Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas…
1. I shall not inquire whether the female mind is, in all respects, the same with that of the other sex. Whatever opinion may be formed on this subject, we shall all agree that women ought not to be considered as destined to the same employments with men; and, of course, that there is a species of education, and a sphere of action, which more particularly belong to them. There was a time when a very different doctrine was growing popular: viz., that in education and employments all distinctions of sex ought to be forgotten and confounded. This delusion, however, is now generally discarded. But an error of an opposite kind has gained a lamentable currency. This is, that the station of females is so humble, and their sphere of duty so limited, that they neither can nor ought to aspire to extensive usefulness. This is the mistake of indolence or of false humility, and is plainly contradicted by reason, Scripture, and experience.
2. The contrast between the representations of Scripture and the sentiments of the world seldom appears in a stronger light than it does on the subject of which we are now speaking. In the codes of modern infidelity and licentiousness, as well as among uncivilised nations, woman is exhibited as the mere servile instrument of convenience or pleasure. In the Bible she is represented as the equal, the companion, and the help-meet of man. In the language of worldly taste, a fine woman is one who is distinguished for her personal charms and polite accomplishments. In the language of Scripture, she is the enlightened and virtuous mistress of a family, and the useful member of society. The woman who is formed on the principles of the world, finds no enjoyment but in the circles of affluence, gaiety, and fashion. The woman who is formed on the principles of the Bible, "goeth about doing good." The business of the one is pleasure; the pleasure of the other is business. The one is admired abroad; the other is beloved and honoured at home. From the representations of sacred writ it is manifest that the ornament and the duty of the female sex are as appropriate as they are important, and that they pertain especially to the relations which they bear as —
I. WIVES. On their temper and deportment, more than those of any other individuals, it depends whether peace, affection, order, and plenty reign in their dwellings, or waste, confusion, discord, and alienation disgrace them.
II. MOTHERS. Children, during the first years of their lives, are necessarily committed almost entirely to their care. And the impressions which are then made generally decide their character and destiny for this life and for that which is to come.
III. DOMESTIC RELATIONS.
1. How much may every daughter, by dutiful and affectionate conduct towards her parents, promote the happiness of the whole household, and by her example contribute to the improvement of all around her!
2. How much solid good may every sister daily accomplish by assisting to educate her younger brothers and sisters, in promoting the regularity, order, and comfort of the family, and in recommending, by her whole deportment, the wisdom of economy, the sweetness of benevolence, and the purity of holiness!
3. How much may every female servant contribute to the advantage of the family! It was a little maid in the house of Naaman, the Syrian, that directed her master to the prophet of the Lord.
IV. AS MEMBERS OF SOCIETY. Let no woman imagine that she has nothing to do beyond the sphere of her own household.
1. In every walk and hour of life she may be contributing something to the purity, the order, and the happiness of the community. The influence of the female character in forming public taste and public manners is incalculable. No false sentiments can have much prevalence against which they resolutely set their faces. No corrupt practices can be general or popular which they are willing to expel from society.
2. To the female sex also properly appertains a large portion of those offices of charity to which we are constantly called. They are best acquainted with domestic wants, and are the best judges of domestic character. They have more sympathy, tenderness, leisure, and patience than men.Let me apply this subject —
1. By inferring from what has been said, the unspeakable importance of female education. If the female character be so important, then the formation of that character must be equally so.
2. By recommending the character which has been drawn especially to the young. It is a character which involves the highest honour, and which embraces its own reward. It ought to be your ambition to possess and to evince a sound understanding, and a respectable portion of literary knowledge. But it ought to be more especially your ambition to cultivate your hearts. To be so many Tabithas, adorning the doctrine of God your Saviour, and diffusing happiness among all around you, would be infinitely more to your honour, as well as your comfort, than to stand in the list of those masculine females who, while they gain a proud civil preeminence, really disgrace their sex.
3. By encouraging those who are engaged in female charitable associations. "Be not weary in well-doing." Your task is arduous; but it is still more delightful, and shall "in no wise lose its reward."
4. In conclusion, "the time is short, and the fashion of this world passeth away." Like Dorcas, we all must soon sicken and die. Do we resemble this excellent woman, in our character and hopes, as well as in our mortality? We cannot resemble her unless we are disciples indeed. We may "give all our goods to feed the poor," and "our bodies to be burned," and yet be nothing more than "a sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal." But those deeds of charity which spring from a living faith in a living Redeemer; those works of obedience which are performed from a principle of love for His name — these are "the good works and the almsdeeds" which shed a lustre around the bed of death.
(S. Miller, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.