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EDITED BY REV. AUSTIN DICKINSON, NEW YORK.
No. 104.- JANUARY, 1835.
CONTENTS.—“ A good wife a heavenly gift;" by Rev.
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Prov. xix. 14. House and riches are the inheritance of fathers; and a prudent
wife is from the Lord. Our present life, though frequently and justly styled a life of sorrow and disappointment, is also one of great and varied enjoyment. The earth is full of the goodness of Jehovah, and all the departments of life, and every indi. vidual in every department have their full share of this goodness. And one of the great sources of nearly all the sorrow and anxieties, in social life par. ticularly, is, that many men know not the full value of one single blessing which they possess—that is a good wife.
Among the many never failing sources of enjoyment connected with the present state of things, the exercise of the social affections holds a distinguished place. The phrases “a good neighbor, a good father, a good mother, a good sister, a good brother, a good son and a good daughter, and a good companion,” are well understood by all, as full of meaning, and full of enjoyment, but no human tongue can express all the enjoyment which they contain, or even communicate.
And in the wise and the good, and extended and comprehensive arrange. ments of Providence, all these, and all the enjoyments derived from them, spring from one common source—a good wife and a good mother. By the very constitution of our nature, the whole character of civil society, from the smallest family to the largest empire, is formed by the aggregate character of the mothers and wives within the district.
By a figure of speech common in all languages, and among all classes of men, all the qualifications of a good wife and a good mother, are in the text expressed by one term, viz :-prudence. Prudence, in its strict and proper sense, has a particular reference to the choice of fit means to accomplish a particular end, in the easiest and safest method possible. And with a good wife, not only the possession, but the daily exercise of this invaluable gift is indispensable. There is in fact no individual, in all the branches of society, who has such constant, and daily, and hourly use for this quality of mind.
The management of the family falls chiefly upon the wife, and whatever may be the state of the family resources, or the character of the members, ihe wife is responsible for the whole. She has to manage children of every age, and in every state of health and sickness, and of every kind of temper and disposition. She has to manage servants who are always more or less to be instructed and watched, as well as directed, and who are frequently very
VOL. 9–No. 8.
Auctuating and irritable. Her house is also more or less open at all times to neighbors, and friends, and strangers, who in many cases require extensive and varied attention. And add to all-it not unfrequently happens—that the daily business of the husband is by no means well adapted to the convenience either of his wife, or of any of his friends—so that his regular visits to the bosom of his family, are to receive, rather than to give assistance and refreshment. And this, where there is no lack of affection.
It is thus, that the best arrangements of any family which has the least intercourse with the neighborhood, or with the world, is almost daily liable to interruptions, and all the members of the little republic are continually changing their relative position to one another, and to others. And thus the temper and patience, and expedients, and resources of the woman, who is at the head of the establishment, must be continually tried, and in many cases tried most severely. Of what importance then to any man, and to society at large, must be the enjoyment of “ a prudent and efficient wife.”
1. Let us attend to some things included in the phrase a prudent wife.”
1. A good wife must possess a large share of what is called “common sense." She must know by a kind of instinct how to act on every emergency-catch as it were by inspiration, the leading features in the characters and dispositions of the individuals, old or young, friends or strangers, to whom she is introduced, and with whom she is to act statedly or occasionally. Without this, every other talent she may possess, and every attainment she may have acquired, will be of little use either to herself or to her family.
2. A good wife must be distinguished for self-command. A wife is at the head of a little society, in which are all the elements of every kind of society. But all these elements are here, in an unformed, and forming, and most fluc. tuating state. Hence, the first and most important lesson to be studied, and to be acquired by the individual who presides over a society in this state is, that she have, on all occasions, the most perfect command of herself.
3. Industry and economy form a third distinguishing feature in the character of a good wife. This is the leading feature in the detail which is given us by the Spirit of inspiration, Prov. xxxi, 10—end. It will be well for our country, and for our world, when this passage of holy writ shall be fully understood by every mother and every daughter of our land. Happy would it have been this day for the British nation, and for these United States, had this passage been made the text-book for female education, instead of the large importa. tions which have been made of teachers, and of systems of education, and of maxims and habits from Italy and France.
