Female Piety—The Young Woman's Guide Through Life to Immortality
John Angell James, (1785—1859)
LIFE AWAY FROM HOME
"Behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go." Genesis 28:15
"In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:6
"You shall guide me with your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory." Psalm 73:24
The hour of separation from parental society, home enjoyments, and the scenes of early history, is in most cases, and ought to be in all—a season of pensive grief. No affectionate daughter can leave the house of her father, and go from beneath the covering wing of maternal love, without passing over "the bridge of sighs." Even the joys of the bridal morning, when she leaves the arms of her hitherto nearest relations, for those of one now still nearer, do not prevent her from looking round with something of instinctive regret on the scenes she is leaving, now no longer hers; and amid the smiles of the happy bride, are seen falling the tears of the loving child, like dewdrops sparkling in sunbeams. It would augur ill for the husband, if his wife could part from her parents, even for him, without a momentary pang. It is one of nature's loveliest sights to see in that scene and season of delight, filial piety blending its luster with marital affection, and investing even nuptial charms with new and captivating beauty.
But I now speak of a different kind and purpose of separation from home. I contemplate the young woman, not led out by that right hand, the "cunning" of which is to be employed for her support; nor going away, leaning upon that arm which is to be continually stretched over her for protection—but departing solitarily and mournfully on the journey of life, to meet alone its dangers, cares, and toils. It is sad enough to see a young man leaving his father's house, and leaving home to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow; how much more to see a young female thus going forth to seek her own support. What is she but a lamb venturing out into the wilderness where wolves abound; or a young dove leaving its nest to fly abroad amid eagles and vultures! How many in the progress of life, and amid its changes, some of which are so melancholy, look back to the hour of separation and exclaim, "O my mother, how sad and certain presages of what awaited me were those bitter tears I shed on that morning when I tore myself from your embrace! My heart then sunk, and the sun of my life then set never to rise. Every step since then of my dark journey has been one of sorrow—and every change only of one calamity for another."
In some cases separation from home is rendered necessary by a change in domestic circumstances, and she who was brought up tenderly amid the luxuries, and with the prospects, of opulence, is now compelled to leave scenes where she was a stranger to toil and care—to earn her own support. It is a sight to be looked upon with admiration, to behold a young woman in such circumstances, instead of hanging upon parents no longer able to support her, without additional privations for themselves, nobly resolving to relieve them of the burden, and instead of sitting down in despairing grief and helpless sorrow, bracing her mind to meet the privations of her altered condition, descending gracefully to a lower level, and going forth with true magnanimity, inspired by religion, to tread life's stormy way alone. No morbid sense of degradation; no feeling of false shame arising from altered circumstances—no haughty sense of humiliation connected with a situation of subordination and dependence—benumbs her faculties, paralyzes her energies, or renders the duties of her new situation irksome and oppressive—but remembering it is the will of Providence, and thankful for her health, her abilities, and her opportunities to take care of herself, she goes to her new sphere without dread, despondency, or reluctance.
Others meet with no such reverse, but are brought up amid circumstances which have always kept before them the probability that they must go out into the world to support themselves. In these cases, the charge comes not upon them by a surprise, and if they are wise they will endeavor to prepare their hearts and qualify their minds for it. A judicious mother's energies and vigilance will ever be employed, not only in helping her daughters, but in teaching them to help themselves. Wherever there is a probability of their leaving home, and even when there is not, her concern, considering the vicissitudes of human life, should be directed to the point of qualifying them to become self-supporting. And it should be a point of ambition with every young woman, whose parents can with difficulty support their family, not to be a burden to them, but to provide for herself in some honorable and useful occupation.
It is a very beautiful scene to witness a young female, not only supporting herself, but endeavoring by the produce of her diligence, and the savings of her frugality, to minister to the comfort of her aged, infirm, or impoverished parents. Many a heroine has left home, and endured privations neither few nor small, for this purpose. All her discomfort and labor were endured with patience, under the idea that by this means she was rendering the home of her beloved parents more happy.
Here, however, a caution is necessary against a too great eagerness to get away from home. A large family, where there is a straitened income, brings many cares and some privations, not only upon the mother, but upon the elder daughters. In such a case, for a young woman who can be of essential service to her mother, and whom her mother wishes to retain, to determine or even wish to go out into the world, and leave her mother to struggle and almost faint under the load—is a deplorable lack of filial piety. It is delightful to hear a daughter say, "Anywhere, or in any circumstances, abroad or at home, in single or in wedded life—my beloved and honored parents, I am ready and eager to serve you."
There is another and melancholy occasion which not infrequently occurs, for a young woman's leaving home, and that is when home itself is broken up by the death of both parents. How frequently does this happen! Ah, how often are families invaded by the 'last enemy', and scattered here and there by his desolating ravages! The grave covers both father and mother. The dear domestic hearth is forsaken. The family gatherings at prayer, at meals, at festive seasons, are over—and the house of your childhood and youth is deserted. Poor orphans, I pity you; especially, you orphan girls, my heart bleeds for you. Your brothers can provide for themselves better than you can. But even you have no need to despond. Painful I know it is, to have no parent, no home, no settled place of abode. Often in your forlorn situation, you must and do say, "Alas for me! I am alone in the world. David's expression suits my case. I am like a pelican in the wilderness; or like a sparrow alone upon the house-top. Other young people, though away from home, have a home to think and talk about—and parents to write to, and occasionally to visit. I have none. I have not a house to dwell in except that which I may soon be required to leave, nor have I any friends, except those whom my own good conduct may secure. My heart is often more desolate than my condition; and though I am in the midst of society, I feel as if I were alone in this great and busy world."
But I remind you there is the orphan's unfailing friend still left. God lives, and he is the father of the fatherless. Be it yours, and it may be yours, to say, "When my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up." Should you be so wise and happy as to become truly pious, you will never be without a friend, and in the absence of an earthly father, will have an omnipotent one in heaven. You may then set out in life, and go through it, adopting as your motto, the reply of Abraham to Isaac, who, when the latter said, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" replied, "God will provide." Be that your motto, "God will provide." Fear God, and you may without scruple and with confidence adopt this assurance.
Permit me now to suggest some topics which apply alike to all these different cases, and which it is important you should dwell upon, either in prospect of leaving home—or after you have left it. Consider it is in the order of Providence you should be thus situated. Your lot is fixed in heaven. It is God's will—and not chance. Is there nothing consolatory in this? Consider his wisdom, power, and goodness. He does all things well. He knows what is best for you. He may, in ways which you cannot imagine, be consulting your future and permanent good. You cannot see the end. When this is revealed, you may be compelled to exclaim, "He leads the blind by a way that they know not, and leads them in paths that they have not known. He makes darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." Submit, therefore, without envying others, and without murmuring. Would you contravene his purpose? Say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems good in his sight. I am where he would have me be."
But remember, there are not only privations to be endured away from home, but moral dangers also to be encountered. If these are not so pressing in your case as in that of your brothers, there are some perils even in yours. Happily for you, the guards of female decorum, propriety, and reputation—are stronger and stricter than those of the other sex. But they have proved too weak for absolute security in thousands of instances. Multitudes who have stood well at home—have unhappily fallen, when removed from it. Eve was tempted when alone, and away from the protection of her husband. Alas, how many have gone away to sin, and have returned to hide their shame. A mother's watchful eye is no longer upon you; a father's arm is no longer stretched over you—and the shelter of home no longer protects you. Others know this as well as you, and may take advantage of it.
And even if there were no moral dangers—is there no danger of imprudence, folly, levity? No danger of bad connections, improper acquaintance, ill-contracted marriages? None of undue love of pleasure and vanity? Are not the prevailing faults and defects of some women to be found in vanity, love of dress, disposition to court attention and admiration, fickleness, inconsiderateness, love of novelty, lack of judgment, and curiosity? And are not all these likely to increase rather than diminish, when they are away from the checks which home supplies? Are not these weeds likely to grow faster, and to attain greater strength, when there is no mother's eye to see them, no mother's hand to pluck them up?
All this danger is greatly heightened in the case of those who have personal or mental accomplishments. A beautiful young woman, withdrawn from the fostering care and ceaseless vigilance of a judicious mother, and exposed abroad to the crude and licentious gaze of the world, is ever an object of alarm to her family—and it were well if she were so to herself. It is perhaps a rare case for such a female to be ignorant of her charms; it is rarer still for her to be more afraid than vain of them, and to be more anxious that they should not lead her into danger, than that they should secure for her admiration.
The great source of consolation and protection to a young woman from home is true religion. It is very easy for any one, to conceive of the privations and discomfort of many a young person, on leaving the comforts of a happy home to sustain the character of a governess, a shop-woman or a servant. The cold, proud, and perhaps in some cases cruel, treatment of employers—as contrasted with the affectionate conduct of parents; the annoying and unfeeling peculiarities of companions in the house—as contrasted with the sympathizing and loving behavior of their brothers and sisters; the disregard of their comfort, in all that concerns their food, lodging, and general personal convenience—as contrasted with all the accommodations and enjoyments of their father's house; and the general inattention and neglect of the strangers among whom they dwell—as contrasted with the recognition and kind notice of a wide circle of friends in their own native place. This, all this, is bitter indeed.
Some hard and unfeeling natures, or mirthful and frivolous ones, may be insensible to these things; but oh, that poor girl of softer mold, whose heart was made for home scenes, and whose bliss was derived from home enjoyments; under all this, her heart is sometimes ready to burst! What thoughts disturb her peace, like visions of bliss lighting on her gloomy and sorrowful path, and then instantly vanishing, only to leave the path still more gloomy, and the darkness still more oppressive! What letters, wet with her tears, she writes to her own sweet home, and to her sympathizing parents!
What is to comfort her now? Only the balmy influence of religion—the consciousness that she is in the way of duty—and the testimony of her conscience that she is discharging her obligations with scrupulous fidelity. This can and this will do it. She whose heart is renewed by Divine grace; who has genuine faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; who walks with God as her divine, unchangeable, omnipotent Friend, and communes with him as her Heavenly Father; whose affections are set on things above; and who considers life as a probation for eternity—she will find in such a state of mind—a source of consolation—a means of endurance—an element of happiness—which will counterbalance all discomfort, disquietude, and distress.
With true dignity she will bow to the will of God, and consider her situation as his appointment. She will find satisfaction in submission. Her religion will impart much patience, and something of cheerfulness—it will control her disposition, and throw an air of loveliness over her character, which will give her an interest in the heart of her employer. She will always find companions in her Bible and other good books—in her closet of devotion and in communion with God, a sweet retreat from the coldness and unkindness of her fellow-creatures; and in meditation upon the everlasting rest above, a blessed substitute for the comforts of the home she has left on earth. Faith in God, in Christ, in Providence, in heaven—can comfort, has comforted, and will comfort in the dreariest situations of life, and in the bitterest agonies of death.
I am anxious all should set out in life with this lofty idea of true piety—that it can sweeten the bitterest cup of human woe—can soften the hardest lot—and can be a substitute for all other pleasures. It must be so; for it made Adam happy in paradise, and makes saints and angels happy in heaven. It has lighted, as with a lamp kindled in heaven, the confessor's dungeon, has sustained the Christian fugitive in his exile, and has enabled the martyrs to endure even the agonies of the stake.
Adopt religion, then, young women, as your companion, for it will not only comfort you, but also protect you. Yes, it will be a shield for your defense, as well as a cup of consolation amid your sorrows. Expect temptations, for you will certainly have them in one way or other. You cannot imagine in what shape or from what quarter they will come. It may be in a form so fascinating, so plausible, so unsuspected, so insidious, as to contain all the "deceivableness of unrighteousness." Do not imagine that Satan respects female virtue too much to assail it. Did he thus respect the holiness of Eve in the garden of Eden? Does he reverence any character or any virtue; did he not tempt our Lord? The more spotless the character, and the more eminent the excellence—the more intense is his hatred—the more malignant his envy—and the more eager his desire to despoil it!
Has he not tempted to their ruin, multitudes as pure as you are? Against such a foe, whom all but infinite cunning makes skillful, and boundless success makes bold—consider you are safe only under the protection of Omnipotence—and that protection can be obtained only by faith and prayer. Of those millions of instances of female immorality, which the history of your sex has presented, not one would have occurred, if they had trusted their virtue to the keeping of true godliness. It is religion that will repel the fiercest assault with the holy and indignant remonstrance, "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God."
It is not only however from such dangers as these, dangers affecting moral character in its most important features, that religion will protect you; but from the lesser ones also, which, if they do not lead to open vice, are still injurious. True religion will moderate your love of pleasure by furnishing pleasures of its own. It will check your vanity and folly, by producing a devout seriousness and sobriety of mind—without at all destroying your natural and innocent vivacity. It will remove your thoughtlessness, and make you contemplative and reflective, without stiffening you into formality, or investing you with gloom. It will induce habits of precaution, and frugality, and thus guard you from present imprudence and recklessness, and future improvidence and extravagance. Do not then venture out into the world unprotected by this spirit as your guardian angel.
