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would be past forever. It is not probable, indeed, that Mary, any more than the apostles, had foreseen that Christ, before the expiration of that very week, would suffer the death of crucifixion. It was the ardour of her affectionate reverence for her Lord, which prompted her to do what she had done. But she had done what was right in itself; and the overruling providence of God had so ordered it, that this honourable anointing of the sacred person of the Messiah, should take place immediately before he was cut off"She hath done, (said he) what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying." As if he had said "Others are about to insult and despise me, and to put me to an infamous and painful death; but she hath done what she could for my gratification, and to show me honour and respect; and let her not be blamed for thisThe anointing of the dead is indeed attended with considerable expense. But would you grudge such an expense to my dead body? My enemies would not permit Mary to do what has occasioned this cost, after my decease; and God hath therefore put it into her heart to anoint me aforehand." Nor did the Saviour content himself, with simply justifying this noble and affectionate expression of Mary's attachment and devotedness. He went farther in his commendation of it than he ever went so far as we are told-in approving any other act of kindness or respect, that was shown to his person. He declared that wherever his Gospel should be preached in the whole world, and to the end of time, this deed of Mary should be told, as an honourable memorial of her. Accordingly we find, in fact, that although the action is apparently not of the greatest importance, in the history of our Lord, and very many of his own acts, as St. John informs us, are not recorded at all, yet this deed of Mary is circumstantially narrated
by three of the evangelists. And it is a delightful thought, that after the lapse of near twenty centuries, and at the distance of half the circumference of the globe from the place where the prediction was uttered, I am, at this moment, contributing my mite, to its verification.
Do we not learn from all this, that when, from real and fervent love to Christ, we do what we can to serve and glorify him, he marks it with the most peculiar approbation, and will confer on it the most distinguished reward?
"She hath done what she could" It seems to be a legitimate inference from these words, a general proposition which they will fairly support, that Christian women ought to do all that they can, to manifest their love to the Saviour, and their desire to do him honour.For who will say that others ought not to do as Mary did? Few indeed, it is believed, except avowed infidels, will deny the truth of this doctrine, when proposed in the abstract form in which it is here stated. Yet when we come to examine it in detail, and to apply it to practice, we find that opinion is by no means uniform, even among professing Christians.
We propose, therefore, in the sequel of this discourse, to endeavour to ascertain and state, what Christian women may do; and what they may not do; in manifesting their love to Christ, and their desire to do him honour.
It may be proper just to remark, in a preliminary way, that genuine love to Christ, and a rational desire to do him honour, will always manifest themselves in earnest endeavours to render the Redeemer precious in the estimation of others.In using all proper means to propagate the knowledge of his glorious person; of his excellent doctrines; of his great salvation; of the obligations which sinners owe him; and of the absolute necessity of their embracing for themselves his
offered mercy, as the only sure ground of their hope for eternity. It is by thus doing that we comply with our Lord's own directions on this subject. "Herein (said he) is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples-If ye love me, keep my commandments-Feed my sheep, feed my lambs-Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." Let it be remembered then, that our Saviour is identified with his religion; and that to love, to promote, or to adorn the religion of Christ, is to express love to himself, and to honour him before the world. Our representations and language, in the discussion before us, will be in conformity with this remark.
In prosecuting our purpose, as already stated, we may find it advantageous to consider
I. The negative part of our subject; namely, what Christian women may not do, in manifesting their love to their Saviour, and their desire to do him honour.
It is plainly intimated in the text, that Mary's efforts to honour her Redeemer, were limited. When it is said, "she hath done what she could," the implication is obvious, that she would have done more, if more had been in her power-if propriety would have permitted, or if means and opportunity had not been wanting. By what circumstances and considerations, then, were her efforts limited? In the first place, I answer-by the bounds prescribed to her by her sex itself. Happy is that woman who always finds that she cannot do, what it is improper for her to do as a woman; whose whole mind and feelings are so set against whatever misbecomes her, that she experiences a fortunate incapacity to attempt it. The Saviour, to whom Christian women are to manifest their attachment, is their Creator and Lord. He framed them with that shrinking delicacy of temperament and feeling, which
is one of their best distinctions, which renders them amiable, and which, while it unfits them for command, and subjects them, in a degree, to the rougher sex, gives them, at the same time, an appropriate and very powerful influence. It was therefore not to be expected, that he who formed them with this natural and retiring modesty, and under a qualified subjection to man, would ever require, or even permit them, to do any thing in violation of his own order; and least of all that he would permit this, in his own immediate service. Hence I apprehend it is, that we find in the New Testament, such texts as the following-1 Tim. ii. 11-14. "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Again, 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35. "Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
The same apostle, who, under the unerring guidance of Divine inspiration, delivered these plain and positive injunctions, has also said— 1 Cor. xi. 5. "Every woman that prayeth, or prophesieth, with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven." Here, unquestionably, is a direction how women ought to appear and act, when speaking in a publick Christian assembly; for the connexion of the passage shows clearly, that it is of such an assembly that the apostle is here treating. This latter direction, therefore, has the appearance of militating pointedly with the
texts before recited; and as we know that inspired truth can never contradict, or be inconsistent with itself, it becomes a serious question-how is this apparent inconsistency to be cleared up? We answer, that in our apprehension it can be done in one way only; but in that way, easily and perfectly. Let it be carefully observed then, that during the period of miraculous endowments, under the Gospel dispensation, as well as under that of Moses, the gift of supernatural inspiration was sometimes conferred on women, as well as on men. We are told expressly, that Philip the Evangelist" had four daughters, virgins, that did prophesy." Now, in the last quoted passage, the apostle is plainly speaking of women under supernatural inspiration; but in the other passages, of women under no such inspiration. It appears, therefore, that by a miraculous gift, the great Head and lawgiver of the church, took the case of the women on whom he bestowed that gift out of the general rule; and authorized them to utter, even in publick assemblies, what his own Spirit dictated at the time. But on all other and ordinary occasionsto which our first quotations referthey are absolutely required not to speak, but to keep silence in the churches. It is also worthy of special remark, that even when divinely authorized to speak, they were still commanded to be covered; as indicative of a delicate reserve, and as recognising a state of subjection. The explanation here given, as it seems indispensable to the reconciling of one part of Holy Writ with another, so it will be found to be countenanced and warranted, by the context of the passages we have recited. But as we assuredly believe, that miraculous inspiration has long since ceased in the Christian church, no such excepted cases as those we have mentioned, can any longer occur. The general -rule, therefore, laid down by the
Spirit of Christ, speaking by the mouth of St. Paul, is now in force, without an exception. Women are, in no case, to be publick preachers and teachers, in assemblies promiscuously composed of the two sexes. This is explicitly and pointedly prohibited. Here, then, is one thing that Christian women may not do, in their endeavours to promote and extend the religion of Christ. And I am well assured, that in making the statement you have just heard, all that I have said, accords as fully with the views, wishes and feelings of that Society at whose request, and in whose behalf, I now speak, as it does with the spirit and injunctions of Sacred Scripture.
2. The endeavours of Christian women to promote and extend the religion of Christ, must be limited by a due regard to the means they may have at command, and the opportunities which may offer for the purpose. This indeed is a rule of duty which, taken at large, is as applicable to men as to women.-The efforts of all to do good, must be bounded by their means and opportunities. But there is a special application of the rule to the female sex, which ought to be distinctly noticed and carefully regarded. Their means of contributing both to publick and private charities, must frequently be derived from the other sex. What they give must often come from the purses of their husbands, fathers, brothers, or other near kindred, or particular friends; and they certainly, in all such cases, ought to be consulted, and to determine on the amount of charity which, in any given instance, it is proper to bestow-unless indeed a general discretion has been previously allowed.
Sometimes, we know, the case is otherwise. In a number of instances, women have property of their own, entirely free from any foreign control; and then their duty, as to charitable donations, is clearly under no other restriction, than that which
is common to them with men; and this seems to have been the case with her to whom our text refers. We are not, indeed, expressly told that such was the fact. But the circumstances which are narrated appear to indicate, that what she did was unlooked for by the whole company, except by Him who knew all things that neither Lazarus nor Martha was acquainted with their sister's design, till it was executed. If this were so, the expensive purchase which Mary had made, was probably made from her separate and independent part of the family estate; or from her own earnings. Be this as it might, it is an obvious duty for every Christian woman to submit to her relatives, implicitly, the disposition of their own property; after laying before them, as she lawfully may, the considerations and motives which influence her own mind in favour of a contemplated charity.
I cannot, however, forbear to mention here, that it is a noble expression of Christian benevolence, which is now witnessed in various parts of our country, where pious and publick spirited females cheerfully sacrifice superfluous expense in dress or equipage; and others as cheerfully labour with their own hands, in forming garments, or in making for sale to the rich, certain articles of taste or ornament; and both classes put the proceeds of the whole into the treasury of the Lord; -to extend, in various ways, the inestimable blessings of his precious Gospel. These sacrifices and labours, when kept within any moderate bounds, are by no means to be considered as violations of female duty; and those who endeavour harshly to restrain them, or to discourage them by ridicule and banter, act a part, to which we give only its proper character, when we say that it is, at once, unmanly, base and wicked.
