It was declared from the beginning, that every other tie, though not severed by marriage, shall be rendered subordinate, and a man shall "leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh." If then, woman's mission in Paradise was to be man's companion and joy, such must be the case still. Her vocation has not been changed by the fall. By that catastrophe, man needs still more urgently a companion, and God has rendered this, her mission, still more explicit by the declaration, "Your desire shall be to your husband and he shall rule over you."
It has been often shown that by being taken from himself, she was equal to man in nature; while the very part of the body from which she was abstracted indicated the position she was intended to occupy. She was not taken from the head, to show she was not to rule over him; nor from his foot, to teach that she was not to be his slave; nor from his hand, to show that she was not to be his tool; but from his side, to show that she was to be his companion. There may perhaps be more of ingenuity and fancy in this, than of God's original design; but if a mere conceit, it is at once both pardonable and instructive.
That woman was intended to occupy a position of subordination and dependence, is clear from every part of the Word of God. This is declared in language already quoted, "Your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you." This referred not only to Eve personally, but to Eve representatively. It was the Divine law of the relation of the sexes, then promulgated for all time. The preceding language placed woman as a punishment for her sin, in a state of sorrow; this places her in a state of subjection. Her husband was to be the center of her earthly desires, and to a certain extent, the regulator of them also—and she was to be in subjection to him. What was enacted in Paradise, has been confirmed by every subsequent dispensation of grace. The Old Testament fully supports this truth, in all its provisions. And Christianity equally establishes it.
I shall here introduce and explain the words of the apostle, "I would have you to know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man." He then goes on to direct that women should not, unveiled and with their hair cut off, exercise the miraculous gifts which were sometimes bestowed upon them; and adds, "A man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God but the woman is the glory of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." For the explanation of this passage, I remark, that in the times of the apostles there were two recognized characteristic emblems of the female sex, when they appeared in public, veils, and the preservation of their tresses. It would seem from the apostle's remarks, as if some of the female members of the Corinthian Church, during the time that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was upon them, cast off their veils, after the manner of the heathen priestesses when they delivered the responses of the oracles. This conduct the apostle reproves, and informs them that if the veil were thrown aside, they might as well also cut off their flowing hair, which is one of woman's distinctions from man, and is by all nations considered the ornament, as well as the peculiarity of the female sex.
We may pause for a moment, to observe how constantly and completely Christianity is the parent of order, and the enemy of indecorum of every kind. Why were not the women to lay aside their veils? Because it would be forgetting their subordination and dependence, and assuming an equal rank with man. This is the gist of the apostle's reason. It was not merely indecorous, and contrary to modesty, but it was a ardent desire for rank, fame, or power, and violating the order of heaven.
The other expressions of the apostle in this passage are very strong. As Christ is the head, or ruler of man, so man is the head and ruler of woman, in the domestic economy. Man was made to show forth God's glory and praise; to be in subordination to him, and only to him; while woman was created to be, in addition to this, the glory of man, by being in subordination to him, as his helper and his ornament. She was not only made out of him, but for him. All her loveliness, attractions, and purity, are not only the expressions of her excellence, but of his honor and dignity, since all were not only derived from him, but made for him.
This then is woman's true position, and if anything more need be said to prove it from the records of Christianity, we may refer to apostolic language in other places, where wives are enjoined to be subject to their husbands in all things, even as the church is subject to Christ. Nor is the apostle Paul alone in this, for Peter writes in the same strain. Let woman then bow to this authority, nor feel herself degraded by such submission. It has been said, that in domestic life, man shines as the sun, but woman as the moon, with a splendor borrowed from the man. May it not be said with greater truth and propriety, and less invidiously, that man shines as the primary planet, reflecting the glory of God, who is the center of the moral universe; and woman while she equally derives her splendor from the central luminary and is governed by his attraction, is yet the satellite of man, revolves around him, follows him in his course, and ministers to him.
