The English‐born Anne Pratt was highly acclaimed for her writings and illustrations in the field of botany. While nature was her central topic, her studies often caused her to reflect on the glory of the Creator, believing that God cares for His creation—from the flowers of the field to the birds of the air—and much more so for people, who are made in His image.This theme runs throughout the twenty books of her published work, but it is most evident in her book based on Proverbs 31, The Excellent Woman.
“The wisdom for which this [excellent] woman is commended related not alone to the things of the present world. She was one who feared the Lord. She could tell to her listening household of the wonders of nature, of the deliverances wrought by God’s providence to ancient Israel…point to the infallible laws of nature, and show that the morning sun and the evening star never disappointed him who watched for them in the heavens.”
We commend to you a digital edition of Anne Pratt’s timeless commentary on Proverbs 31, The Excellent Woman, originally published in 1847. One might describe this work as a theological piece of art where rich contextual study is embedded in literary beauty; where the edifying truths of an Almighty Creator is presented before a meek and humble people, who are utterly dependent upon the very One who calls us to holiness.
Although this thirty‐first Proverb addresses women in a day ancient to our own, when laborious submission and stringent modesty were highly commendable virtues, Miss Pratt stresses that Scripture was written for our instruction and it is applicable to every generation. This reflection on the lifestyle of the women in Biblical times will encourage all to trust God, who is faithful to His promises.
A sampling of Miss Pratt’s prose on her exposition of Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom; and her tongue is the law of kindness” is as follows:
“The wisdom for which this [excellent] woman is commended related not alone to the things of the present world. She was one who feared the Lord. She could tell to her listening household of the wonders of nature, of the deliverances wrought by God’s providence to ancient Israel…point to the infallible laws of nature, and show that the morning sun and the evening star never disappointed him who watched for them in the heavens. She could point to the lily of the field, which bloomed at its appointed season, and to the swallow which knew the time of its coming, and infer from them that he who gave his written promise would as assuredly fulfill this also. She could discern, in the types and figures of God’s law, the shadows of a more glorious future; and the promise of Messiah, the Hope of Israel who was to bring comfort and holiness to the church of God, was a living fountain of joy in her bosom. Doubtless too, she could tell of family and individual mercies, for God never implanted his fear in any human heart, but in that heart was awakened a chord of love and gratitude, which excited it to praise.” Verse XXVI
The ‘excellent woman’ as portrayed in Proverbs 31, may bring caution to the woman who fears that she is not capable, and indeed hopeless in her pursuit of honoring God with her femininity. This fear can only be quenched by the Gospel of grace, which is no less applied today as in days of old. Miss Pratt exhorts readers to glean from the characteristics of this ‘devout woman’ by seeking such grace and enabling from the Holy Spirit.
“It is true, that no resolution made in our own strength can avail us. Our hearts are sinful by nature, and ever ready to depart from God and holiness…Principle must be acted upon, whether the world smile or condemn; and the diligent and steady cultivation of firmness be sought in humble dependence on God.” Verse XXVII
Anne Pratt’s keen understanding of the sacred writings of Scripture is infused into this little book, The Excellent Woman. Resonating with Solomon’s wisdom, Miss Pratt reminds women that daily employment often requires the remembrance that every duty is performed “…in the sight of Him whose eye beholds even the lowliest act as of great importance.” She continues:
“Her help and stay would be on God, her hope and trust in heaven and the joy of the Lord should be her strength (cf. Nehemiah 8:10). He who had sustained her through the active period of life; who had kept alive in her heart his love and fear, at a period when temptations from outward circumstance and inward feelings were great, would not fail her in days when exertion would become toil, and when the desire of rest had taken the place of pleasure in her heart; for he had said, ‘Even to your old age I am He…and I will carry you’” (cf. Isaiah 46:4). Verse XXV
This is a must‐read for any Christian woman who finds herself overwhelmed by the challenges of life in the 21st century.
William Buell Sprague, a New England pastor and author from the mid‐1800’s, said of Anne Pratt and this work:
“Whoever makes a discreet and well‐directed effort to improve and elevate the character of woman is certainly to be regarded as a benefactor to his race. On this ground, I hesitate not to say that the author of the following work has richly merited such a distinction. In a simple and beautiful commentary on Solomon’s description of a virtuous woman, we find much light thrown upon the text, by a reference to ancient usages; a fine illustration of various points of difference between the Jewish and the Christian woman; and many of the soundest maxims of wisdom bearing upon the subject of female education. It is a work that will bear to be read more than once; and each successive reading will be likely to reveal some new gem of thought which in the general mass of excellence had been overlooked before. It is a book suitable for the husband to present to his wife, the mother to her daughter, and the brother to his sister ; and the more widely it is circulated, the better for the country and the world.”
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