The Virtuous Woman
BY SISTER JANE ROBERTS
At Home As A Wife
In The Household • The Daily Reading • Attention to Health
The Morning Bath • Out-door Exercise • Management of the Children
Why should the sister-wife acquire the power of self-sustenance in the truth? Not that she may shake herself free from her husband's influence and set up on her own behalf: but that she may realize in the privations incident to her position, that help, encouragement and happiness, which it was designed the conjugal relation should yield, but which it may fail at all times to give.
To attain the necessary degree of self-sustenance, we must remember that the highest object of life is to please Him who has called us to be saints: perfecting holiness in ourselves through the fear and love and obedience of Him. The sister married in the Lord, has her part to perform, and frequently an arduous and onerous one. She requires to be strengthened inwardly to sustain her in the discharge of it.
If she depends too much upon her husband, she runs the risk of disappointment; and whatever disappoints, is a hindrance and source of weakness, that must, if possible, be avoided. She loves her husband, and desires his company. He loves his wife, and desires her welfare in all things. It would be his choice to spend his leisure time with her; but, the claims of duty he cannot disregard: and these frequently call him from her side. The necessity of growing in the truth also requires him to withdraw himself sometimes for study. Now, let not the sister who has to forego ordinary home pleasure for the truth's sake, imagine that she is in a special degree aggrieved. The experience of the sisterhood generally in this respect, will be in many instances similar to her own. The problem to be solved is, how so to deport herself in the evil inevitably attendant upon this state of trial, as to secure the blessing of the age to come.
IN THE HOUSEHOLD.
That the sister-wife should be able to sustain her part is highly necessary. Her position in the household is an all- important and influential one. Her influence for good or evil is great. If she will but rise to the dignity of her calling in the truth, and to the honour, responsibility and power attaching to it; as the helpmeet of one of like precious faith, to whom she may prove a true helper unto the kingdom of God, and as being herself a candidate for eternal life; her labour will be ennobled in her own estimation, and she will be greatly encouraged in the work of overcoming the evil in herself and around her. Should she be tempted to think her position too obscure, and her sphere of action too limited to be of any account; let her remember, that it is only in proportion to the means at our disposal that we shall have to render account. It was the servant with only one talent who failed through not using it. Let us take warning, and make the best of even small opportunities, lest by any means we should fail of the grace of God.
THE DAILY READING.
On no account should a sister permit a day to pass without her daily Bible reading. The mind is so liable to be affected by what is passing around, that the things of the Spirit grow dim if not continually presented in a direct form. There is nothing in the world, to remind us of the more enduring, but as yet unseen, things of the Spirit, and the only means we have of retaining and deepening our impressions of them, is by contact with what has been left on record for our special benefit in this respect.
Let it not be said by any, that they have not time to read every day. It is possible for the busiest hand or head to spare ten minutes, at least, every day for receiving into the mind the refreshing ideas preserved for our instruction and comfort, which in being transferred to the mental tablet, become a stimulating power in the performance of duty; and though small, this daily dropping from the pure fountain will sustain spiritual life; when without it, the mind would of necessity become parched and dry.
In the endeavour to secure this most necessary daily bread, the Bible Companion will be found of great service, especially where the time for reading is limited. Being provided in it with an indicated portion, there is no time wasted in the consideration of what would be best to read, and there is also this advantage, that the reader is conducted through the whole of the Bible in a given time; whereas in adopting other modes of reading, in all probability some parts never would come under notice at all. The reading with the Bible Companion need not in any way interfere with the more extended study of the word or the reading of other books where time permits; but it will at all events secure, in the midst of a busy life, that refreshment of spirit, and growth in knowledge, without which we cannot hope to progress in spiritual life.
THE BEST TIME FOR READING.
The morning, or at least early in the day, is the most suitable time, so far as profitableness is concerned. The mind is more free to receive impressions then than when the business of the day is in full swing. At a later period, the mind is generally too much occupied to give that close attention which is necessary to give the reading of the word that power that is desirable. And again there is this advantage in reading early in the day, that the mind is sustained throughout the day's occupation by the impetus received from the reading.
