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wherever they saw zeal and power working in a sacred cause, they owned the inspiration, and submitted as willingly to a woman's guidance as to a man's, if they were satisfied only that the impulse came from on high. Their poets delighted in the embodying of courage, wisdom, strength, and power, in woman's form. In chivalry, their knights endured defeat from a feminine hand. Proud barons submitted themselves to a woman's rule, and female saints were accepted by the Church as guides and teachers.
We can well imagine a sentiment of envy amongst the Theresas and Britomarts, the 'great Matildas' of the new world, as they survey the position of great-minded women in the despised dark ages and its abhorred feudal system. These women by no self-assertion, only because greatness was acknowledged as a heaven-sent gift peculiar to neither sex though modified by it, attained a place which these female aspirants pant and strive for in vain. When will the Church yield them such homage? when will their decisions be received by men with such submission as we find accorded to a mediæval saint ?
What dignity of rank, what eminence of genius, what pride of learning, did not yield lowly and devout homage to the meek Hildegard? Pope Anastasius writes to her, his beloved daughter in Christ, to beseech her prayers and those of her sisters on the mountain of S. Robert, near Bingen. Pope Adrian writes to her to confirm her in her good resolutions unto the end. Pope Eugene and Alexander the Third also wrote to her. Arnold, Archbishop of Mayence, writes to her, the devout virgin and abbess, not doubting the gifts of God, and asking her prayers, that by their assistance his days may pass in the fear and love of his Creator. A multitude of Bishops from all countries, even from Jerusalem, as also the innumerable monks, philosophers, and learned masters from Italy and France, wrote to her in terms of humility, begging her prayers, and desiring to have the consolation of her mystic and angelic salutations; to whom her answers breathe a solemn strain of prophetic counsel, which announce in no disguised tone the need of amendment in which some of them stood. Thus to Arnold. Archbishop of Mayence, she says: “ Wherefore do you hide your face from God, as if in perturbation of your angry mind? For I do not offer mystical words from myself, but according to wbat I behold in that living light; so that often what I desire, and what my will does not seek, is shown to me in a manner which constrains me to see it." Her answers are always received in a spirit of humility and penitence. Rudolph, the Bishop of Liege, writes to her as follows: “În great distress of mind and body I have desired to write to you, because I greatly need the clemency of God, whom I acknowledge I have offended and irritated by innumerable evils. Therefore, beloved sister, since I know that God is truly with you, I beseech your sanctity by His mercy to stretch out a hand to me in this distress. Be it your care by devout prayers to withdraw me from negligence, and in answer to me write whatever has been shown to you from that unfailing and living light, to awaken my sleep. May the most merciful God grant that I may receive consolation from your writings, and that by the help of your intercession I may attain to the last mansion of eternal quiet!'-- Ages of Faith, book viii. p. 63.
Even without the higher gifts of S. Hildegard, a pious woman some thousand years ago had only to cause her confessor to brick her up in her cell in some populous place, leaving her no outlet upon the world than her small window; and to this window would flock the devout of every sex and condition, to receive her instructions, to profit by her teaching, and to emulate her example, with a deference which Dr. Antoinette Brown might hope for in vain in all her circuits of preaching. It is true that the mediæval confessor in one case of this practice suffered death from the Huns, which shows at first sight an advantage on the side of the modern Doctor, till we reflect that, beyond all doubt, deriding Huns are not wanting from her congregations, vexing her spirit without procuring her the glory of canonization after her decease.
The modern school are, as a body, esprits forts; yet it is alone on the principle of faith that women can ever obtain this coveted respect and wider field. The male dictum which so offended the ladies of Syracuse, that the physical element rules the world,' will universally prevail where the higher principle is not acknowledged. But women have always been allowed an unlimited range of action; no work, no honours have been deemed unsuited for or above them, where men have recognised in them, whether rightly or wrongly, evidences of an inspiration, an express call, or even the lower inspiration of genius, in admiration of which we find the universities of the middle ages pressing their honours upon distinguished women.
• Who can enter the solemn halls of Padua,' writes Mr. Kenelm Digby, 'without being reminded of Helena Piscopia • Cornaro, that fair, illustrious, and holy woman, clad in the habit of S. Benedict, who possessed a perfect knowledge of the Spanish, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic lan‘guages, who was a poet, theologian, an astronomer, and who • was admitted doctor in philosophy in that university? It was
in obedience to the will of her father, in whose house she ‘resided, though always wearing the monastic habit, that she
consented to this act, which by its publicity and singularity * wounded her exquisite sense of what belonged to the retiring modesty of her sex!' 'All ordinary kinds of glory have been reaped by our family,' said her father; 'nothing remains but “this surpassing honour, which shall be ours on your compliance.' I obey you,' replied the saintly daughter, “but I feel that it is making the sacrifice of my life.'—(Ages of Faith, vol. vi. p. 76.) Celebrated men from all parts of Italy assembled to hear the exercises attendant on these ceremonies, which Helena accomplished to the delight and astonishment of all present; but her words proved prophetic, she died after receiving the laurel crown. In our own less impulsive age it is the same; amongst those,
at least, not tied down by either of the jealous principles we have mentioned. For Puritanism still shows its original bias in denouncing any departure in women for any purpose from the ordinary routine of domestic duty, even though it be to shield the orphan or to tend the wounded and the dying. But to men obeying their natural impulses, there is still a glory and a fascination round woman's heroism, genius, or self-devotion, as having in them something heaven-born and divine. Doubtless there are broad distinctions between this state of feeling and that recognition of equality of sphere demanded from mankind by these propagandists. It is because they are exceptional, and therefore indicative of some sacred or extraordinary influence, that men's enthusiasm is roused by unusual displays of energy and power in women; and success must crown these unusual efforts (as evidences, as it were, of a mission), to justify the effort being made. A woman who undertakes a man's office and fails inrit, who gives up her own retired sphere to bungle in a public one, will have no sympathy from any class of men. Such as seem to encourage them now for their own purposes appeal to these exceptional cases, affecting to assume that they will become common ones; but impartial minds have intuitive perceptions on the subject, against which all the battery of the most elaborate theory thunders in vain.
