Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

polish the roughness, and to frown out of sight, and; in many instances, out of existence, the vices of the other sex. It is in the power of women, by example and by precept, to regulate at pleasure the decorums of dress, the purity of manners, and all the ha bits, of the younger and more inexperienced part of their own sex. In short, it is in the power of women, to an extent to which few of them seem to be aware, to discountenance and banish those pernicious customs which, from time to time, display their hydra form in society, and to exercise a most efficient guardianship over public taste and virtue. No false sentiments can have much prevalence against which they resolutely set their faces., No corrupt practices can be general or popular which they are willing to expel from society.

Human happiness,' says a modern writer, is on the whole, much less affected by great, but unfrequent events, whether of prosperity or of adversity, of benefit or of injury, than by small, but perpetually recurring incidents of good or evil. The manner in which the influence of the female character is felt, belongs to the latter description. It is not like the periodical inundation of a river, which once in a year, overspreads a desert with transient plenty. It is like the dew of heaven, which descends at all seasons, returns after short intervals, and permanently nourishes every herb of the field*.”

To the female sex also properly appertains a large portion of those offices of charity, to which we are constantly called. To feed the hungry, and clothe the naked; to weep with them that weep; to soften the bed of sickness, and to wipe away the tears of sorrow, are duties incumbent upon us all. But they belong, more particularly to the tender sex. They are best acquainted with domestic wants. They are

*Gisborne. Duties of the Female Sex. P. 8.

the best judges of doméstic character. They havé more sympathy, more tenderness, more leisure, and more patience than men; and, on a variety of accounts, are more capable of performing these duties with ease to themselves, and with advantage to the objects of their charity.

Here is surely enough to excite all the ambition, and to employ all the talents of a reasonable mind. What though females cannot stand in the sacred Desk, nor sit on the Bench of justice? What though they cannot be employed in framing laws, nor in conducting diplomatic missions, nor in organizing or governing nations? They can contribute more by their virtues and their influence to bind society together, than all the laws that legislators ever formed. They are called to duties which are not only worthy of the most exalted powers; but which have this preeminent advantage, that, while they are immediately calculated to meliorate the hearts of those who perform them, they also tend to refine and elevate the human character in general, and to render earth more like the paradise of God.

The foregoing hints, if they do not satisfactorily elucidate the subject to which they relate, will at least suffice to show its importance; and to prepare the way for some remarks more immediately practical. To these permit me now to request your attention.

1 Let me apply this subject, by inferring from what has been said, the unspeakable importance of fe male education. If the female character be so important, then the formation of that character must be equally so. If education in general lie at the foun dation of individual, domestic, and national happiness, this is especially the case with female education. It is a concern in which the highest interests of mankind are at stake. It involves the vital principle of social welfare. And according as it is at

tended to or neglected; according as it is wisely or erroneously pursued, will public and private happiness be nourished or poisoned at its root. Upon the education of woman it depends, under God, whether she shall be the most useful, or the most mischievous of mortals; whether she shall be the most invaluable blessing of human society, or the most dreadful scourge of Almighty visitation.' Solemn thought! How deeply ought the subject to engage the attention, to interest the heart, to excite the prayers, and to animate the diligence of every parent!

We are, perhaps, wiser than our fathers, in having learned to appreciate more justly than they did, the talents of women, and in devising plans of education better fitted to develope and improve these talents. But I am afraid we fall below our venerable,predecessors, in cultivating the moral and religious character of females, and in fitting them for some of the more useful and important duties of their sex. When we learn generally to correct this error; when we teach our daughters properly to estimate their true dignity, and diligently to pursue their real happiness; when we persuade them to reflect, that education consists, not in the acquisition of dazzling and meretricious arts; but in preparing themselves to be respectable and useful as wives, mothers, members of society, and christians-Then, and not till then, may we hope to see the moral character of society raised, and the real importance of the female sex more justly estimated, and more duly honored.

2. Allow me to apply this subject by recommending the character which has been drawn, to the studious imitation of the female part of my audience, and espicially of the younger class. Contracted in its extent, and feeble in its outline, as is the sketch which I have attempted to exhibit, believe me, it is worthy of your atten tion. It is a character which involves the highest honor, and which embraces its own reward. In re

commending it to your imitation, therefore, I am pleading the cause of your own elevation and happiness, as well as the cause of God, and the cause of mankind.

My young female friends! it ought to be your ambition to possess and to evince a sound understanding, and a respectable portion of literary knowledge. All that has been said, serves to show that the cultivation of female intellect is as important, and as necessary, as the intellectual culture of the other sex. But it ought to be more especially your ambition, to cultivate your hearts. The Heart-I repeat it-the Heart-sanctified by religion, warmed and softened by benevolence, and taught to throb in affectionate response to every sigh of suffering, and every claim of humanity this is the grand ornament of woman— this is the strong hold of woman. To be so many Tabithas, adorning' the doctrine of God, your Saviour, and diffusing happiness among all around you, would be infinitely more to your honor as well as your comfort, even in the present life, than to stand in the list of those masculine females, who, while they gain a proud civil pre-eminence, really disgrace their sex. When therefore, I see a young female devoting her supreme attention to external accomplishments; absorbed in the love of ornament, and of admiration; habitually venturing, in obedience to fashion, to the very verge of decorum; never satisfied but when either preparing for the splendor of a public appearance, or discussing the merits of a past exhibition-I say within myself---The hand of some infatuated parent, or of some incompetent or unfaithful guardian is here. What perversion of talents! What misapplication of exertions! What waste of time! What pains to treasure up sorrow and tears for after life! How much more attractive would be that fair form, were it employed in works of charity, and more frequently seen bending over the couch of poverty and suffering!

[ocr errors]

How much more beautiful would be that lovely face, were it habitually beaming with benevolence and pie. ty! And how unspeakably more happy, and more respectable its possessor, if the cultivation of her heart, and the employment of her time, on evangelical principles, were the great object of her care!

Let the young, let females of all ages, be induced to consider the duties incumbent upon them in their respective situations in life. A sphere of action is assigned you by your Creator, and you are capable of being eminently useful in the age in which you live. Your exertions are calculated not merely to relieve present disstress, but to improve the condition of society, to cultivate the hearts of the young, and confer blessings on generations yet unborn. How great the satisfaction, how exquisite the pleasure of doing good, of adding to the sum of human happiness! What is there in all the pageantry of state, in all the gratifications of sense, in all the delirious joys of giddy dissipation, once to be compared with this? O pleasures cheaply purchased, placidly enjoyed; ever rising, ever new; never languid, never remorseful, why are you pursued so seldom, and attained by so few ?""*

Brethren! the time is short, and the fashion of this world passeth away. Like Dorcas, we must all soon sicken and die. Are we habitually anticipating the solemnities of that hour? Are we daily directing our pursuits, employing our property, and framing our lives, agreeably to this anticipation? Do we resemble the excellent Woman, on whose example we have been meditating, in our character and hopes, as well as in our mortality? We cannot resemble her, unless we are disciples indeed. We may give all our goods to feed the poor,' and 'our bodies to be burn. ed,' and yet be nothing more than a sounding brass,

(

*Hunter's Occafional Sermons, II. p. 140.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »