The True Woman: Chapter 7 – Piety

We continue on in our weekly recaps of our book study on The True Woman by Susan Hunt. In case you haven’t been able to join us, check out the archives here, and consider purchasing this wonderful book for yourself! Linda McWhinney provides this guest post on reviewing lessons from chapter 7.

In this challenging and thought-provoking chapter, Susan Hunt continues to lead us on our journey to grow in godliness and Biblical womanhood. It doesn’t take long to be assured that piety is indeed a Biblical virtue. I think it is important that we understand that all virtues are Biblical. Lest anyone think they can be honest or compassionate on their own, it is vital we keep in mind that these character qualities are evidences of God’s grace, just as are piety or purity.

What is Piety?

Through the use of profound and instructional quotes the author illuminates the virtue of piety for her readers. Helping to clarify piety, Calvin says, “…piety is a pure and true zeal that loves God altogether as Father and reveres Him truly as Lord…” J.I. Packer writes that there are four areas “in mapping the path of piety.” Summarizing them: conviction, conversion and repentance; fighting against the world, the flesh and the devil; fellowship with God and other Christians; finishing well, in faith and hope.

George Prentiss says of his wife, “Elizabeth’s early Christian character was largely shaped by that of her father.” She confides in a letter to a friend, “I ought to be so saintly, so consecrated, that you could not be with me and not catch the very spirit of heaven; never get a letter from me that did not quicken your steps in the divine.”

Further on in that letter she confesses her shortcomings and then concludes, “…As far as earthly blessings go I am as near perfect happiness as a human being can be; everything is heaped on me. What I want is more of Christ, and that is what I hope you pray that I may have.”

Biblical Account of Piety

She recounts the story of Mary pouring costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and then wiping His feet with her hair. This demonstration of reverence came from the depth of Mary’s heart. She had been a sinner who now trusted in Jesus, had sat at His feet and had seen Him raise her brother from the dead.

There is no mention that Mary “skipped a beat” as the disciples expressed their indignation of her actions to Jesus. There is no indication that she feared man. There is every indication, however, that Mary had a deep reverence for Jesus. She was a woman who was acutely aware of her own sinfulness and what Jesus had delivered her from. This reverence is demonstrated to her Lord as she honored Him with this act of worship.

Isaiah’s experience described in chapter 6:1-5 further reinforces the point that we need to recognize our own sinfulness. Hunt makes this observation: “When I look at Scripture, it seems that it was not circumstances but awareness of sin that evoked brokenness. The more we know God, the more we know of our own sinfulness, and the more we reverence Him.”

Pursuing Piety

This J.I. Packer quote about the Puritans gives a good summary,

“This rational, resolute, passionate piety was conscientious without becoming obsessive, law-oriented without lapsing into legalism, and expressive of Christian liberty without any shameful lurches into license…Knowing also the dishonesty and deceitfulness of fallen human hearts, they…examined themselves regularly for spiritual blind spots and lurking inward evils. They may not be called morbid or introspective on this account, however, on the contrary, they found the discipline of self-examination by Scripture…followed by the discipline of confessing and forsaking sin and renewing one’s gratitude to Christ for his pardoning mercy to be a source of great inner peace and joy.”

Piety Lived Out

With the strokes of an artist’s brush, the author gives us a beautiful portrait of piety. We’ve been shown the facets of its meaning, the related obstacles plus the “how to’s” of living it. The 1828 Webster Dictionary says of this virtue, “piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of His character or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to His will and devotion to His service.” It is clear to see that piety comes from a surrendered and yielded life to our Savior – purposefully living and loving Jesus “with holy abandon.”

Discussion Questions:

Please use these questions to meditate further on piety and feel free to share your thoughts below.

  1. Think about God’s character qualities. List as many of them as you can. Meditate on one or more of these each day this week in worship and adoration to your King.
  2. What situations has God used to show you your own sinfulness? Have you acknowledged this sin to God? If so, what change did this bring about in your life?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

6 Responses to The True Woman: Chapter 7 – Piety

  1. Jamasina August 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    There is a book titled “Stepping Heavenward,” by Elizabeth Prentiss. It is based on her life. It is a very encouraging and convicting read, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I have a few friends who read it annually because it’s so packed with truth, and you can easily identify with her in her struggles.

  2. Dove Body Wash October 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    What?s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to give a contribution & assist different users like its aided me. Good job.

  3. Rebecca May 21, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    I think I need to start journaling. I used to, before I was a Christian. It was a horrible. All my pain and hopelessness crammed into a single book and recorded for all time. I ended up burning all of them.

    I can’t seem to get away from it though. There is someting about writing that brings substance to a passing thought. Now that I am redeemed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, those passing thoughts may very well warrant the endowment of more substance.

    I’ve been receiving tons of encouragement to begin journaling again. John Piper can’t say enough about it, other voices keep pushing their way into my consciousness with the same message. Now the Puritans and Susan Hunt.

