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Though the church at Philippi equalled, and perhaps exceeded any other of which we have an account, it had, as we find, something of imperfection belonging to it. Between Euodias and Syntiche, two female members of distinction, from some cause not stated, and probably not of sufficient consequence to be mentioned, there was a coolness of affection, if indeed, the variance was not manifested in indecorous, uncharitable, and harsh speeches; and in acts of conduct, negatively, or positively, inconsistent with their profession; and with the near relation which they sustained towards each other, as members of the church of Christ; and situated in the same place. Without undertaking to justify either of them in an affair which allowed of no justification, and without attempting to determine to which of the two the greatest share of blame belonged, the apostle addressed them both in the language of charity, and tenderness, and said, I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntiche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. He then addressed some one, whom he called a true yoke-fellow; but whether the husband of one of these women, or some faithful minister of that place, we are not informed, and entreated him to help those women; testifying that they had helped him in his ministerial work, and expressing a belief, amounting to assurance, that their names, as well as the names of Clement, and that of others, who had labored with him, were written in the book of life.
With these introductory remarks the passage chosen as the theme of discourse is brought forward at this time, with a view of pointing out several ways in which women may labor in the gospel, or be instrumental of doing good; and also to suggest the duty, and importance, of helping them in the business.
When God made our race male and female, he intended, that both sexes should inhabit the same world, and live in the same society; and each should have an appropriate sphere and possess and exert, an influence in its connection with the other. That the influence of the female sex has ever been great with the other, is apparent from circumstances; and facts, too numerous to be collected; and though this influence, independently of its consequences by the
intervention of a Savior, was very unhappily employed in the garden of Eden, much good has undoubtedly resulted from it, in a multitude of instances. Godliness is the prime qualification for men and women, and without it all other things, much as they may excite attention, and be coveted are but tinsel charms.
To understand the good that women may effect we must take into consideration the unmarried state; and the state of wedlock.
Titus was directed to exhort young men to be sober minded; and as a second cause, perhaps nothing could be more influential to bring about the object of this exhortation, than for young persons, of the other sex to discountenance sin in every way in which it is manifested; and to avoid, as much as possible, all connection with those who are addicted to sinful practices. Were profanity, intemperance, debauchery, and open infidelity, to be frowned upon, in every reputable female circle; and were such as are characterized by either of these things, to be driven for company to their own sex, or to females as unprincipled, and abandoned as themselves, a reformation would at once be effected, in morals at least, if not in heart, and very widely extended. Men despise and forsake those women whom they have been instrumental in seducing; and from this well known fact it is apparent, that however at variance a man's own practice may be with virtue, he will esteem others in proportion as they possess it; and especially prize the company of those females who give evidence in the whole of their deportment, that they fear God, and intend to live in the faithful observance of all his commandments.
Were any thing to be said against card playing, dancing, and what we commonly understand by parties, it might be charged to a rustic uncultivated mind, and to a cynic disposition; and a plea for these amusements might be grounded on the supposition, that these must be continued, or society must be broken up; and then a monastic life would succeed to that life of pleasant intercourse which is now generally maintained. But since drawing conclusions without premises is like leaping in the dark, let us consider
that if this supposition be well founded, either these amusements are consistent, not only with the christian character, but also with the actual exercise of faith, and its kindred graces in the soul; or that christianity is ill adapted to our world, and, that the more the effects of it are experienced, the more things will be turned upside down, and the more dismembered, and chaotic, the human condition will appear. It is in vain to say, that many, who profess to be the followers of Christ, advocate such amusements, and indulge themselves in them; for many too of this description, though they may not advocate swearing, or intemperate drinking, practise both. The record of Christ's life is indeed concisely written; but if it were sufficiently copious to embrace every particular, an example could not be found for any thing, which deserves no higher name than amusement. The very persons also, who have spent much of life at the card table, the ball room, or in parties, which they once thought innocent and improving, now in great numbers, bear their united testimony, in the most decided manner, against these things, as a waste of that time which ought to be redeemed; and every moment of which, is wanted to prepare for eternity. So much more rational and refined are the pleasures of religion than the pleasures of sin, that if we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can no more be induced, while such is our state of mind, to try other methods of gratification, than he who is seated at a table of delicacies, can be induced to rise from it, and fill himself with the offal which is thrown into a kennel of hounds. It is only when the animal gets the ascendency over the intellectual part that, we walk through dry places, seeking rest and finding none; and wander far and labor hard, for that to make us happy, which if we ever find it, must be found in God.
