The Virtuous Woman
BY SISTER JANE ROBERTS
Deportment Towards Husband and Children
Mistaken Husbands • The Assistance of Prayer • The Children
The Dressing of the Children
PAUL tells us that in Christ "there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3: 28). But this truth is misapplied if it is allowed to interfere with the social relations of the present state. Whilst we are all called to the kingdom of God, our positions in life, meanwhile, may be widely different. Paul, for instance, acknowledges the relationship of master and servant among the saints. He does not direct a man when he receives the truth to cease being a master, neither is he who is called, being a servant, to cease his service on that account. They who have believing masters are to count them worthy of more honour because they are brethren; and a brother who finds himself in the position of a master, has it enjoined upon him to give his servants that which is just and equal, dealing considerately with them, always remembering that he himself has a master in heaven.
So is it with the relation of husband and wife. As candidates for eternal life on the same principle of faith and obedience to him, they are upon an equal footing; but in relation to each other, Paul informs us that the husband is the head, and that the wife ought to be subject to him. Their union in the truth does not obliterate the natural relation established at the beginning, in which the woman, as the weaker vessel, is to accept a subordinate relation to the man.
If I were writing for the husbands, I would stay to point out that, with his special privileges, greater responsibilities are proportionately his. He is entrusted with the headship in the family, on the supposition that he is capable of exercising it with wisdom and kindness. In fulfilling the responsibilities of his privileged position, he has set before him an exalted and perfect pattern by which to be guided, even that of our Lord himself, in the love and solicitude manifested by him for those who are called out by the gospel to be his bride- elect. Even to the giving of himself for her, he showed his care and anxiety for her welfare, and desire that she might appear without spot and blameless. So, says Paul, ought men to love their wives, and to nourish and cherish them, "even as the Lord the church [ecclesia]." Then Paul as one of the Bride-elect, says, "The love of Christ constraineth us." This shows how it is between husband and wife, when they are in the right relation to each other. The husband loves his wife and his love constrains her. It is positive pleasure to her when constrained by his love, to be subject to him. This subjection brings no trial; it imposes no burden upon her. Love, as the moving spring of her actions, prevents all chafe. She instinctively takes her place by his side, a true help-meet, and yet the weaker vessel requiring his protective care and sympathetic love.
But all husbands do not come up to this standard. We must not expect perfection yet. It sometimes happens that the husband is overbearing, and forgets the conditions which engender a loving and ready service on the part of his wife. He neglects the working out of his pattern, and takes to admonishing his wife about some flaw in her attitude, instead of acting the part that would remove the flaw.
Paul nowhere enjoins upon the husband to assert his headship over his wife; but exhorts him to meet his wife's loving and spontaneous subjection by following the example of Christ, with the great love with which he loved the church [ecclesia]. However, to follow this, would lead me out of my province. I must leave him to think it up for himself, hoping he may, as the result, approve the more excellent way. I direct my thoughts and counsel to the sister- wife who finds herself mated with such a one.
Her task will be a difficult one, but let her not quail before it. Let her by all means endeavour to fulfil in a becoming manner the duties and responsibilities of her position. Let the dignity and patience of her meek and quiet spirit, be the means of heaping coals of fire upon the head of her faulty companion, if such she have. Let her remember that a "soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievious words stir up anger." If she has a Nabal to deal with, she can at least, like Abigail of old, shew herself to be a woman of good understanding; and by her wisdom may, like her, avert much evil that would otherwise come upon her household.
THE ASSISTANCE OF PRAYER.
One very important element of success in fighting with these and all other difficulties, she will find in prayer. There are many instances on record of women who feared God, and whose prayers were heard and answered according to their request. Their lives were like our own, made up of the common places and ordinary occurrences of daily duty in the household. The desires and aspirations that animated their breasts were the same as animate ourselves. They were subject to like passions as we are; were like ourselves encompassed with weakness; yet their prayers were heard, because they put their trust in God. When we call to remembrance the examples on record where help was visibly vouchsafed to those who prayed to God in the hour of need, we do well to consider whether we individually take full advantage of this blessed privilege. True it is that the promises of God belong specially to the nation of Israel; but are we less Israel than the Israel of old? Do we not know that by our obedience to the truth, we are adopted into the family of him to whom the promises were made, and are therefore no longer aliens; but of the household of faith? This we do know, and ought therefore to live up to the fact that God is to us the hearer and answerer of prayer.
We cannot come to the door of the tabernacle or the temple, like the women of old, with our offerings. We have a new way of approach, even Jesus who lives at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, our high priest and intercessor. We are assured by those whom Jesus sent to spread his name, that all who come unto God in this new and living way, will obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This we have on the authority of Paul (Heb. 4:16). How often we feel that this is just what we want-a refuge in the time of trouble, "help in the time of need!" Surely, amid the accumulating cares of life, feeling oftentimes the need of wisdom to guide, of courage and strength to pursue the steady path of duty amid conflicting elements, we shall do unwisely if we neglect to retire to our closets and make our requests known unto God. He will hear us when we pray, for He cannot lie, and He has said, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me" (Psalm 50:15). Paul also encourages the same attitude of mind toward God. He says, "in everything by prayer and supplicaton, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."
Many songs of thanksgiving are on record, of those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. How delightful to rejoice before the Lord with such a song of thanksgiving upon our lips as this: "The Lord is my strength and my shield: my heart trusted in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise Him" (Psalm 28:7). Let the adopted daughters of the house of Israel, in these latter days, follow the example of the holy women of old, in supplicating the Most High in whatever matters they have need; let them be helped, and let their songs of thanksgiving ascend. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and are safe. With such a strong refuge, they may trust to be sustained.
The work to be accomplished in all the travail of life is one: that of being found worthy at last for the Master's use. The dignity and honour of the position to which we are called, explain the amount of preparedness required of each one. This preparedness requires all our diligence and will give us continually something upon which to occupy our thoughts. It is a preparedness having many elements. The grand result is to bring our sympathies and affections into entire harmony with the things that are of God.
After herself, a mother's spiritual solicitude will be for her children. The question has sometimes been raised whether we ought to teach our children to pray. I am persuaded that with a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures, such a question never could be raised. We have the apostolic injunction to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Now, in what way are we to carry out this injunction? What shape shall our instructions take? Shall we not tell our children of God's wonderful works in the days of old, of His goodness to those who trusted and obeyed Him, of His wrath and power manifested upon wicked men who feared Him not; of His goodness to us- that everything we have and enjoy comes from Him; that He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall that we may be supplied with food from the good things which the field and garden yield; and telling them of these which come on the just and unjust alike, shall we omit to tell them of the time, close at hand, when He will send Jesus to establish a glorious state of things upon earth, in which only those will share His love who obey and trust Him now? Surely not. If there be any preference, it will be shown for the unsearchable riches to which our children, equally with ourselves, may attain. Such daily instruction will not fail to provoke within them a desire to be among those whom God will love and bless in the day of the manifestation of His sons. This desire will find expression in their talk. We delight to hear them express such desires to ourselves, and shall we restrain them, if they wish to express them to God? We teach them to thank an earthly friend who bestows upon them a gift, and consider it a breach of good manners if they omit the ceremonial, and shall we teach them to be less respectful to the Heavenly Giver of every good thing? To this it is said by some "but the children are not in a position to approach God; none but those who believe the truth and have been immersed, can acceptably pray to God." As regards the eternal relationship of sons, this is true, but shall we shut them out of the relation that is actually theirs? Are they not creatures of His hand? May they not thank Him for their being as such? Are they not possible candidates for sonship? May they not, like Cornelius, present their aspirations in prayer to be guided into that relation? Shall we forbid a child to say, "0 Lord, I am a poor child of the dust. I desire to be an heir of life everlasting, through Christ, Lead me into the way." If a sinner's "Lord be merciful to me a sinner," was heard, who shall shut the mouth of an instructed child who is daily progressing to maturer knowledge of divine things? Much hurtful neglect has come from wrong views on this question: or rather the mis-application of a right view.
We know that God heareth not sinners, and that the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to Him; but the children of believers are not of that class. The "sinner" and the "wicked" of these statements are of that class that are given over to transgression, and it is with reason that they should not be heard; but our children are the seed of the righteous, whom the Lord has promised to bless. They are the children of the household, and are under training for becoming acceptable worshippers when their understandings are sufficiently developed to comprehend what is required of them. Meanwhile, when their hearts are stirred to thank Him for the good things they enjoy, for the food they eat, and for the comforts of home and the beautiful world outside, let us not restrain their thanksgiving; but rather teach and encourage them to acknowledge God in all these things. Christ took an interest in the children when he was upon earth, contrary to the expectations of his disciples, who sought to prevent the mothers intruding their children upon his attention. He took them up in his arms and blessed them, and surely he would not be less pleased now with the effort to develop their minds in a direction pleasing to him. God himself, we are told, hears the ravens whey they cry (Psalm 147:9) and the young lions roar after their prey and seek their meat from God (Psalm 104:21). If He is not unmindful of the inferior creatures of His power, doubtless He is not regardless of those to whom a higher destiny is offered.
We have much to encourage us in the prosecution of our arduous toil in the rearing of children. We have great encouragement in the hope of their ultimately attaining to immortality, either at the coming of the Lord, or should that glorious event take place before they attain to the obedience of faith, then at a future period. Apart from this, our efforts are without object or recompense. To accomplish this object, an enlightened daughter of Sarah will make every effort.
Our position in the matter is peculiar in living at a time when we may expect the immediate return of the Lord. With some, this is an anxiety. It need not be. If the Lord come before our children have attained the years of responsibility, they will doubtless be incorporated in the great work to be accomplished among the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, with whom they are upon a level, as the children of those who have been adopted into the family of faithful Abraham. What a great incentive this is to have the children well instructed in the truth. In this relation, the Sunday school appears in its true light, as an aid in the work of making the children acquainted with the things of God. With their heads and hearts full of these things, looking, like ourselves, with intense longing for the time when all families of the earth shall be blessed in Abraham and his seed, can we refrain from entertaining the hope that they shall live through the time of trouble incident to the setting up of the kingdom, and be gathered with the Israel according to the flesh, to be a blessing in their midst, and that ultimately upon the same principle as all others who have attained to immortality, namely, that of faith and obedience during a life of probation, they shall obtain life in the perfect state, which lies beyond the aion of the kingdom? The hope and aspiration that she may be fitting her children for such a destiny, fills the mother's hands with noble work, and the remembrance that she is entrusted with the training of those, who by early lessons may be led into the way of life from which they will not afterwards depart, will be to her an incentive, a solace, and a stay when strength and patience may be sorely tried.
THE DRESSING OF THE CHILDREN.
Then in the dressing of her children, the effects of the blessed hope will be seen. The sister-wife and mother will no more accept the popular standing in the outward adorning of her children, than in the formation of her hope. She will regulate this like her own attire, by the maxims of the high calling. She will not be anxious that her little ones shall appear in full feather as exponents of the newest fashion. She will appreciate a due attention to health and cleanliness in their attire, but she will teach them, as she has come to be instructed herself, that the vanities and follies attendant upon gay dressing are forms of the evil which everywhere prevails; and that though beautiful and attractive to the youthful eye, they are to be eschewed as something calculated to engender forgetfulness of God and the coming of Christ for which we are all preparing.
Moderation in all that pertains to the things of the present is the rule Paul gives, and it is well that he has given us that rule, for if blessed with abundance, we might think we were at liberty to please ourselves as to how we appropriated His bounty. The rich are responsible to the Master for the use of what they have. One of the Master's most continual instructions is that the rich are to share with the less favored who may be in need, the abundance which they enjoy. He will be their judge as to whether this is bountifully or sparingly done. The poor are exalted by the hope of the gospel, but still made stewards of their smaller things. The sense of duty performed, whether high or low, brings with it the highest satisfaction, and is about the truest pleasure we can enjoy now, apart from the contemplation of the truth in its height and depth and communion with the Deity, than which no higher enjoyment can be conceived. The patient continuance in well-doing, does ever and anon bring a sense of satisfaction to the mind which nothing else can, because, in no other path can we hope for the blessing of God, either now or hereafter. So then let us not weary in the well doing, knowing that in due season we shall reap if we faint not.