STRICTURES ON THE MO …
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STRICTURES ON THE MODERN SYSTEM OF FEMALE EDUCATION.

VOL. I.

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Domestic Happiness, thou only bliss
Of Paradise that has surviv'd the Fall!
Thou art not known where PLEASURE is ador'd,
That reeling Goddess with the zoneless waist.
Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made
Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!
COWPER.
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STRICTURES ON THE MODERN SYSTEM OF FEMALE EDUCATION. WITH A VIEW OF THE PRINCIPLES AND CONDUCT PREVALENT AMONG WOMEN OF RANK AND FORTUNE.

BY HANNAH MORE.

May you so raise your character that you may help to make the next age a better thing, and leave posterity in your debt, for the advantage it shall receive by your example. LORD HALIFAX.

IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.

PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED BY BUDD AND BARTRAM, FOR THOMAS DOBSON, AT THE STONE HOUSE, NO. 41, SOUTH SECOND STREET. 1800.

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CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.

  • INTRODUCTION. ix.
  • CHAP. I. Address to women of rank and fortune, on the effects of their influence on society.—Sug­gestions for the exertion of it in various in­stances. 17
  • CHAP. II. On the education of women.—The prevailing system tends to establish the errors which it ought to correct.—Dangers arising from an ex­cessive cultivation of the arts. 59
  • [Page vi]CHAP. III. External improvement.—Children's Balls.—French Governesses. 77
  • CHAP. IV. Comparison of the mode of female education in the last age with the present. 88
  • CHAP. V. On the religious employment of time.—On the manner in which holidays are passed.—Selfish­ness and inconsideration considered.—Dangers arising from the world. 98
  • CHAP. VI. Filial obedience not the character of the age.—A comparison with the preceding age in this respect.—Those who cultivate the mind advis­ed to study the nature of the soil▪.—Unpromis­ing children often make strong characters.— [Page vii] Teachers too apt to devote their pains almost exclusively to children of parts. 115
  • CHAP. VII. On female study, and initiation into knowledge.—Error of cultivating the imagination to the neglect of the judgment.—Books of reasoning recommended. 131
  • CHAP. VIII. On the religious and moral use of history and geography. 146
  • CHAP. IX. On the use of definitions, and the moral benefits of accuracy in language. 162
  • CHAP. X. On religion.—The necessity and duty of early instruction shewn by analogy with human learning. 170
  • [Page viii]CHAP XI. On the manner of instructing young persons in re­ligion.—General remarks on the genius of Christianity. 185
  • CHAP. XII. Hints suggested for furnishing young persons with a scheme of prayer. 205
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INTRODUCTION.

IT is a singular injustice which is often exercised towards women, first to give them a very defective Education, and then to expect from them the most undeviating purity of conduct;—to train them in such a manner as shall lay them open to the most dangerous faults, and then to censure them for not proving faultless. Is it not unreasonable and unjust, to express disappointment if our daughters should, in their subsequent lives, turn out precisely that very kind of character for which it would be evident to an un­prejudiced by-stander that the whole scope and tenor of their instruction had been systematically prepar­ing them?

Some reflections on the present erroneous system are here with great deference submitted to public consideration. The Author is apprehensive that she shall be accused of betraying the interests of her sex by laying open their defects: but surely, an earnest wish to turn their attention to objects calculated to [Page x] promote their true dignity, is not the office of an enemy. So to expose the weakness of the land as to suggest the necessity of internal improvement, and to point out the means of effectual defence, is not treachery, but patriotism.

Again, it may be objected to this little work, that many errors are here ascribed to women which by no means belong to them exclusively, and that it seems to confine to the sex those faults which are common to the species: but this is in some measure unavoida­ble. In speaking on the qualities of one sex, the moralist is somewhat in the situation of the Geo­grapher, who is treating on the nature of one coun­try:—the air, soil, and produce of the land which he is describing, cannot fail in many essential points to resemble those of other countries under the same parallel; yet it is his business to descant on the one without adverting to the other: and though in drawing his map he may happen to introduce some of the neighbouring coast, yet his principal attention must be confined to that country which he proposes to describe, without taking into account the resem­bling circumstances of the adjacent shores.

It may be also objected that the opinion here sug­gested on the state of manners among the higher classes of our country-women, may seem to contro­vert the just encomiums of modern travellers, who [Page xi] generally concur in ascribing a decided superiority to the ladies of this country over those of every other. But such is the state of foreign manners, that the comparative praise is almost an injury to English women. To be flattered for excelling those whose standard of excellence is very low, is but a degrading kind of commendation; for the value of all praise derived from superiority depends on the worth of the competitor. The character of British ladies, with all the unparalleled advantages they possess, must never be determined by a comparison with the wo­men of other nations, but by what they themselves might be if all their talents and unrivalled opportuni­ties were turned to the best account.

Again, it may be said, that the Author is less dis­posed to expatiate on excellence than error: but the office of the historian of human manners is delinea­tion rather than panegyric. Were the end in view eulogium and not improvement, eulogium would have been far more gratifying, nor would just ob­jects for praise have been difficult to find. Even in her own limited sphere of observation, the Author is acquainted with much excellence in the class of which she treats;—with women who, possessing learning which would be thought extensive in the other sex, set an example of deep humility to their own;—women who, distinguished for wit and ge­nius, [Page xii] are eminent for domestic qualities;—who, ex­celling in the fine arts, have carefully enriched their understandings;—who, enjoying great affluence, de­vote it to the glory of God;—who, possessing ele­vated rank, think their noblest style and title is that of a Christian.—

That there is also much worth which is little known, she is persuaded; for it is the modest nature of goodness to exert itself quietly, while a few cha­racters of the opposite cast seem, by the rumour of their exploits, to fill the world; and by their noise to multiply their numbers. It often happens that a very small party of people, by occupying the fore­ground, so seize the public attention, and monopo­lize the public talk, that they appear to be the great body: and a few active spirits, provided their activi­ty take the wrong turn and support the wrong cause, seem to fill the scene; and a few disturbers of or­der, who have the talent of thus exciting a false idea of their multitudes by their mischiefs, actually gain strength and swell their numbers by this fal­lacious arithmetic.

But the present work is no more intended for a panegyric on those purer characters who seek not human praise because they act from a higher motive, than for a satire on the avowedly licentious, who, urged by the impulse of the moment or led away [Page xiii] by the love of fashion, dislike not censure, so it may serve to rescue them from neglect or oblivion.

There are, however, multitudes of the young and the well-disposed, who have as yet taken no decided part, who are just launching on the ocean of life, just about to lose their own right convictions, and to counteract their better propensities, unreluctantly yielding themselves to be carried down the tide of popular practices, sanguine and confident of safe­ty.—To these the Author would gently hint, that, when once embarked, it will be no longer easy to say to their passions, or even to their principles, "Thus far shall ye go, and no further."

Should any reader revolt at what is conceived [...] be unwarranted strictness in this little book, let it not be thrown by in disgust before the following short consideration be weighed.—If in this Christian country we are actually beginning to regard the so­lemn office of Baptism as merely furnishing an article to the parish register;—if we are learning from our indefatigable Teachers, to consider this Christian rite as a legal ceremony retained for the sole purpose of recording the age of our children;—then, in­deed, the prevailing System of Education and Man­ners on which these volumes presume to animadvert, may be adopted with propriety and persisted in with safety, without entailing on our children or on our­selves [Page xiv] the peril of broken promises or the guilt of vio­lated vows.—But, if the obligation which Christian Baptism imposes be really binding;—if the ordinance have, indeed, a meaning beyond a mere secular trans­action, beyond a record of names and dates;—if it be an institution by which the child is solemnly devoted to God as his Father, to Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier; if there be no definite period assigned when the obli­gation of fulfilling the duties it enjoins shall be su­perseded;—if, having once dedicated our offspring to their Creator, we no longer dare to mock Him by bringing them up in ignorance of His Will and neglect of His Laws;—if, after having enlisted them under the banners of Christ, to fight manfully against the three great enemies of mankind, we are no longer at liberty to let them lay down their arms; much less to lead them to act as if in alliance instead of hostility with these enemies;—if after having pro­mised that they shall renounce the vanities of the world, we are not allowed to invalidate the engage­ment;—if after such a covenant we should tremble to make these renounced vanities the supreme object of our own pursuit or of their instruction;—if all this be really so, then the Strictures on Modern Education, and on the Habits of polished Life, will not be found so repugnant to truth, and reason, and [Page xv] common sense, as may on a first view be sup­posed.

But if on candidly summing up the evidence, the design and scope of the Author be fairly judged, not by the customs or opinions of the worldly, (for every English subject has a right to object to a sus­pected or prejudiced jury,) but by an appeal to that divine law which is the only infallible rule of judg­ment; if on such an appeal her views and princi­ples shall be found censurable for their rigour, ab­surd in their requisitions, or preposterous in their restrictions, she will have no right to complain of such a verdict, because she will then stand con­demned by that court to whose decision she impli­citly submits.

Let it not be suspected that the Author arrogant­ly conceives herself to be exempt from that natural corruption of the heart which it is one chief object of this slight work to exhibit; that she supercili­ously erects herself into the impeccable censor of her sex and of the world; as if from the critic's chair she were coldly pointing out the faults and errors of another order of beings, in whose welfare she had not that lively interest which can only flow from the tender and intimate participation of fellow-feeling.

With a deep self-abasement arising from a strong conviction of being indeed a partaker in the same cor­rupt [Page xvi] nature; together with a full persuasion of the many and great defects of these Volumes, and a sincere consciousness of her inability to do justice to a subject which, however, a sense of duty impelled her to undertake, she commits herself to the can­dour of that Public which has so frequently, in her instance, accepted a right intention as a substi­tute for a powerful performance.

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STRICTURES ON THE MODERN SYSTEM OF FEMALE EDUCATION.

CHAP. I.

Address to women of rank and fortune, on the effects of their influence on society.—Suggestions for the exertion of it in various instances.

AMONG the talents for the application of which women of the higher class will be peculiarly account­able, there is one, the importance of which they can scarcely rate too highly. This talent is influence. We read of the greatest orator of antiquity, that the wisest plans which it had cost him years to frame, a woman could overturn in a single day; and when one considers the variety of mischiefs which an ill-directed influence has been known to produce, one is led to reflect with the most sanguine hope on the [Page 18] beneficial effects to be expected from the same power­ful force when exerted in its true direction.

The general state of civilized society depends, more than those are aware, who are not accustomed to scrutinize into the springs of human action, on the prevailing sentiments and habits of women, and on the nature and degree of the estimation in which they are held. Even those who admit the power of fe­male elegance on the manners of men, do not always attend to the influence of female principles on their character. In the former case, indeed, women are apt to be sufficiently conscious of their power, and not backward in turning it to account. But there are nobler objects to be effected by the exertion of their powers, and unfortunately, ladies, who are often unreasonably confident where they ought to be diffi­dent, are sometimes capriciously diffident just when they ought to feel where their true importance lies; and, feeling, to exert it. To use their boasted power over mankind to no higher purpose than the gratifi­cation of vanity or the indulgence of pleasure, is the degrading triumph of those fair victims to luxury, caprice, and despotism, whom the laws and the reli­gion of the voluptuous prophet of Arabia exclude from light, and liberty, and knowledge; and it is humbling to reflect, that in those countries in which fondness for the mere persons of women is carried to the highest excess, they are slaves; and that their [Page 19] moral and intellectual degradation increases in direct proportion to the adoration which is paid to mere external charms.

But I turn to the bright reverse of this mortifying scene; to a country where our sex enjoys the bles­sings of liberal instruction, of reasonable laws, of a pure religion, and all the endearing pleasures of an equal, social, virtuous, and delightful intercourse: I turn with an earnest hope, that women, thus richly endowed with the bounties of Providence, will not content themselves with polishing, when they are able to reform; with entertaining, when they may awaken; and with captivating for a day, when they may bring into action powers of which the effects may be commensurate with eternity.

In this moment of alarm and peril, I would call on them with a "warning voice," which would stir up every latent principle in their minds, and kindle every slumbering energy in their hearts; I would call on them to come forward, and contribute their full and fair proportion towards the saving of their country. But I would call on them to come for­ward, without departing from the refinement of their character, without derogating from the dig­nity of their rank, without blemishing the delicacy of their sex: I would call them to the best and most appropriate exertion of their power, to raise the de­pressed tone of public morals, and to awaken the [Page 20] drowsy spirit of religious principle. They know too well how arbitrarily they give the law to man­ners, and with how despotic a sway they fix the standard of fashion. But this is not enough; this is a low mark, a prize not worthy of their high and holy calling. For, on the use which women of the superior class may be disposed to make of that power delegated to them by the courtesy of custom, by the honest gallantry of the heart, by the imperious con­trol of virtuous affections, by the habits of civilized states, by the usages of polished society; on the use, I say, which they shall hereafter make of this in­fluence, will depend, in no low degree, the well-being of those states, and the virtue and happiness, nay perhaps the very existence of that society.

At this period, when our country can only hope to stand by opposing a bold and noble unanimity to the most tremendous confederacies against religion, and order, and governments, which the world ever saw; what an accession would it bring to the public strength, could we prevail on beauty, and rank, and talents, and virtue, confederating their several pow­ers, to come forward with a patriotism at once firm and feminine for the general good! I am not found­ing an alarm to female warriors, nor exciting female politicians: I hardly know which of the two is the most disgusting and unnatural character. Propriety is to a woman what the great Roman critic says [Page 21] action is to an orator; it is the first, the second, the third requisite. A woman may be knowing, active, witty, and amusing; but without propriety she can­not be amiable. Propriety is the centre in which all the lines of duty and of agreeableness meet. It is to character what proportion is to figure, and grace to attitude. It does not depend on any one perfection; but it is the result of general excellence. It shews itself by a regular, orderly, undeviating course; and never starts from its sober orbit into any splendid ec­centricities; for it would be ashamed of such praise as it might extort by any aberrations from its proper path. It renounces all commendation but what is characteristic; and I would make it the criterion of true taste, right principle, and genuine feeling, in a woman, whether she would be less touched with all the flattery of romantic and exaggerated panegyric than with that beautiful picture of correct and ele­gant propriety, which Milton draws of our first mo­ther, when he delineates

Those thousand decencies which daily flow
From all her words and actions.

Even the influence of religion is to be exercised with discretion. A female Polemic wanders almost as far from the limits prescribed to her sex, as a female Machiavel or warlike Thalestris. Fierceness has made almost as few converts as the sword, and both are peculiarly ungraceful in a female. Even [Page 22] religious violence has human tempers of its own to indulge, and is gratifying itself when it would be thought to be serving God. Let not the bigot place her natural passions to the account of Christianity, or imagine she is pious when she is only passionate. Let her bear in mind that a Christian doctrine is al­ways to be defended with a Christian spirit, and not make herself amends by the stoutness of her ortho­doxy for the badness of her temper. Many because they defend a doctrine with pertinacity, seem to fancy that they thereby acquire a kind of right to withhold the obedience which should be necessarily involved in the principle.

But the character of a consistent Christian is as carefully to be maintained, as that of a fiery dispu­tant is to be avoided; and she who is afraid to avow her principles, or ashamed to defend them, has little claim to that honourable title. A profligate, who laughs at the most sacred institutions, and keeps out of the way of every thing which comes under the appearance of formal instruction, may be disconcert­ed by the modest, but spirited rebuke of a delicate woman, whose life adorns the doctrines which her conversation defends: but she who administers re­proof with ill-breeding, defeats the effect of her re­medy. On the other hand, there is a dishonest way of labouring to conciliate the favour of a whole com­pany, though of characters and principles irrecon­cilably [Page 23] opposite. The words may be so guarded as not to shock the believer, while the eye and voice may be so accommodated, as not to discourage the infidel. She who, with a half earnestness, trims be­tween the truth and the fashion; who, while she thinks it creditable to defend the cause of religion, yet does it in a faint tone, a studied ambiguity of phrase, and a certain expression in her countenance, which proves that she is not displeased with what she affects to censure, or that she is afraid to lose her re­putation for wit, in proportion as she advances her credit for piety, injures the cause more than he who attacked it; for she proves, either that she does not believe what she professes, or that she does not re­verence what fear compels her to believe. But this is not all: she is called on not barely to repress im­piety, but to excite, to encourage, and to cherish every tendency to serious religion.

Some of the occasions of contributing to the gene­ral good which are daily presenting themselves to ladies, are almost too minute to be pointed out. Yet of the good which right-minded women, anxiously watching these minute occasions, and adroitly seizing them, might accomplish, we may form some idea by the ill-effects which we actually see produced, through the mere levity, carelessness, and inattention (to say no worse) of some of those ladies, who are looked up to as standards in the fashionable world.

[Page 24] I am persuaded, if many a one, who is now dis­seminating unintended mischief, under the danger­ous notion that there is no harm in any thing short of positive vice, and under the false colours of that indolent humility, "What good can I do?" could be brought to see in its collected force the annual aggregate of the random evil she is daily doing, by constantly throwing a little casual weight into the wrong scale, by mere inconsiderate and unguard­ed chat, she would start from her self-complacent dream. If she could conceive how much she may be diminishing the good impressions of young men; and if she could imagine how little amiable levity or irreligion makes her appear in the eyes of those who are older and abler, (however loose their own principles may be,) she would correct herself in the first instance, from pure good nature; and in the second, from worldly prudence and mere self-love. But on how much higher principles would she re­strain herself, if she habitually took into account the important doctrine of consequences; and if she reflected that the lesser but more habitual corrup­tions make up by their number, what they may seem to come short of by their weight: then per­haps she would find that, among the higher class of women, inconsideration is adding more to the daily quantity of evil than almost all other causes put to­gether.

[Page 25] There is an instrument of inconceivable force, when it is employed against the interests of Chris­tianity. It is not reasoning, for that may be answer­ed; it is not learning, for luckily the infidel is not seldom ignorant; it is not invective, for we leave so course an engine to the hands of the vulgar; it is not evidence, for happily we have that on our side. It is RIDICULE, the most deadly weapon in the whole arsenal of impiety, and which becomes an almost un­erring shaft when directed by a fair and fashionable hand. No maxim has been more readily adopted, or is more intrinsically false, than that which the fas­cinating eloquence of a noble sceptic of the last age contrived to render so popular, that "ridicule is the test of truth." It is no test of truth itself; but of their firmness who assert the cause of truth, it is in­deed a severe test. This light, keen, missile weapon, the irresolute, unconfirmed Christian will find it harder to withstand, than the whole heavy artillery of infidelity united.

A young man of the better sort, having just en­tered upon the world, with a certain share of good dispositions and right feelings, not ignorant of the evidences, nor destitute of the principles of Chris­tianity; without parting with his respect for religi­on, he sets out with the too natural wish of making himself a reputation, and of standing well with the fashionable part of the female world. He preserves [Page 26] for a time a horror of vice, which makes it not difficult for him to resist the grosser corruptions of society; he can as yet repel profaneness; nay, he can withstand the banter of a club. He has sense enough to see through the miserable fallacies of the new philosophy, and spirit enough to expose its ma­lignity. So far he does well, and you are ready to congratulate him on his security. You are mis­taken: the principles of the ardent, and hitherto promising adventurer are shaken, just in that very society where, while he was looking for pleasure, he doubted not of safety. In the company of certain women of good fashion and no ill fame, he makes shipwreck of his religion. He sees them treat with levity or derision subjects which he has been used to hear named with respect. He could confute an ar­gument, he could unravel a sophistry; but he cannot stand a laugh. A sneer, not at the truth of religion, for that perhaps is by none of the party disbelieved, but at its gravity, its unseasonableness, its dulness, puts all his resolution to flight. He feels his mistake, and struggles to recover his credit; in order to which, he adopts the gay affectation of trying to seem worse than he really is, he goes on to say things which he does not believe, and to deny things which he does believe, and all to efface the first impression, and to recover a reputation which he has committed to their hands on whose report he knows he shall [Page 27] stand or fall, in those circles in which he is ambi­tious to shine.

That cold compound of irony, irreligion, selfish­ness, and sneer, which make up what the French (from whom we borrow the thing as well as the word) so well express by the term persiflage, has of late years made an incredible progress in blasting the opening buds of piety in young persons of fashion. A cold pleasantry, a temporary cant word, the jargon of the day (for the "great vulgar" have their jargon) blights the first promise of seriousness. The ladies of ton have certain watch-words, which may be detected as indications of this spirit. The clergy are spoken of under the contemptuous ap­pellation of The Parsons. Some ludicrous association is infallibly combined with every idea of religion. If a warm-hearted youth has ventured to name with enthusiasm some eminently pious character, his glow­ing ardour is extinguished with a laugh; and a drawling declaration that the person in question is really a mighty harmless good creature, is uttered in a tone which leads the youth secretly to vow, that whatever else he may be, he will never be a good harmless creature.

Nor is ridicule more dangerous to true piety than to true taste. An age which values itself on parody, burlesque, irony, and caricature, produces little that is sublime, either in genius or in virtue; but they [Page 28] amuse, and we live in an age which must be amused, though genius, feeling, truth, and principle, be the sacrifice. Nothing chills the ardours of devotion like a frigid sarcasm; and, in the season of youth, the mind should be kept particularly clear of all light associations. This is of so much importance, that I have known persons who, having been early accus­tomed to certain ludicrous combinations, were never able to get their minds cleansed from the impurities contracted by this habitual levity, even after a tho­rough reformation in their hearts and lives had taken place: their principles became reformed, but their imaginations were indelibly soiled. They could de­sist from sins which the strictness of Christianity would not allow them to commit, but they could not dismiss from their minds images, which her pu­rity forbade them to entertain.

There was a time when a variety of epithets were thought necessary to express various kinds of excel­lence, and when the different qualities of the mind were distinguished by appropriate and discriminating terms; when the words venerable, learned, sagacious, pro­found, acute, pious, ingenious, elegant, agreeable, wise, or witty, were used as specific marks of distinct characters. But the legislators of fashion have of late years thought proper to comprise all merit in one established epithet, and it must be confessed to be a very desirable one as far as it goes. This epi­thet [Page 29] is exclusively and indiscriminately applied wher­ever commendation is intended. The word pleasant now serves to combine and express all moral and in­tellectual excellence. Every individual, from the gravest professors of the gravest profession, down to the trifler who is of no profession at all, must earn the epithet of pleasant, or must be contented to be nothing; and must be consigned over to ridicule, un­der the vulgar and inexpressive cant word of a bore. This is the mortifying designation of many a respect­able man, who, though of much worth and much ability, cannot perhaps clearly make out his letters patent to the title of pleasant. For, according to this modern classification, there is no intermediate state, but all are comprised within the ample bounds of one or other of these two terms.

We ought to be more on our guard against this spirit of ridicule, because, whatever may be the cha­racter of the present day, its faults do not spring from the redundancies of great qualities, or the overflowings of extravagant virtues. It is well if more correct views of life, a more regular admini­stration of laws, and a more settled state of society, have helped to restrain the excesses of the heroic ages, when love and war were considered as the great and sole business of human life. Yet, if that period was marked by a romantic extravagance, and the present by an indolent selfishness, our supe­riority [Page 30] is not so triumphantly decisive, as, in the vanity of our hearts, we may be ready to imagine.

I do not wish to bring back the frantic reign of chivalry, nor to reinstate women in that fantastic empire in which they then sat enthroned in the hearts, or rather in the imaginations of men. Com­mon sense is an excellent material of universal appli­cation, which the sagacity of latter ages has seized upon, and rationally applied to the business of com­mon life. But let us not forget, in the insolence of acknowledged superiority, that it was religion and chastity, operating on the romantic spirit of those times, which established the despotic sway of woman; and though she now no longer looks down on her adoring votaries, from the pedestal to which an absurd idolatry had lifted her, yet let her remem­ber that it is the same religion and chastity which once raised her to such an elevation, that must still furnish the noblest energies of her character.

While we lawfully ridicule the absurdities which we have abandoned, let us not plume ourselves on that spirit of novelty which glories in the opposite extreme. If the manners of the period in question were affected, and if the gallantry was unnatural, yet the tone of virtue was high; and let us remember that constancy, purity, and honour, are not ridicul­ous in themselves, though they may unluckily be associated with qualities which are so: and women [Page 31] of delicacy would do well to reflect, when descant­ing on those exploded manners, how far it be decor­ous to deride with too broad a laugh, attachments which could subsist on remote gratifications; or grossly to ridicule the taste which led the admirer to sacrifice pleasure to respect, and inclination to ho­nour; to sneer at that purity which made self-denial a proof of affection, and to call in question the sound understanding of him who preferred the fame of his mistress to his own indulgence.

One cannot but be struck with the wonderful contrast exhibited to our view, when we contem­plate the manners of the two periods in question. In the former, all the flower of Europe smit with a delirious gallantry; all that was young and noble, and brave and great, with a fanatic frenzy and pre­posterous contempt of danger, traversed seas, and scaled mountains, and compassed a large portion of the globe, at the expense of ease, and fortune, and life, for the unprofitable project of rescuing, by force of arms, from the hands of infidels, the sepulchre of that Saviour, whom, in the other period, their posterity would think it the height of fanati­cism so much as to name in good company: whose altars they desert, whose temples they neglect; and though in more than one country at least they still call themselves by his name, yet too many, it is to be feared, contemn his precepts, still more are [Page 32] ashamed of his doctrines, and not a few reject his sacrifice. Too many consider Christianity rather as a political than a religious distinction; too many claim the appellation of Christians, in mere opposi­tion to that Democracy with which they conceive infidelity to be associated, rather than from an ab­horrence of impiety for its own sake; and dread ir­religion as the badge of a reprobated party, more than on account of that moral corruption which is its inseparable concomitant.

But in an age when inversion is the order of the day, the modern idea of improvement does not con­sist in altering, but extirpating. We do not reform, but subvert. We do not correct old systems, but demolish them; fancying that when every thing shall be new it will be perfect. Not to have been wrong, but to have been at all, is the crime. Excellence is no longer considered as an experimental thing which is to grow gradually out of observation and practice, and to be improved by the accumulating additions brought by the wisdom of successive ages. Our wisdom is not slowly perfected by age and gradual growth, but a goddess which starts at once, full grown, mature, armed cap-à-pee, from the heads of our modern thunderers. Or rather, if I may change the allusion, a perfect system is now expect­ed inevitably to spring at once, like the fabled bird of Arabia, from the ashes of its parent; and, like [Page 33] that, can receive its birth no other way but by the destruction of its predecessor.

Instead of clearing away what is redundant, prun­ing what is cumbersome, supplying what is defective, and amending what is wrong, we adopt the indefi­nite rage for radical reform of Jack, who in altering Lord Peter's* coat, shewed his zeal by crying out, ‘Tear away, brother Martin, for the love of hea­ven; never mind, so you do but tear away.’

This tearing system has unquestionably rent away some valuable parts of that strong, rich, native stuff, which formed the ancient texture of British manners. That we have gained much I am persuaded; that we have lost nothing I dare not therefore affirm. But though it fairly exhibits a mark of our improved judgment to ridicule the fantastic notions of love and honour in the heroic ages; let us not rejoice that that spirit of generosity in sentiment, and of ardour in piety, the exuberancies of which were then so incon­venient, are now sunk as unreasonably low. That revolution of manners which the unparalleled wit and genius of Don Quixote so happily effected, by abolishing extravagancies the most absurd and perni­cious, was so far imperfect, that some virtues which he never meant to expose, fell into disrepute with the absurdities which he did: and it is become the turn [Page 34] of the present taste to attach in no small degree that which is ridiculous to that which is serious and heroic. Some modern works of wit have assisted in bringing piety and some of the noblest virtues into contempt, by studiously associating them with oddity, childish simplicity, and ignorance of the world: and unnecessary pains have been taken to extinguish that zeal and ardour, which, however liable to excess and error, are yet the spring of whatever is great and excellent in the human character. The novel of Cervantes is incomparable; the Tartuffe of Moliere is unequalled; but true generosity and true religion will never lose any thing of their intrinsic value, be­cause knight-errantry and hypocrisy are legitimate objects for satire.

But to return from this too long digression, to the subject of female influence. Those who have not watched the united operation of vanity and feeling on a youthful mind, will not conceive how much less formidable the ridicule of all his own sex will be to a very young man, than that of those women to whom he has been taught to look up as the arbi­tresses of elegance. Such an one, I doubt not, might be able to work himself up, by the force of genuine christian principle, to such a pitch of true heroism, as to refuse a challenge, (and it requires more real courage to refuse a challenge than to ac­cept one,) who would yet be in danger of relapsing [Page 35] into the dreadful pusillanimity of the world, when he is told that no woman of fashion will hereafter look on him but with contempt. While we have cleared away the rubbish of the Gothic ages, it were to be wished we had not retained the most criminal of all their institutions. Why chivalry should indi­cate a madman, while its leading object, the single combat, should designate a gentleman, has not yet been explained. Nay the original motive is lost, while the sinful practice is continued; for the fighter of the duel no longer pretends to be a glorious re­dresser of the wrongs of strangers; no longer con­siders himself as piously appealing to heaven for the justice of his cause; but from the slavish fear of un­merited reproach, often selfishly hazards the happi­ness of his nearest connections, and always comes forth in direct defiance of an acknowledged com­mand of the Almighty. Perhaps there are few oc­casions in which female influence might be exerted to a higher purpose than in this, in which laws and conscience have hitherto effected so little. But while the duellist (who perhaps becomes a duellist only be­cause he was first a seducer) is welcomed with smiles; the more hardy youth, who, because he fears not man but God, declines a challenge; who is resolved to brave disgrace rather than commit sin, would be treated with cool contempt by those very persons to [Page 36] whose esteem he might reasonably look, as one of the rewards of his true and substantial fortitude.

How then is it to be reconciled with the decisions of principle, that delicate women should receive with complacency the successful libertine, who has been detected by the wretched father or the injured husband in a criminal commerce, the discovery of which has too justly banished the unhappy partner of his crime from virtuous society? Nay, if he hap­pen to be very handsome, or very brave, or very fashionable, is there not sometimes a kind of dis­honourable competition for his favour? But, whe­ther his popularity be derived from birth, or parts, or person, or (what is often a substitute for all) from his having made his way into good company, women of distinction sully the sanctity of virtue by the too visible pleasure they sometimes express at the atten­tions of such a popular libertine, whose voluble small-talk they admire, and whose sprightly nothings they quote, and whom perhaps their very favour tends to prevent from becoming a better character, because he finds himself more acceptable as he is.

May I be allowed to introduce a new part of my subject, by remarking that it is a matter of incon­ceivable importance, though not perhaps sufficiently considered, when any popular work, not on a religi­ous topic, but on any common subject, such as poli­tics, history, or science, has happened to be written [Page 37] by an author of sound Christian principles? It may not have been necessary, nor prudently practicable, to have a single page in the whole work professedly re­ligious: but still, when the living principle informs the mind of the writer, it is almost impossible but that something of its spirit will diffuse itself even in­to subjects with which it should seem but remotely connected. It is at least a comfort to the reader, to feel that honest confidence which results from know­ing that he has put himself into safe hands; that he has committed himself to an author, whose known principles are a pledge that his reader need not be driven to watch himself at every step with anxious circumspection; that he need not be looking on the right hand and on the left, as if he knew there were pitfalls under the flowers which are delighting him. And it is no small point gained, that on subjects in which you do not look to improve your religion, it is at least secured from deterioration. If the Athenian laws were so delicate that they disgraced any one who shewed an inquiring traveller the wrong road, what disgrace, among Christians, should attach to that author, who, when a youth is inquiring the road to history or philosophy, directs him to blas­phemy and unbelief.

In animadverting farther on the reigning evils which the times more particularly demand that wo­men of rank and influence should repress, Christian­ity [Page 38] calls upon them to bear their decided testimony against every thing which is notoriously contributing to the public corruption. It calls upon them to ban­ish from their dressing rooms, (and oh, that their in­fluence could banish from the libraries of their sons and husbands!) that sober and unsuspected mass of mischief, which, by assuming the plausible names of Science, of Philosophy, of Arts, of Belles Lettres, is gradually administering death to the principles of those who would be on their guard, had the poison been labelled with its own pernicious title. Avowed attacks upon revelation are more easily resisted, be­cause the malignity is advertised. But who suspects the destruction which lurks under the harmless or instructive names of General History, Natural History, Travels, Voyages, Lives, Encyclopedias, Criticism, and Romance? Who will deny that many of these works contain much admirable matter; brilliant passages, important facts, just descriptions, faithful pictures of nature, and valuable illustrations of science? But while "the dead fly lies at the bottom," the whole will exhale a corrupt and pestilential stench.

Novels, which chiefly used to be dangerous in one respect, are now become mischievous in a thousand. They are continually shifting their ground, and en­larging their sphere, and are daily becoming vehicles of wider mischief. Sometimes they concentrate their force, and are at once employed to diffuse destructive [Page 39] politics, deplorable profligacy, and impudent infide­lity. Rousseau was the first popular dispenser of this complicated drug, in which the deleterious infu­sion was strong, and the effect proportionably fatal. For he does not attempt to seduce the affections but through the medium of the principles. He does not paint an innocent woman, ruined, repenting, and re­stored; but with a far more mischievous refinement, he annihilates the value of chastity, and with perni­cious subtlety attempts to make his heroine appear almost more amiable without it. He exhibits a vir­tuous woman, the victim not of temptation but of reason, not of vice but of sentiment, not of passion but of conviction; and strikes at the very root of honour by elevating a crime into a principle. With a metaphysical sophistry the most plausible, he de­bauches the heart of woman, by cherishing her va­nity in the erection of a system of male virtues, to which, with a lofty dereliction of those that are her more peculiar and characteristic praise, he tempts her to aspire; powerfully insinuating, that to this splen­did system chastity does not necessarily belong: thus corrupting the judgment and bewildering the under­standing, as the most effectual way to inflame the imagination and deprave the heart.

The rare mischief of this author consists in his power of seducing by falsehood those who love ruth, but whose minds are still wavering, and whose [Page 40] principles are not yet formed. He allures the warm­hearted to embrace vice, not because they prefer vice, but because he gives to vice so natural an air of vir­tue: and ardent and enthusiastic youth, too confi­dently trusting in their integrity and in their teacher, will be undone, while they fancy they are indulging in the noblest feelings of their nature. Many authors will more infallibly complete the ruin of the loose and ill-disposed, but perhaps (if I may change the figure) there never was a net of such exquisite art and inextricable workmanship, spread to entangle innocence and ensnare inexperience, as the writings of Rousseau: and, unhappily, the victim does not even struggle in the toils, because part of the delu­sion consists in imagining that he is set at liberty.

Some of our recent popular publications have adopted and enlarged all the mischiefs of this school, and the principal evil arising from them is, that the virtues they exhibit are almost more dangerous than the vices. The chief materials out of which these delusive systems are framed, are characters who practise superfluous acts of generosity, while they are trampling on obvious and commanded duties; who combine inflated sentiments of honour with ac­tions the most flagitious; a high tone of self-confi­dence, with a perpetual neglect of self-denial: pa­thetic apostrophes to the passions, but no attempt to resist them. They teach, that chastity is only indi­vidual [Page 41] attachment; that no duty exists which is not prompted by feeling; that impulse is the main spring of virtuous actions, while laws and religion are only unjust restraints; the former imposed by arbitrary men, the latter by the absurd prejudices of timorous and unenlightened conscience. Alas! they do not know that the best creature of impulse that ever liv­ed is but a wayward, unfixed, unprincipled being! that the best natural man requires a curb; and needs that balance to the affections which Christianity alone can furnish, and without which benevolent pro­pensities are no security to virtue. And perhaps it is not too much to say, in spite of the monopoly of benevolence to which the new philosophy lays claim, that the human duties of the second table have never once been well performed by any of the rejectors of that previous portion of the Decalogue which enjoins duty to God.—In some of the most splendid of these characters compassion is erected into the throne of justice, and justice is degraded into the rank of ple­beian virtues. Creditors are defrauded, while the money due to them is lavished in dazzling acts of charity to some object that affects the senses; which fits of charity are made the sponge of every sin, and the substitute of every virtue: the whole indirectly tending to intimate how very benevolent people are who are not Christians. From many of these compositions, indeed, Christianity is systematically, and always vir­tually [Page 42] excluded; for the law, and the prophets, and the gospel can make no part of a scheme in which this world is looked upon as all in all; in which want and misery are considered as evils arising sole­ly from human governments, and not from the dis­pensations of God; in which poverty is represented as merely a political evil, and the restraints which tend to keep the poor honest, as the most flagrant injustice. The gospel can make no part of a system in which the chimerical project of consummate earth­ly happiness (founded on the pretence of loving the poor better than God loves them) would defeat the divine plan, which meant this world a scene of dis­cipline, not of remuneration. The gospel can have nothing to do with a system in which sin is reduced to a little human imperfection, and Old Bailey crimes are softened down into a few engaging weaknesses; and in which the turpitude of all the vices a man himself commits, is done away by his candour in to­lerating all the vices committed by others.

But the part of the system the most fatal to that class whom I am addressing is, that even in those works which do not go all the length of treating marriage as an unjust infringement on liberty, and a tyrannical deduction from general happiness; yet it commonly happens that the hero or heroine, who has practically violated the letter of the seventh com­mandment, and continues to live in the allowed vio­lation [Page 43] of its spirit, is painted as so amiable and so benevolent, so tender or so brave; and the tempta­tion is represented as so irresistible, (for all these phi­losophers are fatalists,) the predominant and cherish­ed sin is so filtered and purged of its pollutions, and is so sheltered and surrounded, and relieved with shining qualities, that the innocent and impressible young reader is brought to lose all horror of the awful crime in question, in the complacency she feels for the engaging virtues of the criminal.

But there is another object to which I would direct the exertion of that power of female influence of which I am speaking. Those ladies who take the lead in society are loudly called upon to act as the guardians of the public taste as well as of the pub­lic virtue. They are called upon therefore, to op­pose with the whole weight of their influence, the irruption of those swarms of publications now dai­ly issuing from the banks of the Danube, which, like their ravaging predecessors of the darker ages, though with far other arms, are overrunning civili­zed society. Those readers, whose purer taste has been formed on the correct models of the old classic school, see with indignation and astonishment the Huns and Vandals once more overpowering the Greeks and Romans. They behold our minds, with a retrograde but rapid motion, hurried back to the reign of "chaos and old night," by terrific and un­principled [Page 44] compositions, which unite the taste of the Goths with the morals of Bagshot*,

Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire!

and by wild and mis-shapen superstitions, in which, with that consistency which forms so striking a feature of the new philosophy, those who deny the immor­tality of the soul are most eager to introduce the ma­chinery of ghosts.

The writings of the French infidels were some years ago circulated in England with uncommon in­dustry and with some effect: [...] the plain sense and good principles of the far greater part of our coun­trymen resisted the attack, and rose superior to the trial. Of the doctrines and principles here alluded to, the dreadful consequences, not only in the un­happy country where they originated and were al­most universally adopted, but in every part of Eu­rope where they have been received, have been such as to serve as a beacon to surrounding nations, if any warning can preserve them from destruction. In this country the subject is now so well understood, that every thing that issues from the French press is received with jealousy; and a work, on the first [Page 45] appearance of its exhibiting the doctrines of Voltaire and his associates, is rejected with indignation.

But let us not on account of this victory re­pose in confident security. The modern apostles of infidelity and immorality, little less indefatigable in dispersing their pernicious doctrines than the first apostles were in propagating gospel truths, have indeed changed their weapons, but they have by no means desisted from the attack. To destroy the principles of Christianity in this island, appears at the present moment to be their grand aim. De­prived of the assistance of the French press, they are now attempting to attain their object under the close and more artificial veil of German literature. Conscious that religion and morals will stand or fall together, their attacks are sometimes levelled against the one and sometimes against the other. With strong occasional professions of general at­tachment to both of these, they endeavour to interest the feelings of the reader, sometimes in favour of some one particular vice, at other times on the sub­ject of some one objection to revealed religion. Po­etry as well as prose, romance as well as history, writings on philosophical as well as on political subjects, have thus been employed to instil the prin­ciples of Illuminatism, while incredible pains have been taken to obtain able translations of every book which was supposed likely to be of use in corrupt­ing [Page 46] the heart or misleading the understanding. In many of these translations, certain stronger passages, which, though well received in Germany, would have excited disgust in England, are wholly omitted, in order that the mind may be more certainly, though more slowly, prepared for the full effect of the same poison to be administered in a stronger de­gree at another period.

Let not those to whom these pages are addressed deceive themselves, by supposing this to be a fable; and let them inquire most seriously whether I speak truth, in asserting that the attacks of infidelity in Great Britain are at this moment principally directed against the female breast. Conscious of the influence of women in civil society, conscious of the effect which female infidelity produced in France, they at­tribute the ill success of their attempts in this coun­try, to their having been hitherto chiefly addressed to the male sex. They are now sedulously labour­ing to destroy the religious principles of women, and in too many instances have fatally succeeded. For this purpose not only novels and romances have been made the vehicles of vice and infidelity, but the same allurement has been held out to the wo­men of our country, which was employed by the first philosophist to the first sinner-Knowledge. Listen to the precepts of the new German enlighten­ers, and you need no longer remain in that situation [Page 47] in which Providence has placed you! Follow their examples, and you shall be permitted to indulge in all those gratifications which custom, not religion, has tolerated in the male sex!

Let us jealously watch every deepening shade in the change of manners; let us mark every step, however inconsiderable, whose tendency is down­wards. Corruption is neither stationary nor retro­grade; and to have departed from modesty, is al­ready to have made a progress. It is not only aw­fully true, that since the new principles have been afloat, women have been too eagerly inquisitive after these monstrous compositions; but it is true also that, with a new and offensive renunciation of their native delicacy, many women of character make little hesitation in avowing their familiarity with works abounding with principles, sentiments, and descrip­tions, "which should not be so much as named among them." By allowing their minds to come in contact with such contagious matter, they are ir­recoverably tainting them; and by acknowledging that they are actually conversant with such corrupti­ons, (with whatever reprobation of the author they may qualify their perusal of the book,) they are ex­citing in others a most mischievous curiosity for the same unhallowed gratification. Thus they are daily diminishing in the young and the timid those whole­some scruples, by which, when a tender conscience [Page 48] ceases to be intrenched, all the subsequent stages of ruin are gradually facilitated.

We have hitherto spoken only of the German writings; but because there are multitudes who sel­dom read, equal pains have been taken to promote the same object through the medium of the stage; and this weapon is, of all others, that against which it is, at the present moment, the most impor­tant to warn the more inconsiderate of my country­women.

As a specimen of the German drama, it may not be unseasonable to offer a few remarks on the admir­ed play of the Stranger. In this piece the character of an adultress, which, in all periods of the world, ancient as well as modern, in all countries, heathen as well as christian, has hitherto been held in detest­ation, and has never been introduced but to be re­probated, is for the first time presented to our view in the most pleasing and fascinating colours. The heroine is a woman who forsook a husband the most affectionate and the most amiable, and lived for some time in the most criminal commerce with her seduc­er. Repenting at length of her crime, she buries herself in retirement. The talents of the poet dur­ing the whole piece are exerted in attempting to ren­der this woman the object not only of the compassi­on and forgiveness, but of the esteem and affection, of the audience. The injured husband, convinced [Page 49] of his wife's repentance, forms a resolution, which every man of true feeling and christian piety will probably approve. He forgives her offence, and promises her through life his advice, protection, and fortune, together with every thing which can alleviate the misery of her situation, but refuses to replace her in the situation of his wife. But this is not sufficient for the German author. His efforts are employed, and it is to be feared but too success­fully, in making the audience consider the husband as an unrelenting savage, while they are led by the art of the poet anxiously to wish to see an adultress restored to that rank of women who have not violat­ed the most solemn covenant that can be made with man, nor disobeyed one of the most positive laws which has been enjoined by God.

About the same time that this first attempt at re­presenting an adultress in an exemplary light was made by a German dramatist, which forms an aera in manners; a direct vindication of adultery was for the first time attempted by a woman, a professed admirer and imitator of the German suicide Werter. The female Werter, as she is styled by her biogra­pher, asserts, in a work intitled "The Wrongs of Women," that adultery is justifiable, and that the restrictions placed on it by the laws of England constitute one of the Wrongs of Women.

[Page 50] And this leads me to dwell a little longer on this most destructive class in the whole wide range of mo­dern corruptors, who effect the most desperate work of the passions, without so much as pretending to urge their violence in extenuation of the guilt of indulging them. They solicit this very indulgence with a sort of cold-blooded speculation, and invite the reader to the most unbounded gratifications, with all the saturnine coolness of a geometrical calculation. Theirs is an iniquity rather of phlegm than of spirit: and in the pestilent atmosphere they raise about them, as in the infernal climate described by Milton,

The parching air*
Burns frore, and frost performs th' effect of fire.

This cool, calculating, intellectual wickedness eats out the very heart and core of virtue, and like a deadly mildew blights and shrivels the blooming promise of the human spring. Its benumbing touch communicates a torpid sluggishness, which paralyzes the soul. It descants on depravity, and details its grossest acts as frigidly as if its object were to allay the tumult of the passions, while it is letting them loose on mankind, by "plucking off the muzzle" of present restraint and future accountableness. The system is a dire infusion compounded of bold [Page 51] impiety, brutish sensuality, and exquisite folly, which creeping fatally about the heart checks the moral circulation, and totally stops the pulse of goodness by the extinction of the vital principle. Thus not only choking the stream of actual virtue, but drying up the very fountain of future remorse and remote repentance.

The ravages which some of the old offenders against purity made in the youthful heart, by the exercise of a fervid but licentious imagination on the passions, was like the mischief effected by floods, cataracts, and volcanos. The desolation indeed was terrible, and the ruin was tremendous: yet it was a ruin which did not infallibly preclude the possibility of recovery. The country, though deluged and devastated, was not utterly put beyond the power of restoration. The harvests indeed were destroyed, and all was wide sterility. But, though the crops were lost, the seeds of vegetation were not absolutely eradicated; so that, after a long and barren blank, fertility might finally return.

But the heart once infected with this newly medi­cated venom, subtil though sluggish in its operation, resembles what travellers relate of that blasted spot the dead-sea, where those devoted cities once stood which for their pollutions were burnt with fire from heaven. It continues a stagnant lake of putrefying waters. No wholesome blade ever more shoots up; [Page 52] the air is so tainted that no living thing subsists with­in its influence. Near the sulphureous pool the very principle of life is annihilated. All is death,

Death, unrepealable, eternal death!

But let us take comfort. These projects are not yet generally realised. These atrocious principles are not yet adopted into common practice. Though corruptions seem with a confluent tide to be pour­ing in upon us from every quarter, yet there is still left among us a discriminating judgment. Clear and strongly marked distinctions between right and wrong still subsist. While we continue to cherish this sanity of mind, the case is not desperate. Though that crime, the growth of which always ex­hibits the most irrefragable proof of the dissoluteness of public manners; though that crime, which cuts up order and virtue by the roots, and violates the sanctity of vows, is awfully increasing,

Till senates seem,
For purposes of empire less conven'd
Than to release the adult'ress from her bonds;

yet, thanks to the surviving efficacy of a holy reli­gion, to the operation of virtuous laws, and to the energy and unshaken integrity with which these laws are now administered; and most of all perhaps to a standard of morals which continues in force, when the principles which sanctioned it are no more; this crime, in the female sex at least, is still held in just [Page 53] abhorrence; if it be practised, it is not honourable; if it be committed, it is not justified; we do not yet affect to palliate its turpitude; as yet it hides its ab­horred head in lurking privacy; and reprobation hitherto follows its publicity.

But on YOUR exerting your influence, with just application and increasing energy, may in no small degree depend whether this corruption shall still con­tinue to be resisted. For, from admiring to adopt­ing, the step is short, and the progress rapid; and it is in the moral as in the natural world; the mo­tion, in the case of minds as well as of bodies, is accelerated as they approach the centre to which they are tending.

O ye to whom this address is particularly direct­ed! an awful charge is, in this instance, committed to your hands; as you discharge it or shrink from it, you promote or injure the honour of your daugh­ters and the happiness of your sons, of both which you are the depositaries. And, while you resolutely persevere in making a stand against the encroach­ments of this crime, suffer not your firmness to be shaken by that affectation of charity, which is grow­ing into a general substitute for principle. Abuse not so noble a quality as Christian candour, by mis­employing it in instances to which it does not apply. Pity the wretched woman you dare not countenance; and bless HIM who has "made you to differ." If [Page 54] unhappily she be your relation or friend, anxiously watch for the period when she shall be deserted by her betrayer; and see if, by your Christian offices, she can be snatched from a perpetuity of vice. But if, through the Divine blessing on your patient en­deavours, she should ever be awakened to remorse, be not anxious to restore the forlorn penitent to that society against whose laws she has so grievously of­fended; and remember, that her soliciting such a re­storation, furnishes but too plain a proof that she is not the penitent your partiality would believe; since penitence is more anxious to make its peace with Heaven than with the world. Joyfully would a truly contrite spirit commute an earthly for an ever­lasting reprobation! To restore a criminal to pub­lic society, is perhaps to tempt her to repeat her crime, or to deaden her repentance for having com­mitted it, as well as to injure that society; while to restore a strayed soul to God will add lustre to your Christian character, and brighten your eternal crown.

In the mean time, there are other evils, ultimate­ly perhaps tending to this, into which we are fal­ling, through that sort of fashionable candour which, as was hinted above, is among the mischievous cha­racteristics of the present day; of which period per­haps it is not the smallest evil, that vices are made to look so like virtues, and are so assimilated to [Page 55] them, that it requires watchfulness and judgment sufficiently to analyze and discriminate. There are certain women of good fashion who practise irregu­larities not consistent with the strictness of virtue; while their good sense and knowledge of the world make them at the same time keenly alive to the va­lue of reputation. They want to retain their indul­gences, without quite forfeiting their credit; but finding their fame fast declining, they artfully cling, by flattery and marked attentions, to a few persons of more than ordinary character; and thus, till they are driven to let go their hold, continue to prop a falling fame.

On the other hand, there are not wanting women of distinction, of very correct general conduct, and of no ordinary sense and virtue, who, confiding with a high mind on what they too confidently call the integrity of their own hearts; anxious to de­serve a good fame on the one hand, by a life free from reproach, yet secretly too desirous on the other of securing a worldly and fashionable reputation; while their general associates are persons of ho­nour, and their general resort places of safety; yet allow themselves to be occasionally present at the midnight orgies of revelry and gaming, in houses of no honourable estimation; and thus help to keep up characters, which, without their sustaining hand, would sink to their just level of contempt and repro­bation. [Page 56] While they are holding out this plank to a drowning reputation, rather, it is to be feared, shewing their own strength than assisting another's weakness, they value themselves, perhaps, on not partaking of the worst parts of the amusements which may be carrying on; but they sanction them by their presence; they lend their countenance to cor­ruptions they should abhor, and their example to the young and inexperienced, who are looking about for some such sanction to justify them in that which they were before inclined to, but were too timid to have ventured upon without the protection of such unsullied names. Thus these respectable characters, without looking to the general consequences of their indiscretion, are thoughtlessly employed in breaking down, as it were, the broad fence which should ever separate two very different sorts of society, and are becoming a kind of unnatural link between vice and virtue.

There is a gross deception which even persons of reputation practise on themselves. They loudly con­demn vice and irregularity as an abstract principle; nay, they stigmatize them in persons of an opposite party, or in those from whom they themselves have no prospect of personal advantage or amusement, and in whom therefore they have no particular interest to tolerate evil. But the same disorders are viewed without abhorrence when practised by those who in [Page 57] any way minister to their pleasures. Refined enter­tainments, luxurious decorations, select music, what­ever furnishes any delight rare and exquisite to the senses, these soften the severity of criticism; these palliate sins, varnish over the flaws of a broken character, and extort not pardon merely, but justi­fication, countenance, intimacy! The more respect­able will not, perhaps, go all the length of vindi­cating the disreputable vice, but they affect to disbe­lieve its existence in the individual instance; or, failing in this, they will bury its acknowledged tur­pitude in the seducing qualities of the agreeable de­linquent. Talents of every kind are considered as a commutation for a few vices, and such are made a passport to introduce into honourable society cha­racters whom their profligacy ought to exclude from it.

But the great object to which YOU who are, or may be mothers, are more especially called, is the education of your children. If we are responsible for the use of influence in the case of those over whom we have no immediate control, in the case of our children we are responsible for the exercise of acknowledged power: a power wide in its extent, indefinite in its effects, and inestimable in its import­ance. On YOU, depend in no small degree the prin­ciples of the whole rising generation. To your direc­tion the daughters are almost exclusively committed; and until a certain age, to you also is consigned the [Page 58] mighty privilege of forming the hearts and minds of your infant sons. By the blessing of God on the principles you shall, as far as it depends on you, in­fuse into both sons and daughters, they will hereafter "arise and call you blessed." And in the great day of general account, may every Christian mother be enabled through divine grace to say, with humble confidence, to her Maker and Redeemer, ‘Behold the children whom thou hast given me!’

Christianity, driven out from the rest of the world, has still, blessed be God! a "strong hold" in this country. And though it be the special duty of the appointed ‘watchman, now that he seeth the sword come upon the land, to blow the trum­pet and warn the people, which if he neglect to do, their blood shall be required of the watch­man's hand:* yet, in this sacred garrison, impreg­nable but by neglect, YOU too have an awful post, that of arming the minds of the rising generation ‘with the shield of faith, whereby they shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked;’ that of girding them with ‘that sword of the spirit which is the word of God.’ If you neglect this your bounden duty, you will have effectually contributed to expel Christianity from her last citadel. And, remember, that the dignity of the work to which you are called, is no less than that of preserving the ark of the Lord.

[Page 59]

CHAP. II.

On the education of women.—The prevailing system tends to establish the errors which it ought to correct.—Dangers arising from an excessive cultivation of the arts.

IT is far from being the object of this slight work to offer a regular plan of female education, a task which has been often more properly assumed by far abler writers; but it is intended rather to suggest a few remarks on the reigning mode, which, though it has had many panegyrists, appears to be defective, not only in a few particulars, but as a general system. There are indeed numberless honourable exceptions to an observation which will be thought severe; yet the author questions if it be not the natural and di­rect tendency of the prevailing and popular system, to excite and promote those very defects, which it ought to be the main end and object of Christian education to remove; whether, instead of directing this important engine to attack and destroy vanity, selfishness, and inconsideration, that triple alliance in league against female virtue; the combined powers [Page 60] of instruction are not sedulously confederated in con­firming their strength and establishing their empire?