And this natural sentiment of mankind is supported by that appeal to the Bible,' of which the ladies of the Convention were so apprehensive. Ranging through various dispensations and modes of life, as a simple record, as legislating, instructing, admonishing; the subordination in which their physical inferiority places women, and which is universally taken for granted, is never in the Sacred Page assumed as an argument against freedom of thought, independence of action, or the highest efforts of heroic daring. Milton's Eve is certainly no embodiment of womanhood as we find it pictured in the Bible. The good wife there has "claims' which she will not forego, and which the husband is divinely taught to submit himself to. In all that Sarah hath said unto thee hearken unto her voice,' are words which convince us that the wives of those patriarchal times held no timid or uncertain place in the social economy, that their rights were clearly defined and universally acknowledged. Nor do we find in the ages when angels conversed with men, that women were either excluded, or excluded themselves, from that high intercourse, after the pattern of her whom the poet of Democracy and Puritanism sets forth for the example of her sex, and who left the presence of Raphael, because
• Her husband the relater she preferr'd
On the contrary, it would seem they were sometimes chosen to receive supernatural communications rather than men, from some superior fitness in themselves for the revelation, apparently for a simplicity of faith which preserved them from servile mortal fear. As where Manoah's wife has to encourage and strengthen her husband by arguments against which his terror had blinded him: for he had said to her,
• We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said to him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burntoffering and a meat-offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would as at this time bave showed us such things as these.'
Nor were all the godly women of old formed in one mould of * soft attractive grace;' they had individual characteristics as sharply defined and varied as men. They did not say to their husbands,
"God is thy law, thou mine,' but felt personal responsibility. If needs were they "put themselves forward,' as the phrase now runs, and did a man's work when called to it, wisely and effectually. But powers thus vigorously exercised and acknowledged on all hands, never inspired them with any ambition permanently to change or even enlarge their sphere. They did not despise their appropriate work because they could succeed, and were even occasionally divinely appointed to labour beyond it. Under the Gospel dispensation, however, there may not unlikely have been dawnings of another spirit. S. Paul's sharp admonitions to the Corinthian women seem to indicate this. Born in the bondage and subservience of heathenism, and suddenly admitted to the liberty of Christ, it would appear the female converts in the first rapture of emancipation were disposed, as all enthusiasts are, to disregard the teaching of nature, and to assume permanently and as a right a place in the Church for which their sex unfitted them: and by this assumption gave cause for the stringent and repressive enactments which have since guided the Church, as the most direct legislation on the subject which the Bible furnishes. It was when the gifts of the Spirit were most freely poured out, and sex and condition seemed alike disregarded in ihese miraculous dispensations, that men needed to be taught anew the -sacredness of the primary laws of our being, and that the moral teaching of nature was as much the will of God, and as such to be our rule and standard, as the visible workings of His power; that the new dispensation was to be interpreted by the old, and that, whatever might appear to those dazzled by the present glories, there was no real contradiction possible between the two.
And here we seem brought down to the question of the practical use of the present inquiry, which, as far as we are concerned, is simply to ascertain how far these primary laws and subsequent dispensations, how far the teaching of nature and grace, are followed out in the present social condition of one half of the human race, seeking to confine the subject to our own country, as being the scene of our especial interest and knowledge. The complainants appeal to certain rights which they consider themselves to have as possessing certain faculties and aspirations; they acknowledge no natural subordination and no laws of sex, only the dictates of unassisted reason, and, what is termed, the law of each separate person's being—an expression too often in its application interpretable into a privilege inherent in every individual to obey the instincts of a fallen nature whatever they may be; a theory, of course, subversive of all morality, and striking at the root of social order. We, on the contrary, as believers in God's Word, acknowledge an external law, approved, it is true, by our highest reason, but not subject to its decisions, a law which we are bound to obey because it is written with the finger of God upon our consciences, and because our nature is so created that true happiness depends on the obedience; and we believe in a Revelation which not only instructs us in the history of our human nature, but dictates the spirit in which we are to receive its communication, not allowing cavil or question. To us so believing, the word “rights,' as belonging to any human being, is apt to sound arrogant; not, of course, that we would deny that men have rights relatively to one another-no truth is more certain or more important; the denial of it is the basis of all tyranny. But in the sense in which the word is used, it is carried beyond this social idea, and seems to constitute a claim not only upon man, but upon God, to whom we owe duties, but can make no demands. And, in fact, the persons who adopt the word as their cry, do as a body refuse the appeal to the written word and divine ordinances, except that which they hold most divine and alone unanswerable--the conclusions of their own reason. Thus, before we know what the rights claimed are we are disposed to suspect them, from the spirit of defiance to all authority, human and divine, with which they are started; and the conduct of the inquiry does little to allay our suspicions. It is heady and highminded, disparaging woman's more obvious sphere, despising and even vituperating such of the sex as will not join the ranks of the disaffected, and the whole tone in violent contradiction of that spirit which men have agreed to reverence and admire as their ideal of feminine goodness.