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WOMEN OF ISRAEL,

ETC.

INTRODUCTION.

AMONG the many valuable works relative to woman's capabilities, influence, and missions, which in the present age are so continually appearing, one still seems wanting. The field has, indeed, been entered: detached notices of the women of Israel, the female biography of Scripture, have often formed interesting portions of those works where woman is the subject; but all the fruit has not been gathered: much yet remains, which, thrown together, would form a history as instructive as interesting, as full of warning as example, and tending to lead our female youth to the sacred volume, not only as their guide to duty, their support in toil, their comfort in affliction, but as a true and perfect mirror of themselves.

To desert the Bible for its commentators; never to peruse its pages without notes of explanation; to regard it as a work which of itself is incomprehensible; is, indeed, a practice as hurtful as injudicious. Sent as a message of love to our own souls, as written and addressed, not to nations alone, but as the voice of God to individuals-whispering to each of us that which we most need; thus it is we should first regard and venerate it. This accomplished, works tending to elucidate its glorious and consoling truths, to make manifest its simple lessons of character, as well as precept; to bring yet closer to the youthful and aspiring heart, the poetry, the

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beauty, the eloquence, the appealing tenderness of its sacred pages, may prove of essential service. In this hope, to bring clearly before the women of Israel all that they owe to the word of God, all that it may still be to them, the present task is undertaken.

We are far from asserting that this has not been attempted, and for the larger portion of the sex, accomplished before. Religion is the foundation and mainspring of every work which has been written for the use and improvement of woman. Female biographers of Scripture have, we believe, often appeared; though the characters of the Old Testament are so briefly and imperfectly sketched, compared to those of the New, that but little pleasure or improvement could be derived from their perusal. Yet still, with the writings of Sandford, Ellis, and Hamilton before us, each exhibiting its authoress so earnest, so eloquent in her cause, with ❝ woman's mission" marked so simply, yet so forcibly, in the little volume of that name, has not woman of every race, and every creed, all sufficient to teach her her duty and herself?

We would say she had: yet for the women of Israel some thing still more is needed. The authors above mentioned are Christians themselves, and write for the Christian world, Education and nationality compel them to believe that "Christianity is the sole source of female excellence;"-that to Christianity alone they owe their present station in the world, their influence, their equality with man, their spiritual provision in this life, and hopes of immortality in the next;-nay more, that the value and dignity of woman's character would never have been recognised, but for the religion of Jesus; that pure, loving, self-denying doctrines were unknown to woman: she knew not even her relation to the Eternal; dared not look upon him as her Father, Consoler, and Saviour, till the advent of Christianity. We grant that the Gentiles knew it not, till the Bible became more generally read, till the Eternal, in His infinite mercy, permitted a partial knowledge of Himself to spread over the world-alike to prepare the Gentile for that day, when we shall all know Him as He is, and to render the

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trial of His people's faith and constancy yet more terribly severe. We feel neither anger nor uncharitableness towards those who would thus deny to Israel those very privileges which were ours ages before they became theirs; and which, in fact, have descended from us to them. Yet we cannot pass such assertion unanswered, lest from the very worth and popularity of those works in which it is promulgated, the young and thoughtless daughters of Israel may believe it really has foundation, and look no further than the page she reads.

How or whence originated the charge that the law of Moses sunk the Hebrew female to the lowest state of degradation, placed her on a level with slaves or heathens, and denied her all mental and spiritual enjoyment, we know not yet certain it is, that this most extraordinary and unfounded idea obtains credence even in this enlightened age. The word of God at once proves its falsity; for it is impossible to read the Mosaic law without the true and touching conviction, that the female Hebrew was even more an object of the tender and soothing care of the Eternal than the male. The thanksgiving in the Isralitish morning prayer, on which so much stress is laid, as a proof how little woman is regarded, is but a false and foolish reasoning on the subject; almost, in truth, too trivial for regard.

The very first consequence of woman's sin was to render her, in physical and mental strength, inferior to man; to expose her to suffering more continued and more acute; to prevent her obtaining those honors and emoluments of which man thinks so much; to restrain her path to a more lowly and domestic, though not a less hallowed sphere; and, all this considered, neither scorn towards the sex, nor too much haughtiness for themselves, actuate the thanksgiving which by our opponents is brought forward against us. It was but one of those blessings in which the pious Israelite thanks God for all things, demanding neither notice nor reproof.

To the Gentile assertion, that the Talmud has originated the above-mentioned blessing, and commanded or inculcated the moral and mental degradation of women, we reply, that even if it did so, which we do not believe it

does, its commands are wholly disregarded, and its abolishment is not needed to raise the Hebrew female to that station assigned her in the word of God, and which through many centuries she has been permitted, without reproof or question, to enjoy. The Eternal's provision for her temporal and spiritual happiness is proved in His unalterable word; and, therefore no Hebrew can believe that He would issue another law for her degradation and abasement. If, indeed, there are such laws, they must have been compiled at a time when persecution had so brutalised and lowered the intellect of man, that he partook the savage barbarity of the nations around him, and of the age in which he lived; when the law of his God had, as a natural consequence, become obscured, and the Hebrew female shared the same rude and savage treatment which was the lot of all the lower classes of women in the feudal ages. The protection, the glory, the civilising influence of chivalry extended, in its first establishment, only to the baronial classes. We see no proofs of the humanising and elevating influence of Christianity, either on man or woman, till the reformation opened the BIBLE, the whole BIBLE, to the nations at large; when civilisation gradually followed. If, then, the situation of even Christian women was so uncertain, and but too often so degraded, for nearly fourteen centuries after the advent of Jesus, who his followers declare was the first to teach them their real positionwas it very remarkable that the vilified and persecuted Hebrew should in a degree have forgotten his nationality, his immortal and glorious heritage, and shared in the barbarity around him? Granting, for the moment, that such was the case (but we by no means believe it was), if the degradation, mentally and morally, of the Hebrew female ever did become part of the Jewish law, it was when man was equally degraded, and the blessed word of God hid from him.

The situation of many of the Hebrews at the present day proves this. In but too many parts of the world, the Israelites are still the subject of scorn, hatred, and persecution; and their condition is, in consequence, the lowest and most awfully degraded in the scale of man.

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