The duties of some may not admit of morning reading Each must wisely determine for herself at what time of the day she can best secure the benefit; and once the practice is begun, it is necessary to persevere. For this some determination is necessary. Put not off your reading to a time when, from pre-occupation or weariedness, your mind is unfitted to profit by the exercise. It may not be always practicable for the married sister to secure her reading at the same time or hour of the day; still, if she persevere in the attempt, even in spite of hindrances-the presence of little ones not excepted-she will be astonished at what she can accomplish, and will surely secure the prize, and reap enduring benefit.
Apparently unfavourable circumstances may be turned to excellent account in this way. It has not unfrequently happened that a mother with a young infant has secured more opportunities for reading, than under ordinary circumstances; because she has snatched her book whenever she sat down to suckle her baby, and so availed herself of an opportunity to increase her knowledge which might not otherwise have presented itself; and which yet is overlooked or thought impossible by many. As her family increases, her ingenuity in this matter will be brought into play. She will devise ways and means for continuing this most indispensable aid to sustenance in the path of life. Persevering in it, she will the more and more easily continue to secure the privilege of reading, because, as time goes on, she will learn to prize it above all price, and to regard it as a thing as necessary as daily food. She will find herself trained at last, rather to forego something else than lose her reading.
ATTENTION TO HEALTH.
Next in importance to keeping the mind invigorated by the things of the spirit, is the duty of attention to the laws that govern physical well-being. If we can maintain a fair degree of health (and this is about all we can hope to do in this evil state), we shall greatly increase the possibility of cheerfulness and vigour in the performance of the daily duties. It is astonishing how much is in peoples' power in this matter, and it is lamentable that so much neglect should prevail with the consequent reaping of much needless debility and languor, and unfitness for spiritual hardihood. The bulk of sisters, it is true, have little time to study or opportunity to put in practice the laws that govern our physical economy. But there are certain simple aids to health which are within the reach of all more or less, which, if persistently practised, would tend much to lighten the evils that most easily beset this mortal frame, and interfere with the earnest desire to triumph over difficulties. It is to these simple aids that I wish to refer. They have a decided spiritual bearing, though it may not appear so on the surface.
THE MORNING BATH.
The morning bath ought to be a standing institution in every household. The benefits of it can only be estimated by those who enjoy its daily use. In this as with the daily reading, none need say they cannot spare time. It takes far less time than most people waste in bedside dawdle, and it is one of those things that the more quickly it is performed, the better. Nor can it be objected to as a luxury which many cannot afford. It is not necessary to go to any expense at all. A properly constructed bath is, of course, best if procurable, but the benefit of morning ablution can be secured with no other appliance than a closed door and an ordinary wash hand basin. With this, a sponge, piece of flannel or wet towel, the whole body may be quickly wetted (bit by bit, if one is delicate), and then briskly dried with a good rough towel. The action produces a healthful glow, and diffuses general vigour through all the faculties.
The muscular exercise which this process compels morning by morning, is no insignificant part of the benefit; and will greatly tend to promote bodily strength and general health, without which the finest accomplishments are useless tinsel. The courageous performance of this duty, make one feel impervious to the discomfort usually experienced in beginning a new day.
In many instances where a mother feels in a morning more like going to bed than getting up, through a disturbed night with her baby, this simple performance wipes off her weariness wonderfully, and enables her to grapple with the morning's duties much more comfortably to herself than she could otherwise have done. Persevered in, it would certainly tell beneficially on the health, and would prove in this respect a valuable aid in the battle of life.
A state of robust health is impossible if a sister is within doors the whole time. Consider that the life is in the blood, and that the blood depends upon the air for its purity and vigour: and it will be seen why so many are pining and weakly, who never stir out of doors days and days at a time. If sisters were aware of the advantage which results from a walk in the open air (and they ought with their enlightenment, to be aware of it), they surely would make greater efforts in this direction. It is painfully evident that many droop and suffer in various ways, from staying all the time within doors. Let them try the experiment of a run out every day. Even a quarter of an hour every day will do them more good than a whole month once a year by the seaside, if all the rest of the time is spent in the house.
Domestic purchases will always give abundant occasion for daily walks; and if these are out of her way, let her make a visit where she may be of service-say to an invalid (just for a few minutes) her walk will do her a double benefit. She will bring back with her the pleasant reflection that someone besides herself has benefited by her outing; and the healthful stimulus of both will be felt afterwards.
Where no such errand presents itself, and she has nothing specially calling her out, don't let her yield to the temptation of staying in the house. Let her take her walk by any means; it will give her the opportunity of inhaling the invigorating air outside, and if she be within reach of green fields and shady lanes, let her enjoy the sweet season of contact with the soothing quietude so conducive to meditation. She will return greatly renewed in her purpose, and increased in her ability to pursue the steady way of life, in preference to the empty pursuits of the world around her. She will, in this matter of going out, have to be very determined; for she will frequently have to encounter obstacles, in disinclination, and in the many claims of household matters requiring her attention; and if she give in, she will soon find herself in the weary valley again.
Let her determine, as in the case of reading, at all hazards, to secure this great boon-this almost indispensable condition to a successful walk in this Spirit. How much better is she able to meet the demands of her family cares after she has had a run out for a short time, than after a day's stewing in the house over some troublesome piece of work, upon which she has exhausted nearly all her patience. And how much better able she is to bear her husband company at the close of her day's work, if she has thus healthfully varied her occupation during the day.
Let her try the experiment, and she will find growing upon her the power to minister to and to bless others, instead of being a sufferer in want of being ministered unto. Even if her husband be faulty, and remiss in his profession of the truth and practice thereof, she will by this power of self- sustenance, be able to maintain her own position in the truth; and by her exemplary behaviour, may assist her husband into a more excellent way. It will also be of very great service to her in the training of her children. If she first be able to rule herself, she will be the more able wisely to rule those under her.
MANAGEMENT OF THE CHILDREN.
This is a matter in which unanimity with her husband will be more precious than rubies. When husband and wife are divided in opinion as to the treatment of their children, it is an unhappy thing for the children and for themselves also. Such a difference, besides making a proper government of the children impossible, will probably result in their loss of respect for one, or perhaps both of their parents.
It too often happens that the mother is guided solely by her maternal instincts, instead of allowing her judgment to decide what is best for the child. When punishment is really called for, and the father would judiciously administer it, her sympathetic interference entirely spoils the wholesome effect of the punishment, making the child feel that by the infliction of the chastisement, it has been aggrieved, instead of merely receiving the merited penalty of transgression.
Then the father is naturally irritated at the lack of wisdom in his wife. It will be well if he be able to bear with her in this weakness, and endeavour to show her how injurious to the best interests of their children her interference will prove. If she allows her judgment to rule, she will have gained a victory over herself, and a new source of thankfulness; for if husband and wife are united in the hallowed work of bringing up their little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they may look forward in hope to a full reward of their joint labour in this respect, in the age to come, when father and son, mother and daughter, shall rejoice together in the kingdom of God. Even now, there will be a reward in the up-growing of tractable and intelligent sons and daughters, interested in all that concerns the household.
It will be well for the sister to remember that while it is quite true that our maternal instincts are implanted by an All- wise Creator (and most wisely, too, for without them how could a mother endure the toil and incessant unrest which attend the rearing of her little treasures), the natural instincts-every one of them, have to be brought into subjection to, and regulated by the truth. Crucified is the word Paul uses, and if we consider what that means, we can understand how it is that we cannot follow in safety the dictates of the merely natural impulses.
Of course, the same rule applies to the father equally with the mother, only, in such a matter, it is more likely that the father would be guided by his judgment, simply for this reason, that men as a rule more readily act from reason than women. The instincts of the latter are much more quick, and where the sympathies are fully engaged, they are liable to act from impulse, where men would more coolly reflect before acting. Still, both will require to exercise in themselves that control which the truth inculcates, and to extend to each other that forbearance and consideration which must ever be needed while we remain in this imperfect state, entailing upon us as it does, in spite of higher aspirations, much weakness and failing by the way.
It is an enjoyable sight (it has been called the most beautiful picture on earth), to see husband and wife united in mutual love and respect (as heirs of immortality), with their children growing up around them, taught by precept and example the fear of the Lord. Such a home is a true haven of rest for the wearied spirit, and a well of continual refreshing in the journey through the dry and parched land of a world lying in wickedness. Such it is intended to be; for the apostle Paul could use no more fitting simile to represent the close and endearing union existing between Christ and his faithful brethren. I have something more to say of the ways and means by which the married sister may be aided in successf