There are one or two other cautions which it may be of importance you should receive and remember. You should never allow yourselves for a moment to imagine there is anything dishonorable or degrading in your being compelled to leave home and to support yourself, either as governess, shop-woman, or servant. Those who have been in better circumstances are of course most apt to feel this. And no doubt it is a descent, a lower status, according to the conventionalities of human life—but it is no dishonor. It is from misconduct, and not from misfortune; from loss of character, and not from loss of rank—that disgrace arises. Nobility of soul is often associated with financial descent; while vulgarity of character is sometimes covered with the coronet or the crown. A virtuous, holy, and intelligent young female has, in the heraldry of heaven, a patent of nobility, and is one of God's nobility in her own right. 'Honest industry' is far more honorable than 'wealthy indolence'; and she who willingly, honestly, and cheerfully earns her own support, when Providence has deprived her of her patrimony, is far more to be admired than she would have been, had she throughout life rolled in her father's equipage, and been surrounded by every luxury.
Akin to this is another state of mind against which you should most sedulously guard, and that is a conviction that you must be miserable away from home. It is conceded that you cannot be as happy away from home, as you would be at home. It is not right you should be. There can be no perfect substitute for a united and happy family circle. But when called by Providence to surrender it, give it up with submission and fortitude, and yield to the privation with true magnanimity. Let it be said of you on leaving, as is said by Milton of Eve on her departure from Paradise, "Some natural tears she dropped, but wiped them soon."
Weep you may, and you ought, at giving up the dear delights you have enjoyed from childhood in your father's house; and you cannot but sometimes feel pensive at recollecting the friends from whom you have been separated. But to allow your love of home to make absence from it intolerable wretchedness; to render you moody and melancholy, discontented and ill-tempered; to unfit you for business, and make you unpleasant to your employer and companions—exhibits a weak mind, a feeble heart, and a sickly character. Rise above this! If Providence calls you away from home, bear it with composure. Go out expecting to meet with privations, and make up your mind to endure them with fortitude. Make the best of your situation. Doom not yourself to misery on this account. You may be happy anywhere—with religion, good disposition, submission to your lot, and usefulness. If you determine to find out such pleasures as your present situation affords, instead of always looking back upon that which you have left; if you resolve, by God's grace, to please and be pleased; if you give up your mind to piety, industry, and usefulness—you will find that felicity is a flower that blooms, and a fruit that grows, away from home as well as at home. A cheerful spirit, like a lamp lighting any darkness into which it may be carried—lessens the discomfort of any situation, recommends you to your employer, and promotes your interest as well as your happiness.
Perhaps it may not be amiss to say a few things on the choice of a residence, as it appertains to your parents, where they are living—as well as to yourselves. Let the subject be made the matter of earnest and believing prayer to God. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." "Commit your way to him, and he shall bring it to pass." These are precious declarations, and they are sustained by promises no less precious. "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." "I will instruct you, and teach you in the way which you shall go—I will guide you with my eye." With such exhortations and assurances, what should be your resolution? "You shall guide me with your counsel." There is Providence in everything. Even your most minute affairs are under Divine direction. Your times are in his hand. Do not doubt it. Hold fast the truth that God hears your prayer, casts your lot, and fixes the bounds of your habitation. Pray, pray earnestly, believingly, and expectantly. All situations and all hearts are at his disposal.
In selecting, accepting, and retaining a residence, consult its religious advantages. In these are included such means of pulpit religious instruction as are likely to build up a young disciple on her holy faith, and to quicken into activity the principles of godliness planted in her soul by the Spirit of God. It is not ordinarily desirable, where a selection can be made, to choose a residence where even the minor matters of the sacraments and church government differ from those to which you have been accustomed. This exposes you, if not to a change of sentiment, yet to antagonism and perplexity, which are unfavorable to the quiet enjoyment of your own personal religion, and may do you injury by producing a spirit of controversy. Where the differences of opinion are of a more serious kind, affecting even the fundamental doctrines of the gospel—no pious young person should expose herself to any hazard of this kind.
I will now address a few special counsels and cautions to two or three classes of those who are in the circumstances contemplated by this discourse.
Many are occupied in the very important and responsible duties of a resident governess. This is a situation of delicacy, difficulty, and momentous consequence; and requires much wisdom, prudence, and conscientiousness. There are many parties concerned, all of whose interests and comfort should and must be consulted. You who are in this situation owe something to yourself. Those who have hired you, will be most likely to pay you the respect due to you when they see you respecting yourself. If they so far confide in you as to entrust you with the education of their children, they ought to treat you in such a manner as to teach them also to confide in you and esteem you. But this will depend much upon your own conduct and bearing. Let them be duly aware that you expect all that is your due in the way of kind and respectful conduct, but that you expect no more. Any apprehension on their part that your demands in this respect are too high, or are preferred in an obtrusive and exacting spirit, will be sure to set them on their guard against you as a person of encroaching disposition, and will dispose them to yield you less than you are entitled to. A kind, attentive, respectful, and dignified bearing towards them, as far from servility on the one hand, as it is from familiarity on the other, as well as a right behavior towards their children, will in most cases accomplish all you wish. If you have taken your present situation, after coming down in life, let there be no such sense of degradation and mortified pride, no such loftiness as will make you gloomy, dissatisfied, unhappy, and repulsive.
Even should it appear that you have exchanged places with your employers, that they once were in the situation of inferiority which you now occupy, give no evidence that you are aware of it, and take no notice of little ebullitions of vulgarity, or even purse-proud insolence, not uncommon to those who have risen in life. If sometimes you cannot be insensible to this, and you feel your spirit rising within you, and your cheek growing flushed and warm, so that your mortification cannot be concealed, call in religion to your aid; comfort yourself in God; and exemplify the Christian in a spirit of meek forbearance. In such circumstances, many a tearful look will be thrown back by memory on that home from which you have been driven by misfortune, or rather by Providence, and you will need to retire to calm your perturbation and repress your indignation. In such cases, go and by prayer invite the hand of your Heavenly Father to wipe your weeping eyes, and compose your ruffled spirit and agitated heart.
Then there are the CHILDREN entrusted to your care for their education. Enter upon your task with a deep and solemn sense of responsibility to them, to their parents, and to God. Abhor the baseness, injustice, and cruelty, of being satisfied with any manner of discharging your duty, so that you get your board and salary, and respectful treatment. The future character and comfort, for both worlds, of those girls, depend much upon you. They have been placed in your hands, and look up to you as their instructress and teacher. As you would give in your account at last to God with joy and not with grief, do your very uttermost; tax your energies to do them and their parents justice, in instructing their minds, forming their characters, and fitting them for the station they are to occupy in life. Prepare yourself for your task by constant reading and study. Do not be satisfied with your present qualifications. The education of a rational and immortal creature, for this world and the next—is a great work. Improve your own mind, to be better fitted to improve theirs. Win their confidence by your ability; their affection by your kindness; their respect by your dignity; and their industry by your own diligence. Let your aim be, not only to communicate knowledge—but wisdom; not only to store the memory—but to strengthen the judgment, to nerve the will, and to make the conscience tender; not only to teach them to think correctly—but to act with propriety, discretion, and promptness, in any situation in which they may be placed.
As regards religion, that of course must depend much upon the views of the parents. If they are similar to your own, and you have unrestricted liberty on this point, labor to the uttermost to form the religious character of your youthful charge. Ever consider the education of an immortal being incomplete without instruction in that which alone can fit her for immortality. But never act the part of a secret zealot, by inculcating principles opposed to those of the parents. I should say to a Christian young woman—go into no situation where you are not allowed to teach what you consider to be the truth as it is in Jesus. Do not conceal your sentiments—and afterwards teach them secretly and stealthily. You would abhor such conduct in a Romanist—do not be guilty of it yourself. Of course you should not, and cannot conscientiously teach what you believe to be error; therefore do not go where you would be required to do so.
Then come the PARENTS to be considered by you. Of course you will do everything you can to uphold their authority, even as they ought to do their uttermost to uphold yours. You should also most assiduously labor to secure the affections of their children for them, rather than for yourself. It would be treachery of the basest kind to steal away the hearts of their children. Your aim should be to secure the love of the children to you, for their parents' sake, as well as your own; and then their love to their parents, for your own sake as well as theirs.
There is another thing to be observed, and one which I shall touch upon with the delicacy it demands; and that is the fact, that a wife has sometimes been made uncomfortable by the presence of a governess. Jealousy, it is true, is sometimes in this case suspicious without reason. But are there no cases in which such uneasiness is not entirely the result of an over-sensitive and morbid imagination? Respect your own character and dignity, the wife's peace and the husband's honor, too much ever to seek or accept attentions which, from him, even though playful and innocent, may excite uneasiness in that one bosom, the tranquility of which is so easily disturbed by any act of his. Conduct yourself so as to be not without blame—but without suspicion.
