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GENESIS II. 18.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him.
THE holy scriptures always exhibit the most simple and the justest view of every subject which they treat. And what subject of importance to man do they not treat? The God who made us what we are, formed man after a model, destined him for a special situation, and to fulfil a specific purpose. His faculties, his relations, his duties, his demands, his delights, were all, from the beginning, present to the eye of his Creator: and a corresponding arrangement and provision were made by Him, who seeth the end from the commencement, and who exactly adjusts all, according to number, weight and measure.
The perfection of the works of God, is a beautiful and gradual progress toward perfection: from inanimate to vegetative, from vegetative to animal, from animal to rational nature; each approaching to, bordering upon each, but every one circumscribed by a boundary which it cannot pass, to disturb, and confound the province of another. The scale of being, as to this globe, was complete when God had "created man in his own image." But social existence was not perfect till it pleased God to draw man out of solitude, by making him "an help meet for him." This simply, yet clearly, unfolds woman's nature, station, duty, use and end. This raises her to her proper rank and importance, and instructs her how most effectually to support them; this forbids her to aspire after rule, for her Maker designed her as an helper;" this secures for her affection and respect, for how is it possible to hate or despise what God and nature have rendered essential to our happiness. If the intention of the Creator, therefore, is attended to, the respective claims and duties of the sexes are settled in a moment, and an end is put to all unprofitable discussion of superiority and inferiority, of authority and subjection, in those whose destination, and whose duty it is, to be mutually helpful, attentive and affectionate.
The female character and conduct have frequently presented themselves in the course of the history of the Patriarchs. And indeed how can the life of man be separated from that of woman? Their amiable qualities and praiseworthy actions have been occasionally pointed out, and unreservedly, though without adulation, commended; their faults and follies have been, with equal freedom, exposed and censured. But in the instances referred to, female conduct has undergone only an accidental and transient review, in detached fragments, and as supplementary to, or producing influence on the conduct of man. The pencil of inspiration, however, having introduced persons of the gentler sex into its inimitable compositions; and these not always thrown into the back-ground or placed in the shade, but sometimes springing forward Vol. VI.
into the light, and glowing in all the brilliancy of colouring, I have been induced, with trembling steps, to follow the heavenly guide; and to follow up the fainter sketches of a Sarah, a Rebekah, a Rachel, a Miriam, with the more finished portraits" of Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth," ""Ruth, the Moabitess," and " Hannah," the mother of Samuel the prophet. In order to introduce these with greater advantage, I mean to employ the present Lecture, in giving a general delineation of the female character, as it is represented in the passage now read, and as being the purpose and act of the great Lord of nature, an help meet for man." Every creature was intended to yield help to man the flower, with its beauty and fragrance; the tree, with its nutritious fruit; the animal tribes, with all their powers of ministering satisfaction to the senses or to the mind. Adam surveyed them all with delight, saw their several characters in their several forms, gave them names, observed and glorified his Creator's perfections displayed in himself, and in them. But still he was alone amidst all this multitude; the understanding was employed, but the heart wanted its object: the tongue could name all that the eye beheld, but there was no tender, sympathetic ear, to which it could say, "ho fair, how lovely, how glorious is all this that we behold!” "For Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”
The want of nature is no sooner perceived by the great Parent of man, than it is supplied; the wish of reason is no sooner expressed than gratified. Paternal care and tenderness even outrun and prevent the calls of filial necessity. Adam has felt no void, uttered no complaint, but "the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him." And with God, execution certainly and instantaneously follows design. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."* How completely suitable an helper God provided for man in a state of sinless perfection transcends imagination, much more description; all that is lovely in form, all that is graceful in manner, all that is exalted in mind, all that is pure in thought, all that is delicate in sentiment, all that is enchanting in conversation. This felicity was made subject to alteration; this harmony was not to continue perfect; but the original intention of the Creator was not to be defeated, no, but even in a state of degradation, difficulty and distress, as in a state of purity and peace, it was still the destination of Providence, that woman should be "an help meet" for man. In what important respects we are now to inquire.
The first and most obvious is, as his counsellor and coadjutor in bringing up their common offspring. Education, on the part of the mother, commences from the moment she has the prospect of being a mother; and the care of her own health is thenceforth, the first duty which she owes to her child.†
* Gen. ii 21-24.
