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meet" for man, is the care of his health, and every thing connected with it; his tranquillity of mind, his temper, his character and reputation: without which the greatest bodily vigour will quickly decay and sink, and life will cease to be a blessing.
It is pleasant to have a companion in solitude, an assistant in labour, a fellow-partaker in joy. But human life contains varieties painful, as well as pleasant. Sorrow, and pain, and solicitude, and disappointment enter into the history of man: and he is but half provided for the voyage of life, who has found an associate for his happier days only; while for his months of darkness and distress no sympathising partner is prepared, no help meet" is found. The provident care of the Almighty meets every wish and want of man; and in bestowing upon him a companion for youth, a sharer in felicity, a partner in property, he was securing for him, at a distance, a friend in age, a solace in affliction, a partner in want-" a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
If a man's worldly estate, whether it be much or little, is wisely managed, one foundation of health and comfort is laid; and she who is thus habitually employed, may be considered as administering a perpetual medicine or cordial to her husband. But no prudence of foresight can ward off the attack of disease, or prevent the stroke of calamity; affluence cannot purchase release from pain, nor tenderness cool the fever in the blood. But the sufferer is not left destitute. There is one ear into which he can pour out all his heart; there is one hand ever ready to relieve him; one life bound up in his life." And as enjoyment derived all its relish from participation, so misery loses all its anguish in the bosom of sympathy and kindness.. The spirit of penitence is inferiour only to unsullied innocence; and next to the blessing of unimpaired health, and uninterrupted comfort, is the consolation of sickness alleviated, and comfort restored, by the gentle language and engaging offices of love. What shall I say? Is there not, perhaps, in the restoration of repenting guilt, and in the suspension of woe, by the assiduity of affection, a peculiar satisfaction, and a delight, which perfect innocence and perfect health could not possibly have known?
The regular temperature of a man's body is, however, only one ingredient in the cup of health. "An help meet for him," will be anxious to preserve a sound mind in a sound body; will endeavour to prevent or dispel painful reflection; will remove disquieting objects; will present smiling images; will watch the ebbing and flowing of passion, will bear and forbear, and, like the best of beings, "will overcome evil with good."
She will likewise consider herself as entrusted with the care of his good name. His reputation is her brightest ornament; his honour is her joy, and crown of rejoicing. If he is disgraced, she is degraded. Every instance of misconduct in her, she knows, glances at him; and therefore to support his dignity is a powerful motive with her to act wisely and well. She reflects, that not only by gross deviations from duty in the wife, does the husband suffer in character, but that levity, indiscretion, carelessness in her, are an imputation upon his understanding, and, in the opinion of the world, incessantly upbraid him with the choice he has made, of "an help meet for him." As she would therefore compassionately nurse his body in pain and sickness; and prudently study and watch his temper, amidst the conflict of contending passions, so, to approve herself what God and nature meant her to be, she will guard his fame, the life of his life," as her precious eye," and thus, in every thing relating both to mental and bodily health, to private comfort and public estimation," she will do him good, and not evil all the days of her life.”
