The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.I. THE FIRST THING THAT STRIKES US HERE IS THE MOTHER. "The prophecy which his mother taught him."
1. A mother's anxiety. What shall he be? Better not to be, than to turn out a bad man. Seekest thou great things for the little one by thy side? Seek them not; better is it to be good than to be great; to be obscure in holiness rather than to be conspicuous in sin.
2. This is a pious mother. "The son of my vows." It is a great thing to be the child of a good mother. We do not know the name of this mother — her son's nature we know. What eminent sons have ascribed all their distinction to their mother; but she is out of sight. He attains to fame; she is still unknown.
II. THE MOTHER TAUGHT HER SON THINGS PERTAINING TO CHARACTER. Men cannot command circumstances or facts, but they can preserve principles. Principles are like the piles on which you build bridges, or on which you construct railways over morasses and swamps. Principles are the piles of life. Unshaken convictions and principles are only found in profound minds. King Lemuel's mother left, as she might safely do, the technicalities of instruction to others; she looked after character; she laid the foundation strong in goodness. Women teach goodness better than men. There is the right power of woman. When the counsels of good mothers have been disregarded, how often those mothers have been avenged!
III. THE PROPHECIES WHICH HIS MOTHER TAUGHT HIM. The words of Lemuel's mother are living still. In youth we love and are loved so quickly. Then love is pure — more of the heart and less of the senses, which all true love is. In noble natures, the purer the heart, the more it is purified by the love of God. Youth is the time for the choice between God and good, and Satan and evil. "Be sober," said this mother. "Do not excite the body, lest the body should rise against the soul and dethrone her." "My soul," said John Foster, "shall either be mistress in my body, or shall quit it." Never were young men in more danger than now.
1. Young men waste time. The wise man must "separate himself." Ill habits gather by obscure degrees.
2. Young men fail in high principle. You see how everything goes down before things of money value. It is hard to reckon things by another than a money value. All fast living means low thinking, or nothing at all. These are the men who see nothing in religion, because they know nothing about it. Our sanctification must be wrought out where we are, not where we are not. Life is serious and earnest, but let us not despair over its failures, even though they abide with us to the close. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." Walk with them in their books, in solitude, in meditation, and join their company at last.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
I. AN EARNEST INTERDICT. With what earnestness does she break forth! Her motherly heart seems all aflame! Her vehement intuition is against animal indulgence in its two great forms, debauchery and intemperance; against inordinate gratification of the passions and the appetites. The reign of animalism is a reign that manacles, enfeebles, and damns the soul. Lust blunts the moral sense, pollutes the memory, defiles the imagination, sends a withering influence through all the faculties of the moral man.
II. AN EARNEST INJUNCTION. She enjoins social compassion. Some think in the phrase "ready to perish" there is an allusion to the practice of administering a potion of strong mixed wine to criminals, for the purpose of deadening their sensibility to suffering. But there are ordinary cases of suffering and distress where wine might be administered with salutary effect. What this mother inculcates is compassion to the poor. It is the duty and honour of kings to espouse the cause of the distressed. This mother enjoins not only compassion, but also justice. She is a model mother.
(David Thomas D.D.)
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
1. The affecting consideration that the lower animals have not the power of expressing and complaining of their wrongs.
2. Their subserviency to the comfort and happiness of man.
3. They are the objects of God's peculiar and providential care.
4. Cruelty to animals is utterly inconsistent with the spirit and law of Christianity.
(David Runciman, M.A.)
(George Lawson, D.D.)
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
(A Woman's Sermon to Women.)
(Stopford A. Brooke, LL.D.)
I. HER LOVE. Shown not in professions and demonstration of affection merely, but in trying to occupy faithfully her place. It is far better to show love than merely to speak it. So God wants to see our love to Him in its signs.
II. HER WORK. Kinds of work for women differ according to their condition in society; but every woman should have her work. A woman's work is first the feeding and tending of her household; beyond this she may be able to work so as to earn. Show how much there is that young women can do towards a living in these days. All should try to be independent.
III. HER CARE. In the ruling of her household; finding for each member work, food, and appropriate clothing. Watching that nothing is either wasted or lost, and everything made the best of.
IV. HER CHARITY. Caring for the poor, and distributing of her abundance to them. How important, as an example to the children, is a generous, charitable mother!
V. HER SPEECH. Always prudent and kindly. Never gossiping, never slandering, never hasty or passionate. Ever firm but gentle. See how often otherwise good characters are spoiled by the unbridled tongue.
VI. HER PRAISE.. It comes from her husband, from her children, and even from her God. "Supreme love to God, which is religion, is that which generates, animates, and adorns all other virtues of character."
