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Luke xviii. 27. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, ivho also bewailed and lamented him. It is of the blessed Saviour that the Evangelist is here speaking. With a calmness and serenity worthy of the Son of God, with a resolution fixed as the eternal purposes of heaven, the Redeemer of the world was now in silence advancing to Calvary in the midst of the immense crowd assembled to witness his death. Reproaches, execrations, and curses, on all sides met his ears. The artifices of the scribes and pharisees had excited the people to the greatest fury against him. They were filled with a malignant joy at his sufferings : and, not satisfied with his exhaustion from his agony in the garden, from the insults and cruelties heaped upon him in the hall of Caiaphas, in the court of Herod, and at the bar of Pilate, they panted to behold him extended upon the engine of torture.
LIFE OF CHRI3T. 343 In the midst of this sanguinary and ferocious crowd, one group is found which " is afflicted in all the afflictions of Jesus." It consists of some pious women, who, full of admiration for his excellences, and of gratitude for his benefits, of which they had been the partakers and the witnesses, follow this innocent victim to the altar, and offer him all they can, the tribute of their affections and their tears.
St. Luke does not mention their names ; but his silence is in part supplied by St. Matthew, who informs us, that among them were Mary Magdalene ; Mary, the mother of James and Joses; and the wife of Zebedee, to whom John and Mark give the name of Salome ; all three worthy to be distinctly mentioned, as constituting part of this pious company. Let us fix our eyes upon this interesting group. These females give the most important instructions to all Christians, and especially to their own sex, of which they are at once the ornament and the model. They teach us that it is our duty to follow Jesus with faith* with love, and with courage. 1. A belief in Jesus as the " sent of God," a faith in him as the long-expected Messiah, induced these pious women to attend him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and now caused them to trace his bloody footsteps upon Calvary. This faith is efficacious and permanent : incapable of being destroyed by those melancholy scenes passing before them, which shock the confidence of so many who once " trusted in Jesus, that it was he who would redeem Israel." It is thus permanent, because it is enlightened, being founded not on a blind prejudice or a chimerical hope, but on the solid instructions of the Saviour, and an experience of his grace and power. " Seated at the feet of Jesus," they had listened attentively
344 SERMO LV1I. to his doctrines, had seen their glory and excellence, had felt their transforming influence. They therefore desire to follow him to the cross, that they may lose none of his lessons ; that their piety may be animated, their hopes fortified, their faith confirmed. They behold, it is true, Jesus betrayed, accused of blasphemy and sedition, condemned to the most
infamous punishment, and led to the cross amidst the maledictions of the priests, the scoffs of the great, and the reproaches of the people. But all this is insufficient to shake their faith, for they arc able to look beyond this exterior of humiliation and suffering to that majesty, that " brightness of the Father's glory," which is obscured for a little time, * hat it may re-appear with greater lustre. Instructed in the scriptures by him who is the subject and the end of them, they knew that "Christ was to suffer these things, and thus to enter into his glory." They >ee in these sufferings the fulfilment of those prophecies which predicted them, and in his death that perfect sacrifice of which all those under the law w<>re but types and shadows. They have "known .ind believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Jiving God;" and this faith, founded on a deep and enlightened conviction, nothing can tear from them. Do you not desire, my brethren, a faith like this, which can uphold you under the most mysterious aspeei of Providence, which will make you cleave io Jesus, and follow him through evil as well as good report ? Like Mary, " seat yourselves at the feet of Christ," that you may learn and love the truth, and then you will persevere in it. 2. These holy women teach us to follow Jesus "it]} lovk. Ah! with what attachment to him were
LIFE OF CHRIST. 345 they not animated ! If the least susceptible heart is touched and moved at merely reading the life and doctrine of the Saviour, whose precepts and whose conduct displayed only charity and love, judge what impression Jesus Christ himself, speaking and act-
ing, must have made upon these pious females. A Master who opens his mouth only to pronounce words of peace, of hope, of consolation ; who " went about doing good j" who presents truth only that he may lead his hearers to happiness : if there be a spark of feeling in the heart, must not such an object excite it to a flame that nothing can quench? Such was the effect produced upon these holy women. That lively sensibility with which this sex is endowed, was purified, was ennobled, was augmented, while directed entirely towards religion and its Author, and produced a complete and unalterable devotedness of soul. Touched with the excellence of his heavenly doctrine, with its inseparable connexion with our dearest interests, with the infinite blessings resulting from an intercourse with the Saviour, they open to him their hearts, and with them all the resources which the state of humiliation thathe condescended to assume, rendered necessary. He is poor, and they supply his wants; hungry, and they give him to eat; thirsty, and they give him drink ; he has not where to lay his head, and their houses are opened to him ; they leave Galilee, their country, to " minister unto him :" and, having thus displayed towards him during life those attentions which an active and warm sensibility inspires, they come to his cross to show their sympathy and their grief. Mary Magdalene, and you who divide with her the last duties of affection, you " have loved much." For this love you have been recompensed vol. ii. 44
346 SERMO LVII. by the Saviour; and in the perfection of this sentiment in the heavenly world, you now find your felicity !
