The Virtuous Woman
BY SISTER JANE ROBERTS
The Early Days
Difficulties • Young Sisters • Dress • Reading • Companions
MUCH has been written concerning the position of woman by those who look at her from a merely secular point of view, from her advocates of the American school down to the latest London critic in the Saturday Review. Her rights have been discussed: they have been advocated, they have been vindicated, or they have been denied according to the temper of the writers who have taken her case in hand.
But to the woman professing godliness, these utterances amount to nothing for practical guidance. She may, sometimes, allow herself to be entertained by them, but she will not take her cue from such sources, lest she be led astray. To her there is but one standpoint from which to view her own position, and from which to judge of what is becoming and dutiful. To the Scriptures of truth she must turn for guidance. In them she must find her "model," her manual for direction in all the affairs of life, her book of fashion, and her instructor in true etiquette.
The world's etiquette is mostly the beautiful form of emptiness, or worse. A godly woman's etiquette will be without dissimulation. Her love will be genuine, springing from principle rather than the impulse of partiality, which will render the service of her hands more graceful, engaging, and acceptable than all the elegant posing of her deluded sisters in the flesh. Having, by the belief of the glad tidings and union with Christ in baptism, placed herself under law to him, the object of her greatest solicitude will be, in all cases, to ascertain the will of Christ concerning her ways. It matters little to her, and ought really to affect her little, what any outside of his law may think of her; and, indeed, she must not even allow the opinion of her brethren and sisters to unduly influence her conduct. "Christ first, must be her motto, and the desire to please him must be the guiding principle of her life. She must make up her mind to encounter
Her path through life will be beset by many difficulties peculiar to her position. She is not at liberty to please herself at all times, nor to follow the frivolous pursuits considered appropriate to the world around her. Espoused to one who forbids the dissipation of her mind with the vanities of a world lying in wickedness, she must act in faithfulness of her adopted standard at the risk of unpopularity with her sex,
Christ requires her to be highly adorned, but not with the quality of ornament in vogue with this present evil world. She expects shortly to be called forth to the celebration of the nuptials; and as the bridegroom she is to meet is none other than the King of kings and Lord of lords, she should be supremely anxious to array herself according to his expressed desire, that she may be wellpleasing in his sight in the day of his appearing.
To accomplish this will take much of her time. Her neighbours and acquaintances in the world require all their time for the conducting of their affairs pertaining to this life, so the woman who has for her aim the attainment of the world to come, must, at the onset, agree to forfeit some of the world's respectability and esteem, her time and money being devoted to other things than those the world considers all-important. She must consider it a settled matter that she cannot serve God and mammon. She cannot please the world and please him also who hath called her to his kingdom and glory. Her absent Lord and Master has left this on record, and it is her peril that she call his word in question.
To the young sister, who has been so fortunate as to receive the truth in the morning of life, it will be of the very highest importance that she begin at once to equip herself for the good fight of faith. Upon no arm of flesh must she entirely lean. She has entered upon a course of trial, though, at the first it will not, probably, appear so to her. She has just received the truth with much gladness. All appears joyous and bright, and her only desire is that the Lord would come and permit her to realize the glowing visions of which she reads, when the saints will take the kingdom and reign with Christ upon earth. This time will come, and is longed for by every son and daughter of the Lord Almighty, but the young sister must remember that this honour is reserved for saints. Her saintship will have to be developed by her obedience in the truth, and it will all depend upon her faithfulness to him who has called her to be a saint, whether in the day of judgment she will pass into the ranks of that honourable company or not.
She will not have gone far in the straight and narrow way before her difficulties begin. It is designed by God for every one adopted into His family that they shall be tried. His people are to be prepared people-like polished stones- like gold tried in the fire. As years advance, cares and responsibilities and troubles increase, and the young sister must not think that she will prove any exception to the rule. If she be a faithful sister, she will not. In whatever position in life she may be placed, she can labour for Christ, and she can suffer for his sake. His will and desire concerning her is that she should do so, and continue to do so till he calls her to the high destiny he has promised. His words are, "Whosoever taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." The taking up of the cross would imply a voluntary act-not merely the enduring of something inevitable; but the deliberately doing of something that will bring endurance in some shape or form, and that for Christ's sake. Each particular condition of life will present opportunities for this cross-bearing.