(Robert Tuck, B.A.)
I. THE WORTH OF WOMAN. "Far above rubies." Let a man ask himself what would be the worth to his heart, to his home, to his children, to society, of such a woman as is described here — the ideal woman of God's Word, the woman that every woman would be if she only feared God, loved His Word, imbibed His Spirit, and moulded her character upon His most blessed teachings.
1. Consider the worth of such a woman as a daughter. This is the first relationship in life woman is called to fulfil. Who can estimate her worth to her parents, or to her brothers and sisters? She is not wilful, headstrong, passionate, selfish; but humble, respectful, dutiful, affectionate. The foundation of true womanly worth is piety, the fear and love of God. Without true religion the character has no basis. Where that is found we may expect all the virtues to flourish into beauty.
2. The worth of such a woman as a wife. Here is an elaborate description of her housewifely care and prudence, and industry, and economy, and the blessed effects of all this on the happiness of her husband's heart and home, and on his character, reputation, and prosperity. Oh, that young men would look for piety in their wives! Nothing like that to govern their tongues, and to sweeten their tempers, and to make them amiable, pure, and true.
II. THE WORK OF WOMAN. Home is her sphere, and her work is to make home happy. Some women think their work is to reform and regenerate the world. So it is, but the proper sphere for their reforming work is not in the publicities of the world, but in the privacies of the home, in their little children's nurseries, and by the side of the domestic hearth. I hold the worth of unmarried women in high esteem. They are of the greatest value to society, and especially to the Church of God. No single woman need pine in ennui for want of useful occupation.
I. THE DOMESTIC QUALITIES OF WOMAN. The question of the text is indeed a warning that the kind of woman about to be described is a model not always attained. It is not every woman whose price is "far above rubies." In ancient times the women made the garments which their husbands wore. We call the unmarried woman a "spinster"; and the word wife means a "weaver." It is the woman who keeps the house together. This is the description which a woman gives of a woman's domestic qualities. She must be wife, she must be lady, she must be housekeeper.
II. THE PERSONAL QUALITIES OF THE MODEL WOMAN. It is said that she is strong. As far as her strength is the result of careful and conscientious attention to the laws of health, it deserves to be described as a virtue, and a virtue that ought to be cultivated. If the future race of men is to be strong, the present race of women must first he strong. Then she is industrious. She not only saves the money others have entrusted her with, and uses it well, but she uses her own energy until she sells her own merchandise, and her industry increases her possessions till they become such that the watch-lamp has to be lighted that at night they may be secure. Strong and industrious, she could afford to be generous. But though she is generous, she is provident. She is also elegant, a lover of beauty Ruskin says, "A woman's first duty is to please, and a woman who does not please has missed her end in life." She is beautiful in her speech. She should take an interest in everything that interests every man in the house. She is kind, but orderly. She keeps discipline.
III. LOOK AT HER REWARD. "Her husband praiseth her." "Her children call her blessed." The sweetest, daintiest, purest blossoms of a woman's heart will only flourish when she is praised by him she loves best. This is the true reward of the true woman. Her character is the secret of her power and her reward.
(W. J. Woods, B.A.)
1. The person inquired after. A virtuous woman is a woman of strength. Though the weaker vessel, yet made strong by wisdom and grace and the fear of God. A woman of spirit, who has the command of her own spirit, and knows how to manage other people's, one that is pious and industrious, and a helpmeet for a man. A woman of resolution.
2. The difficulty of meeting such an one. Good women are very scarce, and many that seem to be so do not prove so.
3. The unspeakable value of such an one, and the value which he that hath such a wife ought to put upon her, showing it by his thankfulness to God, and his kindness and respect to her, whom he must never think he can do too much for.
( Matthew Henry.)
I. AS A WIFE, REALISE YOUR INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. The husband is the head of the household; but a wife's position does not imply inferiority. She is her husband's companion in life and for life, to be regarded by him as his equal. The husband is the bread-winner, the wife is the bread-keeper and distributor. In all the affairs of domestic life the wife should maintain her position and influence. She should insure her authority by proving her ability to do what the office of a wife demands. Never for a moment permit your husband to feel that he may not trust the concerns of home to your care. Act in such a way that instinctively he will know his property, his honour, his happiness, are safe in your hands.
II. CULTIVATE ALL WOMANLY EXCELLENCES. Strengthen and enlarge the best side of life, by developing everything in you that is good. There are certain virtues essential to the ideal wife. Be thoughtful. Be industrious. Be restful. Be loving. A sublime self-forgetfulness lies at the bottom of every noble life, and of every great service wrought for human good. Homely and commonplace as this ideal may seem, it will demand all your resources. What has been urged cannot be attained without time, judgment, care, patience, and the constant aid of Divine grace in adaptation.
