Robert Philip.

The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

. (page 8 of 11)
Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 8 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of Popery : no, indeed : such an idea never
occurs to the mind, even when it is clasping
and clinging to the Cross in thought, just as
superstition did to the symbol in action.

We are not, however, indebted to superstition
for all our emphatic forms of expressing the
exercise of faith or penitence, at the Cross.
Superstition itself borrowed the elements of its
best language, on this subject, from the word of
God. Both the holding up of the crucifix, by
the priest, and the looking at it, by the penitent,
are literal imitations : the one of setting forth
Christ " openly crucified," and the other of be-
lieving on Him with the heart. In like manner,
the postures and gestures of superstition at a
cross, are imitations of the real or supposed



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS, 173

conduct of the Marys on Calvary. Their con-
duct, however, deserves something better than
popish imitation, or even than Protestant admi-
ration. It is more complimented than under-
stood. The Marys were, indeed, " the last at
the Cross, and the first at the Sepulchre, of
Christ ;" and felt, no doubt, all that poetry or
piety has ascribed to them, on that solemn oc-
casion. They must, however, have felt far
more, and in another way, than is usually sup-
posed. For, unless the Virgin Mary be an ex-
ception to the others, they had not exactly our
views of the death of Christ, to guide their
feelings. What we look at as an atoning sacri-
fice offered to God, they saw chiefly as an
atrocious murder perpetrated by man. Whilst
we see chiefly, on Calvary, the flashing sword
of Divine Justice, and the bursting vials of
Divine Anger, they saw only the gleaming of
the Roman arms, and the glare of Jewish ven-
geance. Where we hear chiefly the thunders
of the Divine Law, they heard only the fero-
cious execrations of a frantic mob. Their feel-

15*



174 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

ings, whilst witnessing the crucifixion, could
not therefore be akin to our feelings whilst con-
templating it. Their sorrow, then, deep, and
melting, and genuine as it was, was not peni-
tence, nor was their overwhelming depression
humility. Their love to Christ was, indeed, at
its height, when his own love to them and to
the world was highest ; but it was not as an
atoning Saviour they loved him then.

They did, however, love him then and before,
as a Saviour : yea, as the only Saviour. It is
as much under the sober truth to ascribe their
love to Christ unto sympathy, friendship, or
ordinary gratitude, as it is beyond the truth, to
ascribe it unto faith in the atoning efficacy or
design of his death. Two of the Marys, at
least, cannot be supposed to have known or be-
lieved more, at the time, than the Apostles did :
and they neither understood then what Christ
had foretold of his resurrection, nor approved
what he had foretold of his death. Accordingly,
the women were as hopeless as the men, on the
morning of the third day, until the Angels told



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 175

them of his resurrection : for it was not to wel-
come a living Saviour, but to complete the en-
tombment of the dead Saviour, that they went
so early and eagerly to the sepulchre. The
" sweet spices" they brought to " anoint Him,"
prove that they had no hope of finding him
alive then. Mark xvi. 1. They were not,
however, without faith in Him, as the Saviour,
even then. Mary of Magdala continued to speak
of Him as her " Lord," even when she sup-
posed that his body had been removed from the
sepulchre, and laid somewhere else. John xx.
13. " They have taken away my Lord, and 1
Imow not where they have laid him," was her
first answer to the Angels, when they said to
her, " Woman, why weepest thou ?" I would
not graft too much meaning upon the word
" Lord" itself, in this instance ; nor upon her
use of it at the time. I will suppose nothing
more, than that she used it then just in the
sense she had been accustomed to attach to it,
whilst the Saviour was alive : and there is no
reason whatever, to think that His death had



176 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

altered her opinion of either his Messiahship
or his Sonship. It had, no doubt, blasted all
her hope of seeing Him establish that temporal
kingdom on earth, Avhich all the disciples ex-
pected : but it withered none of the hopes of
pardon and eternal life, which she had formerly
planted upon the power and promises of the
Son of God.

This is the real point to be kept in view,
whilst judging of the motives and emotions of
the Marys at the Cross. They did not under-
stand that the Lamb of God was then taking
away the sin of the world, or laying down his
life as a ransom for them ; but they had no
doubt, even then, of his being the Lamb of
God, nor of his being their Saviour. All their
conduct on Calvary, and especially the honour-
able and costly funeral they prepared for Christ,
prove, to a demonstration, that their " hope in
Christ" had not died with him. It does not seem
to have- dimmed at all, even when the sun be-
came darkness ; nor to have shaken at all, even
when the earth shook and trembled ; nor to have



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 177

drooped at all, even when the sepulchre was
sealed. Their hope of salvation was then as
much with him " in Paradise," as the spirit of
the penitent thief was there with him.