If indeed the material substance, if the body and limbs, with the organs and senses, be really the more valuable objects of attention, then there is lit­tle room for animadversion and improvement. But if the immaterial and immortal mind; if the heart, "out of which are the issues of life," be the main concern; if the great business of education be to im­plant ideas, to communicate knowledge, to form a correct taste and a sound judgment, to resist evil propensities, and, above all, to seize the favourable season for infusing principles and confirming habits; if education be a school to fit us for life, and life be a school to fit us for eternity; if such, I repeat it, be the chief work and grand ends of education, it may then be worth inquiring how far these ends are likely to be effected by the prevailing system.

Is it not a fundamental error to consider children as innocent beings, whose little weaknesses may per­haps want some correction, rather than as beings who bring into the world a corrupt nature and evil dispositions, which it should be the great end of education to rectify? This appears to be such a foundation-truth, that if I were asked what quality is most important in an instructor of youth, I should not hesitate to reply, such a strong impression of the corruption of our nature, as should insure a disposition to [Page 61] counteract it: together with such a deep view and thorough knowledge of the human heart, as should be necessary for developing and controuling its most secret and complicated workings. And let us remember that to know the world, as it is called, that is, to know its local manners, temporary usages, and evanescent fashions, is not to know human nature: and where this prime knowledge is wanting, those natural evils which ought to be counteracted will be fostered.

Vanity, for instance, is reckoned among the light and venial errors of youth; nay, so far from being treated as a dangerous enemy, it is often called in as an auxiliary. At worst, it is considered as a harm­less weakness, which subtracts little from the value of a character; as a natural effervescence, which will subside of itself, when the first ferment of the youthful passions shall have done working. But those know little of the conformation of the hu­man, and especially of the female heart, who fan­cy that vanity is ever exhausted, by the mere opera­tion of time and events. Let those who maintain this opinion look into our places of public resort, and there behold if the ghost of departed beauty is not to its last flitting fond of haunting the scenes of its past pleasures; the soul, unwilling (if I may borrow an allusion from the Platonic mythology) to quit the spot in which the body enjoyed its former delights, still continues to hover about the same [Page 62] place, though the same pleasures are no longer to be found there. Disappointments indeed may divert vanity into a new direction; prudence may prevent it from breaking out into excesses, and age may prove that it is "vexation of spirit;" but neither disappointment, prudence, nor age can cure it; for they do not correct the principle. Nay, the very disappointment itself serves as a painful evidence of its protracted existence.

Since then there is a season when the youthful must cease to be young, and the beautiful to excite admiration; to grow old gracefully is perhaps one of the rarest and most valuable arts which can be taught to woman. It is for this sober season of life that education should lay up its rich resources. However disregarded they may hitherto have been, they will be wanted now. When admirers fall away, and flatterers become mute, the mind will be driven to retire into itself, and if it find no entertain­ment at home, it will be driven back again upon the world with increased force. Yet forgetting this, do we not seem to educate our daughters, exclusively, for the transient period of youth, when it is to ma­turer life we ought to advert? Do we not educate them for a crowd, forgetting that they are to live at home? for the world, and not for themselves? for show, and not for use? for time, and not for eter­nity?

[Page 63] Vanity (and the same may be said of selfishness) is not to be resisted like any other vice, which is sometimes busy and sometimes quiet; it is not to be attacked as a single fault, which is indulged in oppo­sition to a single virtue; but it is uniformly to be controlled, as an active, a restless, a growing princi­ple, at constant war with all the Christian graces; which not only mixes itself with all our faults, but insinuates itself into all our virtues too; and will, if not checked effectually, rob our best actions of their reward. Vanity, if I may use the analogy, is, with respect to the other vices, what feeling is in regard to the other senses; it is not confined in its operation to the eye, or the ear, or any single organ, but diffused through the whole being, alive in every part, awakened and communicated by the slightest touch.

Not a few of the evils of the present day arise from a new and perverted application of terms; among these, perhaps, there is not one more abus­ed, misunderstood, or misapplied, than the term accomplishments. This word in its original meaning, signifies completeness, perfection. But I may safely appeal to the observation of mankind, whether they do not meet with swarms of youthful females, issu­ing from our boarding schools, as well as emerging from the more private scenes of domestic education, who are introduced into the world, under the broad [Page 64] and universal title of accomplished young ladies, of all of whom it cannot very truly and correctly be pro­nounced, that they illustrate the definition by a com­pleteness which leaves nothing to be added, and a perfection which leaves nothing to be desired.

This phrenzy of accomplishments, unhappily, is no longer restricted within the usual limits of rank and fortune; the middle orders have caught the contagion, and it rages downward with increasing violence, from the elegantly dressed but slenderly portioned curate's daughter, to the equally fashiona­ble daughter of the little tradesman, and of the more opulent but not more judicious farmer. And is it not obvious, that as far as this epidemical mania has spread, this very valuable part of society is declining in usefulness, as it rises in its unlucky pretensions to elegance? And this revolution of the manners of the middle class has so far altered the character of the age, as to be in danger of rendering obsolete the heretofore common saying, ‘that most worth and virtue are to be found in the middle station.’ For I do not scruple to assert, that in general, as as far as my little observation has extended, this class of females, in what relates both to religious know­ledge and to practical industry, falls short both of the very high and the very low. Their new course of education, and the habits of life and elegance of dress connected with it, peculiarly unfits them for [Page 65] the active duties of their own very important condi­tion; while, with frivolous eagerness and second­hand opportunities, they run to snatch a few of those showy acquirements which decorate the great. This is done apparently with one or other of these views; either to make their fortune by marriage, or if that fail, to qualify them to become teachers of others: hence the abundant multiplication of super­ficial wives, and of incompetent and illiterate go­vernesses. The use of the pencil, the performance of exquisite but unnecessary works, the study of foreign languages and of music, require (with some exceptions which should always be made in favour of great natural genius) a degree of leisure which belongs exclusively to affluence.* One use of learn­ing languages is, not that we may know what the terms which express the articles of our dress and our table are called in French or Italian; not that we may think over a few ordinary phrases in English, and then translate them, without one foreign idiom; for he who cannot think in a language cannot be said to understand it: but the great use of acquiring any foreign language is, either that it enables us occasi­onally to converse with foreigners unacquainted with any other, or that it is a key to the literature of the [Page 66] country to which it belongs; and those humbler fe­males, the chief part of whose time is required for domestic offices, are little likely to fall in the way of foreigners; and so far from enjoying opportunities for the acquisition of foreign literature, they have seldom time to possess themselves of all that valuable knowledge which the books of their own country so abundantly furnish; and the acquisition of which would be so much more useful and honourable than the paltry accessions they make, by hammering out the meaning of a few passages in a tongue they but imperfectly understand, and of which they are like­ly to make no use.

It would be well if the reflection how eagerly this redundancy of accomplishments is seized on by their inferiors, were to operate as in the case of other absurd fashions, which the great can seldom be brought to renounce from any other consideration than that they are adopted by the vulgar.

But, to return to that more elevated, and, on ac­count of their more extended influence only, that more important class of females, to whose use this little work is more immediately dedicated. Some popular authors, on the subject of female instruc­tion, had for a time established a fantastic code of artificial manners. They had refined elegance into insipidity, frittered down delicacy into frivolousness, and reduced manner into minauderie. But ‘to lisp, [Page 67] and to amble, and to nick-name God's creatures,’ has nothing to do with true gentleness of mind; and to be silly makes no necessary part of softness. Another class of cotemporary authors turned all the force of their talents to excite emotions, to inspire sen­timent, and to reduce all mental and moral excel­lence into sympathy and feeling. These softer quali­ties were elevated at the expence of principle; and young women were incessantly hearing unqualified sensibility extolled as the perfection of their nature; till those who really possessed this amiable quality, instead of directing, and chastising, and restraining it, were in danger of fostering it to their hurt, and began to consider themselves as deriving their excel­lence from its excess; while those less interesting damsels, who happened not to find any of this ami­able sensibility in their hearts, but thought it credi­table to have it somewhere, fancied its seat was in the nerves; and here indeed it was easily found or feigned; till a false and excessive display of feeling became so predominant, as to bring in question the actual existence of that true tenderness, without which, though a woman may be worthy, she can never be amiable.

Fashion then, by one of her sudden and rapid turns, instantaneously struck out real sensibility and the affectation of it from the standing list of female perfections; and, by a quick touch of her magic [Page 68] wand, shifted the scene, and at once produced the bold and independent beauty, the intrepid female, the hoyden, the huntress, and the archer; the swing­ing arms, the confident address, the regimental, and the four-in-hand. These self-complacent heroines made us ready to regret their softer predecessors, who had aimed only at pleasing the other sex, while these aspiring fair ones struggled for the bolder re­nown of rivalling them; the project failed; for, whereas the former had sued for admiration, the lat­ter challenged, seized, compelled it; but the men, as was natural, continued to prefer the more modest claimant to the sturdy competitor.

It were well if we, who have the advantage of contemplating the errors of the two extremes, were to look for truth where she is commonly to be found, in the plain and obvious middle path, equal­ly remote from each excess; and, while we bear in mind that helplessness is not delicacy, let us also re­member that masculine manners do not necessarily in­clude strength of character nor vigour of intellect. Should we not reflect also, that we are neither to train up Amazons nor Circamans, but to form Chris­tians? that we have to educate not only rational but accountable beings? and, remembering this, should we not be solicitous to let our daughters learn of the well-taught, and associate with the well-bred? In training them, should we not carefully cultivate intel­lect, [Page 69] implant religion, and cherish modesty? then, whatever is delicate in manners, would be the natu­ral result of whatever is just in sentiment, and cor­rect in principle: then, the decorums, the proprie­ties, the elegancies, and even the graces, as far as they are simple, pure, and honest, would follow as an almost inevitable consequence; for to follow in the train of the Christian virtues, and not to take the lead of them, is the proper place which religion assigns to the graces.

Whether we have made the best use of the er­rors of our predecessors, and of our own numberless advantages, and whether the prevailing system be really consistent with sound policy or with Christian principle, it may be worth our while to inquire.

Would not a stranger be led to imagine by a view of the reigning mode of female education, that hu­man life consisted of one universal holiday, and that the grand contest between the several competitors was, who should be most eminently qualified to ex­cel, and carry off the prize, in the various shows and games which were intended to be exhibited in it? And to the exhibitors themselves, would be not be ready to apply Sir Francis Bacon's observation on the Olympian victors, that they were so excellent in these unnecessary things, that their perfection must needs have been acquired by the neglect of whatever was necessary?

[Page 70] What would the polished Addison, who thought that one great end of a lady's learning to dance was, that she might know how to sit still gracefully; what would even the Pagan historian* of the great Roman conspirator, who could commemorate it among the defects of his hero's accomplished mistress, ‘that she was too good a singer and dancer for a virtuous woman;’ what would these refined cri­tics have said, had they lived as we have done, to see the art of dancing lifted into such importance, that it cannot with any degree of safety be confided to one instructor, but a whole train of successive masters are considered as absolutely essential to its perfection? What would these accurate judges of female manners have said, to see a modest young la­dy first delivered into the hands of a military serjeant to instruct her in the feminine art of marching? and when this delicate acquisition is attained, to see her transferred to a professor, who is to teach her the Scotch steps; which professor, having communicated his indispensable portion of this indispensable art, makes way for the professor of French dances; and all perhaps, in their turn, either yield to or have the honour to co-operate with a finishing master; each probably receiving a stipend which would make the pious curate or the learned chaplain rich and happy?

[Page 71] The science of music, which used to be communi­cated in so competent a degree to a young lady by one able instructor, is now distributed among a whole band. She now requires, not a master, but an orchestra. And my country readers would ac­cuse me of exaggeration were I to hazard enumerat­ing the variety of musical teachers who attend in the same family; the daughters of which are summoned, by at least as many instruments as the subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, to worship the idol which fashion has set up. They would be incredulous were I to produce real instances, in which the delighted mo­ther has been heard to declare, that the visits of masters of every art, and the different masters for various gradations of the same art, followed each other in such close and rapid succession during the whole London residence, that her girls had not a moment's interval to look into a book; nor could she contrive any method to introduce one, till she hap­pily devised the scheme of reading to them herself for half an hour while they were drawing, by which means no time was lost.*

[Page 72] Before the evil is past redress, it will be prudent to reflect that in all polished countries an entire devotedness to the fine arts has been one grand source of the corruption of the women; and so justly were these pernicious consequences appreciated by the Greeks, among whom these arts were carried to the highest possible perfection, that they seldom al­lowed them to be cultivated to a very exquisite de­gree by women of great purity of character. And if the ambition of an elegant British lady should be fired by the idea that the accomplished females of those polished states were the admired companions of the philosophers, the poets, the wits, and the artists of Athens; and their beauty or talents the favourite subjects of the muse, the lyre, the pencil, and the chissel; so that their pictures and statues furnished the most consummate models of Grecian art: if, I say, the accomplished females of our days are pant­ing for similar renown, let their modesty chastise their ambition, by recollecting that these celebrated women are not to be found among the chaste wives and the [Page 73] virtuous daughters of the Aristides's, the Agis's, and the Phocions; but that they are to be looked for among the Phrynes, the Lais's, the Aspasias, and the Glyceras. I am persuaded the Christian female, whatever be her talents, will renounce the desire of any celebrity when attached to impurity of charac­ter, with the same noble indignation with which the virtuous biographer of the above-named heroes re­nounced all dishonest fame, by exclaiming, ‘I had rather it should be said there never was a Plutarch, than that they should say Plutarch was malignant, unjust, or envious.*

And while this corruption, brought on by an ex­cessive cultivation of the arts, has contributed its full share to the decline of states, it has always furnished an infallible symptom of their impending fall. The satires of the most penetrating and judici­ous of the Roman poets corroborating the testimo­nies of the most accurate of their historians, abound with invectives against the depravity of manners in­troduced by the corrupt habits of female education. The bitterness and gross indelicacy of some of these satirists (too gross to be either quoted or referred to) make little against their authority in these points; [Page 74] for how shocking must those corruptions have been, and how obviously offensive their causes, which could have appeared so highly disgusting to minds not like­ly to be scandalized by slight deviations from de­cency! The famous ode of Horace, attributing the vices and disasters of his country to the same cause, might, were it quite free from the above objections, be produced, I will not presume to say as an exact picture of the existing manners of this country; but may I not venture to say, as a prophecy, the fulfil­ment of which cannot be very remote? It may how­ever be observed, that the modesty of the Roman matron, and the chaste demeanor of her virgin daugh­ters, which amidst the stern virtues of the state were as immaculate and pure as the honour of the Roman citizen, fell a sacrifice to the luxurious dissipation brought in by their Asiatic conquests; after which the females were soon taught a complete change of character. They were instructed to accommodate their talents of pleasing to the more vitiated tastes of the other sex; and began to study every grace and every art which might captivate the exhausted hearts, and excite the wearied and capricious incli­nations of the men: till by a rapid and at length complete enervation, the Roman character lost its signature, and through a quick succession of slavery, effeminacy, and vice, sunk into that degeneracy of [Page 75] which some of the modern Italian states serve to furnish a too just specimen.

It is of the essence of human things that the same objects which are highly useful in their season, mea­sure, and degree, become mischievous in their excess, at other periods, and under other circumstances. In a state of barbarism, the arts are among the best re­formers; and they go on to be improved themselves, and improving those who cultivate them, till having reached a certain point, those very arts which were the instruments of civilization and refinement, be­come instruments of corruption and decay; enervat­ing and depraving in the second instance as certainly as they refined in the first. They become agents of voluptuousness. They excite the imagination; and the imagination thus excited, and no longer under the government of strict principle, becomes the most dangerous stimulant of the passions; promotes a too keen relish for pleasure, teaching how to multiply its sources, and inventing new and pernicious modes of artificial gratification.

May we not rank among their present corrupt con­sequences, the unchaste costume, the impure style of dress, and that indelicate statue-like exhibition of the female figure, which by its artfully-disposed folds, its wet and adhesive drapery, so defines the form as to prevent covering itself from becoming a veil? This licentious mode, as the acute Montesquieu ob­served [Page 76] on the dances of the Spartan virgins, has taught us "to strip chastity itself of modesty."

May the author be allowed to address to our own country and our own circumstances to both of which they seem peculiarly applicable, the spirit of that beautiful apostrophe of the most polished poet of antiquity to the most victorious nation? ‘Let us leave to the inhabitants of conquered countries the praise of carrying to the very highest degree of perfection, sculpture and the sister arts; but let this country direct her own exertions to the art of governing mankind in equity and peace, of shew­ing mercy to the submissive, and of abasing the proud among surrounding nations.*

[Page 77]

CHAP. III.

External improvement.—Children's Balls.—French Go­vernesses.

Let me not however be misunderstood. The customs which fashion has established, when not in direct opposition to what is right, should unques­tionably be pursued in the education of ladies. Piety maintains no natural war with elegance, and Chris­tianity would be no gainer by making her disciples unamiable. Religion does not forbid that the ex­terior be made to a certain degree the object of at­tention. But the admiration bestowed, the sums expended, and the time lavished on arts which add little to the intrinsic value of life, should have limita­tions. While these arts should be admired, let them not be admired above their just value: while they are practised, let it not be to the exclusion of higher employments: while they are cultivated, let it be to amuse leisure, but not to engross life.

But it happens unfortunately, that to ordinary ob­servers, the girl who is really receiving the worst education often makes the best figure. The outward [Page 78] accomplishments have the dangerous advantage of addressing themselves more immediately to the senses, and of course meet every where with those who can in some measure appreciate as well as admire them; for all can see and hear, but all cannot scrutinize and discriminate. External acquirements, too recommend themselves the more because they are more rapidly as well as more visibly progressive. While the mind is led on to improvement by slow motions and im­perceptible degrees; while the heart must now be admonished by reproof, and now allured by kind­ness; its liveliest advances being suddenly impeded by obstinacy, and its brightest prospects often ob­scured by passion; it is slow in its acquisitions of vir­tue, and reluctant in its approaches to piety. The unruly and turbulent propensities of the mind are not so obedient to the forming hand as defects of manner or awkwardness of gait. Often when we fancy that a troublesome passion is completely crush­ed, we have the mortification to find that we have "scotch'd" the snake, not killed it." One evil tem­per starts up before another is conquered. The subduing hand cannot cut off the ever-sprouting heads so fast as the prolific Hydra can re-produce them, nor fell the stubborn Antaeus so often as he can re­cruit his strength, and rise in vigorous and repeated opposition.

[Page 79] Hired teachers are also under a disadvantage re­sembling tenants at rack-rent; it is their interest to bring in an immediate revenue of praise and profit, and for the sake of a present rich crop, those who are not strictly conscientious, do not care how much the ground is impoverished for future produce. But parents, who are the lords of the soil, must look to permanent value, and to continued fruitfulness. The best effects of a careful education are often very re­mote; they are to be discovered in future scenes, and exhibited in as yet untried connections. Every event of life will be putting the heart into fresh situations, and making new demands on its prudence, its firm­ness, its integrity, or its forbearance. Those whose business it is to form and model it, cannot foresee those contingent situations specifically and distinctly; yet, as far as human wisdom will allow, they must enable it to prepare for them all by general princi­ples, correct habits, and an unremitted sense of de­pendence on the Great Disposer of events. The young Christian militant must learn and practise all his evolutions; though he does not know on what service his leader may command him, by what par­ticular foe he shall be most assailed, nor what mode of attack the enemy may employ.

But the contrary of all this is the case with ex­ternal acquisitions. The master, it is his interest, will industriously instruct his young pupil to set all [Page 80] her improvements in the most immediate and con­spicuous point of view. To attract admiration is the great principle sedulously inculcated into her young heart; and is considered as the fundamental maxim; and, perhaps, if we were required to con­dense the reigning system of the brilliant education of a lady into an aphorism, it might be comprised in this short sentence, To allure and to shine. This sys­tem however is the fruitful germ, from which a thou­sand yet unborn vanities, with all their multiplied ramifications will spring. A tender mother cannot but feel an honest triumph in completing those ta­lents in her daughter which will necessarily excite admiration; but she will also shudder at the vanity that admiration may excite, and at the new ideas it will awaken; and, startling as it may sound, the labours of a wise mother anxious for her daughter's best interests, will seem to be at variance with those of all her teachers. She will indeed rejoice at her progress, but she will rejoice with trembling; for she is fully aware that if all possible accomplishments could be bought at the price of a single virtue, of a single principle, the purchase would be infinitely dear, and she would reject the dazzling but destruc­tive acquisition. She knows that the superstructure of the accomplishments can be alone safely erected on the broad and solid basis of Christian humility: nay more, that as the materials of which that super­structure [Page 81] is to be composed, are in themselves of so unstable and tottering a nature, the foundation must be deepened and enlarged with more abundant care, otherwise the fabric will be overloaded with its own ornaments, and what was intended only to embellish the building, will prove the occasion of its fall.

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven,’ said the wise man; but he said it before the invention of baby-balls. This modern device is a sort of triple conspiracy against the innocence, the health, and the happiness of children; thus, by factitious amusements, to rob them of a relish for the simple joys, the unbought delights, which naturally belong to their blooming season, is like blotting out spring from the year. To sacrifice the true and proper enjoyments of sprightly and happy children, is to make them pay a dear and disproportionate price for their artificial pleasures. They step at once from the nursery to the ball-room; and, by a preposterous change of habits, are thinking of dressing themselves, at an age when they used to be dressing their dolls. In­stead of bounding with the unrestrained freedom of little wood nymphs, over hill and dale, their cheeks flushed with health, and their hearts overflowing with happiness, these gay little creatures are shut up all the morning, demurely practising the pas grave, and transacting the serious business of acquiring a [Page 82] new step for the evening, with more cost of time and pains than it would have taken them to acquire twenty new ideas.

Thus they lose the amusements which naturally be­long to their smiling period, and unnaturally antici­pate those pleasures (such as they are) which would come in, too much of course, on their introduction into fashionable life. The true pleasures of child­hood are cheap and natural; for every object teems with delight to eyes and hearts new to the enjoyment of life; nay, the hearts of healthy children abound with a general disposition to mirth and joyfulness, even without a specific object to excite it; like our first parent, in the world's first spring, when all was new, and fresh, and gay about him,

they live and move,
And feel that they are happier than they know.

Only furnish them with a few simple and harmless materials, and a little, but not too much, leisure, and they will manufacture their own pleasures with more skill, and success, and satisfaction, than they will receive from all that your money can purchase. Their bodily recreations should be such as will pro­mote their health, quicken their activity, enliven their spirits, what their ingenuity, and qualify them for their mental work. But if you begin thus early to create wants, to invent gratifications, to multiply desires, to waken dormant sensibilities, to [...] up [Page 83] hidden fires, you are studiously laying up for your children a store of premature caprice, and irritabili­ty, and discontent.

While childhood preserves its native simplicity, every little change is interesting, every gratification is a luxury; a ride or a walk will be a delightful amusement to a child in her natural state; but it will be dull and tasteless to a sophisticated little creature, nursed in these forced, and costly, and vapid plea­sures. Alas! that we should throw away this first grand opportunity of working into a practical habit the moral of this important truth, that the chief source of human discontent is to be looked for, not in our real but in our factitious wants; not in the demands of nature, but in the artificial cravings of desire!

When one sees the growing zeal to crowd the midnight ball with these pretty fairies, one would be almost tempted to fancy it was a kind of pious emulation among the mothers to cure their infants of a fondness for vain and foolish pleasures, by tiring them out by this premature familiarity with them; and that they were actuated by something of the same principle which led the Spartans to introduce their sons to scenes of riot, that they might conceive an early disgust at vice! or possibly, that they imitated those Scythian mothers who used to plunge their newborn infants into the flood, thinking none to be [Page 84] worth saving who could not stand this early struggle for their lives: the greater part indeed, as it might have been expected, perished; but the parents took comfort, that if many were lost, the few who escap­ed would be the stronger for having been thus ex­posed.

To behold lilliputian coquettes, projecting dresses, studying colours, assorting ribbands and feathers, their little hearts beating with hopes about partners and fears about rivals; and to see their fresh cheeks pale after the midnight supper, their aching heads and unbraced nerves, disqualifying the little languid beings for the next day's task; and to hear the grave apology, ‘that it is owing to the wine, the crowd, the heated room of the last night's ball;’ all this, I say, would really be as ludicrous, if the mischief of the thing did not take off from the merriment of it, as any of the ridiculous and preposterous dispro­portions in the diverting travels of Captain Lemuel Gulliver.

Under a just impression of the evils which we are sustaining from the principles and the practices of modern France, we are apt to lose sight of those deep and lasting mischiefs which so long, so regularly, and so systematically, we have been importing from the same country, though in another form and under another government. In one respect, indeed, the first were the more formidable, because we embrac­ed [Page 85] the ruin without suspecting it; while we defeat the malignity of the latter, by detecting the turpi­tude and defending ourselves against it. This is not the place to descant on that levity of manners, that contempt of the Sabbath, that fatal familiarity with loose principles, and those relaxed notions of conju­gal fidelity, which have often been transplanted into this country by women of fashion, as a too common effect of a long residence in that: but it is peculiarly suitable to my subject to advert to another domestic mischief derived from the same foreign extraction: I mean, the risks that have been run, and the sacri­fices which have been made, in order to furnish our young ladies with the means of acquiring the French language in the greatest possible purity. Perfection in this accomplishment has been so long established as the supreme object; so long considered as the pre­dominant excellence to which all other excellencies must bow down, that it would be hopeless to attack a law which fashion has immutably decreed, and which has received the stamp of long prescription. We must therefore be contented with expressing a wish, that this indispensable perfection could have been attained at the expence of sacrifices less import­ant. It is with the greater regret I animadvert on this and some other prevailing practices, as they are errors into which the wise and respectable have, through want of consideration, or rather through [Page 86] want of firmness to resist the tyranny of fashion, sometimes fallen. It has not been unusual when mothers of rank and reputation have been asked how they ventured to intrust their daughters to foreign­ers, of whose principles they knew nothing, except that they were Roman Catholics, to answer, ‘That they had taken care to be secure on that subject; for that it had been stipulated that the question of religion should never be agitated between the teacher and the pupil. This, it must be confessed, is a most desperate remedy; it is like starving to death, to avoid being poisoned. And one cannot help trem­bling for the event of that education, from which re­ligion, as far as the governess is concerned, is thus formally and systematically excluded. Surely it would not be exacting too much to suggest at least that an attention no less scrupulous should be exert­ed to insure the character of our children's instruc­tor, for piety and knowledge, than is thought neces­sary to ascertain that she has nothing patois in her dialect.

I would rate a correct pronunciation and an ele­gant phraseology at their just price, and I would not rate them low; but I would not offer up principle as a victim to sounds and accents. And the matter is now made more easy; for whatever disgrace it might once have brought on an English lady to have had it suspected from her accent that she had the misfor­tune [Page 87] not to be born in a neighbouring country; some recent events may serve to reconcile her to the suspicion of having been bred in her own: a coun­try, to which (with all its sins, which are many!) the whole world is looking up with envy and admi­ration, as the seat of true glory and of comparative happiness; a country, in which the exile, driven out by the crimes of his own, finds a home! a coun­try, to obtain the protection of which it was claim enough to be unfortunate; and no impediment to have been the subject of her direst foe! a country, which in this respect, humbly imitating the Father of compassion, when it offered mercy to a suppliant enemy, never conditioned for merit, nor insisted on the virtues of the miserable as a preliminary to its own bounty!

[Page 88]

CHAP. IV.

Comparison of the mode of female education in the last age with the present.

To return, however, to the subject of general edu­cation. A young lady may excel in speaking French and Italian, may repeat a few passages from a volume of extracts; play like a professor, and sing like a sy­ren; have her dressing room decorated with her own drawings, tables, stands, screens, and cabinets; nay, she may dance like Sempronia* herself, and yet may have been very badly educated. I am far from meaning to set no value whatever on any or all of these qualifications; they are all of them elegant, and many of them properly tend to the perfecting of a polite education. These things in their measure and degree, may be done, but there are others which should not be left undone. Many things are becom­ing, but "one thing is needful." Besides, as the world seems to be fully apprized of the value of whatever tends to embellish life, there is less occa­sion here to insist on its importance.

[Page 89] But, though a well-bred young lady may lawfully learn most of the fashionable arts, yet it does not seem to be the true end of education to make women of fashion dancers, singers, players, painters, actresses, sculptors, gilders, varnishers, engravers, and embroi­derers. Most men are commonly destined to some profession, and their minds are consequently turned each to its respective object. Would it not be strange if they were called out to exercise their profession, or to set up their trade, with only a little general knowledge of the trades of all other men, and with­out any previous definite application to their own peculiar calling? The profession of ladies, to which the bent of their instruction should be turned, is that of daughters, wives, mothers, and mistresses of families. They should be therefore trained with a view to these several conditions, and be furnished with a stock of ideas, and principles, and qualifica­tions, and habits, ready to be applied and appropri­ated, as occasion may demand, to each of these re­spective situations: for though the arts which merely embellish life must claim admiration; yet when a man of sense comes to marry, it is a companion whom he wants, and not an artist. It is not merely a creature who can paint, and play, and dress, and dance; it is a being who can comfort and counsel him; one who can reason, and reflect, and feel, and judge, and act, and discourse, and discriminate; one [Page 90] who can assist him in his affairs, lighten his cares, soothed his sorrows, purify his joys, strengthen his principles, and educate his children.

Almost any ornamental talent is a good thing, when it is not the best thing a woman has; and talents are admirable when not made to stand proxy for virtues. The writer of these pages is intimately acquainted with several ladies who, excelling most of their sex in the art of music, but excelling them also in prudence and piety, find little leisure or temp­tation, amidst the delights and duties of a large and lovely family, for the exercise of this talent, and re­gret that so much of their own youth was wasted in acquiring an art which can be turned to so little ac­count in married life; and are now conscientiously restricting their daughters in the portion of time al­lotted to its acquisition.

Far be it from me to discourage the cultivation of any existing talent; but may it not be suggested to the fond believing mother, that talents, like the spirit of Owen Glendower, though conjured by parental partiality with ever so loud a voice,

Yet will not come when you do call for them?

That injudicious practice, therefore, cannot be too much discouraged, of endeavouring to create talents which do not exist in nature. That their daughters shall learn every thing, is so general a maternal maxim, that even unborn daughters, of whose ex­pected [Page 91] abilities and conjectured faculties, it is pre­sumed, no very accurate judgment can previously be formed, are yet predestined to this universality of accomplishments. This comprehensive maxim▪ [...] almost universally brought into practice, at once weakens the general powers of the mind, by draw­ing off its strength into too great a variety of direc­tions; and cuts up time into too many portions, by splitting it into such an endless multiplicity of em­ployments. I know that I am treading on tender ground; but I cannot help thinking that the restless pains we take to cram up every little vacuity of life, by crowding one new thing upon another, rather creates a thirst for novelty than knowledge; and is but a well-disguised contrivance to keep us in after­life more effectually from conversing with ourselves. The care taken to prevent ennui [...] but a creditable plan for promoting self-ignorance. We run from one occupation to another (I speak of those arts to which little intellect is applied) with a view to lighten the pressure of time; above all, we fly to them to save us from our own thoughts; whereas were we thrown a little more on our own hands, we might at last be driven, by way of something to do, to try to get acquainted with our own hearts; and though our being less absorbed by this busy trifling, which dignifies its inanity with the imposing name of occu­pation, might render us somewhat more sensible of [Page 92] the tedium of life; might not this very sensation tend to quicken our pursuit of a better? For an awful thought here suggests itself. If life be so long that we are driven to set at work every engine to pass away the tediousness of time; how shall we do to get rid of the tediousness of eternity? an eternity in which not one of the acquisitions which life has been exhausted in acquiring, will be of the least use? Let not then the soul be starved by feeding it on these empty husks, for it can be no more nourished by them than the body can be fed with ideas and prin­ciples.

Among the boasted improvements of the present age, none affords more frequent matter of peculiar exultation, than the manifest superiority in the employments of the young ladies of our time over those of the good housewives of the last century. They glory that they are at present employed in learn­ing the polite arts, or in acquiring liberal accomplish­ments; while the others wore out their joyless days in adorning the mansion-house with hangings of hide­ous tapestry and disfiguring tent-stitch. Most cheer­fully do I allow to the reigning modes their boasted superiority; for certainly there is [...] piety in bad taste. Still, granting all the deformity of the ex­ploded ornaments, one advantage attended them: the walls and floors were not vain of their decorati­ons; and it is to be feared, that the little person [Page 93] sometimes is. The flattery bestowed on the obsolete employments, for probably even they had their flat­terers, furnished less aliment and less gratification to vanity, and was less likely to impair the delicacy of modesty, than the exquisite cultivation of personal accomplishments or personal decorations; and every mode which keeps down vanity and keeps back self, has at least a moral use. And while one admires the elegant fingers of a young lady, busied in work­ing or painting her ball dress, one cannot help sus­pecting that her alacrity may be a little stimulated by the animating idea how very well she shall look in it. Nor was the industrious matron of Ithaca more soothed at her solitary loom with the sweet reflection that by her labour she was gratifying her filial and conjugal feelings*, than the pleasure-loving damsel, by the anticipated admiration which her ingenuity is procuring for her beauty.

Might not this propensity be a little checked, and an interesting feeling combined with her industry, were the fair artist habituated to exercise her skill in adorning some one else rather than herself? For it will add no lightness to the lightest head, nor vanity to the vainest heart, to take pleasure in reflecting how exceedingly the gown she is working will become [Page 94] her mother. This suggestion, trifling as it may seem, of habituating young ladies to exercise their taste and devote their leisure, not to the decoration of their own persons, but to the service of those to whom they are bound by every tender tie, would not only help to repress vanity, but by thus associat­ing the idea of industry with that of filial affection, would promote, while it gratified, some of the best affections of the heart. The Romans (and it is mor­tifying on the subject of Christian education to be driven so often to refer to the superiority of Pagans) were so well aware of the importance of keeping up a sense of family fondness and attachment by the very same means which promoted simple and domestic employment, that no citizen of note ever appeared in public in any garb but what was spun by his wife and daughter; and this virtuous fashion was not con­fined to the days of republican severity, but even in all the pomp and luxury of imperial power, Augustus preserved in his own family this simplicity of man­ners.

Let me be allowed to repeat, that I mean not with preposterous praise to descant on the ignorance or the prejudices of past times, nor absurdly to regret that vulgar system of education which rounded the little circle of female acquirements within the limits of the sampler and the receipt book. Yet if a preference almost exclusive was then given to what was merely [Page 95] useful, a preference almost exclusive also is now as­signed to what is merely ornamental. And it must be owned, that if the life of a young lady, formerly, too much resembled the life of a confectioner, it now too much resembles that of an actress; the morning is all rehearsal, and the evening is all performance: and those who are trained in this regular routine, who are instructed in order to be exhibited, soon learn to feel [...] of impatience in those societies in which their kind of talents are not likely to be brought into play: the task of an auditor becomes dull to her who has been used to be a performer. Esteem and kindness become but cold substitutes to her who has been fed with plaudits and acclamati­ons. And the excessive commendation which the visitor is expected to pay for his entertainment not only keeps alive the flame of vanity in the artist by constant fuel, but is not seldom exacted at a price which a veracity at all strict would grudge; but when a whole circle are obliged to be competitors who shall flatter most, it is not easy to be at once very sincere and very civil. And unluckily, while the age is become so knowing and so fastidious, that if a young lady does not play like a public perform­er, no one thinks her worth attending to; yet if she does so excel, some of the soberest of the admiring circle feel a strong alloy to their pleasure, on reflect­ing [Page 96] at what a vast expence of time this perfection must probably have been acquired*.

May I venture, without being accused of pedantry, to conclude this chapter with another reference to Pagan examples? The Hebrews, Egyptians, and Greeks, believed that they could more effectually teach their youth maxims of virtue, by calling in the aid of music and poetry; these maxims, therefore, they put into verses, and these again were set to the most popular and simple tunes, which the chil­dren sang; thus was their love of goodness excited by the very instruments of their pleasure; and [...] senses, the taste, and the imagination, as it were, pressed into the service of religion and morals. Dare I appeal to Christian parents, if these arts are commonly used by them, as subsidiary to religion and to a system of morals much more worthy of every ingenious aid and association, which might tend to recommend them to the youthful mind? Dare I appeal to Christian parents, whether music, [Page 97] which fills up no trifling portion of their daugh­ters' time, does not fill it without any moral end, or even specific object? Nay, whether some of the fa­vourite songs of polished societies are not amatory, are not Anacreontic, more than quite become the modest lips of innocent youth and delicate beauty?

[Page 98]

CHAP. V.

On the religious employment of time.—On the manner in which holidays are passed.—Selfishness and inconsidera­tion considered.—Dangers arising from the world.

THERE are many well-disposed parents who, while they attend to these fashionable acquirements, do not neglect to infuse religious knowledge into the minds of their daughters; and having done this are but too apt to conclude that they have fully acquitted them­selves of the important duties of education. For having, as they think, sufficiently grounded them in religion they do not scruple to allow their daugh­ters to spend almost the whole of their time exactly like the daughters of worldly people. Now, though it be one great point gained, to have imbued their young minds with the best knowledge, the work is not therefore accomplished. "What do ye more than others?" is a question which, in a more ex­tended sense, religious parents must be prepared to answer.

Such parents should go on to teach children the religious use of time, the duty of consecrating to [Page 99] God every talent, every faculty, every possession, and of devoting their whole lives to his glory.

They should be more peculiarly on their guard against a spirit of idleness, and a slovenly habitual wasting of time, because this practice, by not assum­ing a palpable shape of guilt, carries little alarm to the conscience. Even religious characters are in dan­ger on this side; for not allowing themselves to fol­low the world in its excesses and diversions, they have consequently more time upon their hands; and instead of dedicating the time so rescued to its true purposes, they sometimes make as it were compensa­tion to themselves for their abstinence from danger­ous places of public resort, by an habitual frivolousness at home; by a superabundance of unprofitable small-talk, idle reading, and a quiet and dull fritter­ing away of time. Their day perhaps has been more free from actual evil; but it will often be found to have been as unproductive as that of more world­ly characters; and they will be found to have trad­ed to as little purpose with their master's talents. But a Christian must take care to keep his conscience peculiarly alive to the unapparent, though formida­ble, perils of unprofitableness.

To these, and to all, the author would earnestly recommend to accustom their children to pass at once from serious business to active and animated recreation; they should carefully preserve them from [Page 100] those long and torpid intervals between both, that languid indolence and spiritless trifling, which wears out such large portions of life in both young and old. It has indeed passed into an aphorism, that activity is necessary to virtue, even among those who are not apprized that it is also indispensable to happi­ness. So far are many parents from being sensible of this truth, that vacations from school are not merely allowed, but appointed to pass away in wea­risome sauntering and indeterminate idleness; and this by way of converting the holidays into pleasure! Nay, the idleness is specifically made over to the child's mind, as the strongest expression of the fond­ness of the parent! A dislike to learning is thus sys­tematically excited by preposterously erecting indo­lence into a reward for application! And the pro­mise of doing nothing is held out as the best recom­pence for having done well!

These and such like errors of conduct arise from the latent but very operative principle of selfishness. This principle is obviously promoted by many habits and practices seemingly of little importance; and in­deed selfishness is so commonly interwoven with va­nity and inconsideration, that I have not always thought it necessary to mark the distinction. They are alternately cause and effect; and are produced and re-produced by reciprocal operation. They are a confederacy who are mutually promoting each [Page 101] other's strength and interest. Ill-judging tenderness is in fact only a concealed self-love, which cannot bear to be witness to the uneasiness which a present disappointment, or difficulty, or vexation, would cause to a darling child, yet does not scruple by impro­per gratification to store up for it future miseries, which the child will infallibly suffer, though it may be at a distant period which the mother will be saved the pain of beholding.

Another principle something different from this, though it may properly fall under the head of self­ishness, seems to actuate some parents in their con­duct towards their children: I mean, a certain sloth­fulness of mind, a love of ease, which imposes a voluntary blindness, and makes them not choose to see what will give them trouble to combat. From such persons we frequently hear such expressions as these: "Children will be children:"—"My chil­dren I suppose are much like those of other peo­ple," &c. Thus we may observe this dangerous and delusive principle frequently turning off with a smile from the first indications of those tempers, which from their fatal tendency ought to be very seriously taken up. I would be understood now as speaking to conscientious parents, who consider it as a duty to correct the faults of their children, but who, from this indolence of mind, are extreme­ly backward in discovering such faults, and not very [Page 102] well pleased when they are pointed out by others. Such parents will do well to take notice that what­ever they consider it as a duty to correct, must be equally a duty to endeavour to find out. And this love of ease is the more to be guarded against, as it not only leads parents into erroneous conduct to­wards their children, but is peculiarly dangerous to themselves. It is a fault frequently cherished from ignorance of its real character; for, not bear­ing on it the strong features of deformity which mark many other vices, but on the contrary bear­ing some resemblance to virtue, it is frequently mis­taken for the Christian graces of patience, meek­ness, and forbearance, than which nothing can be more opposite; these proceeding from the Christian principle of self-denial, the other from self-indul­gence.

In this connection may I be permitted to remark on the practice at the tables of many families, when the children are at home for the holidays; every delicacy is forced upon them, with the tempting re­mark, "that they cannot have this or that dainty at school;" and they are indulged in irregular hours for the same motive, "because they cannot have that indulgence at school." Thus the natural seeds of idleness, sensuality, and sloth, are at once che­rished, by converting the periodical visit at home into a season of intemperance, late hours, and exemption [Page 103] from study; so that children are habituated, at an age when lasting associations are formed in the mind, to connect the idea of study with that of hardship, of happiness with gluttony, and of pleasure with loitering, feasting, or sleeping. Would it not be better to make them combine the delightful idea of home, with the gratification of the social affections, the fondness of maternal love, the kindness and warmth and confidence of the sweet domestic attach­ments,

—And all the charities
Of father, son, and brother?

I will venture to say, that those listless and vacant days, when the thoughts have no precise object; when the imagination has nothing to shape; when industry has no definite pursuit; when the mind and the body have no exercise, and the ingenuity no ac­quisition either to anticipate or to enjoy, are the longest, the dullest, and the least happy, which children of spirit and genius ever pass. Yes! it is a few short but keen and lively intervals of animated pleasure, snatched from between the successive labours and duties of a busy day, looked forward to with hope, enjoyed with taste, and recollected without remorse, which, both to men and to children, yield the truest portions of enjoyment. O snatch your offspring from adding to the number of those objects of supreme commiseration, who seek their happiness [Page 104] in doing nothing! Life is but a short day; but it is a working day. Activity may lead to evil; but in­activity cannot be led to good.

Young ladies should also be accustomed to set apart a fixed portion of their time, as sacred to the poor,* whether in relieving, instructing, or working for them; and the performance of this duty must not be left to the event of contingent circumstances, or the operation of accidental impressions; but it must be established into a principle, and wrought in­to a habit. A specific portion of time must be al­lotted to it, on which no common engagement must be allowed to entrench. This will help to furnish a powerful remedy for that selfishness whose strong holds, the truth cannot be too often repeated, it is the grand business of Christian education perpetually to attack. If we were but aware how much better [Page 105] it makes ourselves to wish to see others better, and to assist in making them so, we should find that the good done would be of as much importance by the habit it would induce in our own minds, as by its beneficial effects on others.*

In what relates to pecuniary bounty, it will be requiring of children a very small sacrifice, if you teach them merely to give that money to the poor which properly belongs to the parent; this sort of charity commonly subtracts little from their own pleasures, especially when what they have bestowed is immediately made up to them, as a reward for their little fit of generosity. They will, on this plan, soon learn to give, not only for praise but for profit. The sacrifice of an orange to a little girl, or a feather to a great one, given at the expence of their own gratification, would be a better lesson of charity on its right ground, than a considerable sum of money to be presently replaced by the parent. And it would be habituating them early to combine two ideas which ought never to be separated, chari­ty and self-denial.

[Page 106] As an antidote to selfishness, as well as pride and indolence, they should also very early be taught to perform all the little offices in their power for them­selves; not to be insolently calling for servants where there is no real occasion; above all, they should be accustomed to consider the domestics' hours of meals and rest as almost sacred, and the golden rule should be practically and uniformly enforced, even on so trifling an occasion as ringing a bell through mere wantonness, or self-love, or pride.

To check the growth of inconsiderateness, young ladies should early be taught to discharge their little debts with punctuality. They should be made sensi­ble of the cruelty of obliging trades-people to call often for the money due to them; and of hindering and detaining those whose time is the source of their subsistence, under pretence of some frivolous engage­ment, which ought to be made to bend to the com­fort and advantage of others. They should conscien­tiously allow sufficient time for the execution of their orders; and with a Christian circumspection, be careful not to drive work-people, by needless hurry, into losing their rest, or breaking the Sabbath. I have known a lady give her gown to a mantua-maker on the Saturday night, to whom she would not for the world say in so many words, "You must work through the whole of Sunday," while she was virtually compelling her to do so, by an injunction [Page 107] to bring the gown home finished on the Monday morning, on pain of her displeasure. To these hard­ships numbers are continually driven by good-natured but inconsiderate employers. As these petty exac­tions of inconsideration furnish also a constant aliment to selfishness, let not a desire to counteract them be considered as leading to too minute details; nothing is too frivolous for animadversion, which tends to fix a bad habit in the superior, or to would the feel­ings of the dependant.

Would it not be turning those political doctrines, which are now so warmly agitating, to a truly moral account, and give the best practical answer to the popular declamations on the inequality of human con­ditions, were the rich carefully to instruct their chil­dren to soften that inevitable inequality by the mild­ness and tenderness of their behaviour to their infe­riors? This dispensation of God, which excites so many murmurs, would, were it thus practically im­proved, tend to establish the glory of that Being who is now so often reviled for his injustice; for God himself is covertly attacked in many of the invec­tives against laws and governments, and the dispro­portion of ranks.

This dispensation, thus properly improved, would at once call into exercise the generosity, kindness, and forbearance of the superior; and the patience, resignation, and gratitude of the inferior: and thus, [Page 108] while we were vindicating the ways of Providence, we should be accomplishing his plan, by bringing into action those virtues of both classes which would have had little exercise had there been no in­equality in fortune. Those who are so zealously contending for the privileges of rank and power, should never lose sight of the religious duties and considerate virtues which the possession of these im­poses on themselves; duties and virtues which should ever be inseparable from those privileges. As the inferior classes have little real right to complain of laws, in this respect let the great be watchful to give them as little cause to complain of manners; by care­fully training up their children to supply by individu­al kindness those cases of hardship which laws cannot reach: by such means every lesson of politics may be converted into a lesson of piety; and a spirit of condescending love might win over some, whom a spirit of invective will only inflame.

It can never be too often repeated, that one of the great objects of education is the forming of habits. Among the instances of negligence into which even religiously disposed parents and teachers are apt to fall, one is, that they are not sufficiently attentive in finding interesting employment for the Sunday. They do not make a scruple of sometimes allowing their children to fill up the intervals of public worship with their ordinary employments and [Page 109] common school exercises. They are not aware that they are thus training their offspring to an early and a systematic profanation of the Sabbath by this ha­bit; for to children, their tasks are their business; to them a French or Latin exercise is as serious an occupation as the exercise of a trade or profession is to a man; and if they are allowed to think the one right now, they will not be brought hereafter to think that the other is wrong; for the opinions and prac­tices fixed at this early season are not easily altered. By this oversight even the friends of religion may be contributing eventually to that abolition of the Sab­bath, so devoutedly wished by its enemies, as the desired preliminary to the destruction of whatever is most dear to Christians. What obstruction would it offer to the general progress of youth, if all their Sunday exercises (which, with reading, composing, transcribing, and getting by heart, might be extended to an entertaining variety) were ad­apted to the peculiar nature of the day? It is not meant to impose on them such rigorous study as shall convert the day they should be taught to love into a day of burdens and hardships, or to abridge their innocent enjoyments; but it is intended merely to suggest that there should be a marked distinction in the nature of their employments and studies; for on the observance or neglect of this, as was before observed, their future notions and principles will in [Page 110] a good degree be formed. The gospel, in rescuing the Lord's day from the rigorous bondage of the Jewish Sabbath, never lessened the obligation to keep it holy, nor meant to sanction any secular occupa­tion.

Though the author, chiefly writing with a view to domestic instruction, has purposely avoided en­tering on the disputed question, whether a school or home education be best; a question which perhaps must generally be decided by the state of the indivi­dual home, and the state of the individual school; yet she begs leave to suggest one remark, which pe­culiarly belongs to a school education; namely, the general habit of converting the Sunday into a visiting day by way of gaining time; as if the appropriate instructions of the Sunday were the cheapest sacrifice which could be made to pleasure. Even in those schools, in which religion is considered as an indis­pensable part of instruction, this kind of instruction is almost exclusively limited to Sundays: how then are girls ever to make any progress in this most im­portant article, if they are habituated to lose the re­ligious advantages of the school, for the sake of hav­ing more dainties for dinner abroad? This remark cannot be supposed to apply to the visits which chil­dren make to religious parents, and indeed it only applies to those cases where the school is a conscien­tious school, and the visit a trifling visit.

[Page 111] Among other subjects which engross a good share of worldly conversation, one of the most attracting is beauty. Many ladies have often a random way of talking rapturously on the general importance of beauty, who are yet prudent enough to be very un­willing to let their own daughters find out they are handsome. Perhaps the contrary course might be safer. If the little listener were not constantly hear­ing that beauty is the best gift, she would not be so vain from fancying herself to be the best gifted. Be less solicitous, therefore, to conceal from her a secret which with all your watchfulness she will be sure to find out, without your telling; but rather seek to lower the general value of beauty in her estimation. Use your daughter in all things to a different stand­ard from that of the world. It is not by vulgar people and servants only that she will be told of her being pretty. She will be hearing it not only from gay ladies, but from grave men; she will be hear­ing it from the whole world around her. The an­tidote to the present danger is not now to be search­ed for; it must be already operating; it must have been provided for in the foundation laid in the gene­ral principle she had been imbibing, before this par­ticular temptation of beauty came in question. And this general principle is an habitual indifference to flattery. She must have learnt not to be intoxicated by the praise of the world. She must have learnt to [Page 112] estimate things by their intrinsic worth, rather than by the world's estimation. Speak to her with parti­cular kindness and commendation of plain but amia­ble girls; mention with compassion such as are hand­some but ill-educated; speak casually of some who were once thought pretty, but have ceased to be good; make use of the shortness and uncertainty of beauty, as strong additional reasons for making that which is little valuable in itself, still less valuable. As it is a new idea which is always dangerous, you may thus break the force of this danger by allow­ing her an early introduction to this inevitable know­ledge, which would become more interesting, and of course more perilous by every additional year: and if you can guard against that fatal error of letting her see that she is more loved on account of her beauty, her familiarity with the idea may be less than its novelty afterwards would prove.

But the great and constant danger to which young persons in the higher walks of life are exposed, is the prevailing turn and spirit of general conversa­tion. Even the children of better families, who are well instructed when at their studies, are yet at other times continually beholding the WORLD set up in the highest and most advantageous point of view. Seeing the world! knowing the world! standing well with the world! making a figure in the world! is spoken of as including the whole sum and substance of hu­man [Page 113] advantages. They hear their education almost exclusively alluded to with reference to the figure it will enable them to make in the world. In almost all companies, they hear all that the world admires spoken of with admiration; rank flattered, fame co­veted, power sought, beauty idolized, money con­sidered as the one thing needful, and as the atoning substitute for the want of all other things; profit held up as the reward of virtue, and worldly estima­tion as the just and highest prize of lawful ambition; and after the very spirit of the world has been thus habitually infused into them all the week, one cannot expect much effect from their being coldly told now and then on Sundays, that they must not "love the world, nor the things of the world." To tell them once in seven days that it is a sin to gratify an appetite which you have been whetting and stimulat­ing the preceding six, is to require from them a pow­er of self-control, which our knowledge of the im­petuosity of the passions, especially in early age, should have taught us is impossible.

This is not the place to animadvert on the usual misapplication of the phrase, "knowing the world;" which term is commonly applied, in the way of pane­gyric, to keen, designing, selfish, ambitious men, who study mankind in order to turn it to their own ac­count. But in the true sense of the expression, the sense which Christian parents would wish to impress [Page 114] on their children, to know the world, is to know its emptiness, its vanity, its futility, and its wickedness. To know it, is to despise it; and in this view, an ob­scure Christian in a village may be said to know it better than a hoary courtier or wily politician; for how can they be said to know it, who go on to love it, to value it, to be led captive by its allurements, to give their soul in exchange for its lying promises?

But while so false an estimate is often made in fashionable society of the real value of things; that is, while Christianity does not furnish the standard, and human opinion does; while the multiplying our desires is considered as a symptom of elegance, though to subdue them is made the grand criterion of religi­on; while moderation is beheld as indicating a poor­ness of spirit, though to that very poverty of spirit the highest promise of the Gospel is assigned; while worldly wisdom is enjoined by worldly friends, in contradiction to that assertion, "that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God;" while the praise of man is to be sought in opposition to that assurance, that "the fear of man worketh a snare:" while these things are so, and that they are so in a good degree who will deny? may we not venture to affirm that a Christian education, though not an impossible, is yet a very difficult work?

[Page 115]

CHAP. VI.

Filial obedience not the character of the age.—A compa­rison with the preceding age in this respect.—Those who cultivate the mind advised to study the nature of the soil.—Unpromising children often make strong cha­racters.—Teachers too apt to devote their pains almost exclusively to children of parts.

AMONG the real improvements of modern times, and they are not a few, it is to be feared that the growth of filial obedience cannot be included. Who can forbear observing and regretting in a variety of instances, that not only sons but daughters have adopted something of that spirit of independence, and disdain of control, which characterise the times? And is it not obvious that domestic manners are not slightly tinctured with the hue of public principles? The rights of man have been discussed, till we are somewhat wearied with the discussion. To these have been opposed, with more presumption than prudence, the rights of woman. It follows, according to the natural progression of human things, that the next stage of that irradiation which our enlighteners are [Page 116] pouring in upon us will produce grave descants on the rights of children.

This revolutionary spirit in families suggests the remark, that among the faults with which it has been too much the fashion of recent times to load the memory of the incomparable Milton, one of the charges brought against his private character (for with his political character we have here nothing to do) has been, that he was so severe a father as to have compelled his daughters, after he was blind, to read aloud to him, for his sole pleasure, Greek and Latin authors of which they did not understand a word. But this is in fact nothing more than an in­stance of the strict domestic regulations of the age in which Milton lived; and should not be brought forward as a proof of the severity of his individual temper. Nor indeed in any case should it ever be considered as an hardship for an affectionate child to amuse an afflicted parent, though it should be at­tended with a heavier sacrifice of her own pleasure than in the present instance*.

[Page 117] Is the author then inculcating the harsh doctrine of parental austerity? By no means. It drives the gentle spirit to artifice, and the rugged to despair. It generates deceit and cunning, the most hopeless and hateful in the whole catalogue of female failings. Ungoverned anger in the teacher, and inability to discriminate between venial errors and premeditated offence, though they may lead a timid creature to hide wrong tempers, to conceal bad actions, will not help her to subdue the one or correct the other. Severity will drive terrified children to seek, not for reformation, but for impunity. A readiness to for­give them promotes frankness. And we should, above all things, encourage them to be frank, in or­der to come at their faults. They have not more faults for being open, they only discover more.

Discipline, however, is not cruelty, and restraint is not severity. We must strengthen the feeble, while we repel the bold. The cultivator of the human mind must, like the gardener, study diversities of soil. The skilful labourer knows that even where the surface is not particularly promising, there is often a rough strong ground which will amply repay the trouble of breaking it up; yet we are often most taken with the soft surface, though it conceal a shal­low [Page 118] depth, because it promises present reward and little trouble. But strong and pertinacious tempers, of which perhaps obstinacy is the leading vice, un­der skillful management often turn out steady and sterling characters; while from softer clay a firm and vigorous virtue is but seldom produced.

But these revolutions in character cannot be effect­ed by mere education. Plutarch has observed that the medical science would never be brought to per­fection till poisons should be converted into physic. What our late improvers in natural science have done in the medical world, by converting the most deadly ingredients into instruments of life and health, Chris­tianity with a sort of divine Alchymy has effected in the moral world, by that transmutation which makes those passions which have been working for sin be­come active in the cause of religion. The violent temper of Saul of Tarsus which was "exceedingly mad" against the saints of God, did God see fit to convert into that burning zeal which enabled Paul the Apostle to labour so unremittingly for the con­version of the Gentile world. Christianity indeed does not so much give us new affections or faculties, as give a new direction to those we already have. She changes that sorrow of the world which work­eth death, into "godly sorrow which worketh re­pentance." She changes our anger against the per­sons we dislike, into hatred of their sins. "The [Page 119] fear of man which worketh a snare," she trans­mutes into "that fear of God which worketh salva­tion." That religion does not extinguish the pas­sions, but alters their object, the animated expres­sions of the fervid Apostle confirm—‘Yea, what fearfulness; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what ve­hement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge! *

Thus, by some of the most troublesome passions of our nature being converted by the blessing of God on a religious education to the side of virtue, a dou­ble purpose is effected. Because, if I may be allow­ed to change the metaphor, it is the character of the passions never to observe a neutrality. If they are no longer rebels, they become auxiliaries; and a foe subdued is an ally obtained. And it is the effect of religion on the passions, that when she seizes the enemy's garrison, she does not destroy the works, she does not burn the arsenal and spike the cannon; but the artillery she seizes, she turns to her own use, and plants its whole force against the enemy from whom she has taken it.

But while I would deprecate harshness, I would enforce discipline; and that not merely on the ground of religion, but of happiness also. One reason not seldom brought forward by tender but mistaken mo­thers [Page 120] as an apology for their unbounded indulgence, especially to weakly children, is, that they probably will not live to enjoy the world when grown up, and that therefore they will not abridge the little pleasure they may enjoy at present. But a slight degree of observation would prove that this is an error in judg­ment as well as in principle. For, omitting any con­siderations respecting their future welfare, and enter­ing only into their immediate interests; it is an indis­putable fact that children who know no control, whose faults encounter no contradiction, and whose humours experience constant indulgence, grow more irritable and capricious, invent wants, create desires, lose all relish for the pleasures which they know they may reckon upon; and become perhaps more misera­ble than even those children who labour under the more obvious and more commiserated misfortune of suffering under the tyranny of unkind parents.

An early habitual restraint is peculiarly important to the future character and happiness of women. They should when very young be inured to contra­diction. Instead of hearing their bon-mots treasured up and repeated to the guests till they begin to think it dull, when they themselves are not the little hero­ine of the theme, they should be accustomed to re­ceive but little praise for their vivacity or their wit, though they should receive just commendation for their patience, their industry, their humility, and [Page 121] other qualities which have more worth than splen­dour. They should be led to distrust their own judgment; they should learn not to murmur at ex­postulation; but should be accustomed to expect and to endure opposition. It is a lesson with which the world will not fail to furnish them; and they will not practise it the worse for having learnt it the sooner. It is of the last importance to their happi­ness in life that they should early acquire a submissive temper and a forbearing spirit. They must even en­dure to be thought wrong sometimes, when they cannot but feel they are right. And while they should be anxiously aspiring to do well, they must not expect always to obtain the praise of having done so. But while a gentle demeanor is inculcated, let them not be instructed to practise gentleness merely on the low ground of its being decorous, and femi­nine, and pleasing, and calculated to attract human favour: but let them be carefully taught to cultivate it on the high principle of obedience to Christ; on the practical ground of labouring after conformity to HIM, who, when he proposed himself as a perfect pattern of imitation, did not say, Learn of me, for I am great, or wise, or mighty, but "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly:" and graciously pro­mised that the reward should accompany the practice, by encouragingly adding, "and ye shall find rest to your souls." Do not teach them humility on the [Page 122] ordinary ground that vanity is unamiable, and that no one will love them if they are proud; for that will only go to correct the exterior, and make them soft and smiling hypocrites. But inform them, that "God resisteth the proud," while ‘them that are meek he shall guide in judgment, and such as are gentle, them shall he teach his way.’ In these, as in all other cases, an habitual attention to the motives should be carefully substituted in their young hearts, in the place of too much anxiety about the event of actions, and too much solicitude for that human praise which attaches to appearances as much as to realities, to success more than to desert.

Let me repeat, that it will be of vast importance not to let slip the earliest occasions of working gen­tle manners into an habit on their only true foun­dation, Christian meekness. For this purpose I would again urge your calling in the example of our Redeemer in aid of his precepts. Endeavour to make your pupil feel that all the wonders exhibited in his life do not so overwhelm the awakened heart with rapture, love, and astonishment, as the perpe­tual instances of his humility and meekness. Stupen­dous miracles, exercises of infinite power prompted by infinite mercy, are actions which we should na­turally enough conceive as growing out of the di­vine perfections: but silence under cruel mockings, patience under reproach, gentleness of demeanor un­der [Page 123] unparalleled injuries; these are perfections of which unassisted nature not only has no conception in a Divine Being, but at which it would revolt, had not the reality been exemplified by our perfect pat­tern. Healing the sick, feeding the multitude, re­storing the blind, raising the dead, are deeds of which we could form some adequate idea, as necessa­rily flowing from Almighty goodness: but to wash his disciples' feet,—to preach the gospel to the poor,—to renounce not only ease, for that heroes have done on human motives,—but to renounce praise, to forgive his persecutors, to love his enemies, to pray for his murderers with his last breath;—these are things which, while they compel us to cry out with the Centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God," should remind us also, that they are not only adora­ble but imitable parts of his character. These are perfections which we are not barely to contemplate with holy awe and distant admiration, as if they were restricted to the divine nature of our Redeem­er; but we must consider them as suited to the hu­man nature also, which he condescended to partici­pate; in contemplating, we must imitate; and in our measure and degree go and do likewise. Elevate your thoughts for one moment to this standard, and then go, if you can, and teach your children to be mild, and soft, and gentle on worldly grounds, on human motives, and as an external attraction.

[Page 124] There is a custom among teachers, which is not the more right for being common; they are apt to bestow an undue proportion of pains on children of the best capacity, as if only geniuses were worthy of attention. They should reflect that in moderate ta­lents, carefully cultivated, we are perhaps to look for the chief happiness and virtue of society. If superlative genius had been generally necessary, its existence would not have been so rare; for Omnipo­tence could have made those talents common which we now consider as extraordinary. Besides, while we are conscientiously instructing children of mode­rate capacity, it is a comfort to reflect, that if no la­bour will raise them to a high degree in the scale of intellectual excellence, yet they may be led on to perfection in that road in which "a way-faring man, though simple, shall not err." And when a mother feels disposed to repine that her family is not likely to exhibit a groupe of future wits and growing beauties, let her console herself by looking abroad into the world, where she will quickly per­ceive that the monopoly of happiness is not engrossed by beauty, nor that of virtue by genius.

Perhaps mediocrity of parts was decreed to be the ordinary lot, by way of furnishing a stimulus to in­dustry, and strengthening the motives to virtuous ap­plication. For is it not obvious that moderate abili­ties, carefully carried to that measure of perfection [Page 125] of which they are capable, often enable their possess­ors to outstrip, in the race of knowledge and of use­fulness, their more brilliant but less persevering com­petitors? It is with mental endowments, as with other rich gifts of Providence: the inhabitant of the luxuriant southern clime, where Nature has done every thing in the way of vegetation, indolently lays hold on this very fertility as a plea for doing nothing himself; so that the soil which teems with such en­couraging abundance leaves the possessor idle: while the native of the less genial region supplying by his labours the deficiencies of his lot, overtakes his more favoured competitor; by substituting industry for opulence, he improves the riches of his native land beyond that which is blessed with warmer suns, and thus vindicates Providence from the charge of partial distribution.

A girl who has docility will seldom be found to want understanding sufficient for all the purposes of a useful, a happy, and a pious life. And it is as wrong for parents to set out with too sanguine a dependance on the figure their children are to make in life, as it is unreasonable to be discouraged at eve­ry disappointment. Want of success is so far from fur­nishing a motive for relaxing their energy, that it is a reason for redoubling it. Let them suspect their own plans, and reform them; let them distrust their own principles, and correct them. The gene­rality [Page 126] of parents do too little; some do much, and miss their reward, because they look not to any strength beyond their own▪ after much is done, much will remain undone; for the entire regulation of the heart and affections is not the work of educa­tion alone, but the operation of divine grace. Will it be accounted enthusiasm to suggest ‘that the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous parent availeth much?’ and perhaps the reason why so many an­xious mothers fail of success is, because they repose with confidence in their own skill and labour, with­out looking to HIM without whose blessing they do but labour in vain.

On the other hand, is it not to be feared that some pious parents have fallen into an error of an opposite kind? From a full conviction that human endeavours are vain, and that it is God alone who can change the heart, they are earnest in their pray­ers, but not so earnest in their endeavours. Such parents should be reminded, that if they do not add their exertions to their prayers, their children are not likely to be more benefited than the children of those who do not add their prayers to their exertions. What God has joined, let not man presume to separate. It is the work of God, we readily acknowledge, to implant religion in the heart, and to maintain it there as a ruling principle of conduct. And is it not the same God which causes the corn to grow? Are not [Page 127] our natural lives constantly preserved by his power? Who will deny that in him we live, and move, and have our being? But how are these works of God carried on? By means which he has appointed. By the labour of the husbandman the corn is made to grow. By food the body is sustained: and by religi­ous instruction God is pleased to work upon the hu­man heart. As far as we see of the ways of God, all his works are carried on by means. It becomes there­fore our duty to use the means and trust in God; to remember that God will not work without the means; and that the means can effect nothing without his blessing. ‘Paul may plant and Apollos water, but it is God must give the increase.’ But to what does he give the increase? To the exertions of Paul and Apollos. It is never said, because God on­ly can give the increase, that Paul and Apollos may spare their labour.

It is one grand object to give the young probation­er just and sober views of the world on which she is about to enter. Instead of making her bosom bound at the near prospect of emancipation from her in­structors; instead of teaching her young heart to dance with premature flutterings as the critical win­ter draws near in which she is to come out; instead of raising a tumult in her busy imagination at the ap­proach of her first grown up ball; endeavour to con­vince her, that the world will not turn out to be [Page 128] that scene of unvarying and never-ending delights which she has perhaps been led to expect, not only from the sanguine temper and warm spirits natural to youth, but from the value she has seen put on those showy accomplishments which have too pro­bably been fitting her for her exhibition in life. Teach her that this world is not a stage for the dis­play of superficial talents, but for the strict and so­ber exercise of fortitude, temperance, meekness, faith, diligence, and self-denial; of her due perform­ance of which Christian graces, Angels will be spec­tators, and God the judge. Teach her that human life is not a splendid romance, spangled over with brilliant adventures, and enriched with extraordina­ry occurrences, and diversified with wonderful inci­dents; lead her not to expect that it will abound with scenes which will call shining qualities and great powers into perpetual action; and for which if she acquit herself well she will be rewarded wish pro­portionate fame and certain commendation. But ap­prize her that human life is a true history, many passages of which will be dull, obscure, and uninter­esting; some perhaps tragical; but that whatever gay incidents and pleasing scenes may be interspersed in the progress of the piece, yet finally "one event happeneth to all;" to all there is one awful and in­fallible catastrophe. Apprize her that the estimation which mankind forms of merit is not always just, [Page 129] nor its praise exactly proportioned to desert; that the world weighs actions in far different scales from "the balance of the sanctuary," and estimates worth by a far different standard from that of the gospel: apprize her that while her best intentions may be sometimes calumniated, and her best actions misre­presented, she will be liable to receive commendati­on on occasions wherein her conscience will tell her she has not deserved it.

Do not however give her a gloomy and discourag­ing picture of the world, but rather seek to give her a just and sober view of the part she will have to act in it. And humble the impetuosity of hope, and cool the ardour of expectation, by explaining to her, that this part, even in her best estate, will probably consist in a succession of petty trials, and a round of quiet duties which, however well perform­ed, though they will make little or no figure in the book of Fame, will prove of vast importance to her in that day when another ‘book is opened, and the judgment is set, and every one will be judged ac­cording to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad.’

Say not that these just and sober views will cruel­ly wither her young hopes, and deaden the inno­cent satisfactions of life. It is not true. There is, happily, an active spring in the mind of youth which bounds with fresh vigour and uninjured elasticity [Page 130] from any such temporary depression. It is not meant that you should darken her prospect, so much as that you should enlighten her understanding to con­template it. And though her feelings, tastes, and passions, will all be against you, if you set before her a faithful delineation of life, yet it will be some­thing to get her judgment on your side. It is no unkind office to assist the short view of youth with the aids of long-sighted experience, to enable them to discover spots in the brightness of that life which dazzles them in prospect, though it is probable they will after all choose to believe their own eyes rather than the offered glass.

[Page 131]

CHAP. VII.

On female study, and initiation into knowledge.—Error of cultivating the imagination to the neglect of the judg­ment.—Books of reasoning recommended.

As this little work by no means assumes the cha­racter of a general scheme of education, the author has purposely avoided expatiating largely on any kind of instruction; but so far as it is connected, either immediately or remotely, with objects of a moral or religious nature. Of course she has been so far from thinking it necessary to enter into the enumeration of those books which are useful in general instruction, that she has forborne to mention any. With such books the rising generation is far more copiously and ably furnished than any preceding period has been; and out of an excellent variety the judicious instruct­or can hardly fail to make such a selection as shall be beneficial to the pupil.

But while due praise ought not to be withheld from the improved methods of communicating the elements of general knowledge; yet is there not some danger that our very advantages may lead us into er­ror, [Page 132] by causing us to repose so confidently on the multiplied helps which facilitate the entrance into learning, as to render our pupils superficial through the very facility of acquirement? Where so much is done for them, may they not be led to do too little for themselves? May there not be a moral disadvantage in possessing them with the notion that learning may be acquired without diligence and labour? Sound education never can be made a "primrose path of dalliance." Do what we will, we cannot cheat chil­dren into learning, or play them into knowledge, ac­cording to the smoothness of the modern creed. There is no idle way to any acquisitions which really deserve the name. And as Euclid, in order to re­press the impetuous vanity of greatness, told his Sovereign that there was no royal way to geometry, so the fond mother may be assured that there is no short cut to any other kind of learning. The tree of knowledge, as a punishment, perhaps, for its ha­ving been at first unfairly tasted, cannot now be climbed without difficulty; and this very circum­stance serves afterwards to furnish not only literary pleasures, but moral advantages: for the knowledge which is acquired by unwearied assiduity is lasting in the possession, and sweet to the possessor; both per­haps in proportion to the cost and labour of the ac­quisition. And though an able teacher ought to en­deavour, by improving the communicating faculty in [Page 133] himself, (for many know what they cannot teach,) to soften every difficulty; yet in spite of the kind­ness and ability with which he will smooth every ob­struction, it is probably, among the wise institutions of Providence, that great difficulties should still re­main. For education is but an initiation into that life of trial to which we are introduced on our entrance into this world. It is the first breaking-in to that state of toil and labour to which we are born, and to which sin has made us liable; and in this view of the subject the acquisition of learning may be con­verted to higher uses than such as are purely literary.

Will it not be ascribed to a captious singularity if I venture to remark that real knowledge and real piety, though they may have gained in many in­stances, have suffered in others from that profusion of little, amusing, sentimental books with which the youthful library overflows? Abundance has its dan­gers as well as scarcity. In the first place may not the multiplicity of these alluring little works increase the natural reluctance to those more dry and un­interesting studies, of which, after all, the rudiments of every part of learning must consist? And, second­ly, is there not some danger (though there are many honourable exceptions) that some of those engaging narratives may serve to infuse into the youthful heart a sort of spurious goodness, a confidence of virtue, a parade of Charity? And that the benevolent actions [Page 134] with the recital of which they abound, when they are not made to flow from any source but feeling, may tend to inspire a self-complacency a self-gratu­lation, a "stand by, for I am holier than thou?" May they not help to infuse a love of popularity and an anxiety for praise, in the place of that simple and unostentatious rule of doing whatever good we do, because it is the will of God? The universal substitu­tion of this principle would tend to purify the worldly morality of many a popular little story. And there are few dangers which good parents will more carefully guard against than that of giving their children a mere political piety; that sort of religion which just goes to make people more respectable, and to stand well with the world; a religion which is to save appearances without inculcating realities.*

There is a certain precocity of mind which is much helped on by these superficial modes of instruc­tion; for frivolous reading will produce its corres­pondent effect, in much less time than books of solid [Page 135] instruction; the imagination being liable to be work­ed upon, and the feelings to be set a-going, much faster than the understanding can be opened and the judgment enlightened. A talent for conversation should be the result of education, not its precursor; it is a golden fruit when suffered to ripen gradually on the tree of knowledge; but if forced in the hot­bed of a circulating library, it will turn out worth­less and vapid in proportion as it was artificial and premature. Girls who have been accustomed to de­vour frivolous books, will converse and write with a far greater appearance of skill as to style and senti­ment at twelve or fourteen years old, than those of a more advanced age who are under the discipline of feverer studies; but the former having early attained to that low standard which had been held out to them, became stationary; while the latter, quietly progressive, are passing through just gradations to a higher strain of mind; and those who early begin with talking and writing like women, commonly end with thinking and acting like children.

The swarms of Abridgments, Beauties, and Com­pendiums, which form too considerable a part of a young lady's library, may be considered in many in­stances as an infallible receipt for making a superficial mind. The names of the renowned characters in history thus become familiar in the mouths of those who can neither attach to the ideas of the person, [Page 136] the series of his actions nor the peculiarities of his character. A few fine passages from the poets (pas­sages perhaps which derived their chief beauty from their position and connection) are huddled together by some extract-maker, whose brief and disconnected patches of broken and discordant materials, while they inflame young readers with the vanity of recit­ing, neither fill the mind nor form the taste: and it is not difficult to trace back to their shallow sources the hackney'd quotations of certain accomplished young ladies, who will be frequently found not to have come legitimately by any thing they know: I mean, not to have drawn it from its true spring, the origi­nal works of the author from which some beauty-mon­ger has severed it. Human inconsistency in this, as in other cases, wants to combine two irreconcileable things; it strives to unite the reputation of know­ledge with the pleasures of idleness, forgetting that nothing that is valuable can be obtained without sacrifices, and that if we would purchase knowledge we must pay for it the fair and lawful price of time and industry. For this extract-reading, while it accommodates itself to the convenience, illustrates the character of the age in which we live. The ap­petite for pleasure, and that love of ease and indo­lence which is generated by it, leave little time or taste for sound improvement; while the vanity, which is equally a characteristic of the existing peri­od, [Page 137] puts in its claim also for indulgence, and con­trives to figure away by these little snatches of read­ing, caught in the short intervals of successive amuse­ments.

Besides, the taste, thus pampered with delicious morsels, is early vitiated. The young reader of these clustered beauties conceives a disrelish for every thing which is plain, and is impatient if obliged to get through those equally necessary though less showy parts of a work, in which perhaps the author gives the best proof of his judgment by keeping under that occasional brilliancy of which these superficial students are in constant pursuit. In all well-written books, there is much that is good which is not daz­zling; and these shallow critics should be taught, that it is for the more tame and uninteresting parts of his work, that the judicious poet commonly re­serves those flowers, whose beauty is defaced when they are plucked from the garland into which he had so skilfully woven them.

The remark, however, is by no means of general application; there are many valuable works which from their bulk would be almost inaccessible to a great number of readers, and a considerable part of which may not be generally useful. Even in the best written books there is often superfluous matter; au­thors are apt to get enamoured of their subject, and to dwell too long on it: every person cannot find [Page 138] time to read a longer work on any subject, and yet it may be well for them to know something on almost every subject; those, therefore, who abridge volu­minous works judiciously, render service to the com­munity. But there seems, if I may venture the re­mark, to be a mistake in the use of abridgments. They are put systematically into the hands of youth, who have, or ought to have, leisure for the works at large; while abridgments seem more immediately calculated for persons in more advanced life, who wish to recall something they had forgotten; who want to restore old ideas rather than acquire new ones; or they are useful for persons immersed in the business of the world, who have little leisure for voluminous reading. They are excellent to refresh the mind, but not competent to form it.

Perhaps there is some analogy between the mental and bodily conformation of women. The instructor therefore should imitate the physician. If the latter prescribe bracing medicines for a body of which delicacy is the disease, the former would do well to prohibit relaxing reading for a mind which is already of too soft a texture, and should strengthen its feeble tone by invigorating reading.

By softness, I cannot be supposed to mean imbeci­lity of understanding, but natural softness of heart, together with that indolence of spirit which is foster­ed [Page 139] by indulging in seducing books, and in the general habits of fashionable life.

I mean not here to recommend books which are im­mediately religious, but such as exercise the reasoning faculties, teach the mind to get acquainted with its own nature, and to stir up its own powers. Let not a timid young lady start if I should venture to recom­mend to her, after a proper course of preparation, to swallow and digest such strong meat as Watt's or Duncan's little book of Logic, some parts of Mr. Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, and Bishop Butler's Analogy. Where there is leisure, and capacity, and an able friend to comment and to counsel, works of this nature might be profitably substituted in the place of so much English Sentiment, French Philosophy, Italian Love Songs, and fantastic German imagery and magic wonders. While such enervating or absurd books sadly disqualify the read­er for solid pursuit or vigorous thinking, the studies here recommended would act upon the constitution of the mind as a kind of alterative, and, if I may be allowed the expression, would help to brace the intellectual stamina.

This is however by no means intended to exclude works of taste and imagination, which must always make the ornamental part, and of course a very con­siderable part, of female studies. It is only suggest­ed, that they should not form them entirely and exclu­sively. [Page 140] For what is called dry tough reading, inde­pendent of the knowledge it conveys, is useful as an habit, and wholesome as an exercise. Serious study serves to harden the mind for more trying conflicts; it lifts the reader from sensation to intellect; it abstracts her from the world and its vanities; it fixes a wander­ing spirit, and fortifies a weak one; it divorces her from matter; it corrects that spirit of trifling which she naturally contracts from the frivolous turn of female conversation, and the petty nature of female employments; it concentrates her attention, assists her in a habit of excluding trivial thoughts, and thus even helps to qualify her for religious pursuits. Yes, I repeat it, there is to woman a Christian use to be made of sober studies; while books of an opposite cast, however unexceptionable they may be sometimes found in point of expression, however free from evil in its more gross and palpable shapes, yet by their very nature and constitution they excite a spirit of relaxation, by exhibiting scenes and ideas which soften the mind and set the fancy at work; they impair its general powers of resistance, and at best feed habits of improper indulgence, and nourish a vain and visionary indolence, which lays the mind open to error and the heart to seduction.

Women are little accustomed to close reasoning on any subject; still less do they inure their minds to consider particular parts of a subject; they are not [Page 141] habituated to turn a truth round, and view it in all its varied aspects and positions; and this perhaps is one cause (as will be observed in another* place) of the too great confidence they are disposed to place in their own opinions. Though their imagination is already too lively, and their judgment naturally incorrect; in educating them we go on to stimulate the imagination, while we neglect the regulation of the judgment. They already want ballast, and we make their education consist in continually crowding more sail than they can carry. Their intellectual pow­ers being so little strengthened by exercise, makes every little business appear a hardship to them: whereas serious study would be useful, were it only that it leads the mind to the habit of conquering dif­ficulties. But it is peculiarly hard to turn at once from the indolent repose of light reading, from the concerns of mere animal life, the objects of sense, or the frivolousness of chit chat; it is peculiarly hard, I say, to a mind so softened, to rescue itself from the dominion of self-indulgence, to resume its powers, to call home its scattered strength, to shut out every foreign intrusion, to force back a spring so unnatu­rally bent, and to devote itself to religious reading, to active business, to reflection, or self-examination, whereas to an intellect accustomed to think at all, [Page 142] the difficulty of thinking seriously is obviously lessen­ed.

Far be it from me to desire to make scholastic la­dies or female dialecticians; but there is little fear that the kind of books here recommended, if thoroughly studied, and not superficially skimmed, will make them pedants or induce conceit; for by shewing them the possible powers of the human mind, you will bring them to see the littleness of their own; and to get acquainted with the mind, and to regu­late and inform it, does not seem the way to puff it up. But let her who is disposed to be elated with her literary acquisitions, check her vanity by calling to mind the just remark or Swift, ‘that after all her boasted acquirements, a woman will, generally speaking, be found to possess less of what is called learning than a common school boy.’

Neither is there any fear that this sort of reading will convert ladies into authors. The direct contra­ry effect will be likely to be produced by the perusal of writers who throw the generality of readers at such an unapproachable distance as to check pre­sumption, instead of exciting it. Who are those ever multiplying authors, that with unparalleled fe­cundity are overstocking the world with their quick-succeeding progeny? They are novel writers; the easiness of whose productions is at once the cause of their own fruitfulness, and of the almost infinite [Page 143] numerous race of imitators to whom they give birth▪ such is the frightful facility of this species of compo­sition, that every raw girl, while she reads, is tempt­ed to fancy that she can also write. And as Alexan­der, on perusing the Iliad, found by congenial sym­pathy the image of Achilles in his own ardent soul, and felt himself the hero he was studying; and as Corregio, on first beholding a picture which exhibit­ed the perfection of the Graphic art, prophetically felt all his own future greatness, and cried out in rapture, "And I too am a painter!" so a thorough paced novel-reading Miss, at the close of every tissue of hackney'd adventures, feels within herself the stirring impulse of corresponding genius, and trium­phantly exclaims, "And I too am an author!" The glutted imagination soon overflows with the redun­dance of cheap sentiment and plentiful incident, and by a sort of arithmetical proportion, is enabled by the perusal of any three novels, to produce a fourth; till every fresh production, like the progeny of Ban­quo, is followed by

Another, and another, and another*!

[Page 144] Is a lady, however destitute of talents, education, or knowledge of the world, whose studies have been completed by a circulating library, in any distress of mind? the writing a novel suggests itself as the best soother of her sorrows! Does she labour under any depression of circumstances? writing a novel oc­curs as the readiest receipt for mending them! And she solaces herself with the conviction that the sub­scription which has been given to her importunity or her necessities, has been offered as an homage to her genius. And this confidence instantly levies a fresh contribution for a succeeding work. Capacity and cultivation are so little taken into the account, that writing a book seems to be now considered as the on­ly sure resource which the idle and the illiterate have always in their power.

May the Author be indulged in a short digression while she remarks, though rather out of its place, that the corruption occasioned by these books has spread so wide, and descended so low, that not only among milleners, mantua-makers, and other trades where numbers work together, the labour of one girl is frequently sacrificed that she may be spared to read those mischievous books to the others; but she has been assured by clergymen, who have witnessed the fact, that they are procured and greedily read in the wards of our Hospitals! an awful hint, that those who teach the poor to read, should not only [Page 145] take care to furnish them with principles which will lead them to abhor corrupt books, but should also furnish them with such books as shall strengthen and confirm their principles*. And let every Christian remember, that there is no other way of entering truly into the spirit of that divine prayer, which pe­titions that the name of God may be "hallowed," that "his kingdom (of grace) may come," and that "his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven," than by each individual contributing according to his measure to accomplish the work for which he prays; for to pray that these great objects may be promot­ed, without contributing to their promotion by our exertions, our money, and our influence, is a palpa­ble inconsistency.

[Page 146]

CHAP. VIII.

On the religious and moral use of history and geography.

BUT while every sort of useful knowledge should be carefully imparted to young persons, it should be imparted not merely for its own sake, but also for the sake of its subserviency to higher things. All human learning should be taught, not as an end, but a means; and in this view even a lesson of history or geography may be converted into a lesson of reli­gion. In the study of history, the instructor will accustom the pupil not merely to store her memory with facts and anecdotes, and to ascertain dates and epochas; but she will accustom her also to trace ef­fects to their causes, to examine the secret springs of action, and accurately to observe the operation of the passions. It is only meant to notice here some few of the moral benefits which may be derived from a judicious perusal of history; and from among other points of instruction, I select the following:

The study of history may serve to give a clearer insight into the corruption of human nature:

[Page 147] It may show the plan of Providence in the direc­tion of events, and in the use of unworthy instru­ments:

It may assist in the vindication of Providence, in the common failure of virtue and the success of vice:

It may lead to a distrust of our own judgment:

It may contribute to our improvement in self-knowledge.

But to prove to the pupil the important doctrine of human corruption from the study of history, will require a truly Christian commentator; for, from the low standard of right established by the gene­rality of historians, who erect so many persons in­to good characters who fall short of the true idea of Christian virtue, the unassisted reader will be liable to form very imperfect views of what is real goodness; and will conclude, as his author some­times does, that the true idea of human nature is to be taken from the medium between his best and his worst characters; without acquiring a just notion of that prevalence of evil, which in spite of those few brighter luminaries that here and there just serve to gild the gloom of history, tends abun­dantly to establish the doctrine. It will indeed be continually establishing itself by those who, in perus­ing the history of mankind, carefully mark the pro­gress of sin, from the first timid irruption of an evil thought, to the fearless accomplishment of the ab­horred [Page 148] crime in which that thought has ended: from the indignant question, ‘Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?* to the perpetra­tion of that very enormity of which he could not endure the slightest suggestion.

In this connection may it not be observed, that young persons should be put on their guard against a too implicit belief in the flattering accounts which some voyage-writers are fond of exhibiting of the virtue, amiableness, and benignity of some of the countries newly discovered by our circumnavigators, the superior goodness ascribed to the Hindoos, and particularly the account of the inhabitants of the Pellew Islands? These last indeed have been almost represented as having escaped the universal taint of our common nature, and would seem by their purity to have sprung from another ancestor than Adam.

One cannot forbear suspecting that these pleasing but somewhat overcharged portraits of man, in his natural state, are drawn with the invidious design, by counteracting the doctrine of human corruption, to degrade the value and even destroy the necessity of the Christian religion. That in countries profes­sing Christianity, very many are not Christians will be too readily granted. Yet, to say nothing of the vast superiority of goodness in the lives of those who [Page 149] are really governed by Christianity, is there not some­thing even in her reflex light which guides to great­er purity many of those who do not profess to walk by it? I doubt much, if numbers of the unbelievers of a Christian country, from the sounder views and better habits derived incidentally and collaterally, as it were, from the influence of a Gospel, the truth of which however they do not acknowledge, would not start at many of the actions which these heathen perfectionists daily commit without hesitation.

The religious reader of general history will observe the controlling hand of Providence in the direction of events, and in turning the most unworthy actions and instruments to the accomplishment of his own purposes. She will mark infinite Wisdom directing what appears to be casual occurrences, to the com­pletion of his own plan. She will point out how causes seemingly the most unconnected, events seem­ingly the most unpromising, circumstances seemingly the most incongruous, are all working together for some final good. She will mark how national as well as individual crimes are often overruled to some hidden purpose far different from the intention of the actors: how Omnipotence can and often does, bring about the best purposes by the worst instru­ments: how the bloody and unjust conqueror is but "the rod of His wrath," to punish or to purify his offending children: how "the fury of the oppressor," [Page 150] and the sufferings of the oppressed, will one day vindicate His righteous dealings. She will unfold to the less enlightened reader how infinite Wisdom often mocks the insignificance of human greatness, and the shallowness of human ability, by setting aside instruments the most powerful, while He works by agents comparatively contemptible. But she will carefully guard this doctrine of Divine Providence, thus working out his own purposes through the sins of his creatures, and by the instrumentality of the wicked, by calling to mind, that while the offender is but a tool in the hands of the great artificer, ‘yet woe be to him by whom the offence cometh!’ She will explain how all the mutations and revolu­tions in states which appear to us so unaccountable, and how those operations of Providence which seem to us so entangled and complicated, all move harmo­niously and in perfect order: that there is not an event but has its commission; not a misfortune which breaks its allotted rank; not a trial which moves out of its appointed track. While calamities and crimes seem to fly in casual confusion, all is commanded or permitted; all is under the control of a wisdom which cannot err, of a goodness which cannot do wrong.

To explain my meaning by a few instances. When the spirit of the youthful reader rises in honest in­dignation at that hypocritical piety which divorced [Page 151] an unoffending Queen to make way for the lawful crime of our eighth Henry's marriage with Ann Bo­leyn; and when that indignation is increased by the more open profligacy which brought about the ex­ecution of the latter; the instructor will not lose so fair an occasion for unfolding how in the councils of the Most High the crimes of the king were over­ruled to the happiness of the country; and how, to this inauspicious marriage, from which the heroic Elizabeth sprung, the Protestant religion owed its firm stability.

She will explain to her, how even the conquests of ambition, after having deluged a land with blood, and involved the perpetrator in guilt, and the inno­cent victim in ruin, may yet be made the instruments of opening to future generations the way to com­merce, to civilization, to Christianity. She may re­mind her, as they are following Caesar in his invasion of Britain, that whereas the conqueror fancied he was only gratifying his own inordinate ambition, extend­ing the flight of the Roman Eagle, immortalizing his own name, and proving that "this world was made for Caesar;" he was in reality becoming the effectual though unconscious instrument of leading a land of barbarians to civilization and to science: and was in fact preparing an island of Pagans to embrace the religion of Christ. She will inform her, that when the above-named victorious nation had made [Page 152] Judea a Roman province, and the Jews had become their tributaries, the Romans did not know, nor did the indignant Jews suspect, that this circumstance was confirming an event the most important the world ever saw.

For when ‘Augustus sent forth a decree that all the world should be taxed;’ he thought he was only enlarging his own imperial power, whereas he was acting in unconscious subservience to the decree of a higher Sovereign, and was helping to ascertain by a public act the exact period of Christ's birth, and furnishing a record of his extraction from that family from which it was predicted by a long line of Prophets that he should spring. Herod's atrocious murder of the innocents has added an additional circumstance for the confirmation of our faith; nay, the treachery of Judas, and the injustice of Pilate, were the human instruments employed for the salva­tion of the world.

The youth that is not armed with Christian princi­ples, will be tempted to mutiny not only against the justice, but the very existence of a superintending Providence, in contemplating those frequent instances which occur in history of the ill success of the more virtuous cause, and the prosperity of the wicked. He will see with astonishment that it is Rome which triumphs, while Carthage, which had clearly the better cause, falls. Now and then indeed a Cicero [Page 153] prevails, and a Cataline is subdued: but often, it is Caesar successful against the somewhat just­er pretensions of Pompey, and against the still clear­er cause of Cato. It is Octavius who triumphs, and it is over Brutus that he triumphs! It is Tiberius that is enthroned, while Germanicus falls!

Thus his faith in a righteous Providence at first view is staggered, and he is ready to say, Surely it is not God that governs the earth! But on a fuller consideration, (and here the suggestions of a Christian instructor are peculiarly wanted), there will appear great wisdom in this very confusion of vice and vir­tue; for it is calculated to send one's thoughts for­ward to a world of retribution, the principle of re­tribution being so imperfectly established in this. It is indeed so far common for virtue to have the ad­vantage here, in point of happiness at least, though not of glory, that the course of Providence is still calculated to prove that God is on the side of virtue; but still, virtue is so often unsuccessful, that clearly the God of virtue, in order that his work may be perfect, must have in reserve a world of retribution. This confused state of things therefore is just that state which is most of all calculated to confirm the deeply considerate mind in the belief of a future state: for if all were even here, or very nearly so, should we not say ‘Justice is already satisfied, and there needs no other world?’ On the other hand, [Page 154] if vice always triumphed, should we not then be ready to argue in favour of vice rather than virtue, and to wish for no other world?

It seems so very important to ground young per­sons in the belief that they will not inevitably meet in this world with reward and success according to their merit, but to habituate them to expect even the most virtuous attempts to be often, though not al­ways disappointed, that I am in danger of tautology on this point. This fact is precisely what history teaches. The truth should be plainly told to the young reader; and the antidote to that evil, which mistaken and worldly people would expect to arise from divulging this discouraging doctrine, is faith. The importance of faith therefore, and the necessity of it to real, unbending, and persevering virtue, is surely made plain by profane history itself. For the same thing which happens to states and kings, hap­pens to private life and to individuals.

Distrust and diffidence in our own judgment seems to be also an important instruction to be learnt from history. How contrary to all expectation do the events therein recorded commonly turn out? and yet we proceed to foretel this and that event from the appearances of things under our own observation, with the same arrogant certainty as if we had never been warned by the monitory annals of mankind.

[Page 155] There is scarcely one great event in history which does not, in the issue, produce effects upon which human foresight could never have calculated. The success of Augustus against his country produced peace in many distant provinces, who thus ceased to be harassed and tormented by this oppressive republic. Could this effect have been foreseen, it might have sobered the despair of Cato, and checked the vehe­mence of Brutus. In politics, in short in every thing except in morals and religion, all is, to a consider­able degree, uncertain. This reasoning is not meant to shew that Cato ought not to have fought, but that he ought not to have desponded even after the last bat­tle; and certainly, even upon his own principles, ought not to have killed himself. It would be departing too much from my object to apply this argument against those who were driven to unreasonable distrust and despair by the late successes of a neighbouring nation.

But all knowledge will be comparatively of little value, if we neglect self-knowledge; and of self-knowledge history and biography may be made suc­cessful vehicles. It will be to little purpose that our pupils become accurate critics on the characters of others, while they remain ignorant of themselves; for while to those who exercise a habit of self-appli­cation a book of profane history may be made an in­strument of improvement in this difficult science; so [Page 156] without this habit the Bible itself may, in this view, be read with little profit.

It will be to no purpose that the reader weeps over the fortitude of the Christian hero, or the constancy of the martyr, if she do not bear in mind that she herself is called to endure her own common trials with something of the same temper: if she do not bear in mind that, to control irregular humours, and to submit to the daily vexations of life, will require, though in a lower degree, the exertion of the same principle, and supplication for the aid of the same spirit which sustained the Christian hero in the trying conflicts of life, or the martyr in his agony at the stake.

May I be permitted to suggest a few instances, by way of specimen, how both sacred and common history may tend to promote self-knowledge? And let me again remind the warm admirer of suffering piety under extraordinary trials, that if she now fail in the petty occasions to which she is actually called out, she would not be likely to have stood in those more trying occasions which excite her admiration.

While she is applauding the self-denying saint who renounced his ease, or chose to embrace death, ra­ther than violate his duty, let her ask herself if she has never refused to submit to the paltry inconveni­ence of giving up her company, or even altering her dinner-hour on a Sunday, by which trifling sacrifice [Page 157] her family might have been enabled to attend the public worship in the afternoon.

While she reads with horror that Belshazzar was rioting with his thousand nobles at the very moment when the Persian army was bursting through the bra­zen gates of Babylon; is she very sure that she her­self, in an almost equally imminent moment of public danger, has not been nightly indulging in every spe­cies of dissipation?

When she is deploring the inconsistency of the hu­man heart, while she contrasts Mark Anthony's bra­very and contempt of ease at one period, with his licentious indulgences at another; or while she la­ments over the intrepid soul of Caesar, whom she had been following in his painful marches, or admiring in his contempt of death, dissolved in dissolute plea­sures with the ensnaring Queen of Egypt; let her ex­amine whether she herself has never, though in a much lower degree, evinced something of the same incon­sistency? whether she who lives perhaps an orderly, sober, and reasonable life during her summer resi­dence in the country, does not plunge with little scru­ple in the winter into all the most extravagant plea­sures of the capital? whether she never carries about with her an accommodating kind of religion, which can be made to bend to places and seasons, to cli­mates and customs; which takes its tincture from [Page 158] the fashion without, and not its habits from the prin­ciple within?

While she is admiring the generosity of Alexan­der in giving away kingdoms and provinces, let her, in order to ascertain whether she could imitate this magnanimity, take heed if she herself is daily seizing all the little occasions of doing good, which every day presents to the affluent? Her call is not to sacri­fice a province; but does she sacrifice an opera ticket? She who is not doing all the good she can under her present circumstances, would not do all she fore­sees she should, in imaginary ones, were her power enlarged to the extent of her wishes.

While she is inveighing with patriotic indignation, that in a neighbouring metropolis thirty theatres were open every night in time of war and public ca­lamity, is she very clear, that in a metropolis which contains only three, she was not almost constantly at one of them in time of war and public calamity also? For though in a national view it may make a wide difference whether there be in the capital three theatres or thirty, yet, as the same person can only go to one of them at once, it makes but little difference as to the quantum of dissipation in the individual. She who rejoices at successful virtue in a history, or at the prosperity of a person whose interests do not in­terfere with her own, may exercise her self-know­ledge, by examining whether she rejoices equally at [Page 159] the happiness of every one about her; and let her remember she does not rejoice at it in the true sense, if she does not labour to promote it. She who glows with rapture at a virtuous character in history, should ask her own heart, whether she is equally ready to do justice to the fine qualities of her ac­quaintance, though she may not particularly love them; and whether she takes unfeigned pleasure in the superior talents, virtues, fame, and fortune of those whom she professes to love, though she is eclipsed by them?

In like manner, in the study of geography and natural history, the attention should be habitually turned to the goodness of Providence, who common­ly adapts the various productions of climates to the peculiar wants of the respective inhabitants. To il­lustrate my meaning by one or two instances out of a thousand. The reader may be led to admire the considerate goodness of Providence in having caused the spiry fir, whose slender foliage does not obstruct the beams of the sun, to grow in the dreary regions of the North, whose shivering inhabitants could spare none of its scanty rays; while in the torrid zone, the palm-tree, the plantane, and the banana, spread their umbrella leaves to break the almost in­tolerable [Page 160] fervors of a vertical sun. How the camel, who is the sole carrier of all the merchandise of Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Arabia, and Barbary, who is oblig­ed to transport his incredible burthens through coun­tries in which pasture is so rare, can subsist twenty-four hours without food, and can travel, loaded, many days without water, through dry and dusty deserts, which supply none; and all this, not from the habit but from the conformation of the animal: for Naturalists make this conformity of powers to climates a rule of judgment in ascertaining the native countries of animals, and always determine it to be that to which their powers and properties are most appropriate.

Thus the writers of natural history are perhaps unintentionally magnifying the operations of Provi­dence, when they insist that animals do not modify and give way to the influence of other climates; but here they too commonly stop; and here the pi­ous instructor will come in, in aid of their deficien­cy; for Philosophers too seldom trace up causes, and wonders, and blessings to their Author. And it is peculiarly to be regretted that such a writer as Buffon, who, though not famous for his accuracy, possessed such diversified powers of description that he had the talent of making the driest subjects inter­esting; together with such a liveliness of delineation, that his characters of animals are drawn with a spirit [Page 161] and variety rather to be looked for in an historian of men than of beasts: it is to be regretted that this writer is absolutely inadmissible into the library of a young lady, both on account of his immodesty and his impiety; and if, in wishing to exclude him, it may be thought wrong to have given him so much commendation, it is only meant to show that the au­thor is not led to reprobate his principles from in­sensibility to his talents*.

[Page 162]

CHAP. IX.

On the use of definitions, and the moral benefits of accuracy in language.

PERSONS having been accustomed from their cra­dles to learn words before they knew the ideas for which they stand, usually continue to do so all their lives, never taking the pains to settle in their minds the determined ideas which belong to them. This want of a precise signification in their words, when they come to reason, especially in moral mat­ters, is the cause of very obscure and uncertain no­tions. They use these undetermined words confi­dently, without much troubling their heads about a certain fixed meaning, whereby, besides the ease of it, they obtain this advantage, that as in such discourse they are seldom in the right, so they are as seldom to be convinced that they are in the wrong, it being just the same to go about to draw those persons out of their mistakes, who have no settled notions, as to dispossess a vagrant of his habitation who has no settled abode.—The chief end of language being to be understood, [Page 163] words serve not for that end when they do not ex­cite in the hearer the same idea which they stand for in the mind of the speaker.*

I have chosen to shelter myself under the broad sanction of the great Author here quoted, with a view to apply this rule in philology to a moral pur­pose; for it applies to the veracity of conversation as much as to its correctness; and as strongly recom­mends unequivocal and simple truth, as accurate and just expression. Scarcely any one perhaps has an adequate conception how much clear and correct ex­pressions favour the elucidation of truth; and the side of truth is obviously the side of morals; it is in fact one and the same cause; and it is of course the same cause with that of true religion also.

It is therefore no worthless part of education to study the precise meaning of words, and the appro­priate signification of language. To this end I know no better method than to accustom young persons very early to define common words and things; for, as definition seems to lie at the root of correctness, to be accustomed to define English words in English, would improve the understanding more than barely to know what those words are called in French or Ita­lian. Or rather, one use of learning other languages is, because definition is often involved in etymo­logy; [Page 164] that is, since many English words take their derivation from foreign languages, they cannot be so accurately understood without some knowledge of those languages: but precision of any kind too sel­dom finds its way into the education of women.

It is perhaps going out of my province to observe, that it might be well if young men also, before they entered on the world, were to be furnished with cor­rect definitions of certain words, the use of which is become rather ambiguous. For instance; they should be provided with a good definition of the word ho­nour in the fashionable sense, shewing what vices it in­cludes, and what virtues it does not include: the term good company, which even the courtly Petronius of our days has defined as sometimes including not a few immoral and disreputable characters: religion, which in the various senses assigned it by the world, sometimes means superstition, sometimes fanaticism, and sometimes a mere disposition to attend on any kind of form of worship: the word goodness, which is made to mean every thing that is not notoriously bad; and sometimes even that too, if what is noto­riously bad be accompanied by good humour, pleas­ing manners, and a little alms-giving. By these means they would go forth armed against many of the false opinions which through the abuse or am­biguous meaning of words pass so current in the world.

[Page 165] But to return to the youthful part of that sex which is the more immediate object of this little work. With correct definition they should also be taught to study the shades of words, and this not merely with a view to accuracy of expression, but to moral truth.

It may be thought ridiculous to assert, that morals have any connection with the purity of language, or that the precision of truth may be violated through defect of critical exactness in the three degrees of comparison: yet how frequently do we hear from the dealers in superlatives, of "most admirable," super­excellent, and "quite perfect" people, who, to plain persons, not bred in the school of exaggeration, would appear mere common characters, not rising above the level of mediocrity! By this negligence in the just application of words, we shall be as much misled by these trope and figure ladies, when they de­grade as when they panegyrize; for to a plain and so­ber judgment, a tradesman may not be "the most good-for-nothing fellow that ever existed," merely be­cause it was impossible for him to execute in an hour an order which required a week; a lady may not be "the most hideous fright the world ever saw," though the make of her gown may have been obsolete for a month; nor may one's young friend's father be "a monster of cruelty," though he may be a quiet gentleman who does not choose to live at watering-places, [Page 166] places, but likes to have his daughter stay at home with him in the country.

But of all the parts of speech the interjection is the most abundantly in use with the hyperbolical fair ones. Would it could be added that these emphatical expletives (if I may make use of a contradictory term) were not sometimes tinctured with profaneness! Though I am persuaded that idle habit is more at the bottom of this deep offence than intended impiety, yet there is scarcely any error of youthful talk which wants severer castigation. And an habit exclama­tion should be rejected by polished people as vulgar, even if it were not abhorred as profane.

The habit of exaggerating trifles, together with the grand female failing of mutual flattery, and ela­borate general profession of fondness and attachment, is inconceivably cherished by the voluminous private correspondences in which some girls are indulged. A facility of style, and an easy turn of expression, are dearly purchased by the sacrifice of that truth, sobriety, and correctness of language, and that in­genuous simplicity of character and manners so love­ly in female youth.

But antecedent to this epistolary period of life, they should have been accustomed to the most scrupulous exactness in whatever they relate. They should maintain the most critical accuracy in facts, in dates, in numbering, in describing, in short, in whatever per­tains, [Page 167] either directly or indirectly, closely or remote­ly, to the great fundamental principle, Truth.

The conversation of young females is also in dan­ger of being overloaded with epithets. As in the warm season of youth hardly any thing is seen in the true point of vision, so hardly any thing is named in naked simplicity; and the very sensibility of the feel­ings is partly a cause of the extravagance of the ex­pression. But here, as in other points, the sacred writers, particularly of the New Testament, present us with the purest models; and its natural and un­laboured style of expression is perhaps not the meanest evidence of the truth of the gospel. There is through­out the whole narratives, no overcharged character, no elaborate description, nothing studiously emphati­cal, as if truth of itself were weak, and wanted to be helped out. There is little panegyric, and less invective; none but on great, and awful, and justi­fiable occasions. The authors record their own faults with the same honesty as if they were the faults of other men, and the faults of other men with as lit­tle amplification as if they were their own. There is perhaps no book in which adjectives are so sparing­ly used. A modest statement of the fact, with no colouring and little comment, is the example held out to us for correcting the exuberances of passion and of language, by that divine volume which fur­nishes us with the still more important rule of faith [Page 168] and standard of practice. Nor is the truth lowered by any feebleness; for with all this plainness there is so much force that a few simple touches and artless strokes of Scripture characters convey a stronger out­line of the person delineated, than is sometimes given by the most elaborate portrait of more artificial his­torians.

If it be objected to this remark, that many parts of the sacred writings abound in a lofty, figurative, and even hyperbolical style; this objection applies chiefly to the writings of the Old Testament, and to the prophetical and poetical parts of that. But this metaphorical and florid style is distinct from the in­accurate and overstrained expression we have been censuring; for that only is inaccuracy which leads to a false and inadequate conception in the reader or hearer. The lofty style of the Eastern, and of other heroic poetry does not so mislead, for the metaphor is understood to be a metaphor, and the imagery is understood to be ornamental. The style of the Scriptures of the Old Testament is not, it is true, plain in opposition to figurative, nor simple in opposi­tion to florid; but it is plain and simple in the best sense; it raises no false idea; it gives an exact im­pression of the thing it means to convey; and its very tropes and figures, though bold, are never unnatural or affected. Even when it exaggerates, it does not misrepresent; if it be hyperbolical, it is so either in [Page 169] compliance with the genius of Oriental language, or in compliance with contemporary customs, or because the subject is one which will be most forcibly impres­sed by a bold figure. The loftiness of the expression deducts nothing from the truth of the circumstance, and the imagery animates the reader without mislead­ing him.

[Page 170]

CHAP. X.

On religion.—The necessity and duty of early instruction shewn by analogy with human learning.

IT has been the fashion of our late innovators in philosophy, who have written some of the most bril­liant and popular treatises on education, to decry the practice of early instilling religious knowledge into the minds of children: it has been alleged that it is of the utmost importance to the cause of truth, that the mind of man should be kept free from preposses­sions; and in particular, that every one should be left to form such judgment on religious subjects as may seem best to his own reason in maturer years.

This sentiment has received some countenance from those who have wished, on the fairest princi­ple, to encourage free inquiry in religion; but it has been pushed to the blameable excess here censured, chiefly by the new philosophers; who, while they profess only an ingenuous zeal for truth, are in fact slily endeavouring to destroy Christianity itself, by discountenancing, under the plausible pretence of free inquiry, all attention whatever to the religious education of our youth.

[Page 171] It is undoubtedly our duty, while we are instilling principles into the tender mind, to take peculiar care that those principles be sound and just; that the re­ligion we teach be the religion of the Bible, and not the inventions of human error or superstition: that the principles we infuse into others, be such as we ourselves have well scrutinized, and not the result of our credulity or bigotry; nor the mere hereditary, unexamined prejudices of our own undiscerning childhood. It may also be granted, that it is the duty of every parent to inform the youth, that when his faculties shall have so unfolded themselves as to enable him to examine for himself those principles which the parent is now instilling, it will be his du­ty so to examine them.

But after making these concessions, I would most seriously insist that there are certain leading and fundamental truths; that there are certain sentiments on the side of Christianity, as well as of virtue and benevolence, in favour of which every child ought to be prepossessed; and may it not be also added, that to expect to keep the mind void of all prepossession, even upon any subject, appears to be altogether a vain and impracticable attempt? an attempt which argues much ignorance of human nature.

Let it be observed here that we are not combating the infidel; that we are not producing evidences and arguments in favour of Christianity, or trying to win [Page 172] over the assent of the reader to that which he dis­putes; but that we are taking it for granted, not on­ly that Christianity is true, but that we are addressing those who believe it to be true. Assuming, there­fore, that there are religious principles which are true, and which ought to be communicated in the most effectual manner, the next question which arises seems to be, at what age and in what manner these ought to be inculcated? That it ought to be at an early period we have both the example and the com­mand of Christ; for he himself attended his parents in their annual public devotions at Jerusalem during his own infancy; and afterwards in his public mini­stration encouragingly said, "Suffer little children to come unto me."

But here conceding for the sake of argument what yet cannot be conceded, that some good reasons may be brought in favour of delay; allowing that such impressions as are communicated early may not be very deep; allowing them even to become totally ef­faced by the subsequent corruptions of the heart and of the world; still I would illustrate the importance of early infusing religious knowledge, by an allusion drawn from the power of early habit in human learn­ing. Put the case, for instance, of a person who was betimes initiated in the rudiments of classical studies. Suppose him after quitting school to have fallen, either by a course of idleness or of vulgar [Page 173] pursuits, into a total neglect of study. Should this person at any future period happen to be called to some profession, which would oblige him, as we say, to rub up his Greek and Latin; his memory still re­taining the unobliterated though faint traces of his early pursuits, he will be able to recover his neglect­ed learning with less difficulty than he could now be­gin to learn; for he is not again obliged to set out with studying the simple elements; they come back on being pursued; they are found on being searched for; the decayed images assume shape, and strength, and colour; he has in his mind first principles to which to recur; the rules of grammar which he has allowed himself to violate, he has not however for­gotten; he will recall neglected ideas, he will resume slighted habits far more easily than he could now be­gin to acquire new ones. I appeal to Clergymen who are called to attend the dying beds of such as have been bred in gross and stupid ignorance of re­ligion, for the justness of this comparison. Do they not find that these unhappy people have no ideas in common with them? that they possess no intelligible medium by which to make themselves understood? that the persons to whom they are addressing them­selves have no first principles to which they can be referred? that they are ignorant not only of the science, but the language of Christianity?