The industry and economy of a wife, is particularly exhibited in having all the intervals of time, within the whole range of her government, filled up with some necessary and profitable employment, and in taking special care of fragments of time and fragments of property.
4. A good wife is an affectionate woman. The law of love and sincerity is written upon her heart; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Every domestic, and every friend, and every stranger, and the friend of every distant friend and acquaintance, finds himself immediately at home while under her roof, and while partaking of her hospitality. Nor in all her intercourse with strangers or with acquaintances, does she cherish a thought, or willingly utter a syllable with the design of injuring the feelings or the character of a single human being. She will not take up, much less will she give circulation to a reproach against her neighbor, though this reproach should be brought to her table or whispered to her in her bed-chamber.
5. A good wife is of domestic habits, and of a domestic disposition. She enjoys herself nowhere so well as under her own roof, and while attending to her own private affairs. Her husband and her children, and the daily ordi. nary cares of the family, occupy her chief earthly attention. She is a good neighbor, and can always enjoy a good neighbor, whether at home or abroad, But her own family is her peculiar and special province, and she has no desire to meddle with the domestic arrangements of any of her sister sovereigns. When she enters a neighboring family, it is to administer in some form to their comforts, not to embarrass them with their friends. Let wives, and mothers, and young women who expect soon to be at the head of households, read and study attentively, 1 'Tim. v, 9—14.
One sinner destroys much good. One busy tattling woman, whether mar. ried or single, is enough to destroy all the social comforts of many families. And on the other hand, one prudent woman may be worth a thousand in pre. serving all that is valuable in the social intercourse of a village, or city, or neighborhood._Read and study the history of Abigail, 1 Sam. xxv, and of the woman of Tekoah, 2 Sam. xiv, 1-20, and of the wise woman mentioned in 2 Sam. xx, 16–22.
6. All these and similar qualifications in the good. wise, must be associated with the possession and the exercise of genuine and ardent piety. The description of a good wife in the Bible, already referred to, closes with these important words: “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."
Infidels themselves, with very few exceptions, acknowledge the importance and necessity of piety among females. Take a sense of religion from a female, and she is an object of abhorrence even to those who are themselves polluted with every crime; and while many wicked fathers are by both precept and example initiating their own sons, and other young men, into all the elements of irreligion and debauchery, they shudder at the very thought of their wives and their daughters not being under the influence of the religion and morality of the Bible. If a little of this good thing then, be of such vital importance, even with those who personally know nothing of its value, of what value must it be, when it shall be the leading and the commanding principle of action in those upon whose fidelity, and activity, and daily and hourly labors, the wel. fare and the enjoyment of the whole community, must in every generation and in every state of society, from the very nature of things, depend? If a man is to be happy any where on earth, it must be in the bosom of his own family, rejoicing with the wife of his youth. And we repeat it, if a little of genuine piety, or of what may be only the semblance of genuine piety, be of such value in the estimation of those who personally know nothing of it, of what value must that wife be to her husband and to her family, whose piety is always ardent, and incorporated with all her plans and all her movements ?
Genuine and ardent piety is of the utmost importance for the personal support and comfort of a good wife. She has in all her plans and in all her movements, her peculiar difficulties—difficulties which in many casess he can communicate to no human being—and difficulties also which when known to others, can be removed or alleviated only by the favor and the goodness of the Almighty. To her Father who is in heaven she must often look for direction and assistance, when neither father, nor mother, nor husband, nor any earthly friend can help in the least degree. Every pious wife and mother is familiar with the experience of the psalmist, “ when my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”
Nor can the affectio nd piety of the husband, however sincere and ardent, relieve the mind of the wife in numerous cases of anxiety and difficulty. It is written, “ Confounded be all they who serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols. Worship him, (that is Jehovah,) all ye gods.” In every case, in exact proportion as the heart of a good wife is given to idolatry, she will be disappointed in the quarter from which she expected deliverance.
Genuine and ardent piety is indispensable in the character of a good wife,