Page images
PDF
EPUB

one circle in society; but the effects of the fulfilment or neglect of those duties are extended almost beyond belief. Perhaps this lengthened view may make but little impression on our minds, prone as we are to be more affected by present than by future consequences, but still it must be a source of pleasing reflection to the zealous in well-doing, that the virtuous influence they enjoy in their day and generation, will carry down to their posterity a portion of its beneficial effects.

To improve the present time, however, must be the object of our present care and attention, and we must first obtain the necessary influence by the constant and vigilant cultivation of virtue, and by the subduing of every unamiable and unwarrantable propensity, before we can reap the reward of self-satisfaction, or indulge the benevolent hope that the good seed which we have sown will flourish abundantly.

The most important consideration of the married woman, is the discharge of her duty as a wife. The precise nature of that duty must vary according to the circumstances of each individual, but in all the chief points there can be no difference. Sincerity, unbroken confidence, a modest propriety of deportment, discretion, and prudence in the management of domestic concerns, with a wellgoverned temper, are qualities that ought invariably to adorn the character of a wife; let her add to these, amiable manners, an affectionate disposition, and her character will not only obtain esteem, but influence.

U

It is not easy to number in how many ways such a wife may benefit the mind and habits of her husband. He may, unhappily, be devoid of religious principles; he may be addicted to some vice; may be intemperate in his habits, and licentious in his conversation; he may have a turn for extravagance and expence, inconsistent with his fortune. It would be a difficult and hazardous attempt for a friend, or even for a near relation, to undertake a reformation in him of any of these defects, but the judicious exertion of his wife's influence may produce an amendment, which would be considered as a miracle if effected by any other hand. Yet it must be remembered, that this good work cannot be performed by one who is herself defective in principle and conduct. He who doubts the sincerity of his wife, or who sees impropriety in her manners, and suffers from her ill-regulated mind, will believe that her religion is a mask which she wears to procure for her a fair appearance to the world, but which in his mind only increases her mental deformity. The characteristics of true religion are, purity of life, uprightness of mind, and benevolence of heart. While in these qualities we need ourselves a monitor, we can attempt no radical reformation in others.

Nor is the example we present to our children and servants a matter. of no moment, as many imagine, who depend upon the youth and inexperience of the one, for security from a troublesome observation of their conduct, and upon the dependant rank of the other, to blind them to their vices and defects. These expectations will assur

edly be disappointed. Children are keen-sighted, and, with retentive memory, treasure up their observations; from which will result disobedience and contempt of reproof from parents whose conduct they do not esteem.

If obedience be obtained from children, after they have ceased to respect their parents, it is most probably the offspring of fear, and will not exist beyond the period of childhood. When the parent can no longer inflict punishment, apprehension will pass away, and leave no principle or affection to supply its place. Fear is a base passion, when unmixed with affection towards the object exciting it; and though the virtuous parent finds occasion to employ it more or less amongst his children, he never allows it to be their only feeling towards him, but secures its union in their minds, with such a portion of filial affection and reverence, as to deprive it of every ignoble tendency, and to convert it into an essential instrument of their moral culture. ;

If failings are not secure from the observation of children, they are still less hidden from the notice of servants, who are generally more intent in watching the conduct of their superiors, than in regulating their own. They can easily distinguish between virtue and vice; and, according as they habitually behold the one or the other, will the bias be given. to their own characters. Not that a vicious servant is likely to be reclaimed by merely beholding virtue in his superiors, although it may diminish the tendency to evil in him. Unfortunately, however, it is more easy to do harm by a bad example than to

effect good by a virtuous one, and much sooner could we turn any one from uprightness and purity of life, than restore him to his previous state of innocence, which, indeed, might be for ever impossible.

Natural affection for our offspring, prompting us to do them every possible good in this world, as well as to promote their happiness in a future life, is a strong inducement to us to set forth in our lives, a copy worthy of their imitation; and, in regard to our dependants, our duty to God, every principle of morality, and every benevolent feeling of our hearts, speak as imperious a command to our reason, to guard our lives and conversation from every irregularity and tendency, which might, by the force of example, tempt them to deviate from their obedience, both to the laws of God and of man.

Besides all these important motives to virtue, which belong in common to us as wives, parents, and mistresses, may be added the desire to maintain an irreproachable name in society; a wish neither unnatural nor unworthy, but which those witnesses of our conduct who dwell within our walls may render abortive, if we, by an impeachable deportment, place ourselves within their power. The ignoble in mind are eager to reduce their superiors nearer to their own level, and from their failings are willing to extract, if they can, an apology for their own. When they dare not openly censure, or express their contempt by insolence of manner, they give themselves latitude in the luxury of backbiting, and their reports often gain a ready

credit, from their supposed acquaintance with the private scenes in the lives of their employers. From such a source every communication should be met with qualifications adequate to the causes which mislead their judgment, or which induce them to indulge in misrepresentations; but for these misrepresentations there is only one sure exemption, the uniform practice of virtue. This will render us fearless of scrutiny, and unsuspicious of slander.

MRS. L.. What do you consider to be the chief failings of women? To vice in an aggravated degree, it can scarcely be said they are addicted, although there may be instances of it, in almost every rank of society; still, that it is not common amongst us is, I think, evident from the abhorrence generally felt and expressed towards any of the unhappy and pitiable victims to evil propensities; and, also, from the disrepute which attaches itself, not only to the individuals themselves, but to every one connected with them.

MRS. B. The failings of women, though they may seriously affect the happiness of their family connections, as we have before agreed, are, like their virtues, unobtrusive on general notice: and, when observed, are treated sometimes leniently, from the truth, which our self-knowledge compels us to admit, that "to err is human." The characteristic endowments of women, are not of a commanding and imposing nature, such as man may boast of, and which enable him to contend with difficulties and dangers, to which, both personally and mentally, he is liable. The perfection of the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »