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« Reply #180 on: September 01, 2006, 10:34:16 AM »

But hitherto, it may be said, the chapter does not answer to its title as intended for, and addressed to, young mothers. I will therefore now give it a special bearing upon their case. It has been my object, first of all, to set forth the subject of maternal duty and responsibility in its general aspect—apart from its relation to those to whom it is new—that they may see it in its widest and most comprehensive bearing—before they are reminded of its special bearing on their case. This, I am aware, will give the appearance of a repetition in the second part of this chapter, of some things that were advanced in the first. But such repetitions are sometimes beneficial. In addition, therefore, to what has been said on maternal duties in general, I shall now submit some other matters for your special consideration.

Too many, it is to be feared, enter upon this momentous business without consideration, and, as might be expected, equally without preparation or qualification. It is indeed a pitiable sight to look into the state of some families, and behold the hapless condition of the poorly trained children who have the misfortune to be in the hands of a weak, foolish, and incompetent mother. Perhaps the cause may be traced one step further back, and it may be found that they are incompetent, because their mothers were so before them. Thus the mischief perpetuates itself from generation to generation.

In all things it is of importance to begin well. The beginning usually determines the progress and the close. Errors, both in theory and practice, however long and pertinaciously persisted in—may by intelligence, determination, and the blessing of God—be corrected. Reformation would otherwise be hopeless. But how much better and easier is it to avoid faults than to amend them! Many mothers have seen their mistakes when it was too late to correct them. Their children had grown up under the influence of a bad system of domestic government and maternal guidance, and had acquired a fixedness of bad habit which no subsequent wisdom, firmness, severity, or affection, could correct; and the parents had to pour out bitter but unavailing regrets that they had not begun life with those views of their duties with which they were closing it.

If a mother begins well—she is likely to continue well. And the same is true, that if she begins badly—she is likely to continue badly. Her conduct towards her first child is likely, of course, to determine her conduct with respect to all the following ones. How momentous is it then, at this stage of her domestic history, to weigh well, and solemnly, and prayerfully, her responsible situation! Indeed it is quite clear that this subject ought not to be put off by any wife until she becomes a mother. The very prospect ought to lead to a due preparation for the expected new duties; for these commence with the earliest anticipations of sustaining the maternal character. It behooves us to prepare ourselves for any situation into which we have a confident expectation of soon entering. Forethought is given to mankind for the purpose of meeting with propriety the situation and duties to which we are expecting. The woman who never studies maternal responsibilities and duties until she is called actually to sustain them, is not very likely to do well in that very important relationship.


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« Reply #181 on: September 01, 2006, 10:35:37 AM »

Instinct will teach a parent bird, animal, fish, or insect, all that is necessary for the well being of its young. But it is not so with human parents—study, reflection, forethought, and determination are indispensable for them. Unhappily a young wife, in prospect of giving birth to a child, is in some cases so bowed down with an unnecessary solicitude about her own safety. Others are so absorbed with the preparations which are made for the physical well-being and the elegant furnishings of her promised baby, as to forget to prepare herself for those more important duties which devolve upon her in relation to the mind, and heart, and conscience, of the child. A mother who wishes to fulfill her duties to her children should take especial pains to educate herself for these momentous functions. She should read, to store her mind with knowledge; she should reflect, observe, and gain useful information from every quarter. Her principles should be fixed, her plans laid, her purposes formed.

She must cultivate all the habits and dispositions which will fit her to teach and to govern. She must seek to acquire thoughtfulness, careful vigilance, quick observation, and discretion in various forms. Habits of activity, efficiency, order, and regularity—are indispensable for her; so is the exercise of all the good and benevolent feelings. She must unite gentleness with firmness; and attain patience and the entire command of her disposition. It is of immense importance also that she should have a correct knowledge of human nature, and the way of dealing with the human heart. And above all things, let her remember that piety is the vivifying spirit of all excellence, and example the most powerful means to enforce it. She should never let the recollection be absent from her mind—that children have both eyes and ears for attention to a mother's conduct. Not content with preparing herself for her important functions beforehand, she should carry on the education of herself simultaneously with that of her children. There are few situations which more imperatively require preparation, and yet few that receive less.