Homilist.I. MARK HER CONDUCT AS A WIFE. Here is inviolable faithfulness. The husband trusts her character and her management. Here is practical affection. Genuine wifely love seeks the good of her husband, is constant as nature. Here is elevating influence. Her words have inspired her husband with honourable ambitions, and her diligence and frugality have contributed the means by which to reach his lofty aims. Here is merit acknowledged. There are men who are incapable of appreciating the character or reciprocating the love of a noble wife. Blessed is the man who has found s wife approaching this ideal!
II. HER MANAGEMENT AS A MISTRESS. Notice her industry. Diligence in useful pursuits should be the grand lesson in all female education.
III. HER BLESSEDNESS AS A MOTHER. In the spirit, the character, and the lives of her children she meets with an ample reward for all her self-denying efforts to make them good and happy. Her children's lives are a grateful acknowledgment of all her kindness, and in their spirit and conversation she reaps a rich harvest of delight.
IV. HER GENEROSITY AS A NEIGHBOUR. Her sympathies are not confined to the domestic sphere. They overflow the boundary of family life — they go forth into the neighbourhood.
V. HER EXCELLENCE AS AN INDIVIDUAL. She was vigorous in body; elegant in her dress; dignified and cheerful in her bearing; devout and honoured in her religion. Religion was the spirit of her character, the germ from which grew all the fruits of her noble life.
(R. F. Horton, D.D.)
vim, strength. The virtuous woman is virile without being masculine. The virtuous woman, whose price is above rubies, is, like the ideal man, to walk after the law of God in every footstep of life, as well as in every lengthened path of continued duty. Love to God creates a holy ambition. It spurs her on to be what Jehovah intended our first mother to be — a true helpmeet. Full of the detail of daily industry and household management, she is yet far-sighted. Methodical, wise-hearted, kindly in discipline, her household moves like the order of the heavenly bodies. Woman's strength may be in her tongue, even more than in her arms and hands. This edged tool, growing sharper by constant use, must be consecrated, else it will kill more than cure. The secret and spring of such a character as that of the virtuous woman is the fear of the Lord. This fear — reverence mingled with love — is a well-spring of life. Watered by this stream, all fair flowers of grace, and fruits of character grow.
(W. E. Griffis.)
1. Her power both for good and evil is emphasised. She is recognised as important in the social structure.
2. Her position, as portrayed here, gives us a high estimate of the life of the Jews as a nation. You can always tell a nation's character from the character of its women.
3. The Jewish woman was a wife and mother. She took the place God made for her, and filled it excellently; and in that for any one in any place lies the highest success in life.
I. THE VIRTUE MOST DEALT WITH HERE IS INDUSTRY. Look at this model woman, accepting with a cheerful and masterly mind the place God has given her, bound to do her best to satisfy its conditions, and so destined to genuine content. To work is God's intention for us, and if we have any thought of wishing to live for Him, work will not be to us an episode so disagreeable that we are to escape from it as soon as possible, but rather that for which we are made and that in which we ought to be most at home.
II. THE MODEL WOMAN IS EFFICIENT IN THE MANAGEMENT OF HER HOUSEHOLD. The word "virtuous" refers not so much to purity as to adaptation to the place where God has put her. The meaning is, "Who can find a capable woman?" Her capability is shown in her addressing herself in strength to the exigencies of her place. It requires wisdom to do anything well. The ideal woman uses her good sense to advantage in the management of the home. Nothing is more worthy of one's most acute thought than the inconspicuous duties of the home.
III. THIS IDEAL WOMAN IS FULL OF ENTERPRISE. There is something very homely and natural in this portrait of the thrifty housewife turning an honest penny when occasion offers. This is the overflow of her exuberant interest in the prosperity of her household. Her business enterprise is not a sign of her seeking new interests outside of the home, but on the contrary a sign of her greater devotion to it. Home over everything, everything for the home, is her idea.
IV. THE IDEAL WOMAN IS SYMPATHETIC. She does not forget the poor. Her vigorous mind does not make her a hard, calculating person of business. She is still a woman, full of sympathy for the unfortunate, ready to help the unsuccessful. Back of the calculating mind lies the warm, throbbing heart, thrilled with the highest emotions.