[Page 174] But at worst, whatever be the event to the child, though in general we are encouraged, from the tenor of Scripture and the course of experience, to hope that that event would be favourable, is it nothing for the parent to have acquitted himself of his prime duty? And will not the parent who so acquits him­self, with better reason and more lively hope, suppli­cate the Father of mercies for the reclaiming of a prodigal, who has wandered out of that right path in which he had set him forward, than for the con­version of a neglected creature, to whose feet the Gospel had never been offered as a light? And how different will be the dying reflections even of that parent whose earnest-endeavours have been unhap­pily defeated by the subsequent and voluntary perver­sion of his child, from his who will reasonably ag­gravate his pangs by transferring the sins of his neglected child to the number of his own transgres­sions.

And to such well-intentioned but ill-judging pa­rents as really wish their children to be hereafter pious, but erroneously withhold instruction till the more advanced period prescribed by the great master of splendid paradoxes* shall arrive; who can assure them that while they are withholding the good seed, the great and ever vigilant enemy, who assiduously [Page 175] seizes hold on every opportunity which we neglect, may not be stocking the fallow ground with tares? Nay, who in this fluctuating scene of things can be assured, even if this were not certainly to be the case, that to them the promised period ever shall arrive at all? Who shall ascertain to them that their now ne­glected child shall certainly live to receive the delay­ed instruction? Who can assure them that they them­selves will live to communicate it?

It is almost needless to observe that parents who are indifferent about religion, much more those who treat it with scorn, are not likely to be anxious on this subject; it is therefore the attention of religious parents which is here chiefly called upon; and the more so, as there seems, on this point, an unaccount­able negligence in many of these, whether it arise from indolence, false principles, or whatever other motive.

But independent of knowledge, it is something, nay, let philosophers say what they will, it is much, to give youth prepossessions in favour of religion, to se­cure their prejudices on its side before you turn them adrift into the world; a world in which, be­fore they can be completely armed with arguments and reasons, they will be assailed by numbers whose prepossessions and prejudices, far more than their ar­guments and reasons, attach them to the other side.

[Page 176] Why should not the Christian youth furnish him­self in a good cause with the same natural armour which the enemies of religion wear in a bad one? It is certain that to set out with sentiments in favour of the religion of our country is no more an error or a weakness, than to grow up with a fondness for our country itself. Nay, if the love of our country be judged a fair principle, surely a Chris­tian, who is "a citizen of no mean city," may lawfully have his attachments too. If patriotism be an honest prejudice, Christianity is not a servile one. Nay, let us teach the youth to hug his prejudices rather than to acquire that versatile and accommodat­ing citizenship of the world, by which he may be an Infidel in Paris, a Papist at Rome, and a Mussul­man at Cairo.

Let me not be supposed so to elevate politics, or so to depress religion, as to make any comparison of the value of the one with the other, when I observe, that between the true British patriot and the true Christian, there will be this common resemblance: the more deeply each of them inquires, the more will he be confirmed in his respective attachment, the one to his country, the other to his religion. I speak with reverence of the immeasurable distance; but the more the one presses on the firm arch of our constitution, and the other on that of Christianity, the stronger he will find them both. Each chal­lenges [Page 177] scrutiny; each has nothing to dread but from shallow politicians, and shallow philosophers; in each intimate knowledge justifies prepossession; in each investigation confirms attachment.

If we divide the human being into three compo­nent parts, the bodily, the intellectual, and the spirit­ual, is it not reasonable that a portion of care and at­tention be assigned to each in some degree adequate to its importance? Should I venture to say a due portion, a portion adapted to the real comparative value of each, would not that condemn in one word the whole system of modern education? Yet the ra­tional and intellectual part being avowedly more va­luable than the bodily, while the spiritual and immor­tal part exceeds even the intellectual still more than that surpasses what is corporeal; is it then acting ac­cording to the common rules of proportion; is it acting on the principles of distributive justice; is it acting with that good sense and right judgment with which the ordinary business of this world is usually transacted, to give the larger proportion of time and care to that which is worth the least? Is it fair that what relates to the body and the organs of the body, I mean those accomplishments which address them­selves to the eye and the ear, should occupy almost the whole thoughts; that the intellectual part should be robbed of its due proportion, and that the spirit­ual part should have almost no proportion at all? [Page 178] Is not this preparing your children for an awful dis­appointment in the tremendous day when they shall be stripped of that body, of those senses and organs, which have been made almost the sole objects of their attention, and shall feel themselves left in possession of nothing but that spiritual part which in education was scarcely taken into the account of their existence?

Surely it should be thought a reasonable compro­mise (and I am in fact undervaluing the object for the importance of which I plead) to suggest, that at least two-thirds of that time which is now usurped by ex­ternals, should be restored to the rightful owners, the understanding and the heart; and that the acqui­sition of religious knowledge in early youth, should at least be no less an object of sedulous attention than the cultivation of human learning or of outward embellishments. It is also reasonable to suggest, that we should in Christianity, as in arts, sciences, or lan­guages, begin with the beginning, set out with the simple elements and thus "go on unto perfection."

Why in teaching to draw do you begin with straight lines and curves, till by gentle steps the knowledge of outline and proportion be attained, and your picture be completed; never losing sight, however, of the elementary lines and curves? why in music do you set out with the simple notes, and pursue the acqui­sition through all its progress, still in every stage re­curring to the notes? why in the science of numbers [Page 179] do you invent the simplest methods of conveying just ideas of computation, still referring to the tables which involve the fundamental rules? why in the science of quantity do men introduce the pupil at first to the plainest diagrams, and clear up one difficulty before they allow another to appear? why in teach­ing languages to the youth do you sedulously infuse into his mind the rudiments of syntax? why in pars­ing is he led to refer every word to its part of speech, to resolve every sentence into its elements, to reduce every term to its original, and from the first case of nouns, and the first tense of verbs, to explain their formations, changes, and dependencies, till the prin­ciples of language become so grounded, that, by con­tinually recurring to the rules, the speaking and writ­ing correctly are fixed into a habit? why all this, but because you uniformly wish him to be grounded in each of his acquirements? why, but because you are persuaded that a slight, and slovenly, and super­ficial, and irregular way of instruction will never train him to excellence in any thing?

Do young persons then become musicians, and painters, and linguists, and mathematicians, by early study and regular labour; and shall they become Christians by accident? or rather, is not this acting on that very principle of Dogberry, at which you probably have often laughed? Is it not supposing that religion, like "reading and writing, comes by [Page 180] Nature?" Shall all those accomplishments "which perish in the using" be so assiduously, so systemati­cally taught? Shall all these habits be so carefully formed, so persisted in, as to be interwoven with our very make, so as to become as it were a part of our­selves, and shall that knowledge which is to make us "wise unto salvation" be picked up at random, cur­sorily, or perhaps not picked up at all? Shall that difficult divine science which requires "line upon line, and precept upon precept," here a little and there a little; which parents, even under a darker dispensation, were required ‘to teach their children diligently, and to talk of it when they sat down in their house, and when they walked by the way, and when they lay down, and when they rose up;’ shall this knowledge be by Christian parents deferred, or taught slightly; or be superseded by things of little comparative worth?

Shall the lively period of youth, the soft and im­pressible season when lasting habits are formed, when the seal cuts deep into the yielding wax, and the im­pression is more likely to be clear and strong; shall this warm and favourable season be suffered to slide by, without being turned to the great purpose for which not only youth, but life, and breath, and be­ing were bestowed? Shall not that "faith without which it is impossible to please God;" shall not that "holiness without which no man can see the [Page 181] Lord;" shall not that knowledge which is the foundation of faith and practice; shall not that charity without which all knowledge is sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, be impressed, be incul­cated, be enforced, as early, as constantly, as funda­mentally, with the same earnest pushing on to con­tinual progress, with the same constant reference to first principles, as are used in the case of those arts which merely adorn human life? Shall we not seize the happy period when the memory is strong, the mind and all its powers vigorous and active, the imagination busy and all alive, the heart flexible, the temper ductile, the conscience tender, curiosity awake, fear powerful, hope eager, love ardent; for incul­cating that knowledge, and impressing those princi­ples which are to form the character, and fix the destination for eternity?

Or, if I may be allowed to address another and a still more dilatory class, who are for procrastinating all concern about religion till we are driven to it by actual distress, like the sailor who said, "he thought it was always time enough to begin to pray when the storm began." Of these I would ask, shall we, with an unaccountable deliberation, defer our anxiety about religion till the man and woman are become so immersed in the cares of life, or so entangled in its pleasures, that they will have little heart or spirit to embrace a new principle? a principle whose precise [Page 182] object it will be to condemn that very life into which they have already embarked; nay to condemn almost all that they have been doing and thinking ever since they began to act or think? Shall we, I say, begin now? or shall we suffer those instructions, to re­ceive which requires all the concentrated powers of a strong and healthy mind, to be put off till the day of excruciating pain, till the period of debility and stupefaction? Shall we wait for that season, as if it were the most favourable for religious acquisitions, when the senses shall have been palled by excessive gratification, when the eye shall be tired with seeing, and the ear with hearing? Shall we, when the whole man is breaking up by disease or decay, expect that the dim apprehension will discern a new science, or the obtuse feelings delight themselves with a new pleasure? a pleasure too, not only incompatible with many of the hitherto indulged pleasures, but one which carries with it a strong intimation that those pleasures terminate in the death of the soul.

But, not to lose sight of the important analogy on which we have already dwelt so much; how pre­posterous would it seem to you to hear any one pro­pose to an illiterate dying man, to set about learning even the plainest and easiest rudiments of any new art; to study the musical notes; to conjugate an aux­iliary verb; to learn, not the first problem in Euclid, but even the numeration table; and yet you do not [Page 183] think it absurd to postpone religious instruction, on principles which, if admitted at all, must terminate either in ignorance, or in your proposing too late to a dying man to begin to learn the totally unknown scheme of Christianity. You do not think it impossi­ble that he should be brought to listen to the ‘voice of this charmer,’ when he can no longer listen to "the voice of singing men and singing women." You do not think it unreasonable that immortal be­ings should delay to devote their days to Heaven, till they have "no pleasure in them" themselves. You will not bring them to offer up the first fruits of their lips, and hearts, and lives, to their Maker, because you persuade yourselves that he who has called himself a "jealous God," may however be contented hereafter with the wretched sacrifice of decayed appetites, and the worthless leavings of almost extinguished affections.

For one cannot believe that there is scarcely any one, except he be a decided infidel, who does not consider religion as at least a good reversionary thing; as an object which ought always to occupy a little remote corner of his map of life; the study of which, though it is always to be postponed, is however not to be finally rejected; which, though it cannot conveniently come into his present scheme of life, it is intended somehow or other to take up before death. This awful deception arises, partly [Page 184] from the bulk which the objects of time and sense acquire in our eyes by their nearness; while the in­visible realities of eternity are but faintly discerned by a feeble faith, through a dim and distant medi­um; and partly from a totally false idea of the na­ture of Christianity, from a fatal fancy that we can repent at any future period, and that as amendment will always be in our own power, it will be time enough to think of reforming our life, when we should only think of closing it.

But depend upon it, that a heart long hardened, I do not mean by gross vices merely, but by a fond­ness for the world, by an habitual and excessive in­dulgence in the pleasures of sense, is by no means in a favourable state to admit the light of divine truth, or to receive the impressions of divine grace. God indeed sometimes shows us by an act of his sovereignty, that this wonderful change, the conver­sion of a sinner's heart, may be produced without the intervention of human means, to show that the work is HIS. But as this is not way in which the Almighty usually deals with his creatures, it would be nearly as preposterous for men to act on this presumption, as it would be to take no means for the preservation of our lives, because Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

[Page 185]

CHAP. XI.

On the manner of instructing young persons in Religion.—General remarks on the genius of Christianity.

I WOULD now with great deference address those respectable characters who are really concerned about the best interests of their children; those to whom Christianity is indeed an important considera­tion, but whose habits of life have hindered them from giving it its due degree in the scale of educa­tion.

Begin then with considering that religion is a part, and the most prominent part, in your system of in­struction. Do not communicate its principles in a random desultory way; nor scantily stint this busi­ness to only such scraps and remnants of time as may be casually picked up from the gleanings of other ac­quirements. ‘Will you bring to God for a sacrifice that which costs you nothing?’ Let the best part of the day, which with most people is the earliest part, be steadily and invariably dedicated to this work by your children, before they are tired with their other studies, while the intellect is clear, the spirits light, and the attention unfatigued.

[Page 186] Confine not your instructions to mere verbal ritu­als and dry systems; but instruct them in a way which shall interest their feelings; by lively images, and by a warm practical application of what they read to their own hearts and circumstances. There seems to be no good reason that while every other thing is to be made amusing, religion alone must be dry and uninviting. Do not fancy that a thing is good merely because it is dull. Why should not the most entertaining powers of the mind be supremely consecrated to that subject which is most worthy of their full exercise? The misfortune is, that religious learning is too often rather considered as an act of the memory than of the heart and feelings; and that children are turned over to the dry work of getting by rote as a task that which they should get from ex­ample and animated conversation. Teach them ra­ther, as their Blessed Saviour taught, by interesting parables, which while they corrected the heart, left some exercise for the ingenuity in their solution, and for the feelings in their application. Teach, as HE taught, by seizing on surrounding objects, passing events, local circumstances, peculiar characters, apt allusions, just analogy, appropriate illustration. Call in all creation, animate and inanimate, to your [...], and accustom your young audience to

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
[...] in stones, and good in every thing.

[Page 187] Do, according to your measure of ability, what the Holy Spirit which indited the Scriptures has done, always take the sensibility of the learner into your ac­count of the faculties which are to be worked upon. "For the doctrines of the Bible," as the profound and enlightened Bacon observes, ‘are not proposed to us in a naked logical form, but arrayed in the most beautiful and striking colours which creation affords.’ By those illustrations used by Him "who knew what was in man," and therefore best knew how to address him, it was, that the unletter­ed audiences of Christ and his Apostles were enabled both to comprehend and to relish doctrines, which would not readily have made their way to their un­derstandings, had they not first touched their hearts; and which would have found access to neither the one nor the other, had they been delivered in dry, scholastic disquisitions. Now those audiences not being learned, may be supposed to have been nearly in the state of children, as to their receptive faculties, and to have required nearly the same sort of instruc­tion; that is, they were more capable of being af­fected with what was simple, and touching, and live­ly, than what was elaborate, abstruse, and unaffect­ing. Heaven and earth were made to furnish their contributions, when man was to be taught that sci­ence which was to make him wise unto salvation. If that be the purest eloquence which most persuades, [Page 188] then no eloquence is so powerful as that of Scripture: and an intelligent Christian teacher will be admonish­ed by the mode of Scripture itself, how to communi­cate its truths with [...]; ‘while he is mus­ing, the fire [...] [...] fire which will preserve him from an [...] and freezing mode of instruction. He will moreover, like his great Master, always carefully keep up a quick sense of the personal in­terest the pupil has in every religious instruction which is impressed upon him. He will teach as Paul prayed, ‘with the spirit, and with the under­standing also;’ and in imitating this great model he will necessarily avoid the opposite faults of two different sorts of instructors; for while some of our divines of the higher class have been too apt to preach as if mankind had only intellect, and the lower and more popular sort as if they had only passions, do you borrow what is good from both, and address your pupils as beings compounded of both understanding and affections.*

[Page 189] Fancy not that the Bible is too difficult and intri­cate to be presented in its own naked form, and that it puzzles and bewilders the youthful understanding. In all needful and indispensable points of knowledge the darkness of Scripture, as a great Christian philo­sopher* has observed, ‘is but a partial darkness, like that of Egypt, which benighted only the ene­mies of God, while it left his children in clear day.’ And if it be really the appropriate character of Scrip­ture, as it tells us itself that it is, ‘to enlighten the eyes of the blind,’ and "to make wise the simple," then it is as well calculated for the youthful and un­informed as for any other class; and as it was never expected that the greater part of Christians should be learned, so is learning, though of inestimable va­lue in a teacher of theology, no essential qualifica­tion for a common Christian; for which reason Scrip­ture truths are expressed with that clear and simple evidence adapted to the kind of assent which they require. He who could bring an unprejudiced heart and an unperverted will would bring to the Scrip­tures the best qualification for understanding and re­ceiving them. And though they contain things which the pupil cannot comprehend, (as what anci­ent poet, historian, or orator does not,) the teacher may address to him the words which Christ addressed to Peter, ‘What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.’

[Page 190] Young people who have been taught religion in a dry and superficial way, who have had all its drudgeries and none of its pleasures, will probably have acquired so little relish for it, as to consider the continued prosecution of their religious studies as a badge of their tutelage, as a mark that they are still under subjection; and will look forward with impatience to the hour of their emancipation from the lectures on Christianity. They will long for the period when its lessons shall cease to be delivered; will conclude that, having once attained such an age, and arrived at the required proficiency, the ob­ject will be accomplished and the labour at an end. But let not your children "so learn Christ." Ap­prize them that no specific day will ever arrive on which they shall say, I have attained; but inform them, that every acquisition must be followed up; knowledge must be increased; prejudices subdued; good habits rooted; evil ones eradicated; disposi­tions strengthened; principles confirmed; till, going on from strength to strength, they come ‘to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’

But though serious instruction will not only be unin­teresting but irksome if conveyed to youth in a mere didactic way, yet if their affections are suitably en­gaged, their hearts, so far from necessarily revolting, as some insist they will, often receive the most so­lemn [Page 191] truths with alacrity. It is the manner which revolts them, and not the thing.

As it is notorious that men of wit and imagination have been the most formidable enemies to Christiani­ty; while men, in whom those talents have been consecrated to God, have been some of her most useful champions, take particular care to press that ardent and ever-active power, the imagination, into the service of religion; this bright and busy faculty will be leading its possessor into perpetual peril, and is an enemy of peculiar potency till it come to be employed in the cause of God. It is a lion, which though worldly prudence indeed may chain so as to prevent outward mischief, yet the malignity remains within; but when sanctified by Christianity, the imagination is a lion tamed; you have all the benefit of its strength and its activity, divested of its mis­chief. God never bestowed that noble but restless faculty, without intending it to be an instrument of his own glory; though it has been too often set up in rebellion against him; because, in its youthful stirrings, while all alive to evil, it has not been seized upon to fight for its rightful Sovereign, but was early enlisted with little opposition under the banners of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Religion is the only subject in which, under the guidance of an holy and sober-minded prudence, this discursive faculty can safely stretch its powers and expand its [Page 192] energies. But let it be remembered, that it must be a sound and genuine Christianity which can alone so chastise and regulate the imagination, as to restrain it from those errors and excesses into which a false, a mistaken, an irregular religion, has too often plung­ed its injudicious and ill-instructed professor. To secure the imagination therefore on the safe side, and, if I may change the metaphor, to put it under the direction of its true pilot in the stormy voyage of life, is like engaging those potent elements, the wind and tide, in your favour.

In your communications with young people, take care to convince them that as religion is not a busi­ness to be laid aside with the lesson, so neither is it a single branch of duty; some detached thing, which like an art or a language is to be practised separately, and to have its distinct periods and [...] of opera­tion. But let them understand, that common acts, by the spirit in which they are to be performed, are to be made acts of religion: that Christianity may be considered as having something of that influence over the conduct which external grace has over the man­ners; for as it is not the performance of some parti­cular act which denominates any one to be graceful, grace being a spirit diffused through the whole system which animates every sentiment, and informs every action; as she who has true personal grace has it uniformly, and is not sometimes awkward and some­times [Page 193] elegant; does not sometimes lay it down and sometimes take it up; so religion is not an occasional act, but an indwelling principle, an in wrought habit, a pervading and informing spirit, from which indeed every act derives all its life, and energy, and beauty.

Give them clear views of the broad discrimination between practical religion and worldly morality. Show them that no good qualities are genuine but such as flow from the religion of Christ. Let them learn that the virtues which the better sort of peo­ple, who yet are destitute of true Christianity, incul­cate and practise, resemble those virtues which have the love of God for their motive, just as counterfeit coin resembles sterling gold; they may have, it is true, certain points of resemblance with the others; they may be bright and shining; they have perhaps the image and the superscription, but they ever want the true distinguishing properties; they want sterling value, purity, and weight. They may indeed pass current in the traffic of this world, but when brought to the touchstone, they will be found full of alloy; when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, "they will be found wanting;" they will not stand that final trial which is to separate ‘the precious from the vile;’ they will not ‘abide the day of his coming who is like a refiner's fire.’

One error into which even some good people are apt to fall, is that of endeavouring to deceive young minds by temporising expedients. In order to allure [Page 194] them to become religious, they exhibit false, or faint, or inadequate views of Christianity; and while they represent it as it really is, as a life of superior hap­piness and advantage, they conceal its difficulties, and like the Jesuitical Chinese missionaries, extenuate, or sink, or deny, such parts of it as are least allur­ing to human pride. But besides that, the project fails with them as it did with the Jesuits; all fraud is bad; and a [...] fraud is a contradiction in terms which ought to be buried in the rubbish of papal desolation.

Instead of representing to the young Christian that it may be possible by a prudent ingenuity at once to pursue, with equal ardour and success, worldly fame and eternal glory, would it not be more honest to tell him fairly and unambiguously that there are two dis­tinct roads between which there is a broad boundary line? that there are two irreconcileable interests; that he must forsake the one if he would cleave to the other? that there are two sorts of characters at eternal variance? that nothing short of absolute de­cision can make a confirmed Christian? Point out the different sort of promises annexed to these different sorts of characters. Confess in the language of Christ how the man of the world often obtains (and it is the natural course of human things) the recom­pence he sedulously seeks. ‘Verily I say unto you they have their reward.’ Explain the beatitudes on the other hand, and unfold what kind of specific [Page 195] reward is there individually promised to its concomi­tant virtue. Show your pupil that to that ‘poverty of spirit’ to which the kingdom of heaven is promised, it would be inconsistent to expect that the recompence of human commendation should be also attached; that to that "purity of heart" to which the beatific vision is annexed, it would be unrea­sonable to suppose you can unite the praise of licenti­ous wits, or the admiration of a catch club. These will be bestowed on their appropriate and correspond­ing merits. Do not enlist them under false colours. Different sorts of rewards are attached to different sorts of services; and while you truly assert that re­ligions ways are ‘ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,’ take care that you do not lead them to depend too exclusively on worldly happiness and earthly peace, for these make no part of the covenant; they may be superadded, but they were never stipulated in the contract.

But if, in order to attract the young to a religious course, you disingenuously conceal its difficulties, while you are enlarging upon its pleasures, you will tempt them to distrust the truth of Scripture itself. For what will they think, not only of a few detach­ed texts, but of the general cast and colour of the Gospel when contrasted with your representation of it? What notion will they conceive of ‘the strait gate’ and "narrow way?" of the amputation of a "right hand?" of the excision of a "right eye?" [Page 196] of the other strong metaphors by which the Chris­tian warfare is shadowed out? of ‘crucifying the flesh?’ of "mortifying the old man?" of ‘dy­ing unto sin?’ of "overcoming the world?" Do you not think their meek and compassionate Saviour who died for your children loved them as well as you love them? And if this were his language, ought it not to be yours? It is the language of true love; of that love with which a merciful God loved the world, when he spared not his own Son. Do not then try to conceal from them, that the life of a Christian is necessarily opposite to the life of the world; and do not seek, by a vain attempt at ac­commodation, to reconcile that difference which Christ himself has pronounced to be irreconcileable.

May it not be partly owing to the want of a due introduction to the knowledge of the real nature and spirit of religion, that so many young Christians, who set out in a fair and flourishing way, decline and wither when they come to perceive the requisitions of experimental Christianity? requisitions which they had not suspected of making any part of the plan.

People are no more to be cheated into religion than into learning. The same spirit which influences your oath in a court of justice should influence your dis­course in that court of equity—your family. Your children should be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is unnecessary to add, that it must be done gradually and discreetly. We [Page 197] know whose example we have for postponing that which the mind is not yet prepared to receive: ‘I have many things yet to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now.’ Accustom them to reason by analogy. Explain to them that great worldly attain­ments are never made without great sacrifices; that the merchant cannot become rich without industry; the statesman eminent without labour; the scholar learned without study; the hero renowned without danger: would it not then, on human principles, be unreasonable to think that the Christian alone should obtain a triumph without a warfare? the highest prize with the lowest exertions? an eternal crown without a present cross? and that heaven is the only reward which the idle may reckon upon? No: though salvation "be the gift of God," yet it must be "worked out." Convince your young friends, however, that in this case the difficulty bears no pro­portion to the prize; though in one respect the point of resemblance fails, and that most advantageously for the Christian; for while, even by the most pro­bable means, which are the union of talents with diligence, no human prosperity can be insured to the worldly candidate; while the most successful adven­turer may fail by the fault of another; while the best concerted project of the statesman may be crush­ed; the bravest hero lose the battle; the brightest genius fail of getting bread; and while, moreover, the pleasure arising from success in these may be no [Page 198] sooner tasted than it is poisoned by a more pros­perous rival; the persevering Christian is safe and certain of attaining his object; no misfortunes can defeat his hope; no competition can endanger his success; for though another gain, he will not lose. Nay, the success of another, so far from diminishing his gain, is an addition to it; the more he diffuses, the richer he grows; and that mortal hour which cuts off for ever the hopes of worldly men, crowns and consummates his.

Beware at the same time of setting up any act of self-denial or mortification as the procuring cause of salvation. This would be a presumptuous project to purchase that eternal life which is declared to be the "free gift of God." This would be to send your children, not to the Gospel to learn their Christiani­ty, but to the Monks and Ascetics of the middle ages; it would be sending them to Peter the Hermit, and the holy fathers of the Desert, and not to Peter the Apostle and his Divine Master. Mortification is not the price; it is nothing more than the disci­pline of a soul of which sin is the disease, the diet prescribed by the great physician. Without this guard the young devout Christian would be led to fancy that abstinence, pilgrimage, and penance might be adopted as the cheap substitute for the subdued desire, the conquered temptation, and the obedient will; and would be almost in as much danger, on the one hand, of self-righteousness arising from au­sterities [Page 199] and mortification, as she would be, on the other, from self-gratification in the indulgences of the world. And while you carefully impress on her the necessity of living a life of strict obedience if she would please God, do not neglect to remind her also that a complete renunciation of her own perform­ances as a ground of merit, purchasing the favour of God by their own intrinsic worth, is included in that obedience.

It is of the last importance, in stamping on young minds a true impression of the genius of Christianity, to possess them with a conviction that it is the purity of the motive which not only gives worth and beau­ty, but which, in a Christian sense, gives life and soul to the best action: nay, that while a right in­tention will be acknowledged and accepted at the final judgment, even without the act, the act itself will be disowned which wanted the basis of a pure design. ‘Thou didst well that it was in thy heart to build me a temple,’ said the Almighty to that Monarch whom yet he permitted not to build it. How many splendid actions will be rejected in the great day of retribution, to which statues and monu­ments have been raised on earth, while their almost deified authors shall be as much confounded at their own unexpected reprobation, as at the acceptance of those "whose life the world counted madness." "Depart from me, I never knew you," is not the malediction denounced on the sceptic or the scoffer, [Page 200] but on the unfruitful worker of "miracles," on the unsanctified utterer of "prophecies;" for even acts of piety wanting the purifying principle, however they may dazzle men, offend God. Cain sacrificed, Balaam prophesied, Rousseau wrote the most sublime panegyric on the Son of Mary, VOLTAIRE BUILT A CHURCH! nay, so superior was his affectation of sanctity, that he ostentatiously declared, that while others were raising churches to Saints, there was one man at least who would erect his church to God: that God whose altars he was overthrowing, whose name he was vilifying, whose gosdel he was extermi­nating, and the very name of whose Son he had solemn­ly pledged himself to blot from the face of the earth!

Though it be impossible here to enumerate all those Christian virtues which should be impressed in the progress of a Christian education, yet in this con­nection I cannot forbear mentioning one which more immediately grows out of the subject; and to re­mark that the principle which should be the inva­riable concomitant of all instruction, and especially of religious instruction, is humility. As this tem­per is inculcated in every page of the Gospel; as it is deducible from every precept and every action of Christ; that is a sufficient intimation that it should be made to grow out of every study, that it should be grafted on every acquisition. It is the turning point, the leading principle indicative of the very genius of Christianity. This chastising quality [Page 201] should therefore be constantly made in education to operate as the only counteraction of that ‘knowledge which puffeth up.’ Youth should be taught that as humility is the discriminating characteristic of our religion, therefore a proud Christian, a haughty dis­ciple of a crucified Master, furnishes perhaps a stronger opposition in terms than the whole compass of language can exhibit. They should be taught that humility being the appropriate grace of Christianity, is what makes Christian and Pagan virtues essentially different. The virtues of the Romans, for instance, were obviously founded in pride; as a proof of this, they had not even a word in their copious language to express humility, but what was used in a bad sense, and conveyed the idea of meanness or vileness. Chris­tianity so stands on its own single ground, is so far from assimilating itself to the spirit of other religions, that, unlike the Roman Emperor, who though he would not become a Christian, yet ordered that the image of Christ should be set up in the Pantheon with those of the heathen gods, and be worship­ped in common with them; Christianity not only re­jects all such partnerships with other religions, but it pulls down their images, defaces their temples, tramples on their honours, founds its own existence on the ruins of spurious religions and spurious virtues, and will be every thing when it is admitted to be any thing.

Will it be going too much out of the way to ob­serve, that Christian Britain retaliates upon Pagan [Page 202] Rome? For if the former used humility in a bad sense, has not the latter learnt to use pride in a good one? May we, without impertinence, venture to re­mark, that, in the deliberations of as honourable and upright political assemblies as ever adorned, or, under Providence, upheld a country; in orations which leave us nothing to envy in Attic or Roman eloquence in their best days; it were to be wished that we did not borrow from Rome an epithet which suited the genius of her religion, as much as it mili­tates against that of ours? The panegyrist of the battle of Marathon, of Plataea, or of Zama, might with propriety speak of a "proud day," or a ‘proud event,’ or a "proud success." But surely the Christian encomiasts of the battle of the Nile may, from their abundance, select an epithet better appro­priated to such a victory—a victory which, by pre­serving Europe, has perhaps preserved that religion which sets its foot on the very neck of pride, and in which the conqueror himself, even in the first ardors of triumph, forgot not to ascribe the victory to AL­MIGHTY GOD. Let us leave to the enemy both the term and the thing; arrogant words being the only weapons in which we must ever vail to their decided superiority.

Above all things then you should beware that your pupils do not take up with a vague, general, and undefined religion; but look to it that their Christianity be really the religion of Christ. Instead [Page 203] of slurring over the doctrines of the Cross, as disre­putable appendages to our religion, which are to be got over as well as we can, but which are never to be dwelt upon, take care to make these your funda­mental articles. Do not explain away these doc­trines, and by some elegant periphrasis hint at a Saviour, instead of making him the foundation stone of your system. Do not convey primary, and plain, and awful, and indispensable truths elliptically, I mean as something that is to be understood without being expressed; nor study fashionable circumlocu­tions to avoid names and things on which our salva­tion hangs, in order to prevent your discourse from being offensive. Persons who are thus instructed in religion with more good breeding than seriousness and simplicity, imbibe a distaste for plain scriptural language; and the Scriptures themselves are so little in use with a certain fashionable class of readers, that when the doctrines and language of the Bible occasionally occur in other authors, they present a sort of novelty and peculiarity which offend; and such readers as disuse the Bible are apt to call that precise and puritanical which is in fact sound and scriptural. Nay, it has several times happened to the author to hear persons of sense and learning ridi­cule insulated sentiments and expressions that have fallen in their way, which they would have treated with decent respect had they known them to be, as they really were, texts of Scripture. This observa­tion [Page 204] is hazarded with a view to enforce the impor­tance of early communicating religious knowledge, and of infusing an early taste for Scripture phraseology.

The persons in question are apt to acquire a kind of Pagan Christianity, which just enables them to hear with complacency of the "Deity," of a ‘first cause,’ and of "conscience." Nay, some may even go so far as to talk of ‘the Founder of our religion,’ of the "Author of Christianity," in general terms, as they would talk of the prophet of Arabia, or the law-giver of China, of Athens, or of the Jews. But their refined ears revolt not a lit­tle at the unadorned name of Christ; and even the naked and unqualified term of our Saviour, or Re­deemer, carries with it a queerish, inelegant, not to say a suspicious sound. They will express a serious disapprobation of what is wrong under the moral term of vice, or the forensic term of crime; but they are apt to think that the Scripture term of sin has something fanatical in it: and, while they discover a great respect for morality, they do not much relish holiness, which is indeed the specific morality of a Christian. They will speak readily of a man's re­forming, or leaving off a vicious habit, or growing more correct in some individual practice; but the expression of a total change of heart, they would stigmatize as the very shibboleth of a sect, though it is the language of a Liturgy they affect to admire, and of a Gospel which they profess to receive.

[Page 205]

CHAP. XII.

Hints suggested for furnishing young persons with a scheme of prayer.

THOSE who are aware of the inestimable value of prayer themselves, will naturally be anxious not only that this duty should be earnestly inculcated on their children, but that they should be taught it in the best manner; and such parents need little persuasion or counsel on the subject. Yet children of decent and orderly (I will not say of strictly religious) fami­lies are often so superficially instructed in this impor­tant business, that it is not unusual, when they are asked what prayers they use, to answer, ‘the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. And even some who are better taught, are not always made to understand with sufficient clearness the specific distinction be­tween the two; that the one is the confession of their faith, and the other the model for their supplica­tions. By this confused and indistinct beginning, they set out with a perplexity in their ideas, which is not always completely disentangled in more ad­vanced life.

[Page 206] An intelligent mother will seize the first occasion which the child's opening understanding shall allow, for making a little course of lectures on the Lord's Prayer, taking every division or short sentence sepa­rately; for each furnishes valuable materials for a distinct lecture. The child should be led gradually through every part of this divine composition; she should be taught to break it into all the regular divi­sions, into which indeed it so naturally resolves itself. She should be made to comprehend one by one each of its short but weighty sentences; to amplify and spread them out for the purpose of better understand­ing them, not in their most extensive and critical, but in their most simple and obvious meaning. For in those condensed and substantial expressions, every word is an ingot, and will bear beating out; so that the teacher's difficulty will not so much be what she shall say as what she shall suppress; so abundant is the expository matter which this succinct pattern suggests.

When the child has a pretty good conception of the meaning of each division, she should then be made to observe the connection, relation, and depen­dance of the several parts of this prayer one upon another; for there is great method and connection in it. We pray that the ‘kingdom of God may come,’ as the best means to "hallow his name;" and that by us, the obedient subjects of this king­dom, "his will may be done." A judicious inter­preter [Page 207] will observe how logically and consequently one clause grows out of another, though she will use neither the word logical nor consequence: for all ex­planations should be made in the most plain and fa­miliar terms, it being words, and not things, which commonly perplex children, if, as it sometimes hap­pens, the teacher, though not wanting sense, want perspicuity and simplicity.

The young person, from being made a complete mistress of this short composition, (which as it is to be her guide and model through life, too much pains cannot be bestowed on it,) will have a clearer con­ception, not only of its individual contents, but of prayer in general, than many ever attain, though their memory has been perhaps loaded with long and unexplained forms, which they have been ac­customed to swallow in the lump without scrutiny. Prayer should not be so swallowed. It is a regular prescription, which should stand analysis and exami­nation: it is not a charm, the successful operation of which depends on your blindly taking it, without knowing what is in it, and in which the good you receive is promoted by your ignorance of its contents.

I would have it understood that by these little comments, I do not mean that the child should be put to learn dry, and to her, unintelligible, expositi­ons; and here I must remark in general, that the teacher is sometimes apt to relieve herself at the [Page 208] child's expence, by loading the memory of a little creature on occasions in which far other faculties should be put in exercise. The child herself should be made to furnish a good part of the commentary by her answers; in which answers she will be much assisted by the judgment the teacher uses in her man­ner of questioning. And the youthful understand­ing, when its powers are properly set at work, will soon strengthen by exercise so as to furnish reasonable if not very correct answers.

Written forms of prayer are not only useful and proper, but indispensably necessary. But I will ha­zard the remark, that if children are thrown exclusive­ly on the best forms, if they are made to commit them to memory like a copy of verses, and to repeat them in a dry, customary way, they will produce little effect on their minds. They will not under­stand what they repeat, if we do not early open to them the important scheme of prayer. Without such an elementary introduction to this duty, they will afterwards be either ignorant or enthusiasts, or both. We should give them knowledge before we can ex­pect them to make much progress in piety, and as a due preparative to it: Christian instruction in this re­sembling the sun, who, in the course of his commu­nications, gives light before he gives heat. And to excite a spirit of devotion without infusing that knowledge out of which it is to grow, is practically [Page 209] reviving the popish maxim, that Ignorance is the mother of Devotion, and virtually adopting the po­pish rule, of praying in an unknown tongue.

Children, let me again observe, will not attend to their prayers if they do not understand them; and they will not understand them, if they are not taught to analyse, to dissect them, to know their component parts, and to methodise them.

It is not enough to teach them to consider prayer under the general idea that it is an application to God for what they want, and an acknowledgment for what they have. This, though true in the gross, is not sufficiently precise and correct. They should learn to define and to arrange all the different parts of prayer. And as a preparative to prayer itself, they should be impressed with as clear an idea as the nature of the subject admits, of ‘HIM with whom they have to do.’ His omnipresence is per­haps, of all his attributes, that of which we may make the first practical use. Every head of prayer is founded on some great scriptural truths, which truths the little analysis here suggested will material­ly assist to fix in their minds.

On the knowledge that "God is," that he is an infinitely holy Being, and that ‘he is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him,’ will be grounded the first part of prayer, which is adoration. The creature devoting itself to the Creator, or self-dedication, [Page 210] next presents itself. And if they are first taught that important truth, that as needy creatures they want help, which may be done by some easy analogy, they will easily be led to understand how naturally petition forms a most considerable branch of prayer: and divine grace being among the things for which they are to petition, this naturally sug­gests to the mind the doctrine of the influences of the spirit. And when to this is added the convic­tion, which will be readily worked into an ingenu­ous mind, that as offending creatures they want pardon, the necessity of confession will easily be made intelligible to them. But they should be brought to understand that it must not be such a general and vague confession as awakens no sense of per­sonal humiliation, as excites no recollection of their own more peculiar and individual faults. But it must be a confession founded on self-knowledge, which is itself to arise out of the practice of self-examination: for want of this sort of discriminating habit, a well-meaning but ill-instructed girl may catch herself confessing the sins of some other per­son, and omitting those which are more especially her own. On the gladness of heart natural to youth, it will be less difficult to impress the delightful duty of thanksgiving, which forms so considerable a branch of prayer. In this they should be habituated to recapitulate not only their general, but to enume­rate [Page 211] their peculiar, daily, and incidental mercies, in the same specific manner as they should have been taught to detail their wants in the petitionary, and their faults in the confessional part. The same warmth of feeling which will more readily dispose them to express their gratitude to God in thanks­giving, will also lead them more gladly to express their love to their parents and friends, by adopting another indispensable, and to an affectionate heart, pleasing part of prayer, which is intercession.

When they have been made, by a plain and per­spicuous mode of instruction, fully to understand the different nature of all these; and when they clearly comprehend that adoration, self-dedication, con­fession, petition, thanksgiving, and intercession, are dis­tinct heads, which must not be involved in each other, you may exemplify the rules by pointing out to them these successive branches in any well written form. And they will easily discern, that ascription of glory to that God to whom we owe so much, and on whom we so entirely depend, is the conclu­sion into which a Christian's prayer will naturally resolve itself. It is hardly needful to remind the teacher that our truly Scriptural Liturgy invariably furnishes the example of presenting every request in the name of the great Mediator. In the Liturgy too they will meet with the best exemplifications of [Page 212] prayers, exhibiting separate specimens of each of the distinct heads we have been suggesting.

But in order that the minds of young persons may, without labour or difficulty, be gradually brought into such a state of preparation as to be benefited by such a little course of lectures as we have recom­mended; they should, from the time when they were first able to read, have been employing them­selves at their leisure hours, in laying in a store of provision for their present demands. And here the memory may be employed to good purpose; for be­ing the first faculty which is ripened, and which is indeed perfected when the others are only beginning to unfold themselves, this is an intimation of Provi­dence that it should be the first seized on for the best uses. It should therefore be devoted to lay in a stock of the more easy and devotional parts of Scripture. The Psalms alone are an inexhaustible store-house of rich materials.* Children whose minds have been early well furnished from these, will be competent at nine or ten years old to produce from them, and to select with no contemptible judgment suitable ex­amples [Page 213] of all the parts of prayer; and will be able to extract and appropriate texts under each respective head, so as to exhibit, without help, complete speci­mens of every part of prayer. By confining them entirely to the sense, and nearly to the words of Scripture, they will be preserved from enthusiasm, from irregularity, and conceit. By being obliged continually to apply for themselves, they will get a habit in all their difficulties, of ‘searching the Scriptures,’ which may be useful to them on fu­ture and more trying occasions. But I would confine them to the Bible; for were they allowed with equal freedom to ransack other books with a view to get helps to embellish their little compositions, or rather compilations, they might be tempted to pass off for their own what they pick up from other, which might tend at once to make them both vain and de­ceitful. This is a temptation to which they are too much laid open when they get commended for any pilfered passage with which they decorate their little themes and letters. But in the present instance there is no danger of any similar deception, for there is such a sacred signature stamped on every Scripture phrase, that the owner's name can never be defaced or torn off from the goods, either by fraud or vio­lence.

It would be well, if in those Psalms which chil­dren were first directed to get by heart, an eye were [Page 214] had to this their future application; and that they were employed, but without any intimation of your subsequent design, in learning such as may be best turned to this account. In the 139th the first great truth to be imprinted on the young heart, as was before observed, is unfolded with such a mixture of majestic grandeur, and such an interesting variety of intimated and local circumstances, as is likely to seize on the quick and lively feelings of youth. The aw­ful idea that that Being whom she is taught to rever­ence, is not only in general ‘acquainted with all her ways,’ but that ‘he is about her path, and about her bed,’ bestows such a sense of real and present existence on him of whom she is apt to conceive as having his distant habitation only in Heaven, as will help her to realize the sense of his actual presence.

The 103d Psalm will open to the mind rich and abundant sources of expression for gratitude and thanksgiving, and it includes spiritual as well as tem­poral favours. It illustrates the mercies of God by familiar and domestic images, of such peculiar ten­derness and endearment, as are calculated to strike upon every chord of filial fondness in the heart of an affectionate child. The 51st supplies an infinite variety of matter in whatever relates to confession of sin, or to supplication for the aids of the Spirit. The 23d abounds with captivating expressions of the protecting goodness of their heavenly Father, con­veyed [Page 215] by pastoral imagery of uncommon sweetness: in short the greater part of these beautiful composi­tions overflow with materials for every head of prayer.

The child who, while she was engaged in learn­ing these Scriptures, was not aware that there was any specific object to be answered by it, will after­wards feel an unexpected pleasure arising from the application of her petty labours, when she is called to draw out from her little treasury of knowledge the stores she has been collecting; and will be pleas­ed to find that without any fresh application to stu­dy, for she is now obliged to exercise a higher facul­ty than memory, she has lying ready in her mind the materials with which she is now called upon to work. Her judgment must be set about selecting one or two, or more texts which shall contain the substance of every specific head of prayer before no­ticed; and it will be a farther exercise to her under­standing to concatenate the detached parts into one regular whole, occasionally varying the arrangement as she likes; that is, changing the order, sometimes beginning with invocation, sometimes with confession; sometimes dwelling longer on one part, sometimes on another. As the hardships of a religious Sunday are often so pathetically pleaded, as making one of the heavy burdens of religion; and as the friends of re­ligion are so often called upon to mitigate its rigours, [Page 216] might not such an exercise as has been here suggest­ed help to vary its occupations?

The habits of the pupil being thus early formed, her memory, attention, and intellect being bent in a right direction, and the exercise invariably maintain­ed, may one not reasonably hope that her affections also, through divine grace, may become interested in the work, till she will be enabled ‘to pray with the spirit and with the understanding also?’ She will now be qualified to use a well-composed form with seriousness and advantage; for she will now use it not mechanically, but rationally. That which before appeared to her a mere mass of good words, will now appear a significant composition, exhibiting va­riety, and order, and beauty; and she will have the farther advantage of being enabled by her improved judgment to distinguish and select for her own pur­pose such as are more judicious and more scriptural.

END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
STRICTURES ON THE MO …
[Page]

STRICTURES ON THE MODERN SYSTEM OF FEMALE EDUCATION. WITH A VIEW OF THE PRINCIPLES AND CONDUCT PREVALENT AMONG WOMEN OF RANK AND FORTUNE.

By HANNAH MORE.

May you so raise your character that you may help to make the next age a better thing, and leave posterity in your debt, for the advantage it shall receive by your example. LORD HALIFAX.

IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. II.

PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED BY BUDD AND BARTRAM, FOR THOMAS DOBSON, AT THE STONE HOUSE, NO. 41, SOUTH SECOND STREET. 1800.

[Page]
The Hope and Expectation of the Time
Should not so lavish of their presence be,
Nor so enfeoff'd to Popularity,
That being nightly swallowed by Men's eyes,
They're surfeited with honey, and begin
To loathe the taste of sweetness.
SHAKESPEARE.
[Page]

CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.

  • CHAP. XIII. THE practical use of female knowledge, with a sketch of the female character, and a compara­tive view of the sexes. 5
  • CHAP. XIV. CONVERSATION.—Hints suggested on the sub­ject.—On the tempers and dispositions to be introduced in it.—Errors to be avoided.—Va­nity under various shapes the cause of those errors. 34
  • CHAP. XV. On the danger of an ill-directed sensibility. 71
  • [Page iv]CHAP. XVI. On dissipation, and the modern habits of fashion­able life. 98
  • CHAP. XVII. On public amusements. 130
  • CHAP. XVIII. A worldly spirit incompatible with the spirit of Christianity. 149
  • CHAP. XIX. On the leading doctrines of Christianity.—The corruption of human nature.—The doctrine of redemption.—The necessity of a change of heart, and of the divine influences to produce that change.—With a sketch of the Christian character. 175
  • CHAP. XX. On the duty and efficacy of prayer. 209
[Page]

A VIEW OF THE PRINCIPLES AND CONDUCT PREVALENT AMONG WOMEN OF RANK AND FORTUNE.

CHAP. XIII.

The practical uses of female knowledge.—Sketch of the female character.—A comparative view of both sexes.

THE chief end to be proposed in cultivating the understandings of women, is to qualify them for the practical purposes of life. Their knowledge is not often like the learning of men, to be reproduced in some literary composition, nor ever in any learned profession; but it is to come out in conduct. A lady studies, not that she may qualify herself to become [...]orator or a pleader; not that she may learn to debate, but to act. She is to read the best books, [Page 6] not so much to enable her to talk of them, as to bring the improvement which they furnish, to the rectification of her principles, and the formation of her habits. The great uses of study are to enable her to regulate her own mind, and to be useful to others.

To woman therefore, whatever be her rank, I would recommend a predominance of those more sober studies, which, not having display for their object, may make her wise without vanity, happy without witnesses, and content without panegyrists; the exercise of which will not bring celebrity, but improve usefulness. She should pursue every kind of study which will teach her to elicit truth; which will lead her to be intent upon realities; will give precision to her ideas; will make an exact mind; every study which, instead of stimulating her sensi­bility, will chastise it; which will give her definite notions; will bring the imagination under dominion; will lead her to think, to compare, to combine, to methodise; which will confer such a power of dis­crimination that her judgment shall learn to reject what is dazzling if it be not solid; and to prefer, not what is striking, or bright, or new, but what is just. That kind of knowledge which is rather fitted for home consumption than foreign exportation, is peculiarly adapted to women.

[Page 7] It is because the superficial nature of their educa­tion furnishes them with a false and low standard of intellectual excellence, that women have sometimes become ridiculous by the unfounded pretensions of literary vanity: for it is not the really learned but the smatterers, who have generally brought their sex into discredit, by an absurd affectation, which has set them on despising the duties of ordinary life. There have not indeed been wanting (but the charac­ter is not now common) precieuses ridicules, who, as­suming a superiority to the sober cares which ought to occupy their sex, have claimed a lofty and super­cilious exemption from the dull and plodding drudg­eries

Of this dim speck called earth!

who have affected to establish an unnatural separation between talents and usefulness, instead of bearing in mind that talents are the great appointed instruments of usefulness; who have acted as if knowledge were to confer on woman a kind of fantastic sovereignty, which should exonerate her from female duties; whereas it is only meant the more eminently to qua­lify her for the performance of them. For a woman of real sense will never forget, that while the greater part of her proper duties are such as the most mode­rately gifted may fulfil with credit, (since Providence never makes that to be very difficult, which is generally necessary), yet the most highly endowed [Page 8] are equally bound to fulfil them; and the humblest of these offices, performed on Christian principles, are wholesome for the minds even of the most en­lightened, and tend to the casting down of those high imaginations which women of genius are too much tempted to indulge.

For instance; ladies whose natural vanity has been aggravated by a false education, may look down on oeconomy as a vulgar attainment, unworthy of the at­tention of an highly cultivated intellect; but this is the false estimate of a shallow mind. OEconomy, such as a woman of fortune is called on to practise, is not merely the petty detail of small daily expences, the shabby curtailments and stinted parsimony of a little mind operating on little concerns; but it is the exercise of a sound judgment exerted in the compre­hensive outline of order, of arrangement, of distri­bution; of regulations by which alone well governed societies, great and small, subsist. She who has the best regulated mind will, other things being equal, have the best regulated family. As in the superin­tendence of the universe, wisdom is seen in its effects; and as in the visible works of Providence that which goes on with such beautiful regularity is the result not of chance but of design; so that management which seems the most easy is commonly the conse­quence of the best concerted plan. A sound oecono­my is a sound understanding brought into action: [Page 9] it is calculation realized; it is the doctrine of pro­portion reduced to practice; it is foreseeing conse­quences and guarding against them; it is expecting contingencies and being prepared for them. The difference is, that to a narrow minded vulgar oecono­mist the details are continually present; she is over­whelmed by their weight, and is perpetually bespeak­ing your pity for her labours and your praise for her exertions; she is afraid you will not see how much she is harrassed. Little events, and trivial operations, engross her whole soul; while a woman of sense, having provided for their probable recurrence, guards against the inconveniencies, without being disconcerted by the casual obstructions which they offer to her general scheme.

Superior talents however are not so common, as, by their frequency, to offer much disturbance to the general course of human affairs; and many a lady, who tacitly accuses herself of neglecting her ordina­ry duties because she is a genius, will perhaps be found often to accuse herself as unjustly as good St. Jerome, when he laments that he was beaten by the Angel for being too Ciceronian in his style*.

The truth is, women who are so puffed up with the conceit of talents as to neglect the plain duties of life, will not frequently be found to be women of [Page 10] the best abilities. And here may the author be al­lowed the gratification of observing, that those wo­men of real genius and extensive knowledge, whose friendship have conferred honour and happiness on her own life, have been in general eminent for oeco­nomy, and the practice of domestic virtues; and greatly superior to the poor affectation of despising the duties and the knowledge of common life.

A romantic girl with a pretension to sentiment, which her still more ignorant friends mistake for ge­nius, (for in the empire of the blind the one-eyed are kings) and possessing something of a natural ear, has perhaps in her childhood exhausted all the ima­ges of grief and love, and fancy, picked up in her desultory poetical reading, in an elegy on a sick lin­net or a dead lap-dog; she begins thence-forward to be considered as a prodigy in her little circle; sur­rounded with flatterers, she has no opportunity of getting to know that her same is derived not from her powers, but her position; and that when an impartial critic shall have made all the necessary deductions, such as—that she is a neighbour, that she is a relation, that she is a female, that she is young, that she has had no advantages, that she is pretty perhaps—when her verses come to be stripped of all their extraneous appendages, and the fair author is driven off her 'vantage-ground of partiality, sex, and favour, she will com­monly [Page 11] sink to the level of ordinary capacities; while those quieter women, who have meekly sat down in the humble shades of prose and prudence, by a pa­tient perseverance in rational studies, rise afterwards much higher in the scale of intellect, and acquire a stock of sound knowledge for far better purposes than mere display. And, though it may seem a con­tradiction, yet it will generally be found true, that girls who take to scribbling are the least studious. They early acquire a false confidence in their own unassisted powers; it becomes more gratifying to their natural vanity to be always pouring out their minds on paper, than to be drawing into them fresh ideas from richer sources. The original stock, small perhaps at first, is soon spent; and the subsequent efforts grow more and more faint, if the mind which is continually exhausting itself, be not also continu­ally replenished; till the latter compositions become little more than reproductions of the same images, a little varied and modified perhaps, and not a little diluted and enfeebled.

These self-taught, and self-dependent scribblers pant for the unmerited praise of fancy and of genius, while they disdain the commendation of judgment, knowledge, and perseverance which would be with­in their reach. To extort admiration they are ac­customed to boast of an impossible rapidity in compos­ing; and while they insinuate how little time their [Page 12] performances cost them, they intend you should in­fer how perfect they might have made them had they condescended to the drudgery of application. They take superfluous pains to convince you that there was neither learning nor labour employed in the work for which they solicit your praise: the ju­dicious eye too soon perceives it! though it does not perceive that native strength and mother-wit, which in works of real genius make some amends for the negligence, which yet they do not justify. But in­stead of extolling these effusions for their facility, it would be kind in friends rather to blame them for their crudeness: and when the young pretenders are eager to prove in how short a time such a poem has been struck off, it would be well to regret that they had not either taken a longer time, or forborne from writing at all; as in the former case the work would have been less defective, and in the latter the writer would have discovered more humility and self-dis­trust.

A general capacity for knowledge, and the culti­vation of the understanding at large, will always put a woman into the best state for directing her pursuits into those particular channels which her destination in life may afterwards require. But she should be carefully instructed that her talents are only means to a still higher attainment, and that she is not to rest in them as an end; that merely to exercise them as [Page 13] instruments for the acquisition of fame and the pro­moting of pleasure, is subversive of her delicacy as a woman, and contrary to the spirit of a christian.

