Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Female Scripture Biography, Volume II - Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women
Author: Cox, F. A. (Francis Augustus), 1783-1853
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Female Scripture Biography, Volume II - Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Female Scripture Biography:

Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women.

By Francis Augustus Cox, A.M.



"It is a necessary charity to the (female) sex to acquaint them with their
own value, to animate them to some higher thoughts of themselves, not to
yield their suffrage to those injurious estimates the world hath made of
them, and from a supposed incapacity of noble things, to neglect the
pursuit of them, from which God and nature have no more precluded the
feminine than the masculine part of mankind."

The Ladies' Calling, Pref.



VOL. II.

BOSTON:
LINCOLN & EDMANDS.
1831.



Contents of Vol. I.



Essay


The Virgin Mary--Chapter I.

Section I.

  Congratulation of the angel Gabriel--advantages of the Christian
  dispensation--Eve and Mary compared--state of Mary's family at the
  incarnation--she receives an angelic visit--his promise to her of a son,
  and prediction of his future greatness--Mary goes to Elizabeth, their
  meeting--Mary's holy enthusiasm and remarkable language--Joseph informed
  of the miraculous conception by an angel--general remarks

Section II.

  Nothing happens by chance--dispensations preparatory to the coming of
  Christ--prophecy of Micah accomplished by means of the decree of
  Augustus--Mary supernaturally strengthened to attend upon her new-born
  infant--visit of the shepherds Mary's reflections--circumcision of the
  child--taken to the temple--Simeon's rapture and prediction--visit and
  offerings of the Arabian philosophers--general considerations

Section III.

  The flight into Egypt--Herod's cruel proceedings and death--Mary goes to
  Jerusalem with Joseph--on their return their Child is missing--they find
  him among the doctors--he returns with them, the feast of Cana--Christ's
  treatment of his mother when she desired to speak to him--her behaviour
  at the crucifixion--she is committed to the care of John--valuable
  lessons to be derived from this touching scene

Section IV.

  Brief account of the extravagant regard which has been paid to the
  Virgin Mary at different periods--the names by which she has been
  addressed, and the festivals instituted to honour her memory--general
  remarks on the nature and character of superstition, particularly that
  of the Catholics


Elizabeth--Chapter II.

  The angelic appearance to Zacharias--birth of John characters of
  Elizabeth and Zacharias--importance of domestic union being founded on
  religion, shown in them--their venerable age--the characteristic
  features of their piety--the happiness of a life like theirs--the effect
  it is calculated to produce on others--the perpetuation of holy
  friendship through immortal ages--the miserable condition of the
  irreligious


Anna--Chapter III.

  Introduction of Anna into the sacred story--inspired description of
  her--the aged apt to be unduly attached to life--Anna probably religious
  at an early period--Religion the most substantial support amidst the
  infirmities of age--the most effectual guard against its vices--and the
  best preparation for its end


The Woman of Samaria--Chapter IV.

  Account of Christ's journey through Samaria--he arrives at Jacob's
  well--enters into conversation with a woman of the country--her
  misapprehensions--the discovery of his character to her as a prophet her
  convictions--her admission of his claim as the true Messiah, which she
  reports in the city--the great and good effect--reflections


The Woman Who Was a Sinner--Chapter V.

  Jesus and John contrasted--the former goes to dine at the house of a
  Pharisee--a notorious woman introduces herself, and weeps at his
  feet--remarks on true repentance and faith, as exemplified in her
  conduct--surmises of Simon the Pharisee--the answer of Jesus the woman
  assured of forgiveness--instructions deducible from the parable


The Syrophenician--Chapter VI.

  Introductory observations--Christ could not be concealed the
  Syrophenician woman goes to him on account of her daughter--her
  humility--earnestness--faith--the silence of Christ upon her application
  to him--the disciples repulsed--the woman's renewed importunity--the
  apparent scorn with which it is treated--her admission of the
  contemptuous insinuation--her persevering ardour--her ultimate
  success--the necessity of being importunate in prayer--remarks on the
  woman's national character--present state of the Jews: the hope of their
  final restoration,


Martha and Mary--Chapter VII.

  Bethany distinguished as the residence of a pious family, which
  consisted of Lazarus and his two sisters--their diversity of
  character--the faults of Martha, domestic vanity and fretfulness of
  temper--her counterbalancing excellencies--Mary's choice and Christ's
  commendation--decease of Lazarus--his restoration to life at the voice
  of Jesus--remarks on death being inflicted upon the people of God as
  well as others--the triumph which Christianity affords over this
  terrible evil--account of Mary's annointing the feet of Jesus, and his
  vindication of her conduct,


The Poor Widow--Chapter VIII.

  Account of Christ's sitting over against the treasury--he particularly
  notices the conduct of an obscure individual--she casts in two mites--it
  is to be viewed as a religious offering--the ground on which it is
  eulogized by Christ--the example honorable to the female sex--people
  charitable from different motives--two reasons which might have been
  pleaded as an apology for withholding this donation she was poor and a
  widow--her pious liberality notwithstanding--all have something to
  give--the most trifling sum of importance--the habit of bestowing in
  pious charity beneficial motives to gratitude deduced from the
  wretchedness of others, the promises of God, and the cross of Jesus,


Sapphira--Chapter IX.

  Mixed constitution of the church of Christ--benevolent spirit of the
  primitive believers at Jerusalem--anxiety of Ananias and Sapphira to
  appear as zealous and liberal as others--Ananias repairs to the apostles
  to deposit the price of his possessions--is detected in deception and
  dies--similar deceit and death of Sapphira--nature and progress of
  apostasy--peculiar guilt of Sapphira--agency of Satan distinctly
  marked--diabolical influence ascertained--consolatory sentiments
  suggested to Christians,


Dorcas--Chapter X.

  Joppa illustrious on many accounts, particularly as the residence of
  Dorcas--she was a disciple of Christ--faith described as the principle
  of discipleship--the inspired testimony to the character of Dorcas--she
  was probably a widow or an aged maiden--remarks on reproaches commonly
  cast upon the latter class of women--Dorcas exhibited as a pattern of
  liberality, being prompt in the relief she afforded--her charities
  abundant--and personally bestowed: observations on the propriety of
  visiting the poor--the charities of Dorcas often free and
  unsolicited--wise and conducted upon a plan--the pretences of the
  uncharitable stated and confuted--riches only valuable as they are used
  in bountiful distribution,


Lydia--Chapter XI.

  Account of Paul and his companions meeting with Lydia by the river-side
  at Philippi--the impression produced upon her heart by the preaching of
  Paul--the remarks on conversion, as exemplified in the case of this
  disciple--its seat the heart--its accomplishment the result of divine
  agency--the manner of it noticed: the effects of a divine influence upon
  the human mind, namely, attention to the word of God and the ordinances
  of the Gospel, and affectionate regard to the servants of
  Christ--remarks on the paucity of real Christians--the multiplying power
  of Christianity--its present state in Britain--efforts of the
  Bible Society



Female Scripture Biography

Vol. II



The Virgin Mary.

Chapter I.


Section I.


  Congratulation of the Angel Gabriel--Advantages of the Christian
  Dispensation--Eve and Mary compared--State of Mary's Family at the
  Incarnation--she receives an angelic Visit--his Promise to her of a Son,
  and Prediction of his future Greatness--Mary goes to Elizabeth--their
  Meeting--Mary's holy Enthusiasm and remarkable Language--Joseph informed
  of the miraculous Conception by an Angel--general Remarks.


"HAIL, THOU THAT ART HIGHLY FAVOURED, THE LORD IS WITH THEE! BLESSED ART
THOU AMONG WOMEN!"

Such was the congratulatory language in which the commissioned angel
addressed the virgin of Nazareth, when about to announce the intention of
Heaven, that she should become the mother of Jesus; and such the strain
which we cannot help feeling disposed to adopt, while recording her
illustrious name, and contemplating this wonderful transaction.

On Mary devolved the blessing which the most pious of women had for a
long succession of ages so eagerly desired, and which had often created
such an impatience for the birth of children, in some of whom they
indulged the sublime hope of seeing the promised Messiah. In her offspring
was accomplished the long series of prophecy which commenced even at the
moment when the justice of God pronounced a sentence of condemnation upon
rebellious man; and which, like a bright track extending through the moral
night, and shining amidst the typical shadows of the Mosaic dispensation,
fixed the attention of patriarchs, and prophets, and saints, for four
thousand years:--and upon this otherwise obscure and insignificant female
beamed the first ray of that evangelical morning which rose upon the world
with such blissful radiance, and is increasing to the "perfect day."

Infidels may contemplate the manifestation with unholy ridicule or vain
indifference; but we will neither consent to renounce the evidence
afforded to the historic fact, nor cease to celebrate the mysterious
miracle. We will unite with the impassioned angel, at least in the
sentiment and spirit of his address; and join the high praises of the
midnight anthem, sung by descending spirits in the fields of Bethlehem:
"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN!"

In the course of Scripture history, we are now advanced to that period
which the apostle emphatically denominates "the last days," in which "God,
who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past, unto the
fathers by the prophets," speaks to us "by his Son, whom he hath appointed
heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Let us hear his
voice, admit his claims, and bow to his dictates. As truth arises upon us
with greater splendour, we shall find that character is formed to greater
maturity under the immediate influence of "the ministration of
righteousness" which "exceeds in glory." By the unparalleled transactions
of this age we shall see the whole energy of the human mind drawn forth,
and furnished with ample scope for exercise; all the faculties become
ennobled and purified; and the female sex especially, from the days of
Elizabeth and Mary to the close of the sacred record, becomes marked with
a holy singularity. By the starlight of the former dispensation, we have
discovered many women of superior excellence, availing themselves of all
the means they enjoyed, and presenting a pre-eminence of character
proportioned to their comparatively few advantages and imperfect
revelation; but amidst the splendours of the "Sun of Righteousness" we
shall witness, in the females who adorned this new era, a greater
elevation of mind and advancement in knowledge.

Still it must be recollected, that the day only dawned, the shadows were
not at first entirely dispersed; and although the favoured inhabitants of
Judea and its vicinity saw the age of Christ, not like Abraham, "afar
off," but in its commencing glory, their prejudices and prepossessions did
but slowly melt away. Some degree of dimness remained upon the moral
sight; and we are called to observe, not so much the accuracy of their
conceptions as the fervour of their love.

The two most extraordinary women that ever appeared in this world were
unquestionably EVE, "the mother of all living," and MARY, "the mother of
Jesus Christ." They occupied respectively the highest stations and the
most critical points of time that ever fell to the lot of mortals; and
they exhibit an instructive contrast. EVE lived at the beginning, and
MARY at the "fulness of time."--EVE saw the glories of the new made world
after creative Wisdom had pronounced it all "very good," and before sin
had tarnished its beauty and disarranged its harmonies.--MARY beheld it
rising from the ruins of the fall, at the moment of its renovation and in
the dawn of its happiest day.--EVE was placed in the most glorious and
conspicuous situation, and fell into a state of meanness and
degradation.--MARY was of obscure origin and lowly station, but was
raised, by a signal appointment of Providence, to the highest
eminence.--EVE was accessary to the ruin of man--MARY instrumental in the
birth of him who came as the Restorer and Saviour of mankind--EVE beheld
the fatal curse first take effect, in overcasting the heavens with clouds,
in withering the blossoms of paradise, envenoming the spirit of the animal
creation, disordering the human frame, and ultimately destroying it, and
introducing all the nameless diversities of wo which fill up the tragedy
of human life.--MARY witnessed the beginning of that long series of
blessings which divine love has for ages dispensed to man "through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus," and which will eventually replenish
the cup of existence with unmingled sweetness and perfect joy.--EVE
witnessed, with a trembling consciousness of guilt, the awful descent of
those mighty "cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to
keep the way of the tree of life," and which were placed "at the east end
of the garden of Eden." MARY, with feelings of ecstatic rapture, beheld
the angel Gabriel standing before her, with the smiles of heaven upon his
countenance, heard his benedictions, and held "communion sweet" with the
holy messenger. Wretched, wretched Eve! Happy, happy MARY!

The Jews have been always celebrated for their care in preserving their
genealogies: in consequence of which it providentially happened, that the
evangelists were able from their own authenticated records, to verify the
ancient predictions of the birth of Jesus Christ. Two of the inspired
historians have given a statement of his ancestry; the one tracing it from
Abraham, and the other ascending to Adam; the one pursuing the line of
Joseph, his reputed father, the other the line of Mary, his real mother;
both concurring in the most decisive evidence of his being the Son of
David and of Abraham, and the true Messiah of the prophets. [1]

Although in her distant ancestry Mary may justly be considered as of an
illustrious descent, yet at the period of the incarnation, this family was
in a very reduced state: the genealogical tree of David was cut down to
its very roots, when the ancient prediction was accomplished respecting
that great Personage who is represented "as a slender twig shooting out
from the trunk of an old tree, cut down, lopped to the very root, and
decayed; which tender plant, so weak in appearance, should nevertheless
become fruitful and prosper."

  "But there shall spring forth from the trunk of Jesse,
  And a cion from his roots shall become fruitful.
  And the spirit of JEHOVAH shall rest upon him:
  The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
  The spirit of counsel and strength,
  The spirit of knowledge, and the fear of JEHOVAH." [2]

But vain is the "boast of heraldry." It can avail nothing to elevate an
insignificant character to eminence, or screen a guilty one from contempt.
The evangelists have not recorded the lineage of Joseph and of Mary for
the purpose of emblazoning their names, but solely to authenticate the
prophetic declarations respecting Christ, to be connected with whom is
real honour and solid glory. Of past generations, how many names, great in
human estimation, have descended into oblivion, while those only will
obtain an imperishable memorial, who are "written in the Lamb's book
of life."

It must ever be deemed a noble distinction to have stood related to Christ
"according to the flesh;" more so than to have been the sons and daughters
of the mighty princes of mankind: but to have been his MOTHER was the sole
honour of one happy female; still, however, less happy on this account,
than because of the genuine humility with which she adorned her lowly
sphere, and the lively faith with which she recognized the character
of her Son.

In reference to the genealogical tables of Matthew and Luke, it has been
admirably remarked, "We observe among these ancestors of Christ, some that
were _heathens_; and others that, on different accounts, were of _infamous
character_: and perhaps it might be the design of Providence that we
should learn from it, or at least should on reading it take occasion to
reflect, that persons of all nations, and even the _chief of sinners_
amongst them, are encouraged to trust in him as their Saviour. To him,
therefore, let us look even from the ends of the earth; yea, from the
depths of guilt and distress; and the consequence will be happy beyond all
expression or conception." [3]

In the apostolic epistle to the Hebrews, it is intimated as a fact, of
pleasing notoriety, in the history of the church of God, that angels are
"ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs
of salvation." When appointed by the great Supreme to this service, they
usually adopted a human form and appearance, probably for the purpose of
securing that degree of familiarity which the nature of their
communications required, and which a more splendid manifestation would
have precluded; in the scriptural accounts, however, of these remarkable
visits to eminent saints in early ages, whether they appeared in numbers,
as to Abraham, or individually, as on other occasions, no distinct mention
is made of their names or order. But to impress a character of majesty and
dignity upon the message, and upon all the circumstances of the divine
communication to Mary, when an angel is commissioned to announce that she
was selected by the wonderful providence of God as the mother of the
Messiah, the name of the celestial messenger is recorded by the evangelist
in a marked and solemn manner. It was the angel GABRIEL [4] one, as we may
infer, of the highest order of those intelligences that "circle the throne
rejoicing;" and the same glorious spirit who so many ages before had been
sent to Daniel, to specify, in a prophetic enigma, the time of "MESSIAH
THE PRINCE," which he now came to announce as having actually arrived.

Never did even an angel before convey so important a message, or descend
to this earth with such rapturous sensations. It must ever, indeed, be
considered the felicity of an angel, as well as of a man, to do the will
of God, whether this obedience involve personal difficulty, or be
accompanied with circumstances of peculiar delight. It must have afforded
satisfaction to the mighty spirit who was despatched from heaven to eject
the first parents of our race from the bowers of Eden, and to stretch his
flaming sword across the path of access to the tree of life, as well as to
that favoured angel who now hastened to the cottage of the virgin of
Nazareth; because each was accomplishing a purpose in which he knew that
the divine perfections were pre-eminently displayed; but as, in executing
the will of God, the holiest of men must necessarily experience a
different kind and degree of satisfaction, according to the nature of the
service itself to which they are called; and as we have scriptural
evidence that the inhabitants of the invisible world have peculiar
sensations when sinners of the fallen race are converted to God; it is not
surely an inadmissible sentiment, that, as never spirit was honoured
before with such a message, Gabriel must have felt unusual joy upon
announcing the incarnation of the Son of God. His very language expresses
it. His address is full of pathos and congratulation. It breathes angelic
rapture. With it we commenced this subject, and in some measure
participating the bliss, we cite it again: "Hail, thou that art highly
favoured, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!"

There is nothing in the narrative to induce us to think that the angel
assumed any extraordinary splendour of appearance on this occasion; and
judging from the usual mode in which blessed spirits visited the sons of
men in former times, as well as from a consideration of the tender age and
lowly station of Mary, it is probable that he entered the room where she
was, as an ordinary stranger. It is besides stated, that she was troubled
at his _saying_, not at his _appearance_.

This salutation excited in the virgin's breast a sensation of astonishment
mingled with apprehension. Among the Jews it was not lawful for a man to
use any salutation to a woman, not even by a messenger, or her own
husband; in addition to which, the panegyrical and congratulatory terms in
which she was addressed, might well lead her to "cast in her mind what
manner of salutation this should be."

The benevolent messenger at once relieved her from the embarrassment into
which he perceived she had been thrown, by familiarly calling her by name,
renewing the solemn assurances of divine favour, and predicting the future
glory of that illustrious Son whom she should bear, and whose description,
being, like all the Jews, well instructed in the prophetic Scriptures, she
would immediately recognize. These were his remarkable words: "Fear not,
Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shall
conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name
JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and
the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he
shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of his kingdom there
shall be no end."

Her surprise was now raised to the highest pitch; and, incapable of
comprehending by what means such a declaration could be fulfilled in her
who was at present a virgin, she ventured to inquire of the angel, "How
shall this be?" It is worthy of observation, that she did not instantly
reject the testimony of her illustrious visiter as manifestly absurd and
impossible, but modestly requested an explanation of the mysterious
assurance. She was evidently one of those who "waited for salvation" in
Israel; and who well knew that it was the province of human reason to
submit, with implicit confidence, even to the most inexplicable statements
of revelation.

It is true, she could not conjecture by what miraculous conception the
angelic prediction would be verified; but she did not hesitate a moment to
allow the apparently incongruous facts of his being her son, and yet the
Son of the Highest, who should rise to the throne of David, and possess an
everlasting kingdom. Her reason was confounded, but her faith triumphed;
and though she knew not the _manner_, this was no sufficient evidence with
her against the probability of the declared fact. Upon how many inferior
occasions, and under far less mysterious circumstances have we been
incredulous, deeming even the plainest declarations improbable, because
they were unaccountable; and presuming to introduce some arbitrary
alteration into the record of heaven, or some far-fetched comment, rather
than humbly bow to supreme authority.

If, however, it were admitted that the question of Mary betrays at least a
momentary incredulity, this was soon dispersed by the angel's reply: "The
Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall
overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of
thee, shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth,
she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month
with her who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible."
In the exercise of lively faith and joy she answered, "Behold the handmaid
of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed
from her."

Let us endeavour to imitate the spirit of Mary. She acknowledged the
power of God to accomplish the greatest, and, to her, the most
inconceivable designs; and with unaffected simplicity, blended with humble
and holy satisfaction, she received the divine word. Thus let us resign
ourselves to the will of God, and confide in his most wonderful
declarations. It is for mortals to believe, and not to cavil; when Jehovah
speaks, to hear and to obey. Let us beware of stumbling at the promises
through unbelief; and cherish increasing pleasure in the conviction, that
he who sent his Son into the world to be the Saviour of men, will freely
bestow upon his redeemed people all the blessings of time, and all the
riches of eternity.

It is observable, that on this occasion a young woman, though at first
overawed by the heavenly manifestation, at length displayed a faith which
shines with peculiar brightness, when brought into comparison with the
sentiments of the aged priest Zacharias, when the same angel appeared to
him a few months before, to communicate a prediction of far less apparent
improbability.

When this venerable man was burning incense on the golden altar before the
Lord, and therefore in circumstances peculiarly favourable to the most
elevated exercises of faith and devotion, Gabriel appeared to him, and gave
him assurance that his frequent prayer for the redemption of Israel was
heard, and that his aged partner should become in due time, the mother of
a distinguished son, to be named John, who should be "great in the sight
of the Lord," eminently useful in converting many of the children of
Israel, and preparing their minds for the speedy approach of the Messiah;
and yet it is stated, that Zacharias "believed not his words," in
consequence of which he was smitten with dumbness till the birth of the
child. But Mary, though so inferior in age, in situation, and in spiritual
advantages, glorified God by a full acquiescence in his declarations;
thus exemplifying what the grace of God can accomplish, even in the
youngest persons, and the weakest sex. It must not indeed, be overlooked,
that _at first_ the language of Mary indicated a certain degree of
hesitation and doubt, somewhat allied to the unbelief of Zacharias,
although she _eventually_ triumphed over every feeling of fear or of
unbelief; and yet no sign of divine displeasure was given. May we not,
therefore, take occasion to admire the discriminating goodness of God,
who, while he does not "willingly afflict or grieve the children of men,"
proportions his chastisements to the demerit of the individual, and the
circumstances of the case? The omniscience of the Searcher of hearts is
perfectly acquainted with the secret workings of the mind, and measures
with perfect discernment the exact delinquency of every thought and deed,
when we can judge only by the appearance or the words of the individual.

It is peculiarly gratifying to witness the beginnings of faith in the
young, and especially in young females. It becomes their age and sex. It
constitutes their best accomplishment, and their most shining ornament.
Beauty is a fading flower, wealth a perishable treasure, and admiration "a
puff of air;" but religion in the heart is an unfading inheritance. While
so many vain and inconsiderate young women value themselves upon exterior
charms and unmeaning flatteries, upon the symmetry of a face, the elegance
of a form, and the decoration of a ribbon, may every female reader of
these pages aspire after the nobler distinction of Mary, and by her
undissembled piety afford pleasure to her parents, to her friends, to the
church of God, and to those witnessing spirits, "in whose presence there
is joy at the repentance of a sinner!"

Immediately after the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, perhaps on the
same day [5], she hastened to her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias,
who resided in that part of Judea called the hill-country, which extended
from Bethoron to Emmaus. The purpose of this visit was to congratulate her
pious relative on the singular mercy which she was informed by the angel
she had experienced, in the promise of a son at her advanced period of
life, and to communicate an account of the heavenly intercourse with which
she had herself been favoured.

  "Now theirs was converse such as it behoves
  Man to maintain, and such as God approves"--

worthy of the excellent characters who met, and calculated to confirm each
other's hopes, and awaken mutual gratitude:

  "Christ and his character their only scope,
  Their object, and their subject, and their hope."

If, when pious persons associate together, they have not to relate the
visits of angels, or the miraculous interferences of Providence, it is
surely in their power to diversify, enliven, and improve their social
interviews, by some allusions to experimental religion, and some
interchange of pious sentiment. The Christian world suffers incalculable
loss by neglecting suitable opportunities for such communications, which
might be eminently conducive to the great purposes of mutual comfort and
instruction; for

  "------What are ages and the lapse of time,
  Match'd against truths, as lasting as sublime?
  Hearts may be found, that harbour at this hour
  That love to Christ, and all its quickening power;
  And lips unstain'd by folly or by strife,
  Whose wisdom, drawn from the deep well of life,
  Tastes of its healthful origin, and flows
  A Jordan for the ablation of our woes.
  Oh days of heaven, and nights of equal praise.
  Serene and peaceful as those heavenly days,
  When souls drawn upwards, in communion sweet,
  Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat,
  Discourse, as if releas'd and safe at home,
  Of dangers past and WONDERS YET TO COME,
  And spread the sacred treasures of the breast
  Upon the lap of covenanted rest."

  COWPER.

As soon as Mary had reached the residence of Elizabeth, and saluted her,
the babe, which the latter had conceived, leaped with unusual and
supernatural emotion; and she became so filled with the Holy Spirit, as
instantly to burst out in the most impassioned language, indicative of the
glorious discovery, that Mary was the long predestined mother of Messiah.
Although it seems probable that her husband, upon his return home, had
informed Elizabeth (perhaps by means of writing, for he was still
suffering that temporary dumbness which his unbelief had occasioned) of
the vision he had seen at Jerusalem, and of the promise of the angel that
he should have a son remarkably distinguished, especially as the precursor
of the Saviour; yet till this moment she had no suspicion that her beloved
relative was to be that illustrious mother, who should inherit the
blessing of all future ages. Now a ray from heaven breaks upon the
mysterious subject, and "the glory of the Lord" is risen upon this
venerable matron. She pours forth unusual benedictions upon Mary, and
congratulates herself upon the felicity of her own circumstances.

The generous nature of this joy is truly admirable, and worthy of
imitation. Exempt from that envious spirit which is so predominant in the
world, and so utterly subversive of the real interests and happiness of
those who cherish it, Elizabeth congratulated her young relative upon the
superior favour which Heaven had conferred upon her; and murmured not at
the will of Providence, in assigning her so unexpected a pre-eminence. Her
words were as follows: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the
fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord
should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded
in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that
believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told
her from the Lord."

The same spirit which dictated the language of Elizabeth, animated the
bosom of Mary with inspirations of a still higher order. Unable to
restrain the vehement enthusiasm of her mind, she thus began:--

MY SOUL DOTH MAGNIFY THE LORD, AND MY SPIRIT HATH REJOICED IN GOD MY
SAVIOUR.

The mother of Jesus here adopts the prophetic style, speaking of the
future character of her illustrious Son as though he were already born,
and had attained to that eminency to which he was predestined. She extols
him as "God her Saviour," more enraptured with the hope of salvation
through his name, than with the honour of her maternal connexion with him.
We need feel no surprise at her assigning this title to her anticipated
offspring, when we recollect that she was at the moment divinely inspired,
and that she had been previously informed by the angel Gabriel of his
being "the Son of the Highest." This was no doubt understood by the Virgin
Mary as expressive of his divine personality. He did not, indeed,
_become_ the Son of God by his miraculous conception; but it was the
reason of his being called so. Thus he is _called_ the Son of God as
raised from the dead, no more to return to corruption, but he was not
_constituted_ such by these events. It was a _declaration_ of what he was
antecedently to his conception by the overshadowing influence of the
Holy Spirit.

In Mary's exclamation, "magnifying the Lord," and "rejoicing in God her
Saviour," are used as convertible terms, denoting the same sentiment and
source of joy. And how rational and noble was this feeling! Where should
an immortal creature seek happiness, but in God the Saviour? What are all
the fleeting possessions and enjoyments of time, in comparison with the
"pleasures" which are at his "right hand for evermore?" How awfully
infatuated are those who aim to attain real felicity independently of the
sovereign good!--Mary continues,

FOR HE HATH REGARDED THE LOW ESTATE OF HIS HANDMAIDEN: FOR, BEHOLD, FROM
HENCEFORTH ALL GENERATIONS SHALL CALL ME BLESSED.

This is the language both of piety and inspiration. It implies that sense
of the divine condescension which characterizes humility, intimating the
unmerited nature of the mercy she had experienced, as well as her
unexpected elevation from the lowest condition. She states, that it is her
_happiness_, and not her _excellences_, for which she anticipated the
congratulations of succeeding times. She was conscious that the honour and
the glory belonged to God, and that the felicity of her circumstances, not
the merit of her character, deserved admiration. It was neither the glory
of her descent, nor the multitude or splendour of her virtues, that
attracted the regards of Heaven, and influenced the movements of
Providence in passing by the palaces of greatness to the cottage of Mary:
but "so it seemed good in his sight:" and while, with impious vanity of
spirit, many are flattering themselves that their imaginary virtue will
recommend them to the notice, and secure the favour of Omniscience, it
will be found, to their ultimate confusion, that "this" only "is life
eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou
hast sent."

FOR HE THAT IS MIGHTY HATH DONE TO ME GREAT THINGS; AND HOLY IS HIS NAME.

There is a singular propriety, in thus introducing the sanctity of the
divine nature and character. In the production of that body which was
"prepared" for the Son of God, nothing of the infection of sin, which
attaches to the corrupt nature of man, was suffered to stain "the holy
child Jesus." He was, indeed, "in all things made like unto his brethren,
yet without _sin_." Although his miraculous conception did not exempt him
from human infirmities, it prevented the possibility of his being
contaminated by human guilt.

The _name_ of God is frequently mentioned in Scripture; and, in general,
we are to understand by it the revelation of his character, by whatever
methods, to his intelligent creation; and to _hallow_ or pronounce it
holy, is devoutly to adore every such discovery. His name is written on
the works of nature, but shines with pre-eminent lustre in the wonders of
redemption; and the spirit of ardent devotion traces all these
manifestations in order to pay a suitable homage to them. To pronounce the
name of God _holy_, is then virtually to attribute to the Supreme Being a
grandeur and a majesty perfectly unique, and which distinguishes him from
all other beings in the universe.

AND HIS MERCY IS ON THEM THAT FEAR HIM, FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION.

The spirit of Mary takes an elevated station, looking back upon past ages,
and anticipating the glory of future times. The incarnation of Christ is
represented as an act and an evidence of divine mercy, not only to her,
but to all who by the fear of God are interested in this new dispensation.
The promise of a Saviour was almost coeval with the world; and during the
long succession of ages which had since elapsed, and the infinite
diversity of events, so perplexing to the human eye and so apparently
fortuitous, the love of God was pursuing its high purpose. The frequent
intimations given to the ancient patriarchs, and to the prophets of
Israel, proved that the eternal Ruler of the universe was producing, by a
vast series of preparatory means, the last and best days of time, when the
"Sun of Righteousness" should rise upon the world "with healing beneath
his wings." An omnipotent arm was incessantly accomplishing the
determinations of an omniscient mind. No power could impede the march of
his mercy to the predestined point; no casualties defeat his great design;
and no lapse of years, or revolution of centuries, diminish the ardour of
infinite love, to secure the felicity of his people. The Lord was never
"slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness;" for it must
never he forgotten, in estimating the movements of eternal Providence,
that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day."

But this language is not merely, nor, perhaps, chiefly retrospective.
Those who fear God in all ages, participate the mercies dispensed to man
through an incarnate Redeemer. Under the Christian dispensation in
particular, they are fully communicated, and will enrich the people of
God to the end of time. The thousands and myriads of the human race, that
apply to "the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness," cannot diminish
its efficacy or exhaust its fulness; but the last preacher that exists
upon the earth previous to that final hour, when "the trumpet shall sound
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible," will be able to proclaim the
blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God, as cleansing "from all sin," with
equal confidence to that which inspired the first herald of these "glad
tidings to perishing sinners."

HE HATH SHOWED STRENGTH WITH HIS ARM; HE HATH SCATTERED THE PROUD IN THE
IMAGINATION OF THEIR HEARTS.

The omnipotence of God has been manifested in many remarkable instances
during past ages, but in no case so illustriously as in the birth of
Christ. All the other mighty operations of Jehovah are surpassed in this
unparelleled event. The haughty Jews, who fondly but foolishly cherished
the expectation, that the Messiah would be born of some one of the most
opulent families in Judea, and conduct them to conquest and dominion, will
be inexpressibly disappointed to find him the child of an obscure virgin,
betrothed to a carpenter, and an inhabitant of the contemptible town of
Nazareth in Galilee. So wonderfully "are the ways of God above our ways,
and his thoughts above our thoughts!"

HE HATH PUT DOWN THE MIGHTY FROM THEIR SEATS, AND EXALTED THEM OF LOW
DEGREE. HE HATH FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS, AND THE RICH HE HATH
SENT EMPTY AWAY.

The providence of God has been often displayed in the depression of the
most distinguished from their temporal elevations, and in the advancement
of the most despised to dignity and renown. The necessitous have been
liberally supplied: while those who have been possessed of the most ample
and enviable abundance, have sometimes, by unexpected reverses, become
destitute. This sovereign disposal of human affairs has been apparent,
both in temporal and spiritual concerns. The Virgin Mary was herself, as
she intimates a remarkable exemplification of such an interposal; while
those who in Israel were "hungering and thirsting after righteousness,"
beheld in her infant son, that child whose name was to be called
"Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the
Prince of Peace," and whose manifestation in the flesh afforded the
sublimest satisfaction to their waiting spirits.

HE HATH HOLPEN HIS SERVANT ISRAEL, IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIS MERCY; AS HE
SPAKE TO OUR FATHERS, TO ABRAHAM, AND TO HIS SEED FOR EVER.

All the true Israel of God are now admitted into his paternal protection,
whether Jews or Gentiles; for the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and to David, of whose family was Mary, could never be forgotten by
him who "rejoiced in the habitable parts of his earth, and his delights
were with the sons of men." Never can the pious mind recur, without
emotions of the liveliest gratitude, to such predictions as the following,
which now seem to approach their glorious accomplishments; "I will make of
thee (Abraham) a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name
great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless
thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of
the earth be blessed.... And I will establish my covenant, between me and
thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting
covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."

Mary prolonged her visit to her aged friend and relative, three months; a
period of their lives to which, no doubt, each would ever after recur with
peculiar satisfaction. The family of Zacharias was not dulled by the
formalities of ceremony, or disturbed by the riot of folly, but
delightfully animated by the cheerfulness of religion. Their time, we may
readily admit, was wisely employed; and their daily converse such as
befitted those favourites of Providence, who knew the truth of God, and
had enjoyed the honour of angelic visitations.

The improvement of time ought to be our great and immediate concern. To
this important duty we are urged by a consideration of the rapidity of its
flight--the impossibility of its return--the bright examples of its proper
use, which the records of inspiration furnish--the fatal consequences of
squandering it away in useless, frivolous and criminal pursuits--the voice
of reason--of conscience--of Providence--of Scripture--of disappointed
infidelity and of triumphant faith--and the vast interests of eternity,
with which the use of it is essentially connected. "Lord, so teach us to
number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

During all this time, Mary was only the betrothed wife of an obscure but
conscientious person, named Joseph. This was a circumstance which
occasioned _him_ extreme perplexity, but tended to exhibit the strength of
_her_ faith. Joseph was fearful of her reputation, and meditated some plan
of concealing what he supposed would be deemed the disgrace of his beloved
partner; for the Jews, whose laws of marriage were very precise,
considered infidelity to a betrothed husband in the light of adultery, and
as therefore subjecting the person to its usual punishment. [6]

It does not appear that Mary explained to him the manner or occasion of
her mysterious conception; but judging, perhaps, that it would seem
incredible, she leaves the whole affair in the hands of Divine Providence.
"Thus," as archbishop Leighton excellently remarks, "silent innocency
rests satisfied in itself, when it may be inconvenient or fruitless to
plead for itself, and loses nothing by doing so, for it is always in due
season vindicated and cleared by a better hand. And thus it was here; she
is silent, and God speaks for her."

This inexplicable mystery was revealed to Joseph in a dream. He was
assured by an angel, that Mary should bring forth a son, and commanded to
call his name JESUS, for he was to "save his people from their sins." His
apprehensions being immediately dispersed, he obeyed the heavenly
intimation, "to take unto him Mary his wife."

This miraculous conception has ever proved the stumbling-block of
infidelity; while, in the just convictions of Christians, it is to be
regarded as one of the most glorious and indispensable peculiarities of
our faith. Christianity is not answerable for those misrepresentations of
this doctrine which result from the weakness or the wickedness of mankind,
and which have so often exposed it to ridicule; but let the statement of
Scripture be taken simply as it is--plain, perspicuous, untangled with the
perplexities of controversy--and it will approve itself to the pious mind,
not only as a fact, but as one of prime importance and obvious utility.

In demanding an explication of the manner in which the divine and human
natures became united, or continue to subsist in indissoluble connexion in
person of the Son of God, reason claims a prerogative to which she is by
no means entitled; especially if the alternative be, either that reason
shall be satisfied, or the statements of Scripture rejected. There exist
facts relative to our own constitution as incomprehensible and
contradictory to what, independently of experience, we should be induced
to believe, as the miraculous conception and mysterious nature of Jesus
Christ. The soul and body, distinguished for properties not only peculiar
to each, but dissimilar, heterogeneous, and seemingly inconsistent, yet
constitute one person. A man is at once material and immaterial, mortal
and immortal.

It was expedient that the Son of God should become man, that he might set
us an example, sympathize with our griefs, vanquish our enemies, and
abolish death: and equally so that he should be coequal with God in order
to procure salvation for the lost world by the merit of his atonement;
otherwise his obedience must have been imperfect, his sufferings
unsatisfactory, and his mediatorial character, by which he was allied to
both parties, incomplete.

This doctrine is practical, and not an abstract speculation, or an article
of faith intended merely to fill up the outline of a system, and
unconnected with any moral results. It is calculated to awaken our
gratitude and kindle our love, by showing us the infinite goodness of God,
who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all"--"who made
him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him." It should further engage us to cultivate
humility and patience. A view of the abasement of the Son of God should
impress upon us a sense of the insignificance of all earthly glory, and
the propriety of sustaining all the trials and deprivations of life with
unrepining fortitude. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ
Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal
with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of
a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion
as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the
death of the cross."

This view of the incarnation of Christ is adapted also to promote charity;
for, "though he _was_ rich, yet for our sakes he _became_ poor; that we,
through his poverty, might be rich;" and it tends to elevate us above the
meanness of temporal compliances, and the degradation of worldly lusts, by
pointing out the dignity to which our nature is advanced, through having
been assumed, and still being retained in its purified state by the Son of
God. Let a holy ambition prevail, to live as those who possess such a
relationship; and who, though at present disguised in the dress of
poverty, are born to an inheritance of which no enemy can prevent your
possession--"an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth
not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God
through faith unto salvation."



Section II.


  Nothing happens by Chance--Dispensations preparatory to the Coming of
  Christ--Prophecy of Micah accomplished by Means of the Decree of
  Augustus--Mary supernaturally strengthened to attend upon her new-born
  Infant--Visit of the Shepherds--Mary's Reflections--Circumcision of the
  Child--taken to the Temple--Simeon's Rapture and Prediction--Visit and
  Offerings of the Arabian Philosophers--general Considerations.

Chance is a word which ought to be banished from the Christian vocabulary.
It is utterly contradictory to reason, opposed to experience, and
subversive of revelation. To suppose that he who created the world has
wholly and forever abandoned it, is improbable; and to imagine that the
regular movements of nature, and the course of events--the whole train of
causes, and the incalculable variety of dependent consequences, are merely
fortuitous, seems absurd as well as impious. Uncertain and confused as
were the opinions of the pagan nations of antiquity, few of them totally
denied some kind of superintending providence; and many of their ablest
writers reasoned in defence of it in the most forcible manner. "What,"
said the emperor Marcus Antoninus, "would it concern me to live in a world
void of God and without Providence?"

In order to form clear conceptions of this, and of every other subject
connected with the peace of our minds and the immortal interests of man,
we must apply to the Scriptures for information. Hope, conjecture,
plausibility--all became pleasingly absorbed in the splendour of truth;
which, with the brightness of a sun beam, writes upon the inspired page
the doctrine of an universal and particular providence. It appears,
indeed, so fundamental to the system of Christianity, and so consonant to
the wisdom and goodness of God, that if it were possible to adduce "solid
objections against its reality, one of the richest sources of consolation
to the human race would be forever lost--some of our dearest hopes would
be undermined, and despondency shed disastrous gloom over the whole scene
of life. It is the happiness of Christians to know, that nothing can
escape the eye, nothing can disarrange the schemes, or thwart the
purposes, of the eternal mind; and that the same general law which
regulates the flight of an angel, or the affairs of an empire, connects
even the fall of a sparrow with the plans of heaven. It is their privilege
to feel assured, that the events which appear contingent or accidental to
us, are equally ordained with those which seem the most orderly and
regular. The arrow may be shot at a venture, but the Supreme Ruler guides
it through the air. So sings the poet;

  "Through all the various shifting scene
  Of life's mistaken ill or good,
  Thy hand, O God, conducts unseen
  The beautiful vicissitude.

  All things on earth, and all in heaven,
  On thy eternal will depend;
  And all for greater good were given,
  And all shall in thy glory end."

These sentiments will receive additional illustration from the remarkable
facts respecting the birth of Christ, which it will be now proper to
notice. He who can imagine the correspondence observable between ancient
predictions and the occurrences which mark the singular history before us
to be mere casual or undesigned coincidences, must possess a mind
strangely perverted by prejudice or mean in its conceptions--he must in
reality believe greater miracles than he denies, and, in his zeal to be
thought rational, become enthusiastic and fanatical, in admitting the most
inconceivable absurdities. We hesitate not to say, that even upon the
principles of reason there are more difficulties in denying a providence
in all the circumstances connected with our Saviour's incarnation, than in
allowing its active agency; and that here, the doctrine which is most
consolatory is most true. Sophistry may attempt to poison or to stop the
streams of spiritual comfort, but they will nevertheless flow with
undiminished sweetness and abundance.

The whole period of the past time ought to be considered as a vast
preparatory dispensation; every circumstance in the history of the people
of Israel essentially depended on each previous occurrence, and stood
connected with each succeeding one. We perceive sometimes more distinctly
by a prophetic light, sometimes more obscurely through the hieroglyphical
characters of the Mosaic economy of types and shadows, a wonderful series
of events, that guides the devout inquirer to "God manifest in the flesh;"
and, if human penetration cannot always discover the bright concatenation,
we feel assured that it exists, and is regularly maintained by supreme
wisdom; as we infer from observing the commencement, or discovering some
parts of the course, which a mighty river pursues through provinces and
empires, that, although the whole may not be accurately ascertained, yet
each part, whether it traverses subterraneous passages or pathless
forests, is certainly and necessarily connected.

The links of this marvellous chain of providence become more distinctly
visible as we approach the last, and witness its glorious termination.
Amongst other ancient prophecies, we have this very express declaration of
Micah respecting the birth of Christ--a declaration which, after the lapse
of seven hundred years, we are now to see verified: "Thou, _Bethlehem
Ephratah_, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet _out of
thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel_, whose
goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

It has been related, that at the time of the miraculous conception, Joseph
and Mary lived at Nazareth in Galilee, and still continued this residence.
If the predicted child had been born in Nazareth, it is obvious that
either he could not be the Messiah, or the prophet was not correct. The
virgin mother, however, neither disbelieved the communications of Heaven,
nor took any extraordinary measures, by a removal of her dwelling-place,
to aid the accomplishment of a divine oracle. How she, an inhabitant of
_Nazareth_ was to be the mother of him whom so many ages had expected in
_Bethlehem_, was indeed mysterious; and yet like Abraham, she hoped
against hope; allied in faith, as well as by descent, to that eminent
patriarch. Nothing could be more contradictory, to her anticipations than
external appearances; but nothing could be more humble, more patient, or
more indicative of lively faith in God, than her spirit and conduct. She
believed the angel, and she left the event. What an illustrious example to
her sex! what confidence in Providence! what trust in God! what a
resignation of reason to revelation!

Mark the event. Augustus, at this time emperor of Rome, suddenly published
an edict for the registry, or enrolment of the empire; probably with a
view to ascertain the state of his dependencies, to exact an oath of
fidelity, and perhaps, to determine the amount of money which might be
reasonably expected from each province in case of any future taxation. The
whole empire being included in this decree, all the families were required
immediately to repair to their respective cities, for the purpose of
having their names distinctly recorded; and, as Joseph was lineally
descended from David, he, with his espoused wife, went into Judea to
Bethlehem, because it was the birth place and residence of their
illustrious ancestor.

At this remarkable crisis Mary was detained by the full accomplishment of
the time for her delivery; "and she brought forth her first born Son, and
wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there
was no room for them in the inn." Here then were fulfilled the prophetic
descriptions of the place and circumstances of the Redeemer's incarnation.
A virgin produces a son--a son who, by the exclusion of his parents from
the accommodation of the inn, already began to realize the inspired
declaration, "he is despised and rejected of men"--a son identified as the
promised Messiah by every thing connected with his birth. Augustus issues
a decree which brings Mary to Bethlehem at the precise moment when this
removal was requisite; and yet Augustus, ignorant of the designs of Heaven
or the condition of Mary, considers only his personal glory and the
security of the imperial dominions. He has one purpose, and Providence
another; but they both concur to the predestined end. Augustus knew not
that his edict was to prove the appointed means of accomplishing the most
important event that had ever transpired since the commencement of time,
and was, in fact, the wonderful hinge upon which the numerous and
concurring prophecies of past centuries were destined to turn. He knew not
that his imperial edict for an universal enrolment, was the last of a
series of preparatory means by which the great purposes of infinite mercy
were to be developed and displayed. Why was not the same policy pursued by
the emperor, when it was determined upon seven-and-twenty years before at
Taracon in Spain? and why, if he were diverted at that period from the
immediate execution of this project by some disturbances in the empire,
was it forgotten or neglected for so many years, and revived at so
critical a moment? Let infidelity stand abashed, and listen to the voice
of revelation: "He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

How often has the supreme Disposer made use of those agents to accomplish
his purposes, who were themselves the last to acknowledge his
superintendence, or perhaps the first to oppose his will! How consolatory
to the Christian to reflect, that the passions of the human mind, the
madness of ambition, the rage of envy, the misrule of tyrannic power, the
animosity of persecution, the decrees of princes, the events of war and of
peace, the elements of nature, and the powers of the invisible worlds, are
under the perfect control of God! A Pharaoh shall cause his "name to be
declared throughout all the earth," by giving occasion to the most
transcendent miracles, and the most direct and indisputable interference
of Omnipotence--a Cyrus shall pursue a wonderful career of conquest;
victory after victory shall enhance his fame; nations shall be subdued,
and gates of brass broken before him, for the sake of Israel the elect of
God, and Jacob his servant--an Augustus shall unconsciously fulfil a
divine decree by means of an edict of his own--the Roman empire shall be
enrolled, that Jesus may he born in Bethlehem.

It appears that Mary was supernaturally strengthened to perform the
necessary duties to her infant charge, in the cold and comfortless
situation in which she was thrown. No one seemed at hand to commiserate
her sufferings, to supply her wants, or to assist her weakness. Her own
life was endangered; but maternal tenderness struggled for the life of her
firstborn, and a divine faith in God and his promises sustained her amidst
the privations of her desolate abode. Let not his people permit
despondency to becloud their days or extinguish their hopes; but, relying
on his assurance, "As thy day is, so thy strength shall be"--an assurance
so remarkably verified in the mother of Jesus, and so often corroborated
by the experience of Christians--let them imitate the patience and faith
of this illustrious woman, who was at once the ornament of religion and
the glory of her sex.

Every thing is marvellous in this sacred story. No sooner was this child
introduced into the world, than his virgin mother received an unexpected
visit in her lonely dwelling. A company of shepherds came, with
unceremonious eagerness, to her asylum. Mary and Joseph were together in
the stable, conversing doubtless, upon this astonishing birth; and
probably might have been alarmed at the intrusion of strangers. Were they
come to remove them from this poor lodging, as they had been already
excluded from the inn, and occupy their places?--were other barbarians
come to pour the last drop into the cup of maternal wo, by expelling Mary,
her husband, and her offspring, from their wretched, but still acceptable
shelter? If this were the case--if, when the strangers obtruded, these had
been the just apprehensions of the afflicted family, they knew where to
find consolation; and she who held the babe in her arms, and pressed it
to her bosom, was no doubt prepared to adopt a similar strain with that by
which Simeon afterward proclaimed his ecstasy--"Lord, now lettest thou
thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." But
fear not, Mary! It is no ruffian band that approaches thee! These are no
idle strangers, impelled by a vague curiosity; but they are the
commissioned messengers of Providence and the ambassadors of peace! They
have heard "glad tidings," and they are come to verify the visions they
have seen, and to renew the joys they have felt!

In the neighbouring fields these shepherds were watching their flocks by
night; when suddenly an angelic messenger made his appearance in a blaze
of celestial light. They were of course astonished and alarmed; but, from
the first, perceived it was no illusion of the senses, since all
distinctly saw, and were equally affected by the splendid reality. The
benevolent spirit bade them dismiss every apprehension, and proceeded to
open his glorious commission. It consisted of an assurance, that in the
city of David the long-predicted Messiah was actually born, and on that
very day; [7] and that this was the sign by which they should discover the
truth of this revelation, that if they went immediately to Bethlehem they
should find the Babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger. This
angel, probably Gabriel, who had already appeared to Zacharias and Mary,
was in a moment joined by a multitude of the heavenly host, whose
enraptured bosoms could no longer repress the intensity of joy, and who
were permitted to strike their golden harps and unite their angelic voices
in those ever memorable strains, "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON
EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN."

The shepherds instantly hastened to Bethlehem. They beheld the heaven-born
Babe. They explained to Joseph and the virgin what they had seen and
heard; and then circulated the wonderful news in every direction.
Astonishment filled the whole vicinity; but it is probable a great
diversity of opinion prevailed respecting the degree of credit due to the
testimony of these witnesses; and the impression would soon vanish from
those whose prejudices, whose ignorance, or whose temporal interests,
prevented their immediate acknowledgment of the mighty fact. And must we
not deeply lament, that to this hour similar reasons operate to produce a
similar infidelity or rejection of the well-substantiated claims of the
Son of God upon the affections and obedience of mankind?

In the mean time, as the evangelist states, "Mary kept all these things,
and pondered them in her heart." With a modesty and a piety so truly
characteristic of this eminent woman, she left it to others to publish to
the world the extraordinary manifestations of divine favour which she had
received, content to observe in silence the movements of Providence, and
to allow the mysterious fact to be gradually developed. As she took no
measures at first to screen herself from reproach, but left the defence of
her integrity to him whose wisdom was working all these wonders; so she
did not avail herself of the present opportunity to extend her fame. From
the astonishment or the applauses of the multitude she willingly retired
into the shades; and instead of indulging vanity, gave herself to solemn
meditation. Connecting together the vision of Zacharias, the language of
Elizabeth, the visitation of the celestial spirit to herself, the
miraculous conception, the unexpected occasion of her removal at this
crisis to Bethlehem, the recent account of the shepherds, the language of
ancient prophecy respecting the lowly birthplace of the Saviour of
mankind, and the peculiar accordance of its minute descriptions with her
present circumstances; she perceived the amazing conclusion to be drawn,
and humbly adored the God of her salvation.

We must pronounce Mary, then, a thoughtful observer and a humble inquirer,
free from the levity of her age, and superior in mental character to the
poverty of her condition. She had, indeed, superior advantages, and was in
a sense placed under divine discipline and instruction: but she possessed
a docility of spirit which rendered these singular means so conducive to
her rapid improvement in knowledge and piety. Happy for us if we make a
proper use of whatever religious privileges we enjoy, so that the
spiritual opportunities and blessings which enhance our responsibility, do
not, by our negligence, aggravate our condemnation!

It is probable that we forfeit much enjoyment, and lose much attainable
wisdom, by suffering the events of providence to pass unnoticed. The habit
of investigating their connections, and tracing their consequences, would
no doubt both improve the faculty of observation, and spare us many
perplexities. Diligence in this sacred study would be repaid by pleasure
and profit. We should "know," if we "followed on to know the Lord." The
deep shadows which overcast the scenes of life, and are so impervious to
the human sight, would be easily penetrated by the eye of faith; a new and
glorious scene would present itself; objects and arrangements, before
unseen, would gradually become visible; what was previously obscure in
form and shape, would appear in just proportions; and many of the sources
of our present anxiety might become the means of our richest
satisfaction. Let us imitate the noble examples upon record; remembering
that no place or time is unsuitable to a devout temper, or impossible to
be improved to pious purposes. Isaac meditated in the _fields_, and Mary
in the _stable_; and a devout spirit will transform either into a temple
of praise and prayer.

On the eighth day after his birth, this immaculate Child was circumcised,
both because he was a Jew, and the predicted Messiah. All the descendants
of Abraham were required to submit to this institution; and, therefore,
the parents of JESUS, for so he was named on this occasion, according to
the previous intimation of the angel, could not omit this service without
forfeiting their privileges; and as he was afterward to become the great
preacher of righteousness to his own nation, it was necessary that he
should not be exposed to the punishment of excommunication as a stranger.
Thus, according to the apostle's allusion, he was "made under the law,"
and evidently partook of flesh and blood.

At the expiration of forty days, the parents of Jesus went up to
Jerusalem, to present their Infant before the Lord in the temple,
conformably to the Mosaic law, to offer the sacrifices required upon such
an occasion, and to pay the stipulated sum of five shekels for the eldest
son. [8] Led by a divine impulse, a certain venerable saint, named Simeon,
came into the temple at this moment; and taking the wondrous Child into
his aged arms, exclaimed, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in
peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which
thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the
Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel!" Some have, with useless
curiosity, inquired into the birth, parentage, and station of this
enraptured believer; and with that mistaken prejudice so common to the
world, by which greatness of character is perpetually associated with
eminence of rank, and nobility of birth, they have endeavoured to prove
him to have been a priest, or the son of Hillel, who was chief of the sect
of the Pharisees, and president of the sanhedrim forty years; and he has
even been represented as the father of that Gamaliel who brought up the
apostle Paul. Whereas the narrative of Luke introduces him as a person of
no considerable notoriety, but as one who possessed an infinitely greater
claim to distinction in the inspired page, a man of exemplary conduct and
piety, who was waiting for him who was so long expected as 'the
consolation of Israel.' He was not the favourite of princes, but the
servant of God; and this was his best distinction, that "the Holy Ghost
was upon him; and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he
should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." Growing
infirmities might have awakened, in an ordinary mind, some suspicion of
the reality of that assurance which he had received. Delay seemed to mock
his patience, time dimmed his eyes, and suspense might well have sickened
his heart--but at last the hour arrives, the ancient oracles are
fulfilled--celestial revelations, after the lapse of four hundred years
from the days of Malachi, relume a benighted world--Zacharias, Mary,
Simeon, received the prophetic spirit; and death becomes disarmed of his
terrors, amidst the bright gleamings of approaching day.

Turning to the astonished parents, and addressing himself particularly to
his virgin mother, he said, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and
rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign, which shall be spoken
against, (yea, and a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that
the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Anna, an aged prophetess, at
the same instant joined this happy group, and "gave thanks, likewise, unto
the Lord:" the glad tidings were circulated, and the parents returned
into Galilee.

The _accomplishment_ of that event, which in former ages was only the
subject of _prediction_, constitutes part of the happiness of gospel
times. True, indeed, as those predictions proceeded from God, there
existed from the beginning a certainty of their being fulfilled. It was as
impossible that God should lie, as that he should cease to exist; and
having declared the decree, that his Son should "sit upon his holy hill of
Zion," no human violence, no providential vicissitudes, no Satanic
devices, could prevent it. No one of them, nor all of them combined, could
effectually obstruct the march of omnipotent goodness to the completion of
its purposes. But the saints of old suffered a material disadvantage from
"his day" being as yet "afar off;" a disadvantage which could not possibly
be remedied. It is evident that, except in cases of immediate inspiration,
a suspicion might exist in the pious mind, that the prophecy might be
partially, if not entirely misunderstood, as the most penetrating mind
cannot, at this day, with the longest line of research, fathom the deeps
of futurity. Time alone can, with perfect certainty, interpret the visions
of prophecy.

It is also plain that no description, however minute and glowing, could
perfectly represent the life and love of the Redeemer, as displayed in his
own person. The imperfection of language rendered it impossible to portray
the glorious reality. What inspired or seraphic pen, though dipped in
heaven, could display all that was seen when they "beheld his glory?" Had
Omnipotence remanded back the flood of ages, and recalled from the
invisible state the illustrious saints that had been carried down the
stream, from the time of Adam, in order to have witnessed the incarnation,
the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus; with one voice they
would have exclaimed, "The half was not told me."

In proportion to the approach of the Messiah, hope glowed with increasing
ardour. Standing on the mount of prophecy, the pious Jews eagerly waited,
and triumphantly hailed the rising of this bright day of grace. How many
"prophets and righteous men" desired to behold this eventful period, but
"died without the sight!" With what sacred pleasure did Moses record the
first promise, though at the distance of many centuries! What rapture
thrilled through the patriarch's veins, when he spake of the coming of
_Shiloh_, "unto whom the gathering of the people should be;" and how did
his languid eyes brighten with new lustre in the dying hour, when he
exclaimed, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!" In what strains of
holy joy did the "sweet singer of Israel" declare, "My heart is inditing a
good matter; I speak of the things which I have made touching the King; my
tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of
men; grace is poured into thy lips; therefore God hath blessed thee for
ever!" How did Isaiah's heart glow with transport, while his lips were
touched with inspiration, and triumph played on his prophetic harp, "Unto
us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be
upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the
mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase
of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of
David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with
judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the
Lord of hosts will perform this!" But neither the sacred pleasure of
Moses, when he recorded the first promise, nor the rapture that thrilled
through the patriarch's veins, nor the holy joy of the sweet singer of
Israel, nor the glow of transport that animated the heart of Isaiah, and
inspired his lays, can equal the joy of the Christian church. Hope,
indeed, presented to the early ages a lively _picture_ of future times,
and prophecy described them; but "blessed are our eyes, for they see; and
our ears, for they hear ... many prophets and righteous men have desired
to see those things which we see, and have not seen them; and to hear
those things which we hear, and have not heard them."

The visit of the shepherds to Mary, already recited, was succeeded by
another, perhaps equally remarkable. A company of Magi, or Magians, [9]
probably from Arabia, having seen a remarkable light, resembling a star,
suspended over Bethlehem, hastened to pay suitable homage to the
illustrious personage whose birth it indicated. These philosophers, who
were particularly addicted to the study of astronomy, being doubtless
incited by a divine influence to repair to the country over which this new
star or meteor seemed to shed its glory, immediately went to Jerusalem,
where they began to make the most anxious inquiries. The news of their
arrival soon reached the ears of Herod, a man whose cruelties had often
exasperated his subjects, and kept him in a state of constant suspicion;
so that he naturally apprehended fatal consequences to his crown, from
this report of the birth of a king. Having first consulted the priests
and scribes respecting the birthplace of Christ, he procured a private
interview with the Magians, for the purpose of ascertaining the time of
the meteoric appearance; and, with all the policy of all experienced
statesman, requested them to go and find out the extraordinary Child, then
return to bring him word, that he might come and worship him. This was a
contrivance, by which he expected to accomplish, with greater certainty,
the destruction of Jesus.

The Arabian philosophers instantly proceeded on their journey--the star
moved before them, as the cloudy pillar once guided the marches of Israel
in the wilderness; till at length it became stationary over the place
where the Infant lay: then, having fulfilled the design of its creation,
totally and forever disappeared.

Is it for us to question the wisdom of God in any of the productions of
nature, because _we_ do not perceive their utility? Shall we venture to
arraign his goodness, because he has not only supplied the necessities of
man, but filled the caves of ocean, and spread the pathless wilderness
with a rich variety of existence, the specific purposes of which the
researches of man have hitherto failed to discover? Shall we dare to say
that the impenetrable forest, or the untenanted island, was made in vain?
or that the grass grows, in the valley, the shrub sprouts on the
inaccessible height, or the flower expands its beauties and diffuses its
fragrance over the desert uselessly, because _we_ have not discovered the
reasons of their formation? Who, excepting the philosophers of Arabia,
that had seen the new luminary shine for a few days and expire, but would
have disputed the necessity or questioned the design of such a phenomenon?
The ignorant, vulgar, and even the rest of the sages of Arabia, might
have surveyed it with idle wonder or incurious eye; very few followed the
splendour, or knew the intention of its appearance. And may not other
beings be acquainted with many of those mysteries of nature which we fail
to penetrate? or may not secret connexions and combinations, both in the
animate and inanimate creation, exist, which, however important, it is not
necessary for us to know? In reference both to nature and providence--

  "One part, one _little_ part, we dimly scan,
    Through the dark medium of life's feverish dream;
  Yet dare arraign the whole stupendous plan,
    If but that little part incongruous seem."

  BEATTIE.

The figure of Balaam, in predicting the birth of a Saviour, probably
contained a prophetic allusion to the phenomenon in question; "There shall
come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel;" and
with similar reference, we read in the apocalyptic vision, "I am the
bright and morning star."

As soon as the Magians saw the young Child, with Mary his mother, they
"fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And
being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they
departed into their own country another way."

This narrative suggests many instructive considerations, some of which we
shall briefly notice.

1. Many of those who have possessed the fewest means of moral and
spiritual improvement, will appear in judgment against multitudes who
enjoy the greatest variety of religious advantages. These Arabian sages
acted up to what they knew, and followed the light which was afforded
them; in consequence of which they made discoveries of the most valuable
description, such as could have been attained by no other proceeding, and
such as were totally concealed from the unobservant mass of mankind. It
was indeed a small "star" that first attracted their notice, but it led to
the "Sun of Righteousness." O that we were equally wise and diligent in
the use of our opportunities and privileges--we should then be equally
successful!

2. A specimen is here presented to us of the discriminating proceedings of
the grace of God. Those who were "far off" were "brought nigh," while
those who were "nigh" really, were placed "far off." These Pagans were
conducted to Jesus; while the infatuated Jews, unaffected by his
appearance and subsequent miracles, opposed his influence, and gloried in
their shame. Thus was fulfilled the ancient oracle, "I am found of them
that sought me not." The star which failed to excite attention in Judea,
darted an attractive and effectual splendour into Arabia.

3. It is truly deplorable, that those signs and wonders of Almighty mercy,
which will fill eternity with praise, should be so little observed or
appreciated by the great proportion of mankind. How different were the
engagements that occupied the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from those of the
Arabian philosophers! The star of Bethlehem excited the respectful
attention only of a few strangers, who saw and followed it, and "found the
Messiah." The Saviour they sought was despised and rejected of men, when
emerging from the obscurity of his early life, he dwelt amongst them,
distributing blessings, and imparting salvation.

Is not this the case to the present hour? Where are the travellers to
Zion? Where are the followers of Christ? Where are those happy individuals
to be found, who, renouncing the speculations of philosophy, and the
suggestions of a depraved and perverted mind, are led by the star of
divine revelation to Jesus? Where are those who forsake ALL for him? Where
the company of inquirers, whom no frowns and no flatteries can induce to
relinquish the pursuit? Alas, how thinly scattered! The multitude,
attracted by the glare of worldly glory, can see, indeed, the glitter of
gold, and hear with approving readiness the accents of pleasure; but are
unable to discern the excellencies of Christ, and will not listen to his
voice! They are enchanted by other charms, and lulled into dangerous
repose by other music!

4. Though the star of Bethlehem, which guided the Arabian sages to the Son
of God, be extinguished, the clear light of truth still shines as in a
dark place, and points us to the same object. "Thy word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path." Whoever follows this light, will be led
to Jesus; whoever neglects it must wander in the wilderness of error and
perplexity. It sheds the clearest radiance on the path of the traveller,
who is pressing to the "Prince of Peace." Let us not pay attention to
those deceptive lights which the world holds out to allure and destroy.
This only is from heaven, and will guide the inquirer thither, where the
illumination it has diffused over the path of life, will be lost amidst
the splendours of eternal day.



Section III.

  The Flight into Egypt--Herod's cruel Proceedings--and Death--Mary goes
  to Jerusalem with Joseph--on their Return their Child is missing--they
  find him among the Doctors--he returns with them--the Feast of
  Cana--Christ's treatment of his Mother when she desired to speak to
  him--her Behaviour at the Crucifixion--she is committed to the care of
  John--valuable Lessons to be derived from this touching Scene.

Christians, in their times of trial, are usually favoured with adequate
supplies from heaven; so that if they have been overtaken suddenly, or
attacked fiercely, their afflictions have neither found them unprepared,
nor left them overwhelmed. It seems to have been the design of God, in
some of his most painful dispensations, not only to purify the individual
character, but to evince in general, by means of the sufferer's patience,
humility, and other virtues, the reality of religion, and the power of
faith; and thus to furnish an example for the imitation of mankind. This
consideration may serve to explain a part of that _mysteriousness_ which
has characterized many instances of remarkable tribulation, and to prevent
those hasty decisions upon the conduct of Providence which we are too apt
to adopt. On all occasions, we may safely conclude, that whatever be the
nature of our affliction, the goodness of our Father in heaven will both
proportion it to the necessity of the case, and enable us to sustain it,
by preparatory consolations.

The story of Mary and her family illustrates this representation. The
balance of her lot, so to speak, was poised by a divine hand; and the
equilibrium was mercifully and almost constantly preserved, by a
proportionate share of joy and sorrow. The danger of reproach and
proscription by the Jewish law, was compensated by the circumstances of
the miraculous conception; the meanness and misery of her condition in the
stable at Bethlehem, were counterbalanced by the visit of the shepherds,
and the equally wonderful journey of the eastern Magi; and the whole
train of previous manifestations, tended to prepare her for the new
distresses which were destined to attend the flight into Egypt.

Herod was arranging his plans with malicious skill, and as he imagined,
with secrecy; but there was an eye that watched his movements with
unsleeping vigilance, and a wisdom invisibly operating to counteract his
purposes. The Magi were forewarned, by a heavenly vision, not to return to
this foe of the holy Jesus; and an angel appeared to Joseph, directing him
to escape with the mother and child into Egypt; and thus did Herod himself
unconsciously fulfil the ancient oracle; "Out of Egypt have I called my
Son." The cruel archer shot at the Saviour's life, but the arrow rebounded
and took his own.

