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quiet spirit.” 23d, “ Her husband is known in the gates,” &c. His wife gives tone to his character; he is not only known by the character of his costume, but he is known from his placid and cheerful countenance: unaccustomed to domineer his looks are not imperious; he is meek and benign in his aspect. God has given him a help-meet, in the true sense of the word, to help to console him in his sorrows; a counsellor in his difficulties, who wisely partakes with him in his joys. She is his “crown and his glory. Houses and riches are the inheritance of fathers, and a prudent wife is from the Lord.” 24th, “She maketh fine linen and selleth it,” &c. She is also a merchant; having the due exercise of her talents, she shows herself capable of transacting any business; which, instead of being any diminution to her husband's honour, promotes both his honour and interest. 25th, “ Strength and honour are her clothing," &c. Although she is the weaker vessel as to physical organization, yet God hath clothed her with moral and intellectual strength, which is incomparably more honourable and efficient than if she had the physical strength of a Goliah without moral and intellectual qualifications; and having well exercised these qualifications through grace here, she will rejoice with God in heaven throughout eternity 26th,,“ She openeth her mouth with wisdom.” She has a well cultivated mind; the latent powers of her mind have been developed by exercise; she has been permitted to think, speak and act, for herself, so that her judgment has grown and arrived at maturity, which qualifies her to act as a legislator; in her tongue is the law of kindness; she speaks the truth in love, which is equivalent to a law. 27th, “ She looketh well to the ways of her household.” She does not let one duty interfere with another, although she is employed in so many avocations. (It is generally supposed, that if women were permitted to attend to any business out of the “ kitchen and parlour," their domestic duties would be neglected.) 28th, “Her children arise up and call her blessed,” &c. Often has a mother's wholesome lessons and ardent prayers followed her children through their diverse meanderings of profligacy and debauchery, and acted as monitors, continually sounding in their ears to return to the path of duty; and were the means, through God, of preventing them from irretrievably sinking
in the sea of vice. A majority of men who have risen to eminence and usefulness in the world, have attributed their success, in a great degree, to the wise instructions and good conduct of their mothers. Children who have such mothers have much reason to call them blessed, and to bless God who gave them. 29th, “Her husband also, and he praiseth her.” He is not only the nourisher but the cherisher, ex officio. He cheers her and praises her, which strengthens her hands and encourages her heart in her arduous duties. He has no invidious fears that his wife will eclipse his glory; he knows her honour is his honour. Nor has he any anxiety to show that she is a mere machine in his hand. He is too magnanimous to desire to detract from her stature in order to add to his own. He says, “ Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” Christ said of the spouse, “ She is the choice one of her that bare her." 30th, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain," &c. Favour that is not predicated on something more substantial than beauty is but vanity, and passeth away. “But she that feareth the Lord shall be praised.” 31st, “ Give her of the fruit of her hands,” &c. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Her fruits are evidences of her faith and charity. She gives good reason to be well reported of for good works.
The character of a good wife is here illustrated by its practical operation. The way to test the correctness of a theory, is by its practice. This is represented as a happy and prosperous family. This is the influence that a wise and good woman would have on the interests and happiness of a family, under the most favourable circumstances. That many women would not approximate to such a character, under any circumstances, we readily admit. But that many would in a good degree approximate to this character, who are now passive drones, if they were placed in the favourable circumstances here represented, we have not the least doubt. The popular theory of the relative standing of the sexes, particularly in the marriage relation, lies like an incubus on woman's energies, and inflates the other sex with pride and self-sufficiency. It is the general opinion that woman, on her marriage, alienates many of her rights, and that they are merged in the husband. Now, woman can no more alienate
her rights than man can his, because the duties they impose are unchangeable. She is always held responsible to God as an individual, the same as she was before marriage. Marriage creates new duties, but obliterates none, consequently, she cannot alienate any of her rights. She may suspend the exercise of some of her rights, or exercise the right in another way. Several of the rights which this virtuous woman, whom we have had under consideration, has exercised, are among the rights which woman is supposed to alienate by the marriage contract.