But there is somewhat still dearer, still more sacred to a man than children or property, than health or reputation, somewhat which, neglected, forfeited,
lost, it will profit him nothing to gain even the whole world ;" and in the securing and promoting of which, who is so qualified to minister and assist as her, whom the Father of mercies gave him, to be "an help meet for him?" I mean,
IV. The salvation of the immortal soul. This is indeed a personal concern; an interest which cannot be transferred or communicated. The goodwill of another cannot impart it; the remissness of another cannot defeat it: to God, his great Master, here, every man standeth or falleth, for "every one must give account of himself to God." But is it not obvious, that example, that reason, that cooperation, possess a mighty influence toward promoting or obstructing personal piety, growth in grace, meetness for the kingdom of heaven? Is the man impressed with the worth, with the danger of his own soul; does he feel "the powers of a world to come;" is his mind turned to devotion; is the love of God shed abroad in his heart? How will such impressions be fixed and strengthened, by endeavouring to communicate them to a beloved object, and by receiving back the impression, heightened and improved, from that object? How much more exalted and affecting is a sense of divine goodness, when it is beheld embracing more than one! when it is seen conferring immortality, eternity, on virtuous human affections! what a live coal applied to devotion, when the solitary my Father and my God, is changed into the social our Father and our God! How is the hope of glory ennobled, extended, animated, by the prospect of participation! "Here am I, Holy Father, with her whom thou gavest me, to be an help meet for me. We were one in interest and affection; one in the faith of the gospel, and the practice of piety; our prayers ascended in one stream of incense, and every gift of thy providence and grace was multiplied and sweetened to each by being bestowed on the other. Sweet were our labours of love to our joint offspring; sweet our united efforts to improve the bounty of our common parent; sweet the sympathies of kindred hearts, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, in good and in bad report; but sweeter far the consolations of religion, the prospect of life and immortality brought to light by the gospel." We come together to "receive the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls; as, through grace, we have been made helpers of each other's faith, let us be, eternally, helpers of each other's joy."
Is the man, unhappily, dead to all sense of religion; swallowed up of time and sense; is his great or only inquiry, "What shal! I eat, what shall I drink, wherewithal shall I be clothed?" Or, more wretched still, is he delivered over "to commit iniquity with greediness," "and to glory in his shame?" What are the most likely means of awakening him to reflection, of reaching his conscience, of melting his heart, of changing his conduct? Preaching is vain, he turns “a deaf ear to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely:" prosperity fosters pride and forgetfulness of God; adversity only hardens him the more; reason is perverted, passion has acquired the ascendant, the power of habit predominates: but the Lord God has provided an help meet for him." "When public instruction and foreign reproof have failed, the mind is still accessible. The unaffected, unostentatious charm of genuine female piety is felt and understood, and becomes efficacious: the silent unupbraiding regret of conjugal tenderness supplies the place of a thousand arguments, and forces its way to the heart; "the effectual fervent prayer" of a gracious woman "availeth much;" the "believing wife" draws to the Redeemer, with the cords of love, "the unbelieving husband;" she becomes the blessed instrument of "converting the sinner from the error of his way, she saves a soul from death, she hides a multitude of sins," and, in the noblest sense of the word approves herself "an help meet" for man.
In all these important respects, the original design of Eternal Wisdom, in
the formation of woman, is plain and palpable. To have fulfilled one branch of duty, and even to have excelled in it, is no exemption from the obligation of the rest. The duties of life and of religion run in a series, one is linked with another, supposes it, cannot be separated from it. To no purpose are children well educated, if through the indolence, folly, or vice of parents, they are launched into the world in doubtful, dishonourable, embarrassed or distressful circumstances. What is it to me, that my fortune is prudently and frugally managed, if my person is neglected, my temper trifled with, my reputation sacrificed, "my good name filched from me?" And what is the acquisition of a world, at the expense of my soul ?
Let it be understood and remembered, that every word which has been said of the obligation laid on wonran, as an help meet" for man, applies, with at least equal propriety and force, to man, as the helper and friend of woman. Does he possess superiority of any kind? It is evidently intended not to oppress, but to support. His greater strength is given for her protection; his more vigorous or profound powers of thought are designed to be her instructer and guide. Whatever advantage, real or apparent, each may have above the other, Providence clearly wills to be employed for the comfort and benefit of the other. A contention of mutual affection, beneficence, forbearance, forgiveness, is the only strife which nature, reason and decency permit to this state and relation.
We proceed to illustrate female utility and importance in social life, by certain noted examples from the sacred record. May God smile on every attempt to communicate useful truth. Amen.
HISTORY OF DEBORAH.
JUDGES IV. 4, 5.
And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Beth-el, in Mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgement.