Behold, then, Mary and Joseph, with their infant charge, hastening, in
obedience to the divine command, to a distance from the persecutor's fury!
See them under the covert of darkness, and amidst the silence of night,
flying to their appointed place of exile; still under the guidance of that
hand which regulated all the events of their lives, with no less wisdom
and constancy than it directed the movements and fixed the positions of
the planetary and starry orbs, which glittered upon their adventurous
path. Observe them trembling with human fears, but sustained by spiritual
consolations! Mary presses the infant fugitive to her maternal breast,
still "keeping all these things, and pondering them in her heart;"
incapable of fully penetrating the cloud that obscures their present
destiny, but looking through the tears of anguish to her divine Protector
and Guide, believing that the light of Israel cannot be extinguished. In
some respects, they "knew not whither they went;" but each was, no doubt,
inspired by the devout sentiment of the poet:

  "I hold by nothing here below,
  Appoint my journey and I go;
  Though pierced by scorn, oppress'd by pride,
  I feel thee good--feel nought beside.

  No frowns of men can hurtful prove
  To souls on fire with heav'nly love;
  Though men and devils both condemn,
  No gloomy days arise for them.

  While place we seek, or place we shun,
  The soul finds happiness in none;
  But with a God to guide our way,
  'Tis equal joy to go or stay.

  Could I be cast where thou art not,
  That were indeed a dreadful lot:
  But regions none remote I call,
  Secure of finding God in all." _Mad. Guion_.

Herod, whose cruelty and duplicity were equally conspicuous, finding that
the young child had by some means eluded his grasp, meditated the deepest
revenge, which, like a smothered flame, the longer it is confined, the
more violently at last it blazes.

For a time he concealed his feelings, with a view of the better securing
ultimate success; but, on perceiving that his secret intentions were
frustrated, he resolved on open war. Animated with a tyrant's spirit and a
demon's rage he determined on the destruction of Jesus, though the
accomplishment of his purpose should deluge Judea with blood. He issued
his murderous decree, and despatched his executioners to Bethlehem and
"all the coasts thereof," to slay "all the children from two years old and
under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the
wise men."

What language can express the barbarity of this conduct! The most savage
of mankind have spared children, even when their parents have been guilty.
The innocence and weakness of their age have preserved them from the
sword, even of a victorious and exasperated enemy; and yet these little
innocents, whose parents were not implicated in any plot to deceive the
tyrant, whose yoke was endured with extraordinary patience, were given to
the murderous sword, and Bethlehem suddenly converted into one vast
slaughter-house. "Then," remarks the evangelist, "was fulfilled that which
was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard,
lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her
children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

"The innocents were martyrs indeed, but not in will, by reason of their
tender age. Of these, however, it pleased the Prince of martyrs to have
his train composed, when he made his entry into the world, as at this
season; a train of infants, suited to an infant Saviour; a train of
innocents, meet to follow the spotless Lamb, who came to convince the
world of sin, and to redeem it in righteousness. They were the
first-fruits offered to the Son of God after his incarnation, and their
blood the first that flowed on his account. They appeared as so many
champions in the field, clad in the King's coat of armour, to intercept
the blows directed against him.

"The Christian Poet, PRUDENTIUS, in one of his hymns, has an elegant and
beautiful address to these young sufferers for their Redeemer [10]; Hail,
ye first flowers of the evangelical spring, cut off by the sword of
persecution, ere yet you had unfolded your leaves to the morning, as the
early rose droops before the withering blast. Driven, like a flock of
lambs to the slaughter, you have the honour to compose the first sacrifice
offered at the altar of Christ; before which methinks I see your innocent
simplicity sporting with the palms and the crowns held out to you from
above." [11]

The parents of the infant Saviour remained in Egypt until the death of
Herod [12], an event which was announced to Joseph in a dream, who was
directed to return with Mary and her child into the land of Israel. When
he heard that Archelaus, a prince no less sanguinary in his disposition
than his infamous predecessor, reigned over Judah in the room of his
father, he was afraid of returning; but being again divinely admonished,
withdrew into Galilee, under the government of Herod Antipas. He took up
his residence at Nazareth, a small city where he had formerly lived; by
which the ancient oracle was fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

We may he allowed a momentary interruption of the narrative, by one
observation on the death of Herod. How easily God can remove out of the
way whatever opposes the designs of his wisdom! He lays his finger on the
tyrant's head, and he sinks into the dust! Thus it has been, and thus it
ever must be, with the adversaries of Christ. Every Herod must die. On the
banners of the church is inscribed, "If God be for us, who can be against
us?" Where are the Neros, and Domitians, and Caligulas, that have sought
the life of Christianity?--They are _dead_! but his cause survives. "He
must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." The Gospel, in
pursuing its course through the world, resembles a mighty river, here and
there meeting with powerful obstructions; but not prevented by these, it
takes a circuitous course, and leaves them to be gradually overflowed or
undermined, and buried in the stream. Thus superstition, idolatry,
infidelity, Popery, Mahometanism, constitute so many obstructions to this
celestial stream; but while it makes glad the city of God, it is gradually
diffusing itself around, and sapping by degrees the foundation of these
impediments, till being broken down and forgotten, an angel shall
proclaim, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen!" Then shall "the kingdoms of this
world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall
reign for ever and ever." Then all that "sought the young child's life,"
all that opposed the interests of Jesus, being dead and vanquished, "the
whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea."

The law of Moses commanded all the adult males of Israel to go up to
Jerusalem three times in a year, to celebrate the feasts of the passover,
pentecost, and tabernacles. Women were under no obligation to undertake
these journeys; [13] but it was not unusual for such as were eminent for
piety, to accompany their husbands and friends upon annual occasions.
Mary, who set the highest value upon the ordinances of God, and who would
not be disparaged by a comparison with the greatest characters of Israel,
went up with Joseph year after year. In the exemption by which the law
permitted females to remain at home, the weakness of their sex was
regarded; but the strength of Mary's piety surmounted every obstacle, and,
like her illustrious ancestor, she was "glad when they said, Let us go up
to the house of the Lord." How dissimilar was her spirit to that of
multitudes, whose reluctance renders religious duties so irksome and so
formal; who call the Sabbath a weariness; and who, instead of hailing the
hour of sacred solemnities, are eager to escape from spiritual restraints
to replunge into the cares,--perhaps into the dissipations, of the world!

The original constitution of the woman was that of a help meet for man;
and it should be her pleasure to prompt to holy duties, and to associate
with her beloved partner and children in them. Never does she appear so
lovely, as when occupied in this pious service, avoiding all those
needless cares which might preclude her own attendance upon
appointed means.

The passover was intended as a commemoration of the deliverance wrought
for the people of Israel when they were brought out of Egyptian slavery,
and the destroying angel, who inflicted death upon the first born of their
oppressors, passed over untouched the blood-besprinkled doors of the
people of God: but, under the Christian dispensation, we are invited with
our households to celebrate a more glorious release from a more tremendous
bondage. The sacramental festival of the church of Christ records our
emancipation from sin, both from its consequences and its dominion,
through the atoning blood of the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the
world," sprinkled upon the consciences of all believers. Mary, while
keeping the typical feast, embraced the real Lamb, and devoutly enjoyed
the festival of faith. So let us hasten to this institution, and
participate this divine joy.

It is probable that the parents of Jesus were in the habit of taking their
son with them every year to Jerusalem, that they might, as it became
religious characters, "train him up in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord;" we are at least certain that he accompanied them at the age of
twelve, when a memorable and instructive incident occurred.

At the expiration of the seven days of unleavened bread, they began their
return homeward; but the child Jesus staid behind in Jerusalem, to make
inquiries, and to listen to the instructions of those who publicly
explained the sense of Scripture, and the traditions of the elders. His
mother and Joseph were ignorant of this delay, till the end of the first
day's journey; for as it was customary on these occasions to travel in
very large companies, and these perhaps often separated into groups at
considerable intervals, they took it for granted that he was with some of
his friends or kindred, who were no doubt often charmed with his lovely
company, and expected him to rejoin them in the evening. The day closed,
the different parties assembled--but, to the inexpressible concern of Mary
and Joseph, Jesus was not to be found! They searched and searched again,
but in vain! The anxious father, but the still more anxious mother, flew
to every friend, to every fellow traveller--no tidings were to be heard!
Ah, Simeon, thy sword is beginning to pierce this maternal breast! What a
night of sleepless anxiety passed, and with what haste did they retrace
their steps to Jerusalem! What could they imagine, but that some evil
beast had taken their Joseph! The weeping mother chides her negligence,
stops every passing stranger, fancies perhaps that some emissary of
persecution had seized him, and that Archelaus had accomplished what Herod
had begun, searches every house where they had visited or lodged--O what
must the mother feel--such a mother--and of such a child!

But--he is found! On the third day, he was seen in one of the courts of
the temple appropriated to the Jewish doctors, where they were accustomed
to lecture to their disciples. It might be, perhaps, in the room of the
great sanhedrim, where they assembled in a semi-circular form. In front of
them were three rows of the scholars, containing each three-and-twenty. It
is probable, that Christ sat in one of these rows; and, perhaps, the
questions he put, and the answers he gave, excited so much notice amongst
the doctors, that they called him into the midst of them, which was
occasionally done. Thus the Jews state, that "if one of the disciples or
scholars say, I have something to say in favour of him (one that is put on
his trial) they bring him up and _cause him to sit in the midst of them_;
and he does not go down from thence the whole day." [14]

At the moment when his parents discovered the holy child Jesus, he was
hearing and asking questions of the doctors, in which he displayed so much
understanding, that they and their disciples were astonished. This is a
lesson to youth, who should, gladly and submissively receive instruction,
and may with respectful eagerness question their superiors. Let them avoid
all offensive forwardness and conceit of their knowledge and attainments;
remembering that he who could have taught the wisest of the Jewish
doctors, sat at their feet _listening_ and _asking them questions_!

Feeling as a mother, but ignorant of the cause of this singular
proceeding, Mary ventured, as soon as opportunity permitted, to
remonstrate in these words, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?
Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing!" We are to consider
this language as rather expressive of anxiety, that of anger; yet,
perhaps, it may be admitted to contain a mixture of both. His mysterious
and unauthorized disappearance might seem to her contrary to the obedience
he owed, and was so uniformly accustomed to manifest to his parents. Why
did he tarry? Why did he not, at least, _inform them_ of his wishes to
remain, and thus spare them the wretchedness which they had suffered
during the past three days? Did he not know the tender love of his
maternal parent? Did he not know the bitter tears she would shed, and the
agonies she would suffer? Did he not feel the claim which she had upon his
early years, and the reverence due to her character and piety?

Yes: these were considerations which he never overlooked; but he was
absorbed in sublimer thoughts. Jesus was an extraordinary being, and the
whole of this transaction ought to be viewed in connexion with the
subsequent development of his designs, and the glory of his future
actions. In it we have a glimpse of his superiority as the Son of God, and
it was, doubtless, intended to attract the attention of his thoughtful
mother, and to renew those meditations in which she had formerly exercised
her mind, during the miracles of his nativity. His reply, "How is it that
ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business," or,
at my Father's? [15] would upon any other supposition, seem strange and
unintelligible; and, accordingly, his parents did not comprehend him,
being at present imperfectly versed in the mysteries of his kingdom. It
was, however, perfectly in point, and full of meaning. Mary complained of
having been so troubled to find him, and at the same time called Joseph
his father. To which he replies, that she might surely have recollected
that the temple was the most proper place to inquire for him, who, she
knew, though a child, was already consecrated to so divine a work; that he
was, in fact, where he ought to be, and about the proper business to which
his life was to be devoted; and that, although Joseph were his reputed
father, he possessed a higher relationship, and a nobler character than
could distinguish mere mortals. God was his father--this was his
house--and nothing must impede his purposes. Still, however, he instantly
complied with the wishes of his parents, went with them to Nazareth, and
during many succeeding years veiled the splendours of his character in the
obedience and concealment of his childhood. Mary, in the mean time, "kept
all these sayings in her heart."

In detailing the life of Christ, the inspired evangelists do not often
introduce his mother; and whenever she is mentioned, it is rather to
illustrate _his_ character than _hers_; but we feel pleasure in collecting
even the smallest fragments of this divine record, that nothing may be
lost; and while searching for MARY, let us rejoice that we are, at the
same time, conducted to JESUS.

The next circumstance that demands our notice, is the history of the
wedding-feast at Cana in Galilee. Here the Saviour and his mother appear
as the most conspicuous characters. These, with the disciples of Christ,
at present few in number, were expressly invited; whence it has, with
sufficient probability, been thought that it was the marriage of one of
his own relations.

It seems highly becoming the dignity of the Saviour to sanction, by his
holy presence, the institution of marriage in general, and to sanctify its
observance on the present occasion in particular. Its utility, in
reference to individual comfort and to the interests of society at large,
renders "marriage honourable in all;" and while it would be ungrateful to
Providence, not to accept with suitable emotions of cheerfulness the
blessing which has been so long and so eagerly sought, it must always be
injurious to character to indulge in extravagant merriment or indecorous
festivity. Let persons forming such a connection aim to chastise their
mirth with a solid piety, recollecting that while they are allowed to be
cheerful, they must not be intemperate.

At the feast of Cana, the wine failed. The poverty of the family might not
admit of a very liberal supply, or a larger number of visiters might come
than had been expected. Mary immediately informed her Son. She saw that
this circumstance occasioned confusion, she knew the power of Jesus, and
she wished to spare the feelings of the new-married pair, who might have
been exposed to censure for the scantiness of the supply. If these were
her real sentiments, they were worthy of her character and sex. Let this
example of amiable concern for the reputation of another, and the general
comfort of the guests at this nuptial feast, stimulate us to an imitation
of her kindness. How common is it for persons to depreciate and ridicule
each other, availing themselves of trifling mistakes or unimportant
oversights, to awaken prejudices and to exasperate dislikes! Envy is so
prevalent in the world, so natural to the human heart, and so
inconceivably diversified in its methods of operation, that we cannot be
too much warned against it, especially as its venom lies concealed, hut
often works effectually.

The female sex, of which we have before us so fine a specimen, are
naturally attentive and kind, skilful to discern, quick to feel, and
prompt to relieve the wants of others. They seem endowed with a
generosity, in which it is their honour to excel, while it is their duty
to cultivate and indulge it. Are comforts needed? Their ready hands will
supply them. Is pain suffered? Their tender hearts will sympathize and aim
to alleviate it. They are officious to replenish the cup of joy, and no
less prompt to sweeten and mitigate the bitter draughts of sorrow. To them
we look to increase our pleasures in the days of prosperity--for them we
do not ask in vain to sustain our aching head, and to smooth the pillow of
sickness and of death!

But if the views we have imputed to Mary really dictated the intimation
which she gave to Jesus, respecting the deficiency of wine, it may be
asked, how came she to meet with so austere a reply, as "Woman, what have
I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." This requires some
attention.

In the first place, notwithstanding the feeling of kindness which dictated
this interference, Christ might have thought it necessary to assert his
divine prerogative. It is evident, from her immediately directing the
servants to do whatever he commanded them, she expected some miracle; for
she was, no doubt, fully persuaded by this time of his being the Messiah.
But, though endowed with maternal authority, it was not her province to
point out the course of his proceeding as Lord of all. He was willing,
however, to grant her wishes; but, by this language, imposed secrecy. He
would choose the moment and the proper manner of imparting the necessary
supply. One would almost infer from the injunction of Mary to the
servants, that he had informed her of his intentions; and that while he
felt no displeasure at her request, it was necessary to wait his
divine will.

In the next place, the words were, probably, not so disrespectful as they
at first appear. Some have thought the original phrase might be rendered,
"What is that to thee and me?" meaning, "What concern have we in this want
of wine? it is the duty of others to provide, and not ours." It must be
admitted, however, that this interpretation is not so honourable to the
benevolent character of Christ, nor so natural, under all the
circumstances, since Mary was evidently and properly concerning herself,
as a relative in this affair, and the use of similar expressions in other
parts of Scripture imply some degree of reproof. [16] Considering the
divine character of our Lord, this phraseology was not improper, because
in what concerned his office she had no authority over him; and Mary,
impressed with a sense of his extraordinary character, which was every day
increasingly developing himself, withdrew in reverential silence to enjoin
the necessary obedience upon the servants. She felt, and let us never
forget, that the endearments of friendship and the tender ties of
consanguinity must not interfere with the superior claims of religion and
of Christ.

The greatest objection seems to attach to the use of the abrupt and
disrespectful term "woman;" but the usages of antiquity prove that this
mode of address was quite different in meaning from what it appears in
English. The politest writers, and most accomplished princes, adopted it
in addressing ladies of quality; and even servants sometimes spoke to
their mistresses in this manner. [17] In the last and tender scene of the
cross, it is not to be imagined that the dying Son should intentionally,
or even inadvertently, wound the feelings of a weeping mother, and at the
very moment too when affectionately commending her to the care of his
surviving friend and disciple; and yet his address is precisely similar:
"_woman_, behold thy Son!"

Jesus soon issued his orders to the servants to fill six water-pots of
stone, which were at hand, and were commonly used for washing cups and
other vessels, and the hands and feet of the guests, according to the
Jewish custom of purifying. [18] The water, to the astonishment of all
present, be turned into wine of so excellent a flavour as to excite
particular notice. This was the beginning of his public miracles, a
wonderful display of his glory, and a means of confirming the minds of his
disciples.

"There is a marriage whereto we are invited; yea, wherein we are already
interested; not as the guests only, but as the bride; in which there shall
be no want of the wine of gladness. It is marvel if in these earthly
banquets there be not some lack. 'In thy presence, O Saviour, there is
fulness of joy, and at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.'
Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb." [19]

As the extraordinary character of Christ became from this moment
increasingly apparent, it is easy to believe that the strong feelings of
maternal tenderness in the bosom of Mary blended themselves more and more
with a spiritual affection. She was indeed, in one sense, the mother of
our Lord, but she was also his disciple--she had been guide of his
childhood, but she sat at the feet of his maturity. As he ascended to an
immeasurable elevation above every other being of the human race, she must
feel that the authority of the earthly parent, although it were never
disregarded or disavowed, but, on the contrary, must have impressed a
peculiarity both upon his affection and hers, was, however, absorbed in
the superiority of his heavenly commission. He obeyed her as a child, but
she submitted to him as the Lord.

Does the observant eye of a mother watch with unutterable solicitude the
progress of her beloved offspring, tracing the improvement of his mind,
the development of his faculties, the career of his life, sympathizing
with his sorrows and participating with his joys, taking a fond share in
all that concerns him--his prospects, his pursuits, his whole
character;--does the maternal heart, even in ordinary cases, feel so much
and so long, cherishing such undiminished interest in every vicissitude
that affects the son of her love? With what lively sensibility must Mary
have contemplated the rising glory of the inimitable Jesus! What a track
of majesty must have marked his footsteps! What a winning singularity must
have distinguished his actions! What purity must have adorned his conduct!
What "grace was poured into his lips!" Who can express the deep interest
that his thoughtful mother must have felt in the discourses she heard, the
wisdom with which he silenced gainsayers, penetrated human hearts, exposed
secret motives and purposes, confounded the most wise and artful, and
communicated the sublimest truths in the most commanding and lucid manner!
How must she have felt to have been the witness of his astonishing
miracles, to have seen the flashes of unearthly dignity breaking through
the concealment of a human exterior, and to have traced the accomplishment
of all that prophets had foretold and angels announced! O, what an honour
to have been the _mother_, but still more so to be the _disciple_ of him
who was predicted by prophets, prefigured by types, attended by
ministering angels, celebrated by the most eminent of the Jewish church,
obeyed by all the elements of nature, the principalities of darkness, and
the powers of heaven;--who, "being in the form of God, thought it not
robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took
upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men!"

The sacred history, which is chiefly occupied in the life of Christ
himself, and the detail of his actions, does not explain how often his
mother accompanied him. The incidental mention of her and his brethren
upon one occasion shows, however, what we cannot but infer, that she was
one of his frequent attendants. He was talking "to the people" in a
private house, with the instructive familiarity for which he was so
remarkable, when "his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to
speak with him." They had something of importance to communicate,
otherwise it cannot be supposed they would have interrupted his
conversation; but, being unable to reach him on account of the multitude,
their wishes were conveyed from one to another, till the person who stood
by him intimated that his mother and brethren were waiting to speak with
him. Availing himself of the circumstance to impress his admonition upon
the assembled crowd, he said to the person who informed, "Who is my
mother? and who are my brethren?" Then addressing the people as he pointed
to the disciples, he exclaimed, "Behold my mother, and my brethren! For
whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is
my brother and sister and mother."

Did he then intend to pour contempt upon these near relatives? Did he
disclaim the ties of kindred? Did he exclude Mary, James, and Joses,
Simeon and Judas, from the honour and the happiness of participating those
spiritual blessings which he so liberally dispensed to others?--Surely
not. Applying to this the same principle of interpretation which was
adopted in explaining his words at the feast of Cana, we infer that he
meant to intimate that they who called him brother according to the flesh,
and even she who bore him, need not be envied by those whom he admitted to
the intimacy and happiness of a spiritual relationship; and that whatever
of love and kindness could be supposed to arise from the natural
connexion, was enjoyed in a nobler sense by virtue of a spiritual union.
Every thing that can consummate the happiness of man, every thing that can
secure the most glorious and permanent distinction, arises from being the
disciple of the blessed Jesus, and "doing the will of his Father." Let
such an one envy no more the possessions of time, for he is heir to the
inheritance of heaven; let him not value at too high a price any human
honour, title, or relationship, for he is a member of the "household
of God."

We now hasten to a scene calculated at once to excite our liveliest
sensibilities and our warmest gratitude--a scene upon which the eyes of
the remotest ages were fixed with holy anticipation, and which all future
generations will contemplate with retrospective joy--a scene distinguished
by the most affecting incidents--in one of which, not the least
remarkable, the mother of our Lord appears conspicuous.

It is observable, that whenever he alluded to the circumstances of his own
death, Christ adopted a mode of speaking which is expressive of the most
dignified composure of mind, united with an irresistible firmness of
purpose. He advanced to the cross of martyrdom like one who, "for the joy
that was set before him, despised the shame." His love to man annihilated
the terror of death, and rendered him solicitous to shed his blood. "I
have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be
accomplished." In the hour of previous conflict he intimated that this was
the tragical but necessary design of his coming into the world. From his
radiant throne in glory, he saw, in awful perspective, the afflictions
which were destined for his incarnate state; and, instead of a train of
angels, he prepared to be attended by a retinue of sorrows, during his
abode in the world. Above all, he beheld the CROSS, surrounded with awful
clouds, raised amidst the scorn of human and the triumph of infernal
enemies. He saw the full tide of misery set in against him; but, with
unabating love to man, and perfect obedience of spirit to the
Father--melting with pity and glowing with zeal--he prepared to encounter
the billows and the storms of death. He was not overtaken by a calamity
which he neither foresaw nor could prevent, for ten thousand angels at his
word would have hastened to pluck him from the waves; but in fulfilment of
the everlasting covenant, to glorify the Father and to redeem a perishing
world, he was "led to the slaughter."

At this period all Judea was present to celebrate the paschal festival;
the great council of the nation was convened; Herod, the governor of
Judea, and Pilate, the tetrarch of Galilee, with their attending armies,
displayed the grandeur of the empire; and on the mount of crucifixion a
vast concourse of people assembled to witness this tragical scene. What
must have been their sensations when nature became convulsed--when
darkness veiled the sun--and the inhabitants of the invisible world burst
through the trembling earth, and reappeared to many in Jerusalem! Never
did an hour revolve since the beginning of time that laboured with such
great events. The fate of the moral creation was now weighing in the
scales--the happiness of millions was at stake--the interests of eternity
were deciding--and the victory over sin, death, and hell, was proclaimed
by the expiring Redeemer, when he said, "IT IS FINISHED."

Amidst this scene of wonders, behold a group of females, no less similar
in character than in name; Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife
Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. Many women are honourably conspicuous in the
records of the New Testament, but never did they appear with greater
advantage than at this moment. All the disciples were fled, with the
single exception of John, who had overcome his temporary apprehensions,
and was returned to the field of danger. These pious heroines, although
incapable of affording the glorious Sufferer any assistance, and although
surrounded by an infuriated enemy, rose superior to the fears of their
sex, and pierced through the crowd, to testify their sympathy, to listen
to his dying words, and to watch the expiring flame of life to the moment
of its extinction.

What a scene was this for his MOTHER! How could she sustain the horrible
spectacle? How could she survive this fiery trial? What inconceivable
anguish must it have occasioned to witness the death of her _Son_! Say, ye
mothers who have watched the infant days and progressive maturity of a
firstborn, what distress ye have felt at his early loss! The flower
perhaps had just expanded to the day, when the pestilential wind blew from
the desert of death and withered its beauties! It is gone--but has left
behind a sense of unspeakable desolation. How were your most delightful
hopes annihilated in a moment, and ye were ready to adopt the language of
David in his agony, "O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I
had died for thee, O Absalom! my son, my son!"

But this was a death of the most ignominious and painful description. Mary
beheld her Son suffering the shame of a _public execution_ and the torment
of _a cross_. She saw him suspended between heaven and earth, as if
unworthy of either, crucified between two malefactors, and insulted by an
outrageous mob. She heard the revengeful speeches of that infatuated
multitude, and the mutual congratulations of those by whom they were
instigated, and who ridiculously imagined they had obtained a decisive
victory! The terror of this hour and power of darkness pervaded her own
spirit, and she lived to feel a greater horror than it is in the power
even of the king of terrors himself to inflict.

This was the crucifixion of an _innocent Son_! He had experienced indeed
the mockery of a judicial proceeding, but had been sacrificed to the
ravings of a despicable and infatuated mob, the asseverations of perjured
witnesses, the timidity of Pilate, and the hatred of every class of Jews.
No guile was found in his mouth, no recrimination in his language, no
impatience in his conduct. Conscious of perfect innocency, he yet
submitted to condemnation and death as a notorious offender; and, with all
things under his control, he did not lift a finger to stop the career of
injustice, or arrest the course of infernal rage. If the mothers of his
two associates in suffering were present on this occasion, whatever
bitterness of anguish they had felt to see the mournful end of their own
offspring, they could not but admit that public crime demanded public
punishment, and sentiments of commiseration must have blended themselves
with those of censure when they viewed their fate. But the mother of Jesus
saw her beloved Son condemned without reason, and suffering in defiance of
justice. In proportion as she knew his innocency she must have felt
his loss.

But his character was more than innocent; this, as the astonished
centurion exclaimed, "Truly, this man was the _Son of God_!" Well might
she wonder that no angel appeared to rescue the expiring Redeemer, and
that he who had saved others did not save himself! Well might she have
been confounded at the mysterious circumstance, that he whom winds and
waves obeyed, and whose presence on earth was felt by universal nature,
should die in apparent disgrace, exposed to the raillery of his
inveterate enemies!

This afflicted mother was also a _widow_! Long since the evangelical
narrative has dropped the name of her husband, doubtless because Joseph
was no more; but Jesus survived to console her amidst domestic
misfortunes, to cheer her declining days, to prop her falling house, to
pour the wine of consolation into her cup of sorrow, and the light of
celestial truth into her mind. He was all goodness, all perfection, who
could never forget a mother--a _widowed_ mother, wherever "he went about
doing good"--was to this awful hour her staff and comfort. How keen was
the edge of that piercing sword of which Simeon spake, and what
unparralleled grief was hers when she saw the cross, and the tortures, and
the blood of her Son!

Notwithstanding all, Mary is not seen wringing her hands and tearing her
hair in distraction; nor is she heard to utter intemperate language
against his persecutors, or to manifest resentment at the dispensations of
Heaven: she neither curses man, nor blasphemes God; nor do we observe her
fainting beneath the pressure of accumulated woes; but she stands near the
cross, in solemn silence, pondering, in an attitude of profound
meditation, and submitting to the purposes of Providence.

Let us admire the power of that "grace" which is promised to Christians,
"to help them in time of need," and of the efficacy of which the present
scene furnishes so substantial an evidence. Is it possible that after such
a record as this we should ever doubt or forget the divine assurances--"My
grace is sufficient for thee"--"When thou passest through the waters I
will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee;
when thou walkest through the fire thou shall not be burnt, neither shall
the flame kindle upon thee?" Should thy desponding heart be ready to
distrust the wisdom or deny the goodness of thy "Father who is in heaven,"
when sorrows, diversified and oppressive, burden thy spirit, think of the
mother of Jesus at the cross of her Son!

If the sublime sympathy of Mary prevented the recollection of her personal
condition, Jesus was not so overwhelmed with affliction as to be unmindful
of the future lot of his poor, pennyless, helpless, widowed, and weeping
mother; but committed her to the care of his disciple JOHN, directing him
to regard her henceforward as a mother, and her to consider him as a son.
_Woman, behold thy son_--"My beloved disciple will fulfil every office of
filial tenderness, and at my request he will receive and provide for my
destitute parent." _Behold_, said he, addressing John, _behold thy
mother_; "take her to thy house, allow her to share thy means, respect and
supply her as the most endeared relative of thy dying Lord. I have no
property to leave, no silver or gold to distribute: this is my fond and my
only bequest. I have confidence in thy attachment, and when thou dost
minister to _her_ thou wilt remember _me_."

From this exquisitely touching and instructive scene we must take a lesson
of _dependence on the providence of God_. If he inflict unexpected trials,
he affords unexpected supplies. His resources are numberless; and he who
raised up John to supply the place of an endeared Son to Mary, can never
be at loss for expedients when his people are in distress. One prop is
removed, another is substituted. "O fear the Lord, all ye his saints, for
there is no want to them that fear him." Earthly cisterns may indeed be
broken, and temporal streams of enjoyment may cease, but "the fountain of
living waters" is inexhaustible.

Take a lesson _of filial piety_. Children are under an indispensable
obligation to succour their aged parents. If amidst the agonies of
crucifixion, Jesus so carefully provided for the future comfort of his
maternal parent, be assured "he has set an _example_ wherein we should
follow his steps;" and disrespect to such claims is a dereliction of our
character, and a forfeiture of our profession as the disciples of Christ.

Learn to _be prompt in your obedience to every requisition of your Lord_.
It is an honour to be employed by him in any service, whatever it may cost
us. John did not hesitate, or indulge in surmisings; he did not think of
the trouble, the expense, or the possible danger of harbouring the mother
of one who was executed as an enemy to Cesar; but "from that hour that
disciple took her unto his own home." If the sacred history had followed
him to his lowly habitation, where our imaginations are ready to accompany
John and his venerable charge, it would doubtless have exhibited a
specimen of tender friendship and unwearied assiduity. What could John
deny to the mother of his Lord? How eagerly would he promote her comfort!
What "sweet converse" would they "hold together" upon the life, the
miracles, the doctrines, the precepts, the death of Jesus! What a gleam of
light and joy would the remembrance of one so dear throw upon the darkest
scene of their lives, and how would the glory of his subsequent
ascension, and dignity in the invisible world, occupy their daily
intercourse and their most devotional moments! "The sweet hour of prime,"
and the serenity of "evening mild," and "twilight gray," would still find
them amidst the wonders of the cross or the triumphs of the resurrection.

Nothing more is said of Mary till we come to the Acts of the Apostles,
where a brief but honourable notice closes her history. In an upper room
at Jerusalem "abode Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and
Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon
Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one
accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and _Mary, the mother
of Jesus_, and with his brethren."

It is supposed that John took her with him to Ephesus, where she died in
an extreme old age. There is a letter of the oecumenical council of
Ephesus, importing, that in the fifth century it was believed she was
buried there; but some authors think she was buried at Jerusalem.



Section IV.


  Brief Account of the extravagant Regard which has been paid to the
  Virgin Mary at different Periods--the Names by which she has been
  addressed, and the Festivals instituted to honour her Memory--general
  Remarks on the Nature and Character of Superstition, particularly that
  of the Catholics.

After reviewing, as we have done in the preceding pages, the _facts_
which are stated by the evangelists respecting the life of the mother of
Jesus, the reader perhaps will not be displeased if he be presented with
some of the _fictions_ with which the fancy and the folly of the human
race have combined to embellish her history. That she has a claim upon the
respect of every age and nation, will not be disputed: but we must condemn
as well as compassionate that weakness which has exalted her into an
object of worship, and filled the temples, which ought to have been
devoted to the service of God, with unauthorized addresses, unscriptural
rites, and idolatrous disfigurements.

The first notice we have in history of undue honour being rendered to the
Virgin Mary is about the close of the fourth century, when the
_Collyridians_ adored her as a goddess; and by various libations and
sacrifices sought her protection, and hoped to avert her displeasure.

Soon after this period corruptions multiplied in the church to an
extravagant degree, and mankind departed more and more from the simplicity
of religion. A disposition to pomp and parade usually marks a decline in
piety; for wherever "the beauty of holiness" is preserved, gaudy
decorations and splendid formalities will be deemed unnecessary. Surely
God is not honoured by a service which he has never instituted, and which
is only calculated to divert the mind from the proper business of devotion
and the supreme object of religious homage! In the fifth century,
therefore, as piety languished, magnificence, with all her costly train,
obtruded into notice. The riches of the church increased to an amazing
extent; the altars, and chests for the preservation of relics, were made
of silver; images adorned, or rather defiled, every niche; and the Virgin
Mary, holding the child Jesus in her arms, every where occupied a
conspicuous place. She had, besides, universally acquired the title of
Θεοτουος, or _mother of God_, which occasioned the Nestorian
controversy.

The idolatrous service of Mary assumed, in the tenth century, new forms of
extravagance and absurdity. Among the Latin churches, masses were
celebrated every sabbath; and afterward, what is termed the _lesser
office_ was performed in honour of St. Mary. There are also indications of
the institution of the _Rosary_ and _Crown_, by which her worshippers were
to calculate the number of prayers offered: the former consisted of
fifteen repetitions of the Lord's prayer, and a hundred and fifty
salutations of the Virgin: the latter, of six or seven repetitions of the
Lord's prayer, and six or seven times ten salutations, or Ave Marias.

About the year 1138 a solemn festival was instituted to celebrate the
immaculate conception of the Virgin, of whom it was pretended, that her
own birth partook of a similar purity to that which attached to her divine
offspring. This doctrine was opposed by St. Bernard; but the French
churches adopted it, and the superstition of the people contributed to its
establishment. The subject was again debated with extreme virulence in the
seventeenth century, between the Franciscans and Dominicans, in which the
pope interposed a mediatorial power. The opinion of the former, who
maintained the doctrine, was declared to have a high degree of probability
in its favour, and the latter were required not to oppose it publicly;
while the Franciscans were prohibited from treating the Dominican doctrine
as erroneous. [20]

It is lamentable to see the profusion of eloquence and ingenuity which
some of the most penetrating minds have expended on this subject. In all
the Catholic writings we meet with impassioned addresses to the Virgin,
appeals on her behalf to the feelings of piety, and a frequent celebration
of her matchless perfections. The theological oracle of the French church
distinctly states that "as the innocence of Jesus Christ is the life and
salvation of sinners, so, through the innocence of the holy Virgin, he
obtains pardon for the guilty," exhorting his hearers to "cleanse away
their sins in the glorious splendour of her incorruptible purity," and
adding, that "to undertake to describe the perfections of Mary, would be
to fathom a bottomless abyss."

After representing the Saviour as making particular choice of Mary for
himself, Bossuet bestows upon her the epithets of _beloved creature,
extraordinary creature, unique and privileged creature_; and continues
thus: "The Saviour imparted to his apostles and ministers whatever was
most adapted to promote the salvation of mankind; but he communicated to
his holy mother whatever was most pleasing, most glorious, and most
delightful to himself; consequently, I doubt not that he made Mary
innocent. She is his unique, and he is hers. _Dilectus meus mihi et ego
illi_ ('my beloved is mine and I am his.') I have only him, and he has
only me." I know well that innocence ought not to be easily lavished on
our corrupt nature, but it is no profuse expenditure to bestow it upon his
mother only: while to refuse to her would surely be too great a reserve.

"No, my brethren, this is not my Saviour's conduct: on Mary, from the
moment of her birth, I behold the innocence of Jesus Christ shining and
adorning her head. O honour this new ray of light which her divine Son
already sheds upon her! 'The night is far spent, the day is at hand;'
Jesus will quickly bring this day by his own blessed presence. O happy
day! O day without cloud! O day, which the innocence of the divine Jesus
will render so serene and pure, when wilt thou come to illuminate the
world?--Christians, it approaches; let us rejoice in already discovering
its dawn in the birth of the holy Virgin--_Natâ Virgine surrexit aurora_,
says the pious father Damien. Can you be astonished after this, if I
assert that Mary was without spot from the first moment of her appearance
in the world? As the great day of Christ was to be so clear and splendid,
was it not proper that even its commencement should be beautiful, and that
the serenity of the morning should indicate that of the day? 'It is on
this account,' as father Damien observes, 'that Mary, who introduced this
illustrious day diffused a brightness over the morning by her
nativity--_Maria, veri proevia luminis, nativitate suâ mane clarissimum
serenavit_.' Hasten then, brethren, hasten with joy to behold the
beginnings of this new day: we shall see it shine in the attractive light
of an untarnished purity!"......_Bossuet's Sermon_.

Bossuet had sufficient ingenuity to construct a plausible defence of a
sentiment which, however adapted to supply a theme for eloquent
declamation, is not to be found in Scripture. "It must be admitted," says
he, "that Mary would have been involved in the general ruin of mankind,
had not the merciful Physician who heals our diseases determined to imbue
her beforehand with his preventing grace. Sin, which like a torrent
overflowed the world, would have polluted this holy Virgin with its
poisonous waves; but Omnipotence can stop, whenever he pleases, the most
impetuous force. Observe with what ardour the sun pursues the vast circuit
which Providence has assigned him; and yet you cannot be ignorant that God
once caused him to stand still in the midst of heaven at the voice of a
man. Those who inhabit the vicinity of Jordan, the celebrated river of
Palestine, know with what rapidity it discharges itself into the Dead Sea,
if I am correct as to the place; nevertheless, the whole Israelitish army
saw it roll back to its source to form a passage for the ark, where their
omnipotent Sovereign resided. Is any thing more natural than the consuming
effect of heat in fire issuing out of a furnace? And yet was not the
impious Nebuchadnezzar surprised with the sight of three happy individuals
rejoicing in the midst of the flames which his merciless minions had
kindled--but kindled in vain? But notwithstanding all these examples, may
we not truly say, that there is no fire which does not burn, that the sun
performs his course with unceasing progress, and that no river flows back
to its source? We are accustomed to a similar mode of speaking every day,
without being checked by these extraordinary occurrences, of which no one
is ignorant. Whence does this arise, Christians? Doubtless from the habit
of conversing according to the ordinary course of things; though God
chooses sometimes to act conformably to the dictates of his own
omnipotence, independently of human notions.

"I am not astonished, therefore, that the apostle Paul has expressed
himself in such general terms respecting the sin of our first parents'
having occasioned the death of all their posterity. According the natural
course of things, which the apostle is stating in that place, to be born
of the race of Adam necessarily includes, in the ordinary sense of the
word, being born in sin. It is not more natural for fire to burn, than for
this accursed depravity to infect every one it touches with corruption and
death. No poison is more active, no plague more powerful and penetrating.
But I maintain, that this curse, however universal, that all these
propositions, however general they may be, do not preclude the exceptions
which may be made by the Supreme Disposer, or particular interpositions of
his authority. And on what occasion, great God, could thine unlimited
power, which itself is law, be more properly employed than in conferring
peculiar favour upon Mary?" [21]

In the Litanies the Virgin is denominated "the Mother of God, the Queen of
Angels, the Refuge of Sinners, the Mother of Mercy, the Gate of Heaven,
the Mystic Rose, the Virgin of Virgins," &c. [22]

Father Barry, in his "Paradise opened to Philagia by a hundred Devotions
to the Mother of God, of easy performance," says, "It is open to such as
confine themselves to their chambers, or carry about them an image of the
Virgin, and look steadfastly upon it--who, night and morning, beg her
benediction, standing near some of the churches dedicated to her, or
contribute to the relief of the poor for her sake--who, out of a pious
regard for her, avoid pronouncing the name of Mary when they read, but
make use of some other instead of it--who beg of the angels to salute the
mother of God in their name, who give honourable appellations to her
images, and cast amorous glances at them," &c.

In this work it is expressly stated, that "as many separate devotions to
the mother of God as you find in this book, are so many keys of heaven,
which will open all paradise to you, provided you only practise them;" and
afterward it is added, that "any _one_ of them is sufficient." Take the
following specimen: "Salute the holy Virgin wherever you meet her image;
repeat the little chaplet of the ten pleasures of the Virgin; often
pronounce the name of _Mary_; commission the angels to give your duty to
her; cherish a desire to build more churches to her than all the kings of
the world put together; wish her a good day every morning, and a good
night every evening; say the _Ave Maria_ every day, in honour of the heart
of Mary." [23]

In the earliest ages she was called Queen of angels and Mother of God;
afterward, the spirit of controversy induced her advocates to adopt every
possible device to make her considerable among heretics, and to accustom
her devotees to extravagant expressions. She has been represented as the
_disposer and depository of God's favours, the treasurer and queen of
heaven, the spring and fountain of salvation and life, the mother of
light, the intercessor between God and man, the hope of mankind, the ocean
of the Deity_! Almost an absolute and sovereign power over her Son our
Saviour has been ascribed to her. The psalter, nay the whole Bible, has
been applied to her, and proofs by miracles and apparitions furnished,
that the virgin appeases the wrath of Christ against sinners, and
possesses the power of absolving, binding, and loosening. Temples and
altars have been erected, and invocations addressed to her.

The Jesuit, who published the Psalter of our Lady, in French, exhorts the
devout Christian who pronounces these words in the introduction, _Holy
Lady, open thou my lips_, &c. "to make two signs of the cross when he
repeats them, one upon his lips with his thumb, and the other upon himself
with his hand, as the priests do when they begin their canonical hours."
This method, he assures us, will procure the devotee the honour and
happiness of being canon or canoness of heaven; and our lady, to reward so
conspicuous and instructive an act of devotion, will admit him into
paradise. He gives a pattern of the vows which the devotee is to make "for
Jesus and Mary's sake, and for all the lovers of them both, whether male
or female." He describes the alliance to be made by him with the _most
amiable and honourable mother of all mothers_, the act of repentance and
contrition for the reconciliation of himself with her, and all the
ceremonies, great and small, by which he may devote himself to the
blessed Virgin.

Whoever hopes to obtain the benedictions of the Virgin, must salute her
every day, both at his going out and coming in. The legends have
transmitted several remarkable instances of the advantages arising from
the repetition of the _Ave Maria_--not to mention a thousand day's
indulgence granted by some of the popes (Leo X. and Paul V.) to those who
shall repeat it at the hour of the _Angelus_.

St. Margarite, of Hungary, said an Ave kneeling before every image of the
Virgin she met in her way--St. Catharine, of Sienna, repeated as many Aves
as she went up steps to her house.

Fasting on _Saturday_, in honour of the Virgin, is looked upon as a
treasure of indulgences and delights, and as an excellent preservative
against eternal damnation.

Various festivals are instituted to commemorate her, such as the
Purification, the Annunciation, the Visitation, and others.

The fifth of August is the festival of _our Lady of the Snow_. We are
informed that the solemnization of it was owing to a miracle. When
Liberius was pontiff, a patrician, or Roman nobleman, finding himself old
and childless, resolved, with his wife's approbation, to make the blessed
Virgin his sole heiress. The vow being made with great devotion, their
principal concern, in the next place, was to employ their inheritance
conformably to our Lady's will: and accordingly they applied themselves to
fasting, praying, giving alms to the poor, and visiting the sick, to know
her pleasure.

The Virgin at length appeared to each of them in a dream, and told them
"it was her and her Son's will, that they should employ their effects in
erecting a church for her on a particular part of the _Mons Esquilinus_,
which they should find covered with snow." The pious husband first
communicated the revelation to his wife, who told him, with great
surprise, that she had had the same revelation that very night. But,
supposing the two dreams had not proved alike, an excess of zeal would
have been sufficient to have given them all the _conformity_ that was
requisite; These two devotees went immediately and declared their dreams
to the pope, who perceived that he was a third man in the revelation; for
his holiness had been favoured with the same vision. It was no longer
questioned, but that heaven was engaged in this affair. The pontiff
assembled the clergy together, and there was a solemn procession to Mount
Esquiline, on purpose to find out whether the miracle were real or not;
when the place specified in the dream was found covered with snow. The
ground was exactly of a suitable extent to erect a church upon, which was
afterward called _Liberius's Basilica_, and _St. Mary ad præcepe_,
(because the manger, which was used as a cradle for our Lady, was brought
thither from Bethlehem,) and is now called _St. Mary Major_. Every
festival day, the commemoration of this miracle is revived, by letting
fall white jessamine leaves, after so artificial a manner, as to imitate
the falling of snow upon the ground. [24]

It has even been asserted, that the apostle Peter consecrated a chapel to
the Virgin, a story which accords perfectly well with other absurdities.
The Spaniards attribute a similar act of devotion to James at _Saragossa_;
and some add, that the angels were the architects of the chapel. It is
decorated in the most costly manner with silver angels, lamps, and other
furniture, with the Virgin magnificently dressed on a marble pillar. The
walls are hung with feet, arms, hands, and other parts of the human body,
as grateful oblations to the Virgin, for the miraculous cures she is
supposed to have performed upon these members.

At _Madrid_, our lady of Atocha resides in a chapel which blazes with a
hundred lamps made of gold and silver, and is celebrated for as many
miracles as at Loretto and other places. The history of her first
settlement at _Liesse_, in Picardy, is thus related. During the crusades,
an Egyptian princess resolving to have an image of the Virgin, addressed
herself to three gentlemen of Picardy, who were prisoners at Cairo, one of
whom made an attempt to paint her, though ignorant of the art. Having
failed, he and his companions presented earnest supplications to the
Virgin, after which they fell asleep. As soon as they awoke, they found
an image of our Lady, accurately performed, which they transmitted to the
princess; who, in return, set them at liberty. She was, of course,
converted to the Christian faith by this image; and the three gentlemen
miraculously escaped out of Egypt, and on a sudden found themselves, by a
continuation of the miracle, in Picardy, on the very spot where the church
of _our Lady of Liesse_ is now erected.

Her devotees carry representations of the Virgin about them, deck her
images with flowers, dress them in silks or other costly ornaments, burn
tapers before them, kiss and look upon them with a languishing eye, touch
them with their chaplets, rub their handkerchiefs upon them, and salute
them with the profoundest veneration.

Her relics are innumerable--such as her wedding ring, handkerchiefs,
combs, slippers and goods of every description, as kitchen furniture,
toilette, earthenware, lamps; and even, as it is pretended, her gloves,
bed, chair, head-clothes, with other rarities.

"Surely," says archbishop Tillotson, "if this _blessed among women, the
mother of our Lord_, (for I keep to the titles which the Scripture gives
her,) have any sense of what we do here below, she cannot but look down
with the greatest disdain upon that sacrilegious and idolatrous worship
which is paid to her, to the high dishonour of the great God and our
Saviour, and the infinite scandal of his religion. How can she, without
indignation, behold how they play the fool in the church of Rome about
her; what an idol they make of her image, and with what sottishness they
give divine honour to it; how they place her in their idolatrous pictures
in equal rank with the blessed Trinity, and turn the salutation of the
angel, _Ave Maria, hail Mary, full of grace_, into a kind of prayer; and,
in their bead-roll of devotion, repeat it ten times, for once that they
say the Lord's prayer, as of greater virtue and efficacy? And, indeed,
they almost justle out the devotion due to Almighty God and our blessed
Saviour, by their endless idolatry to her.

"So that the greater part of their religion, both public and private, is
made up of that which was no part at all of the religion of the apostles
and primitive Christians; nay, which plainly contradicts it: for that
expressly teacheth us, that there is but one object of our prayers, and
one Mediator by whom we are to make our addresses to God. 'There is one
God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,' says St.
Paul, when he gives a standing rule concerning prayer in the Christian
church. And yet, notwithstanding all the care that our blessed Saviour and
his apostles could take to prevent gross idolatry of the blessed mother of
our Lord, how blindly and wilfully have the church of Rome run into it!
and, in despite of the clearest evidence and conviction, do obstinately
and impudently persist in it, and justify themselves in so abominable a
practice."

In the homage rendered to the Virgin Mary by the Catholics, the servility
of superstition appears blended with the zeal of enthusiasm. Having
departed from Scripture, that only light which shines upon the path of
obedience, and conducts to God, they naturally lose themselves amidst the
perplexities of error and the mazes of falsehood: it need not, therefore,
occasion surprise though their course should be eccentric, or their
conduct preposterous. The passions being chiefly engaged in this service,
and kept in exercise by fear or fondness, reason retires; and imagination,
supported by these auxiliaries, sways the sceptre. The absurdities,
however, to which under such circumstances the human mind becomes
addicted, would seem utterly unaccountable, were it not for the gradual
manner of their influence. The victory over judgment and common sense is
not secured at a blow, but by perpetual insinuation. The hopes or fears of
mankind are wrought upon _individually_ from the period of infancy, long
previous to the age when reason attains its vigour and maturity,--and
_nationally_ by a slow and almost insensible accumulation of frivolous or
ridiculous observances from century to century. A natural consciousness of
weakness renders man the dupe of deception, and an equal sense of guilt
makes him the slave of terror. Hence he readily avails himself of every
means which he fancies capable of alleviating his anxieties, and in his
eagerness to escape the wretchedness of apprehension or the suffering of
evil, flies to unscriptural resources.

The pre-eminence of man over the brute creation arises chiefly from his
capacity of knowing God and serving him in the appointed exercises of
religion; and yet the perversion of this capacity, by the invention of
superstitious ceremonies, has rendered him utterly contemptible. In the
services of real piety, he appears elevated to the summit of creation, his
nature seems ennobled, and his character encircled with glory; but, in the
practices of superstition, he is degraded to the lowest depth of meanness
of which an intellectual and immortal being is capable. By the former he
soars to "glory, honour, and immortality;" by the latter he sinks to
wretchedness and ruin. In the one case he is useful and happy; in the
other, inactive, isolated, and full of disquietude; and thus either rises
into grandeur or falls into littleness,--is an angel or a brute!

Whoever reviews the several religious errors of the Pagan, Jewish, and
Christian communities, will admit, that the history of superstition
constitutes one of the most offensive pages in the annals of mankind; he
will see the object of worship misrepresented, the universe partitioned
into petty sovereignties, and Deity divided, contracted, and localized;
religion turned into mockery, and mockery into religion.

It is somewhat difficult to trace the operations and to ascertain the true
character of superstition, although it has prevailed so extensively in the
world, and produced such extraordinary effects. Amongst other anomalies,
this is observable, that it not only has led captive weak and ignorant
minds, which being unable to detect a specious sophism, or to depart from
a general practice, may easily be supposed incapable of resisting its
fascination; but it has been known to seduce and enchain some of the
noblest orders of intellect, and the most cultivated of human
understandings. Whole nations and successive generations have been
subjected to its influence, furnishing ample evidence of that statement,
which, if it be not repeated in every page of Scripture, lies at the
foundation of all its truths; and into which many of the peculiarities of
this principle may be resolved: "The world by wisdom knew not God."

Superstition is unquestionably founded in mean and absurd ideas of the
moral attributes of the Deity, which produce corresponding actions, and in
assigning to him an arbitrary character, deriving pleasure from what has
no connexion with the happiness of the worshipper. A consistent and
dignified conduct can only result from a just estimate of the divine
perfections, and a correct view of moral obligation. The worship we render
to a superior being, must necessarily be shaped and regulated by our
conceptions of the nature of God; consequently, mankind will degenerate
into error and folly, proportionate to their departure from the
representations of Scripture respecting the spirituality of his essence.

To this source may be traced especially the principles and practices of
the Romish church, in which reason is outraged, religion caricatured, and
God dishonoured. Transubstantiation is a doctrine manifestly absurd and
impious; and the practice of presenting those supplications to dead
saints, which the Supreme Being alone can hear and answer, is no less
ridiculous, as well as subversive of true piety. Perhaps, however, no
deviation from common sense is more remarkable than those extravagancies
of the Catholics which respect the Virgin Mary; and yet these have not
only been practised by the multitude, but defended by men of learning with
the utmost subtlety and the warmest zeal. In fact, she has been praised by
every Catholic pen for ages; and every term that language could supply has
been put in requisition to extol her merits.

Let the view we have given of these misstatements excite us to
self-examination, in order that we may discover any incorrectness or
deficiency in our own apprehensions of religion, and become vigilant over
those errors into which we may be apt to deviate. It will be studying man
to some purpose, if the better we are acquainted with the history of the
human mind, the greater the circumspection we exercise over ourselves. We
shall then be less imposed upon by the speciousness of falsehood, and less
betrayed by the weakness of our passions; we shall be led to "present our
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," and feel that it is
our "_reasonable service_."



Elizabeth.

Chapter II.


  The angelic Appearance to Zacharias--Birth of John--Characters of
  Elizabeth and Zacharias--Importance of domestic Union being founded on
  Religion, shown in them--their venerable Age--the characteristic
  Features of their Piety--the Happiness of a Life like theirs--the Effect
  it is calculated to produce on others--the Perpetuation of holy
  friendship through immortal Ages--the miserable Condition of the
  irreligious.

Obscure as were the circumstances in which Christ appeared, Infinite
Wisdom saw fit to furnish miraculous attestations to his character and
mission. This evidence attended him during the whole of his career,
investing him with a heavenly glory, and rendering his pre-eminence
distinctly visible to the eye of faith, notwithstanding his assumed
inferiority.

It was in unison with this scheme of Providence to send the most exalted
of angelic beings to announce the birth of Messiah, and to prepare the
minds of Mary his mother, of the shepherds who were to circulate the
intelligence, and of others more nearly or more remotely interested in the
event, by celestial visitations. For similar reasons it comported with the
nature of this wonderful event, to attach something peculiar and even
miraculous to the birth of his precursor, whose destined office it should
be to "prepare the way of the Lord," by uttering his "voice in the
wilderness," and intimating to mankind the mighty transformations about to
be effected in the moral state of the world. Six months, therefore,
previously to the annunciation to Mary, the angel Gabriel descended to
proclaim "glad tidings" to Zacharias. In the performance of his customary
service as a priest, he had gone into the temple to burn incense, while
the people were praying without the holy place. On a sudden, he perceived
an angel standing on the right side of the altar, and became exceedingly
agitated, till the benevolent spirit addressed him in affectionate and
congratulatory terms. Ah! _they_ have no reason to dread a message from
the world of spirits, or to be filled with apprehensions at the sight of
other orders of beings than those with which they are conversant, who are
engaged in the discharge of their duties, and live under the influence of
religion! However new or extraordinary such revelations, they never could
have been real causes of alarm to the servants of God; and were they not
at present suspended, in consequence of the completion of the intended
communications of truth to mankind, piety ought rather to welcome than to
dread them.

Zacharias was assured that his prayer was heard, and that his wife
Elizabeth should have a son to be named John. As a sign of the
accomplishment of this prediction, and as a chastisement of the doubt with
which the message was at first received, he was struck with dumbness,
which continued only till the birth of his child.

The interview between Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of our Lord, has been
already adverted to in the preceding narrative, where the salutations of
these favoured relatives were recited. At the expiration of the appointed
time, Elizabeth bare a son whom they would have called after the name of
Zacharias, but his mother interposed; and the affair being finally
referred to his father, he wrote, to the general astonishment of their
neighbours and relatives, who had remonstrated in vain, "His name is
John." Immediately his speech was restored, and he broke out in
impassioned strains of praise: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he
hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of
salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the
mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we
should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy
covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would
grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him,
all the days of our life. And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of
the Highest: for thou shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his
ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of
their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring
from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Reverting to the commencement of this history by the evangelist Luke, we
shall be led to notice the domestic characters of Zacharias and Elizabeth,
particularly as they illustrate the excellence of a life of piety. While
religion adorns every station, it teaches us to fulfil every relative
duty; and acting under its influence, a person becomes a light in the
world, diffusing through the family, the social circle, and the more
extended sphere of busy life, a mild and beneficent radiance.

Our attention is first directed to the office of Zacharias, and the
descent of his wife. He was a _priest_, and she "of the daughters of
Aaron." The world affords too many evidences, that piety is neither
created by station, nor hereditary in its transmission. As Zacharias was a
minister of the sanctuary, it was both to be _desired_ and _expected_ that
he should not approach the altar with a hardened and unsanctified heart.
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his
holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lift
up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the
blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."
Yet, alas! it is not always to be presumed that real religion accompanies
either the brightest profession or the most dignified office! Korah,
Dathan, and Abiram, offered "strange fire," Judas betrayed the Son of God,
and Paul expresses an apprehension "lest, having preached to others," he
should himself "be a castaway." The admonition, therefore, of God by
Isaiah is appropriate and striking: "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of
the Lord." It is possible to be a preacher of righteousness, and yet a
child of Satan--a priest, and yet a demon--a worker of miracles, and yet a
"worker of iniquity:" but a pleasing exception to this remark occurs in
the history of Zacharias, who was "a _priest_, and _righteous_ before
God." His _office_ and his _character_ accorded, and the light of his
example shone with unclouded brightness and attractive glory.

It is observable, that Elizabeth, the wife of this holy priest, was
equally distinguished with himself for a sincere and active piety. "They
were BOTH righteous before God;" and it was their privilege to live at
that eventful moment when the clouds that obscured the past dispensations
of Providence were tinged with the rising glory of the day which was just
breaking upon the nations of the earth, and which lighted these pilgrims
home to their eternal rest. They were some of the last of the Jewish and
the first of the Christian economy, and their life seemed to form the
bright line which bordered the typical ages and those of unshadowed truth
and Christian revelation.

Zacharias and Elizabeth exhibit an attractive picture of union both
natural and religious; the hymenial tie was intertwined with celestial
roses, which diffused a fragrance over domestic life; their love to each
other was strengthened and sanctified by their love to God.

The perfection of conjugal felicity with every good man depends upon the
existence of similar religious principles and feelings with those which
influence himself in the partner of his life; consequently, it will ever
be his concern "to marry in the Lord." No language can express the
bitterness of that pang which rends his heart when a dissimilarity of
taste prevails in so important an affair. It is a worm for ever gnawing
the root of his peace, and will prevent its growth even under the
brightest sun of worldly prosperity. Let those especially who are forming
connections in life, and who "love Christ in sincerity," reflect on the
fatal consequences of devoting their affections to such as can never
accompany them to the house of God but with reluctance, or to the throne
of grace but with weariness and aversion. If the object of your fondest
regard be an unbeliever, what a cloud will darken your serenest days, what
unutterable grief disturb your otherwise peaceful sabbaths! Your pleasures
and your pains of a religious kind, which are the most intense, will be
equally unparticipated. You must walk alone in those ways of pleasantness
which would be still more endeared by such sweet society; and you must
suffer the keenest sorrows of the heart--_perhaps_ without daring to name
them, and _certainly_ without one tear, one word, one look of soothing
sympathy. How could you endure it that the very wife of your bosom should
manifest the temper of those assassins that murdered your Lord, while in
the exercise of a lively faith you hailed him as "the chief among ten
thousand, and altogether lovely?" Would it not agonize your heart that she
should be _indifferent_ only, not to say inimical, towards him in whom you
daily "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory?"

In proportion to the wretchedness of such circumstances must be the
felicity of the reverse, of which this narrative furnishes a pleasing
exemplification. Zacharias and Elizabeth were _both_ righteous, and this
union of spirit diffused a holy and gladdening radiance over all the
scenes of life. In the family, in the social circle, in the house of God,
they were ONE. Together they could bow the knee at the throne of grace,
together go up to the temple! The grief or the joy of one was the grief or
the joy of both; they could sing the same song, unite in the same prayer,
feast on the same spiritual food! This was the perfection of love--this
was the triumph of friendship! No contrary current of feeling on either
side ruffled the pure stream of domestic and religious pleasure, but it
flowed along in a clear, noiseless, and perpetual course. In this case the
language of David might be applied with emphatic propriety: "Behold, how
good and pleasant a thing it is to dwell together in unity."

Elizabeth and her partner were "both well stricken in years." There is
something venerable in hoary age, especially when adorned with the graces
of the Spirit. The mind reposes with peculiar complacency on those who,
having long "adorned the doctrines of God their Saviour in all things,"
are waiting quietly and confidently for their admission to heaven. They
can see the shadows of the evening deepen upon them without a sigh; and
while death is unlocking the doors of their appointed house, can sing,
"Thanks be to God, that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ." While the mind of a wicked man, in the near prospect of
dissolution, is filled with distraction, and "a fearful looking for of
judgment--while his

                       "------frantic soul
  Raves round the walls of her clay tenement,
  Flies to each avenue, and cries for help--
  But cries in vain;------"

conscious that he is the enemy of God, the abhorrence of saints; the
confederate, and will soon become the companion, of evil spirits; the
dying Christian looks beyond the confines of mortality into the eternal
world, without one sensation but that "of a desire to depart and to be
with Christ." In quitting the present world, he expects a transition from
sorrow to joy--from the region of shadows to that of realities--from the
habitations of sin to the abodes of purity. Embracing Jesus by faith, he
exclaims with Simeon, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for
mine eyes have seen thy salvation;" or with Paul, "I have fought a good
fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth is
laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, shall give me in that day."

It is pleasing to see the youthful mind impressed with the concerns of
religion, devoting its powers to the Saviour, and despising the
solicitations of sinful pleasure; but ah! how many cloudless mornings are
succeeded by gloomy days--how many false and fruitless blossoms adorn the
smiling spring--how many seeds spring up, but perish because they have "no
depth of earth!" Early piety, therefore, however gratifying, cannot be
contemplated without anxiety, if not suspicion; the force of temptation
has not yet been endured--the world has not half exhausted its quiver of
poisoned arrows--Satan has not yet tried all his arts and
machinations--the race is not yet run!--but in those who, like Zacharias
and Elizabeth, are "well striken in years," we witness the stability of
principle, the triumph of perseverance, and the reign of grace. Dear and
venerable companions in the ways of God, ye have borne the burden and heat
of the day! Like a shock of corn, ye shall soon be "gathered in your
season;" ye shall soon drop the infirmities of humanity, and be clothed in
the robes of light! "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they
may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates
into the city."

The brief, but comprehensive notice of these venerable saints, in the
commencement of the Gospel according to Luke, exhibits at once the
characteristic features of their piety.

1. It was of a quality approved by God himself: for they are represented
as "righteous _before God_," that is, in the divine estimation. It is
this only which can determine our genuine character; for, however
"outwardly virtuous _before men_," the internal spirit and character may
be marked by moral deformities which the eye of Omniscience cannot but
view with detestation. The most eminent Christians, indeed, are aware that
perfection in righteousness is not attainable in the present state, and
that when "weighed in the balances," they are in many respects "found
wanting:" but while they look for acceptance through the righteousness of
Christ, instead of "going about to establish their own," they possess a
rectitude of _principle_, though the _degree_ of holiness be imperfect.
They are sincere, habitual in their aim to please God, cherishing a
supreme attachment to his name and character, and determined in their
resistance of every influence that would seduce them from his service or
impel them to commit sin.

2. Elizabeth and her venerable partner regulated their conduct by divine
authority, irrespective of the opinions of men. They are said to "have
walked in the _commandments and ordinances of the Lord_." The Jews were
accustomed to blend the traditions of the elders with their religious
services; but these believers consulted and obeyed the oracles of Heaven.
They repaired at once to the spring-head of wisdom, deriving their faith
and obtaining direction with regard to their practice from Him who alone
possesses the authority of a master.

This was a very decisive evidence of their religion, and is a test which
is capable of being applied to every case and to every sphere of life. If
the only certain evidence of true piety consisted in becoming martyrs, few
could have an opportunity of evincing it, through not being called to this
high and holy service; or, if the test were the distribution of ample
charities, or self-devotement to the labour of the Christian ministry, the
poor, and the ungifted, and ineloquent, would be excluded from the
prescribed means of testifying their love to God: but obedience to his
commands may be practised in the humblest circumstances, in the lowliest
station, and by the most obscure individual. Any where and every where it
is possible "to take up our cross," to "deny ourselves," to "mortify the
flesh," to "walk in the Spirit."

3. The obedience of Elizabeth and Zacharias was universal--not partial or
restricted; for they "walked in _all_ the commandments and ordinances of
the Lord."

An insincere profession will be distinguished by partiality in its
observances. It will practise some duties and reject others, believe some
doctrines and hesitate to admit others. Influenced by many subordinate
considerations, it will select those requirements which are most easily
performed, most calculated to attract public attention, or most
conformable to natural prepossessions. It will dispense with some things
as difficult, and with others as unnecessary or unimportant. "Then,"
exclaimed the Psalmist, "shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto
_all_ thy commandments."

4. Elizabeth and her aged companion were distinguished also for a piety
which was _blameless_. It is possible to merit blame even in our very acts
of religious obedience. How seldom do we attain that purity of _motive_,
that unostentatious simplicity of _manner_, that _uniformity_ of conduct,
which constitute a _blameless_ piety! In this respect we have daily
reason, at the footstool of mercy, to deplore our deficiency, our lanquor,
our lukewarmness of spirit, our unprofitableness and vileness. "If thou,
Lord, wert strict to mark iniquity, O Lord, who could stand?" There is not
a prayer we utter but would be rejected, were it not for the prevalence
of the Redeemer's intercession, nor a service we perform, but is so
defiled with guilt that it would be an abominable offering, but for the
efficacy of that blood which "cleanseth us from all sin." Nor, indeed, was
the piety of Zacharias and Elizabeth in itself "_blameless_," irrespective
of this atonement; nor were they "_righteous_," but as accepted and
justified "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." To a lively
faith they, however, united a holy conversation, and an habitual
obedience: their life was a perpetual sacrifice to God, and diffused
around a sweet savour of piety.

Let us contemplate the _happiness of such a life_. It is common to
represent religion as incompatible with true enjoyment, and to describe
those who are under its influence as gloomy fanatics, dragging out a
miserable existence--the dupes of prejudice and the slaves of melancholy.
If a perpetual sense of the divine presence, a well-founded confidence of
pardoned sin, free access to the throne of mercy, abundant communications
of spiritual good and lively anticipations of a felicity beyond the grave,
commensurate with the capacities of an immortal spirit, and with the
everlasting ages of eternity; if these produce wretchedness, then, and in
no other case, is religion a source of misery. Be not deceived; such
allegations result from ignorance and depravity. Zacharias and Elizabeth,
joined together by the dear bonds of mutual affection, and the still
dearer ties of grace, present a picture of happiness unrivalled in the gay
and thoughtless world. We appeal to them, and to those who resemble them,
as "epistles" of God, that teach the efficacy of genuine religion. Read
them, ye profane, and blush for your impieties! Read them, ye sons and
daughters of strife, and banish discord from your houses! Read them, ye
fearful, hesitating, lukewarm professors, and learn to walk in "_all_ the
commandments and ordinances of the Lord!" Read them, ye worldly wise, ye
ambitious, ye "lovers of pleasure," and confess ye have mistaken the true
means to happiness, and have "forsaken your own mercies!"

It is a supereminent excellence of the religion of Jesus, that "the peace
and joy in believing" which it inspires do not depend on external
circumstances. As no worldly condition can _create_, so neither can it
_destroy_ the Christian's felicity; it is firm and immoveable amidst the
changes and revolutions of human affairs--in the bright or cloudy day.
Like the mariner's compass, which continually points in the same direction
amidst changing seasons and varying climes, the most extraordinary
vicissitudes of the "present evil world," cannot "move" the mind of a
believer from the "hope of the Gospel."

Reflect further, on the _effect which such a life is calculated to produce
on others_.

A holy life is a powerful argument for the "truth as it is in Jesus;" and
that suspicious eagerness with which the wicked watch the conduct of
professors, that patient malignity with which they wait for their halting,
and that Satanic joy with which they exult over their misconduct, prove
their own convictions of the strength of such an argument. Let us then be
concerned to falsify their predictions and disappoint their enmity by
"walking in _all_ the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."
Consider the impressive appeal of the apostle: "Only let your conversation
be as becometh the gospel of Christ." Shine, ye professing Christians, for
"ye are the lights of the world"--shine with a holy and steady radiance in
the church of God, and pray for daily supplies of the oil of grace, that
your light may not degenerate into a feeble glimmering or totally expire;
otherwise you may become accessary to the fall and ruin of others, and
"their blood may be upon _you!_" Such a pious union, such holy friendship
as that of Elizabeth and Zacharias, will be _perpetuated through infinite
ages_. It is not a transient but an everlasting union; it shall survive
the grave and defy the stroke of mortality. They who "sleep in Jesus" will
God bring with him. The sepulchre, to such as die in the faith of Christ
and in a state of holy friendship with each other, only resembles a vast
prison, in which dearest friends are separated only for a time in
different cells, and from which they shall be released when the gloomy
keeper resigns his keys, when "death is swallowed up in victory." Those
humble and affectionate disciples who have "walked together in all the
commandments and ordinances of the Lord, here, shall take sweet counsel
above, and walk together in the fields of immortality." In a nobler sense
than the original application of the words, it may be said of all
Christian friends, "they were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in
their deaths they were not divided."

This perpetuation of Christian society and love, is intimated in the most
striking manner by our Redeemer when on the point of departure from his
disciples, whom he called his "_friends_." "I will not henceforth drink of
this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my
Father's kingdom." Who can describe the joys of that "marriage-feast," the
felicities of that endeared spiritual and eternal intercourse, that union
of hearts, that concourse of affections, that flow and mingling of souls!
These are some of "the mysteries of godliness"--this is what "eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to
conceive."

Let these glorious expectations revive our failing courage amidst the
conflicts of life. Let us not despair, though we may weep over the
companions of our pilgrimage, slain at our side by the irresistible stroke
of death. The separation is transitory--the reunion will be eternal. "But
I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are
asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we
believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in
Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the
Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord,
shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall
descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and
with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we
which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the
Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

Such as are opposite in character to Zacharias and Elizabeth, and who are
"walking in _none_ of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord," should
reflect on the misery of their condition, as utterly destitute of all
those hopes and privileges which have been described. Who instituted these
ordinances?--who gave these commandments?--whose authority is it you dare
despise?--or who has released you from your obligations to this
authority?--what madness induces you to fly in the face of God--to measure
your power against the sword of Omnipotence? O, remember--"the wages of
sin is death!"



Anna.

Chapter III.


  Introduction of Anna into the sacred Story--inspired Description of
  her--the aged apt to be unduly attached to Life--Anna probably Religious
  at an early Period--Religion the most substantial Support amidst the
  Infirmities of Age--the most effectual Guard against its Vices--and the
  best Preparation for its End.

Two illustrious women have already been presented to the reader as
adorning the era of our Saviour's incarnation; the one, the mother of his
humanity, the witness of his miracles, and the weeping attendant upon his
crucifixion; the other, her venerable relative, the wife of Zacharias, and
the parent of John, who was the destined precursor of the "Desire of all
nations." We are now to contemplate another female, whose age superadds a
charm to her excellences, and whose privilege also it was to witness the
commencing brightness of the evangelical day. Like Elizabeth, her
"memorial" is short, but it does not "perish with her." She has a place in
the chronicles of the redeemed, a name before which that of heroes and
heroines fades away, and which it requires no "storied urn nor animated
burst" to perpetuate.

Anna is introduced to our notice on the memorable occasion which has been
already mentioned, when the parents of Jesus took him after his
circumcision to Jerusalem, to "present him to the Lord." Then it was that
Simeon broke forth in eloquent and prophetic congratulations, expressive
at once of his own triumph over death, in consequence of having witnessed
the accomplishment of those prophecies which had so long and so often
filled him with delightful anticipations, and of the "glory" which he
foresaw would irradiate Israel and enlighten the Gentiles. Scarcely had he
finished his address, when Anna, a prophetess, remarkable for her extreme
age and exemplary piety, entered the temple, and not only united with
Simeon and the rest of the interesting group in "giving thanks unto the
Lord," but "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in
Jerusalem."

It was benefiting the majesty of the event which had occurred, that the
spirit of prophecy should revive after being dormant for about four
hundred years. Since the days of Malachi no such inspiration had been
afforded; but the new and glorious period commencing with the incarnation
was marked by this as well as other signs and wonders. When Simeon held
the infant Saviour in his arms, the Spirit of God touched his tongue with
a live coal from the altar; and when the aged "daughter of Phanuel"
approached, she caught the glow of kindling rapture, and blended with his
her praises and predictions. This eminent woman is represented as "of a
great age," as having "lived with a husband seven years from her
virginity," and as being "a widow of about four-score and four years,
which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and
prayers night and day." This form of expression does not seem to furnish
decisive evidence whether her entire age was eighty-four, or whether she
was a widow during that period; if the latter, the seven years in which
she had lived with a husband, together with the probable number which
constituted her age at the time of her marriage, must be added to the
calculation, which would produce considerably more than a hundred years;
in either case she must be allowed to occupy a conspicuous place in the
records of longevity.

It has been observed of the aged, that although existence, when extended
beyond the usual period of "threescore years and ten," is nothing "but
labour and sorrow," they still adhere to life with the utmost tenacity,
and are even less disposed to relinquish it than those whose more vigorous
powers and undecayed youth capacitate them for its enjoyment. But however
surprised we may be to witness this anxiety to live in those who are
bending beneath the pressure of years and the load of decrepitude, and to
see that this anxiety rather increases than diminishes, there is something
in it by no means unnatural. In addition to the love of life which is
implanted in every human bosom for the wisest purposes, the aged person
cannot but feel that he is nearer than others to that hour of separation
from all the connexions and interests of time than the multitude around
him--an hour at which nature instinctively shudders, and which is always
regarded as painful, whatever may be the result. Corporeal suffering may
be considerable; and that change of being which the mortal stroke produces
has always something about it awful, mysterious, and terrific. There are
few instances in which it can be approached without some degree of dread,
some shrinking of mind, whatever be the state of detachment from the
present world, and whatever pleasing anticipations may exist with regard
to another: as the patient, however assured of the necessity of the
measure and the importance of the result, trembles while preparations are
making to amputate his disordered limb. It may be observed also of the
young, that while they compassionate their aged friends as the prey of a
thousand imbecilities both of body and mind, and lament over a state in
which man is reduced to a second childhood, there is scarcely an
individual who does not harbour in secret the wish to attain an age equal
at least, if not superior, to any of his cotemporaries. The reason is
similar to that which influences persons at an advanced period of life;
the thought of death, with all its concomitant evils, is unwelcome at any
time, and consequently it is grateful to the mind to place it at the
greatest conceivable distance; so that, were it now within the
appointments of Providence or the bounds of probability, little doubt can
be entertained that the great proportion of mankind would readily accept
as a blessing a patriarchal or antediluvian age.

Anna is particularly noticed as the daughter of Phanuel, of whom we have
no other information; and as belonging to the tribe of Asher, which was
situated in Galilee. This, whether recorded for that purpose or not, might
serve to refute the charge, that "out of Galilee ariseth no prophet,"
since from that quarter proceeded the very first inspirations upon the
revival of the prophetic spirit. Asher was a very inferior tribe, and one
of the ten carried captive by the Assyrians, having departed from the
worship of the true God, and from the house of David, under Jeroboam. But
notwithstanding this general defection, there were individuals who
returned and reunited themselves with Judah, that they might enjoy the
ancient privileges of the people of God. Thus even in the worst of times,
and amidst the least favourable circumstances, some portion of true
religion has always been preserved in the earth. Though the watchful eye
of Providence has occasionally suffered the flame of devotion to languish
and almost expire, yet its total extinction has been prevented, and
unexpected coincidences have frequently excited it into new and more
vigorous action.

We have in the history before us a specimen of a pious old age, remarkable
in itself, and calculated to suggest a variety of useful considerations.
This holy woman probably lodged in the immediate vicinity, if not in some
of the outward apartments of the temple, which gave her an opportunity of
indulging in those constant devotions which accorded with her wishes and
comported with her age. On every occasion she was present at appointed
services, and so entire was her self-devotement to religion, that she was
incessantly engaged in fasting and prayers. The world had no claims upon
her, being alike unfitted for any of its avocations and indisposed to any
of its pleasures: she had bid it a final farewell, and had withdrawn
behind the scenes of this vast theatre, which are so artfully painted as
to allure and deceive the imaginations of mankind, into the secrecy of
devotion and the sanctuary of her God. Peace was the companion of her
retirement, and piety shed its serenest ray upon the evening of her mortal
existence.

It may be presumed that the religion of Anna was by no means of recent
date, but that the seeds of so rich a harvest were sown "in the fields of
youth." Whatever is great or eminent is usually the work of time. _Nature_
does not produce the oak, with its spreading branches and solid trunk, in
a day or a twelve month; and, in general, a rapid luxuriancy is connected
with corresponding weakness and quick decay. The plans of _Providence_
require the lapse of years or ages to accomplish: events of importance
seldom burst suddenly upon the world, and without a previous course of
preparatory dispensations, tending to point out the purposes of such
occurrences, and to awaken human expectations. Nor can _excellence of
character_ be formed without the use of means, opportunities of
progressive improvement, and that experience which must be slowly gained.

Far be it from us to limit the operations of divine grace: it _can_,
indeed, and in some instances _has_, produced effects of a nature to which
no general rules and principles are applicable: it has instantaneously
converted a furious persecutor into a faithful, laborious, and eminent
preacher of "the faith which once he destroyed;" it has transformed a
malefactor into a saint, and in one hour raised the criminal from the
depths of infamy and the agonies of crucifixion to the dignity of a
believer in Christ and the joys of paradise. But these surely ought not to
be regarded as the ordinary methods of its operation, but rather as
miraculous interferences. In general, religious ordinances are to be
constantly and perseveringly attended, in order to the acquisition of
eminence in religion: holy vigilance must concur with devout and fervent
prayer, day by day, to check and finally vanquish the power of depravity,
to elevate the mind above the world, and prepare the Christian for his
future bliss; as the child must commonly be "_trained up_ in the way he
should go," if we hope that "when he is old he will not depart from it."
Impressions deepen and acquire the force of principles by degrees,
knowledge is obtained by perpetual accumulation, and faith is increased by
constant exercise. It would be as vain to look for the wrinkles of age in
the face of youth, or the strength of maturity in the arm of an infant, as
to expect the experience which can only result from the witness of changes
and the operation of circumstances, with its corresponding stability of
character, in him who has but just commenced a life of piety. As "the
husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth, and hath long
patience for it until he receive the early and the latter rain," so we
must in general look for a slow and gradual formation of the character to
eminence and spiritual luxuriancy. The account given of Anna would
therefore lead us to infer that she had been many years, and in all
probability from her youth, devoted to the service of God.

She had not to regret that her best days were spent in riot and
dissipation, in opposition or indifference to religion, by which so many
debase their nature, offend their Maker, and ruin their souls: but while
she contemplated the future without alarm, and perhaps with joy, she could
review the past with satisfaction.

As memory predominates over the other faculties of the mind in declining
life, and as so much of our happiness or misery at that period must
necessarily result from its exercise, it is of the utmost importance to
lay up in store a good provision in the "sacred treasure of the past."
Nothing can be more desirable than to leave the mind filled with pleasing
recollections; and this can arise only from a life of holiness and purity.
How awful is it to think that the last hours should be disturbed by images
of crime unrepented of, the intrusion of which into the dying chamber no
force can prevent! How lamentable to see the terrors of death aggravated
by the remorse and horrors of retrospection! "Life," says a profound
writer, [25] "in which nothing has been done or suffered to distinguish
one day from another, is to him that has passed it as if it had never
been, except that he is conscious how ill he has husbanded the great
deposit of his Creator. Life, made memorable by crimes, and diversified
through its several periods by wickedness, is indeed easily reviewed, but
reviewed only with horror and remorse.

"The great consideration which ought to influence us in the use of the
present moment, is to arise from the effect which, as well or ill applied,
it must have upon the time to come; for, though its actual existence be
inconceivably short, yet its effects are unlimited, and there is not the
smallest point of time but may extend its consequences, either to our hurt
or our advantage, through all eternity, and give us reason to remember it
forever with anguish or exultation." We may take occasion from the
account of Anna to remark, that true religion is the most substantial
support amidst the INFIRMITIES of age. This is emphatically the period of
"evil days," when diseases prey upon the constitution, and the faculties
both of body and mind decay. Then "the sun and the light, the moon and the
stars are darkened;" the greatest change takes place in the outward
circumstances of gladness and prosperity, the countenance of the man is
altered, his complexion faded, and his intellectual faculties, as the
understanding and the fancy, weakened. It is at this time "the keepers of
the house tremble, and the strong men how themselves; the grinders cease,
because they are few, and those that look out of the windows are
darkened;" the strongest members of the body fail, the limbs bend beneath
the weight of decrepitude and the effects of paralytic distempers, the
teeth drop away, while the eyes grow dim and languid; "the doors are shut
in the streets when the sound of the grinding is low," the mouth becoming
sunken and closed; they "rise up at the voice of the bird," awakened from
imperfect slumber when the cock crows or the birds begin their early
songs; and "all the daughters of music," the tongue that expresses and the
ears that are charmed with it, are "brought low;" they are "afraid of that
which is high, and fears are in the way," alarmed at every step they take,
lest they should stumble at the slightest obstacle, and especially
apprehensive of the difficulties of any ascent. At that age their gray
hairs thicken like the white flowers of the "almond tree" when it
"flourishes," and even the very "grasshopper is a burden," for they cannot
bear the slightest inconvenience, not even the weight of an insect, and
"desire fails:" then is the "silver cord loosed, the golden bowl broken;
the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is broken at the
cistern;" all the animal and vital functions at length cease, and every
essential organ of life decays; "then shall the dust return to the earth
as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

Reduced to the state of feebleness and incapacity, which the sacred penman
so beautifully describes, man becomes an object of compassion; and it is
affecting to see him struggling amidst the ruins of his former self. The
sight becomes increasingly painful from the consideration that this is one
day to be our own condition; that we too are destined to grow old, to quit
the busy scene and the social circle for the solitude of age, and in our
turn to be pitied--perhaps forsaken! But there is one thing capable not
only of preserving the old from contempt, but of raising them to grandeur
and diffusing lustre over their years of decrepitude. In contemplating
Anna we do not think of her infirmities when we observe her piety: the
meanness of the _woman_--tottering, crippled, dying--is lost amidst the
majesty of the _saint_, incessantly serving God in his temple, and
advancing to the grave "in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in
his season." The dawning of a heavenly day seems to arise upon her "hoary
head:" which, "being found in the way of righteousness," is a "crown
of glory."

Anna's history further suggests, that religion is the most effectual guard
against the VICES of advanced age. One of these is a spirit of
_querulousness_. It is the common practice of those who believe themselves
entitled to veneration on account of their years, to complain of the
arrogant disregard of their counsels, which they impute to the rising
generation. Cherishing the highest opinion of their own sentiments, to
which they attribute a kind of infallibility, as being founded upon
experience, they naturally expect implicit submission to their dictates
and an exact conformity to their views: they require not only to be heard,
but obeyed, and are impatient at the folly of those who rebel against
their wisdom. Hence originate the often repeated tales of the degeneracy
of the present times, and the growing insolence of the young. It may,
indeed, be admitted, that, other things being equal, the aged have a just
claim upon the attention of the young, whom they are sometimes qualified
to instruct; but surely they are not always entitled to the same
reverence, and age does not necessarily confer wisdom. Genuine humility,
however, tends to correct the spirit of dictation, while it combines with
an affectionate concern for the interests of those who are newly come into
life; and genuine humility is the product of religion, which supplies
motives to give advice with kindness, and to endure the rejection of it
without anger.

Another fault of age, is the indulgence _of useless regrets for the past_.
In reviewing life, it is easy to discover instances of our own incaution
or negligence, which have possibly influenced our affairs and been
connected with many subsequent disappointments. We have not availed
ourselves of fortunate conjunctures, or we have rejected profitable
offers; one scheme has failed by our precipitancy, another by our
procrastination--some persons, perhaps, have been foolishly trusted, and
others as foolishly suspected--we have occasionally listened to advice
which should not have been taken, or rejected what would have proved
advantageous; and the consequence has been some diminution of fortune,
some disappointment of our expectations, some failure in the crop of
earthly enjoyment which we had anticipated. If it were possible to recall
the years which have for ever rolled away, or if the felicity of a
rational and immortal being consisted in the possession of temporal
abundance, worldly honour, or corporeal gratification, these regrets would
have some show of propriety, and might at least secure a patient hearing;
hut it is certain, they only betray a weak or a wicked mind; it is perhaps
equally certain, they will generally continue to occupy the thoughts of
the aged. There is, in fact, but one remedy, "pure and undefiled
religion." It is this alone which can fix in the mind a full persuasion of
the _nothingness_ of terrestrial pleasures and possessions. This only can
console us after our ineffectual efforts to "gain the whole world," or
amidst the loss of riches which have "taken to themselves wings," and long
since "fled away," by the assurance, that nothing we ever possessed was
adequate to render us happy, without other and better enjoyments--that
upon a fair estimate, it is questionable whether the perplexities it
occasioned did not counterbalance the advantages it either bestowed or
promised--and that could we _now_ call our own whatever we have most
valued or desired of worldly good, it would prove incapable of making us
substantially happy. _He_ need not wish to renew life, who has the hope of
a better existence--nor regret the loss of temporal advantages, if he have
immortal good. He who "lays up for himself treasures in heaven," may defy
the storms of time, and adopt the triumphant language of the apostle,
amidst the wreck of earthly good, "having nothing, yet possessing
all things."

Similar views and principles alone can correct a third error of age,
namely, the aim to _prolong juvenility to an unnatural period_. "To secure
to the old that influence which they are willing to claim, and which might
so much contribute to the improvement of the arts of life, it is
absolutely necessary that they give themselves up to the duties of
declining years; and contentedly resign to youth its levity, its
pleasures, its frolics, and its fopperies. It is a hopeless endeavour to
unite the contrarieties of spring and winter; it is unjust to claim the
privileges of age, and retain the playthings of childhood. The young
always form magnificent ideas of the wisdom and gravity of men whom they
consider as placed at a distance from them in the ranks of existence, and
naturally look on those whom they find trifling with long beards, with
contempt and indignation, like that which women feel at the effeminacy of
men. If dotards will contend with boys in those performances in which boys
must always excel them, if they will dress crippled limbs in embroidery,
endeavour at gayety with faltering voices, and darken assemblies of
pleasure with the ghastliness of disease, they may well expect those who
find their diversions obstructed will hoot them away; and that if they
descend to competition with youth, they must bear the insolence of
successful rivals." [26]

Religion also must be regarded as the best preparation for that END of
life, with which old age is so closely connected. However proper it may be
to realize this eventful time, at every period from our earliest to our
latest day, it cannot but be regarded as more certainly and evident near
at an advanced age. Anna, after the lapse of a century, had greater
reason, surely, to apprehend her dissolution, than in the bloom of youth,
or at the commencement of her widowhood; and how appaling the prospect!

It would diminish the impression we have of the terror of death, if his
dominion were limited to a part of the world, or to any ascertainable
extent of years; but, while his authority continues unimpaired and his
stroke irresistible, the power he is permitted to exercise over humankind
is universal. In visiting the repositories of the dead, it is calculated
to awaken our liveliest sensibilities to trace the reign of the "king of
terrors" upon the sepulchral stone, or the marble monument. In characters
which time has almost erased, we read the records of the past, and by a
more than probable analogy penetrate some of the mysteries of the future.
Here and there occur the names of those who were venerable for age,
remarkable for their exploits, conspicuous by their station, rank, or
talent--GREAT by the consent of their cotemporaries--who once figured upon
a stage which is now decayed, or where illustrious in an empire which is
now passed away. Some have been smitten by death's withering hand at an
earlier, some at a later period of life. Adjoining the grave of age is the
tomb of youth. There you see the stone half buried in accumulating heaps
of earth, and the inscriptions of love and tenderness obscured by
collecting moss; while the hand that wrote them has long since become
motionless, and the heart that dictated them ceased to beat.

It is affecting to visit places of public resort, under the full influence
of the consideration, that this busy and anxious crowd will soon
disappear--their race will be run, and the immortal prize
gained--or--lost! These possessors of the soil will, in a little time, be
disinherited--these tenants of a day exchanged--the funeral pall will
cover the most ambitious and the most active of them all, and the motley
multitude be succeeded by others equally busy, equally anxious, equally
thoughtless of another state of being--and equally _mortal_!

But these sentiments, however calculated to fill irreligious persons with
dread and melancholy, can produce no despondency in those who, like Anna,
are accustomed to the truths of religion, and derive the chief pleasure
both of their youthful and decrepit age from the services of religion.
With regard to _death itself_ they are taught that his power is limited to
the body, and that it is restricted even to a short period over this
inferior part of our nature; and as to its _consequences_, they cannot
incessantly frequent the temple, and be occupied in devotion, without
learning the value, as well as the reality, of those considerations which
are drawn from eternity. They know that "this corruptible shall put on
incorruption, this mortal put on immortality," and that then "there shall
be no more death." And what do these expressions imply, but, _the entire
renovation of our nature?_--Man is mortal, because he is sinful; and,
consequently, the removal of sin will prove the extinction of death. It is
only by the introduction of moral evil that the earth has been converted
into a vast cemetery, and life become a short and rugged passage to the
sepulchre; but when it shall no longer prevail, our sanctified nature will
inherit the abodes of purity and undecaying existence. It is this
consideration which endears celestial felicity. Exemption from death
implies deliverance from sin, and the Christian wishes to possess a
character which God shall approve, and to be cleansed from those stains of
guilt which infect his present being, and render him offensive to his
Father in heaven. Were he destined always to be unholy, he would scarcely
contemplate immortality as a blessing; but because he has reason to
anticipate "a waking" from the sleep of the grave, in the divine
"likeness," he realizes a period in the bright annals of his future being,
when he shall no longer have occasion to exclaim, "O wretched man that I
am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The pains of
_separation_, too, which afflict this mortal state, cannot exist in that
"better country." Society will unquestionably prove one considerable
source of the happiness of heaven, where immortal beings will be so
circumstanced and capacitated, as both to receive and impart enjoyment.
The very nature of man is constituted social; and though our circumstances
in this life often render temporary separations unavoidable, in a perfect
state of society they must be needless; consequently they will not be
suffered to impair the joys of paradise.

The most afflictive of all separations, is that which is occasioned by
death. In all other cases, a lingering hope may exist of a reunion at some
period however distant; at least _the possibility of_ it is cheering: but,
even if there be no reasonable expectation of this, the very consciousness
that our friend is still alive, still on earth, still capable of receiving
and performing acts of kindness, still able to communicate with us by
letter or by message, to participate our pleasures, to sympathize with our
sorrows, and to pray for our welfare, is consoling in every
vicissitude;--but when death sets his awful seal upon our companion,
relative or friend, we cherish a deeper feeling of grief, and cannot look
to any _earthly_ means of consolation--but we _can_ look to a _heavenly_
one! Whatever resource fails, the religion of the Bible supplies
inexhaustible springs of comfort. God is on high--Jesus "ever
lives"--Christians know they shall soon pass into a world where the happy
circle will never be broken, the communion of kindred spirits never cease,
the day of blessedness never decline, the sabbath of immortality never
terminate.

It is in the temple also, that those who like Anna receive just
impressions from its services, and live in a state of holy intercourse
with God, learn to appreciate the capacities of a spiritual mind for
progression in wisdom and felicity, and by consequence to cherish the
noblest anticipations of their own future possible elevation of character.
How many unfinished schemes are frustrated by death! Our plans of
futurity, our purposes of gain, or our resolves of usefulness, may be
ended in one short hour. Here the labours of the industrious, the studies
of the learned, the investigations of the philosopher, and the career of
the pious, close. The grave silences the voice of the preacher, and
paralyzes the hand of the charitable. Here the arguments of a Paul
end--here the silver tongue of an Apollos is speechless--here the hands of
a Dorcas cease to manufacture for the poor, whose unavailing tears cannot
recall departed piety.

But who will define the limits of possible attainment in knowledge and
excellence in a state of deathless existence? Society is always improving,
even in the present world, amidst all its imperfections. The researches of
past ages have transmitted a vast stock of wisdom to their successors,
both in reference to natural science and religious truth. Who can tell
what discoveries a Newton might have made, had he possessed a terrestrial
immortality? or who can conceive what heights and depths of divine
knowledge might have been disclosed, had the apostles of Christ been
permitted to live to the present period, and had it been the will of God
that they should have received a constant succession of revelations?

In both these cases, not only has death terminated this series of bright
discovery, but this earth is not the destined place, nor time the destined
period, for those manifestations of eternal wisdom, which we have reason
to believe will take place in another world. Those impediments to
knowledge, and those reasons for concealment, which at present exist, will
be removed, and truth open all her treasures to immortalized and
sanctified spirits. The consequence of the progressive disclosure of
spiritual things, of the works and ways of God, will be progressive
improvement: and, as in consequence of the clearer development of truth
in the Gospel, "he who is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than
John the Baptist;" so when all the shadows and clouds that bedim our
present existence shall have disappeared, and a ray of heaven pours its
glorious illumination upon the mysteries of time, the least in the
paradise of God will be greater than the most distinguished in his church
on earth. And as we never shall cease to improve in knowledge--for there
will be no termination to our spiritual researches--there will probably
arrive a period in eternity, when he who at the resurrection will be least
in the heavenly world in capacity and glory, will become greater in
consequence of ever new discoveries, than at that moment will be the
greatest of the redeemed universe. And the meanest Christian on earth may
indulge the hope that, at a future age, even he may become superior in
knowledge, in love, in capacity, and in glory, to what the brightest
seraph or the tallest archangel, is at present in the heaven of heavens;
for who can tell what God may do for beatified souls? who dare limit the
operations of his mercy, or who can imagine to what an elevation of wisdom
and felicity an emparadised believer may attain?

Progression is the law of a thinking being. And why should it not operate
upon holy intelligences in the future state, as well as in the present?
and why not when "there shall be no more death," to an incalculably
greater extent? Why should not every new idea acquired in that world
become a seed of truth in the mind, that shall spring up and bear fruit,
multiply and expand, without restriction and without end?--

There is not in religion a nobler or a more animating sentiment, than this
perpetual advancement of the soul towards perfection. Life has its
maturity and decline, nature its boundaries of beauty, human affairs their
zenith of glory; but, in "the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth
righteousness," every thing will be eternally upon the advance--there will
be no end to the path of knowledge--present acquisitions will be the basis
of subsequent acquirements--we shall be continually outshining ourselves,
by making nearer approaches to infinite goodness--and the whole moral
creation will be forever beautifying in the eyes of God.



The Woman of Samaria.

Chapter IV.


  Account of Christ's Journey through Samaria--he arrives at Jacob's
  Well--enters into conversation with a Woman of the Country--her
  Misapprehensions--the Discovery of his Character to her as a
  Prophet--her Convictions--her Admission of his Claim as the true
  Messiah, which she reports in the City--the great and good
  Effect--Reflections.

Every incident in the life of Christ is illustrative of the evangelical
testimony, "he went about doing good." His efforts were not partial, nor
confined to particular occasions; but, availing himself of all the
opportunities which occurred, either in public or in private, to promote
the welfare of mankind, time never measured out an idle hour--the sun
never sat upon a useless day!

It may be truly said, with regard to those who imbibe the spirit of their
Master, "no man liveth to himself." Nothing can be more remote from
genuine Christianity, than that selfishness which is characteristic of a
worldly disposition, and which with an uniform and undeviating assiduity,
seeks its own interests and purposes: while nothing can so fully comport
with its nature, and evince its prevalence, as that charity which is
limited only by the period of human life, the extent of means, and the
boundaries of creation.

"When the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and
baptized more disciples than John ... he left Judea and departed again
into Galilee."

The jealousy of his enemies induced them to become narrow observers of all
the proceedings of Christ; and, knowing their spirit, he removed to some
distance: not, however, through fear--nor (as some expositors have stated)
lest they should put him to death; for his hour was not yet come--and it
would have been impossible to counteract the purposes of Heaven. He could
easily have eluded their utmost vigilance and malignity, as on a certain
occasion, when "passing through the midst of them, he went his way." But
our Lord did not think proper to disclose himself at once, and in a very
public manner. It was not his intention to astonish, but gradually to
excite the attention of the Jewish nation, to furnish evidences of his
mission to humble and contrite minds, and to lay the foundation of a
future work, rather than to operate on a very extended scale himself. In
this manner was accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah, "He shall not cry,
nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed
shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall
bring forth judgment unto truth."

His route lay through Samaria; any other way to Galilee would have been
very circuitous: and this is mentioned, because of the directions to his
disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel." The hour for that enlarged operation of mercy amongst the
Gentiles, which had been so long predicted, was not yet arrived, though it
was now approaching with desirable rapidity. The dispensations of God are
inscrutable to mortals, to whom it seems profoundly mysterious, that the
purposes of love to man should first be delayed for so many ages, and then
manifested by the work of Christ to so limited an extent. Here we must
"walk by faith, not by sight;" while, upon every leaf in the great volume
of providence, it is legibly written, "My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are
higher than the earth, so are my ways, higher than your ways, and my
thoughts than your thoughts."

It has been piously remarked, that the evangelist refers, by the
expression, "he must _needs go_ through Samaria," to our Saviour's
purposes of mercy to that vicinity; and undoubtedly it is true, that he
was powerfully impelled and irresistibly guided, wherever he went. Nothing
could obstruct his designs of mercy, or his labours of love. No force
could prevent his benevolent progress: as well might human or diabolical
agency attempt to arrest the sun in his course, or stop the march of
time.--"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." "I _must_ work the works
of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man
can work."

In his journey, Jesus came to a city of Samaria called _Sychar_, which
appears to have been the same with the _Sichem_ or _Shechem_ of the Old
Testament; [27] where was a well, to which tradition had assigned the
name of Jacob, as having been originally dug by that patriarch. It was now
about the sixth hour, or noon, and the climate being exceedingly sultry,
Jesus, under the pressure of fatigue, sat down by the well.

Let us for a moment turn aside, like Moses, to "see this great sight."
Jesus "sat thus on the well," as the weary traveller seeks a renewal of
his strength by temporary repose. What majesty and mystery surround the
spot, when we recall the ancient oracles to mind, which represent him as
"the Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace;" and compare descriptions of this nature with the
evangelical record of his own words, "The foxes have holes, and the birds
of the air have nests: but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."

What a scene for ministering spirits, who had been accustomed to behold
and adore him, but who now witnessed his abasement! What a contrast
between "the Lamb in the midst of the throne," and Jesus sitting on a
well, and afterward suspended on a cross--between the "King of glory:" and
the weary traveller--the "Lord of lords," and the "man of sorrows!"

Let us derive instruction, as well as consolation, from this scene. "We
have not a high-priest, who cannot be touched with the feeling of our
infirmities: but was in all points tempted, like as we are, yet without
sin." If the Saviour had appeared upon earth in external splendour, and in
a manner which to human apprehension would have comported better with the
majesty of his nature and the pre-eminence of his celestial glory, our
insignificance would have created a sense of unapproachable distance: we
should have been more _astonished_ than _attracted_--more _confounded_
than, _conciliated_. But he disrobed himself of ineffable brightness to
bring us nigh, and to produce a just and holy familiarity, saying to his
disciples, "I have called _you friends_."

Let us be reconciled to the infirmities, pains, and poverty we may suffer;
for it is "sufficient for the servant to be as his master." More elevated
stations in life would be attended with more danger to our spiritual
character, and expose us to more afflictions; as mountains in proportion
to their height attract clouds and tempests. The present is a state of
trial for the righteous; but however distressing or obscure our way, Jesus
has trod it before us--sanctifying the path of sorrow by his presence, and
plucking up many of its thorns. Place his example before your
eyes--observe his humble life--his assumed poverty--his unaffected
condescension! To the poor he preached--with the poor he lived--_their_
dress he wore--and their lowly sphere he chose and honoured!

How many of the most important events of our lives may be traced to
trifling circumstances! A single step may have a remote, but very obvious
connexion with the greatest results. A single turn in the journey of life
may influence the happiness, and direct the course of years! "There cometh
a woman of Samaria, to draw water." Nothing could be more apparently
incidental; and yet he who thinks rightly will perceive it to be a link in
the great chain of Providence, which was absolutely essential to the
completion of the whole. It was in the purpose of God, that many of the
Samaritans of that city should believe--that this conviction should be
wrought by that woman, who herself should be forcibly impressed by the
proofs with which she was furnished in the relation of her most private
domestic concerns. Had she come earlier or later, Jesus had not
been there!

We must trace the links of this chain further. The malignity of the
Pharisees induced Jesus to leave Judea; and both convenience, and perhaps
a moral necessity, impelled him here. His arrival at that hour--his
stay--the opportunity occasioned by the absence of his disciples--were all
appointed by superintending wisdom. Who knows what a day or an hour may
bring forth! Little did this Samaritan woman expect such a meeting, such a
traveller, or such a conversation; so wisely and so wonderfully are the
plans of Providence arranged!

How often has the promise been accomplished, "I was found of them that
sought me not!" To some unforeseen occurrence--some accidental
meeting--some trifling coincidence, Christians may often trace their first
conversion, and their best impressions. A stranger--a word, a casualty,
has proved the means of spiritual illumination; and while the recollection
of these circumstances often solace them in the vale of tears, we doubt
not but they will furnish a subject of pleasing contemplation and adorning
gratitude, when they shall have attained the perfection of their being on
the heights of immortality.

"Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink:" a very natural request from a
weary stranger, and one with which, from the common hospitality of the
times, he might expect a ready compliance. The evil effect of luxury is,
that it has multiplied our artificial necessities, and diminished our
benevolent feelings; in a simpler state of society, the wants of mankind
are fewer and more easily supplied.

The woman paused and inquired, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh
drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings
with the Samaritans." Alas! where rancorous animosity exists, how
frequently the laws of hospitality, and the principles even of humanity,
are sacrificed! The Sanhedrim interdicted any friendly intercourse with
the Samaritans, and the Jews cursed them by the secret name of God; and as
this mutual animosity existed, the woman received our Saviour's request
with a reproachful sneer.

The enmity subsisting between the Jews and Samaritans was very ancient in
its origin, and exceedingly inveterate in its character. It had also been
aggravated by different incidents. When the ten tribes revolted in the
time of Jeroboam, the calves were set up in Dan and Bethel, with a view to
seduce the people from worshipping at Jerusalem, which was of course
highly offensive to Judah and Benjamin; and when Shalmaneser, the king of
Assyria, carried away the ten tribes into captivity, he colonized the
cities of Samaria with the Babylonians and others, who carried their false
religion with them; in consequence of which they became odious to the
Jews. At first, the providence of God punished these idolatrous settlers,
by permitting lions to infest the country, whose ravages induced
Shalmaneser to send one of the priests "to teach them the manner of the
God of the land;" when they _united_ the worship of the Jehovah with that
of their own idols. These people very much discouraged the Jews in the
erection of the second temple, after their return from captivity.

After this, when Alexander had conquered Syria and Palestine, Sanballat,
who governed the province of Samaria for Darius, submitted to the
conqueror; and having married his daughter to Manasseh, the brother of
Jaddua the high-priest, he obtained permission from Alexander to build a
temple on mount Gerizzim, in imitation of that which was built at
Jerusalem. [28] Manasseh was constituted the high-priest, a multitude of
Jews mixed with the Samaritans, and a distinct service, after the Jewish
mode of worship, was conducted. This occasioned great contentions, and
suspended all intercourse between the rival nations. The Samaritans are
generally said to have admitted little more of the Old Testament than the
Pentateuch; but Justin Martyr, who was a native of Sichem, affirms that
they received all the prophetic writings. [29]

Drop a pitying tear over human weakness, folly, and crime. What divisions
separate the human race, and exasperate men against each other! But of all
others, they are the most inveterate, which are produced on account of
religion. The Samaritan appoints Gerizzim as the place of worship, in
opposition to Jerusalem--the fires of persecution are instantly kindled,
and the victims of intolerance suffer martyrdom!

To the reproachful insinuation of the woman, Christ returned no answer,
for it kindled no resentment. When he was reviled, he reviled not again:
but with his characteristic condescension and eagerness to instruct the
ignorant, he said, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that
saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he
would have given thee living water." This language was expressive of his
readiness and ability to supply the necessities of the destitute, to
console the afflicted, and to save the lost. By the "gift of God," he
intended divine bounty in general; by "living water," the blessings of
salvation, especially the gifts and graces of "his holy Spirit." [30]

The conciliating and affectionate manner of Christ's appeal to the woman,
appears to have softened her turbulent spirit, and won her respect. She
uses an epithet of respect previously omitted, "_Sir_,"--perceiving that,
though apparently a _Jew_, he possessed none of that rancorous enmity
which characterizes others, and cherished national antipathies. "A soft
answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger." Offences are
likely to arise in the present world; but let us rather aim to disarm
malignity by conciliation, than strengthen and envenom it by resistance.
Soft words may in time operate on hardened hearts, as water continually
dropping on the rock wears it away. Such a mode of proceeding costs us
little, but tends much to dignify and exalt us. "Who is a wise man and
endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation
his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and
strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This
wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For
where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But
the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and
easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality,
and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of
them that make peace."

Our Saviour's discourse was further distinguished by "exceeding great and
precious promises;" and the woman seems to have partaken of similar
surprise with those who are said to have "wondered at the gracious words
which proceeded out of his mouth." As a "fountain of living waters," he
was always pouring forth refreshing streams; as the depository of wisdom
and knowledge, he incessantly communicated his treasures of sacred
instruction; and as the "Sun of righteousness," he constantly imparted his
heavenly light and heating beams. Who could approach him without feeling
the benign influence, and being benefitted by the rich supply?

As the term which Christ had employed in a spiritual sense, simply denoted
excellent spring water in common language, the woman at present conceived
no other idea of his meaning; and seeing he was a stranger, with no
bucket, she expressed her astonishment at his promise. With some
mysterious impression, probably, of his extraordinary character, blended
with incredulity, she proceeded to inquire, "Art thou greater than our
father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his
children, and his cattle?"

This may furnish an exemplification of the fact, that the "natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness
unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
discerned." The terras of Christianity are mysterious, because its
doctrines are misunderstood, and cannot be discerned by him, the "eyes of
whose understanding" are beclouded, and whose heart is sensual. How
deplorable the effects of sin, which has drawn a veil over the moral
perceptions of man; in consequence of which, he cannot see the glories of
truth, the charms of Jesus, the value of his soul, and the importance of
its redemption! Nothing but the glare of earthly grandeur can affect him,
while eternity with all its vast concerns disappears.

Though the woman at first manifested considerable animosity, and afterward
betrayed great ignorance, Jesus was neither provoked by her prejudices,
nor irritated by her misconceptions. We must not unnecessarily _wound_
the unenlightened, nor even the perverse, by reproaches; but aim to _win_
them by kindness and forbearance. O for more resemblance to the "Lamb of
God," and more of the temper which the apostle inculcates! "And the
servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to
teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if
God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the
truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,
who are taken captive by him at his will."

It would exceedingly conduce to the promotion of this spirit, were we
frequently to recollect our own former ignorance and slowness to apprehend
the "truth as it is in Jesus;" and the patience we have ourselves
experienced, especially from "our Master in heaven." We should also
consider, that the best and most permanent impressions are often the most
gradual; and he who advances to perfection, goes on from strength to
strength. Let us not be unduly discouraged, because of our _present_
ignorance and darkness of mind: but pursuing our inquiries with a humble
and teachable disposition, we may hope by copious supplies from the Source
of wisdom, to increase our knowledge, and enlarge our capacities.

It appears rather surprising, that instead of questioning the pretentions
of Christ, this woman did not at once solicit a fulfilment of his promise,
and "draw water from the wells of salvation;" but her method of proceeding
is illustrative of a very common case. Religious inquirers are full of
doubts and prejudices; for though Jesus invites them to participate the
blessings he so liberally dispenses, they imagine, _falsely_ imagine, that
some previous qualification is requisite to justify their approach. "Can
such a sinner be saved? Am I _indeed_ invited--after all my sins and
broken vows? I know not whether I shall be accepted, for what claim have I
upon his mercy?"

Yet the Saviour still invites--still promises--still encourages--still
instructs--and will not let the weakest inquirer go, but guides his feet
into the way of peace.

"Whosoever," said he to the woman, "whosoever drinketh of this water shall
thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him,
shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a
well of water springing up into everlasting life." The allusion is
unquestionably to that principle in the heart which is of divine
implantation, and which however various its names, and diversified its
operations, is uniform in its nature and origin. Sometimes it is
represented by the cause, and sometimes the effect. It is the "_Spirit_
given to them that ask him," with regard to agency; it is _grace_, in
point of character; and it is holiness or practical religion, in reference
to its outward influence. Jesus Christ beautifully describes this
principle in his metaphorical addresses to the woman of Samaria, by an
allusion to the thirst which the water of life assuages, the inexhaustible
consolation it imparts, as a "_well_ of water;" and the perpetual and
perfect blessedness with which it is connected, as "springing up into
everlasting life."

_Thirst_ is one of the most powerful propensities of human nature, and is
therefore adapted to represent the intensity of that desire with which
mankind seek the wealth, the honours, and the pleasures of the world: and
though "he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he
that loveth abundance with increase;" the appetite is still insatiable,
and the pursuit continued. When under the influence of violent thirst, it
is not unusual for persons to avail themselves of the first supply,
however unwholesome, and eagerly to drink even of a filthy stream; with
similar impatience and satisfaction, the "carnal mind" indulges in its
sensualities, seizing forbidden, and contented with polluting joys. But
the grace of God in the heart is distinguished for its purifying
influence: it cleanses the spirit from guilt--sanctifies it by the
"washing of regeneration," and imparts a new desire, a heavenly thirst, a
holy ardour for spiritual communications; so that "as the hart pants after
the water-brooks, so panteth the soul after God."

This woman had a considerable distance to go in order to procure the water
with which it was needful to supply the necessities of her household; and
when arrived at the spot, it was a laborious service to draw from the
well, and return laden into the city. Our Saviour intimates, on the
contrary, the ease with which his divine blessings were attainable, as
well as their unfailing abundance. There is imparted to every applicant a
fund of peace, in consequence of which "a good man is satisfied from
himself." Religion furnishes consolations of a nature precisely _adapted_
to our necessities as fallen and miserable creatures; and it affords them
in circumstances, when it is obvious that no other resource remains. The
supplies of this world resemble the casual streamlets of winter, cold, and
soon exhausted, or lost in evaporation beneath the returning beam of
spring: but amidst the vicissitudes of life, and in the hour of
dissolution, religion has consolations which never fail. The river of a
Christian's consolation runs throughout the wilderness of time, nor stays
in its course till it expands into the boundless and fathomless ocean of
eternal blessedness.

At length, the woman in question is induced to make the request which we
wonder she did not at first present; though still she misapprehends the
meaning of her divine Teacher, however plain his sentiment may now appear
to us; in consequence of which, he condescended to adopt another mode of
conveying instruction to her mind. He had excited her attention, he now
proceeds to address her conscience.

We must not overlook the circumstance that Christ was "wearied with his
journey;" but he was not wearied with his _work_--well doing. If he had
now remained silent, it would not have been wonderful; or if, intending to
disclose his character to this woman, and by her means to the Samaritans,
he had smitten her conscience, removed her prejudices, enlightened her
mind, and won her affections, as we know he could have done, _in a
moment_--as when he said to Matthew, "Follow me," and immediately "he left
all"--or as when he spake from the clouds with irresistible effect to
Saul;--we should not have been astonished that he spared his words, while
we must have admired the mighty operation of his grace. But lo! he entered
into a long conversation, though in a weary hour, and took the utmost
pains to teach her. We have here an example for our imitation. Ought not
_we_ to be _patient_ and _laborious_? Ought not _we_ to recollect the
value of the soul, and strive "in season and out of season" to win it,
knowing "he that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall
save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins?" "The servant
of the Lord must not _strive_," nor despond; lest consulting his own
advantage, he prejudice the divine service; but he must forget his
infirmities, and pursue his work.

To the request, "Sir, give me this water," Jesus does not appear to have
returned any direct answer, but said, "Go, call thy husband, and come
hither." The reply _was_, in one view, direct, and he began _instantly to_
communicate the "living water;" for the discourse upon which he entered,
though at a superficial glance it may appear foreign to the immediate
purpose of her request, and might seem to point her to a different
subject, was really intended to produce deep and salutary convictions of
sin, and such as were requisite in order to her reception of the _living
water_ of spiritual consolation. Nothing in reality could display both the
_wisdom_ and _goodness_ of the great Teacher in a more striking manner,
than this proceeding. In effect, he takes her by the hand, conducts her
through the narrow path of conviction and penetential acknowledgment, to
that fountain which has supplied millions, and is still inexhaustible; and
by whatever mysterious methods he brings his people to himself and to
their final rest, it will ultimately be found the _right_ way to the city
of habitation. As the woman did not comprehend his metaphorical language,
he determined to disclose his prophetic character. "Jesus saith unto her,
Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have
no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy
husband: in that saidst thou truly." By divine inspiration, an ordinary
prophet might be supposed to have been made acquainted with the woman's
character and domestic circumstances; but we must contemplate the Saviour
on this occasion as supporting his claim to a higher distinction, such as
none of them could possess. It is a solemn consideration that we are
perpetually inspected by those "eyes which are upon the ways of man," and
by _him_ who seeth all his goings, his most retired moments, most secret
sins, most private affairs, and most latent thoughts. Even though we
should not live in that excess of sensuality which existed in this case,
how important is the apostolic entreaty, to "abstain from fleshly lusts;"
and how just the assurance, "they war against the soul!"

At length the woman's eyes were opened; she had a glimpse of the glory of
her divine Instructer through the influence of that grace which is
effectual in its operations, and imparts those perceptions which cannot be
otherwise possessed. Happy for us if we have been led to discern the
exalted character and excellencies of the Son of God! "Sir," said she, "I
perceive that thou art a prophet;" and availing herself of the present
favourable opportunity, she proposes a question much and violently
agitated between the Jews and Samaritans. When the passions are inflamed
by controversial discussion, how apt are we to be mislead by the opinions
of men rather than guided by the oppointments of God; and how frequently
convenience, instead of conscience, dictates the conduct of religious
professors! The Samaritan woman pleads the authority of the fathers for
worshipping at mount Gerizzim rather than repairing to Jerusalem. This has
frequently proved a source of error; and the history of mankind will
furnish ample evidence, that in departing from Scripture, the only "sure
word of prophecy," we shall inevitably wander into an endless labyrinth of
mistake, and be lost amidst the intricacies of delusion.

Our Lord intimates the improper proceedings of the Samaritans in
consequence of being thus misled by prejudice and by the example of
others, and shows that Jerusalem was certainly the ancient place of
appointed worship, and the Jews the depositaries of celestial wisdom. From
that illustrious people issued the word of the Lord which contained the
doctrine of salvation, which descended like the dew from heaven, and was
calculated to diffuse spiritual fertility through the earth, and impart
universal joy. "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither
in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye
know not what: we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But
the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the
Father in Spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and
in truth." In this passage Jesus points out the superior nature of the
worship which was now required, and which he was about to introduce to the
world. In the former controversy the Jews were certainly right; but the
designs of mercy being now accomplished in the mission of the Son of God,
and the "fulness of time being come," it was determined to spread the
blessings of the "everlasting Gospel" to the widest possible extent, and
to render, in honour of the mediation of Christ, the whole earth an
universal temple, in which the sacrifice of humble and contrite hearts
should be always acceptable.

Two great effects were produced by the introduction of the Christian
dispensation. The one respected the _mode of worship_. It was now no
longer to be _ceremonial_, but _spiritual_; it was no longer to be
conducted in _types_ and _shadows_, but in _truth_. In compassion to human
infirmity, numerous ceremonies were originally appointed, to impress awe,
and to fill the mind of man with a sense of the majesty of God. The
conceptions of a fallen creature being too grovelling at first to
comprehend the invisible realities of religion, a system of service was
admitted which tended to produce general impressions by an appeal to the
external senses, and thus slowly to insinuate sublimer facts, and prepare
for more noble manifestations; but when "the Lord came to his temple," and
made "the place of his feet glorious," darkness vanished, truth shone with
effulgent brightness, and simplicity rose to the dominion which ceremony
and complexity had assumed: at his presence the new creation smiled, and
the Lord of the universe again descended to pronounce upon another series
of wonderful works, that "all was very good."

Another effect resulting from the introduction of the Christian age
concerned the _variety and number of worshippers_. The limitations which
had hitherto prevailed in communicating truth to the world were to be
superseded; for, though the commissioned apostles were to deliver their
message "to the Jew _first_," they were expressly directed to convey it
"_also_ to the Gentiles." How calculated is this precedure to allay
animosities and unite hearts! and what a motive is here presented to us to
dismiss every petulant and revengeful disposition from the Christian
sanctuary, remembering that whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, bond or
free, every one is accepted of God _only as he is a_ SPIRITUAL WORSHIPPER!

As "God is a spirit," witnessing our movements and acquainted with our
thoughts at all times and in every place, we should often consecrate our
moments to his service. In the hour of seclusion and retirement, as well
as on public occasions and in religious assemblies, it becomes us to
direct our meditations to him by whom we are encircled. Let us contemplate
GOD, and feel his awful presence. He is on heaven and on earth; his eyes
behold us amidst the shades of midnight as well as in the brightest noon
of day; he pervades all space, is in all time, above all creatures, before
all being, and through all eternity. "Canst thou by searching find out
God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?"

At the period of this conversation at Jacob's well, a very general
expectation of the speedy appearance of the Messiah was prevalent, and the
woman was aware of the reference in the words, "The hour cometh, and _now
is_, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father;" although at
present "her eyes were holden," that she did not know him through the
concealment of his mean attire and unstately solitariness. This, however,
was wisely planned; and while it tended to cast contempt on worldly glory,
it enabled him to become a fellow-sufferer with his people, and to cherish
a holy familiarity with his disciples. Hence we find him not in palaces,
but in cottages--on the highways of common resort--healing the sick at the
pool of Bethesda, conversing with a poor woman at Jacob's well, and in
other similar situations: and never shall we be worthy to bear his name
till we imitate his conduct. "The woman saith unto him, I know that
Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us
all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." This was
the point to which all his discourse was directed, this the revelation he
intended from the first to disclose; but how wisely was it delayed! Such
an assertion at the commencement of the conversation would have kindled
animosity or excited ridicule; but that mind which was originally so
prejudiced and so resentful, is brought to receive the most glorious and
spiritual discovery. If we wonder at her ignorance, and lament her
prejudices previously to this declaration, how much more criminal would
she have _now_ been had she persisted in unbelief! Yet, alas, how often is
Christ proclaimed, all his glories revealed, and all his truth exhibited,
by the ministry of the Gospel, and nevertheless rejected!

Upon Christ's explanation of his true character, the Samaritan woman
immediately left her water-pot, and went into the city, to announce her
discoveries to the neighbourhood, and invite her fellow citizens to the
Messiah. Glowing with zeal for others, she said, "Come, see a man which
told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" And the
historian records the success of her efforts; for "they went out of the
city, and came unto him;" and "many of the Samaritans of that city
believed on him." This induced them to solicit his continuance for some
time amongst them, "and he abode there two days. And many more believed
because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not
because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this
is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."

Gratitude becomes us in reflecting upon that diversity of means which
divine wisdom uses to promote the circulation of his truth, and "win souls
to Christ." The greatest beings are at his control, and are sometimes
commissioned to visit the "heirs of salvation"--"Bless the Lord, ye his
_angels_, that excel in strength, _that do his commandments, hearkening
unto the voice of his word_;" while on other occasions he employs the most
unlikely agents, or the feeblest instrumentality, to "do his pleasure." He
can from the very stones "raise up children unto Abraham," convert an
infuriated persecutor into an "apostle of the Gentiles," or change a
Samaritan into a Christian, an infidel Gentile into a child of Abraham by
faith, and a woman coming casually to draw water for her household, into
an instrument of dispensing the living streams of salvation to a
perishing vicinity.

The early part of the narrative before us, is sufficient to show, that
however slow persons whom we have an opportunity of instructing in
religious truth may seem in understanding, or however reluctant to obey
it, we ought never either to despair of success, or be weary of repeating
our instruction. "I charge thee," says Paul in addressing Timothy, "before
God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at
his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out
of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine."
Who can tell the favoured period? Who can calculate the extent of the
benefit conferred when one sinner is "converted from the error of his
ways?" And who would not rejoice at the thought of having his final hour
cheered by the recollection of having been the means of letting in the
light of an eternal day even upon an individual of the human race, who was
once sitting in the darkness of spiritual delusion, and pining in the
dungeon of guilt, and misery, and helplessness?

Many things in religion, which we at present misunderstand, may probably
become intelligible in the course of future experience, and a great
variety of interesting truths now unknown will certainly be revealed in
another world. The woman of Samaria could not for a considerable time
comprehend the metaphorical allusions of Christ; but when she had "found
the Messiah," she was no longer at a loss to ascertain the signification
of the stranger's assurance, that he could have given her, had she
requested it, "living water." The disclosure of one fact, illustrated
another, and in spiritual knowledge and attainment she went on doubtless
with a rapidity proportioned to her extraordinary advantages.

With what deep interest, at every subsequent period of her life, would
this woman recollect the conversation at Jacob's well! Never, surely,
would she repair again to that spot, without presenting to her imagination
the image of Jesus sitting there, like a weary traveller, asking for water
to refresh his pilgrimage, incidentally adverting to topics of supreme
importance, addressing her conscience, and gradually unveiling his
character to her view--first as a prophet, then as the Messiah of the
Jews, and the glory of the Gentiles! Never could she forget that wonderful
morning--a morning which shone with such glory in the annals of her
existence, and was destined to occupy a conspicuous place in the
recollections of eternity! And it is our privilege, as well as duty, to
remember the place of our spiritual birth, the instructer of our infant
piety, the guide of our religious inquiries, and all "the way in which the
Lord our God has led us in the wilderness." Experience will rivet our
affections to every circumstance; life will derive a charm, in many of its
future years, from such welcome reflections; and memory will not discard,
amidst the ineffable joys of paradise, the well--the stranger--the
converse--the whole scene of those first impressions, which ripened into
religion and were the seeds of immortality.

In a sense more important than that in which the subject of this narrative
originally employed the words, each reader may feel encouraged to address
the Saviour, "Give me this water, that I thirst not." Holy prophets concur
with the evangelical publishers of "glad tidings," in urging you to
partake of the heavenly supply, which is dispensed with perfect freeness,
and in undiminishing abundance. "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to
the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come,
buy wine and milk without money and without price."



The Woman Who Was a Sinner.

Chapter V.


  Jesus and John contrasted--the former goes to dine at the House of a
  Pharisee--a notorious Woman introduces herself, and weeps at his
  Feet--Remarks on true Repentance and Faith, as exemplified in her
  Conduct--Surmises of Simon the Pharisee--the Answer of Jesus--the Woman
  assured of Forgiveness--Instructions deducible from the Parable.

There was a remarkable dissimilarity between Christ and his celebrated
precursor. The latter was unbending in his manners, austere in his mode of
living, and abrupt in his public discourses: in fact, John was
distinguished by all those qualities of a great reformer, which fitted him
for the service assigned him by Providence; zealous, eloquent, intrepid,
inconsiderate of himself, and resolutely exposing the vices of those
around him, to whom he pointed out "a more excellent way." The wildness of
the wilderness seemed to accord with the singularity of his character; and
the rocky standing from which he might probably often address his
auditors, was well adapted to the design of his preaching, and the mode of
his appearance. His Divine Master gave ample testimony to his
excellence--"What went ye out for to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you,
and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I
send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before
thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there has
not arisen a greater than John the Baptist."

But the character of the "Son of man" differed in many respects from that
of his forerunner. He was familiar, affable, and ready to associate with
others; he assumed no austerity of manners, and no reserve of behaviour.
The cast of his public preaching, too, was of a milder and more winning
strain, suited to his character as the image of the God who is love, and
adapted to the merciful nature of that dispensation which he came to
introduce.

It was this diversity which excited the malignant revilings of the Jews,
who said of John, "he hath a devil;" and of Christ, "Behold a man
gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners:" but the
success of the means has fully justified the use of them, as the
prescriptions of the physician are justified by the restoration of health
to the diseased, and the mode adopted by the agriculturist in cultivating
his soil is effectually vindicated by its fertility. God bestows upon his
church a diversity of gifts, and upon men a variety of qualities, that
different stations may be occupied to the best advantage, and his cause
promoted in the most effectual manner. The formation of suitable
instruments to accomplish his purposes, is one of those arrangements of
Providence which we can never sufficiently admire. Whatever peculiarities
exist, they are all made to concur to the same end, and are all regulated
by the same influence: the "gifts" and the "operations" are diverse, but
"it is the same God which worketh all in all."

Happily for mankind, there was a sense in which a part of the accusation
preferred against Jesus Christ held true. He was indeed "a friend of
publicans and sinners"--if he had not been, what would have been the
situation of a Matthew, whom he called from the receipt of custom to
"follow him;" or of a Zaccheus, whom he addressed in the sycamore tree,
and to whose house he "that day" conveyed "salvation;" or of a Bartimeus,
"blind and sitting by the highway-side, begging," whose eyes he opened,
and to whose mind he imparted faith? If he had not been a "friend of
publicans and sinners" the songs of descending spirits would never have
charmed the shepherds of Bethlehem--a church would never have been formed
on earth and ultimately taken to heaven--the mansions of eternity would
never have been peopled by the children of transgression--the hymns of
human gratitude would never have mingled with the hallelujahs of the
blessed--nor would the sacred writings have contained such a history as
that before us of the penitent sinner.

It is introduced by an account of one of the Pharisees having solicited
the company of Jesus to dinner, and of his having accepted his invitation.
The Pharisees were amongst his bitterest enemies, and yet here is one who
courteously introduces him into his house. He might have been affected by
his discourses or miracles; and it is pleasing to recollect, that divine
grace is not limited in its operations to one community, class, or age,
but peoples the heavenly world by the redemption of sinners of every rank
in life, every period of time, every degree of moral corruption, and every
nation of the globe.

Our Saviour's visit to the Pharisee is related for the sake of the
incident and discourse with which it was connected, and which are given in
the following words: Behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner,
when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an
alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and
began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her
head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when
the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying,
This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of
woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering,
said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith,
Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors; the
one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had
nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of
them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to
whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And
he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, seest thou this woman? I
entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she
hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss; but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not
ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but this
woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her
sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little
is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are
forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within
themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the
woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace."

The woman is denominated a _sinner_, because incontinency was her trade
and the means of her subsistence. Her character is branded with merited
infamy, but her name is mercifully veiled. She was notorious in the city;
and one would have imagined that as it could be no defamation to name her,
the sacred historian need not have manifested any scrupulousness upon the
point; nevertheless, as justice did not require it, and as it was the
writer's purpose rather to record her penitence than to expose her crimes,
she is mentioned only in general terms, as _a sinner, a woman in
the city._

What compassionate mind can help deploring the immoralities of populous
towns and crowded cities! What an illustration of human depravity does it
afford, that wherever mankind resort in great multitudes, vice is
proportionably varied in its nature, atrocious in its character, and
barefaced in its practice--as if it were thought that the numbers who
perpetrated wickedness, tended to conceal from the view of Omniscience
individual delinquency! It is common to acquire boldness by association;
and society, which ought rather to purify the mind, is often the means of
its pollution. The facilities for secrecy in sin which exist in
considerable places, the incalculable variety of forms in which temptation
appears, the force of example operating upon an extensive scale, and
enhanced by a thousand tributary streams that pour into the tide of
transgression flowing down the streets, concur to involve the inhabitants
of populous vicinities in circumstances of great moral danger. Apart from
all persuasion or direct influence, the very sight of immoralities is
liable to injure that delicate sensibility to wrong which it is of the
utmost importance to preserve in a pure and uncontaminated state. The
nicely polished mind is susceptible of the breath of impurity; and when it
once becomes dim and obscure in its perceptions, it is difficult to
restore it. Many have on this account withdrawn into retirement,
supposing that they should be able to secure that leisure for devotional
exercises which they have believed conducive to religious eminence. But
they have forgotten that the human heart is sown with unholy principles,
which will spring up in solitude as well as in society; that in avoiding
dissipation, they are liable to be narrowed into selfishness; and that the
honourable and heroic part which Christianity requires, is not to fly from
difficulties, but, "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," to contend
with, and conquer them.

In the woman whose brief but instructive history is to be reviewed, we see
indications of a "repentance that needeth not to be repented of." It is to
be traced, in the first place, in the _posture_ she assumed, and the
_tears_ she shed. When she found that Jesus was dining in the house of
Simon, she went and "stood at his feet behind him weeping." She who had
known no shame, but whose unblushing impudence and obtrusive familiarities
had so often scandalized the city, now avoids a look, shrinks even from
respectful notice, and is overwhelmed with a consciousness of guilt.

This conduct bespeaks the most pungent and unaffected sorrow. Her sins
present themselves in array before her mind, and she "abhors herself, and
repents in dust and ashes." Though all around was festivity, her heart was
sad--she wept as in secret; and those eloquent tears bespoke the Saviour's
pity, in a manner more powerful than the most studied language could have
done! Those tears were precious in his sight--that silence expressed the
depth and sincerity of her grief--and he approved it!

With what pleasure must holy angels have contemplated from their radiant
spheres this impressive scene; for "there is joy in the presence of the
angels of God over one sinner that repenteth!" The gayeties of life, and
the appearances of worldly grandeur, excite no satisfaction in them; they
are not attracted by those tinsel shows and glittering nonentities which
fill the circle of human vanity, and fire the ardent wishes of mankind;
the most splendid titles, the most opulent condition, the most celebrated
heroes, pass before them like shadows that haste away, unregretted and in
quick succession; but they bend from their thrones of light to witness the
sorrows of the meanest penitent, and listen to his secret moanings.

It is to be apprehended that many substitute an external reformation of
manners for solid repentance towards God. They lay aside the filthy
garments of gross immorality, and invest themselves in the decent attire
of correct conduct; but the principle of genuine penitence consists in a
just estimate of the perfections of that Being whom we have offended, and
of the nature of sin, as violating those obligations which devolve on us
as creatures. It is an humbling consideration, that God must perceive the
guilt of sin with infinitely greater distinctness than is possible to the
most self-examining penitent; and that their number and variety must be
perfectly discerned by the eyes of his purity. We are apt to throw them
together, as in a confused heap; and instead of realizing them in detail,
to contemplate them only in the aggregate and mass, by which their
individual atrocity is overlooked.

The true penitent views sin in connexion with his personal obligations,
and the requirements of the divine law. The Being against whom he rebels,
has, he knows, conferred upon him all the blessings of existence; and has,
consequently, the most indisputable claim upon his entire obedience--an
obedience, however, which, in his presumption and folly, he has refused
to render.

It may be remarked, also of repentance, that it possesses a character of
universality. Its regrets extend to every sin, without exception or
excuse: it has no apologies to offer, and cannot hold the balance to
measure with cold and calculating nicety, the respective demerits of the
offences which have been committed, with a view to conciliate the mercy of
heaven, or institute a plea in mitigation of punishment. It is, besides, a
deep and permanent impression, which is perpetually renewed by reflection,
and by witnessing the transgressions of a degenerate world. What are "the
sacrifices of God," but a "broken spirit?" verily, "a broken and a
contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

We observe, in the next place, if not the _words_, certainly the very
_spirit_ of confession in this once profligate but now penitent woman. It
is impossible to imagine a finer or more complete specimen of
self-debasement than that which she exhibited upon this occasion. How
easily could she have avoided such an exposure of herself, and spared
those lamentations! She was under no necessity to introduce herself into
the presence of that holy man, whose looks would condemn her immoralities,
and whose words, should he condescend to address her, might be expected to
convey severe reproof. Surely she might have remained at home:--no--it
could not be--she _was_ unable to avoid this exposure, and to spare those
lamentations; she was under a most imperious necessity to go to the house
of Simon--she _could not_ have remained at home: the irresistible
influence of "godly sorrow" urged her in to these circumstances, and her
bursting heart was forced to seek relief at the feet of Jesus, Her own
vileness tormented her recollections; her views of sin were of the most
tragic and affecting kind; in the depths of humiliation, the waves and
billows rolled over her; and her tears were confessions of guilt, which he
who was perfectly acquainted with the emotions of her spirit, know how to
interpret.

How common is it for persons suffering pain of conscience, to plunge into
new excesses, in order to disengage themselves from wretchedness of
remorse, and, as they hope, to divert their sorrows! This infatuation is
attended with mischievous effects: it diminishes sensibility to sin, and
confirms the habit. The thorns which at first grew in the path of
indulgence, are trampled down by frequent passage; and a return to God
becomes every day less and less probable. Familiarity with the various
modes of vice weakens the impression of disgust which is originally felt;
as we lose by degrees the horror with which an unsightly countenance was
beheld at the first interview, till at length we can more than tolerate
distortion, and even court deformity. Never was a more important maxim
delivered by the Saviour for the guidance of his disciples, than that
which respected their avoidance of the first step in transgression. "Watch
ye and pray," said he, "lest ye _enter_ into temptation." The fence which
is placed around the forbidden fruit-tree, by the interdictions of Heaven,
being once violated, the most alarming consequences ensue; and, unless
grace prevent, the transgressor must inevitably perish. Avoid then,
studiously avoid, whatever leads to the way of death. Escape for thy life,
O sinner, from the brink of transgression, if thou hast unhappily ventured
so far; and tremble at the yawning gulf below. If thou hast _fallen_,
while thou hast not yet passed the boundaries of life, thou art not
irrecoverably lost; but, O let a sense of thy danger induce thee to lift
up thine eyes to view the weeping penitent standing in the presence of
Jesus Christ, of whom she is accepted, and open thine ears to hear the
voice of kind invitation: "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the
Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful,
saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine
iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast
scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have
not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.... Return, ye backsliding children,
and I will heal your backslidings.... He that covereth his sins shall not
prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."

Further, this woman, who went into Simon's house at Nain, upon the
occasion already mentioned, is celebrated by Jesus himself for her faith,
which "worked by love." Addressing her in the presence of the astonished
company, he said, "Thy _faith_ hath saved thee, go in peace."

The Pharisees treated others with scornful contempt, especially those whom
they deemed to be of notorious character. Theirs was not like
Christianity, the religion of compassion--the religion, that, deriving its
characteristic peculiarities from its Author, pities the deluded,
sympathises with the miserable, seeks to reclaim the criminal, and marks
the tears of the penitent; but "trusting in themselves that they were
righteous, they despised others." Disregardful, however, of the sneers or
reproaches which she might have to encounter, this penitent woman presses
to the house of the Pharisee, because Jesus was a guest. Her object was
not concealment, but forgiveness; she was willing to be rebuked, so that
she might be saved; and while by obtruding in this manner into the house
of Simon, she exposed herself to the insults which her dissolute habits
would be likely to incur, she courageously adopted a course of proceeding
which brought her under the most solemn obligations to future chastity and
holiness of life. She was willing that the whole assembly or city should
witness her change, and that the reality of her penitence, and the
strength of her attachment to Christ, should be as notorious as her former
irregularities. Her courage, then, demands notice, and deserves imitation.
What might be the opinion of the motley assemblage who were the spectators
of her conduct, seemed to have had no influence upon her mind; but obeying
the impulse of sorrow for sin, and hope in Jesus, she dismissed every
thought of personal exposure, and with tears of undissembled grief,
hastened to him who was "full of grace and truth."

Timorousness, arising from an undue regard to the world, is too often a
hinderance to religious profession. Persons who have been awakened to some
sense of the evil of sin, and have perceived the importance, while they
have felt in some degree the claims of piety, frequently, alas! have been
deterred from that avowal of their sentiments, which is essential to
verify their convictions, and to honour God in the eyes of men. They would
be servants of Christ, if they were not slaves to human opinion: they
would go to Jesus, if it were not in the observers who stand around: they
would renounce the world, if they could avoid reproach: they would, in a
word, be decided, but they dare not be singular!

We are required to "_confess_ Christ _before men_," and it is only by such
a confession we can evince the sincerity of our attachment. Jesus Christ
was not ashamed to call us _brethren_, to assume our nature, to fill our
humble station, to suffer our sorrows, and to die an ignominious
death:--he is not ashamed to own his connexion with us, now he is ascended
into the highest heavens, or to be engaged in preparing a place for us
amidst the mansions of glory. Shall we be ashamed of him, or his cause?
Shall we be afraid to avow our regard, if we feel it?

It is the design of Christ to establish an interest in the world which
shall be universally prevalent, and this cause is rendered visible by the
public profession of its adherents. In the apostolic age, therefore, to
embrace Christianity, and to profess it, were considered as inseparably
connected; and why should they now be separated? "Then they that gladly
received the word were baptized."

Do any circumstances now exist to render it proper to act contrary to
apostolical example and precept? Is not the world the same? is not the
command of Jesus the same? is not his religion the same as in primitive
ages? This cause is to be now maintained as then; not by fear, but by
firmness--not by compliance with the world, but by resisting it--not by
sloth, inactivity, and shrinking into a corner, but by "putting on the
whole armour of God," and pressing to the field of battle. Not to be for
Christ, is to be against him; _inactivity_ is _enmity_; a dread of
standing in the ranks, or a refusal to enlist under the banners of
Immanuel, are indications of disloyalty, rebellion, and treason. The
territories of his grace are invaded by the troops of hell--the great
power that "ruleth in the children of disobedience" is opposing the
kingdom of the Redeemer, and extending his influence over the hearts of
men. Not to resist his encroachments, therefore, not to withstand in our
own person his dominion, and declare our cause, is, in fact, to favour his
designs, and betray him whom we profess to love. It is stated, that at the
second appearance of Christ "he will be glorified _in_ his saints, and
admired _in_ all them that believe;" and it is _in_ them he expects _now_
to be glorified before men; and the most effectual way to honour him is
to "confess him," to avow before the world our determination to be "on the
Lord's side.

"Perfect love," remarks an apostle, "casteth out fear;" of which we have a
striking exemplification in this woman of Nain. The expressions of her
attachment to Jesus were such as could not be mistaken, for she not only
caressed him, but made considerable sacrifices to show her love. The gifts
of nature had been the instruments of dissipation. With what care had she
been accustomed to adjust her smiles, to throw fascination into her
countenance, to beautify her person, to arrange her dress and her hair,
and to cultivate every exterior charm! What sums of money had she lavished
upon herself, with a view to attract admiration! Behold her now at the
feet of Jesus, careless of her personal attractions, and absorbed in the
contemplation of her Saviour: she washes his feet with her tears, wipes
them with the hairs of her head, kisses his feet, [31] and even expends an
alabaster box of ointment, very precious and costly, in anointing them.
Whatever has been the occasion or the means of transgression, becomes an
object of dislike; and in the true spirit of penitence, she not only
deserts what is obviously criminal, but detests and relinquishes whatever
may tend to renew the remembrance of indulgence, or rekindle the expiring
flame of desire. She renounces every superfluity, submits cheerfully to
every privation, and slays at once with unreluctant severity, the dearest
lusts that twine about her heart. It is thus that a sincere Christian will
abandon both the practice and principle of sin, and aware of his peculiar
propensities, he will watch with a scrupulousness proportioned to his
sense of danger, over those sins to which he knows himself to have been
most inclined in the days of his unregeneracy. "If thy right eye offend
thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should
be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast
it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

Reader! examine into the state of thy mind, the propensities that reign
within, and the principles that predominate in thy heart! Hast thou
professed an attachment to Jesus Christ? "Dost thou _believe_ in the Son
of God?" What sacrifices hast thou made, tending to evince the sincerity
of thy declarations, and the ardour of thy love? Hast thou braved
reproach--stood firm amidst opposition--abandoned criminal practices and
guilty associates--assisted the cause of thy Lord--encouraged and supplied
his disciples--and for his sake been willing even to renounce indulgences,
which, if they were innocent, might have proved offensive to others, or
ensnaring to thyself. Decision of character is important, both as a proof
of our own sincerity, and as a means of confirming others in religion; for
neutrality, which Christ himself has so pointedly condemned, is even more
prejudicial than hostility.

But it is not sufficient to inquire into the _extent_ of those sacrifices
which may have been offered to the service of religion, the _nature_ of
those sacrifices must be investigated; otherwise there may be "a fair
show in the flesh," while the individual is destitute of the essential
principles of Christianity. The love of the world, and indulgence in
secret sin, may be compatible with an ostentatious religion. What is
difficult to some, may prove comparatively easy to others, whose
constitutional tendencies or mental prepossessions are of another
description. The sacrifice, for example, of a spendthrift to religion must
be of a different kind from that of a miser; otherwise the one may obtain
undue credit for splendid charities, and the other for pious scrupulosity.
In estimating, therefore, the characters of men, or apportioning their
duties, the respective casts of mind, habits, and inclinations, are to be
investigated, in order to judge of the one, or prescribe the other. To
gain advantage from a course of self-inspection, it is requisite to study
the peculiarities of our own mind, and to ascertain what is really a
_sacrifice_ to ourselves, and how far we have made it, or are prepared to
offer it, to Christ. What gratifications have we relinquished? what sins
have we resisted? what lusts have we overcome? Where are we in point of
moral progress? Has our professed penitence led us to Christ? What degree
of assimilation to him have we attained? Have we, in fact, devoted to life
service our ENTIRE BEING--and do we feel that

  "Our lives and thousand lives of ours"

can neither discharge our obligations, nor repay his love?

The state of the mind is often indicated by trifles, better than by what
appears to be of greater magnitude and importance. There are, certain
actions not intended for the public, and, therefore, not dressed up for
inspection, which mark the feelings of the heart, and the meaning of which
no vigilant observer can mistake. There is a truth and a certainty about
them sufficiently obvious; they as infallibly show the state of the man,
as the index points to the hour of the day. In the history of the penitent
sinner, the negligence of her dress and hair, which had doubtless before
been decorated, according to the habit of the age, with jewels, was such
an indication. Some professed penitents would have given, perhaps, the
costly presentation of the alabaster box of ointment, but would have found
it infinitely more difficult to renounce their vanity: but here the
sacrifice was complete; her best affections were engrossed with the new
object of her delight, and she virtually said, "Perish, thou love of the
world; perish, thou fond and criminal passion for show; perish, all ye
ministers of iniquity, at the feet of Jesus! I willingly exchange masters;
and henceforth I shall be regardless of personal attractions, solicitous
only of participating the blessings of salvation!"

Simon, during all this time, was an attentive observer of what passed; but
rashly concluded within himself that Jesus could not be a prophet, as he
seemed ignorant of the character of the woman whom he admitted to such
familiarity. He mistook both the character of the woman, and that of his
divine guest. She was not, in _his_ sense of the term, a _sinner_, but a
_penitent_ and a _believer_; nor was Jesus capable of contamination by her
touch. He knew perfectly, "who and what manner of woman it was," though
the Pharisee was too proud to see or acknowledge it. The important change
which had been produced upon her, essentially altered the case. She was no
longer what she had been, and what Simon supposed her. Grace had
constituted her a chosen vessel, and purified her heart by the impartation
of heavenly principles. The impurities of her life were rectified by the
"renewal of a right spirit" within her. She had been snatched from the
jaws of destruction; she had resorted to the "fountain opened for sin and
uncleanness," and proved that she was one of those "lost sheep" which
Jesus came into the wilderness to "seek and to save."

Simon had not _expressed_ his ideas, but the Saviour _knew_ them with
perfect certainty, and answered them with unerring wisdom. Having first
claimed the attention of his host, which was respectfully conceded, Jesus
delivered a parable respecting a creditor having two debtors, who owed,
the one five hundred, and the other fifty pence, but were both forgiven in
consideration of their poverty; and he put it to the Pharisee, which of
them would love him most? he properly answered, "he to whom he forgave
most." Then turning to the woman--and, O what sensations of joy must have
thrilled through her agitated bosom!--he continued to direct his discourse
to Simon; "Seest thou this woman?" _q.d._ "Art thou aware of the extent
and value of those sacrifices she has made to me? Hast thou observed the
tears she has shed, and the love she has manifested? Has it struck thy
mind, that the conduct of this woman, whom thou art despising in thy
heart, is far more deserving of my approbation than thine?" Mark, with
what punctuality and detail he proceeds to enumerate every act of
kindness! He mentions her tears, her caresses, the kisses, and the
ointment which she had lavished upon his feet--nothing is forgotten or
omitted--everything is distinctly told--her love is extolled, and her sins
are pardoned: Simon, "her sins, which are many, are forgiven"--Woman,
"thy sins are forgiven." There is a beauty and a propriety in this
repetition, which was well calculated to stimulate the inquiries, and to
correct the errors of the Pharisee, while it ministered consolation to the
weeping penitent. Ah! our secret desires, our silent tears, our meanest
services, are noticed by our Master and Lord! He will "reward us _openly_"
having given the grace of penitence, he will bestow the joys of faith; our
_many_ sins shall be overlooked and forgiven; our _few_ services
remembered and recorded for his sake!

This parable is illustrative of our moral obligations, and of our total
incapacity to discharge them. We are all _debtors_--to God; we are so, it
is true, in different proportions--some owe five hundred and some fifty
pence. A difference exists in the nature and atrocity of our respective
crimes--we have run to greater or less extravagances of iniquity--our sins
are more or less notorious, more or less limited or extensive in their
influence on others; more or less aggravated by knowledge, by vows, and by
repetition--indulged in for a longer or a shorter period, as there was a
great diversity of moral character between the Pharisee and the woman; but
"_all have sinned_, and, come short of the glory of God"--all have
incurred debt--and it is important to remark, that all are equally
incapable of discharging it--of atoning for their guilt, or rescuing
themselves from the pains and penalties they have incurred.

However plain this statement, and however frequently repeated, it is but
little believed and felt. If it were--if mankind were actually convinced
of the utter inefficiency of every attempt to recommend themselves to God,
and regain his forfeited favour; whence is it that they are perpetually
"going about to establish their own righteousness?" Why do they endeavour
to persuade themselves that sin is a trifling concern, or that at least
_their_ sins are trivial and excusable? It is obvious, that they form very
low and inadequate ideas of the greatness of their debt, and the utter
worthlessness of their own merit--they do not realize their ruined and
bankrupt condition, nor are they sufficiently persuaded that they have
"_nothing to pay_" not an atom of righteousness, not a grain of inherent
goodness, not a particle of real virtue!

Sinner, come to the test. Hear the indictment, and see if thou hast any
defence, if thou hast any plea, or if thou canst put in any just demurrer
to stay the proceedings of eternal justice and equity. But how shall human
language express the debt? Thou hast violated every divine precept,
pursued a course diametrically opposite to the commandments of God,
trampled on his authority, and lived to thyself. Every action, word, and
thought, has augmented the already incalculable debt. God has called, but
thou hast refused; his providence has warned thee, but thou hast despised
it, and made a covenant with hell. While thy personal transgressions have
abounded like the drops of the ocean, or the sands upon the shore, thy
example has perniciously influenced others. Thou owest thy whole existence
and all thy faculties, thy entire obedience and constant affection, to
God. He is thy _Father_--thy _Creator_--thy _Benefactor_, and what hast
thou to pay? what are thy resources? _Future_ obedience, supposing it
_perfect_, could not expiate _past_ offences. Pains, prostrations,
pilgrimages, penances, and mortifications, can be of no avail. Hecatombs
of animals would not suffice, or ten thousand rivers of oil; but, if they
would, the treasures are not _thine_: "for every beast of the forest is
_mine_, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the
mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I
would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will
I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" What then hast
thou to pay?--_Nothing_! absolutely _nothing_!

But the parable in question represents the free pardon, which it is the
privilege of the vilest transgressors to participate upon their return to
God, And we should mark the _sovereignty_, blended with the mercy of this
procedure. It is not supposed that the recipients of divine bounty and
blessing have any claim upon such favors; nor, indeed, that they can plead
any extenuating circumstance to conciliate offended justice. The debtors
had "nothing to pay," and their impoverished condition was a sufficient
excitement to their creditor to remit his dues. He "remembered them in
their low estate;" and, with a liberality characteristic of him to whom we
are so deeply indebted in a moral sense, he discharged them from every
obligation. There is not the slightest intimation of any urgency or
solicitation on their part; but he "_frankly_ forgave them." If sinners
had any just conception of their state, they would indeed seek mercy with
the utmost importunity, and relinquish their present courses with the most
fixed resolution of mind; but the grace of God operates in _calling_ men
to repentance, as well as in _constraining_ their attention and
acquiescence. They are "made willing" in "the day of his power;" and, like
a gale that rises upon a vessel drifting to a rocky shore, and bears it
from destruction, this influence effectually propels them to "the hope set
before them" in the Gospel.

The exercise of mercy is distinguished also for its _extensive and
diversified application_. Simon the Pharisee, and the woman who was a
sinner, differed in the nature and proportion of their guilt. He was as
much condemned for self-righteousness, as she for impurity--he
transgressed by pride, and she by rebellion: but "he frankly forgave them
_both_." "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and
passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth
not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy! He will turn
again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and
thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

If, reader, thou art impressed with a sense of guilt, and ready to
exclaim, "What must I do to be saved?" it is with unspeakable satisfaction
and confidence we point to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of
the world." That heart which was melted by the tears of this woman, is not
closed against _thee_! That Saviour who was all pity and benevolence in
the days of his humiliation, still waits to be gracious now he is exalted
to his throne!

Hast thou experienced the efficacy of his grace, and the joys of his
salvation? Be stimulated to _love him much_. What sins, what rebellions,
what broken vows, what ingratitude has he forgiven thee! All are
obliterated from the book of his remembrance; all are lost and buried in
the ocean of his grace; and he has fixed thy name amongst a thousand
promises, and in a page which his eye never peruses but with ineffable
complacency!

The _plan_ upon which forgiveness is dispensed to a sinful world, and
which is now more fully developed, demands our admiration, as it glorifies
God, exalts the sinner, and harmonizes the universe.

It _glorifies_ God. The work of redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ is the
central point, where all the perfections of Deity assemble and meet. Every
attribute of God pointing to Calvary, seems to devout believers to say, as
Jesus did to his disciples, with reference to their last interview on a
mountain in Galilee, "There shall ye see me." His perfections had hitherto
appeared in the world in their distinct forms.--Justice in its inflexible
decisions, Truth in its firm decrees, Holiness in its terrible
inflictions, operated powerfully, but often separately--as in the
destruction of Pharaoh, and the deliverance of Israel--in the earthquake
that devoured the rebels who presented strange fire--in the deluge that
overwhelmed the world--in the burning tempest that descended upon Sodom,
and the sword that scattered the nations of Canaan; but round the brink of
that "fountain which was opened" on Calvary for "sin and uncleanness,"
they seem to unite and say, "Glory to God in the highest." This is the
common and sacred ground, on which "mercy and truth can meet together."
Inflexible justice does not remit her claims, but "the Lamb that was
slain" satisfies them--she still demands _blood_--and blood is shed--she
demands the _life_ of the guilty, and the guilty are furnished with a
victim who can endure the curse and suffer the chastisement--she requires
a recompense for the violated law; and "he hath magnified the law and made
it honorable," by becoming "obedient unto death, even the death of
the cross!"

This plan of mercy _exalts the sinner_. If the requisitions of justice
were strictly personal, and the economy of Heaven such as to admit of no
substitute, the sinner's salvation would have been impossible; because his
individual sufferings, though the just consequence of his guilt, could
never become the meritorious means of its removal. Suffering, extreme in
its nature, and perpetual in its duration, was the desert of
transgression; but it could neither repair the injury which sin had done,
nor constitute a claim upon divine forgiveness; or, if it _could_--by the
very supposition there would be no possibility of any period arriving when
that mercy could be enjoyed, because the suffering must be _eternal_.
Such, however, was the infinite merit of the Saviour, that in the plan of
forgiving mercy, his death was accepted as an equivalent for the
sufferings of creatures. By exercising faith in his name, we transfer the
burden of our debt, and he liquidates it: we confess we have nothing to
pay, and wholly confide in his ability to discharge on our behalf every
obligation; in consequence of which the transgressor is treated as
innocent; he is released--the door is opened, his chains are broken off,
and he is exalted to the favour and friendship of God; and "Who," he
inquires, "shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God
that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea
rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who
also maketh intercession for us"

This plan of mercy _harmonizes the universe_. Sin has separated chief
friends--it has divided man from God, man from angels, and man from his
neighbour. It has introduced a general war, and generated universal
anarchy and strife. But redemption is the great work that restores order
and promotes concord. It is on Calvary the terms are made, and the great
treaty ratified--divided interests are reunited, and peace on earth
proclaimed. It is there "God is in Christ reconciling the world to
himself;" and there, realizing the efficacy of atoning blood, and weeping
over the follies and criminality of past rebellion, the penitent exclaims,
"Abba, Father!" Thus God and man are united. It is there holy angels,
instead of being executioners of vengeance, become "ministering spirits to
the heirs of salvation;" while every Lazarus begins to anticipate the
period of "absence from the body," when "he shall be carried by _angels_
to Abraham's bosom," and be "ever present with the Lord." Thus men and
angels become one. It is there also before the cross, having "tasted that
the Lord is gracious," "the brother of low degree rejoices in that he is
exalted, and the rich in that he is made low." There the murderer Saul
meets his victim Stephen, with "all who in every place call on the name of
the Lord;" and (O happy change!) embraces as a brother him whom he
believed a foe! There the turbulence of passion is allayed--the violence
of animosity ceases--the battle of conflicting interests and petty
selfishness rages no more. Those who were enemies in the world, become
friends at the cross. The barbarian, Scythian, bond, and free, drink
together the cup of blessing, partake the "common salvation," and imbibe
the fraternal spirit. Thus man and man unite, while "Christ is all and
in all."

"Religion, in all its parts, requires the exercise of forgiveness. It is
required by its precepts, its spirit, and its prospects. Its
_precepts_--we are not to render evil for evil, but contrariwise blessing:
we are to love our enemies, to forgive our brother as often as he returns
acknowledging his misconduct, and saying, 'I repent.' Its _spirit_; the
Gospel, or the religion of Jesus, is emphatically styled 'the ministry of
_reconciliation_.' Its _prospects_; we are members of the same family,
heirs of the same kingdom, and going to the same heaven. Heaven is a state
of perfect and universal harmony and love. Nothing must enter there,
either to defile or disturb. There must be no little disputes, no rising
resentment, no shadow of reserve. All must be of one heart and of one
soul. Yes, if we both be Christians indeed, there we must meet our
brother, with whom wo have been angry, and towards whom we have even
indulged our anger; an anger upon which not only the 'sun went down,' but
over which life itself passed. Yes, happy necessity! there we _must_ meet
him! There will be no passing' by on the other side, no refusing to go
into his company. Countenance must sparkle to countenance, thought must
meet thought, bosom must expand to bosom, and heart bound to
heart forever,"



The Syrophenician; or Canaanitish Woman.

Chapter VI.


  Introductory Observations--Christ could not be concealed--the
  Syrophenician Woman goes to him on Account of her Daughter--her
  Humility--Earnestness--Faith--the Silence of Christ upon her Application
  to him--the Disciples repulsed--the Woman's renewed Importunity--the
  apparent Scorn with which it is treated--her Admission of the
  contemptuous Insinuation--her persevering Ardour--her ultimate
  Success--the Necessity of being Importunate in Prayer--Remarks on the
  Woman's national Character--Present State of the Jews--the Hope of their
  final Restoration.

The facts and incidents of the New Testament furnish the best exposition
of its doctrines. Owing to the imperfection of human language, as a medium
of communicating truth, and, the very limited capacities of the human
mind, as well as the numerous prejudices that darken our understandings in
the present state, some obscurities will always attend even the clearest
revelations of Heaven. "Touched with a feeling of our infirmities," our
blessed Saviour often adopted a parabolic method of instruction, which was
calculated to awaken attention and to stimulate inquiry, as well as to
simplify the great principles he was perpetually inculcating; and he has
caused those frequent conversations into which he entered with different
individuals during his personal ministry, to be transmitted to succeeding
times for their instruction. We have by this means an opportunity of
witnessing the diversified modes in which truth operates on men; we see
the various workings of the passions, the progress of conviction, the
development of character, and the designs of Infinite Mercy. The sublimest
doctrines and the finest precepts are taught by example; and we are shown
what they _are_, by seeing what they _accomplish_. The sacred history
introduces us to persons of like passions with ourselves, and, by its
interesting details, gives us a participation of their hopes and fears,
their joys and sorrows, their difficulties and their successes. We are not
introduced into the school of Socrates, the academy of Plato, or the
Lyceum of Aristotle, where some wise maxims were undoubtedly dictated to
the respective admirers of these eminent men; but we are conducted from
the region of abstractions to real life. Christianity is taught, by
showing us, Christians--humility by holding up to view the
humble--repentance by exhibiting the penitent--charity by pointing out the
benevolent--faith by displaying, as in the narrative before us, the
true believer.

The case was this. Jesus went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, where,
having entered into a house, he intimated his wish for privacy and
concealment, "but he could not be hid;" upon which an ingenious writer [32]
observes: "I think I see three principal reasons for the conduct of our
Saviour; 'He would have no man know it.' Why? because he would fulfil the
prophecy--explain his own character--and leave us an example of virtue.
Once, 'when great multitudes followed him and he healed them all, he
charged them that they should not make him known; that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold, my
servant shall not cause his voice to be heard in the streets;' that is, he
shall not affect popularity, nor stoop to use any artifice to make
proselytes. Most likely this was one reason of our Lord's desiring to be
concealed on this occasion. Probably, he intended also to explain his own
character to the family where he was. Jesus was a person of singular
modesty, and a high degree of every virtue that can adorn a man, was a
character of the promised Messiah. It was necessary to give frequent
proofs by his actions of the frame and temper of his heart, and he
discovered the tenderness of a friend to the family where he was, and to
his disciples, who were along with him, just as he had done before, when
there were so many coming and going, that they had no leisure so much as
to eat.' Then 'he said unto his apostles, Come ye yourselves apart into a
desert place, and rest awhile. And they departed into a desert place by
ship privately.' Further, in the case before us we have a fine example of
the conduct proper for men exalted above their fellows. They ought not to
make a public show of themselves, nor to display their abilities in vain
ostentation. All their abilities should scent of piety and the fear of
God. The apostle Paul reproved the Corinthians for abusing extraordinary
gifts to make the people think them _prophets_ and _spiritual_ persons,
while they ought to have applied them to the 'edifying of the church.'
'God,' adds this apostle, 'is not the author of confusion, but of peace.'
For such reasons we suppose our blessed Saviour desired concealment in
this house; and so much right had he to rest after a journey, to refresh
himself with food and sleep, to retire from the malice of his enemies, and
to enjoy all the uninterrupted sweets of privacy, that had not his
presence been indispensably necessary to the relief and happiness of
mankind, one would have wished to have hushed every breath, and to have
banished every foot, lest he should have been disturbed; _but he could
not be hid_."

Having heard of the miracles which Christ performed, for long since his
fame had gone throughout all Syria, a woman of Canaan, a Syrophenician by
birth, and a Greek by religion, [33] repaired to the house with haste,
under the pressure of a severe domestic calamity. Her young daughter had
an unclean spirit, or, as she expressed it, was "grievously vexed with a
devil." There was something peculiarly awful and mysterious in the nature
of this affliction, which was very prevalent in the days of Christ, and is
frequently mentioned by the historians of the New Testament. It does not
appear any longer to afflict mankind, and if the reason be inquired,
perhaps it is that the victorious power of Messiah might he displayed in
the expulsion of evil spirits, by his presence upon the earth.

This Syrophenician woman then was induced to hasten to Jesus, in
consequence of the distressing situation of her poor possessed daughter.
[34] How often has affliction proved the successful messenger of
Providence, when every other failed! It has gone out into the "highways
and hedges," and "compelled them to come in," when no entreaty or
remonstrance could overcome the obduracy of sinners, and thus has
replenished the table of mercy with thankful guests. It cannot be doubted,
that a part of the felicity of glorified spirits in eternity will consist
in tracing the mysterious goodness of God in conducting them through a
variety of painful dispensations in the present world; and it is by no
means improbable, that the very events of life, which once occasioned the
greatest perplexity, and filled the mind with the most overwhelming
anxieties, will hereafter prove the noblest sources of gratitude, and the
strongest incentives to praise. A personal or a relative affliction, which
agonizes the soul by the suddenness of its occurrence, or by its dreadful
nature, which embitters life, distracts the mind, confuses every scheme,
and confounds every hope, has often proved the real, though perhaps
unknown or unacknowledged means of turning the feet of the transgressor
into the way of peace. It has led the wayward mind to reflection, and the
wandering heart to its rest. It has proved the first effectual means of
exciting attention to religion; it has subdued and softened the mind, and
subjected it to divine teachings; and the once untractable rebel has
become tamed into submission, penitence, and obedience. In this manner
affliction is often essentially connected with salvation, and the
apostolic statement pleasingly realized; "Our light affliction, which is
but for a moment, _worketh for us_ a far more exceeding and eternal weight
of glory."

When this poor woman came to Jesus, she fell at his feet, explained her
situation, and earnestly entreated his kind interposal. Disregarding every
spectator, waiting for no formal introduction, and convinced of his mighty
power, she rushed into his presence, and with all the vehemence of
maternal agony, urged her suit.

Her conduct evinced great _humility_. She not only assumed the attitude,
but felt the spirit of a suppliant. It does not appear that the external
appearance of Jesus was in any respect remarkable, for on some occasions
where he was unknown, he was equally unnoticed. When he sat over against
the treasury observing the poor widow, he attracted no particular
attention--when he visited the sick and dying at the pool of Bethesda, he
was not at first recognized as any extraordinary personage, and the
prophet intimates that he possessed "no form nor comeliness: but his
visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of
men." It was before the majesty of his character this Syrophenician woman
bowed with holy reverence and humble admiration. Conscious of having no
claim upon his notice, but such as her affliction conferred--and this
indeed was to him, who "went about doing good," no insignificant
recommendation--and overawed by a deep sense both of her own unworthiness,
and his greatness and goodness, she "fell at his feet." O, that with
genuine prostration of spirit, we always presented ourselves before the
Lord! This is essential to success in all our applications to the "throne
of grace." Divested of this quality, our best services will prove but
religious mockery and useless parade; for "God resisteth the proud, but
giveth grace unto the humble."

The language of this woman is highly impassioned, and indicative of
extreme _earnestness_. She besought "him that he would cast forth the
devil out of her daughter;" she "cried out," like one overwhelmed with
grief, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David!" The case is
completely her own. The precious life for which she pleads is dear as her
own existence. But who can realize, or what language can express her
feelings? The affectionate mother alone, who has watched over the sick or
dying bed of a languishing daughter, or the agonized parent who has seen
some mighty and incurable disorder befall his child--some member
withered--some essential faculty enfeebled or destroyed--perhaps reason
distracted; can imagine the emotions of that moment when the woman
exclaimed, "Have mercy on _me_!!" What reason have we to be grateful for
domestic health, while many are afflicted by the severest trials!

We have here a remarkable specimen of _faith_. When, the father of the
young man who had a dumb spirit brought him to Jesus, "_If_," said he,
after describing his case, "_if_ thou _canst_ do any thing, have
compassion on us, and help us." This was an implication deregatory to the
glory, and disparaging to the power of the Son of God. It implied at least
a doubt of his capacity to afford the requisite assistance, and
consequently occasioned the remonstrance; "If thou _canst believe_, all
things are possible to him that believeth." _q.d._ "The question is not
whether I possess power, but whether you can exercise faith. Nothing
obstructs my benevolent exertion but human infidelity. This, and this
only, is the great barrier, the insurmountable impediment to the more
universal display of my character, and the multiplication of my wonderful
works" This woman, however, expressed no suspicion, intimated no doubt;
but, with unhesitating confidence, addressed him as the "Lord, the Son
of David."

"O blessed Syrophenician, who taught thee this abstract of divinity? What
can we Christians confess more than the Deity, the humanity, and the
Messiahship of our glorious Saviour? His Deity as Lord, his humanity as a
son, his Messiahship as the son of David. Of all the famous progenitors of
Christ, two are singled out by way of eminence, David and Abraham, a king
and a patriarch; and though the patriarch was first in time, yet the king
is first in place; not so much for the dignity of his person, as the
excellence of the promise, which, as it was both later and fresher in
memory, so more honorable. To Abraham was promised multitude and blessing
of seed, to David perpetuity of dominion. So as, when God promiseth not to
destroy his people, it is for Abraham's sake; when not to extinguish the
kingdom, it is for David's sake. Had she said, 'the Son of Abraham,' she
had not come home to this acknowledgment. Abraham is the father of the
faithful, David of the kings of Judea and Israel; there are many faithful,
there is but one king; so as in this title she doth proclaim him the
perpetual king of his church, the rod or flower which should come from the
root of Jesse, the true and only Saviour of the world. Whoso shall come
unto Christ to purpose, must come in the right style; apprehending a true
God, a true man, a true God and man: any of these severed from other,
makes Christ an idol, and our prayers sin." [35]

The disadvantageous circumstances of this woman illustrate the
_superiority_ of her faith. There is no evidence of her having seen the
Saviour before, much less of her having been a witness of his miraculous
works. She had only heard the report of them in her distant residence, and
yet, under the guidance of that Spirit who wrought conviction in her mind,
hastened to cast herself at his feet. Hers was the blessedness of those
who have "not seen, and yet have believed." What a fine contrast do her
faith and zeal exhibit to the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees of the
Jewish nation, who in defiance of evidence, of signs and wonders daily
performed before their eyes, persisted not only in rejecting Christ as the
Messiah, but in plotting against his life. She beheld the rising
brightness of the Sun of Righteousness, and was attracted by his glory,
though at a distance; whilst they who were near shut their eyes against
his heavenly light. She was, therefore, not only distinguished from her
fellow-countrywomen, but from the mass of the Jewish people, who
voluntarily forfeited their noblest privileges; and, under the influence
of the basest prejudice, eventually completed the long train of their
iniquities in rejecting and stoning the prophets, by crucifying the Son
of God.

Happy would it be for the best interests of mankind, did the annals of
succeeding ages present no other specimens of the same infatuation! But,
alas! similar follies are reacted every day. Amidst the most favourable
circumstances for spiritual improvement, what awful degeneracy of
character exists! Multitudes who have enjoyed the best means, who have
been religiously educated, repeatedly admonished, and carefully
superintended; who have been taught the holy Scriptures from their
youth--who have been led to the house of God, and had "line upon line, and
precept upon precept"--on whose behalf a thousand supplications have been
presented to heaven, and over whom ten thousand thousand tears have been
shed--have continued to manifest an aversion against the claims of truth,
and the disobedience of spirit to the commands of Christ. Like the barren
fig-tree, they have remained unproductive of any good fruits,
notwithstanding unusual cultivation; and have been unsightly as well as
useless "cumberers of the ground;"--on the other hand, some whose early
habits and irreligious connections were singularly unfavorable to piety,
have nevertheless been "brought out of darkness into marvellous light" Our
privileges enhance our responsibility: let us, therefore, anxiously avoid
the misconduct of the Jews, and beware lest those who have fewer means of
improvement, advance, through a better use of them, to higher degrees of
spiritual attainment and excellence.

The humility, the earnestness, and the faith we have been contemplating,
it is natural to expect, met with a welcome reception. It is true that
mankind often repay confidence with coldness, and shut the hand and the
heart against the most importunate entreaties. It is true there are wolves
in sheep's clothing, monsters in human form, who aggravate by unkindness
the wounds which Providence has inflicted, and who tear and devour as
their prey those whom they should supply as their pensioners; but Jesus
was "the _Lamb_ of God"--he was "touched with the feeling of our
infirmities"--he "went about doing good"--he pronounced blessings on "the
merciful"--he was no stranger to personal suffering--it was his nature to
sympathize--his element to relieve--the grand predicted feature of his
gentle character, that he should "come down like rain upon the mown
grass," and should "_spare_ the poor and needy." Who can express the
tenderness of that spirit which cherished "pity for us in our low estate"
while surrounded by the glories of his Father's throne, and charmed with
the harps of heaven, voluntarily descending into this vale of affliction
to dry up the tears that flow so copiously from the mourner's eye! We are
prepared then, to witness the overflowings of tenderness in his reception
of this afflicted mother! But, lo! "he answered her not a word."
Mysterious silence! And what were thy feelings, O thou agonized stranger,
in these moments of sad suspense? And what explanation can be offered for
this extraordinary conduct? Had she escaped his notice amidst the crowd?
Had she fallen unobserved at his feet? Did he not then hear that piercing
cry--that powerful appeal--that humble entreaty--those words of agony and
of faith?--Yes--but he "answered her _not_ A WORD!"

This is not, indeed, a solitary instance. When the adulterous transgressor
was brought into his presence by the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus "stooped
down, and with his finger wrote on the ground as though he heard them
not;" but this was to disappoint their malice, whose sole purpose was to
obtain some materials for his accusation. When he was attacked by
reiterated calumnies in the presence of Pilate, "he answered nothing;"
because he would manifest a holy indignation against their unreasonable
and exasperating conduct. The railing of the impenitent malefactor, who
was his fellow-sufferer on the cross, could provoke no reply; although
this dignified reserve was instantly changed into language of gracious
promise, when the other entreated his mercy. He could not remain a moment
inattentive to the penitent's petition, and far exceeded his desires; for
he requested only a place in his _memory_, but he gave him a place in his
_kingdom_. Delightful pledge, that "he will do for us exceeding abundantly
above all we ask or think."

If we were unable to discover any satisfactory reason for his silence,
when in the most supplicating attitude and with the profoundest humility
the Syrophenician woman besought him to restore her daughter, it would he
the height of imprudence to impeach his benevolence. His general conduct,
the kindness of all his other actions, the gentleness of his words, the
universal benignity of his deportment, would forbid our imputing this
apparent deviation from his general goodness to any other than some latent
cause, which it might not have been necessary or proper to disclose, or
the statement of which the brevity of the inspired narrative precluded.
But too frequently we misjudge, and even murmur against the divine
proceedings, because our limited capacities cannot trace their ultimate
design, or even their present connections and combinations. With a
characteristic presumption we act as if we expected that the plans of
Heaven ought to be submitted to our inspection, or stopped in their
progress to await our approval; whereas it is neither proper nor possible
to disclose to us more than "parts of his ways!"

Many reasons, however, might be assigned for this remarkable silence. The
principal one was probably the purpose of proving her character, and
encouraging a perseverance, which from the strength of her faith he knew
would be the result, and which would eventually illustrate both her
character and his own. How many, had they even advanced to this point of
submission, would have withdrawn in disgust, and misrepresented the
conduct they could not comprehend! But she is not offended at this
seeming neglect. She does not exclaim, with the sarcastic vehemence of
disappointed hope, "Is this Son of David--the wonder-worker of Israel--the
meek, the compassionate, the condescending person of whom we have heard
such extraordinary reports?--Am I to be neglected while others are
relieved?"--but patiently waits the result, still persevering in her suit.
"O woman, great is thy faith!" Of this we may be fully assured on every
occasion of supplicating the throne of mercy, that if the "cry of the
humble" he deferred, it is not "forgotten," and that the trials to which
we are exposed always bear a well-adjusted proportion both to the
necessity of the case and to our capacity of endurance.

In this interval the disciples interceded for her dismission with the
answer she requested. They pleaded her vehement importunity; and, as
Christ had expressed a wish for concealment, they probably supposed her
cries would excite an unwelcome degree of popular observation. To this he
answered, "I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
As this was said in the hearing of this distressed woman, it was not only
calculated to silence the disciples, but to discourage the suppliant. A
mere inattention to her urgent plea might have been imputed to some deep
abstraction of mind, which we know sometimes renders a person in the full
exercise of his faculties as indifferent and insensible to external
objects or sounds as if he were in a profound sleep; or he might have been
supposed to be occupied in meditating upon the woman's distress, and
devising means to afford her an effectual and speedy assistance: but his
language is an argument to justify his disregard, rather than to solicit
time for consideration. His commission was to Israel; he was a "minister
of the circumcision;" and that period was not yet arrived when "the
Gentiles were to be brought to his light, and kings to the brightness of
his rising." That favoured people, who were for so many ages distinguished
by celestial visitations, were destined notwithstanding their ingratitude,
to receive the first communications of the Son of God. Amongst them he
came to labour, to preach, and to die!

The solicitude of the disciples on this occasion was highly laudable. It
becomes the fellow-members of the great mystical body to sympathize with
each other. By this we fulfil the law of nature, but especially "the law
of Christ:" and in nothing can this sentiment be better expressed than in
fervent available prayers. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and
all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is
Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be
Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to
drink into one Spirit.... And whether one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with
it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular."

Driven perhaps to the very borders of despondency, and yet unwilling to
relinquish every hope, this agonizing mother again rushed forward,
prostrated herself at the Saviour's feet, and with impetuous zeal
earnestly cried out, "Lord, help me!" She seemed reduced to the last
extremity; and yet, like Esther, who resolved to go in to the king,
whether she perished or not, and like Jonah, tossing about amongst the
waves of the ocean, determining "to look again towards the holy temple of
Jehovah," she ventured to renew her application, and in language implying
her conviction of his ability, and a glimmering hope of his willingness,
she does not merely say, "Lord, deign some answer--even if it be a
refusal," but "Lord, _help_ me!" She was vigorous in faith. She "laid hold
of the horns of the altar"--she "cleaved to the Lord with full purpose of
heart." Reader, what shall we say?--"Go thou and do likewise."

Her entreaties obtain an answer, Jesus turns to address the suppliant. He
is no longer deaf to her petitions or blind to her tears. Her throbbing
heart beats with unutterable emotion, and at that glad moment she is all
ear to the long-sought reply. "Who now can expect other than a fair and
yielding answer to so humble, so faithful, so patient a suppliant? What
can speed well, if a prayer of faith from the knees of humility succeeds
not? And yet behold, the further she goes the worse she fares: her
discouragement is doubled with her suit. 'It is not meet to take the
children's bread and to cast it to dogs.' First, his silence implied a
contempt, then his answer defended his silence; now his speech expresses
and defends his contempt. Lo, he hath turned her from a woman to a dog,
and, as it were, spurns her from his feet with a harsh repulse. What shall
we say?--Is the Lamb of God turned lion? Doth that clear fountain of mercy
run blood? O Saviour, did ever so hard a word fall from those mild lips?
Thou calledst Herod fox--most worthily, he was crafty and wicked; the
Scribes and Pharisees a generation of vipers, they were venomous and
cruel; Judas a devil, he was both covetous and treacherous. But here was a
woman in distress, and distress challenges mercy; a good woman, a faithful
suppliant, a Canaanitish disciple, a Christian Canaanite, yet rated and
whipped out for a dog by thee who wert all goodness and mercy! How
different are thy ways from ours! Even thy severity argues favour. The
trial had not been so sharp if thou hadst not found the faith so strong,
if thou hadst not meant the issue so happy. Thou hadst not driven her away
as a dog, if thou hadst not intended to admit her for a saint; and to
advance her so much for a pattern of faith, as thou depressedst her for a
spectacle of contempt." [36]

In nothing is the preposterous arrogance of mankind more apparent than in
the violence of their national antipathies. Did not the history of all
ages and countries furnish an ample catalogue of opprobrious epithets,
which they have not scrupled to bestow upon each other, we might wonder
that the Jews should have accustomed themselves to speak so contemptuously
of others as to call them _dogs_. Owing to the natural propensity of human
nature to villify and degrade, the vocabularies of all languages have been
swelled with such odious terms; and till the principles of the Gospel have
been universally disseminated, we cannot indulge the hope of seeing the
animosities of mankind removed. Then only will they love their neighbours
as themselves. It is to be most deeply lamented, that even where
Christianity has taken root in the mind, this unholy leaven does not seem
to be entirely purged away; and mutual jealousies, bickerings, and
recriminations exist, where love should be the ruling principle and bond
of union. O, when will the reign of perfect charity, that "thinketh no
evil," commence! When will "the whole earth be filled with the _glory of
the Lord_!" When will men of every rank and class associate as Christians,
and Christians of every order unite as brethren!

The term _dog_ in the mouth of our Saviour, and as applied to this
distressed supplicant, must not, however, be considered as used in
conformity to the vulgar prejudices of his countrymen, but for the double
purpose of a sarcastic allusion to the unreasonableness of their degrading
views of others, who were Gentiles by birth, and to try still further a
faith which he knew would endure the test, and display this persevering
woman to the greatest advantage. Jesus Christ must necessarily, in point
of personal feeling, have been infinitely superior to all those unworthy
littlenesses which were conspicuous in the multitude around him; and as he
was acting for the moment, to answer an important purpose, in an assumed
character, we cannot be surprised that he should personate a Jew elated
with self-conscious superiority, by saying, "it is not meet to take the
children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." We are reminded of Joseph, an
eminent antitype of Christ, who, though he knew his brethren, and was
overflowing with fraternal tenderness, "made himself strange unto them,
and spake roughly unto them;" and we are led to reflect also on the
impenetrable darkness which, to the human eye, sometimes envelopes the
dispensations of Heaven; when, as a pious poet represents it,

  Behind a frowning providence
  He hides a smiling face.

The woman at once acknowledges the charge, but instantly extracts an
argument from her very discouragements. "Truth, Lord--the dogs ought not
to be fed with the supply designed for the children. I own the general
fact, and humbly submit to the painful but obvious application. It is not
from any conviction of meriting thy interposing mercy, that I have
ventured to solicit it, and to reiterate my plea. I am indeed a sinner--a
Gentile--a dog. 'And yet,'if I may pursue the allusion, 'the dogs eat of
the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' One act of kindness I
entreat amidst thy boundless liberalities--one word of consolation from
thy lips, which drop as the honey and the honeycomb--one, only one supply
from thine inexhaustible plenitude of grace and power--one fragment from
the table!"

It is done!--Joseph unveils himself! Jesus reassumes his proper character!
The stern air and attitude of repulsion is dismissed--he smiles with
ineffable affection--commends her faith, and with commanding authority
bestows the wished-for blessing; and though at so great distance, expels
the demon from the afflicted daughter. "Then Jesus answered and said unto
her, O woman, great is thy faith; he it unto thee even as thou wilt. And
her daughter was made whole from that very hour."

Such was the result of persevering _importunity_, which must ever
characterize successful prayer, and will necessarily spring from a genuine
and deep-rooted faith. We have been contemplating one of the finest
specimens of it that ever occurred in the world; and we are solemnly
exhorted to the practice of it in the introductory passage to one of our
Lord's parables--"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

Sometimes people are under the influence of very needless discouragements.
They "grow weary and faint in their minds," because they do not meet with
_immediate_ success; though this consideration constitutes no essential
part of the divine promises, would in many cases be injurious to our best
interests, and is by no means characteristic of some of the most
remarkable examples of successful prayer. At other times impatience arises
from observing that "the Father of lights," to whose wisdom it becomes us
to refer every petition, does not answer our requests in the _manner_
which we had anticipated, and, perhaps, dared presumptuously to prescribe.
But while in this, or in any other way, we approach God in the spirit of
dictation, rather than of faith and submission, we virtually renounce the
blessing even whilst we solicit it. From the history of the Syrophenician
woman we may learn, that our applications for mercy must be sincere,
fervent, and incessant. Whatever delays may occur, it is our happiness to
be assured that the ear of Infinite Goodness is always open; "the throne
of grace," to which we may approach "boldly," is always accessible. The
petitions of faith cannot escape the notice, or be obliterated from the
memory, of him to whom they are presented, but will prove ultimately
effectual; and, as prayer is the appointed means of divine communication,
it is _necessary_ to obtain the blessings of Heaven. "Whosoever _asketh_,
receiveth."

The value of the mercies we are required to seek is such as ought to
excite our utmost importunity. If the Syrophenician woman were so eager
and so persevering in order to obtain a temporal blessing, surely it
becomes us to manifest at least an equal zeal for spiritual good. She
entreated the cure of her possessed daughter; we are assured that "ALL
things whatsoever we ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive." At the
voice of prayer the treasures of grace are unlocked, the windows of heaven
opened, the riches of eternity dispensed. The language of _petition_
ascends above the language of _praise_, and is heard amidst the songs of
angels. "O thou that hearest _prayer_, unto thee shall all flesh come."

The interesting consideration, that this woman was a _Canaanite_, ought
not to be overlooked. This people was particularly denounced by Noah in
the person of their guilty progenitor, and in the following terms: "Cursed
be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." The
descendants of Canaan, that is, primarily of Ham, were remarkably wicked
and idolatrous. "Their religion," as bishop Newton observes, "was bad, and
their morality, if possible, worse; for corrupt religion and corrupt
morals usually generate each other, and go hand in hand together." Some
centuries after their predicted subjugation to the yoke of Shem and
Japheth, the Israelites, under the command of Joshua, smote thirty of
their kings, and Solomon made such as were not before extirpated or
enslaved his tributaries. The Greeks and Romans afterward subdued Syria
and Palestine, and conquered the Tyrians and Carthaginians. Subsequently
to this period, the Saracens, and finally the Turks, fastened upon them
the iron yoke of servitude.

Behold, then, from among the accursed Canaanites, a woman outstrips in
zeal and faith thousands, and tens of thousands, who were her superiors in
birth and privilege; and Jesus withholds not his blessing from this
insignificant Gentile! What an encouragement to the meanest, the
obscurest, and the most unworthy, to apply with instant haste to this
Almighty Saviour! His free and abundant salvation is dispensed to
penitents irrespectively of national distinctions or individual demerit;
and, instead of its being derogatory to his dignity to condescend to
persons of low estate, he chose to publish his Gospel to the poor, and to
"save the children of the needy." "His blood cleanseth from _all_ sin." He
came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." We have
here a specimen and pledge of the influence of Christ and his salvation.
He is become the centre of universal attraction, the powerful magnet of
the world, pervading by his influence the moral creation, and gradually
drawing all into himself. The designs of mercy were now enlarging, the
scale of its operations extending, and the ancient lines of demarcation
between Jew and Gentile were overstepped by the zeal of the Lord of Hosts.
In the person of this Canaanite we witness the first "lively stone"
brought from the Gentile quarry, and placed on the chief corner-stone of
the great spiritual edifice of the Christian church. "They shall come,"
said our Saviour, "from the east and from the west, from the north and
from the south."

The present condition of the Jews forms an awful contrast, to those clays
of boasted pre-eminence, How are they, who once regarded all other nations
as dogs, become contemptible in consequence of their treatment of the Son
of God, while the cordial reception given him by many Gentile nations has
elevated them into the dignity of children! For nearly eighteen centuries
the once honored people of the Jews have been dispersed in every direction
upon the surface of the globe. They furnish an example of one of these
dreadful recriminations of Providence which have sometimes been inflicted
on atrocious sinners in their collective and national capacities. Never
did the universe before witness so astonishing a spectacle, as a nation
destroyed as a nation, but preserved as individuals--preserved to suffer,
and to be accounted the offscouring of all things. At this moment they are
destitute of a temple, a priest, a sacrifice, a country, and a king. The
temporal dominion of their rulers and the succession of their priests have
ceased since the destruction of Jerusalem. No oblations and sacrifices
now exist. The fire burns no longer on the holy altar--the incense ascends
no more from the demolished temple--the flood of ages has swept away the
sacred edifices, and Desolation sits enthroned upon their ruins. The house
of Israel is, in consequence of the rejection of Christ, become a
spectacle to angels and to men--a melancholy monument of wo, on which the
hand of recriminating justice has inscribed in legible characters a
condemnatory sentence, which is read with silent awe by the inhabitants of
heaven, and by every king, and people, and nation of the globe.--But the
period of Jewish dispersion is hasting to its close. Party names and
ancient prejudices shall soon disappear, and mankind of every class and
country be eternally united in one blessed fraternity. "And it shall come
to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second
time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from
Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam,
and from Shinah, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he
shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of
Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners
of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries
of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall
not vex Ephraim."--"Other sheep," said Christ, "I have, which are not of
this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there
shall be one fold and one shepherd,"



Martha and Mary.

Chapter VII.


  Bethany distinguished as the Residence of a pious Family, which
  consisted of Lazarus and his two Sisters--their diversity of
  Character--the Faults of Martha, domestic Vanity and fretfulness of
  Temper--her counterbalancing Excellences--Mary's Choice and Christ's
  Commendation--Decease of Lazarus--his Restoration to Life at the Voice
  of Jesus--Remarks on Death being inflicted upon the People of God as
  well as others--the Triumph which Christianity affords over this
  terrible Evil--Account of Mary's anointing the Feet of Jesus, and his
  Vindication of her Conduct.

Almost every spot in the vicinity of Jerusalem may be regarded as "holy
ground." The enraptured imagination cannot traverse this district without
recalling the many wonderful transactions that occurred there in different
periods of the Jewish history, but especially during the personal
residence of the Son of God upon the earth. Within the small circumference
of a few miles round the city, what a multitude of great events have taken
place! What miracles have been wrought! What mercies have been
distributed! What doctrines have been revealed! What characters have
appeared! What a development has been made of human nature! What a
surprising display of the perfections of the blessed God! What an
exhibition of the love of the incarnate Redeemer! Who, then, can think
without emotion, of Bethlehem--of Bethpage--of Bethany--of Mount
Olivet--of the brook Kedron--of Emmaus--and of Calvary?

Excepting only that mountain where Jesus "suffered, the just for the
unjust, that he might bring us to God," and where "once in the end of the
world" he "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," the village of
Bethany may, perhaps, be considered as the most interesting point in this
all-attractive scene. It is situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives,
on the way to Jericho. To this neighborhood the Son of God frequently
retired for meditation and prayer; thence he began to ride in triumph to
Jerusalem; thither he repaired after eating the last supper with his
disciples, and there they witnessed his ascending glory and heard his last
benediction--for "he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted up
his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he
was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him,
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the
temple, praising and blessing God."

Bethany, however, claims our present attention chiefly as being the
residence of one of the "households of faith," with whom our Saviour was
particularly intimate, and with whose history some remarkable
circumstances are connected. It was a small but happy family, consisting
of only three members, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. The two sisters, though
united by the ties of nature, and the still dearer bond of grace, were
distinguished by a considerable dissimilarity of character, which will
furnish us with some instruction. While charmed into an effort to imitate
remarkable persons by a description of their excellences, it is of great
importance to notice their defects, not only for the purpose of avoiding
them, but that we may not be overawed into despondency and paralyzed into
inaction by their superiority. Biography, to be useful, must be brought to
our level, capacities, and circumstances. We must see excellence that is
_attainable_, and view the same infirmities which are incident to our
nature, acting in our sphere, and struggling with perplexities,
resistance, vicissitude, and trial, similar to what we ourselves
experience. The appeal is powerful when we are called upon to be
"followers of them who," though circumstanced as we are, "through faith
and patience inherit the promises."

  "Once they were mourners here below.
    And wet their couch with tears;
  They wrestled hard, as we do now,
    With sins, and doubts, and fears."

A history of angels might, indeed, excite our admiration, but would
conduce less to our real improvement than a history of our
fellow-creatures. We wish to witness the actions, and to be admitted into
the secret feelings, of those who, whatever elevation they may have since
obtained, were once in the same probationary state with ourselves, and
subjected to the same course of moral discipline. In this view it is
desirable to be introduced into the privacies of domestic life. It is in
the family and at the fireside we all occupy some station, and have some
appropriate duties to discharge; and on this account the narrative before
us is pre-eminently attractive. We are led to the native village--the
chosen residence--the family--the fireside--the _home_--of Martha and
Mary. We see them in all the undisguised reality of private life, and
participate at once their pleasures and their pains. We join the social
circle. We hear the Saviour conversing with them. We see them in
affliction--the common lot, the patrimony to which are all born--and
while we participate their sorrows, learn to sustain and profit by
our own.

In vain, to the great purposes of spiritual improvement, do we read the
lives of statesmen, heroes princes, philosophers, poets, orators, and the
mighty dead that emblazon the historic page. They excite our
astonishment, and perhaps our pity, and some moral lessons may be gained
from their reverses or the varieties of their characters; but the most
useful history is the history of religion--religion in the village, and in
the family--religion as exhibited at Bethany, in the house of Martha
and Mary.

It is a pleasing peculiarity of this household, that they were _all_ the
devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Lazarus appears to have been a solid,
established professor of religion, and of the two sisters it is recorded,
they "sat at Jesus's feet." We do not hear of another disciple in the
whole village, and all Judea could furnish but few, if any, similar
instances of three in a single dwelling; three solitary lights amidst
surrounding darkness; three flowers expanding to the newly risen Sun of
Righteousness, and blooming in a desolate wilderness. The dispensations of
providence and of grace are sometimes mysterious to the human eye, and we
feel disposed to inquire into the reasons why so few were touched by
divine influences, and bidden to follow Christ during his incarnation?
Could not that same commanding authority which drew twelve apostles and
seventy disciples into his train, and that same power which kindled the
lamp of truth in one village or city, and left another in moral darkness,
have filled Judea and the world with the glory of the Lord? Could not that
energy which pervades the universe, and imparts such inconceivable
fleetness to the morning beam when it irradiates the earth, have spread
the knowledge of salvation with equal rapidity, and multiplied the
disciples like the drops of dew?--Undoubtedly. No limits can be assigned
to divine efficiency; but in the present state no explanations are
afforded of the secret principles of his eternal government. Curiosity may
often be disposed to inquire, with one of the hearers of Christ, "Lord,
are there few that shall be saved?" But Scripture checks such
investigations, and admonishes us rather to cherish an availing solicitude
for our personal salvation: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."

The state even of the civilized world at this day is truly deplorable.
Although whole nations profess the Christian faith, yet every city, every
village, and almost every hamlet, contains families in which there is not
a single disciple of Jesus. The sun rises and sets upon a prayerless roof.
No altar is erected to God--no love exists to the Saviour--nothing to
attract his attachment or to furnish a subject for angelic joy--no
repentance--no faith--and none of "the peace of God which passeth all
understanding." Whatever may be the temporal circumstances of such
families, Christian benevolence cannot avoid weeping over their spiritual
condition. In many cases, the society admitted into their houses is of a
most pernicious class. Uninfluenced by the sentiments of David, who said,
"I am a companion of all them that fear thee," the friendships they form
are but too plainly indicative of their own principles. You will not see
them, like Martha and Mary, choosing the excellent of the earth, and
welcoming Christ or his disciples to their tables, to share their
comforts, to refine and improve their intercourse; but if they occupy a
high station in life, the gay, the dissipated, or the thoughtless--if in
an inferior situation, the vulgar, the sordid, the intemperate, and the
profane, frequent their dwellings. Religion is in both cases too often
treated with ridicule and contempt, vilified as mean-spirited in its
principle, and enthusiastic in its pretensions; and the truth of the
Gospel treated, as its Author was when upon earth, and would be were he
still incarnate, with contemptuous rejection.

Some pleasing exceptions may be found to these observations. In many
families exist at least _one_ example of genuine piety--an Abijah in the
impious family of a Jeroboam. There is reason to congratulate young
persons especially who dare to be singular, to incur reproach, and to
dismiss prejudices. The conquest in such instances is proportionably
honorable as the propensity in human nature is powerful to follow a
multitude to do evil. Such holy daring possesses great attractions, and
the most beneficial consequences have been known to result. The child has
become instrumental to the conversion of the parent, the parent to that of
the child; the brother has proved a blessing to the sister, the wife to
her husband: "for what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shall save thy
husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shall save thy wife?" In
other instances the sword of division is sharpened, and the discordances
already existing become more settled, more irreconcileable, and more
violent. The natural mind betrays its malignant animosity against the
spiritual principle, "and he that is born after the flesh persecutes him
that is born after the Spirit." But here the whole family was of "one
heart and of one soul." Religion was the law of the family, and the bond
of delightful union. They were possessed of one spirit; and, as Bishop
Hall observes, "jointly agreed to entertain Christ."

Can it be doubted, that the favored dwelling of Martha and Mary contained
a very large portion of domestic felicity--a felicity founded on the
noblest basis, cemented by the tenderest affection, and stamped with an
immortal character? The religion of Jesus is indeed calculated to diffuse
real happiness wherever it prevails; although, as we have intimated, it
may become the _occasion_ of discord in consequence of the perverseness
of human nature. Sin has disordered the mental and moral constitution of
man, and thrown the world into a state of anarchy. The unbridled dominion
of the passions disturbs the peace of the individual, and the harmony of
society. Sin makes a man at variance with himself, with his neighbors,
with his nearest connections, and with the whole constitution of the
universe. He becomes restless as the ocean, impelled by every contrary
wind, and tost about by every sportive billow. The desire of happiness
exists, but he is ignorant how to obtain it, and pursues those means which
only plunge him into greater misery. To this cause may be attributed all
the mental distresses and all the bodily afflictions of individuals--the
disturbances which too often prevent domestic enjoyment--the bickerings
and jealousies of families with their various alliances--the animosities
that annoy social life--the intestine broils, ambitious emulations, and
endless contentions, that distract a state, with every other form and mode
of evil. Hence the importance of promoting that kingdom which is
"righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" the basis of which
is the truth which Christ came into the world to propagate. It is this,
and this only, which renders mankind happy in every connection. It will
harmonize and felicitate to whatever extent it is diffused. It will allay
the discord of families, pacify the turbulence of nations, and silence the
din of war. There will be "great joy" in the heart, in the family, in the
city, and in the world. Under this influence "the wolf shall dwell with
the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and
the young lion, and the fattling together, and a little child shall lead
them.... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain."

One, however, as Martha and Mary were in principle, they differed in
character. When our Saviour first entered the house, it appears that they
both welcomed him, and listened for a time to his instructions. He was in
no haste for any refreshment, but eagerly improved every moment to benefit
his beloved friends. It was his meat and drink to do the Father's will,
and no kindness could afford him such satisfaction as a devout attention
to his words. It was, in fact, less to receive than to communicate that he
turned aside on his journey to visit these happy sisters. But if, at
first, they both attended to the "gracious words that proceeded out of his
mouth," Martha, anxious to furnish a suitable repast for their guest,
withdrew to make what she deemed the necessary preparations. Mary
continued riveted to the spot by a conversation which she could on no
terms relinquish. She would not lose a word. Every faculty was absorbed in
attention. Her eldest sister busied herself for sometime with her
preparations, till at length becoming impatient, she hastily demanded of
Jesus to send Mary to her assistance. This intrusion incurred the
memorable censure, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about
many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part
which shall not be taken away from her."

The defective points of Martha's character seem to have been two. The
first of these was domestic vanity and parade. Upon the arrival of her
divine guest she is "cumbered about much serving," anxious not only to
show a becoming hospitality, but to provide a great entertainment. In this
she betrayed a false estimate of our Saviour's spirit. He who willingly
submitted to every deprivation during his earthly career--who suffered
hunger, and thirst, and peril, and wretchedness, in every form, although
he could have commanded ten legions of angels to guard his life, or to
supply his necessities, could not have felt a moment's anxiety respecting
the abundance or the quality of the provision. This worthy woman not only
knew that he could have turned every stone of the wilderness into bread,
had he wished to pamper his appetite by luxurious living, but she had
surely sufficient opportunities to perceive his disposition, and the
perfect exemption of his mind from any kind of concern about his own
accommodation. Her anxiety was therefore mistaken in its object, as well
as excessive in its degree. And while remarking upon this subject, O that
we could impress upon all the ministers of his word the necessity of
imitating the conduct of their Master! It becomes them, as his avowed
disciples, and as persons who are perpetually exhorting others to
self-denial and courteousness, to manifest no care about their own
convenience, to give as little trouble as possible to those who, for the
sake of their office and their Master, treat tthemwith kind hospitality,
and to receive even a cup of cold water in a spirit corresponding to that
in which humble piety bestows it.

While thus betraying a false estimate of Christ, Martha's principal fault
becomes glaringly conspicuous. She is full of bustle, full of eagerness.
Her servants were, probably, dispatched in every direction to prepare a
sumptuous meal. Every thing must be in order; every dish in place. The
food, the arrangement, the preparation of every description, she was
probably solicitous should do her credit, as well as display the undoubted
affection which she cherished for her Lord. Who can tell what she lost by
her excessive care! He, "in whom dwelt all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge," was, during all this time, conversing with her sister; and
would have freely communicated the same instructions to her, had not she
precluded herself by needless anxieties.

But while we wonder at this voluntary sacrifice of spiritual advantages,
advantages too, which, generally speaking, she did not undervalue, let us
ask ourselves whether we have never merited a similar censure, whether we
have not been seduced by our worldly cares into a similar and culpable
remissness in religious duties? Happily, perhaps, like Martha, we love the
Saviour, we avow our attachment, we welcome him in the persons of his
representatives into our families; hut, at the same time, forfeit our
privileges, lose our opportunities, and suffer temporal concerns to
supersede the habitual impression of spiritual realities. Let pious women,
especially, take a lesson from this incident. Martha was by no means an
unique. She represents a very numerous class of female professors. Here is
a glass into which they may look and see a perfect reflection of
themselves; and we trust they will not retire from the salutary exhibition
of their own blemishes, _forgetting_ what manner of persons they are.
Domestic care, like every other, is liable to degenerate into excess.
There are many ladies whose piety excites universal admiration, but who,
from some constitutional proneness or some acquired habit, bestow a
disproportionate, and therefore, on many accounts, highly pernicious
concern upon their household arrangements. We are not the apologists of
uncleanliness or disorder; but it is possible to be over nice and over
anxious: by the former, we may injure the comfort of others, as well as
become burdensome even to ourselves; by the latter, we may soon interfere
with the superior claims of religion. The care of a family cannot
extenuate the guilt of neglecting private devotion or public duties; it
cannot exculpate a neglect of the word or the ordinances of God; and to be
"cumbered about much serving," is not only waste of time, but unfits the
mind for profitable intercourse, and is likely to produce an unhappy
effect upon the disposition.

This leads us to notice the second great defect in Martha, which the
present occasion tended to illustrate. This was fretfulness of temper. Her
language indicates extreme irritation. "Lord, dost thou not care that my
sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she help me."
It might be expected, that, overawed by the dignified and holy presence of
the Son of God, this woman would have felt ashamed to show her impatience,
and have been contented to remain silent. But nothing could restrain her.
Something went wrong. There was some mistake, some confusion, or perhaps
some dish out of order. She was bustling about to make preparations upon a
scale which no necessity existed to justify, and she wanted the assistance
of Mary. But Mary was bettor employed. She "sat at Jesus's feet, and heard
his word."

Let pious women beware of that anxiety which generates peevishness. It is
a greater fault than any which servants can commit by mere negligence, to
allow of those intemperate sallies against their misconduct, which, by
degrading their mistresses in their eyes, diminish the good effect a
genuine piety might otherwise produce. It is a weakness to be excessively
rigid about trifles--to be always contending, morose, and dissatisfied.
The particular sphere in which a woman is called to act, seems indeed
beset with temptations to this evil; but this consideration should serve
to awaken care and circumspection. Religion ought to be exemplified in
overcoming the difficulties of our situation, whatever they maybe; and
the more numerous they are, the more honourable the resistance. Private
life is a sphere of useful exertion. Though retired, it is important. If
it be not a field of valour, it is one for patience. If women cannot
obtain the laurels of heroism, they may win the better trophies of general
esteem and domestic attachment.

The animadversions we have thought proper to make upon the faults of
Martha, ought not however to obscure the view of her excellences. Jesus
Christ did not censure her concern, but the excess of it. It was the
unnecessary trouble she took, and as a consequence the extreme impatience
of temper she manifested, that produced this solemn remonstrance, and led
him to contrast her conduct with the silent piety of her sister. We must
still admire her generous hospitality, and her warm affection for Christ,
although her natural temperment and mistaken views betrayed her into an
improper mode of expressing it. She presents a lively contrast to those
who manifest no regard to religion or its ministers, and whose errors
originate not in mistake, but in cherished hostility and inveterate
prejudice. Her Master knew how to appreciate her character: and if he
censured her with a seriousness proportionable to her fault, the rebuke
was attempered with a kindness expressive of his friendship. The historian
distinctly records his personal affection for each member of this happy
family. "Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus." Let us
remember, then, that the real followers of Christ have their defects,
defects which perhaps appear the more conspicuous from their association
with such opposite excellences: and let us learn, like our divine Master,
to esteem even imperfect goodness, while we take every suitable
opportunity of affectionately, yet faithfully, correcting its follies.

Reader! pause for a few moments, to reflect upon the important apophthegm
pronounced by Christ upon this occasion, and the benediction upon Mary,
with which it was accompanied: "One thing is needful!" This was virtually
pronouncing religion, which involves a pre-eminent regard to the eternal
interests of the soul, to be supremely important--a principle of holiness,
a source of peace, and a pledge of immortal joy. It is, besides, of
universal concern, and comprehends whatever is essential to the present
and future felicity of a rational creature. "We should judge very ill of
the nature of this care, if we imagined that it consisted merely in acts
of devotion or religious contemplation; it comprehends all the lovely and
harmonious band of social and humane virtues. It requires a care, of
society, a care of our bodies and of our temporal concerns; but then all
is to be regulated, directed, and animated by proper regards to God,
Christ, and immortality. Our food and our rest, our trades and our labors,
are to be attended to; and all the offices of humanity performed in
obedience to the will of God, for the glory of Christ, and in a view to
the improving of the mind in a growing meetness for astate of complete
perfection. Name any thing which has no reference at all to this, and you
name a worthless trifle, however it may be gilded to allure the eye,
however it may be sweetened to gratify the taste. Name a thing, which,
instead of thus improving the soul, has a tendency to debase and pollute,
to enslave and endanger it, and you name what is most unprofitable and
mischievous, be the wages of iniquity ever so great; most foul and
deformed, be it in the eyes of men ever so honorable, or in their customs
ever so fashionable." [37]

How important is it, that we should make a similar choice with that of
Mary! This is obvious from the words of Christ, who represents it as "that
good part which shall not be taken away from her." Genuine piety is
calculated to prevent innumerable evils and sources of misery, by
preventing those indulgences which pollute while they gratify, poisoning
the constitution, impairing the reputation, and displeasing God: and by
elevating the affections to the purity of heaven. It augments incalculably
the pleasure which is derived from the possession of all other good of a
subordinate nature. While it possesses the power of extracting the
distasteful ingredients that imbitter the cup of adversity, it sweetens
the sweetest portion of prosperous life; and such is its prevailing
efficacy, that no changes can possibly deprive us of its consolations. It
shall "not be taken away." How strange, then, is the infatuation of such
as make a different choice, and how unfounded their seasons for such a
guilty preference! However their conduct may be artfully varnished over
with fair pretences, they betray consummate folly. The very foundation of
all their hopes will fail, the specious appearances of the world will
prove deceptive, like the rainbow that stretches its radiant curve over
half the heavens, but vanishes as you approach it into mist and
nothingness, and their condemnation will be no less remarkable than their
ultimate disappointment. O that, with Mary, we may sit at the feet of
Jesus, and by a prompt obedience to his comments "find rest to our souls."

Scarcely have we read of the privileges of the two sisters at Bethany,
when we are introduced to an account of their trials: so closely do
pleasures and pains follow each other in the train of human events! The
fairest fruit is often beset with thorns, the clearest day liable to be
overcast with clouds; and should the morning of life rise in brightness,
and the evening set in serenity, who can reasonably hope that no changes
shall occur in its intermediate hours? Religion indeed promises
consolation amidst afflictions, but not exemption from them: she is the
guardian of our spiritual interests, but not the disposer of our
terrestrial condition. How happily was the previous intercourse of Martha
and Mary with Jesus calculated to prepare them for their more gloomy
visiter, DEATH!

Lazarus, the brother of these excellent women, was taken ill, upon which
they immediately sent to inform their divine Friend of the distressing
circumstance. As soon as he heard it, he remarked to his disciples that
this event would prove the occasion of enhancing his own and his Father's
glory; but notwithstanding the ardent friendship which he cherished for
the family, and which the evangelist particularly notices, [38] he did not
hasten, as it seemed natural he should, to Bethany, but remained where he
was two days longer. It was his intention, doubtless, to prove the faith
of his disciples, to try the spirit of the two sisters, and to furnish an
opportunity of working the miracle with which he afterward astonished the
Jews. After this mysterious delay, he announced his purpose of proceeding
into Judea: upon which his disciples remonstrated with him, representing
the persecuting spirit of the people, which of late had been displayed in
attempts upon his life. To this he answered there were twelve hours in the
day, and consequently it was requisite to use despatch in the performance
of the labour assigned to him who would not stumble in the night, or leave
his work unfinished; and then intimating the departure of their friend
Lazarus, he said, "I go that I may awake him out of sleep." Mistaking his
meaning, and imagining that he had been speaking only of "taking rest," in
natural sleep, the disciples replied, that if this were the case, it was
probable he would soon recover, and therefore it was unnecessary to go to
Bethany. Jesus then said plainly, "Lazarus is _dead_." Seeing the
intrepidity of their Master, the disciples, stimulated by Thomas, resolved
to accompany him into Judea, and encounter every danger to which their
attachment might expose them.

When Jesus had arrived in the vicinity of Bethany, he found that his
beloved friend had been interred four days; and as this village was not
more than two miles from Jerusalem, many of the inhabitants who were
acquainted with the family, were come to condole with them upon their
loss. Martha hastened to meet Jesus, as soon as she heard of his approach;
but Mary, who perhaps was not yet informed of it, continued sitting upon
the ground, in the usual posture of mourners.

Having expressed her surprise at his delay, Martha intimated to Jesus that
she well knew that God would now grant every thing he might see fit to
request, and if he had been present before, the death of her brother might
have been prevented. Compassionating her distress, he replied, "Thy
brother shall rise again;" to which she answered, that she had the fullest
conviction of this fact, as she believed the doctrine of the final
resurrection. Her heart, however, was still overwhelmed with grief at her
present calamitous bereavement; and it was not without extreme reluctance,
that she admitted the idea of never seeing him more till that distant
period. Jesus then gave her the assurance of his being "the resurrection
and the life," and of the mighty power which he as the agent in
accomplishing this work, would display in elevating all his people to the
felicities of another and a better existence; in consequence of which
death ought not to be regarded with terror, but merely as the season of
repose previous to the morning of eternity, which would soon break with
ineffable splendour upon the tomb. Martha declared her full persuasion of
this sublime truth, founded upon her knowledge of him who addressed her as
the true Messiah, the Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth
was intrusted.

Upon this, she went by desire of Jesus to call her sister. As she had
communicated the information to Mary in a whisper, her friends who were
present supposed, when she rose up hastily, that she was going to visit
the sepulchre of Lazarus, there to renew her griefs and bewail her
bereavement. As soon as she found Jesus, she prostrated herself at his
feet, and expressed herself in terms similar to those of Martha,
indicative of a conviction that the death of her beloved relative might
have been prevented, if he had but hastened to Bethany upon the news of
his dangerous illness. This afflicting scene excited the deepest concern
in him, who, though he had every passion under the most perfect control,
now chose to indulge and to manifest his tenderness for Lazarus. He
inquired where they had laid him, and, as they conducted him to the spot,
he wept. Remembrance of the dead, sympathy for the living, and pity for
the impenitent Jews, drew forth his tears, which, while they sanction the
grief of his people at the loss of earthly connections, do not justify
its excess.

The spectators, in general, were affected with this testimony of
friendship: but some of them inquired among themselves, whether he who had
opened the eyes of the blind, could not have prevented the calamity which
he appeared so deeply to deplore. This was a very natural question; and he
was about to convince them that he _could_, by performing a miracle far
more splendid and important than such an interposition. The sepulchre of
Lazarus was a cave, with a large stone upon its mouth. Jesus commanded
them to remove this stone, not choosing to do it miraculously, in order to
avoid unnecessary parade. Martha, who seems to have been agitated by a
great conflict of feelings, very improperly exclaimed against this
proceeding; and alleged, that as he had been interred four days, the
corpse must have become offensive. Jesus with his characteristic
gentleness, reminded her that he knew well what he had ordered: and that
his previous assurance, that if she would only believe she should see the
glory of God, ought to have sealed her lips in silence.

The stone being removed according to the request of Jesus, he uttered a
short but expressive prayer to Heaven; and then with a loud voice, cried
out, "Lazarus, come forth." The realms of death heard his sovereign
mandate, and their gloomy monarch yielded up his captive; "and he that was
dead came forth, bound hand and foot, with grave clothes: and his face was
bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him
go." The effect of this miracle was considerable; for many of the Jews,
who had come to sympathize with the bereaved sister, believed in Christ,
though others instantly repaired to the Pharisees, to inflame their
malignity by reciting what they had witnessed. With similar diversity of
effect, is the Gospel now proclaimed to men; its facts and evidences
kindling the resentment of some, or hardening them into increased
obduracy; while they convince the minds of others, interesting their best
affections, conquering their prejudices, and operating their salvation.

If there were any exception to that universal law which consigns man to
the grave, it might be hoped that such as compose the church of God, being
redeemed by the blood of his Son, called according to his purpose, and
sealed by his Spirit to the day of redemption, would be freed from this
calamity; but death extends his dreadful dominion over the families of the
righteous, as well as the impious. The people of God might, if he pleased,
have been delivered from the present curse: his goodness might have
indemnified them from the common evils which afflict human life, and
appointed them some favoured region, the Goshen of the universe, where
they should have passed their days in a state of rich possession and
unmolested tranquillity; but, if he have ordained otherwise, it is for
wise reasons; some of which, perhaps, we may succeed in explaining.

Is not such a dispensation, for instance, calculated to impress an awful
sense of the malignity of sin? So abominable is it, that the blessed God,
who has made an ample provision for the future, felicity of his saints,
and who is daily imparting to them on earth the invaluable blessings of
his grace, cannot, it seems, consistently with his perfection, exempt them
from the stroke of death. It is requisite that his detestation of it
should be evinced in a complete and undistinguishing overthrow of the race
of mortals, amongst whom even those whose names are written in the book of
life, on account of their nature being contaminated with depravity must
suffer the punishment of temporal death, and show to admiring immortals,
that God is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look
upon sin."

Besides, this demolition of the corporeal frame is an essential means of
its purification. The leprosy has infected every part of the building, the
members of the body have become instrumental to the working of
unrighteousness; and, consequently, "the earthly house of this tabernacle
must be _dissolved_."

The infliction of this calamity upon believers in Christ as well as upon
others, is calculated also to maintain their faith in vigorous and
perpetual exercise. Were it permitted to them to pass into another world,
as Enoch or Elijah did, by a sudden transportation beyond the regions of
mortality to those of undecaying existence, without undergoing "the pains,
the groans, the dying strife," or without experiencing the frightful
alteration that occurs in other human beings, there would no longer exist
the same opportunity as at present for the display of one of the noblest
principles of a renewed mind. Who can contemplate the debased condition of
the body, who can realize the amazing change which "flesh and blood is
heir to"--the icy coldness, the stony insensibility, the universal
inanimation that pervades the whole frame, the putrefaction to which it is
subject, and the general loathsomeness of that which once appeared the
fairest structure amongst the works of God, without an instinctive
shuddering, and without perceiving that faith alone can give the victory
over death? There is nothing surely in the state of the body _after_ this
event to indicate a future existence, but rather every thing to perplex
such a sentiment, and to confound such an expectation. There is nothing
in its aspect which seems to foretel life--nothing to predict
resuscitation. In general, however desperate the case, hope is sustained
by the most trifling circumstances, the feeblest glimmerings of the yet
unextinguished lamp; if there be the gentlest breath, or the slightest
motion, the solicitude of wakeful tenderness is still maintained, and the
_possibility_ at least of a return to health is admitted as a welcome and
not irrational idea; but when the breath entirely fails, when motion is
paralyzed, when the lamp is extinct, whence can any thought of a revival
be obtained? What succeeds the fatal moment, but progressive decay? And
who can discover the least trace of an indication that the departed friend
will resume his life? Every hour seems to widen the breach, to increase
the distance that separates the dead from the living, and to complete the
triumph of our mortal foe. All the powers of nature in combination would
prove incompetent to produce life in the smallest particle--the most
insignificant atom of dust; and hope naturally expires when animation
ceases. When Christians, therefore, are required to part with their
companions, or to die themselves, their only confidence must be in God;
and whoever cannot receive _his_ word, and rely upon the assurances which
he has given with regard to the exercise of divine power in the recovery
of man from the grave, has no adequate consolation amidst the desolations
that await him.

Christians also must pass through the change of death, because the glory
of Jesus Christ in the resurrection could not otherwise be so
illustriously displayed. Never did the character of the Son of God appear
with more commanding majesty than when he recalled the spirit of Lazarus
from the invisible state, and at a word raised his body from the
sepulchre. "Lazarus," said he, "come forth:" the summons entered the ear
of death, and the "last enemy" felt himself "destroyed."

The scene is infinitely cheering. Though we "fade as a leaf," dropping one
by one into the tomb like the foliage of autumn; the eternal spring
advances, when "they that are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall
come forth"--renewed in vigour, purified in character, perfected in
felicity--to return no more to this sublunary sphere, to descend no more
to the dust, to struggle no more with sin and sorrow, to be assaulted no
more with the "fiery darts of the devil."

Death is so truly alarming to human nature and to shortsighted reason, so
calculated by its external appearances to fill the mind with anxiety, that
in order to suppress our fears and cherish our hopes, it seemed requisite
to bring another existence into the nearest possible view, to render it in
a sense visible, and to embody immortality. In the resurrection of
Lazarus, as well as by other miraculous manifestations, this great purpose
was effected. We perceive incontestably that death is not annihilation,
and that the appearance which it assumes of an extinction of being is not
a reality. _That_ power which was exerted in one case, reason says _may_,
and revelation declares _shall_, be exerted in another; and that, by the
voice of Omnipotence, all the saints shall be raised at the last day from
the abodes of darkness and silence. It is here Christianity takes her
firmest stand--here she discloses her brightest scenes! Glorious
expectation of rising to eternal life, and through Jesus, "the first
begotten of the dead," becoming superior to our most formidable enemy!
What a train of happy beings will then be witnesses of his glory, trophies
of his power, and inhabitants of his kingdom! This will be the jubilee of
all ages, the anticipation of which is well calculated to suppress our
anxieties, and quicken us to every duty.

What mutual congratulations must have circulated through the family of
Lazarus, when he was restored to the affectionate embraces of his sisters!
What a renewal of love would take place on that happy day! How was their
sorrow turned into joy, and their lamentations info praises! What a
triumph of mind did they feel over the grave, and what expressions of
gratitude to their Deliverer burst from every heart! But who can imagine
the transports of that moment, when the same power that raised Lazarus
from the tomb, shall be exerted upon every believer in Jesus, who shall
"meet the Lord in the air," and be introduced to the eternal society of
kindred minds; when the redeemed world shall assemble on the celestial
shore, to recount their past labours and mercies, to renew their spiritual
fellowship, to hail each other's escape from the conflicts, the
temptations, and the diversified evils of mortal life, to behold the glory
of Him who has washed them in his blood and saved them by his grace, to
take possession of their destined thrones, and to mingle their strains of
acknowledgment with the holy by innings of the blest!

How _terrible_ then is death, but how _delightful_! Death is the _end_ of
life; death is the _beginning_ of existence! Death _closes_ our prospects,
and death _opens_ them! Death _debases_ our nature--death _purifies_ and
_exalts_ it! "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his!"

Curiosity, ever disposed to pry into what the wisdom of God has not
thought proper to reveal, has frequently inquired into the history of
Lazarus after his resurrection. It has been asked, what were his feelings,
what the nature of his recollections, and what the topics of his
conversation? Did he communicate to his sisters any important intelligence
from the invisible state, or was he withheld by any divine interdiction
from explaining the secrets of his prison-house? Was it not to be
expected that some record of those transactions in which he afterward
engaged, or of the manner in which he was at last removed from the world,
should have been given in Scripture, or of the impressions of his mind
respecting the amazing changes which he had experienced?

The probability is, that Lazarus had no remembrance of the state into
which he had passed during the four days of his interment; and that, as it
could answer no good purpose to himself or others to perpetuate in this
world impressions suited only to the spirit in another condition of
existence, the images of those realities were obliterated from his mind,
like the visions of a dream that have for ever vanished away. It is
sufficient for _us_, as it was enough for _him_, to know that the doctrine
of the resurrection was exhibited to the Jews, with an evidence which, but
for the violence of their prejudices, must have proved to all, as it did
to many of them, irresistibly convincing.

Six days before the passover, Lazarus appears again upon the page of
Scripture history, at supper with Jesus at Bethany; but our attention is
less directed to him than to his sisters and their divine Guest. Martha,
as usual, was busied with domestic preparations; and Mary, with her
characteristic zeal and affection, "took a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her
hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."

The disciples were displeased at what they deemed this _waste_ of the
rich balsam, and murmured against her. One of them especially, Judas
Iscariot, exclaimed, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred
pence, and given to the poor?" [39] But this objection, so far from being
dictated by any kindness for the needy, arose entirely from his eagerness
to increase the store with which he was intrusted, and which he was
intending to appropriate to himself. Aware of this design, and
disapproving the uncharitable disposition manifested by his disciples,
Jesus reproved them; and expressed his satisfaction with Mary's conduct as
indicative of a regard for which she should hereafter be celebrated
throughout the world. He intimated that he should soon leave them, and
that this might be considered as an expression of fondness towards a
friend who might be almost viewed as already dead, and to whom she would
have few other opportunities of testifying her affection.

And shall not we be ready to consecrate our most valued possessions to the
service of such a Master? Shall we hesitate to devote to him whatever he
claims, or whatever we can bestow? Shall we feel a moment's reluctance to
aid his cause by the application of some considerable part of our
pecuniary resources to his church and people? He has bequeathed his poor
to our care, and it is a solemn charge; neglecting which we shall miss the
honor of his final benediction; but fulfilling it, we may indulge the
delightful hope that he will recompense even the most trifling attention,
and inscribe upon each future crown, in characters visible to the whole
intelligent universe, _he_ or "_she_ HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD."



The Poor Widow.

Chapter VIII.



  Account of Christ's sitting over against the Treasury--He particularly
  notices the Conduct of an obscure Individual--She casts in two Mites--it
  is to be viewed as a religious Offering--the Ground on which it is
  eulogized by Christ--the Example honorable to the female Sex--People
  charitable from different Motives--two Reasons which might have been
  pleaded as an Apology for withholding this Donation, she was poor and a
  Widow--Her pious Liberality notwithstanding--all have Something to
  give--the most trifling Sum of Importance--the Habit of bestowing in
  pious Charity beneficial--Motives to Gratitude deduced from the
  Wretchedness of others, the Promises of God, and the Cross of Jesus.


Uncharitableness does not seem to have been characteristic of the Jews at
any period of their history, who erred rather on the side of ostentation
than of parsimony. During the three great annual festivals, the offerings
to the temple were very considerable, and of various kinds; although, in
the time of Christ, the country was in a state of comparative depression,
as tributary to the Roman empire. Many individuals, however, were no less
distinguished for their liberality than their opulence. But it is common
to be deceived by appearances; and an action which we may estimate as
good, may be of little value in the sight of that Being who "searcheth the
reins and _hearts_," and who will "give to every one according to
their works."

In the history before us our Saviour is represented as sitting "over
against the treasury;" for though on every proper, and almost on every
possible occasion, he addicted himself to solitude, both for the purpose
of exemplifying the propriety of frequent retirement, and of obtaining
spiritual refreshment; yet, at other times, he mixed with society to
notice and to correct the follies of mankind. His observant eye could not
overlook the minutest diversities of human character; and he never
permitted a favorable opportunity of deducing from these appearances
salutary lessons for his disciples, to pass unimproved. Happy, thrice
happy men, to have such an Instructer at hand--to live so near the "Light
of the world"--to have constant and intimate access to him, "in whom dwelt
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!" And happy, thrice happy we,
notwithstanding our comparative disadvantages of time and circumstance,
who possess the recorded instructions of "the faithful and true Witness,"
in the page of inspiration, while "darkness covers" so vast a proportion
of "the earth, and gross darkness the people!"

In the situation which Jesus had chosen, he distinctly saw the people
casting money into the treasury, and particularly noticed the large sums
which many rich persons contributed to this sacred fund. Little did they
suspect what an eye was upon them, watching their movements, and
estimating their motives! It is probable that the majority of those who
came to present their gifts on this occasion, had no personal knowledge of
the Saviour, who assumed no extraordinary appearance, excepting that of
extreme poverty of condition and deep humiliation of spirit; and that of
those who might recognize him, some had been so discomfited by his
superior wisdom in the field of argument, as to feel no inclination either
to dare another contest, or to submit to his decisions; others were too
indolent to make inquiries after heavenly truth, too ignorant to penetrate
beyond his humble exterior, or too fearful to incur the censure of
ecclesiastical authority, for seeming by a respectful approach to become
his disciples; while few, if any, who passed by, were aware that "he knew
what was in man."

If there were many among the wealthy contributors to the treasury who gave
from motives of vanity and ostentation, it is reasonable to believe that
others were characterized by genuine benevolence, and as such approved by
their unknown observer. They were not influenced either by a spirit of
rivalry or pride, but devoutly wished to be serviceable to religion and
acceptable to God. If some came in the temper of the boasting Pharisee,
who is represented as professing to pray in these words, "God, I thank
thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this publican: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that
I possess"--others, no doubt, as they cast in the liberal offering, felt
if they did not exclaim with the publican, "God, be merciful to me
a sinner."

Although the Son of God has reassumed his glory, being exalted "far above
all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that
is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come;" he
minutely investigates the characters and actions of men, and will
hereafter "appear in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," for
the purpose of "rendering to every man according to his deeds." The
proceedings of that day will be marked by the utmost impartiality and
justice, founded upon a perpetual and complete inspection of all human
actions, and a most perfect knowledge of their motives.

"Can we think, O Saviour, that thy glory hath diminished aught of thy
gracious respects to our beneficence? or that thine acceptance of our
charity was confined to the earth? Even now that thou sittest at the right
hand of thy Father's glory, thou seest every hand that is stretched out
to the relief of thy poor saints here below. And if vanity have power to
stir up our liberality, out of a conceit to be seen of men; how shall
faith encourage our bounty in knowing that we are seen of thee, and
accepted by thee? Alas! what, are we the better for the notice of those
perishing and impotent eyes, which can only view the outside of our
actions; or for that waste wind of applause, which vanisheth in the lips
of the speaker? Thine eye, O Lord, is piercing and retributive. As to see
thee is perfect happiness, so to be seen of thee is true contentment
and glory.

"And dost thou, O God, see what we give thee, and not see what we take
away from thee? Are our offerings more noted than our sacrileges? Surely,
thy mercy is not more quicksighted than thy justice. In both kinds our
actions are viewed, our account is kept; and we are as sure to receive
rewards for what we have given, as vengeance for what we have defaulted.
With thine eye of _knowledge_, thou seest all we _do_; but we _do well_,
thou seest with an eye _of approbation!_" [40]

After stating the general notice which Jesus Christ took of the variety of
opulent contributors to the treasury, the sacred narrative informs us of
his particularly remarking the offering of a certain individual, whom he
exhibited to his disciples as a pattern of unrivalled generosity. The
comparative value and magnitude of this gift are recorded; and though the
name of this honorable character is concealed, the benevolent deed can
never be forgotten.

We are not informed of the sums given respectively by wealthy persons upon
this occasion, but only in general that they were very considerable:
"many that were rich cast in much." It is astonishing what large
contributions have been sometimes advanced for charitable and other
religious purposes: and from knowing that Jesus Christ selected for
remark, and distinguished by an extraordinary eulogium, the offering of a
certain woman to the treasury, we are eager to inquire who was the donor,
and what the gift so celebrated.

But we must suspend our prejudices. Let us remember, that "God seeth not
as man seeth"--that our calculations of value and of magnitude are often
false, because we do not use the balances of the sanctuary, but are
governed by the erroneous opinions of mankind--and then we shall be
prepared to learn, that on that memorable day, when Jesus sat over against
the treasury beholding the numerous and splendid donations of the rich, a
_female_, a _widow_, "cast in more than they all"--more than any one
individually, and more than all collectively!

What then were her resources? Was she some Eastern potentate, who, like
the queen of Sheba, "came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with
camels that bare spices, and very much gold and precious stones"--a queen
who was able to present Solomon with "a hundred and twenty talents of
gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones?" No, she was a
_poor_ widow! Our astonishment increases. But some poor persons have great
future prospects, or great present connections. Had she then sold an
hereditary reversion, or borrowed extensively of some wealthy friends, and
impelled by a zeal for God, given it to the treasury? No--she gave only
out of her _poverty_--"she threw in _two mites_, which make a FARTHING,"
or about _two pence_, according to the proportionate value of English
money. [41] This was the donation that led Jesus to call his disciples,
and address them thus, "Verily, I say unto you, that this poor widow hath
cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they
did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that
she had, even all her living."

It is proper to remark, that this gift was rather religious than
charitable, the offering of piety as distinguished from that of
almsgiving. This will be obvious, upon considering that the contributions
to the treasury were not for the support of the poor, but for the supply
of sacrifices and other necessary services. Dr. Lightfoot states that
there were thirteen treasure-chests, called _Shopheroth_, and collectively
_Corban_ or _Corbonah_, which were placed in that part of the temple
denominated the Court of the Women. Two of these chests were for the half
shekel, which every Israelite was to pay according to the law; and eleven
others were appropriated to the uses specified in their respective
inscriptions. 1. _For the price of the two turtle-doves, or two young
pigeons_. 2. _For the burnt-offering of birds_. 3. _For the money offered
to buy wood for the altar_. 4. _For those who gave money to buy
frankincense_. 5. _For those who offered gold for the mercy-seat_. 6. _For
the residue of the money for the sin-offering_. 7. _For the residue of the
money for a trespass-offering_. 8. _For the residue of an offering of
birds_. 9. _For the surplus of a Nazarite's offering_. 10. _For the
residue of a leper's trespass-offering_. 11. _For whosoever would offer an
offering of the herds_.

Our Saviour eulogized the gift of this good woman less, probably, on
account of its comparative superiority to the more splendid donations of
opulent contributors to the treasury, whose circumstances were so widely
different from hers, than because her motives were more pure and pious.
The intention to purchase renown or self-approbation, diminishes the
excellence of the most costly offering; while the simple desire to honour
God and promote his cause, superadds substantial worth to the meanest
donation. Jesus Christ perceived the workings of genuine faith and love in
this woman's heart, and estimated them at a price above the choicest
jewels or the purest gold.

He saw and he approved the holy zeal of her mind, and well knew that the
operations of her benevolence were restricted solely by the limitation of
her means. These alone presented an impassable barrier to a liberality of
spirit which impelled her far beyond the allowance of a timid policy, or a
calculating prudence; and we may reasonably conclude, that she knew no
regret at the scantiness of her pecuniary resources, and the
inferiority, of her condition, save what originated in perceiving her small
capacity of usefulness. She who could cast into the treasury the only two
mites that she possessed, would have adorned a higher station. Had
Providence placed her amongst the princesses of the earth, while she
retained such a disposition, what an extensive blessing to society would
she have proved! Such, however, in two many instances, is the corrupting
influence of large possessions, that it is always questionable, whether in
the very great majority of cases an increase of riches would not
deteriorate the principle of benevolence; and whether, if placed amidst
the splendid scenes of elevated rank, our eyes would not be soon so
dazzled, as to incapacitate us either for seeing the wants of the poor, or
the necessities of the church of Christ.

How exquisite and how enviable must have been the feelings of this pious
woman, when she cast her last two mites into the treasury! What a noble
generosity! what disinterested zeal! She could not delay a moment to
inquire respecting the means of her future subsistence, or the comfort of
the present day; the impulse was too powerful to be resisted, and was
amply recompensed by an instantaneous enhancement of her happiness.

This example is highly honorable to the female sex. It is not the language
of flattery, but of truth, to say that they are distinguished by acute
sensibility, quick sympathy, and persevering patience in doing good. They
are naturally compassionate, and have the best opportunities of gratifying
a charitable disposition. From constitution they are more susceptible,
from habit more considerate, and from character more prompt than the other
sex in promoting benevolent purposes. They generally require less urging
to useful measures, and the flame of charity often burns with more
brightness and perpetuity in their bosoms.

In the church of Christ, women have ever been pre-eminent in numbers and in
character; they have been the first to profess Christ, and the last to
dishonour him; they have joined the train of his followers, borne the
reproach of his accusers, sustained the cross of self-denial, and aspired
to the crown of martyrdom; they are recorded with marked distinction by an
apostolic pen, "Women received their dead raised to life again, and others
were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better
resurrection;"--in a word, whenever they have been required to suffer for
Christ, they have willingly surrendered life with all its joys; and
whenever called to maintain his cause by pecuniary supplies, they have
been found ready, like the poor widow, to give even to their last
_two mites_.

Some persons will not be liberal, unless they can be praised. They are
anxious to see their names exciting public attention, and their
benefactions proclaimed upon some public list. If you will allow them to
be "seen of men," they will reconcile themselves to make some sacrifice
for the good of others; and overcome their heartfelt reluctance to give,
when they are assured of being repaid in a proportionate measure of fame.
And thus, in fact, their charity is nothing but a sordid traffic; they
barter for renown, and aim to insure the recompense before they hazard the
gift. But we may be assured, that this is of all speculations the meanest,
the most detestable, and ultimately the most ruinous. The poor widow had
no suspicion of the kind of observance to which she was exposed, and no
wish to attract attention. She silently dropped her money into the chest,
and departed. The whole world was, in her estimation, ignorant of the
deed; and the whole world could not have bestowed upon her so rich a
gratification.

Persons of the class alluded to will sometimes admit of concealment. They
adopt many measures to hide their virtue from the eyes of others; they
will by no means court public attention, or allow a formal publication of
their deeds: but if perchance they are whispered abroad, if any
indiscretion betrays them, if though not _written_, they are _stated_;
they are the last persons on earth to feel any offence, and congratulate
themselves on having effectually secured the applauses of mankind.

"Good actions," as the admirable Achbishop Leighton remarks, "cannot well
be hid; and it may sometimes be necessary for example and exciting others,
that they know of it; but take heed that vanity creep not in under this.
And further than either unavoidable necessity, or some evident further
good of thy neighbour carries it, desire to be unknown and unseen in this.
When it must be public, let thy intention be secret; take no delight in
the eyes of men on thee; yea, rather count it a pain; and still eye God
alone, for he eyes thee. And remember it even in public acts of charity,
and other such like, _he sees in secret_; though the action be no secret,
the spring, the source of it, is; and he sees by what weights the
wheels go, and he still looks upon that, views thy heart, the bidden bent
and intention of it, which man cannot see. So then, though in some cases
thou must be seen to do, yet in no case do to be seen: that differs much;
and where that is, even the other will be as little as it may be."

There are other persons who, though they cannot in all cases be censured
for penuriousness, have imbibed a very pernicious error. They plead that
they have scarcely sufficient for themselves, that they cannot therefore
afford to contribute even to a good cause; and that if they were to do any
thing, it must necessarily be so little as to be useless. What, say they,
could our insignificant donations avail in aid of a fund which requires
the most liberal and constant supplies? Could our drop of charity
materially increase the tide, or swell the ocean? Would it become us to
take from our few necessities, what could not much augment the comforter
minister to the wants of others? Or does God require that his cause should
be sustained by the poor, and the poorest of the poor, when he can command
the purses of the opulent, or turn the stones of the desert into gold.

To this reasoning the instructive history we are considering is a direct
reply. There were two circumstances in her lot, which not only merited
compassion, but would have furnished as strong arguments against her
contributing to the treasury as it is perhaps possible to adduce.

She was in the first place POOR--poor in the extreme; for when she cast in
"two mites" it was "all her living" Poverty is helpless. It does not
possess the means of alleviating its own distresses, much less of
assisting others to any considerable extent. "Wealth," says Solomon,
"maketh many friends, but the poor is separated from his
neighbour"--separated by his neighbour's _selfishness_, who is too much
occupied with his own concerns to cast his eyes beyond the narrow limits
of personal interest--separated by his neighbour's _insensibility_, whose
heart is often cold and motionless to pity as the stone which paves his
doorway--separated by his neighbor's _avarice_, who idolizes gold, and
grasps it with unyielding tenacity--separated by his neighbour's _pride_,
who looks with contempt upon his unoffending inferior--separated by his
neighbour's _servility_, who flatters greatness even by acquiescing in its
unfounded dislike of the poor--ah! "the poor is _separated_ from his
neighbour!"

You plead poverty as an excuse for disregarding every claim upon you; but
are you as destitute as this obscure yet excellent woman, who had but a
farthing, and gave it even without solicitation? Be encouraged by
recollecting who observes and who can repay you. Indeed the poor of every
class were the particular objects of the Saviour's attention during his
residence on earth; and he has rendered the tattered garment of poverty
respectable by having worn it himself.

There is one consideration, above all others, which seems to appeal most
forcibly to the inferior classes of society in behalf especially of the
cause of Christ, and to urge some, even the smallest donations, to the
_treasurer_, of the Christian temple, however incapacitated they may be
for other benevolent exertions, namely, that _poverty appears to be the
peculiar object of divine complacency and provision._ It is the common
condition of the people of God, who "hath _chosen_ the poor of this world,
rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that
love him." The vale of poverty seems to be the favourite walk of celestial
mercy. Here she distributes her charities--here she spreads her
table--here she sends her ministers of grace. It was here the Saviour
"went about doing good." The discourses he delivered were adapted to the
poor--he consulted their capacities, instructed their minds, felt for
their circumstances, and relieved their necessities. Whom others despised
he honored--whom others forsook he sought--whom others suffered without a
sigh to perish, he supplied, and comforted, and saved!

The Gospel itself was expressly addressed to the poor, and is peculiarly
suited to their condition; and the messengers of heaven are directed to go
out into the highways and hedges to compel men to come in. The promises of
Scripture are peculiarly appropriated to the necessities of the poor. They
have no _money_; hence the blessings of the everlasting covenant are
described as "wine and milk," and are to be procured "without money and
without price." The poor are subject to _fatigue_ through excess of labor;
hence it is "the weary and heavy-laden," whom Christ invites to "come to
him," promising them "rest." The poor, being deprived of those means of
mental cultivation which the rich enjoy, are usually _ignorant_; hence the
source of the Redeemer's grateful appeal to the Father, "Thou has hid
these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto
babes." The poor are the _servants_ of others; hence we read of "the
liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free," and "if the Son make you free
ye shall be free indeed." The felicities of the invisible state are
represented in terms which form a complete contrast to the present
condition of the poor. Are they now the tenants of the lowly cottage? "In
my Father's house are many mansions"--"we have a _building of God_, a
house not made with hands, _eternal_ in the heavens." Must they now look
on all the fields around them, and sigh to think that they belong to
another?' Through the grace of the Gospel they anticipate "an inheritance
incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Are they now clothed
in wretched attire?--they may expect to be adorned with "white robes" and
"a crown of glory." Are they now in a state of obscurity--their names
unknown--their condition mean and despised?--hereafter they shall have a
"name better than of sons and daughters;" they shall "shine as the
brightness of the firmament," and "as the stars, for ever and ever." Is
their condition on earth eminently "the _house of mourning_?" Do a scanty
meal, a starving family, a pining partner, a wasting disease for which
poverty forbids their procuring the most skilful means, frequently excite
the bitter, the burning, the unavailing tear? In heaven "the days of our
mourning shall be ended," and "God himself shall wipe away all tears from
our eyes."

Had this poor woman been disposed rather to have evaded the gift to the
treasury than to have volunteered so large a donation as that of "all her
living," the circumstance of her being A WIDOW would seem to have been a
sufficient apology. No condition of life can be conceived more wretched. A
widow is deprived; "of the object of tenderest regard, the soother of her
cares, the defence of her weakness, and the staff of her life." She is left
to bewail in solitude--to suffer alone; or, if her children surround her,
by tracing in their features the resemblance of her departed husband, she
perpetually opens afresh the wound that time was kindly healing, and
blends her fond caresses with tears of unavailing regret. She must now
support herself--and perhaps struggle to supply them, whose childhood both
disqualifies them from affording any assistance, and renders the incessant
vigilance of maternal care essential to their very preservation. If, in
addition to this, her poverty incapacitates her for resisting the arm of
oppression, or vindicating herself against the unmerited reproaches of the
censorious and the impious, her situation is inconceivably deplorable.
Some part of this description certainly applies, and perhaps all, to the
character under consideration. She was a poor widow: and yet the miseries
of her own state did not prevent her casting in a liberal supply, even
"all her living," into the treasury of God. She trusted for to-morrow to
that Providence which had supplied her to-day; a confidence which we
cannot doubt experienced its appropriate reward.

In addition to these considerations, and as a reply to the sophisms
already adverted to, by which so many in far superior circumstances to
this good woman endeavour to fence themselves against the charge of
illiberality, we remark--

1. It is by no means evident that you have absolutely _nothing_ that can
be applied to the purposes of a pious charity. In order to prove this, it
would be requisite to show that all your labour is scarcely sufficient to
procure your subsistence--a subsistence that does not require or admit the
smallest redundancy or the least indulgence. You must prove that you never
pamper one appetite or gratify one lust; and that, in compliance with the
exhortation of Christ, you "take no thought for the morrow." This is a
case of so extreme a nature that its occurrence seems a bare possibility,
and will not surely exonerate those who, if they are but scantily
supplied in comparison with the ample abundance which enriches the
condition of others, have nevertheless the means of a sufficient and
perhaps a comfortable support. From those who possess much, much is
required; and of those who have little _something_--to prove that the
spirit of benevolence is not extinct, nor the claims of humanity and
religion disregarded. You may be unable to pour in gold and silver, but
surely you can contribute _two miles_'. It is an excellent piece of
advice, "If thou have but a little, be not afraid to give according to
that little; for thou layest up a good treasure for thyself against the
day of necessity."

2. Whatever may be our estimate of the merit or utility of a small
donation, the most trifling addition is of some importance. The seed which
is sown in the field of benevolence will bear some fruit and help to swell
the harvest. The immeasurable extent of sand upon the sea-shore is made up
of grains, and the loftiest mountains are composed of diminutive particles
of dust. If the millions who are able to contribute their mites could be
induced to do so, the treasury would soon be full; but if they withhold
them, the uncertain, capricious, and ostentatious, though large
contributions of the opulent, may fail to replenish it.

3. The _habit_ of giving, however small the sum, is inconceivably
beneficial to the contributor himself. It is an important means of
cherishing in the breast that divine principle, which without exercise and
use would be likely to languish: for whatever sentiments we feel, whatever
theories we adopt, and in whatever eloquence of language and warmth of
spirit we expatiate upon the excellences of liberality, unless we _give_
to the necessitous ourselves, the heart will become hardened and cold;
and a _theoretical religion_ can never preserve us from a _real impiety_.

"The peculiar nature of our religion," observes Dr. Barrow, [42]
"specially requires it, and the honour thereof exacts it from us; nothing
better suits Christianity, nothing more graces it, than liberality;
nothing is more inconsistent therewith, or more disparageth it, than being
miserable and sordid. A Christian niggard is the veriest nonsense that can
be; for what is a Christian? What but a man who adores God alone, who
loves God above all things, who reposes all his trust and confidence in
God? What is he, but one who undertaketh to imitate the most good and
bountiful God; to follow, as the best pattern of his practice, the most
benign and charitable JESUS, the Son of God; to obey the laws of God and
his Christ, the sum and substance of which is charity; half whose religion
doth consist in loving his neighbour as himself! What is he further, but
one who hath renounced this world, with all the vain pomps and pleasures
of it; who professes himself in disposition and affection of mind to
forsake all things for Christ's sake; who pretends little to value,
affect, or care for any thing under heaven, having all his main
concernments and treasures--his heart, his hopes, and his happiness, in
another world? Such is a Christian: and what is a niggard? All things
quite contrary. One whose practice manifestly shows him another thing
besides and before God; to love mammon above God, and more to confide in
it than in him; one who bears small goodwill, kindness, or pity towards
his brother; who is little affected or concerned with things future or
celestial; whose mind and heart are rivetted to this world; whose hopes
and happiness are settled here below; whose soul is deeply immersed and
buried in earth; one who, according to constant habit, notoriously
breaketh the two great heads of Christian duty, '_loving God with
all his heart, and his neighbour as himself_. It is, therefore, by comparing
those things very plain, that we pretend to reconcile gross contradictions
and inconsistences, if we profess ourselves to be Christians and are
illiberal. It is indeed the special grace and glory of our religion, that
it consisteth not in barren speculations, or empty formalities, or forward
professions; not in fancying curiously, or speaking zealously, or looking
demurely; but in really producing sensible fruits of goodness, in doing
(as St. Paul signifies) _things good and profitable, unto men_."

The story of the poor widow is eminently calculated to inspire gratitude
in the hearts of those who are mercifully exempted from the wretchedness
of such extreme poverty, which exposes to the temptation of repining at
the dispensations of Heaven, and of pursuing improper measures for
obtaining relief. Nor is its least evil that of cherishing an envious
spirit towards those who are in superior circumstances. From the abodes of
penury and want it is indeed a pleasing fact that Divine Grace has chosen
its objects, and from lowly vales and humble cottages elevated them to
thrones of immortality. We hear apostles saying, "Silver and gold have we
none;" and Bartimeus, brought into the train of disciples from "the
highway-side," where he was "blind" and "begging." And though it is a
delightful consideration, that religion Can alleviate the rigours of want,
and infuse sweetness into the bitterest waters of sorrow; yet poverty,
with its concomitant evils, is an affliction from which, in its extreme
form, we may pray to be relieved. Though in the strictest sense, the
Christian, like the apostle, while "having nothing," may yet be said to
"possess all things;" yet that degree of necessity which arises from
extreme poverty is far from being desirable either for the body or
the soul.

In the most destitute circumstances, however, the promises of our Father
in heaven, and the examples which we find upon sacred record, are
encouraging. "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed
begging bread"--"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for
the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and
wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine,
and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." Of Zion it is asserted, "I
will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread:"
and "He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that
despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of
bribery, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his
eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall
be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall
be sure."

Remember the interpositions of God to supply the necessities of the
destitute. Go to _Egypt_ and _Canaan_, and trace the wonderful
appointments of that providence which supplied the famished household of
Jacob! Go into the wilderness of _Sin_, and behold an extraordinary kind
of dew covering the camp of Israel and sparkling in the morning sun, in
fulfilment of the prediction, "I will rain bread from heaven for you!"
Observe the famished prophet at "the brook Cherith, that is before
Jordan," and see the ravens of heaven descending with bread and flesh to
supply Elijah! Follow Jesus into a desert place, where five thousand
weary, wayworn strangers, besides women and children, are fed by his
liberal hand and his miraculous power! "Behold the fowls of the air; for
they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your
heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of
you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? and why take, ye
thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they
toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so
clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into
the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we
drink? or Wherewithal shall we he clothed? (For after all these things do
the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of
all these things."

O, how sweetly does that spirit rest which reclines upon the lap of
providence, and feeds contentedly on "daily bread!" The storms may rise
and the winds may blow--the clamours of human competition may fill the
air; but nothing can disturb his repose. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect
peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." When
Solomon was about to ascend his throne, how earnestly did he implore
superior wisdom, and how readily leave the disposal of earthly good to his
God and Father! And what was the consequence? "God said unto him, Because
thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life;
neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine
enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
behold, I have done according to thy Words: lo, I have given thee a wise
and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before,
neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given
thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour: so that
there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days."

Finally, let us deduce motives for consolation under the pressure of
sorrow, and for the limitation of our wishes to the necessary subsistence
of life, from "a greater than Solomon." Who was it that stooped to a
manger and a cross? Who fasted forty days and forty nights in the desert,
refusing to employ his power in furnishing a miraculous table? Who had not
"where to lay his head?" Who lived on the scanty fare of a small purse in
common with the family of his disciples? Who withdrew from the
entertainments of Jerusalem to the humble cottage of Mary and Martha,
cheerfully subsisting on the most homely and casual provision?--HE, who
has taught us to limit our desires of temporal good within the narrow
circle of _one short_ request--"GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD."



Sapphira.

Chapter IX.



  Mixed Constitution of the Church of Christ--benevolent Spirit of the
  primitive Believers at Jerusalem--Anxiety of Ananias and Sapphira to
  appear as zealous and liberal as others--Ananias repairs to the Apostles
  to deposit the price of his Possessions--is detected in Deception and
  dies--similar Deceit and Death of Sapphira--Nature and Progress of
  Apostasy--peculiar Guilt of Sapphira--Agency of Satan distinctly
  marked--diabolical influence ascertained--consolatory Sentiments
  suggested to Christians.


"The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his
field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the
wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought
forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the
householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in
thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy
hath done this.... The field is the world; the good seed are the children
of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the
enemy that sowed them is the devil."

This parable, so descriptive of the mixed constitution of the church of
Christ, from the primitive times down to the present age, is strikingly
exemplified in the history of Ananias and Sapphira. These were some of the
first tares that appeared in the apostolic field of labour; and we should
feel grateful that their names and characters are transmitted to us upon
whom the ends of the world are come, for the purpose of salutary warning.
Their singular atrocity was but a more full development of the very same
evil principles that exist in embryo in the hearts of mankind in general;
and their signal and immediate punishment, which was some deviation from
the more ordinary methods of Providence, which permits the tares and the
wheat to grow together till the harvest or "end of the world," was, under
all the circumstances, a necessary expression of divine displeasure.

During the first age of Christianity, when it was propagated by apostles
and their holy coadjutors, and when Jesus Christ, having so recently
departed from the world, had left an unusual glow of ardor and affection
in their minds, it seems natural to anticipate not only extensive success
in the establishment of Christian churches, but a peculiar purity in the
sentiments and conduct of their members. And where shall we find such
union, such fervour, such simplicity, such energy, as prevailed in that
golden age? Persecution separated them indeed, but could not dissolve
their attachment either to the cause or to each other; it could not
extinguish their ever-burning zeal. But in vain should we hope for
perfection even in the purest societies on earth. If a Judas insinuated
himself amongst the apostles during the personal residence of Christ on
earth, and under his immediate eye, it is not surprising that an Ananias
and a Sapphira intruded into the earliest and best of his churches; nor
should it prove unduly discouraging to his ministers or people at any
period, when they witness similar instances of deceit and impiety. The
more valuable the coin, the greater is the reason to apprehend its being
counterfeited; and the more excellent religion appears, and the more
highly it is esteemed, the greater will be the probable number of
hypocritical professors.

The history of these two offenders is intimately blended. Their sin and
punishment were similar; but there, were some circumstances connected with
the transaction which exhibit the guilt of Sapphira in characters of more
conspicuous enormity. While reviewing the inspired narrative, let us not
cherish the feeling of Hazael, who indignantly demanded of the prophet,
"Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this!" but, deeply aware of our
inward propensities and our moral dangers, let us unite fervent prayer
with sleepless circumspection, "lest we enter into temptation."

The church at Jerusalem possessed one peculiarity, resulting from the
remarkable exercise of a pure, exalted, disinterested benevolence. Rising
superior to every selfish interest, and, in the spirit of unbounded love
and liberality, concurring in every measure that was devised to promote
the general good; "as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold
them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them
down at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to every man
according as he had need." The great proportion of converts were probably
indigent, for in no age have "the mighty and the noble" been attracted by
the unostentatious simplicity of the religion of Jesus; but some were
persons of property. They had lands and houses, with which, however, they
willingly parted to supply the necessities of their poorer
fellow-Christians. This was a generosity which could not fail of exciting
the admiration of the whole society, and of acquiring for them
considerable influence. While the apostles approved their
disinterestedness, the widows, the orphans, and the indigent of every
class, would pour their best benedictions upon their heads, and look up lo
them as the ministering angels of Providence. Too often, indeed, the
supplies of benevolence are received with a coldness which is truly
repulsive, and which bespeaks a secret conviction in the minds of the
wretched, that they have a right to expect, and that the opulent are bound
to bestow them; but these were _Christian poor_, and were influenced, we
should hope, by a gratitude which such benefactions were calculated to
inspire. At the same time, even the unthankfulness of the recipient ought
not to shut up our "bowels of compassion."

Ananias and Sapphira were anxious, amidst such fine specimens of
disinterested goodness, not to appear backward. They might be conscious
that the respectability of their situation, and the zeal of their
profession, excited expectations amongst the other disciples; and though
they were certainly under no obligation to practise this profuse charity,
they seemed unwilling to lose the opportunity of enhancing their fame: We
may justly suspect, that a long struggle was maintained between the love
of money and the love of applause. They consulted together;--they were
anxious to devise an expedient by which they might gratify their vanity,
and yet retain at least the principal part of their property. Ambition and
avarice were to be alike gratified, but they were to contrive the
concealment of their hypocrisy. With this view, they agreed upon a course
of meanness and dissimulation, which involved the most tragical
consequences. Ananias seems to have proposed, and Sapphira to have
abetted, the transaction. With her consent, which he chose to obtain, and
which might have been legally necessary, their estate was sold; and _part_
only of the purchase-money was laid at the apostles' feet, as if it were
the whole, and as if Christian charity had dictated this liberal
distribution of it.

Hypocrites, we perceive, are frequently very much influenced by example
and popular applause. How many ostentatious charities may be traced to
this polluted source! It is not to do good, to assist the needy, to
promote the cause of Jesus Christ; but to escape censure, or to purchase
renown, that men often unite in pious contributions. They will slot be
outshone by others, or submit to the dishonor of being reputed niggardly
and ungenerous. But however such persons abound in _visible_ acts of
benevolence, their charity does not resemble the subterraneous rivulet,
that revives the drooping flower, and refreshes the languishing herb,
wherever it directs its _secret_ and _silent_ course.

What a fine opportunity was afforded on this occasion to Sapphira, for
fulfilling the high but difficult duties of her situation! How would she
have immortalized her name, had she suggested proper advice to her
husband, and acted with an upright firmness herself! If, instead of
coinciding with his impious plan, she had objected to the proposal, and
warned him of the probable consequences of his dissimulation, a strong
remonstrance from so dear a relative might have produced the happiest
effect upon his mind; and had he still persisted, would at least have
vindicated her refusal. Wives are indeed required to "submit to their
husbands," but there are cases in which resistance is a virtue of the
noblest class. If, transgressing the proper bounds of civil dominion, he
attempts to lord it over her conscience, and urges, however
authoritatively, her concurrence in iniquity, she must steadfastly oppose
temptation. However painful the contest, it is honourable. It will be
owned in heaven as a war of duty and necessity.

In some cases, the woman proves the first instigator to evil, or the prime
coadjutor in mischief; but, in others, her sentiments may be sought with
advantage. A wise man will seldom engage in an affair of considerable
importance without soliciting advice, for "in the multitude of counsellors
there 5s safety;" but who so naturally expects, or who so much deserves to
be consulted, as the wife of the bosom? Her opinion is likely to be the
most disinterested and the most affectionate of any that can be obtained;
and if we could obtain a faithful history of domestic life, it would
appear that a consultation so natural and proper, has often proved the
means of guiding in perplexity and rescuing from error.

In the full confidence that their scheme had been concerted with the
utmost privacy, Ananias, after the sale of his possessions, hastened to
deposit a part of the price in the hands of the apostles. He, no doubt,
expected to be welcomed in the warmest terms of commendation. With what
astonishment and horror, therefore, must be have heard the terrible appeal
of Peter, "Why bath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and
to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not
thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast
thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but
unto God!" Instantaneous as the lightning of heaven, Almighty vengeance
descended upon the unhappy criminal, and withered him in a moment.
"Ananias hearing these words, fell down and gave up the ghost; and great
fear came on all them that heard these things." He was immediately buried,
and about three hours afterward, his wife, totally unacquainted with the
melancholy fate of her infatuated husband, and glowing with expectation of
sharing the praises which the assembled disciples, as she supposed, were
bestowing upon their generosity, presented herself to the apostles. Peter
immediately demanded an explicit answer to the question, whether the sum
which Ananias had subscribed were the real purchase-money of their estate?
To this she deliberately replied in the affirmative. "How is it," said
Peter, excited to holy indignation, "how is it that ye have agreed
together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which
have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out."
Immediately, to the universal astonishment and terror of all the
spectators, "she fell down at his feet and yielded up the ghost; and the
young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her
by her husband."

The apostle, by representing the atrocious sin of these offenders as
"lying unto God," and "tempting the Spirit of the Lord," intended to
intimate that as the ambassadors of heaven, and endowed with miraculous
powers and discernment, they who attempted to deceive them, virtually
offered an insult to that Holy Spirit that resided in them. They were his
representatives and agents, acting by his authority and under his
influence. God was present with the apostles in a manner totally different
from the mode of his manifestation to any other persons; and in attempting
to deceive them, they virtually denied the agency of the Omniscient
Spirit, in communicating to them a capacity to discern the inmost motives
of the mind.

It is not with a view to extenuate the guilt of Ananias or Sapphira, but
merely to detect character and illustrate the progress of sin, that we
suggest the probability that when they first determined upon the sale of
their estate, it might be under the impulse of a momentary benevolence,
and that the device of retaining a part of the price was a subsequent
consideration. Hypocrites are not profoundly acquainted with their own
hearts, or with all the secret operations of a spirit of self-delusion. A
sinner does not always, nor perhaps often, imagine the extreme lengths of
impiety to which one erroneous step may ultimately conduct him. If he
could be brought to see at the period of first indulgence the odious
outline, not to say the finished picture, of his _future self_, he would
start with instinctive horror, and blush with unutterable confusion.
Secret wickedness is frequently long concealed from all but the eyes of
God, by a religious deportment. It remains buried deep in the recesses of
the soul till occasion exhibits it, as the needle continues at rest till
the magnetic influence approaches. Hence the church of Christ is sometimes
astonished and alarmed by the misconduct of a character in whom, perhaps,
it had reposed the utmost confidence, or placed the warmest affection; and
which, though immediately produced by some sudden temptation, was really
the result, the natural, easy, and almost necessary result of a previous
course of secret iniquity. The train had been long preparing, but it
required some kindling touch to produce the explosion.

The progress to apostacy is, indeed, usually gradual, though rapid,
resembling the irresistible haste of persons travelling down a precipitous
path, or the descent of a heavy body towards the earth, whose velocity is
accelerated in proportion as it approaches its destination. The first
compliance with temptation is accompanied with misgivings--trembling--
restlessness--the very thought of sin is admitted with difficulty, and the
determination to practise it, is formed amidst a thousand relentings and
prickings of conscience. Still the mind lingers with the object--still the
fancy plays about the forbidden fruit, till the hand is stretched forth to
gather it--an increased appetite is superinduced, accompanied with a
diminished resolution. How many youthful persons, deterred for a time by a
religious education and sedate habits, have paused--and paused--and paused
on the brink of danger; like Cæsar ere he crossed the Rubicon; their
passions and their conscience have held a warm debate--till induced in
some fatal hour of illusion to comply, they have progressively advanced
to a state of confirmation in guilt, and have made a covenant with hell!

The character of Sapphira seems marked with even a deeper stain of guilt
than that of her husband. She had more time for reflection, and received a
salutary premonition by the question of Peter. Not to advert to the period
in which she might probably be left alone during the various transactions
of the sale of the estate, three hours elapsed between the infliction of
judgment upon Ananias, and her coming to the apostolic assembly. If her
concurrence in this base action had resulted in any degree from mistake,
from momentary illusion, or from mere persuasion, she had time to correct
her error by immediate repentance: or if she had hitherto sinned with
deliberation, it was a time in which conscience might hive been heard, and
the wretched backslider have yet been reclaimed. This was the golden
moment, the period of long-suffering and mercy, the "accepted time!"
Repentance was not yet too late--return to reason and duty was not even
now impossible--she might still have retracted her steps, though her
worthless husband had suffered for his iniquity, and had passed the
boundaries of time, the sacred enclosure, the hallowed ground where
celestial mercy dispenses her pardons. Every thing was favourable to
penitence. She was alone, and solitude has sometimes shaken the purpose of
the sinner, and opened his eyes to an awful perception of the
atrociousness of guilt. But Sapphira was "hardened through the
deceitfulness of sin." Long since she had dismissed every compunctious
feeling, and was hurried on to perdition by the fiends of avarice and
vanity, to whom she had resigned the dominion of her soul. The inquiry of
Peter, pointed and abrupt--"Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?"
Would have startled an ordinary transgressor, and produced those
sensations of shame and confusion which a consciousness of detection is
calculated to excite--O, if she had even then trembled, confessed her
iniquity, and sought forgiveness through the blood which cleanseth from
all sin, who will affirm that she could not have obtained mercy, and
perhaps escaped both temporal and eternal punishment! But she was
obdurate. The falsehood which Ananias had _acted_, she deliberately
_affirmed_, and justice instantly dismissed her to the society of her
kindred transgressor in a state of condemnation. Here, then, we read in
characters too legible to be mistaken, that "it is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God."

If we pursue this subject, it will conduct us far beyond the sight of mere
temporal punishment. Sin not only incurs present misery, but has opened
the gates of despair, and kindled inextinguishable flames. That wrath
which must have inevitably consumed the whole of Adam's posterity, but for
the Redeemer's interposition, will rage forever against the impenitent and
the apostate. "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand
shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shall make them as a fiery oven
in the time of thine anger; the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath,
and the fire shall devour them." "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares,
fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of
their cup."

It is surely wonderful to holy angels, that by persevering acts of impiety
and rebellion, men should voluntarily reduce themselves to a state in
which it "had been good for them if they had never been born." Can there
be a more important gift than life, or a more valuable quality attached to
it than immortality? Yet apostates, by their degeneracy, convert this
greatest of blessings into a curse--this noblest good into an infinite
evil. "As righteousness tendeth to life, so he that pursueth evil,
pursueth it to his own death." Who can paint the horror of that moment,
when the final, the irrevocable sentence will be passed upon a guilty
race--when INFINITE LOVE will denounce INFINITE WO--when every word
proceeding from the mouth of eternal justice will prove a poisoned arrow,
struck into the destiny of transgressors--when that face which has always
illuminated the regions of glory with smiles of ineffable grace, will
gather blackness and look despair! O what a crush!--what a ruin!--what a
wreck!--How many human temples, defiled by intolerable abominations, will
in a moment fall into the gulf of perdition to supply its everlasting
fires!--What lightnings will accompany the "thunder of his power!"--What
fervid heat will melt these elements--what terror shake the lowest abyss
of hell! O, could we descend to the regions of despair, whence "the smoke
of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever;" or, transported on a
seraph's wing, rise to listen only for a single moment, to those rapturous
sounds which warble from immortal harps, and bespeak infinite
felicity--with what feelings should we return to this probationary state!
How should we be alarmed and allured--terrified and enraptured--deterred
by "sights of wo," excited by scenes of glory! but, "if we hear not Moses
and the prophets," Christ and the apostles: if "God who at sundry times,
and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the
prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son," to no
purpose: "neither should we be persuaded though one rose from the dead."

This dreadful history ought not to excite despondency in trembling saints.
Ministerial anxieties are principally excited by a presumptuous state of
mind. It is not the timid, the diffident, the cautious, that awaken
apprehensions, but the forward, the fearless, the bold. That solicitude
which agitates the pious mind, is an effectual antidote against the evil
it dreads, while that confidence which possesses the hypocrite, prevents
the good it anticipates. The one obtains through fear, the other loses
through presumption. The one is victorious, by maintaining a constant
petty warfare with all his corruptions; the other is over-thrown through
rushing fearlessly forward, and falling into the ambuscade which Satan has
prepared for him. Hypocrisy is contriving, full of artifice, and
arrogant--sincerity is quite the reverse, aiming to be right--fearing
mistake--avoiding even trifling deviations and slight compliances--
"sitting at the feet of Jesus"--"clothed with humility,"--and in a "right
mind!"

Let us adore the grace which has hitherto prevented our falling, and
humbly depend upon it for future preservation. Conscious of our infantine
weakness, let us lean upon the arm of Omnipotence. Under the conduct of
him who directed the march of ancient Israel by the pillar of cloud by day
and of fire by night, wo may hope to be upheld, protected, and guided in
our journey to Canaan. Hail, happy hour, which shall put us in possession
of our rest! Hail, celestial morning, whose bright beams shall disperse
the shadows of death, and diffuse the splendours of immortal day upon our
inheritance!

In the account of the crime by which Ananias and Sapphira have acquired
such an awful celebrity, the agency of SATAN is distinctly marked--"Why,"
said Peter, hath _Satan_ filled thine heart?--This a subject so seldom
treated, and yet of such great importance, that it seems proper to avail
ourselves of this statement, in order to examine it with some attention,
and to suggest some consolatory reflections to the timid Christian.

The earliest mention we have of Satanic influence is at the fall. Assuming
the body of a serpent, this evil spirit attacked the first woman and
seduced her into a transgression which "brought death into the world, and
all our wo." If Satan were permitted to practise his detestable
machinations in the earthly paradise, who will presume to say that it is
improbable he may yet be able to tempt man in the wilderness? He knew the
position of human affairs, he manifested extraordinary skill in the
adaptation of the means which he employed to promote his purposes, and in
the incidental conversation, which he contrived with our first parent; and
although Christians have run into great extremes in their estimate of his
powers, he unquestionably possesses superior knowledge and capacity. His
talents like those of other wicked beings, are probably not impaired by
his fall, but even sharpened and invigorated by malignant practice. In the
aspect of this creation, and in the character of a degenerate world, we
may perceive the infernal fiend. We may see his dark hand in the strifes
of society, supplying the burning fuel to intemperate passions and
discordant societies. We may mark his detestable footsteps in the field of
death, staining provinces with blood, where human brothers are polluted
with the guilty spirit of assassination, and sacrifice to the glory of
war, the hopes of nations, the comforts of life, and the earthly existence
of infuriated millions, unprepared to enter an eternal state. In these
mighty tempests and desolating whirlwinds, we may hear the hissing breath
of his malice, and the yell of his infernal joy. If he seduced our parent
in innocency, is it incredible he should seduce her race in their
apostasy? if he were the chief agent in the _first_ of sins, is it
improbable that he should instigate other crimes peculiarly connected with
human misery and degradation?

Scripture, which we take as the "lamp to our feet, and light to our
path," represents _delusion_ as the appropriate work of the arch-fiend. It
is not for us to inquire by what means he operates upon the mind, because
we know so little of the economy of the spiritual world, of the manner in
which spirit can operate on spirit, and consequently of the nature of that
influence which superior beings are capable of exercising upon others in
this world, that we could at best only make a vague conjecture. It is
sufficient for all moral purposes to ascertain the fact, that such an
influence is possible to evil spirits, and permitted by Providence, that
it forms a part of the trial of good men in this state of existence, and
often tends to accelerate the too rapid progress of human impiety.

Satan then is possessed of great subtlety, and addicted to _wiles,
snares_, and _devices_, for the purpose of deluding mankind. He is thus
described by Christ: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not
in the _truth_, because there is no _truth_ in him. When he speaketh a
_lie_, he speaketh of his own; for he is a _liar_, and the father of it."
Peter, in addressing Ananias said, "Why hath _Satan_ filled thine heart to
_lie_ to the Holy Ghost?" "We are not ignorant," says the same apostle,
"of Satan's _devices_." "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are
lost: in whom the god of this world _hath blinded the minds_ of them which
believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the
image of God, should shine unto them."

"I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent _beguiled_ Eve through his
subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in
Christ." In speaking of the deceptive practices of false apostles, he thus
alludes to infernal power--"No marvel; for Satan himself is transformed
into an angel of light." And in writing to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts--"
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the
_wiles_ of the devil." Antichrist is described by a similar allusion:
"Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and
signs, and _lying wonders_, and with all _deceivableness_ of
unrighteousness." "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the
key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold
on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound
him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him
up, and set a seal upon him, that he should _deceive_ the nations no more,
till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be
loosed a little season."

Satan doubtless attacks mankind by diversified modes of operation, and
deceives them on various occasions and by different means. In the
parabolical representations of our Lord, he is described as "_sowing
tares_ in the field," and as "coming immediately" where the _word is
sown_, "to take away the word that was sown in their hearts." This is
indeed a _figurative_ statement, but nevertheless descriptive of a fact.
The essence of the representation is _real_, though decked out in the
attractive garb of imagery, to win attention and to excite inquiry. To
suppose otherwise in this or in other cases, would be to reduce Scripture
to the standard of Tales for Children, or Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
What, then, is the truth intended to be conveyed here? It is that Satan
possesses some mode of access to the human mind, that he is peculiarly
attentive to the impression which the ministry of the word is producing,
and that he uses his utmost skill to neutralize its effect: probably, by
tempting the hearer to doubt its truth, to dispute its importance, or to
defer immediate regard to its holy requisitions. And in the human heart
there is such an ample supply of materials upon which to work--such a
tendency to evil--such depravity of spirit--such corruption of
nature--such love of the world--such enmity against God, that he soon
succeeds in erecting an edifice of delusory hope, in which the deluded
soul takes shelter from the sharp-pointed arrows of ministerial fidelity
and scriptural appeal.

"Your adversary the devil," is represented as walking "about, seeking whom
he may devour;" which intimates the _settled enmity_ of this spirit. He is
your _adversary_--at once the most malignant, most subtle, most invisible,
and often least suspected of all others. This passage describes his
_powerful superiority_; he is a _roaring lion_--remarkable for fury,
strength, and zeal. It represents his _incessant activity, secrecy, and
watchfulness_; "he _walketh about_." It proclaims his _destructive
purpose_--"to _devour_." He is not, it seems, confined to place, but fixed
in torment, and destined in all ages to suffer a perpetual aggravation of
his misery, in consequence of the increase of his guilt, and the frequent
discomfiture of his devices.

The severest contests of the Christian are with this adversary, who, being
possessed of insinuating subtlety, powerful resources, constant vigilance,
distinguished sagacity, and invisible means of operation, combined with
infernal malignity, must be acknowledged to be a most formidable foe. It
is both needless and unscriptural to assign ubiquity to Satan, but by
himself and his emissaries he undoubtedly possesses a very extensive range
in this lower world, and his favourite employment is to cherish the
rebellious principle, to perpetuate the backsliding character, and thus to
form the finished apostate. He observes with a vigilant inspection every
tree planted in the garden of the Lord, and provided there be no real
fruits of righteousness, he is not displeased at the leaves of
profession. He knows this will never prevent the decree, "Cut it down, why
cumbereth it the ground?"

Pregnant with horrors as this subject appears to be, the Scriptures supply
two most desirable sources of consolation, with the mention of which I
shall hasten to conclude it.

1. While considering the terrific facts of the existence and works of the
devil, recollect the _limitation of his agency_. If no kind of restraint
were imposed upon his efforts, if his untractable malice were allowed to
act with all its diabolical force, and were absolutely under no
restrictions, the idea of his being and of his malignity would be
unutterably appalling: but the giant foe is held in the mighty grasp of
Omnipotence. His power is only permitted to operate to a certain extent,
and under the regulations of certain laws ordained by the eternal mind. He
who says to the raging ocean, "Here shall thy proud waves be stayed,"
assigns the sphere of infernal influence, and places impassable barriers
of a moral nature to his further encroachment. Evil of every description,
and evil beings of every order, are under divine superintendence and
control. The lion is chained--the dragon cannot add one cubit to his
stature--a point to his tongue--or a drop to his venom. The serpent may
hiss, but he cannot devour.

The influence of Satan resembles every other test that Divine Wisdom sees
fit to apply to human character. It is probationary. The people of God are
put to the proof, and their principles subjected to fiery trials. But gold
will endure the furnace, and real piety will "resist the devil, and he
will flee." He could tempt the Son of God, and he can torment his
followers; but he possesses no compulsory power. His attacks can never be
successful, unless _we_ give them efficacy by our criminal negligence and
compliance.

Nor is it just to suppose, as many good people do to their inexpressible
but useless alarm, that every individual is under his constant power, or
every moment exposed to his incessant attacks. This would be to assign him
a degree of omnipresence wholly incompatible with his nature and the
economy of providence. Like other evil beings he _walketh about_. His
movements may be more rapid as a spirit, and his capacities more extended
and certainly his malignity more violent, than those of other wicked
beings; still he is hut a creature--he has his appointed sphere of
exertion--his capacities are finite--and he is observed by the unsleeping
eye of God. He may prowl around the sheepfold of Christ, but the guard is
too strong for him; and if he seize, or attempt the feeblest of the flock,
Omnipotence will ultimately rescue the prey from the hand of the terrible.

2. Let us realize with holy satisfaction the _destruction of Satanic
power_. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might
destroy the works of the devil." The apostle John, in his Revelation,
describes "the devil" as "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where
the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night
forever and ever."

In conceiving of the destruction of this hateful dominion, we may realize
it as _certain_. Although the issue of the war between good and evil,
Christ and Belial, heaven and hell, be deferred to a distant age, it is
not doubtful or precarious. It is ever present in the eye of God, and
forms a part of that irresistible destiny which infernal power cannot
avert. There is no escape from the chains of darkness which Omnipotence
will finally rivet on; and this irreversible doom of fallen spirits is
essential to the final arrangements of that wonderful period, which will
develope "the consummation of all things."

It is the glory of the religion of Christ, that none of its promises or
plans are precarious. The hopes of Christians cannot be lost in the crush
of nature or the wreck of the world; and the condemnation of impenitent
sinners and of Satan cannot be averted by any mistake of evidence, by any
confusion, of multitude, or by any unevenness of balance in the scales of
justice in the day of judgment.

The destruction of Satan and his power may be considered as _gradual_ in
the mode of its accomplishment. The whole system of revealed truth, from
the period of the first prediction, points to this predestined end; and
the whole scheme of Providence, including the rise and fall of empires,
the work of Christ, and all the events of time through successive
generations, respects this mighty and this marvellous result--a result
connected so essentially with the glory of God, the honour of Christ, and
the felicity of a redeemed universe.

"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the
works of the devil." But it was not deemed fit to do it at once, and at a
single blow; if it had, he who commanded the boisterous winds and the
raging seas, and they were still--he who expelled demons at a word, and
cured diseases by a touch--he whose creative energy restored lost limbs to
the victims of misery--who reanimated the dead and the putrifying, and
remanded their spirits from an invisible state--could have withered at a
touch the power of hell, crushed in a moment the throne of diabolical
authority, and bound the dragon himself in his eternal chain. But the
wisdom of God, which at first permitted evil to stain his moral creation,
designs to admit the reign or influence of Satan for an appointed period,
and to overturn his dominion by a gradual establishment of truth and
righteousness in the earth. The great adversary was smitten by his hand
when the first promise of salvation was given to our race; the stroke was
repeated, in successive predictions to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the
death-blow inflicted when the expiring Redeemer exclaimed on the cross,
"_It is finished_!" Still, like a dying monster, who raves amidst his
agonies, and terrifies spectators by his terrific aspect and more terrific
efforts, and destroys or mangles all who venture within the reach of his
arm, Satan still rages and raves--sometimes languishing into comparative
inaction, at other times breathing out threatening and slaughter against
the church of God--still conscious that his power is declining, and that
the whole system of providence is preparing for his final overthrow.

This overthrow will be _complete_. He will never more ascend from his
confinement, to fill the earth with plagues or the church of Christ with
terror. The "new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness," will
never be exposed to his awful revisitings--the contest will have for ever
ended--the struggle eternally ceased; and the harps of angels, with the
holy hymnings of ten thousand times ten thousand before the throne--

  "Blest voices, uttering praise!"

will proclaim the full, the final, the everlasting victory. And in the
heavenly city "there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of
the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall
see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be
no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the
Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." (See
APPENDIX.)



Dorcas.

Chapter X.



  Joppa illustrious on many accounts, particularly as the residence of
  Dorcas--she was a Disciple of Christ--Faith described as the Principle
  of Discipleship--the inspired Testimony to the Character of Dorcas--she
  was probably a Widow or an aged Maiden--Remarks on the Reproaches
  commonly cast upon the latter Class of Women--Dorcas exhibited as a
  Pattern of liberality, being prompt in the Relief she afforded--her
  Charities abundant--and personally bestowed--Observations on the
  Propriety of visiting the Poor--the Charities of Dorcas often free and
  unsolicited--wise and conducted upon a Plan--the Pretences of the
  uncharitable stated and confuted--Riches only valuable as they are used
  in bountiful Distribution.

Seven of the most celebrated cities of antiquity (Smyrna, Rhodes,
Colophon, Salamis, Chios, Argos, and Athens) are said to have disputed the
glory of having given birth to Homer; and it must be admitted that places
and families acquire an importance from their connection with names which
appear conspicuous on the page of history, and have been praised by the
united voices of successive generations. We cannot hear, without an
instinctive glow, of the cities of Rome, Athens, Sparta, Syracuse, and
others which respectively produced a Cæsar, a Demosthenes, a Lycurgus,
and an Archimedes; of the islands of Samos and Ægina, whence emanated the
resplendent genius of a Pythagoras and a Plato; of the villages of Alopece
and Andes, immortalized as having produced a Socrates and a Virgil.

But let not the enchanting annals of Roman literature or Grecian wisdom
detach our minds from the nobler records of inspiration, or diminish the
conviction which religion must ever inspire, that the birth place of
benevolence and piety is more illustrious than the birthplace of genius
and philosophy. On this principle we look with admiration upon the town of
Joppa, which, if it cannot boast a prodigy of valour, talent, or learning,
is nevertheless conspicuous as the residence of one "of whom the world was
not worthy." She was not, indeed, rich in wealth, but in good works. She
was not a conqueror of nations or a distributor of crowns, but a giver of
alms. She had no name on earth beyond the limits of a small Christian
church, but her record was on high, and her memorial has not perished
with her.

Joppa was the nearest seaport to Jerusalem on the Mediterranean. It was
situated in the tribe of Dan in a fine plain, and has acquired the modern
name of Jaffa. This place is frequently mentioned in Scripture. The
materials for the construction of Solomon's temple were sent thither in
floats, by Hiram, the king of Tyre, whence they were easily conveyed by
land to Jerusalem. Jonah, in his flight from the presence of the Lord,
embarked at this port, and gave occasion to the mythological fable of
Andromeda. Here the apostle Peter enjoyed that remarkable vision, in which
he saw heaven opened, and a great sheet descending to the earth, which
seemed to contain every variety of beasts, and creeping things, and fowls
of the air; intimating to him the abolition of the Mosaic law, and the
removal of those distinctions which had so long separated the Jews and the
Gentiles. It is probable Philip preached the Gospel here in his progress
through various cities to Cesarea; but the history of Dorcas, or, as she
was originally called in the Syriac dialect, Tabitha, has given it
peculiar prominence in the sacred page.

The memorial of this excellent woman is short, but replete with
instruction. Her character is sketched at a stroke, and by the
introduction of an incident as full of significance and interest as can
well be imagined. Dropping those minute details and accidental
circumstances which are not necessary to character, and which the New
Testament so seldom mentions, the most instructive part of her story is
preserved and set in the most brilliant point of light.

She is simply announced, in the first place, as "a certain disciple," or
one that embraced the faith of Christ, and professed it by baptism and a
public union with his church. Whatever might be her situation in other
respects was of little consequence; this was her best, her most
substantial distinction. It invested her with a real glory, which however
overlooked by those who are chiefly attracted by exterior splendour,
surpassed every vain and glittering honour of the world. It raised her to
the dignity of a name in the volume of inspiration, and the unfading
distinction of a place in the annals of eternity.

How poor and how perishable is human fame; and yet with what eagerness is
it universally sought! What is it but like a bubble, excited by some
accidental cause, to sparkle for a moment on the stream of passing ages,
and then to disappear for ever! And yet the love of fame has been called,
and perhaps with propriety, the ruling passion; for so much does it blend
itself with human motives, that there are comparatively few of our
actions, at least such as are visible to the public eye, which may not be
traced to this feeling, or which do not receive a tone from its influence.

But how shall we describe that faith which is often mentioned in the New
Testament, which so marked the character of Dorcas, and which, perhaps,
may not be inaptly called the _principle_ of discipleship?

This term is of various import, and of very extensive application in
Scripture. It signifies belief, and refers to testimony either human or
divine; but is restricted in its evangelical use to the latter. Revelation
in general is the object of faith: and those invisible realities which it
discloses to the mental eye are seen with equal distinctness, and believed
with equal conviction, as if they were capable, from possessing some
material quality, of impressing the corporeal senses. Faith glorifies its
great Object and Author by paying an implicit deference to his authority.
It asks no other bond than his promise, no other evidence or attestation
than his veracity. It not only ranges through worlds which mortal eye
could never explore, but which human reason could never discover: and as
by transgression man has fallen under the dominion of his senses, it
delivers its happy possessor from this state of degradation and
wretchedness.

But though this be a general signification of the word, its more precise
and appropriate use in the Gospel is expressed by the phrase, "believing
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Here the general and the
particular use are necessarily blended. Faith is belief--but belief in
"the truth as it is in Jesus." To believe, in the ordinary sense, is to
admit a fact, to assent to the statement of an accredited or respectable
witness; to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, is to acknowledge his
real character, to perceive his true dignity, to view and to love him,
not only as distinguished by perfect excellence; but as specifically the
Saviour of lost sinners; for "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the
Christ, is born of God." Faith comprehends what he is, contemplates him in
all his glorious offices, and from the manger of meanness traces him to
the throne of power, relying upon what he has suffered and said as the
infallible pledge of what he will accomplish. It is not only well
informed, but humble. It resided in his heart who exclaimed, "Lord, save
me!" It dictated his language who cried out, "Lord, remember me when thou
comest into thy kingdom." It gave efficacy to the prayer of that humble
petitioner who said, "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be
healed." It is pleasing to God, essential to salvation, and his own gift:
for "Enoch had this testimony, that he pleased God"--"a man is justified
by faith"--and "by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Faith is not dormant, but active and operative. It resembles good seed
sown in the cultivated soil, which expands, and grows, and produces fruit.
This holy vegetation exists in very different degrees of vigour, according
to the diversities of Christian character, but it is apparent in all--the
mark of true religion, the pleasing verdant hue that covers the whole
surface of the spiritual creation. We cannot point to every pious person
as a Dorcas, who presents a singular fertility of some of the noblest
graces; but of all it may be said, "the root of the matter is found in
them," and "their root shall not be rottenness, nor their blossom go up
as dust."

It is the nature of genuine faith to stimulate to the most laborious
duties, to sustain amidst the most poignant sufferings, to produce the
greatest purity of character, to communicate the noblest kind of happiness
of which a creature in the present state can be susceptible, to nerve the
feeblest arm with strength, to give the dullest eye perception, above all,
to "work by _love_." For these reasons, and because of its transforming
influence, we denominated it the principle of discipleship. It operates by
love to its object and to all its subjects, as well as to the divine
commandments in general; and influences its possessor to practise
universal philanthropy. To the latter our particular attention is now
directed by the example of Dorcas; but it must not be forgotten, that
though the particular specimen of her excellence be taken from the common
offices of kindness and the act of almsgiving, the existence and
proportionate vigour of the great principle from which her minor charities
resulted must be presupposed, as by observing the fertility of a branch,
or the verdure of a twig, or even the greenness of a leaf, we infer the
growth of the tree, its root, its stem, and all its various ramifications.
While we contemplate this flourishing plant of grace, we know that it was
deeply "rooted and grounded" in faith.

The inspired testimony is as follows: "This woman was full of good works
and alms-deeds, which she did." Amongst other acts of beneficence, she was
accustomed to make "coats and garments" for "the widows." Her own
circumstances are not specified. If she were _poor_, as the mass of
Christian converts in the apostolic times appears to have been, her
readiness in furnishing these supplies was admirable indeed. As Paul
testified of the Macedonian believers, she contributed to the utmost, yea,
and beyond her power: nor are these solitary instances of persons
willingly impoverishing themselves in obedience to the fine impulse of a
pious sympathy. While others have calculated, they have acted, incapable
of a cold arithmetic and a measured benevolence. If Dorcas were _rich_,
she is perhaps entitled to a still higher commendation. So many are the
obstructions which "great possessions" cast in the way of charity, so many
temptations to a lavish expenditure, beset the opulent, and to support
this, on the other hand, to a parsimonious, _saving_ habit; so easy is it
to frame excuses, and by trifling precautions to escape importunity, or at
once to silent it; that it may well excite both wonder and delight to find
charity associated with splendour. It is surprising, however, and no less
deplorable than surprising, that persons of this class will not consider
for a moment, how easily, with how few sacrifices even of time or money,
they might be extensively useful. A single drop of supply from their
replenished cup of worldly prosperity, would often make "the widow's heart
sing for joy," and prove a healing cordial to the sufferings of perishing
humanity. A slight taxation upon even acknowledged superfluity, would in
some cases produce an ample revenue for many indigent families, although
religion claims on their behalf more than a scanty and unwilling pittance;
for "he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which
soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he
purposeth in his heart, _so let him give_; not grudgingly or of necessity,
for God loveth a cheerful giver."

From the sacred narrative, we are led to infer that Dorcas was either a
widow herself, possessed perhaps of a moderate competence, a state which
seems of all others the most favourable to a benevolent disposition; or
one of the class of females, sometimes designated by the reproachful
epithet of _old maids_. And having introduced the term, it may not be
improper to make a short digression upon this subject.

It cannot be doubted that a life of celibacy is unnatural, and contrary to
the general appointment of Infinite Wisdom; consequently, a voluntary
seclusion of this kind from the duties of our proper sphere as social
beings, unless the case be very remarkable, and the counteracting
obligation singularly clear, must deserve censure. By this conduct
whatever important results are connected with the marriage union by the
law of Providence, are deliberately opposed, and the principle is no less
sinful than it is pernicious. But the case of determined celibacy is far
less common among females than with the other sex, and where it does
exist, is usually attended with less evil effects upon the good
of society.

In respect to the two most frequent occasions of continuing single, among
women of piety, the one demands admiration, the other pity; but neither
can, without a total dereliction of all reason and propriety, excite
ridicule. The first which has been made, is that of a voluntary
resignation of the pleasures and solicitudes of matrimony, for the sake of
more extensive usefulness, and at the call of duty. Such is the case of
women who deem themselves required, or are considered by others as
remarkably qualified for foreign and missionary service in the cause of
God, or who, from the high tone of their irreligious feeling, have
ascended to an unusual degree of spiritual elevation of character, and
whether called to labour abroad or at home, are desirous of an entire and
incessant self-devotement to Jesus Christ. These instances are indeed rare,
and can scarcely be estimated by ordinary rules, but they were not
unprecedented in the primitive age of Christianity. Dorcas might possibly
be a woman of this extraordinary character. Her works were at least worthy
of one who was thus bearing the cross, for "the kingdom of
heaven's sake."

The second class of aged single females presents a subject for
compassionate sympathy. They are not solitaries by choice, but necessity:
and whoever sports with their destiny, betrays a cruel, if not a wicked
mind. They have already been the prey of disappointments the most
agonizing to the mind; let them not be the objects of unmeaning contempt
or impious sarcasm. There was a time when the morning of life rose upon
them in all its enchantment and beauty. Every thing around them smiled,
and their yet unwithered hopes were alive to every delightful impression.
Who knows but the object of their tenderest earthly affection was severed
from them by death, whose murderous instrument inflicted an incurable
wound? Who can say, but that the very sex which dares to load them with
contumely for their solitary condition, was, by its base flatteries and
delusive promises, the very occasion of their unhappiness? Who can deny,
but that religion itself might have been honoured by their noble heroism,
in refusing the solicitations of some, who, although distinguished for
many accomplishments, possessions, and connexions, were either enemies to
the Gospel or indifferent about it? They trembled, perhaps, to please
their taste, and "lose their own souls."

Nameless and numberless may be the occasion of an involuntary, and
therefore justifiable celibacy. Besides, how has this condition been
improved! How have some of these venerable women gone about doing good!
What a wise and holy improvement have they made of the dispensations of
providence! Their very disappointments have become the means of increased
zeal in the best of causes, and given an impulse to their activity. They
have arisen from the golden dreams of pleasure and promotion, to the
dignity of the saint indeed. Their temporal sorrows have awakened their
spiritual energies. They have lost the blessings of a family, but have
from that moment adopted, under that sacred name, the whole community of
mankind. Let ridicule be abashed before the majesty of such characters!

The excellent woman in question seems to have partaken much of the spirit
which pervaded the church at Jerusalem in these times of primitive
simplicity and zeal, when all temporal considerations appear to have been
overwhelmed by the hope of eternal blessedness. "And the multitude of them
that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them
that aught of the things which be possessed was his own; but they had all
things in common.... Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as
many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the
prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles'
feet; and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need."

Although this community of goods is not to be regarded as an absolute
precedent for our imitation, considering that it is impracticable in all
cases, was chiefly restricted to one Christian society in a very peculiar
situation, and is never enjoined upon others; yet, no duty is more
expressly commanded, or more solemnly inculcated in Scripture, than that
of liberality to the poor. In the enactments of Moses it is vigorously
enforced, it is urged by the prophets and apostles; and represented by
Christ himself as an evidence of the highest perfection of character; "If
thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor."
In those passages where a summary of religion is presented by an
enumeration of its most important points, this virtue is distinctly
mentioned. It is stated as an invariable characteristic of the most
eminent saints, as Abraham, Job, and others; it is often called
_righteousness_, is represented as a fulfilment of the divine law, or the
best expression of our love to God; and while tremendous judgments are
threatened to those who disregard this sacred duty, the most ample rewards
are promised to the pious benefactors of mankind. "Blessed," said Christ,
"are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "To do good and
communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Such persons are described as "making themselves bags which wax not old, a
treasure in the heavens that faileth not"--as "making themselves friends
of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when they fail, they may he
received into everlasting habitations"--and as "laying up in store for
themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay
hold on eternal life." The equitable decisions of the last day are to be
founded upon a reference to these principles, as the basis of that
sentence which will irreversibly fix our destinies. "When the Son of man
shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he
sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all
nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd
divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right
hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his
right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye
gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and
ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I
was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him,
saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and
gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked,
and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto
thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye
have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil
and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was
thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an
hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and
did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I
say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye
did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but
the righteousness into life eternal."

The history of Dorcas is very instructive as to the genuine character of
charity, and the best mode of distribution. It teaches us not only to
cultivate this heavenly temper, but in what manner it may become most
useful. We have here, indeed, a fine and finished picture; and we cannot
do better than study it closely, and copy it with all possible accuracy.

This venerable woman was _prompt_ and _undelaying_ in the relief she
afforded to the necessitous. She was not all promise and all tardiness,
quick to feel but slow to succour. It is not uncommon for the most
parsimonious persons to be liberal in good words, and to superadd the pang
of disappointment to the already almost insupportable sufferings of the
destitute. What is the language of commiseration unaccompanied with
substantial assistance, but a drop of burning caustic poured into the
wounded heart, instead of a healing cordial? To listen to the tale of wo,
and to solicit by apparent kindness its minute and tragical details, only
to mock expectation by professed incapacity, is the very perfection of
cruelty, the forfeiture of a solemn pledge which is given in the very
assumption of a listening attitude, and highly dishonourable; for we have
no right to know the history of distress, if we feel indisposed to relieve
it. "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one
of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,
notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the
body; what doth it profit?"

There is a posthumous charity which often purchases to the dispenser
considerable reputation when he little deserves it, and which is utterly
vain to him who is inevitably beyond the reach of human applause or
censure. If the charity of Dorcas had been of this questionable nature, we
should not have read of the widows that stood Weeping by her death-bed,
and exhibiting the various articles of clothing she made "_while she was
with them_." Assured that life was the proper time of action, and that
opportunities of usefulness could never be recalled, she "did with her
might whatever her hands found to do." It is deplorable to see the numbers
who, while possessing ample means and rich opportunities of feeding the
hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick, consume their lives in
forming their plans, or proclaiming their intentions. They are indeed
great benefactors in their _wills_, and with unsparing liberality
distribute their wealth, when they can no longer keep it. They were
bountiful, only because they were mortal; and notwithstanding the
misplaced commendations of their survivors, bestow reluctantly what death
extorts. Dorcas was "full of good works and alms-deeds which she DID." A
person, with whom the writer is acquainted, had specified a large sum in
his will to be appropriated to the purpose of erecting convenient
alms-houses for the poor; but bethinking himself of the possibility that
his life might be extended to a distant period, and that in the meantime
the poor would continue to buffer, and many of them perish without the
projected aid, he became the instant executor of his own will, and lived
for years to be a gratified witness of that comfort which must otherwise
have been so long delayed. It is descriptive of the "good man," that "he
HATH dispersed, he HATH given to the poor."

Another feature in the beautiful portrait of female excellence before us,
is the _abundance and variety of her charities_. Dorcas is represented as.
"_full_ of good works and alms-deeds?" and though I the coats and garments
which she gave to the widows are only mentioned, they are to be considered
as one specimen only of a very extended system of benevolence. She was
neither capricious, nor merely occasional in her bounty; but "glorified
the Father, by bearing _much_ fruit."

Some persons are the mere creatures of impulse. When affected by any
violently exciting cause, they start into momentary vigour, and by a kind
of convulsive effort resist the inwrought habit of their minds, but
instantly relapse into greater insensibility. If a necessitous case be
presented to their attention under deeply afflicting circumstances, with
powerful recommendations, especially from those whom they are solicitous
of pleasing, or with whom they expect to be enrolled in the popular and
widely circulated list of donations, they may at times he found
"_willing_ to communicate," but even then never attain the noble
pre-eminence of "_a cheerful_ giver." It would have pleased them, however,
to have remained unasked; and if by any petty artifice they could have
evaded the application, they would most readily have adopted it, provided
they could have saved their reputation as well as their pence.

You may sometimes meet with persons who are indeed charitable, but their
charity is sectarian. They do good within certain limits, but never take a
wider range; and if they do not "forbid" others, who "follow not with
them," they afford no encouragement to their exertions. They have chosen a
particular spot to cultivate, and beyond the encircling fence which
bigotry has marked out, they cannot he persuaded to impart even a drop of
refreshing supply. What they do seems, in some measure, an apology for
what they omit; but what they omit detracts from the value of what they
do. They are not "FULL of good works."

Others have certain stated charities; and though they have passed the
narrow boundary of party prejudice, have made no provision in their plans
for cases of singular and sudden calamity. Their charity walks in
particular districts, and cannot go a step out of the beaten track. They
have allotted a certain portion of their income to the regular calls of
necessity, which cannot be exceeded, and have a specified circle of
objects which cannot be changed; and, if one may judge by their
comparative callousness to all other claims, it would be natural to infer
that they had taken a certain _quantum sufficit_ from their stock of
sensibility, which bore an invariable proportion to their calculations. In
vain you plead for the most urgent distress, in vain you solicit the
smallest contribution; they have no sympathies left; and, beyond u certain
sphere, they are relentless, impenetrable, and cruel.

In proportion as charity is methodical, it is apt to become cold; and
though we cannot plead for that diffusiveness which is bounded by no
prescribed limits, regulated by no order, or influenced by no preferences,
yet care should be taken lest it suffer by restriction. If this holy fire
be too much confined, it will be in danger of extinction.

Another and a pleasing peculiarity in the benevolence of Dorcas, is, that,
so far as appears from her brief history, her benefactions were
_personally bestowed_. She is represented as _making_ the garments given
to the poor widows herself; and doubtless to ascertain what they wanted,
and the proportion of their respective necessities, she was in the habit
of visiting their habitations, for the purposes of inquiry and inspection.
These visits, besides, would afford favourable opportunities for pious
conversation. How often she wept over their sorrows--what words of peace
and consolation she uttered--what salutary instructions she
communicated--what fervent petitions she uttered, cannot indeed now be
ascertained; but there is a book which has recorded them in imperishable
characters, and a day approaching when they shall be disclosed and
rewarded. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that
every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he
hath done, whether it be good or bad."

It would be easy to specify many reasons why the charitable should _visit_
the poor. Independently of the inferiority of the impression which is
produced on the mind by the mere recital of the sufferings of others, it
is scarcely possible to obtain correct information respecting their actual
and diversified necessities, without repairing to their cottages. The most
faithful narrator will not deem it necessary or proper to enter into
certain particulars, which the vigilant eye of sympathizing benevolence
would at once discover, and the heart of pity must deeply feel. Owing to
the different effects which the same distress produces on persons whose
natural constitutions are dissimilar, it may often happen that the most
afflicting part of their condition is overlooked; and the prompt
assistance which would otherwise be afforded, is lost through some
omission or unintentional misstatement. "To visit the fatherless and the
widows in their affliction," is no less represented by an apostle as
constituting the best exemplification of "pure religion," than "to keep
himself unspotted from the world;" and in the transactions of the final
judgment, the supreme Arbiter is described as noticing with peculiar
approbation, as even making the very determining point of his people's
character and destiny, their _visiting_ the sick and those in a state of
imprisonment, in order to supply them with the necessaries or comforts of
existence.

Ladies are respectfully urged to these labours of love, from the
consideration that they possess the most leisure and the best
opportunities of doing them. It would prove a wise and pleasurable mode of
employing some of the intervals of domestic engagement, and furnish both
useful and interesting subjects of reflection to fill up the vacuities of
thought. But if the multiplicity of their concerns furnish some plausible
excuse for, at least, a less constant and busy attention to the wants of
poverty; single ladies, on whom the cares of a family have not yet
devolved, should feel it their duty, and will ever find it their
privilege, to be thus devoted to the cause of suffering humanity. Their
time is their own, their property at their command. They are responsible
alone to God and their own consciences; and by these services to the
community are every day and hour giving a practical and unanswerable reply
to the scoffings of an illiberal world. How much better are these visits
of mercy than visits of ceremony, in which useless hours are squandered
away amidst the butterflies of fashion, insufferable fatigue is sustained,
scandal circulated, and religion outraged! Sweet and refreshing is the
sleep of active benevolence: it knows no tossings, is visited by no bitter
compunctions or terrific visions; it is cradled in innocence, lulled to
rest by the music of gratitude, and guarded by the sleepless eye of
Providence.

The habit of visiting the abodes of misery is an important means of
improving our sympathies. They will become less sickly and less
capricious. Those who have only wept over fictitious sorrow, will learn to
shed tears of real feeling at the sight of real grief; and will gradually
associate the idea of doing good with the strong emotions of a genuine
liberality. It is of importance for our own sakes, as well as for the
welfare of others, that sentiments of this kind should fill the mind, and
that the fine edge of sensibility should never be blunted. Some, it is
true, are very little solicitous for the improvement of any of their
faculties; but let them remember that the faculty which is not improved,
usually and almost necessarily suffers deterioration; and that he who does
not warm and expand into benevolence, is likely to contract into
contemptible selfishness.

Mere pecuniary aid, or indeed any other form of donation, is after all a
cheap description of charity. The most avaricious persons may sometimes.
resort to annual or other stated contributions, as expedients to save
trouble and to pacify conscience; and while we duly appreciate this
periodical goodness, it is insufficient as the basis of a claim to
philanthropy of spirit. How many in the carpeted walks of wealth will
readily purchase, by this means, an exemption from the inconvenience of
soiling their shoes, or hurting their delicacy, by going to witness scenes
of real distress.

Ladies of opulence or of leisure should reflect further, that in paying an
occasional visit to the dwellings of poverty and suffering, they are not
only likely to discover many cases of silent, unobtrusive wretchedness,
which but for their personal inquiries and researches might sink into the
grave without the smallest relief, while clamorous wo sometimes gains the
ear of the most thoughtless passenger, but they become the means of
imparting a twofold blessing. In addition to what they give, the sense of
their sympathy enhances the favour, and it is received with double
pleasure. Man is possessed of a social principle, which operates with
peculiar energy in cases of affliction. As a consciousness of neglect
excites disgust and resentment, so a conviction of being the object of
solicitude and sympathy produces the most grateful emotions. It may,
therefore be safely asserted, that a donation to the poor, when
_personally_ bestowed by the donor, is, in consequence of the effect
produced on the _mind_ of the sufferer, of incalculably greater importance
and use than the same or even a superior sum contributed by the cold
agency of some unfeeling distributor. Besides, a charitable soul has a
perpetual feast. Who can remain an unaffected spectator of the tearful
eye--the speaking look--the thankful smile? The very silence which an
overwhelming sense of kindness imposes, is more delightful to a benevolent
spirit than dainties to the taste or music to the ear.

In dispensing charity, many valuable acquisitions may be gained. It is, in
fact, a profitable service; and he makes an excellent exchange indeed,
who, while bestowing money or goods to assist the poor, obtains
substantial instruction. Here then, in the meanest hovel, in the most
shattered and weather-beaten shed, amidst cries of distress and sights of
sorrow, the wisest may gain knowledge. What a lesson of gratitude is
taught in every scene and circumstance! Who maketh thee to differ from
another in point of temporal possession, mental superiority, or religious
distinction? What hast thou, that thou hast not _received_? That humble
cottager is human, like thyself! That nest of callowness and weakness
contains the same species with thyself, on whom Providence has bestowed
wings to soar to heights of prosperity and enjoyment. Thou art descended
from the same common Father, and art heir of the same common dust! Thy
life is no less precarious, if it be less wretched, than that which
animates a meaner clay, and breathes in a less decorated exterior! If the
one be porcelain, and the other earthen ware, both are brittle! "God hath
made of one blood all nations of men." Sometimes a cottage furnishes an
impressive lesson respecting the _independence of happiness upon external
circumstances_. It teaches the salutary truth, that it is in the power of
religion to impart substantial felicity in every condition, to communicate
exalted enjoyment, to form an ennobled character in the meanest
habitation, and to inspire the sublime sentiment of the poet:

  "Give what thou wilt, _without_ thee I am poor,
  And _with_ thee rich, take what thou wilt away."

  COWPER.

Poverty has been the lot of the most distinguished of the human species;
and if ever the vanity of riches, and the incurable emptiness of temporal
splendour are felt, surely it must be when visiting the dwellings of the
_pious_ poor. No riches can inspire their songs of praise, or purchase a
title to their immortal inheritance. No rank or dignity can attract the
eyes of those holy spirits that hover round the spot to which affliction
has confined an outcast Lazarus, or kindle such rapturous sensations and
holy congratulations, as they manifest at the repentance of a sinner.
Piety hallows the dwelling which it inhabits, and felicitates as well as
sanctifies the heart, the family, and the city which it pervades. In the
primitive ages of Christianity, the disciples of our Lord could see the
rapacious oppressor seize the last portion of their worldly goods, and
"take it joyfully;" they could "most gladly glory in their infirmities,
that the power of Christ might rest upon them;" they could hail the
martyr's stake, while they anticipated the martyr's crown; and, in the
days of Paul and Silas, if there were a spot on earth where celestial joy
took up her residence, it was, at least for one happy night, in the very
dungeon of persecution.

To return to Dorcas. Her character is so described, as to imply that hers
were _free_, and often _unsolicited charities_. She did not indolently
wait for applications, or contrive a thousand delays, while misery was
pining into the grave; but, like her Divine Master, "_went about_ doing
good." She penetrated the obscurest retreats, not waiting to be pressed
and urged to afford a trifling relief; but her benevolence resembled the
course of the sun, which pours its beneficent radiance upon the earth with
undistinguishing liberality. It ought not to be forgotten, that
sometimes minds of the most delicate constitution are involved in all the
miseries of poverty, and placed in a situation of all others the most
painful, that of persons reduced from former competency and comfort. The
privations of life are far more sensibly felt by those who have once known
plenteousness. To them the wind of adversity blows with tenfold keenness,
and the crust of want seems peculiarly unpalatable. They are reluctant,
not to say "ashamed, to beg." The blushes of an instinctive sensibility
suffuse their countenances, and petitions for assistance falter on their
tongues. They have to contend not only with the afflictions of poverty,
but with all the timidity which a consciousness of degradation
superinduces. In many cases of this description, persons of eminent worth
have been found, who could not overcome their scruples, till absolute want
forced them abroad to suffer the rebuffs of an unfeeling world, or to gain
the scanty pittance which mere importunity extorted from reluctant
opulence. Dorcas is celebrated for having particularly selected such a
class of sufferers. She had sought out the _widows_, who had lost their
dearest relatives, by whose daily and cheerful labours they were perhaps
enabled to live in decent sufficiency, or by whose sympathizing tenderness
they were at least consoled amidst inevitable sorrows. The weakness of
their sex, or the infirmities of their advanced age, prevented their
contending with the storms of life; and, no doubt, many of them surrounded
by a numerous family, at the decease of the beloved of their hearts, were
left to struggle with accumulated difficulties.

Women on whom Providence has bestowed a sufficiency, might here find ample
means of usefulness among persons of their own sex. A helping hand might
rescue many a widow from the deep waters of overwhelming grief: a trifling
sum would in many cases prove an inestimable boon; and a very small
expense of time and trouble might produce the most valuable results. A
well-constructed system of benevolence resembles a fine adjustment of
mechanism: by a gentle force or a moderate supply, judiciously applied,
the whole machinery is kept in motion, and the greatest burdens
are removed.

This leads us to remark another characteristic feature in the charity of
Dorcas. It was _wise_ and _prudential_. She had a _plan_ which was not
only unexceptionable, but singularly excellent and worthy of imitation.
This consisted in furnishing the poor with substantial assistance, and
providing for the proper application of her aid to their real and most
pressing necessities. She made "coats and garments" for widows. It is to
be feared, that the good intentions of persons charitably disposed are
often frustrated by the improper manner in which they render assistance to
the poor. They fulfil the impulse of a benevolent spirit by sending or
giving their money, leaving the mode of its expenditure to their own
judgment. But it is notorious, that such as are in reduced circumstances,
and who feel the particular pressure of the moment which they are most
anxious to relieve, have very little sense of the real value of money and
of the propriety of providing against the difficulties of futurity. They
take the cordial to-day, draining out every drop, forgetting that the
phial will be empty to-morrow. In consequence of this extreme improvidence
and inconsideration, the pecuniary help they receive frequently does
little good, and fails of all the purposes which a pious charity intended.

The depravity of mankind, which must be expected to operate in the poor
as well as in the rich, is another occasion of the misuse of benevolent
aid. The friendly supply is consumed upon their lusts. Abandoned in
character and selfish in principle, many heads of poor families addict
themselves to bad company, despoiling their families of their earnings and
of charitable supplies, and stupifying their consciences in the cup of
intoxication. The discovery of such a misapplication ought not to
extinguish the feeling of sympathy, but rather excite it afresh; both
because the individuals themselves are to be doubly pitied for their
destitution of moral feeling and want of religion, as well as of necessary
subsistence, and because their outraged families demand renewed attention.
It ought also to render liberal persons particularly watchful of the use
which is made of their benefactions. It should not shut the heart, but
regulate the course of feeling. The sin of others does not exempt us from
the duty of contributing to the alleviation of their miseries, though it
ought to induce us to study the best expedients for counteracting it. It
is in fact quite as requisite that we should see to the application of
what is given as to give, in all cases where this is possible or
convenient. Dorcas appears to have adopted the useful plan of expending
the money which she appropriated to the poor widows, _for them_; partly
because she was probably better able to judge of the most useful mode of
assisting them, and partly because the very same sum would prove doubly
efficient in consequence of the savings which would acrue from working
with her own hands.

The pretences by which men excuse themselves from giving to the poor are
stated, and satisfactorily answered, by Dr. Paley, [43] in the following
words: "1. 'That they have nothing to spare,' _i.e._ nothing for which
they have not provided some other use: nothing which their plan or
expense, together with the savings they have resolved to lay by, will not
exhaust: never reflecting whether it be in their _power_, or that it is
their _duty_, to retrench their expenses, and contract their plan, 'that
they may give to them that need: or rather that this ought to have been
part of their plan originally.

"2. 'That they have families of their own, and that charity begins at
home.' The extent of this plea will be considered when we come to explain
the duty of parents."

_N. B._ The explanation is, that the duties of parents comprehend
"maintenance, education, and a reasonable provision for the child's
happiness in respect to outward condition.... A father of a family is
bound to adjust his economy with a view to these demands upon his fortune;
and until a sufficiency for these ends is acquired, or in due time
_probably_ will be acquired (for in human affairs _probability_ ought to
content us,) frugality and exertions of industry are duties. He is also
justified in declining expensive liberality: for, to take from those who
want, to give to those who want, adds nothing to the stock of public
happiness. Thus far, therefore, and no farther, the plea of 'children,' of
'large families,' charity begins at home,' &c. is an excuse for parsimony,
and an answer to those who solicit our bounty. Beyond this point, as the
use of riches becomes less, the desire of _laying up_ should abate
proportionably.

"3. 'That charity does not consist in giving money, but in benevolence,
philanthropy, love to all mankind, goodness of heart,' &c. Hear St. James:
"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of
you say unto them, Depart in peace; be ye warmed and filled;
notwithstanding _ye give them not those things which are needful to the
body_; what doth it profit?" James ii. 15, 16.

"4. 'That giving to the poor is not mentioned in St. Paul's description of
charity in the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle to the
Corinthians.' This is not a description of charity, but of good nature;
and it is not necessary that every duty be mentioned in every place.

"5. 'That they pay the poor-rates.' They might as well allege that they
pay their debts: for the poor have the same right to that portion of a
man's property which the laws assign to them, that the man himself has to
the remainder.

"6. 'That they employ many poor persons:'--for their own sake, not the
poor's;--otherwise it is a good plea.

"7. 'That the poor do not suffer so much as we imagine; that education and
habit have reconciled them to the evils of their condition, and make them
easy under it.' Habit can never reconcile human nature to the extremities
of cold, hunger, and thirst, any more than it can reconcile the hand to
the touch of a red hot iron; besides, the question is not, how unhappy any
one is, but how much more happy we can make him.

"8. 'That these people, give them what you will, will never thank you, or
think of you for it.' In the first place, this is not true; in the second
place, it was not for the sake of their thanks that you relieved them.

"9. 'That we are liable to be imposed upon.' If a due inquiry be made, our
merit is the same; besides that the distress is generally real, although
the cause be untruly stated. "10. 'That they should apply to their
parishes.' This is not always practicable: to which we may add, that there
are many requisites to a comfortable subsistence which parish relief does
not supply; and that there are some, who would suffer almost as much from
receiving parish relief as by the want of it; and lastly, that there are
many modes of charity to which this answer does not relate at all.

"11. 'That giving money encourages idleness and vagrancy.' This is true
only of injudicious and indiscriminate generosity.

"12. 'That we have too many objects of charity at home, to bestow any
thing upon strangers; or that there are other charities, which are more
useful, or stand in greater need.' The value of this excuse depends
entirely upon the _fact_, whether we actually relieve those neighbouring
objects, and contribute to those other charities.

"Besides all these excuses, pride, or prudery, or delicacy, or love of
ease, keep one half of the world out of the way of observing what the
other half suffer."

The sentiments expressed by the profound Dr. Barrow [44] will form an
appropriate conclusion to the present chapter.

"If we contemplate our wealth itself, we may therein descry great motives
to bounty. Thus to employ our riches, is really the best use they are
capable of; not only the most innocent, most worthy, most plausible; but
the most safe, most pleasant, most advantageous, and consequently in all
respects most prudent way of disposing of them. To keep them close,
without using or enjoying them at all, is a most sottish extravagance or a
strange kind of madness; a man thence affecting to be rich, quite
impoverished himself, dispossesseth himself of all, and alienateth from
himself his estate; his gold is no more his than when it was in the
Indies, or lay hid in the mines; his corn is no more his than if it stood
growing in Arabia or China; he is no more owner of his lands than he is
master of Jerusalem or Grand Cairo; for what difference is there, whether
distance of place or baseness of mind sever things from him? whether his
own heart or another man's hand detain them from his use? whether he hath
them not at all, or hath them to no purpose? whether one is a beggar out
of necessity or choice? is pressed to want, or a volunteer thereto? Such
an one may fancy himself rich, and others, as wise as himself, may repute
him so; but so distracted persons, to themselves and to one another do
seem great princes, and style themselves such; with as much reason almost
he might pretend to be wise or to be good. Riches are Χρηματα things
whose nature consists in usefulness; abstract that, they become nothing,
things of no consideration or value; he that hath them is no more
concerned in them than he that hath them not. It is the heart, and skill
to use affluence of things wisely and nobly, which makes it wealth, and
constitutes him rich that hath it; otherwise the chests may be crammed,
and the barns stuffed full, while the man is miserably poor and beggarly;
'tis in this sense true which the wise man says, '_There is that maketh
himself rich, yet hath nothing_'"



Lydia.

Chapter XI.



  Account of Paul and his Companions meeting with Lydia by the River-side
  at Philippi--the Impression produced upon her Heart by the Preaching of
  Paul--Remarks on Conversion as exemplified in the Case of this
  Disciple--its Seat the Heart--its Accomplishment the Result of divine
  Agency--the Manner of it noticed--the Effects of a divine Influence upon
  the human Mind, namely, attention to the Word of God and the Ordinances
  of the Gospel, and affectionate Regard to the Servants of
  Christ--Remarks on the Paucity of real Christians--the multiplying Power
  of Christianity--its present State in Britain--Efforts of the
  Bible Society.

The historical part of the New Testament, called the ACTS or THE APOSTLES,
contains a faithful record of the early propagation of the Gospel and the
incessant exertions of the first labourers in the vineyard. They were not
men who "wasted their strength in strenuous idleness," or dissipated the
time of action in "laboriously doing nothing;" but were endowed with
extraordinary qualifications and an inextinguishable zeal for their novel
and interesting employment. They reflected the light of the Sun of
Righteousness upon a dark age, and glowed with the very spirit of their
ascended Lord. Remarkable effects were produced upon the moral world,
notwithstanding the counteracting influence of human prejudice and
opposition; and as they quitted the world, amidst the whirlwinds of
persecution and in the flames of martyrdom, they dropped from their
ascending chariots the mantle upon their successors in office, who
"entered into their labours," and continued "with great power" to give
"witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon
them all."

So wonderful are the appointments of Providence, that we find a youth who
took an active part in the murder of the first martyr to the Christian
cause, and afterward breathed forth an unrelenting hostility against all
its adherents, selected as the chief instrument of its extension in
various countries. That mighty energy which "commanded the light to shine
out of darkness," as he was on a persecuting expedition to Damascus,
"shined into his heart," and by a miraculous interposition not only
checked him in his career, but communicated to him "the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus," and turned all
the energies of his character into a new and most important course of
exertion. He became a Christian, a preacher, an apostle, and a missionary
to the Gentile world: and while by his indefatigable labours he benefitted
so large a proportion of his contemporaries, by his inspired epistles he
has instructed the church 'of God in every succeeding age of the world.

Paul appears to have travelled over a considerable portion of Asia and
part of Europe. Barnabas, and afterward Silas and Timotheus, accompanied
him. In many places he suffered great personal injury, and his valuable
life was repeatedly endangered. Having passed through Phrygia and the
proconsular province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital, Paul and
Silas came at length to Troas, where the former had a vision, in which he
saw an inhabitant of Macedonia standing before him, and uttering this
request, "Come over and help us." This impressed his mind with a
conviction that he was called in providence to preach the gospel in that
part of Greece; and he immediately sailed down the Aegean Sea by the
island of Samothracia and the port of Neapolis, and from thence to
Philippi, which was a Roman colony. [45]

In this city, whither it seems probable from the history, that Luke had
accompanied them, they remained some days; and here we are introduced to
the brief but instructive account of the excellent woman whose name is
prefixed to this chapter.

Paul, and the companions of his missionary tour, first met with Lydia at
one of the Jewish places of prayer by the river-side, which ran near the
city. The Temple at Jerusalem, and previously the Tabernacle, were the
appointed places for the public worship of God, in the open court of
which, before the altar, the people assembled. But such as lived at a
distance, or from local inconveniences could not constantly repair to the
place of general association, were allowed to build _Proseuchiæ_, or
_Oratories_, in one of which our Saviour continued all night in prayer.
They had no covering like synagogues, but were surrounded by porticoes, to
afford shelter from the inclemency of the weather, and were erected in the
suburbs of a city, by the baths or near rivers, on account of the
purifications so frequent with the Jews, and usually on very elevated
spots of ground. The proseucha signalized by the devotions of Christ was
on a mountain. Some have supposed that Isaac went out to meditate in the
evening in a place of this description. These were probably the _high
places_ of ancient times, in or near which groves were planted, and which
are only condemned in Scripture when appropriated to idolatrous purposes.
"I am like a green olive tree," says the Psalmist, "in the house of God."

Availing themselves of the opportunity afforded by the resort of devout
persons to these religious retirements, these zealous ministers of the
Gospel conversed and preached to the people, who on this occasion were
chiefly women. But though many were addressed, it does not appear that
more than one was substantially benefitted. Her attention was excited, her
heart opened, and her profession of the name of Jesus immediate and
public. The several points of her character deserve particular and
distinct illustration.

Lydia is said to have been of the city of Thyatira; but whether she had
removed to Philippi, or was only come for the purpose of trade, is not
certain. She was one who "worshipped God," that is, one who, in
distinction from the heathen around her, had learned the character of
Jehovah, and was probably a Jewish proselyte. [46] Instructed in the
ancient records of that extraordinary nation, which had been so many past
ages the only depository of divine truth, she was expecting the predicted
Messiah; and while, from the natural aversion of mankind to the
humiliating doctrine of salvation through a crucified person, the greater
proportion of Jews rejected him, she experienced a true conversion, not
only from the principles of heathenism, but from those of Judaism, to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few instances of this description occur in the
evangelical record to show the sovereignty and diversified operations of
the grace of God.

That moral change, that spiritual renovation, which has been called
CONVERSION, is, we are aware, and ever will be, the subject of profane
ridicule amongst unbelievers. It does not indeed produce any astonishment,
although it awakens extreme regret, that one of the most obvious effects
resulting from the publication of the Gospel of Christ should be so
unblushingly denied by this class of mankind. "The natural man discerneth
not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually
discerned." The scriptures themselves predict this incapacity, even in
some of the most refined and intellectual of our species, to form a
conception of this marvellous change; and experience evinces the truth of
what they affirm, and which originates in the very nature of things. It
is characteristic of human perversity to disbelieve what is imperceptible
to reason or invisible to sense, and to vaunt itself upon that very
infidelity as a distinctive mark of pre-eminence, which is, in fact, a
proof of debasement and guilt. If a system of religion were to be so
constructed as to be exempt from the ridicule of the profane, it must be
itself ridiculous; because their distorted minds cannot discern the
beauties of truth, and their depraved feelings will not admit her claims.
To secure their approbation religion must change her character, alter her
doctrines, new cast her precepts, and new modify her principles.

Lydia presents an interesting specimen not only of the reality but of the
nature of the great work of conversion; and, however contemptible the
subject may appear in the eye of a dissipated world, or to the mind of a
prejudiced reader, we hesitate not to state the sentiments which
necessarily arise out of the present example respecting the seat and
source of this change, the agent by whom it is accomplished, and the
corresponding effects produced.

1. Our attention is, in the first place, to be directed to _the seat of
this spiritual renovation_. It is said of Lydia, that her HEART was
opened. This change, therefore, is of a moral nature, not merely
circumstantial, but radical. It does not consist in assuming a new name,
professing new opinions, using a new language, performing a few rites and
ceremonies, or reforming a few exterior vices, These are only
branches--the tree itself must be made good--the crab stock of nature must
be grafted with spiritual principles, and by being planted in the garden
of the Lord be brought under a heavenly culture. It is then only "the
fruits of righteousness" may be anticipated, "which are to the glory and
praise of God."

The disordered state of the passions is a striking evidence of human
degeneracy. In consequence of this a thousand mistakes are committed, and
a thousand follies practised. Each passion is fixed on a wrong object,
pursues an unworthy end, and is susceptible of false impressions. Indeed,
the will is totally perverted, and chooses, with obstinate resolution,
whatever is erroneous and criminal; on which account men are represented
in the metaphorical language of Scripture, as "loving darkness rather than
light." So astonishing is the degree of this perversion, that the Supreme
_Good_ is dreaded and avoided as if he were the only _evil_ in the
universe; and, however vain the attempt, guilt is continually seeking
concealment in some secret covert, some supposed security from his
omniscient inspection. Captivated by deceitful appearances, human
confidence is perpetually misplaced, and therefore perpetually betrayed;
the siren song of pleasure soothes the unhappy captives of her bewitching
charms into the bosom of destruction--the splendour of earthly
distinctions dims the eye of sense, and prevents its perception of the
bright realities of heaven. In fact, such has been the melancholy effect
of sin upon the perceptions of the human soul, that every thing is seen
through the medium of sensual passions in an inverted position--good seems
evil, and evil good--and till this disorder become rectified by a divine
touch, the heart will remain at enmity against God, the refuge and resort
of the worst dispositions, and the great central pandemonium of every
diabolical affection. Such is the statement of Jesus Christ himself, "From
within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,
fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,
lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these
things come from within, and defile the man."

As the intellectual and moral state of man are, in a religious view,
closely connected, the renovation of the heart is essentially connected
with an important change in the understanding. The latter may, indeed, be
considerably improved and informed when no spiritual effect is produced
upon the former, but the former cannot be renewed without corresponding
and coincident effects on the latter; and the illumination of the
understanding is so universal, that believers are said to be "light in the
Lord." Their perceptions of truth are not mere gleamings and streaks of
divine radiance thrown across the obscurity of the mind, but all is light.
Nor is it merely new light diffused over objects familiar to the thoughts,
but a discovery of new scenes. The soul, in a sense, changes its
hemisphere, emerges from darkness, ascends to the summits of Pisgah, and
contemplates the ineffable glories of a new creation. "If any man be in
Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all
things are become new." How touching and how worthy of adoption the
poet's language:

  "Celestial light
  Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
  Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
  Purge and disperse!"

  MILTON.

The total renovation of the heart is evinced by susceptibility of
conscience. This moral faculty, in an unregenerate state, is either
perverted or hardened. In the former case, our obligations are not
clearly discerned, or are easily dispensed with; in the latter, the most
powerful appeals to love or fear are resisted. In the progress of sin to
its most awful consummation, those gentle whispers which were at first
noticed, and made the transgressor tremble till he sometimes let fall the
forbidden fruit, are at length unheard. Every intimation is silenced by
guilty merriment, which perhaps was at first forced, but soon becomes
habitual. Where conscience is not lulled into total inaction, it is, in
this state of character, violated with little remorse. The mind loses
sight of the glory of God, its best regulating principle; it is alive to
personal interests only, and discards every thing of a nobler nature. But,
in the sincere and humble Christian, conscience is tender, easily offended
with evil, and gradually approximating that state of susceptibly in
respect to sin, in which it resembles a well-polished mirror, that shows
the slightest particle of dust or damp upon its surface. Such a conscience
is no less _rigorous_ than it is tender, and repels temptation with
persevering energy. It will hold no debate with the tempter; and so far
from seeking to ascertain how far it may advance towards sinful
compliances without contracting actual guilt, it will "abstain from all
_appearance_ of evil."

In stating that the heart is the seat of those principles and the source
of that transformation of character which is comprehended in the term
_conversion_, it is intended to express the _permanent_ nature of the
change. It is not an opinion or an emotions resembling the morning cloud
and early dew that pass away, but an abiding and deep-wrought alteration.
"He which hath begun a good work in you, will carry it on until the day of
Christ Jesus;" in consequence of which, "the path of the just is as the
shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

"That such improvements of character often _have_ occurred, and are often
taking place now, cannot be denied by any philosophic observer of human
nature: to disregard them, or to neglect an investigation of their use, is
to neglect one of the most interesting classes of facts observable amongst
mankind. Who has not either heard of or witnessed the most extraordinary
changes of conduct, produced through the _apparent_ influence (to say the
least) of religious motives? I say nothing here of the _three thousand_
converted in one day at the feast of Pentecost--of the conversion of St.
Paul and others mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles--because those are
usually ascribed to the miraculous and _extraordinary_ influences of the
Holy Spirit in the apostolic times. But I may call your attention
ttomatters of more recent occurrence. You have witnessed instances of men
running eagerly the career of folly and dissipation, who have been
suddenly arrested, and changed from 'lovers of pleasure' to 'lovers of
God.' You have known others who have devoted themselves early to the
military profession, who literally knew _no_ fear, who have spent their
lives in the pursuit of glory, who have approached the verge of life full
of scars and full of honours, still panting after 'glory, honour,
immortality,' but thinking nothing of 'eternal life;' till, touched by an
irresistible hand, they have been transformed from good soldiers to 'good
soldiers of Jesus Christ,' have buckled on 'the armour of God,' 'fought
the good fight of faith,' and following 'the Captain of their salvation,'
have obtained 'the victory,' and been rewarded with _unfading_ laurels.
Others again, you have known, who have been strong and _high-minded_,
professing never to be subdued but by the force of argument, and
dexterously evading an argument when it _was_ forcible, if it were
calculated to expose the sophistry of 'free-thinking,' (as it is called,)
or to exhibit the reasonableness and advantages of being pious; you have
seen them increase in the dexterity of unbelief, and in callousness to
_moral_ impression, year after year,

  'Gleaning the blunted shafts that have recoil'd,
  Aiming them at the shield of truth again;'

and when a band of them has gone to church for the purpose of quizzing, or
of staring out of countenance some preacher of rather more than usual
energy and zeal, have known one of this band pierced by 'a dart from the
archer,' convinced that religion is 'the one thing needful,' and though he
came 'to scoff, remaining to pray.'" [47]

II. The second observable circumstance in the inspired account of Lydia's
conversion is, _its accomplishment by divine agency_. It is stated that
the LORD opened her heart. The effect is not ascribed to the apostle Paul,
or his illustrious coadjutors in the Christian ministry. They might speak
with the tongue of angels, and hum with the zeal of seraphs; to them might
be given in trust "the everlasting Gospel," which, like the apocalyptic
angel, they were carrying through "the midst of heaven" to the inhabitants
of the earth, "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people;" they
might indeed possess the power not only of placing facts in the clearest
light, or urging arguments in the most forcible manner, but even of
working miracles; still they could not "open the heart." Indefatigable as
they were in their labours, they could not command success. At this
precise point human instrumentality ceases, and divine agency commences.

It is by no means an unfrequent effect of ministerial fidelity, to confirm
the native aversion of the impenitent to the doctrines of Christ. Pride
resists conviction, and fosters prejudice; and however unanswerable the
statements, or fervent the appeals which may be addressed to them, the
mind still remains unsubdued, the heart is still unopened. It requires the
interposal of a mightier power than either reason, remonstrance, or
miracle, to accomplish this wonderful transformation of character. Hosts
of apostles and legions of angels would be incompetent by their own
unaided exertions, to do "any thing as of themselves;" to give light to
_one_ blind eye, or to rectify _one_ prejudiced heart.

Human agency, then, cannot be of itself effectual. It is the _Lord_ who
opens the ear, the eye, the conscience, the understanding, and the
_heart_. The weapons of that spiritual warfare, in which Christian
ministers are engaged, can alone "pull down strong holds, cast down
imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the
knowledge of God," and "bring into captivity every thought to the
obedience of Christ," being "mighty _through God_." What would the weapon
accomplish, if the hand of Almighty power were not to grasp and wield it?
The experience of modern preachers, no doubt, resembles that of their
apostolic predecessors in the same field of holy labour. When
stout-hearted sinners have been attacked by all the force of argument, all
the power of eloquence, all the fire of zeal, all the holy violence of
appeal, all the tenderness of tears, and all the terrors of
denunciation--and when it might have been expected that a heart of marble
thus smitten must yield and break, and yet no emotion, at least no
repentance, no relinquishment of sin, and no obedience to Christ has
resulted--how often have they retired exclaiming, "_O the impotence of
human instrumentality!_" But when returning to their work, desponding or
deeply apprehensive, "going forth weeping, bearing precious seed," they
have at length seen the rebel struck, and in a moment abashed, humbled,
penitent--melted at a word--his prejudices dashed to the ground, like
Lucifer from heaven--his heart opened, like that of Lydia, and the bitter
stream of his enmity turned into the sweetness of Christian love--They
have paused--inquired--wondered--beheld the "_excellency_ of the power,"
which was "not of man, but of God;" and have retired exclaiming, "_O the
omnipotence of divine grace!_"

It is an extraordinary circumstance, that the agency of God, in the
production of the natural world, should be universally admitted, because
no other adequate cause can be assigned; and yet that it should, with so
little hesitation, be denied in the moral world. Why is God to be excluded
from this superior creation, but because men "do not like to retain him in
their knowledge," and because corrupted reason would deify itself and
dethrone the Almighty?--And here we have the characteristic distinction
between religion and irreligion. The former assigns God as the cause and
agent in every thing, born interior and exterior to us. It places him upon
the throne, subordinates every thing to his will, attributes every thing
to his influence. It contemplates his dominion as infinite, and his will
as the law of nature and of nations. It fully believes, that naturally and
spiritually "in him we live, and move, and have our being."
Irreligion--and we may comprehend in the term, not only extravagant
immorality or gross impiety, but a system which is found to exist under
the cloak of religion, and the pretence of doing God service--irreligion
of every class and in every form is perpetually limiting the empire of the
Deity, prescribing bounds to his influence, criticising and defining his
prerogatives, and refusing him the "right to reign over us."

The Scriptures uniformly ascribe the first principle, all the successive
actions, and the final consummation of religion in the heart, to the
Spirit of God. It is the subject of express promise: "And the Lord thy God
will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord
thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest
live."--"This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their
inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and
they shall be my people."--"A new heart also will I give you, and a new
spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of
your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my Spirit
within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my
judgments and do them." The nature of this moral transformation is
distinctly stated in such passages as the following--"_Born_, not of
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
God"--"Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of
God dwell in you. But if any man have not the Spirit of God, he is none of
his"--"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
God"--"We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath ordained, that we should walk in them." In the same manner,
the increase of religion is ascribed to the Spirit. "He which hath begun a
good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ"--"Now the
God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great
Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make
you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which
is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." Let us then, as
Moses expresses it respecting the bush which he saw at the back of Horeb,
burning, but still unconsumed, "turn aside and see this great sight." "God
is every where by his _power_. He rolls the orbs of heaven with his hand,
he fixes the earth in its place with his foot, he guides all the creatures
with his eye, and refreshes them with his influence; he makes the powers
of bell to shake with his terrors, and binds the devils with his word, and
throws them out with his command, and sends the angels on embassies with
his decrees.... God is especially present in the hearts of his people, by
his Holy Spirit; and indeed the hearts of holy men are temples in the
truth of things, and in type and shadow they are heaven itself. For God
reigns in the hearts of his servants: there is his kingdom. The energy of
grace hath subdued all his enemies; this is his power. They serve him
night and day, and give him thanks and praise; that is his glory. The
temple itself is the heart of man; Christ is the high priest, who from
thence sends up the incense of prayers, and joins them to his own
intercession, and presents all together to his Father; and the Holy Ghost,
by his dwelling there, hath also consecrated it into a temple; and God
dwells in our hearts by faith, and Christ by his Spirit, and the Spirit by
his purities; so that we are also cabinets of the mysterious Trinity; and
what is short of heaven itself, but as infancy is short of manhood, and
letters of words?" [48]

How inconceivably glorious is the beauty of holiness in the renovated
soul! That "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," should
"shine into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Christ Jesus"--that the vileness of our nature should
be superseded by the purity of grace--that sinners should be pardoned and
sin subdued--that the good seed should vegetate in such a barren and
overgrown wilderness of desolation--that we who were "sometime darkness"
should become "light in the Lord," is truly marvellous. This establishment
of "the kingdom of God _within_ us," excites the gratitude of saints, the
wonder of angels, and the loud anthems of triumph that vibrate from the
harps of heaven. When God made a fair world from a formless mass of
matter, "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted
for joy;" but when he devised the plan to make a holy human being from a
base and fallen rebel, they sung "Glory to God in the HIGHEST."

