The great Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney has been mentioned a number of times on this site. It is a very telling indication of our times that such a visionary man is so little known, and usually slandered when mentioned at all. You can find the entire collection of his written works at the Dabney Archive, all of which are well worth reading. However, such a massive undertaking can be a bit overwhelming, and so on Sundays I will post bite-sized excerpts from Dabney’s works, with perhaps a little bit of my own commentary. This will be done in hopes of promoting wider readership for this great man. You can find links to all the previous “Dabney on Sunday” posts at the bottom of this post.
The following excerpt is taken from Dabney’s article which appeared in The Central Presbyterian (November-December 1867), entitled “A Mother’s Crowning Glory.” The article can be found among the “Secular Topics” section of volume 5 in his Discussions, p. 373. Dabney discusses the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” characteristic of the Virginian mother:
The character of our true Virginia Matron was so sweet and strong because it was Christian. Its crown was the peculiar type of piety by which the Virginia matron of the olden time was characterized.—It was a piety which must be long and intimately known; in order to be appreciated.—Formed, not in the glare of publicity, nor amidst the unwholesome intoxication of modern religious dissipation, but in the calm and pure retirement of home, it was nurtured by the quiet study of the word of God, by meditation, and by the noiseless performance of unobtrusive duty. It was not a piety which cultivated an ostentatious and pragmatic bustle, at the cost of spiritual pride, and ignorance of self. It had not expunged from its Bible that old rule of the Savior, so obsolete now in the phariseeism of the day. “Let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth.” Nurtured by humility, and self-knowledge, and sincere milk of the word, it was too enlightened to be blown about with every wind of doctrine; but it thrust aside the vain religious novelties of human invention, without a moment’s wavering and by a clear and simple insight while many a Doctor of other latitudes, learned with “philosophy falsely so-called,” was seduced and deceived by them. This modest piety was not noisy in the temple, nor fanatical in repenting of other people’s sins, nor boastful of its own excellence; but would you see it in its strength, you must follow the Christian mother to the nursery, where she led the feet of her little ones, patiently, resolutely, unweariedly, tenderly, along the arduous pathos of godliness; or to the cabin where she toiled for the once pagan Africans, teaching their dark minds the rudiments of redemption; or to the dying cot of the poor Negro, where she shone with unconscious radiance, as an angel of mercy amidst the darkness; or, best of all, to her secret evening prayer. But no; to that sacred spot in the upper chamber, or it may be, the vacant corner amidst her household goods, where she prayed to “Him that seeth in secret,” we dared not intrude. She never told us what she did there, when she withdrew so regularly, at evening, to that spot; the communion was too sacred and lowly to be paraded before any human eye, even though it were that of her own child. But we had no need to ask; the peaceful halo which her face brought down into the twilight, from her converse with heaven, the gentle step, the silent caress with which she gathered us to her knees, told us her errand, and assured us that her love had not forgotten us, while with her God. Thus the religion of her home was one of simple faith, and of a sound mind, of love unfeigned, of modest reserve, of abounding good works.
Previous Dabney on Sundays:
Cruelty of Humanitarian Philanthropy
Preaching, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Doctrinal Confessions, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Divine Justice, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
The African Slave Trade
Women Preachers, Part 1, Part 2. Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Dangerous Literature, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Spurious Religious Feelings, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4