Luke 2:19
Mary "kept" all those things which she had heard, treasured them in the secret chamber of her mind, dwelt upon them in her heart. Much she must have wondered what it could all mean and what would be the issue of it. Doubtless the hope that was in her purified her heart as so sacred a hope would do (1 John 3:3), and made her life a life of reverence and prayer. It was good for her to think much of the purpose God was about to accomplish through her instrumentality; she would be the better fitted for that holy motherhood by which she was to be so highly honored, and by which she was to render so inestimable a service to her nation and her race. The fact that she did keep and dwell upon these solemn and sacred mysteries may remind us of -

I. THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST WORTH KEEPING. These are not moneys that may be kept in the bank, nor jewels that may be treasured in the cabinet, nor parchments that may be guarded in the strong box; they are none other than Divine thoughts which we can hold in our hearts. And of these there are Divine revelations. They may be of his holy purpose, such as Mary's heart held; or they may be of his own character or disposition toward us his children, such as we may learn and hold; or they may be revelations of our own true selves, of our character and our necessities and our possibilities; or they may be of the way by which we can approach and resemble God. There are also Divine invitations - to return from our estrangement, to draw near to his throne, to accept his mercy, to walk by his side, to sit down at his table. There are Divine exhortations to duty, to service, to self-sacrifice. And there are Divine promises, of provision and protection and inspiration here, of blessedness and enlargement hereafter.

II. THAT WHICH CONSTITUTES THEIR SUPREME VALUE.

1. They pertain to God himself, and therefore connect us with the Highest.

2. They affect us, ourselves - our character, our inner life, our essential being.

3. They bring us into harmony with all things; for he that is right with God and true to himself is adjusted to all other beings, and is ready for all other things.

4. They render us fitted for life anywhere and in the distant future; so that death will be a mere incident in our history, not concluding our career, but only opening the gate into other and brighter spheres.

III. THE DANGER WE ARE IN OF LOSING THEM. There is a plausible philosophical theory that a thought once received into the mind cannot ever be wholly lost; once there it remains there, though it may be in the far background, unperceived, unemployed. But, as a matter of practical life, we know too well, both from testimony and experience, that the best and highest thoughts may escape our view; they may be only too easily lost sight of and disregarded. Neglect, or an engrossing interest in lower or in more exciting subjects, will make them invisible, ineffective, useless. It is a most pitiable thing that in every generation there are multitudes of souls that once welcomed and cherished the loftiest conceptions and the noblest aspirations, to whom these thoughts and hopes are now nothing whatsoever; they are gone from their mind; they have not been wisely "kept," but foolishly and culpably lost. Therefore -

IV. THE WISDOM OF A REVERENT MEDITATION. We do ourselves the truest service when, by pondering on them, we keep sound and whole within our hearts the great thoughts of God. The power of continuous meditation is one of the faculties of our human nature; but the rush and strain of modern life constitute a powerful temptation to let this faculty rust in disuse. But as we love ourselves truly and wisely we shall resist and overcome the temptation. All souls that would do their sacred duty to themselves must think well and much on the things they know. If they would truly and thoroughly understand that of which they speak, if they wish Divine truth to have its own purifying and transforming power over them, if they aspire to build up a strong and influential character, if they wish to be "no longer children," but men in Christ Jesus, they must ponder in their hearts the doctrines they count in their creed, the language they take into their lips. It is the truth we dwell upon that we live upon. - C.







