Imatges de pàgina

fafely truft in her, fo that he fhall have no need of fpoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She feeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants fhips, the bringeth her food from afar. She rifeth alfo while it is yet night, and giveth meet to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She confidereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands the planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with ftrength, and ftrengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandife is good: her candie goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the fpindle, and her hands hold the diftaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, fhe reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the fnow for her household: for all her household are cloathed with fearlet. She maketh herfelf coverings of tapef try: her cloathing is filk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he fitteth among the el. ders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and felleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her cloathing: and fhe fhall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wifdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindnefs. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arife up, and call her bleffed; her husband alfo, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excelleft them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, fhe fhall be praifcd.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praife her in the gates."*

A third refpect in which God intended that woman fhould be "an help meet" for man, is the care of his health, and every thing connected with it; his tranquillity of mind, his temper, his character and reputation without which the greatest bodily vigour will quickly

* Prov. xxxi. 10-31.


quickly decay and fink, and life will ceafe to be a bleffing.

It is pleasant to have a companion in folitude, an affiftant in labour, a fellow-partaker in joy. But human life contains varieties painful, as well as pleafaat. Sorrow, and pain, and folicitude, and disappointment enter into the hiftory of man: and he is but half-provided for the voyage of life, who has found an affociate for his happier days only; while for his months of darkness and distress no fympathizing partner is prepared, no help meet" is found. The provident care of the Almighty meets every with and want of man; and in beftowing upon him a companion for youth, a fharer in felicity, a partner in property, he was fecuring for him, at a diftance, a friend in age, a folace in affliction, a partner in want" a friend that fticketh closer than a brother."

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If a man's worldly eftate, whether it be much or little, is wifely managed, one foundation of health and comfort is laid; and fhe who is thus habitually employed, may be confidered as adminiftring a perpetual medicine or cordial to her husband. But no prudence of forefight can ward off the attack of difeafe, or prevent the ftroke of calamity; affluence cannot purchase release from pain, nor tendernefs. cool the fever in the blood. But the fufferer is not left deftitute. There is one ear into which he can pour out all his heart; there is one hand ever ready to relieve him; "one life bound up in his life." And as enjoyment derived all its relifh from participation, fo mifery lofes all its anguifh in the bofom of fympathy and kindness. The fpirit of penitence is inferior only to unfullied innocence; and next to the bleffing of unimpaired health, and uninterrupted comfort, is the confolation of sickness alleviated, and com- . fort reftored, by the gentle language and engaging of fices of love. What fhall I fay? Is there not, perhaps, in the restoration of repenting guilt and in the fufpension of woe, by the affiduity of affection, a pecu

liar fatisfaction, and a delight, which perfect innocence and perfect health could not poffibly have known?

The regular temperature of a man's body is, howev er, only one ingredient in the cup of health. "An help meet for him" will be anxious to preferve a found mind in a found body; will endeavour to preyent or to difpel painful reflection; will remove difquieting objects; will prefent fmiling images; will watch the ebbing and flowing of paffion, will bear and forbear, and, like the best of beings, "will overcome evil with good."

She will likewife confider herfelf as entrusted with the care of his good name. His reputation is her brightest ornament; his honour is her joy, and crown of rejoicing. If he is difgraced, fhe is degraded. Every instance of misconduct in her, fhe knows, glances at him; and therefore to fupport his dignity is a powerful motive with her to act wifely and well. She reflects, that not only by grofs deviations from duty in the wife, does the husband fuffer in character, but that levity, indifcretion, carelessnefs in her, are an imputation upon his understanding, and, in the opinion of the world, inceffantly upbraid him with the choice he has made, of "an help meet for him." As she would therefore compaffionately nurfe his body in pain and sickness; and prudently ftudy and watch his temper, amidst the conflict of contending paffions, fo, to approve herself what God and nature meant her to be, fhe will guard his fame, the life of his life, "as her precious eye," and thus, in every thing relating both to mental and bodily health, to private comfort and public estimation, "fhe will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life."

But there is fomewhat ftill dearer, ftill more facred to a man than children or property, than health or reputation, fomewhat which, neglected, forfeited, loft, it "will profit him nothing to gain even the whole world ;" and in the fecuring and promoting of which,


who is fo qualified to minifter and affift as her, whom the Father of mercies gave him, to be "an help meet for him?" I mean,

IV. The falvation of the immortal foul. This is indeed a perfonal concern; an intereft which cannot be transferred or communicated. The good-will of another cannot impart it; the remifsnefs of another cannot defeat it: to God, his great Master, here, every man standeth or falleth, for " every one must give account of himself to God." But is it not obvious, that example, that reason, that co-operation, possess a mighty influence toward promoting or obftructing perfonal piety, growth in grace, meetnefs for the kingdom of heaven? Is the man impreffed with the worth, with the danger of his own foul; does he feel. "the powers of a world to come;" is his mind turned to devotion; is the love of God fhed abroad in his heart? How will fuch impreffions be fixed and strengthened, by endeavouring to communicate them to a beloved object, and by receiving back the impression, heightened and improved, from that object? How much more exalted and affecting is a fenfe of divine goodness, when it is beheld embracing more than one! when it is feen conferring immortality, eternity, on virtuous human affections! what a live coal applied to devotion, when the folitary my Father and my God, is changed into the focial our Father and our God! How is the hope of glory ennobled, extended, animated, by the prospect of participation! "Here am I, Holy Father, with her whom thou gavest me, to be an help meet for me. We were one in intereft and affection; one in the faith of the gofpel, and the practice of piety; our prayers afcended in one ftream of incenfe, and every gift of thy providence and grace was multiplied and fweetened to each by being beftowed on the other. Sweet were our labours of love to our joint offspring; fweet our united efforts to improve the bounty of our common parent; fweet the fympathies of kindred hearts, in fickness and in health,

in forrow and in joy, in good and in bad report; but fweeter far the confolations of religion, the prospect of life and immortality brought to light by the gofpct."' We come together to "receive the end of our faith, the falvation of our fouls; as, through grace, we have been made helpers of each other's faith, let us be, eternally, helpers of each other's joy."

Is the man, unhappily, dead to all fenfe of religion; fwallowed up of time and fenfe; is his great, or only inquiry, "What shall I eat, what fhall I drink, wherewithal fhall I be clothed?" Or, more wretched still, is he delivered over "to commit iniquity with greedinefs,' ""and to glory in his fhame?" What are the moft likely means of awakening him to reflection, of reaching his confcience, of melting his heart, of changing his conduct? Preaching is vain, he turns "a deaf ear to the voice of the charmer, charm he never fo wifely:" profperity fofters pride and forgetfulness of God; adverfity only hardens him the more; reafon is perverted, paflion has acquired the afcendant, the power of habit predominates: but the Lord God has provided "an help meet for him." When public inftruction and foreign reproof have failed, the mind is ftill acceffible. The unaffected, unoftentatious charm of genuine female piety is felt and understood, and becomes efficacious; the filent, unupbraiding regret of conjugal tendernefs fupplies the place of a thousand arguments, and forces its way to the heart; "the effectual fervent prayer" of a gracious woman "availeth much;" the "believing wife" draws to the Redeemer, with the cords of love, "the unbelieving husband;" fhe becomes the bleffed inftrument of "converting the finner from the error of his way, fhe faves a foul from death, fhe hides a multitude of fins," and, in the nobleft fenfe of the word, approves herfelf" an help meet" for man.

In all these important refpects, the original defign of Eternal Wifdom, in the formation of woman, is plain and palpable. To have fulfilled one branch of


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