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the whole interests of the commonwealth will depend; of those legislators on whose wisdom the character of our laws must rest; of those magistrates with whose learning and correct principles the whole fabrick of public justice must stand or fall; and of those ministers of the gospel, on whose orthodoxy. and piety the salvation of millions, speaking after the manner of men, may be suspended. It is thus that maternal faithfulness or negligence goes to the root of social happiness. It is thus that mothers may be the means of transmitting blessings or calamities, of incalculable extent, to distant generations.
III. 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 peither of these honorable and interes. ting 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; and by her example contribute to the improvement of all around her! How much solid good may every Sister daily accomplish, by diligentiy employing her talents, in assisting to educate her younger brothers and sisters, in promoting the regularity, order, and comfort of the family, of which she is a member, and in recommending at once, by her whole deportment, the wisdom of economy, the sweetness of benevolence, and the purity of holinsss? Nay, how much may every female servant contribute to the advantage of the family in which ber lot is cast ! 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, and by whose ministry he became a convert to the true religion.
And were the history of many families laid open to our view, how often should we see the pious language and holy example of some inferior domestic made a blessing to more than one of those whom she served!
Every female, then, who, in whatever capacity, makes a part of any domestic establishment, whether she preside as its head, or serve as its humblest menial, has it in her power to do good, to an extent which it is the prerogative of Omniscience alone to estimate. She has means and opportunities of useful. ness peculiar to her sex and station.
Means and opportunities which, if faithfully improved, cannot fail, acccording to the divine promise, to produce a rich result of blessing. The tongue of eloquence indeed may never pronounce her eulogium, nor the pen of history record her deeds. But in the heraldry of heaven,' in which to be good is better than to be great, and to be useful than to shine, she may hold a place more illustrious and honorable than many of those who have wielded the sceptre of empire, and filled the world with the thunder of their fame.
IV. Females have set before them a wide and appropriate field of useful activity, AS MEBERRS OF SOCIETY. Let no woman imagine that she has nothing to do beyond the sphere of her own household. In every walk, and in every hour of life, she may be contributing something to the purity, the order, and the happiness of the community to which she belongs. The influence of the female character in forming pubu lic taste, and public manners, is incalculable. It has been felt and acknowledged in all ages. Of this ininfluence, every woman, whatever be her talents or her station, possesses a share ; and by her whole de portment is conferring either a benefit or an injury on society. It is in the power of women, by constantly exhibiting the dignity of virtue, and the at. tractions of piety, to repress the impertinence, to
polish the roughness, and to frown out of sight, and; in many instances, out of existence, the vices of the other sex. It is in the power of women, by exam. ple 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.
Human happiness,' says a modern writer, is on the whole, much less affected by great, but unfrequent events, whether of prosperity or of adversity, of benefit or of injury, than by small, but perpetu. ally recurring incidents of good or evil. The manner in which the influence of the female character is felt, belongs to the latter description. It is not like the periodical inundation of a river, which once in a year, overspreads a desert with transient plenty. It is like the dew of heaven, which descends at all seasons, returns after short intervals, and permanently nourishes every herb of the field*."
To the female sex also properly appertains a large portion of those offices of charity, to which we are constantly called. To feed the hungry, and clothe the naked; to weep with them that weep; to soften the bed of sickness, and to wipe away the tears of sorrow, are duties incumbent upon us all. But they belong, more particularly to the tender sex. They are best acquainted with domestic wants. They are
* Gisborne. Duties of the Female Sex. p. 8.
the best judges of doméstic character. They have more sýinpathy, more tenderness, more leisure, and more patience than men; and, on a variety of accounts, are more capable of performing these duties with ease to themselves, and with advantage to the objects of their charity.
Here is surely enough to excite all the ambition, anel 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 diploinatic missions, nor in organizing or governing nations? They can contribute more by tlieir virtues and their influence to bind society to. gether, than all the laws that legislators ever formed. They are called to duties which are not only worthy of the inost exalted powers; but which have this preeminent advantage, that, while tliey are immediately calculated to meliorate the hearts of those who perform them, they also tend to refine and elevate the human character in general, and to render earth more like the paradise of God.
The foregoing hints, if they do not satisfactorily elucidate the subject to which they relate, will at least suffice to show its importance; and to prepare the way for some remarks more immediately practical. To these permit me now to request your attention.
1 Let me apply this subject, by inferring from what has been said, the unspeakable importance of fe. male education. If the female character be so im. portant, then the formation of that character must be equally so. If education in general lie at the foun dation of individual, domestic, and national happiness, this is especially the case with female educa. tion. It is a concern in which the highest interests of mankind are at stake. It involves the vital prinçiple of social welfare. And according as it is at
tended to or neglected; according as it is wisely or erroneously pursued, will public and private happiness be nourished or poisoned at its root. Upon the education of woman it depends, under God, whether she shall be the most useful, or the most mischievous of mortals; whether she shall be the most invaluable blessing of human society, or the most dreadful scourge of Almighty visitation.' Solemn thought! How deeply ought the subject to engage the attention, to interest the heart, to excite the
prayers, and to animate the diligence of every parent'!
We are, perhaps, wiser than our fathers, in having learned to appreciate more justly than they did, the talents of women, and in devising plans of education better fitted to develope and improve these talents. But I am afraid we fall below our venerable,predecessors, in cultivating the moral and religious charac, ter of females, and in fitting them for some of the more useful and important duties of their sex. When we learn generally to correct this error; when we teach our daughters properly to estimate their true dignity, and diligently to pursue their real happiness; when we persuade them to reflect, that education consists, not in the acquisition of dazzling and meretri. cious arts ; but in preparing themselves to be respectable and useful as wives, mothers, members of society, and christians—Then, and not till then, may we hope to see the moraļ character of society raised, and the real importance of the female sex more justly estimated, and more duly honored.
2. Allow me to apply this subject by recommending the character which has been drawn, to the studious imi. tation of the female part of my audience, and espicially of the younger class. Contracted in its extent, and feeble in its outline, as is the sketch which I have attempt. ed to exhibit, believe me, it is worthy of your atten, tion. It is a character which involves the highest honor, and which embraces its own reward.