On the circumstance, that the opportunities which women have to do
good are more circumscribed than those of men, we only remark in general, that as we can easily see that the propriety of what was done by her to whom the text relates, depended much, not only on the known character of the Saviour, but on what she did being done at the house of a friend, and in the presence of her own family and of many other witnesses; so Christian women now, ought to be sensible, that they can seldom be required to expose their persons to insult, or their characters to unfavourable imputations, by any enterprises or errands of benevolence; or by any exertions to propagate the Gospel. I will not indeed say, that there may not be some extraordinary occasions, on which it may be their duty to put both safety and reputation at considerable risk. But all such cases must be clearly and strongly marked. Duty, in general, will consist, in submitting to the allotments of God's providence, in all the circumstances of our character and state; and not in disregarding his order, by an indiscreet attempt to render services, beyond the limits which he has prescribed.
Let us now consider, more directly,
II. What Christian women may properly do, as a manifestation of their love to their Saviour, or for the promotion or extension of his religion.
Here we might say, summarily and at once, that women may and ought to do, in the service of their Saviour, whatever is not prohibited in the exceptions and restrictions that have been specified-That, with these exceptions and restrictions, their moral and religious duties, are, in all respects, the same as those of men: and this is unquestionably the general truth, in regard to this subject, which ought to be remembered and acted on. But questions sometimes arise, as to the particular acts that ought, or that ought not, to be considered as
exceptions and restrictions: and it may also be of use a little to explain and inculcate, as well as to enumerate, female duties. We therefore proceed to state,
First, that Christian women should be very sensible that the religion of their Saviour is greatly adorned, and sometimes directly promoted, by an exemplary discharge of all the customary duties of life; and by sustaining all its relations in the most praiseworthy manner. It is creditable, in a very high degree, to evangelical piety, when the world itself is constrained to confess, that its professors are more exact and active in fulfilling all social and relative obligations, and are more amiable and exemplary in their whole deportment, than those who are destitute of religion. Perhaps it belongs to wemen to prove the truth of this observation, more frequently and strikingly than can be done by men. The apostle Peter says "If any obey not the word, they may, without the word, be won by the conversation of the wives, when they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear." It should, therefore, never be forgotten, that Christian women ought practically to demonstrate, that the influence of their religion has rendered them better wives, better mothers, better daughters, better sisters, better neighbours, and better friends, than they would otherwise be; and more active, punctual, conscientious, and persevering, in the discharge of all the ordinary duties of life-That although they cannot sacrifice their allegiance to their Saviour to any worldly consideration whatsoever, yet only allow them to maintain that allegiance unimpaired, and you shall find them ready to make any other sacrifice to which they may be called.
2. It is one of the peculiar and most important duties of Christian women, to instruct and pray with children, and to endeavour to form
their tender minds to piety, intelligence, and virtue. Here is a wide and fertile field for their appropriate labours, in the service and for the honour of their Redeemer. The earliest years of children are usually and necessarily past, almost wholly, under female care; and it is much earlier than is commonly supposed, that their minds and moral feelings take a cast, which is often as lasting as life. Of what inconceivable importance is it then, that this first moulding of the mind and heart should be favourably made; and that mothers should know and remember that if so made, it must commonly be made by them. They have the capacity of mingling, as it were, their own souls with the souls of their children-of breathing into them, with a maternal tenderness and sympathy for which there can be no substitute, those sentiments of filial reverence for their Creator and Redeemer, and of veneration for all that is holy and lovely in the religion of the Gospel, which, under the Divine blessing, may become; and do often in fact become, the germs of early and vital godliness.
By pious mothers, chiefly, must children be taught to use, and to use properly, those little forms of devotion, in which they may lisp their petitions and thanksgivings to God; and those hymns and spiritual songs, by which "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," the Saviour's praise is "perfected;" and to become familiar with those Scripture narratives, with which nearly the whole of sacred story is connected; and by which the fundamental doctrines of revealed truth may be taught and inculcated. By the prayers of pious mothers, must their dear offspring be commended to the providential care and effectual grace of God, with that frequency and fervour, to which the most favourable answer may reasonably be expected; and to which such an answer has often been most remarkably returned.