We have summoned a host of witnesses from the unerring standard to give testimony on this question, and they all agree that husband and wife are equally responsible to God for the same moral duties, in the marriage relation; consequently, when their duties are the same, their right must also be the same. We might here rest the case. No obedience which the wife owes the husband, can contravene these statutes of heaven. God's moral precepts are like the natural planets, each revolving in its own orbit, without coming into collision. Woman is to be judged by the same law as man. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Matt. xxv. 35, 36. And that these duties are particularly incumbent on woman, is seen from 1 Tim. i. 10. These are family duties, and demonstrate that a wife, as one of the heads of a family, has liberty to perform these duties, without let or hinderance. We cannot serve two masters. We are aware that there are objections urged against this theory, which are supposed to be unanswerable. We propose to consider them in the succeeding chapter.
From the testimony we have adduced on the question under consideration, our position is, that husband and wife, united, constitute the heads and governors of the family, and that God has made them equally responsible for all moral duties belonging to persons standing in that relation; and as they have equal responsibilities, they have equal rights. And that neither can nullify the lawful acts of his associate. When we speak of a law, we mean the law of God, and not the law of man's device. If the husband has the authority
to nullify the wife's acts, it cannot be said she has any authority at all. He can no more nullify the command of God to obey the mother, than she can nullify the command to obey the father, provided the command is lawful. The commandments of God are not to be nullified by the traditions of men. Husband and wife, each contributing what amount of knowledge they are in possession of, for the good of the familyor either waiving their opinion, for their companion's good to edification, “for even Christ pleased not himself.” And “let the husband care for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and in like manner the wife the husband. And let the wife see, that she reverence her husband,” and manifest it, by showing a due respect for his opinions; and in like manner let the husband see that he honours the wife.
Here is a field for both to exercise all their moral and intellectual endowments, and all the Christian graces; and that they will be often brought into requisition, we have not the least doubt. We appeal to the observation of all, that the nearer families approximate to this standard, the nearer they approximate to happiness and perfection. One fact speaks more than volumes of speculative theories.
We will no doubt be asked, if husband and wife are equal in authority, who is to settle the dispute, if they cannot agree in judgment? If they observed the rules we have laid down, there will be no disputes. If they have a disagreement at any time, whoever loves most, and possesses the most Christian grace, will submit for the time being, provided it is not immoral, or eminently prejudicial to their temporal interests. And if any chooses to award the greatest amount of the Christian graces to woman, we are satisfied. It is certainly the most desirable situation to be placed in. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity seeketh not her own.”
It is certainly a very supposable case, that husband and wife may differ in opinion, respecting the regulation of family concerns, and we have at least three examples of it, on Divine record. Abraham and Sarah differed in opinion, respecting his son Ishmael, residing in the family, Gen. xxi. 9, 14. Also Isaac and Rebekah differed in opinion, which of the sons should receive the patriarchal benediction, Gen. xxvii., -and Nabal and Abigail differed in opinion, respecting the duty of giving a portion of their substance to a poor persecuted servant of God, 1 Sam, xxv.–We believe these are the only instances which are on scripture record, of husband and wife differing in opinion, relative to the regulation of their family concerns. Strange and unreasonable as it may appear, considering the popular theory on this question, the wife had her will established, in those three instances. Not because God would have the wife to have the ascendency, but because in those instances she was right. Sarah effected her purpose by a firm dignified stand, and fearlessly asserting her rights. Rebekah effected hers by stratagem, which is by no means commendable; notwithstanding, the end she had in view was right, because her choice of the sons was God's choice. And Abigail effected her purpose by performing the duty devolving upon her, as one of the heads and governors of the family and their worldly possessions. Notwithstanding the possibility of husband and wife differing in opinion, as it respects the regulation of the family, God has made no provision for their conflict in sentiment;-it would be making provision to do what is wrong in itself. God has constituted them conjointly the governors of a family, and necessarily ought to be of one mind. Wherever there is a conflict between husband and wife, respecting the government of the family, they both fail to govern—"united, they stand; divided, they fall.” Nor is there any bone of contention between them, as their interests are identical Family government is of too momentous a character, to be sustained by one alone. On the supposition that the husband is the only governor of the family, or what is equivalent, the ultimate appeal,” he would always be alone in duties of the most arduous and momentous character; ruling the household, which is the foundation of society. On this principle it would not be true, that "in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” “Two are better than one,” saith the Spirit of God," because they have a good reward for their labour; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but wo to him that is alone when he falleth, for he has not another to help him up.”