Study, therefore, is to be considered as the means of strengthening the mind, and of fitting it for high­er duties, just as exercise is to be considered as an instrument for strengthening the body for the same end. And the valetudinarian who is religiously punc­tual in the observance of his daily rides to promote his health, and rests in that as an end, without so much as intending to make his improved health an instrument of increased usefulness, acts on the same low and selfish principle with her who reads merely for pleasure and for fame, without any design of de­voting the more enlarged and invigorated mind to the glory of the Giver.

But there is one human consideration which would perhaps more effectually tend to damp in an aspiring woman the ardours of literary vanity (I speak not of real genius) than any which she will derive from motives of humility, or propriety, or religion; which is, that in the judgment passed on her performances, she will have to encounter the mortifying circum­stance of having her sex always taken into account, and her highest exertions will probably be received with the qualified approbation, that it is really extra­ordinary for a woman. Men of learning, who are naturally inclined to estimate works in proportion as [Page 14] they appear to be the result of art, study, and insti­tution, are apt to consider even the happier per­formances of the other sex as the spontaneous pro­ductions of a fruitful but shallow soil; and to give them the same sort of praise which we bestow on cer­tain sallads, which often draw from us a sort of won­dering commendation; not indeed as being worth much in themselves, but because by the lightness of the earth, and a happy knack of the gardener, these indifferent cresses spring up in a night, and therefore one is ready to wonder they are no worse.

As to men of sense, however, they need be the less inimical to the improvement of the other sex, as they themselves will be sure to be gainers by it; the enlargement of the female understanding being the most likely means to put an end to those petty cavils and contentions for equality which female smatterers so anxiously maintain. I say smatterers, for between the first class of both sexes the question is much more rarely and always more temperately agitated. Co­operation and not competition is indeed the clear prin­ciple we wish to see reciprocally adopted by those higher minds in each sex which really approximate the nearest to each other. The more a woman's un­derstanding is improved, the more obviously she will discern that there can be no happiness in any society where there is a perpetual struggle for power; and the more her judgment is rectified, the more accu­rate [Page 15] views will she take of the station she herself was born to fill, and the more readily will she accommo­date herself to it; while the most vulgar and ill-informed women are ever most inclined to be tyrants, and those always struggle most vehemently for power, who would not fail to make the worst use of it when attained. Thus the weakest reasoners are always the most positive in debate; and the cause is obvious, for they are unavoidably driven to maintain their preten­sions by violence who want arguments and reasons to prove that they are in the right.

There is this singular difference between a woman vain of her wit, and a woman vain of her beauty; that the beauty, while she is anxiously alive to her own fame, is often indifferent enough about the beau­ty of other women; and provided she herself is sure of your admiration, she does not insist on your think­ing that there is another handsome woman in the world: while she who is vain of her genius, more liberal at least in her vanity, is jealous for the ho­nour of her whole sex, and contends for the equality of their pretensions, in which she feels that her own are involved. The beauty vindicates her own rights, the wit, the rights of women; the beauty fights for herself, the wit for a party; and while the more self­ish though moderate beauty

would but be Queen for life,

[Page 16] the public spirited wit struggles to abrogate the Sa­lique law of intellect, and to enthrone

a whole sex of Queens.

At the revival of letters in the sixteenth and the following century, the controversy about this equali­ty was agitated with more warmth than wisdom; and the process was instituted and carried on, on the part of the female complainant, with that sort of acrimony which always raises a suspicion of the jus­tice of any cause. The novelty of that knowledge which was then bursting out from the dawn of a long dark night, kindled all the ardours of the female mind, and the ladies fought zealously for a portion of that renown which the reputation of learning was beginning to bestow. Besides their own pens, they had for their advocates all those needy authors who had any thing to hope from their power, their riches, or their influence; and so giddy did some of these li­terary ladies become by the adulation of their nume­rous panegyrists, that through these repeated draughts of inebriating praise, they grew to despise the equali­ty for which they had before contended, as a state below their merit and unworthy of their acceptance. They now scorned to litigate for what they al­ready thought they so obviously possessed, and no­thing short of the palm of superiority was at length considered as adequate to their growing claims. When court-ladies and princesses were the candidates, [Page 17] they could not long want champions to support their cause; by these champions female authorities were produced as if paramount to facts; quotations from these female authors were considered as proofs, and their point-blank assertions stood for solid and irre­fragable arguments. In those parasites who offered this homage to female genius, the homage was there­fore the effect neither of truth, nor of justice, nor of conviction. It arose rather out of gratitude, or it was a reciprocation of flattery; it was sometimes va­nity, it was often distress, which prompted the adu­lation; it was the want of a patroness; it was the want of a dinner. When a lady, and especially as it then often happened, when one who was noble or royal, sat with gratifying docility at the foot of a professor's chair; when she admired the philosopher, or took upon her to protect the theologian, whom his rivals among his own sex were tearing to pieces, what could the grateful professor or delighted theo­logian do less in return than make the apotheosis of her who had had the penetration to discern his merit and the spirit to reward it? Thus in fact it was not so much her vanity as his own that he was often flat­tering, though she was the dupe of her more deep and designing panegyrist.

But it is a little unlucky for the perpetuity of that fame which the encomiast had made over to his pa­troness, in the never-dying records of his verses and [Page 18] orations, that in the revolution of a century or two the very names of the flattered are now almost as lit­tle known as the works of the flatterers. Their me­morial is perished with them: * an instructive lesson, that whoever bestows, or assumes a reputation dis­proportioned to the merit of the claimant, will find it as little durable as solid. For this literary warfare which engaged such troops of the second-hand au­thors of the age in question in such continual skir­mishes, and not a few pitched battles, which pro­voked so much rancour, so many volumes, and so little wit; so much vanity and so much flattery, pro­duced no useful or lasting effect. Those who pro­mised themselves that their names would outlive "one half of round eternity," did not reach the end of the century in which the boast was made; and those who offered the incense, and those who greedily snuffed up its fumes, are buried in the same blank oblivion!

But when the temple of Janus seemed to have been closed, or when at worst the peace was only occasi­onally broken by a slight and random shot from the hand of some single straggler; it appears that though open rebellion had ceased, yet the female claim had not been renounced; it had only (if we may change the metaphor) lain in abeyance. The contest has [Page 19] recently been revived with added fury, and with multiplied exactions; for whereas the ancient de­mand was merely a kind of imaginary prerogative, a speculative importance, a mere titular right, a sha­dowy claim to a few unreal acres of Parnassian terri­tory; the revived contention has taken a more seri­ous turn, and brings forward political as well as in­tellectual pretensions: and among the innovations of this innovating period, the imposing term of rights has been produced to sanctify the claim of our fe­male pretenders, with a view not only to rekindle in the minds of women a presumptuous vanity disho­nourable to their sex, but produced with a view to ex­cite in their hearts an impious discontent with the post which God has assigned them in this world.

But they little understand the true interests of wo­man who would lift her from the important duties of her allotted station, to fill with fantastic dignity a loftier but less appropriate niche. Nor do they understand her true happiness, who seek to annihi­late distinctions from which she derives advantages, and to attempt innovations which would depreciate her real value. Each sex has its proper excellencies, which would be lost were they melted down into the common character by the fusion of the new philoso­phy. Why should we do away distinctions which increase the mutual benefits and enhance the satisfac­tions of life? Whence, but by carefully preserving [Page 20] the original marks of difference stamped by the hand of the Creator, would be derived the superior ad­vantage of mixed society? Have men no need to have their rough angles filed off, and their harsh­nesses and asperities smoothed and polished by assimi­lating with beings of more softness and refinement? Are the ideas of women naturally so very judicious, are their principles so invincibly firm, are their views so perfectly correct, are their judgments so completely exact, that there is occasion for no additional weight, no superadded strength, no increased clearness, none of that enlargement of mind, none of that additional invigoration which may be derived from the aids of the stronger sex? What identity could advantage­ously supersede an enlivening opposition and an inter­esting variety of character? Is it not then more wise as well as more honourable to move contentedly in the plain path which Providence has obviously mark­ed out to the sex, and in which custom has for the most part rationally confirmed them, than to stray awkwardly, unbecomingly, and unsuccessfully, in a forbidden road? Is it not desirable to be the lawful possessors of a lesser domestic territory, rather than the turbulent usurpers of a wider foreign empire? to be good originals, rather than bad imitators? to be the best thing of one's own kind, rather than an in­ferior thing even if it were of an higher kind? to be excellent women rather than indifferent men?

[Page 21] Is the author then undervaluing her own sex?—No. It is her zeal for their true interests which leads her to oppose their imaginary rights. It is her re­gard for their happiness which makes her endeavour to cure them of a feverish thirst for fame. A little Christian humility and sober-mindedness are worth all the wild metaphysical discussion, which has un­settled the peace of vain women, and forfeited the respect of reasonable men. And the most elaborate definition of ideal rights, and the most hardy mea­sures for attaining them, are of less value in the eyes of a truly amiable woman, than ‘that meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.’

Natural propensities best mark the designations of Providence as to their application. The fin was not more clearly bestowed on the fish that he should swim, nor the wing given to the bird that he should fly, than superior strength of body and a firmer tex­ture of mind was given to man, that he might pre­side in the deep and daring scenes of action and of council; in government, in arms, in science, in com­merce, and in those professions which demand a higher reach, and a wider range of powers. The true value of woman is not diminished by the impu­tation of inferiority in these respects; she has other requisites better adadted to answer the ends and pur­poses of her being, by ‘HIM who does all things [Page 22] well;’ who suits the agent to the action; who ac­commodates the instrument to the work.

Let her not then view with pining envy the keen satyrist, hunting vice through all the doublings and windings of the heart; the sagacious politician, lead­ing senates, and directing the fate of empires; the acute lawyer, detecting the obliquities of fraud; and the skilful dramatist, exposing the pretensions of fol­ly: but let her ambition be consoled by reflecting, that those who thus excel, to all that Nature bestows and books can teach, must add besides that consum­mate knowledge of the world to which a delicate woman has no fair avenues, and which even if she could attain she would never be supposed to have come honestly by.

In almost all that comes under the description of polite letters, in all that captivates by imagery or warms by just and affecting sentiment, women are excellent. They possess in a high degree that deli­cacy and quickness of perception and that nice dis­cernment between the beautiful and defective, which comes under the denomination of taste. Both in composition and action they excel in details; but they do not so much generalize their ideas as men, nor do their minds seize a great subject with so large a grasp. They are acute observers, and accurate judges of life and manners, as far as their own sphere of observation extends; but they describe a [Page 23] smaller circle. A woman sees the world, as it were, from a little elevation in her own garden, whence she makes an exact survey of home scenes, but takes not in that wider range of distant prospects, which he who stands on a loftier eminence commands. Women have a certain tact which often enables them to feel what is just more instantaneously than they can define it. They have an intuitive penetrati­on into character, bestowed on them by Providence, like the sensitive and tender organs of some timid animals, as a kind of natural guard to warn of the approach of danger beings who are often called to act defensively.

In summing up the evidence, if I may so speak, of the different powers of the sexes, one may venture, perhaps, to assert, that women have equal parts, but are inferior in wholeness of mind, in the integral understanding: that though a superior woman may possess single faculties in equal perfection, yet there is commonly a juster proportion in the mind of a superior man; that if women have in an equal degree the faculty of fancy which creates images, and the faculty of memory which collects and stores ideas, they seem not to possess in equal measure the faculty of comparing, combining, analysing, and se­parating these ideas; that deep and patient thinking which goes to the bottom of a subject; nor that power of arrangement which knows how to link a [Page 24] thousand connected ideas in one dependent train, without losing sight of the original idea out of which the rest grow, and on which they all hang. The female too, wanting steadiness in her intellectu­al pursuits, is perpetually turned aside by her cha­racteristic tastes and feelings. Woman in the career of genius, is the Atalanta, who will risk losing the race by running out of her road to pick up the gold­en apple; while her male competitor, without, per­haps, possessing greater natural strength or swiftness, will more certainly attain his object, by direct pur­suit, by being less exposed to the seductions of ex­traneous beauty, and will win the race, not by ex­celling in speed, but by despising the bait.*.

Here it may be justly enough retorted, that, as it is allowed the education of women is so defective, the alleged inferiority of their minds may be account­ed for on that ground more justly than by ascribing it to their natural make. And, indeed there is so much truth in the remark, that till women shall be more reasonably educated, and till the native growth of their minds shall cease to be stinted and cramped, we have no juster ground for pronouncing that their [Page 25] understanding has already reached its highest attaina­ble point, than the Chinese would have for affirming that their women have attained to the greatest possi­ble perfection in walking, while the first care is, during their infancy, to cripple their feet. At least, till the female sex are more carefully instructed, this question will always remain as undecided as to the degree of difference between the masculine and feminine under­standing, as the question between the understandings of blacks and whites; for until Africans and Euro­peans are put more nearly on a par in the cultivation of their minds, the shades of distinction, if any there be, between their native powers can never be fairly ascertained.

And when we see (and who will deny that we see it frequently?) so many women nobly rising from under all the pressure of a disadvantageous education and a defective system of society, and exhibiting the most unambiguous marks of a vigorous understanding, a correct judgment, and a sterling piety, it reminds one of those shining lights which have now and then burst out through all the "darkness visible" of the Romish church, have disencumbered themselves from the gloom of ignorance and shaken off the fetters of prejudice, and risen superior to all the errors of a corrupt theology.

But whatever characteristical distinctions may ex­ist; whatever inferiority may be attached to woman [Page 26] from the slighter frame of her body, or the more cir­cumscribed powers of her mind, from a less syste­matic education, and from the subordinate station she is called to fill in life; there is one great and leading circumstance which raises her importance, and even establishes her equality. Christianity has exalted wo­men to true and undisputed dignity; in Christ Jesus, as there is neither "rich nor poor," ‘bond nor free,’ so there is neither "male nor female." In the view of that immortality, which is brought to light by the gospel, she has no superior. Women (to borrow the idea of an excellent prelate) make up one half of the human race; equally with men re­deemed by the blood of Christ. In this their true dignity consists; here their best pretensions rest, here their highest claims are allowed.

All disputes then for pre-eminence between the sexes have only for their object the poor precedence for a few short years, the attention of which would be better devoted to the duties of life and the inte­rest of eternity.

And as the final hope of the female sex is equal, so are their present means, perhaps, more favourable, and their opportunities, often, less obstructed than those of the other sex. In their Christian course women have every superior advantage, whether we consider the natural make of their minds, their lei­sure for acquisition in youth, or their subsequently [Page 27] less exposed mode of life. Their hearts are natural­ly soft and flexible, open to impressions of love and gratitude; their feelings tender and lively: all these are favourable to the cultivation of a devotional spi­rit. Yet while we remind them of these benefits, they will do well to be on their guard lest this very softness and ductility lay them more open to the se­ductions of temptation and error.

They have in the native constitution of their minds, as well as from the relative situations they are cal­led to fill, a certain sense of attachment and depen­dence, which is peculiarly favourable to religion. They feel, perhaps, more intimately the want of a strength which is not their own. Christianity brings that superinduced strength; it comes in aid of their conscious weakness, and offers the only true counter­poise to it. ‘Woman, be thou healed of thine infir­mity,’ is still the heart cheering language of a gracious Saviour.

Women also bring to the study of Christianity fewer of those prejudices which persons of the other sex too often early contract. Men, from their clas­sical education, acquire a strong partiality for the manners of Pagan antiquity, and the documents of Pagan philosophy: this, together with the impure taint caught from the loose descriptions of their poets, and the licentious language even of their historians, (in whom we reasonably look for more gravity,) oft­en [Page 28] weakens the good impressions of young men, and at least confuses their ideas of piety, by mixing them with so much heterogeneous matter. Their very spirits are embued all the week with the impure follies of a depraved mythology; and it is well if even on Sundays they get to hear of the "true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent." While women, though struggling with the same natural corruptions, have commonly less knowledge to unknow, and few­er schemes to unlearn; they have not to shake off the pride of system, and to disencumber their minds from the shackles of favourite theories: they do not bring from the porch or the academy any ‘oppo­sitions of science’ to obstruct their reception of those pure doctrines taught on the Mount: doctrines which ought to find a readier entrance into minds uninfected with the pride of the school of Zeno, or the libertinism of that of Epicurus.

And as women are naturally more affectionate than fastidious; they are likely both to read and to hear with a less critical spirit than men: they will not be on the watch to detect errors, so much as to gather improvement; they have seldom that hardness which is acquired by dealing deeply in books of controver­sy, but are more inclined to works which quicken the devotional feelings, than to such as awaken a spirit of doubt and scepticism. They are less dispos­ed to consider the compositions they peruse, as ma­terials [Page 29] on which to ground objections and answers, than as helps to faith and rules of life. With these advantages, however, they should also bear in mind that their impressions being often less abiding, and their reason less open to conviction, by means of the strong evidences which exist in favour of the truth of Christianity, ‘they ought therefore, to give the more earnest heed to the things which they have heard, lest at any time they should let them slip.’ Women are also from their domestic habits, in pos­session of more leisure and tranquillity for religious pursuits, as well as secured from those difficulties and temptations to which men are exposed in the tu­mult of a bustling world. Their lives are more uni­form, less agitated by the passions, the businesses, the contentions, the shock of opinions and of interests which convulse the world.

If we have denied them the talents which might lead them to excel as lawyers, they are preserved from the peril of having their principles warped by that too indiscriminate defence of right and wrong, to which the professors of the law are exposed. If we should question their title to eminence as mathe­maticians, they are happily exempt from the danger to which men devoted to that science are said to be liable; namely, that of looking for demonstration on subjects, which, by their very nature, are incapable of affording it. If they are less conversant in the [Page 30] powers of nature, the structure of the human frame, and the knowledge of the heavenly bodies, than phi­losophers, physicians, and astronomers; they are, however, delivered from the error into which many of each of these have sometimes fallen, I mean from the fatal habit of resting in second causes, instead of referring all to the first; instead of making ‘the heavens declare the glory of God, and proclaim his handy work;’ instead of concluding, when they observe, ‘how fearfully and wonderfully we are made, marvellous are thy works, O Lord, and that my soul knoweth right well.’

And let the weaker sex take comfort, that in their very exemption from privileges, which they are sometimes disposed to envy, consists their security and their happiness. If they enjoy not the distinc­tions of public life and high offices, do they not escape the responsibility attached to them, and the mortification of being dismissed from them? If they have no voice in deliberative assemblies, do they not avoid the load of duty connected with such privileges? Preposterous pains have been taken to excite in wo­men an uneasy jealousy, that their talents are neither rewarded with public honours nor emoluments in life; nor with inscriptions, statues, and mausoleums after death. It has been absurdly represented to them as a hardship, that while they are expected to perform duties, they must yet be contented to relin­quish [Page 31] honours, and must unjustly be compelled to renounce fame while they must sedulously labour to deserve it.

But for Christian women to act on the low views suggested to them by their ill-judging panegyrists; and to look up with a giddy head and a throbbing heart to honours and remunerations, so little suited to the wants and capacities of an immortal spirit, would be no less ridiculous than if Christian heroes should look back with envy on the pagan rewards of ovations, oak garlands, parsley crowns, and laurel wreaths. The Christian hope more than reconciles Christian women to these petty privations, by substi­tuting a nobler prize for their ambition, ‘the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;’ by substituting, for that popular and fluctuating voice, which may cry "Hosanna" and "crucify" in a breath, that "favour of God which is eternal life."

If women should lament the disadvantages attach­ed to their sex, that their character is of so delicate a texture as to be sullied by the slightest breath of calumny, and that the stain is indelible; yet are they not led by that very circumstance more instinctively to shrink from all those irregularities to which the loss of character is so much expected to be attached; and to shun with keener circumspection the most distant approach towards the confines of danger? Let them not lament it as a hardship, but account it [Page 32] to be a privilege, that the delicacy of their sex im­pels them more scrupulously to avoid the very appear­ance of evil, and that the consciousness of their dan­ger serves to secure their purity, by placing them at a greater distance from the evil itself.

Though it be one main object of this little work, rather to lower than to raise any desire of celebrity in the female heart; yet I would awaken it to a just sensibility to honest fame: I would call on women to reflect that our religion has not only made them heirs to a blessed immortality hereafter, but has greatly raised them in the scale of being here, by lifting them to an importance in society unknown to the most polished ages of antiquity. The religion of Christ has even bestowed a degree of renown on the sex beyond what any other religion ever did. Per­haps there are hardly so many virtuous women (for I reject the long catalogue whom their vices have transferred from oblivion to infamy) named in all the pages of Greek or Roman History, as are handed down to eternal fame, in a few of those short chap­ters with which the great Apostle to the Gentiles has concluded his epistles to his converts. Of "devout and honourable women," the sacred scrip­tures record "not a few." Some of the most affect­ing scenes, the most interesting transactions, and the most touching conversations which are recorded of the Saviour of the world, passed with women. They [Page 33] are the first remarked as having ‘ministered to him of their substance.’ Theirs was the praise of not abandoning their despised Redeemer when he was led to execution, and under all the hopeless circumstances of his ignominious death; they appear to have been the last attending at his tomb, and the first on the morning when he arose from it. Theirs was the pri­vilege of receiving the earliest consolation from their risen Lord; theirs was the honour of being first commissioned to announce his glorious resurrection to the world. And even to furnish heroic confessors, devoted saints, and unshrinking martyrs to the Church of Christ, has not been the exclusive honour of the bolder sex.

[Page 34]

CHAP. XIV.

CONVERSATION.—Hints suggested on the subject.—On the tempers and dispositions to be introduced in it.—Er­rors to be avoided.—Vanity under various shapes the cause of those errors.

THE sexes will naturally desire to appear to each other, such as each believes the other will best like; their conversation will act reciprocally; and each sex will appear more or less rational as they perceive it will more or less recommend them to the other. It is therefore to be regretted, that many men, even of distinguished sense and learning, are so apt to consi­der the society of ladies, as a scene in which to rest their understandings, rather than to exercise them; while ladies in return, are too much addicted to make their court by lending themselves to this spirit of tri­fling; they often avoid to make use of what abilities they have; and affect to talk below their natural and acquired powers of mind; considering it as a tacit and welcome flattery to the understanding of men, to re­nounce the exercise of their own.

[Page 35] Now since tastes and principles thus mutually ope­rate; men, by keeping up conversation to its proper standard, would not only call into exercise the pow­ers of mind which women actually possess; but would even awaken in them new energies which they do not know they possess; and men of sense would find their account in doing this, for their own talents would be more highly rated by companions who were better able to appreciate them. And, on the other hand, if young women found it did not often re­commend them in the eyes of those whom they might wish to please, to be frivolous and superficial, they would become more sedulous in correcting their own habits; whenever fashionable women indicate a relish for instructive conversation, men will not be apt to hazard what is vain or unprofitable; much less will they ever presume to bring forward what is loose or corrupt, where some signal has not been previously given, that it will be acceptable, or at least that it will be pardoned.

Ladies commonly bring into company minds al­ready too much relaxed by petty pursuits, rather than overstrained by intense application; the littleness of the employments in which they are usually engaged, does not so exhaust their spirits as to make them stand in need of that relaxation from company which severe application or overwhelming business makes requisite for studious or public men. The due con­sideration [Page 36] of this circumstance might serve to bring the sexes more nearly on a level in society; and each might meet the other half way; for that degree of lively and easy conversation which is a necessary re­freshment to the learned and the busy, would not de­crease in pleasantness by being made of so rational a cast as would yet somewhat raise the minds of wo­men, who commonly seek society as a scene of plea­sure, not as a refuge from intense thought or exhaust­ing labour.

It is a disadvantage even to those women who keep the best company, that it is unhappily almost established into a system, by the other sex, to post­pone every thing like instructive discourse till the la­dies are withdrawn; their retreat serving as a kind of signal for the exercise of intellect. And in the few cases in which it happens that any important dis­cussion takes place in their presence, they are for the most part considered as having little interest in seri­ous subjects. Strong truths, whenever such happen to be addressed to them, are either diluted with flat­tery, or kept back in part, or softened to their taste; or if the ladies express a wish for information on any point, they are put off with a compliment, instead of a reason; and are considered as beings who are not expected to see and to judge of things as they really exist.

[Page 37] Do we then wish to see the ladies, whose oppor­tunities leave them so incompetent, and the modesty of whose sex ought never to allow them even to be as shining as they are able;—do we wish to see them take the lead in metaphysical disquisitions? Do we wish them to plunge into the depths of theological polemics,

And find no end in wand'ring mazes lost?

Do we wish them to revive the animosities of the Ban­gorian controversy, or to decide the process between the Jesuits and the five propositions of Jansenius? Do we wish to enthrone them in the professor's chair, to deliver oracles, harangues, and dissertations? to weigh the merits of every new production in the scales of Quintilian, or to regulate the unities of dra­matic composition by Aristotle's clock? Or renouncing those foreign aids, do we desire to behold them, in­flated with their original powers, labouring to strike out sparks of wit, with a restless anxiety to shine, which generally fails, and with a laboured affecta­tion to please, which never pleases?

Diseurs de bons mots, fades caracteres!

All this be far from them!—But we do wish to see the conversation of well-bred women rescued from va­pid common places, from uninteresting tattle, from trite and hackneyed communications, from frivolous earnestness, from false sensibility, from a warm interest [Page 38] about things of no moment, and an indifference to to­pics the most important; from a cold vanity, from the overflowings of self-love, exhibiting itself under the smiling mask of an engaging flattery, and from all the factitious manners of artificial intercourse. We do wish to see the time passed in polished and intelligent so­ciety, considered among the beneficial, as well as the pleasant portions of our existence, and not consign­ed over, as it too frequently is, to premeditated tri­fling, or systematic unprofitableness. Let us not, however, be misunderstood; it is not meant to pre­scribe that they should affect to talk on lofty sub­jects, so much as to suggest that they should bring good sense, simplicity, and precision into those com­mon subjects, of which, after all, both the business and the conversation of mankind is in a great mea­sure made up.

It is too well known how much the dread of im­puted pedantry keeps off any thing that verges to­wards learned, and the terror of imputed enthusiasm, staves off any thing that approaches to serious con­versation, so that the two topics which peculiarly distinguish us, as rational and immortal beings, are by general consent in a good degree banished from the society of rational and immortal creatures. But we might almost as consistently give up the comforts of fire because a few persons have been burnt, and the benefit of water because some others have been [Page 39] drowned, as relinquish the enjoyments of intellectual, and the blessings of religious intercourse, because the learned world has sometimes been infested with pe­dants, and the religious world with fanatics.

As in the momentous times in which we live, it is next to impossible to pass an evening in company, but the talk will so inevitably revert to politics, that, without any premeditated design, every one present shall infallibly get to know to which side the other inclines; why, in the far higher concern of eternal things, should we so carefully shun every offered opportunity of bearing even a casual testimony to the part we espouse in religion? Why, while we make it a sort of point of conscience to leave no doubt on the mind of a stranger, whether we adopt the party of Pitt or Fox, shall we choose to leave it very pro­blematical whether we belong to God or Baal? Why, in religion, as well as in politics, should we not act like people who, having their all at stake, cannot forbear now and then adverting for a mo­ment to the object of their grand concern, and drop­ping, at least, an incidental intimation of the side to which they belong.

Even the news of the day, in such an eventful period as the present, may lend frequent occasions to a woman of principle, to declare, without parade, her faith in a moral Governor of the world; her trust in a particular Providence; her belief in the [Page 40] Divine Omnipotence; her confidence in the power of God, in educing good from evil, in his employ­ing wicked nations, not as favourites but instru­ments; her persuasion that present success is no proof of the divine favour; in short, some intimation that she is not ashamed to declare that her mind is under the influence of christian faith and principle. A general concurrence in exhibiting this spirit of de­cided faith and holy trust, would inconceivably dis­courage that pert infidelity which is ever on the watch to produce itself: and, as we have already observed, if women, who derive authority from their rank or talents, did but reflect how their sentiments are repeated and their authority quoted, they would be so on their guard, that general society might be­come a scene of general improvement, and the young, who are looking for models on which to fashion themselves, would be ashamed of exhibiting any thing like levity, or scepticism, or profaneness.

Let it be understood, that it is not meant to inti­mate that serious subjects should make up the bulk of conversation; this, as it is impossible, would also often be improper. It is not intended to suggest that they should be abruptly introduced, or unsuita­bly prolonged; but only that they should not be systematically shunned, nor the brand of fanaticism be fixed on the person who, with whatever proprie­ty, hazards the introduction of them. It is evident, [Page 41] however, that this general dread of serious topics arises a good deal from an ignorance of the true na­ture of religion; people avoid it on the principle expressed by the vulgar phrase of the danger of play­ing with edge tools. They conceive of it as some­thing which involves controversy, and dispute, and mischief; something of an inflammatory nature, which is to stir up ill humours; as of a sort of party business which sets friends at variance. So much is this notion adopted, that I have seen announced two works of considerable merit, in which it was stipulated as an attraction, that religion, as being likely to excite anger and party distinctions, should be carefully excluded. Such is the worldly idea of the spirit of that religion, whose direct object it was to bring "peace and good will to men!"

Women too little live or converse up to their un­derstandings; and however we have deprecated af­fectation or pedantry, let it be remembered, that both in reading and conversing the understanding gains more by stretching, than stooping. If by ex­erting itself it may not attain to all it desires, yet it will be sure to gain something. The mind, by al­ways applying itself to objects below its level, con­tracts and shrinks itself to the size, and lowers itself to the level, of the object about which it is conver­sant: while the mind which is active expands and [Page 42] raises itself, grows larger by exercise, abler by diffu­sion, and richer by communication.

But the taste of general society is not favourable to improvement. The seriousness with which the most frivolous subjects are agitated, and the levity with which the most serious are dispatched, bear a pretty exact proportion to each other. Society too is a sort of magic lanthorn; the scene is perpetually shift­ing. In this incessant change, the evanescent fashion of the present minute, which, while in many it leads to the cultivation of real knowledge, has also some­times led even the gay and idle to the affection of mixing a sprinkling of science with the mass of dissi­pation. The ambition of appearing to be well-in­formed breaks out even in those triflers who will not spare time from their pleasurable pursuits sufficient for acquiring that knowledge, of which, however, the reputation is so desirable. A little smattering of philosophy often dignifies the pursuits of the day, without rescuing them from the vanities of the night. A course of lectures (that admirable assistant for en­lightening the understanding) is not seldom resorted to as a means to substitute the appearance of know­ledge for the fatigue of application; but where this valuable help is attended merely like any other pub­lic exhibition, and is not furthered by correspondent reading at home, it often serves to set off the reality of ignorance with the affectation of skill. But in­stead [Page 43] of producing in conversation a few reigning scientific terms, with a familiarity and readiness, which

Amaze the unlearn'd, and make the learned smile,

would it not be more modest even for those who are better informed, to avoid the common use of techni­cal terms whenever the idea can be as well conveyed without them? For it argues no real ability to know the names of tools; the ability lies in knowing their use: and while it is in the thing, and not in the term, that real knowledge consists, the charge of pedantry is attached to the use of the term, which would not at­tach to the knowledge of the science.

In the faculty of speaking well, ladies have such a happy promptitude of turning their slender advantages to account, that there are many who, though they have never been taught a rule of syntax, yet, by a quick facility in profiting from the best books and the best company, hardly ever violate one; and who often exhibit an elegant and perspicuous arrangement of style, without having studied any of the laws of composition. Every kind of knowledge which ap­pears to be the result of observation, reflection, and natural taste, sits gracefully on women. Yet on the other hand it sometimes happens, that ladies of no contemptible natural parts are too ready to produce, not only pedantic expressions, but crude notions; and still oftener to bring forward obvious and hackneyed [Page 44] remarks, which float on the very surface of a sub­ject, with the imposing air of recent invention, and all the vanity of conscious discovery. This is be­cause their acquirements have not been woven into their minds by early instruction; what knowledge they have gotten stands out as it were above the very surface of their minds, like the appliquée of the em­broiderer, instead of having been interwoven with the growth of the piece, so as to have become a part of the stuff. They did not, like men, acquire what they know while the texture was forming. Perhaps no better preventive could be devised for this literary vanity, than early instruction: that woman would be less likely to be vain of her knowledge who did not remember the time when she was ignorant. Know­ledge that is burnt in, if I may so speak, is seldom obtrusive, rarely impertinent.

Their reading also has probably consisted much in abridgments from larger works, as was observed in a former chapter; this makes a readier talker, but a shallower thinker, than the perusal of books of more bulk. By these scanty sketches their critical spirit has been excited, while their critical powers have not been formed. For in those crippled mutilations they have seen nothing of that just proportion of parts, that skilful arrangement of the plan, and that artful distribution of the subject, which, while they prove the master hand of the writer, serve also to [Page 45] form the taste of the reader, far more than a dis­jointed skeleton, or a beautiful feature or two can do. The instruction of women is also too much drawn from the scanty and penurious sources of short writ­ings of the essay kind: this, when it comprises the best part of a person's reading, makes a smatterer and spoils a scholar; for though it supplies current talk, yet it does not make a full mind; it does not furnish a store-house of materials to stock the under­standing, neither does it accustom the mind to any trains of reflection: for the subjects, besides being each succinctly, and, on account of this brevity, superficially treated, are distinct and disconnected: they arise out of no concatenation of ideas, nor any dependent series of deduction. Yet on this pleasant but desultory reading, the mind which has not been trained to severer exercise, loves to repose itself in a sort of creditable indolence, instead of stretching its powers in the wholesome labour of consequent in­vestigation.*

I am not discouraging study at a late period of life, or even slender knowledge; information is good at [Page 46] whatever period and in whatever degree it be ac­quired. But in such cases it should be attended with peculiar humility: and the new possessor should bear in mind, that what is fresh to her has been long known to others; and she should therefore be aware of advancing as novel that which is common, and obtruding as rare that which every body possesses. Some ladies are eager to exhibit proofs of their read­ing, though at the expence of their judgment, and will introduce in conversation quotations quite irrele­vant to the matter in hand, because they happen at the instant to recur to their recollection, or were, perhaps, found in the book they have just been read­ing. Unappropriate quotations or strained analogy may shew reading, but they do not shew taste. That just and happy allusion which knows by a word how to awaken a corresponding image, or to excite in the hearer the idea which fills the mind of the speaker, shews less pedantry and more taste than bare citations; and a mind imbued with elegant knowledge will in­evitably betray the opulence of its resources, even on topics which do not relate to science or literature. Well informed persons will easily be discovered to have read the best books, though they are not always detailing catalogues of authors. Though honey owes its exquisite taste to the fragrance of the sweetest flowers, yet the skill of the little artificer appears in this, that the delicious stores are so admirably work­ed [Page 47] up, as not to taste individually of any of those sweets of the very essence of which it is compound­ed. But true judgment will detect the infusion which true modesty will not display; and even com­mon subjects passing through a cultivated understand­ing borrow a flavour of its richness. A power of apt selection is more valuable than any power of general retention; and an apposite remark, which shoots straight to the point, demands higher powers of mind than an hundred simple acts of memory: for the business of the memory is only to store up ma­terials which the understanding is to mix and work up with its native faculties, and which the judgment is to bring out and apply. But young women who have more vivacity than sense, and more vanity than vivacity, often risk the charge of absurdity to escape that of ignorance, and will even compare two authors who are totally unlike, rather than miss the occasion to shew that they have read both.

Among the arts to spoil conversation, some ladies possess that of suddenly diverting it from the channel in which it was beneficially flowing, because some word used by the person who was speaking has acci­dentally struck out a new train of thinking in their own minds, and not because the general idea expressed has struck out a corresponding idea, which sort of collision is indeed the way of eliciting the true fire. Young ladies, whose sprightliness has not been disci­plined [Page 48] by a correct education, consider how things may be prettily said, rather than how they may be prudently or seasonably spoken; and hazard being thought wrong, or rash, or vain, for the chance of being reckoned pleasant. The flowers of rhetoric captivate them more than the justest deductions of reason; and to repel an argument they arm themselves with a metaphor. Those also who do not aim so high as eloquence, are often surprized that you refuse to accept of a prejudice instead of a reason; they are apt to take up with a probability in place of a de­monstration, and cheaply put you off with an asser­tion when you are requiring a proof. The same mode of education renders them also impatient of opposition; and if they happen to possess beauty, and to be vain of it, they may be tempted to consi­der that as an additional proof of their being always in the right. In this case, they will not ask you to submit your judgment to the force of their argument, so much as to the authority of their charms.

The same fault in the mind, strengthened by the same cause, (a neglected education,) leads lively wo­men often to pronounce on a question without ex­amining it: on any given point they seldomer doubt than men; not because they are more clear sighted, but because they have not been accustomed to look into a subject long enough to discover its depths and its intricacies; and not discerning its difficulties, [Page 49] they conclude that it has none. Is it a contradiction to say, that they seem at once to be quick-sighted and short-sighted? What they see at all, they com­monly see at once; a little difficulty discourages them; and, having caught a hasty glimpse of a sub­ject, they rush to this conclusion, that either there is no more to be seen, or that what is behind will not pay them for the trouble of searching. They pursue their object eagerly, but not regularly; ra­pidly, but not pertinaciously; for they want that obstinate patience of investigation which grows stout­er by repulse. What they have not attained, they do not believe exists; what they cannot seize at once, they persuade themselves is not worth having.

Is a subject of moment started in company? While the more sagacious are deliberating on its difficulties, and viewing it under all its aspects, in order to form a competent judgment before they decide, you will often find the most superficial woman present deter­mine the matter without hesitation. Not seeing the perplexities in which the question is involved, she wonders at the want of penetration in him whose very penetration keeps him silent. She secretly de­spises the dull perception and slow decision of him who is patiently untying the knot which she fancies she exhibits more dexterity by cutting. By this shallow sprightliness, the person whose opinion was best worth having is discouraged from delivering it, [Page 50] and an important subject is dismissed without discussi­on, by this inconsequent flippancy and voluble rash­ness. It is this abundance of florid talk, from super­ficial matter, which has brought on so many of the sex the charge of inverting the Apostle's precept, and being swift to speak, slow to hear.

For, if the great Roman Orator could observe, that silence was so important a part of conversation, that "there was not only an art but an eloquence in it," how peculiarly does the remark apply to the modes­ty of youthful females! But the silence of listless ignorance, and the silence of sparkling intelligence, are two things almost as obviously distinct, as the wisdom and the folly of the tongue. An inviolable and marked attention may shew, that a woman is pleased with a subject, and an illuminated counte­nance may prove that she understands it, almost as unequivocally as language itself could do; and this, with a modest question, is in many cases as large a share of the conversation as it is decorous for femi­nine delicacy to take. It is also as flattering an en­couragement as men of sense require, for pursuing such topics in the presence of women, which they would be more disposed to do, did they oftener gain by it the attention which it is natural to wish to ex­cite.

Yet do we not sometimes see an impatience to be heard (nor is it a feminine failing only) which good [Page 51] breeding can scarcely subdue? And even when these incorrigible talkers are compelled to be silent, is it not evident that they are not listening to what is said, but are only thinking of what they themselves shall say when they can seize the first lucky interval for which they are so narrowly watching?

But conversation must not be considered as a stage for the display of our talents, so much as a field for the exercise and improvement of our virtues; as a means for promoting the glory of our Creator, and the good and happiness of our fellow creatures. Well-bred and intelligent Christians are not, when they join in society, to consider themselves as enter­ing the lists like intellectual prize-fighters, in order to exhibit their own vigour and dexterity, to discom­fit their adversary, and to bear away the palm of victory. Truth and not triumph should be the ob­ject; and there are few occasions in life, in which we are more unremittingly called upon to watch our­selves narrowly, and to resist the assaults of various temptations, than in conversation. Vanity, jealousy, envy, misrepresentation, resentment, disdain, levity, impatience, insincerity, will in turn solicit to be gra­tified. Constantly to struggle against the desire of being thought more wise, more witty, and more knowing, than those with whom we associate, de­mands the incessant exertion of Christian vigilance, a vigilance which the generality are so far from sus­pecting [Page 52] necessary in the intercourse of common society, that cheerful conversation is rather considered as an exemption and release from it, than as an additional obligation to it.

But society, as was observed before, is not a stage on which to throw down our gauntlet, and prove our own prowess by the number of falls we give to our adversary; so far from it, good breeding as well as Christianity, considers as an indispensable requisite for conversation, the disposition to bring forward to notice any talent in others, which their own modesty, or conscious inferiority would lead them to keep back. To do this with effect requires a penetration exercised to discern merit, and a gene­rous candour which delights in drawing it out. There are few who cannot converse tolerably on some one topic; what that is, we should try to find out, and in general introduce that topic, though to the suppression of any one on which we ourselves are supposed to excel: and however superior we may be in other respects to the persons in question, we may, perhaps, in that particular point, improve by them; and if we do not gain information, we shall at least gain a wholesome exercise to our humility and self-denied; we shall be restraining our own im­petuosity; we shall, if we take this course on just occasions only, and so as to beware lest we gratify the vanity of others, be giving confidence to a doubt­ing [Page 53] or cheerfulness to a depressed spirit. And to place a just remark, hazarded by the diffident, in the most advantageous point of view; to call the at­tention of the inattentive, the forward and the self-sufficient, to some quiet person in the company, who though of much worth, is perhaps of little note; these are requisites for conversation, less brilliant, but far more valuable, than the power of exciting bursts of laughter by the brightest wit, or of extort­ing admiration by the most poignant sallies of ridi­cule.

For wit is of all the qualities of the female mind that which requires the severest castigation; yet the temperate exercise of this fascinating quality throws an additional lustre round the character of an amia­ble woman; for to manage with discreet modesty a dangerous talent, confers a higher praise than can be claimed by those in whom the absence of the talent takes away the temptation to misemploy it. To wo­men, wit is a peculiarly perilous possession, which nothing short of the sobermindedness of Christianity can keep in order. Intemperate wit craves admirati­on as its natural aliment; it lives on flattery as its daily bread. The professed wit is a hungry beggar, that subsists on the extorted alms of perpetual pane­gyric; and like the vulture in the Grecian fable, its appetite increases by indulgence. Simple truth and sober approbation become tasteless and insipid to the [Page 54] palate, daily vitiated by the delicious poignancies of exaggerated commendation. Under the above re­strictions, however, wit may be safely and pleasant­ly exercised; for chastised wit is an elegant and well-bred, and not unfeminine quality. But humour, es­pecially if it degenerate into imitation, or mimicry, is very sparingly to be ventured on; for it is so dif­ficult totally to detach it from the suspicion of buf­foonery, that a woman will be likely to lose more of that delicacy which is her appropriate grace, than she will gain in the eyes of the judicious, by the most successful display of humour.

But if it be true that some women are too apt to affect brilliancy and display in their own discourse, and to undervalue the more humble pretensions of less showy characters; it must be confessed also, that some of more ordinary abilities are now and then guilty of the opposite error, and foolishly af­fect to value themselves on not making use of the understanding they really possess. They exhibit no small satisfaction in ridiculing women of high intel­lectual endowments, while they exclaim with much affected humility, and much real envy, that ‘they are thankful they are not geniuses.’ Now, though one is glad to hear gratitude expressed on any occa­sion, yet the want of sense is really no such great mercy to be thankful for; and it would indicate a better spirit, were they to pray to be enabled to make [Page 55] a right use of the moderate understanding they pos­sess, instead of exposing with a visible pleasure the imaginary or real defects of their more shining ac­quaintance. Women of the brightest faculties should not only "bear those faculties meekly," but consider it as no derogation, cheerfully to fulfil those humbler duties which make up the business of common life, always taking into the account the higher responsibility attached to higher gifts. While women of lower attainments should exert to the ut­most such abilities as Providence has assigned them; and while they should not deride excellencies which are above their reach, they should not despond at an inferiority which did not depend on themselves; nor, because God has denied them ten talents, should they forget that they are equally responsible for the one he has allotted them, but set about de­voting that one with humble diligence to the glory of the Giver.

Vanity, however, is not the monopoly of talents: let not a young lady, therefore, fancy that she is humble, merely because she is not ingenious. Hu­mility is not the exclusive privilege of dulness. Fol­ly is as conceited as wit, and ignorance many a time outstrips knowledge in the race of vanity. Equal­ly earnest competitions spring from causes less wor­thy to excite them than wit and genius. Vanity insinuates itself into the female heart under a variety [Page 56] of unsuspected forms, and seizes on many a little pass which was not thought worth guarding.

Who has not seen as restless emotion agitate the features of an anxious matron, while peace and fame hung trembling in doubtful suspense on the success of a soup or a sauce, on which sentence was about to be pronounced by some consummate critic, as could have been excited by any competition for lite­rary renown, or any struggle for contested wit? Nor was the illustrious hero of Greece more effec­tually hindered from sleeping by the trophies of Miltiades, than many a modish damsel by the eclips­ing superiority of some newer decoration exhibited by her more succesful friend.

There is another species of vanity in some women which disguises itself under the thin veil of an af­fected humility; they will accuse themselves of some fault from which they are remarkably exempt, and lament the want of some talent which they are rather notorious for possessing. This is not only a clumsy trap for praise, but there is a disingenuous intention, by renouncing a quality they eminently possess, to gain credit for others in which they are really defi­cient. All affectation involves a species of deceit. The Apostle when he enjoins, ‘not to think of our­selves more highly than we ought,’ does not ex­hort us to think falsely of ourselves, but to think "soberly;" and it is worth observing that in this in­junction [Page 57] he does not use the word speak, but think, inferring possibly, that it would be safer to speak lit­tle of ourselves or not at all; for it is so far from be­ing an unequivocal proof of our humility to talk even of our defects, that while we make self the subject, in whatever way, self-love contrives to be gratified, and will even be content that our faults should be talked of, rather than that we should not be talked of at all. Some are also attacked with such proud fits of humility, that while they are ready to accuse themselves of almost every sin in the lump, they yet take fire at the imputation of the slightest individual fault; and instantly enter upon their own vindication as warmly as if you and not themselves, had brought forward the charge. The truth is, they ventured to condemn themselves, in the full confidence that you would contradict them; the last thing they intended was that you should believe them, and they are ne­ver so much piqued and disappointed as when they are taken at their word.

Of the various shapes and undefined forms into which vanity branches out in conversation, there is no end. Out of a restless desire to please, grows the spurious desire to astonish: from vanity as much as from credulity, arises that strong love of the marvellous, with which the conversation of the ill-educated abounds. Hence that fondness for dealing in narratives hardly within the compass of possibility. [Page 58] Here vanity has many shades of gratification; those shades will be stronger or weaker, whether the re­later chance to have been an eye-witness of the won­der she recounts; or whether she claim only the se­cond-hand renown of its having happened to her friend, or the still remoter celebrity of its having been witnessed only by her friend's friend: but even though that friend only knew the man, who remem­bered the woman, who actually beheld the thing which is now causing admiration in the company, still self, though in a fainter degree, is brought into notice, and the relater contrives in some circuitous way to be connected with the wonder.

To correct this propensity ‘to elevate and sur­prise*,’ it would be well in mixed society to ab­stain altogether from hazarding stories, which though they may not be absolutely false, yet lying without the verge of probability, are apt to impeach the cre­dit of the narrator; in whom the very consciousness that she is not believed, excites an increased eager­ness to depart still farther from the soberness of truth, and induces a habit of vehement asseveration, which is too often called in to help out a questionable point.

[Page 59] There is another shape, and a very deformed shape it is, in which loquacious vanity shews itself; I mean, the betraying of confidence. Though the act be treacherous, yet the fault, in the first instance, is not treachery, but vanity. It does not so often spring from the mischievous desire of divulging a se­cret, as from the pride of having been trusted with it. It is the secret inclination of mixing self with whatever is important. The secret would be of little value, if the revealing it did not serve to intimate our connexion with it; the pleasure of its having been deposited with us would be nothing, if others may not know it has been so deposited.—When we con­tinue to see the variety of serious evils this principle involves, shall we persist in asserting that vanity is a slender mischief?

There is one offence committed in conversation of much too serious a nature to be overlooked, or to be animadverted on without sorrow and indignation: I mean, the habitual and thoughtless profaneness of those who are repeatedly invoking their Maker's name on occasions the most trivial. It is offensive in all its variety of aspects;—it is very pernicious in its effects;—it is a growing evil;—those who are most guilty of it, are from habit hardly conscious [Page 60] when they do it; are not aware of the sin; and for both these reasons, without the admonitions of faith­ful friendship, little likely to discontinue it.—It is ut­terly INEXCUSABLE;—it has none of the palliatives of temptation which other vices plead, and in that re­spect stands distinguished from all others both in its nature and degree of guilt.—Like many other sins, however, it is at once cause and effect; it proceeds from want of love and reverence to the best of Beings, and causes that want both in themselves and others. Yet with all those aggravations, there is, perhaps, hardly any sin so frequently committed, so seldom repented of, and so little guarded against. On the score of impropriety too, it is additionally offensive, as being utterly repugnant to female deli­cacy, which often affects to be shocked at swearing in a man. Now this species of profaneness is not only swearing, but, perhaps, in some respects, swear­ing of the worst sort; as it is a direct breach of an express command, and offends against the very letter of that law which says in so many words, THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN. It offends against delicacy and good breeding; for those who commit it, little think of the pain they are inflicting on the sober mind, which is deeply wounded when it hears the holy name it loves dishonoured; and it is as contrary to good [Page 61] breeding to give pain as it is to true piety to be profane.

I would endeavour to give some faint idea of the grossness of this offence, by an analogy (oh! how inadequate!) with which the feeling heart, even though not seasoned with religion, may be touched. To such I would earnestly say:—Suppose you had some beloved friend,—to put the case still more strongly, a departed friend—a revered parent, per­haps,—whose image never occurs without awaking in your bosom sentiments of tender love and grati­tude; how would you feel if you heard this honour­ed name bandied about with unfeeling familiarity and indecent levity; or at best, thrust into every pause of speech as a vulgar expletive? Does not your affec­tionate heart recoil at the thought? And yet the hallowed name of your truest Benefactor, your heavenly Father, your best Friend, who gives you all you enjoy, those very friends in whom you so much delight, those very organs with which you dishonour him, is treated with an irreverence, a con­tempt, a wantonness, with which you cannot bear the very thought or mention of treating a human friend. His name is impiously, is unfeelingly, is ungratefully singled out as the object of decided irreverence, of systematic contempt, of thoughtless levity. It is used indiscriminately to express anger, [...], grief, surprise, impatience; and what is almost still [Page 62] more unpardonable than all, it is wantonly used as a mere unmeaning expletive, which, being excited by no emotion, can have nothing to recommend it, un­less it be the pleasure of the sin.

Among the deep, but less obvious mischiefs of conversation, misrepresentation must not be overlook­ed. Self-love is continually at work, to give to all we say a bias in our own favour. The counterac­tion of this fault should be set about in the earliest stages of education. If young persons have not been discouraged in the natural, but evil, propensity to relate every dispute they have had with others to their own advantage; if they have not been trained to the duty of doing justice even to those with whom they are at variance; if they have not been led to aim at a complete impartiality in their little narratives, and instructed never to take advantage of the absence of the other party, in order to make the story lean to their own side more than the truth will admit; how shall we in advanced life look for correct habits, for unprejudiced representations, for fidelity, accu­racy, and unbiassed justice?

Yet, how often in society, otherwise respectable, are we pained with narrations in which prejudice warps, and self-love blinds! How often do we see, that withholding part of a truth answers the worst ends of a falsehood! How often regret the unfair turn given to a business, by placing a sentiment in [Page 63] one point of view, which the speaker had used in another! the letter of truth preserved where its spi­rit is violated! a superstitious exactness scrupulously maintained in the underparts of a detail, in order to impress such an idea of integrity as shall gain credit, while the leading principle is designedly mistated! nay, a new character given to a fact by a different look, tone, or emphasis, which alters it as much as words could have done! the false impression of a sermon conveyed, when we do not like the preacher, or when through him we wish to make religion it­self ridiculous! the avoiding of literal untruths, while the mischief is better effected by the unfair quotation of a passage divested of its context! the bringing together detached portions of a subject, and making those parts ludicrous, when connected, which were perfect in their distinct position! the insidious use made of a sentiment by representing it as the opinion of him who had only brought it forward in order to expose it! the relating opinions which had merely been put hypothetically, as the avowed principles of him we would discredit! that subtle falsehood which is so made to incorporate with a certain quantity of truth, that the most skilful moral chemist cannot analyse or separate them! for a good misrepresenter knows that a successful lie must have a certain in­fusion of truth, or it will not go down. All that in­definable ambiguity and equivocation; all that pru­dent [Page 64] deceit, which is rather implied than expressed; those more delicate artifices of the school of Loyola and of Chesterfield, which allow us when we dare not deny a truth, yet so to disguise and discolour it, that the truth we relate shall not resemble the truth we heard! These and all the thousand shades of simulation and dissimulation will be carefully guarded against in the conversation of vigilant Christians.

Again, it is surprising to mark the common devia­tions from strict veracity which spring, not from enmity to truth, not from intentional deceit, not from malevolence or envy, or the least design to injure, but from mere levity, habitual inattention, and a cur­rent notion that it is not worth while to be correct in small things. But here the doctrine of habits comes in with great force, and in that view no error is small. The cure of this disease in its more inveterate stages being next to impossible, its prevention ought to be one of the earliest objects of education.*

The grievous fault of gross and obvious detraction which infects conversation, has been so heavily and so justly condemned by divines and moralists, that the subject is exhausted. But there is an error of an opposite complexion, which we have before noticed, and against which the peculiar temper of the times requires that young ladies of a better cast should be [Page 65] guarded. From the narrowness of their own sphere of observation, they are sometimes addicted to accuse of uncharitableness, that distinguishing judgment which, resulting from a sound penetration and a zeal for truth, forbids persons of a very correct principle to be indiscriminately prodigal of commendation without inquiry, and without distinction. There is an affectation of candour, which is almost as mis­chievous as calumny itself; nay, if it be less injuri­ous in its individual application, it is, perhaps, more alarming in its general principle, as it lays waste the strong fences which separate good from evil. They know (though they sometimes calumniate) that ca­lumny is wrong; but they have not been told that flattery is wrong also; and youth, being apt to fancy that the direct contrary to wrong must necessarily be right, are apt to be driven into violent extremes. The dread of being only suspected of one fault, makes them actually guilty of the other; and to avoid the charge of harshness or of envy, they plunge into in­sincerity. In this they are actuated either by an un­sound judgment or an unsound principle.

