« PreviousContinue »
And let not passion's lawless tide
For woe awaits the evil hour,
His pattern, friend, and guide to be-
THE CHRISTIAN ELEVATION OF WOMAN.
The history of woman in all civilized society is of the utmost importance to man.
Of what importance then is it that they should be prepared for the part they are to support in it-a part of the most awful consequence to the fate of empires, to the interests of society, and, above all, to the peaceful felicities of domestic life: yes—let me not be thought to make a false climax when I speak of the felicities of domestic life as last and highest in the scale of human existevcethey are highest. The eternal analogies of nature stand unshaken and unaltered-empires and rulers may pass away--have passed away before our eyes,
like a dream when one awaketh. The mighty ones of the earth have changed their places, like the colours of the rainbow in a stormy sky-the earth has been moved out of her place —yet still, and for ever, the domestic charities of life exist, are cherished, are indispensable, not only to the being, but the comfort of man. While sovereigns and sceptres change like the changes of the clouds, the blessed relations of domestic life, the relations of husband and wife, and son and daughter, continue, and must continue, like the light of heaven, above, and updisturbed by all.
When we look into the early books of the Bible, those books which, in despite of the presumption of modern philosophy, contain all the knowledge we can ever arrive at about the creation of the world and the destiny of man, we find indeed an awful sentence denounced against woman
-a sentence which is fulfilling at this day, and will be to the end of the world. But man need not be proud; against him also there is a sentence denounced, that in the sweat of his brow he shall eat his bread. Both sentences are fulfilling and fulfilled in every part of the globe. Man must toil, and woman must suffer; such is the destiny of human beings-gloomy and awful indeed! When we turn to the Gospel, a brighter page opens; there temporal sufferings and temporal struggles disappear in the glorious prospect of an eternity. Eternity! O that the word was as familjar to your souls, as it is to your ears! To the ears of women, at least, that sound ought to be welcome. Christianity has done for them that which neither their nature, their habits, the constitution of society, nor the laws of all the legislators of Europe could do for them.-Christianity alone has elevated woman to her true dignity in existence. Let woman repay her vast debt to Christianity.
To estimate what she owes, let us view the situation of women in any part of the globe where Christianity does not exist. Wherever it does not exist, woman is degraded ; wherever Christianity does exist, woman is exalted. In youth we are shewn what are called the illustrious examples of classical eminence. Miserable eminence! One of the best of their writers pronounced the first female character of antiquity intolerable from her pride and presumption. I have no wish to struggle against the invincible prejudice about classic characters here--the prejudice about Roman matrons and Grecian heroines——they appear to me only sublime savages-persons who, by the energy of their minds, rose above their miserable fate, but were not the less miserable ultimately. Human happiness, depending so much as it does always on women, on those who bore us, and on those we love, appears to me never to have attained its true level, its moral average, until the religion of Christ was known. Till then women were slaves or toys, victims of a passion too gross to be named ; or, rising above it, they rose into examples of monstrous and exaggerated greatness—fierce and unfeminine—unsexed and unnatural: they were women who could bid their sons go out, and return upon their shields—they were like Agrippina, bearing in her bosom the urn of one husband, and soliciting another in the first year of her widowhood.
It is horrible to look back on the page of history, on the page of life: it is horrible to see how women have been treated; it is horrible to the philosopher, or the religionist; but O! that it was useful to women—that they could see that their only dignity was derived from that which is above-that their true beauty was “the beauty of holiness!”_Where is she to discover the true estimate, the real utility and dignity of her character and of her sex? Let her be instructed. Among savages she is a slave: the miserable mother there is often known to strangle her female infant, and to call the deed merciful--and perhaps it is so—among such beings, woman is a beast of burden, and less honoured, in proportion as lier strength is less than that of ordinary animals.
And is this the lot of woman- of that elegant and feeble being, whose infirmities are her graces, whose dependence on man appears her most attractive virtue? It is. Such is the destiny of woman, when human necessity organizes it: when human passion merely organizes it, it is worse, if
possible--yes, worse.—Better be the manure scattered over the soil, and trodden down to fertilize it; than the rose that is torn, and wasted in wantonness, and given to the winds to waft its perished leaves over the burning desert of desire and annihilation. Yes, such is the fate of woman in countries where all the attention of man is given to his own indulgence—where woman, a dazzling victim, is arraved and instructed in all that can dazzle the senses, and then led, a lovely, intoxicated victim, to the altar of sensuality, and sacrificed for ever.
On the history of such nations, a mind that reflects will pause, and say to itself, where woman is thus degraded, man is a brute:-and it is true -awfully true. Women avenge themselves on man:-if we make them slaves, we are slaves ourselves—we may bind them with chains, but the iron enters into our own souls:--if we bruise their heads, they bruise us, and mortally too. Thus we see woman, in some countries the slave of necessity, and in others the slave of appetite. Where alone do we bebold her free, honoured, and beloved ? Only where the religion of Christ is known. Ay, and in such direct proportion to each other are the religion of the Gospel and the emancipation of the female sex, that their liberty is precisely varied according as the light of that religion is more or less obscure in the various countries of Europe. The women in the south of Europe are scarce better than their neighbours of