And pondered them in her heart.
Great things were these which she kept, and most fit for earnest pondering. Great were they to all, greatest to her, the "highly favoured" amongst women. Life was opening strangely upon her; and the last few months had crowded into their narrow compass all that was most fit to stir the very depths of her spirit. Brought up in the, comparative seclusion which shut in Jewish damsels, the angel of the Most High had stood suddenly beside her, and troubled her mind by the strangeness of his salutation. Then had followed the fears and hopes which the promise of that angel-visitor had interwoven with her very being. The "Desire of all nations" was at last to come, and she should be indeed His mother. From her should spring that mighty Redeemer, to give birth to whom had been the earnest longing of every Jewish mother. What hopes and wonder must have filled her soul! At length the months of waiting passed away, and the gracious birth was come, the promised Child was born, the Son of hope was given; and still how much was there upon which to muse and ponder! There was the full tide of a mother's love for the Babe which slept beside her; there was the awful reverence of her pious soul for the unknown majesty of Him who of her had taken human flesh. Depths were all around her, into which her spirit searched, in which it could find no resting-place. How was He, this infant of days, the Everlasting Son? How was He to make atonement for her sins and the sins of her people? When would the mystery begin to unfold itself? As yet it lay upon her thick and impenetrable; all was dark around her; mighty promises and small fulfilments seemed to strive together in the womb of time. The angel had called Him Great, the Son of the Highest; but He lay there on her bosom weak and wailing as any other babe. He was to sit upon the throne of David; yet He was cradled in a manger. Angels broke on mortal sight, to make His birthplace known: yet none but the shepherds of Bethlehem had heard their message. A star from heaven guided eastern magi to His feet; but they made their offerings in a stable. She was "highly favoured" who had borne Him; yet a sword should pierce through her own soul. All was full of contradictions; yet amidst all she was unmoved. To the eye of a passing observer she might have seemed perhaps insensible — such a quietness there was about her. Did she know her own greatness? Did she feel the strangeness of all around her? Did her soul yearn over this Babe, and reach, forth to comprehend His unknown destiny? or was she indeed destitute of kindling feelings? No; "she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart"; not one escaped her; but the current of her soul flowed far too deeply to babble forth its emotions. The "ornament of a quiet spirit" shrouded the mighty swellings of her heart. She was in God's hands: this one thought was her anchor. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord": this was her talisman... So that this is the lesson taught us in the character of the Virgin Mary. The blessedness of cultivating a quiet, trusting spirit, a deep inward piety, a calm, waiting soul, by musing on God's dealings. This was what distinguished her; this was the groundwork of that strength and nobleness of character which we trace in her. This, therefore, we should likewise cultivate, who would share her blessedness. For this will be to us too, of God's blessing, a means of acquiring that pious cheerfulness of temper which is the natural mother of high and noble conduct. It is not in a loud profession or an obtrusive exterior, but in its silent inner power of bowing our will to that of God, of filling our common life with His presence, that true religion shows itself.

(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)

How small a space does Mary hold in the New Testament! how vast a space in the history of the Church! Observe the silence of the record respecting her. Shakespeare, the highest among all who haw conceived the human heart or portrayed human life, is marked above all others, as the New Testament is, by the use of significant silence in representing character — led by his deep instinct to know that whatever is peculiarly fine or high can only in this way be hinted to the apprehension. The highest traits of his highest women especially, and in their highest moments, are indicated — how? Just by a few words, a few touches, coming in between silences of far deeper tone, and so the exquisite outline of those wonderful characters is made out. I find the same in the New Testament. Nothing in it is, to me, so deep and bottomless in meaning and effect as the silences of Christ — a stroke or two, a few lines, giving figure and expression to the formless deep lying below. And the same as to Mary. How few the touches! — only just enough to mark out and give character to the deeps of silence, as, when you hear a strain of music at night, the stillness which follows it is made richer still and more musical than any possibility of sound. The evangelists, having given us certain facts as to Mary, do afterwards almost nothing but remain quiet, and not interfere with the inferences of the Christian heart as to the beautiful nature and wonderful consciousness of the virgin mother. Nothing is said as to her feelings — (silence) — but we understand from a general sense of her character, how meek and submissive that silence is. In things which are above her thought, and which seem to men impossible, in things which bring glory to her, or in things which bring shame, the characteristic of this woman is deep, meek, silent submission; and this, as it is the natural top of true womanhood, so also is it of true Christianity. What she was, her son was also in His wider and grander relations to God.

(A. G. Mercer, D. D.)

Observe what I may call the inwardness of Mary's character. On several occasions, when a common nature would have exulted, when vanity would have babbled, or when common wonder and doubt would have gone asking for explanations, it is said of her, "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Now this would not have been repeated as it is, if it had not been a peculiarity and observable. This I call inwardness. There was a hush of awe about it, a disposition to keep a sacred thing sacred; to hide the depths of the heart away from common talk, and to keep their inexpressible-mess hidden to God; to keep all doubts and demurs submissively for His solution; to "judge nothing before the time"; to draw inward, and compose and hush the entire nature at the footstool of God; in short, her whole heart seems to have been expressed in the one sentence, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word."

(A. G. Mercer, D. D.)