V. THE IDEAL WOMAN IS WISE OF SPEECH. She is the counsellor of the household, giving good advice and teaching them that kindness which is life's truest wisdom. The easy running of home affairs makes a great difference in the happiness of every one. Home is where the character of the children is being formed. The widest empire does not offer a more dignified throne for the exercise of high wisdom than the mother's seat in the home. The results of such a good woman's life are visible. She has a happy husband. She has appreciative children. She has a good name. May God give to many a girlish heart a new dream — not of fair, but of good women, that shall reproduce itself in a strong, gentle, wise life.
(D. J. Burrell.)
(J. B. F. Tinling.)
(Memoir of J. Stuart Blackie.)
And worketh willingly with her hands
Christian Treasury.As a young friend was standing with us noticing the pedestrians on the sidewalk, a very stylish young lady passed us. "What beautiful hands Miss — has!" exclaimed our friend. "What makes them beautiful?" "Why, they are small, white, soft, and exquisitely shaped." "Is that all that constitutes the beauty of the hand? Is not something more to be included in your catalogue of beauty?" "What more would you have?" "Are they charitable hands? Have they ever fed the poor? Have they ever carried the necessities of life to the widow and the orphan? Has their soft touch ever smoothed the irritation of sickness and the agonies of pain? Axe they useful hands? Have they been taught that the world is not a playground, or a theatre of display, or a mere lounging-place? Do those delicate hands ever labour? Are they ever employed about the domestic duties of life? Are they modest hands? Will they perform their charities or their duties without vanity? Or do they pander to the pride of their owner by their delicacy and beauty? Are they humble hands? Will their owner extend them to grasp the hand of that old schoolfellow who now must earn her living by her labour? Are they holy hands? Are they ever clasped in prayer or elevated in praise?"
She layeth her hands to the spindle
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness1. Tact is evidently the characteristic of one who "openeth her mouth with wisdom." She is not one whose garrulity proves the truth of the proverb, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin," for she has sufficient sense of the seriousness of life to avoid utterances which are idle and thoughtless. Her words are the dictates of that wisdom, the beginning of which is the fear of the Lord. Nor does she merely speak wise words, but, with true wisdom, she recognises that "there is a time to speak and a time to be silent," so that her reproofs and encouragements live long in grateful memories.
2. But authority is quite as important as tact, and this is characteristic of one who has a "law" in her lips. Suppleness in management is of little value unless there be strength behind it. God never meant that women should be always yielding to other people's opinions, or that they should be swayed hither and thither by every passing breeze of emotion. As much as men they need firmness, the royal power of rule, for in the home, in the sick-room, and in the class they have a veritable kingdom in which to exercise authority for God.
3. It must not be forgotten, however, that the authority here spoken of is the law of kindness. Such, in the highest sense, is the authority of Christ over His people. The noblest rule requires, not the display of force, nor the terrors of foolish threats, nor the countermining of a suspicious nature, but the law of kindness, which is obeyed because it evidently springs from love and is enforced by love. Gentlest influences are by no means the feeblest. The spring crocus can be crushed by a stone, but, unlike it, the crocus can push its way up through the stiff, hard soil, until it basks in the sunshine. The light of the sun does not make noise enough to disturb an insect's sleep, but it can waken a whole world to duty. Those who have been able to win or to retain the affection and trust of others exercise a power which angels might desire.
(A. Rowland, LL.B.)
Her children arise up, and call her blessed.
1. It is a great comfort to those who are good themselves to see their children rising up. Here rising up means, stir up themselves to pursue the same course as their good mother.
2. The children of the virtuous woman call her blessed. It is her honour that she shall be praised by them that are best acquainted with her and most indebted to her.
I. THE CHARACTER of those parents to whom honour is due from their children.
1. Those that are truly wise deserve praise.
2. Those that are truly kind.
3. Those that are industrious and careful.
4. Those that are charitable.
5. Those that are virtuous; that is, sober and temperate, just and righteous in their conversation, exemplary in integrity and uprightness.
6. Those that are pious and religious towards God.
II. THE DUTY OF CHILDREN IN DISCHARGING THEIR DEBT TO THEIR PARENTS.
1. Maintain a grateful remembrance, and, on occasion, make honourable mention of our godly parents.
2. Give thanks to God for them.
3. We ought to be very sensible of our loss when such parents are removed from us.
(Philip Henry, M.A.)
(Henry Allon, D.D.)
John and Charles Wesley owe to her influence and training. General Garfield said that his was a model mother. When young and headstrong he obtained work on a canal boat against her wishes. One dark night, when alone on the boat, he fell overboard. It was in a lock, where the water was deepest. He could not swim, and was sinking when his hand touched a rope hanging over the side, apparently by accident. He climbed on deck and found that the rope was only held by the slightest twist round a block. He felt it was God's hand which had saved him, and resolved to start for home at once. He found his mother and described his miraculous escape. "What hour was it?" she asked. He told her, and she said, "At that very moment I was praying for you, my son, that God would protect and bless you." And in after-life Garfield used to say, "I owe everything to my mother."
