I have been asked to open the front door of this book. But I must not keep you standing too long on the threshold. The picture-gallery, the banqueting hall and the throne-room are inside. All the fascinations of romance are, by the able author, thrown around the facts of Mary’s life. Much-abused tradition is also called in for splendid service. The pen that the author wields is experienced, graceful, captivating, and multipotent. As perhaps no other book that was ever written, this one will show us woman as standing at the head of the world. It demonstrates in the life of Mary what woman was and what woman may be. Woman’s position in the world is higher than man’s; and although she has often been denied the right of suffrage, she always does vote and always will vote—by her influence; and her chief desire ought to be that she should have grace rightly to rule in the dominion which she has already won.
She has no equal as a comforter of the sick.
What land, what street, what house has not felt the smitings of disease? Tens of thousands of sick beds! What shall we do with them? Shall man, with his rough hand, and heavy foot, and impatient bearing, minister? No; he cannot soothe the pain. He can not quiet the nerves. He knows not where to set the light. His hand is not steady enough to pour out the drops. He is not wakeful enough to be watcher. You have known men who have despised women, but the moment disease fell upon them, they did not send for their friends at the bank or their worldly associates. Their first cry was, “Take me to my wife.” The dissipated young man at the college scoffs at the idea of being under home influence; but at the first blast of typhoid fever on his cheek he says, “Where is mother?” I think one of the most pathetic passages in all the Bible is the description of the lad who went out to the harvest fields of Shunem and got sunstruck; throwing his hands on his temples, and crying out, “Oh, my head! my head!” and they said, “Carry him to his mother.” And the record is “He sat on her knees till noon and then died.”
In the war men cast the cannon, men fashioned the muskets, men cried to the hosts “Forward, march!” men hurled their battalions on the sharp edges of the enemy, crying “Charge! charge!” but woman scraped the lint, woman administered the cordials, woman watched by the dying couch, woman wrote the last message to the home circle, woman wept at the solitary burial, attended by herself and four men with a spade. Men did their work with shot and shell, and carbine and howitzer; women did their
work with socks and slippers, and bandages, and warm drinks, and scripture texts, and gentle soothings of the hot temples, and stories of that land where they never have any pain. Men knelt down over the wounded and said, “On which side did you fight?” Women knelt down over the wounded and said, “Where are you hurt? What nice thing can I make for you to eat? What makes you cry?” To-night, while we men are soundly asleep in our beds, there will be a light in yonder loft; there will be groaning down that dark alley; there will be cries of distress in that cellar. Men will sleep and women will watch.
No one as well as a woman can handle the poor. There are hundreds and thousands of them in all our cities. There is a kind of work that men cannot do for the destitute. Man sometimes gives his charity in a rough way, and it falls like the fruit of a tree in the East, which fruit comes down so heavily that it breaks the skull of the man who is trying to gather it. But woman glides so softly into the house of want, and finds out all the sorrows of the place, and puts so quietly the donation on the table, that all the family come out on the front steps as she departs, expecting that from under her shawl she will thrust out two wings and go right up to Heaven, from whence she seems to have come down. O, Christian young woman, if you would make yourself happy and win the blessings of Christ, go out among the poor! A loaf of bread or a bundle of socks may make a homely load to carry, but the angels of God will come out to watch, and the Lord Almighty will give His messenger hosts a charge, saying, “Look
after that woman, canopy her with your wings, and shelter her from all harm.” And while you are seated in the house of destitution and suffering, the little ones around the room will whisper, “Who is she? is she not beautiful?” and if you will listen right sharply, you will hear dripping through the leaky roof, and rolling over the broken stairs, the angel chant that shook Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to man.” Can you tell why a Christian woman, going down among the haunts of iniquity on a Christian errand, seldom meets with any indignity?
I stood in the chapel of Helen Chalmers, the daughter of the celebrated Dr. Chalmers, in the most abandoned part of the city of Edinburg; and I said to her, as I looked around upon the fearful surroundings of that place, “Do you come here nights to hold a service?” “Oh, yes,” she said; “I take my lantern and I go through all these haunts of sin, the darkest and the worst; and I ask all the men and women to come to the chapel, and then I sing for them, and I pray for them, and I talk to them.” I said, “Can it be possible that you never meet with an insult while performing this Christian errand?” “Never,” she said; “never.” That young woman, who has her father by her side, walking down the street, and an armed policeman at each corner is not so well defended as that Christian woman who goes forth on Gospel work into the haunts of iniquity carrying the Bible and bread.
Some one said, “I dislike very much to see that Christian woman teaching these bad boys in the mission school. I am afraid to have her instruct
them.” “So,” said another man, “I am afraid too.” Said the first, “I am afraid they will use vile language before they leave the place.” “Ah,” said the other man, “I am not afraid of that; what I am afraid of is, that if any of those boys should use a bad word in her presence, the other boys would tear him to pieces—killing him on the spot.”