Musing makes the fire to burn, and deep and constant thoughts are operative, not a glance or a slight view. The hen which straggles from her nest when she sits a brooding, produces nothing; it is a constant incubation which hatches the young. So when we have only a few straggling thoughts, and do not set a-brooding upon a truth, when we have flashes only, like a little glance of a sunbeam upon a wall, it does nothing; but serious and inculcative thoughts (through the Lord's blessing) will do the work.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

Any benefit to be derived from hearing the Word exceedingly depends on meditation. Before we hear the Word, meditation is like a plough, which opens the ground to receive the seed; and after we have heard the Word, it is like the harrow which covers the new-sown seed in the earth, that the fowls of the air may not pick it up: meditation is that which makes the Word full of life and energy to our soul. What is the reason that most men come to hear the Word, as the beasts did in Noah's ark: they came in unclean, and they went out unclean? The reason is, because they do not meditate on the truths they hear; it is but just like putting money into a bag with holes — presently it falls out. The truths they hear preached are put into shallow, neglected memories, and they do not draw them forth by meditation. It is for this reason, that hearing is so ineffectual. Hearing the Word merely is like indigestion, and when we meditate upon the Word, that's digestion: and this digestion of the Word by meditation produces warm affections, zealous resolutions, and holy actions; and therefore, if you desire to profit by hearing the word, meditate.

(H. G. Salter.)

Meditation, as it advances the graces of the soul, so the comfort of the soul. God conveys comfort to us in a rational way; and although He is able to rain manna in the wilderness, and to cast in comfort to our souls without any labour of ours, yet usually He dispenses comfort according to the standing rule. He that does not work shall not eat — he that does not labour in the duties of religion shall not taste the sweetness of religion. Now, meditation is the serious and active performance of the soul to which God has promised comfort. The promises of the gospel do not convey comfort to us as they are recorded in the Word merely, but as they are applied by meditation. The grapes, while they hang upon the vine, do not produce that wine which cheers the heart of man: but when they arc squeezed in the wine-press, then they yield forth their liquor, which is of such a cheering nature. So the promises which are in the Word barely, do not send forth that sovereign juice which cheers our hearts; but when we ponder them in our souls, and press them by meditation, then the promises convey the water of life to us. Meditation turns the promises into marrow (Psalm 63:5, 6); it conveys the strength of them to our souls.

(H. G. Salter.)

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; and our best abundance of the heart must be slowly and in quietness prepared. The cattle, when they rest, are yet working to prepare from the grass that sweetest and moat wholesome of beverages — milk. So must we prepare the abundance of the heart. If the milk of our word is to flow from us nourishingly, we must turn the common things of life — the grass — by slow and quiet processes, into sweet wisdom. In retired, meditative hours, the digesting and secreting powers of the spirit act; and thus ourselves are nourished, and we store nourishment for others.

(T. T. Lynch.)

The advantage of meditation is rather to be felt than read. He that can paint spikenard, or musk, or roses, in their proper colour, cannot with all his art draw their pleasant savour; that is beyond the skill of his pencil.

(T. Swinnock.)

— No one can absolve himself from the duty of spiritual thought. The words which I have chosen for a text presents the duty to us with almost startling force. The mother of the Lord had received that direct, personal, living revelation of the purpose and the working of God which none other could have; she had acknowledged in the familiar strain of the Magnificat the salvation which He had prepared through her for His people; she might well seem to have been lifted above the necessity of any later teaching; but when the simple shepherds told their story, a faint echo as we might think of what she knew, she "kept all these things, &c.," if haply they might show a little more of the great mystery of which she was the minister: she kept them waiting and learning during that long thirty years of silence, waiting and learning during that brief time of open labour, from the first words at the marriage feast to the last words from the cross. And shall we, with our restless, distracted lives, with our feeble and imperfect grasp on Truth, be contented to repeat with indolent assent a traditional confession? Can we suppose that the highest -knowledge and the highest know. ledge alone is to be gained without effort, without preparation, without discipline, and by a simple act of memory? Is it credible that the law of our nature, which adds capacity to experience and joy to quest, is suddenly suspended when we reach the loftiest field of man's activity?