In this age of high-minded independence, when our youth are apt to set up for themselves, and every man is too much disposed to be his own legislator without looking, as his standard, to the established law of the land; and to set up for his own divine, without looking to the revealed will of God; by a [Page 66] candour equally vicious with our vanity, we are also complaisantly led to give the latitude we take: and it is become too frequent a phrase in the mouths of our tolerating young ladies, when speaking of their more erring and misled acquaintance, to offer for them this flimsy vindication, ‘that what they do is right if it appear right to them:‘if they see the thing in that light, and act up to it with sincerity, they cannot be materially wrong.’ But the standard of truth, justice, and religion, must neither be elevated nor depressed, in order to accommodate it to actual circumstances: it must never be lowered to palliate error, to justify folly, or to vindicate vice. Good-natured young people often speak favourably of un­worthy, or extravagantly of common characters, from one of these motives; either their own views of excellence are low, or they speak respectfully of the undeserving, to purchase for themselves the repu­tation of tenderness and generosity; or they lavish unsparing praise on almost all alike, in the usurious hope of buying back universal commendation in re­turn; or in those captivating characters in which the simple and masculine language of truth is sacrificed to the jargon of affected softness; and in which smooth and pliant manners are substituted for intrin­sic worth, the inexperienced are too apt to suppose virtues, and to forgive vices. But they should care­fully guard against the error of making manner the [Page 67] criterion of merit, and of giving unlimited credit to strangers for possessing every perfection, only because they bring into company the engaging exterior of al­luring gentleness. They should also remember that it is an easy, but not an honest way of obtaining the praise of candour, to get into the soft and popular habit of saying of all their acquaintance, when speak­ing of them, that they are so good! True Christian candour conceals faults, but it does not invent vir­tues. It tenderly forbears to expose the evil which may belong to a character, but it dares not ascribe to it the good which does not exist. To correct this propensity to false judgment and insincerity, it would be well to bear in mind, that while every good acti­on, come from what source it may, and every good quality, be it found in whomsoever it will, deserves its fair proportion of distinct and willing commenda­tion: yet no character is GOOD in the true sense of the word which is not RELIGIOUS.

In fine—to recapitulate what has been said, with some additional hints:—Study to promote both intel­lectual and moral improvement in conversation; la­bour to bring into it a disposition to bear with others, and to be watchful over yourself; keep out of sight any prominent talent of your own, which, if indulg­ed, might discourage or oppress the feeble-minded. If you know any one present to possess any particular weakness or infirmity, never exercise your wit by [Page 68] maliciously inventing occasions which may lead her to expose or betray it; but give as favourable a turn as you can to the follies which appear, and kindly help her to keep the rest out of sight. Never gratify your own humour, by hazarding what you suspect may wound any one present in their persons, connec­tions, professions in life, or religious opinions; and do not forget to examine whether the laugh your wit has raised be never bought at this expence. Give credit to those who, without your kindness, will get none; do not talk at any one whom you dare not talk to, unless from motives in which the golden rule will bear you out. Seek neither to shine nor to tri­umph; and if you seek to please, take care that it be in order to convert the influence you may gain by pleasing to the good of others. Cultivate true polite­ness, for it grows out of true principle, and is con­sistent with the Gospel of Christ; but avoid those feigned attentions which are not stimulated by good­will, and those stated professions of fondness which are not dictated by esteem. Remember, that the praise of being thought amiable by strangers, may be bought too dear, if it be bought at the expence of truth and simplicity: remember, that Simplicity is the first charm in manner, as Truth is in mind; and could Truth make herself visible, she would appear invested in Simplicity.

[Page 69] Remember also, that true good nature is the soul, of which politeness is only the garb. It is not that artificial quality which is taken up by many when they go into society, in order to charm those whom it is not their particular business to please; and is laid down when they return home to those to whom to appear amiable is a real duty. It is not that fascinat­ing but deceitful softness, which, after having acted over a hundred scenes of the most lively sympathy and tender interest with every slight acquaintance; after having exhausted every phrase of feeling, for the trivial sicknesses or petty sorrows of multitudes who are scarcely known, leaves it doubtful whether a grain of real feeling or genuine sympathy be re­served for the dearest connections; and which dis­misses a woman to her immediate friends with little affection, and to her own family with little attach­ment.

True good nature, that which alone deserves the name, is not a holiday ornament, but an every-day habit. It does not consist in servile complaisance, or dishonest flattery, or affected sympathy, or unquali­fied assent, or unwarrantable compliance, or eternal smiles. Before it can be allowed to rank with the virtues, it must be wrought up from a humour into a principle, from an occasional disposition into a ha­bit. It must be the result of an equal and well-governed mind, not the start of casual [...], the [Page 70] trick of designing vanity, or the whim of capricious fondness. It is compounded of kindness, forbear­ance, forgiveness, and self-denial; ‘it seeketh not its own,’ but must be capable of making continual sacrifices of its own tastes, humours, and self-love; but among the sacrifices it makes, it must never in­clude its integrity. Politeness on the one hand, and insensibility on the other, assume its name and wear its honours; but they assume the honours of a tri­umph, without the merit of a victory; for polite­ness subdues nothing, and insensibility has nothing to subdue. Good nature of the true cast, and under the foregoing regulations, is above all price in the common intercourse of domestic society; for an ordi­nary quality, which is constantly brought into action by the perpetually recurring though minute events of daily life, is of higher value than more brilliant qualities which are more seldom called into use. And, indeed, Christianity has given that new turn to the character of all the virtues, that perhaps it is the best test of the excellence of many that they have little brilliancy in them. The Christian Reli­gion has degraded some splendid qualities from the rank they held, and elevated those which were ob­scure into distinction.

[Page 71]

CHAP. XV.

On the danger of an ill-directed Sensibility.

IN considering the human character with a view to its improvement, it is prudent to endeavour to disco­ver the natural bent of the mind, and having found it, to direct your force against that side on which the warp lies, that you may lessen by counteraction the defect which you might be promoting, by applying your aid in a contrary direction. But the misfortune is, people who mean better than they judge, are apt to take up a set of general rules, good perhaps in themselves, and originally gleaned from experience and observation on the nature of human things, but not applicable in all cases. These rules they keep by them as nostrums of universal efficacy, which they therefore often bring out for use in cases to which they do not apply. For to make any reme­dy effectual, it is not enough to know the medicine, you must study the constitution also; if there be not a congruity between the two, you may be in­juring one patient by the means which are requisite to raise and restore another, whose temperament is of a contrary description.

[Page 72] It is of importance in forming the female charac­ter, that those on whom this task devolves should possess so much penetration as accurately to discern the degree of sensibility, and so much judgment as to accommodate the treatment to the individual charac­ter. By constantly stimulating and extolling feelings naturally quick, those feelings will be rendered too acute and irritable. On the other hand, a calm and equable temper will become obtuse by the total want of excitement; the former treatment converts the feelings into a source of error, agitation and calami­ty; the latter starves their native energy, deadens the affections, and produces a cold, dull, selfish spirit; for the human mind is an instrument which will lose its sweetness if strained too high, and will be deprived of its tone and strength if not sufficiently, raised.

It is cruel to chill the precious sensibility of an in­genuous soul, by treating with supercilious coldness and unfeeling ridicule every indication of a warm, tender, disinterested, and enthusiastic spirit, as if it exhibited symptoms of a deficiency in understanding or prudence. How many are apt to intimate, with a smile of mingled pity and contempt, that when such a one knows the world, that is, in other words, when she shall be grown cunning, selfish, and suspi­cious, she will be ashamed of her present glow of honest warmth, and of her lovely susceptibility of [Page 73] heart. May she never know the world, if the know­ledge of it must be acquired at such an expence! But to sensible hearts, every indication of genuine feeling will be dear, for they will know that it is this temper which, by the guidance of the Divine spirit, may make her one day become more enamoured of the beauty of holiness; which, with the co-opera­tion of principle, and under its direction, will render her the lively agent of Providence in diminishing the misery that is in the world; into which misery this temper will give her a quicker intuition than colder characters possess. It is this temper which, when it is touched and purified by a ‘live coal from the altar,’ * will give her a keener taste for the spirit of religion, and a quicker zeal in discharging its du­ties. But let it be remembered likewise, that as there is no quality in the female character which will be so likely to endanger the peace, and to expose the virtue of the possessor; so there is none which re­quires to have its luxuriances more carefully watch­ed, and its wild shoots more closely lopped.

For young women of affections naturally warm, but not carefully disciplined, are in danger of incur­ring an unnatural irritability; and while their happi­ness falls a victim to the excess of uncontrolled feel­ings, they are liable at the same time to indulge a [Page 74] vanity of all others the most preposterous, that of being vain of their very defect. They have heard sensibility highly commended, without having heard any thing of those bounds and fences which were intended to confine it, and without having been im­bued with that principle which would have given it a beneficial direction; conscious that they possess the quality itself in the extreme, and not aware that they want all that makes that quality safe and de­lightful, they plunge headlong into those sins and miseries from which they conceitedly imagine, that not principle but coldness has preserved the more sober-minded and well-instructed of their sex.

But as it would be foreign to the present design to expatiate on those criminal excesses which are some of the sad effects of ungoverned passion, it is only intended here to hazard a few remarks on those lighter consequences of it, which consist in the loss of comfort without ruin of character, and the privation of much of the happiness of life without involving any very censurable degree of guilt or dis­credit. Let it, however, be incidentally remarked, and let it be carefully remembered, that if no women have risen so high in the scale of moral excellence as those whose natural warmth has been conscienti­ously governed by its true guide, and directed to its true end; so none have furnished such deplorable instances of extreme depravity as those who, through [Page 75] the ignorance or the dereliction of principle, have been abandoned by the excess of this very temper to the violence of ungoverned passions and uncontrolled inclinations. Perhaps, if we were to inquire into the remote cause of some of the blackest crimes which stain the annals of mankind, profligacy, mur­der, and especially suicide, we might trace them back to this original principle, an ungoverned Sensi­bility.

Notwithstanding all the fine theories in prose and verse to which this topic has given birth, it will be found that very exquisite sensibility contributes so little to happiness, and may yet be made to contribute so much to usefulness, that it may, perhaps, be consi­dered as bestowed for an exercise to the possessor's own virtue, and as a keen instrument with which she may better work for the good of others.

Women of this cast of mind are less careful to avoid the charge of unbounded extremes, than to escape at all events the imputation of insensibility. They are little alarmed at the danger of exceeding, though terrified at the suspicion of coming short, of what they take to be the extreme point of feeling. They will even resolve to prove the warmth of their sensibility, though at the expence of their judgment, and sometimes also of their justice. Even when they earnestly desire to be and to do right, they are apt to employ the wrong instrument to accomplish the right [Page 76] end. They employ the passions to do the work of the judgment; forgetting, or not knowing, that the passions were not given us to be used in the search and discovery of truth, which is the office of a cool­er and more discriminating faculty; but that they were given to animate us to warmer zeal in the pur­suit and practice of truth, when the judgment shall have pointed out what is truth.

Through this natural warmth, which they have been justly told is so pleasing, but which, perhaps, they have not been told will be continually exposing them to peril and to suffering, their joys and sorrows are excessive. Of this extreme irritability, as was before remarked, the ill-educated learn to boast as if it were a decided indication of superiority of soul, in­stead of labouring to restrain it as the excess of a temper which ceases to be amiable, when it is no longer under the control of the governing faculty. It is misfortune enough to be born more liable to suffer and to sin, from this conformation of mind; it is too much to nourish the evil by unrestrained in­dulgence; it is still worse to be proud of so mis­leading a quality.

Flippancy, impetuosity, resentment, and violence of spirit, grow out of this disposition, which will be rather promoted than corrected, by the system of education on which we have been animadverting; in which system, emotions are too early and too much [Page 77] excited, and tastes and feelings are considered as too exclusively making up the whole of the female cha­racter: in which the judgment is little exercised, the reasoning powers are seldom brought into action, and self-knowledge and self-denial scarcely included.

The propensity of mind which we are consider­ing, if unchecked, lays its possessors open to unjust prepossessions, and exposes them to all the danger of unfounded attachments. In early youth, not only love at first sight, but also friendship, of the same sudden growth, springs up from an ill-directed sen­sibility; and in after-life, women under the powerful influence of this temper, conscious that they have much to be borne with, are too readily inclined to select for their confidential connections, flexible and flattering companions, who will indulge and perhaps admire their faults, rather than firm and honest friends, who will reprove and would assist in curing them. We may adopt it as a general maxim, that an obliging, weak, yielding, complaisant friend, full of small attentions, with little religion, little judg­ment, and much natural acquiescence and civility, is a most dangerous, though generally a too much de­sired confidante: she soothes the indolence, and grati­fies the vanity of her friend, by reconciling her to her faults, while she neither keeps the understanding nor the virtues of that friend in exercise; but with­holds from her every useful truth, which by opening [Page 78] her eyes might give her pain. These obsequious qualities are the "soft green"* on which the soul loves to repose itself. But it is not a refreshing or a wholesome repose: we should not select, for the sake of present ease a soothing flatterer, who will lull us into a pleasing oblivion of our failings, but a friend, who, valuing our soul's health above our immediate comfort, will rouse us from torpid indulgence to ani­mation, vigilance, and virtue.

An ill-directed sensibility also leads a woman to be injudicious and eccentric in her charities; she will be in danger of proportioning her bounty to the im­mediate effect which the distressed object produces on her senses: and she will be more liberal to a small distress presenting itself to her own eyes, than to the more pressing wants and better claims of those mise­ries of which she only hears the relation. There is a sort of stage effect which some people require for their charities; she will be apt also to desire, that the object of her compassion shall have something in­teresting and amiable in it, such as shall furnish pleas­ing images and lively pictures to her imagination, and engaging subjects for description; forgetting, that in her charities, as well as in every thing else, she is to be a "follower of Him who pleased not himself;" forgetting, that the most coarse and disgusting object [Page 79] is as much the representative of Him, who said, ‘In­asmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these, ye do it unto me,’ as the most interesting: nay the more uninviting and repulsive cases may be better tests of the principle on which we relieve, than those which abound in pathos and interest, as we can have less suspicion of our motive in the latter case than in the former. But, while we ought to neglect neither of these supposed cases, yet the less our feelings are caught by pleasing circumstances, the less will be the danger of our indulging self-complacency, and the more likely shall we be to do what we do for the sake of Him who has taught us, that no deeds but what are performed on that principle, ‘shall be re­compensed at the resurrection of the just.’

But through the want of that governing principle which should direct her sensibility, a tender-hearted woman, whose hand, if she be actually surrounded with scenes and circumstances to call it into action, is

Open as day to melting charity;

nevertheless may utterly fail in the great and compre­hensive duty of Christian love, for she has feelings which are acted upon solely by local circumstances and present events. Only remove her into another scene, distant from the wants she has been relieving; place her in the lap of indulgence, so entrenched with ease and pleasure, so immersed in the softness of life, that distress no longer finds any access to her pre­sence, [Page 80] but through the faint and dull medium of a dis­tant representation; remove her from the sight and sound of that misery which, when present, so tender­ly affected her—she now forgets that misery exists; as she hears but little, and sees nothing of want and sorrow, she is ready to fancy that the world is grown happier than it was: in the meantime, with a quiet conscience and a thoughtless vanity, she has been la­vishing on superfluities that money which she would cheerfully have given to a charitable case, had she not forgotten that any such were in existence, be­cause Pleasure had blocked up the avenues through which misery used to find its way to her heart; and now, when again such a case forces itself into her presence, she laments with real sincerity that the mo­ney is gone which should have relieved it.

In the meantime, perhaps, other women of less na­tural sympathy, but whose sympathies are under bet­ter regulation, or who act from a principle which requires little stimulus, have, by an habitual course of self-denial, by a constant determination to refuse themselves unnecessary indulgences, and by guarding against that dissolving PLEASURE which melts down the firmest virtue that allows itself to bask in its beams, have been quietly furnishing a regular provi­sion for miseries, which their knowledge of the state of the world teaches them are every where to be found, and which their obedience to the will of God [Page 81] tells them it is their duty both to find out and to re­lieve; a general expectation of being liable to be call­ed upon for acts of charity, will lead the conscienti­ously charitable always to be prepared.

On such a mind as we have been describing, No­velty also will operate with peculiar force, and in no­thing more than in the article of charity. Old esta­blished institutions, whose continued existence must depend on the continued bounty of that affluence to which they owed their origin, will be sometimes ne­glected, as presenting no variety to the imagination, as having by their uniformity ceased to be interesting, there is now a total failure of those springs of mere sensitive feeling which set the charity a-going, and those sudden emotions of tenderness and gusts of pi­ty, which once were felt, must now be excited by newer forms of distress.—As age comes on, that cha­rity which has been the effect of mere feeling, grows cold and rigid, on account also of its having been often disappointed in its high expectations of the gra­titude and subsequent merit of those it has relieved; and by withdrawing its bounty, because some of its objects have been undeserving, it gives clear proof that what it bestowed was for its own gratification; and now finding that self-complacency at an end, it bestows no longer. Probably too the cause of so much disappointment may have been, that ill choice of the objects to which feeling, rather than a discri­minating [Page 82] judgment has led. The summer showers of mere sensibility soon dry up, while the living spring of Christian charity flows alike in all seasons.

The impatience, levity, and fickleness, of which women have been somewhat too generally accused, are perhaps in no small degree aggravated by the little­ness and frivolousness of female pursuits. The sort of education they commonly receive, teaches girls to set a great price on small things. Besides this, they do not always learn to keep a very correct scale of de­grees for rating the value of the objects of their ad­miration and attachment; but by a kind of unconsci­ous idolatry, they rather make a merit of loving su­premely things and persons which ought to be loved with moderation and in a subordinate degree the one to the other. Unluckily, they consider moderation as so necessarily indicating a cold heart and narrow soul, and they look upon a state of indifference with so much horror, that either to love or hate with en­ergy is supposed by them to proceed from a higher state of mind than is possessed by more steady and equable characters. Whereas it is in fact the crite­rion of a warm but well-directed sensibility, that while it is capable of loving with energy, it must be enabled, by the judgment which governs it, to suit and adjust its degree of interest to the nature and excellence of the object about which it is interested; for unreasonable prepossession, disproportionate at­tachment, [Page 83] and capricious or precarious fondness, is not sensibility.

Excessive but unintentional flattery is another fault into which a strong sensibility is in danger of leading its possessor. A tender heart and a warm imaginati­on conspire to throw a sort of radiance round the object of their love, till people are dazzled by a brightness of their own creating. The worldly and fashionable borrow the warm language of sensibility without having the really warm feeling; and young ladies get such a habit of saying, and especially of writing, such over obliging and flattering things to each other, that this mutual politeness, aided by the self-love so natural to us all, and by an unwillingness to search into our own hearts, keeps up the illusion, and we get a habit of taking our character from the good we hear of ourselves, which others assume, but do not very well know, rather than from the evil we feel in ourselves, and which we therefore ought to be thoroughly acquainted with.

Ungoverned sensibility is apt to give a wrong direc­tion to its anxieties; and its affection often falls short of the true end of friendship. If the object of its re­gard happen to be sick, what inquiries! what pre­scriptions! what an accumulation is made of cases in which the remedy its fondness suggests has been successful! What an unaffected tenderness for the perishing body! Yet is this sensibility equally alive [Page 84] to the immortal interests of the sufferer? Is it not silent and at ease when it contemplates the dearest friend persisting in opinions essentially dangerous; in practices unquestionably wrong? Does it not view all this, not only without a generous ardour to point out the peril, and rescue the friend; but if that friend be supposed to be dying, does it not even make it the criterion of kindness to let her die undeceived? What a want of true sensibility, to feel for the pain, but not for the danger of those we love! Now see what sort of sensibility the Bible teaches! ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but thou shalt in any wise rebuke him, and shalt not suffer sin upon him*.’ But let that tenderness which shrinks from the idea of exposing what it loves to a momentary pang, figure to itself the bare possibility, that the object of its own fond affection may not be the object of its own fond affection may not be the object of the Divine favour! Let it shrink from the bare conjecture, that ‘the familiar friend with whom it has taken sweet counsel,’ is going down to the gates of death, unrepenting, unprepared, and yet unwarned.

But mere human sensibility goes a shorter way to work. Not being able to give its friend the pain of hearing her faults or of knowing her danger, it works itself up into the quieting delusion that no [Page 85] danger exists, at least not for the objects of its own affection; it gratifies itself by inventing a salvation so comprehensive as shall take in all itself loves with all their faults; it creates to its own fond heart an ideal and exaggerated divine mercy, which shall pardon and receive all in whom this blind sensibility has an interest, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

In regard to its application to religious purposes, it is a test that sensibility has received its true directi­on when it is supremely turned to the love of God: for to possess an overflowing fondness for our fellow-creatures and fellow-sinners, and to be cold and in­sensible to the Essence of goodness and perfection, is an inconsistency to which the feeling heart is awfully liable. God has himself the first claim to the sensi­bility he bestowed. "He first loved us:" this is a natural cause of love, ‘He loved us while we were sinners:’ this is a supernatural cause. He conti­nues to love us though we neglect his favours, and slight his mercies: this would wear out any earthly kindness. He forgives us, not petty neglects, not occasional slights, but grievous sins, repeated offen­ces, broken vows, and unrequited love. What hu­man friendship performs offices so calculated to touch the soul of sensibility?

Those young women in whom feeling is indulged to the exclusion of reason and examination, are pecu­liarly [Page 86] liable to be the dupes of prejudice, rash deci­sions, and false judgment. The understanding hav­ing but little power over the will, their affections are not well poized, and their minds are kept in a state ready to be acted upon by the fluctuations of al­ternate impulses; by sudden and varying impressions; by casual and contradictory circumstances; and by emotions excited by every accident. Instead of being guided by the broad views of general truth, and hav­ing one fixed principle, they are driven on by the im­petuosity of the moment. And this impetuosity blinds the judgment as much as it misleads the conduct; so that for want of a habit of cool investigation and in­quiry, they meet every event without any previously formed opinion or rule of action. And as they do not accustom themselves to appreciate the real value of things, their attention is as likely to be led away by the under parts of a subject, as to seize on the leading feature. The same eagerness of mind which hinders the operation of the discriminating faculty, leads also to the error of determining on the recti­tude of an action by its success, and to that of mak­ing the event of an undertaking decide on its justice or propriety: it also leads to that superficial and er­roneous way of judging which fastens on exceptions, if they make in one's own favour, as grounds of rea­soning, while they lead us to overlook received and [Page 87] general rules which tend to establish a doctrine con­trary to our wishes.

Open-hearted, indiscreet girls, often pick up a few strong notions, which are as false in themselves as they are popular among the class in question: such as, "that warm friends must make warm enemies;"—that ‘the generous love and hate with all their hearts;’—that ‘a reformed rake makes the best husband;’—that ‘there is no medium in marriage, but that it is a state of exquisite happiness or exqui­site misery;’ with many other doctrines of equal currency and equal soundness! These they consider as axioms, and adopt as rules of life. From the two first of these oracular sayings, girls are in no small danger of becoming unjust through the very warmth of their hearts: for they will get a habit of making their estimate of the good or ill qualities of others, mere­ly in proportion to the greater or less degree of kind­ness which they themselves have received from them. Their estimation of general character is thus formed on insulated and partial grounds; on the accidental circumstance of personal predilection or personal pique. Kindness to themselves or their friends in­volves all possible excellence; neglect, all imagina­ble defects. Friendship and gratitude can and should go a great way; but as they cannot convert vice into into virtue, so they ought never to convert truth in­to falsehood. And it may be the more necessary to [Page 88] be upon our guard in this instance, because the ve­ry idea of gratitude may mislead us, by converting injustice, into the semblance of a virtue. Warm ex­pressions should therefore be limited to the convey­ing a sense of our own individual obligations which are real, rather than employed to give an impression of general excellence in the person who has obliged us, which may be imaginary. A good man is still good, though it may not have fallen in his way to oblige or serve us, nay, though he may have neglect­ed or even unintentionally hurt us: and sin is still sin, though committed by the person in the world to whom we are the most obliged, and whom we most love.

We come next to that fatal and most indelicate, nay gross maxim, that ‘a reformed rake makes the best husband;’ an aphorism to which the principles and the happiness of so many young women have been sacrificed. It goes upon the preposterous sup­position, not only that effects do not follow causes, but that they oppose them; on the supposition, that habitual vice creates rectitude of character, and that sin produces happiness: thus flatly contradicting what the moral government of God uniformly exhibits in the course of human events, and what Revelation so evidently and universally teaches.

For it should be observed, that the reformation is generally, if not always supposed to be brought about [Page 89] by the all-conquering force of female charms. Let but a profligate young man have a point to carry by winning the affections of a vain and thoughtless girl; he will begin his attack upon her heart by undermin­ing her religious principles, and artfully removing every impediment which might have obstructed her receiving the addresses of a man without character. And while he will lead her not to hear without ridi­cule the mention of that change of heart which Scrip­ture teaches and experience proves the power of Di­vine grace can work on a vicious character; while he will teach her to sneer at a change which he would treat with contempt, because he denies the possibility of so strange and miraculous a conversion; yet he will not scruple to swear, that the power of her beauty has worked a revolution in his own loose practices which is equally complete and instanta­neous.

But supposing it possible that his reformation were genuine, it would even then by no means involve the truth of her proposition, that past libertinism insures future felicity; yet many a weak girl, confirmed in this palatable doctrine by examples she has frequent­ly admired of those surprising reformations so conve­niently effected in the last scene of most of our come­dies, has not scrupled to risk her earthly and eternal happiness with a man, who is not ashamed to ascribe to the influence of her beauty that power of changing [Page 90] the heart which he impiously denies to Omnipotence itself.

As to the last of these practical aphorisms, that ‘there is no medium in marriage, but that it is a state of exquisite happiness or exquisite misery;’ this, though not equally sinful, is equally delusive: for marriage is only one modification of human life, and human life is not commonly in itself a state of exquisite extremes; but is for the most part that mixed and moderate state, so naturally dreaded by those who set out with fancying this world a state of rapture, and so naturally expected by those who know it to be a state of probation and discipline. Marri­age, therefore, is only one condition, and often the best condition of that imperfect state of being which, though seldom very exquisite, is often very tolerable; and which may yield much comfort to those who do not look for constant transport. But unfortunately, those who find themselves disappointed of the un­ceasing raptures they had anticipated in marriage, disdaining to sit down with so poor a provision as comfort, and scorning the acceptance of that mode­rate lot which Providence commonly bestows with a view to check despondency and to repress presump­tion; give themselves up to the other alternative; and, by abandoning their hearts to discontent, make to themselves that misery with which their fervid ima­ginations had filled the opposite scale.

[Page 91] The truth is, these young ladies are very apt to pick up their opinions, less from the divines than the poets; and the poets, though it must be confessed they are some of the best embellishers of life, are not quite the safest conductors through it: for in tra­velling through a wilderness, though we avail our­selves of the harmony of singing-birds to render the grove delightful, yet we never think of following them as guides to conduct us through its labyrinths.

Those women, in whom the natural defects of a warm temper have been strengthened by an education which fosters their faults, are very dextrous in avail­ing themselves of a hint, when it favours a ruling in­clination, sooths vanity, indulges indolence, or grati­fies their love of power. They have heard so often from their favourite sentimental authors, and their more flattering male friends, ‘that when Nature denied them strength, she gave them fascinating graces in compensation; that their strength con­sists in their weakness;’ and that ‘they are en­dowed with arts of persuasion which supply the absence of force, and the place of reason;’ that they learn, in time, to pride themselves on that very weakness, and to become vain of their imperfections; till at length they begin to claim for their defects, not only pardon, but admiration. Hence they get to cherish a species of feeling which, if not checked, terminates in excessive selfishness; they learn to pro­duce [Page 92] their inability to bear contradiction as a proof of their tenderness; and to indulge in that sort of irritability in all that relates to themselves, which in­evitably leads to the utter exclusion of all interest in the sufferings of others. Instead of exercising their sensibility in the wholesome duty of relieving distress and visiting scenes of sorrow, that sensibility itself is pleaded as a reason for their not being able to endure sights of wo, and for shunning the distress it should be exerted in removing. That exquisite sense of feel­ing which God implanted in the heart as a stimulus to quicken us in relieving the miseries of others, is thus introverted, and learns to consider self not as the agent, but the object of compassion. Tenderness is made an excuse for being hard-hearted; and in­stead of drying the weeping eyes of others, this false delicacy reserves its selfish tears for the more elegant and less expensive sorrows of the melting novel or the pathetic tragedy.

When feeling stimulates only to self-indulgence; when the more exquisite affections of sympathy and pity evaporate in sentiment, instead of flowing out in active charity, and affording assistance, protection, or consolation to every species of distress; it is an evidence that the feeling is of a spurious kind; and instead of being nourished as an amiable tenderness, it should be subdued as a fond and base self-love.

[Page 93] That idleness, to whose cruel inroads many women of fortune are unhappily exposed, from not having been trained to consider wholesome occupation, vi­gorous exertion, and systematic employment, as mak­ing part of the indispensable duties of life, lays them open to a thousand evils of this kind, from which the useful and the busy are exempted: and, perhaps, it would not be easy to find a more pitiable object than a woman with a great deal of time and a great deal of money on her hands, who, never having been taught the conscientious use of either, squanders both at random, or rather moulders both away, without plan, without principle, and without plea­sure; all whose projects begin and terminate in self: who considers the rest of the world only as they may be subservient to her gratification; and to whom it never occurred, that both her time and money were given for the gratification and good of others.

It is not much to the credit of the other sex, that they now and then lend themselves to the indulgence of this selfish spirit in their wives, and cherish by a kind of false fondness those faults which should be combated by good sense and a reasonable counterac­tion: slothfully preferring a little false peace, the pur­chase of precarious quiet, and the reputation of good nature, to the higher duty of forming the mind, fix­ing the principles, and strengthening the character of [Page 94] her with whom they are connected. Perhaps too, a little vanity in the husband helps out his good nature; he secretly rewards himself for his sacrifice by the consciousness of his superiority; he feels a self-com­placency in his patient condescension to her weakness, which tacitly flatters his own strength: and he is, as it were, paid for stooping by the increased sense of his own tallness. Seeing also, perhaps, but little of other women, he gets to believe that they are all pretty much alike, and that, as a man of sense, he must content himself with what he takes to be the common lot. Whereas, in truth, by his misplaced indulgence, he has rather made his own lot than drawn it; and thus, through an indolent despair in the husband of being able to effect any improvement by opposition, it happens, that many a helpless, fret­ful, and daudling wife acquires a more powerful as­cendancy than the most discreet and amiable woman; and that the most absolute female tyranny is establish­ed by these sickly and capricious humours.

The poets again, who, to do them justice, are always ready to lend a helping hand when any mis­chief is to be done, have contributed their full share towards confirming these feminine follies: they have strengthened by adulatory maxims, sung in seducing strains, those faults which their talents and their in­fluence should have been employed in correcting. [Page 95] When fair and youthful females are complimented with being

Fine by defect and delicately weak!

is not a standard of feebleness held out to them to which vanity will gladly resort, and to which softness and indolence can easily act up, or rather [...] down, if I may be allowed the expression?

When ladies are told by the same misleading, but to them high, authority, that ‘smiles and tears are the irresistible arms with which Nature has furnish­ed them for conquering the strong,’ will they not eagerly fly to this cheap and ready artillery, instead of labouring to furnish themselves with a reasonable mind, an equable temper, and a meek and quiet spirit?

Every animal is endowed by Providence with the peculiar powers adapted to its nature and its wants; while none, except the human, by grafting art on natural sagacity, injures or mars the gift. Spoilt women, who fancy there is something more picquant and alluring in the mutable graces of caprice, than in the monotonous smoothness of an even temper, and who also having heard much, as was observed before, about their "amiable weakness, "learn to look about them for the best succedaneum to strength, the supposed absence of which they sometimes endea­vour to supply by artifice. By this engine the weak­est [Page 96] woman frequently furnishes the converse to the famous reply of the French Minister, who, when he was accused of governing the mind of that feeble Queen Mary de Medicis by sorcery, replied, ‘that the only sorcery he had used, was that influence which strong minds naturally have over weak ones.’

But though it be fair so to study the tempers, de­fects, and weaknesses of others, as to convert our knowledge of them to the promotion of their benefit and our own; and though it be making a lawful use of our penetration to avail ourselves of the faults of others for "their good to edification;" yet all devia­tions from the straight line of truth and simplicity; every plot insidiously to turn influence to unfair ac­count; all contrivances to extort from a bribed com­plaisance what reason and justice would refuse to our wishes; these are some of the operations of that lowest and most despicable engine, selfish cunning, by which little minds sometimes govern great ones.

And unluckily, women from their natural desire to please, and from their sometimes doubting by what means this grand end may be best effected, are in more danger of being led into dissimulation than men; for dissimulation is the result of weakness, and the refuge of doubt and distrust, rather than of con­scious strength, the dangers of which lie another way. Frankness, truth, and simplicity, therefore, [Page 97] as they are inexpressibly charming, so are they pecu­liarly commendable in women, and nobly evince that while the possessors of them wish to please, (and why should they not wish it?) they disdain to have recourse to any thing but what is fair, and just, and honourable to effect it; that they scorn to attain the most desired end by any but the most lawful means. The beauty of simplicity is indeed so intimately felt and generally acknowledged by all who have a true taste for personal, moral, or intellectual beauty, that women of the deepest artifice often find their account in assuming an exterior the most foreign to their cha­racter, and by affecting the most studied naivete. It is curious to see the quantity of art some people put in practice in order to appear natural; and the deep design which is set at work to exhibit simplicity. And indeed this feigned simplicity is the most mischievous, because the most engaging of all the Proteus forms which dissimulation can put on. For the most free and bold sentiments have been sometimes hazarded with fatal success under this unsuspected mask. And an innocent, quiet, indolent, artless manner, has been adopted as the most refined and successful accompaniment of sentiments, ideas, and designs, neither artless nor innocent.

[Page 98]

CHAP. XVI.

On dissipation, and the modern habits of fashionable life.

PERHAPS the interests of true friendship, elegant conversation, mental improvement, social pleasure, maternal duty, and conjugal comfort, never received such a blow as when Fashion issued out that arbitra­ry and universal decree, that every body must be ac­quainted with every body; together with that consequent, authoritative, but rather inconvenient clause, that every body must also go every where every night. The devout obedience paid to this law is incompati­ble with the very being of friendship; for as the circle of acquaintance expands, and it will be con­tinually expanding, the affections will be beaten out into such thin lamina as to leave little solidity remain­ing. The heart which is continually exhausting it­self in professions grows cold and hard. The feel­ings of kindness diminish in proportion as the ex­pression of it becomes more diffuse and indiscrimi­nate. The very traces of ‘simplicity and godly sincerity’ in a delicate female, wear away imper­ceptibly by constant collision with the world at large. And perhaps no woman takes so little interest in the [Page 99] happiness of her real friends, as she whose affec­tions are incessantly evaporating in universal civilities; as she who is saying fond and flattering things at random to a circle of five hundred people every night.

The decline and fall of animated and instructive conversation has been in a good measure effected by this barbarous project of assembling en masse. An excellent prelate,* with whose friendship the author was long honoured, and who himself excelled in the art of conversation, used to remark, that a few years had brought about a great revolution in the manners of society; that it used to be the cus­tom, previously to going into company, to think that something was to be communicated or received, taught or learnt; that the powers of the under­standing were expected to be brought into exercise, and that it was therefore necessary to quicken the mind, by reading and thinking, for the share the individual might be expected to take in the general discourse; but that knowledge, and taste, and wit, and erudition, seemed now to be scarcely considered as necessary materials to be brought into the pleasur­able commerce of the world; because now there was little chance of turning them to much account; and therefore he who possessed them, and he who possessed them not, were nearly on a footing.

[Page 100] It is obvious also that multitudinous assemblies are so little favourable to that cheerfulness which it should seem to be their very end to promote, that if there were any chemical process by which the quantum of spirits animal or intellectual could be ascertained, the diminution would be found to have been incon­ceivably great, since the transformation of man and woman from a social to a gregarious animal.

But if it be true that friendship, society, and cheerfulness, have sustained so much injury by this change of manners, how much more pointedly does the remark apply to family happiness!

Notwithstanding the known fluctuation of manners and the mutability of language, could it be foreseen, when the Apostle Paul exhorted ‘married women to be keepers at home, that the time would arrive when that very phrase would be selected to designate one of the most decided acts of dissipation? Could it be foreseen that when a fine lady should send out a notification that on such a night she shall be AT HOME, these two significant words (besides intimat­ing the rarity of the thing) would present to the mind an image the most undomestic which language can convey? My country readers, who may require to have it explained that these two magnetic words now possess the powerful influence of drawing together every thing fine within the sphere of their attraction, may need also to be apprized, that the guests after­wards [Page 101] are not asked what was said by the company, but whether the crowd was prodigious, the rule for deciding on the merit of a fashionable society not being by the taste or the spirit, but by the score and the hundred. The question of pleasure, like a Parlia­mentary question, is now carried by numbers. And when two parties modish, like two parties political, are run one against another on the same night, the same kind of mortification attends the leader of a defeated minority, the same triumph attends the exulting carrier of superior numbers, in the one case as in the other.

An eminent divine has said, that ‘perseverance in prayer will either make a man leave off sinning, or a continuance in sin will make him leave off prayer.’ This remark may be accommodated to those ladies who, while they are devoted to the en­joyments of the world, yet retain considerable solici­tude for the instruction of their daughters. But if they are really in earnest to give them a Christian education, they must themselves renounce a dissipat­ed life. Or if they resolve to pursue the chace of pleasure, they must renounce this prime duty. Con­traries cannot unite. The moral nurture of a tall daughter can no more be administered by a mother whose time is absorbed by crowds abroad, than the physical nurture of her infant offspring can be sup­plied by her in a perpetual absence from home. [Page 102] And is not that a preposterous affection which leads a mother to devote a few months to the inferior du­ty of furnishing aliment to the mere animal life, and then to desert her post when the more important mo­ral and intellectual cravings require sustenance? This great object is not to be effected with the shreds and parings rounded off from the circle of a dissipat­ed life; but in order to its adequate execution, the mother should carry it on with the same spirit and perseverance at home, which the father thinks it ne­cessary to be exerting abroad in his public duty or professional engagements.

The usual vindication (and in theory it has a plau­sible sound) which has been offered for the large portion of time spent by women in acquiring orna­mental talents is, that they are calculated to make the possessor love home, and that they innocently fill up the hours of leisure. The plea has indeed so promising an appearance, that it is worth inquiring whether it be in fact true. Do we then, on fairly pursuing the inquiry, discover that those who have spent most time in such light acquisitions, are really remarkable for loving home or staying quietly there? or that when there, they are sedulous in turning time to the best account? I speak not of that ration­al and respectable class of women, who, applying (as many of them do) these elegant talents to their true purpose, employ them to fill up the vacancies of [Page 103] better occupations, and to embellish the leisure of a life actively good. But do we generally see that even the most valuable and sober part of the reigning fe­male acquisitions leads their possessor to scenes most favourable to the enjoyment of them? to scenes which we should naturally suppose she would seek, in order to the more effectual cultivation of such ra­tional pleasures?

Would not those delightful pursuits, botany and drawing, for instance, seem likely to court the fields, the woods, and gardens of the paternal seat, as more congenial to their nature, and more appropriate to their exercise, than barren watering places, destitute of a tree, or an herb, or a flower, and not affording an hour's interval from successive pleasures, to profit by the scene even if it abounded with the whole ve­getable world, from the ‘Cedar of Lebanon to the Hyssop on the wall.’

From the mention of watering places, may the author be allowed to suggest a few remarks on the evils which have arisen from the general conspiracy of the gay to usurp the regions of the sick; and from their converting the health-restoring fountains, meant as a refuge for disease, into the resorts of va­nity for those who have no disease but idleness?

This inability of staying at home, as it is one of the most infallible, so it is one of the most dangerous symptoms of the reigning mania. It would be more [Page 104] tolerable, did this epidemic malady only break out, as formerly, during the winter, or some one season. Heretofore, the tenantry and the poor, the natural dependents on the rural mansions of the opulent, had some definite period to which they might joyfully look forward for the approach of those patrons, part of whose business in life it is to influence by their pre­sence, to instruct by their example, to sooth by their kindness, and to assist by their liberality, those whom Providence, in the distribution of human lots, has placed under their more immediate protection. Though it would be far from truth to assert that dis­sipated people are never charitable, yet I will ven­ture to say, that dissipation is inconsistent with the spirit of charity. That affecting precept followed by so gracious a promise, ‘Never turn away thy face from any poor man, and then the face of the Lord shall never be turned away from thee,’ cannot lite­rally mean that we should give to all, as then we should soon have nothing left to give: but it seems to intimate the habitual attention, the duty of inquiring out all cases of distress, in order to judge which are fit to be relieved; now for this inquiry, for this at­tention, the dissipated have little taste and less leisure.

Let a reasonable conjecture (for calculation would fail!) be made of how large a diminution of the general good has been effected in this single re­spect, by causes, which, though they do not seem [Page 105] important in themselves, yet make no inconsiderable part of the mischief arising from modern manners: and I speak now to persons who intend to be charita­ble. What a deduction will be made from the ag­gregate of charity, by a circumstance apparently trifling, when we consider what would be the bene­ficial effects of that regular bounty which must almost unavoidably result from the evening walks of a great and benevolent family among the cotta­ges of their own domain: the thousand little acts of, comparatively, unexpensive kindness which the sight of petty wants and difficulties would excite; wants, which will scarcely be felt in the relation; and which will probably be neither seen, nor felt, nor fairly represented, in their long absences, by an agent. And what is even almost more than the good done, is the habit of mind kept up in those who do it. Would not this habit, exercised on the Christian principle, that "even a cup of cold water," given upon right motives, shall not lose its reward; while the giving "all their goods to feed the poor," without the true principle of charity, shall profit them nothing; would not this habit, I say, be al­most the best part of the education of daughters*?

[Page 106] But transplant this wealthy and bountiful family periodically to the frivolous and uninteresting bustle of the watering place; there it is not denied that fre­quent public and fashionable acts of charity may make a part, (and it is well they do) of the business and amusement of the day; with this latter, indeed, they are sometimes good-naturedly mixed up. But how shall we compare the regular systematical good these persons would be doing at their own home, with the light, and amusing, and bustling bounties of the public place? The illegal raffle at the toy­shop, may relieve, it is true, some distress, but this distress though it may be real, and though if real, it ought to be relieved, is far less easily ascertained than the wants of the poor round a person's own door, or the debts of a distressed tenant. How shall we compare the broad stream of bounty which should be flowing through and refreshing whole dis­tricts, with the penurious current of the subscription breakfast for the needy musician, in which the price [Page 107] of the gift is taken out in the diversion, and in which pleasure dignifies itself with the name of boun­ty? How shall we compare the attention, and time, and zeal which would otherwise, perhaps, be de­voted to the village school, spent in hawking about benefit tickets for a broken player, while the kind­ness of the benefactress, perhaps, is rewarded by scenes in which her charity is not always repaid by the purity of the exhibition?

Far be it from the author to wish to check the full tide of charity wherever it is disposed to flow! Would she could multiply the already abundant streams, and behold every source purified! But in the public re­sorts there are many who are able and willing to give. In the sequestered, though populous village, there is, perhaps only one affluent family: the dis­tress which they do not behold, will probably not be attended to: the distress which they do not relieve will probably not be relieved at all: the wrongs which they do not redress will go unredressed: the oppressed whom they do not rescue will sink under the tyranny of the oppressor. Through their own rural domains too, charity runs in a clearer current, and is under less suspicion of being polluted by that muddy tincture which it is sometimes apt to con­tract in passing through the impure soil of the world.

[Page 108] But to return from this too long digression: the old standing objection formerly brought forward by the prejudices of the other sex, and too eagerly laid hold on as a shelter for indolence and ignorance by ours, was, that intellectual accomplishments too much absorbed the thoughts and affections, took women off from the necessary attention to domestic duties, and superinduced a contempt or neglect of whatever was useful.—But it is peculiarly the cha­racter of the present day to detect absurd opinions, and expose plausible theories by the simple and decisive answer of experiment; and it is presumed that this popular error, as well as others, is daily receiving the refutation of actual experience. For it cannot surely be maintained on ground that is any longer tenable, that acquirements truly rational are calculated to draw off the mind from real duties. Whatever removes prejudices, whatever stimulates industry, whatever rectifies the judgment, whatever corrects self-conceit, whatever purifies the taste, and raises the understanding, will be likely to contribute to moral excellence: to woman moral excellence is the grand object of education; and of moral excel­lence, domestic life is to woman the proper sphere.

Count over the list of females who have made shipwreck of their fame and virtue, and have fur­nished the most lamentable examples of the derelic­tion of family duties; and the number will not be [Page 109] found considerable who have been led astray by the pursuit of knowledge. And if a few deplorable instances of this kind be produced, it will commonly be found that there was little infusion into the minds of such women of that correcting principle without which all other knowledge only "puffeth up."

The time nightly expended in late female vigils is expended by the light of far other lamps than those which are fed by the student's oil; and if families are to be found who are neglected through too much study in the mistress, it will probably be proved to be Hoyle, and not Homer, who has robbed her children of her time and affections. For one family which has been neglected by the mother's passion for books, an hundred have been deserted through her passion for play. The husband of a fashionable wo­man will not often find that the library is the apart­ment the expences of which involve him in debt or disgrace. And for one literary slattern, who now manifests her indifference to her husband by the ne­glect of her person, there are scores of elegant spendthrifts who ruin theirs by excess of decoration.

May I digress a little while I remark, that I am far from asserting that literature has never filled wo­men with vanity and self-conceit; the contrary is too obvious: but I will assert, that in general those whom books are supposed to have spoiled, would have been spoiled in another way without them. She who is a [Page 110] vain pedant because she has read much, has probably that defect in her mind which would have made her a vain fool if she had read nothing. It is not her having more knowledge, but less sense, which makes her insufferable; and ignorance would have added little to her value, for it is not what she has, but what she wants, which makes her unpleasant. These instances too furnish only a fresh argument for the general cultivation of the female mind. The wider diffusion of sound knowledge, would remove that temptation to be vain which may be excited by its rarity.

But while we would assert that a woman of a cul­tivated intellect is not driven by the same necessity as others into the giddy whirl of public resort; who but regrets that real cultivation does not inevitably preserve her from it? No wonder that inanity of character, that vacuity of mind, that torpid igno­rance, should plunge into dissipation as their natural refuge; should seek to bury their insignificance in the crowd of pressing multitudes, and hope to escape analysis and detection in the undistinguished masses of mixed assemblies! There attrition rubs all bodies smooth, and makes all surfaces alike; thither super­ficial and external accomplishments naturally fly as to their proper scene of action; as to a field where competition in such trifles is in perpetual exercise; where the laurels of admiration are to be won, where [Page 111] the trophies of vanity may be carried off triumph­antly.

It would indeed be matter of little comparative re­gret, if this corrupt air were breathed only by those whose natural element it seems to be; but who can forbear lamenting that the power of fashion attracts into this impure and unwholesome atmosphere, minds also of a better make, of higher aims and ends, of more ethereal temper? that it attracts even those who, renouncing enjoyments for which they have a genuine taste, and which would make them really happy, neglect society they love and pursuits they admire, in order that they may seem happy and be fashionable in the chace of pleasures they despise, and in company they disapprove! But no correctness of taste, no depth of knowledge, will infallibly pre­serve a woman from this contagion, unless her heart be impressed with a deep Christian conviction that she is responsible for the application of knowledge as well as for the dedication of time.

This contagion is so deep, so wide, and fatal, that if I were called upon to assign the predominant cause of the greater part of the misfortunes and corrup­tions of the great and gay in our days, I should not look for it principally in any obviously great or strik­ing circumstance; not in the practice of notorious vices, not originally in the dereliction of Christian principle; but I should without hesitation ascribe it [Page 112] to a growing, regular, systematic series of amuse­ments; to an incessant, boundless, and not very dis­reputable DISSIPATION. Other corruptions, though more formidable in appearance, are yet less fatal in some respects, because they leave us intervals to re­flect on their turpitude, and spirit to lament their ex­cesses; but dissipation is the more hopeless, as by engrossing almost the entire life, and enervating the whole moral and intellectual system, it leaves neither time for reflection, nor space for self-examination, nor temper for the cherishing of right affections, nor leisure for the operation of sound principles, nor in­terval for regret, nor vigour to resist temptation, nor energy to struggle for amendment.

The great master of the science of pleasure among the ancients, who reduced it into a system, which he called the chief good of man, directed that there should be interval enough between the succession of delights to sharpen inclination; and accordingly insti­tuted periodical days of abstinence; well knowing that gratification was best promoted by previous self-denial. But so little do our votaries of fashion under­stand the true nature of pleasure, that one amuse­ment is allowed to overtake another without any in­terval, either for recollection of the past or prepara­tion for the future. Even on their own selfish prin­ciple, therefore, nothing can be worse understood than this continuity of enjoyment: for to such a de­gree [Page 113] of labour is the pursuit carried, that the plea­sures exhaust instead of exhilarating, and the recrea­tions require to be rested from.

For, not to argue the question on the ground of religion, but merely on that of present enjoyment; look abroad and see who are the people that complain of weariness, listlessness, and dejection. You will not find them among the class of such as are over­done with work, but with pleasure. The natural and healthful fatigues of business may be recruited by simple and cheap gratifications; but a spirit worn down with the toils of amusement, requires pleasures of poignancy; varied, multiplied, stimulating!

It has been observed by medical writers, that that sober excess in which many indulge, by eating and drinking a little too much at every day's dinner and every night's supper, more effectually undermines the health, than those more rare excesses by which others now and then break in upon a life of general sobriety. This illustration is not introduced with a design to recommend occasional deviations into gross vice, by way of a pious receipt for mending the morals; but merely to suggest that there is a proba­bility that those who are sometimes driven by unre­sisted passion into irregularities which shock their cooler reason, are more liable to be roused to a sense of their danger, than persons whose perceptions of evil are blunted through a round of systematical, [Page 114] unceasing, and yet not scandalous dissipation. And when I affirm that this system of regular indulgence relaxes the soul, enslaves the heart, bewitches the senses, and thus disqualifies for pious thought or useful action, without having any thing in it so gross as to shock the conscience; and when I hazard an opinion that this state is more formidable, because less alarming, than that which bears upon it a more determined character of evil, I no more mean to speak of the latter in slight and palliating terms, than I would intimate, because the sick sometimes recover from a fever, but seldom from a palsy, that a fever is therefore a safe or a healthy state.

But there seems to be an error in the first concoc­tion, out of which the subsequent errors successively grow. First then, as has been observed before, the showy education of women tends chiefly to qualify them for the glare of public assemblies: secondly, they seem in many instances to be so educated, with a view to the greater probability of their being splen­didly married: thirdly, it is alleged in vindication of those dissipated practices, that daughters can only be seen and admirers procured at balls, operas, and as­semblies: and that therefore, by a natural conse­quence, balls, operas, and assemblies must be follow­ed up without intermission till the object be effected. For the accomplishment of this object it is that all this complicated machinery had been previously set a-going, and kept in motion with an activity not at [Page 115] all slackened by the disordered state of the system; for some machines, instead of being stopped, go faster because the true spring is out of order; the only difference being that they go wrong, and so the increased rapidity adds only to the quantity of error.

It is also, as we have already remarked, an error to fancy that the love of pleasure exhausts itself by indulgence, and that the very young are chiefly ad­dicted to it. The contrary appears to be true. The desire often grows with the pursuit in the same de­gree as motion is quickened by the continuance of the gravitating force.

First then, it cannot be thought unfair to trace back the excessive fondness for amusement to that mode of education we have elsewhere reprobated. Few of the accomplishments, falsely so called, assist the developement of the faculties: they do not exer­cise the judgment, nor bring into action those pow­ers which fit the heart and mind for the occupations of life; they do not prepare women to love home, to understand its occupations, to enliven its uniformi­ty, to fulfil its duties, to multiply its comforts: they do not lead to that sort of experimental logic, if I may so speak, compounded of observation and reflec­tion, which makes up the moral science of life and manners. Talents which have display for their ob­ject despise the narrow stage of home: they demand mankind for their spectators, and the world for their theatre.

[Page 116] While one cannot help shrinking a little from the idea of a delicate young creature, lovely in person and engaging in mind and manners, sacrificing nightly at the public shrine of Fashion, at once the votary and the victim; one cannot help figuring to oneself how much more interesting she would appear in the eyes of a man of feeling, did he behold her in the more endearing situations of domestic life. And who can forbear wishing, that the good sense, good taste, and delicacy of the men had rather led them to prefer seeking companions for life in the almost sacred quiet of a virtuous home? There they might have had the means of seeing and admiring those amiable beings in the best point of view: there they might have been enabled to form a juster estimate of female worth, than is likely to be obtained in scenes where such qualities and talents as might be expect­ed to add to the stock of domestic comfort must necessarily be kept in the back ground, and where such only can be brought into view as are not parti­cularly calculated to insure the certainty of home delights.

O! did they keep their persons fresh and new,
How would they pluck allegiance from men's hearts,
And win by rareness!

But by what unaccountable infatuation is it that men too, even men of sense, join in the confederacy [Page 117] against their own happiness, by looking for their home companions in the resorts of vanity? Why do not such men rise superior to the illusions of fashions? why do they not uniformly seek her who is to pre­side in their families in the bosom of her own? in the practice of every domestic duty, in the exercise of every amiable virtue, in the exertion of every elegant accomplishment? those accomplishments of which we have been reprobating, not the possession, but the application? there they would find her ex­erting them to their true end, to enliven business, to animate retirement, to embellish the charming scene of family delights, to heighten the interesting plea­sures of social intercourse, and, rising to their no­blest object, to adorn the doctrine of God her Saviour.

If, indeed, woman were more outside, form and face only, and if mind made up no part of her composition, it would follow that a ball-room was quite as appro­priate a place for choosing a wife, as an exhibition room for choosing a picture. But, inasmuch as wo­men are not mere portraits, their value not being de­terminable by a glance of the eye, it follows that a different mode of appreciating their value, and a different place for viewing them antecedent to their being individually selected, is desirable. The two cases differ also in this, that if a man select a picture for himself from among all its exhibited competitors, [Page 118] and bring it to his own house, the picture being pas­sive, he is able to fix it there: while the wife, picked up at a public place, and accustomed to incessant dis­play, will not, it is probable, when brought home, stick so quietly to the spot where he fixes her; but will escape to the exhibition-room again, and conti­nue to be displayed at every subsequent exhibition, just as if she were not become private property, and had never been definitively disposed of.

It is the novelty of a thing which astonishes us, and not its absurdity: objects may be so long kept before the eye that it begins no longer to observe them; or may be brought into such close contact with it, that it does not discern them. Long habit so reconciles us to almost any thing, that the grossest improprieties cease to strike us when they once make a part of the common course of action. This, by the way, is a strong reason for carefully sifting every opinion and every practice before we let them incor­porate into the mass of our habits, after which they will be no more examined.—Would it not be account­ed preposterous for a young man to say he had fanci­ed such a lady would dance a better minuet, because he had seen her behave devoutly at Church, and therefore had chosen her for his partner? and yet he is not thought at all absurd when he intimates that he chose a partner for life because he was pleased with her at a ball. Surely the place of choosing and the [Page 119] motive of choice, would be just as appropriate in one case as in the other, and the mistake, if the judgment failed, not quite so serious.