An engrossing concern with young girls naturally is their appearance and dress; and excess in mere outward adornment is among their besetting sins. The young sister is at liberty to adorn herself; but she must be careful to have her ornaments chosen and adjusted according to the fashion book inscribed by the spirit. This requires that she be richly adorned with good works, and modestly attired as regards dress. If she be rich in good works, she will of necessity cripple her ability to gratify the fleshly desire to be richly-apparelled outwardly-which desire, if indulged, would cripple her ability to adorn herself spiritually. If she be moderate in her expenditure upon herself, she will doubtless be able to have something to expend in the service of Christ. He asks of her the first place in her affections. If she loves him, and at all appreciates the high destiny to which he has called her, she will make it a rule to let his claim have her first consideration in all matters. To begin early in life thus to train herself, will make many things easier of accomplishment in years to come, than if she should live the best part of her life, and then begin to try to crucify the natural desires.
Nothing will so much assist her in her determination to consecrate herself to Christ, as the daily reading of the scriptures. Other reading wisely selected may have a useful place, but the reading of the scriptures she ought to regard, and practice as an imperative duty. Let her at all hazards read some every day; this will to some extent be keeping company with Christ himself, for he is the great theme of the sacred book. He is the beginning and the ending of it. To him all the types and shadows point. In him is centred all the hope of the future glory foretold by the prophets. He is the burden of their theme. In the narratives concerning his sayings and doings while on earth, there is the opportunity of making close acquaintance with him whose meat and drink it was to do the will of Him who sent him, and in the study of his gracious words, may she hope to be purified and assimilated to his divine character, and greatly aided in her resolve to devote herself to the knowing and doing the will of her Father who is in Heaven.
She cannot keep him company personally like the sisters who ministered to him in the days of his flesh; but she will know that there are many ways in which she can keep him company so long as he has brethren and sisters, and his own truth in the earth to be countenanced, and encouraged, and served; and she will remember that he has said, that whatsoever is done faithfully to one of the least of his disciples, he regards as done to himself. She will therefore have plenty of ways in which to show her love to her absent Lord, by the keeping of his commandments. She will want as much time as ever she can command for gaining the knowledge of himself, and the Father's glorious purposes concerning him, which the scriptures reveal in all the manifold aspects in which he is therein represented, and to perform the duties she owes to him.
The young sister should be on her guard against indiscriminate reading. The torrent of books that pours in our day from the press, exposes the young mind to a mental dissipation that is disastrous spiritually. Specially would I mention novel-reading as a thing to be avoided. Its effect is blighting in a spiritual sense, in depraving the mental appetite and throwing a shade over spiritual things. A certain pleasure is connected with it, but it is a hurtful pleasure which sisters are wise to deny themselves. Its indulgence will hinder the work of the truth in their minds.
In nothing is a young sister more exposed to danger than in the choice of company. She will do well to be on her guard, and choose only those whose aims are the same as she herself has chosen. Let her avoid frivolous company, whether professedly in the truth or not. All are not Israel who are of Israel, neither are all wise who profess the truth. She should cultivate sobriety without being morose. Let her discourage levity and light talk as spiritually hurtful, and when possible avail herself of the society of soberminded brethren and sisters, with whom intercourse will be profitable and instructive, remembering the words of Solomon, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."
Let her be specially mindful of the allegiance she owes to Christ in the choice of a companion for life. It is natural and right that her thoughts turn in this direction, and a truly holy relationship may come of it, but let her be sure to encourage no advances outside of the truth, nor be won over by promises to consider the truth when a union has been effected. The snares that encircle a union of this sort (which would be a virtual allying of herself with the world) are more dreadful and numerous and intricate than a young girl dreams of. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is an apostolic injunction, and uttered for our benefit, as the mind of Christ. Even in the truth, let her be careful that the brother with whom she would keep company in view of a life-long relationship, is thoroughly in love with the truth, and bent upon a faithful obedience to it, and let them together beware of the tendency of the young mind to overlook the obligations which the possession of the truth imposes, and to make the profession of it a mere garb or occasion for serving the flesh.
I have known cases in which the truth has been thus associated, with the result of the flesh triumphing to the suppression of the things of the Spirit. As she prizes the successful issue of her earthly career, let the young sister take all heed in the beginning of the journey, that in this matter she take no false step. She ought in this, as in all matters that affect her well-being, to seek and earnestly desire guidance and direction from God. He has caused the promise to be placed on record: "In all thy ways acknowledge the Lord, and he will direct thy path." Let her confide her cause to Him, and go forward in trustful confidence.
When she enters the married relation, her duties and her dangers are to some extent different, and will form the subject of another chapter.