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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: P. C. Headley :: Women of the Bible

P. C. Headley :: Dorcas

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CHRIST ascended from Olivet, the Mount of his prayer, and with uplifted hands left upon the disciples who gazed after his loved and vanishing form, a benediction perpetual as his militant church. They went forth in the stern heroism of primitive apostleship through the valleys of Judea, and to the cities that dotted them, and gemmed the shores of distant seas.

Among these beacon‐points of the Gospel, was Joppa, or anciently Yaffa, on a promontory of the Mediterranean coast, forty miles from Jerusalem. It was an ancient city, associated with the names of AEolus, and Andromeda of classical fiction, it is mentioned by Joshua, and was the port to which the cedars of Lebanon and treasures of kings were floated for the first and second Temples of the Holy City. Here Jonah embarked when he thought "on the wings of the morning," (Psa 139:9) to flee from the hand of God. Judas Maccabeus, to avenge a broken treaty, drove two hundred Jews from its heights into the sea, and made a conflagration of the shipping, that like an opening volcano, illumined the wide grave that swept over them. And even Napoleon's legions in later time thundered before its gates.

But all these events recede into the dimness of eclipse, around the scenes which have transpired in the dwelling of Tabitha, (Act 9:36) and which shall survive the cenotaphs of royal heroes as they successively moulder, written in the history and blending with the converse of Heaven.

She was a pious woman, and distinguished especially for an expansive and active benevolence a deep and genial sympathy for the "fatherless and the widow in their affliction." (Deu 10:18.) She may have been bereft of a husband, and in the sad discipline of domestic calamities prepared for that sublimest effort of an immortal, doing good in a world where the funeral knell never ceases to roll its fearful cadence on the reluctant ear of the living, and tears fall more constantly than the nightly dew-and where hearts are breaking, and spiritual victories gained and battles lost, invested with an interest compared with which, a falling throne and vanishing empire, are no more than the shivered toy and bursting bauble on the playground of childhood. Or she may have preferred like Hannah, of recent memory, the disencumbered activity of single life, and stood in vestal loveliness beside the altar of devotion to her risen Redeemer, whose voice of love seemed yet to linger in the air of Palestine.

Whatever her condition, it is enough to know that she bent all her energies to imitate the faultless model of philanthropy, and extend the glory of His name by illustrating the transcendent excellence of Christian character.

But in the midst of usefulness, death calls for the saint. It could not be otherwise than that she marked his approach with a smile, and went down untremblingly into the valley of gloom. The corpse was laid out in "an upper chamber," (Act 9:37) and from the hovels of the poor, and dwellings of the rich, came the mourners to weep together, and look once more on the face it had been so pleasant to meet when upon her errands of mercy. Their thoughts turned to Peter, whose faith and intellectual energy won confidence, and maintained an influence unquestioned, among the disciples of Jesus.

Two messengers hastened to Lydda, informed him of their irreparable loss, and requested him, without delay, to return with them to the house of mourning. (Act 9:38.) When Peter entered the room, and saw the weeping widows Tabitha had comforted and clothed, encircling the dead, and also the garments she had made for the destitute; (Act 9:39) impressed by the spirit, he felt that her work was not done-the struggling church could not spare the shining light. He sent the unwilling group from the apartment in wondering silence, and knelt by the pale sleeper. It was not needful that his petition should be long, for it was the "fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous man." (Jam 5:16.) Then looking upon the marble brow, he said, "Tabitha, arise !" The eye opened with its wonted lustre, and when she saw the noble apostle, she began to rise. Peter extended his hand, and calling to "the saints and widows," presented her again to their cordial greeting, while the news spread through the streets of Joppa. The skeptical were convinced, and many who had scorned the Nazarene, were added to the number of true believers. (Act 9:40-42.)

In Scripture, there is a uniform simplicity and beauty, which dwells upon no scene however inviting, if unimportant to the great design of Revelation. Mystery rests on the interval between the death and resurrection of those restored to life upon the inquiry whether they brought any tidings from the unseen land, and their final departure from earth.

In reviewing the sacred annals of the past, we find that woman has often laid her hand on the springs of a world's destiny, coiled in decisive events; and from her sanctified genius, have streamed the radiating lines of redeeming influence over the world. But it is in the circle of home, she puts forth a power exceeding all other human agency. As a maiden, she can elevate and refine a brother, or strengthen upon him a taste for exciting pleasures, which shall hurry him away from the moorings of manly principle and promise, into the broad sweep of the current which descends at length into the abyss of moral ruin in time, blending its roar with the dash of those billows which have no shore, and whose shipwrecked victims find no oblivious grave. In the social relation, results are the same.

As a wife, it is her's to make the domestic scene attractive and benign in its influence upon him whose happiness, and often destiny forever, is at her disposal under God. They are in one bark on the sea of life and though he may be unskillful or erring, and sink her treasure of hope and joy, yet if she be true and holy, the barge will founder long before it goes darkly down, and she will disappear with the wreck like an angel of the troubled waters, to rise again with a martyr's wreath, and a song of victory.

As a mother, she leaves the moulding impress of her hand on her offspring, as the potter on the clay, he shapes to honor or dishonor. A pious and consistent mother always in the final issue has her reward. Nowhere does the terrific law, "as a man soweth, so shall he also reap," (Gal 6:7) come in with more certain consequences than in this relation. She may breathe her hallowed counsel in a reluctant ear-baptize a brow of shame with her tears, and lift her prayer with breaking heart over the couch of the thoughtless sleeper; but around that son, is flung a spell the song of revelry and the shout of blasphemy can never break. He will be haunted through the thousand-pathed labyrinth of sin, with an invisible presence, before whose gentle accents and heavenly face he will bow and weep. And though she go to the grave mourning for the wanderer, he shall come to the green mound in after life and make it the shrine of penitence and altar of consecration to God.

And silently as the morning light, her influence goes forth everywhere; as it once marred, so is it to be mighty in restoring the glorious image of the Deity to man.

"Oh! if now,
Woman would lift her noble wand she bore
In Paradise so transcendent, and which still she wears
Half‐hidden though not powerless, and again
Wave its magic power o'er pilgrim man,
How would she win him from apostasy,
Lure back the world from its dim path of woe,
And open a new Eden on our years."
The Sisters Martha and Mary ← Prior Section

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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