There is, among the more elevated classes of soci­ety, a certain set of persons who are pleased exclu­sively to call themselves, and whom others by a sort of compelled courtesy are pleased to call, the fine world. This small detachment consider their situa­tion with respect to the rest of mankind, just as the ancient Grecians did theirs; that is, as the Grecians thought there were but two sorts of beings, and that all who were not Grecians were barbarians; so this certain set conceives of society as resolving itself into two distinct classes, the fine world and the people; to which last class they turn over all who do not belong to their little coterie, however high their rank, or fortune, or merit. Celebrity, in their estimation, is not bestowed by birth or talents, but by being con­nected with them. They have laws, immunities, privileges, and almost a language of their own; they form a kind of distinct cast, and with a sort of esprit du corps detach themselves from others, even in ge­neral society, by an affectation of distance and cold­ness; and only whisper and smile in their own little groups of the initiated; their confines are jealously guarded, and their privileges are incommunicable.

In this society a young man loses his natural cha­racter, which, whatever it might have been origi­nally, [Page 120] is melted down and cast into the one prevail­ing mould of Fashion; all the strong, native, dis­criminating qualities of his mind being made to take one shape, one stamp, one superscription! However varied and distinct might have been the materials which nature threw into the crucible, plastic Fashion takes care that they shall all be the same, or at least appear the same, when they come out of the mould. A young man in such an artificial state of society, ac­customed to the voluptuous ease, refined luxuries, soft accommodations, obsequious attendance, and all the unrestrained indulgencies of a fashionable club, is not to be expected after marriage to take very cordially to a home, unless very extraordinary exer­tions are made to amuse, to attach, and to interest him: and he is not likely to lend a very helping hand to the happiness of the union, whose most laborious exertions have hitherto been little more than a selfish stratagem to reconcile health with pleasure. Excess of gratification has only served to make him irritable and exacting; it will of course be no part of his project to make sacrifices, he will expect to receive them: and what would appear incredible to the Paladins of gallant times, and the Chevaliers Preux of more heroic days, even in the necessary business of establishing himself for life, he sometimes is more disposed to expect attentions than to make advances.

[Page 121] Thus the indolent son of fashion, with a thousand fine, but dormant qualities, which a bad tone of manners forbids him to bring into exercise; with real energies which that tone does not allow him to discover, and an unreal apathy which it commands him to feign; with the heart of an hero, perhaps, if called into the field, affects at home the manners of a Sybarite; and he who, with a Roman, or what is more, with a British valour, would leap into the gulph at the call of public duty,

Yet in the soft and piping time of peace,

when fashion has resumed her rights, would murmur if a rose leaf lay double under him.

The clubs above alluded to, as has been said, ge­nerate and cherish luxurious habits, from their perfect ease, undress, liberty, and inattentions to the distinc­tions of rank: they promote a love of play, and in short, every temper and spirit which tends to un­domesticate; and what adds to the mischief is, all this is attained at a cheap rate compared with what may be procured at home in the same style.

These indulgencies, and this habit of mind, im­ply so much gratification of the passions, that a wo­man can never hope successfully to counteract the evil by supplying at home gratifications in a superior degree, which are of the same kind. If she should attempt this, in a little time she will find that those [Page 122] passions, to which she has trusted for making plea­sant the married life of her husband, will crave the still higher pleasures of the club; and while these are pursued, she will be consigned over to solitary even­ings at home, or driven back to the old dissipations.

To conquer the passion for club gratifications, a woman must not strive to feed it with sufficient ali­ment in the same kind in her society, either at home or abroad; she must supplant and overcome it by a passion of a different nature, which Providence has kindly planted within us, I mean by inspiring him with the love of fire-side enjoyments. But to qualify herself for administering these, she must cultivate her understanding and her heart, and her temper, ac­quiring at the same time that modicum of accomplish­ments suited to his taste, which may qualify her for possessing, both for him and for herself, greater varieties of safe recreation.

One great cause of the want of attachment in these modish couples is, that by living in the world at large, they are not driven to depend on each other as the chief source of comfort. Now it is pretty clear, in spite of modern theories, that the very frame and being of societies, whether great or small, public or private, is jointed and glued together by dependence. Those attachments which arise from, and are com­pacted by, a sense of mutual wants, mutual affec­tion, mutual benefit, and mutual obligation, are the [Page 123] cement which secure the union of the family as well as of the state.

Unfortunately, when two young persons of the above description marry, the union is sometimes con­sidered rather as the end than the beginning of an engagement: the attachment of each to the other is rather viewed as an object already completed, than as one which marriage is to confirm more closely. But the companion for life is not always chosen from the purest motive; she is selected, perhaps, because she is admired by other men, rather than because she possesses in an eminent degree those peculiar qualities which are likely to constitute the individual happiness of the man who chooses her. Vanity usurps the place of affection; and indolence swallows up the judg­ment. Not happiness, but some easy substitute for happiness, is pursued; and a choice which may ex­cite envy, rather than produce satisfaction, is adopt­ed as the means of effecting it.

The pair, not matched but joined, set out separately with their independent and individual pursuits; whether it made a part of their original plan or not, that they should be indispensably necessary to each other's comfort, the sense of this necessity, proba­bly not very strong at first, rather diminishes than increases by time; they live so much in the world, and so little together, that to stand well with their own set continues the favourite project of each; [Page 124] while to stand well with each other is considered as an under-part of the plot in the drama of life. Where­as, did they start in the conjugal race with the fixed idea that they were to look to each other for their chief worldly happiness, not only principle, but pru­dence, and even selfishness, would convince them of the necessity of sedulously cultivating each other's esteem and affection as the grand means of promoting that happiness. But vanity, and the desire of flat­tery and applause, still continue to operate. Even after the husband is brought to feel a perfect indiffer­ence for his wife, he still likes to see her decorated in a style which may serve to justify his choice. He en­courages her to set off her person, not so much for his own gratification as that his self-love may be flattered, by her continuing to attract the admiration of those whose opinion is the standard by which he measures his fame, and which fame is to stand him in the stead of happiness. Thus is she necessarily exposed to the two-fold temptation of being at once neglected by her husband, and exhibited as an object of attraction to other men. If she escape this com­plicated danger, she will be indebted for her preser­vation not to his prudence, but to her own princi­ples.

In some of these modish marriages, instead of the decorous neatness, the pleasant intercourse, and the mutual warmth of communication of the once social [Page 125] dinner; the late and uninteresting meal is commonly hurried over by the languid and slovenly pair, that the one may have time to dress for his club, and the other for her party. And in these cold abstracted têtes-â-têtes, they often take as little pains to entertain each other, as if the one was precisely the only hu­man being in the world in whose eyes the other did not feel it necessary to appear agreeable.

[...] if these young and perhaps really amiable per­sons could struggle against the imperious tyranny of fashion, and contrive to pass a little time together, so as to get acquainted with each other; and if each would live in the lively and conscientious exercise of those talents and attractions which they sometimes know how to produce on occasions not quite so justi­fiable; they would, I am persuaded, often find out each other to be very agreeable people. And both of them, delighted and delighting, receiving and be­stowing happiness, would no longer be driven to the necessity of perpetually flying from home as from the only scene which offers no possible materials for pleasure.

It may seem a contradiction to have asserted that beings of all ages, tempers, and talents should with such unremitting industry follow up any way of life if they did not find some enjoyment in it; yet I ap­peal to the bosoms of these incessant hunters in the chace of pleasure, whether they are really happy. [Page 126] No.—In the full tide and torrent of diversion, in the full blaze of gaiety,

The heart distrusting asks if this be joy?

But there is an anxious restlessness excited by the pursuit, which, if not interesting, is bustling. There is the dread and partly the discredit of being suspect­ed of having one hour unmortgaged, not only to successive, but contending engagements; this it is, and not the pleasure of the engagement itself, which is the object. There is an agitation in the arrange­ments which imposes itself on the vacant heart for happiness. There is a tumult kept up in the spirits which is a busy though treacherous substitute for com­fort. The multiplicity of solicitations sooths vanity. The very regret that they cannot be all accepted has its charms; for dignity is flattered because refusal implies importance, and pre-engagement intimates celebrity. Then there is the joy of being invited when others are neglected; the triumph of showing one's less modish friend that one is going where she cannot come; and the feigned regret at being obliged to go, assumed before her who is half wild at be­ing obliged to stay away. These are some of the sup­plemental shifts for happiness with which vanity con­trives to feed her hungry followers; too eager to be nice.

In the succession of open houses, in which Plea­sure is to be started and pursued on any given night, [Page 127] the actual place is never taken into the account of enjoyment: the scene of which is always supposed to lie in any place where her votaries happen not to be. Pleasure has no present tense: but in the house which her pursuers have just quitted, and in the house to which they are just hastening, a stranger might conclude the slippery goddess had really fixed her throne, and that her worshippers considered the existing scene, which they seemed compelled to suf­fer, but from which they were eager to escape, as really detaining them from some positive joy to which they were flying in the next crowd; till, if he met them there, he would find the component parts of each precisely the same. He would hear the same stated phrases interrupted, not answered, by the same stated replies; the unfinished sentence ‘driven adverse to the winds’ by pressing multitudes; the same warm regret mutually exchanged by two friends (who had been expressly denied to each other all the winter) that they had not met before; the same soft and smiling sorrow at being torn away from each other now; the same anxiety to renew the meet­ing, with perhaps the same secret resolution to avoid it. He would hear described with the same pathe­tic earnestness the difficulties of getting into this house, and the dangers of getting out of the la [...]! the pe­rilous retreat of former nights, effected amidst the shock of chariots and the clang of contending coach­men! [Page 128] a retreat indeed effected with a skill and peril little inferior to that of the ten thousand, and detailed with far juster triumph; for that which happened only once in a life to the Grecian Hero occurs to these British heroines every night. There is one point of resemblance, indeed, between them in which the comparison fails; for the Commander, with a mauvaise honte at which a true female veteran would blush, is remarkable for never naming himself.

With "mysterious reverence" I forbear to descant on those serious and interesting rites, for the more august and solemn celebration of which Fashion nightly convenes these splendid myriads to her more sumptuous temples. Rites! which, when engaged in with due devotion, absorb the whole soul, and call every passion into exercise, except indeed those of love, and peace, and kindness, and gentleness. Inspiring rites! which stimulate fear, rouse hope, kindle zeal, quicken dulness, sharpen discernment, exercise memory, inflame curiosity! Rites! in short, in the due performance of which all the energies and attentions, all the powers and abilities, all the abstrac­tion and exertion, all the diligence and devotedness, all the sacrifice of time, all the contempt of ease, all the neglect of sleep, all the oblivion of care, all the risks of fortune (half of which if directed to their true objects would change the very face of the world): all these are concentrated to one point; a point in [Page 129] which the wise and the weak, the learned and the ignorant, the fair and the frightful, the sprightly and the dull, the rich and the poor, the Patrician and Plebeian, meet in one common and uniform equality; an equality as religiously respected in these solemnities, in which all distinctions are levelled at a blow, and of which the very spirit is therefore de­mocratical, as it is combated in all other instances.

Behold four Kings in majesty rever'd,
With hoary whiskers and a forked beard;
And four fair Queens, whose hands sustain a flow'r,
Th' expressive emblem of their softer pow'r;
Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand;
And party-coloured troops, a shining train,
Drawn forth to combat on the velvet plain.*.
[Page 130]

CHAP. XVII.

On public amusements.

IT is not proposed to enter the long contested field of controversy as to the individual amusements which may be considered as safe and lawful for those women of the higher class who make a strict profes­sion of Christianity. The judgment they will be likely to form for themselves on this subject, and the plan they will consequently adopt, will depend much on the clearness or obscurity of their religious views, and on the greater or less progress they have made in their Christian course. It is in their choice of amusements that you get in some measure to know the real dispositions of mankind. In their business, in the leading employments of life, their path is in a good degree chalked out for them: there is in this respect a sort of general character wherein the greater part, more or less, must coincide. But in their pleasures the choice is voluntary, the taste is self-directed, the propensity is independent; and of course the habitual state, the genuine bent and bias of the temper, are most likely to be seen in those pursuits which every man is at liberty to choose for himself.

[Page 131] When a truly religious principle shall have acquir­ed such a degree of force as to produce that consci­entious and habitual improvement of time before re­commended, it will discover itself by an increasing indifference and even deadness to those pleasures which are interesting to the world at large. A wo­man under the predominating influence of such a principle, will begin to discover that the same thing which in itself is innocent may yet be comparatively wrong. She will begin to feel that there are many amusements and employments which, though they have nothing censurable in themselves, yet if they be allowed to entrench on hours which ought to be dedicated to still better purposes; or if they are pro­tracted to an undue length; or above all, if by soft­ening and relaxing her mind and dissipating her spirits, they so indispose her for better pursuits as to render subsequent duties a burden, become in that case clearly wrong for her, whatever they may be for others. Now as temptations of this sort are the peculiar dangers of better kind of characters, the sacrifice of such little gratifications as may have no great harm in them, come in among the daily calls to self-denial in a Christian.

The fine arts, for instance, polite literature, elegant society, these are among the lawful, and liberal, and becoming recreations of higher life; yet if even these be cultivated to the neglect or exclusion of severer [Page 132] duties; if they interfere with serious studies, or dis­qualify the mind for religious exercises, it is an inti­mation that they have been too much indulged; and, under such circumstances, it might be the part of Christian circumspection to inquire if the time devot­ed to them ought not to be abridged. Above all, a tender conscience will never lose sight of one safe rule of determining in all doubtful cases: if the point be so nice that though we hope upon the whole there may be no harm in engaging in it, we may at least be always quite sure that there can be no harm in letting it alone. The adoption of this simple rule would put a period to much unprofitable casuistry.

The principle of being responsible for the use of time once fixed in the mind, the conscientious Chris­tian will be making a continual progress in the great art of turning time to account. In the first stages of her religion she will have abstained from pleasures which began a little to wound the conscience, or which assumed a questionable shape; but she will probably have abstained with regret, and with a secret wish that conscience could have permitted her to keep well with pleasure and religion too. But you may discern in her subsequent course that she has reached a more advanced stage, by her beginning to neglect even such pleasures or employments as have no moral turpitude in them, but are merely what are called innocent. This relinquishment arises, not so [Page 133] much from her feeling still more the restraints of re­ligion, as from the improvement in her religious taste. Pleasures cannot now attach her merely from their being innocent, unless they are interesting also, and to be interesting they must be consonant to her superinduced views. She is not contented to spend a large portion of her time harmlessly, it must be spent profitably also. Nay, if she be indeed earnestly ‘press­ing towards the mark,’ it will not be even enough for her that her present pursuit be good, if she be convinced that it might be still better. Her contempt of ordinary enjoyments will increase in a direct pro­portion to her increased relish for those pleasures which religion enjoins and bestows. So that at length if it were possible to suppose that an angel could come down to take off as it were the interdict, and to in­vite her to resume all the pleasures she had renounced, and to resume them with complete impunity, she would reject the invitation, because she would despise, from an improvement in her spiritual taste, those de­lights from which she had at first abstained through fear. Till her will and affections come heartily to be engaged in the service of God, the progress will not be comfortable; but when once they are so en­gaged, the attachment to this service will be cordial, and her heart will not desire to go back and toil again in the drudgery of the world. For her religion has [Page 134] not so much given her a new creed, as a new heart, and a new life.

As her views are become new, so her tempers, dispositions, tastes, actions, pursuits, choice of com­pany, choice of amusements, are new also; her em­ployment of time is changed; her turn of conversa­tion is altered; ‘old things are passed away, all things are become new.’ In dissipated and world­ly society, she will seldom fail to feel a sort of unea­siness, which will produce one of these two effects; she will either, as proper seasons present themselves, struggle hard to introduce such subjects as may be use­ful to others; or, supposing that she finds herself unable to effect this, she will, as far as she prudent­ly can, absent herself from all unprofitable kind of society. Indeed her manner of conducting herself under these circumstances may serve to furnish her with a test of her own sincerity. For while people are contending for a little more of this amusement▪ and pleading for a little extension of that gratification, and fighting in order that they may hedge in a little more territory to their pleasure ground, they are ex­hibiting a kind of evidence against themselves, that they are not yet ‘renewed in the spirit of their mind.’

It has been warmly urged as an objection to cer­tain religious books, and particularly against a recent work of high worth and celebrity, by a distinguished [Page 135] layman*, that they have set the standard of self-deni­al higher than reason or even than Christianity re­quires. These works do indeed elevate the general tone of religion to a higher pitch than is quite con­venient to those who are at infinite pains to construct a comfortable and comprehensive plan, which shall unite the questionable pleasures of this world with the promised happiness of the next. I say it has been sometimes objected, even by those readers who on the whole greatly admire the particular work alluded to, that it is unreasonably strict in the preceptive and prohibitory parts; and especially that it individually and specifically forbids certain fashionable amuse­ments, with a severity not to be found in the scrip­tures; and is scrupulously rigid in condemning diver­sions against which nothing is said in the New Testa­ment; each objector, however, is so far reasonable, as only to beg quarter for her own favorite diversion, and generously abandons the defence of those in which she herself has no pleasure.

But these objectors do not seem to understand the true genius of Christianity. They do not consider that it is the character of the Gospel to exhibit a scheme of principles, of which it is the tendency to infuse such a spirit of holiness as must be utterly in­compatible, not only with customs decidedly vicious, [Page 136] but with the very spirit of worldly pleasure. They do not consider that Christianity is neither a table of ethics, nor a system of opinions, nor a bundle of rods to punish, nor an exhibition of rewards to allure, nor a scheme of restraints, nor merely a code of laws; but it is a new principle infused into the heart by the word and the spirit of God, out of which principle will inevitably grow right opinions, renewed affec­tions, correct morals, and holy habits, with an in­variable desire of pleasing God, and a constant fear of offending him. A real Christian, whose heart is once thoroughly imbued with this principle, can no more return to the amusements of the world, than a philosopher can be refreshed with the diversions of the vulgar, or a man be amused with the recreations of a child. The New Testament is not a mere sta­tute-book: it is not a table where every offence is de­tailed, and its corresponding penalty annexed: it is not so much a compilation, as a spirit of laws: it does not so much prohibit every individual wrong practice, as suggest a temper and general principle with which every wrong practice is incompatible. It did not, for instance, so much attack the then reigning and cor­rupt fashions, which were probably, like the fashions of other countries, temporary and local; but it struck at that worldliness, which is the root and stock from which all corrupt fashions proceed.

[Page 137] The prophet Isaiah, who addressed himself more particularly to the Israelitish women, inveighed not only against vanity, luxury, and immodesty, in ge­neral; but with great propriety blamed even those pre­cise instances of each, to which the women of rank in the particular country he was addressing were especially addicted; nay, he enters into the minute detail* of their very personal decorations, and brings specific charges against their levity and extravagance of apparel; meaning, however, chiefly to censure the turn of character which these indicated. But the Gospel of Christ, which was to be addressed to all ages, stations, and countries, seldom contains any such detailed animadversions; for though many of the censurable modes which the prophet so severely re­probated, continued probably to be still prevalent in Jerusalem in the days of our Saviour, yet how little would it have suited the universality of his mission, to have confined his preaching to such local, limited, and fluctuating customs! not but that there are many texts which actually do define the Christian conduct as well as temper, with sufficient particularity to serve as a condemnation of many practices which are plead­ed for, and often to point pretty directly at them.

Had Peter, on that memorable day when he added three thousand converts to the Church by a single [Page 138] sermon, narrowed his subject to a remonstrance against this diversion, or that public place, or the other vain amusement, it might indeed have suited the case of some of the female Jewish converts who were at present; but such restrictions as might have been appropriate to them, would probably not have applied to the cases of the Parthians and Medes, of which his audience was partly composed; or such as might have belonged to them would have been totally inapplicable to the Cretes and Arabians; or again, those which suited these would not have ap­plied to the Elamites and Mesopotamians. By such partial and circumscribed addresses, his multifarious audience, composed of all nations and countries, would not have been, as we are told they were, "pricked to the heart." But when he preached on the broad ground of general ‘repentance and remis­sion of sins in the name of Jesus Christ,’ it was no wonder that they all cried out ‘What shall we do?’ These collected foreigners, at their return home, must have found very different usages to be corrected in their different countries; of course a de­tailed restriction of the popular abuses at Jerusalem, would have been of little use to strangers returning to their respective nations. The ardent Apostle, therefore, acted more consistently in communicating to them the large and comprehensive spirit of the Gospel, which should at once involve all their scat­tered [Page 139] and separate duties, as well as reprove all their scattered and separate corruptions; for the whole always includes a part, and the greater involves the less. Christ and his disciples, instead of limiting their condemnation to the peculiar vanities repre­hended by Isaiah, embraced the very soul and princi­ple of them all, in such exhortations as the follow­ing: "Be ye not conformed to the world:"—‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him:’‘The fashion of this world passeth away.’ Our Lord and his Apostles, whose future unlimited audience was to be made up out of the whole world, attacked the evil heart, out of which all those incidental, local, and popular corruptions proceeded.

In the time of Christ and his immediate followers, the luxury and intemperance of the Romans had arisen to a pitch before unknown in the world; but as the same Gospel which its Divine Author and his disciples were then preaching to the hungry and ne­cessitous, was afterwards to be preached to high and low, not excepting the Roman Emperors themselves; the large precept, ‘Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,’ was likely to be of more general use, than any sepa­rate exhortation to temperance, to thankfulness, to moderation as to quantity or expence; which last in­deed [Page 140] must always be left in some degree to the judg­ment and circumstances of the individual.

When the Apostle of the Gentiles visited the "Saints of Caesar's household," he could hardly fail to have heard, nor could he have heard without ab­horrence, of some of the fashionable amusements in the court of Nero. He must have reflected with pe­culiar indignation on many things which were prac­tised in the Circensian games: yet, instead of prun­ing this corrupt tree, and singling out even the in­human gladiatorial sports for the object of his con­demnation, he laid his axe to the root of all sin, by preaching to them that Gospel of Christ of which "he was not ashamed;" and shewing to them that believed, that ‘it was the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ It is somewhat remarkable, that about the very time of his preaching to the Ro­mans, the public taste had sunk to such an excess of depravity, that the very women engaged in those shocking encounters with the gladiators.

But, in the first place, it was better that their right practice should grow out of the right prin­ciple; and next, his specifically reprobating these diversions might have had this ill effect, that succeed­ing ages, seeing that they in their amusements came somewhat short of those dreadful excesses of the po­lished Romans, would only have plumed themselves on their own comparative superiority; and on this [Page 141] principle, even the bull-fights of Madrid might have had their panegyrists. The truth is, the Apostle knew that such abominable corruptions could never subsist together with Christianity, and in fact, the honour of abolishing these barbarous diversions, was reserved for Constantine, the first Christian emperor.

Besides, the Apostles, by inveighing against some particular diversions might have seemed to sanction all which they did not actually censure: and as, in the lapse of time and the revolution of governments, customs change and manners fluctuate; had a mi­nute reprehension of the fashions of the then existing age been published in the New Testament, that por­tion of scripture must in time have become obsolete, even in that very same country, when the fashions themselves should have changed. Paul and his bro­ther Apostles knew that their epistles would be the oracles of the Christian world, when these tempora­ry diversions would be forgotten. In consequence of this knowledge, by the universal precept to avoid ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,’ they have prepared a lasting antidote against the principle of all corrupt pleasures, which will ever remain equally applicable to the loose fashi­ons of all ages, and of every country, to the end of the world.

Therefore to vindicate diversions, which are in themselves unchristian, on the pretended ground that [Page 142] they are not specifically condemned in the gospel, would be little less absurd than if the heroes of New-market should bring it as a proof that their periodi­cal meetings are not condemned in Scripture, because St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, did not speak against these, or because in availing himself of the Isthmian games, as a happy illustration of the Christian race, he did not drop any censure on the practice itself: a practice which was indeed as much more pure than the races of Christian Britain, as the moderation of being contented with the triumph of a crown of leaves, is superior to that criminal spirit of gambling which iniquitously enriches the victor by beggaring the competitor.

Local abuses, as we have said, were not the ob­ject of a book whose instructions were to be of uni­versal and lasting application. As a proof of this, little is said in the Gospel of the then prevailing cor­ruption of polygamy; nothing against the savage custom of exposing children, or even against slavery; nothing expressly against suicide or duelling; the last Gothic custom, indeed, did not exist among the crimes of Paganism. But is there not an implied prohibition against polygamy in the general denuncia­tion against adultery? Is not exposing of children con­demned in that charge against the Romans, that "they were without natural affection?" Is there not a strong censure against slavery conveyed in the com­mand [Page 143] to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’ and against suicide and duelling, in the general prohibition against murder, which is strongly enforced by the solemn manner in which murder is traced back to its first seed of anger, in the sermon on the mount?

Thus it is clear, that when Christ sent the Gospel to all nations, he meant that that Gospel should proclaim those prime truths, general laws, and fundamental doctrines, which must necessarily involve the prohi­bition of all individual, local, and inferior errors; errors which could not have been specifically guard­ed against, without having a distinct Gospel for eve­ry country, or without swelling the divine volume into such inconvenient length as would have defeat­ed one great end of its promulgation*. And while its leading principles are of universal application, it must always, in some measure, be left to the discre­tion of the preacher, and to the conscience of the hearer, to examine whether the life and habits of those who profess it are conformable to its spirit.

The same Divine Spirit which indited the Holy Scriptures, is promised to purify the hearts and re­new the natures of repenting and believing Christians; and the compositions it inspired are in some degree analogous to the workmanship it effects. It prohibit­ed [Page 144] the vicious practices of the apostolical days, by prohibiting the passions and principles which ren­dered them gratifying; and still working in like manner on the hearts of real Christians, it corrects the taste which was accustomed to find its proper gratification in the resorts of vanity; and thus ef­fectually provides for the reformation of the habits, and infuses a relish for rational and domestic enjoy­ments, and for whatever can administer pleasure to that spirit of peace, and love, and hope, and joy, which animates and rules the renewed heart of the true Christian.

But there is a portion of Scripture which, though to a superficial reader it may seem but very remotely connected with the present subject, yet to readers of another cast, seems to settle the matter beyond con­troversy: In the parable of the great supper, this important truth is held out to us, that even things good in themselves may be the means of our eternal ruin, by drawing our hearts from God, and causing us to make light of the offers of the Gospel. One invited guest had bought an estate, another had made a purchase equally blameless of oxen; a third had married a wife, an act not illaudable in itself. They had all different reasons; but they all agreed in this, to decline the invitation to the supper. The worldly possessions of one, the worldly business of another, and what should be particularly attended to, the love [Page 145] to his dearest relative, of a third, (a love by the way not only allowed but commanded in Scripture) were brought forward as excuses for not attending to the important business of religion. The consequence, however, was the same to all. ‘None of those which were bidden shall taste of my supper.’ If then things innocent, things necessary, things laudable, things commanded, become sinful, when by unseasona­ble or excessive indulgence they detain the heart and affections from God, how vain will all those argu­ments necessarily be rendered, which are urged by the advocates for certain amusements, on the ground of their harmlessness; if those amusements serve (not to mention any positive evil which may belong to them) in like manner to draw away the thoughts and affections from all spiritual objects!

To conclude; when this topic happens to become the subject of conversation, instead of addressing severe and pointed attacks to young ladies on the sin of attending places of diversion, would it not be bet­ter first to endeavour to excite in them that principle of Christianity, with which such diversions seem not quite compatible; as the physician, who visits a pa­tient in an eruptive fever, pays little attention to those spots which to the ignorant appear to be the disease, except indeed so far as they serve as indications to let him into its nature, but goes straight to the root of the malady? He attacks the fever, he lowers [Page 146] the pulse, he changes the system, he corrects the general habit; well knowing that if he can but re­store the vital principle of health, the spots, which were nothing but symptoms, will die away of them­selves.

In instructing others we should imitate our Lord and his Apostles, and not always aim our blow at each particular corruption; but making it our busi­ness to convince our pupil that what brings forth the evil fruit she exhibits, cannot be a branch of the true vine; we should thus avail ourselves of individual corruptions, for impressing her with a sense of the necessity of purifying the common source from which they flow—a corrupt nature. Thus making it our grand business to rectify the heart, we pursue the true, the compendious, the only method of universal holiness.

I would, however, take leave of those amiable and not ill-disposed young persons, who complain of the rigour of human prohibitions, and declare ‘they meet with no such strictness in the Gospel,’ by asking them, with the most affectionate earnestness, if they can conscientiously reconcile their nightly at­tendance at every public place which they frequent, with such precepts as the following: ‘Redeeming the time:’—"Watch and pray:"—‘Watch, for ye know not at what time your Lord cometh:’—"Abstain from all appearance of evil:"—‘Set your [Page 147] affections on things above;’‘Be ye spiritually minded:’‘Crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts?’ And I would venture to offer one criterion, by which the persons in question may be enabled to decide on the positive innocence and safety of such diversions; I mean, provided they are sincere in their scrutiny and honest in their avowal. If on their return at night from those places they find they can retire, and ‘commune with their own hearts;’ if they find the love of God ope­rating with undiminished force on their minds; if they can "bring every thought into subjection," and concentrate every wandering imagination; if they can soberly examine into their own state of mind: I do not say if they can do all this perfectly and with­out distraction; (for who can do this at any time?) but if they can do it with the same degree of serious­ness, pray with the same degree of fervour, and re­nounce the world in as great a measure as at other times; and if they can lie down with a peaceful con­sciousness of having avoided in the evening ‘that temptation’ which they had prayed not to be ‘led into’ in the morning, they may then more reason­ably hope that all is well, and that they are not speaking false peace to their hearts.*

[Page 148]
[Page 149]

CHAP. XVIII.

A worldly spirit incompatible with the spirit of Christianity.

Is it not whimsical to hear such complaints against the strictness of religion as we are frequently hearing, from beings who are voluntarily pursuing, as has been shewn in the preceding Chapters, a course of life which Fashion makes infinitely more laborious? How really burdensome would Christianity be if she enjoined such sedulous application, such unremitting labours, such a succession of fatigues! if religion commanded such hardships and self-denial, such days of hurry, such evenings of exertion, such nights of broken rest, such perpetual sacrifices of quiet, such exile from family delights, as Fashion imposes, then indeed the service of Christianity would no longer merit its present appellation of being a reasonable service:’ then the name of perfect slavery might be justly applied to that which we are told in the beau­tiful language of our church, is ‘a service of perfect freedom:’ a service, the great object of which is ‘to deliver us from the bondage of [Page 150] corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.’

A worldly temper, by which I mean a disposition to prefer worldly pleasures, worldly satisfactions, and worldly advantages, to the immortal interests of the soul; and to let worldly considerations actuate us instead of the dictates of religion in the concerns of ordinary life; a worldly temper, I say, is not, like almost any other fault, the effect of passion or the consequence of surprise when the heart is off its guard. It is not excited incidentally by the opera­tion of external circumstances on the infirmity of na­ture; but it is the vital spirit, the essential soul, the living principle of evil. It is not so much an act, as a state of being; not so much an occasional com­plaint, as a tainted constitution of mind. If it do not always show itself in extraordinary excesses, it has no perfect intermission. Even when it is not immediately tempted to break out into overt and spe­cific acts, it is at work within, stirring up the heart to disaffection against holiness, and infusing a kind of moral disability to whatever is intrinsically good. It infects and depraves all the powers and faculties of the soul; for it operates on the understanding by blinding it to whatever is spiritually good; on the will, by making it averse from God; on the affec­tions, by disordering and sensualizing them; so that one may almost say to those who are under the su­preme [Page 151] dominion of this spirit, what was said to the hosts of Joshua, "Ye cannot serve the Lord."

This worldliness of mind is not at all commonly understood, and for the following reason:—People suppose that in this world our chief business is with the things of this world, and that to conduct the business of this world well, that is, conformably to moral principles, is the chief substance of moral and true goodness. Religion, if introduced at all into the system, only makes its occasional, and if I may so speak, its holiday appearance. To bring re­ligion into every thing, is thought incompatible with the due attention to the things of this life. And so it would be, if by religion were meant talking about religion. The phrase, therefore, is: ‘One cannot always be praying; we must mind our business and social duties as well as our devotion.’ Worldly business being thus subjected to worldly, though in some degree moral, maxims, the mind during the conduct of business grows worldly; and a continual­ly increasing worldly spirit dims the sight and relaxes the moral principle on which the affairs of the world are conducted, as well as indisposes the mind for all the exercises of devotion.

But this temper, as far as relates to business, as­sumes the semblance of goodness; so that those who have not right views are apt to mistake the carrying on the affairs of life on a tolerably moral principle, [Page 152] for religion. They do not see that the evil lies not in their so carrying on business, but in their not carrying on the things of this life in subserviency to those of eternity; in their not carrying them on with the unintermitting idea of responsibility. The evil does not lie in their not being always on their knees, but in their not bringing their religion from the closet into the world: in their not bringing the spirit of the Sunday's devotions into the transactions of the week: in not transforming their religion from a dry, and speculative, and inoperative system, into a live­ly, and influential, and unceasing principle of action.

Though there are, blessed be God! in the most exalted stations, women who adorn their Christian profession by a consistent conduct; yet are there not others who are labouring hard to unite the irrecon­cilable interests of earth and heaven? who, while they will not relinquish one jot of what this world has to bestow, yet by no means renounce their hopes of a better? who do not think it unreasonable that their indulging in the fullest possession of present pleasure should interfere with the most certain re­version of future glory? who, after living in the most unbounded gratification of ease, vanity, and luxury, fancy that heaven must be attached of course to a life of which Christianity is the outward profession, and which has not been stained by any flagrant or dishonourable act of guilt?

[Page 153] Are there not many who, while they entertain a respect for religion, (for I address not the unbeliev­ing or the licentious,) while they believe its truths, observe its forms, and would be shocked not to be thought religious, are yet immersed in this life of disqualifying worldliness? who, though they make a conscience of going to the public worship once on a Sunday, and are scrupulously observant of the other rites of the Church, yet hesitate not to give up all the rest of their time to the very same pursuits and pleasures which occupy the hearts and lives of those looser characters whose enjoyment is not ob­structed by any dread of a future account? and who are acting on the wise principle of ‘the children of this world’ in making the most of the present state of being from the conviction that there is no other to be expected?

It must be owned, indeed, that faith in unseen things is at times sadly weak and defective even in the truly pious; and that it is so, is the subject of their grief and humiliation. O! how does the real Christian take shame in the coldness of his belief, in the lowness of his attainments! How deeply does he lament that ‘when he would do good, evil is present with him!’‘that the life he now lives in the flesh, is’ not, in the degree it ought to be, "by faith in the son of God!" Yet one thing is clear; however weak his belief may seem to be, it is [Page 154] evident that his actions are mainly governed by it; he evinces his sincerity to others by a life in some good degree analogous to the doctrines he professes: while to himself he has this conviction, that faint as his confidence may be at times, yet at the worst of times he would not exchange that faint measure of trust and hope for all the actual pleasures and posses­sions of his most splendid acquaintance; and as a proof of his sincerity he never seeks the cure of his dejection, where they seek theirs, in the world, but in God.

But as to the faith of worldly persons, however strong it may be in speculation, however orthodox their creed, one cannot help fearing that it is a little defective in sincerity: for if there were in the mind a full persuasion of the truth of revelation, and of the eternal bliss it promises, would it not be obvious to them that there must be more diligence for its at­tainment? We discover great ardor in carrying on worldly projects, because we believe the good which we are pursuing is real, and will reward the trouble of the pursuit: we believe that good to be attaina­ble by diligence, and prudently proportion our ear­nestness to this conviction: and therefore where we see persons professing a lively faith in a better world, yet labouring little to obtain an interest in it, can we forbear suspecting that their belief, not only of their own title to eternal happiness, but of eter­nal [Page 155] happiness itself, is not well grounded? and that, if they were to "examine themselves truly," the faith would be found to be much of a piece with the practice?

Even that very taste for enjoyment which leads the persons in question to possess themselves of the qualifications for the pleasures of the present scene; that understanding which leads them to acquire such talents as may enable them to relish the re­sorts of gaiety here, should induce those who are really looking for a future state of happiness, to wish to acquire something of the taste, and temper, and talents, which may be considered as qualifica­tions for its enjoyment. The neglect to do this must proceed from one of these two causes; either they must think their present course a safe and pro­per course; or they must think that death is to pro­duce some sudden and surprising alteration in the human character. But the office of death is to transport us to a new state, not to transform us to a new nature: the stroke of death is intended to effect our deliverance out of this world, and our introduction into another; but it is not likely to effect any sudden and surprising or total change in our hearts or our tastes: so far from this, that we are assured in Scripture, ‘that he that is filthy will be filthy still, and he that is holy will be holy still.’ Though we believe that death will complete­ly [Page 156] cleanse the holy soul from its remaining pollutions, that it will exchange defective sanctification into per­fect purity, entangling temptation into complete free­dom, want and pain into health and fruition, doubts and fears into perfect security, and oppressive weariness into everlasting rest; yet there is no magic in the wand of death which will convert an unholy soul into a holy one. And it is awful to reflect, that such tempers as have the allowed predominance here will maintain it for ever; that such as the will is when we close our eyes upon the things of time, such it will be when we open them on those of eter­nity. The mere act of death no more fits us for heaven, than the mere act of the mason who pulls down our old house fits us for a new one. If we die with our hearts running over with the love of the world, there is no promise to lead us to expect that we shall rise with them full of the love of God: death indeed will shew us to ourselves such as we are, but will not make us such as we are not: and it will be too late to be acquiring self-knowledge when we can no longer turn it to any account but that of tormenting ourselves. To illustrate this truth still farther by an allusion familiar to the persons I address: the drawing up the curtain at the theatre, though it serves to intro­duce us to the entertainments behind it, does not create in us any new faculties to understand or to [Page 157] relish those entertainments: these must have been long in acquiring: they must have been provided beforehand, and brought with us to the place, if we would relish the pleasures of it; for the entertain­ment can only operate on that taste we carry to it. It is too late to be acquiring when we ought to be enjoying.

That spirit of prayer and praise, those dispositions of love, meekness, ‘peace, quietness, and assur­ance;’ that indifference to the fashion of a world which is passing away; that longing after deliver­ance from sin, that desire of holiness, together with all the specific marks of our having ‘the fruits of the spirit’ here, must surely make some part of our qualification for the enjoyment of a world, the plea­sures of which are all spiritual. And who can con­ceive any thing comparable to the awful surprise of a soul long immersed in the indulgences of vanity and pleasure, yet all the while lulled by the self-compla­cency of a religion of mere forms: who, while it counted upon heaven as a thing of course, had made no preparation for it! Who can conceive any sur­prise comparable to that of such a soul on shutting its eyes on a world of sense, of which all the objects and delights were so congenial to its nature, and open­ing them on a world of spirits of which all the cha­racters of enjoyment are of a nature new, unknown, surprising, and specifically different? pleasures more [Page 158] inconceivable to its apprehension and more unsuitable to its taste, than the gratifications of one sense are to the organs of another, or than the most exquisite works of genius to absolute imbecility of mind.

While we would with deep humility confess that we cannot purchase heaven by any works or right dispositions of our own; while we gratefully ac­knowledge that it must be purchased for us by ‘Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood;’ yet let us remember that we have no reason to expect we could be capable of enjoying the plea­sures of a heaven so purchased without heavenly mind­edness. When those persons who are apt to expect as much comfort from religion as if their hearts were not full of the world, now and then, in a fit of ho­nesty or low spirits, complain that Christianity does not make them as good and as happy as they were led to expect from that assurance, that ‘great peace have they who love the Lord,’ and that ‘they who wait on him shall want no manner of thing that is good;’ when they lament that the paths of religion are not those "paths of pleasantness" they were led to expect; their case reminds one of a cele­brated physician, who used to say, that the reason why his prescriptions, which commonly cured the poor and the temperate, did so little good among his rich luxurious patients, was, that while he was la­bouring to remove the disease by medicines, of which [Page 159] they only took drams, grains, and scruples; they were inflaming it by a multiplicity of injurious ali­ments, which they swallowed by ounces, pounds, and pints.

These fashionable Christians should be reminded, that there was no half engagement made for them at their baptism; that they are not partly their own and partly their Redeemer's. He that is ‘bought with a price,’ is the sole property of the purchaser. Faith does not consist merely in submitting the opinions of the understanding, but the dispositions of the heart: religion is not a sacrifice of sentiments, but of affec­tions: it is not the tribute of fear extorted from a slave, but the voluntary homage of love paid by a child.

Neither does a Christian's piety consist in living in retreat, and railing at the practices of the world, while, perhaps, her heart is full of the spirit of that world at which she is raising: but it consists in sub­duing the spirit of the world and opposing its prac­tices, even while her duty obliges her to live in it.

Nor is the spirit or the love of the world confined to those only who are making a figure in it; nor are its operations bounded by the precincts of the metro­polis, nor the limited regions of first-rate rank and splendor. She who inveighs against the luxury and excesses of London, and solaces herself in her own comparative sobriety, because her more circumscrib­ed [Page 160] fortune compels her to take up with the second-hand pleasures of successive watering-places, which pleasures she pursues with avidity, is governed by the same spirit: and she whose still narrower opportuni­ties stint her to the petty diversions of her provincial town, if she be busied in swelling and enlarging her smaller sphere of vanity and idleness, however she may comfort herself with her own comparative good­ness, by railing at the unattainable pleasures of the watering-place, or the still more unapproachable joys of the capital, is governed by the same spirit: for she who is as vain, as dissipated, and as extravagant as actual circumstances admit, would be as vain, as dis­sipated, and as extravagant as the gayest objects of her invective now are, if she could change places with them. It is not merely by what we do that we can be sure the spirit of the world has no dominion over us, but by fairly considering what we should proba­bly do if more were in our power.

The worldly Christian, if I may be allowed such a contradiction in terms, must not imagine that she ac­quits herself of her religious obligations by her mere weekly oblation of prayer. There is no covenant by which communion with God is restricted to an hour or two on the Sunday: she does not acquit herself by setting apart a few particular days in the year for the exercise of a periodical devotion, and then flying back to the world as eagerly as if she were resolved to re­pay [Page 161] herself with large interest for her short fit of self-denial; the stream of pleasure running with a more rapid current, from having been interrupted by this forced obstruction. And the avidity with which one has seen certain persons of a still less correct character than the class we have been considering, return to a whole year's carnival, after the self-imposed penance of a Passion week, gives a shrewd intimation that they considered the temporary abstraction less as an act of penitence for the past, than as a purchase of indemnity for the future. Such bare-weight protest­ants prudently condition for retaining the Popish doc­trine of indulgences, which they buy, not indeed of the late spiritual court of Rome, but of that secret, self-acquitting judge, which ignorance of its own turpi­tude, and of the strict requirements of the divine law, has established supreme in the tribunal of every unre­newed heart.

But the practice of self-examination is impeded with one clog, which renders it peculiarly inconve­nient to the gay and worldly: for the royal prophet (who was, however, himself as likely as any one to be acquainted with the difficulties peculiar to great­ness) has annexed as a concomitant to ‘communing with our own heart,’ that we should "be still." Now this clause of the injunction renders the other part of it not a little inconsistent with the present habits of fashionable life, of which stillness is clearly [Page 162] not one of the constituents. It would, however, greatly assist those who do not altogether decline the practice, if they were to establish into a rule the habit of detecting certain suspicious practices, by realizing them, as it were, to their own minds, through the means of drawing them out in detail, and of placing them before their eyes clothed in language; for there is nothing that so effectually exposes an absurdity which has passed muster for want of such an inquisi­tion, as giving it shape and form. How many things which now work themselves into the habit, and pass current, would then shock us by their palpable in­consistency! Who, for instance, could stand the sight of such a debtor and creditor account as this:—Item; So many card-parties, balls and operas due to me in the following year, for so many manuals and medita­tions paid beforehand during the last six days in Lent? With how much indignation soever this suggestion may be treated; whatever offence may be taken at such a combination of the serious and the ludicrous; however we may revolt at the idea of such a compo­sition with our Maker, when put into so many words; does not the habitual course of some go near to real­ize such a statement?

But "a Christian's race," as a venerable Prelate* observes; "is not run at so many heats," but is a [Page 163] constant course and progress by which we are con­tinually gaining ground upon sin, and approaching nearer to the kingdom of God.

Am I then ridiculing this pious seclusion of con­trite sinners? Am I then jesting at that ‘troubled spirit’ which God has declared is his ‘accepta­ble sacrifice?’ God forbid! Such reasonable re­tirements have been the practice, and continue to be the comfort of some of the sincerest Christians; and will continue to be resorted to as long as Christiani­ty, that is, as long as the world, shall last. It is well to call off the thoughts, even for a short time, not only from sin and vanity, but even from the lawful pursuits of business, and the laudable concerns of life; and, at times, to annihilate, as it were, the space which divides us from eternity:

'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
And ask them what report they bore to heaven,
And how they might have borne more welcome news.

Yet as to those who seek a short annual retreat as a mere form; who dignify with the idea of a religi­ous retirement a week in which it is rather un­fashionable to be seen in town; who retire with an unabated resolution to return to the maxims, the pleasures, and the spirit of that world which they do but mechanically renounce; is it not to be fear­ed that such a short secession, which does not even pretend to subdue the principle, but merely suspends [Page 164] the act, may only serve to set a keener edge on the appetite for the pleasures they are quitting? Is it not to be feared that the bow may fly back with redoubled violence from having been unnaturally bent? that by varnishing over a life of vanity with the transient externals of a formal and temporary piety, they may the more dangerously skin over the troublesome soreness of a tender conscience, by laying

This flattering unction to the soul?

For is it not among the delusions of a worldly piety to consider Christianity as a thing which cannot, in­deed, safely be omitted, but which is to be got over; a certain quantity of which is, as it were, to be taken in the lump, with long intervals between the repeti­tions? to consider religion as imposing a set of hard­ships, which must be occasionally encountered in or­der to procure a peaceable enjoyment of the long respite? that these severe conditions thus fulfilled, the acquitted Christian having paid the annual de­mand of a rigorous requisition, she may now law­fully return to her natural state; and the old reckon­ing being adjusted, she may begin a new score, and receive the reward of her punctual obedience, in the resumed indulgence of those gratifications which she had for a short time laid aside as a hard task to please a hard master: but this task performed, and the master appeased, the mind may discover its natu­ral [Page 165] bent, in joyfully returning to the objects of its real choice? Whereas, is it not clear on the other hand, that if the religious exercises had produced the effect which it is the nature of true religion to pro­duce, the penitent could not return with her old ge­nuine alacrity to those habits of the world, from which the pious weekly manuals through which she has been labouring with the punctuality of an alma­nac as to the day, and the accuracy of a beadroll as to the number, was intended by the devout authors to rescue their reader?

I am far from insinuating that this literal seques­tration ought to be prolonged throughout the year, or that all the days of business are to be made equal­ly days of solemnity and continued meditation. This earth is a place in which a much larger portion of a common Christian's time must be assigned to action than to contemplation. Women of the higher class were not sent into the world to shun society, but to improve it. They were not designed for the cold and visionary virtues of solitudes and monasteries, but for the amiable, and endearing, and useful offices of social life: they are of a religion which does not impose idle austerities, but enjoins active duties; a religion of which the most benevolent actions require to be sanctified by the purest motives; a religion which does not condemn its followers to the compa­ratively easy task of seclusion from the world, but [Page 166] assigns them the more difficult province of living un­corrupted in it; a religion which, while it forbids them to "follow a multitude to do evil," includes in that prohibition the sin of doing nothing, and which moreover enjoins them to be followers of him ‘who went about doing good.

But may we not reasonably contend, that though the same sequestration is not required, yet that the same spirit and temper which one hopes is thought necessary by all during the occasional humiliation, must, by every real Christian, be extended through­out all the periods of the year? And when that is really the case, when once the spirit of religion shall indeed govern the heart, it will not only animate her religious actions and employments, but will gradually extend itself to the chastising her conversation, will discipline her thoughts, influence her common busi­ness, and sanctify her very pleasures.

But it should seem that many, who entertain a general notion of Christian duty, do not consider it as of universal and unremitting obligation, but rather as a duty binding at times on all, and always on some. To the attention of such we would recommend that very explicit address of our Lord on the subject of self-denial, the temper directly opposed to a worldly spirit: ‘And he said unto them ALL, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY.’ Those who think self-denial [Page 167] not of universal obligation, will observe the word all, and those who think the obligation not constant will attend to the term daily. These two little words cut up by the root all the occasional religious obser­vances grafted on a worldly life; all transient, pe­riodical, and temporary acts of piety, which some would commute for habitual thoughtlessness.

There is indeed scarcely a more pitiable being than one who, instead of making her religion the in­forming principle of all she does, has only just enough to keep her in continual fear; who drudges through her stinted exercises with a superstitious kind of terror, while her general life shows that the love of holiness is not the governing principle in her heart: who seems to suffer all the pains and penalties of Christianity, but is a stranger to ‘that liberty where­with Christ has made us free.’ Let it not be thought a ludicrous invention, if the author hazard the producing a real illustration of these remarks, in the instance of a lady of this stamp, who, returning from church on a very cold day, and remarking with a good deal of self-complacency how much she had suffered in the performance of her duty, comforted herself with emphatically adding, ‘that she hoped however it would answer.

But there is no permanent comfort in any religion, short of that by which the diligent Christian strives that all his actions shall have the love of God for [Page 168] their motive, and the glory of God, as well as his own salvation, for their end; while to go about to balance one's good and bad actions one against the other, and to take comfort in the occasional predomi­nance of the former, while the cultivation of the prin­ciple from which they should spring is neglected, is not the road to all those peaceful fruits of the spirit to which true Christianity conducts the humble and penitent believer.

But I am aware that a better cast of characters than those we have been contemplating; that even the amiable and the well-disposed, who, while they want courage to resist what they have too much prin­ciple to think right, and too much sense to justify, will yet plead for the palliating system, and accuse these remarks of unnecessary rigour. They will de­clare ‘that really they are as religious as they can be; they wish they were better; they have little satisfaction in the life they are leading, yet they cannot break with the world; they cannot fly in the face of custom; it does not become individuals like them to oppose the torrent of fashion.’ Beings so interesting, abounding with engaging qualities; who not only feel the beauty of goodness, but rever­ence the truths of Christianity, and are awfully look­ing for a general judgment, one is grieved to hear lament "that they only do as others do," when they are perhaps themselves of such rank and importance [Page 169] that if they would begin to do right, others would be brought to do as they did. One is grieved to hear them indolently assert, that ‘they wish it were otherwise,’ when they possess the power to make it otherwise, by setting an example which they know would be followed. One is sorry to hear them con­tent themselves with declaring, that ‘they have not the courage to be singular,’ when they must feel, by seeing the influence of their example in worse things, that there would be no such great singularity in piety itself, if once they became sincerely pious. Besides, this diffidence does not break out on other occasions. They do not blush to be quoted as the opposers of an old mode or the inventors of a new one. Nor are they equally backward in being the first to appear in a strange fashion, such an one as often excites wonder, and sometimes even offends against delicacy. Let not then diffidence be pleaded as an excuse only on occasions wherein courage would be virtue.

Will it be thought too harsh a question if we ven­ture to ask these gentle characters who are thus in­trenching themselves in the imaginary safety of sur­rounding multitudes, and who say ‘we only do as others do,’ whether they are willing to run the tremendous risk of consequences, and to fare as others fare?.

[Page 170] But while these plead the authority of Fashion as a sufficient reason for their conformity to the world, one who has spoken with a paramount authority has positively said, "Be ye not conformed to the world." Nay, it is urged as the very badge and distinction by which the character opposite to the Christian is to be marked, ‘that the friendship of the world is enmity with God.’

Temptation to conform to the world was never perhaps more irresistible than in the days which immediately preceded the Deluge. And no man could ever have pleaded the fashion in order to justi­fy a criminal assimilation with the reigning manners, with more propriety than the Patriarch Noah. He had the two grand and contending objects of terror to encounter which we have; the fear of ridicule, and the fear of destruction; the dread of sin, and the dread of singularity. Our cause of alarm is at least equally pressing with his; for it does not ap­pear, even while he was actually obeying the Divine command in providing the means of his future safe­ty, that he saw any actual symptoms of the impend­ing ruin. So that in one sense he might have truly pleaded as an excuse for slackness of preparation, "that all things continued as they were from the beginning;" while many of us, though the storm is begun, never think of providing the refuge▪ though we have had a fuller revelation, have seen [Page 171] Scripture illustrated, prophecy fulfilling, with every awful circumstance that can either quicken the most sluggish remissness, or confirm the feeblest faith.

Besides, the Patriarch's plea for following the fashion was stronger than you can produce. While you must see that many are going wrong, he saw that none were going right. ‘All flesh had corrupt­ed his way before God;’ whilst, blessed be God! you have still instances enough of piety to keep you in countenance. While you lament that the world seduces you, (for every one has a little world of his own,) your world perhaps is only a petty neighbour­hood, a few streets and squares; but the Patriarch had really the contagion of a whole united world to resist; he had literally the example of the whole face of the earth to oppose. The "fear of man" also would then have been a more pardonable fault, when the lives of the same individuals who were likely to excite respect or fear was prolonged many ages, than it can be in the short period now assigned to human life. How lamentable then that opinion should operate so powerfully when it is but the breath of a being so frail and so short-lived,

That he doth cease to be,
Ere one can say he is.

You who find it so difficult to withstand the indivi­dual allurement of one modish acquaintance, would if you had been in the Patriarch's case have conclud­ed [Page 172] the struggle to be quite ineffectual, and sunk un­der the supposed fruitlessness of resistance. ‘My­self,’ would you not have said? ‘or at most my little family of eight persons can never hope to stop this torrent of corruption; I lament the fruit­lessness of opposition; I deplore the necessity of conformity with the prevailing system; but it would be a foolish presumption to hope that one family can effect a change in the state of the world.’ In your own case, however, it is not certain to how wide an extent the hearty union of even fewer persons in such a cause might reach: at least is it nothing to do what the Patriarch did? was it nothing to preserve himself from the general destruction? was it nothing to deliver his own soul? was it nothing to rescue the souls of his whole fa­mily?

