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The Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness online

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still I have much to learn !"



No. 71.

THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

Paul, when enumerating the successive
manifestations of Christ to the disciples, by
which "many infalUble proofs" of the truth
of the Resurrection were given, adds with
great emphasis, " Last of all, he was seen of
me." If Mary of Magdala lived long enough
to hear or read this exclamation, how naturally
and emphatically she must have exclaimed,
" First of all, He was seen of meP It is not
improbable that both she and the other female
witnesses of the Resurrection, did live to read
or hear St. Paul's personal testimony to this
great truth. How, then, do you think, did
they approve of being left out of the list of
witnesses by Paul ; seeing they were the first
persons to whom the Saviour " showed himself

196



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 197

alive ?" The four Evangelists had not treated
them thus, in their Gospels. In each of the
Gospels, the Marys are placed at the head of
the " great cloud of witnesses," which attest
the Resurrection. Why, then, are they not so
in the Epistles also 1 Obviously, because it
would have been no kindness to the Marys,
whatever honour it might have been to them :
for, as Paul's Epistles were chiefly addressed
to Gentile Churches, and as persecution raged
in Judea at the time, any reference to the
Marys, or to the women of Galilee, as the first
witnesses, might have drawn more visiters
around them than they could conveniently, oi
wisely, or safely welcome. Thus both their
character and their life might have been periled,
had their names been made as public and im-
perishable in the Epistles, as they were in the
Gospels. Paul's silence was, therefore, the
shield of their holy reputation, and of their pre-
carious life. Both these were hazarded quite
enough, by the publicity and popularity which

their names had acquired in Judea.

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198 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

Besides, you can easily conceive, from their
character and spirit, how they would count it
honour enough, for them, to have seen the
Lord " first," even if there had been no notice
taken of the fact by the Evangelists. The
sweet consciousness, that His first appearance
was to them ; that His first " All hail" of welcome
was to them ; that His first smile, after the sor-
rows of death, beamed on them ; and that His
first words, after the silence of the grave, were
addressed to them : this, all this, must have
been joy unspeakable and inexhaustible. The
Marys could no more forget it, or be unsatisfied
with it, than the Angels who rolled away the
stone from the sepulchre, and wrapped up the
linen clothes within, can cease to remember or
to enjoy the high honour bestowed on them,
when thus permitted to minister to Christ, as
He rose from the dead. Such honour had not all
the angels of God then. They were all allov/ed
to worship the Son alike, when God brought
" in the First-Begotten into the world :" but
when He " brought Him again from the dead,



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 199

by the blood of the everlasting covenant," only
"two Angels" were admitted to witness, or
worship, or serve, on that august occasion.

It would be an equally useless and fruitless
inquiry, to ask why this honour was confined
to so few of the angels, or why it was conferred
upon these two : it is not, however, useless to
inquire why the Saviour shewed himself first
to the Marys, when he arose from the dead.
This was a marked preference, and, therefore,
it must have had practical reasons, whether we
can discover them all or not.

The great general reason for this preference
is to be found in the condition of the sex at
large, at the time. They had, then, neither
that place in the Church, nor that rank in
society, which they now enjoy. Male and fe-
male were not "one," in Moses, as they are
now " all one in Christ Jesus :" for, although
women were not exactly without a name or a
place in the Jewish Church, they had not equal
privileges with men. They were not, indeed,
" outer court" worshippers at the Temple.



200 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE,

Their place in tlie sacred area was both higher
and nearer to the symbols of the Divine Pre-
sence in the Sanctuary, than "the court of the
Gentiles :" still, it was fifteen steps lower than
the inner court," where the temple and the altar
stood, and where all the males appeared before
God in Zion. Thus, although they were not
kept so " far off" as the Gentiles, from the sight
and hearing of public worship, they were not
permitted literally to draw " so nigh unto God"
as their Fathers, Husbands, or even their bro-
thers did. Indeed, in the time of Christ, they
were treated at the Temple very much as Jew-
ish women are now in the Synagogue : placed
where they could hardly see or be seen.