Again, we often see in a mother such a solicitude about the health and comfort of her babe; such an engrossing attention to all matters respecting its physical well-being, united with such an exuberant delight in the child, as a child; such a mother's joyousness in her babe—that her mind is diverted by these circumstances from all the serious thoughts and solemn reflections which ought to be awakened by the consideration that a rational, immortal, and sinful being is committed to her charge—to be trained for both worlds. Thus her attention is absorbed month after month, while all this while her infant's faculties are developing—its judgment, will, affections, and conscience—at least in their capabilities—are opening, but neglected—and its natural bias to evil, grows unnoticed and unchecked! The very time when judicious care over the formation of character could be most advantageously exerted is allowed to pass by unimproved; sinful attitudes are allowed to strengthen unrestrained; self-will is allowed to attain a resoluteness which stiffens into obstinacy; and the careless mother, who at some time or other intended to begin a system of moral training, (always saying there was time enough yet,) when she does commence—wonders that the subject of her discipline is so difficult to manage!


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« Reply #182 on: September 01, 2006, 10:36:31 AM »

And then she finds that she has so neglected to prepare herself for her duties, that she doesn't know how to go about them, or what in fact she has to do! A badly trained child continues growing not only in stature and in strength—but in his wayward disposition and obstinate self-will; the poor mother has no control; and as to the father, he is too much taken up with the cares of business to aid his faulty helpmate; and thus the scene is exhibited, described by Solomon—"To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child!" Proverbs 29:15

Child after child comes along—and are misgoverned, or not governed at all. And there are soon seen—in rude, disobedient, and ill-natured children—perhaps at length profligate sons, and vain silly daughters—the sad fruits of the lack of maternal wisdom! Young mothers, begin well. Manage that first child with biblical principles! Put forth all your skill, all your affection, all your diligence and devotedness—in training him! And, the habit thus acquired, all will be comparatively easy with the others that follow. It is the novelty of that first child, the new affections which it calls forth, and the new interest that it creates, that are likely to throw you off your guard without concern—and divert your attention from the great work of moral training. The first child makes the good—or unwise mother!

And as it is of immense consequence to begin your maternal excellence with the first child, so it is of equal importance to him, and to every one that is added, as I have already said, to begin early. "Education does not begin with the alphabet. It begins with a mother's look; with a father's nod of approbation or sign of reproof; with a sister's gentle pressure of the hand, or a brother's noble act of patience—with a handful of flowers in green dells, or on hills or in daisy meadows; with creeping ants, and almost imperceptible gnats; with humming bees, and glass bee-hives; with pleasant walks in shady lanes, and with thoughts directed in affectionate and kindly tones and words to nature, to beauty, to the practice of benevolence, and to the remembrance of Him, who is the fountain of all good."



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« Reply #183 on: September 01, 2006, 10:37:44 AM »

Yes, and before all this can be done, before lessons of instruction can be taught the child from flowers, and insects, and birds—the moral training can commence—a mother's look, her nod of approbation, or sign of reproof.

One of the greatest mistakes into which mothers fall is that of supposing the first two or three years of a child's life unimportant as regards his training. The truth is, that in the formation of character, they are the most important of all. It has been truly said, that from the impressions made, the principles implanted, and the habits formed, during these years, the child's character for time and eternity may take its complexion. It is perfectly clear that before a child can speak, he is susceptible of moral training. The conscience, or moral sense, may, by a judicious woman, be developed well before the child has spent his first birthday. So early may he be made to distinguish between what his mother considers right and wrong, between what will please and what will displease her.

Why, the brute creatures will do this—and if they can be trained thus—may not very young children? It is admitted that there is more of reason in many brutes than in very young children. Still even very young animals may be trained to know what they may and what they may not do—and so may very young children! We often hear mothers say, their children are too young to be taught obedience. The mother who acts upon the maxim that "children may have their own way for a certain number of months", will find to her cost that that lesson will not speedily be forgotten! Moral training may and should precede that which is intellectual. The cultivation of the affections and conscience should be the commencement and foundation of education, and will facilitate every succeeding effort—whether of the child—or of those who train or teach him.

There is in some women a timidity and a distrust of their own capacity, which paralyze or prevent the endeavors which they could make if they would only believe in their own power. Every woman of good plain understanding, can do more than she imagines for the formation of her children's character. What she is deficient in, let her supply by reading; and no mother, however qualified, should neglect this. Every one may learn something from others. Fearful, timid, and anxious mothers, be not afraid! Prayer will bring God's help and God's blessing.