Behold, then, we say again, woman's position and mission—it is summed up in love and subjection to her husband. "Everything connected with the relationship of man and woman has, however, since the fall, a more serious character; her love has become more anxious; her humility more profound. Bashful of her own defects, and anxious to reinstate herself in her husband's heart, woman lives to repair the wrong she has inflicted on man, and lavishes upon him consolations which may sweeten the present bitterness of sin, and warnings which may preserve from the future bitterness of hell."
Woman, then, whatever relation she may bear to society at large, whatever duties, in consequence of this relation, she may have to discharge, and whatever benefits, by the right discharge of these duties she may have it in her power to confer upon the community, must consider herself chiefly called to advance the comfort of man in his private relations; by promoting his peace, to promote her own; and to receive from him all that respect, protection, and ever assiduous affection, to which her equal nature, her companionship, and her devotedness, give her so just a claim.
She is, in wedded life, to be his constant companion, in whose companionship he is to find one, who meets him hand to hand, eye to eye, lip to lip, and heart to heart—to whom he can unburden the secrets of a heart pressed down with care, or wrung with anguish; whose presence shall be to him above all other friendship; whose voice shall be his sweetest music; whose smiles his brightest sunshine—from whom he shall go forth with regret, and to whose company he shall return with willing feet, when the toils of the day are over; who shall walk near his loving heart, and feel the throbbing of affection as her arm leans on his, and presses on his side. In his hours of private companionship, he shall tell her all the secrets of his heart; find in her all the capabilities, and all the promptings, of the most tender and endeared fellowship; and in her gentle smiles, and unrestrained speech, enjoy all to be expected in one who was given by God to be his companion and friend.
In that companionship which woman was designed to afford to man, must of course be included the sympathetic offices of the comforter. It is hers, in their hours of retirement, to console and cheer him; when he is injured or insulted, to heal the wounds of his troubled spirit; when burdened by care, to lighten his load by sharing it; when groaning with anguish, to calm by her peace-speaking words the tumult of his heart; and act, in all his sorrows, the part of a ministering angel.
Nor should she be backward to offer, nor he backward to receive, the counsels of wisdom, which her prudence will suggest, even though she may not be intimately acquainted with all the entanglements of this world's business. Woman's advice, had it been asked and acted upon, would have saved thousands of men from bankruptcy and ruin. Few men have ever had to regret their taking counsel from a prudent wife; while multitudes have had to reproach themselves for their folly in not asking, and multitudes more for not following, the counsels of such a companion.
If, then, this is woman's mission according to the representation of her Almighty Creator, to be the suitable help-mate of that man, to whom she has given herself as the companion of his pilgrimage upon earth, it of course supposes that marriage, contracted with a due regard to prudence, and under all proper regulations, is the natural state of both man and woman. And so, I affirm, in truth it is. Providence has willed it, and nature prompts it. But as the exceptions are so numerous, is there no mission for those to whom the exception appertains? Is it married women only, who have a mission, and an important one? Certainly not! In these cases, I fall back upon woman's mission to society at large. And is not this momentous? Has it not been admitted in all ages, and by all countries, that the influence of female character upon social virtue and happiness, and upon national strength and prosperity, is prodigious, whether for good or for evil?
Is not the declaration with which Adolphe Monod opens his beautiful treatise, perfectly true? "The greatest influence on earth whether for good or for evil, is possessed by woman! Let us study the history of by-gone ages, the state of barbarism and civilization; of the east and the west; of Paganism and Christianity; of antiquity and the middle ages; of the mediaeval and modern times; and we shall find that there is nothing which more decidedly separates them than the condition of woman." Every woman, whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence, within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good—or harm. Every woman—by her virtue or her vice—by her folly or her wisdom—by her levity or her dignity—is adding something to our national elevation or degradation. As long as female virtue is prevalent, upheld by one sex, and respected by the other, a nation cannot sink very low in the scale of ignominy, by plunging into the depths of vice. To a certain extent, woman is the conservator of her nation's welfare. Her virtue, if firm and uncorrupted, will stand sentinel over that of the empire. Law, justice, liberty, and the arts, all contribute of course, to the well-being of a nation; beneficial influence flows in from various springs—and innumerable contributors may be at work, each laboring in his vocation for his country's well-being, but let the general tone of female morals be low, and all will be rendered nugatory—while the universal prevalence of womanly intelligence and virtue will swell the stream of civilization to its highest level, impregnate it with its richest qualities, and spread its fertility over the widest surface!