The truth of these strong assertions lies on
the very surface of the narrative ; and applies
equally to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicode-
mus. Indeed, there is no evidence, direct or
indirect, that the death of Christ overthrew
the spiritual hopes, or altered the spiritual
opinions, of any of the disciples. It upset all
their hope of a temporal kingdom, or of what
they called, " redeeming Israel ;" but it does
not seem to have brought the shadow of either
a doubt or a suspicion upon their minds, in re-
gard to his Divine character or mission. They
all forsook Him, indeed, at the crisis of his fate;
but not from unbelief, but from fear and con-
sternation. The sheep scattered when the
Good Shepherd was smitten ; but they did so
lest they themselves should be smitten with
him ; and not because they had ceased to con-
sider him as the Shepherd and Bishop of their



178 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

souls. The idea of imposturSj or fraud of any
kind, on His part, never seems to have crossed
their minds, eVen when appearances were most
against his claims. John obeyed that dying
injunction of Christ, " Behold thy mother !"
as promptly and cordially as ever he obeyed
any command given by Christ, when in the
plenitude of his power and glory. " From
that hour that disciple took her into his own
house." John xix. 27. In like manner, the very
" sadness" of the two disciples, on the way to
Emmaus, proves, beyond all doubt, that their
opinion of their Lord's integrity had under-
gone no change by his death. Their spirit
would have been bitter or indignant, not sad
only, if they had thought him a deceiver. Be-
sides, they did not hesitate nor faulter to say
of Him, even then, that he was both " Jesus
of Nazareth," and " a Prophet mighty in deed
and word before God and all the people."

The conduct of the Marj^s is, however, still
more decisive. They never would have fol-
lowed Christ with tears to Calvary, nor stood



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 179

either nigh to or afar off from the Cross, if
they had changed their opinion of his truth or
of his grace. They did not, indeed, recognise
Him as then seahng the everlasting covenant
with his blood ; but they evidently saw Him
sealing the truth of both his gracious promises
and his high pretensions by his blood ; for it
was (and they knew it) because he would not
retract nor qualify his high claims, that he was
condemned and crucified. Accordingly, at his
burial, they acted a part, throughout, in per-
fect harmony with strong and unaltered faith
in both his truth and grace. For, who does
not see at a glance, that the Marys neither
would nor could have lavished their attentions
and tenderness upon His funeral, if they had
doubted his faithfulness or his sincerity ? Be-
sides, Mary of Magdala had a living proof, in
her own bosom, of His Divine power. He
had "cast out seven devils" from her spirit:
and, as they did not return when he was im-
prisoned, nor whilst he hung on the cross, nor
even when he died, she could not but be sure



180 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

that his death had neither disproved his power,
nor discredited his character.

I bring out these facts with some care, be-
cause they enable us to make a right use of
the example of these holy women : for, they are
thus, perfect models of faith in the truth of the
Saviour's promises, and of love to the Saviour's
character. That faith and love they cherished,
avowed, and exemplified, when all the aspects
of the universe seemed to frown upon, and to
fight against, His person and mission. Neither
the cowardly flight of his friends, nor the reck-
less fury of His enemies, moved the Marys.
They " stood by the cross," when the cross
itself could hardly stand on the quaking mount.
They forsook him not, even when they heard
him declare that God had " forsaken" him !

They did not, of course, understand, at the
time, the mystery of that judicial " lama sa-
BACHTHANi ;" but neither its mystery, nor its
terrors, alienated their affection or their confi-
dence from the Saviour. " None of these
things moved" them ! Shall, then, less things