    It’s like when I was 18 and determined to never have children. God used a handful of Shakesperean Sonnets to convince me that I should have children. It was during my YWAM DTS. I was sitting on a picnic table in the campus quad. I actually got so agitated by what I now know was the Holy Spirit prodding me, that I looked up from my book and yelled out in frustration to God, “Fine, I’ll have kids!!”

    I love books like this.

    • Marliss Bombardier May 21, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

      What an interesting story, Rebecca, about the decision to have kids! That’s something else you can put in your journal–stories of life-changing decisions.

      I am like you–I had books and books of horrible stuff that I journaled before I became a Christian, and I burned them all ceremonially with family and friends. Sometimes I wish I had them back just to see what I wrote, but almost immediately I am glad I burned them. I imagine few things could be more depressing than reading them again.

      I do journal, but I confess that I am not as consistnt as I should be. Thank you for the encouragement to be consistent.

  4. Mama Edmonds May 16, 2008 at 11:22 pm #

    Thank you for the excellent review of chapter 7 Linda. I have gleaned much from these last 2 chapters especially. First I want to share how much I appreciate Susan Hunt taking a whole chapter to explain what “piety” is. Now, I’m suppose to be one of the older woman amongst us, and I have heard the term “piety” before but I’m embarrassed to say that I have never understood what it meant and never took the time to find out. Maybe because it sounds like such an old fashioned term. But a definition of terms really aids my understanding, helps me know what I’m striving for. “Conviction, conversion and repentance; fighting against the world, the flesh and the devil; fellowship with God and other Christians; finishing well, in faith and hope” as Linda recapped, sounds a lot like what I have experienced in my Christian walk thus far so I am encouraged to know that even though I didn’t understand what “piety” meant, God has been working that in me over the years just as He worked in the lives of the Puritans in the past.
    Secondly, I was greatly challenged by the suggestion on page 159 to be diligent in journaling. Journaling, which the Puritans did so well, helps keep us from spiritual complacency, keeps our concentration on our communion with God, and helps us not lose the lessons we learned through our trials. I don’t ever want to get to the place where I’m not trusting Him to help me with a new level of spiritual discipline.
    This chapter seemed to be full of great one-liners, things I need to have hanging on my refrigerator, which often serves as my desk top. Here are a few of my favorites:

    “An irreligious woman is also an ungrateful one” from Female Piety

    “The life God plants in us develops its own virtues, not the virtues of Adam, but of Jesus Christ. Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus.” From Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

    “Wisdom is the link between fear of the Lord and a virtuous life.” Susan Hunt

    “For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him-they will never yield him willing service.” John Calvin

    “To insist that men verbalize or socialize their faith in the way woman do is to demean their maleness.” Susan Hunt

    “…the fact that place and position have next to nothing to do with happiness; that we can be wretched in a palace, radiant in a dungeon.” Elizabeth Prentiss, Puritan.

    “There is a sensitive creativity and a holy abandon about her actions.” Susan Hunt writing about Mary who poured costly oil on Jesus head and feet and wiped it with her hair.

    “The passage to piety is brokenness over our sin, but the passage begins with a true knowledge of God and ends with true obedience to Him.” Susan Hunt

    “How often we want to fix our problems, and what we should want is Jesus.” Susan Hunt

  5. Marliss Bombardier May 16, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    This chapter on piety was challenging to me in several ways. Am I a Proverbs 31 woman who “fearlessly fears the Lord”? pg. 150 Recently, my family has been talking about this, about how fear is the beginning of wisdom. This teaching is prevalent in both Psalms and Proverbs. I think that many of us are like children who first behave out of fear of punishment, then as we mature (grow in wisdom) we understand that our parents are teaching us out of a desire to raise us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to develop His character in us. We begin to obey out of love and respect. As we grow in maturity (wisdom) in Christ, we begin to understand the amazing attributes of God and desire to obey Him because we love Him. John 14 We begin to reverence God and to stand in awe of Him (i.e. fear Him), to trust His love and not fear His punishment, to accept His will and even find joy in the trials He provides to develop His character in us.

    I was also challenged to take a good look at the things that I spend my time on. Do I “long for such nearness to Him that all other objects shall fade into comparative insignificance”? pg. 154 And do I do it for Jesus, “regardless of recognition or results”? Pg. 157

    Finally, I was challenged by the call to brokenness. So many times we are broken through our circumstances and look to God because of them. Sometimes this is called a “foxhole spirituality” because when our circumstances ease we lose our focus on Christ. But on earth we will always struggle with our sin nature. God may use circumstances or other people to expose our sin nature, but I think He does this in part to show us who He is and the magnificence of His holiness and love so that we bow in gratitude that we are His. As time goes by, we learn to live—though imperfectly—in humility and brokenness. I love what Susan Hunt says on pg. 159: “The passage to piety is brokenness over our sin, but the passage begins with a true knowledge of God and ends with true obedience to Him.”