The Virtuous Woman
BY SISTER JANE ROBERTSCHAPTER 6
The Goal of A Woman's Life In Christ
"Pleasure" • Doing Good • "The Life That Now Is" • The Last Answer
By our works we shall be judged. The remembrance of this will greatly influence the management of our affairs. Those affairs are somewhat different from a brother's; but faithfulness in them is, on the part of the sister, of equal importance in God's sight with his. As he will not be called to account for not acting a sister's part, so will she not be accountable for that which does not come within her sphere; but an account she will have to render as a faithful sister-steward.
The bearing of this will be very visible in a sister's life. She looks around on the busy world, and beholds her sisters in the flesh, engrossed in the concerns of the present moment only. In scarcely any does she discover a recognition of a future life or a present over-ruling Diety. All press eagerly forward as if no other than the present time could have a possible bearing on human existence. Worrying and wearying, and beguiling themselves with the passing day, the joys they devise for themselves are of the fleeting and unsatisfactory order if realized at all. Too often there is entire failure, and as years advance, the failure is written in countenances made expressionless or deeply furrowed by care.
Now, the tendencies of human nature are somewhat similar in all generations. The sister who has entered the race-course for eternal life is no exception, and if not on her guard, those tendencies will get the better of her, as life advances. It is important she should remember that she has just once to go through this life. She cannot have a second chance, and the missing of her way in this sweeps away all blessedness beyond. The claims of the present have a legitimate place. The difficulty lies in discerning this place, and strictly keeping those claims there. To succeed in this will indeed be to secure the object and aim of our high calling in the truth.
The fascination of the present evil world are usually powerful with the weaker sex. There is a present relish about them which pleases the inexperienced mind. Those who have learnt to be wise will let them pass. They are pleasures too short for those who long for immortality, and too dearly bought when enjoyed at the risk of God's displeasure and our own hurt. The danger is greater than the simple know. It is not the immediate effect of an individual act of participation in the world's pleasures that is to be considered; it is what it may easily lead to in associations formed, and the fostering of an inferior taste to the weakening of such as the truth creates within us.
Then there is that social rivalry which still more easily draws even wise women into its coils, in which the foolish votaries of fashion put themselves to immense trouble to commend themselves to their equally-foolish contemporaries. This is great vanity, the victims of which at last get wearied and disgusted. For one professing godliness to get entrapped in this mistake (living in the world as of the world), is sadder than the case of even an out-and-out-worldling, who, at least, never having aspired to a crown of immortality, does not lose it. It were better not to embrace the glad tidings of the good time coming, and for a time rejoice in the prospect of that untold goodness of God, and set herself to the attainment thereof, than for a woman to lay hold of these things, and engraft upon them "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life."
We are required, while the Lord is away, to honour him by a faithful compliance with all his commandments, whether spoken by his own lips or delivered by his servants, whom he commissioned to speak for him; and we cannot expect to attain this faithfulness, otherwise than by the constant study and remembrance of these things.
This brings to mind again the thought that, apart from the daily study of the word, there is little chance of success. How, otherwise, in the absence of voice and sign, are we to continue in harmony with the expressed mind of our Master who is in heaven? Familiar acquaintance with the word enables us to realise that it is not according to his will that we should coquette with the world, or keep it secret that we are espoused to him; neither is it his will, when we have withdrawn from the world, that we should plan how nearly we may conform to its foolish and faithless ways, and yet retain his favour. He desires that abundant love which he has shown for us, and which should constrain us readily and lovingly to be content to be as he was in this evil world. We may have him continually before us in memory as our pattern; the example which we shall be alone safe to follow.
A strong feature in that example is that he gave his whole life for the benefit of others, telling his disciples that he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. It is his expressed wish that the disciple should be as his Master. In this matter, the sister will find the world against her; for although womanly instincts of kindness find expression in many ways in society, yet the doctrine of the world is against the policy of doing good. We must be content to obey our Superior, and in the service of others, we shall feel in some measure walking in his footsteps, for he came to serve others, even to the laying down of his life.
Often times, when hope has well-nigh fled, and the remembrance of Christ's loving interest in us has almost faded from our thoughts, could we but hear his audible voice as in the days of old, would he not say, "0 ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Surely it is feebleness of faith that causes us to withhold our hand sometimes; that makes the servant refrain from trading with his Master's goods.
Let us eschew the folly that feverishly spends all time, energy, health and means in securing a comfortable old age that we may never see, while the work of the Lord languishes for just the help that otherwise might be given. Let us not forget the gracious and assuring promises to those who lend to the Lord, in the manner in which he has been graciously pleased to intimate his willingness to accept a loan: though who can lend to him who is the possessor of all things? Let us never miss the chance of such a bountiful repayer as Yahweh.