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 181

move you from the Cross of Christ ? This is
the point I wanted to bring you to. Now, if
the Marys did and endured so well, whilst the
death of Christ was before them only as a
murder and a martyrdom, — what a height
both their faith and love would have risen to,
had they known, as you know, that it was an
atoning Sacrifice, securing " eternal inherit-
ance" to all in heaven, who had died in the
faith of Christ ; and " eternal redemption" to
all on earth, who should then or afterwards
believe on him ! Oh, had they seen then, as
you see now, how all the curse of the Law
was cancelled by His bearing its curse ; how
all the perfections of Jehovah were satisfied
and glorified in the highest, by His voluntary
submission to their will ; how all the balance
and basis of the Divine government were
established for ever, by His one offering of
himself as the votary of their holiness, and
as the victim of their justice ; — had the
Marys been aware of all this, whilst they

stood by the Cross, their conduct and spi-

16



182 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

rit, noble as these were, would have been
nobler still ! Surely, then, your conduct and
spirit should not, need not, be inferior to
theirs ; seeing your knowledge of the glory of
the Cross is so much superior to any and all
that they possessed, when they thus rose
above the fear of peril and reproach, and
balanced all the mysteries of the crucifixion
by faith in the character of the crucified
One.

There is, indeed, mystery about the Cross
still. And, why should there not ? I will not
answer this question by reminding you, that
there is mystery in every thing great and
small, mental and material, throughout the uni-
verse. But, whilst this fact should teach us
to expect it in the Cross too, our own charac-
ter and spirit may well suggest to us, that our
" faith and patience" require some " trial," in
common with others.

The Marys were not exempted : and why
should we be so ? They had to believe and
obey, when there was more mystery and less



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 183

majesty around the Cross, than now invest it :
for now the crown of thorns, and the mock
robe and reed of supremacy, are exchanged for
the real crown and sceptre of universal govern-
ment ; the scornful " Hail, King of the Jews,"
is followed by the vying and everlasting " Hal-
lelujahs" of all the armies of heaven : the cen-
tral cross on Calvary is succeeded by the
" middle seat on the eternal throne :" the mo-
mentary frown of judicial anger, has given
place for ever to the endless and unalterable
complacency of paternal love : the keys of
death and the invisible world hang upon the
"vesture dipped in blood," and He who was
" numbered with transgressors," is now identi-
fied with Deity, in all the homage and glory
which saints or angels can render. If, there-
fore, the miracles which the Marys saw, and
the voices from heaven which they heard,
proved to them the Divinity of Christ, and
counterbalanced all the wants and woes of His
eartlily lot ; surely His place on the throne
and in the worship of Heaven, may well over-



184 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

power every difficulty which reason meets, or
speculation suspects, in the Divinity and glory
of the Saviour.

I neither profess to solve the mystery of
His incarnation and sacrifice, nor pretend to
be unaffected by it ; but I do claim the right to
be heard and heeded when I say to you, that
an atoning Saviour is the universal creed of
Heaven, and the only creed on earth which
converts sinners, or consoles saints.

Happily, only a few females, amongst the
increasing thousands and tens of thousands of
the intellectual, have had the fool-hardiness to
stand forward in open hostility to the Godhead
of the Saviour. This pitiable contrast to all
the pure spirits around the eternal throne —
this monstrous singularity^ in a universe which
adores the Lamb, — is not presented by many
of your sex. Long may it be proverbially true
of the sex at large, that they are still the last
to quit the Cross, and the first to visit the
Sepulchre.

You have, perhaps, some reproach to en-



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 185

counter, in thus imitating the Marj-s. Well ;
brave and bear it as they did. Had they not
dared all hazards, how many souls might have
been lost, whom their noble example has won
to Christ ? Had they shrunk back from own-
ing Him, after having received so much grace
from him, how many traitors and cowards
might have sprung from their timidity ? And
should you flee or flinch from the Cross, in
order to escape " the reproach" of it, you will
peril more souls than your own.

It is, indeed, a trying dilemma when a wife
or a daughter cannot " confess Christ" in their
family, without giving offence. It is a very
strong temptation to be silent, or to compromise
evangelical truth, when the avowal of that
truth breaks the peace and harmony of home.
Firmness is, however, kindness to the oppo-
sers. There is no such cruelty to an unbe-
lieving partner, parent, or brother, as breaking
faith with Christ, in order to keep the peace
with them. For, what is this peace, whilst
you must carry about with you the horrible

16*



186 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

consciousness that they must perish by their
unbeUef, and that you are abetting that unbe-
lief! I invoke, adjure, you to consider this!
For, could you so conceal your faith from
them, as to satisfy them without periling your
own soul, you would but more effectually peril
their souls.

Look again at the Marys, and be firm. De-
pend upon it, if you have to witness for Christ
at home, your firmness will eventually win
souls at home, as well as save yourself. Let
" AzuR and Zalmon" suggest to you, how you
may join fidelity with tenderness, in dealing
with " the enemies of the cross of Christ."

AzuR and Zalmon were " Hebrews of the
Hebrews," and had been Pharisees of the
Pharisees ; but both had renounced Judaism
for Christianity, although from different prin-
ciples. Zalmon was won by the Example of
Christ : Azur by the Atonement of Christ.
Zalmon was fond of the Oriental and Grecian
philosophers who speculated on Christianity ;
Azur refused to associate with them, and would



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 187

not acknowledge tliem as believers. He loved
Zalmon as the friend of his youth, but treated
his pretensions to be a Christian as unfounded ;
for they had been advanced in this form and
spirit :

" I can no longer resist the evidences of
Christianity," said Zalmon : " like the autum-
nal floods of Jordan, they bear unto the Dead
Sea every objection, as it comes within the
mighty sweep of their swellings. The all-
perfect character of Jesus demonstrates his
Messiahship : it was so pure, and yet so social
withal ; so unbending in principle, and yet so
bland in manners withal ; so tried by calamity,
and yet so patient withal. Although he was
dragged from the cradle to the cross, as it were,
on the hurdle of poverty, by the wild horses
of slander and persecution, neither agony nor
ignominy could alienate him from his mission,
nor alter his character. Like light, he passed
through every medium uncontaminated. Not
to be a Christian, therefore, is irrational."

" If you mean by his mission, his medu-



188 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

TiON," said Azur, " I congratulate you upon
your conversion : and, whatever you mean,
Zaimon, I hail your triumph over the preju-
dices wliich blind our nation to the beauty of
the Saviour's holiness. But in your philo-
sophical circle, it is become fashionable to
reduce his death to the rank of a martyrdom
for truth, and to exalt his example on the ruins
of his Cross. I may not own this as Chris-
tianity : I stand in doubt of you."

" I suspected, Azur, that you would," said
Zaimon ; you live amongst little minds ; I
move amongst the sages of the city. You are
smitten with the love of mystery ; I am, with
the love of virtue. It is enough for me to
find in Christ, the Sun of Moral Righteousness :
in that capacity he will hold an eternal meri-
dian, and shine with healing in his wings,
until righteousness become universal. Such an
example the world wanted ; and, having found
it in Christ, wants nothing more for salvation.
Here my faith begins and ends.^'

" Zaimon ! be serious : thus the faith of



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 189

NicoDEMUs began. He acknowledged Christ
to be a Teacher sent from God ; and Christ
treated the avowal as unworthy of his notice.
He did not welcome the meagre compliment,
but proceeded to teach the ' Master in Israel,'
that the Son of God was sent into the world
to be lifted up on the Cross, as a sacrifice for
sin. Remember this fact ; and ' marvel not
that I say unto you, Ye must be bom again.' "
" My early and tried friend, I will be seri-
ous. I have marked, Azur, the fact you
mention, and feel staggered by its bearings.
It is to the point. And, as a Hebrew of the
Hebrews, I cannot forget that, under the law,
the pardon of sin was inseparable from sacri-
fice. The principle of Atonemext was as
prominent in our once holy system, as the
Temple in our holy city. All this I frankly
concede to be fact ; but pretend not to under-
stand it. My present opinion is, that the per-
fect Example of Christ, and his illumination
of Immortality, by raising the standard of
morals, render sacrifice unnecessary."



190 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

" Zalmon ! Zalmon ! sacrifices are, indeed,
unnecessary" now ; but on your new principles,
they were always useless and unmeaning.
' The blood of bulls and of goats could never
take away sin,' nor open the gates of Paradise
to the spirits of our fathers. Think me not
harsh, because I am warm. You have for-
saken Judaism without embracing .Christianity.
Neither Christ nor jMoses would now own you
as his disciple. You occupy a place against
which Sinai and Calvary equally roll their
thunders. Am I therefore become your enemy
because I tell you the truth ? Let them flatter
you who love you not : I love you, and there-
fore warn you. And now, having done so,
I will reason with you. Was not the Messiah
promised to the Fathers 1 And did not the
faitliful of all ages ' rejoice' to see his day,
even afar off? But, if he came only to teach
and exemplify virtue, what henejit could they
derive from his work 1 They expected benefit
from his mission, and died in the faith of reap-
ing its blessings ; but if these consist in his



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 191

EXAMPLE, they rejoiced without cause ; for all
the influence of an example, however good,
extends only forward^ not backward. On your
'principles, therefore, the Fathers had neither
part nor lot in the mission of Christ^

"True, Azur: but if the Fathers needed
neither part nor lot in it, what follows ?"

