Female Scripture Biography, Volume II / Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women

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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. 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

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

Essay

Female Scripture Biography.

Vol. II

The Virgin Mary.

Chapter I.

Section I.

“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.

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