Her husband also, and he praiseth herJonathan Edwards was discharged from his appointment he came home in despair. But his wife smiled bravely and said, "My dear, you have often longed for leisure to write your book, and now it has come. I have lighted a fire in your room, and set the table with pens and paper." He was so cheered that he set to work at once, and wrote the book that made him famous.
(S. M. Evans.)
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
(J. H. Hitchens, D.D.)
A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
(E. W. Shalders, B.A.)
I. HER VIRTUES (vers. 11-27). Her conjugal fidelity; her kindness and constancy of affection; her housewifery and diligence; her thrift and management; her industry and assiduity; her charity and liberality; her providence and forecast; her magnificence in furniture and apparel; her reputation in public; her traffic and trade abroad; her discretion and obligingness in discourse; her care of home and good government of her family.
II. HER PRAISE. At home; in public; through the whole country where she lives. Prove virtue to be the only praiseworthy thing. Favour and beauty are frail, and subject to decay in their nature and in the opinions of men. They are things that may be counterfeited and put on. They prove too frequently occasions of evil and incentives to sensuality. The good woman prizes favour and beauty under three conditions. Not so as ambitiously to seek them or fondly to vaunt them. Not so as to rely on them as solid goods. Not so as to misemploy them, but to guide them with virtue and discretion. Praise is sure to come to the woman that "feareth the Lord." The woman has equal rights with man. A virtuous woman may mean a stout, valiant woman; or a busy, industrious woman; or a woman of wealth and riches; or a discreet woman. In its principle, this "fear" is a reverential fear. In its operations, like the warp, it runs through the whole web of all her duties. Such a woman shall be praised.
(Adam Littleton, D.D.)
I. THE APPROBATION TO BE DESIRED. The love of approbation is at once a virtuous and a powerful motive. It includes the approbation of God and of good men. Some, however, cherish the love of approbation too much, and will sacrifice principle in order to obtain it. It is a dangerous thing to have the approval of every one; it is apt to make us careless, proud, or indifferent.
II. THE FALSE MEANS WHICH ARE SOMETIMES RELIED ON TO SECURE THIS END. "Favour" means a graceful manner, demeanour, and deportment. "Beauty" refers to the countenance. We may thank God for beauty of person and elegance of manner as for any other of the blessings of this life. Used rightly, beauty may be a virtue, but perverted it becomes a source of great and awful evil.
III. THE CERTAIN AND ONLY ROAD TO APPROBATION. The woman who wishes to be praised must cultivate religious principle. Women are apt to attach undue importance to the external and to neglect the spiritual. Beauty without goodness passes away like a vapour, and leaves no trace behind; or if it succeeds in being remembered, it is only that it may be despised and abhorred.
(Clement Dukes, M.A.)
I. FAVOUR IS DECEITFUL. Men's favour, the world's favour, how fickle it ever is, how soon it changes, and what a short time it exists! How many souls have been ruined by the world's favours! Flattery has produced pride, and has blinded the eyes and led the steps along the downward way.
II. BEAUTY IS VAIN. We need not disparage beauty in itself. Beauty of form and feature is of God. But how short-lived mere beauty of face is! Sicknesses lessen it, increasing age denies it, afflictions spoil it.
III. WHAT SHALL GIVE US POWER AND INFLUENCE FOR GOOD? Fearing the Lord. This makes the highest and grandest type of woman.
(Uriah Davies, M.A.)
(B. E. Nicholls, M.A.)
(C. H. Parkhurst, D.D.)
1. Her industry and activity.
2. Her benevolence and kindness.
3. Her prudence or discretion.
4. Her devotion to God.The importance of true religion as the crowning grace of womanhood cannot be over-estimated.
(Frederick Greeves, D.D.)
1. Endeavour to be what you would have your child become; in character, in morals, in religion.
2. Look well to yourself. Live what you teach.
3. Win the respect of your child.
4. Never let your child get beyond you in intellectual sympathy. Hearts may keep pace where heads cannot. Learn to sympathise with religious perplexities, and learn how best they may be eased and remedied.
5. Let your child be always certain of your love. Be faithful to your woman's instinct. Deal patiently and lovingly with your child. Keep the home life bright for him. Learn to respect his rights. Allow him room for the free play of the varied powers God has given him. Are you not assured of grace sufficient for all your mother-needs?