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« Reply #184 on: September 01, 2006, 10:48:40 AM »

Injudicious indulgence is the most common, as it is the most injurious, danger into which a young mother can fall! Be kind—you ought to be. An unloving, hardhearted mother is a double libel upon her gender and her motherhood. Love is her power, her instrument, her magical charm. She can do nothing, worse than nothing, without it. But then her love must be like that of the Divine Parent, who said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." Can you say, "No!" to a child, when with winning smiles, or beseeching voice, or weeping eyes—he asks for something which is not good for him? Can you take from him that which is likely to be injurious to him, but which it will give him pain to surrender? Can you correct him for his faults when your heart rises up in opposition to your judgment? Can you put him down from your arms, at a proper season for so doing, when he clings to your neck and cries to remain. Can you exact obedience in, to him a difficult, but to you, a necessary command? Can you, (first conquering your own heart) stand out against his tears, resolute in purpose, unyielding in demand, so stoutly resisting you, in order to conquer his heart? Or do you allow yourself to be subdued—to put an end to the contest—and by soothing his tears foster the disposition which ought to be eradicated at any pains and any cost? She who cannot answer all this in the affirmative is not fit to be a mother!

There must be discipline in a family! A parent must be obeyed. Give up this, and you train your children for evil and not for good. Here again I say, begin early. Put on the soft and easy yoke early. The horse is broken in while a colt. Wild beasts are tamed while yet they are young. Both the human species and animals—soon grow beyond the power of discipline!

A young mother is apt to entrust too much of the care and early training of her children upon servants. Much of what may be called the drudgery of managing children, must of necessity be committed to them; but a wise woman will have her children with her as much as possible. Next to mothers, nurse-maids are the most influential class of the community, as regards young children. They and nursery-governesses are to a great extent the educators of the community. They, when carrying the children in their arms, or leading them out for air and exercise, or attending upon them in the nursery, or dressing or undressing them, or however they may be employed for them—are forming them to good or evil habits. If multitudes are spoiled by mothers, multitudes more are spoiled by servants; and some of the latter have undone all the good the former have done. Of what importance is it then that you should be careful as to the people you admit to your families in this capacity, to whom to entrust your children's minds, and hearts, and consciences—for depend upon it, they have the care of their minds and hearts—as well as of their bodies!

All you do in training up your children in the way they should go—should bear directly or indirectly on their eternal welfare! If I seem to advert to this subject with a frequency that looks redundant—let its tremendous importance—and its too frequent and too great neglect by parents—be my apology. You will not overlook, as I have already remarked, the intellectual training of your children's minds—but I hope their moral and religious education will be the chief object of solicitude to you. Viewing your children as immortal beings destined to eternity, and capable of the enjoyments of heaven—you will labor even from infancy to imbue their minds with spiritual truths. It is the eternal welfare of her children, which rescues from littleness and insignificance all that it appertains to, and hence arises in no inconsiderable degree the exalted honor of a mother.


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« Reply #185 on: September 01, 2006, 10:49:40 AM »

"She has given birth, by the sovereign ordination of Almighty God, not to a being of a mere momentary existence, whose life will perish like that of the beast of the field—but to an immortal being! Her nursing infant, feeble and helpless as it may appear, possesses within its bosom a rational soul, an intellectual power, a spirit which 'all-devouring time' cannot destroy, which can never die, but which will outlive the splendors of the glorious sun, and the burning brilliancy of all the stars. Throughout the infinite ages of eternity, when all these shall have served their purpose and answered the beneficent end of their creation, and shall have been blotted out from their position in the immense regions of space—the soul of each Christian will shine and improve before the eternal throne, being filled with holy delight and divine love, and ever active in the praises of its blessed Creator."

Mothers, such is your dignity, such your exalted honor. Feel and value your rich distinction in being called to educate the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, and to prepare the holy family who are to dwell in those many mansions of his Father's house which the Lord Jesus has gone to prepare. Give yourselves up to this glorious work. But be judicious in all you do, lest you produce prejudice against true religion, instead of partiality in its favor. Let your warmest affection, your greatest cheerfulness, your most engaging smiles, be put on when you teach Scriptural truths to your children. Approach as nearly as possible to a seraph form. Be a true Christian—in all its beauty, loveliness, sanctity, and ineffable sweetness. Let them see it in your character as well as hear it from your lips.

And especially be careful not to enforce as a 'task', what should be proposed as an object of hope, and a source of delight. Let them see in you, that piety, if in one respect it is a strait and narrow path, is in another, a way of pleasantness and a path of peace. Do not inflict upon them as a 'punishment' for offences, learning Scripture or hymns; and thus convert religion, which is the foretaste of heaven, into a penance which shall be to them like being tormented before their time.

And can it be necessary, after what I have said in a former part of this chapter, to admonish you again to pray for and with your children? How have a mother's prayers been blessed to her children! John Randolph, a distinguished American statesman, who had been much exposed to the seductions of infidelity in the society into which he had been thrown by his position, thus accounted to a gentleman with whom he was conversing, "I believe I would have been swept away by the flood of French infidelity, if it had not been for one thing—the remembrance of the time, when my godly mother used to make me kneel by her side, taking my little hands folded in hers, and caused me to repeat the Lord's Prayer."



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« Reply #186 on: September 01, 2006, 12:27:58 PM »

"On the east of Long Island, in one of the most secluded spots in America, more than thirty years ago, a mother, whose rare intellectual and moral endowments were known to but few, made this simple record—'This morning I rose very early to pray for my children; and especially that my sons may be ministers and missionaries of Jesus Christ.' A number of years after, a friend who was present, thus describes that mother's dying hour—'Owing to extreme weakness, her mind wandered, and her conversation was broken; but as she entered the valley of the shadow of death, her soul lighted up and gilded its darkness. She made a touching and most appropriate prayer, and told her husband that her views and anticipations had been such, that she could scarcely sustain them; and that if they had been increased, she would have been overwhelmed; that her Savior had blessed her with constant peace, and that through all her sickness, she had never prayed to live longer. She dedicated her five sons to God as ministers and missionaries of Jesus Christ, and said that her greatest desire was that her children might be trained up for God. 'She spoke with joy of the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, and of the glorious day now ushering in. She attempted to speak to her children, but was so exhausted, and their cries and sobs were such, that she could say but little. Her husband then made a prayer, in which he gave her back to God, and dedicated all they held in common, to him. She then fell into a sweet sleep, from which she awoke in heaven.'

"The prayers of this mother have been answered. All her eight children have been trained up for God. Her five sons are all ministers and missionaries of Jesus Christ—and the late Rev. George Beecher is the first of her offspring whom she has welcomed to heaven." And one of her daughters is the lady already alluded to in this discourse, who has obtained a world-wide fame by her touching story against slavery. In that lady and her work, as well as in her able and learned brothers, we see the fruit of a mother's prayers.


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« Reply #187 on: September 01, 2006, 12:29:03 PM »

Take with you the following  MAXIMS, as summing up all that has been said.

1. Though a child's character is not entirely created by the circumstances in which he is placed, especially as regards his mother—it is powerfully influenced by them.

2. Education is designed to form character, and not merely to communicate instruction. A king of Sparta, when asked what it was in which youth ought principally to be instructed, replied, "In that which they have most need to practice when men."

3. Obedience is the first thing a mother has to teach; first both in order and time—and the foundation of all the rest. Obedience must first be taught as a habit, and soon after inculcated as a duty.

4. A mother should assiduously cultivate the spirit of curiosity in a child. Instead of always calling him to learn—should prompt his desires to learn.

5. Young children must be sometimes denied their wishes, but never merely for the purpose of teaching them submission by taking from them something they are pleased with.

6. Habits of employment and a love of useful employment, should be taught to children. They are not so mischievous for the mere love of mischief, as it is supposed. If they destroy articles, it is sometimes for the purpose of investigation, and oftener still for lack of proper employment, which ought to be furnished to them. In very early childhood a 'love of industry' and 'honest independence' may be instilled into a child, by teaching him that it is honorable to be usefully employed. One little child may feel the pleasure and practice the duty of benevolence, by doing something for the comfort of a tender babe still more helpless than itself.

7. It is of the first importance for a mother to establish in the mind of her child an entire confidence in herself—in her wisdom, kindness, and truth—as well as a sense of her irresistible authority.

8. Truth, sincerity, honesty, and simplicity are basic virtues in children. Simplicity is the beauty of a child's character; and he should be taught from the beginning to act upon principle, and not for the sake of being well thought of or rewarded.

9. Domestic affections should be most assiduously cultivated. When the second baby is born, the first child should, if old enough to understand the matter, be taught to regard it as an acquisition by which his happiness is to be increased, and in which he is to take an interest in conjunction with his parents. The child who is taught affectionate obedience to his parents; and justice and kindness towards his little equals round the domestic hearth—is being trained to fill with propriety the stations and relations of future life.

11. The babe grows into the child; the child into the youth; the youth into the man; and the man into the immortal; and that immortal will be an heir of glory—or a child of perdition. Let this be remembered from the beginning and always acted upon.

12. Discipline in a family is what the public administration of justice is to a state; where it is lacking, there may be very good laws, but they will remain a dead letter—and the reign of crime and confusion be the certain consequence.

13. Christianity should not be regarded as one science among many, the inculcation of which is a part of good education. But it must be the vital principle diffusing itself through all instruction, all rules, all authority, all discipline, and all example. At what age is it proper, it may be asked, to begin teaching children religion? Their father and mother are, if true and consistent believers, "Christianity embodied"—and as soon as they begin to know their parents they begin to know something about true religion. A very young child is quite aware that his parents speak to One whom they do not see, and inquiring thoughts are awakened in his mind, before he can express them in words.*



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« Reply #188 on: September 01, 2006, 12:30:02 PM »

*Some of these maxims are taken from "The Young Mother, or Affectionate Advice to an Unmarried Daughter," by Mrs Copley. Published by the Tract Society.
 

And now, to sum up all, consider–

A mother's charge—an immortal creature.

A mother's duty—to train him up for God, heaven and eternity.

A mother's dignity—to educate the family of the Almighty Creator of the universe.

A mother's difficulty—to raise a fallen sinful creature to holiness and virtue.

A mother's encouragement—the promise of Divine grace to assist her in her momentous duties.

A mother's relief—to bear the burden of her cares to God in prayer.

A mother's hope—to meet her child in glory everlasting, and spend eternal ages of delight with him before the throne of God and the Lamb.

But are mothers only to engage in this work of educating their children for God? No! Fathers, I speak to you, for the Bible speaks to you—"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." I have addressed this chapter to your wives, because on them first devolves the duty of training the infant mind, and preparing the children for your hands. Not that they will ever, or should ever, give up their diligence or withdraw their influence. A mother's power is perhaps as great when judiciously exerted over the adult—as over the infant child. But you, when the children are growing up, must join your solicitude and labors with hers. They are your children as well as hers. God will require their souls at your hands as well as hers. Are you exercising your authority, giving your instructions, pouring out your prayers, affording your example—for the salvation of your children? Is it your wish, your ambition, your endeavor, your supplication, that they may be Christian men—or only rich ones? Are you pouring your influence into the same channel as your holy wife? Are you helping or hindering her in her pious solicitude for the spiritual and eternal welfare of your joint offspring?

Happy, happy couple, where there is sympathy of feeling and similarity of sentiment in the most momentous concern that can engage the attention of man, of angels, or of God—true Christianity. Where the husband and the wife are of one mind and one heart, not only in reference to themselves, but in regard also to their children, and both are engaged in training them up for everlasting glory! I can liken such a couple, in their benevolent efforts for their children's welfare, only to the two angels who were sent down from heaven to the rescue of Lot, and who with holy and benevolent violence took him by the hand to pluck him from the burning city, and conducted him to the place of safety prepared by the mercy of Almighty God.


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« Reply #189 on: September 01, 2006, 12:30:54 PM »

After this chapter was composed, I received the following letter—

"Dear Mr. James,
In your next Sermon to Young Women, will you kindly give some advice to common-place Mothers; who, not gifted with extraordinary affection, or extraordinary patience, are apt to be sadly worried with the incessant and varied claims of a large family; especially where a limited income imposes unremitting toil to arrange for ordinary domestic comfort; and the numerous inhabitants of a small house almost preclude the refreshment of solitary closet communion with that Heavenly Father who rewards openly. As a class, we would gladly be instructed how to avoid, or at least to surmount, the impatience and irritation so frequently engendered by the perplexities of the nursery and the school room; the hasty speech, the angry action, which must be not only a hindrance to maternal influence, but perhaps even a hindrance to the efficacy of a mother's prayers. Excuse the liberty I take in thus writing to you, and with many thanks for your past valuable hints,
Yours very respectfully,
A Common-place Mother."

This letter claims and awakens my tenderest sympathy for the class of mothers to whom it refers; I mean women without the advantages of wealth, the accommodations of a nursery, and the help of servants, to lighten the load of maternal cares, and to assist in the performance of maternal duties—women who must always be in the midst of the perpetually recurring trials of irritation, to which, in such circumstances, a numerous family of young children exposes them; and who may imagine themselves, as to intellectual and other qualifications, only "Common-place Mothers." Let such women not despond as if they were but slenderly fitted for their duties.

The writer of this letter gives full evidence that she is not disqualified for a mother's functions, so far as mental ability is concerned—but perhaps she, and others in her situation, may have something yet to learn and acquire as to godly disposition and manner. It is evident she is in danger in these respects. The waywardness and sins of unamiable dispositions in her children, produce petulance and irritability, and lead perhaps too often on her part to sinful anger. A scold, slap, or shake—sometimes takes the place of mild but firm admonition, and calm correction. To her, and to all in her situation, I say, what you need, and what you must put forth all your constant and determined effort, and wrestling supplication with God, to obtain—is the complete subjugation of your temper. You must bring this under control. You must acquire forbearance, patience, and calm serenity. It will cost you much trouble and much prayer to attain it; but God's grace will be sufficient for you.

I do not, of course, counsel you to contract that spirit of apathetic, easy indifference which lets children take their own course, and for the sake of a little ease throws out the reins of discipline. Still a mother must often have eyes—and not see; ears—and not hear. A fussing, fidgety notice of every little thing that goes wrong in the disposition of all the children, will keep her in perpetual misery. To all then who are in the situation of "The Common-place Mother," I again and again, with all possible emphasis, say—subdue your irritability, and acquire a calm, patient, forbearing, loving, and serene mind. God will help you if you seek it. You must not think such a frame of mind unattainable, nor allow your provocations and temptations to be an apology for your little sallies of bad disposition.



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« Reply #190 on: September 01, 2006, 12:31:47 PM »

        The misfortune perhaps in the case of such mothers, is—that they did not begin well. The first child was not well managed. Bad habits crept on, and now, with the family increased, it is difficult to break them. I have known even large, very large families, where, though there were few domestic accommodations, by patience and kindness, mixed with firmness, on the part of the mother, aided by a wise, kind, firm father, the children were all well-managed, and the parents happy.

        It would greatly comfort, help, and encourage such mothers, if they attended the meetings of Mothers' Societies, where such institutions are formed.

        As regards what is said about the opportunity for prayer, I can hardly admit a crowded house to be an excuse for the neglect of this. Every mother has at her command her own chamber, to which, as to a little sanctuary, when the infant voices are hushed in sleep, she can repair and pour out her heart to God for her children, and perhaps breathe over some of them, slumbering on the bed at which she kneels, a mother's prayers. Besides, how much of prayer—spontaneous and silent—yet sincere, fervent, and believing—may be presented to God, without the formalities of devotion, or the retirement of the closet!

        I again say, let no mother despair of herself because she does not possess high intellectual qualifications—the more of these she has of course the better, but a disposition under control, a patient, loving, forbearing temperament, mild firmness, a gentle, but constant maintenance of parental authority, a judicious administration of rewards and correction, will enable any woman to fill her place with efficiency, though she may think herself to be "A Common-place Mother."



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« Reply #191 on: September 01, 2006, 12:55:55 PM »



THE BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF THE EXCELLENT WIFE IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs 31:10

If anyone desires a book which shall combine grandeur of subject—with beauty of expression; the most sublime theology—with the soundest morality; the widest variety of topic—with an obvious unity of design; the most ancient history with—poetry; the profoundest philosophy—with the plainest maxims of human conduct; touching narratives—with picturesque descriptions of character—in short, a book which shall as truly gratify the taste by the elegance of its composition, as it shall sanctify the heart by the purity of its doctrines; and thus, while it opens the glories of heaven and prepares the soul for possessing and enjoying them, shall furnish a source of never failing pleasure upon earth; I say if such a book be sought, it can be found in the Bible, and only in the Bible, and that precious volume more than answers the description.

And where in all the range of inspired or uninspired literature can be found a delineation of female excellence—I will not say equal to, but worthy to be compared with—that which forms the subject of the present chapter? We have in it a picture of which it is difficult to say which is the most striking—the correctness of the drawing—or the richness of the coloring. Both display a master's hand, and though delineated three thousand years ago, it is still true to nature; and when we have removed some of the effects of time, retouched some lines that have been clouded and obscured by the lapse of years, and given a few explanations, it is impossible to look at it without admiration and delight. It adds to the interest to know that it is the production of a female artist. It is the description of a good wife, drawn by the hand of a mother, to guide her son in the selection of a companion for life. They are "the words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him." Who this king was is a matter of uncertainty. He was not, as some have supposed, Solomon. The original Hebrew has many Chaldaisms, which are found in no other part of the book of Proverbs, and afford a cogent argument that it was written by another hand, and perhaps after the captivity. The whole passage is composed with art, being a kind of poem containing twenty-two verses respectively beginning, like some of the Psalms, with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in their order of succession. Whoever Lemuel might have been, he had the privilege of a most eminent mother.

"The admonitory verses with which the chapter commences, composed by this distinguished woman for her son when in the flower of youth and high expectation, are an inimitable production, as well in respect to their actual materials, as the delicacy with which they are selected. Instead of attempting to lay down rules concerning matters of state and political government, the illustrious writer confines herself, with the finest and most becoming art, to a recommendation of the gentler virtues of temperance, benevolence, and mercy; and to a minute and unparalleled delineation of the female character which might bid fairest to promote the happiness of her son in wedded life."



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« Reply #192 on: September 01, 2006, 12:56:44 PM »

What a pattern of maternal excellence was this mother of the king! We may well imagine that in this inimitable portrait, she drew her own likeness. What sons we would see, if all were blessed with such mothers as she was!

1. In taking up this delineation, I shall first consider the INQUIRY which introduces it. "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." This interrogation implies the rarity and the worth of the object sought. The question might have been more forcible in those times than in ours, for such a blessing was no doubt more scarce than it is now. True it is, the picture is so admirable, that even now a perfect resemblance is not to be found everywhere. Yet, if such extraordinary excellence is not often met with, happily that which is far above mediocrity is by no means rare. And why should there not be in every female bosom an intense desire to rise to a perfect conformity to this beautiful pattern? How much more to be valued by her happy possessor is this—than all the jewels with which so many women are fond of being decked—or than the largest and the purest diamond in the mines of the east!

I proceed now to consider this exquisite delineation of "the virtuous woman." But really I feel as if to touch it were to spoil it, and as though comments were almost like—painting the tulip—perfuming the rose—or attempting to add brilliancy to the sun. Instead of following the order of the verses, and adopting the regular expository method—I shall arrange the verses and place them under separate topical heads and titles.


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« Reply #193 on: September 01, 2006, 12:57:33 PM »

2. The authoress reserves piety for the climax or culminating point of her description, and winds up the whole thus, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting—but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30.

I shall make this our starting point. It is set forth in the verse just quoted, and there the essence of true religion is comprised in that phrase, "The fear of the Lord"—which means the cultivation and exercise of all right and holy dispositions towards God. Yes, this is religion, to have the heart right towards God. And we hold that this is not merely the gilded ornament that towers upwards to heaven, and crowns and beautifies the building at the apex, though it is this; but it is more than this, for it is the base of the whole structure, and supports the noble pyramid of varied excellences. It is this which makes them strong and stable, and ensures at once their proportions and their perpetuity.

True piety, instead of setting aside a single female excellence—clothes all female virtues with a Divine sanction—harmonizes the demands of God with the claims of man—converts the ordinary duties of domestic life into a means of preparation for that glorious world where the social ties no longer exist—and softens the cares, anxieties, and sorrows, with which woman's lot in this world is but too often sadly oppressed. Whatever else a woman may be—without true piety, she is lamentably deficient. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting." The face of a beautiful woman ought to be an index of the mind; and when all is beautiful on the outside—all should be glorious within. Never does outer beauty and elegance appear more revolting—than when seen united with an ill-furnished mind and an ill-favored heart. And yet how often do elegance of manners, and loveliness of person, conceal dispositions which are in total opposition to them, and bitterly disappoint the man who has been captivated by them—and who in his choice of a wife, has been led by no other considerations than mere external beauty and personal charms!