The instructions given to the wife of Manoah, and mother of Sampson the Nazarite, (Jud. xiii. 4.) "Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing," are not merely arbitrary injunctions adapted to a particular branch of political economy, and intended to serve local and temporary purposes; no, they are constitutions of nature, reason and experience, which unite in recommending to those who have the prospect of being mothers, a strict attention to diet, to exercise, to temper, to every thing which, affecting the frame of their own body or mind, may communicate an important, a lasting, perhaps indelible impression to the body or mind of their offspring. A proper regimen for themselves is therefore, the first stage of education for their children. The neglect of it is frequently found productive of effects which no future culture is able to alter or rectify.
From that moment too she becomes in a peculiar sense "an help meet" for man, as being the depositary and guardian of their most precious joint concern. How greatly is her value now enhanced! Her existence is multiplied, her duration is extended. A man-child is at length born into the world; and what helper so meet for the glad father in rearing the tender babe, as the mother who bare him. There are offices which she, and only she, can perform; there are affections which she, and only she, can feel; there are difficulties which she, and only she, can surmount. Nature has here so happily blended the duty with the recompense, that they cannot be distinguished or separated. In performing every act of maternal tenderness, while she tends and nourishes the body of her infant, she is gradually and insensibly informing his mind. His very first expressions of look, voice and gesture, are expressions of the important lessons which his mother has already taught him, attachment, gratitude, a sense of obligation and dependence. Hitherto she is the sole instructer, and “a stranger intermeddleth not with her joy." The dawning of reason appears; the solicitude of a father awakes; what a task is imposed upon him! Who is sufficient for it? But he is not left to perform it alone. The Lord God has provided him "an help meet for him," one prompted by duty, drawn by affection, trained by experience, to assist him in the
Delightful task! To rear the tender thought,
THOMSON. Spring, 1148.
In the more advanced stages of education, after the pupil is removed from under the maternal wing, of what assistance to the father, of what importance to the child, are the delicate ideas and the tender counsels of a wise and virtuous woman! Read "the words of king Lemuel, the prophecy which his mother taught him,"* and judge whether a mother may be an useful “ "help," in instructing a son, a grown son, and that son a prince. In truth, the mother's influence over the child, as it begins earlier, so it is of much longer duration than the father's. The son, having become a man, or approaching to that state, begins to feel uneasy under the restraints of paternal authority; he longs to shake the yoke from off his neck; he pants for independence-he must obtain it. But what ingenuous young man ever felt a mother's yoke galling, or longed for emancipation from the silken fetters in which her gentle fingers had entangled his soul! In the perfection of understanding, in the plenitude of power, in the self-gratulation of independence, to her milder reason he still submits, her unassuming sway he readily acknowledges, and, independent on all things else, he feels he cannot do without the smiles of maternal approbation, the admonitions of maternal solicitude, the reproofs of maternal tenderness and integrity.
Whatever be the dispositions, whatever the faculties of the child, whether earlier or later in life, the business neither of father nor masters can proceed wisely and well, without the cooperation of the mother. Who knows so well as she, the road to the understanding, the road to the heart? Who has still like her, to encourage the timid and repress the bold? Who has power and address like a mother's, to subdue the stubborn and confirm the irresolute ? Who can with such exquisite art draw out, put in motion, and direct ordinary or superiour powers; place goodness in its fairest and most attractive light, and expose vice in its most hideous and forbidding form? In the case of those persons who have unhappily grossly deviated from the path of virtue, how many have been stopped, converted, brought back, by considerations of mater
Prov. xxxi. 1–9.
nal feelings-shame, and sorrow, and regret; and by the recollection of early lessons, and principles and resolutions. Having been "trained up, when a child, in the way wherein he should walk," the man calls it to remembrance in old age, approves it, returns to it, and " departs from it" no more.
In educating the children of her own sex, the mother seems to be more than "an help meet" for man. The trust chiefly, if not entirely, devolves on her: and where could it be deposited so well? The knowledge she has of herself, experience of the world, and maternal affection, are all she needs to qualify her for this arduous undertaking. A mother only can enter into the feelings, and weaknesses, and necessities of a young female, entering on an unknown, varying, tempestuous, dangerous ocean; for she remembers how she herself felt and feared, what she needed, and how she was relieved, and assisted, and carried through. And to a mother only can a young female impart the numberless, nameless anxieties which every step she takes in life necessarily excite. When she converses with her mother, it is only thinking aloud. A mother's conduct is the loveliest pattern of virtue, and the hope of a mother's applause is, next to God's, the most powerful motive to imitate it. The superiority of female to male youth in respect of moral, whatever be the case as to intellectual improvement, is clearly deducible from the larger share which the mother has in the education of the one, than of the other. And the more liberal and enlarged spirit of the times we live in, procuring for the female world a more liberal and rational education, is daily evincing to what an equality of intellectual endowment they are capable of rising, and thereby of, in all respects, fulfilling the design of the Creator, who said in the beginning, "I will make for man an help meet for him."
I now proceed to mention a second most important respect, in which it is the obvious intention of Providence that woman should be "an help meet" for man, namely, the care and management of his worldly estate.
In a paradisaical state man did not, and in, what is improperly called, the state of nature, he could not long continue. In the former, there was labour, imposed not as a burden or a punishment, but bestowed as a privilege and a source of delight. The help of woman enhanced the value of that privilege, and improved that delight: and even in paradise, the attention of Eve to the disposal of the fruits of his labour, must have been to the man, an exquisite accession to the pleasure of enjoying them. The arrangement which her taste and care had made, constituted the charm of the repast. In a state of uncultivated nature, the subsistence of the day is man's object. He has no idea of "much goods, laid up for many years." But the society and assistance of his rude companion are necessary to give a relish to "what he took in hunting ;" and "the burden and heat of the day," he cheerfully encounters, in the prospect of the refreshment and repose of the evening; and even the hut in the desert exhibits the accomplishment of the Creator's purpose, woman an help meet" for man, managing his scanty portion with discretion, and doubling it by participation.
As the state of society advanced, new ideas of property must have been produced. The labour of to-day began to look forward: "to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow." The care of posterity arose. Permanency must be given to possession. The earth and its produce are parcelled out, men "call their lands by their names,' "house is joined to house, and field added to field." But could man do this alone? No. In vain have his labour
and skill provided "bread enough, and to spare," unless the woman's prudent attention manage that sufficiency, and lay up that surplus, for the evil day which may come. No man ever prospered in the world, without the consent and cooperation of his wife. Let him be ever so frugal, regular, industrious, intelligent, successful-all goes for nothing, if she is profuse, disorderly,
indolent, or unfaithful to her trust. His farm prospers, his barn is filled with plenty," the floors are full of wheat, the fats overflow with wine and oil," his cattle increase, he is waxing rich. His neighbour's commerce thrives, his plans were well laid; Providence smiles; the wings of every wind are wafting to his door, gold, and silver, and precious things. The talents of a third are procuring for him reputation, and distinction, and honour, and wealth. How came they all to fail? Who opened the door, and let poverty rush in as an armed man? The thing speaks for itself. The design of Heaven is defeated; the parties were "unequally yoked;" the "help" found for these men was not "an help meet" for them. Skill, was counteracted by carelessness; the fruits of diligence were scattered about by the hand of dissipation ; the labours of a year perished in the sitting of an evening; "by much slothfulness the building decayed, and through idleness of the hands, the house dropped through."
But "O how good a thing it is, and how pleasant," when the gracious intentions of God and nature are fulfilled! With what spirit and perseverance does a m labour in his vocation, when he knows that his earnings will be faithfully disposed, and carefully improved! With what confidence will he resort to his farm, to his merchandise, fly over land, over the seas, meet difficulty, meet danger, if he has the assurance, that he is not spending his time and strength for nought and in vain; that all is well and safe at home; that indulgent Heaven has crowned all his other blessings, with that of "an help meet for him," a discreet manager of his estate, a fellow-labourer with him, from interest, from affection, from a sense of duty, in " doing justly," in seconding the goodness of Divine Providence, in making fair provision for the time to come, in "providing things honest in the sight of all men!" I conclude this branch of my subject, with a portrait drawn by the pencil of inspiration; may Heaven propagate the resemblance.
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships, she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry: her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing: and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."*
A third respect in which God intended that woman should be "an help