網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

anxiously gave them, and in their appreciation in society the influence of those talents which she cultivated; and in the unfeigned piety of sons and daughters the reward of her prayers and instructions, and the pledge that she shall at length present herself and them faultless and unblemished before the throne of God with exceeding joy.

But if she be unfaithful to her trust, if she choose to turn her children over to nurses and governesses, that she may give herself up to fashion and frivolity, if by a foolish indulgence she train them up to idleness and effeminacy, or suffer them to mingle with the dissolute and unprincipled, she will be the first to suffer. Her heart will be pierced through with sorrows that the world knows not of. Her days will be passed in heaviness, and her nights in tears, and feeling existence blighted in its highest ends, she will be tempted to curse the day of her birth.

There is another class of females which is too numerous to pass over in silence, whose relations to society are not so complex, yet still most interesting and important, those who have declined to identify their lot with one of the opposite sex. There is a tone of

ridicule adopted by the world when speaking of this most respectable and deserving class of persons, which I must confess always grates upon my ear as unfeeling and unjust. If the history of the human heart could be told, it would be found that they are oftener the victims of society than the recusants of the primary institution of God. They have been doomed to the evil or the good of a single life by domestic tyranny, or family pride, by the treachery of their own sex, or the unworthiness or falsehood of the other. But whatever may be the human agency by which their condition has been determined, they seem to constitute in the designs of Providence a sort of corps de reserve. As no wise general brings all his forces into the field at once, but keeps back a part to supply deficiencies, to remedy accidents, to throw in their aid at emergencies; so are unmarried women stationed up and down in life to aid the weak, to take the places of those who are cloven down in battle, or of those who refuse to do their duty. So far from meriting the reproaches of the married portion of mankind, they have their full share of the labors of life with fewer of its rewards. So far from being drones in the hive, their lives are especially set apart to good works. Being less closely connected with the world, their labors are more disinterested. Is any one in trouble, the resort is immediately to them. They are in fact the sisters of charity to the whole species. While the thoughts of others are shut up in themselves and their families, theirs go abroad to seek out the helpless and unfortunate; and the destitute and forgotten find in them an advocate and a friend when otherwise there would be none to care for their relief. It will be found that among them all benevolent enterprises find their most efficient support. And when the young, the gay, , and the prosperous are pursuing their pleasures, are glittering in splendid halls, or treading the mazes of the dance, these faithful souls are toiling over those household duties which the gay and thoughtless have forgotten, or are watching by the bed side of pain and death.

If they refused to form the closer tie in life with the design of keeping aloof from all attachments and cares, they find themselves mistaken. They have women's hearts, and it is impossible for them to shut up their affections. The sister soon becomes the aunt, and the mother's feelings become developed without the mother's relation. She finds herself agitated with all the anxieties, the hopes and fears of a mother, and she is prompted to a mother's toils and self sacrifice without the certainty of meeting that return of gratitude and affection which instinct vindicates to the nearer relation. In the meantime the very fact of her having no especial protector subjects her to neglect and to injustice from which the matron is exempt. For there are too many mean spirits in this world, who want no other temptation to commit an injury than the assurance that they may do so with impunity. The danger then, to which the single woman is exposed, is of becoming soured with the world, from which she certainly receives much that is not calculated to elevate it in her conceptions. Her peril is that of becoming peevish, querulous, and bitter, of visiting upon all the ill treatment she receives from a few. Her triumph is to maintain under all circumstances serenity, candor, generosity, and magnanimity. Her reward is to find sufficient happiness and gra

tification in doing good for its own sake, in proving superior to all the vexations she suffers from the mean, the heartless, and the base.

While we are contemplating the sphere and duties of woman, she presents herself in one more relation, and that the most affecting of all, the condition of the widow. That tie so tender and so close, the source of so much happiness, and which revolving years serve only more and more to endear, confers no exemption from the great law of mortality, and is liable to be terminated by death. Then indeed do we see joy turned into mourning. There we see a broken heart,smitten to the earth by the most mysterious of all Heaven's dispensations. Her heart's idol is gone, and what does the world contain beside? Her companion is taken away, and her house is left unto her desolate. The arm on which she leaned is withdrawn, and she must finish the journey of life alone. The heart that beat for her is forever still. The mind, whose every thought was care for her, has departed to the spirit land. The presence, in which alone it was life for her to live, is no more found on earth, and how could

« 上一頁繼續 »