In this matter, and in this manner, the sister may secure the blessing or the blank. It will be a mistake on her part to suppose that she cannot devote somewhat of her substance to the Lord. Be she ever so poor, zeal will contrive a portion for the Lord. A married sister having, as a rule, only so much at her disposal as the guide of the house, will not have so much in her power as others with a control of their own; but even she, be her allowance weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly, will always arrange to set apart the Lord's share, even at the price of self-denial. Poorer than she may command the blessing. Our Lord approved of the widow's mite eighteen hundred years ago, and he will do so now. The spirit that dictates the deed, is the thing that is prized in his sight. Given from a desire to serve him, in whatever shape, it is well pleasing to him. The act on our part is an acknowledgment of him, and known to him if to none others, and we know that if during our brief sojourn we confess him, and do him honour in the obedience of his commandments, he will acknowledge us in the day of his appearing. Let none imagine that the little they do is without worth. The very desire to acknowledge Christ in the smallest service or gift, constitutes its value in his sight, and is by him noted in that book of remembrance, from which no record of hidden deeds shall ever fade. What a comforting thought that to God and the daysman betwixt us, all our actions and motives are known. Let us indeed make the God of Jacob our fear and our dread, that we may also rely upon Him as our shield and supporter, our hope and our trust. With such a high object of fear enshrined in our hearts, we are safe from the multitude of evil things that harass and affect those who have no such strength within. We know in whom we have believed, and we know what He has promised, and that He is able to perform. If we have only little of this world's goods, let us never forget the Lord's portion. If we refrain because we have only a little to give, we may lose the opportunity altogether. If we live in the hope of having more, we may have grown selfish by the time such hope is realized, and blinded by the possession of much; whereas if we train ourselves to give according to what we have, there will be a guarantee that we shall do more if more be given to us. God is able to make all grace abound toward us, and we know that if not now, most assuredly in the day when He shall reward everyone according to their work, they who have sown liberally will also reap liberally.
"THE LIFE THAT NOW IS."
Even in this life a trusting, loving service, while health and strength and means are at our disposal, lays up a good foundation against the time to come. The consciousness of pursuing a dutiful line of conduct gives the answer of a good conscience, and tranquilizes the mind, where otherwise fear and apprehension might take possession and distract the thoughts. We have no assurance that we shall escape trouble. Indeed, we may make up our minds that we shall be tried, for in the trial of our faith and patience are we to be perfected; but then as dutiful and confiding children, how different is our position when trials do come, than if we were of those who are without God and without hope in the world; of those, who, having a name to live, are dead; and who until roused by some unexpected calamity, do not realise the glorious position to which the truth has introduced them.
The daughter of the Almighty who has made His acquaintance by giving heed to His testimonies, making their study and meditation her delight, will be much better able to meet calamity than her sisters, who allow domestic, or any considerations to rob them of this true wealth. It matters not, after all, how much we are called upon to bear, if only we can be supported in it. Let us then in health and when things go with tolerable smoothness, keep close acquaintance with God, through the revelation He has given of Himself in His past dealings with men, in the recognition He has been pleased to vouchsafe to those who feared Him in days gone by, and in the reiterated promises of blessing to all in all ages who truly fear and serve Him. Great sorrows He may permit to overtake us, even as He spared not His own son; but His favour is sufficient to sustain us, and raise us up when greatly bowed down.
Earthly consolations necessarily fluctuate. The most robust, the most buoyant, the most loving and the most gifted may fail through the weakness inherent to the perishable framework of this present nature, but we can rely upon God as the Unchangeable One. Through all generations, He abides the same. Any change we may experience has its origin in ourselves and our surroundings. We may feel out of joint or at a distance from Him but He changeth never. Let us, then, draw nigh to Him, and we will be restored to our wonted resting-place.
The time is near-even at the door-when we shall all meet around the Son of His love, who for ages has been the hope of all who have looked for redemption in Israel- the cloud of witnesses by whom we are surrounded, and who will shortly arise! to the glory, honour, and immortality they have won through faith in God. Their faith was equal to the requirements of the day, and shall ours be less? Shall we meet those saints of old with shame or joy, and shall Abraham and Sarah acknowledge us or look upon us with pity as those who have neither part nor lot in the matter? Yea, rather, shall Abraham's God receive us in Abraham's seed, filling us with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, or shall we hear the death-knell, "I know you not?"
THE LAST ANSWER.
Sisters, we are determining the answer to these mighty questions now in our life and conversation; and the answer that great day will reveal, if we never knew it before. Let us look neither to the right hand nor the left, but be diligent to make our calling and election sure. If we are striving (agonising, as translators tell us it ought to be) to realise a joyful standing in that day, we have reason to be of good cheer, though sorrowing because of the manifold temptations which for a season surround us. The world weeps and laments when it's sorrows come, for it has no hope; but the daughter of Sarah, while wetting the pillow with her tears, sorrows not as these. The truth is to her a healing balm even now. The afflicting visitations of this time of sojourn destroy her not; she accepts them as the incidents of her pilgrimage.
Unknown to her contemporaries, who would think her crazy if she told them what she looks for, she is one of a band who shared the same fate before her; godly women, daughters of Sarah, all who have faithfully testified to the truth, by word and deed, in their day and generation. Denied, by circumstances, the society which she longs to enjoy, she takes comfort in knowing that there will shortly be an end to her travail, in the day when those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness shall be filled; and when all the nobler faculties of her nature, feeble and abortive now, will be made perfect in change from flesh to spirit.