This arbitrary and degrading arrangement
was not, however, of Divine appointment.
This invidious distinction did not exist in the
time of Solomon, nor even so early as the
reign of Manasseh. Then there were only two
courts : " the court of the priest," and " the
great court." The place called " the court of
the women," in the second Temple of Jerusa-



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 201

lem, was no more " according to the pattern
shown on the mount," than are the latticed
galleries of the great Synagogue of London.
Judaism, as God gave it to Moses, did not,
indeed, place women altogether upon an equa-
lity with men, even " in things appertaining to
God ;" but still, it did not degrade them ex-
actly, deeply as it subordinated them.

It was in reference, therefore, to a twofold
subordination of the sex, that the Saviour had
to take effectual measures for making male
and female " all one in Himself." He had
to do something for women, which should at
once emancipate them from human imposi-
tions, and equalize them in Divine privileges.
And what so effectual for this twofold purpose,
as showing " Himself alive after his Passion,"

to women first ? He thus made the Marys
apostles, even to the Apostles themselves !

After this crowning distinction, what Minister

or Church of Christ, could doubt whether

" daughters of the Lord God Almighty," were

not joint-heirs with His sons, in all the spi-



202 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

ritual heritage of Christianity 1 Thus the Sa-
viour's treatment of the Marys had a reason
beyond themselves. He treated them as the
representatives of their sex : none of whom
appear to have been amongst his public enemies
either during his life or at his crucifixion. This
is a remarkable fact. Even Pilate's wife warned
her husband on the judgment-seat, to have
nothing to do against " that just person," as she
called Christ. In like manner, the multitude
of women who followed the Saviour from the
city to Calvary, instead of joining with the
men in the cry of " Crucify him," " bewailed
and lamented him." Indeed, there is no in-
stance of any female offering any pubUc indig-
nity to Christ, whilst he was upon earth. What
the private feelings of the Mothers and Daugh-
ters of Jerusalem were towards Him, I do not
know, of course : but, judging from the kind
notice He took of their kindly sympathy, when
he was led forth amidst the clamour and exe-
crations of the Jews to be crucified, I am cer-
tainly inclined to regard his conduct to the



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 203

Marys as an acknowledgment of that sym-
pathy, and thus as a token of special good-
will to their sex, as well as to themselves.
Luke xxiii. 27, 31. It was also emphatically
" good will to man !" But for this signal
honour, women would have been kept down
both in the church and society ; and that sub-
ordination would have weakened the Church,
and hindered the progress of all the best
charms and charities of social life.

He is but a superficial observer, who sees
in the superior education of females now, or in
the advanced civilization of men, enough to
account for the high and hallowed influence of
Christian wives, mothers, and daughters, upon
the morals and religion of the age. Both these
causes of improvement are themselves the effect
of Christ's bringing male and female equally
nigh unto God by the blood of the cross, and
of makinjr them all one in himself: and the
proof — the demonstration — the seal of this,
was given in His appearing to women first.
His " All hail," to the Marys, began and led



204 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

to all the holy consideration in which the sex
are now held, and all the holy influence which
they now exercise. The impulse which ori-
ginated both was given in the Arimathean
garden. That gaiden was the Eden in which
woman was made again a spiritual " help-
meet" for man : the Paradise in which the
Adams and Eves of the new creation were
made " heirs together" of the grace of Eternal
Life. Yes ; out of this fact, however much
overlooked or forgotten now, arose all the spi-
ritual fellowship, and united co-operation for
good, which has either blessed or beautified
the world and the Church since.

Men, Fathers, and Brethren ! — ^ye would
not have raised " the daughters of the Lord
God Almighty to sit together with you in
heavenly places with Christ Jesus," had not
Christ Jesus himself handed them up, and
placed them at your very side in all the ordi-
nances and immunities of the Church. Ye are
not, indeed, displeased with this equality, now
that it is established. Ye would not alter nor



THE MARYS AT THE SEPDLCHRE. 205

disturb it now, on any account. Ye are even
delighted with it. Ye would not, however,
have felt thus, nor would this equality have
taken place, had not Christ, by his first act
when he rose from the dead, given a deathless
distinction to women. The husbands and fa-
thers of that age had not all the honourable
feelings of this age. They were not without
" natural affection ;" but their religious pre-
judices checked its current. Even when con-
jugal and parental love was tenderest, it did
not admit the idea of spiritual equality in the
Church on earth, nor the sweet hope of perfect
equality in heaven. It was Christianity that
introduced the present habit of thinking and
feeling : and it was the example of Christ, ra-
tified by the first " All hail" of the resurrec-
tion, that gave effect to the claims which
Christianity advanced on behalf of women.

