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But it is not to woman that degradation and slavery are confined; as, were it a portion of the law of Moses, would inevitably be the case. It is the consequence of cruelty, of abasement in social treatment; yet even here, where mind, principle, honor, all seem overthrown from such brutalising influence, the affections retain their power. Whatever of spiritual hope, of human privileges, the word of God bestows on man, and to which the mind darkened and despairing from the horrors of persecution, may yet be open, are shared by the Hebrew wife, and imparted by the Hebrew mother.
Were it a portion of the law of Moses to enslave and degrade us, how is it that we do not see this law adhered to and obeyed, as well as others claiming the same divine origin? Neither Christianity nor civilisation would alter or improve our condition, were it indeed such as it has been represented. The Hebrew ever loves, protects, and reverences his female relative; and if, indeed, he do not-if he deny her all share in immortality, and, in consequence, thinks she has no need of religion now, nor hope hereafter, it is because the remnants of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition remain, to have blinded both his spiritual and mental eye; yet whatever he may be accused of believing, his acts deny the belief. Why is he so anxious that his wife and daughters should adhere to every law, attend to every precept which he believes to be the law of God? If they have no soul, no portion in the world to come, it surely cannot signify how they act, or what they believe in this? Why are they blotted from the minds and hearts of their relatives, if, as it may some times happen, they intermarry with the stranger? If they have no spiritual responsibility, no claim, no part in the law of God, why should they be blamed, and shunned, if they desert it for another? But it is idle to follow the argument further. The charge is either altogether false, or based on such contradictory and groundless report, as to render it of little consequence, save as it affects us in the eyes of those who uphold, that till Christianity was promulgated, woman knew not her own station, either towards God or man.
Simply to deny this assertion, to affirm, that instead of degrading and enslaving, the Jewish law exalted, protected, and provided for woman, teaching her to look up to God, not as a severe Master and awful Judge, but as her Father, her Defender, her Deliverer when oppressed, her Witness in times of false accusation, her Consoler and Protector when fatherless, widowed-aye, as the tender and loving Sovereign, who spared the young bride the anguish of separation from her beloved ;merely to affirm, that with such laws woman was equally a subject of divine love as she is now, would not avail us much. The women of Israel must themselves arise, and prove the truth of what we urge-by their own conduct, their own belief, their own ever-acting and ever-influencing religion, prove without doubt or question that we need not Christianity to teach us our mission-prove that our duties, our privileges, were assigned us from the very beginning of the world, confirmed by that law to which we still adhere, and will adhere for ever, and manifested by the whole history of the Bible.
A new era is dawning for us.
intolerance have in so many lands ceased to predominate, that Israel may once more breathe in freedom; the law need no longer be preached in darkness, and obeyed in secret; the voice of man need no longer be the vehicle of instruction from father to son, unconsciously mingling with it human opinions, till those opinions could scarcely be severed from the word of God, and by degrees so dimmed its lustre as to render its comprehension an obscure and painful task. This need no longer be. The Bible may be perused in freedom; the law may be publicly explained and preached to all who will attend. A spirit of inquiry, of patriotism, of earnestness in seeking to know the Lord, and obey Him according to His word, is springing up in lieu of the stagnating darkness, the appalling indifference, which had reigned so long. Persecution never decreased our numbers. As the bush, which burned without consuming, so was Israel in those blood-red ages of intolerance and butchery. In the very heart of the most catholic
kingdom-amongst her senate, her warriors, her arti sans-aye, even her monks and clergy-Judaism lurked unconsumed by the fires ever burning around. The spirit was ever awake and active, ready to endure martyrdom, but not to foreswear that God whose witnesses they were. Persecution was a crisis in our History; prosperity the reaction; and from that reaction the natural consequence was the gradual rise, growth, and influence of indifference. Indifference, however, has but its appointed time; and Israel is springing up once more the stronger, nobler, more spiritually enlightened, from his long and waveless sleep. Free to assert their right as immortal children of the living God, let not the women of Israel be backward in proving they, too, have a Rock of Strength, a Refuge of Love; that they, too, have a station to uphold, and a "mission" to perform, not alone as daughters, wives, and mothers, but as witnesses of that faith which first raised, cherished, and defended them-witnesses of that God who has called them His, and who has so repeatedly sanctified the emotions peculiar to their sex, by graciously comparing the love He bears us, as yet deeper than a mother's for her child, a wife's for her husband, having compassion on His people, as on "a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit.' "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her travail; yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee." "As a mother comforteth her children, so will I comfort thee."
