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not to a race so perfect, so gifted, so hallowed, as to be free from all the present faults and failings of the sex that the Lord vouchsafed His love. No, it was to woman, even as she is now. The women of the Bible are but mirrors of ourselves. And if the Eternal, in His infinite mercy, extended love, compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness unto them, we may believe He extends them equally unto us, and draw comfort and encouragement and faith from the biographies we read.
In a work entitled "The Women of Israel," some apology, perhaps, is necessary for commencing with the wives of the Patriarchs, who may not lay claim to such holy appellation. Yet, as the chosen and beloved partners of those favoured of God, from whom Israel traces his descent, and for the sake of whose faith and righteousness, we were selected and chosen as a peculiar people, and the law given to be our guide through earth to heaven, we cannot consider our history complete without them; more particularly as their lives are so intimately blended with their husbands'; and that in them, even yet more vividly than at a later period, we may trace the Lord's dealings with His female children, and derive from them alike warning and support.
Eve, indeed, may not have such national claim; but if we believe that her history, as every other part of Genesis, was penned by the same inspired law-giver-that Moses recorded only that which had been-we shall find much, indeed, to repay us for lingering awhile on her character and life. To the scepticism, the cavils, the doubts, and (but too often unhappily) the direct unbelief in the Mosaic account of the first disobedience of man, we give no heed whatever. We must either believe in the Pentateuch or deny it. There can be no intermediate path. The whole must be true or none. It is not because much may appear obscure, or even contradictory in the sacred narrative, that we are to pronounce it false, or mystify and poetise it as an allegory.
We are simply to believe, and endeavour to act on that belief. So much is there ever passing around us that we cannot solve; our thoughts, in their farthest flight, are so soon checked, can penetrate so little into
the wonders of man and nature, that it appears extraordinary how man can doubt and deny, because he cannot understand. In this case, however-the history of Eve-truth is so simple and clear, that we know not how it can supply such an endless fund of argument and doubt. To remove this groundless disbelief, to endeavour to render the narrative clear and simple to the female youth of Israel, and, even through Eve's sad yet consoling history, to prove to them the deep love borne towards us from the very first of our creation by our gracious God, must be our apology, if apology be needed, for commencing a work entitled "The Women of Israel," with our general mother.
Beginning, then, from the very beginning, some degree of order is requisite in the arrangement of our subject. Our aim being to evince to the nations and to our own hearts, the privileges, alike temporal and eternal, which were ours from the very commencement-to prove that we have no need of Christianity, or the examples of the females in the Gospel, to raise us to an equality with man-to demonstrate our duties, and secure us consolation here, or salvation hereafter-the Word of God must be alike our ground-work and our guide. From the past history which that unerring guide presents, our present duties and responsibilities, and our future destiny will alike be revealed. In a simple biography each life is a sufficient division; but, with the exception of the wives of the patriarchs and one or two more, we have scarcely sufficient notice of individuals to illustrate our design by regarding them separately. There appear, therefore, seven periods in the history of the women of Israel, which demand our attention.
First Period-the Wives of the Patriarchs, including Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.
Second Period-the Exodus, and the law considered as affecting the condition, and establishing the privileges of women.
Third period-Women of Israel between the establishment of the Law and the authority of the Kings, comprising sketches of Miriam, Deborah, the wife of Manoah, Naomi, and Hannah.
Fourth Period-Women of Israel during the continuation of the Kingdom, comprising, amongst other sketches, Michal, Abigail, the Shunammite, and Huldah.
Fifth Period-Babylonish Captivity, including the life of Esther.
Sixth Period-the War and Dispersion, and their effects on the Condition and Privileges of Women in Israel.
Seventh Period-Women of Israel in the Present time, as influenced by the history of the Past.
For five of these periods, then, we perceive the Word of God can be our only guide, and this at once marks our history as sacred, not profane. If, therefore, there should be parts which resemble more a religious essay than female biography, we reply, that to inculcate religion, the vital spirit of religion, is the sole intention of these pages.
We wish to infuse the spirit of truth and patriotism, of nationality, and yet of universal love, into the hearts of the young daughters of Israel; and we know of no means more likely under the divine blessing, to accomplish this, than to bring before them, as vividly and engagingly as we can, the never-ending love, the compassionating tenderness, the unchanging sympathy, alike in our joys and in our sorrows, manifested by the Eternal so touchingly and simply in the history of our female ancestors,-to lead them to know Him and love Him, not only through the repeated promises, but through the narratives of His word, and to glory in. those high privileges which, as children, retainers and promulgators of His holy law, are ours, over and above every other nation, past or present, in the history of the world!
THE WIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS.
THE last and mightiest work of creation was completed. Man, in his angelic and immortal beauty, stood erect and perfect, fresh from the hand of his Creator; lord and possessor of the new formed world. Though formed of the dust, earth had not, as in the case of the inferior animals, brought him forth. Destined from the first to be made in the image of God, that is, to possess an emanation of the spiritual essence, and so become a living and immortal soul-the shrine of so glorious a possession was created by God himself. "And God created him," He did not "call him forth."
For man, the beautiful creation already wrought, was not sufficient; and "He planted a garden eastward in Eden, filling it with every tree that was pleasant for the sight, and good for food"-animate and inanimate creation brought together by the Eternal in one beautiful and perfect whole. Nor was this all: endowed with capabilities of love, happiness, and wisdom, as much above the other animals as the angelic nature is to man, still he needed more for the perfection of his felicity; and God in his infinite mercy provided for that want.
"It is not good for man to be alone," the Eternal said; "I will make him a help meet for him." And therefore woman was created, and brought unto man,
who received her as the Eternal in His mercy had ordained, a being beloved above all others, whose gentler qualities and endearing sympathy should soften his rougher and prouder nature, and "help" him in all things "meet" for an immortal being.
The whole creation had had its origin in that Omnific Love which CREATED to ENJOY,-called out of darkness and chaos a world teeming with life and beauty, that innumerable sources of happiness might spring forth from what had before been nought; but woman's creation was a still greater manifestation of love than all which had gone before it. before it. She was created, not only to feel happiness herself, but to make it for others; and if that was the design of her existence in Eden, how deeply should we feel the solemn truth, that it is equally so now; and that woman has a higher and holier mission than the mere pursuit of pleasure and individual enjoyment; that to flutter through life without one serious thought or aim, without a dream beyond the present moment, without a feeling higher than temporal gratification, or an aspiration rising beyond this world, can never answer the purpose of her divine creation, or make her a help meet for man. Nor is it to wives only this privilege is accorded. Mother or sister, each has equally her appointed duty-to endeavour so to help and influence man, that her more spiritual and unselfish nature shall gradually be infused into him, and, raising him above mere worldly thought and sensual pleasures, compel him to feel that it is not indeed "good for man to be alone," but that woman may still fulfil the offices of help and love for which alone she was created.