A community is not likely to be overthrown where woman fulfills her mission; for by the power of her noble heart over the hearts of others, she will raise it from its ruins, and restore it again to prosperity and joy. Here, then, beyond the circle of wedded life, as well as within it, is no doubt part of woman's mission, and an important one it is. Her field is social life, her object is social happiness, her reward is social gratitude and respect.
"If any female," says Mr. Upham, "should think these pages worthy of her perusal, let her gather the lesson from these statements, that woman's influence does not terminate, as is sometimes supposed, with the molding and the guidance of the minds of children; her task is not finished when she sends abroad those whom she has borne and nurtured in her bosom, on their pilgrimage of action and duty in this wide world. Far from it! Man is neither safe in himself, nor profitable to others, when he lives dissociated from that benevolent influence which is to be found in woman's presence and character; an influence which is needed in the projects and toils of mature life, in the temptations and trials to which that period is especially exposed, and in the weakness and sufferings of age, hardly less than in childhood and youth.
"But it is not woman—gay, frivolous, and unbelieving—or woman separated from those divine teachings which make all hearts wise, that can lay claim to the exercise of such an influence. But when she adds to the traits of sympathy, forbearance, and warm affection, which characterize her, the strength and wisdom of a well-cultivated intellect, and the still higher attributes of godly faith and holy love, it is not easy to limit the good she may do in all situations, and in all periods of life."
(John Angell James, Female Piety: The Young Woman's Guide Through Life to Immortality)
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Gen. 2:18
"What, in the great, and diversified, and busy world, is my place and my business?" is a question which every one should ask. For every one has a place to fill, and a part to act. And to act his part well, according to the will of God, in the lofty drama of human life, should be the ambition, solicitude, and prayer of each of us. It is the first lesson of wisdom, to know our place; the second, to keep it. And of course, corresponding with this, to ascertain the duties of our place and to discharge them. There are generic 'class' duties for women, as well as 'individual' ones, and the latter are generally to be more accurately learned by an intelligent apprehension of the former.
Woman, as such, has her mission. What is it? What is precisely the station she is to occupy—what the purpose she is to fulfill, above which she would be unduly exalted, and below which she would be unjustly degraded? This is a subject which should be thoroughly understood, in order that she may know what to claim, and man what to concede; that she may know what she has to do, and he what he has a right to expect.
I shall endeavor to answer this question, and point out the nature of woman's mission. In doing this, I shall consult the infallible oracle of Scripture, and not the speculations of moralists, economists, and philosophers. I hold this to be our rule in the matter before us. God is the Creator of both sexes, the constructor of society, the author of social relations, and the arbiter of social duties, claims, and freedoms. And this is admitted by all who believe in the authority of the Bible. You are content, my female friends, to abide by the decisions of this oracle. You have every reason to be so. He who created you is best qualified to declare the intention of his own acts, and you may safely, as you should humbly allow him to fix your position, and make known your duties.
In common with man, woman has a heavenly calling to glorify God as the end of her existence, and to perform all the duties and enjoy all the blessings of a religious life; like him, she is a sinful, rational, and immortal creature, placed under an economy of mercy, and called, by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, to eternal life. Religion is as much her vocation as that of the other sex. In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, but all are on a level as to obligations, duties, and privileges. In common with man, she is called, where she is unmarried and dependent, to labor for her own support; a condition to which large portions of the community are necessarily subject by the circumstances of their birth. Diligence in labor is as incumbent upon her as upon the other sex, and indolence is as inexcusable in her as in man.
But in the married state, her sphere of labor, is her FAMILY—and it belongs to the husband to earn by the sweat of his brow, not only his own bread, but that of the household. In many of the uncivilized tribes, where the ameliorating influence of Christianity is not felt, the wife is the drudge of the family, while the husband lives in lordly sloth; and even in this country, at least in its manufacturing portions, manual labor falls too often, and too heavily upon married women, greatly to the detriment of their families. An unmarried woman, however, without fortune, must provide for herself in some way or other, according to the circumstances of her birth and situation; and let her not consider herself degraded by it. Honest industry is far more honorable than pride and sloth.
But neither of these is the peculiar mission of woman, as appertaining to her sex. To know what this is, we must, as I have said, consult the page of revelation, and ascertain the declared motive of God for her creation. The Lord God said—It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." This is further expressed, or rather repeated, where it is said, "And Adam," or "Although Adam, had given names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; yet for Adam there was not found an suitable helper for him." Nothing can be more clear from this, than that woman was made for man.
Adam was created a being with unmet social propensities, which indeed seem essential to all creatures. It is the sublime peculiarity of Deity to be entirely independent for happiness of all other beings. He, and He only, is the theater of his own glory, the fountain of his own felicity, and a sufficient object of his own contemplation, needing nothing for his bliss but self-communion. An archangel alone in heaven would pine, even there, for some companionship, either divine or angelic. Adam, surrounded by all the glories of Paradise, and by all the various tribes it contained, found himself alone, and needed companionship. Without it his life was but a solitude, Eden itself a desert. Endowed with a nature too communicative to be satisfied from himself alone, he sighed for friendship, for support, for some complement to his existence, and only half-lived so long as he lived alone. Formed to think, to speak, to love, his thoughts yearned for other thoughts with which to compare and exercise his soaring aspirations. His words were wearisomely wasted upon the wanton air, or at best awoke but an echo which mocked instead of answering him. His love, as regards an earthly object, knew not where to bestow itself; and returning to his own bosom, threatened to degenerate into a desolating egotism. His entire being longed, in short, for another self, but that other self did not exist; there was no helper suitable for him. The visible creatures which surrounded him, were too much beneath him—the invisible Being who gave him life was too much above him, to unite their condition with his own. Whereupon God made woman, and the great problem was immediately solved.
It was, then, the characteristic of unfallen man to want someone to sympathize with him in his joys, as it is of fallen man to want some one to sympathize with him in his sorrows. Whether Adam was so far conscious of his wants as to ask for a companion, we are not informed. It would appear from the inspired record, as if the design of this precious blessing originated with God; and as if Eve, like so many of his other mercies, was the spontaneous bestowment of God's own free and sovereign will. Thus Adam would have to say, as did one of his most illustrious descendants many ages afterwards, "You go before me with your goodness." Here, then, is the design of God in creating woman—to be a suitable helpmate to man. Man needed a companion, and God gave him woman. And as there was no other man than Adam at that time in existence, Eve was designed exclusively for Adam's comfort; thus, teaching us from the beginning, that whatever mission woman may have to accomplish in reference to man, in a generic sense, her mission, at least in wedded life, is to be a suitable help-mate for that one man to whom she is united.
(John Angell James, Female Piety: The Young Woman's Guide Through Life to Immortality)
What a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry ... Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home. ... Her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and the pantry; her intelligence ... in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air.
She lived her life not only through her own body, but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made.
Who does not hope, to know and understand her strangest passion!
Where she grips at all labours, and always the heaviest plight,
When at once she grasps, all pleasures and the daintiest delight,
Who has the sense, to belong and grow in her fittest portion!
Who does not hope, to know and understand her strangest passion. Where she grips at all labours, and always the heaviest plight. When at once she grasps, all pleasures and the daintiest delight. Who has the sense, to belong and grow in her fittest portion.