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THE author did hope, that this volume would have embraced the Varieties of Female
The author gratefully acknowledges, that he has not appealed in vain to the Mothers
NEWINGTON GREEN, 1836.
MARTHA AND THE MARTHAS.
It would be easy (and as useless as easy) to de
THE key to the second volume of the Lady's Closet Library, must be taken from the fact, that pious females, who have not exactly the spirit of Mary, are usually ranked with Martha. Indeed, they regard themselves as Marthas, and are somewhat doubtful whether they have really "chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from" them. It is, therefore, because these who are not very like Mary, class themselves, and are classed, with Martha, that I bring under her name, "The Varieties of Female Piety." Many of its varie-pict these faults and defects. It would be still easier, and more useless, to condemn them. They can only be reproved with effect, by what can cure them effectually. Nothing but the remedy provided for them in the gospel, can bring home their sin or folly to the heart. It is only when we see, from the designs of grace, and from the character of glory, what we ought to be, and what we may be, that we acknowledge, even to ourselves, what we really are. It is when confronted with the image of Christ and the image of the Heavenly, that we become alarmed at the "earthy” features of our own image. No light, but the light of eternity, can expose our faults fully, and yet set us to correct them willingly, at the same time. We may yield partly to human influence; but nothing less than Divine authority, and that only in its paternal spirit and eternal sanctions, can sway our inclinations.
ties are almost as unlike her, as she was unlike her sister but all of them, so far as they are occasioned by faults or defects of character and temper, require the same treatment which Martha received from Christ;-tenderness enough to prevent despair, and reproof enough to check presumption.
Martha's faults are not the only faults, which the Saviour rebukes and chastises, in all whom He loves. His object is, to have all his real disciples conformed to His own image; and, therefore he contends against whatever, in each of them, is most unlike himself. Whatever had been the besetting sin of Martha's character or spirit, his rebuke,—“ Martha, Martha!" would have been equally pointed and unequivocal. It applies, therefore, to all those varieties of piety which, like hers, leave some doubt upon all minds (the possessors not excepted) of its present reality, or of Convinced of all this by my own experience, its future issue. The rebuke bears directly, not and from the contact or correspondence into which indeed upon all imperfection, but upon all impru-my "GUIDES" have brought me with so many of dence and oversight, negligence and self-will. the varieties of male and female piety, at home Accordingly, it is applied to themselves, by many and abroad, I have not confronted the peculiaripious females, who never went Martha's lengths in ties of men and women "professing godliness;" ill-temper. There are meek and amiable women, nor contrasted the Marthas with the Marys; nor who feel instinctively that they have more of Mar- even compared the sexes: but have brought all tha, than of Mary, in their character. Some of the varieties of piety, to the one standard by them, although not "cumbered about much serv- which they will all be tried at last,—the image of ing," are yet so cumbered about something, that Christ! And where there is not conscience their hearts are almost divided between God and enough to take lessons there-I certainly do not the world. Others, again, although not "careful include such characters amongst the varieties of and troubled about many things," are yet so ab- Christians. They vary too little from the world, sorbed with some earthly good or evil in their lot, to have any identity with the Church. In a word, that it is very doubtful to themselves, whether I have nothing to say, in this volume, to any female
heavenly things have any real place in their affections. Others, again, have so much to contend with, either from temperament or condition, from trials or temptations, that they are almost the creatures of circumstances, and vary in their feelings with all the variations of their health or prosperity. They are
"Every thing by turns,
who is quite satisfied with her own piety, either as | Martha was as much delighted, on this occasion, to its kind or degree. It is intended to encourage to take her sister to the feet of Jesus, to hear his those who "stand in doubt" of themselves, and "gracious words," as she was once offended with to "stir up, by way of remembrance," the "pure her for sitting at his feet. minds" of those who are doubted by others.
All this is highly creditable to her; and it exSuch being my design, I have said little about plains, in some degree, why "Jesus loved Martha," Martha. I entertain no doubt of her piety. She as well as Mary. Still, I dare not take her piety presents, in her honest, although bustling, regard out of the cloud, which the Saviour's rebuke,— to the Saviour, a noble contrast to her nation, and "Martha, Martha !"-left upon it. That rebuke to the mass of her sex. She was even more was as much intended for warning, as His conprompt than Mary, to meet Christ, when he came tinued love was for encouragement. It would, to Bethany on the death of Lazarus; and she therefore, be as unwise to make the star of His was the first to whisper cautiously to her, (whom love disperse the cloud of His reproof entirely, as she had once, perhaps often, scolded,) "The it would be unfair to make the cloud eclipse the Master is come, and calleth for thee." He had star, at all. They are equally over Martha's called for Mary; but he had not sent Martha head, in her history; and, therefore, I dare not with his message. She, however, would not trust separate nor soften them: but must leave the the tenderness or the prudence of any one, to star in all its brightness, and the cloud in all its break the good news to her weeping sister; but, darkness, to make their own impression upon the moment she saw that they were good news, every female, who is conscious of any thing which away she ran, to prepare Mary for them, and to deserves the "Martha, Martha !" of the Saviour bring her to Jesus without fear or surprise. Thus she loves and desires to be loved by.
