Page images

They had disagreed, keenly reproached each other, and parted, with bitter regret that they had ever met; he to live alone and brood over the unhappy past, and she to return home to her friends.

Shall I diselose at full length the unhappy causes that led in succession to these events ? No: never shall Ephraim Holding cross the sacred threshold of domestic life for the unhallowed purpose of holding up human infirmity to view! Enough for him if he can snatch an impressive lesson from the short-lived joys of an unhappy pair wherewith to warn the young and inconsiderate. The parties had married hastily, without a suitable knowledge of each other.

How necessary is this knowledge to those who are to share each other's joys and sorrows till death! How necessary that they should be willing to bear with each other's infirmities, as well as to admire each other's excellencies! Daughters, profit by the caution of your friend, Ephraim Holding.

THE DUTY OF WOMEN. In all countries, the moral and political condition of woman may be considered as an index of society, and the character of a nation is intimately connected with the veneration paid to her rights. · Woman is still, throughout the rest of the world, more the attendant than the companion of man; but in our own happy land of equal privileges, liberty of conscience, and freedom of the press, they are more justly estimated, and possess a dignified, respectable influence, in which neither a soulless submission, nor an irrational self-confidence is exhibited. Education is shedding its enlightening rays upon the mind, and a system of general instruction diffusing its blessings through every class. Women are uniting with men in the noble cause of banishing oppression, vice, and ignorance from the earth, and, with the blessings of Heaven, intelligence and virtue will soon become triumphant.

In the present era of universal reform, the prejudices of preceding ages can scarcely be comprehended. We might portray a dark period of woman's history, and assert that she had not become a sharer in the march of mind ; that the " tone of female society" was still a focus of folly—“a court where fashion and personal vanity are the presiding dei

But should we presume to utter such an unjust aspersion upon the character of our sex, in relation to its present state in our country, who would believe it ? An intellectual woman is no longer placed under the ban of prejudice. Let the names of More, Edgeworth, De. Sevigne, De Stael, Cottin, Opie, Sigourney, Hemans, and many others, distinguished for genius and virtue, animate our hopes, and encourage them to imitate their high examples, and let us honour, with a pure and holy sentiment, that benevolent system of philosophy which is elevating woman to the station in society originally assigned her by infinite wisdom.'

Much of the infelicity existing in the human family has resulted


from an inordinate desire to be distinguished and admired; the consequence, frequently, of a faulty education. The system of emulation introduced into our seminaries of learning, by arraying the self-love of one individual or party, against the self-love and interest of another, counteracts the sentiments of liberality and good will, and creates a feeling of rivalry which is apt to remain and endanger our happiness in after life. Could the spirit of humility, forbearance, and affection be substituted, the petulance and impatience excited by disappointed ambition might be avoided, and an improvement effected in female character. The minds of women should be stored with useful knowledge ; not for the meed of applause; not for the purpose of displaying our superiority over those who are appointed to rule over them; but for the rational improvement and employment of our leisure hours ; tranquillity and content being regarded as the ultimate reward. Thus the refining influence of literary pursuits might be exerted throughout all the social and moral fabric. But exalted literary attainments will never compensate for the absence of those feminine virtues which Christianity enjoins.

