AFTER having created man God saw that it was not good for him to be alone; and in order to console and cheer him in his solitude He took from his side, near his heart, the material out of which He made him a companion. This origin of woman tells us more of her nature, and points out more clearly the end that God proposed to Himself in creating her than the most elaborate and profound treatises or the most lucid theological theories.
Man was made out of the slime of the earth, woman has been formed out of a body already organized and vivified by the breath of life; man has been created to reign over the world, to govern the animals which God placed under his control, woman has been created to be man's companion; to cheer him in his solitude, and share with him the power and gifts which he received from God.
Hence it is quite natural that woman should feel in the depths of her heart a gnawing desire to please and be agreeable, for in that she only obeys the instinct of her nature. Still, woman would be abusing that instinct, and acting contrary to the designs of Providence, if she sought to please by means unworthy of her.
Before plunging Adam into that mysterious sleep, God brought all the animals before him, that he might see and know the extent of his dominion. The sacred writer remarks, that among all those animals Adam did not find a single being that resembled himself. He could find in none of those animals a sociable companion, because none of them had a soul like his, and consequently, could not share in the sweet joy that arises from an interchange of thoughts and sentiments, which constitutes the charming pith of life.
Many of them surpassed him in bodily strength, fleetness and agility, many attracted his attention by the beauty of their form, by their wonderful instinct and industry. And God, through His unbounded goodness, had planted in their very nature a desire or want of attachment, an instinctive gratitude and fidelity, such, that it seemed impossible to desire anything more exquisite of the kind. Still, with all these advantages, man was unsatisfied, he required a being like himself, possessing qualities superior to those found in irrational beings, one with whom his intelligence and heart might commune.
You must have already penetrated the profound sense of the words of the sacred historian and obtained a clear knowledge of the end that God proposed to himself in creating woman. Yes, He has certainly willed that you should be a messenger of consolation and comfort, that your mission should be, not to please and flatter the senses, which the animals did for Adam before Eve was created, but to meet the wants of the mind and heart of man.
Irrational beings suffice to please the senses and imagination; hence, if this is all that you propose to do, you put yourself in contradiction with the designs of God over you, and the grandeur of your destiny. You seem to say to God that it was not necessary for Him to create woman, that man could dispense with her, because the animals subject to his empire sufficed to meet all the wants of his mind and heart. Do not debase and despise your noble nature by thus placing yourself in the same category with animals, which can have nothing in common with the duties of your sublime mission.
The senses are blind, impetuous and changeable in their instincts; inconstancy and change are so necessary to them, that, rather than be condemned to remain immutable, they readily quit a more agreeable object for another very inferior, simply to satisfy that need of change inherent to their nature. Hence the strongest protestations, the most assiduous attentions, and the most active devotedness, though truly sincere in themselves, but when founded on the senses, are like smoke that disappears, even as the material that produces it. You will not have the right even to blame those who may deceive you in this way, because it is not in the power of man to conserve for any notable length of time a sentiment produced by the senses, and which has received no higher sanction than that of the imagination.
The difference, however, between this abortive sentiment and a genuine one is so palpable and characteristic that it is impossible to be mistaken in them, unless that we wilfully close our eyes to the truth. But, alas! it must indeed be confessed that a vast number of women wish to be deceived, not only in their discernment of the sentiment by which they are actuated, but also in their preference for it. And through some unaccountable blindness, they fear every thing that might interfere with their cherished idol. They purposely shut their eyes to the light of truth, preferring to deceive and be deceived than to be obliged, on seeing the matter in its true light, to doubt the power of their frivolous charms; as a proof of this the least compliment paid them for their beautiful or handsome appearance puts them beside themselves so far as to make them forget to consider whether such compliments are authorized by sincerity or flattery.
In vain will you try to convince them that this is not the way in which a genuine sentiment is formed and manifested. It is useless to tell them that such a sentiment does not spring up suddenly in the heart; that, on the contrary, its development is due to the process of a constant and almost insensible growth; being characteristically modest, calm, reserved, and even timid; having God for its first confidential friend, and pure souls for its tutors. It is labor in vain to point out to them that an affection, unaccompanied by the necessary precautions, should be repelled by a young lady as an insult to the dignity of her sex. But they will readily listen to any language that flatters their vanity, which paves the way to so many fatal friendships that often entail a lifetime of woe and sorrow.
When necessity or propriety requires your presence in society, somewhat brilliant, where you must inevitably come in contact with young men whom perhaps you do not know; then you should guard the senses, the mind and the heart with vigilant care; without ceasing on that account to be simple and natural in your whole demeanor; for the most vigilant are neither troubled nor embarrassed on account of their vigilance; yet excessive fear of being recreant either to duty or propriety in such like circumstances, would only expose you to greater danger of falling into the snare you try to avoid, as it would pre-occupy the mind and weaken the will. In such conjunctures, remain as near as possible to your mother, keeping your eyes fixed upon hers, always hearkening with a tender respect to the mysterious language that escapes from the maternal heart; a language easily understood by a daughter that loves the virtue of filial piety.
The mother's presence is always an infallible protection for young ladies; her looks are a book constantly open, and in which they can read her most secret thoughts; whether they approve or condemn their actions. Whenever you are called on to participate in worldly festivities let your mother be your visible guardian angel; she will preserve the innocence of your heart from the dangers that surround you. If you feel a secret desire to be relieved of your mother's presence, as being something noxious to your liberty, rest assured that your heart has already lost something of its innocence and simplicity. A daughter who dreads her mother's eye has evidently entered on a winding way, and ought to consider with suspicion the state of her soul. There is no company that you should prefer to that of your mother, no conversation that you should esteem more than hers; there should be no pleasure that could engage you to forego the pleasure of being near her. God himself has placed those sentiments in the hearts of young ladies in order to guard them against the seduction of the world and the attractions of false pleasures. He strengthens in their soul the virtue of filial piety, which forms an impregnable citadel around the heart, keeping it in perfect security against the evil influences of wicked agents.
Your conduct in every detail ought to be discreet and grave in the company of young men with whom you are unacquainted. If they speak to you, answer them briefly modestly and with simplicity, but fearlessly. Let it be your constant endeavor to converse on subjects capable of interesting a serious mind; in this way you can better divert their attention from frivolous topics, and prevent perhaps indiscreet questions or rash intimacies.
It is well to advert to the fact that, in consequence of a deteriorated faith and virtue among young men, in whom a bad education has oftentimes destroyed the happiest dispositions; many among them have lost that esteem, respect and veneration for woman so prevalent in the Christian ages prior to ours. Such, unfortunately, is the case in thousands of instances now-a-days; for when a young man finds himself in company with a young lady his chief object is to amuse himself with her, if his heart, already vitiated, does not entertain desires more criminal still; he is unguarded in his conversation, while displaying his talents, complimenting her for qualities which he interiorly believes her devoid of.
Bear in mind that this young man with whom you are conversing watches all your movements, studies all your looks, discusses and interprets interiorly every word you speak; while treating with you he plays the part of a cunning diplomatist whose wiles you happily ignore; but in order to escape from becoming his dupe, prudence should govern all your actions while in his company.
Remember that there are in the world manners, gestures and attitudes that constitute a conventional language, but which hold nothing in common with the genuine sentiments of the heart, being like a counterfeit money which vanity pays and receives. It is one of the most dangerous snares for a young girl whose simplicity and candor are yet intact. Those qualities, so precious in themselves, are sometimes prejudicial to her safety from the perfidy of a heart already skilful in the art of deceiving. For, judging others by her own heart, she cannot suspect those who converse with her of wicked designs. She accepts all that is told her as the sincere expression of the heart, and very often receives for a genuine affection what is only hypocrisy and deception.
If you are acquainted with the young men whom you meet in the world, you should know how to treat with them; yet experience proves that for the most part a young lady is little posted in matters of this nature. If the mind is already poisoned by the distemper of incredulity, if the heart is already vitiated, if they have justly won by their evil conduct a sad notoriety in the world, if they are of that class that seek to take the advantage of woman's simplicity by rendering vice agreeable to her in their own person; oh, you cannot treat them with too great severity. Your language, your looks, your attitude, should repel them from or command a respectful fear in your presence. Do not fear to wound their feelings, or to be impolite, or indecorous in their regard. An obstinate reserve, a severe demeanor, is all that you owe them. Treating them with that courtesy due to gentlemen would prove noxious to you, as they would not fail to make of it a plausible reason to justify their insolent conduct and rash judgments; be not deceived, the slightest mark of benevolence that they would receive from you would be immediately interpreted by them in the most perfidious manner. They detest virtue as much as you detest vice. They have a sovereign contempt for every woman, for they believe that she is unable to resist the allurements of pleasure.
They are mutual confidentials, and tell each other, with deplorable levity, all that young ladies innocently say to them; wickedly misconstruing their intentions, exaggerating what was true, and treating with sneering contempt those who were simple enough to believe in the sincerity of their hypocritical compliments. Most assuredly you have not the slightest desire of becoming the subject of the scandalous conversation of those men; you have but one means, however, of guarding yourself against their venomous tongue; that is, to exact from them a respectful deference by the gravity of your demeanor, and the severity of your relations with them.
If, on the contrary, you meet with young men who, with a lively faith, have conserved the purity of their hearts, and as a consequence of these virtues, all due respect for woman, you can show them greater confidence, and let them feel that you highly esteem them for their virtues, without, however, renouncing the precautions advised by prudence while in their company. It is in such encounters that your conversation should reveal a serious turn of mind, carefully avoiding every thing that would intimate undue confidence or intimacy; for the heart of a young lady should never be on her lips; except with regard to her mother, she should keep it buried in the depths of her soul to converse familiarly only with God and His angels.