There was one woman whom the voice of a divine messenger, straight from Heaven, pronounced highly favored. In what did this favor consist?
Of noble birth, of even royal lineage, she had fallen into poverty and obscurity. The great, brilliant, living world of her day knew her as the rushing equipages and palatial mansions of our great cities know the daughters of poor mechanics in rural towns.
There was plenty of splendor, and rank, and fashion in Jerusalem then. Herod the Great was a man of cultivation and letters, and beautified the temple with all sorts of architectural embellishments; and there were high priests, and Levites, and a great religious aristocracy circling about its precincts, all of whom, if they thought of any woman as highly favored of Heaven, would have been likely to think of somebody quite other than the simple country girl of Nazareth. Such an one as she was not in all their thoughts. Yet she was the highly favored woman of the world; the crowned queen of women; the One whose lot – above that of all that have lived woman’s life, before or since – was blessed.
The views adopted in the Roman Catholic Church with respect to this one Woman of women have tended to deprive the rest of the world of a great source of comfort and edification by reason of the opposite extreme to which Protestant reaction has naturally gone.
John Knox was once taken on board a ship manned, as he says, by Popish sailors, who gave into his hand an image of the Virgin Mary and wanted to compel him to kiss it. Stout John tossed it overboard, saying, Let our Lady now save herself; she is light enough, let her learn to swim. To have honored the Virgin Mary, even in thought, was shrunk from by the Protestants of those times as an approach to idolatry. An image or a picture of her in a Puritan house would have been considered an approach to the sin of Archan. Truth has always had the fate of the shuttlecock between the conflicting battledores of controversy.
This is no goddess crowned with stars, but something nobler, purer, fairer, more appreciable – the One highly favored and blessed among women.
The happiness of Mary’s lot was peculiar to womanhood. It lay mostly in the sphere of family affection. Mary had in this respect a lot whose blessedness was above every other mother. She had as her child the loveliest character that ever unfolded through childhood and youth to manhood. He was entirely her own. She had a security in possessing him such as is not accorded to other mothers. She knew that the child she adored was not to die till he had reached man’s estate – she had no fear that accident, or sickness, or any of those threatening causes which give sad hours to so many other mothers, would come between him and her.
Neither was she called to separate from him. The record shows that he was with his parents until their journey to Jerusalem, when he was twelve years old; and then, after his brief absence of three days when he was left behind, and found in the temple disputing with the doctors, we are told that “he went to Nazareth and was subject unto them.”
These words are all that cover eighteen years of the purest happiness ever given to mortal woman. To love, to adore, to possess the beloved object in perfect security, guarded by a divine promise – this blessedness was given to but one woman of all the human race. That peaceful home in Nazareth, overlooked by all the great, gay world, how many happy hours it had! Day succeeded day, weeks went to months, and months into years, and this is all the record: Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.