Apart from this, do nothing by becoming the depository of secrets, hearing tales, or uttering insinuations, to loosen the bonds, or violate the affection, of the husband and wife, or to disturb the peace of the family. If unhappily, a difference should exist, keep yourself as much as possible out of the way of witnessing it, or let your wisest and kindest offices be exerted to heal the breach. Win for yourselves the blessing which will come upon the peacemaker, and cause the family to bless the hour which made you a member of their household. Recollect you are bound in honor never to make the transactions or condition of the family, a matter of conversation with others. Without being actually sworn or even pledged to secrecy, you are solemnly bound to observe it; you are a traitress to the family which has received you as an inhabitant, if you make their affairs known to others. Never intermeddle with the servants, and especially avoid all unnecessary familiarity with them. Keep to your own sphere, and diligently discharge your own duties. You will find sufficient scope there for all your time, your energies, and your anxiety.
To maintain a course of conduct, seek by prayer the grace and wisdom which come from on high, and under all the trials of your situation, whether the waywardness of the children, or the ingratitude, pride, or petulance of the parents—seek the comfort which comes from the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation.
Governesses in a school are a class of young women, who, though acting under the direction and supervision of another, and therefore with less responsibility than those who reside in a family—have to discharge very important duties, for which high qualifications, both intellectual and moral, are essential.
I next consider the case of those young people who are employed in retail shops, and they form a very large class. Their situation is often one of far greater discomfort and moral danger than that of the class just mentioned. In addition to the oppressive and exhausting labor which modern competition imposes upon them, in common with all who are engaged in trade, they have to bear in some cases the unkindness of their employers, who are not infrequently deplorably lacking in regard to the comfort of those whom they have received into their service—as to their food, lodging, and general treatment. A surly master and his unfeeling wife, intent only upon what they can get out of the flesh, bone, and muscle of their servants, and caring little for their welfare—never satisfied with even the most exemplary diligence and competent ability, and therefore ever urging to greater labor, and ever uttering the language of complaint—always suspicious, even where there is no ground for it, of the honesty of their servants—such are the trials which some of these hapless young people have to bear.
In such a case, you who have to endure it, need comfort. The recollections of home, where all was kindness, happiness, and confidence—embitter, by the power of contrast, the ills you have to sustain. Bear all with as much patience as you can command. Seek consolation in true piety. Carry your sorrows to God by prayer. When the bitter contrast between your position when at home and your present situation from home forces itself upon your thoughts, and sends a tear to your eye and a pang to your heart, go to Him whose gracious presence is ever with you, and whose infinite love is ever ready for you.
But it is not thus with all shopkeepers. I am not describing the class, but only some of its members; the exceptions, rather than the rule. I know heads of retail establishments, employing a large number of young people, who cherish for them something of the feelings of parents, and regard them almost in the light of children—nor is it their temporal comfort exclusively, but also their spiritual welfare, which is the object of their solicitude. And this is obviously the incumbent duty of employers.
Whether your employers be generous and kind, or neglectful and oppressive—do your duty—and seek to possess all the qualifications which will commend you to their esteem. DILIGENCE is indispensable. It is the first excellence of one in your situation. Be anxious to please, and as earnest to serve your employer as if the business were your own. No one will or can employ an indolent servant. Be an early riser. Comply with all the rules of the shop. Aim at excellence. Seek to be bright and alert. Cultivate an attractive, winning, and even polite address. Be an intelligent shop-woman.
Especially let your HONESTY be above suspicion. Deem it no insult or reproach that I caution you on this subject. You are exposed to temptation. Money in small sums is continually passing through your hands, your salary is low, and through the deceitfulness of the heart you may dwell on the injustice of your small earnings, until you imagine it lawful to pay yourself, and make up what you should in justice receive. Resist every temptation of this kind. Rather starve and die, than appropriate to your own use an article of clothing or decoration, or a farthing of money belonging to your employer. As a guard upon your integrity, and a check to temptation, avoid expense in dress and ornament. Vanity is insatiable, and has led more people into dishonesty than any other passion. A taste for finery fostered and indulged, with a salary too small to yield the means of its gratification, has in innumerable instances led to acts of pilfering to supply the deficiency.
In some establishments, young people of both sexes are employed. Where this is the case it brings new perils, and requires additional caution. Your honor, your respectability, your safety, require that you should be most anxiously upon your guard. How earnestly, as well as sincerely, should you present those beautiful petitions of our Lord's prayer, "Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil." Avoid all undue familiarity, all flippant and trifling conduct, all jocularity, with the young men employed in the same establishment. Maintain a proper self-respect, a befitting reserve, and a dignified bearing; they will be a fence round your character, and prevent even the approach of anything that would insult your purity, or offend the most fastidious modesty.
