A Holy Ambition (1)

“Favour [is] deceitful, and beauty [is] vain: [but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31).

I am NOT promoting or endorsing Samuel Miller (1769-1850) as a true Christian when I quote from him.  This post is for historical interest and is NOT necessarily an agreement with everything Miller says.

[Note: My CAP emphasis below replaces the italic emphasis in the original (CAPS show up better on this blog and in this font than italics do).]

Samuel Miller making general remarks on “the appropriate duty and ornament of the female sex” using Tabitha (Dorcas) in Acts 9:36 as a launching pad (these are just some excerpts I compiled).

“Whatever opinion may be formed on this subject, I take it for granted, we shall all agree, that women ought not to be considered as destined to the same employments with men; and, of course, that there is a species of education, and a sphere of action, which more particularly belong to them. There was a time indeed, when a very different doctrine had many advocates, and appeared to be growing popular: viz. that in conducting education, and in selecting employments, all distinctions of sex ought to be forgotten and confounded; that females are as well fitted to fill the academic chair, to shine in the Senate, to adorn the Bench of justice, and even to lead the train of war, as the more hardy sex.  This delusion, however, is now generally discarded.  It…is perceived that the God of nature has raised everlasting barriers against such wild and mischievous speculations; and that to urge them is to renounce reason, to contradict experience, to trample on the divine authority, and to degrade the usefulness, the honor, and the real enjoyment of the female sex.

But an error of an OPPOSITE kind has gained a lamentable currency in the world. This is, that the station of females is so humble, and their sphere of duty so extremely limited, that they neither CAN nor OUGHT to aspire to extensive usefulness. This is the mistake of indolence or false humility; and is as plainly contradicted by reason, by Scripture, and by experience, as the extreme before mentioned. While females are shut out by the express authority of God from some offices, and by the common sense of mankind from others; there is yet open to them an immense field for the most dignified activity in which they may glorify God, render essential service to society, and gain everlasting honor to themselves” (Miller).

And:

“How interesting and important are the duties devolved on females as WIVES! On their temper and deportment — more than those of any other individuals — it depends whether their husbands be happy or miserable; whether the households over which they preside be well-ordered and regular, or neglected and wretched; whether the property of their partners be wisely and economically applied or carelessly and ignobly sqaundered; in a word, whether peace, affection, order, and plenty reign in their dwellings; or waste, confusion, discord, and alienation disgrace them.

Females have been often honored with the title of ANGELS. If it be ever proper to apply such an appellation to a daughter of a fallen race, there is surely no mortal to whom it so properly applies … a prudent, virtuous, and amiable wife, the counsellor and friend of her husband; who makes it her daily study to lighten his cares, to sooth his sorrows, and to augment his joys” (Miller).

And:

“No less numerous and weighty are the duties devolved on females as MOTHERS. Children, during the first years of their lives, are necessarily committed almost entirely to the care of mothers. … Hers is the delightful, the all-important task, to watch over the infant years of her offspring; to guard them from the thousand dangers to which they are exposed; to form a sound mind in a sound body; to whisper in their listening ears the sentiments of virtue and piety; and to prepare them for living to God, to their country, and to themselves.

On this ground I have no scruple in avowing my conviction that in the whole business of education, the mother is the more important parent. It may, perhaps, without extravagance be said that to the female sex preeminently belongs the mighty task, so far as it depends on human agency, of forming the…hearts of the great mass of mankind” (Miller).

And:

“EVERY DOMESTIC RELATION which females sustain may be considered as opening to them an appropriate and important sphere of duty. Great and permanent usefulness in domestic life is by no means confined to wives and mothers. The female who sustains neither of these honorable and interesting relations may yet be eminently useful. How much may every DAUGHTER by uniformly dutiful and affectionate conduct towards her parents promote the happiness of the whole household to which she belongs … It was a LITTLE MAID in the house of NAAMAN the Syrian that directed her master to the prophet of the Lord by whom his leprosy was healed” (Miller).

And:

“Females have set before them a wide and appropriate field of useful activity AS MEMBERS OF SOCIETY. Let no woman imagine that she has nothing to do beyond the sphere of her own household…The influence of the female character in forming public taste and public manners is incalculable…It has been felt and acknowledged in all ages. … It is in the power of women by example and by precept to regulate at pleasure the decorums of dress, the purity of manners, and all the habits of the younger and more inexperienced part of their own sex. In short, it is in the power of women — to an extent to which few of them seem to be aware — to discountenance and banish those pernicious customs which, from time to time, display their hydra form in society and to exercise a most efficient guardianship over public taste and virtue. No false sentiments can have much prevalence against which they resolutely set their faces. No corrupt practices can be general or popular which they are willing to expel from society” (Miller).

And:

“Here is surely enough to excite all the [holy–CD] ambition and to employ all the talents of a reasonable mind. What though females cannot stand in the sacred Desk, nor sit on the Bench of justice? What though they cannot be employed in framing laws, nor in conducting diplomatic missions, nor in organizing or governing nations? They can contribute more by their virtues and their influence to bind society together than all the laws that legislators ever formed” (Samuel Miller).