Were not these relations holy and sanctified in the sight of the Lord, would He use them as figurative of His long-suffering love? Many terms, similar to those above quoted, prove without a shadow of doubt, the tender compassion with which He regarded woman long before He used such terms to figure His compassionating love towards Israel, when sinfulness called forth His long-averted wrath.
Let us, then, endeavour to convince the nations of the high privileges we enjoy, in common with our fathers, brothers, and husbands, as the firstborn of the Lord, by the peculiar sanctity, spirituality, and inexpressible consolation of our belief. Let us not, as women of
Israel, be content with the mere performance of domestic, social, and individual duties, but vivify and lighten them by the rays of eternal love and immortal hope, which beam upon us from the pages of the Bible. A religion
of love is indeed necessary to woman, yet more so than to man. Even in her happiest lot there must be a void in her heart, which ever-acting piety alone can fill; and to her whose portion is to suffer, whose lot is lonely, O what misery must be hers, unless she can lean upon her God, and draw from His word the blessed conviction that His love, His tenderness, are hers, far beyond the feeble conception of earth; and that whatever she may endure, however unknown to or scorned by man, it is known to Him who smites but in love, and has mercy even while He smites.
To realise this blessed conviction, the Bible must become indeed the book of life to the female descendants of that nation whose earliest history it so vividly records; and be regarded, not as a merely political or religious history, but as the voice of God speaking to each individual, giving strength to the weak, encouragement to the desponding, endurance to the patient, justice to the wronged, and consolation unspeakable as unmeasurable to the afflicted and the mourner. Do we need love? We shall find innumerable verses telling us, that the Lord Himself proclaimed His attribute as "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin;" that "as far as the Heaven is above the earth so great is His mercy, extending from everlasting to everlasting." We have but to read those appeals of the Eternal to Israel, alike in Jeremiah and Isaiah, and many of the minor prophets-and if our hearts be not stone, they must melt before such compassionating love, such appealing tenderness, and feel we cannot be lonely, cannot be unloved, while such deep changeless love is ours. Do we need sympathy? Shall we not find it. in words similar to these, "In all their afflictions He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Do
we need patience and strength? Shall we not exercise it, when we have the precious promise, "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart?" Shall we droop and grieve beneath the wrongs and false judgments of short-sighted man, when we are told the ways of God are not those of man-that He knoweth our frame, and readeth our thoughts-that not a bodily or mental pang is ours which He does not know and compassionate—ay, and in His own good time will heal!
To throw together all those verses which confirm and prove the loving-tenderness borne towards us by the Eternal, would be an endless and a useless task. can but point to that ever-flowing fount of healing waters, and assure those who have once really tasted, and will persevere in the heavenly draught, that it will never fail them, never change its properties, but each year sink deeper and deeper into their souls, till at length it becomes indeed all they need; and they themselves will cling to it, despite of occasional doubt and darkness, inseparable from our souls while denizens of earth.
Nor is it only the verses containing such gracious promises, which will yield us comfort and assistance. We may glean the glad tidings of Eternal Love from the biographies and narratives with which the sacred book abounds there may be some meek and lowly spirits amongst the female youth of Israel, who would gladly clasp the strength and guidance which we proffer them from the Bible, could they believe that God, the great, the almighty, the tremendous and awful Being (as which they have perhaps been accustomed to regard Him) can have love and pity for themselves, or give comfort and aid to trials, which appear even too trivial to ask or to excite the sympathy of man. We would
lead them to look earnestly and believingly into the history of every woman in the Bible, and trace there the influence of God's holy and compassionating love. We are not indeed placed as the women of Israel before their dispersion, or as the wives of the patriarchs before the law was given; yet their God is our God. It was