How animating the consideration, that the hope of salvation inspired in
the soul by the Spirit of God, can never be extinguished! The grace that
powerfully impels him to take the first step in the Christian life, as
forcibly urges him forward to the end of his course. The light which is
kindled in his bosom will burn and brighten, and consummate his immortal
bliss. It is itself the pledge of this increase and perfection. The
felicity of the Christian here is similar in its essence to his glory
hereafter, as the first ray of morning is the same in nature with the
noontide brightness. It may struggle through obscurities, but will rise to
perfect day. Death indeed is rapidly approaching: but as the solar orb
plunges for a short season into darkness, to reappear with new splendour;
so will the righteous eventually ascend above the tomb and, the worm, to
"shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

The manner of Lydia's conversion ought not to be overlooked. Her heart was
_opened_. There is something gentle, as well as effectual, in the
representation. The Spirit of God not only operates by a variety of
instruments, but by a considerable diversity of modes. He descends on
Sinai in tempests, and on Calvary in smiles. Sometimes his manifestations
are terrible, and sometimes soothing; sometimes he breaks, and sometimes
opens the heart. In scripture we are furnished with illustrations of this
diversified operation. Manasseh, who "made Judah and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen," and who "would not
hearken" to divine monitions, was taken by the Assyrians "among the
thorns, and bound with fetters, and carried to Babylon." He who was
unaffected, either by mercies or menaces, in his prosperity, "when he was
in affliction, besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly
before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him; and he was entreated
of him and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into
his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God." Paul, who
breathed out threatening and slaughter against the Christian church, was
suddenly struck to the earth by a miraculous light from heaven, and from a
persecutor transformed into an apostle. The Philippian jailer exclaimed
amidst his terrors, "What must I do to be saved?" and was not only
prevented from committing suicide, but directed to heaven by the doctrine
of his apostolic prisoner, which through grace he cordially received:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thine
house." On the other hand, Samuel, Timothy, and Lydia, were "drawn with
bands of love." They heard the whispers of mercy, and felt the attractions
of grace. Each of their hearts, like that of Lydia, was _opened_. Passion
subsided, prejudice withdrew, ignorance melted away. They were not taken
by storm, but made "_willing_ in the day of his _power_."

The importance of this change is intimated in the remarkable declaration
of Jesus Christ to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see
the kingdom of heaven." It is essential to the possession of paradise; it
constitutes the very basis of the Christian character; and to be
indifferent to it is a mark of condemnation. Its present influence, and
its future consequences, are so wonderful, that it becomes us to cherish
an immediate and incessant solicitude upon the subject. Look
upward--Almighty love "waits to be gracious"--Is it not recorded, and can
it ever be forgotten, that "every one that asketh receiveth; and he that
seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened? If a son
shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?
or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall
ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how
to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

III. The account of Lydia is further illustrative of the _effects
resulting from a divine influence upon the human heart_.

The first of these effects is intimated by the statement, that "she
attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Her spirit was
exceedingly different from that of the hearers of Ezekiel: "Thou son of
man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the
walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one
to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that
cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh,
and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they
will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their
heart goeth after their covetousness And lo, thou art unto them as a very
lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an
instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." Lydia, on the
contrary, heard to profit. She listened, reflected, and "inwardly
digested," the truths of the Gospel. She heard with seriousness and with
self-application. The doctrine was to her novel and interesting. The
Gospel came to her, "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy
Ghost, and in much assurance;" for she "received the word of God which she
heard, not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,"
which "effectually worketh" in believers.

And is this descriptive of _our_ views and feelings? Do we _pay attention_
to divine instructions, and "hear so that our souls may live?" Is the word
of God to us like descending manna from the skies, which we go forth with
eager haste to gather for our spiritual subsistence? Whenever we repair to
"the house of God," are we "more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice
of fools?" Do we dwell upon the lips of the preacher? Do we aim to
remember, seek to understand, and humbly resolve to practise what is
taught? Or, do we go to public worship with reluctant and hesitating
steps, compelled alone by the force of habit, education, example, or
terror? When _arrived_, do we enter with irreverence, assume a careless
and familiar attitude, give the rein to our wandering thoughts, resign our
bodies or our consciences to unhallowed slumber, or watch with frequent
glances the slowly revolving hour that will free us from an irksome
service? When _retired_ from public engagements, do we forget God our
Maker, dissipate consecrated hours, and at length lose every salutary
impression amidst the cares of life, and the subordinate concerns of
a moment?

It is possible you may even plead temporal anxieties and business, as an
extenuation of the guilt of religious negligences, or as a sufficient
ground of exemption from the claims of piety. You are forsooth too busy,
too needy, too perplexed in establishing connections or conducting
commercial transactions, to pay an immediate regard to the interests of
the soul and eternity; and although you at present defer such
considerations, you apologize for your folly by saying, it does not arise
from aversion, but inconvenience. You do not deny, you only procrastinate.
But who has insured your life? Who has perused for you the page of
destiny, which numbers the years of your mortal existence? Who has given
you any evidence, that the distant day of intentional repentance, shall be
a day of health, seriousness, and leisure? Who can tell that the sun,
which illumines the path of your prosperity at this period of
irresolution, will not, upon the arrival of the predicted hour of
penitence, shine only upon your grave? Who has given you authority to
invert the order which Christ has established in the admonition, "Seek ye
FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness?"

But we have a valuable example to cite. Go to Philippi. Learn of a woman,
whose name cannot perish, though generations pass away, and the stars
become extinct. _Lydia_ was not a person of leisure; she was a "seller of
purple," or cloths, which were died of a purple colour, or purple silks.
[49] She had surely sufficient occupation, and yet she has no apologies
at hand. She was not too much engaged to be concerned about her eternal
salvation; but when the apostle of the Gentiles preaches, she _must_ go,
she _must_ hear, she _must_ attend. She was "diligent in business," but
this did not preclude her being "fervent in spirit." As a seller of purple
she could only have become _rich_--the acmè, indeed, and summit of human
wishes, but a miserable barter for real and everlasting happiness; as a
hearer of Paul, she might and did become "_wise to salvation."_

Every thing is beautiful in its season. We must not wander from our proper
business under pretence of religion, nor must we neglect religion upon a
plea of business. Religion does not require a relinquishment of our
calling and station in society, but no civil engagements can justify a
disregard of religion. We may sell our purple--but we must also attend to
the instructions of the ministry and the word of God. If we imitate Lydia
in diligence, let us not forget to imitate her in piety. It is vain and
wicked to aver, that, the concerns of this world and those of another
interfere; because an ardent religion is not only compatible with worldly
occupations, but promotes both their purity and integrity, if it do not
secure their success.

Another effect of divine influence upon the heart of Lydia, and
essentially connected with her reception of the great principles of
Christianity, was an immediate attention to the ordinance of baptism. "She
was baptized and her household." In the true spirit of that apostle from
whose lips she received the truth of heaven, and by whom she was directed
to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," "she conferred
not with flesh, and blood." With a promptitude which was at once
expressive of the sincerity of her faith and the zeal of her mind, she did
not hesitate to observe the baptismal institution of her Lord and Saviour.
What were to her the wonder of ignorant spectators--the ridicule of her
fellow-traders--the reflections of her heathen neighbours--when balanced
against the approbation of God and her own conscience? She had "bought the
truth," and would not sell it--she had found "the pearl of great price,"
and went and sacrificed every temporal consideration for it--she had
"found the Messiah," and was resolved to follow his foot-steps
whithersoever they conducted her. She did not dispute or hesitate, but she
obeyed. May the bright example of Lydia stimulate us to a similar conduct!

In the primitive times it is obvious that whoever received the Gospel was
baptized in the name of Christ, and to express a resolution to adhere to
him. And this obedience is a part of that decision of character which
should distinguish the genuine disciple of Christ. He demands it as a
proof of love, and by virtue of his supreme authority in the church. The
command to be baptized is, in the New Testament, usually connected with
the exhortation to repent, because this is the order of things which the
Son of God has established, and the most convincing evidence that we have
voluntarily devoted ourselves to his service. Baptism was significant of a
burial and resurrection with Christ, of being regenerated by his Spirit,
renewed by his influence, and separated from all the unholy principles of
a depraved nature, and from the sinful practices of a corrupt world. The
abundant use of water in this institution was considered as illustrative
of the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit, of his miraculous descent
on the day of Pentecost, and of the overwhelming sufferings of the
crucifixion. The precursor of our Lord predicted Christ as coming to
"baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire." John immersed our
Saviour himself in the river Jordan; when, as he "went up straightway out
of the water," he beheld the "heavens opened unto him," saw the descending
Spirit of God like a dove, "lighting upon him," and heard a voice saying,
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Viewing in awful
perspective the tragical scenes of his life, which were to terminate in
the more tragical sufferings of his last hour, he exclaimed, "I have _a
baptism_ to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be
accomplished!"

Happily, Lydia was not alone in her public profession of religion. She had
the satisfaction of seeing her household introduced by baptism into the
church of Christ. We are not informed either of their number, sex, or age.
The circumstances of the case seem most naturally to point out her
servants or adult children, to whom, as in the instance of the jailer, the
word of the Lord might be addressed. She no doubt felt extreme solicitude
for their spiritual interests, and from the moment of her own conversion
would give them every opportunity of attending the apostolic instruction.
To have witnessed in them the kindlings of divine love, the workings of
genuine penitence, the dawnings of true religion, must have afforded her
the richest pleasure, in comparison with which all the accumulations of
trade and commerce dwindled into perfect insignificance.

But let us inquire whether we resemble Lydia. Do we monopolize the hopes
of salvation and the cup of spiritual blessing? or are we active
distributors of the heavenly bounty? What do we _feel_ for our families,
our children, our domestics, our dependants, our friends and connections?
What have we _done_ for them? They need instruction--they possess souls to
be saved, or lost--they are responsible creatures--they are given us in
charge by providence, and will finally meet us at the tribunal of God.
Should it not awaken alarm to be accessary in any degree to their
destruction by negligence, if not by compulsion or by bad example? Is it
not worthy of a holy ambition to become instrumental to their eternal
welfare? Do you lead them to the domestic altar? Do you watch over their
conduct with a vigilant and paternal eye? Do you guide them to the house
of God?--To show them the path to heaven--to be instrumental in lodging
_one_ important sentiment in their minds--to sow, if but a single grain,
that may vegetate and rise into a tree of holiness, is incalculably more
satisfactory and more honourable than to obtain the victories of an
Alexander, or the riches of a Croesus. O, let us never remain content with
a solitary religion; but aim, like Lydia, to multiply our satisfactions,
and in the spirit of an exalted charity, to distribute happiness in the
earth! "None of us liveth to himself, and no man (as a Christian,) dieth
to himself."

A third and most visible effect of Lydia's conversion, was an affectionate
regard to the servants of Christ. With the zeal of a new convert and the
generosity of a genuine Christian, she invited Paul and the companions of
his labours to "come into her house and abide there." She thus proved
herself "a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men;" which although it
be one of the appropriate characteristics of "a bishop," or spiritual
overseer and pastor, enters into the very elements of a religious
character in every station. We are exhorted "to do good to all men,
especially to them that are of the household of faith:" and Jesus Christ
has represented love to the brethren as an indication of discipleship.

The invitation of Lydia was not cold and formal. She did not merely pass
the compliment of asking these holy guests to her board, but solicited it
as a favour, and with an unusual degree of importunity. She entreated--she
"constrained" them. Her plea was modest, but so expressed as to be
irresistible. They could not deny her request when put upon this basis:
"If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house."

Gratitude was undoubtedly a principal occasion of this urgency. She had
received through their instrumentality the best gift of Heaven. The eyes
of her understanding had been enlightened--the affections of her heart had
been excited and sanctified to a noble purpose. They had proclaimed to her
with surprising effect, "Jesus and the resurrection;" and, although she
had been a devout proselyte of the Jewish religion, she would not, humanly
speaking but for them, have become acquainted with the Christian, of which
the former was only a pre-figurative shadow. They had unlocked the door
of wisdom, and put her in possession of the ample treasures of truth;
they had taught her the evil of sin, and shown her "the Lord our
righteousness;" they had dispersed her doubts, dispelled her fears,
removed her darkness, satisfied her inquiries, and conducted her to "the
light of the world," new risen upon benighted nations, and whose blessed
radiance was already diffused in every direction. Lydia was anxious to
repay these benefits, or rather to testify her overwhelming sense of their
immensity. What could she do but invite them home? They were "strangers,"
amongst senseless idolaters and persecuting foes, and she "took them in,"
conscious of having incurred an obligation which she could but imperfectly
discharge. And have we cherished similar sentiments? Have we revered and
ministered to the servants of our Lord? Have we supplied their
necessities--cherished their persons--guarded their reputation? Have we
thus "rendered honour to whom honour is due"--esteeming them very highly
in love for their work's sake--and having made "partakers of their
spiritual things," considered it our "duty to minister unto them in carnal
things?" Respect for the truth itself ought to generate a suitable
predilection for such as faithfully dispense it. We should value the
"earthen vessels" for the sake of "the heavenly treasure" they contain. If
in any instances the professed ministers of the Gospel act inconsistently
with their character, a mind like that of Lydia, would not become
dissatisfied with the truth itself, nor hastily utter extravagant censure.
We have known persons take an apparent pleasure in detailing the faults of
persons eminent either for character, or for official situation. They have
betrayed, by their triumphant air, significant inuendoes, or needless
circumstantiality, a secret and criminal gratification, whilst loudly
protesting their sorrow. But a sincere piety, which sympathises with all
the adversities and prosperities of the Christian cause, and knows the
general and especially the personal consequences of such deplorable
inconsistencies, will commiserate, and weep, and pray.

The importunity of Lydia was no less honorable to Paul and his coadjutors
than to herself. It proves their delicacy and consideration. They felt
unwilling to accept her hospitality, lest it should prove burdensome or
troublesome. These were not men to take advantage of the impressions they
produced, and to gain a subsistence by art and fraudulence. They knew how
to use prosperity, and how to sustain adversity, how to "abound, and to
suffer want." They were not ashamed of poverty, nor afraid of labour.
Hardship, imprisonments, scourgings, and even death, had lost their
terrors; and on every occasion they were solicitous of evincing a
disinterestedness of spirit that might compel their bitterest enemies to
attest the purity of their motives. Hence Paul could appeal to the elders
of the Ephesian church, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or
apparel. Yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto
my necessities, and to them that were with me;" and to the Corinthian
believers, "what is my reward then? Verily, that when I preach the gospel,
I may make the gospel of Christ without charge; that I abuse not my power
in the gospel." His language to the Thessalonians is still more
remarkable: "We did not eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with
labour and travel night and day that we might not be chargeable to any
of you."

Lydia might probably be influenced in making this request by another
consideration. She expected great advantage from more familiar intercourse
with her guests. In the social hour--at the friendly table--in the
retirement of home--she could propose inquiries, which such a man as Paul
would be happy to hear, and ready to answer. He who could thus address the
saints at Rome--I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some
spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be
comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me--"must
have proved an interesting companion to so pious and inquisitive a woman."
She would receive him as a father and honour him as an apostle. Happy,
thrice happy for us, when we make a proper selection of our bosom friends,
and improve the hours of social intercourse to the purposes of spiritual
improvement! Nothing is more advantageous than reciprocal communication;
it elicits truth, corrects mistake, improves character, conduces to
happiness, animates to diligence, and gives anew impulse to our moral
energies. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and
the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written
before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name.
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts in that day when I make up
my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth
him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the
wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."

In reviewing this history, we cannot help regreting the specimen it
affords of the paucity of real Christians. The whole city of Philippi
furnished only Lydia, the jailer, and a few others, who attended to the
preaching of Paul. Immersed in business, devoted to superstition, or
depraved by sensuality, the glad tidings of salvation were despised or
disregarded. They had neither eyes to see, ears to hear, nor hearts to
feel. The God of this world blinded them, that they did not believe. There
was not even a Jewish synagogue in Philippi--not one altar erected to the
true God--and only a small retreat by the river-side, to which a few
female inquirers resorted unnoticed or abhorred. Such is the world in
miniature! In reviewing the long track of ages, we can observe but here
and there a traveller along the road to Zion. The "narrow way" appears an
unfrequented path, while thousands and myriads crowd the "broad road that
leadeth to destruction." The page of history is not adorned with the
names of saints, but, blessed be God, they are recorded in Scripture, and
will shine forever in the annals of eternity.

The subject, however, presents another aspect. Lydia was the first convert
to the Christian faith in EUROPE! In her heart was deposited the first
seed that was sown in this new field of labour, in which so rich and
extensive a harvest has since sprung up. It was then, indeed, according to
the parabolical representations of Christ, but as "a grain of mustard
seed," which is the "least of all seeds;" but what a plant has it since
become, striking deep its roots, and waving wide its branches, so that the
nations recline beneath its refreshing shade, and feel the healing virtue
of its sacred leaves! At that distant period, while Asia was under
spiritual culture, Europe presented nothing to the eye but an outstretched
wilderness of desolation--ignorance spread over her fairest regions "gross
darkness," and the very "shadow of death"--and superstition reigned upon
his gloomy throne with triumphant and universal dominion. The particular
state of Britain may be inferred from the general condition of the world;
but if any difference existed, there is reason to suppose, from its
peculiar disadvantages and insular situation, that a blacker midnight
enveloped this region, than spread over the more civilized provinces of
the Roman empire. There was, indeed, no nation in which the grossest
practices of idolatry did not prevail, and where human nature did not
appear in a state of awful degeneracy. Their very reason was folly; their
very religion impiety. Let us, then, be unceasingly grateful to that
providence, which has not only sent the gospel to Europe, but has caused
the light to shine with peculiar glory in this favoured land, which, at
its first promulgation, was in a state of singular depravity; fixed, so
to speak, in the very meridian of the benighted hemisphere.

Britain has now emerged into day; and has not only caught the rising beam
of mercy, but is becoming the very centre of illumination to every kindred
and people of the globe. The different orders of Christians engaged in
missionary under-takings--_Moravian, Baptist, Independent_, and _Church
Societies_, ought to be mentioned with distinguished approbation, and
hailed as FELLOW LABOURERS in the vineyard. May they ever co-operate and
not control each other! May they be one in spirit, though diverse in
operation! May they unite their respective energies in one common cause,
while bigotry retires abashed from the glory of such a scene!

Above all, "the United Kingdoms may fairly claim, what has been freely and
cheerfully accorded by foreign nations, the honor of giving birth to an
institution, (the British and Foreign Bible Society,) the most efficacious
ever devised, for diffusing that knowledge which was given to make men
wise unto salvation.

"But although the approbation so generally bestowed on the British and
Foreign Bible Society, may be received as a gratifying homage to the
simplicity, purity, benevolence, and importance of its design, it is not
to the praise of men, but to the improvement of their moral and religious
state, that the Society aspires. Acting under the influence of an ardent
desire to promote the glory of God, and adopting the spirit of the
apostolic injunction, 'As we have opportunity let us do good unto all men,
especially to those who are of the household of faith;' its object is to
administer comfort to the afflicted, and rest to the weary and
heavy-laden; to dispense the bread and water of life to those who hunger
and thirst after righteousness; to feed the flock of Christ at home and
abroad; and to impart to those who sit in darkness the cheering rays of
the Sun of Righteousness.

"The theatre on which the Society displays its operations, is that of the
whole world. Considering all the races of men as children of one common
Father, who 'maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;' and who wills 'that all men
should come to the knowledge of the truth;' the British and Foreign Bible
Society offers the records of eternal life to the bond and the free, to
Heathens and Christians,--in the earnest hope that they may become a lamp
unto the feet, and a light unto the paths of those who now receive them,
and of generations yet unborn.

"To support the character which the British and Foreign Bible Society has
assumed, to realize the hopes which it has excited, to foster and enlarge
the zeal which it has inspired, are obligations of no common magnitude,
and which cannot be discharged without correspondent exertions. 'As a city
that is set on a hill cannot be hid,' the eyes of nations look up to it
with expectation. Immense portions of the globe, now the domains of
idolatry and superstition; regions where the light of Christianity once
shone, but is now dim or extinguished; and countries where the heavenly
manna is so scarce, that thousands live and die without the means of
tasting it,--point out the existing claims on the benevolence of
the Society.

"To supply these wants, fill up these voids, and display the light of
revelation amidst the realms of darkness, will long require a continuance
of that support which the British and Foreign Bible Society has derived
from the public piety and liberality, and perhaps the persevering efforts
of succeeding generations. Let us not, however, be weary in well doing;
'for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.'

"Whatever may be the extent of the existing or increasing claims on the
British and Foreign Bible Society, it has ample encouragement to proceed
in its sacred duty of disseminating the Word of Life.

"'I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in
paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them,
and crooked things straight.'

"These are the words of the Almighty himself. Let the British and Foreign
Bible Society, uniting its prayers with those that are daily offered up at
home and abroad for the blessing of God on its proceedings, humbly hope
that it may become the instrument of his providence, for accomplishing his
gracious promises; and that, by means of the Scriptures distributed
through its exertions, or by its influence and encouragement, nations now
ignorant of the true, God, may learn 'to draw water from the wells of
salvation.' The prospect is animating, the object holy, its accomplishment
glorious; for the prospective efforts of the Society are directed to a
consummation, (whether attainable by them or not, is only known to Him who
knoweth all things,) when all the ends of the earth, adopting the language
of inspiration, shall unite their voices in the sublime strains of
heavenly adoration: 'Blessing and honour, and glory and power, be unto Him
that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever:
Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!"' [50]



Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women.



At this distance of time, and possessing only the very brief information
with which it has pleased Infinite Wisdom to furnish us in the commencing
chapters of the book of Genesis, it is impossible to ascertain with
precision the nature of that disparity which originally subsisted between
the first parents of mankind. The evidence does not seem to be decisive,
whether their characteristic differences were merely corporeal or mental,
exterior or internal, natural and essential, or accidental. It is
questionable whether the superiority of Adam arose out of the revelations
he received, and the priority of his existence to his "fair partner Eve,"
or from an innate pre-eminence which marked him, not only as the head of
the inferior creation, but as the appointed lord of the woman. A close
examination of the subject, perhaps, would lead us to infer, that an
equality subsisted in all those respects which are not strictly classed
under the epithet _constitutional_; and that the authority which
revelation has conceded to the man, results from his present fallen
condition.

It is indeed observable, that when God determined upon the creation of the
woman, because it was not deemed good that the man should be alone, she is
represented as the intended "help meet _for_ him;" but this expression is
not perhaps to be understood, as referring so much to subserviency as to
suitability. The capacity of one being to promote the happiness of
another, depends on its adaptation. The virtuous and the vicious, the
feeble and the strong, the majestic and the mean, cannot be associated
together to any advantage, and a general equality appears requisite, to
render any being capable of becoming the _help meet_ to a perfect
creature. This idea of his new-formed companion pervades the language of
Adam, when she was first brought to him by her Almighty Creator: "This,"
said he, "is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be
called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man
leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and _they
shall be one flesh_."

To this it may be added, that subjection to the man is expressly enjoined
as a part of the original curse upon the female. This infliction
necessarily implies a previous equality in rank and station. There was
evidently before, no competition, no struggle for dominion, and no sense
of inferiority or pre-eminence. The language of Jehovah in denouncing the
respective destinies of these transgressors, unquestionably conferred a
power or claim upon man, which he did not originally possess, and which
was intended as a perpetual memento of the woman having been the first to
disobey her Maker. "Unto the woman" he said, "I will greatly multiply thy
sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and
thy desire shall be to thy husband, and _he shall ride over thee_."

But, whatever were the original equalities or inequalities of the human
race, this, at least, is certain, that the influence of depraved passions
since the fall, is sufficiently conspicuous in rendering the claims and
duties of both sexes more and more ambiguous, and disarranging the
harmonies of the first creation. In proportion to the degree in which
society is corrupt, power will assume an authority over weakness, and they
who ought to be help meets will become competitors. Opposition generates
dislike, and dislike, when associated with power, will produce oppression.
It is in vain to plead the principle of right, to solicit attention to the
voice of reason, or to attempt to define the boundaries of influence, when
no means exist of enforcing the attention of him who can command
obedience. There is no alternative but submission or punishment. Upon this
principle, the female sex may be expected to become the sport of human
caprice, folly, and guilt. But Christianity tends to rectify the disorders
which sin has introduced into the universe, and both in a natural and
moral sense, to restore a lost paradise. Like that mighty Spirit, which in
the beginning moved upon the surface of the waters, when the earth was
without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, it
corrects the confusion of the moral system, pervades and reorganizes the
formless mass of depraved society, and pacifies the turbulence of human
passions. With a majesty that overawes, a voice that will be heard, an
influence that cannot be resisted, it renews the world, and will
eventually diffuse its unsetting glory through every part of the
habitual globe.

The subject before us presents a large field of research, and it would
well repay the labour to walk with a deliberate step around its spacious
borders and throughout its ample extent; but we must content ourselves
with tracing out some of its principal varieties, and collecting
comparatively a few of its productions.

Our plan will require the induction _of facts_, as the necessary basis of
argument or illustration; and these refer to the state of women, in
countries and during periods in which the religion of the Bible was wholly
unknown, as in the nations of Pagan antiquity, in Greece and Rome; in
savage, superstitious, and Mahometan regions; and their condition
previously to the establishment of Christianity, in patriarchal time and
places, or during the Jewish theocracy.

I. The Pagan Nations of Antiquity demand the first consideration.

Our knowledge of the _ancient Egyptians_ is extremely limited, being
derived from the Greek writers, whose accounts are often contradictory.
Their testimony, however, is sufficiently precise respecting the
prevalence of domestic servitude. The Egyptians were a people remarkable
for jealousy, which was carried to such an extreme, that after the death
of their wives, they even entertained apprehensions respecting the
embalmers. [51] Having decreed it to be indecent in women to go abroad
without shoes, they deprived them of the means of wearing them, by
threatening with death any one who should make shoes for a woman. They
were forbidden music, probably with a view of preventing their possessing
so dangerous an attraction as that of an elegant accomplishment.

With regard to the _Celtic nations_, it is true, that the Romans were
surprised at the degree of estimation in which these barbarous tribes held
their women, and the privileges which they conceded to them; and it must
be admitted that certain stern virtues characterized those who were
addicted to military achievements, resulting partly from their incessant
occupation as warriors, and partly from some indefinite but splendid
ideas of fame and glory. Seduction and adultery were vices of rare
occurrence; the bridegroom bestowed a dowery upon the bride, consisting of
flocks, a horse ready bridled and saddled, a shield, a lance, and a sword;
[52] and they were often stimulated by their presence and excitement in
their warlike expeditions. But though generally contented with one wife,
the nobles were allowed a plurality, either for _pleasure_ or _show_; the
labours of the field, as well as domestic toil, devolved on the women;
which, though practised in very ancient times, even by females of the most
exalted rank, evidently originated in the general impression of their
inferiority in the scale of existence. Their great Odin, or Odinus,
excluded from his paradise all who did not by some violent death follow
their deceased husbands; and in time they were so degraded, that by an old
Saxon law, he that hurt or killed a woman was to pay only half the fine
exacted for injuring or killing a man. But the argument in favour of
Christianity, as assigning women their _proper place_ in society, is
corroborated by observing the extremes of oppression and adulation, to
which the Scandinavian nations alternately veered. While polygamy and
infanticide prevailed, the practice of raising into heroines,
prophetesses, and goddesses, some of their women, was no less indicative
of a very imperfect sense of the true character of the female sex. [53]
The public and domestic life of the _Greeks_ exhibit unquestionable
evidences of barbarity in the treatment of women. Homer, and all their
subsequent writers, show that they were subjected to those restrictions,
which infallibly indicate their being regarded only as the property of
men, to be disposed of according to their will. Hence they were bought and
sold, made to perform the most menial offices, and exposed to all the
miseries and degradation of concubinage. The daughters, even of persons of
distinction, were married without any consultation of their wishes, to men
whom, frequently, they had never seen, and at the early age of fourteen or
fifteen; previous to which period, the Athenian females were kept in a
state of as great seclusion as possible. Their study was dress; and
slaves, their mothers excepted, were their only companions. The duties of
a good wife were, in the opinion of the wisest of the Greeks, comprised in
going abroad to expose herself as little as possible to strangers, taking
care of what her husband acquired, superintending the younger children,
and maintaining a perpetual vigilance over the adult daughters. After
marriage, some time elapsed before they ventured to speak to their
husbands, or the latter entered into conversation with them. At no time
were wives intrusted with any knowledge of their husbands' affairs, much
less was their opinion or advice solicited; and they were totally excluded
from mixed society. One of the most excellent of the Athenians admitted,
there were few friends with whom, he conversed so seldom as with his
wife. [54]

Solon, in his laws, is silent with regard to the education of girls,
though he gave very precise regulations for that of boys. That legislator
imagined that women were not sufficiently secluded, and therefore directed
that they should not go abroad in the daytime, except it were in full
dress; or at night, but with torches and in a chariot. He prohibited their
taking eatables out of the houses of their husbands of more value than an
obolus, or carrying a basket more than a cubit in length. [55] The
Athenians had previously possessed the power of selling their children and
sisters; and even Solon allowed fathers, brothers, and guardians, this
right, if their daughters, sisters, and wards, had lost their innocence.
From various enactments, it appears that adultery was extremely common,
and female modesty could not be preserved even by legislative restraint.
Most of the Greeks, and even their philosophers, concurred with the
Eastern nations in general in associating with courtesans; who were,
indeed, honoured with the highest distinctions. The Corinthians ascribed
their deliverance, and that of the rest of Greece, from the power of
Xerxes, to the intercession of the priestess of Venus, and the protection
of the goddess. At all the festivals of Venus, the people applied to the
courtesans as the most efficacious intercessors; and Solon deemed it
advantageous to Athens, to introduce the worship of that goddess, and to
constitute them her priestesses. In the age of Pericles, and still more
afterward, prostitution, thus yoked with superstition, and sanctioned by
its solemnities, produced the most baneful effects upon public morals.
From idolatrous temples, the great reservoirs of pollution, a thousand
streams poured into every condition of life, and rolling over the whole of
this cultivated region, deposited the black sediment of impurity upon the
once polished surface of society, despoiling its beauty, discolouring its
character, and ruining its glory.

The Athenians did not hesitate to take their wives and daughters to visit
the notorious Aspasia in the house of Pericles, though she was the teacher
of intrigue, and the destroyer of morals. The most celebrated men lived in
celibacy, only to secure the better opportunities of practising vice,
which however did not conceal her hideous deformity in the shades, but
stalked forth at noonday, emblazoned by the eloquence of a Demosthenes,
and enriched by treasuries of opulence.

In many respects the Spartans differed from the other Greeks in their
treatment of the female sex. The women were as shamefully exposed as those
of the other states were secluded; being introduced to all the exercises
of the public gymnasium at an early age, no less than the other sex, and
taught the most shameless practices. The laws of Lycurgus were in many
instances utterly subversive of morality, and too outrageous for citation.
The depravity of the sex was extreme even at an early period, and
Xenophon, Plutarch, and Aristotle, impute to this cause the ultimate
subversion of the Spartan state.

The _Romans_ differed materially from the Greeks and the oriental nations
in one point with regard to their treatment of women; namely, in never
keeping them in a state of seclusion from the society of men: but the
husbands were very incommunicative: and it seems at least to have been an
_understood_, if not a written law, that they should avoid all
inquisitiveness, and speak only in the presence of their husbands. In the
second Punic war, the Oppian law prohibited the women, from riding in
carriages and wearing certain articles of dress; which was, however,
afterward repealed. The ancient laws considered children as slaves, and
women as children who ought to remain in a state of perpetual tutelage.
According to the laws of Romulus and Numa, a husband's authority over his
wife was equal to that of a father over his children, excepting only that
he could not sell her. The wife was stated to be in servitude, though she
had in name the rights of a Roman citizen. From the moment of her marriage
she was looked upon as the daughter of her husband and heir of his
property, if he had no children; otherwise she was considered as his
sister, and shared an equal portion with the children. Wives had no right
to make wills, nor durst they prefer complaints against their husbands;
and the power of the latter over them was as unrestricted as that which
they possessed over their children: in fact, the husband could even put
his wife to death, not only for gross immoralities, but for excess in
wine. [56]

Considerable changes took place in the laws after the period of the
destruction of Carthage, some of which allowed greater privileges to
females; but as divorces became more frequent, crimes multiplied. In the
latter periods of the republic women had the principal share in public
plots and private assassinations, and practised the worst of sins with the
most barefaced audacity.

The morals of women are indicative of the state of society in general, and
of the estimation in which they are held in particular. If the other sex
treat them as slaves, they will become servile and contemptible, a certain
degree of self-respect being essential to the preservation of real dignity
of character. The way to render human beings of any class despicable is
to undervalue them; for disesteem will superinduce degeneracy. If this be
the case, then the state of women in any age or country is a criterion of
public opinion, since the vices of their lives indicate their condition;
upon which principle, Greece and Rome exhibit wretched specimens of female
degradation.

But there is one circumstance in the history of the Romans which must not
be wholly overlooked. Their conduct was marked by _capriciousness._ Though
the usual treatment of their women resembled that of other Pagan nations
in barbarity, like some of them, too, they frequently rendered them
extraordinary honours. On some occasions they even transferred to their
principal slaves the right of chastising their wives; and yet, on others
they paid them distinguished deference: as in the case of vestals, and the
privileges conceded to them after the negotiation between the Romans and
Sabines. Various individual exceptions to a barbarous usage might be
adduced; sufficient, however, only to evince the general debasement of the
female sex, and the total absence of all fixed principles of moral action
in unchristianized man.

II. Next to the nations of antiquity, the state of women in SAVAGE,
SUPERSTITIOUS, AND MAHOMETAN COUNTRIES, comes under review.

In treating this part of the subject, it will be necessary to make a rapid
circumnavigation of the globe, touching at least at the most
remarkable places.



EUROPE.


GREENLAND. The situation of females in this country might well justify the
exclamation of an ancient philosopher, who thanked God that _he was born a
man and not a woman_. The only employment of girls, till their fourteenth
year, is singing, dancing, amusements, attending on children, and fetching
water; [57] after which they are taught, by their mothers, to sew, cook,
tan the skins of animals, construct houses, and navigate boats. It is
common for the men to stand by as idle spectators, while the women are
carrying the heaviest materials for building; the former never attempting
to do any thing but the carpenter's work. Parents frequently betroth their
daughters in infancy, and never consult their wishes respecting marriage;
if no previous pledge be given, they are disposed of to the first suiter
that chances to make the application. From their twentieth year, the usual
period of marriage, the lives of the women, says Cranz, are a continued
series of hardships and misery. The occupations of the men solely consist
in hunting and fishing; but so far from giving themselves the trouble to
carry home the fish they have caught, they would think themselves
eternally disgraced by such a condescension.

The Greenlanders have two kinds of boats, adapted to procure subsistence.
One of them is the great woman's boat called the _umiak_, from twelve to
eighteen yards in length, and four or five in width. These boats are rowed
by four women, and steered by a fifth, without any assistance from the
men, excepting in cases of emergency. If the coast will not allow them to
pass, six or eight women take the boat upon their heads, and carry it over
land to a navigable place.

Mothers-in-law are absolute mistresses in the houses of their married
sons, who frequently ill-treat them; and the poor women are sometimes
obliged to live with quarrelsome favourites, and may be corrected or
divorced at pleasure. Widows who have no friends, are commonly robbed of a
considerable portion of their property by those who come to sympathize
with them by an affected condolence; and can obtain no redress,--on the
contrary, they are obliged to conciliate their kindness by the utmost
obsequiousness. After a precarious subsistence in different families, and
being driven from one hut to another, they are suffered to expire without
help or notice. When widows have grown-up sons, their condition is much
superior to that in which they formerly lived with their husbands. When
aged women pretend to practise, or are suspected of witchcraft--if the
wife or child of a Greenlander happen to die--if his fowling piece miss
fire, or his arrow the mark at which it was shot--the supposed sorceress
is instantly stoned, thrown into the sea, or cut in pieces by the
_angekoks_ or male magicians. There have even been instances of sons
killing their mothers, and brothers their sisters. The infirmities of age
expose women to violent deaths, being sometimes with their own consent,
and sometimes forcibly, interred alive by their own offspring.

RUSSIA. Over this extensive empire, including sixteen different nations,
the condition of women is such as equally to evince the degraded character
of the men. Among the Siberians, an opinion is entertained that they are
impure beings, and odious to the gods; in consequence of which, they are
not permitted to approach the sacred fire, or the places of sacrifice. In
the eastern islands, in particular, there exists tribes to whom the
nuptial ceremony is unknown; and in cases where the daughters are
purchased by goods, money, or services, their fathers never consult their
children, and their husbands treat them as slaves or beasts of burden. In
Siberia, conjugal fidelity is bartered for gain, or sacrificed at the
shrine of imaginary hospitality. The sale of their wives is by no means
uncommon, for a little train oil, or other paltry considerations. To this
the women offer no objection, and at an advanced age frequently seek
younger wives for their husbands, and devote themselves to domestic
drudgery. [58] The same degrading facts apply to the Tungusians and other
tribes. In some respects the Kamtschadales differ from the rest, but the
extreme debasement arising from their libidinous brutality must not be
described, and can scarcely be credited. [59]

Among all the Slavon nations of Europe, wives and daughters have ever been
kept in a state of exclusion. Brides are purchased, and instantly become
slaves. Formerly sons were compelled by blows to marry, and daughters
dragged by their hair to the altars; and the paternal authority is still
unbounded. The lower classes are doomed to incessant labour, and are
obliged to submit to the utmost indignities. [60]

The picture of Russian manners varies little with reference to the prince
or the peasant.... They are all, high and low, rich and poor, alike servile
to superiors; haughty and cruel to their dependants, ignorant,
superstitions, cunning, brutal, barbarous, dirty, mean. The emperor canes
the first of his grandees; princes and nobles cane their slaves; and the
slaves their _wives_ and _daughters_. [61]

ITALY AND SPAIN. These two countries may be classed together, because the
condition of the female sex is very similar in both: the education of
woman is totally neglected, and they are not ashamed of committing the
grossest blunders in common conversation. Such is their situation that
they cannot intermeddle with the concerns of their husbands, without
exciting their jealousy. Girls are in early years left to the care of
servants who are both ill educated and immoral; the same may be said of
their mothers, whose conversation and public conduct tend to perfect the
growth of licentiousness in their uncultivated children.

PORTUGAL. Young women in this kingdom are not instructed in any thing
truly useful or ornamental; and even those who belong to respectable
families, are often ignorant of reading and writing. Parents keep their
daughters in the most rigid confinement, frequently not allowing them even
to go abroad to church to hear mass, and never unattended. They are
secluded from all young persons of the other sex, who are not permitted to
visit families where there are unmarried females. The consequence of this
austerity is an extended system of intrigue, for the purpose of evading
all this circumspection--by which means they are full of cunning
and deceit.

TURKEY. Women, in Constantinople, are confined in seraglios for life, or
shut up in their apartments. They are not permitted to appear in public
without a vail, and can only obtain their freedom by devoting themselves
to prostitution.

"The slave market," says Mr. Thornton, "is a quadrangle, surrounded by a
covered gallery, and ranges of small and separate apartments. The manner
of purchasing slaves is described in the plain and unaffected narrative of
a German merchant, which, as I have been able to ascertain its general
authenticity, may be relied on as correct in this particular. He arrived
at Kaffa, in the Crimea, which was formerly the principal mart of slaves;
and hearing that an Armenian had a Georgian and two Circassian girls to
dispose of, feigned an intention of purchasing them, in order to gratify
his curiosity, and to ascertain the mode of conducting such bargains. A
Circassian maiden, eighteen years old, was the first who presented
herself; she was well dressed, and her face was covered with a vail. She
advanced towards the German, bowed down, and kissed his hand: by order of
her master, she walked backwards and forwards in the chamber to show her
shape, and the easiness of her gait and carriage: her foot was small, and
her gesture agreeable. When she took off her vail, she displayed a bust of
the most attractive beauty. She rubbed her cheeks with a wet napkin, to
prove that she had not used art to heighten her complexion; and she opened
her inviting lips, to show a regular set of teeth of pearly whiteness. The
German was permitted to feel her pulse, that he might be convinced of the
good state of her health and constitution. She was then ordered to retire,
while the merchants deliberated upon the bargain. The price of this
beautiful girl was four thousand piastres, [equal to four thousand five
hundred florins of Vienna."] [62]

GREECE. The condition of females, in Modern Greece, may be inferred from
an anecdote or two related by _Lieutenant Collins_. He and his friends
were approaching _Macri_, on the coast of Asia Minor. "Encouraged to
proceed," he remarks, "we approached the second groupe, which we passed
in a similar manner; but some woman, who were near them, appeared to fly
at our approach, and view us at a distance with astonishment and fear. But
no sooner had we advanced, than, as with general consent, they all caught
their children in their arms, and with the fears of a mother apprehensive
for the safety of a beloved child, flew to their houses, and shut
themselves in, and we saw no more of them till our return.

"Our company during dinner consisted of Greeks only--it was served up by
the women, attended by one of her children, who with all the family
appeared in an abject state; for on offering her a little of the wine,
which they so kindly furnished us with, she shrunk back, with an
expression of surprise at our condescension, which excited ours also; and
the man understanding a little Italian, we inquired the reason; 'Such,'
says he, is the inferiority and oppression we labour under, that it is in
general thought too great honour for a Turk to present a person of this
description with, any token of respect, and forward in her to accept it,
which is the reason of her timidity, in not accepting the wine from
you.'" [63]

In Greece, the women are closely confined at home; they do not even appear
at church till they are married. The female slaves are not Greeks, but
such as are either taken in war or stolen by the Tartars from Russia,
Circassia, or Georgia. Many thousands were formerly taken in the Morea,
but most of them have been redeemed by the charitable contributions of the
Christians, or ransomed by their own relations. The fine slaves that wait
upon great ladies, are bought at the age of eight or nine years, and
educated with great care to accomplish them in singing, dancing,
embroidery, &c. They are commonly Circassian, and their patron rarely
ever sells them, but if they grow weary of them, they either present them
to a friend, or give them their freedom.



ASIA.


TARTARY. This immense country, in its utmost limits, reaches from the
Eastern Ocean to the Caspian Sea; and from Corea, China, Thibet,
Hindoostan, and Persia, to Russia, and Siberia; including a space of three
thousand six hundred miles in length, and nine hundred and sixty in width,
and comprehending all the middle region of Asia. Its two great divisions
are into Eastern and Western; the former chiefly belongs to the emperor of
China, the latter to Russia.

The Mahometan Tartars are continually waging war against their neighbours
for the purpose of procuring slaves. When they cannot obtain adults, they
steal children to sell, and even make no scruple of selling their own,
especially daughters. In case of any disgust, their wives share a similar
fate. Among the pagan Tartars incestuous practices are prevalent, and
their wives are generally dismissed at, or previous to, the age of forty.
The mothers of sultans, among the Crim Tartars, neither eat with their
sons, nor sit in their presence. They are, in fact, the slaves of their
caprice, often ill-treated by them, and sometimes even put to death. [64]

The _Calmucks_ are considered as remarkably lenient in their conduct to
the women: but fathers dispose of their daughters without their consent,
and even antecedently to their birth. Their chiefs and princes have,
besides, large harems or seraglios where domestic rivalship imbitters
existence. They are, moreover, regarded in general as servants, and
infidelity is compensated by a trifling offering to their
mercenary rapacity.

The _Georgians and Circassians_ are celebrated for their surpassing
beauty, and their young women are brought up to some industrious habits.
The daughters of slaves receive a similar education, and are sold
according to their beauty, at from twenty to a hundred pounds each, or
upwards. They consider all their children in the light of property,
exposing them to sale as they would their cattle, and too often obtain
large sums from the agents of despotism and depravity.

CHINA. In this, and almost all the countries of Southern Asia, the
condition of women is truly deplorable. Forced marriages and sales are
universal, and the Chinese are so excessively jealous, that they do not
permit their wives to receive any visitors of the other sex, and transport
them from place to place in vehicles secured by iron bars. Their
concubines are not only treated with the most degrading inhumanity, but
are slaves to the wives, who never fail to sway a despotic sceptre; they
are besides liable at any time to be sold. The children of concubines are
regarded as the offspring of the legitimate wife; hence they manifest no
affection for their real mothers, but often treat them with the most
marked disrespect. The laws of China and Siam allow the lawful wives and
sons, after the death of their husbands and fathers, to exclude concubines
and their children from all share in the property of the deceased, and to
dispose of their persons by public or private sale.

The wives of people of rank are always confined to their apartments from
motives of jealousy; those of a middle class are a kind of upper servants
deprived of liberty; and the wives of the lower orders are mere domestic
drudges. The handsomest women are usually purchased for the courts and
principal mandarins.

"We can readily," says a respectable writer, "give credit to the custom of
a landlord taking the wife of a ryat or peasant, as a pledge for rent, and
keeping her till the debt is discharged (in the kingdom of Nepaul;) since
we know, on the best authority, that their wise polished neighbours, the
Chinese, have found it necessary to enact a prohibitory statute against
lending wives and daughters on hire." [65]

Another writer observes, "Since the philosophical inquiry into the
condition of the weaker sex, in the different stages of society, published
by Millar, [66] it has been universally considered as an infallible
criterion of barbarous society, to find the women in a state of great
degradation. Scarcely among savages themselves is the condition of women
more wretched and humiliating than among the Chinese. A very striking
picture of the slavery and oppression to which they are doomed, but too
long for insertion in this place, is drawn by M. Vanbraam. [67] Mr. Barrow
informs us, that among the rich, the women are imprisoned slaves; among
the poor, drudges; 'many being,' says he, 'compelled to work with an
infant upon the back, while the husband, in all probability, is gaming,--I
have frequently seen women,' he adds, 'assisting to drag a sort of light
plough, and the harrow. The easier task, that of directing the machine, is
left to the husband.' [68] The Chinese value their daughters so little,
that when they have more children than they can easily maintain, they hire
the midwives to stifle the females in a basin of water as soon as they are
born.' [69] Nothing can exceed the contempt towards women which the maxims
of the most celebrated of their lawgivers express. 'It is very
difficult,' said Confucius himself, 'to govern women and servants; for if
you treat them with gentleness and familiarity, they lose all respect; if
with rigour, you will have continual disturbance.'

"Women are debarred almost entirely from the rights of property; and they
never inherit. Among the worst savage nations, their daughters are sold to
their husbands, and are received and treated as slaves. [70] When society
has made a little progress, the purchase-money is received only as a
present, and the wife, nominally at least, is not received as a slave.
Among the Chinese, the daughter, with whom no dowry is given, it uniformly
exchanged for a present; and so little is the transaction, even on a
purchase, disguised, that Mr. Barrow has no scruple to say, 'the daughters
may be said to be invariably sold.' [71] He assures us, that 'it is even a
common practice among the Chinese to sell their daughters, that they may
he brought up as prostitutes.' [72] [73]

BIRMAN EMPIRE. This extensive dominion comprehends the state of Pegu, Ava,
Arracan, and Siam. Women are not secluded from the society of men, but
they are held in great contempt. Their evidence is undervalued in judicial
proceedings. The lower classes sell their women to strangers, who do not,
however, seem to feel themselves degraded. In Pegu, Siam, Cochin China,
and other districts, adultery is regarded as honourable. Herodotus
mentions a people called Gendanes, where the debasement of the female
character is such, that their misconduct is an occasion of boasting and a
source of distinction.

HINDOOSTAN. The following extracts, from the letters of the Baptist
missionaries, in India, will speak volumes, and might, if it were
necessary, be corroborated by a thousand similar citations.

At an early period of the Baptist mission to India, Dr. Carey communicated
the following interesting account to a friend:--"As the burning of women
with their husbands is one of the most singular and striking customs of
this people, and also very ancient, as you will see by the _Reek Bede_,
which contains a law relating to it, I shall begin with this. Having just
read a Shanscrit book, called _Soordhee Sungraha_, which is a collection
of laws from the various Shasters, arranged under their proper heads, I
shall give you an extract from it, omitting some sentences, which are mere
verbal repetitions. Otherwise, the translation may be depended on as
exact. The words prefixed to some of the sentences are the names of the
original books from which the extracts are made.

"_Angeera._ After the husband's death, the virtuous wife who burns herself
with him, [74] is like an Asoondhatee, [75] and will go to bliss.--If she
be within one day's journey of the place where he dies, and indeed
virtuous, the burning of his corpse shall be deferred one day for
her arrival.

"_Brahma Pooran_. If the husband die in another country, the virtuous wife
shall take any of his effects; for instance, a sandal, and binding it on
her thigh, shall enter the fire with it. [76]

"_Reek, Bede._ If a wife thus burn with her husband, it is not suicide; and
her relations shall observe three days' uncleanness for her; after which
her _Shraddha_ [77] must he properly performed.--If she cannot come to the
place, or does not receive an account of her husband's death, she shall
wait the appointed ten days of uncleanness, [78] and may afterwards die in
a separate fire.--If she die in a separate fire, three days' uncleanness
will be observed; after which the _Pinda_ must be performed.--After the
uncleanness on account of the husband is over, the _Shraddha_ must be
performed according to the commandment.--Three days after his death, the
_Dospinda_ [79] must be made, and after ten days the regular _Shraddha_.

"_Goutam. Brahmmanee_ can only die with her husband, on which account she
cannot burn in another fire. When a woman dies with her husband, the
eldest son, or nearest relation, shall set fire to the pile; whose office
also it is to perform the _Dospinda_, and all the obsequies. He who
kindles the fire shall perform the _Dospinda_: [80] but her own son, or
nearest relations, must perform the _Shraddha_.--If a woman burn
separately, only three days' uncleanness will be observed for her; but if
in the same fire ten days.

"_Asouch Shunkar_. If another person die before the last day of
uncleanness for a death or birth, then the uncleanness on account of the
second person's death will be included in the first, and the time not
lengthened out.

"_Bishnoo Pooran_. If the husband die in war, only present uncleanness, or
till bathing, will be observed for him: if, therefore, the wife burn with
him only one night's uncleanness will be observed for her; but, if in a
separate fire, three days; and in that case the husband's _Pinda_ will be
at the end of three days.--If the husband and wife burn in one fire, they
will obtain separate offerings of the _Shraddha_.--If a woman die with
her husband voluntarily, the offerings to her, and all her obsequies will
be equal to his.--If they die within a _Tithee_, or lunar day, the
offerings will be made to both at the same time.--If the person be
_Potect_, or sinful; that is, has killed a _Brahmman_, or drinks
spirituous liquors, or has committed some sin in his former life, on
account of which he is afflicted with elephantiasis, consumption, leprosy,
&c. [81] all will be blotted out by his wife burning with him, after
proper atonement has been made. [82]--A woman with a young child, or
being pregnant, cannot burn with her husband.--If there be a proper person
to educate the infant, she may be permitted to burn.--If any woman ascend
the pile, and should afterward decline to burn, through love of life or
earthly things, she shall perform the penance _Prazapatya_, and will then
be free from sin.'" [83]

The following statement is taken from the more recent communication of
another of the Baptist missionaries to India:--

"Jan. 9, 1807. A person informing us that a woman was about to be burnt
with the corpse of her husband near our house, I, with several of our
brethren, hastened to the place; but, before we could arrive, the pile was
in flames. It was a horrible sight. The most shocking indifference and
levity appeared among those who were present: I never saw anything more
brutal than their behaviour. The dreadful scene had not the least
appearance of a religious ceremony, It resembled an abandoned rabble of
boys in England, collected for the purpose of worrying to death a cat or a
dog. A bamboo, perhaps twenty feet long, had been fastened at one end to a
stake driven in the ground, and held down over the fire by men at the
other. Such were the confusion, the levity, the bursts of brutal
laughter, while the poor woman was burning alive before their eyes, that
it seemed as if every spark of humanity was extinguished by this cruel
superstition. That which added to the cruelty was, the smallness of the
fire. It did not consist of so much wood as we consume in dressing a
dinner: no, not this fire that was to consume the living and the dead! I
saw the legs of the poor creature hanging out of the fire, while her body
was in flames. After a while they took a bamboo, ten or twelve feet long,
and stirred it, pushing and beating the half-consumed corpse, as you would
repair a fire of green wood, by throwing the unconsumed pieces into the
middle. Perceiving the legs hanging out, they beat them with the bamboo
for some time, in order to break the ligatures which fastened them at the
knees; (for they would not have come near to touch them for the world.) At
length, they succeeded in binding them upwards into the fire; the skin and
muscles giving way, and discovering the knee-sockets bare, with the balls
of the leg bones; a sight this, which, I need not say, made me thrill with
horror; especially when I recollected that this hopeless victim of
superstition was alive but a few minutes before. To have seen savage
wolves thus tearing a human body limb from limb, would have been shocking;
but to see relations and neighbours do this to one with whom they had
familiarly conversed not an hour before, and to do it with an air of
levity, was almost too much for me to bear! Turning to the Brahmman who
was the chief actor in this horrid tragedy, a young fellow of about
twenty-two, and one of the most hardened that ever I accosted, I told him
that the system which allowed of these cruelties, could no more proceed
from God than darkness from the sun; and warned him, that he must appear
at the judgment-seat of God, to answer for this murder. He, with a grin,
full of savage contempt, told me that 'he gloried in it, and felt the
highest pleasure in performing the deed.' I replied, 'that his pleasure
might be less than that of his Master; but seeing it was in vain to reason
with him, I turned to the people, and expostulated with them. One of them
answered, that 'the woman had burnt herself of her own free choice, and
that she went to the pile as a matter of pleasure.'--'Why, then, did you
confine her down with that large bamboo?'--'If we had not, she would have
run away'--'What, run away from pleasure!' I then addressed the poor lad,
who had been thus induced to set fire to his mother. He appeared about
nineteen. 'You have murdered your mother! your sin is great. The sin of
the Brahmman, who urged you to it, is greater; but yours is very
great.'--'What could I do? It is the custom.'--'True, but this custom is
not of God; but proceedeth from the devil, who wishes to destroy mankind.
How will you bear the reflection that you have murdered your only
surviving parent?' He seemed to feel what was said to him; but, just at
this instant, that hardened wretch, the Brahmman, rushed in, and drew him
away, while the tears were standing in his eyes. After reasoning with some
others, and telling them of the Saviour of the world, I returned home with
a mind full of horror and disgust.

"You expect, perhaps, to hear that this unhappy victim was the wife of
some Brahmman of high cast. She was the wife of a barber who dwelt at
Serampore, and had died that morning, leaving the son I have mentioned,
and a daughter about eleven years of age. Thus has this infernal
superstition aggravated the common miseries of life, and left these
children stripped of both their parents in one day! Nor is this an
uncommon case. It often happens to children far more helpless than these;
sometimes to children possessed of property, which is then left, as well
as themselves, to the mercy of those who have decoyed their mother to
their father's funeral pile." [84]

CEYLON. "Idolatrous procession. Each carriage has four wheels of solid
wood, and requires two hundred men to drag it. When they are dragged along
the streets, on occasions of great solemnity, women, in the phrensy of
false devotion, throw themselves down before the wheels, and are crushed
to death by their tremendous weight; the same superstitious madness
preventing the ignorant crowd from making any attempt to save them." [85]

SUMATRA. "The modes of marriage," says Mr. Marsden, "according to the
original institutions of these people, are by _jujur_, by _arnbel anak_,
or by _Semando_. The jujur is a certain sum of money, given by one man to
another, as a consideration for the person of his daughter, whose
situation, in this case, differs not much from that of a slave to the man
she marries, and to his family; his absolute property in her depends,
however, upon some nice circumstances. Besides the _botang jupu,_ (or main
sum,) there are certain appendages, or branches, one of which, the _tali
kulo_, or five dollars, is usually, from motives of delicacy or
friendship, left unpaid; and so long as that is the case, a relationship
is understood to subsist between the two families, and the parents of the
woman have a right to interfere on occasions of ill treatment; the husband
is also liable to be fined for wounding her: with other limitations of
absolute right. When that sum is finally paid, which seldom happens but in
cases of violent quarrel, the _tali kulo_, (tie of relationship,) is said
to be _putus_, (broken,) and the woman becomes to all intents the slave of
her lord. She has then no title to claim a divorce in any predicament; and
he may sell her, making only the first offer to her relations."

Speaking of another part of the _country_, (Batta,) he says, "the men are
allowed to marry as many wives as they please or can afford, and to have
half a dozen is not uncommon. The condition of the women appears to be no
other than that of slaves, the husbands having the power of selling their
wives and children." [86]

JAVA. At Bantam, and in other parts of the island, fathers betroth their
children at a very early age, lest they should be taken from them to
supply the harems of kings, or be sold for slaves on the death of the
fathers by the monarch, who is heir of all his subjects. [87]

Among all the nations of Southern Asia, and the East Indian and South Sea
Islands, the women are despised and oppressed; the wives and daughters of
every class are offered to strangers, and compelled to prostitute
themselves. They are moreover used with the utmost cruelty by their
husbands, and not permitted to eat, or even to sit down, in the presence
of the men; and yet, with marvellous inconsistency, many nations allow
themselves to be governed by women, who sometimes reign with despotic
authority.

NEW HOLLAND. "The aboriginal inhabitants of this distant region are,
indeed, beyond comparison, the most barbarous on the surface of the globe.
The residence of Europeans has been wholly ineffectual; the natives are
still in the same state as at our first settlement. Every day are men and
women to be seen in the streets of Sydney and Paramatta naked as in the
moment of their birth. In vain have the more humane of the officers of the
colony endeavoured to improve their condition: they still persist in the
enjoyment of their ease and liberty in their own way, and turn a deaf ear
to any advice upon this subject." [88]

"They observe no particular ceremony in their marriages, though their mode
of courtship is not without its singularity. When a young man sees a
female to his fancy, he informs her she must accompany him home; the lady
refuses; he not only enforces compliance with threats, but blows; thus the
gallant, according to the custom, never fails to gain the victory, and
bears off the willing, though struggling pugilist. The colonists, for some
time, entertained the idea that the women were compelled, and forced away
against their inclinations; but the young ladies informed them, that this
mode of gallantry was the custom, and perfectly to their taste." [89]

PERSIA. "Women are not allowed to join in the public prayers at the
mosques. They are directed to offer up their devotions at home, or if they
attend the place of public worship, it must be at a period when the male
sex are not there. This practice is founded upon the authority of the
traditionary sayings of the prophet, and is calculated to confirm that
inferiority and seclusion, to which the female sex are doomed by the laws
of Mahomed.

"In Persia, women are seldom publicly executed; nor can their crimes,
from their condition in society, be often of a nature to demand such
examples; but they are exposed to all the violence and injustice of
domestic tyranny; and innocent females are too often included in the
punishment of their husbands and fathers, particularly where those are of
high rank. Instances frequently occur where women are tortured, to make
them reveal the concealed wealth of which they are supposed to have a
knowledge; and when a nobleman or minister is put to death, it is not
unusual to give away his wives and daughters as slaves; and sometimes
(though rarely) they are bestowed on the lowest classes in the community.
There are instances of the wives of men of high rank being given to
mule-drivers." [90]

ARABIA. The ancient Arabs considered the birth of a daughter as a
misfortune, and they frequently buried daughters alive as soon as they
were born, lest they should be impoverished by having to provide for them,
or should suffer disgrace on their account. [91]

"The horrid practice of female infanticide has been an usage of many
nations. Among the ancient Arabs, as among the Rajpoots of the present
day, it proceeded as much from a jealous sense of honour, as the pressure
of want." [92]

Of eastern manners, in general, it has been remarked, that "excepting the
Chinese and Javanese, all the nations of the south of Asia, and all the
inhabitants of the East Indian and South Sea islands, offer the Europeans
their wives and daughters, or compel them to prostitute themselves to
strangers." [93]

"A man, in the East, dares not inquire concerning the health of the wife
or daughter of his most intimate friend, because this would instantly
excite suspicion of illicit views and connections; neither does etiquette
permit him to make mention himself of his own wife or daughter. They are
included among the domestic animals, or comprehended in the general
denomination of the house or the family. When, however, an Oriental is
obliged to mention his wife or his daughter, in conversation with a
physician, or any other person whom he wishes to treat with deference and
respect, he always introduces the subject with some such apology as we
make in Europe, when we are obliged to speak of things which are regarded
as disgusting or obscene. Conformably with this Asiatic prejudice,
Tamerlane was highly affronted with the vanquished Turkish emperor
Bajazet, for mentioning, in his presence, such impure creatures as women
are considered by the Orientals." [94]



AMERICA.


NORTHERN INDIANS.


  Here all the gentle morals, such as play
  Through life's more cultur'd walks, and charm the way;
  These far dispers'd, on tim'rous pinions fly,
  To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.

  GOLDSMITH.

The women cook the victuals, but though of the highest rank, they are
never permitted to partake of it, till all the males, even the servants,
have eaten what they think proper; and in times of scarcity, it is
frequently their lot to be left without a single morsel; and should they
be detected in helping themselves during the business of cookery, they
would be subject to a severe beating; and be considered afterward, through
life, as having forfeited their character.

"The accounts we have had of the effects of the small pox on that nation
(the Maha Indians) are most distressing; it is not known in what way it was
first communicated to them, though probably by some war party. They had
been a military and powerful people; but when these warriors saw their
strength wasting before a malady which they could not resist, their
phrensy was extreme; they burnt their village, and many of them put to
death their _wives_ and _children_, to save them from so cruel an
affliction, and that all might go together to some better country." [95]

WEST INDIES. _Hayti_ (late St. Domingo.) Extract of a letter, dated Nov.
1810. "The Indigenes, or natives of Hayti, are extremely ignorant; but few
can read: their religion is Catholic; but neither it, or its priests, are
much respected. That they are in a most awful state of darkness, is but
too evident: mothers are actually panders to their own daughters, and reap
the fruit of their prostitution. The endearing name of father is scarcely
ever heard, as the children but rarely know to whom they are indebted for
existence." [96]

SOUTH AMERICA. In this region there are whole nations of cannibals, who
devour their captives. Sometimes they slay their own wives, and invite
their neighbours to the repast.

NEW ZEALAND. "Tippechu, the chieftain," says Mr. Savage, "has a
well-constructed dwelling on this island, and a large collection of
spears, war-mail, and other valuables. A short distance, from the
residence of the chief is an edifice, every way similar to a dove-cote,
standing upon a single post, and not larger than dove-cotes usually are.
In this, Tippechu confined one of his daughters several years; we
understood she had fallen in love with a person of inferior condition, and
that these means were adopted to prevent her from bringing disgrace upon
her family. The space alloted to the lady would neither allow of her
standing up, or stretching at her length; she had a trough, in which her
food was deposited as often as was thought necessary, during her
confinement; and I could not find that she was allowed any other
accommodation. These privations, and all converse being denied her, proves
that Tippechu was determined to exhibit a severe example to his subjects;
at least to such of the young ladies of this part of New Zealand, as might
be inclined to degrade themselves and their families by unsuitable
alliances. The long confinement with all its inconveniences, produced the
desired effect, in rendering the princess obedient to the wishes of her
royal parent. This barbarous case, which is ornamented with much grotesque
carving, still remains as a memento in _terrorem_ to all the young ladies
under Tippechu's government." [97]



AFRICA.


TUNIS. "The Tunisines have a curious custom of fattening up their young
ladies for marriage. A girl, after she is betrothed, is cooped up in a
small room; shackles of silver and gold are put upon her ancles and
wrists, as a piece of dress. If she is to be married to a man who has
discharged, despatched, or lost a former wife, the shackles which the
former wife wore, are put upon the new bride's limbs: and she is fed,
until they are filled up to the proper thickness. This is sometimes no
easy matter, particularly if the former wife was fat, and the present
should be of a slender form. The food used for this custom, worthy of
barbarians, is a seed called drough; which is of an extraordinary
fattening quality, and also famous for rendering the milk of nurses rich
and abundant. With this seed, and their national dish '_cuscusu_,' the
bride is literally crammed, and many actually die under the spoon." [98]

MOROCCO. "When an ill-disposed husband becomes jealous or discontented
with his wife, he has too many opportunities of treating her cruelly; he
may tyrannize over her without control; no one can go to her assistance,
for no one is authorized to enter his harem without permission. Jealousy
or hatred rises so high in the breast of a Moor, that death is often the
consequence to the wretched female, who has excited, perhaps innocently,
the anger of her husband. A father, however fond of his daughter, cannot
assist her even if informed of the ill treatment she suffers; the husband
alone is lord paramount; if, however, he should he convicted of murdering
his wife, he would suffer death; but this is difficult to ascertain, even
should she bear the marks of his cruelty or dastardly conduct, for who is
to detect it? Instances have been known, when the woman has been cruelly
beaten and put to death, and the parents have been informed of her decease
as if it had been occasioned by sickness, and she has been buried
accordingly; but this difficulty of bringing men to justice, holds only
among the powerful bashaws, and persons in the highest stations; and
these, to avoid a retaliation of similar practices on _their_ children,
sometimes prefer giving their daughters in marriage to men of an inferior
station in life, who are more amenable to justice." [99]

This writer informs us also, that "in Morocco, slaves are placed in the
public market-place, and there turned about and examined, in order to
ascertain their value." p. 249. "A young girl of Houssa, of exquisite
beauty, was once sold at Morocco, whilst I was there, for four hundred
ducats [of 3s. 8d. sterling,] whilst the average price of slaves is about
one hundred; so much depends on the fancy or the imagination of the
purchaser." p. 247.

