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After being told what good fense and observation will readily allow, that, "Fa"vour is deceitful, and beauty is vain," that mere form and comeliness are uncertain, that they mislead and disappoint, are of little or no value; we are prepared to admit the truth os the assertion, " A woman that "feareth the Lord shall be praised:" And, being led to consider the worth of female piety, and its claim on our esteem and approbation, we are the more convinced of the futility of mere outward show; and that they are unwise who set a value upon them that is due only to the beauties of the mind, and the attractions and excellence of female piety.
You must have all observed, my friends, that in the Scriptures, as in ordinary conversation, it is very common to put a part for the whole, and to distinguish whatever is the subject of our meditation and discourse, by one or more of its peculiar qualities. It is indeed one of the manifold proofs of the wisdom of God, in his revelations to mankind, that the language of inspiration employs the popular and current use of words
and phrases, not that of art and philosophical nicety and distinction; for the Scriptures are addressed to all men, and for general use, not for a few learned and rigidly discriminating. In the Scriptures, the Supreme is mentioned sometimes under one relation and character, sometimes another. In them, his servants are distinguished by the regard they feel and owe to him i they know God, love him, fear him, worship him, obey him; any one of which sufficiently exprestes their state and character, in relation to God, and involves and secures their dispositions and conduct, as regulated by his will, in whatever manner communicated to them, on the one hand; and, on the other, by their privileges, and claims, and expectations, as the objects of his favour.
Of the regards of the pious which are employed, in Scripture, to express religion, and devotion in general, none occur more frequently than that made use of in the text. The same thing is to be observed as to ordinary conversation; to which, however, its frequent use in Scripture may greatly contribute. An irreligious man has not the fear
of of God before his eyes. "The fear of the "Lord is not in this place," means, the inhabitants have no religion*. The truly pious, "they who fear the Lord, talk often one to "another." "The fear of the Lord is wis"dom, to depart from evil is understanding," signifies, the truly religious are governed by principles that ensure success and happiness. A woman that feareth the Lord, a pious woman, says the text, shall be praised.
Considering this interpretation as sufficiently established, and readily admitted, I am precluded from discoursing of the fear of the Lord as distinguished from love, trust, joy, or any particular affection or disposition, exercise or attainment of the religious life or character; we understand it, as undoubtedly it is meant, of religion in general, though more especially denoting the sentiments, exercises, and attainments, of devotion. "A "pious woman shall be praised."
That the truly religious, whether men or women, are entitled to esteem and commendation, may be easily shown; whatever, indeed, challenges and secures esteem and
H worthy worthy praise is theirs; but the claim of pious women on our esteem and praise, is the subject to which the text directs ouf thoughts, and to which I would engage your attention at this time.
Our discourses, in general, respect men and women without distinction; but, in the Scriptures, the wife, the mother, the aged, and the young woman, are exhorted, and their duties pointed out, as well as the husband, the father, the man of gray hairs, and the young man rejoicing in the days of his youth. We are fully justified in discoursing more particularly of the female character, of female excellence, and female honours, by the wife man in the text: " A woman that "feareth the Lord, slie shall be praised."
The natural division of our discourse on this subject is, fr/I, The fear of the Lord in general; secondly, Its claim to respect and praise, in the female character; in the various relations of life, and various conditions of a pious woman; in the third place, The praise to which she is entitled, and which she shall assuredly enjoy.
I. Let Us then, in the first place, Consider the fear of the Lord.
Here it is of high importance to recollect, that our regards and affections towards God and man, arise from our conceptions of their nature and character. As these are just, and present and permanent, so will our affections and regards be. It must be of the highest consequence to have just conceptions of that Lord whom we fear; and to derive our knowledge from such sources as are pure and perfect, and on which we can entirely depend. Now, blessed be God! he hath never left himself without a witness. In sundry times, and in different manners, he hath revealed, or manifested himself to the world, and to those who fear him. When we speak of those who fear, or love, or serve God, the manifestations of God in the dispensations under which they live, are always necessarily referred to, as duly and pioufly regarded by them. In die days of Job, who "feared God and eschewed evil," they who feared the Lord, beheld and regarded the glory of the Lord in the heavens and the earth, in the animal, vegetable, and mineral
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