So confident am I with regard to this point, that I hesitate not to say, that with that divine blessing, without which no good purpose can be effected, it is within the power of the youthful part of the female sex to give a new direction to the youthful part of the other sex, and to lay a plan of intercourse which would be mutually, and forever, advantageous. Experiments have often been made when chance
for success was by no means, so great, and when the object contemplated, was by no means so important.
What is here suggested is from friendship; and should any one agree with me, she can suggest it to a second, and thus, it can go around until something of consequence shall grow out of it, as the temple of Jerusalem may be traced back to the thought which occurred to David, while musing upon his own splendid palace, and comparing it with the curtains within which the ark, the cymbal of divine presence, was lodged.
How amiable does the daughter of Jephthah appear, whom piety reconciled to the rash vow which he had made, and which a false sense of duty compelled him to perform. Instead of remonstrating in this very trying situation, or begging her life, or attempting to escape, she said, with all the composure and affection imaginable, My father! if thou have opened thy mouth unto the Lord do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth. Having passed the two months granted to her request, in going up and down upon the mountains; time, undoubtedly, well spent in devotional employments, she returned and yielded herself a victim to her father, whose faith must have been severely tried in the execution of his vow.
That this pious young female was held in high esteem is evident from this custom which is recorded, That the daughters of Israel went yearly, to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. How the youth of the other sex were affected, we are not told; but it is easy, and natural, to conclude, that that was a time of general seriousness, and reformation.
Honorable mention is made of four unmarried daughters of Philip the evangelist, who, beside partaking of the piety which distinguished their father, were also endued with a spirit of prophecy, and, undoubtedly, were instrumental in doing much good at Cesarea.
When Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances, or with some bodily manifestation of religious joy, such as would consist with singing a song of praise to God for the wonderful deliverance ex
perienced at the red sea. This was an event deserving to be celebrated; and so real, and so great, was the holy pleasure felt upon the occasion, that no desire was entertained to substitute any thing else in its place.
From a single life we will now turn to view woman in the interesting relation which she sustains when united to a husband.
When God had created Adam, and placed him in the garden of Eden, under such a law as was suited to his condition, he said, It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him an help meet for him. If the man was to derive advantage from his companion, who was to be bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh, the reason is obviously this, that she would a be help meet to him, or conduct towards him in such a manner, that his condition would be better for the variation of it. Had our original mother never done any thing more commendable than to eat the forbidden fruit, and tempt her husband to follow her example, the case would be dark, and doubtful; and it would be difficult to determine what Adam had gained by changing a life of solitude for a life of society. Whether a woman be considered as connected with a religious husband, or with one of an irreligious character, it is true, that a prudent wife is from the Lord; and that possessing religion, and exercising it, she will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
To have some conception of what a religious man must suffer from a companion differently disposed, we may refer to real cases; and of these the cases of Job, and of Samson, will serve as specimens. The trials of Job, all things taken into consideration, probably, were never exceeded, if they were ever equalled. From a state of extraordinary wealth, and honor, he was reduced to the most abject condition; deprived of his children; covered with a loathsome bodily malady; reproached by his friends as a hypocrite; and subjected to the malicious temptations of the devil. Did he not need the soft soothing comforting language of piety in this time of his distress, instead of that which is harsh, and chafing, as the potsherd with which he scraped himself; when he sat in the ashes, covered with boils, from the sole of his foot, unto his crown.