" If they did not ! Zalmon, are you or they
the best judge of their need ? If their guilf,
and their sense of it, be judged from the number
of their sin-offerings, their need of salvation
was absolute. Besides, they looked beyond
the sacrifices to the atonement typfied by
them ; and thus avowed their need of a
Divine propitiation. In a word, they expected
the Lamb of God to take away their sin by
the sacrifice of himself."

" Prove that, Azur, and I will vie with
you in glorying only in the Cross. But the
Fathers were in Paradise before the Lamb
was slain. Their spirits were carried by angels
into Abraham's bosom as they departed. They
were, therefore, saved without the atonement."



192 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.



((



No, Zalmon ; they were saved before it,
but not without it. What saith the Scriptures 1
' God hath set forth (Christ Jesus) to be a pro-
pitiation through faith in his blood, to declare
his righteousness for the remission of sins that
are past, through the forbearance of God.'
Here, past sins refer not only to the former
sins of living believers, but also to the sins of
all believers under the first covenant ; for the
death of Christ declares the righteousness of
God in forbearing and forgiving them. The
faithful of former ages were, therefore, justified
and glorified, in virtue of Christ's pledge to die
for thera at the fulness of time. On that
ground they were admitted into heaven when
they died ; but their ' eternal inheritance' was
not confirmed until his ' death for the redemp-
tion of the transgressions under the first testa-
ment.' Thus the Atonement had a retrospec-
tive influence of the same kind as its present
and prospective influence. And, that the
Fathers expected this, yea, calculated upon it,
is self-evident from all the prophets. They



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 193

taught the Church to realize the sufferings of
Christ at the sacrifice for her sins ; and to
speak as if the Lamb had been ' slain from the
foundation of the world.' ' He was wounded
for our transgressions, he was bruised for our
iniquities : surely he hath borne our griefs and
carried our sorrows.' Thus they both felt their
need of an atonement, and knew that it would
be made for them. It has been made ; and since
that moment, the Old Testament saints have
* sung a New Song' in heaven, saying with a
loud voice — ' Worthy is the Lamb that was
slain for us.' "

" AzuR, if your views of the sacrifices be
right, your system is as harmonious as it is
sublime. My scheme, I must confess, does
not agree with the whole word of God. The
sacrifices, especially, are not duly explained
by it."

" Explained by it, Zalmon ! they are utterly

useless in it. And yet that they were of Divine

appointment, is self-evident ; for neither reason

nor superstition could have suggested them.

17



194 THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

And then, no act of worship was ever so
signally honoured with the Divine approbation
as sacrifice. ' The cloud of glory' travelled
from altar to altar, like the sun through the signs
of the Zodiac, irradiating and ratifying them all.
But, on your principles, the high solemnities
of sacrificature, which thus charmed and chain-
ed down the Sheckinah to the earth, were
neither useful nor instructive ! ' To the Law
and the Testimony,' Zalmon ; and since your
philosophers ' speak not according to these,'
depend on it, 'there is no ^AHnthem,' Patri-
archism, Judaism, and Christianity, unite in
confirming the Divine maxim, that 'without
shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.'
There is, therefore, nothing between us and
hell, but the Blood or the Lamb."

" If such be the fact, Azur, God be merciful
to me a sinner ! And ' God forbid that I
should glory, save in the cross of Christ '"

" Amen, Zalmon, and Amen ! You will
now visit Calvary, as the Marys did after the
Resurrection. They neither saw its glories,



THE MARYS AT THE CROSS. 195

nor understood its solemnities, on the day of
the Crucifixion. I often think with what
different feelings they stood at the Cross, when
they knew it to be the Altar of Eternal Re-
demption ! Then, how all they had seen and
heard on the great day of atonement would
rise upon them in forms of supernal majesty
and supreme glory ! Yes ; and I find, like
them, that my first visit was not my best. I
feel ashamed of my first appreciations of the
Sacrifice of Christ ; they were so vague. And


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11

Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 8 of 11)