"Let beauty have its due praise, and suppose what you will of it; suppose all that the poets say of it be true—still the text tells you it is vain, it is in its nature transient, fleeting, perishing—it is the flower of the spring which must fade in autumn; and when the blossom falls, if no fruit is produced, of what value, I ask, is the tree? The grave is already opening for the most elegant person that moves, and the worms are waiting to feed on the most beautiful face!"

But true religion has an excellence and a beauty which time cannot corrode, nor old-age wrinkle, nor disease spoil, nor death destroy; but which after living and thriving amid the decay of all other things in this world, will flourish in the next in the vigor of immortal youth.


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« Reply #194 on: September 01, 2006, 12:58:24 PM »

3. We next note her marital excellence. "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12.

Confidence between man and wife is the basis of domestic happiness. There cannot possibly be happiness where this is lacking. Suspicion and jealousy must drive felicity out of doors. In regard to the "virtuous woman," her husband trusts her chastity. Her faithfulness is as inviolable as the covenant of the Most High, and her purity unsullied as the light of heaven. What a torment is jealousy in the bosom of husband or wife! wormwood and gall are sweet compared to it.

He trusts her fidelity in the management of his temporal affairs, and knows that all his domestic interests are safe in her hands. With such a manager at home, he can go without anxiety to his daily business, travel to distant places, or remain, when necessary, away from home for ever so long a time. He shall have "lacks nothing of value"—he shall have no need of worrying about an extravagant wife—and her wasting their property. "He need not," says Matthew Henry, "be griping and scraping abroad, as those must be, whose wives are extravagant and wasteful at home." She manages his affairs so that he has plenty. He thinks himself so happy in her that he envies not those who have most of the wealth of this world—he needs it not, he has enough in having such a wife. Happy the couple that have such satisfaction as this in each other! It is too well known to be denied, that if many husbands make their wives wretched by their unkindness—many wives make their husbands poor by extravagance! Many a man has been tempted to cheat his creditors through the bad management and extravagance of his wife.

The "virtuous Woman" will study to do her husband good, and to avoid doing him harm, all the days of her life. She will be inventive, ingenious, and laborious to promote his comfort, his health, and his interest; will smooth by her sweet words his brow, when wrinkled with care; hush the sigh that misfortune extorts from his bosom; will answer with gentleness the sharp words that in moments of irritation drop from his lips, and will do all this, not by fits and starts when in congenial moods, but continually.

But this is not all; for on looking onward in the chapter we find another reference to her conduct and influence as a wife. "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land." By the gates are meant the place of magisterial assembly and business, which in ancient times was in rooms over the gates of the city. In these public convocations a good wife will make her husband known, and add to his public reputation in various ways. Her prudent conduct in her domestic arrangements will enable him to leave home with confidence to attend to public business. She does not engross his company so as to prevent his becoming a public benefactor and blessing. By the happiness which she imparts to him at their own fireside she sends him abroad, not with a downcast look, as if he had left a heavy trouble at home, or carried it everywhere with him; but with a cheerful countenance, as though he had just come from the scene and seat of his chief earthly bliss. By her proper care of his personal appearance, in the elegance and neatness of his apparel, (which in ancient times was the work of her hands)—and especially by the force of her holy example sustaining and encouraging his excellence, she raises the honor and increases the respect of her husband. He is better known and more esteemed as the husband of such a wife. Can a woman rise to higher honor than to be so excellent and estimable as to augment the public respectability of her husband?

Still, let husbands take care that they do not shine only in borrowed splendor, and stand indebted for all their esteem to their wives. Let them so act, and be such men, that the honor they receive on account of their wives shall be only an addition to the greater honor that belongs to themselves. It is to the comfort and glory of a man to be better known and more respected on account of his wife; but it is to his discredit to be known and respected only by and for his wife. It is a poor base affair, for a man to go through society with no higher qualification than his wife's excellence. Such a woman must feel herself, though in one sense exalted, in another degraded, by being the wife of a man who has no public honor, but such as he derives from her. It must bring misery when the husband finds himself always totally eclipsed by his wife—except indeed he be too dull to feel it. Alas for the wife of such a man! Let this induce care and caution in the formation of the marriage union. Unequal matches are not often happy ones.


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