THE unremitting attention paid by a wise and gracious Providence to the affairs of men, affords equal matter of wonder and gratitude, with the astonishing power and skill displayed in the first formation of this great universe. Let us suppose the care of that Providence for a little while suspended, and the world left to itself. Who is not shocked in looking forward to the probable, the certain consequences of that remission? Behold instantly the bars of the vast abyss burst asunder, and "hell itself breathing forth destruction to mankind." Behold the prince of the power of the air reigning and raging without control. Behold chaos and ancient night resuming their murky empire, and darkness covering the face of the deep; earth and air confounded; nature convulsed by the fury of contending elements, unrestrained by law; universal confusion and wild uproar prevailing.
Alas, it is not necessary to state the supposition so high. To conceive the wretchedness of mankind, deprived of the constant, superintending care of Heaven, it is needless to let loose the demons of the bottomless pit; it is needless to unbridle the fury of the ocean, or to assist the roaring winds in blowing up the fire into a hotter flame. Under the slightest alteration of the established order of things, all nature languishes. Remove for a moment the all-ruling, all-supporting hand of the great Father of the universe, and lo, this fair and fertile region is overwhelmed with an inundation, and that is burned to one pumice-stone, by the force of celestial or subterraneous fire. Here arises, a race all males, like the fabled generation of warriors which sprung from the serpent's teeth, armed at all points for mutual destruction and slaughter; and there, a nation of timid, defenceless females, inviting violence and insult. But under that uninterrupted divine superintendence all goes on well; there is no schism in the body; every thing is found in its place, every thing performs its function. The exactest proportion between male and female births is preserved; the robuster frame is still found united to the stronger mental faculties; the delicacy of the feminine form indicates, to the very eye, the softer, gentler qualities of the spirit which inhabits it; and nature assigns to each the limits of duty, and the sphere of usefulness and exertion.
But the great God is pleased to make himself known, not only by general conformity to established laws, but by occasional deviation from them. That the sons of men may know, it is according to his high will, that all creatures are, and think, and act.
The history, which this evening comes under our review, exhibits a new thing in the annals of human nature; asserts the sovereignty of the Most High over all persons and events; places the female character and importance in a new, a striking, and a respectable point of view; and thereby admonishes the one sex to think of their own natural general superiority with deference, affection and honour to the manly excellencies of the female mind, when cultivated by a proper education, directed to a worthy object, and roused into exertion by a great and worthy occasion. Hitherto we have seen wise and good women, in the retired vale of domestic life, their proper and peculiar sphere; Sarah, cooperating in the duties of hospitality with her venerable lord; Rebekah, refreshing the weary traveller and the thirsty came with water from the well, as they went on their way; Rachel and the seven daughters of Jethro tending their father's flocks, and making them to lie down under the shade at noon; Miriam leading the festive dance and song, in celebrating the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the triumphs of Israel; and Rahab giving shelter to the persecuted spies, and providing for the safety of
her father's house.
But we are now to contemplate female genius and talents forcing their way to public observation, and to everlasting renown: eclipsing masculine sagacity and fortitude; the inspirer and the example of generous patriotism and martial prowess. We are to contemplate feminine warmth and eagerness, under the influence of prophetic inspiration, and blended with the dignity and integrity of the judgement seat; female spirit, giving breath to the bloody trumpet of war, directing the movements of the embattled host, waking into sacred, poetic rapture, and adapting the joyful strains of victory, to the musical sounds of the living lyre.
Israel had now enjoyed a blessed repose of fourscore years; and are again corrupted by ease and prosperity. Their national character and conduct, are a striking representation of those, of many individuals, whom we are daily meeting with in the world; who are capable of bearing neither prosperity nor adversity; whom it is impossible to serve or to save; who, by their perverseness or folly, are perpetually undoing the kindest designs, and counteracting the most vigorous efforts of their friends in their behalf, and whom, at length, friends are constrained to abandon in despair. Well has Nehemiah, their countryman, described this character, and displayed the patience and longsuffering of God, in that recapitulation of their history, addressed solemnly to Heaven, in the ninth chapter of his book; "And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and olive-yards, and fruit-trees in abundance. So they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness. Nevertheless, they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardst them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them; yet when they returned and cried unto thee, thou heardst them from heaven, and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgements, which if a man do, he shall live in them; and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened the neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst