
was a question quivering on the parched lips
of many. Sheshbazzar alone was utterly un-
moved. He raised again the song of Degrees,



156 A matron's

and his rich and mellow-toned voice sounded in
the wilderness like the jubilee-trumpet amongst
the mountains of Jerusalem. The pilgrims
listened as if an angel had sung : — " He will
not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that
keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord is
thy keeper : The Lord is thy shade upon
the right hand. The Lord shall preserve thee
from all evil : he shall preserve thy soul. The
Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy
coming in, from this time forth, and for ever-
more." He paused, and bowed his head, and
worshipped. The pilgrims felt their faith in God
reviving, and renewed their part of the song : I
will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence
cometh my help. My help cometh from the
Lord, who made heaven and earth. And whilst
they sung, " the Lord gave a plenteous rain"
to refresh his weary heritage in the wilderness.
When they had drank, and were satisfied,
and had blessed the God of their fathers,
Sheshbazzar said, — " My children ! the Pro-
mises of God are the mulberry trees in this



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 157

valley of tears. The dew of heaven lies all
night on their branches, and some dew may
always be shaken from them. When I was
widowed, like our father Jacob, I shook that
unfading mulberry tree, ' The Lord liveth ;
and Messed he the rock of my salvation.'' When
like David, our king, I was bereaved of my
children, I shook that broad-brancliing mul-
berry tree, ' / will he unto thee a hetter portion
than sons or daughters.^ Accordingly, I have
found no trial, without finding some dev/ of
consolation upon the trees of promise, when-
ever I shook them. And when more was ne-
cessary, God has strengthened me with strength
in my soul."

The pilgrims looked at the mulberry trees in
the valley of Baca, which they had shaken, and
smiled complacently on the good old man. He
saw it, and continued his parable : —

" It was not whilst Job pondered and brood-
ed over his calamities, that he said of God,
' Though he slay me, yet will I put my trust
in him :' he was shaking the mulberry trees

14



158 A matron's

when he said this ; and when he said, ' The
Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ;
blessed be the name of the Lord.' Abraham
would never have yielded Isaac to the altar, if
he had not shaken that great mulberry tree —
' In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth he
blessed.'' "

Thus the pilgrims went on, " from strength
to strength," listening to the wisdom of Shesh-
bazzar ; and " every one of them" appeared
" before God in Zion."

It is, perhaps, quite as necessary to explain
the implicit faith of some Matrons, as the doubt-
ing faith of others.

Amongst many fond and fanciful names,
which Sheshbazzar's young friends bestowed
upon him, the favourite one, with them, was —
the Beershebean Eagle. Agreeably to this
title, his grove, upon the hiU of idneyards, was
called the Eagle's Nest. The emblem was
not misapplied ; for " as an eagle stirreth up
her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth
abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 159

on her wings," so Sheshbazzar, guarded and
guided his young friends. It was not often,
however, that the old man could climb the
hill of vineyards to visit the eagle's nest. His
favourite seat was under his fig tree. But
there — his young friends could not be alone
with him. The elders of Beersheba often
visited him there, after the evening sacrifice ;
and some of them had no sympathy with the
vivacity of the young. Sheshbazzar's eaglets
seemed, to them, to require checks rather than
encouragements. He himself was often told,
that if he did not clip their wings, they would
soon flee oflffrom the ark of the covenant, and,
like Noah's raven, never return. Sheshbazzar
was wont to say, in answer to this, " that
wings were not made to be clipped : if their
flight be well directed, they cannot be too wide,
nor too strong. Let us treat the young as
Noah did the dove ; welcoming them into the
ark of our confidence whenever they are weary,
and never putting them upon the wing except
for sacred purposes : then, like the dove, they



160 A MATRON'S

will return ' bringing an olive leaf to garland
our grey hairs."

Tlie elders of Beersliebahad not been treated
thus in the days of their youth ; and, there-
fore, they did not understand the principles of
Sheshbazzar's conduct. " It is one of your
odd ways," they said, " and whoever lives to
see the end of it will fmd that the old way of
checking is the best." He meekly answered,
' We can never check what is evil in the
young, unless vv^e cherish what is good in
them." Agreeably to this maxim, he requested
his young friends to meet him in the grove
after the hour of the morning sacrifice.

They came to the eagle's nest, full of the
recollections of the former evening, and evi-
dently mortified by them. Sheshbazzar saw
this, and began, at once, to characterize his
aged friends ; that, in the presence of their
sterling worth, their slight weaknesses might
be forgotten.

"We can appreciate and admire," said
EsROM, "the meek patience of Gethcr, and



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 161

the warm zeal of Laish, and the solemn piety
of Mahloj2, and the cedar-like integrity of
Jasher ; but we can learn nothing from their
lips. Their character is eloquent, whilst they
remain silent. When they speak, the charm
dissolves ; for they are all men of one idea, or
their thoughts have no connexion. How is
iheir character thus superior to their know-
ledge ? You often tell us, that we shall never
act better than we know. Are they not excep-
tions to this rule ?"

" Not in the least, Esrom," said Shesh-
bazzar ; " and, when you have more than one
idea of this subject, you will find that their
character is superior, not to their knowledge,
but to their talents and tongues. Each of
them knows experimentally that the God of
his fathers is the God of Salvation ; and that
single truth, when vividly and habitually rea-
lived, by minds of any order, is quite sufficient
to account for any degree of hope or holiness.
The minds of the elders are, indeed, compara-
tively narrow; but they are completely y?//Z, and

14*



162 A matron's

absorbed with tbe truth of truths ; — and a
seraph's mind cannot be more than full ! I
should, indeed, prefer to see their thoughts in
clusters like the grapes, and in ears like the
corn, or at least, threaded like the pearls of the
Queen of Sheba ; but pearls do not grow in
string's, and the wine is sweetest when the
grapes are picked off from the stalks, and the
ear must be broken up before the corn can be
made into bread." Thus Sheshbazzar played
with the subject, that he might divert the atten-
tion of his eaglets from it. But Rachel Avas
there, and she had been wounded, as well as
mortified, by the cold looks and cutting sarcasms
of the elders ; and as she was now more intent
upon excelling in character, than on shining in
talent or knowledge, she repeated the question
— How do these good men act better than they
understand 1

Sheshbazzar, denied again that they did.
" They merely act better than they explain.
They have reasons for their conduct and spirit,
although they cannot always ' render a reason^



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 163

in words. Their reasons may be few, but they
are not weak. The form of them may not be
philosophical nor fascinating ; but the sub-
stance of them is divine. The simple consi-
derations — ' This is the will of God,' — ' That
is for the glory of God,' — ' Thus the Patri-
archs acted,' — determine the character of the
elders, as effectually as the sublimest forms of
these facts could sway the master-spirits of the
universe, and far more effectually than your
poetical reasons influence your faith or prac-
tice."

"My children," said the old man, and he
became solemn as a dying man, " mistake not
my meaning nor motives. I look at you too
often not to see it, and love you too well not
to tell it — ^}^our minds are not yet full nor
happy by what you know of the God of your
fathers, as the God of salvation. Your hearts
are still divided between God and the world.
You are afraid to forget or forsake Him, and
it is well ; but you do not delight to be often
alone with him in prayer, nor to meditate upon



164 A matron's

His character, except when your thoughts as-
sume forms of myster}'- or majesty. You are
rather fascinated by sullime ideas of Jehovah,
than affected by sweet or solemn ideas. His
character attracts you more by the boundless
range which it opens to your excursive ima-
gination, than by the solid basis it affords for
your eternal hopes. Accordingly, were your
best thoughts resolved into their simple ele-
ments, they would lose more than one half of
their hold upon you. The facts of the great
salvation, without its figures, would be held
tame by you — so much are you the creatures
of fancy. But what are the constellated ima-
ges with which genius has enshrined, as with
another ' cloud of glory,' the ark of the cove-
nant ; compared with the simple fact, that our
God is the God of salvation ? This truth duly
apprehended and appreciated, would render the
ark of the covenant glorious in your eyes, even
if the shechinah were removed from it, or had
never rested upon it."

" True, father," said Rachel, blushing as she



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 165

spoke ; " but the God who gave the covenant
of promise, gave the shechinah of glory along
with it. He himself has invested and enshrined
even the truth of truths with its chief attrac-
tions, and thrown around it all the pomp and
plentitude of imagery."

"I grant it, my daughter — readily grant it,
and cordially rejoice in the ' divers manners' in
which God spoke unto our fathers by the pro-
phets. I feel that I owe much both to the
splendid and the mysterious forms in which
the great salvation has been revealed. I doubt,
from the character of my own mind, v/hether
the covenant if given in simpler forms, would
have arrested my wayward attention, so as to
win and fix my volatile heart. The majesty
of God's language is, however, a part of God's
infinite condescension. Nor must we forget the
character of our nation, when He multiplied
and heisfhtened the hallowed enshrinements of
the covenant. Noah required no shechinah on
Ararat, nor Abraham on Moriah, to endear the
covenant to them, or to induce them to set the



166 A MATRON'S

bloody seal of sacrifice to it. Both the mag-
nificence and the variety of Mosaic worship
are, therefore, the measure of our fathers'
minds, when they came out of Egypt and set-
tled in Canaan.

"But I have no wish to evade the force of
Rachel's remark, God has as evidently di-
versified the forms of truth to please the mind,
as the flavour of fruits, or the colour of flowers,
to gTatify the senses. The food of the soul is
obviously from the same hand as the food of
the body. It is not, however, the rind of the
pomegranate, nor the bloom of the grape, nor
the golden tinge of the corn, that we prize
most. We do prize these lovely hues as proofs
of ripeness, but the nourishment is in the fruit
which they beautify : so it is with revealed
truth.

" I have thought too, at times, that there are
deeper reasons for the profusion of figurative
language in the word of God, than some sus-
pect. For, by thus seizing upon all the sublime
and lovely objects in nature, and consecrating



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 1G7

them to the illustration of the Divine character
and government, so that they burn as lamps
around the eternal throne, God has created a
grand antidote against Idolatry. The natural
objects which are the gods of other nations are
thus made the mere servants of the true God,
or only the shadows of his glory : so that what
they worship, we employ as helps in his wor-
ship. And, who could bow to the sun shining
in his strength, or kiss the hand to the moon
walking in her brightness, who had once read,
that God is the ' Father of lights, without vari-
ableness or the shadow of turning?' Esrom !
you can follow out this hint ; it is quite in your
line of things.

"And, Rachel, the following hint is in your
line. There is a strong tendency to extremes
in the human mind. Some who love nature
with enthusiasm, loathe religion, or conceal
their dislike to it under the thin veil of polite
and vague compliments. Others love religion
with unquestionable cordiality ; but, from seeing
the votaries of nature averse to the word and



168 A- MATRON'S

worship of Jeliovah, they are afraid of nature,
and incHned to frown upon every reference to
its beauties or sublimities. They thus seem
to think that a star or a flower is as likely as
Baal or Ashtaroth, to estrange the human mind
from God and godliness. In their estimation,
it is heresy to speak well of " the sweet influ-
ences of the Pleiades ;" and empty sentimen-
tality to be affected by the varied scenery of
the heavens or the earth. They confine them-
selves to scriptural language, and yet forget
that it is full of nature ! The word of God re-
gisters all the works of God, and calls them all
forth ' in their season,' to do homage to itself
and its subjects ; and yet these good people
seem unconscious of the fact. Was it not as
an antidote against this divorce of natm'e from
religion, that God incorporated with the reve-
lation of eternal things so many appeals to the
scenes and seasons of nature 1 Rachel, this
is in your new line of things. Whilst you
were prayerless, you were a mere sentiment-
alist ; and only too willing to find excuses for



TIMIDITY EXPLAINED. 1G9

the neglect of the Scriptures. You preferred
the works of God to the word of God. This
proved how little you read the latter, and how
superficially you studied the former. Nothing
honours nature so highly as the Bible has done.
Moses and the Prophets have looked upon the
heavens and the earth with a more poetic eye
than the poets of antiquity, or the harpers of
our own times."

Thus the Eagle of Beersheba guarded and
guided his young.

15



No. V.



THB HARTS AT THE CROSS.



There are no familiar expressions which a
Christian understands better, or means more
by, than the emphatic words, — " visiting Cal-
vary," — "going to the Cross," — "leaning on
the Cross," — " Imeeling at the Cross," —
" clinging to the Cross," — " looking to the
Cross." In one or other of these consecrated
forms of speech, a Christian embodies all that
is best in the spirit of his penitence, and of his
faith, and of his devotion. Indeed, when his
heart is not at the Cross, his penitence is
neither deep nor tender; his faith neither
strong nor lively ; his devotion neither sweet
nor solemn. Whenever he ceases to glory in
the Cross, he sinks into coldness or formality.
And if he quit the Cross, or lose sight of it.



170



THE MARYS AT THE CR0S9. 171

he loses both hope and heart, until he get back
to it again.

Nothing of this experience has, of course,
any connexion with the use that was once
made of crosses and crucifixes, in religion.
When they were most in use, such experience
was least kno%\'Ti. Jilore hearts, and more of
each heart, have been won to Christ crucified
by the preaching of the Cross, than by all the
visible exhibitions of it which painting ever
embodied, or sculpture emblazoned. When
crosses were most numerous, real Christians
were fewest, and the real Cross least influen-
tial. This is only what might be expected.
Emblems, by bringing home the crucifixion to
the senses, kept the understanding and the
heart far off from its great principles, and its
true spirit.

But whilst Christian experience itself has
had nothing to do with the once popular uses
of a visible cross, the language in which that
experience speaks, is, in no small degree, both
derived and enriched from this old source. The



172 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

familiar expressions which once described what
the body did at a cross, or with a crucifix, now
describes exactly what the soul tries to do when
contemplating the Lamb of God, slain for the
sin of the world. Not, however, that the scrip-
tural worship of Protestanism is thus an inten-
ded or conscious imitation of the bodily service


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