« PreviousContinue »
single character or incident, which demonstrates the social, domestic, intellectual, and spiritual position and endowments of women as enslaved and degraded. There is not a hint or allusion to any second law opposed to the written one of Moses; for if there had been, the monarchy lasted sufficiently long for it to have obtained such dominion as to make manifest its existence.
That man's evil and licentious passions had increased to an extent so fearful as to demand the captivity of the whole nation, is no proof of the imperfection of the law, but only of the imperfection of human nature. That the sins of the women increased the burden of Israel's guilt we do not deny, because the prophets so inform us. We merely affirm, that the social condition of women had not degenerated that there were no laws then degrading and enslaving her; and, therefore, that as there were none then, there can be none now, as we acknowledge no other law of sufficient power to annul or contradict those given by the Eternal to Moses, and by him transmitted to man.
This important fact is strongly confirmed by the fearful wickedness of Jezebel and Athaliah. The former was the daughter of a notorious idolatrous king, and the mother of Athaliah; consequently we may indulge the comfort of the belief that neither was of Israel, and that such awful crimes stained not the women whom the Lord so blessed. There is no occasion to bring forward their histories, subjects from which no good can be obtained, except that, in the creeping horror of the evil and the sin to which woman can attain, the prayer for help and strength, and freedom from temptation, may arise more frequently from our hearts. The fact of their influence is all we need, as confirming the assertion, that woman had both power and freedom in the land. Ahab's natural wickedness was fearfully increased, and made productive of still more horrible evil, by the councils of his wife, as we must perceive by a very casual glance over his history: and of Athaliah we are expressly told, when speaking of her husband Jehoram, " that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife, so he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” And, again, of her son Ahaziah, “ he also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly." What can more forcibly illustrate the power and influence which woman could obtain and exercise in Judea ? Had there been any law confining them to one particular sphere and debasing employments, not even the idolatrous wives and mothers of the kings could have obtained such ascendancy. Nor was it only through kings, female authority was exercised. Athaliah reigned six years sole mistress of Judea; and we may be certain, that however low the nation had fallen, however the laws of Moses had sunk into neglect and abuse, still, had there ever been any portion of this law degrading to woman, Athaliah never would have had either the means of making herself queen, or supporting so high a dignity, even for the short
space The very fact, then, of there being such characters as Jezebel and Athaliah, is unanswerable confirmation of the freedom and equality of woman, because, though they were not women of Israel, their union with the Hebrew kings subjected them to all the restrictions of
of six years.
the Mosaic law; and had that law made them slaves, they would not have exchanged their liberty in their own idolatrous countries for conjugal thraldom in Judea, the social and domestic position of the Hebrew females being sufficiently well known to them, from the immediate vicinity of the land, to prevent any misconception on a subject so important.
And whilst we shudder at this picture of awful wickedness, and feel inexpressibly thankful that our merciful God has vouchsafed us a law, which, if obeyed, must effectually prevent the dominion of such evil, let us not turn from it as an overcharged portrait, and believe that human nature is incapable of such heinous crimes. Alas! we have only to look into the annals of modern history, and even amidst those very nations who proclaim themselves so much more enlightened and spiritual than the blinded Jew-ay, and within the last four centuries we shall find woman tempted to follow the same awful path, and instigating husbands and sons to the commission of crimes and massacres, from which the heart turns with loathing sickness, and the vain longing to realise disbelief in the story that it reads. And if so lately, comparatively speaking, such things have been even in enlightened nations, can we continue to think the Bible-picture of woman's depravity overcharged ? O we know not, we cannot know, the awful effects of unlimited authority and unrestrained passions on the weak human heart. We can only pray God to guard us from positions in which feelings may be aroused of whose very
existence we dream not now; to bind closer and closer still His blessed law upon our hearts, His
spirit on our souls; to remove from us all those evil inclinations and embryo passions which His eye may trace, but of which we are unconscious; to enable us to cling closer and closer unto Him in prayer and praise; and we shall be guarded, as by an angel's wing, from every evil thought and evil deed.