1. The SPIRIT of our study of the Incarnation must be love illuminated by faith, attested by the heart.

2. It follows that the AIM of our study will be vital and not merely intellectual.

3. If we have felt one touch of the spirit which should animate our contemplation of Christ Born, Crucified, Ascended, for us: if we have realized one fragment of the end to which our work is directed, we shall know what the BLESSING IS. know what it is to see with faint and trembling eyes depth below depth opening in the poor and dull surface of the earth; to see flashes of great hope shoot across the weary trivialities of business and pleasure; to see active about us, in the face of every scheme of selfish ambition, powers of the age to come; to see over all the inequalities of the world, its terrible contrasts, its desolating crimes, its pride, its lust, its cruelty, one over-arching sign of God's purpose of redemption, broad as the sky and bright as the sunshine; to see in the gospel a revelation of love powerful enough to give a foretaste of the unity of creation, powerful hereafter to realize it. To us also the Christ has been given. To us also the message of the angels has been made known. To us also the sign of the Saviour has been fulfilled. Happy are we — then only happy — if we keep all these things and ponder them in our hearts.

(Canon Westcott.)

It is an unexplored history. The sublimest results often are in the child, and yet not a step can we trace with definiteness backward to know the cause of which this is the little effect. The future beams with revelations in its behalf; but of the particles which go to make it up who can guess? Who knows anything about it? The great Sphinx — standing alone in Egypt half-buried in the sand — what mind conceived that? what hand carved it? what has it to say for itself? or who shall speak for it? Yet every cradle has a sphinx more unreadable and mysterious than the old Sphinx of the desert. It is chiefly this future over which parents brood. A mother's heart is a miracle. She sees what is not there. She creates what she sees and recreates it when a breath blows it all away. She loves what has no lovable quality. The child is a mere prophecy. These feet shall yet walk, but not now. These eyes shall beam, but now they sleep. These hands shall work, or caress, or carve, or carry the sword, but they are helpless now. "She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" is true of every Mary, and of every other name by which the mother is known. She ponders the miracle of the babe, and is herself another miracle creating the life which is to come, and which is purely the myth of her imagination. The things spoken by the angels and the shepherds of the Messiah, the mother of Jesus pondered, and every mother is a Mary, and ponders the little traveller knocking at the door of life or sleeping in the hospitable cradle. The unwritten poetry of a mother's heart would give to the world a literature beyond all printed words.

(H. F. Beecher.)

THE VIRGIN MARY TO THE CHILD JESUS,

Sleep, sleep, mine Holy One!

My flesh, my Lord I what name?

I do not know A name that seemeth not too high or low,

Too far from me or heaven.

My Jesus, that is best I that word being given

By the majestic angel whose command

Was softly as a man's beseeching said,

When I and all the earth appeared to stand

In the great overflow.

A light celestial from his wings and head

Sleep, sleep, my saving One.

The slumber of His lips meseems to run

Through my lips to mine heart.

And then the drear sharp tongue of prophecy

With the dread sense of things which shall be done,

Doth smite me inly, like a sword.

(Mrs. E. B. Browning.)

THE MOTHER MARY.

Mary, to thee the heart was given,

For infant hands to hold,

Thus clasping, an eternal heaven,

The great earth in its fold.

He came, all helpless, to thy power,

For warmth, and love, and birth;

In thy embraces, every hour

He grew into the earth.

And thine the grief, O mother high,

Which all thy sisters share,

Who keep the gate betwixt the sky

And this our lower air.

And unshared sorrows, gathering slow;

New thoughts within thy heart,

Which through thee like a sword will go,

And make thee mourn apart.

For, if a woman bore a son

That was of angel-brood,

Who lifted wings ere day was done,

And soared from where he stood;

Strange grief would fill each mother-moan,

Wild longing, dim and sore;

"My child! my child I He is my own,

And yet is mine no more."

So thou, O Mary, years on years,

From child-birth to the cross,

Wast filled with yearnings, filled with fears,

Keen sense of love and loss.

(G. MacDonald.)

I think that the most wonderful book that could be written would be a book in which an angel should write all the thoughts that pass through a faithful mother's mind from the time that she first hears the cry of her child, and knows that it is born into the world, and rejoices in the midst of her griefs; from the moment of her absorption, or annihilation, pouring herself into the child. Her wonderful gladness of fatigue; her unwillingness to divide her care with any; her heroic sacrifice of all that is brightest and best in life, with no prospect of remuneration except the satisfaction which she feels in serving that little mute and helpless child — these are past description.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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