3. These holy women display an exalted courage and magnanimity. Behold the apostles of Jesus Christ, the companions of his labours, the witnesses of his miracles and his virtues, and who, from the habitual and intimate commerce in which they lived with him, ought to have acquired the most inviolable devotedness and the most heroic courage : how far inferior are they to these pious females ! They are terrified, they fly, and abandon Jesus. One single one dares to follow him, at a distance, to the house of Caiaphas ; but it is only to deny him, to blush at being called his disciple ! and this is the same one who had declared that he would follow him to prison and to death ! What Peter promised, without fulfilling his promise, Mary and her companions executed ! And yet, how many temptations had they to combat ! how many obstacles to surmount more than the apostles ! Besides the dangers that were common to them with all who showed themselves attached to Jesus Christ ; besides the consequences that the flock might apprehend when the shepherd was so cruelly treated; besides this, how many obstacles were placed before them by the weakness and timidity of their sex, and by the maxims of the world ! What rashness ! to expose themselves thus to an unbridled soldiery and a furious populace ! What indecorum ! to display before a whole nation their attachment to a man condemned by the voice of the people, as well as by the sentence of the governor, and who is now about to terminate his life by an infamous death ! What fanaticism ! to divide the ignominy of the cross by the tears they would be
LIFE OF CHRIST. 347 seen to shed ; and to attach this ignominy to those connected with them! These would be specious reasonings ; nay, they would be delicate and strong
temptations to ordinary souls : but Mary and her companions are not ordinary souls. Animated by that faith which subdues the world, and by that love which casts out fear, they overcome all these obstacles, they brave all these dangers. They have too profoundly impressed upon their hearts that sublime lesson of their Master, to fear not them that can only kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul, not to prefer the reproach of Christ before all the blessings of earth ; and these hearts, which were entirely devoted to their divine Master during his life, resolve to display their devotion to him till his last sigh, and at the foot of the cross, and thus show themselves faithful even unto death. Christians, these models of faith, of love, of courage, interest you all ; and in the number of those who hear me, there is not a single person who cannot, and who ought not, to draw from them both objects and motives of imitation. I wish, however, to excite in those of the same sex that salutary emulation, which the example of these holy women is so well calculated to inspire. The zeal which the Saviour employed for the instruction and salvation of this portion of our race ; the care which the Evangelists have taken to transmit to us circumstances relative to this part of his ministry; his conversations with the Samaritan woman, with Magdalen, with the sisters of Lazarus, with many others, which have been preserved to us; these and similar considerations oblige us sometimes to direct our addresses to a class of our hearers, not only equally precious; in (he eyes of God, equally destined to im-
348 SERMO LVII. mortality, but whose influence on society is also so great. Let me then address myself to persons of
that sex whom the Saviour chose to hear some of the last accents of his voice. Let me present them with some general considerations to imitate the touching example of these holy women, and, like them, to devote themselves to God ; and to seek that degree of elevation to which religion conducts a soul that directs to it all its energy and sensibility. 1. Let me then urge you by the superior advantages you possess for the cultivation of piety. With how many temptations do men meet, from which you are exempted ! In mingling with the world, a thousand snares are spread before them, to which you are strangers. Society has placed around you numberless mounds and barriers, which do not encompass them. And will you not improve these salutary restraints? Ought they not to have a tendency to prevent you from wandering from your God and Saviour ? Besides, the Creator has endowed you with greater warmth of feeling and sensibility of heart ; qualities so favourable to the reception and cultivation of religious impressions. And can you then hear unmoved, of the love of your God, and the grace of your Redeemer ? Can you waste all the tenderness of your hearts on earthly objects, and neglect infinite excellence and perfection ? It has been eloquently and truly said, that " if Christianity were compelled to flee from the mansions of the great, the academies of philosophers, the halls of legislators, or the throng of busy men, we should find her last and purest retreat with woman at the fireside ; her last altar would be the female heart ; her last audience would be the children gathered round the knees of a mother? her last sacrifice, the
LIFE OF CHRIST. 349
secret prayer escaping in silence from her lips, and Jieard perhaps only at the throne of God." 2. Let me urge you to follow Jesus, and devote yourselves to God, from the consideration that in doing so, you will be imitating the example of thousands and tens of thousands of your sex, whose piety caused them to be beloved and useful upon earth, and who now, surrounding the throne of God, will rejoice if you acquire their temper, and prepare to mingle in their society. This discourse has already presented to you examples drawn from the gospels. I may add to what I have said, that even the death of our Lord did not bound the expressions of the love of these pious women, since they came to the tomb to embalm his sacred body. Their piety was attested and rewarded by our Lord, when he made them the first witnesses of his resurrection, and, as one expresses it, " the apostles, even to the apostles." And if we descend from the apostolic age to those which immediately succeeded, how many thousand females could we show you, displaying the fervour of their devotion, by exulting on the rack and in the flames ; and, notwithstanding the delicacy of their sex, and the timorousness of their nature, rising superior to all the cruelties which men or devils could invent ! And in no single period which has intervened between those primitive times and the present, have there been wanting numberless bright examples, in every situation in life, of illustrious females who shone as lights in the world. These have now received their crown ; they behold that Jesus whom they loved, and they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But they still extend their sensibilities and their views to this world, and they rejoice at the conversion of every sinner. Think,
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then, with what a crowd of witnesses you are surrounded. They invite you to be followers of them, as they have been followers of Christ, and to unite yourselves with those among us (and, blessed be God, there are such) who live as though they must live for ever ; that at last you may all join in one common choir, and through eternity swell the hymn of praise to the blessed Saviour. 3. Let me urge you to serious piety, from a consideration of your obligations to Christ and his religion. I do not here speak of those great obligations that are common to you and the other sex, an offer of forgiveness, of holiness, and of heaven. But I ask, what has given your sex that respectability which it possesses in Christian lands ? Look round the world ; you will in vain endeavour to find a single nation, unenlightened by the gospel, where women are not considered either as slaves of passion, or beasts of labour. It is the gospel alone, which, by teaching our common origin, our common redemption, and our common destination, has elevated you to the rank of rational beings, and fellow-heirs of eternity. Shall not the Saviour, then, and his gospel, to which you are so much indebted, have your gratitude and your love ? 4. Let me urge you from a consideration of your several relations in life. Are you a mother ? Look at your children, and let a regard to them urge you to serious piety. Your influence over them not only commences sooner than that of the father, but also endures for a longer time. There is no moment in which the son wishes to shake off the authority of a mother. The great majority of the pious unite in declaring that their first serious impressions were the result of maternal advice and instruction. Over your
LIFE OF CHRIST. 351 daughters your influence is still more extensive than over your sons. You are their chief confidant, guide, and example. They will mould themselves upon your manners, and adopt your sentiments ; and though you cannot renew their hearts, yet it depends more upon you than upon the whole world besides, whether hereafter they shall be blessings or curses to the community, and, in the unseen world, angels or fiends. For their sakes, then, follow Jesus. Do not think it sufficient properly to instruct them, while your example does not concur with your instructions. o, no, miserable mother ! you may give your offspring the most wise and pious instructions ; but you have no reason to hope they will be blest while your behaviour proves that you scorn and despise them. In vain do you represent religion as the chief concern, if your conduct proves that the world, in some of its forms of fascination, is the object of your idolatry, rhey will probably imitate your example; they will be the heirs of sorrow, but the blood of their souls will be required at your hands. Ave you & tvife ? If your husband be pious, you < ontinually wound his heart. Charms, and accomplishments, and external morality, and tender love to him, and the discharge of all domestic duties, cannot render him happy, while he knows that you are unprepared for the eternal world ; and that if death .-hould surprise you in your present condition, there must be an everlasting separation. Is he unholy ? Your piety may save him. Touched by your example, and having blessings drawn upon him by your prayers, he may by you be plucked from everlasting ruin. Many a glorified spirit in heaven, many a happy believer upon earth, recalls, with adoring grati-
352 SERMO LVII. tude to God, the conduct of the pious wife that awakened his attention to religion, and led him to the Redeemer. Are you a daughter? Ah! if your parents are indeed pious, you know not the agonies of their hearts, while they look upon you, whom nature and grace have taught them to love as themselves, and discern in you no evidences of real religion. Their closet witnesses their tears before God for you. In their familiar intercourse they express the sorrows of their heart for you. Turn unto the Lord, if you would give them joys greater than those that all your tenderness towards them has been able to bestow. And if, unhappily, they should be unholy, (wo, wo to such parents, who, neglecting their own souls, are ruining those of their children !) concur not with them in their conduct. Seek from God true religion. You may be the instruments of the spiritual and everlasting life of your parents. If they have hitherto neglected their Saviour, they may be affected by the example of your youthful piety, and you may be the means of plucking a careless father, or ungodly mother, from everlasting agonies. Look in like manner over all the other relations you sustain, as friend, companion, acquaintance ; and you will find them all present motives to piety. From these considerations, then, as well as from the deeply solemn remembrance that they are sinful creatures, who need a pardon ; accountable creatures, who must be judged ; beings destined to immortal joy or misery ; let all females follow Jesus, not with tears, (he no longer needs them,) but with
gratitude, love, trust, and obedience.
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