As the sensibility of woman is greater than her judgment, her mind should be trained from infancy to calculate and reflect; and religion, refinement, and good sense forming the basis, we might rear a harmonious superstructure of virtuous principles, with habits of order and application. A woman, “ who would mingle in ambitious strife, and cherish dreams of power," is not contented with rational affection, and approving love. Blinded by the dazzling hues of romance and imagination, and cherishing the fond hope that she will continue “ the beacon of man's course, his guiding star," she seldom awakes from her delusive dreams until too late to profit by experience ; not until, without a pilot, without a compass or helm, to guide her on the dangerous voyage, her peace of mind is wrecked. Ah, how greatly our progress in the pursuit of happiness is impeded by our inordinate self-esteem! There are women who have endeavoured to attain a preeminence never yet accorded them, who have overstepped the boundaries assigned them by their modesty, which renders them lovely, and subjected themselves to "the shafts of envy and the sneers of ridicule.” When vanity, preponderating over those feelings inspired by native diffidence, allured a female into the forbidden paths of pedantry and ostentatious display, “a son may blush, and a husband feel the complicated cleverness of his wife a reproach.” Intrinsic excellence shuns display, and while seemingly unconscious of its merits, secures the esteem of the intelligent and virtuous. There are some occasions in life when women are called upon to exhibit the independence of the sterner sex, but they are few. They should remember that gentleness is their ornament and shield; not even “ the bitter corrosion of feelings that meet no answering tone," should be powerful to destroy it; but with true magnanimity, they should bear with fortitude and serenity the trials of life, and never "show a will most incorrect to heaven, a heart unfortified, a mind impatient.” Let them summon to their aid the resources of the heart and mind, and the internal consciousness of disinterested discharge of duty will produce an adequate recom

[ocr errors]

pense in that peace the world can neither give nor take away. Manners softened by courtesy and kindness, charity for the imperfections of others--that germ of a thousand virtues, complacency of temper, self-denial, integrity, and devotion,--these, with the art of making their home the abode of peace and comfort, will insure them the respectful attentions of society, and the tender affection of friends, long after the attractions of youth have fled.

We have said that religion and refinement should form the basis for cultivation of female excellence. By refinement we do not mean the exclusiveness of aristocracy, or the sickly sensibility of weak minds, but the instinctive perception of what is amiable, respectful, and delicate in social intercourse. By religion, we do not mean attachment to some favourite system, sectarian scruples, or the observance of outward forms and ceremonies; but the mild forbearance of Christianity, teaching us to deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. What has elevated woman from the state of servile dependence in which uncultivated, uncivilized man has ever held her ? Religion ! And a woman uninfluenced by its pure, benevolent, and perfect precepts, is a branch from which emanates no verdure ; for the principle of life is wanting.



(Continued from page 264.) But the evil of such marriages is not merely negative; they create positive and formidable obstructions to piety. Their history proves their fatal tendency. Before the flood, they were the cause of corrupting all the professors of religion. Such of Lot's daughters as had married in Sodom, remained, and perished under conjugal influence. Esau married a strange wife, and sunk into profaneness. Ishmael did the same, and not only fell away from the faith, but became a persecutor. Job's wife offered that ruinous counsel, “ Curse God and die.' Samson's proved his overthrow and death. The captivity and ruin of the whole Jewish nation was produced by irreligious marriages. “And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites; and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia : and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.” Judges iï. 5—8. Solomon was induced, by irreligious wives, to commit the enormous sin of idolatry, and that to the most enormous extent. Solomon, the wise, the good, the inspired, was made a fool, and wicked, by his wives; “for it came to pass, when Solomon was. old, (nearly sixty years of age,) that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; for he went after Ashtaroth, the goddess of the Zido

nians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.” Well did Nehemiah urge his fatal example long afterward, and say, “Even Solomon did outlandish women cause to sin.” Nehemiah xiii. 26. Matthew Henry remarks on this

passage, “ You plead that you can marry strange wives, and yet retain the purity of Israelites ; but Solomon himself could not." Therefore “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall, when he runs upon such a precipice !" Ahab, whose history is a scene of almost unparalleled wickedness, and whose name stands infamously conspicuous as “ he who caused Israel to sin," was led into that fearful career of impiety by his guilty wife. “There was none like unto Ahab, who did sell himself to work wickedness, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord.” Jehoram, king of Judah, “ did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of the kings of Israel ; for the daughter of Ahab was his wife.” 2 Kings viii. 18.

Why are these facts made to occupy so large a space in the Holy Oracles ? Let Paul answer. “ These things are our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Therefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. x, 6, 11, 12.

It is remarkable that there is not a single recorded case in which an irreligious partner proved a help-meet. Nay, it is more remarkable, that in every case where such connexions are recorded, they produced absolute or partial apostacy in the professing party! Is this nothing in the eyes of such as are bent on these connexions ?

The evil consequences of irreligious connexions are not only prominent facts in Scripture history-they are prominent in daily life. Where is there an intelligent Christian who has not seen such consequences? Where have we known such a connexion formed which did not produce them in a greater or less degree? The whole course of observation shows the need of the early exhortation to Christians, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation;" and confirms the sentiment of the venerable Pike, who says, 6. Of all the snares to which the Christian is exposed, perhaps the most fatal, the most ruinous, are those which spring from improper companions."*

How regular and correct soever the carnal companion may be, there is yet a chill atmosphere in their presence, which tends to benumb the graces of a Christian. Duties which to one are of imperious obligation, are irksome to the other, and must either be performed under the

* At the Society Islands, some who had gone forth to convert the heathen to God, and had resolution enough to leave all to do this service, on losing their companions, sought second marriages among the unconverted natives. But they were like Samson before Delilah ! They soon abandoned the society of their brethren ; at length renounced Christianity, sunk into shocking vices, and went down, apostates from God, to uptimely graves.

embarrassing consciousness of their being disliked, or be omitted, under the still greater penalty of a guilty conscience.

If the opposer be the husband, the evil is greatly magnified. His power and authority enable him so to regulate the whole domestic economy, as to render it impossible for the wife to fulfil the desires of the heart. Instead of having a husband who is pleased with what pleases Christ, she is obliged to care for the things of the world, how she may please her husband, who, though he may not openly oppose, will naturally discountenance any attention to religious subjects, more than he is himself willing to bestow. She must not relieve the necessities of the saints, nor aid foreign missions, nor frequent the place of prayer, lest she provoke displeasure. She cannot take a religious newspaper or magazine. The people of God must hold no meetings in her house, nay, her

very pastor may be refused admittance. Rather than be at perpetual variance, she is induced constantly to violate her sense of propriety in dress, company, amusements, and a thousand similar points, which she tutors herself to esteem non-essential. Darkness of mind is thus incurred, weak Christians are offended, difficulty is created in the church, and a stumbling-block laid before sinners.

Suppose the husband to possess the highest degree of mere human excellence in disposition and habits, and the utmost respect for religious forms. Suppose him honourable, benevolent, educated, judicious, useful. Suppose him to train his children with the utmost propriety, and even maintain family worship. Here is a strong case. But he is not pious, in the estimation of the judicious. A Christian female adventures marriage. What will be the probable effect? Will she not be likely, in her love and respect for him, after intimate and prolonged witness of his excellence, to ask whether he has not religion enough? Will she not doubt whether she herself be as good, because she finds her life less perfect? Will it not seem to her impossible that this kind, good, and apparently religious man, who seems to do the best he can, should be an heir of wrath, a candidate for infinite misery? Her heart will rise up against the discriminating doctrines of grace. She will be afraid to see them in the Word of God, lest they make her think less favourably of the character and destiny of her husband. Her soul, obscured under clouds of doctrinal doubts, and barren under destitution of practical cultivation, will grow sterile of spiritual enjoyment; and if religion maintain its doubtful empire in her heart, it will be too feeble to accomplish any thing important for her family or the world.

It ought not to be forgotten, that in the struggle between good and evil, every natural disadvantage lies on the side of the pious party. The contact of a thousand healthy men will not impart soundness to one who is sick ; but one patient may infect an army. Every example of the neglect of religious duties, every proposition to commit small sins, every temptation to worldliness in company, amusements, and general style of living, finds a potent advocate in a bosom, where, though piety reigns, there is still a deceitful heart, and corrupt inclinations, How can it be otherwise, when association with the unconverted, in all other relations, is known and acknowledged to deteriorate a Christian ? Is there a child of God on earth who has not found the free and chę

« PreviousContinue »