Woman is especially endowed to soothe disaster She is called the weaker vessel, but all profane as well as sacred history attests that when the crisis comes she is better prepared than man to meet the emergency. How often have you seen a woman who seemed to be a disciple of frivolity and indolence, who, under one stroke of calamity, changed to be a heroine. There was a crisis in your affairs, you struggled bravely and long, but after a while there came a day when you said, “Here I shall have to stop;” and you called in your partners, and you called in the most prominent men in your employ, and you said, “We have got to stop.” You left the store suddenly; you could hardly make up your mind to pass through the street and over on the ferry-boat; you felt everybody would be looking at you and blaming you and denouncing you. You hastened home; you told your wife all about the affair. What did she say? Did she play the butterfly; did she talk about the silks and the ribbons and the fashions? No; she came up to the emergency; she quailed not under the stroke. She helped you to begin to plan right away. She offered to go out of the comfortable house into a smaller one, and wear the old cloak another winter. She was one who understood your affairs
without blaming you. You looked upon what you thought was a thin, weak woman’s arm holding you up; but while you looked at that arm there came into the feeble muscles of it the strength of the eternal God. No chiding. No fretting. No telling you about the beautiful house of her father, from which you brought her, ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. You said, “Well, this is the happiest day of my life. I am glad I have got from under my burden. My wife don’t care—I don’t care.” At the moment you were utterly exhausted, God sent a Deborah to meet the host of the Amalekites and scatter them like chaff over the plain. There are scores and hundreds of households to-day where as much bravery and courage are demanded of woman as was exhibited by Grace Darling or Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc.
Woman is further endowed to bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is easier for a woman to be a Christian than for a man. Why? You say she is weaker. No. Her heart is more responsive to the pleadings of divine love. The fact that she can more easily become a Christian, I prove by the statement that three-fourths of the members of the churches in all Christendom are women. So God appoints them to be the chief agencies for bringing this world back to God. The greatest sermons are not preached on celebrated platforms; they are preached with an audience of two or three and in private home-life. A patient, loving, Christian demeanor in the presence of transgression, in the presence of hardness, in the presence of obduracy and crime, is an argument from the
throne of the Lord Almighty; and blessed is that woman who can wield such an argument. A sailor came slipping down the ratlin one night as though something had happened, and the sailors cried, “What’s the matter?” He said, “My mother’s prayers haunt me like a ghost.”
In what a realm is every mother the queen. The eagles of heaven can not fly across that dominion. Horses, panting and with lathered flanks, are not swift enough to run to the outpost of that realm, and death itself will only be the annexation of heavenly principalities. When you want your grandest idea of a queen you do not think of Catherine of Russia, or of Anne of England, or Maria Theresa of Germany: but when you want to get your grandest idea of a queen you think of the plain woman who sat opposite your father at the table or walked with him, arm in arm, down life’s pathway; sometimes to the Thanksgiving banquet, sometimes to the grave, but always together; soothing your petty griefs, correcting your childish waywardness, joining in your infantile sports, listening to your evening prayer, toiling for you with needle or at the spinning wheel, and on cold nights wrapping you up snug and warm; and then, at last, on that day when she lay in the back room dying, and you saw her take those thin hands with which she had toiled for you so long, and put them together in a dying prayer that commended you to the God whom she had taught you to trust—oh, she was the queen! The chariots of God came down to fetch her, and as she went in, all heaven rose up. You can not think of her now without a rush of
tenderness that stirs the deep foundations of your soul, and you feel as much a child again as when you cried on her lap; and if you could bring her back to life again to speak, just once more, your name as tenderly as she used to speak it, you would be willing to throw yourself on the ground and kiss the sod that covers her, crying, “Mother! mother!” Ah, she was the queen!
Home influences are the mightiest of all influences upon the soul. There are men who have maintained their integrity, not because they were any better naturally than some other people, but because there were home influences praying for them all the time. They got a good start. They were launched on the world with the benedictions of a Christian mother. They may track Siberian snows, they may plunge into African jungles, they may fly to the earth’s end, they can not go so far and so fast but the prayer will keep up with them. Oh, what a multitude of women in heaven. Mary, Christ’s mother, in heaven. Elizabeth Fry in heaven. Charlotte Elizabeth in heaven. The mother of Augustine in heaven. The Countess of Huntingdon is in heaven—who sold her splendid jewels to build chapels—in heaven; while a great many others who have never been heard of on earth, or known but little of, have gone into the rest and peace of heaven. What a rest. What a change it was from the small room with no fire and one window, the glass broken out, and the aching side and worn out eyes, to the “house of many mansions.” Heaven for aching heads. Heaven for broken hearts. Heaven for anguish-bitten frames.
No more sitting up until midnight for the coming of staggering steps. No more rough blows on the temples. No more sharp, keen, bitter curses.
Some of you will have no rest in this world; it will be toil and struggle all the way up. You will have to stand at your door fighting back the wolf with your own hand red with carnage. But God has a crown for you. He is now making it, and whenever you weep a tear, He sets another gem in that crown; whenever you have a pang of body or soul, He puts another gem in that crown, until after a while in all the tiara there will be no room for another splendor; and God will say to his angel, “The crown is done; let her up that she may wear it.” And as the Lord of righteousness puts the crown upon your brow, angel will cry to angel, “Who is she?” and Christ will say, “I will tell you who she is; she is the one that came up out of great tribulation and had her robe washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.” And then God will spread a banquet, and He will invite all the principalities of heaven to sit at the feast, and the tables will blush with the best clusters from the vineyards of God and crimson with the twelve manner of fruits from the tree of life, and water from the fountains of the rock will flash from the golden tankards; and the old harpers of heaven will sit there, making music with their harps, and Christ will point you out amid the celebrities of heaven, saying, “She suffered with me on earth, now we are going to be glorified together.” And the banquetters, no longer able to hold their peace, will break forth with congratulation. “Hail! hail!” And there will be a handwriting on the wall;
not such as struck the Persian noblemen with horror, but with fire-tipped fingers writing in blazing capitals of light and love and victory: “God has wiped away all tears from all faces.”
And now I leave you in the hands of Dr. Walsh, the author of this book. He will show you Mary, the model of all womanly, wifely, motherly excellence—the Madonna hanging in the Louvre of admiration for all Christendom, and for many millions in the higher Vatican of their worship.
T. De Witt Talmage.