All this may seem only a curious specula-
tion to some men ; but to this all men owe
whatever was influential in the piety of their
mothers. Yes, ^oung Man! your mother could

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206 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

not have had all her sweet influence over you,
even in early life, had she not held, in public
opinion, as near and dear a place to the heart
of God and the Lamb, as your father did, if he
also was pious. It was her equality in the
Kingdom of God in both worlds, that made
her maternal love as powerful as paternal law.
Thus had she stood lower than her husband on
the scale of spiritual and eternal privileges,
you would not have risen very high on the
scale of moral superiority, nor sunk so seldom
as you have done.

O, what does not the Church of Christ owe
to pious Mothers ! When I consider how
little the generality of even godly fathers do, in
order to train up their children in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord, I cannot but see
that the breast of the Saviour was first full,
and first warm, after death, with the mighty
— ^the gracious — the wise purpose of creating
for mothers paramount motives, and opportu-
nities, and influences for making the lambs of
their family the sheep of His fold. He fore-



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 207

saw how much Avould depend on maternal in-
fluence, and how much fathers would both
leave to it, and throw upon it ; and, therefore,
His first act when he rose from the dead, as
the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, was to put
honour upon his female disciples. Mothers !
you are sure now that it is no strain of com-
pliment to the sex, which has run through
this chapter. You see now that I have not
been expanding an incident into a system. I
have, indeed, brought forward your rights and
privileges from a point in the history of Christ,
at which they are not usually exhibited or
pleaded: but I have done this because it is
the true point, and the public act towards wo-
men, by which He gave triumphant effect in
the Church to all the claims of his female dis-
ciples. Whilst, therefore, I congratulate you
upon your equal, and equally well chartered,
privileges in the Christian Church on earth
and in heaven, I remind you that you are thus
blessed, that ye may be blessings ; that your
responsibility is equal to your high calling in



208 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

Christ Jesus, and to your joint-heirsliip in his
kingdom and glory.

I have not forgotten, whilst explaining the
grand general reason of the honour conferred
on the Marys, that their own character and
spirit furnish explanations of the preference
thus shown to them. The well known fact,
that they were the last at the Cross, and the
first at the Sepulchre, ought never to be for-
gotten. It is not, however, the only fact
which seems to have influenced the Saviour's
conduct towards them. They had both sat at
his feet, and followed him in the regeneration
of life, long and often, before his passion be-
gan. From the time they were called by his
grace, until all his temporal wants ceased,
they had " ministered unto him of their sub-
stance," and been his prompt and willing ser-
vants. During his ministry, they were at
once his aptest scholars, and his firmest ad-
herents. In a word, we never hear of them
taking any ofience at his doctrine, or giving way
to either the fiery or ambitious spirit which,



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 209

occasionally, betrayed the Apostles. This uni-
form fidelity and consistency were not likely
to be overlooked by the Saviour, when he rose
from the dead. He who accepted, and even
rewarded openly, the dying testimony which the
penitent thief bore to His innocence, was sure
to honour those holy women, who had so long
and so closely identified themselves with His
cause and character. And He did. Whilst
He only returned sympathy for sympathy to
the " daughters of Jerusalem," who only began
to weep when His woes began, he mani-
fested himself to the Marj'^s in the garden, the
moment he parted from the angels in the Se-
pulchre. They were the first admitted to wor-
ship at His feet, and enjoy His presence, after
the Angels had finished their homage and
services.

Is there no practical lesson taught by this
historical fact ? Does it illustrate no experi-
mental fact ? Origin says " God hates the
man who thinks, that any of his holidays lasts
but one day." He means, that the man who

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210 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

thinks of the Crucifixion only on Good Fri-
day, or of the Resurrection only on Easter-
Sunday, can neither please God, nor profit
himself, by his devotions. You readily admit
this to be true. Well, it is equally true, that
they have not much of the presence of Christ
in public ordinances, and are never sure of
enjoyment even at the Sacrament, who try not
to walk with God during the week, as well
as to wait on Him upon the Sabbath. When-
ever there is heartless prayer in the closet
from day to day, there will be no heart-felt
praise in the sanctuary ; because no such com-
munications of grace, nor any such hold of the
Cross, as will tune the heart to the joy of peni-
tential grief, or to the joy of a good hope of
Salvation. Only Marys who follow Christ
through the week, are sure to meet with Christ
on the Sabbath. His salutation, " All Hail,"
is now awarded most frequently to those who
serve him most faithfully.

It is also in fine and full harmony with all
just views of both Christ and Religion, to



THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE. 211

reckon that He was much influenced in his
treatment of the Marys, by their sacred regard
to the Sanctity of the Sabbath, and by their
rising so early to visit his sepulchre. During
His life, he had set them an example both of
keeping " The holy of the Lord honourable,"
and of early rising. It was " His custom" to
go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and
to go " early in the morning" to the temple.
This the Marys knew, and imitated. Not all
their sorrow or desolation, arising from His
death and burial, was allowed by them to set
aside their Sabbatic duties. They returned
from His grave, " and rested on the Sabbath
day, according to the commandment." That
commandment made no provision nor gave
any warrant, for finishing the funeral obse-
quies even of Christ, although he was " the
Lord of the Sabbath :" and the Marys did not
venture to take a liberty which the law did
not allow. This was not Jewish strictness.
They only did right. Nothing but works of
necessity or of mercy are lawful on the Sab-



212 THE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE.

bath day : and the completion of the SaA'iour's
funeral was neither. It was no work of ne-
cessity : for even if His sacred body could
have " seen corruption," there was more than
enough of embalming spices around it to pre-
vent all danger. It was not a work of mercy :
for that body could no longer suffer, and was
exposed to no insult.

How this example should influence your
Sabbatic habits and spirit ! For, if the Marys
would not finish the rites of Sepulture on the
day of holy rest, even in the case of the Sav-
iour, what likeness to them do those women
bear, who can finish a dress, or pay a visit, or
take a jaunt of pleasure, on that sacred day 1



No. VII.

PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS.

" I HAVE heard and read a great deal (said
one) about the nature and necessity of evan-
gelical holiness, and about the only way of
acquiring it ; but, except in my Bible, I have
met with nothing expressly on 'The Beauty
OF Holiness.' There, however, almost as
much is said about its beauty and loveliness,
as upon its necessity. Holiness is as much
commended as it is enforced, in the Word of
God ; and invariably represented, as being
equally desirable and essential. Now, although
I certainly do not see clearly what could be
said on the beauty of holiness, that would help
me to follow holiness more fully and willingly,
I do both see and feel, that something more
than even a deep sense of its necessity, is re-



214 PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS.

quisite in order to this. I find that it is only
in as far as I really love or admire true holi-
ness, that I follow it cheerfully. A sense of
duty, or an apprehension of danger, leads me,
certainly, farther in well-doing, than love would
always carry me : but still, 1 do those things
most and best, which I love as well as revere.
Alas, I do nothing as it ought to be done I
There is, however, a better and a worse in my
obedience ; and the best parts of it are those
duties which commend themselves to my heart
by their loveliness, as well as to my conscience
by their authority. I want, therefore, to see
all duty in this light ; that I may choose it for
its own sake, as well as submit to it because it
cannot be safely neglected."

Perhaps, you have thought and felt thus,
when observing how much more pleasure you
take in some duties than in others. You must
have noticed, at times, the very great difference
there is between the spirit in which you dis-
charge the duties you really love, and the
spirit in which you yield to those you are only



PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS. 215

afraid to neglect. In general you are '■^ glacV
when it is said to you, " let us go up to the
house of the Lord :" but not always glad when
both Conscience and the Holy Spirit join in
saying, " enter thy closet, and shut thy door
and pray to the Father who seeth in secret."
Even the assurance, " He shall reward thee
openly," does not always charm you into your
closet, even when you cannot exactly plead
the want of time to go. In like manner, you
can in general say from the heart, " How
amiable, are thy Tabernacles, Lord God of
hosts." The house of God presents itself often
to your mind, in the course of the week, as the
very gate of Heaven. Its oracles and ordi-
nances, its worship and fellowship, with their
sweet influences and holy associations, rise up
before you in the world, as they did before
David in the wilderness, in a vision so bright
and lovely, that you feel something of his holy
impatience to " appear before God in Zion."
Thus you do not say nor think of the Sabbath,
— " What a weariness it is ! when will it be



216 PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS.

over ?" You do not, in general, feel like Doeg
in the temple, "detained before the Lord."
But not so often in this fine spirit, do you an-
ticipate or improve your return to the closet
and the family altar. And yet, you love them
more and better than some other duties. They
also present themselves frequently, as gates of
Heaven too. On a bright morning, when the
sun fills the house, as with the glory of the old
Sheckinah, how exhilarating it is to bow
around the family altar, offering " the morning
sacrifice ?" And on a stormy night, or when
wearisome nights are before us, how soothing
it is to join in " the evening sacrifice ;" casting
all our care upon Him who careth for us ?
And not less exhilarating to our spirit, is the
closet of secret prayer, Avhen our thirst for
communion with God is ardent ; nor less
soothing, when our cares and fears are op-
pressive. Thus there is attraction, as well as
obligation, in the duty of prayer. If the law
of devotion drive us occasionally to both the
domestic and the solitary altar, the cords of



PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS. 217

love, or the magnets of conscious want and
weakness, draw us habitually. We need law :
but we see beauty, and taste happiness, and
sometimes lose the sense of duty in the sensa-
tions of delight, whilst drawinsf nigh unto God.
Nothing, perhaps, is more gratifying to us, than
the prevalence of a truly devotional spirit in
the sanctuary and the closet. We welcome it
as a token for good, and reckon it an unequi-
vocal mark of orace. Whilst we delight in
prayer, we cease to doubt the genuineness of
our faith, and are not tempted to question the
reality of our conversion.

Now all this is as it should be. We cannot
attach too much importance to a devotional
spirit, nor be too watchful to preserve it : for
when this evidence of personal piety declines,
every other passes under an eclipse, which so
darkens them all, that we are unable or afraid
to trace our connexion with the Sun of Right-
eousness. We actually lose His light, when
we lose our relish for prayer. That relish is,
however, more frequently lost or impaired by

19



218 PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS.

not cultivating an equal relish for some other
duties, than by the indulgence of sloth or for-
mality. We are oftener thrown out of the
spirit of prayer, by giving way to wrong tem-
pers, than by growing weary of regular habits.
Fits of ill-humour, whether fiery or sulky,
keep us out of the closet whilst they last, and
make us afraid to enter it even when they are
over. Hence the necessity of attaching almost
as much importance to " a meek and quiet spi-
rit," as to a devotional spirit. The former, as
well as the latter, is an "ornament of great
price in the sight of God ;" and ought, there-
fore, to be equally lovely in our estimation.
But, how few see so much moral beauty in
self-control, or in a meek spirit, as in a devo-
tional spirit ! And yet, we all know well, that
devotion is neither heavenly nor pleasing when
we are angry or peevish. Were it, therefore,
only for the sake of serenity and holy freedom
in the closet, we ought to study the beauty of
a holy temper so closely, that we could no more
leave our humours, than our habits, to accident;



PARTIALITIES IN HOLINESS. 219

and no more risk the consequences of an unruly
or hasty spirit, than of a defiled conscience.
Indeed, for ever)^ purpose, whether practical
or devotional, Ave ought to regard good temper
as being as truly a mark of grace, as good ha-
bits, or gracious feelings. It is, in all its forms,
" the fruit of the Spirit." Accordingly, " long-
suffering, gentleness, and meekness," are class-
ed with " love, joy, peace, and faith," in the
scriptural enumeration of the special fruits of
the Holy Spirit. And, what is equally to the
point, their opposites, " wrath, strife, and vari-
ance," in common with heresy, are classed with
the worst works of the flesh. Gal. v. 19, 23.
Were this duly remembered, we should feel, in
ruling our tongue and temper well, that we
were as directly proving our faith in Christ,


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Online LibraryRobert PhilipThe Marys, or, The beauty of female holiness → online text (page 9 of 11)