VARIETIES, FROM TIMIDITY.
You are familiar with the question-"Who hath despised the day of small things?" It has been transferred, not unfairly nor unaptly, from the foundation-stone of the second temple in Jerusalem, to the first symptoms and marks of that "good work" of grace in the heart, by which we become living Temples, or "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Now, whoever else may despise these incipient signs of conversion, God does not. Even when there is nothing but a penitent spirit, and whilst both joy and peace are unknown, we are warranted to say with David, "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." This is pleasing! But the Spirit of inspiration led Isaiah beyond David, in thus condescending to the "low estate" of commencing piety. Isaiah was warranted to class the trembling amongst the "contrite ones," even when God, as the High and Lofty one, who inhabiteth Eternity, was describing the hearts to which He would look with compassion, and in which He would dwell with complacency. Isaiah lvii. 15. Neither the temple on earth, nor even the temple of heaven, although the former resounded with Hosannas, and the latter with Hallelujahs, could so engross the attention of Jehovah, as to divert it from true penitents, even whilst their prayers were only as the sighing of prisoners, or but groanings which cannot be uttered. "Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; where is the house ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." This is condescension! Who would despise the day of small things, after thus seeing how God delights to honor it? In the presence of this fact, you can see, at a glance, why there is joy amongst the angels of God in heaven, over one sinner that repenteth. God himself rejoiceth over them "with singing." It is not in this connection, that even a stern theorist, who calls nothing faith, but assurance; and nothing conversion, but the witness of the Spirit, would dare to say,-"the devils believe, and tremble." They do tremble at the word of God; but not in a broken or contrite spirit. It is not a sense of their own guilt or vileness, which awes them. They do not despair because they feel unworthy of hope. There is no humility in their horror, and no contrition in their terror: whereas, when you tremble most at the word of God, it is because you feel yourself worthy of its threatenings, and unworthy of its great and precious promises. And it would not be even a "day of small things" in your experience, if you had
never trembled at the word of God! There is no "good thing in the heart toward the Lord," until there is some serious fear of his anger, and a real sense of being utterly unworthy of his mercy.
It is, indeed, a great thing, to get rid of the "fear which hath torment." Nothing is more desirable than that it should be "cast out." It is never cast out, however, by casting away a sense of unworthiness, nor by trying to think lightly of the Divine anger. It is "perfect love" that casteth out tormenting fear, 1 John iv. 14; and love never can be perfected or improved, if you despise the day of small things. Your love to the Saviour is not insincere, because you have many fears. It would, indeed, be very questionable, and equivocal too, if you had no fears. "No strange thing hath befallen you," if, as yet, you have more fears than hopes.
This is, however, a critical state to be in. It is not uncommon, certainly; but still, it is dangerous. Some have "done despite to the Spirit of grace," by despising the day of small things, as too small to be worth much immediate notice; and others, by despairing, because it was so unlikely to lead on to a day of great things. Against both these extremes, I would put you upon your guard. They are equally perilous, and have proved fatal to many. Perhaps, you know some one in your own circle, a sister, or brother, or friend, who is in danger of quenching the Spirit, because not aware of the varieties of manner and degree, in which the Spirit begins the good work of grace. You may have been at a loss, how to answer the objections of some one, whose occasional feelings seem to you, "tokens for good," whilst to him, or her, they appear too slight and evanescent to deserve attention. Would it not be both wise and kind, to bring the following appeal under the notice of such a one? It is solemn and pointed; but not too much so, when there is a disposition to despise the day of small things.-Now, no "good thing" toward God, and the Lamb, in the heart, can be so small, as to be unworthy of your watchful and prayerful notice. Passing thoughts and momentary impressions, may be unworthy of being called "a saving work of grace upon your soul." Conviction is not conversion, nor is feeling faith. It might, therefore, be very wrong to conclude that you have "passed from death to life," or been "translated from darkness unto light," merely because you have some sense of your need of this divine change, and some hope or wish to experience it. You do, however, know something of its nature, and feel occasionally its necessity. You may regret, but you do not "marvel," that you must be born again of the Spirit, before you can enter the kingdom of heaven. You know too much both of heaven and of your own heart, to be surprised (however you
may be offended) when you are told that you are | Why, then, in the things which "pertain to god
unfit for heaven. And is this conviction nothing? liness?"
Ponder Paul's solemn question: "Who hath known the mind of the Lord, (the Spirit,) that he Can you, in may instruct HIM?" 1 Cor. ii. 16. that you will not honor the face of this caution, say nor own the Holy Ghost, unless He act with you, just as He has done with others? Surely not! It may not, indeed, be altogether wrong to wish for such an awakening as the jailor's; or for such a flower-like opening of the heart as Lydia's; or for such a rejoicing discovery of the glory of Christ as the eunuch's; or even for such a constraining impulse from the love of Christ, as that which carried the Corinthians before it, like vessels with a fair wind, upon a mighty spring-tide: but it is wrong, to insist upon one or other of these modes of conversion, as the condition of your turning to the Lord. You may, like Ephraim, pray, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned:" and like David, "Draw me, and I will run after Thee;" but you must not prescribe to God either the precise weapon of power by which He shall turn you, or the precise cord of love by which he shall draw you. Leave the selection of means and
Do not say in answer to this appeal, "I am not at all sure that the Spirit is striving with me, or doing any thing for me." It is easy to utter these words, when an excuse is wanted on the spur of the moment, for delay or indecision in religion: but you durst not utter them deliberately, after looking fairly at their meaning. Your tongue would cleave to the roof of your mouth, were you to try to say, "I am one, whom the Spirit of God never once influenced to think or pray. He has been moving upon the face of the waters of the Sanctuary where I worship, converting sin-modes of Divine operation in the hands of Divine ners, and consoling penitents, and sanctifying be- wisdom; and, in the mean time cherish the sacred lievers; but he never suggested one good thought impressions which have already been made upon in my mind, nor awakened one holy desire, nor your heart and conscience. They are more vashed one ray of light upon my path of duty or in-luable to you, and involve your eternal welfare terest. However He moved in power or glory, more deeply, than the mantle of Prophecy, or the and wherever He wrought, He passed me by-gift of Miracles, were even both to descend upon let me alone!" you. Prophets have perished, and workers of mighty miracles have become apostates; but no one ever drew back to perdition, who honestly and humbly sought for the renewing of the Holy Ghost. O, then, quench not, grieve not, vex not, limit not, the Spirit of God!
This would be "lying against the Holy Ghost!" Had even your occasional impressions been fewer, and your past resolutions feebler than you know them to have been, you would not dare to speak thus, lest you should provoke the Spirit of God to let you alone for ever. Why, it is one great reason for any hope you have of ever being called by grace, that you have felt, and do feel, that the Spirit has not let you alone. It is because you are not given up to a seared conscience, nor to a reprobate mind, that you venture to calculate upon some future "day of power," coming in time enough to prepare you for eternity. Accordingly, were you quite sure that such a day of power would not come, unless, from this moment, you set yourself to act upon your present convictions, you would be very glad to admit that what you have already felt, was, although not the first fruit of the Spirit, the breaking up of "the fallow ground" of the heart, for the good seed of the Word. Well; the Holy Ghost does say, " To-day, if ye will hear my voice, harden not your heart."
Do not evade this warning by saying, "that you would follow the leadings of the Spirit, if He would only lead you, as powerfully and sensibly, as he does some whom you know." You have no more right to dictate to the Holy Spirit the manner in which he shall deal with you, than to dictate to Providence the way in which it shall treat you. Now, you would not presume to lay it down as an indispensable condition of your giving yourself to the Lord and to the Church, that he should give you whatever temporal blessings you may think best for you. You know that you cannot stipulate with God, to have all your own will, in "the things which pertain to life."
This appeal may not be altogether useless to yourself: for although, in general, you do not despise the day of small things, there may be some of "the things of the Spirit," which you too lightly esteem. His "shadows, as well as His lights," (as Sheshbazzar would have said,) are instructive. He can lead by the Pillar, as a cloud; as well as by the Pillar, as a flame of fire. I mean, that the Spirit is often present, and working mightily too, when we imagine that he is withdrawn entirely. This is no paradox. We are so much in the habit of confounding the work and witness of the Spirit, with comfort, that we are for ever ready, when we are uncomfortable, to think Him "afar off." But this is quite a mistake! He is not standing afar off, much less forgetting us, when we are left to feel that our strength is weakness: and our ability to hope, dependent; and our inclination to persevere, precarious. He is, indeed, working deep in our hearts, when we are afraid to look at them. Humility, and selfabasement, and self-distrust, are as much fruits of the Spirit, as love, joy, or peace. And, accordingly, by both His lights and shadows, we are sent to the Cross and the Mercy-seat; to the Bible and the Sanctuary, praying with equal fervency, "Lord, save, or I perish." I am
This is not, however, all that I mean.