You have need to be upon your guard against the influence of companions even of your own sex. In large and even in moderate establishments many young women are associated together, without in some cases, any matronly superintendent being placed over them, and with almost unrestricted opportunities for free conversation and general interaction. It is no severe reflection on the sex to suppose that in such a number of young people, there may be some who have no personal religion, whose sense of female decorum and propriety is not the most delicate, and who, without being immoral, are still so given to levity, vanity, and romance—as to exert an unfavorable influence over the rest. Be upon your guard against influence of this kind.
Gain all the good you can, from those who are your associates—but avoid all the evil. Be good tempered, accommodating, amiable, and conciliatory—but set yourself against all that is improper. Be an example of all that is good—and then you may be a reprover of all that is evil. Let there be no affected superiority; nothing like, "Stand aside—I am holier than you." But demonstrate all the consistency, gentleness and sweetness of unaffected goodness, of true piety, and good conduct—and then you may be a blessing to those around you.
Be especially careful in the selection of a particular friend from the rest of your companions. Be not led away by specious appearances, nor induced to commit yourself by professions of friendship on the part of another, or by the first feelings of preference on your own. But take time to ascertain the correctness of her principles, the consistency of her conduct, and the respectability of her family—otherwise you may be led into snares and dangers which you very little anticipate.
For your conduct towards your employers, if a master, I refer you to what I have said to the Governess. Instances have occurred within my knowledge to prove that cautions on this head are not altogether unnecessary. An evil eye has sometimes lighted on an unsuspecting female, and men bound by every tie of honor, and by their solemn vow to a wife, have been despicable enough to assail, and in some instances to destroy, the purity, the honor, and the peace, of those whom they were bound in duty to protect. Spurn then with disdain and indignation any such attempts, receive no special attentions, and quit the service of the wretch whom you suspect of a design against that which ought to be dearer to you a thousand times over, than even life itself.
Female servants are a most important and a very numerous class of young women away from home, and often a very destitute and much exposed one. Their case however is so needful of enlarged counsel and caution that I inserted in the "Family Monitor" a chapter to meet it, and reprinted it separately as a tract.
I shall now conclude this chapter by some few general remarks, which will apply alike to all classes of those who are away from home.
Again and again I say, commit yourselves by true faith in Christ into the hands of God for protection and consolation. How many beautiful passages and examples of holy Scripture, in addition to those already quoted, could be adduced, which apply with peculiar force to your case. Look at poor Hagar, who was much to be pitied as well as much to be blamed, alone in the wilderness, "when the angel of the Lord found her by the fountain of water, and she called the name of the Lord that spoke unto her—God, You see me." If, when God found her there, notwithstanding some past misconduct and self-reproach, she comforted herself in that desolate place with the consideration that she was compassed about with the presence of the Lord; with how much greater confidence and peace may you cheer your heart with the thought of an ever-present God, you who have not been driven out as she was by misconduct from your home, but have been led out from it by Providence.
Yes, God is in every place, he is with you, "he encompasses your path, he knows your down-sitting and up-rising, and is acquainted with all your ways." You have left your earthly father, but your heavenly one is with you. You are far from your earthly home, but if you are a Christian, you are as near as ever to your heavenly one. The eyes that lately beamed affection upon you, do not see you now, and you do not see them; but lifting your voice to God, you can say, "God, You see me!" His eye is upon you, his heart yearns over you, his arms are underneath you.
Also, what promises are on record for you. Do you fear the lack of adequate provision? "Trust in the Lord, and do good—so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed." Do you need protection? "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust; his truth shall be your defense and shield." Do you need direction? "Your ears shall hear a voice behind you, saying—This is the way, walk in it." Do you dread the forlorn circumstances that await you away from home? "None who trust in him shall be desolate." Are you trembling with apprehension at the absence of all who were dear to you, and the unknown difficulties of your new situation on earth? "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God! I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you! Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." "My presence shall go with you and give you rest." Do you ever dread the idea of being forgotten by the friends you are leaving? "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes she may forget, yet will I not forget you." "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Can anything be more consolatory than such assurances?
Need you be afraid to leave home and go out into the world with such promises? What, when omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, all-sufficiency, and boundless love, go with you? Why, with such assurances you may leave, not only your father's home to dwell in any other part of this land of railways and easy and speedy methods of conveyance; but may embark on board an emigrant ship, leave your native country for the opposite ends of the earth—and exultingly exclaim, "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me."