DARFOR. "Slaves indeed, both male and female, rarely draw near their
master, if he be seated, except creeping on their knees. A man, who is
possessed of several women, rarely enters the apartments of any of them,
hut sends for one or more of them at a time to his own. Whether free or
slaves, they enter it on their knees, and with indications of timidity and
respect.... The slaves are rarely allowed to wear any covering on their
feet. Free women, on the contrary, are ordinarily distinguished by a kind
of sandal; which, however, is always taken off when they come into the
presence of, or have occasion to pass, a person of any consideration of
the other sex. It is not uncommon to see a man on a journey, mounted idly
on an ass; whilst his wife is pacing many a weary step on foot behind him;
and moreover, perhaps, carrying a supply of provisions or culinary
utensils. Yet it is not to be supposed, that the man is despotic in his
house; the voice of the female has its full weight." [100]

MANDINGOES. "About noon," says Mr. Park, "I arrived at Kolor, a
considerable town; near the entrance into which I observed, hanging upon a
tree, a sort of masquerade habit, made of the bark of trees; which, I was
told on inquiry, belonged to MUMBO JUMBO. This is a strange bugbear,
common to all the Mandingo towns, and much employed by the Pagan natives in
keeping their women in subjection; for as the Kafas are not restricted in
the number of their wives, every one marries as many as he can
conveniently maintain; and as it frequently happens that the ladies
disagree among themselves, family quarrels sometimes rise to such a
height, that the authority of the husband can no longer preserve peace in
his household. In such cases, the interposition of Mumbo Jumbo is called
in and is always decisive.

"This strange minister of justice (who is supposed to be either the
husband himself, or some person instructed by him,) disguised in the dress
that has been mentioned, and armed with the rod of public authority,
announces his coming (whenever his services are required) by loud and
dismal screams in the woods near the town. He begins the pantomime at the
approach of night; and, as soon as it is dark, he enters the town, and
proceeds to the Bentang, at which all the inhabitants immediately
assemble.

"It may easily be supposed, that this exhibition is not much relished by
the women; for as the person in disguise is entirely unknown to them,
every married female suspects that the visit may possibly be intended for
herself: but they dare not refuse to appear, when they are summoned; and
the ceremony commences with songs and dances, which continue till
midnight, about which time Mumbo fixes on the offender. This unfortunate
victim being thereupon immediately seized, is stripped naked, tied to a
post, and severely scourged with Mumbo's rod, amidst the shouts and
derision of the whole assembly; and it is remarkable, that the rest of the
women are the loudest in their exclamations on this occasion against their
unhappy sister. Daylight puts an end to this indecent and unmanly
revel." [101]

"In the Mandingo countries," says Durand, "there is a mosque in every
town, from the steeple of which the people are called to prayers, the same
as in Turkey. Polygamy is practised in these regions in its utmost
latitude. The women are frequently hostages for alliance and peace; and
the chiefs of two tribes, who have been at war, cement their treaties by
an exchange of their daughters: private individuals do the same; and this
circumstance may be the reason why the chiefs, in particular, have such a
great number of women. A girl is frequently betrothed to a man as soon as
she is born. On the day agreed on for the marriage, the bridegroom places
on the road which the bride has to pass, several of his people at
different distances, with brandy and other refreshments; for if these
articles be not furnished in abundance, the conductors of the bride will
not advance a step further, though they may have got three parts of the
way on their journey. On approaching the town, they stop, and are joined
by the friends of the bridegroom, who testify their joy by shouting,
drinking, and letting off their pieces." [102]

MOORS OF BENOROM, &c. "The education of the girls is neglected altogether:
mental accomplishments are but little attended to by the women; nor is the
want of them considered, by the men, as a defect in the female character.
They are regarded, I believe, as an inferior species of animals; and seem
to be brought up for no other purpose, than that of administering to the
sensual pleasures of their imperious masters. Voluptuousness is,
therefore, considered as their chief accomplishment, and slavish
submission as their indispensable duty." [103]

KAMALIA. "If a man takes a fancy to any one [of the young women,] it is
not considered as absolutely necessary, that he should make an overture to
the girl herself. The first object is to agree with the parents,
concerning the recompense to be given them for the loss of the company and
services of their daughter. The value of two slaves is a common price,
unless the girl is thought very handsome; in which case, the parents will
raise their demand very considerably. If the lover is rich enough and
willing to give the sum demanded, he then communicates his wishes to the
damsel; but her consent is, by no means, necessary to the match; for if
the parents agree to it, and eat a few kolla-nuts, which are presented by
the suiter as an earnest of the bargain, the young lady must either have
the man of their choice, or continue unmarried, for she cannot after be
given to another. If the parents should attempt it, the lover is then
authorized, by the laws of the country, to seize upon the girl as
his slave.

"The negroes, whether Mahomedan or Pagan, allow a plurality of wives. The
Mahomedans alone are, by their religion, confined to four; and as the
husband commonly pays a great price for each, he requires from all of them
the utmost deference and submission, and beats them more like hired
servants than companions." [104]

BANISERILE. "One of our slatus was a native of this place, from which he
had been absent three years. This man invited me to go with him to his
house; at the gate of which his friends met him with many expressions of
joy, shaking hands with him, embracing him, and singing and dancing before
him. As soon as he had seated himself upon a mat, by the threshold of his
door, a young woman (his intended bride) brought a little water in a
calabash, and kneeling down before him, desired him to wash his hands;
when he had done this, the girl, with a tear of joy sparkling in her eyes,
drank the water; this being considered as the greatest proof she could
possibly give him of her fidelity and attachment." [105]

THE KAFFERS. The principal article of their trade with the Tambookie
nation, is the exchange of cattle for their young women. Almost every
chief has Tambookie wives, though they pay much dearer for them than for
those of their own people. Polygamy is allowed in its fullest extent, and
without any inconvenience resulting from the practice, as it is confined
nearly to the chiefs. The circumstances of the common people will rarely
allow them the indulgence of more than one wife, as women are not to be
obtained without purchase. The females being considered as the property of
their parents, are invariably disposed of by sale. The common price of a
wife is an ox, or a couple of cows. Love with them is a very confined
passion, taking but little hold on the mind. When an offer is made for the
purchase of a daughter, she feels little inclination to refuse; she
considers herself as an article in the market, and is neither surprised,
nor unhappy, nor interested, on being told that she is about to be
disposed of. There is no previous courtship, no exchange of fine
sentiments, no nice feelings, nor little kind attentions, which catch the
affections and attach the heart. [106]

THE PEOPLE OF SNEUWBERG, GRAAFF REGNET, "The only grievance of which I
ever heard them complain," says Mr. Barrow, "and which appears to be a
real inconvenience to all who inhabit the remote parts of the colony, is a
ridiculous and absurd law respecting marriage: and as it seems to have no
foundation in reason, and little in policy, except, indeed, like the
marriage-acts in other countries, it be intended as a check to population,
it ought to be repealed. By this law, the parties are both obliged to be
present at the Cape, in order to answer certain interrogatories, and pass
the forms of office there, the chief intention of which seems to be that
of preventing improper marriages from being contracted; as if the
commissaries appointed to this office, at the distance of five or six
hundred miles, should be better acquainted with the connexions and other
circumstances regarding the parties; than the landrost, the clergyman, and
the members of the council residing upon the spot. The expense of the
journey to the young couple is greater than they can frequently well
afford. For decency's sake they must set out in two wagons, though in the
course of a month's journey across a desert country, it is said they
generally make one serve the purpose; the consequence of which is, that
nine times out of ten the consummation of the marriage precedes the
ceremony. This naturally produces another bad effect. The poor girl, after
the familiarities of a long journey, lies entirely at the mercy of the
man, who, having satisfied his curiosity or his passion, sometimes deserts
her before their arrival at the altar; and it has sometimes happened, that
the lady has repented of her choice in the course of the journey, and
driven home again in her own wagon. Though, in our own country, a trip to
Scotland be sometimes taken, when obstacles at a nearer distance could not
safely be surmounted, yet it would be considered as a very ridiculous, as
well as vexatious law, that should oblige the parties intending to marry,
to proceed from the Laud's End to London to carry their purpose into
execution. The inhabitants of Graaff Regnet must travel twice that
distance, in order to be married." [107]

NEGRO NATIONS. "It is a practice equally, nay, perhaps still more common
among the negroes than among the Americans, to offer their wives and
daughters to Europeans." [108] "Parents sell their daughters not only to
lovers, but to suiters of any kind, without doubting or even asking their
consent. The negroes in general, receive for their daughters a few bottles
of brandy, and at the furthest, a few articles of wearing apparel; and
when these prices are paid, the fathers conduct their willing children to
the huts of the purchasers." [109] "A negro may love his wife with all the
affection that is possible for a negro to possess, but he never permits
her to eat with him, because he would imagine himself contaminated, or his
dignity lessened, by such a condescension; and at this degrading distance,
the very negro-slaves in the West Indies keep their wives, though it
might be presumed that the hardships of their common lot would have tended
to unite them in the closest manner." [110] "The poorest and meanest
negro, even though he be a slave, is generally waited upon by his wife as
by a subordinate being, on her knees. On their knees the negro women are
obliged to present to their husbands tobacco and drink; on their knees
they salute them when they return from hunting, or any other expedition;
lastly, on their knees, they drive away the flies from their lords and
masters while they sleep." [111]

GAGERS. Various writers of credit and veracity report, that in the
southern portion of Africa, many princes and chieftains keep great numbers
of young girls, not merely to gratify their passions, but to satiate their
tigerlike appetite for human flesh. In order to convince ourselves, that
the fate of the black women of Africa is not less severe than the
condition of the brown females of the American continent, it is sufficient
to state, that among the negro-women, to whom Cavazzi administered
baptism, some acknowledged with tears that they had killed five, others
seven, and others again ten children, with their own hands.
Notwithstanding the despotic authority of the legislatrix of the Gagers,
she was unable, even by the strictest prohibition, to restrain her
warriors from regaling themselves with the flesh of women. Rich and
powerful chieftains continued to keep whole flocks of young girls, as they
would of lambs, calves, or any other animals, and had some of them daily
slaughtered for the table; for the Gagers prefer human flesh to every
other species of animal food, and among the different classes of human
kind, they hold that of young females in particular estimation. [112]

III. PATRIARCHAL TIMES, AND THE PERIOD OF THE JEWISH THEOCRACY, require a
brief examination, as a necessary means of elucidating the
general subject.

Having already, in the preceding inquiries, ascended to an early date, and
traced the condition of women through a long series of historic record to
the present age, it may seem an imperfection in the plan to conduct the
reader back to a still more remote antiquity than has hitherto been
noticed; but this arrangement will be allowed, perhaps, to be founded in
propriety, upon observing that the design was first to exhibit a complete
series of illustrations, derived from a view of the circumstances of
mankind as _destitute of the light of revelation_, and then to compare the
condition of the female sex under the influence of a precursory and
imperfect system of the _true religion_, with their actual state, or with
the privileges secured to them by the nobler manifestations of
CHRISTIANITY. By this mode of conducting the argument we trace the great
epochs in the history of female melioration: the glory of woman appears at
first eclipsed, as behind a dark cloud, which the passions of a degenerate
race had interposed to hide and debase her: she then emerges, though
partially, to view, through the mists and obscurities of a temporary
dispensation, adapting itself to the circumstances of mankind as they then
existed, but unsuited to what they were destined to become--till at
length, "fair as the moon," ascending to the noon of her glory, and
tinging with the mildness of her beam every earthly object, woman attains
her undisputed eminence, and diffuses her benignant influence in society.

Were we to attach entire credit to the pleasing descriptions of the muses,
we must admit, that the earliest ages of the world deserved the epithet of
"golden" as exhibiting man devoid of those artificial wants which
refinement and luxury have superinduced, and divested of those violent
prejudices, that selfishness and that arrogance, which have filled the cup
of human wo to the brim: we should see him inhabiting a tent of the
simplest construction, furnishing himself with necessary subsistence with
his own hands, sharing with his companion the services of domestic life,
breathing the very soul of hospitality, and adorned with the most
attractive manners: we should even see princes and princesses devoting
themselves to what we are accustomed to denominate the menial offices both
of husbandry and house-keeping, but without any sense of degradation in
the one sex, or any tyrannical assumption in the other.

The authority of the sacred writings also upon this point is express and
decisive. The most distinguished of the human race were, in patriarchal
times, devoted to rural occupations and to plain habits; and it is not
easy, nor is it altogether desirable, to divest oneself of those feelings
of enchantment which the view of such scenes and manners naturally
inspires. Who can remain unaffected at the recital of the story of an
Abraham, running to the herd and fetching a young and tender calf to
refresh his angelic visiters; or at the various memorable instances of
simplicity that occur in the stories of Isaac, Jacob, and their
contemporaries?

But the question is, whether the actual condition of women did or did not
indicate the lordly views of their husbands, and a general state of
slavish subordination? What can be said to the practices of polygamy and
concubinage, which prevailed even in these golden times and in pious
families? Do they evince any proper estimate of the character of women? or
have they not an evident tendency to degrade them? Does not their very
institution assert the subserviency of the one sex to the will and
pleasure of the other? [113] The state of women may not only be inferred
under such circumstances, but is clearly seen. Wives possessed no other
advantages over concubines than the right of inheriting; and domestic
unions were formed without any reference to the nobler felicities of
social intercourse. Hence infertility not only excited dislike, but was
held to justify repudiation. In the earliest ages, marriage was not only
very unceremonious with regaird to the mode in which it was conducted, but
this important union was arranged without any previous agreement between
the parties, and wives were often purchased. Men had the right of
annulling all the oaths and engagements of their daughters and wives, if
they had, not been present when they were contracted. "We can discover,"
says Segur, "in these first ages, nothing worthy of the title of 'golden,'
which has been applied to them. Abraham and Isaac were continually afraid
of being assassinated for their wives; and the oath which they enacted
from their neighbours not to attempt their lives, savoured little of a
_golden_ age."

Under the Jewish theocracy the Levitical law appointed a variety of
regulations which evinced their imperfect emancipation from a state of
inferiority. They were in particular subjected to the trial of the waters
of jealousy, not only in cases of real departure from conjugal fidelity,
but when a suspicion existed in the mind of the husband, even though it
were without any foundation: and there were cases in which misconduct of a
similar natute exposed them to be stoned to death. The doctrine of vows
also, in the cases of daughters, wives, and widows, corroborates the
general argument, by evincing the marked subordination of the woman to
the man. "If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a
bond, being in her father's house in her youth; and her father hear her
vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall
hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond
wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow
her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds,
wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive
her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband,
when she vowed, or uttered aught out of her lips, wherewith she bound her
soul; and her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that
he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound
her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he
heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she
uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and
the Lord shall forgive her. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is
divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with
an oath; and her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and
disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond
wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband hath utterly
made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of
her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall
not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive
her. Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband
may establish it, or her husband may make it void. But if her husband
altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth
all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them,
because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them. But if he
shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them, then he shall
bear her iniquity."

       *       *       *       *       *

From the dark and deeply shaded back-ground of the picture of female
degradation, formed by the facts which have now been adduced, and which
might easily be corroborated by an immense accumulation of evidence,
Christianity is brought forward with conspicuous prominence, and in all
her gracefulness. The contrast is at once striking and affecting: the
moral scene brightens upon the view as we contemplate this attractive
figure combining majesty and mildness--fascination in her smiles and
heaven in her eye.

The superiority which the religion of Jesus has secured to women above the
state of barbaric degradation, Mahometan slavery, and Jewish subjection,
proclaims the glory of that system, which has already meliorated society
to its minutest subdivisions, and will eventually transform the moral
desert of human being into a paradise of beauty and bliss. The argument,
however, will be seen with more distinctness, by the following
brief detail.

1. _The personal conduct of the divine Author of Christianity, tended to
elevate the female sex to a degree of consideration in society before
unknown._ During the life of our Lord, women were admitted to a holy
familiarity with him, attended his public labours, ministered to his
wants, and adhered to him with heroic zeal, when their attachment exposed
them to insult, danger and death.

Immediately after the marriage of Cana in Galilee, where he attended with
his mother, he accompanied her with his brethren and disciples to
Capernaum. That excellent spirit, for which he was remarkable from his
earliest years, continued to influence his mind in maturer life, and
taught him justly to appreciate and perfectly to exemplify the domestic
and social duties. He did not scruple to converse with a Samaritan woman,
who came to draw water at Jacob's well, though his disciples, in whose
minds Jewish prejudices continued to prevail, expressed their astonishment
at his condescension. Never was there so fine a specimen of patience,
gentleness, and humility, blended with true dignity, as upon that
remarkable occasion. He instructed her ignorance, endured her petulance,
corrected her mistakes, awakened her conscience, converted her heart, and
eventually honoured her as a messenger of mercy and salvation to her
Samaritan friends. At another time, when the disciples rebuked those who
brought their little children to him, that he might put his hands on them
and pray, he kindly interposed; and evincing the most sympathetic
tenderness towards the solicitudes which, on such an occasion, would
necessarily pervade the maternal bosom, he said, "Suffer little children,
and forbid them not to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of
heaven: and he laid his hands on them." On various occasions, when he
performed some of his most illustrious miracles, females were personally
concerned, and shared his distinguished notice and condolence. Such
particularly was the case when he met the funeral procession at Nain: it
was that of a young man, represented in the simple and affecting language
of the evangelist, as "the only son of his mother, and she was a widow."
The meeting was apparently casual; but Jesus was instantly and deeply
impressed with the circumstances: he in particular felt compassion for the
weeping parent--addressed her in kind and gentle terms--remanded the
spirit from its eternal flight, to inhabit again for a season the body
from which it had so lately departed, and delivered the reanimated youth
to _his mother_. He blended his tears with those of Martha and Mary, at
the sepulchre of their brother; and after instructing them upon the
subject of the resurrection from the dead, restored him to their wishes
and affections." Women "ministered unto Jesus of their substance,"--"the
daughters of Jerusalem" bewailed him when he was led to crucifixion--and
the "women that followed him from Galilee were deeply interested
spectators of his sufferings, observed his sepulchre, and prepared spices
and ointments. It was Mary Magdalene who enjoyed the honour and happiness
of a first manifestation after Jesus was risen from the dead, and she was
commissioned to go and inform the rest of his sorrowing disciples. "The
frequent mention," says Doddridge "which is made in the evangelists of the
generous and courageous zeal of some _pious women_ in the service of
Christ, and especially of the faithful and resolute constancy with which
they attended him in those last scenes of his suffering, might very
possibly be intended to obviate that haughty and senseless contempt, which
the pride of men, often irritated by those vexations to which their own
irregular passions have exposed them, has in all ages affected to throw on
that sex, which probably, in the sight of God, constitute by far the
better half of mankind; and to whose care and tenderness the wisest and
best of men generally owe and ascribe much of the daily comfort and
enjoyment of their lives."

2. _As the conduct of Christ naturally induced his disciples to imitate
the example of their illustrious Master, the subsequent admission of women
to all the privileges of the Christian Church, tended exceedingly to
confirm their elevation, and evince their importance in society_. When the
primitive converts to the Christian faith wished publicly to avow their
dereliction of heathen idolatry, and their emancipation from the bondage
of Judaism, by being baptized in water, _both sexes_ were admitted without
distinction to this solemn rite. At a very early period of the primitive
church, when the city of Samaria received the word of God by the preaching
of Philip, which with its accompanying miracles, diffused an universal
joy, "they were baptized, both MEN and WOMEN;" and the apostle Paul, in
writing to the Galatians, expresses himself in this triumphant strain:
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many
of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is
neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither
MALE nor FEMALE, for ye are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus."

Sentiments like these, combined with the practice of an institution so
expressive and so remarkable, tended to circulate among the primitive
Christians those feelings of respect and affection for women, which, by
elevating them to their proper rank in society, must necessarily purify
the public morals, meliorate individual character, and ennoble the
intercourse of life. Admitted to an equal participation of the privileges
of God's house, where every minor distinction is annihilated by the
predominance of a diffusive charity, and feeling that their present joys
and future destinies were blended with those of the "holy brethren,
partakers of the heavenly calling;" the female part of the community rose
into importance as rational, but especially as immortal beings.

After the ascension of Christ, the historian of the Acts of the Apostles
informs us, that "the WOMEN, and Mary, the mother of Jesus," assembled
with the apostles to worship in the upper room at Jerusalem; being equally
interested in the great events which had recently occurred, and in the
devotional services in which they now engaged. Paul directs Timothy to
treat "the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all
purity." He also desires him to "honour widows that are widows indeed,"
and to afford them all proper relief by charitable contributions, a
practice for which the first Christians were highly distinguished. Women
are represented by an apostle himself as _fellow-labourers_ in the Gospel,
assisting them, not only by their example, to which he willingly pointed
the attention of the churches, but by their prayers, their visits of
mercy, and other similar methods of co-operatiug in the propagation of the
truth, and the promotion of individual happiness.

As the _immediate_ effects of original transgression upon the woman were
most obvious and most deplorable, and as her debasement from the eminence
assigned her by the Creator has been _completed_ by the misrule of
passion, and the gradual advancement of human degeneracy: so the _direct_
operation of Christianity is apparent, according to the degree of its
prevalence, in elevating her to a state which was known before only in the
garden of Eden--a state in which she again assumes a rank, which
regenerated man cheerfully concedes, wherein she regains the lost
paradise of love and tenderness; while the more _remote_ influence of this
system is discernible in the recognition of her rights, wherever its
benign dominion extends. Now she ascends to the glory of an intelligent
creature, gladdens by her presence the solitary hours of existence,
beguiles by her converse and sympathy the rough and tedious paths of life,
and not only acquires personal dignity and importance, but in some measure
new modifies, purifies, and exalts the character of man. If we cannot but
weep over the affecting representation of the departure of Adam and Eve
from the scene of innocence and of celestial manifestation, when

  "The brandish'd sword of God before them blaz'd
  Fierce as a comet: which with torrid heat
  And vapours, as the Libyan air adust,
  Begun to parch that temperate clime; whereat
  In either hand the hast'ning angel caught
  Our ling'ring parents, and to the eastern gate
  Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
  To the subjected plain----"

and when, taking a hasty retrospect of their lost felicity, in consequence
of transgression, and cherishing gloomy forebodings of that melancholy
futurity, which seemed already to pour from its dark clouds the deluging
rain of grief and misery--

  "Some natural tears they dropp'd, but wip'd them soon;
  The world was all before them, where to choose
  Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
  They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow
  Through Eden took their solitary way;----"

--if we must mourn over so sad a scene, Christianity a wakens sympathies
of an opposite description, by exhibiting a goodly number of their
descendants as inhabitants of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH--the grand repository
of heavenly blessings, and the dwelling-place of peace--at whose holy
altar of truth souls are wedded, and at whose sacramental board they
celebrate an everlasting union. Nothing can present a scene more worthy
the attention of mankind, or more attractive to the eyes of witnessing
angels, than this association of persons in pious fellowship, without
distinction of birth or country, age or sex; participators in equal
proportions of the same happiness, children of one common parent, and
heirs of one rich inheritance!

3. _The, great principles asserted by the religion of Jesus, secure to
women, as an unquestionable right, that exaltation in society, which his
conduct, and that of his followers conferred_. These principles may he
traced in the New Testament, either as necessarily comprehending, by their
generality, a proper treatment of the female sex, or as developing
themselves in particular regulations and enactments.

Christianity breathes a spirit of the most diffusive charity and good
will: and wherever its "power" is felt, it moulds the character into the
image of benevolence. Love is the beauty and the strength of this
"spiritual building;" a love, at once comprehensive in its range, and
minute in its ramifications: adjusting the diversified claims of society
and religion with perfect exactness, and directing the exercise of all the
social affections. The fountain being purified, the streams become pure;
the heart, which is the centre mid spring of moral action, being renewed,
the conduct will be distinguished by a corresponding degree of virtue,
goodness, and sanctity. But as Christianity produces a general
transformation of character, by subduing the ferocious and brutal
propensities of man; clearing away the rank and noxious weeds that
overspread human nature, and sowing the seeds of moral excellence, the
effect must be discernible in the whole intercourse of life. Immorality
trembles, domestic tyranny retires abashed before the majesty of religion,
and peace pervades that dwelling where power was law, and woman a slave.
In fact, every precept of the Gospel that inculcates kindness, sympathy,
gentleness, meekness, courtesy, and all the other graces that bloom in the
garden of the Lord--indirectly, and by no unintelligible or forced
application, provides for the honour and glory of the female sex. If the
most effectual method of degrading woman be to barbarize man, the certain
means of dignifying _her_ is to christianize _him_.

It is to be noticed also, that there is no sex in conscience, and that for
the discharge of the duties of piety, each is equally capacitated, and
therefore equally responsible. If men were to give an account at the
tribunal of heaven, not only for their personal actions and principles,
but for those of women, to whom they are related by the ties of
consanguinity, or with whom they are connected by circumstances, there
would be some reason in assuming a jurisdiction over their faith, and
disputing their claims to rationality and to respectful treatment; but not
to insist upon the moral constitution of the female sex, and the whole
drift of divine revelation, the very terms of the initiatory ordinance of
the Christian church, to which they are equally entitled, illustrates and
secures their prerogatives--for it is "the answer of a good conscience
towards God." When men impose fetters upon other men, condemning,
imprisoning, fining, scourging, burning, and anathematizing them, merely
because they dare to think for themselves in matters which can only
concern God and their own souls, and will not have their faith decreed by
arbitrary power and exasperated ignorance, it need not excite surprise,
that they should assume the right of behaving to the weaker sex with all
the capriciousness of despotism; and no authority but that of Scripture,
which maintains the privileges of _all thinking beings_, can effectually
restrain the wickedness of man's UNMANLY usurpation.

The precepts of Christianity bespeak its characteristic regard to the
reciprocal duties and respective rank of the sexes, adjusting their claims
with a nicety that precludes disputation, and an authority that commands
assent. They are not arbitrary enactments; but being founded in the
highest reason, and connected with individual felicity, approve themselves
to every well-regulated mind. In our behaviour to others, we are not only
prohibited from indulging the vindictive and malignant passions, but
exhorted to do them good by the employment of our pecuniary resources,
social opportunities, and moral means, to advance both their temporal and
eternal interests. While these principles necessarily comprise the
discharge of all relative duties, these are besides specifically
enumerated and enforced. Husbands, in whose hands barbarism had placed a
tyrannic sceptre, are required by the religion of Jesus to renounce their
unjust domination, and to descend to the regulated and affectionate
intercourse of the domestic hearth. It is expressly enjoined upon them to
"love their wives," and not to be "bitter against them." "Let every one of
you in particular so love his wife even as himself: so ought men to love
their wives as their own bodies."--"Ye husbands, dwell with your wives
according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker
vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life." "Let one of you
in particular so love his wife as himself, and the wife see that she
reverence her husband."

Christianity also expressly abolishes, at least by necessary implication,
polygamy and the power of divorce, as they existed among barbarous
nations, perpetuating the degradation of women, and spreading confusion in
society. "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,
and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which
is put away, doth commit adultery." "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak
to them that know the law.) how that the law hath dominion over a man as
long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law
to her husband so long as be liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is
loosed from the law of her husband." And, "Let every man have his own
wife, and let every woman have her own husband." Paley remarks, "The
manners of different countries have varied in nothing more than in their
domestic constitutions. Less polished and more luxurious nations have
either not perceived the bad effects of polygamy, or, if they did perceive
them, they who in such countries possessed the power of reforming the
laws, have been unwilling to resign their own gratifications. Polygamy is
retained at this day among the Turks, and throughout every part of Asia in
which Christianity is not professed. In Christian countries it is
universally prohibited. In Sweden it is punished with death. In England,
besides the nullity of the second marriage, it subjects the offender to
transportation, or imprisonment and branding, for the first offence, and
to capital punishment for the second. And whatever may be said in behalf
of polygamy when it is authorized by the law of the land, the marriage of
a second wife during the lifetime of the first, in countries where such a
second marriage is void, must be ranked with the most dangerous and cruel
of those frauds by which a woman is cheated out of her fortune, her
person, and her happiness.

"The ancient Medes compelled their citizens, in one canton, to take seven
wives; in another, each woman to receive five husbands; according as war
had made, in one quarter of their country, an extraordinary havoc among
the men, or the women had been carried away by an enemy from another. This
regulation, so far as it was adapted to the proportion which subsisted
between the number of males and females, was founded in the reason upon
which the most improved nations of Europe proceed at present.

"Cæsar found among the inhabitants of this island a species of polygamy,
if it may be so called, which was perfectly singular. _Uxores_, says he,
_habent deni duodenique inter se communes; et maxime fratres cum
fratribus, parentesque cum liberis: sed si qui sint ex his nati, corum
habentur liberi, quo primum virgo quaque deducta est_."

The same perspicuous writer adds, upon the subject of divorce, "The
Scriptures seem to have drawn the obligation tighter than the law of
nature left it. 'Whosoever,' saith Christ, 'shall put away his wife,
except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery.'
The law of Moses, for reasons of local expediency, permitted the Jewish
husband to put away his wife; but whether for every cause, or for what
causes, appears to have been controverted amongst the interpreters of
those times. Christ, the precepts of whose religion were calculated for
more general use and observation, revokes this permission, (as given to
the Jews 'for the hardness of their hearts,') and promulges a law which
was thenceforward to confine divorces to the single cause of adultery in
the wife. And I see no sufficient reason to depart from the plain and
strict meaning of Christ's words. The rule was new. It both surprised and
offended his disciples, yet Christ added nothing to relax or explain it.

"Inferior causes may justify the separation of husband and wife, although
they will not authorize such a dissolution of the marriage contract as
would leave either party at liberty to marry again; for it is that
liberty, in which the danger and mischief of divorces principally consist.
If the care of children does not require that they should live together,
and it is become, in the serious judgment of both, necessary for their
mutual happiness that they should separate, let them separate by consent.
Nevertheless, this necessity can hardly exist, without guilt and
misconduct on one side or on both. Moreover, cruelty, ill usage, extreme
violence, or moroseness of temper, or other great and continual
provocations, make it lawful for the party aggrieved to withdraw from the
society of the offender, without his or her consent. The law which imposes
the marriage vow, whereby the parties promise to 'keep to each other,' or
in other words to live together, must be understood to impose it with a
silent reservation of these cases; because the same law has constituted a
judicial relief from the tyranny of her husband, by the divorce _à mensa
et toro_, and by the provision which it makes for the separate maintenance
of the injured wife. St. Paul, likewise, distinguishes between a wife
merely separating herself from the family of her husband, and her marrying
again: 'Let not the wife depart from her husband; but, and if she do
depart, let her remain unmarried.'" [114]

Notwithstanding the survey we have taken of the general degradation of the
female sex, where the benign influences of Christianity have been unfelt,
the argument may be confronted by a formidable array of plausible
objections. It may be said, that amidst the barbarity of the SCANDINAVIAN
NATIONS, they treated their women with extraordinary respect. The
Scythians exempted the daughter from the punishment in which the son was
obliged to partake with the father, and the German women even inherited
the throne. Some of the laws, among the Goths, respecting illicit
intercourse, were highly reasonable and just, and our remote ancestors may
be cited as examples of treating women with the utmost veneration. It may
seem indicative also of the prevalence of similar sentiments, that the
ancient mythologies abound in female divinities: the Phoenicians
worshipped the goddess _Astarte_, the Scythians, _Appia,_ the
Scandinavians, _Friggia_, the wife of Odin. It may be further urged, with
regard to the GREEKS and ROMANS, that though the melancholy picture we
have already drawn of their conduct be true, yet their history presents
some remarkable evidences of the elevated condition of their women, and
the honourable regard which they obtained. Among the former, indeed, few
instances can be adduced, in addition to that of Areta, the daughter of
Aristippus, who fixed upon her son the surname of Μητροδιδακτος,
or _disciple of his mother_, in consequence of her having been his
instructer in the sciences and philosophy. The Romans, at some periods of
their history, paid extraordinary respect to their women; the institution
of the vestals is a memorial of the estimation in which female virtue was
held, and the emperor Heliogabalus was desirous that his wife should have
a voice in the senate. They allowed their women to celebrate an annual
feast, to commemorate the reconciliation between them and the Sabines, by
means of their wives; and they erected an equestrian statue to Cloelia,
and a temple to Fortune, in honour of the sex; because the mother and wife
of Coriolanus had caused that hero to retire weeping from his native
country, when he was irresistible by arms. [115] But the most plausible
objection to the general argument seems derivable from the history of
CHIVALRY, under whose influence it is alleged that women were not only not
degraded, but were actually advanced to the highest condition, and
possessed the most commanding influence. The knights, at their
installation, took solemn vows of self-devotement to the cause of female
honour; and ladies were constantly engaged as umpires at tournaments, took
off the armour of the conquerors, and irivested them with magnificent
robes. The middle ages witnessed the extraordinary sight of knight-errants
wandering over distant countries, with their sword and lance in hand, to
contest the point of the beauty and virtue of their ladies, with all who
ventured to intimate the slightest doubt or suspicion on the subject.
Their expeditions were usually made in consequence of some requisition on
the part of their mistresses, or to fulfil a vow voluntarily incurred in a
moment of intoxication and excitement.

The reply to these general objections has been in part anticipated.
Christianity assigns to women their proper place in society, neither
admitting of their being tyrannized over by despotic authority, nor
impiously honoured by a ridiculous adulation. They are to be viewed as
help meets, not, as slaves; to be respected and loved, but not deified.
While the religion of Jesus raises them to great consideration in the
scale of society, it imposes a salutary restraint upon human passions, and
checks every approach to the assumption of an unnatural superiority. It
bestows a rank which secures them from contempt or disregard, while it
equally prevents a senseless adoration: so that its principles disallow
the barbaric treatment of uncivilized nations and the follies of the
chivalrous ages.

In the different periods and places to which the objection refers, the
conduct of mankind was marked with inconsistency. Greece and Rome exhibit
ample specimens of this nature; and the time of chivalry afford
illustrations equally remarkable. The knights of the order were not
distinguished by fidelity to their wives, or by a concern for the
education of their daughters: their devotion to the female sex was, in
fact, without principle and without love; they fought, from vanity and
fashion, for persons whom they had basely dishonoured and secretly
despised; and while their flattery and folly were sufficiently
discreditable to their own understandings and hearts, they tended in a
deplorable degree to corrupt the principles of those whom they
professed to value.

It is further obvious, that in the very best periods of Greek and Roman
history there existed no security against a change in the treatment of
women, arising from the general recognition of any of those great
principles of moral conduct which constitute the basis of good government
and of well-regulated society. Passion predominated above reason, and
received its impulse solely from casual circumstances. It was, in fact,
accidental, whether it should operate amiably or malignantly; and the
felicity of one half of the human species depended upon the precarious and
ever vacillating humour of the other. Virtue was scarcely seen upon the
earth, except at occasional and often distant visitations, or as she shed
a fitful and flickering light into the retreats of systematic philosophy.
Woman was at the mercy of every wind--to-day honoured--to-morrow
despised--now a goddess--and anon a slave! Viewing heathen countries in
the most favourable aspect in which history presents them, and admitting
to the fullest extent the correctness of those details of virtue and
valour which she has transmitted to us, the conduct of the Celtic and
Scandinavian nations, and instances deduced from cultivated and classic
regions, or from modern times, can only be considered as _exceptions_
which do not impugn the general alignment, corroborated as it has been by
a historical and geographical delineation of society in every age of the
world, and every quarter of the globe.

Behold Christianity, then, walking forth in her purity and greatness to
bless the earth, diffusing her light in every direction, distributing her
charities on either hand, quenching the flames of lust and the fires of
ambition, silencing discord, spreading peace, and creating all things new!
Angels watch her progress, celebrate her influence, and anticipate her
final triumphs! The moral creation brightens beneath her smiles, and owns
her renovating power; at her approach man loses his fierceness and woman
her chains; each becomes blessed in the other, and God glorified in both!



Appendix.



(SEE p. 320.)

The concurrent evidence of a variety of passages of Scripture respecting
the existence of Satan, ind his interference in human concerns, have been
rejected with singular and pertinacious audacity, solely upon the ground
that the whole of these representations must be figurative, because they
are not consonant to _human reason_--which seems to be a very dignified
sort of personage, assuming to herself the right of calling revelation to
her bar, and disposing at pleasure of the doctrines of Heaven. As,
however, truth will always bear investigation, it may not be improper to
devote a few additional pages to this subject, with a view of satisfying;
the humble inquirer, that sound sense and divine testimony are really and
entirely coincident.

Whatever is revealed it becomes us to believe, and simply on this account,
that it _is revealed_; if the subject of the revelation be mysterious or
incomprehensible, this does not annul our obligation implicitly to believe
it, because sufficient reasons may exist in the Eternal Mind for the
concealment of its nature, or it may surpass the comprehension of our
limited capacities; but if it be naturally capable of investigation--if it
be not only a fact, but a fact in proof of which evidences may be adduced,
and explanations furnished, our minds cannot be better employed, than in
thus superinducing substantial evidence or vivid probability upon the
testimony of divine inspiration.

I. It is highly reasonable to suppose, that there are beings of a distinct
and superior order to ourselves in the universe. Nothing can be more
improbable than to imagine that this earth is the only inhabited region of
universal empire, the only peopled province in the creation of God;
especially when we observe that it forms but one, and that a small globe
of matter belonging to a system in which others, and some very superior
bodies, are found moving round the came centre, and legulated by similar
laws; and that this whole system itself is but one out of ten thousand
others that constitute the heavenly constellations, and "pave the shining
way to the divine abode."

The productions of Infinite Wisdom are wonderfully diversified. In the
present world we have an opportunity of observing them only in the
descending scale, from man, the summit of creation, down through all the
gradations of animal existence, to the scarcely discernible insects that
flit in the summer sunbeams, and to the minuter world of microscopic
discovery. But analogy would lead us to infer, that there may be beings in
the vast dominion of universal space as much superior to man as man
himself is superior to insects or animalculæ. It is not probable that
creative power should cease to operate precisely at the point where human
existence commences; and especially as _mind_ admits of incalculable
diversity in the extent of its energies and capacities, and as it is found
in all cases to possess a power of improvement and expansion, it is
likely, under other circumstances and in other worlds, it may he
inconceivably superior to the highest elevation it his ever attained in
this lower region. Hence we infer the great probabilily of angelic
existence.

II. It is reasonable to suppose, that superior intelligences were
constituted free agents, and capable therefore of retaining or forfeiting
their primeval character and happiness, for this is the evident lay of the
rational creation, so far it comes within the limits of our observation.
If this be the case, some of these beings may probably have misused their
liberty, and become depraved and corrupt. It is essential to the notion of
free agency, to suppose this possible, and though from the infinite
benignity of the Divine Being, we should infer that he would _create_ them
holy and happy, we cannot conclude they must _necessarily_ be _preserved_
in such a state. There is nothing in the nature of the blessed God, as a
just and holy Being, to require this, no obligation to do so resulting
from the mere circumstance of their being thus created, and nothing, in a
perfect system of holy government, to demand it. Indeed, quite the
reverse, because it is natural to infer, that the subjects of divine
government, however elevated in character and condition, should be
responsible to their Ruler, and liberty of thought and action, the power
of choice, and refusal of obedience and disobedience, is essential to
responsibility. There may, therefore, probably exist unholy or evil
spirits, such as have not kept their first estate, and consequently
amenable to righteous laws, and proper objects of punishment.

III. As it is reasonable to suppose that the government of God may admit
of the existence of fallen and evil spirits, as well as those of a more
honourable class, it is equally so to conclude, that a similar or
analogous variety of talent, capacity, and guilt may obtain to that which
we observe in the constitution of other intelligent creatures both good
and evil, in this world. Wicked men are not satisfied to be sought by
criminals, they have no wish to be alone in sin but are uniformly anxious
to seduce others into the perpetration of those iniquities which they
themselves have dared to commit. The first action of Eve after her
transgression, was to hand the forbidden fruit to her husband, and
persuade him to eat, and it is the earliest wish of a rebellious heart to
involve others in the guilt and misery of their own deeds, partly for the
sake of concealing their enormity, by diverting the eye from observing the
awful proportions of then individual offences, and partly to acquire
encouragement and support in the commission of yet unpractised crimes.
Hence "_one_ sinner destroyeth much good." According to his capacity or
opportunity he becomes the centre of a large circle of impious
association, he sways inferior minds, and forms them into so many
satellites round his person, who individually acquire a lustre from his
pre-eminence, and feel the attraction of his base superiority. Hence the
world of wickedness is ruled by an incalculable number of petty princes,
who each assume independent empire, but all combine to carry on eternal
war against the order of providence, the good of society, and the glory
of God,

It is not absurd, then, to conclude, that a similar diversity prevails
amongst evil beings of a superior class, that some may be far more
atrocious in their characters than others, and more capacitated to do
extensive mischief. It is equally likely, that their influence over other
evil spirits may be proportioned to these circumstances, and that their
example or advice may excite to deeds of infernal daring. These
considerations would eventually conduct us to the probability of the
existence of one, pre-eminent above the rest in crime and in capacity, who
may influence the several chiefs of the infernal empire, as they exercise
a power over inferior demons; or that Satan, or the devil, is "the prince
of the power of the air."

IV. The _invisible_ nature of diabolical agency can be no sufficient
objection to its existence. Admitting that there are other proofs, this
circumstance could not diminish their force, much less destroy their
evidence. It must be granted, that without other proofs it would be a
radical objection, because in such a case the whole statement would he
gratuitous and conjectural. If it were allowable to suppose such an
agency, it might be equally so to refuse admitting it; every one may be
amused or not with a pure fiction, an imaginary creation. But do not
plead, that the invisibility of diabolical agency is any proof or any
presumption of its reality; but simply that it is no objection, that it
has no power to neutralize the evidence produced, and that unbelievers
have no authority, on this account, to treat the subject with that
profane and impertinent ridicule, which is a mere commonplace artifice to
evade unwelcome convictions.

God is invisible--but is this any argument against his being? The human
soul is invisible--is this a proof that it does not exist? The magnetic
influence cannot be seen--is this a reason that it does not operate? Are
the opinions or philosophers deduced from the analogies of nature, that
suns and stars and systems occupy the distant regions of space, which have
never yet been penetrated by the best constructed telescopes, rendered
improbable by the allegation, that no eye and no instrument can discern
them? The existence and operations of the devil are admitted to be
invisible to sense, and in many cases, perhaps, difficult of investigation
by reason--what then? Nothing.

V. The supposition that the operation of invisible spirits is secret and
imperceptible to ourselves, cannot be adduced as demonstrative against its
reality. What is more difficult to ascertain than the operation of our own
minds, and the motives by which we are impelled? Nor is it difficult only
to trace the process of reasoning that has led us to any particular
conclusion, and to recall the fleeting thoughts flinch have passed through
the mind in rapid succession, so as to tell how we came to be influenced
to a certain conclusion; but we often cannot discover what external
objects or what incidental circumstances, first directed us into the
inquiry, or led to the result.

Still more inconceivable is the manner in which spirit operates upon
spirit, where there is no external agency; and it is inconceivable,
because of our little experience on the subject, and because the usual
modes of impression are through the medium of sense. The ear, the eye, the
touch, convey impressions to the spirit; but when neither are sensibly
affected, we cannot trace the influence exercised upon us, although it is
highly irrational to deny its possibility. Besides, we know that "God, who
is a Spirit, operates upon our souls at times and under circumstances,
when we are unconscious of this influence; and, if we had no evidence from
Scripture, reason must admit that such an operation is not improbable."

The only objection which can arise here, is that of supposing the evil
spirit in any respects independent of God; a supposition, however, which
is not to be charged upon the advocates of diabolical agency. "It is
evident," says Dr. Leland, "to the common sense of mankind, that there is
a vast difference between the supposition of an almighty and independent
evil being, a supposition full of absurdity and horror; and that of an
inferior dependent being, who was made originally pure and upright, but
fell by his own voluntary defection into vice and wickedness; and who,
though permitted in many instances to do mischief, and to act according to
his evil inclinations, as wicked men are often permitted to do in this
present state, yet are still under the sovereign control of the most holy,
wise, and powerful Governor of the world. For, in this case, we may be
sure, from the divine wisdom, justice, and goodness, that God will, in the
fittest season, inflict a punishment upon that evil being and his
associates, proportionable to their crimes; and that in the mean time, he
setteth bounds to their malice and rage, and provideth sufficient
assistance for those whom they endeavour to seduce to evil, whereby they
may be enabled to repel their temptations, if it be not their own faults;
and that he will in his superior wisdom bring good out of their evil, and
overrule even their malice and wickedness, for promoting the great ends of
his government, This is the representation made to us of this matter in
the Holy Scripture, nor is there any thing in this that can be proved to
be contrary to sound reason. And we may justly conclude, that in the final
issue of things, the wisdom as well as righteousness of this part of the
divine administration will most illustriously appear."



END.



Footnotes



[1]: Compare Ps. cxxxii. 11. Isa. xi. 1. Jer. xxiii 5, and xxxiii. 15. Gen.
xii. 3, xxii. 18, xxvi. 4, and xxviii. 14.

[2]: Lowth's Isaiah, ch. xi. translation and notes, VOL. II.

[3]: DODDRIDGE.

[4]: There are, according to the Jews, four angels that surround the throne
of God--Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel. The latter they place,
conformably with his expression to Zacharias, [Hebrew], _before
him_, or _in his presence._

[5]: The Ethiopic version, instead of "in those days," renders the
expression in the thirty-ninth verse of 1st chap. of Luke, "in that day."

[6]: Selden. Uxor. Heb. lib. ii. cap. 1.

[7]: This remarkable time cannot be stated with any certainty. The earliest
antiquity determines nothing upon the subject. Towards the end of the
second, or beginning of the third century only, was this attempted; when
those who were most curious in their researches fixed it about the
twentieth of May. Clemens Alexandrinus thinks that it was the
twenty-eighth year after the battle of Actium; that is, the 41st year of
Augustus; but Joseph Scaliger places it in his forty-second year; and,
after a most laborious investigation, shows that Christ was born about the
autumnal equinox, the latter end of September, or beginning of October.
SCALIG. Animad. ad Chron. Euseb. p. 174, et seq.--It was not till the
fourth century that this great event was believed to have occurred on the
twenty-fifth of December. They have not failed to assign what they deemed
important reasons for this decision. As the sun, they say, is then
beginning to rise on our hemisphere, and again to approach our pole, it is
the proper period to which the rising of the Sun of Righteousness should
be referred. The Romans have another reason, deduced from the preceding.
At the return of the sun the feast of the Saturnalia was celebrated at
Rome. It was thought proper to substitute in the place of this feast,
which was distinguished by its profane rejoicings, that of our Saviour's
birth, for the purpose of inducing the people to separate joy from riot.
It is, however, the _event_, and not the _day_, we celebrate.
Comp. SAURIN, Discours Historiques, Critiques, &c. continuez par
Beausobre, tom. ix. p. 146-148, 8vo.

[8]: Compare Lev. xii. 2, 4, 6, 8. Numb. viii. 16, 17. xviii. 15, 16. Five
shekels amounted to about twelve shillings and sixpence of our money.

[9]: "This (_wise men_ from the East) is not only an indefinite, but
an improper version of the term. It is indefinite, because those called
μαγοι were a particular class, party, or profession among the Orientals,
as much as Stoics, Peripatetics, and Epicureans were among the Greeks.
They originated in Persia, but afterward spread into other countries,
particularly into Assyria and Arabia, bordering upon Judea on the East.
It is probable that the Magians here mentioned came from Arabia. Now to
employ a term for specifying one sect, which may with equal propriety be
applied to fifty, of totally different, or even contrary opinions, is
surely a vague way of translating. It is also, in the present
acceptation of the word, improper. Formerly the term _wise men_
denoted philosophers, or men of science and erudition: it is hardly ever
used so now, unless in burlesque. Some say _Magi_; but _Magians_
is better, as having more the form of an English word." CAMPBELL'S
Translation of the Four Gospels, vol. ii. _notes_.

[10]:
  "Salvete, flores Martyrum,
  Quos, lusis ipso in limine,
  Christi insecutor sustulit,
  Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

  Vos, prima Christi victima,
  Grex immolatorum tener,
  Aram ante ipsam, simplices,
  Palma et coronis luditis."

[11]: Bishop Horne.

[12]: Josephus has given an affecting account of this awful death. Vide
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xvii. cap. 6. and Bell. Jud. lib. i. cap. 33.

[13]: So say the Jews, [Hebrew] _the passover of women is arbitrary_.

[14]: Misn. Sanhedrin c. v. sec. 4. ap. GILL in loc.

[15]: _At my Father's_ εν τοις του πατρος μου Syriac [Hebrew], _in domo
patris mei_. The Armenian version renders the words in the same manner.
It has been justly observed that τα του δεινος is a Greek idiom, not only
with classical writers, but with the sacred penmen, for denoting the house
of such a person.... Campbell.

[16]: Judg. xi. 12. 2 Sam. xvi. 10. I Kings xvii. 18. 2 Kings iii. 13. and
ix. 19. _Sept. translation_,

[17]: Blackwall observes, "'Tis the opinion of some learned men, that the
holy Jesus, the most tender and dutiful Son that ever was born, when he
called his mother plainly _woman_, declared against those idolatrous
honours which he foresaw would be paid her in latter ages, which is no
improbable guess. But in the more plain and unceremonious times it was a
title applied to ladies of the greatest quality and merit by people of the
greatest humanity and exactness of behaviour. So Cyrus the Great says to
the queen of the Armenians, Ἀλλὰ σὺ ᾆ γὺναι: and servants addressed queens
and their mistresses in the same language." Blackwall's Sacred Classics, V.
ii. p. 206. _second edit_.

[18]: These water-pots contained two or three _baths_ apiece. A bath
was about seven gallons and a half.

[19]: Bishop Hall.

[20]: Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. vol. i. p. 432. ii. 56, 71.

[21]: Bossuet, Serm. pour la Fête de la Conception.

[22]: The bishop of Meux, who has been already quoted, does not fail to
suggest some delectable additions to her titles. He speaks in one of his
discourses of her "sacred body, the throne of chastity, the temple of
incarnate wisdom," &c. but the whole paragraph shall be introduced, though
perhaps it had better remain untranslated:--"Le corps sacrè de Marie, le
trône de la chastité, le temple de la sagesse incarneé, l'organe du
Saint-Esprit, et le siége de la vertu du Très-Haut, n'a pas dû demeurer
dans le tombeau; et le triomphe de Marie seroit imperfait, s'il
s'accomplissoit sans sa sainte chair, qui a été comme la source de sa
gloire. Venez done, Vierges de Jésus Christ, chastes épouses du Sauveur
des ames, venez admirer les beautés de cette chair virginale, et
contempler trois merveilles que la sainte virginité opère sur elle. La
sainte virginité la préserve de corruption; et ainsi elle lui conserve
l'être: la sainte virginité lui attire une influence céleste, qui la fait
ressusciter avant le temps: ainsi elle lui rend la vie: la sainte
virginité répand sur elle de toutes parts une lumière divine; et ainsi
elle lui donne la gloire. C'est ce qu'il nous faut expliquer par ordre;"
and he _does_ explain these _trois merveilles_ in a manner well
calculated to satisfy every Papist, and to sicken every Protestant. Vide
_Serm. pour l'Assumpt. de la Vierge_, P. 2.

[23]: Quoted by M. Pascal, in the ninth of his "Lettres Provinciales."
Consult also "the Life of Melancthon," by the author of this work, chap.
iii.

[24]: Picart, Ceremonies et Coutumes de tous les Peuples da Monde, tom. i.

[25]: Dr. Johnson

[26]: Dr. Johnson.

[27]: Gen. xxxiii. 18, 19, Josh. xxiv. 32. This place was the metropolis of
the tribe of Ephraim. It was destroyed by Abimelech, but rebuilt by
Jeroboam, who made it the seat of the kingdom of Israel. It was afterward
called _Neapolis_; and Vespasian or Domitian having established a
colony there, it received the Roman appellation of _Flavia Cesarea_.
Herod gave it the name of _Sebaste_.

[28]: It stood two hundred years. JOSEPH. Antiq. lib. xiii. cap. 18.

[29]: JUST. MART. Apol. II.

[30]: "_Living water, ὑδως χων. It may surprise an English reader,
unacquainted with the Oriental idiom, that this woman, who appears
by the sequel to have totally misunderstood our Lord, did not ask what he
meant by _living water,_ but proceeded on the supposition that she
understood him perfectly; and only did not conceive how, without some
vessel for drawing and containing that water, he could provide her with it
to drink. The truth is, the expression is ambiguous. In the most familiar
acceptation, _living water_ meant no more than running water. In this
sense, the water of springs and rivers would be denominated _living_,
as that of cisterns and lakes would be called _dead_, because
motionless. Thus, Gen. xxvi. 19. we are told, that Isaac's servants digged
in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. It is _living
water,_ both in the Hebrew and the Greek, as marked on the margin of
our Bibles. Thus also Lev. xiv. 5. what is rendered _running water_
in the English Bible, is in both these languages _living water_. Nay,
this use was not unknown to the Latins, as may be proved from Virgil and
Ovid. In this passage, however, our Lord uses the expression in the more
sublime sense of divine teaching, but was mistaken by the woman as using
it in the popular acceptation." CAMPBELL'S Trans. of the Four Gospels,
vol. ii. p. 518, _notes_.

[31]: "It is no unusual practice with the Jews; we often have heard of it.
R. Jonathan and R. Jannai were sitting together; there came a certain man,
[Hebrew], and _kissed the feet_ of R. Jonathan." Again, "R. Meir stood
up, and Bar Chama, [Hebrew], _kissed his knees_, or _feet_. This
custom was also used by the Greeks and Romans, among their civilities and
in their salutations." GILL in loc. Consult also HARMER'S Observations,
vol. ii. chap. 6.

[32]: ROBINSON.

[33]: "There is in these denominations no inconsistency. By birth she was
of _Syrophenicia_, so the country about Tyre and Sidon was
denominated, by descent of _Canaan_, as most of the Tyrians and
Sidonians originally were; and by religion a _Greek_, according to
the Jewish manner of distinguishing between themselves and idolaters. Ever
since the Macedonian conquests, Greek became a common name for idolater,
or at least one uncircumcised, and was held equivalent to Gentile. Of this
we have many examples in Paul's epistles, and in the Acts. _Jews and
Greeks_, Ἑλληνες, are the same with _Jews and Gentiles_" CAMPBELL'S
Transl. of the Gospels in loc. _notes_.

[34]: The question has been often agitated, whether the possessions of the
New Testament are to be ascribed to demoniacal influence, or whether they
are so represented in conformity to the popular prejudices of the age,
being in reality nothing more than diseases. Surely a distinct existence
must be attributed to these, as evil spirits, when we consider their
number, the actions particularly ascribed to them, the conversation which
they held respecting themselves, the Son of God, and their own destiny,
the desires and passions they are represented as manifesting, and various
other circumstances of their history. Is it credible, that a mere
_disease_ should be said to have addressed Christ in such language as
the following: "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art
thou come hither to torment us before the time?" Comp. Matt. viii. 29, and
the succeeding verses.

[35]: Bishop Hall.

[36]: Bishop Hall

[37]: Doddridge on the Care of the Soul.

[38]: The whole narrative is contained in the eleventh chapter of John, and
this reference in the fifth verse.

[39]: Three hundred Roman pence, or denarii, amount to about _nine pounds
seven shillings and sixpence_ sterling.

[40]: Bishop Hall.

[41]: The farthing was a _quadrant_, or fourth part of a Roman _assis_, a
coin of similar value with the τεταρτχμοριον of the Greeks, or the fourth
part of an obolus (the least Athenian coin,) that is, two brass pieces.
These were the same with the _prutas_ of the Jews, two of which make a
_quardrant_.

[42]: Barrow's Works, vol. i. p. 457, fol.

[43]: Paley's Moral Philosophy, vol. i. p. 254--257.

[44]: Sermon on the Duty and Reward of Bounty to the Poor.

[45]: Acts xvi. "Philippi was a city of Macedonia near the confines of
Thrace. It lies near the sea, as it were at the head of the Archipelago.
It was so named from Philip, king' of Macedon, who repaired and enlarged
it; but its more ancient name was Dathos. It was also called Crenides from
its numerous springs, whence flowed the river mentioned Acts xvi. 13;
κρηνη, _kreenee_, in Greek meaning a spring. Julius Cæsar is said to have
planted there a Roman colony; and the neighbourhood of Philippi was the
scene of conflict between him and Pompey, and afterward between his
assassinators, Brutus and Cassius, and his partizans, Antony and
Octavius. It is said still to retain some monuments of its former
splendour, although it is much depopulated and sunk to decay." Bevan's
Life of the Apostle Paul, p. 367.

[46]: For information on the subject of proselytes, consult Dr. Gill's
"Dissertation concerning the Baptism of Jewish Proselytes," chap. i. in
vol. iii, of his Body of Divinity.

[47]: GREGORY'S Evidences, Doctrines, and Duties of the Christian Religion,
vol. ii. pp. 127, 128.

[48]: Bp. Taylor's Holy Living, Chap. i. sect. 3.

[49]: The purple die is called in I Maccab. iv. 23, _purple of the sea,_
or _sea purple_; it being the blood or juice of a turbinated shell-fish,
which the Jews call [Hebrew] _Chalson_; this they speak of as a
shell-fish. Hence those words 'Go and learn of the _Chalson_, for all the
while it grows, its shell grows with it:' and that purple was died with
the blood of it, appears from the following instances: _The best fruits in
the land_, Gen. xliii. 11, are interpreted, the things that are the most
famous in the world, as the Chalson, _&c,_ with whose blood, as the gloss
on the passage says, they die purple: and the purple died with this was
very valuable, and fetched a good price. The tribe of _Zebulon_ is
represented as complaining to God, that he had given to their brethren
fields and vineyards, to them mountains and hills; to their brethren
lands, to them seas and rivers: to which it is replied, All will stand in
need of thee because of Chalson; as it is said, Deut. xxxiii. 19 _They
shall suck of the abundance of the seas_; the gloss upon it, interpreting
the word _Chalson_ is, it comes out of the sea to the mountains, and with
its blood they die purple, which is sold at a very dear price.... It may
be further observed, that the fringes which the Jews wore upon their
garments, had on them a riband of blue or purple. Numb. xv. 38, for the
word there used is by the Septuagint rendered _the purple_, in Numb. iv.
7, and sometimes _hyacinth_; and the whole fringe was by the Jews called
[Hebrew], _purple_. Hence it is said, 'Does not every one that puts on
the purple (i.e. the fringes on his garments) in Jerusalem make men to
wonder? and a little after, the former saints or religious men, when they
had wove in it (the garment) three parts, they put on it [Hebrew],
_the purple_. And there were persons who traded in these things, and were
called, [Hebrew], _sellers of purple_, as here; that is, for the
_tzitzith_, or fringes for the borders of the garments, on which the
riband of blue or purple was put, as the gloss explains it. The Jews were
very curious about the colour and the dying of it, that it should be a
colour that would hold and not change, and that the riband be died on
purpose for that use. Maimonides gives rules for the dying of it, and they
were no less careful of whom they bought it; for they say that _the
purple_ was not to be bought, but of an approved person, or one that was
authorized for that purpose; and a scruple is raised by one, whether he
had done right or no in buying it of the family of a doctor deceased. Now,
since Lydia might be a Jewess, or, at least, as appears by what follows,
was a proselytess of the Jewish religion, this might he her business, to
sell the purple for their fringes, and, it may be, the fringes
themselves. GILL in loc.

[50]: Eighth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

[51]: Herod. Euterpe.

[52]: Tacit. de Moribus Germanoram, chap, xviii. xix.

[53]: Tacit. Hist.

[54]: Xenophon.

[55]: Plut. in Solone.

[56]: DIONYSUS HALICARN. ii. c. 25.

[57]: Cranz's Greenland.

[58]: Georgi's Description of the Russian Nations. Weber's Russia.

[59]: Consult Steller.

[60]: Weber and Georgi.

[61]: Clarke's Travels, part i. p. 35, 4to.

[62]: Thornton's Present State of Turkey, (1807) 4to. p. 376.

[63]: Collin's Voyages, 1807, p. 152.

[64]: Peyssonel II. p. 246.

[65]: Quart. Rev. May, 1811, p. 330.

[66]: Inquiry into the Origin of Ranks.

[67]: Voyage en Chine de l'Ambassade Hollandaise, vol. ii. p. 116, _et
seq_.

[68]: Barrow's China, p. 141, 541.

[69]: P. Du Halde, vol. i. 278.

[70]: P, Du Halde, vol. in. p. 211.

[71]: Barrow's China, p. 145.

[72]: Ibid. p. 518.

[73]: Edinburgh Rev. July, 1809, p. 428, 429.

[74]: It may be proper to observe, that the Hindoos never bury their dead;
but if they can afford it, always burn them. If they be too poor, or the
person be rendered unclean by some incurable disease, they are either
thrown into a river or left on the ground to be devoured.

[75]: A kind of celestial beings, which are fabled by the Hindoos.

[76]: it is not generally known, that women, in certain cases, burn
themselves with any part of their husbands' effects, as a substitute for
him; but on inquiry of my Pundit, whether this be now practised, he
assured me it was, and that he had himself seen many instances of it.

[77]: _Shraddha_, or _Pinda_, is an offering made to the manes of
any deceased person, on an appointed day after his or her death. It
consists of rice, and other article, often made into cakes, and is
continued annually for seven generations by all his or her descendants,
called _Sapinda_, and in some cases to fourteen generations by all
the descendants, who, when beyond the seventh generation, are called
_Sakoolya_.

[78]: The following law, from the same book, will show how uncleanness for
death or birth must be observed in the different casts: viz. If a person
die, or if a child be born, the _Sapinda_ shall be unclean ten days
for a _Brahmman_, twelve for a _Kshetra_, fifteen for a _Bysha_,
and one month for a _Soodra_: during which time they can make no
offering to their ancestors or the gods.

[79]: _Dospinda_ an inferior offering made to the manes.

[80]: This may happen if her own son be an infant, or very far off, or if
she have no son.

[81]: The Hindoos believe the metemphsychosis, and say that certain
diseases, as mahabhead, consumptions, and some others; also dreadful
accidents, such as being killed by a _Brahmman_; and great sin, such
as killing a Brahmman, are the fruit of sins committed in a former life.

[82]: A person with such diseases, accidents, or sins cannot have the rite
of burning his body performed till an offering of atonement has been made,
which qualifies him for having his obsequies performed; viz. _Dahon_
or burning (in which case the wife may die with him,) and the
_Shraddha_, or _Pinda_. This, however, does not gain such on one
admission into bliss, which is only done by the _Sahemaron_, or the
wife's dying with him.

[83]: Bap. Period. Accounts, vol. i. No. 6, p. 473-476.

[84]: Bapt. Period. Accounts, No. xvii. p. 324.

[85]: Cordiner's Description of Ceylon, vol. ii. p. 16.

[86]: History of Sumatra, 4to. 1811, p. 257, 381, 382.

[87]: Vogel, p. 649. Voyages des Hollandois, i. 349.

[88]: Turnbull's Voyage round the World, p. 6.

[89]: Turnbull, p. 11.

[90]: Malcolm's History of Persia, vol. ii. p. 333, 434, 455, 4to. 1815.

[91]: Sale's Koran, vol. ii. p. 79, _n_. and 472, _n_.

[92]: Malcolm's History of Persia, vol. i. p. 173, _n_.

[93]: Dampier, ii. p. 6. 86. Forster's Voyage, i. p. 212. ii. p. 71.
Meiners, vol. i. p. 80.

[94]: Arvieux, i. p. 229, 230. Meiners, vol. i. p. 96.

[95]: Lewis and Clark's Travels up the Missouri, p. 33, 34. 4to. 1814.

[96]: Seventh Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1811, p. 59.

[97]: Some Account of New Zealand, 1807, p. 13.

[98]: Maggil's Account of Tunis, p. 92.

[99]: Jackson's Account of the Empire of Morocco, 4to, 1809, p. 152.

[100]: Brown's Travels in Africa, &c. 2d ed. 4to. 1806, p. 335, 339.

[101]: Park's Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, Sic. 4to. 1799,
p. 39.

[102]: Durand's Voyage to Senegal, p. 104, 105.

[103]: Park's Travels, p. 157.

[104]: Park's Travels, p. 226, 267.

[105]: Park's Travels p. 347.

[106]: Barrow's Travels in Southern Africa, second edit. 1806, vol. i. p.
159.

[107]: Barrow's Travels, vol. i. p. 206.

[108]: Dampier, ii. p. 86.

[109]: Des Marchais, ii. p. 178.

[110]: Labat, ii. p. 299. Adanson, p. 32. Oldendorp, i. p. 376.

[111]: Meiners, i. p. 52--54.

[112]: Cavazzi, ii. p. 123. Meiners, i. p. 59, 69. See also Rees's
Cyclopædie, and Encyclop. Brit, under the word's _Ansiko,
Anthropophagi, Batta_. Marsden's Hist, of Sumatra, 3d ed. 4to. 1811, p.
390-395, & 463.

[113]: This subject has been already more than once remarked upon this
work. See vol. i. p. 21 and 255.

[114]: Paley's Mor. Philos. vol. i. p. 3. ch. vi. & vii.

[115]: Plutarch in Rom. I. p. 123. Livy II. p. 13, 40.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Female Scripture Biography, Volume II - Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home