A wise man will never differ from the world in trifles. It is certainly a mark of a sound judgment to comply with it whenever we safely can; such compliance strengthens our influence by reserving to ourselves the greater weight of authority on those occasions, when our conscience obliges us to differ. Those who are prudent will cheerfully conform to all its innocent usages; but those who are Christians will be scrupulous in [...] which are really inno­cent previous to their conformity to them. Not what the world, but what the Gospel calls innocent will be [Page 173] found at the grand scrutiny to have been really so. A discreet Christian will take due pains to be con­vinced he is right before he will presume to be sin­gular: but from the instant he is persuaded that the Gospel is true, and the world of course wrong, he will no longer risk his safety by following multi­tudes, or his soul by staking it on human opinion. All our most dangerous mistakes arise from our not constantly referring our practice to the standard of scripture, instead of the mutable standard of human opinion, by which it is impossible to fix the real value of characters. For this latter standard in some cases determines those to be good who do not run all the lengths in which the notoriously bad allow them­selves. The Gospel has an universal, the world has a local standard of goodness: in certain societies certain vices alone are dishonourable, such as covet­ousness and cowardice; while those sins of which our Saviour has said, that they which commit them "shall not inherit the kingdom of God," detract nothing from the respect some persons receive. Nay, those very characters whom the Almighty has expressly declared "He will Judge*," are received, are admired, are caressed, in that which calls itself the best company.

But to weigh our actions by one standard now, when we know they will be judged by another [Page 174] hereafter, would be reckoned the height of absur­dity in any transactions but those which involve the interests of eternity. "How readest thou?" is a more specific direction than any comparative view of our own habits with the habits of others: and at the final bar it will be of little avail that our ac­tions have risen above those of bad men, if our views and principles shall be found to have been in opposi­tion to the Gospel of Christ.

Nor is their practice more commendable, who are ever on the watch to pick out the worst actions of good men, by way of justifying their own conduct on the comparison. The faults of the best men, ‘for there is not a just man upon the earth who sinneth not,’ can in no wise justify the errors of the worst: and it is not invariably the example of even good men that we must take for our unerring rule of conduct: nor is it by a single action that either they or we shall be judged; for in that case who could be saved? but it is by the general preva­lence of right principles and good habits; by the predominance of holiness and righteousness, and tem­perance in the life, and by the power of humility, faith and love in the heart.

[Page 175]

CHAP. XIX.

On the leading doctrines of Christianity.—The corrup­tion of human nature.—The doctrine of redemption.—The necessity of a change of heart, and of the divine influences to produce that change.—With a sketch of the Christian character.

THE author having in this little work taken a view of the false notions often imbibed in early life from a bad education, and of their pernicious effects; and having attempted to point out the respective reme­dies to these; she would now draw all that has been said to a point, and declare plainly what she humbly conceives to be the source whence all these false no­tions, and this wrong conduct really proceed: The prophet Jeremiah shall answer: ‘It is because they have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and have hewn out to themselves cisterns, broken cis­terns that can hold no water.’ It is an ignorance past belief of what Christianity really is: the reme­dy, therefore, and the only remedy that can be ap­plied with any prospect of success, is RELIGION, and by Religion she would be understood to mean the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[Page 176] It has been before hinted, that Religion should be taught at an early period of life; that children should be brought up ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ The manner in which they should be taught has likewise with great plainness been suggested; that it should be done in so lively and familiar a manner as to make Religion amiable, and her ways to appear, what they really are, ‘ways of pleasantness.’ And a slight sketch has been given of the genius of Christianity, by which her amiable­ness would more clearly appear. But this, being a subject of such vast importance, compared with which every other subject sinks into nothing; it seems not sufficient to speak on the doctrines and duties of Christianity in detached parts, but it is of importance to point out, though in a brief manner, the mutual dependence of one doctrine upon another, and the influence which these doctrines have upon the heart and life, so that the duties of Christianity may be seen to grow out of its doctrines: by which it will appear that Christian virtue differs essentially from Pa­gan: it is of a quite different kind: the plant itself is different, it comes from a different root, and grows in a different soil.

It will be seen how the humbling doctrine of the corruption of human nature, which has followed from the corruption of our first parents, makes way for the bright display of redeeming love. How from [Page 177] the abasing thought that ‘we are all as sheep going astray, every one in his own way:’ that none can return to the shepherd of our souls, ‘except the Father draw him:’ that ‘the natural man cannot receive the things of the spirit, because they are spiritually discerned:’ how from this humiliating view of the helplessness, as well as the corruption of human nature, we are to turn to that animating doctrine, the offer of divine assistance. So that, though human nature will appear from this view in a deeply degraded state, and consequently all have cause for humility, yet not one has cause for despair: the disease indeed is dreadful, but a physician is at hand, both able and willing to save us: though we are naturally ‘without strength, our help is laid upon one that is mighty.’

We should observe then, that the doctrines of our Saviour are, if I may so speak, like his coat, all wo­ven into one piece. We should get such a view of their reciprocal dependence as to be persuaded that without a deep sense of our own corruptions we can never seriously believe in a Saviour, because the sub­stantial and acceptance belief in Him must always arise from the conviction of our want of Him; that without a firm persuasion that the Holy Spirit can alone restore our fallen nature, repair the ruins of sin, and renew the image of God upon the heart, we never shall be brought to serious, humble prayer [Page 178] for repentance and restoration; and that, without this repentance there is no salvation: for though Christ has died for us, and consequently to Him alone we must look as a Saviour, yet he has himself declared that he will save none but true penitents.

ON THE DOCTRINE OF HUMAN CORRUPTION.

To come now to a more particular statement of these doctrines.—When an important edifice is about to be erected, a wise builder will dig deep, and look well to the foundations, knowing that without this the fabric will not be likely to stand. The founda­tion of the Christian religion, out of which the whole structure may be said to arise, appears to be the doc­trine of the fall of man from his original state of righteousness; and of the corruption and helplessness of human nature, which are the consequences of this fall, and which is the natural state of every one born into the world. To this doctrine it is important to conciliate the minds, more especially of young per­sons, who are peculiarly disposed to turn away from it as a morose, unamiable, and gloomy idea: they are apt to accuse those who are more strict and se­rious, of unnecessary severity, and to suspect them of thinking unjustly ill of mankind. Some of the reasons which prejudice the inexperienced against the doctrine in question appear to be the following.

[Page 179] Young persons themselves have seen little of the world. In pleasurable society the world puts on its most amiable appearance; and that softness and ur­banity which prevail, particularly amongst persons of fashion, are liable to be mistaken for more than they are really worth. The opposition to this doc­trine in the young, arises partly from ingenuousness of heart, partly from a habit of indulging themselves in favourable suppositions respecting the world, rather than of pursuing truth, which is always the grand thing to be pursued; and partly from the popularity of the tenet, that every body is so wonderfully good!

This error in youth has however a still deeper foundation, which is their not having a right stand­ard of moral good and evil, in consequence of their already partaking of the very corruption which is spoken of; they are therefore apt to have no very strict sense of duty, or of the necessity of a right and religious motive to every act.

Moreover, young people usually do not know themselves. Not having yet been much exposed to temptation, owing to the prudent restraints in which they have been kept, they little suspect to what lengths in vice they themselves are liable to be trans­ported, nor how far others actually are carried who are set free from those restraints.

Having laid down these as some of the causes of error on this point, I proceed to observe on what strong grounds the doctrine itself stands.

[Page 180] Profane history abundantly confirms this truth: the history of the world being in fact little else than the history of the crimes of the human race. Even though the annals of remote ages lie so involved in obscurity, that some degree of uncertainty attaches itself to many of the events recorded, yet this one melancholy truth is always clear, that most of the miseries which have been brought upon mankind, have proceeded from this general depravity.

The world we now live in furnishes abundant proof of this truth. In a world formed on the deceitful theory of those who assert the innocence and dignity of man, almost all the professions, since they would have been rendered useless by such a state of inno­cence, would not have existed. Without sin we may nearly presume there would have been no sickness; so that every medical professor is a standing evidence of this sad truth. Sin not only brought sickness but death into the world; consequently every funeral pre­sents a more irrefragable argument than a thousand sermons. Had man persevered in his original inte­grity, there could have been no litigation, for there would be no contests about property in a world where none would be inclined to attack it. Professors of law, therefore, from the attorney who prosecutes for a trespass, to the pleader who defends a criminal, or the judge who condemns him, loudly confirm the doctrine. Every victory by sea or land should teach [Page 181] us to rejoice with humiliation, for conquest itself brings a terrible, though splendid attestation to the truth of the fall of man.

Even those who deny the doctrine, act universally more or less on the principle. Why do we all secure our houses with bolts, and bars, and locks? Do we take these steps to defend our lives or property from any particular fear? from any suspicion of this neigh­bour, or that servant, or the other invader? No:—It is from a practical conviction of the common de­pravity; from a constant, pervading, but undefined dread of impending evil arising from the sense of ge­neral corruption. Are not prisons built, and laws enacted, on the same practical principle?

But not to descend to the more degraded part of our species. Why in the fairest transaction of busi­ness is nothing executed without bonds, receipts, and notes of hand? Why does not a perfect confi­dence in the dignity of human nature abolish all these securities; if not between enemies, or people indif­ferent to each other, yet at least between friends and kindred, and the most honourable connections? Why, but because of that universal suspicion between man and man, which, by all we see, and hear, and feel, is become interwoven with our very make? Though we do not entertain any individual suspicion, nay, though we have the strongest personal confidence, yet the acknowledged principle of conduct has this doc­trine [Page 182] for its basis. ‘I will take a receipt, though it were from my brother,’ is the established voice of mankind; or, as I have heard it more artfully put, by a fallacy of which the very disguise discovers the principle, ‘Think every man honest, but deal with him as if you knew him to be otherwise.’ And as, in a state of innocence, the beasts, it is presumed, would not have bled for the sustenance of man, so their parchments would not have been wanted as in­struments of his security against his fellow man.*

But the grand arguments for this doctrine must be drawn from the Holy Scriptures: and these, besides implying it almost continually, expressly assert it; and that in instances too numerous to be all of them brought forward here. Of these may I be allowed to produce a few? ‘God saw that the wickedness of man was great, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually:’‘God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his [Page 183] heart. * This is a picture of mankind before the flood; and the doctrine receives additional confirma­tion in Scripture, when it speaks of the times which followed after that tremendous judgment had taken place. The Psalms abound in lamentations on the de­pravity of man. ‘They are all gone aside; there is none that doeth good, no not one.‘In thy sight,’ says David, addressing the Most High, "shall no man living be justified." Job, in his usual lofty strain of interrogation, asks, ‘What is man that he should be clean, and he that is born of a woman that he should be righteous? Behold the heavens are not clean in His sight, how much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh ini­quity like water?’

Nor do the Scriptures speak of this corruption as arising only from occasional temptation, or from mere extrinsic causes. The wise man tells us, that ‘fool­ishness is bound up in the heart of a child: the prophet Jeremiah assures us, ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:’ and David plainly states the doctrine: ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother con­ceive me.’ Can language be more explicit?

The New Testament corroborates the Old. Our Lord's reproof of Peter seems to take the doctrine for [Page 184] granted: ‘Thou savourest not the things that be of God but those that be of man; clearly intimating, that the ways of man are opposite to the ways of God. And our Saviour, in that affecting discourse to his disciples, observes to them that, as they were by his grace made different from others, therefore they must expect to be hated by those who were so unlike them. And it should be particularly observed, as another proof that the world is wicked, that our Lord con­sidered "the world" as opposed to him and to his disciples. ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ * St. John, writing to his Christian church, states the same truth: ‘We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.’

Man in his natural and unbelieving state is likewise represented as in a state of guilt, and under the dis­pleasure of Almighty God. ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.’

Here, however, if it be objected, that the heathen who never heard of the Gospel will not assuredly be judged by it; the Saviour's answer to such curious inquirers concerning the state of others is, ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate.’ It is enough for us [Page 185] to believe that God will judge all men according to their opportunities. But with whatever mercy he may judge those who, living in a land of darkness, are without knowledge of his revealed law, our business is not with them, but with ourselves. It is our busi­ness to consider what mercy he will extend to those who, living in a Christian country, abounding with means and ordinances, where the Gospel is preached in its purity; it is our business to inquire how he will deal with those who shut their eyes to its beams, who close their ears to its truths. For an unbeliever, who has passed his life in the meridian of Scripture light, or for an outward but unfruitful professor of Chris­tianity, I know not what hope the Gospel holds out.

The natural state of man is again thus described: ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God; (awful thought!) for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ What the Apostle means by being in the flesh, is evident by what follows; for speaking of those whose hearts were changed by Divine grace, he says, ‘But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you:’ that is, you are now not in your natural state: the change that has passed on your minds by the influence of the Spirit of God is so great, that your state may properly be called being in the spirit. It may be further observed that the [Page 186] same Apostle, writing to the churches of Galatia, tells them, that the natural corruption of the human heart is continually opposing the spirit of holiness which influences the regenerate. ‘The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other:’ which passage by the way, at the same time that it proves the corruption of the heart, proves the necessity of divine influences. And the Apostle, with respect to himself, freely confesses and deeply laments the work­ings of this corrupt principle: ‘O wretched man that I am!’ &c.

It has been objected by some who have opposed this doctrine, that the same Scriptures which speak of mankind as being sinners, speak of some as being righteous; and hence they would argue, that though this depravity of human nature may be general, yet it cannot be universal. This objection when, examin­ed, serves only, like all other objections against the truth, to establish that which it was intended to de­stroy. For what do the Scriptures assert respecting the righteous? That there are some whose principles, views, and conduct, are so different from the rest of the world, and from what theirs themselves once were, that these persons are honoured with the pe­culiar title of the "sons of God." But no where do the Scriptures assert that even these are sinless; on the contrary their faults are frequently mentioned; [Page 187] and persons of this class are moreover represented as those on whom a great change has past: as having been formerly "dead in trespasses and sins;" but as "being now called out of darkness into light;" as "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son;" as "having passed from death to life." And St. Paul put this matter past all doubt, by expressly asserting, that they were all by nature the children of wrath even as others.’

It might be well to ask certain persons who op­pose the doctrine in question, and who also seem to talk as if they thought there were many sinless peo­ple in the world, how they expect that such sinless people will be saved? (though indeed to talk of an innocent person being saved is a palpable contradiction in terms; it is talking of curing a man already in health.) "Undoubtedly," such will say, ‘they will be received into those abodes of bliss prepared for the righteous.’—But be it remembered, there is but one way to these blissful abodes, and that is, through Jesus Christ: ‘For there is none other name given among men whereby we must be sav­ed.’ If we ask whom did Christ come to save? the Scripture directly answers, ‘He came into the world to save sinners:‘His name was called Jesus, because he came to save his people from their sins. When St. John was favoured with a heavenly vision, he tells us, that he beheld ‘a great multitude [Page 188] which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, standing be­fore the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes:’ that one of the heavenly in­habitants informed him who they were: ‘These are they who come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in his Temple; and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them; they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of them shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’

We may gather from this description what these glorious and happy beings once were: they were sinful creatures: their robes were not spotless: ‘They had washed them, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ They are likewise generally represented as having been once a suffering people: they came out of great tribulation. They are de­scribed as having overcome the great tempter of man­kind, "by the blood of the Lamb*:" as they who [Page 189] "follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth:" as ‘re­deemed from among men.’ * And their employ­ment in the regions of bliss is a farther confirmation of the doctrine of which we are treating. ‘The great multitude,’ &c. &c. we are told, ‘stood and cried with a loud voice, Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’ Here we see they ascribe their salvation to Christ, and consequently their present happiness to his atoning blood. And in another of their celestial anthems, they say in like manner: ‘Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.’

By all this it is evident, that men of any other description than redeemed sinners must gain admittance to heaven some other way than that which the Scriptures point out; and also that when they shall arrive there, so different will be their employment, that they must have an anthem peculiar to them­selves.

Nothing is more adapted to ‘the casting down of high imaginations,’ and to promote humility, than this reflection, that heaven is always in Scrip­ture pointed out not as the reward of the innocent, [Page 190] but as the hope of the penitent. This, while it is calculated to "exclude boasting," the temper the most opposite to the Gospel, is yet the most suited to afford comfort; for were heaven promised as the reward of innocence, who could attain to it? but being, as it is, the promised portion of faith and repentance, who is compelled to miss it?

It is urged that the belief of this doctrine of our corruption produces many ill effects, and therefore it should be discouraged.—That it does not produce those ill effects, when not misunderstood or partially represented, we shall attempt to show: at the same time let it be observed, if it be really true we must not reject it on account of any of these supposed ill consequences. Truth may often be attended with disagreeable effects, but if it be truth it must still be pursued. If, for instance, treason should exist in a country, every one knows the disagreeable effects which will follow such a conviction; but our not believing such treason to exist, will not prevent such effect following it; on the contrary, our believing it may prevent the consequences.

It is objected, that this doctrine debases human na­ture, and that finding fault with the building is only another way of finding fault with the architect. To the first part of this objection it may be remarked, that if man be really a corrupt, fallen being, it is proper to represent him as such: the fault then lies [Page 191] in the man, and not in the doctrine, which only states the truth. As to the inference which is supposed to follow, namely, that it throws the fault upon the Creator, it proceeds upon the false supposition that man's present corrupt state is the state in which he was originally created: and also that God has left him unavoidably to perish in it, whereas although "in Adam we die, in Christ we shall be made alive."

It is likewise objected, that as this doctrine must give us such a bad opinion of mankind, it must con­sequently produce ill-will, hatred, and suspicion. But it should be remembered, that it gives us no worse an opinion of other men than it gives us of ourselves; such views of ourselves have a very salu­tary effect, inasmuch as they have a tendency to pro­duce humility; and humility is not likely to produce ill-will to others, ‘for only from pride cometh con­tention:’ and as to the views it gives us of man­kind, it represents us as follow sufferers; and surely the consideration that we are companions in misery is not calculated to produce hatred. The truth is, these effects have actually followed from a false and partial view of the subject.

Old persons who have seen much of the world, and who have little religion, are apt to be strong in their belief of man's actual corruption; but not tak­ing it up on Christian grounds, this belief in them [Page 192] shows itself in a narrow and malignant temper; in uncharitable judgment, and harsh opinions.

Suspicion and hatred also are the uses to which Rochefaucault and the other French philosophers have converted this doctrine: their acute minds in­tuitively found the corruption of man, and they saw it without its concomitant and correcting doctrine: they allowed man to be a depraved creature, but dis­allowed his high original: they found him in a low state, but did not conceive of him as having fallen from a better. They represent him rather as a brute than an apostate; not taking into the account that his present degraded nature and depraved faculties are not his original state: that he is not such as he came out of the hands of his Creator, but such as he has been made by sin. Nor do they know that he has not even now lost all remains of his primitive dignity, but is still capable of a restoration more glorious

Than is dreamt of in their philosophy.

Perhaps, too, they know from what they feel, all the evil to which man is inclined; but they do not know, for they have not felt, all the good of which he is capable by the superinduction of the divine principle: thus they asperse human nature instead of representing it fairly, and in so doing it is they who calumniate the great Creator.

[Page 193] The doctrine of corruption is likewise accused of being a gloomy, discouraging doctrine, and an enemy to joy and comfort. Now suppose this objection true in its fullest extent. Is it any way unreasonable that a being fallen into a state of sin, under the dis­pleasure of Almighty God, should feel seriously alarmed at being in such a state? Is the condemned criminal blamed because he is not merry? And would it be esteemed a kind action to persuade him that he is not condemned in order to make him so?

But this charge is not true in the sense intended by those who bring it forward. Those who believe this doctrine are not the most gloomy people. When, indeed, any one by the influence of the Holy Spirit is brought to view his state as it really is, a state of guilt and danger, it is natural that fear should be ex­cited in his mind, but it is such a fear as impels him "to flee from the wrath to come:" it is such a fear as moved Noah to ‘prepare an ark to the saving of his house.’ Such an one will likewise feel sorrow; not however ‘the sorrow of the world which worketh death,’ but that godly sorrow which worketh repentance: such an one is in a proper state to receive the glorious doctrine we are next about to contemplate; namely,

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THAT GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVED ON HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.

Of this doctrine it is of the last importance to form just views, for as it is the only doctrine which can keep the humble penitent from despair, so, on the other hand, great care must be taken that false views of it do not lead us to presumption. In order to understand it rightly, we must not fill our minds with our own reasonings upon it, which is the way in which some good people have been misled, but we must betake ourselves to the Scriptures, wherein we shall find the doctrine stated so plainly as to shew that the mistakes have not arisen from a want of clearness in the scriptures, but from a desire to make it bend to some favourite notions. While it has been rejected by some, it has been so mutilated by others, as hardly to retain any resemblance to the Scripture doctrine of redemption. We are told in the beauti­ful passage last quoted its source,—the love of God to a lost world:—who the Redeemer was—the Son of God:—the end for which this plan was formed and executed.—‘That whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ There is nothing surely in all this to promote gloomi­ness. [Page 195] If kindness and mercy have a tendency to win and warm the heart, here is every incentive to joy and cheerfulness. Christianity looks kindly towards all, and with peculiar tenderness on such, as, from humbling views of their own unworthiness, might be led to fancy themselves excluded:—we are ex­pressly told, that "Christ died for all:"—that ‘he tasted death for every man:’—that ‘he died for the sins of the whole world. Accordingly he has commanded that his Gospel should be ‘preached to every creature; which is in effect declaring that not a single human being is excluded; for to preach the Gospel is to offer a Saviour:—and the Saviour in the plainest language offers himself to all,—declaring to "all the ends of the earth"—‘look unto me and be saved.’ It is therefore an undeniable truth, that no one will perish for want of a Saviour, but for rejecting him.

But to suppose that because Christ has died for the "sins of the whole world," the whole world will therefore be saved, is a most fatal mistake: in the same book which tells us that "Christ died for all," we have likewise this awful admonition: ‘Strait is the gate, and few there be that find it;’ which, whether it be understood of the immediate reception of the Gospel, or of the final use which was too likely to be made of it, gives no encouragement to hope that all will entitle themselves to its reward. [Page 196] And whilst it declares that "there is no other name whereby we may be saved but the name of Jesus;" it likewise declares

THAT "WITHOUT HOLINESS NO MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD."

It is much to be feared that some, in their zeal to defend the Gospel doctrines of free grace, have ma­terially injured the Gospel doctrine of holiness: stat­ing, that Christ has done all in such a sense, as that there is nothing left for us to do.—But do the Scrip­tures hold out this language?—‘Come, for all things are ready,’ is the Gospel call; in which we may ob­serve, that at the same time that it tells us that ‘all things are ready,’ it nevertheless tells us that we must "come." Food being provided for us will not benefit us except we partake of it.—It will not avail us that "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," unless "we keep the feast."—We must make use of ‘the fountain which is opened,’ if we would be purified. ‘All, indeed, who are athirst are invited to take of the waters of life freely;’ but if we feel no "thirst;" if we do not drink, their saving qualities are of no avail.

It is the more necessary to insist on this in the pre­sent day, as there is a worldly and fashionable, as well as a low and sectarian Antinomianism: there la­mentably [Page 197] prevails in the world an unwarranted assur­ance of Salvation, founded on a slight, vague, and general confidence in what Christ has done and suf­fered for us, as if the great object of his doing and suffering had been to emancipate us from all obliga­tions to duty and obedience; and as if, because he died for sinners, we might therefore safely and com­fortably go on to live in sin, contenting ourselves with now and then a transient, formal, and unmeaning avowal of our unworthiness, our obligation, and the all-sufficiency of his atonement. By this quit-rent, of which all the cost consists in the acknowledgment, the sensual, the worldly, and the vain, hope to find a refuge in heaven, when driven from the enjoy­ments of this world. But this indolent Christianity is no where taught in the Bible. The faith inculcated there is not a lazy, professional faith, but that faith which "produceth obedience," that faith which "worketh by love," that faith of which the practi­cal language is—"Strive that you may enter in;"—"So run that you may obtain;"—‘So fight that you may lay hold on eternal life:’—that faith which directs us "not to be weary in well doing;"—which says, "Work out your own salvation:"—never for­getting at the same time ‘that it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do.’—Are those rich supplies of grace which the Gospel offers; are those abundant aids of the spirit which it promises, [Page 198] tendered to the slothful?—No.—God will have all his gifts improved. Grace must be used, or it will be withdrawn. The Almighty thinks it not derogatory to his free grace to declare, that ‘those only who do his commandments have right to the tree of life.’ And the Scriptures represent it as not derogatory to the sacrifice of Christ, to follow his example in well-doing. The only caution is, that we must not work in our own strength, nor bring in our contribution of works as if in aid of the supposed deficiency of His merits.

For we must not in our over-caution fancy, that be­cause Christ has ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law,’ we are therefore without a law. In ac­knowledging Christ as a deliverer, we must not for­get that he is a law-giver too, and that we are ex­pressly commanded "to fulfil the law of Christ:" if then we wish to know what his laws are, we must "search the Scriptures," especially the New Testa­ment; there we shall find him declaring

THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF A CHANGE OF HEART AND LIFE;

Our Saviour says, that ‘except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God:’ that it is not a mere acknowledging His authority, calling him "Lord, Lord," that will avail any thing, except we [Page 199] Do what He commands: that any thing short of this is like a man building his house upon the sands, which, when the storms come on, will certainly fall. In like manner the Apostles are continually enforcing the ne­cessity of this change, which they describe under the various names of "the new man;*"—‘the new creature;‘a transformation into the image of God;—"a participation of the divine nature.§" Nor is this change represented as consisting merely in a change of religious opinions; nor in exchanging gross sins for those which are more sober and reputable; nor in renouncing the sins of youth, and assuming those of a quieter period of life; nor in leaving off evil practices because men are grown tired of them, or find they injure their credit, health, or fortune; nor does it consist in inoffensiveness and obliging man­ners, nor indeed in any merely outward reformation.

But the change consists in ‘being renewed in the spirit of our minds;’ in being ‘conformed to the image of the Son of God;’ in being ‘called out of darkness into His marvellous light.’ And the whole of this great change, its beginning, progress, and final accomplishment, for it is represented as a gradual change, is ascribed to

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THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

We are perpetually reminded of our utter inability to help ourselves, that we may set the higher value on those gracious aids which are held out to us. We are taught that ‘we are not sufficient to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.’ And when we are told that ‘if we live after the flesh, we shall die,’ we are at the same time reminded, that it is ‘through the spirit that we must mortify the deeds of the body.’ We are likewise caution­ed that we "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God:" that we "quench not the Spirit." By all which ex­pressions, and many others of like import, we are taught that, while we are to ascribe with humble gratitude every good thought, word, and work, to the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are not to look on such influences as superseding our own exertions: and it is plain that we may reject the gracious offers of assistance, since otherwise there would be no occa­sion to caution us not to do it. The Scriptures have illustrated this in terms which are familiar indeed, but which are therefore only the more condescending, and endearing. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ Observe, it is not said if [Page 201] any man will not listen to me, I will force open the door. But if we refuse admittance to such a guest, we must abide by the consequences.

This sublime doctrine of divine assistance is the more to be prized, not only on account of our own helplessness, but from the additional consideration of the powerful adversary with whom the Christian has to contend: an article of our faith by the way, which is growing into general disrepute among the politer classes of society. Nay, there is a kind of ridicule attached to the very suggestion of the subject, as if it were exploded on full proof of its being an absolute absurdity, utterly repugnant to the liberal spirit of an enlightened age. And it requires no small neatness of expression and periphrastic ingenuity to get the very mention tolerated.—I mean the Scripture doctrine of the existence and power of our great spiritual enemy. It is considered by the fashionable sceptic as a vulgar invention, which ought to be banished with the belief in dreams, and ghosts, and witchcraft:—by the fashionable Christian, as an ingenious allegory, but not as a literal truth; and by almost all, as a doctrine which, when it happens to be introduced at Church, has at least nothing to do with the pews, but is by common consent made over to the aisles, if indeed it must be retained at all.

May I, with great humility and respect, presume to suggest to our divines that they would do well not [Page 202] to lend their countenance to these modish curtailments of the Christian faith; nor to shun the introduction of this doctrine when it consists with their subject to bring it forward. A truth which is seldom brought before the eye, imperceptibly grows less and less im­portant; and if it be an unpleasing truth, we grow more and more reconciled to its absence, till at length its intrusion becomes offensive, and we learn in the end to renounce what we at first only neglected. Be­cause some coarse and ranting enthusiasts have been fond of using tremendous terms with a violence and frequency, which might make it seem to be a gratifi­cation to them to denounce judgments and anticipate torments, can their coarseness or vulgarity make a true doctrine false, or an important one trifling? If such preachers have given offence by their uncouth man­ner of managing an awful doctrine, that indeed fur­nishes a caution to treat the subject more discreetly, but it is no just reason for avoiding the doctrine. For to keep a truth out of sight because it has been absurdly handled or ill-defended, might in time be assigned as a reason for keeping back, one by one, every doctrine of our holy Church; for which of them has not had imprudent advocates or weak champions?

Be it remembered that the doctrine in question is not only interwoven by allusion, implication, or di­rect assertion throughout the whole Scripture, but [Page 203] that it stands prominently personified at the opening of the New as well as the Old Testament. The de­vil's temptation of our Lord, in which he is not re­presented figuratively, but visibly and palpably, stands on the same ground of authority with other events which are received without repugnance. And it may not be an unuseful observation to remark, that the very refusing to believe in an evil spirit, may be considered as one of his own suggestions; for there is not a more dangerous illusion than to believe our­selves out of the reach of illusions, nor a more alarm­ing temptation than to fancy that we are not liable to be tempted.

But the dark cloud raised by this doctrine will be dispelled by the cheering certainty that our blessed Saviour having himself ‘been tempted like as we are, is able to deliver those who are tempted.’

But to return.—From this imperfect sketch we may see how suitable the religion of Christ is to fallen man! How exactly it meets every want! No one needs now perish because he is a sinner, provided he be willing to forsake his sins; for ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners:’ and ‘He is now exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sin.’ Which passage, be it observed, may be considered as pointing out to us the order in which he bestows his blessings; he gives first repentance, and then forgiveness.

[Page 204] We may likewise see how much the character of a true Christian rises above every other: that there is a wholeness, an integrity, a completeness in the Chris­tian character: that a few natural, pleasing qualities, not cast in the mould of the Gospel, are but as beau­tiful fragments, or well-turned single limbs, which for want of that beauty which arises from the pro­portion of parts, for want of that connection of the members with the living head, are of little compara­tive excellence. There may be amiable qualities which are not Christian graces: and the Apostle, af­ter enumerating every separate article of attack or de­fence with which a Christian warrior is to be accou­tred, sums up the matter by directing that we put on "the whole armour of God." And this completeness is insisted on by all the Apostles. One prays that his converts may ‘stand perfect and complete in the whole will of God:’ another enjoins that they be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’

Now we are not to suppose that they expected any convert to be without faults; they knew too well the constitution of the human heart; but Christians must have no fault in their principle; their views must be direct, their proposed scheme must be fault­less; their intention must be single; their standard must be lofty; their object must be right; their mark must be the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’—There must be no allowed evil, no war­ranted [Page 205] defection, no tolerated impurity. Though they do not rise as high as they ought, nor as they wish, in the scale of perfection, yet the scale itself must be correct, and the desire of ascending perpe­tual: they must count the degrees they have already attained as nothing. Every grace must be kept in exercise, conquests once made over an evil propensi­ty must not only be maintained but extended. And in truth, Christianity so comprises contrary, and as it may be thought irreconcilable excellences, that those which seem so incompatible as to be incapable by nature of being inmates of the same breast, are almost necessarily involved in the Christian character.

For instance; Christianity requires that our faith be at once fervent and sober; that our love be both ardent and lasting; that our patience be not only he­roic but gentle: she demands dauntless zeal and ge­nuine humility; active services and complete self-renunciation; high attainments in goodness, with deep consciousness of defect; courage in reproving, and meekness in bearing reproof; a quick perception of what is sinful; with a willingness to forgive the offender; active virtue ready to do all, and passive virtue ready to bear all.—We must stretch every fa­culty in the service of our Lord, and yet bring every thought into obedience to Him: while we aim to live in the exercise of every Christian grace, we must account ourselves unprofitable servants: we must [Page 206] strive for the crown, yet receive it as a gift, and then lay it at our Master's feet: while we are busily trad­ing in the world with our Lord's talents, we must "commune with our heart, and be still:" while we strive to practise the purest disinterestedness, we must be contented though we meet with selfishness in return; and while laying out our lives for the good of mankind, we must submit to reproach with­out murmuring, and to ingratitude without resent­ment. And to render us equal to all these services, Christianity bestows not only the precept, but the power; she does what the great poet of Ethics la­mented that Reason could not do, ‘she lends us arms as well as rules.’

For here, if not the worldly and the timid, but the humble and the well-disposed should demand with fear and trembling, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ Revelation makes its own reviving answer: "My grace is sufficient for thee."

It will be well here to distinguish that there are two sorts of Christian professors, one of which af­fect to speak of Christianity as if it were a mere sys­tem of doctrines, with little reference to their influ­ence on life and manners; while the other consider it as exhibiting a scheme of human duties independ­ent on its doctrines. For though the latter sort may admit the doctrines, yet they contemplate them as a [Page 207] separate and disconnected set of opinions, rather than as an influential principle of action.—In violation of that beautiful harmony which subsists in every part of Scripture between practice and belief, the religi­ous world furnishes two sorts of people, who seem to enlist themselves, as if in opposition, under the ban­ners of Saint Paul and Saint James, as if those two great champions of the Christian cause had fought for two masters. Those who affect respectively to be the disciples of each, treat faith and works as if they were opposite interests, instead of inseparable points. Nay, they go farther, and set Saint Paul at variance with himself.

Now instead of reasoning on the point, let us refer to the Apostle in question, who definitively set­tles the dispute. The Apostolical order and method in this respect deserve notice and imitation; for it is observable that the earlier parts of most of the Epis­tles abound in the doctrines of Christianity, while those latter chapters, which wind up the subject, ex­hibit all the duties which grow out of them, as the natural and necessary productions of such a living root. But this alternate mention of doctrine and practice, which seemed likely to unite, has on the contrary formed a sort of line of separation between these two orders of believers, and introduced a bro­ken and mutilated system. Those who would make Christianity consist of doctrines only, dwell, for in­stance, on the first eleven chapters of the Epistle to [Page 208] the Romans, as containing exclusively the sum and substance of the Gospel. While the mere moralists, who wish to strip Christianity of her lofty and ap­propriate attributes, delight to dwell on the twelfth chapter, which is a table of duties, as exclusively as if the preceding chapters made no part of the sacred Canon. But Paul himself, who was at least as sound a theologian as any of his commentators, settles the matter another way, by making the duties of the twelfth grow out of the doctrines of the antecedent eleven, just as any other consequence grows out of its cause. And as if he suspected that the indivisible union between them might possibly be overlooked, he links the two distinct divisions together by a logical "therefore," with which the twelfth begins:—"I beseech you therefore," (that is, as the effect of all I have been inculcating,) ‘that you present your bo­dies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God,’ &c. and then goes on to enforce on them, as a consequence of what he had been preaching, the practice of every Christian virtue. This combined view of the subject seems, on the one hand, to be the only means of pre­venting the substitution of Pagan morality for Chris­tian holiness; and on the other, of securing the lead­ing doctrine of justification by faith, from the dread­ful danger of Antinomian licentiousness; every hu­man obligation being thus grafted on the living stock of a divine principle.

[Page 209]

CHAP. XX.

On the duty and efficacy of prayer.

IT is not proposed to enter largely on a topic which has been exhausted by the ablest pens. But as a work of this nature seems to require that so impor­tant a subject should not be overlooked, it is intended to notice in a slight manner a few of those many dif­ficulties and popular objections which are brought forward against the use and efficacy of prayer, even by those who would be unwilling to be suspected of impiety and unbelief.

There is a class of objectors who strangely profess to withhold homage from the Most High, not out of contempt, but reverence. They affect to con­sider the use of prayer as derogatory to the omnisci­ence of God, asserting that it looks as if we thought he stood in need of being informed of our wants; and as derogatory to his goodness, as implying that he needs to be put in mind of them.

But is it not enough for such poor frail beings as we are to know, that God himself does not consider prayer as derogatory either to his wisdom or good­ness? And shall we erect ourselves into judges of [Page 210] what is consistent with the attributes of HIM before whom angels fall prostrate with self-abasement? Will he thank such defenders of his attributes, who, while they profess to reverence, scruple not to disobey him? It ought rather to be viewed as a great encou­ragement to prayer, that we are addressing a Being, who knows our wants better than we can express them, and whose preventing goodness is always rea­dy to relieve them.

It is objected by another class, and on the speci­ous ground of humility too, though we do not al­ways find the objector himself quite as humble as his plea, that it is arrogant in such insignificant beings as we are to presume to lay our petty necessities be­fore the Great and Glorious God, who cannot be expected to condescend to the multitude of trifling and even interfering requests which are brought be­fore him by his creatures. These and such like ob­jections arise from mean and unworthy thoughts of the Great Creator. It seems as if those who make them considered the Most High as ‘such an one as themselves;’ a Being, who can perform a certain quantity of business, but who would be overpower­ed with an additional quantity. Or at best, is it not considering the Almighty in the light, not of an in­finite God, but of a great man, of a minister, of a king, who, while he superintends great and national concerns, is obliged to neglect small and individual [Page 211] petitions, because he cannot spare that leisure and at­tention which suffice for every thing? They do not consider him as that infinitely glorious Being who, while he beholds at once all that is doing in heaven and in earth, is at the same time as attentive to the prayer of the poor destitute, as present to the sorrow­ful sighing of the prisoner, as if these forlorn crea­tures were the objects of his undivided attention.

These critics, who are for sparing the Supreme Being the trouble of our prayers, and, if I may so speak without profaneness, would relieve Omnipo­tence of part of his burden, by assigning to his care only such a portion as may be more easily managed, seem to have no conception of his attributes.

They forget that infinite wisdom puts him as easily within reach of all knowledge, as infinite power does of all performance: that he is a Being in whose plans complexity makes no difficulty, and multiplicity no confusion: that to ubiquity distance does not exist; that to infinity space is annihilated; that past, pre­sent, and future, are discerned more accurately at one glance of his eye, to whom a thousand years are as one day, than a single moment of time or a single point of space can be by ours.

To the other part of the objection founded on the supposed interference (that is, irreconcilableness) of one man's petitions with those of another, this an­swer [Page 212] seems to suggest itself: first, that we must take care that when we ask, we do not "ask amiss;" that, for instance, we ask chiefly, and in an un­qualified manner, only for spiritual blessings to our­selves and others; and in doing this the prayer of one man cannot interfere with that of another. Next, in asking for temporal and inferior blessings, we must qualify our petition even though it should extend to deliverance from the severest pains, or to our very life itself, according to that example of our Saviour: ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.’ By thus qualifying our prayer, we exercise ourselves in an act of resignation to God; we profess not to wish what will interfere with his benevolent plan, and yet we may hope by prayer to secure the bless­ing so far as it is consistent with it. Perhaps the reason why this objection to prayer is so strongly felt, is the too great disposition to pray for merely temporal and worldly blessings, and to desire them in the most unqualified manner, not submitting to be without them, even though the granting them should be inconsistent with the general plan of Pro­vidence.

Another class continue to bring forward, as per­tinaciously as if it had never been answered, the ex­hausted argument, that seeing God is immutable, no petitions of ours can ever change Him: that events [Page 213] themselves being settled in a fixed and unalterable course, and bound in a fatal necessity, it is folly to think that we can disturb the established laws of the universe, or interrupt the course of Providence by our prayers: and that it is absurd to suppose these firm decrees can be reversed by any requests of ours.

Without entering into the wide and trackless field of fate and free will, from which pursuit I am kept back equally by the most profound ignorance and the most invincible dislike, I would only observe, that these objections apply equally to all human acti­ons as well as to prayer. It may therefore with the same propriety be urged, that seeing God is immu­table and his decrees unalterable, therefore our ac­tions can produce no change in Him or in our own state. Weak as well as impious reasoning. It may be questioned whether the modern French and German philosophers might not be prevailed upon to acknowledge the existence of God, if they might make such an use of his attributes. The truth is, and it is a truth discoverable without any depth of learning, all these objections are the offspring of pride. Poor, short-sighted man cannot reconcile the omniscience and decrees of God with the efficacy of prayer; and, because he cannot reconcile them, he modestly concludes they are irreconcilable. How much more wisdom as well as happiness results from an humble christian spirit! Such a plain practi­cal [Page 214] text as, ‘Draw near unto God, and he will draw near unto you,’ carries more consolation, more true knowledge of his wants and their remedy to the heart of a penitent sinner, than all the tomes of casuistry which have puzzled the world ever since the question was first set afloat by its original propounders.

And as the plain man only got up and walked, to prove there was such a thing as motion, in answer to the philosopher who denied it: so the plain Chris­tian, when he is borne down with the assurance that there is no efficacy in prayer, requires no better ar­gument to repel the assertion than the good he finds in prayer itself.

All the doubts proposed to him respecting God, do not so much affect him as this one doubt respect­ing himself: ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ For the chief doubt and difficulty of a Christian consists, not so much in a distrust of God's ability and willingness to answer the prayer of the upright, as in a distrust of his own up­rightness, and of the quality of the prayer which he offers up.

Let the subjects of a dark fate maintain a sullen, or the slaves of a blind chance a hopeless silence, but let the child of a compassionate Almighty Father supplicate his mercies with an humble confidence, inspired by the assurance, that ‘the very hairs of [Page 215] his head are numbered.’ Let him take comfort in that individual and minute attention, without which not a sparrow falls to the ground, as well as in that heart-cheering promise, that, as ‘the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,’ so are ‘his ears open to their prayers.’ And as a pious Bishop has observed, ‘Our Saviour has as it were hedged in and inclosed the Lord's Prayer with these two great fences of our faith, God's willingness and his power to help us:’ the preface to it assures us of the one, which, by calling God by the tender name of "Our Father," intimates his readiness to help his children: and the animating conclusion, "Thine is the power," rescues us from every unbe­lieving doubt of his ability to help us.

A Christian knows, because he feels, that prayer is, though in a way to him inscrutable, the medium of connection between God and his rational crea­tures; the means appointed by him to draw down his blessings upon us. The Christian knows, that prayer is the appointed means of uniting two ideas, one of the highest magnificence, the other of the most profound lowliness, within the compass of ima­gination; namely, that it is the link of communica­tion between ‘the High and Lofty One who inha­biteth eternity,’ and that heart of the ‘contrite in which he delights to dwell.’ He knows that this inexplicable union between Beings so unspeakably, [Page 216] so essentially different, can only be maintained by prayer.

The plain Christian, as was before observed, can­not explain why it is so; but while he feels the effi­cacy, he is contented to let the learned define it; and he will no more postpone prayer till he can produce a chain of reasoning on the manner in which he de­rives benefit from it, than he will postpone eating till he can give a scientific lecture on the nature of di­gestion: he is contented with knowing that his meat has nourished him; and he leaves to the philosopher, who may choose to defer his meal till he has elabo­rated his treatise, to starve in the interim. The Chris­tian feels better than he is able to explain, that the functions of his spiritual life can no more be carried on without habitual prayer, than those of his natural life without frequent bodily nourishment. He feels renovation and strength grow out of the use of the appointed means, as necessarily in the one case as in the other. He feels that the health of his soul can no more be sustained, and its powers kept in continu­ed vigour by the prayers of a distant day, than his body by the aliment of a distant day.

But there is one motive to the duty in question, far more constraining to the true believer than all others that can be named; more imperious than any argu­ments on its utility, than any convictions of its effi­cacy, even than any experience of its consolations. [Page 217] Prayer is the command of God; the plain, positive, repeated injunction of the Most High, who declares, "He will be inquired of." This is enough to secure the obedience of the Christian, even though a pro­mise were not, as it always is, attached to the com­mand. But in this case the promise is as clear as the precept: "Ask, and ye shall receive;"—Seek, and ye shall find: this is enough for the plain Christian. As to the manner in which prayer is made to coin­cide with the general scheme of God's plan in the government of human affairs; how God has left him­self at liberty to reconcile our prayer with his own predetermined will, the Christian does not very criti­cally examine, his precise and immediate duty being to pray and not to examine; and probably this being among the secret things which belong to God,’ and not to us, it will lie hidden among those num­berless mysteries which we shall not fully understand till faith is lost in sight.

In the mean time it is enough for the humble be­liever to be assured, that the Judge of all the earth is doing right: it is enough for him to be assured in that word of God "which cannot lie," of number­less actual instances of the efficacy of prayer in ob­taining blessings and averting calamities, both national and individual; it is enough for him to be convinc­ed experimentally, by that internal evidence which is perhaps paramount to all other evidence, the com­fort [Page 218] he has received from prayer when all other comforts have failed:—and above all, to end with the same motive with which we began, the only mo­tive indeed which he requires for the performance of any duty,—it is motive enough for him, that thus saith the Lord. For when a serious Christian has once got a plain unequivocal command from his Maker on any point, he never suspends his obedience while he is amusing himself with looking about for subordi­nate motives of action. Instead of curiously analy­sing the nature of the duty, he considers how he shall best fulfil it: for on these points at least it may be said without controversy, that ‘the ignorant (and here who is not ignorant?) have nothing to do with the law but to obey it.

Others there are who perhaps not controverting any of these premises, yet neglect to build practical consequences on the admission of them; who neither denying the duty nor the efficacy of prayer, yet go on to live either in the irregular observance or the total neglect of it, as appetite, or pleasure, or busi­ness, or humour, may happen to predominate; and who by living almost without prayer, may be said "to live almost without God in the world." To such we can only say, that they little know what they lose. The time is hastening on when they will look upon those blessings as invaluable, which now they think not worth asking for. ‘O that they [Page 219] were wife! that they understood this! that they would consider their latter end!’

There are again others, who it is to be feared, hav­ing once lived in the habit of prayer, yet not having been well-grounded in those principles of faith and repentance on which genuine prayer is built, have by degrees totally discontinued it. "They do not find," say they, ‘that their affairs prosper the better or the worse; or perhaps they were unsuccessful in their affairs even before they dropt the practice, and so had no encouragement to go on.’ They do not know that they had no encouragement; they do not know how much worse their affairs might have gone on, had they discontinued it sooner, or how their prayers helped to retard their ruin. Or they do not know that perhaps "they asked amiss," or that, if they had obtained what they asked, they might have been far more unhappy. For a true believer never "restrains prayer," because he is not certain he ob­tains every individual request; for he is persuaded that God, in compassion to our ignorance, sometimes in great mercy withholds what we desire, and often disappoints his most favored children by giving them, not what they ask, but what he knows is really good for them. The froward child, as a pious prelate* observes, cries for the shining blade, which the ten­der [Page 220] parent withholds, knowing it would cut his fin­gers.

Thus to persevere when we have not the encourage­ment of visible success, is an evidence of tried faith. Of this holy perseverance Job was a noble instance. Defeat and disappointment rather stimulated than stop­ped his prayers. Though in a vehement strain of passionate eloquence he exclaims, ‘I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment:’ yet so persuaded was he of the duty of continuing this holy importunity, that he persisted against human hope, till he attained to that pitch of unshaken faith, by which he was enabled to break out into that sublime apostrophe, ‘Though he slay me, I will trust in him.’

But may we not say that there is a considerable class, who not only bring none of the objections which we have stated against the use of prayer; who are so far from rejecting, that they are exact and regular in the performance of it: who yet take it up on as low ground as is consistent with their ideas of their own safety; who, while they consider prayer as an indis­pensable form, believe nothing of that change of heart which it is intended to produce? Many who yet ad­here scrupulously to the letter, are so far from enter­ing into the spirit of this duty, that they are strongly inclined to suspect those of hypocrisy who adopt the true scriptural views of prayer. Nay, as even the [Page 221] Bible may be so wrested as to be made to speak al­most any language in support of almost any opinion, these persons lay hold on Scripture itself to bear them out in their own slight views of this duty; and they profess to borrow from it the ground of that censure which they cast on the more serious Christians. Among the many passages which have been made to convey a meaning foreign to its original design, none has been seized upon with more avidity by such per­sons than the pointed censures of our Saviour on those "who for a pretence make long prayers;" as well as on those ‘who use vain repetitions, and think they shall be heard for much speaking.’ Now the things here intended to be reproved, were the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the ignorance of the heathen, to­gether with the error of all those who depended on the success of their prayers, while they imitated the deceit of the one or the folly of the other. But our Saviour never meant those severe reprehensions should cool or abridge the devotion of pious Christians, to which they do not apply.

More or fewer words, however, so little constitute the value of prayer, that there is no doubt but one of the most affecting specimens on record is the short petition of the Publican; full fraught as it is with that spirit of contrition and self-abasement which is the very principle and soul of prayer. And this perhaps is the best model for that sudden lifting up [Page 222] of the heart which we call ejaculation. But I doubt, in general, whether the few hasty words to which these frugal petitioners would stint the scanty devo­tions of others, will be always found ample enough to satisfy the humble penitent, who, being a sinner, has much to confess; who, hoping he is a pardoned sinner, has much to acknowledge. Such an one per­haps cannot always pour out the fullness of his soul within the prescribed abridgments. Even the sincerest Christian, when he wishes to find his heart warm, has often to lament its coldness. Though he feel that he has received much, and has therefore much to be thankful for, yet he is not able at once to bring his wayward spirit into such a posture as shall fit it for the solemn business; for such an one has not merely his form to repeat, but he has his peace to make. A devout supplicant too will labour to affect and warm his mind with a sense of the attributes of God, in imitation of the holy men of old. Like Je­hosaphat, he will sometimes enumerate ‘the power, and the might, and the mercies of the Most High,’ in order to stir up the sentiments of awe and grati­tude, and humility in his own soul.* He has the ex­ample of his Saviour, whose heart dilated with the expression of the same holy affections: ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.’ A [Page 223] heart thus warmed with divine love cannot always scrupulously limit itself to the mere business of pray­er, if I may so speak. The humble supplicant, though he be no longer governed by a love of the world, yet grieves to find that he cannot totally exclude it from his thoughts. Though he has on the whole, a deep sense of his own wants, and of God's abund­ant fullness to supply them, yet when he most wishes to be rejoicing in those strong motives for love and gratitude, alas! even then he has to mourn that his thoughts are gone astray after some ‘trifle lighter than vanity itself.’ The best Christian is but too liable, during the temptations of the day, to be en­snared by "the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," and is not always brought without effort to reflect that he is but dust and ashes. How can even good persons, who are just come perhaps from listening to the flattery of their fellow-worms, acknowledge before God, without any preparation of the heart, that they are miserable sinners? They require a little time, to impress on their own souls the solemn con­fession of sin they are making to Him, without which brevity and not length might constitute hypocrisy. Even the sincerely pious have in prayer grievous wanderings to lament, from which others mistaking­ly suppose the advanced Christian to be exempt. Such wanderings that, as an old divine has observed, it would exceedingly humble a good man, could he, [Page 224] after he had prayed, be made to see his prayers writ­ten down, with interlineations of all the vain and im­pertinent thoughts which had thrust themselves in amongst them. So that such an one will indeed, from a sense of these distractions, feel deep occasion with the prophet to ask forgiveness for ‘the iniquity of his holy things:’ and would find cause enough for humiliation every night, had he to lament the sins of his prayers only.

We know that such a brief petition as, ‘Lord help my unbelief,’ if the supplicant be in so happy a frame, and the prayer be darted with such strong faith that his very soul mounts with the petition, may suffice to draw down a blessing which may be with­held from the more prolix petitioner: yet, if by prayer we do not mean a mere form of words, whe­ther they be long or short; if the true definition of prayer be, that it is the desire of the heart; if it be that secret communion between God and the soul which is the very breath and being of religion; then is the Scripture so far from suggesting that short measure of which it is accused, that it expressly says, "Pray without ceasing:"—"Pray evermore:"—‘I will that men pray every where;’‘Continue instant in prayer.’

If such "repetitions" as these objectors repro­bate, stir up desires as yet unawakened, for vain repetitions’ are such as awaken or express no new [Page 225] desire, and serve no religious purpose, then are "re­petitions" not to be condemned. And if it be true that our Saviour gave the warning against ‘long prayers’ in the sense these allege; if he gave the caution against vain repetitions in the sense these be­lieve; then he broke his own rule in both instances: for once we are told ‘he continued all night in pray­er to God.’ And again, in a most awful crisis of his life, it is expressly said, ‘He prayed the third time using the same words. *

But as it is the effect of prayer to expand the af­fections as well as sanctify them, the benevolent Christian is not satisfied to commend himself alone to the Divine favour. The heart which is full of the love of God, will overflow with love to its neighbour. All that are near to himself he wishes to bring near to God. Religion makes a man so liberal of soul, that he cannot endure to restrict any thing, much less divine mercies, to himself: he spiritualizes the social affections, by adding inter­cessory to personal prayer: for he knows, that pe­titioning for others is one of the best methods of exercising and enlarging our love and charity to­wards them. It is unnecessary to produce any of the numberless instances with which Scripture abounds, on the efficacy of intercession: I shall [Page 226] confine myself to a few observations on the benefits it brings to him who offers it.—When we pray for the objects of our dearest regard, it purifies love: when we pray for those with whom we have worldly intercourse, it smooths down the swellings of envy, and bids the tumults of ambition subside: when we pray for our country, it sanctifies patriot­ism: when we pray for those in authority, it adds a divine motive to human obedience: when we pray for our enemies, it softens the savageness of war, and mollifies hatred into sorrow. And we can best learn, nay, we can only learn, the difficult duty of forgiving those who have offended us, when we bring ourselves to pray for them to Him whom we ourselves daily offend. When those who are the faithful followers of the same Divine Master pray for each other, the reciprocal intercession best real­izes that beautiful idea of ‘the Communion of Saints.’

Some are for confining their intercessions only to the good, as if none but persons of merit were en­titled to our prayers. Merit! who has it? Desert! who can plead it? in the sight of God, I mean. Who shall bring his own piety, or the piety of others, in the way of claim before a Being of such transcendent holiness, that ‘the heavens are not clean in his sight?’ And if we wait for perfect holiness as a preliminary to prayer, when shall such [Page 227] erring creatures pray at all to HIM ‘who chargeth the Angels with folly!’

In closing this little work with the subject of inter­cessory prayer, may the Author be allowed to avail herself of the feeling its suggests to her own heart? And while she earnestly implores that Being, who can make the meanest of his creatures instrumental to his glory, to bless this humble attempt to those for whom it was written, may she, without presumption entreat that this work of Christian Charity may be reciprocal, and that those who peruse these pages, may put up a petition for her, that in the great day to which we are all hastening, she may not be found to have suggested to others what she herself did not believe, or to have recommended what she did not desire to practise? In that awful day of everlast­ing decision, may both the reader and the writer be pardoned and accepted, ‘not for any works of righteousness which they have done,’ but through the merits of the GREAT INTERCESSOR.

THE END.

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