But then to apply the truth and feel the comfort of these precious assurances, you must have that genuine faith which alone gives you a title to them. Personal religion will, in all probability, procure you earthly friends wherever you go, for it is the soil in which all those virtues grow that conciliate affection, ensure respect, and invite confidence. God will go before you to prepare the way for you, for when a man's ways please the Lord, he makes "even his enemies to be at peace with him." Remember how he gave Joseph favor in the eyes of the governor of the prison—and how he turned the heart of Esau, brooding over purposes of revenge, into brotherly endearment. The best way to get the friendship of man is first to secure the friendship of God.
Connected with this, acquire in an eminent degree the general good qualities which I have already alluded to. Add to piety—amiability of disposition—kindliness of disposition—gentle, artless, and attractive manners. Let there be a substratum of the solid gold of excellence, bearing at the same time the polish of the pleasant virtues of life. Those who have to make their way in the world must be attentive to external, and to what some may call, little things. It is not enough to be holy and virtuous, or even to be conscious that you are such—but you must also be attractive. You must aim to please. Real excellence may sometimes be repulsive on account of eccentricities, acid disposition, and blunt coarseness, with which it is associated. It is like grapes amid nettles or thorns, which few will attempt to gather for fear of the lacerations of the thorns.
There is a word of very difficult definition, but which, without being defined, is perfectly understood, and very impressive, "She is an pleasant young woman." This is a very common expression. Perhaps the best explanation of it is the power of giving pleasure and engaging affection. This includes, I am aware, more of nature than of art, and something of personal attraction. A manifest intention to secure the favor of an individual is almost sure to defeat its own end, and to inspire disgust. But the general good opinion of those among whom we live, can in most cases be secured by attention to their wishes, and consideration for their feelings. And surely it cannot be improper to ask, "How can I interest others in my behalf?" And those who depend upon the interest they create for themselves in the hearts of others, should study how to secure it.
Combine a due and tender recollection of home—with a noble fortitude in surrendering its comforts. You are not required to forget your father's house, and your mother's endearing society. You would be unnatural if you could. Indeed you are in little danger of this. Forget my honored father! Forget my much loved mother! Forget my brothers and sisters! Forget the sweet home of my childhood! Oh no! Memory must perish before I can be guilty of such oblivion. I muse on you all in my solitary walks. I give up many an hour's sleep to think of home. I wet my pillow with my tears, as I think of the years and joys that are gone, never to return. I dream often that I am in the midst of you all, and wake to the sad reality that I am away from home."
But these are not the only thoughts you are to cherish as to your home. Nor is the frequent and affectionate letter, so welcome and so precious to those who love and think of you, the only way to send comfort to your parents. Let there be the never-varying excellence of character and conduct, the uniform good behavior, the growing usefulness, which on their knowing of them, shall comfort their hearts. Avoid that fickleness which would make you soon tired of an employment. Let no unsuitable friendship of a tender nature, which they would not approve, be formed. Let no conduct, which if they knew it, would distress them, be carried on by you. They have lost the comfort of your companionship—add not to the affliction by causing them to lose the comfort of your character!
Let your situation in a social point of view, remind you of your circumstances in a religious one. If you are a true Christian, what are you here upon earth—but a child away from home? Yes—heaven, and not earth, is the home of the believer. How simply and sublimely beautiful is the language of our Lord—"In my Father's house are many mansions—if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also." Delightful idea! Heaven is the home of the Christian, which the Savior has prepared and made ready for him. There, is God the Judge of all—the Father, of whom the whole family is named. There, is Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, who calls himself the First-born, the Elder Brother. There, are the spirits of the just made perfect, the brothers and sisters. There, is the innumerable company of the angels, the ministering spirits now sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation. What a glorious household assembled in the third heavens—the eternal home of the Redeeming God, the Great Redeemer, and the redeemed family!
There you are going—if you are a true believer! All the dispensations of Providence and all the means of grace are preparing you for that state. All things, and among them your present situation, with all its disquiet and discomfort, are working together for your good. You are away from home here—that you may be at home there. Let this cheer and comfort you. When distressed by looking back upon the home you have left—comfort yourself by looking on to that to which you are going. Heaven, glory, eternity—are before you! You are educating for your Father's house; preparing to go in and dwell forever in his presence. Half a century hence at most, and in perhaps a much shorter time than that, it will be of no consequence to you whether you passed through life agreeably or not. The only thing about which you should be supremely concerned is, not to be shut out from the heavenly home—not to be excluded by sin, impenitence, and unbelief—from the mansions which Christ has gone to prepare. In the blessed hope of reaching that state, you might endure, not only with fortitude but with comfort—all the trials of a young woman away from home, though they were ten times greater than they are!
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