And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,…
Next to the blessed Child, the Virgin Mother is the central figure of the Nativity. She is one of the noblest and loveliest characters in the Bible.
I. The saddest page in the world's history, is THE STORY OF WOMAN'S WRONGS. The law of strength has been always the world's rule of conduct, the weaker has had to go to the wall. Woman, because of her more delicate physical organization, has been the victim of man's superior strength, the prey of his basest passions, the slave of his injustice and tyranny. To justify himself in his oppression he has represented her as worthy only of contempt. Hesiod calls women " an accursed brood, chief scourge of the human race." AEschylus speaks of her as, "the direst evil of State and home." Socrates thanked God daily that he had been born a human being and not an animal; free and not a slave; a man and not a woman. "Slacken the rein," said Cato, "and you will afterward strive in vain to check the mad career of that unreasoning animal." Seneca calls her, "an imprudent, wild creature, incapable of self-control." The Romans habitually spoke of the majesty of man, the imbecility, weakness, and frivolity of women. "Better that a thousand women should perish, than that one man should cease to see the light." But with Christianity new ideas of the dignity and glory of womanhood came into life. The Son of God was born of a woman. "Christ," says , "was born of a woman, that neither sex might despair." By its reverence for the Virgin Mother the Christian Church wove into its deepest thought a new conception of womanhood, and did much to cancel the contempt thrown upon her in the person of Eve. If woman was guilty of the world's first sin, on her breast its Redeemer was nourished; and Bethlehem atoned for Eden. Eve was withdrawn as the representative of woman, and the mother of Jesus replaced her. Hence among the early Christians the position of woman was greatly changed. She shared with man the responsibilities of religion, the sufferings of persecution, the love of God, the hope of Heaven.
II. But this is not all that the worship of the Virgin meant. Before Christ came, IT WAS THE QUALITIES ESPECIALLY CHARACTERISTIC OF THE MALE SEX WHICH WERE WORSHIPPED AS DIVINE. Force, strength, courage, mental concentration — these were the qualities regarded 'as of highest worth. But Christ proclaimed the Divine nature of qualities quite the opposite of these — meekness, gentleness, patience, purity, obedience, love. It is the peculiar feature of Christianity, that it exalts, not strength, intellect, courage, but gentleness, lovingness, helpfulness, purity. But these are especially womanly virtues — qualities of character in which women usually surpass men. So this worship of the virgin grew up in a world wearied by violence and passion and selfish strength, of masculine ambitions and grasping resolves, sighing for some form of strength and glory which should be consistent with tenderness, and gentleness, and sweet affection. In a world trodden by armies, corrupted by lust, dominated by ambition, this worship of the Virgin was a strong and living protest against force and war and sensuality; a silent assertion of the glory of purity, goodness, and love. When the attributes of God and Christ were lost from view, that sweet and beautiful idea of womanhood shed gentle lustre amid dungeons and scaffolds and battlefields, and did something at least to mitigate their cruelties. It hung upon the walls of the churches, it looked down from chamber and from hall, it pleaded at the corners of the street, and it melted through the imagination of cruel and sensual men, as a heavenly vision pleading for humanity. Mrs. Jameson, in her "Legends of the Madonna," says: "In the perpetual repetition of that beautiful image of the Woman highly favoured, there, where others saw only pictures or statues, I have seen this great hope standing like a spirit beside the visible form — in the fervent worship once given to that gracious presence I have beheld an acknowledgment of a higher as well as a gentler power than that of the strong hand, and the might which makes right; and in every earnest votary one who, as he knelt, was in this sense pious beyond the reach of his thought, and devout beyond the meaning of his will." And woman greatly encourages his error when she accepts his estimate of worth rather than Christ's, and bestows her admiration upon the lower and more masculine attributes, instead of recognizing the higher glory of her own womanhood. Gail Hamilton's sarcasm, "Come girls, let us be men," finds an echo in much of the life of to-day, when it ought to carry its own refutation. The Bible gives woman a glory of her own. Let her take up and wield the spiritual sovereignty that is her everlasting birthright. Let man learn to be grateful to woman for this undoubted achievement of her sex — that she, often in despite of him, has kept Christendom from lapsing into barbarism, has kept mercy and love from being overborne by those two greedy monsters, money and war. Let him remember that almost every great soul, which has led forward and lifted up the race, has been inspired by some noble woman. "A man discovered America, but a woman equipped him for the voyage." The noblest qualities of both are blended in Jesus Christ. In Him is the woman's heart and the man's brain; womanly gentleness, manly strength. We do not worship Christ and Mary, for in Christ we find all that was sought in Mary.
III. There is still another truth striving for utterance in this worship of the Virgin, and this is, THE NEED WHICH THE HUMAN HEART FEELS OF A HUMAN AS WELL AS DIVINE SAVIOUR.
(J. H. McIlvaine, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,